The Canadian philosopher of communication and media, Marshall McLuhan, famously argued:
We see the world through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future
In the early days of the web it was common for retailers to replicate paper brochures online, so called ‘brochureware’, missing the interactivity and format opportunities the web provides (and losing customers in the process too!). We continue to transpose our experiences of physical paper and books online, with little or no adaptation to the opportunities for interaction and multi-media.
While mobile technology has been available for decades, its current ubiquity and power (both socially and technologically) mean we find ourselves at the edge of a technological shift. As we move from a desk top to a mobile lifestyle we must be careful not to succumb to the rear-view mirror effect and replicate the desk top experience in the services and systems we design for the mobile user.
We find ourselves inhabiting a very different environment to a few years ago. Where once our computing power was located in one place, it now travels with us, capturing and distracting us no matter where we find ourselves. It connects us to people, places and things in ways not previously possible.
With this mobile lifestyle in mind I want to explore 4 challenges that mobile technologies present to libraries. In articulating these challenges I hope it will become increasingly clear what strategies and opportunities there are for libraries, and their services, systems and collections.
When you take a look at some of the best mobile experiences, whether apps or websites they usually have one thing in common: They do one thing extremely well. Everything extraneous is stripped away to leave only the most essential and relevant information.
Exemplars include Rise, an alarm clock app that incorporates visually simple interfaces, combined with gesture recognition and your music playlists. Or Clear, a ‘to do’ app, with intuitive gesture controls and the use of colour to denote urgency – nothing else.
Amazon’s stripped down app is a good example of a website that has adapted its presence to a mobile experience: Only the relevant information is included and all the complexity is hidden away from sight (although you can dig deeper if you wish).
The Amazon example is an interesting one. It invites comparisons with the library catalogue, and it certainly provides an effective template for mobile discovery. However, libraries have a physical infrastructure, processes and technologies that mean refining the mobile experience to a single thing can be hard. When we use a phrase like ‘discovery’ in a library or information-seeking context we often mean a set of interrelated actions, such as: search, select, find and use. Is it possible to break these down into their component parts and still deliver a positive experience for the user, both in terms of the mobile experience and of using the library?
The challenge the mobile devices present to libraries in this context is one of needs over solutions. The challenge is to think beyond the solutions already in place (the catalogue, discovery layer), to articulating the actual need. In the case of discovery maybe, ‘I need to answer a question’, or; ‘I need to find something’. Formulated in this way it is clear that a solution may be very different to the ones already available.
It forces us to consider the context we’re operating in; it invites us to invent, not retro-fit!
People and Place
Increasingly, the mobile device is a bridge between our online social connectivity and our localised real-world interactions. If you explore a map on your phone you don’t have to tell it where you are, the internal GPS has already told it. Similarly, it can tell you when a friend is near-by through apps like Facebook, FourSquare and so on.
There are a number of interesting examples where libraries and others have exploited these inherent benefits of mobile devices. Mendeley, the reference manager, is a good example of a service that is explicitly looking to build a social layer on top of the bibliographic data they have crowdsourced from the academic community in the form of bibliographies. You can follow academics with similar research interests, build groups and curate and build your own, personalised discovery network.
Increasingly, the discovery experience unfolds and is led by the content itself. What used to be the destination, the content or resource, is now the beginning of the journey.
For example, projects like Bomb Site, from the National Archives, have taken bomb site map data and made it available as a responsive website so that academics, researchers and members of the public can explore where bombs fell. This data is augmented over a map and includes images, descriptions and people’s memories.
Similarly, the PhoneBooth project from the London School of Economics mobilised the Charles Booth poverty maps of London so that students and researchers could use and annotate the maps in context, i.e., on the streets of London as part of their learning experience.
Increasingly the discovery process will find itself facilitating peer-to-peer and social recommendation experiences.
The traditional catalogue will itself begin to disappear from these interactions. Instead, the discovery experience will have an intimacy and personalisation associated with it that mirrors the intimately personal experience of the mobile device itself.
The web provides unparalleled opportunities for scale. The local bric-a-brac shop becomes eBay, the bookshop Amazon, the University becomes the massively open online course (MOOC) such as Cousera. Similarly the library begins to operate at ‘web-scale’ with its systems and services.
