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Colección:
INTERAMER
Número: 71
Año: 2002
Autor: Johann Van Reenen, Editor
Título: Digital Libraries and Virtual Workplaces. Important Initiatives for Latin America in the Information Age

The response of libraries to the information age

Digital libraries

     The forgoing discussions are important in the context of Digital Libraries (DL) because digitized collections of information products and structured data sets underlie all web-based applications as will be seen in Chapters 4, 6 and 7. The authors will provide an overview of DL developments and a digitization case study and its technology implications, respectively. Digital libraries are really part of a hybrid system comprised of traditional and paper-based resources integrated with digital collections, web-based services and tools for integrating local, national and global resources. These can be free or purchased information services. The latter can be bought as part of a purchasing consortium, a national plan, on a pay-per-use basis, and an ever-growing variety of purchasing options. Some information products could be purchased for the organization, created by the organization, purchased for certain employees or groups of employees. Whatever the case, information is expensive and its use may be controlled by a variety of restrictions.
     When we speak of digital libraries we generally refer to three facets of an ideal integrated library system. Most current projects incorporate some of these facets in various phases of development. Digital collections of journals, conference proceedings, directories, almanacs, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference sources, as well as abstracting and indexing databases represent the fist facet. The second are search engines and other finding tools. Some of these could be freely available on the Web, such as Yahoo, or purchased or developed in-house for local customers. Which requires the third component; the creation of digital resources and integrative technologies.
     Service functions in libraries are also impacted by global connectivity.
Regional, national, and transnational Online Digital Reference Services has been proposed as a solution to 24 hour, seven-day-a-week (24/7 service) reference expectations of customers. One such project by the United States Library of Congress (Kresh, 2000) proposes to coordinate a global digital reference network that would allow libraries to provide 24/7 online reference service. Three pilot projects were done between March and August 2000. Countries represented in this initial pilot included the United States, Australia, and Canada. The types of libraries involved included public libraries, academic libraries, national libraries, an art
museum library, and a regional library cooperative. Ideally, being in different time zones, regular work hours will cover electronic reference during each area’s normal work hours. LiveRef(sm): A Registry of Real- Time Digital Reference Services was established by Gerry Mckiernan (2000) to provide a categorized listing of libraries that offer real-time library reference or information services using chat software, live interactive communications utilities, call center management software,Web contact center software, bulletin board services, or related Internet technologies. LiveRef(sm) is available at: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~CYBERSTACKS/LiveRef.htm. It also includes a hotlinked list of software used to provide such services, as well as links to two of the major digital reference service e-lists. Kathy Kerns of Stanford also developed a similar registry http://wwwsul.stanford.edu/staff/infocenter/ liveref.html
     The role of librarians are changing accordingly and they are faced with many of the same technological challenges that computer scientists and engineers are, as we will see in Chapters 5 and 6. Guenther (2000) says “The digital library concept requires that librarians be information architects in order to build effective, scalableWeb sites to serve the digital demands of patrons. Headline news pushed to the desktop; Web browsing from a palmtop; cyber bookstores, flower stands, and auction houses: All these are examples of how the Web has fundamentally changed where, how, and when we do business… ‘Just in time’ applied to libraries
[means] information delivered where you need it, when you need it, and in a format that is useful. This strategy requires libraries increasingly to adopt 24/365 service to keep up with the demands of their patrons for core services, and to offer services through what is often called the digital, electronic, or virtual library or reference desk.” Non-traditional job advertisements are now a common occurrence in professional library publications. An example of an advertisement for a “Knowledge Architect” is appended to the resource section.
     The greatest challenges currently for the development of effective digital information services are the issues of interoperability and integration. Without these users would still be confronted by a disorienting array of access and searching choices and face significant learning curves to get to the information they need. Seamless access to information of all types at all times will require the integration of standards for system architecture, information structuring, and markup languages, e.g., XML and SGML, and the adoption of metadata (data about data) element standards to describe digital items and collections. HTML is the commonest markup language used to present information, while metadata is used to describe the details about, for instance, a Web document. The use of a standard metadata increases the chances of having Web pages indexed properly across search engines. OCLC’s Dublin Core, the W3 Consortium’s Resource Description Framework (RDF), and Platform for Internet Content Selection (PICS) all represent description standards under development to effectively describe digital objects on the Web. Chapter xx will provide a detailed information on the creation and maintenance of a digital library. Sources for finding more information about metadata projects and standards are listed in the resource section.
     Another challenge, not surprisingly, is funding. Traditional libraries struggled to keep up with escalating prices, but hybrid traditional/electronic libraries find keeping up financially an even bigger problem. Why? Because electronic products and services are not necessarily cheaper and are in fact mostly more expensive to implement and maintain. Information technology personnel also cost considerably more than traditional library workers, as do the hard and software needed to run library catalogues and services. Carol Montgomery (2000) studied changes in the library’s operational costs associated with electronic subscriptions. She concluded that “Preliminary cost comparisons...indicate that the electronic collection is substantially more expensive to maintain.”

The changing role of Online Public Access Catalogues (OPACs) and information portals

     The role of the online library catalogue is changing radically with commercial examples of innovation, such as Amazon.com, showing the potential for direct customer service.
     However, the persistence in some libraries and among some librarians of traditional practices in structuring and organization information prevents
it from becoming a truly innovative information service. Ortiz- Repiso & Moscoso (1999) discussed the repercussions of continuing rules and formats that were developed for manual systems and that are no longer appropriate within the evolving new technological environment.

- Maximizing the potential of web-based OPACs.

     Davis (1999) advises companies to embrace certain truths about web-based services to capitalize on unprecedented business changes.
Libraries can benefit by taking these truths to heart, especially in the context of online catalogues, which are more and more just one of many electronic information resources offered by them. his suggestions for optimizing web access has been adapted to be applicable for libraries:

1. Deploy interactive experiences that enhance customers’ perception loosely and openly, providing them opportunities to tell you their future needs.
2. “Experience builds brands.” Customer experience on your library web site will be the single largest builder of brand I future, i.e. credibility and quality of information services. He suggests allocating resources, talent and budget NOW to support this belief.
3. Give library customers the right self-service tools and they’ll return the favor by decreasing support overhead, happily and willingly. The majority of customers prefer to control their own destiny.
4. Remove the mysticism of library tools and markup languages (HTML, XML, and such) and put the library user directly in touch with vendors, e.g. self-service ILL and direct purchasing.
5. The majority of customers’ transactions with library products and services should be web driven. Users will allow then allow libraries to track use patterns to the benefit of both parties, similar to Amazon.com’s customer recommendation services.
6. As I have shown in previous sections, success in the electronic environment does not occur through mutation of current business models but requires separate and distinct cross-functional teams to consciously and consistently work to make existing business practices obsolete. This is called “organized abandonment” by Drucker (1999, 6)
7. Focus on a few critical initiatives that is driven with factual information such as customer trends in your library and satisfaction ratings.
8. Davis shows convincingly that the most important criteria of web success are convenience (saving time), ease of use (intuitiveness) and utility
(adding value). Make sure each new piece of content or functionality fits these criteria. It is therefore important not to guess how these are met, but to ask your customers.
9. It is extremely important to bring a new idea or service up and running and exposed to library customers as quickly as possible. Librarians tent towards perfection or nothing. This attitude will severely impair a library’s ability to implement new and innovative services that meet and exceed customers’ expectations. