Citation Manager Frustration

(by Christina Pikas) Nov 20 2015

I've used most of the major citation managers: RefWorks, Flow, EndNote (web and client), Zotero, Mendeley, ProCite (remember that one?). I've looked at Papers. I've dabbled with BibTex using a couple of different tools. I've watched the videos on the new RefWorks 3 coming out. I've given training on RefWorks and EndNote... and I'm frustrated.

Almost all of these have the model that you are one person, with one field of research, who will continue to use the same somewhat limited number of references over the many years.

As a librarian, I like to compile references for people into RefWorks collections and then turn them over. I've done this by setting up new accounts for them. This will not be possible in the new version in which there's only one account per e-mail.  Sharing folders doesn't work because I don't want my dissertation and professional work database to be crammed with thousands of unrelated articles.

I have tried to collaborate with people in Zotero and I can't seem to get rid of a thousand or so articles that were relevant to a project from several years ago.

Further, they only get worse at deduplication. I use a citation manager to compile references and deduplication for bibliometrics. RefWorks chokes when your database gets above a few thousand. Plus, it's not configurable. You can't say ignore title, just look at year, authors, publication or something like that. Or only look at title. You can't review duplicates, find that they're part 1 and part 2 or conference presentation and journal paper, and then have them not show up every time. These are really not intended for my uses.

So I'm going to go back to trying client software. First I'll try a EndNote X ( an ancient copy that has been sitting here in a box still sealed). Then I'll probably go to BibTeX, maybe using SVN, and maybe using code for some of the tricks. Why should I have to?

And that's another reason to get my @##% dissertation done while RefWorks and the Word plugin still work on my home computer.

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Slides from Leveraging Data to Lead

(by Christina Pikas) Nov 20 2015

This was a great conference put on by Maryland SLA. I tweeted at bit using the hashtag: #datamdsla

Here's my slides. Not awesome but I did find some nice pictures :)


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(by Christina Pikas) Nov 20 2015

Where have I been? Same place - preschool twins, dissertation, full time work.

The dissertation is being completely reworked. Due to the committee at the end of the semester for defense either over break or in February (and I can't miss that because I will be dismissed from the program if I don't make it). That definitely deserves more discussion. I went back and went a lot deeper into CMC literature - nothing really new there - but also picked up some lit on English for Academic Purposes and linguistics. Interesting stuff.

I have no idea how people write books.

Also attended MD SLA's Leveraging Data to Lead. I'll post my slides next.

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"Theory" for the immigrant to social sciences

(by Christina Pikas) Oct 11 2015

This really deserves a detailed and thorough treatment it won't get here.

The entire point of my dissertation is basically that it's important to integrate across the various diverse literatures that have looked at how scientists communicate in order to adequately understand how any new technologies might be used or be useful (valued/valuable, etc).

Sound impossible much? Kinda sorta, but hey, maybe that's why it's taking me 10 years!

My undergrad is in physics. Masters is in library science (MLS of course). Neither do theory the way, say, sociologists, linguists, communications researchers, or anyone else in the social sciences does. At least at the undergraduate level, you don't have to pick an epistemology and a particular theory when measuring gravity or the wavelength of a laser.

When I look at theories, I basically look at what evidence was used to develop them and what explanatory power they have.  Also, I'm very pragmatic and I don't especially adhere dogmatically to any one epistemology.

Working this way gets me into trouble when trying to communicate with someone who is in one of these fields. You're really supposed to pick a viewpoint and use theory as a lens. I do get testing theories. I know how to do that, but there is supposed to be more. I don't know how to own and live and practice a theory.

I'm not terribly convinced others in LIS do, either, despite books on our "theories" and numerous ASIST sessions.

Maybe this is horrible admission? Maybe I have to pick one should I ever go on the academic market (which I don't expect to if any of my colleagues are reading this but really, I might if my committee is reading this)? Maybe I will not be able to get my articles in to communications journals?

It may be a completely different situation, but Paige Jarreau shared similar feedback on twitter:


Interestingly, when I was looking for the exact tweets to cite, I found her request for an article on theorizing social media.* The author basically complains just the opposite: we're trying to use everyone's old theories and just make them work for social media, even if we have to ignore things like interactivity.