Yet, the mobile experience is an intimately personal one. It challenges libraries and information providers to find a balance between these two types of scale: the singular (the personal) and the ‘web-scale’. It is not enough simply to adopt web-scale systems and services: mobile challenges us to think about how that web-based interaction is transformed into real-world action.
One opportunity for libraries is in the data that circulates through their systems, both the management data and the user-generated interaction data. There are an increasing number of services and projects looking at exploiting this data for the personalisation of the user experience. These include commercial offerings, of which the best known is bX from Ex Libris.
There are also a number of academic libraries exploring the use of this data, including: SALT (surfacing the academic long tail) and RISE (Recommendations improve the search experience) which are exploring how different sets of data can be used to enhance and personalise the library experience.
The ability of libraries to exploit this data will grow increasingly important. The data provides a way for libraries to continue delivering services to hundreds and thousands of users, while providing a personalised experience that users expect from web-based services.
If the mobile shift challenges libraries to invent new experiences, it also invites us to rethink how we develop and implement these.
As information becomes abundant and digital, the models for how libraries develop and implement new services and systems will radically change too. Libraries are no longer comparing themselves and their services to other libraries; instead they are being compared to the web, and the types of services and resources users can access there. Increasingly libraries will find themselves needing to adopt approaches that would normally be more associated with web start-ups.
This implies a greater focus on ideas (ideas from everywhere: librarians, users et al), rapid iteration and testing, and implementation of the idea (or quick relegation of ideas). This more entrepreneurial approach recognises that there is no simple crossing between how things are now and the future. There is not a simple roadmap from the complexities of the information environment as they are now, to some stable future; disruption is a feature, not a bug of the system.
While the change in a libraries approach to the user and the work it undertakes is significant, and not easy, there are some straightforward starting points. There are already great examples and case studies of mobile innovation in libraries. The M-Libraries community support blog, for example, includes a large amount of information, including case-studies, best practice guides and inspiration from other organisations on how they have transformed services with mobile technology.
Indeed, as many of the examples on the M-Libraries blog demonstrate, the financial overhead for this type of change should be low. Rethinking your approach to design of mobile services shouldn’t include significant barriers, either financial or technical. A good place to start is by borrowing ideas from other domains, like software development and design. The example of paper-prototyping, used in a recent mobile development workshop, provides a good place to start.
What many of these examples share is a renewed focus on the user. It moves us away from a focus on internal systems and processes, toward the behaviours and requirements of the user. The centre of gravity moves away from the technology and toward the user; the mobile-turn is one where the technology is overshadowed by the needs of the user.
The challenges mobile technologies present to libraries are ones drenched in paradox. The hardware (the phone, tablet, ereader) gradually fades from view, and it is the user, with their intricate behaviours and requirements that remain the focus of our attention.
Unlike so many other technologies, mobile enables the library to rethink its services, systems and processes to ensure that it is the user that remains at their heart. This does not mean business as usual, however. But it does mean that by understanding these challenges and their implications, libraries are in a position to design and deliver mobile experiences that users will want to engage with.
As part of the Library Systems Programme, two reports have been published exploring the potential for shared library systems across Universities in both Scotland and Wales.
In the first of two posts I wanted to briefly introduce you to the two recently published reports, and their main findings/recommendations. In the second post I want to highlight some of the other developments on the shared library systems landscape, and highlight some of the implications.
A Shared LMS for Wales (WHELF)
The Welsh Shared Service Library Management System Feasibility Report focussed on the most prevalent and practical issues for a shared all Wales HE library management system in broad terms:
A set of high-level agreed consortium requirements for a shared LMS.
A proposed governance model for the consortium.
High level recommendations on integration requirements for local systems; map communications standards which are applicable to the project against standards in use by suppliers.
A business case for a Wales-wide consortium LMS, including cost matrices for the different approaches presented.
Recommendations on the most cost-effective approach for software, hosting and ongoing management of the LMS.
The report makes the following recommendations:
The Project recommended setting up an All-Wales Consortium with formal governance. This requires the consortium to formally agree which processes, working practices and configurations will be adhered to by all members as a whole.
