January 07, 2008

Privacy Assessment for risk management at project inception

Writing about web page http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/pia_handbook_html/html/1-intro.html

Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) at the initial stage of a project can save you a lot of trouble and cost. This is the idea behind the new PIA Handbook by the office of the Information Commissioner.

The objective of the PIA is to avoid the following risks:

loss of public credibility as a result of perceived harm to privacy or a failure to meet expectations with regard to the protection of personal information;
retrospective imposition of regulatory conditions as a response to public concerns, with the inevitable cost that entails;
low adoption rates (or poor participation in the implemented scheme) due to a perception of the scheme as a whole, or particular features of its design, as being inappropriate;
the need for system re-design or feature retrofit, late in the development stage, and at considerable expense;
collapse of the project, or even of the completed system, as a result of adverse publicity and/or withdrawal of support by the organisation or one or more key participating organisations, or
compliance failure, through breach of the letter or the spirit of privacy law (with attendant legal consequences).

This privacy impact assessment tool could not be more timely when privacy concerns for the use of social networking sites have filtered down to the level of BBC news. The HE sector has been weighing the pros and cons of using Web 2.0 services external to the institution and after witnessing the initial jolliness of the early adopters one could be forgiven for remaining wary of any projects involving such services.

It is not only that the operating costs of social software marketing of your academic library services may cancel out any possible benefits, but there could be more to lose than to gain by the institution in terms of reputation if it is seen to engage in activities that compromise user privacy.

Of course it is not only projects but also the behaviour of individuals employed by the institution. Would you agree with the following advice reported on the CoHE, 54 (15), p.A1 ?

And so, when undergrads ask to friend her, this professor politely declines. She encourages them to contact her again when they graduate — when there’s no chance of their turning up in another class, or before a judicial panel she is on.
Most faculty members on Facebook keep their profiles professional — nothing racier than would be posted, say, on an office door. The consensus on friending seems to be: Accept students’ requests but don’t initiate any.

January 04, 2008

Cataloguing skills in demand for the digital revolution!

Writing about web page http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue53/manuel-oppenheim/

Manuel and Oppenheim (2007) briefly assume a loss of cataloguing skills within the library and repository communities, which would be resulting from the practice of libraries outsourcing their cataloguing work by buying shelf-ready books. Their article then considers the possibility that such a “loss of key skills may have long-term implications” for libraries’ ability to provide good quality metadata in the preservation of digital assets. This concern seems to be expressed in the context of HE repositories.

Libraries in the public sector may have undergone a reduction of their cataloguing staff overall, as claimed, but the sector is obviously experiencing the boom of digitisation, a boom that is only starting and which has no bust in sight. There is still a lot of scope for growth in digitisation since only 1% of the content of European libraries has been digitised so far according to a recent estimate reported by Ayris (2007), who likens library digitisation to a revolution.

Such digitisation and the resulting digital libraries require metadata librarians as digital asset managers with a skills set not too distant from the fundamental profile of the cataloguer. Accordingly the role of the cataloguer is becoming ever more interesting and challenging as it evolves into the role of digital repository manager and requires the kind of knowledge about digital preservation that Manuel and Oppenheim (2007) mention in their article.

In particular the staff employed in HE libraries as cataloguers are in a good position to take on roles in Research Support as it shifts to include digital preservation and publishing (see our previous post on university digital presses and the shift to OA). Similarly HE serials librarians are also well placed to take on the challenge of supporting academics in the publishing of their research in spite of the decline of the print journal in the next five to ten years, which is predicted by Johnson and Luther (2007, p.31) as part of the shift of libraries to providing only e-collections.

Ayris, P. (2007) Why is Google showing us the way forward in digitisation? asks senior UK librarian. JISC Podcast 21.

Johnson, R. and Luther, J. (2007) The E-only Tipping Point for Journals: What’s Ahead in the Print-to-Electronic Transition Zone. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries.

Manuel, S. and Oppenheim, C. (2007) Googlepository and the University Library. Ariadne, 53, October.

December 17, 2007

Social software marketing of your academic library services

Writing about web page http://www.internet-librarian.com/Presentations/C106_Lawson.pps

Social software can be as good as any place for promotional marketing if you want to invest in creeping up to your customers and performing a marketing stunt. However, the social software might not to allow for an efficient and scalable virtual reference service.

This succinct report (Buckley Owen, 2007) of the presentation by Lawson (2007) will be useful to make this distinction: “Finally, Dawn Lawson of New York University Libraries describes her experiences using Facebook to reach potential library patrons. She managed 24 replies from the 140 students in her subject speciality, including five reference requests. But she also nearly got banned by Facebook, which outlaws bulk messaging amid fears of spam. She had to get round it by varying the text of her messages and sending them very slowly – one every five minutes.”

