Archive for the 'Collection Development' category

No, vendor, we don't want a pile of crap actually

Dec 02 2017 Published by under Collection Development, interfaces, libraries

Large Copper Dung Beetle (Kheper nigroaeneus) on top of its dung ball https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Large_Copper_Dung_Beetle_(Kheper_nigroaeneus)_on_top_of_its_dung_ball_(12615241475).jpg

Yes, I have posted about this a number of times, and no this will probably not be too different.   Our vendors have swept up the little competition and then redone their boutique databases to make them - generally - work like piles of crap.

So there are two massive 3rd party aggregators that sell massive piles of crap. Don't get me wrong, these are super attractive to libraries who can then say: look at all these titles we cover! Look at how much content we have! The problem is that with our current state of information abundance, with lots of big package deals, with more and more open access, and with informal scholarly sharing < cough >, getting the full text of recent articles from big name journals really isn't a thing.

The thing is efficient, precise, thorough, appropriate information at the right time and place. I say: I need exactly information on this thing! The aggregators go: here's a massive pile of crap!  I'm like, well I don't need a pile of crap, I need exactly this thing. System returns: here's another pile of crap!

Look at the Aerospace database, for example. Used to be the only real database that covered hypersonics and was thorough at all at covering AIAA and NASA technical reports. It was CSA when I got to know it. Compendex, in comparison, is just adding AIAA stuff this year and isn't going back to the 60s. CSA databases got sold to ProQuest. I have no idea what the hell they've done with it because every time I do a search I end up with trade pubs and press releases - even when I go through the facets to try to get rid of them.

CSA used to have a computer science database, too. The current computer collection in ProQuest doesn't even allow affiliation searching. Also, a search I did there yesterday - for a fairly large topic - didn't return *any* conference papers. For CS. Really.

This is not to pick on PQ, ok maybe it is, but their competitors really aren't any better.

 

At the same time, we keep having people tell us at my larger organization, that we *must* get/have a discovery layer. Let me just tell you again, that we did a lot of testing, and they did not provide us *any* value over the no additional cost search of a 3rd party aggregator. They are super expensive, and really just give you - guess what - all your stuff in a huge pile of crap. I hear nothing but complaints from my colleagues who have to deal with these. The supposition was that we wanted a Google interface. Ok, maybe a sensible quick search is fine, but that only works when you, like Google, have extremely sophisticated information retrieval engines under the hood. Saying - hey we cover the same journals as your fancy well-indexed database but without the pesky indexing and also lumped together with things like newspapers, press releases, and trade pubs... is not really effective. It's a pile of crap.

You may say, "But think of the children!" The poor freshman dears who can't search to save their lives and who just need 3-5 random articles after they've already written their paper just to fill in their bibliography due in the morning....

Is that really who and what we're supporting? Should we rather train them in scholarly research and how to get the best information? And anyway, for my larger institution, we hardly have any freshmen at all.

No, vendors, we do not want a large pile of crap, but thanks for offering!

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Who are my researchers citing? A quick and dirty way to find out

Apr 21 2017 Published by under bibliometrics, Collection Development

This probably shouldn't warrant a post, but a few very experienced and up-to-date librarians didn't immediately know so probably worth sharing. Also, it turns out that Scopus* has hidden or removed a lot of the useful stuff and made it confusing to even know where to enter the search.**

In Scopus, search for your researchers. In my case, an affiliation search works.***

 

The affiliation search is a tab from the home page. There's no way to know it's a tab. It's just an underlined word. You actually then click around on the page until you find some place to type your query.

From the results list - and mind you I do this exact search regularly so yours might not be so precise - go ahead and click on all the documents. If you're at NIH then crap, because you have more then 10,000 journal articles per year so you have to do some major slicing and dicing. I just limited to 2016 and journal articles just because.

Then you look  for the "..." but then you realize it's grayed out and you can't actually click on it.

So then you click to highlight all, and then you click on "..." and you see view references.

From here, you can list the top sources and, theoretically, analyze them. They're not completely clean though. My set had JGR as well as the spelled out and the specific ones. Likewise with ApJ. So how quick and how dirty is ok? For collections development, you're probably cool with reading off. Otherwise you could export and then use OpenRefine or similar to clean.

* Not affiliated, not endorsing!

** plus - this thing in advanced search in which it is forever putting in codes I do not want ... anyway...

***hey, all the branding for my larger institution is gone? aw come on.

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Oh scientists, writing a letter about a publisher platform upgrade gone awry...

Apr 01 2017 Published by under Collection Development, publishing

Apparently, Oxford University Press' recent journal platform upgrade (details pdf) got super screwed up. A bunch of scientists are (rightfully) quite upset about various issues such as missing years of archives, access being denied for certain subscribers, misdirected and non-directing urls and dois, and missing supplemental data.