A cloud solution hosted by a vendor (or open source vendor) is the preferred option, because this will provide the most cost-effective resilient solution.
Further work will be required to develop a clear statement on the vision for shared LMS services in Wales, ensuring clarity of purpose and providing a compelling statement of intent for senior stakeholders and staff to achieve buy-in to the strategic direction proposed.
The report suggests a phased approach to implementation; anticipating that the first implementations will be no sooner than Summer 2014.
The report also suggests a task and finish group should be convened to quickly put together a high level plan, costs and cost allocation (i.e. funding) for the establishment of a project team.
The Benefits of Sharing (SCURL)
How would a shared library management system improve services in Scotland?
While the question is simple, the answer is a little more complex. Indeed, the project began looking at the question with an initial workshop and subsequent report.
It then broke the problem into 3 parts:
The project also published a summary report which concludes with a number of recommendations, including the following:
From a systems perspective, sharing technical infrastructure and support structures would offer benefits of economies of scale, with more efficient use of staffing and greater expertise than any single library could offer. System options such as Open Source (OS) alternatives to ‘off the shelf’ commercial products could, therefore, become viable. It is recommended that at the tender and procurement phases of a shared LMS, all options, including OS systems, are reviewed and assessed.
Both reports make very interesting reading – and also tell us a lot about the current library systems landscape. In particular there is a renewed vigour in the potential for sharing and collaborating around services and systems between libraries and institutions.
There is also a clear recognition that open source solutions are viable options for the community, and may represent a feature of this new library landscape.
In the second post on shared library services and systems I’ll explore some of the other developments within this landscape, and the implications they have for institutions, libraries and systems vendors.
Jisc and CASRAI are piloting the development of a ‘UK chapter’ of the CASRAI dictionary to improve research interoperability.
Get in touch by emailing email@example.com if you’d like to keep up-to-date with progress and to contribute your views. More information is below.
The problem we are addressing
Research teams and administrators must retype the same information repeatedly when applying for grants and reporting to funders. Research policy-makers, managers and evaluators are consistently frustrated by an inability to draw meaningful conclusions from a growing mass of disconnected data. The problem and a way to reduce this administrative duplication for the research community are nicely illustrated in the CASRAI video:
The solution suggested by CASRAI is compiling a common, international dictionary. The dictionary contains definitions of key terms or information elements which relate to the management of e.g. research grants, CVs or data management plans and documents controlled vocabularies, authoritative lists and identifiers that are relevant for these terms. The dictionary thereby provides the basis for data profiles to ease the exchange of information within and between organisations. As a single, open and unambiguous reference source for data profiles, the CASRAI dictionary can be used by multiple technology suppliers – including those using CERIF or VIVO – thereby forming a basis for interoperability and allowing information to be exchanged smoothly.
The ‘CASRAI approach’ to developing this dictionary and building agreement around key terms is generating more and more interest in the UK research community and we are excited about trialling it here in the UK.
CASRAI and Jisc are piloting three National working groups (NWGs) around a number of priority areas identified at the CASRAI-UK summit organised by Jisc and CASRAI last December. These pilot projects are exploring both the methods and the particular content that is the focus of this work.
The people on the working groups (i.e. funders, research managers, standards experts) will identify and document agreements on vocabularies. While these agreements will build on and have defined relationships with an international core, they will reflect UK requirements. A CASRAI analyst will help to develop ‘data profiles’ which are defined as a harmonized standard that specifies a subset of information required by the users of an inter-organisational work process.
This approach can prevent us from reinventing wheels and offer a sustainable home for these agreements – for example also for the outputs of the Jisc UK Research Information Shared Service project.
Three pilot National Working Groups will focus on
1. Data Management Plans
- Developing an initial data profile reflecting the current version of the Digital Curation Centre’s “DMP-Online” tool.
- Concurrently, developing a potential further version of the data profile derived from harmonization and discussions among the UK Research Councils.
2. Organisational Lists
- Assessment and recommendation on the suitability of the planned FundRef list for adoption as a standard authoritative list for international funding organizations.
