More On The Value Of The MLS

November 5, 2006

Joshua M. Neff has a great post, Degree or Not Degree, That  Is The Question, over at the goblin in the library. This is obviously a question that I am extremely interested in – and think that my feelings are quite similar to Joshua’s on the matter. There are some great comments, especially from Joshua’s dad Rick, who is a librarian. (How cool is to be able to have this kind of debate with one’s dad??) In one of Rick’s comments, he writes: “What graduate library school did for me was to draw me into an historic tradition, and imbue me with a sense of libraries and of being a librarian.” This is ultimately, what I am hoping to get from graduate school, and one of the main reasons that I decided to go. I don’t necessarily agree that one can only get this sense from graduate school. I have certainly met many non-MLS personnel who possess this. However, this is a critical piece of what MLS students need to be able to possess when they graduate.

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Is It All About The Customer?

November 4, 2006

Bottom line – of course, it is all about the customer. Without patrons, there would be no need for libraries. However, how far can we realistically go to meet the needs of customers???? Jessamyn West asks “how do we learn to set new boundaries?” in a post over on librarian.net. This is an important question. She asks it in response to a post over on Info Breaker about a patron who thought her books should have been renewed by the library because she was in Florida on vacation (she says that she told someone at the library this bit of information).

This begs the question how far should we go to provide our patrons with services they want and/or need. In a perfect world, the answer should be as far as possible. However, in reality, there are all sorts of constraints that limit what services we can provide – time, money, knowledge, resources, technology, government regulations, etc. Ultimately, we are trying to provide the best services to our patrons with the resources that we possess. And I’m really working hard to figure out how best to do this. Allocation of resources is not an easy task. We all need to make decisions about what we can do – and conversely what we cannot.

Of late, I’ve been spending much more than my allotted time at work – there is never enough time to get everything done. Between working too many hours and trying to do all of my school work, I’ve lost a bit of focus. When this happens, I start to forget about the patron – and just try to stay afloat. Balance is key to this equation. Working a million hours a week isn’t the answer. But then, adding resources that current staff can’t support isn’t the answer either. It is all about the customer – but providing the best service to the customer doesn’t always mean doing everything that the customer wants. We can only work with what we have. I think it is important to push ourselves – however, I’ve been pushing too much lately and that isn’t good. A vacation sounds really good about now!!!!


Can Social Software Really Save The Library?

November 3, 2006

References to Marilyn R. Pukkila’s Just How Connected Are They? question on ACRLog are popping up all over the blogosphere – and rightfully so. Marilyn asks some great questions about how deeply today’s college students are wedded to social software sites. Do we have any idea of how students use social technology? We might have a clue about the popularity of MySpace, Facebook, IM and iPods – but we certainly don’t have concrete information about how users might interact with the library using the tools of Library 2.0.  I want to be clear that I don’t think that we in the library world are wrong to be investigating these tools and how they can help provide better service to our patrons, but before we can make determinations about the usefulness of these tools, we need to better understand our patrons and how they use, collect, find and distribute information.

One of my favorite responses to Marilyn Pukkila’s question, is Steve Lawson’s Why bother with social software at the liberal arts college?on See Also . . . Steve writes (and I love this quote): “. . . I think that it is a huge mistake to conflate all these social software sites and expect that they will somehow help us better relate to our students.” I think this is a very important point. We are desperately trying to find ways to relate to our patrons. Using sites like Flickr and Del.ico.us are not going to magically make us cool. They might be tools that we can use to interact with patrons. However, if our students think we are out of touch, unreachable and unapproachable, using  social software and social tools won’t change those perceptions. We can be just an remote via a MySpace account as in person.

Later, Steve writes of the exploration of social tools: “And let those experiences change and shape you as a person and as a professional, and affect how you think of the potential of the web, not just for “outreach” but for teaching and learning and collection development and providing services of all kinds.” We need to play, have fun, explore the tool of Library 2.0 – and to remember that we are there to teach and help our students learn. These tools won’t solve our problems, but they may provide us ways to help serve our patrons better.  And in the long run, it doesn’t really matter how we end up serving our patrons better, it just matters that we find a way to accomplish it.


Thinking Outside The Box

November 2, 2006

The Librarydude writes about a program in Sweden where a library lends out people for 45 minute sessions. These people, a Iman, a Muslim woman, a lesbian and a Gypsy woman, are called “Living Books.” The Living Books are volunteers, and people can check them out and ask the living books any questions during that 45 minute period. How cool!! We need more ideas like this in libraries.


System Interoperability

November 1, 2006

For those who may be interested the paper that I wrote reviewing an article on system interoperability, it can be found here.  The following is the list of techniques or tools that I reviewed in the paper.

From the following article:  Park, Jinsoo and Sudha Ram. (2004). Information Systems Interoperability: What  Lies Beneath. ACM Transactions on Information Systems. 22(4), 595-632.

Semantic interoperability – Semantic interoperability is the ability for disparate systems to understand the semantics, or meanings, or each other despite incompatibilities in data formats, data meanings, etc. Semantic interoperability exists at the knowledge level and results from incompatibilities in implicit meanings, perspectives and assumptions. This is contract to syntactic interoperability which exists at the application level. Syntactic interoperability often happens in the form of software conflicts.