Don't get me wrong, this is pretty horrible. What tickles me is the response of writing an open letter.

Typically, when these upgrades go wrong, the scientists scream at us, their librarians. We in turn call and e-mail and fuss at the vendor who then eventually fixes it and then sends an apology to our acquisitions team and sometimes relevant listservs. I don't think we ever actually get any credits on our bills, though.

What a pleasant surprise that the scientists are actually blaming the publisher!

When I say typically, I mean like probably every month or so something like this happens to some extent. Some vendor platform upgrades are smooth, but I think most have some subset of the issues OUP has had.

Sage gave free access for like a month and then redirected all URLs. RefWorks is running 2 platforms in parallel for like 3 years.  LexisNexis is going to SOOPRIZE change us all over during the summer to a completely new platform... It is more typical to change over during the summer instead of screwing things up during prime paper writing season. Of course, OUP did start this late fall ... so...

Anyway, I hope OUP gets their stuff squared away quickly.

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Focusing on counts erodes research libraries' competitiveness

Dec 05 2016 Published by under Collection Development, libraries

by @glennobleFor many years, research libraries (mainly those in academic institutions but also in other research centers) have been all about counting collections: how many volumes owned? how many journals licensed? Bigger is better. Millions of volumes.

This pressure, combined with continual downward budgetary pressure and the global doubling of scientific output every nine years, has led to most libraries taking some short cuts to get more coverage (more volume and more volumes). In place of carefully curated abstracting and indexing services necessarily specific to certain domains of knowledge that help explore and identify sources of information but do not provide physical access, many libraries are licensing massive collections from Eb and PQ that hugely boost the numbers. They are also licensing these massive "discovery" systems that, in my opinion, completely fail to improve discovery. We librarians have told our vendors that our most important users are the undergraduates who need any few articles on a topic to quickly pad their bibliography.  Vendor offerings that make that process easier are welcomed.  So we cancel Inspec, Biosis, GEOBASE and similar to feed the beast of more and more content. The vendors who provide access to formerly very useful databases (cough Aerospace cough) more or less eviscerate them to also give more - higher counts, faster, broader... and cheaper (no - lol - never cheaper for *libraries*)

Yet, as everyone has said before me, we are living in times of information abundance not scarcity. We know we cannot survive with the library-as-pocketbook model. Some of our value comes in working with users as partners in their research. We work to understand what their information problem entails and to help them (teach, do for, or provide tools for them to) find the information they need. We should also be building and licensing systems for the most sophisticated of users on our faculties and in our research centers. We should strive for precision and also serendipity of unexpected very relevant articles. We should save the time of the reader. What value millions of responses to a web query if your answer is on page 10? New researchers should be taught to be more sophisticated in their searching (I honestly think chemistry may be the only field that does this well), instead of accepting good enough or random iteration around the theme.

The best services and tools respect the researcher's precious time. They help the researcher have better information more quickly and with more context and confidence.  This is the way we compete with the ubiquity of information freely available on the internet. It's something we do and something we can do quite well... but we need to stop these collections processes now before it's too late.

 

*These are my opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of my immediate organization or my parent institution. Any specific products are mentioned to clarify my meaning. No endorsement should be inferred.

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The crazy trip of one aerospace trade pub

Jan 08 2016 Published by under Collection Development, libraries

Aviation Week (& Space Technology) is celebrating 100 years in print in 2016. To celebrate (and advertise Boeing), they are making their archive freely available in 2016 (registration required for some f/t) (via Gary Price).

This is shocking really. This publication has been super important AND super expensive over my time as an engineering librarian in an aerospace organization. I've used the print archives to come up with open source documentation of various launch pad accidents, details of missile production, and other news.

We had a print archive going back to about 1962 in our library. In 2009 when we had to move out and ditch our collection I argued to keep this - of all of our bound journals - because at the time there was no affordable alternative. Well, I was out the day one of the jobbers came and apparently took it all anyway. An accident, I was told. So we did without for a while, using the embargoed access that gave us a few years through a major aggregator.

Still, just about every year we asked for a quote from McG-H and the pricing was like 5 digits for a single user with a login and password. It wasn't something we could really do.

Then a couple of years ago it was bought by Penton Media. You may know them from all of the "free to qualified recipients" trade pubs they have. They offered the database - the Intelligence Network - to us large-institution wide for less than a single login had been. We jumped on it.

Now, this year, free. I guess it won't be free after 2016? Has the quality changed? Dunno.

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So long old friend: Cancelling Dialog

Aug 14 2015 Published by under Collection Development, libraries

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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