Of course, the STS folks would call me cray-cray because incommensurability and what-not. So maybe it's up to us to have our own theory, then publish a lot, and then we'll be all set :)

*Kent, M. L. (2015). Social Media Circa 2035: Directions in Social Media Theory Atlantic Journal of Communication, 23, 1-4. doi:10.1080/15456870.2015.972407

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The smart phone and parenting children - two articles

(by Christina Pikas) Sep 27 2015

This weekend I saw two articles discussing the impact being frequently available on or frequently using a smartphone has on in-person relationships.

In the first, Motherhood, Screened Off by Susan Dominus in Thursday's New York Times (note, links are to the public site but I highly recommend you use your library's subscription) describes how she feels she has to narrate her use of the smart phone when she's using it to check an address or a recipe or something. In the past, when your mother was doing something besides paying attention to you it was obvious - she had her address book out or checkbook. The piece ends with her annoyed that she can't be using a bit of downtime when she's trying to get her child to sleep to get things done on her phone.

The second was by Sherry Turkle, Stop Googling. Let's Talk from today's New York Times, I guess. In it, she talks about what her research has shown about how the use of smart phones during face-to-face conversations messes them up and also possibly messes up empathy in young adults. She calls for "sacred" spaces (or perhaps times) at home and at work during which use of smartphones is banned - even if to check something.

Both of these hit home with me. I do try to narrate when I'm on the phone when the kids are around and I do for sure ban using the phone at the table- well, I ban myself, I can't do much about my spouse but give him a hard time. I also make an effort to make eye contact with my children and spend time with each of them without the devices, but working from home in the afternoons and evenings as I unfortunately do makes it so the computer is competition.

As for at-work times- I'm in the IT department, that's where they moved the information and research functions a few years ago, and boy howdy do those folks love to have meetings.  I have mostly been able to dodge the vast majority of them, but I can't even say how much it enrages me to be taken off an interesting and fun literature search on a cool technology or cool science for actual real sponsor work to be stuck in a meeting where my interlocutor starts texting someone and completely wastes my time.

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So long old friend: Cancelling Dialog

(by Christina Pikas) Aug 14 2015

Ever since being required to learn it in Library School, I've been a fan of Dialog. The interface had all the power and precision an expert searcher needed. The idea that there were nearly a thousand databases that I didn't have to subscribe to individually or even really know about in advance was awesome. It was easy to get nervous about racking up a bill because you paid by time and things you looked at but you could figure out costs in advance. There were tools, too, to identify the appropriate database for a search or to cross search databases.

Blue sheets for each database made its structure explicit and you could go from one to the next and quickly make sense of them to decide how to modify your search. Now, with years of trying to be more like Google and concentrating resources on an undergrad audience, it's all mystery meat. If you read the instructions for a database you can maybe eventually figure it out, but not like the olden days.

So if I love it so much, why are we cancelling it?  Well, the Dialog I describe is not the current one. Now it's got the mystery meat interface that looks the same as all PQ products. All of the weird and wild and unique research databases are gone. They have maybe a tenth of what they used to have in Sci/Tech and they're basically all the ones I have already through a native interface or elsewhere on PQ or Ebscohost, etc. I don't really blame PQ because it's more a function of corporations slashing library budgets.

So not the content I need. Power is gone (or hidden). Big cutbacks in service (but I hadn't really noticed that because of the content changes). And we had to do something like a deposit account which no one likes - at all.  I believe we had to tell them in advance how much we wanted to spend in a year to get a discount.  Honestly, I haven't used it for a while. Every time I think to, I find the database I wanted is no longer there or I have a version on another platform.

So sad.

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The future of the MLS program

(by Christina Pikas) Aug 11 2015

University of Maryland (am affiliated, but not with this effort) just wrapped up an effort to look at what the MLS should be for the next few years. Many librarians gripe about their programs - how they didn't learn what they needed or learned stuff they don't use or isn't relevant. The thing is that it's only a 2-year program and our profession requires continuous work to keep up to date and learn new skills. Anyway, I like this part of their write up:

Attributes of Successful Information Professionals. The findings indicate that successful information professionals are not those who wish to seek a quiet refuge out of the public’s view. They need to be collaborative, problem solvers, creative, socially innovative, flexible and adaptable, and have a strong desire to work with the public.
Ensure a Balance of Competencies and Abilities. The debate between MLS programs needing to produce graduates with a “toolkit” of competencies versus providing graduates with a conceptual foundation that will enable them to grow and adapt over time evidenced itself throughout the Re-Envisioning the MLS Further interjected into this debate was the notion of “aptitude” (specific skills) versus “attitude” (“can do,” “change agent,” “public service”). Any MLS curriculum needs to balance aptitude with attitude.
Re-Thinking the MLS Begins with Recruitment. Neither a love of books or libraries is enough for the next generation of information professionals. Instead they must thrive on change, embrace public service, and seek challenges that require creative solutions. MLS programs must seek and recruit students who reflect these attributes.
Be Disruptive, Savvy, and Fearless. Through creativity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship, information professionals have the opportunity to disrupt current approaches and practices to existing social challenges. The future belongs to those who are able to apply critical thinking skills and creativity to better understanding the communities they serve today and will serve 5-10 years down the road – and those who are bold, fearless, willing to take risks, go “big,” and go against convention.

The final report is in pdf here.

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CMC stuff I'm reading

(by Christina Pikas) Aug 06 2015

The computer mediated communication field of research is of course very important to my dissertation, but it's so vast that it's been difficult to know where to look beyond the assigned references in my doctoral seminar (see - this is why they need the big high powered seminars).

Many of these are self-archived online so no barriers!  If I get a chance, I may come back and summarize these like I did for my comps readings. I still find those helpful.
Kiesler, S. B., Siegel, J., & McGuire, T. W. (1984). Social psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication. American Psychologist, 39(10), 1123-1134.
Describes some of the issues raised by electronic communication, including time and information-processing pressures, absence of regulating feedback, dramaturgical weakness, paucity of status and position cues, social anonymity, and computing norms and immature etiquette. An empirical approach for investigating the social psychological effects of electronic communication is illustrated, and how social psychological research might contribute to a deeper understanding of computers and technological change in society and computer-mediated communication (CMC) is discussed. A series of studies that explored how people participate in CMC and how computerization affects group efforts to reach consensus is described; results indicate differences in participation, decisions, and interaction among groups meeting face to face and in simultaneous computer-linked discourse and communication by electronic mail. Findings are attributed to difficulties of coordination from lack of informational feedback, absence of social influence cues for controlling discussion, and depersonalization from lack of nonverbal involvement and absence of norms.

Litt, E. (2012). Knock, Knock. Who's There? The Imagined Audience. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(3), 330-345. doi:10.1080/08838151.2012.705195
For more than a century, scholars have alluded to the notion of an ?imagined audience??a person's mental conceptualization of the people with whom he or she is communicating. The imagined audience has long guided our thoughts and actions during everyday writing and speaking. However, in today's world of social media where users must navigate through highly public spaces with potentially large and invisible audiences, scholars have begun to ask: Who do people envision as their public or audience as they perform in these spaces? This article contributes to the literature by providing a theoretical framework that broadly defines the construct; identifies its significance in contemporary society and the existing tensions between the imagined and actual audiences; and drawing on Giddens's concept of structuration, theorizes what influences variations in people's imagined audience compositions. It concludes with a research agenda highlighting essential areas of inquiry.;

Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1986). REDUCING SOCIAL CONTEXT CUES: ELECTRONIC MAIL IN ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION. Management Science, 32(11), 1492-1512.
This paper examines electronic mail in organizational communication. Based on ideas about how social context cues within a communication setting affect information exchange, it argues that electronic mail does not simply speed up the exchange of information but leads to the exchange of new information as well. Consistent with experimental studies, the authors found that decreasing social context cues has substantial deregulating effects on communication. And they also found that much of the information conveyed through electronic mail was information that would not have been conveyed through another medium.

[these two older ones are really to show the transformation from - people who are new to computers at all trying to use all the techniques they had in face-to-face communication - to heavy users who have developed affordances that enable them to have rich communication in media that don't have the traditional social cues]

**Treem, J. W., & Leonardi, P. M. (2012). Social media use in organizations: Exploring the affordances of visibility, editability, persistence, and association. Communication Yearbook, 36, 143-189.