- Exploring possible sources of authoritative lists of organisations involved in UK research, including research performing organisations, charities, industry, etc.
- Develop a sustainable process for maintaining authoritative lists of organisations in the CASRAI dictionary.
3. Research Reporting
- Data profile supporting institutional report to UK funders for the new policy on Open Access, and for research contributions / outputs more generally
While other areas identified at the CASRAI-UK Summit – Ethics Review and Research Equipment profiles – are also important, we think that these need more discussion before we can convene and set the scope for working groups. For now, these discussions will be continued in a special online forum for each of these topics.
How it works and how you can get invovled
Due to the pilot status of the working groups, the CASRAI governance arrangements and membership model will not be applied to its full extent this year. An objective of the pilot is to develop – together with the people participating in the working groups – a mechanism that works appropriately for the UK.
At the same time as we are starting the working groups we are also convening the CASRAI-UK National Review Circle. This group includes a wider group of people that are interested in the progress of CASRAI-UK and is open for anyone interested to join.
The National Working Groups (NWGs) will, in the course of their work, produce drafts, announcements and other outputs. These will be posted to a dedicated forum for the National Review Circle. This wider group can keep up-to-date on progress but also contribute advice and feedback to the NWGs as they evolve new national standards for the UK research community.
The purpose of the National review Circle is to ensure that the resulting standards are applicable and multi-disciplinary and that valid diverged views are communicated.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining the National Review Circle or the discussion forum on Ethics Review or Research Equipment profiles.
The highlight of this weeks endNotes is something that happened at the end of last week (I know it’s cheating, but there wasn’t an endNote last week!).
The International Discovery Summit, held at the British Library, saw delegates from the UK and across the world come together to discuss ways of collaborating to address the common technical, political and social challenges that are preventing us realising our grand visions for better resource discovery.
All the presentations and resources from the day can be found on the website.
On tuesday this week the Ithaka S+R and Jisc published a report into the Changing Research Pracitices of Chemists. The report describes the findings of research into academic chemists’ research habits and research support needs. the report covers themes such as data management, research collaboration, library use, discovery, publication practices, and research funding with a number of recommendations for new support service models.
This week also saw two workshops take place that explored the challenges of new technologies on libraries and teaching and learning. The University of Huddersfield hosted a HIKE project workshop that explored the impact of new library technologies (like next generation systems and services like KB+) on workflows and processes.
The second workshop was on the challenges of eBooks and is part of a report exploring the challenges ebooks (and e-textbooks) pose to teaching and learning as well as beginning to map some of the ways institutions are addressing and solving these issues. the case studies developed with institutions are particularly interesting in mapping out potential ways forward in this fluid and complex space.
My final link this week is for a documentary that is part of the BBC’s Storyville series. Google and the World Brain is about the campaign by authors to put a stop to the Google Books website after Google scanned millions of books, over half of which were still in copyright. Fascinating stuff.
It seems that all the cool kids produce weekly notes on their blogs reflecting back on the work that’s taken place over the week! Take a look at the Government’s Digital Service, Berg and Doug Belshaw’s blog for some really good examples.
So, with these Week endNotes the plan is to reflect over the past week of work, events and general happenings from the Digital infrastructure team. This first week will have a definite library flavour about it…
- First up is a slight cheat as this KualiOLE announcement was from last week! The community source library system Kuali Open Library Environment announced a further $750,000 in funding to help finish the development of the project. An important announcement for the project and for those institutions, in the US and elsewhere, who are watching the progress of the project.
- The LMS Change landscape document has been published on the project blog which provides a very good overview of the current Library Systems landscape. Well worth a read if you can.
- This week saw the announcement of the very exciting Library Analytics and Metrics Project (jiscLAMP). The project will develop a shared library analytics service for UK HE. Stay tuned for more information soon!
- There has also been the recent release of the Activity Data Report entitled: Delivering benefits from the data deluge. This is a great report and worth taking a look at for both background to the issues as well as the use-cases and implications for institutions in being able to effectively analyse and act upon data.
