ALA: Day 2

Yesterday was a very full day for me. I was a bit of a slacker today, but I’ll write about that later.
Yesterday I was SO proud of myself for actually managing to wake myself up and get down to the conference center before 9:00. My pride was built on a shaky foundation though, because in my early morning foggy state of mind I forgot to check my schedule and I missed the discussion about courseware (Blackboard/WebCT) that I wanted to attend and I wound up at a session on collaboration across different library departments and creating patron friendly catalogs organized by ALCTS. I think that for people who haven’t worked on a redesign or opac vendor migration, this session might have been useful, but since I’ve had some experience with this in the past the discussion was less useful for me.

People discussed communication problems between public services librarians and catalogers, and I thought that this was a little stereotypical. There was a comment from a cataloger that public services people can’t be relied upon to extend an invitation to work together more collaboratively, and I’m not so sure about that. One cataloger pointed out that the public services librarians only contact catalogers when something goes wrong with the catalog, so this makes them defensive in their interactions with public services.
There was some general, common sense information about usability and catalog design. One thing that does bother me sometimes about going to library conferences is sometimes the information presented is really just stuff everyone should already know, because the ideas make sense for anyone who approaches their job with a bit of self-reflection and a willingness to look at library services for a patron’s point of view.

After this, I decided to skip a session at 11 and went to eat a croissant.

Then I attended one of the most useful and interesting sessions of the conference, from ALCTS‘s Electronic Resources Interest Group, a presentation on Electronic Resources Management systems. We’re about to grapple with this at work, and since I am just in public services I have a hard time getting what it will mean for acquisitions or cataloging, but some things began to click for me.
Tony Harvell from UCSD spoke about implementing Innovative’s ERM and Ivy Anderson (Harvard) and Ellen Duranceau (MIT) spoke about the development of Ex Libris’ product Verde. All good stuff here, but I don’t really know what I’m talking about when it comes to these products, so I’ll edit this post to include links to the speakers’ powerpoint presentations when they are available.

Then I stood in line to use the Internet Cafe, because I couldn’t remember if the session I was planning on going to at 2:00 was about Google Scholar. Indeed it was, organized by ACRL STS. There were many science librarians there, as well as vendors such as Thompson ISI, Cambridge Scientific, and IEEE. This was a wide ranging discussion, some people all for it, some people less than thrilled. I don’t know, although I think it makes sense to follow what’s going on with google scholar I have more of a wait and see attitude towards it.

Some random tidbits:

Emory University has configured their catalog so when you get no results, you are asked if you want to try a google scholar search.
People wonder about google scholar and what it might mean for federated search products — are they going to be useless? Google’s response time and ranking might be better. I think one benefit of federated searching is at least you know the sources your users will be searching and can pick, choose, and control what you want to make available to the people at your library. And it seems a little premature to assume that even if google is scanning abstracts directly from the publishers it could replace the functionality (such as it is) of a federated search product. But I have no idea!
One person seemed unhappy that when searching for a book that they knew their library owned, google scholar did not show that they owned the item. But that is really an OCLC/OpenWorldCat issue as opposed to a Google Scholar issue.
Google scholar has pubmed and Doi’s embeded in URLS, could use that somehow.
Things google scholar could be really good for: the casual researcher or alum not currently affiliated with a university, good for grey literature and prepublication archives. Some librarians discussed workshops and how to introduce google scholar in information literacy classes.
We should try to steal some of the functionality of google and use in our systems, like spell checking and automatic search rewriting.
We really don’t have a choice about people using it or not using it, they are going to use it if they aren’t already.
How is google going to make money from it? Only by advertising or something else?
Google Scholar vs Google Crossref.
How to open up institutional depositories to make sure that they are included in Google Scholar?
Every database has a controlled vocabulary, google scholar doesn’t.

That was about it for my second day at ALA. I was busy!