I suppose one could set up a virtual reference service using software designed for that, Question Point or similar, and then create entry points on Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, etc. This way you can go where your customers are, yet retain an operational service structure in case you do get any custom!


Buckley Owen, T. (2007) Embrace 2.0 – or you might as well retire. Library + Information Gazette, 2 November, p.17

Lawson, D. (2007) Using Social Software to Reach Library Patrons, Session C106, Internet Librarian International, 8-9 October, London

November 30, 2007

The next wave is rising: university digital presses

Writing about web page http://escholarship.usyd.edu.au/index.html

University digital presses seem one of the obvious strategic areas of development for university research libraries. In his strategic analysis Lewis (2007) draws attention to the shift from purchased to Open Access content and suggests that libraries should also shift their focus from purchasing to curating digital content, yet avoid the temptation to add no value by doing no more than complacently free-riding on OA content curated elsewhere.

Little wonder then that the latest ARL Bimonthly Report (no. 252/253 of June/August 2007) focuses on the state of university publishing and the evolving role for research libraries in the delivery of publishing services.

Digital presses may well be the next widespread development in universities. Librarians are well placed to do the electronic publishing and curation, in collaboration with academics doing the authoring and editorial.

An example of a previous wave is the use of virtual learning environments to leverage electronic media for e-learning. This is now widespread.

Open Access Institutional Repositories are a current wave. Universities have been setting up IRs in order to organize their research outputs for Open Web access and have them readily available for audit purposes (an IR consists of a deposit policy, or mandate, besides the technical set up of the actual digital archive).

Equally the development of OA IRs can be seen as part of the larger wave towards university presses, since OA IR content can effectively be overlaid with editorial control. There is not a huge difference between a well-established overlay journal and an electronic journal.

The Electronic Law Journals project at the University of Warwick is only one of many instances of academic departments already publishing their own electronic journals.

Overlay journal is a useful term for a range of web publications resembling an electronic journal. An overlay journal is basically an electronic newsletter consisting of table of contents hyperlinked to the full text of each item, plus the editorial work and peer review validation that distinguishes it. The full text articles may be hosted in an IR or in other electronic repositories or digital archives.

Just as an overlay journal can easily transition into an electronic journal, any IR may become one step in the development of a university digital press. Whilst university digital presses are the logical direction for this evolution, Research Support in libraries is also expanding beyond literature search and bibliographic management to cover the publication and curation of research outputs.

And where does all this leave the current commercial electronic publishing industry? Publishers and vendors alike will take the opportunity and offer their technical expertise in the different operations of the e-publishing process as separate services, becoming publisher-services businesses and probably not without some consolidation of the industry.

In fact, OA journal publishers are already charging for submission instead of charging for access. This could eventually tip over in a global flip to the OA business model, according to an idea floated by Ingenta’s Mark Rowse (Hane 2003) and elaborated by Peter Suber (2007).

Of course, university digital presses need not be limited to publishing journals, or even research monographs. E-publishing of undergraduate text books could also become part of the collaboration between academics and their libraries.

The obvious benefits to the institution from having its own branded university press are impact and reputation, besides any savings resulting from not having to purchase publications written by its own faculty. All the elements already exist and have already come together for those who were early, e.g. the University of Sydney Library with its Sydney eScholarship


Hane, P. (2003) Stable and Poised for Growth. [Interview with Mark Rowse, Ingenta’s founder and CEO]. Information Today, 20(11).

Lewis, D. (2007) A Strategy for Academic Libraries in the First Quarter of the 21st Century. College & Research Libraries, 68(5), 418-434.

Suber, P. (2007) Flipping a journal to open access. SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 114.

November 22, 2007

Early evidence of Open Access citation advantage still useful

Writing about web page http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation-biblio.html

Does OA self-archiving of articles that are later published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals actually increase citation of these articles? Definitely yes and the body of evidence keeps growing and increasing in sophistication.

Steve Hitchcock rightly notes “citation analysis is specialised and difficult”. However, the “simple example” he then provides actually shows this is an understatement!

As the field of scientometrics develops and bibliometric studies become more specialised, it may also become more difficult for the non-statistician to understand the research conducted. This is why it is perhaps not a bad idea to keep referring to earlier studies if they are more digestible for the lay person.

A good starter would be this poster presentation (Brody et al., 2004) accompanied with this article (Harnad & Brody, 2004) and with this paper (Hajjem, Harnad, & Gingras, 2005) as the main course. Thankfully all these remain on the menu in Steve Hitchcock’s bibliography (Hitchcock 2004).