- Finally, but by no means least, one of the most interesting posts on the blog last week was on Observing the Web by my colleague Neil Grindley. The post describes the work of the Web Science Trust and their aim to build a global network of Web Observatories providing an open analytics environment to drive new forms of Web research. The implications of this work seem significant – and is something of particular importance to the LAMP project and its aim to aggregate different data sets in order to under cover and describe new and useful narratives.
Like a lot of people, when I think about it, or when I’m reminded about it, I understand that the Web is a place where someone is always watching what you do. I understand that … but then I think, well … the Web is such a huge beast; such a vast ocean; such a giant metropolis where the comings and goings of individuals are insignificant. How and why would anyone notice what I’m looking at and which links I’m clicking on?
Then up pops Tom Barnett from Switch Concepts Ltd. at a meeting yesterday to tell us that ‘Google has a file the size of an encyclopedia on everyone in this room.’
Hmmm … that’s not a particularly comfortable idea for someone to put in your head. I start to feel a vague sense of paranoia creeping through my mind.
And then I think, c’mon Neil, pull yourself together! Google really doesn’t care who you are. They just want to put things in your line of sight that are more rather than less likely to get you to open your wallet and part with your wages!!
Such were the thoughts that were buzzing around my head yesterday at an event organised by the Web Science Trust (http://webscience.org).
The meeting was entitled ‘Observing the Web’ and the purpose was to highlight some of the work that the Web Science Trust and their partners and collaborators are doing to build a global network of Web Observatories providing an open analytics environment to drive new forms of Web research. We went round the room doing introductions and Dame Wendy Hall ended up branding us a ‘motley crew’. Academics, industry players, not-for-profits, technologists, funders, charities, a lawyer. (Quite a respectable looking motley crew in the very smart surroundings of the Royal Society I might add). But ‘motley crew’ felt about right for a topic and a collaborative, academic, open activity that is still exploring the territory and testing new ground. Presumably in contrast to the well-resourced, sophisticated and highly developed (but opaque) methods employed by the corporate observers of the Web (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo etc.).
The point of all of this ‘observing’ is not to try and take account of every little bit of data and content on the web, but rather to understand what the aggregated use of the Web can tell us; how trends and fashions and changes of behaviour in relation to the Web might illuminate aspects of our society and culture, both now and for future students and researchers.
This was all of great interest to Jisc. We are currently working with the British Library, the Oxford Internet Institute and the Institute of Historical Research on an initiative that aligns very well with the notion of the Web Observatory.
The Big Data project (http://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/research/projects/?id=88)
the AADDA project (http://www.history.ac.uk/projects/digital/AADDA)
are both using a copy of the Internet Archive’s collection of UK domain websites collected over the period 1996-2010, to examine new ways to engage with the web at domain level, and develop new forms of research that leverage the scale of the web. As the name of the Oxford project says … it’s all about using ‘Big Data’.
This was work that emerged from influential JISC-funded reports commissioned in 2010 -
Researcher Engagement with Web Archives
As we heard at the meeting, the academic observatory is a very different proposition to the corporate observatory and comes with enormous challenges including: interoperability (how do we link observatories?); access (asides from Twitter which of the big corporates will let us use their data?); privacy (will people feel spied upon?); and sustainability (what is the business model?).
A fascinating meeting and big topic. There will be more discussion in Early May at the ACM Web Science Meeting in Paris.
The current buzz and enthusiasm around data is difficult to avoid. Whether it’s the challenges of ‘big data’, the potential of data-driven techniques, or simply the power and clarity of data visualisations; data is inescapably entwined with much of what we do, and the systems and services we provide and use.
Long before we were all swept up in this data euphoria, libraries have understood the potential and opportunities of collecting, managing and acting on the myriad sources of data they create through their systems and services. A recent survey of libraries by Mimas highlighted that the use of data to inform decision making was a top priority within the next 5 years. At the same time it is clear from Jisc’s Activity Data programme that there is a lack of viable tools and services for libraries to effectively exploit the broad range of data available.
A new project has just started at Jisc called the Library Analytics and Metrics project (jiscLAMP) which aims to enable libraries to capitalise on this data and support the improvement and development of new services (enhanced collections management, personalised services, tailored student support) and demonstrate value and impact in new ways across the institution (student attainment and satisfaction, identify changing research patterns, for example).
