Monday, 6 August 2012

Sharing resources makes a lot of sense

Today I got an email asking why would an Australian school library use Libraries Australia when they can use SCIS

We have a subscription to Libraries Australia for the following reasons:

  1. It is an alternative source of catalogue records to SCIS. This is important to us because, being the school we are, there are some topics we collect that SCIS would not cover and while SCIS does do original cataloguing we can get the alternative records from Libraries Australia faster than it takes SCIS to do the cataloguing.
  2. Like so many other Australian Libraries we are also in the process of up loading all of our records back into Libraries Australia. This means our holdings also appear in WorldCat. The benefits of this are:
  • We can link our collection on the fly via  to other libraries in our area e.g. local public libraries and specialist collections. This means students and staff can see what we have as well as what other libraries have via the one single search. So if the student is looking for a book over the weekend because the assignment that is due on Monday and we are closed, they can see straight away who else has the title in their local area. 
  • Linking and resource sharing is a common practice among the public and university libraries. As school libraries are expected to do more with less it is only a matter of time before schools will need to think about how they can link and leverage off other local libraries. There are always going to be titles that students and staff will have a passing or short term interest. We would not buy these titles for our collection, but if they can be made readily discoverable and therefore accessible from other local libraries we are helping make it easier for patrons to find what they are looking for.
Further down the track we would like to be able to then prioritise our local holdings on the fly within a Trove search result. If our holdings are in Libraries Australia they are automatically in the ANBD as well as WorldCat.

If people approach searching from a variety of positions and platforms we want to make sure our patrons can see what we can offer even if they do not come directly to our catalogue in the first instant.

We might also have a small collection when compared to the Australian universities, research organisations, State Libraries and Public Libraries but we do have some unique holdings and we have all have a shared responsibility to make sure that the unique and often hard to find and difficult to replace items in our collections are readily accessible.

Sharing on the fly is going to play a great role in the future. Watch this space. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

eBook selection criteria

When selecting eBooks we share our selection criteria with potential suppliers. This makes the process as transparent and accountable as possible. Overall, we want to work with suppliers that work within the international standards. This is because it always ends up more expensive working within bespoke and proprietary solutions. Our selection criteria are therefore heavily weighted towards suppliers that have implemented these industry standards. We will never get all our eBooks from one publisher, and as no one searches by publisher, we also give preference to suppliers that enable us to integrate our eBooks into our library catalogue so we can offer single search from a single user authenticated sign on.

Here are our current eBook selection criteria. They have been written for a school library in Australia.

Selection Criteria

1. Coverage Criteria

The following standard questions are gathered from the staff assessing products and services on trial.

1. Does it broadly support the curricula in 2013? and / or1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
2. Does it support specific / focused and in depth study of the curricula in 2013?1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
Does it meet the specific needs of the school's teacher’s?1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
Is it age appropriate?1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent

2. Standard Questions for trials of online content

In addition to the coverage questions, the following standard questions are gathered from the staff assessing online products and services.
  • How many times did you use this service / title during the trial? 
  • Use the following scale to rank the service / title in terms of:
a. ease of navigation1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
b. Usefulness for teaching purposes (includes integration with our Smartboards).1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
c. Downloading, emailing, and printing content1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
d. Search functionality1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent
e. Linking to the school's online learning platform)1 to 5 with 1 been poor and 5 being excellent

  • How often would you use this service / title in your teaching?
  • Would you recommend the school proceed with this service / title? Y/N

3 Cost Criteria

1. Does it deliver best value for money

4 Functionality Criteria

Questions the library staff ask of the publishers on behalf of the school. The questions cover issues of functionality and digital rights management. Where possible we encourage publishers to work within existing international standards.

  1. Fully keyword searchable within each specific title, as well as across the all the titles purchased from each publisher’s online platform.
  2. In addition to searching on the full text, the text in graph, chart, and image metadata to also fully keyword searchable. Can you search on mathematical equations?
  3. If the eBook is NOT born digital (the online version is a copy of the print edition) we would want to see the online content presented in the same way, and with the same layout, as the print edition. This is also important when students are expected to cite page numbers. Therefore, we would look favourably on being able to access PDF page views.
  4. Author, subject, and citation details to be hyperlinked if the links points to other titles we have purchased from the publisher.
  5. Allow persistent and stable URL linking into the school's online learning platform as well as our eLibrary portal. It should be possible for teachers to set up links to a specific title, chapter or sections. It is advantageous for publishers to follow international practice and:
    • a. Use unique eISBN number for the title level links, and
    • b. Use the international DOI (The Digital Object Identifier System) standard to create persistent and stable links to chapters and sections. For details see
  6. Is platform neutral so it is usable on different types of devices, for example: PCs, laptops, iPads, and eBook readers. Is the interface dependent on flash or Adobe Acrobat?
  7.  Accessible to current teachers and students both on campus as well as from home.
  8.  The ability for teachers and students to email articles, sections or chapters to each other or themselves.
  9. The ability for a teacher to set up custom topic / recommended reading collections that they can share it with their students via our online learning platform.
  10. Citation help tools that build citations on the fly for the title, chapter, or section.
  11. The ability to export citations into third party products such as:  EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, RefWorks.
  12. The ability to listen to the text being read so students with low vision or learning issues can access the text.
  13. Cloud based web solutions so the school does not need to load the data locally or access the content from a CD or DVD. Ideally students and teachers should be able to migrate their access from one device to another in the same way Amazon allows people to access their content at multiple devices.
  14. Offer the ability to highlight text and add notes. Ideally teachers should be able to highlight text and add notes that they can share with their class as well as for teachers to see the notes and highlighted text of each of their students.
  15. The option of a site licence rather than having to register and maintain individual users licenses.
  16. As with the print, offer once only payments rather than ongoing yearly subscription renewals.
  17. MARC records of the titles we have purchased with pre-populated 856 fields so we can load the bibliographic details of the eBooks we have purchased into our library catalogue. As an aside, academic publishers are starting to load their bibliographic metadata into WorldCat This allows libraries to implement cloud based and collaborative catalogue solutions that avoid the need to load metadata locally. This delivers significant time savings and reduces library staff overheads.
  18. A web based administration utility that enables us to:
    • brand the search interface to the school's corporate identity,
    • customise the search functionality, some publishers allow us to offer different interfaces, with different levels of functionality or access to different collection, to different patron groups. For example: teachers versus students, or Middle School versus Senior School.
    • load or link to our print based holdings (see also bullet point 16)
    • View and export in CSV format our usage statistics (see also bullet point 19)
  19. Conforms to international recognised statistics gathering and reporting standards such as Project Counter and SUSHI
  20.  Archive back up copy in case the eBook goes out of print.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Life and work has been busy but it might be time to kick start this blog back to life. So here are my thoughts on something that is grabbing my interest of late: open data and using visualization tools to make large data sets understandable.

Governments around the globe are opening up their data vaults – allowing you to check out the numbers for yourself. The Guardian Newspaper in the UK offers some good examples but given the size and complexity of these data sets how do we make sense of them? If you need expensive software to data mine and process the information will the findings be restricted to haves at the expense of the havenots?

It will therefore be fascinating to see if open source projects such as the Miso Project will have an impact on civil society and democracy in general. Does a better understanding of what is going on make a difference? Does it lead to better decision making and or more accountable government? Does the fact that the Guardian Newspaper (along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) is one of the Miso Project partners suggest large data set visualization may also have a positive impact on journalism and investigative reporting?

"This week has seen the launch of The Miso Project, an “open source toolkit designed to expedite the creation of high-quality interactive storytelling and data visualization content”.

It is also interesting to see that there are calls for single European license for open data.