Brody, T., Stamerjohanns, H., Vallières, F., Harnad, S., Gingras, Y., and Oppenheim, C. (2004). The effect of Open Access on citation impact. Paper presented at the National Policies on Open Access (OA) Provision for University Research Output: an International meeting. Southampton, 19 February 2004

Hajjem, C., Harnad, S., and Gingras, Y. (2005). Ten-Year Cross-Disciplinary Comparison of the Growth of Open Access and How it Increases Research Citation Impact. Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Data Engineering, 28(4), 39-46.

Harnad, S., and Brody, T. (2004). Comparing the Impact of Open Access (OA) vs. Non-OA Articles in the Same Journals. D-Lib Magazine, 10(6).

Hitchcock, S. (first posted 15 September 2004). The effect of open access and downloads (‘hits’) on citation impact: a bibliography of studies

November 05, 2007

Why university libraries should promote OA resources more than paid–for resources

Writing about web page http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/spec300web.pdf

The 2007 survey of Open Access Resources has finally been published as SPEC Kit 300 (SP300) by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). A four-page Executive Summary is freely available.

It would make sense for libraries to make promotion of OA resources to teaching staff a priority, but most (75%) of the respondent libraries are not promoting OA resources any differently than other resources, with several respondents saying they promote paid resources more than OA resources. According to the summary, “OA resources have a lower priority in general and libraries have a hard enough time getting patrons to use paid resources”.

Why this focus on promoting paid-for resources? If resources are not used, their subscription cannot be justified and the library’s budget could be reduced accordingly, would be the obvious answer. Nevertheless this defensive rationale could be short-sighted.

The more OA resources that libraries can provide for researchers in addition to any paid subscriptions, the richer the library’s resource provision in support of research and therefore, the more added value the library is providing to the research mission of the institution. This ARL survey does a good job of describing the library work associated with providing such added value through OA resources.

Let us now speculate that the more popular OA resources become among academics, both as authors and readers, the greater the proportion of OA journals in their recommended readings for students, and therefore the less the pressure on library budgets to keep up with escalating journal subscription prices and the more money left to buy print monographs for researchers and text books for students.

In the UK at least, a large proportion of the library budget typically goes into buying multiple copies of undergraduate key-text books, copies which are never enough to satiate students’ assumptions about their library’s stock.

Why not make consultation with faculty about particular OA resources a priority of liaison?

If libraries are caught in a vicious circle of promoting paid-for resources to academics, the academics then including these resources in reading lists, and then the library not being able to afford resourcing those reading lists, whose fault is it?

November 02, 2007

Pros and cons of using Web 2.0 services external to the institution

Writing about web page http://www.vp.is.ed.ac.uk/Web_2.0_Initiative/Guidelines

Of interest to HE IT use policy makers, this paper by the Web 2.0 Initiative of the Information Services at the University of Edinburgh provides useful elements of reflection about the potential benefits, risks and current areas of concern with the use of external Web 2.0 services: Draft Guidelines for Using External Web 2.0 Services

October 11, 2007

What is Facebook used for?

Writing about web page http://blog.compete.com/2007/09/14/facebook-activity-breakdown-application/

An interesting post on someone else’s blog pointing out which aspects of Facebook are actually being used. Lots of browsing of pictures, plenty of visits to join or visit groups, but relatively little time on the Marketplace or the Group discussion boards. So that explains why my advert for free library resources has had so little attention, and why our geeky group discussion boards only involve the usual suspects. It also supports my suspicion that people are joining groups to add to their profile like wearing a badge, and worrying very little thereafter about what it actually says about them…

October 10, 2007

Tagging vs structured metadata

Writing about web page http://www.comp.glam.ac.uk/pages/research/hypermedia/nkos/nkos2007/presentations/presentation-20070921-social%20tagging-Tonkin.ppt#256,1,Slide 1

Who needs metadata anyway? Can’t we all just use tags? Aren’t they better at describing content with words that our users will want to use to find that content? Metadata is just for browsing to find content and who really browses?

Just playing devil’s advocate! There is some interesting investigation into these types of issues in the presentation I’ve linked to which discusses metadata from a very knowledgeable standpoint, and I find that very refreshing.

Interesting use of a del.icio.us account

Writing about web page http://orweblog.oclc.org/archives/001297.html

I like the idea of creating a del.icio.us account to create a tag cloud relating to a particular collection of web documents… as described in this blog. It is a way of helping to keep the number of tags in check. I believe that my del.icio.us account needs weeding because there are too many tags on too many different topics. The Institutional repository ones will gradually be moved over to Blue Dot anyway, but perhaps there are other ways I could consider using del.icio.us

I set up a eurekster swicki a while ago on copyright, and that has a handy tag cloud that grows as others use it. I wonder whether a themed del.icio.us tag cloud would be able to achieve the same functions as a swicki?

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