Besides LAMP providing ample opportunities for nice puns around shining a light onto library data, the project will be developing a prototype shared library analytics service for UK academic libraries. Initially this is being envisioned as a kind of data dashboard, bringing together disparate data sets and visualising them in an attractive and meaningful way.
The project is a partnership between Jisc, Mimas (at the University of Manchester) and the University of Huddersfield running until October this year when it will deliver a prototype service for use by the community.
While the project will establish specific analytics use-cases for the data, the project intends to initially focus on services and projects such as Copac activity data, the Library Impact Data project, JUSP, and IRUS. As the project iterates through prototypes and use-cases so the depth and breadth of data sources and services will change too.
Ultimately the project will be exploiting the potential that bringing these various services and emerging data sets together will have: unearthing new narratives and unforeseen connections. While individually these services and data sets are powerful, the opportunities for new insights and evidence grow exponentially as these data sets are brought together and interrogated as a group.
So that was a very brief introduction to LAMP.
At this point I was going to simply end this post with some of the aims and objectives of the project. But, instead I thought I’d do something a little different and give you a ‘vision’ and goals for the eventual prototype. Come October, this is what you can expect….
The vision of the library analytics and metrics project is to put data at the fingertips of librarians to improve student attainment and satisfaction and achieve new efficiencies and economies through innovative services and tailored support.
To achieve this the project will meet the following goals:
- Provide insight: Will enable analysis that provides new insights which result in new services and practices providing additional value to students and researchers
- Diversity of data: Delivers data from a minimum of three distinct data sources to meet a range of use-cases such as, improving student retention and attainment, personalised services and demonstrating value
- Sustainable: Ensure the project is based on a sustainable foundation to ensure long-term support for the academic library community
- Community based: The service will enable the library community to do things together not possible separately. Through the community advisory group users will be in from the beginning, and the prototype service will engage a minimum of 8 institutions in the initial prototype
If you would like to find out more then take a look at the project website.
I thought it was worth posting this announcement I saw about the KualiOLE project receiving further funding from the Mellon Foundation ($750,000 in total).
While the KualiOLE project is a partnership between US research libraries, it is also a project which is generating some interest within the UK library community.
I don’t think it would be an overstatement to claim that the Library Systems landscape is in a particularly interesting phase at the moment.
A few years ago, 2007/8, Jisc and SCONUL released their LMS landscape report which reflected on the library communities frustration at the perceived lack of visible innovation with the systems space.
Over the past few years that landscape has been somewhat transformed with new proprietary systems from all the major library systems vendors, as well as the first implementation of an open source solution at Staffordshire University.
And, we shouldn’t forget the impact of the sale of Talis group’s Library Division to Capita.
This agitation of the fragile library systems ecology has continued apace, and things do not seem to be slowing down…
Late last year, the Bloomsbury Library Management Systems Consortium made a decision in principle to develop a new, 21st century Library Systems with KualiOLE as its platform. There is a great post by John Robinson of SOAS on what led them to the decision and what the library systems landscape looks like from their perspective at the moment.
At the same time some of the projects involved in the Jisc Library Systems programme have had their interest sparked by the KualiOLE project.
This interest and general awareness was catalysed by the SCONUL KualiOLE seminar held prior to the SCONUL Winter conference in December 2012, which a number of institutions attended.
A number of projects and libraries posted thoughts on the work of KualiOLE, a sample of some are below:
- The Benefits of Sharing project in Scotland, blogged some thoughts on the project.
- Richard Nurse of the OU reflected on the seminar.
There has also been a very fruitful partnership between KualiOLE, Jisc and JISC Collections to build an open web service that provides electronic resource information on a global scale.
The Global Open knowledgebase (GOKb) project is working in partnership with knowledgebase+ (KB+) and sharing a common data model to help address those global electronic resource management issues, such as data accuracy, transfer formats and so on. As well as helping establish a global library community working together to solve some of these everyday frustrations and challenges.
GOKb is set to deliver an open, community-based, international data repository that will provide libraries with publication information about electronic resources, supporting libraries in providing efficient and effective services to their users and ensuring that critical electronic collections are available to their students and researchers.