[very useful as a reference for what kinds of things collaboration software should have,too]

Walther, J. B. (1992). Interpersonal Effects in Computer-Mediated Interaction: A Relational Perspective. Communication Research, 19(1), 52-90. doi:10.1177/009365092019001003
Several theories and much experimental research on relational tone in computer-mediated communication (CMC) points to the lack of nonverbal cues in this channel as a cause of impersonal and task-oriented messages. Field research in CMC often reports more positive relational behavior. This article examines the assumptions, methods, and findings of such research and suggests that negative relational effects are confined to narrow situational boundary conditions. Alternatively, it is suggested that communicators develop individuating impressions of others through accumulated CMC messages. Based upon these impressions, users may develop relationships and express multidimensional relational messages through verbal or textual cues. Predictions regarding these processes are suggested, and future research incorporating these points is urged.

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1), 3-43. doi:10.1177/009365096023001001
While computer-mediated communication use and research are proliferating rapidly, findings offer contrasting images regarding the interpersonal character of this technology. Research trends over the history of these media are reviewed with observations across trends suggested so as to provide integrative principles with which to apply media to different circumstances. First, the notion that the media reduce personal influences—their impersonal effects—is reviewed. Newer theories and research are noted explaining normative “interpersonal” uses of the media. From this vantage point, recognizing that impersonal communication is sometimes advantageous, strategies for the intentional depersonalization of media use are inferred, with implications for Group Decision Support Systems effects. Additionally, recognizing that media sometimes facilitate communication that surpasses normal interpersonal levels, a new perspective on “hyperpersonal” communication is introduced. Subprocesses are discussed pertaining to receivers, senders, channels, and feedback elements in computer-mediated communication that may enhance impressions and interpersonal relations.

**Walther, J. B. (2011). Theories of Computer-Mediated Communication and Interpersonal Relations. In M. L. Knapp, & J. A. Daly (Eds.), The Sage handbook of interpersonal communication (4th ed., pp. 443-479). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Retrieved from

This is a good overview of the missing social cues and other CMC research over the past 30 years. He does, however, like his own theories and research best and others may not agree :)

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Why special librarians should be active on their organization's intranet social media

(by Christina Pikas) Aug 06 2015

Back to the dissertation now and trying to do a big push this month to get ready to defend in the Fall. A member of my committee had some great suggestions of parts of the literature that I should cover in my literature review and had missed. Particularly some CMC things I overlooked (more on these another time).

Ran across this when looking for other things by Leonardi:

Leonardi,P.M. and Meyer,S.R. (2015) Social Media as Social Lubricant: How Ambient Awareness Eases Knowledge Transfer. American Behavioral Scientist 59, pp.10-34. DOI: 10.1177/0002764214540509

My place of work has an internal Facebook like thingy but it wasn't originally built and supported by IT. With all of the competing priorities, it wasn't clear at all that some social software should get their limited funding and attention. So a bunch of researchers set up Elgg on their own on a surplus computer running under someone's desk. Use took off. Eventually it was taken over by IT who now manages and supports it.

I immediately saw it as a place to advertise library services and resources, troll for questions that needed answering, and blog about things that can't go here. Later, 3 of us won a mini grant to create an add-on that allowed users to list what books they had on their bookshelves that they would be willing to lend out and to track to whom the books were lent.

But selling social media (beyond SharePoint) in the workplace might still be difficult.

This article finds the somewhat obvious, but has a nice lit review and it might be persuasive to some.

From the lit review:

Internal knowledge sharing in organizations is good because

  • increases efficiency
  • increases innovation
  • decreases mistakes
  • makes the organization as a whole more competitive

Internal knowledge sharing is difficult because knowledge is "sticky"

  • takes work to share (individual)
  • people believe they might lose power or status by sharing (individual)
  • knowledge is too complex to transfer
  • it might be hard to find people with whom to share knowledge (technology)
  • knowledge from outside the immediate group in the organization might be devalued (culture)

So the idea of the article is that people need to look around a bit - sort of like jumping in in jump rope - before knowing how to ask a question and to whom to direct a question.  Using social media not necessarily to ask the question but to find sources and figure out how to approach them should help mitigate the stickiness issues.

They did a survey in a large telecommunications company and only worked with people who used their internal social networking site.