Mapping-based approach – This is an approach to developing systems with semantic interoperability. In this approach, it is necessary to develop or construct mappings between the information sources that are related semantically. This is accomplished by developing a federated or global schema, then constructing mappings between the federated schema and the local schemas for each information system. The problem with this approach is that it is not independent of the federated and local schemas for which it is developed. This means the solution is not portable and does not adapt well to the addition of new systems.

Intermediary-based approach – This approach relies upon the development of intermediary mechanisms such as mediators, agents or ontologies in order to achieve interoperability. Most often, this approach relies upon created ontologies which allow the use of shared standardized vocabularies or protocols to allow systems or databases to communicate with each other. The ontology is domain specific, but is independent of local schemas and applications. As such, it is not feasible to maintain such ontologies due to the dynamic, autonomous and heterogeneous nature of local schemas.

Query-oriented approach – The query-oriented approach depends upon interoperable languages (usually logic-based languages or extended SQL). The important way that this approach stands out is in its ability to formulate queries to span several databases. The main drawback to this approach is that a heavy burden is placed upon the user to understand the differences in the different databases and to resolve semantic conflicts themselves.

Data level conflicts – One level where semantic conflict can occur is at the data level. Generally, data level conflicts are differences in data which can be caused by multiple representations and interpretations of similar data. Examples of data level conflicts are data-value conflicts, data representation conflicts, data-unit conflicts, and data precision conflicts. Data-value conflicts are conflicts in data values. Data values may mean different things depending on their relationships to other factors. Data representation conflicts happen when the same data is represented in different ways (dates can be represented as 9/17/2006, 17-9-2006 and/or September 17, 2006).  Data-unit conflicts are those where the same values are represented in different units – feet, yards, meters, etc. Data precision conflicts happen when the same type of data is represented in ways that differ conceptually. For example, different systems may rate the same item, but use different rating schemes.

Schema level conflicts – Schema level conflicts involve differences at the structural level of the systems. Examples of schema level conflicts are naming conflicts, entity-identifier conflicts, schema-isomorphism conflicts, generalization conflicts, aggregation conflicts, and schematic discrepancies. Naming conflicts happen when labels of the same schema elements are different from local schema to local schema. Entity-identifier conflicts arise when different primary keys are assigned to the same concepts in different databases. Schema-isomorphism conflicts happen when the same concept is described by different, non-compatible attributes. Generalization conflicts occur when concepts or data values are modeled differently in various databases. As an example, the category of students can be classed in different ways – by year of graduation, school affiliation, etc. Aggregation conflicts happen when “aggregation is used in one database to identify a set of entities in another database” (Park and Ram, 2004). Schematic discrepancies arise when the data structure in one local schema has a different structure in another one.

Schema mapping knowledge – The schema mapping knowledge is created by establishing mappings between the disparate local schemas and then mapping the local schemas to the federated schema. It is essential that semantically similar concepts, ideas and data are identified. Park and Ram point out that human intervention is essential in this part of the system development process. This makes the schema mapping knowledge one of the most important part of the CREAM model developed by Park and Ram.

Ontology relationship knowledge – This knowledge is the foundation of the reasoning process for semantic resolution. In this knowledge structure there are three different types of relationships: parenthood, sibling and domain-value relationships. The parenthood relationship is a vertical relationship (parent to child). The sibling relationship is a horizontal relationship between constructs or concepts. The domain-mapping relationship is used by the “semantic mediators to determine whether the actual data values that are mapped to instances can be transformed from one value to another and vice versa” (Park and Ram, 2004).


A Little Reinvigoration

November 1, 2006

Yesterday afternoon when I logged into my online class portal via SCSU’s WebCT implementation, I looked at my submitted assignments for ILS530-Information Systems Analysis & Design. I do this several times a day. We have had three assignments due – a subject review paper due on September 17th, a tech growth paper due on October 8th and a system study case due on October 29th – and haven’t received any feedback as of yet. However, I noticed yesterday that one of the assignments was missing from the submitted folder. Fortunately, it was in the graded folder – yeah!!!! I did good – and the professor had some nice things to say about my paper. It is SO nerve-wracking to not have feedback – and I don’t think I really understood how worried I was until I finally got a grade back. I am also glad that I did well. I needed a more positive grade after the last assignment for my ILS565-Library Management class (which didn’t really go so well). It is amazing how much some positive encouragement helps makes things seem much better.

The assignment was to select 1-2 books or articles dealing with systems analysis and design and review those techniques in a 3-5 page paper. Part of the assignment was also to list the techniques that we reviewed in the paper and briefly define them. After reading several articles, I found a couple dealing with systems interoperability which caught my interest. The article that I choose to review was: Park, Jinsoo and Sudha Ram. (2004). Information Systems Interoperability: What Lies Beneath. ACM Transactions on Information Systems. 22(4), 595-632.


The 21st Century Librarian

November 1, 2006

In the November issue of Info Career Trends, the What’s Online section has Recommended Resources on Becoming a 21st Century Librarian – which, of course, is the theme of the November issue. There are links to posts from Freerange Librarian and Information Wants To Be Free – and some other links. I think it is a great instroduction to 21st century librarianship.