It will help underpin both the KualiOLE management system, and provide valuable data and collaboration for KB+ and the UK library community.
So these are very exciting times for libraries (in both the UK and elsewhere) as they reflect on the requirements of their users and the functionality and agility of their systems. And, while libraries find themselves navigating through these constantly treacherous technological waters, it may be worth keeping an eye on the work of the LMS Change project.
Like a bright star in the sky, it may help guide you to slightly calmer waters!
I was asked to present a short ‘provocation’ on the topic of the Digital User Experience for the SCONUL winter conference 2012, and the impact this will have on the future of library skills.
The strangest thing happened on the way to the conference…
A stranger appeared as if from nowhere and presented me with a usb stick. He told me I had to play the video contained on the stick at the conference instead of the slides I had prepared.
He said it was of the utmost importance.
So, here is the video I played:
As I am sure you can imagine, I was very surprised! But, despite the surprise I was able to jot down a few notes on what I thought were the implications for the future of library skills.
Librarians need to learn how to code?
A number of interesting themes emerged during the conference. One of the most interesting discussions actually moved from the conference hall onto Twitter, and centered on whether or not librarians would need technical (i.e., programming/developer) type skill sets in the future.
This is an interesting thought – and one that reflects my personal opinion that many of the skills we’ll associate with librarians in the not too distant future (say 2020), will be very different from the ones we currently associate with the profession. While ‘soft’ skills, like communication etc, are essential, they do not differentiate the profession from any other.
What are the skills that really define the profession and its future?
I plan to blog about these ideas and some of the other themes that emerged during the conference in another post – there are far too may nuances for me to do them justice quickly here. But I suspect that the profession will become increasingly associated with aspects of technical development that we currently see as still separate from librarianship.
These differences will begin to break down, and the technical development and librarianship roles will converge to such an extent that there will be no meaningful distinction.
However, if you want some reading for over the break there’s a great post by the LMS Change project on New Skills for a New Era which does a good job of summing up the conference and some of the themes and discussions that took place.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery: So thanks to my colleague Andy McGregor who graciously allowed me to steal his idea!
We are pleased to announce a new report that explores how activity data and analytics can benefit universities and proposes how institutions can cope with the associated challenges and opportunities. The report is called Activity data – delivering benefits from the data deluge and is available on the Jisc website now. The eagle eyed will have spotted a link to it in the current issue of Jisc inform.
The report was written by David Kay of Sero Consulting and Mark van Harmelen of Headtek and it builds on the work we have been doing with activity data over the last couple of years. Over those two years it has felt that activity data has moved from being a relatively fringe and immature area in universities to something that is likely to be of vital importance in the next few years.
I think that this is emphasised by a flurry of exciting new developments. My colleague Myles Danson has worked with CETIS to release the Analytics Series. This is a series of seven useful and interesting reports that explore analytics from a number of different angles. This includes thinking about the implications for research and teaching and learning.
I’ll pause here to explain what I see as the difference between analytics and activity data. Analytics is a broad heading for the mining of data to inform business decisions or provide improved services to end users. Activity data is one type of data that falls under the analytics heading. Activity data specifically focuses on the data recorded about a user’s actions when they interact with a website or software or even a physical space.
Another exciting development is a project to explore a shared library analytics service. This project is seeking to develop a pilot shared service that builds on some of the experiments we have been doing in our activity data work. It is expected to complete in Autumn 2013 and should provide libraries with a useful new way to study how their services are working and to gather data to inform crucial decisions over allocation of resources. More detail will be available on this soon.
One project that will be an important part of delivering the library analytics suite will be Huddersfield’s Library Impact Data project. They released version 2 of their toolkit last week. So if you can’t wait for the library analytics suite to start exploring your library activity data then head over to their blog for more information.
So, there is a lot going on. That makes the Activity Data report even more timely since it provides an accessible and useful introduction to the topic. The report discusses the benefits that are on offer to institutions. It includes case studies on UK and US institutions who are leading the way with activity data. It finishes by offering some pointers on strategies that may be useful in getting ready to seize the opportunities offered by activity data.
This is a fast moving area and it looks like 2013 should see some even more exciting developments.