Unexpectedly, initial tie strength and complexity of the question impact if the seeker will ask the question immediately.  Asking right away when it's complex leads to less satisfaction. But, they found that even when the question isn't ambiguous, waiting to ask it made the knowledge transfer more satisfactory. This bit from page 27 is interesting:

for the sample of knowledge seekers who did not ask for knowledge right away, of the five media we tested (phone, email, instant message, face-to-face, and enterprise social network site), only enterprise social network site was significant and positive. This suggests that, in support of H3, the enterprise social networking site was the only medium—when used in the short time between when the knowledge seeker identified the knowledge source and when he or she asked for the knowledge—that increased the likelihood that the knowledge seeker was satisfied with transfer. Furthermore, neither identify tie strength nor knowledge complexity had a significant impact on the likelihood of satisfactory knowledge transfer.

(H3 is exactly that - using social networking to gain more information about the source will increase satisfaction with the answer)

The authors emphasize again that they found that it's the "awareness of ambient communication" aspect of social networking that helps, not just using it as a direct channel through which to direct the communication.

Back to my post title. What does this mean for special librarians in corporate, government, or research settings (not academic or public)? It reinforces the idea that maintaining an active presence on your intranet social networking site is a good idea so that your potential users can check you out, get to know you, and better ask you questions. Of course, try not to sound like an idiot on there because then they'll know that, too :)

Also, if your organization is interested in KM, has an intranet, AND you have enough people to get to some sort of critical mass (what might that be?), setting up one of these social networking services is probably a good idea.

Leonardi, P., & Meyer, S. (2014). Social Media as Social Lubricant: How Ambient Awareness Eases Knowledge Transfer American Behavioral Scientist, 59 (1), 10-34 DOI: 10.1177/0002764214540509

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Notes from a presentation on library spaces by Keith Webster

(by Christina Pikas) Jun 03 2015

My larger place of work (the major research institution of which my lab is a part) has an annual assembly of library folks from all the various libraries and hospital libraries. We almost always have interesting speakers. This year we had Keith Webster, the Dean of University Libraries at Carnegie Mellon University. I hope he will put his slides on SlideShare as the pictures are important for understanding his meaning. I tweeted some key points - as fast as I could on my phone.  I'll incorporate those here with some remembered details and minor edits of typos:


For STEM, we have been successful in getting most of the stuff they want online. When they come in, it's to complain that something isn't working or they couldn't figure out how to get what they want

I found this point to be obvious, but important. If you think of what we do with scientists who leave now and them donating papers and computers and disks and whatnot to archives... And historians of science and even people with IP disputes looking through these... What happens when these working papers and data are distributed through new cloud services, each with (or without) its own preservation strategy? There's no automatic institutional access or backup if something happens to the scientist.

This is also obvious but important. I think with the informationist and embedding models we're getting at this. We aren't really about policing access to physical collections (if we ever were). Connecting people to information has to be as a partner in the research and teaching enterprise.

He then went through generations of spaces. The first was basically the monks and books chained to desks. Then there were closed stacks and reading rooms. Then open stacks but still mediated by librarians. ....

Somewhere in here more things started to be moved to offsite storage for more computers in more places and staff being moved around. First it was less used, then it was basically everything.

He had a great picture for this. It was better than this picture:

More should be said about the roving. When they disestablished the reference desk, they had librarians roving to answer questions. The students did. not. like. at all. They felt like they were being followed and tracked. So the library stopped the service after a matter of weeks.

Also a neat point. As the classrooms are "flipped" and education has gone from lecture mode with exams to project based and group work based, the library needs to update its support. Instead of a single session at the beginning of the semester, it's partnership throughout. From what I hear from my academic colleagues, they have mostly done this already as long as the faculty will let them.

I still think this is a valid question for us to ask. Why should the library provide unattended study space with no books? Should that be student services or someone else? He said that their surveys consistently showed that the students wanted this service from the library. The library was known as a place to support serious work.

Seriously - when you're there for 8 hours and you can't leave your stuff because it will be stolen... Food? Lockers? Nicer potties? Sleeping space?

This is what they wanted: Qantas first class lounge Sydney 1

Another valid question: why should the libraries provide maker spaces? The disciplines provide them but often have higher quality industrial machines with lots more training needed. They may not be open to dabblers. The library is a neutral ground where historians can model artifacts, etc.

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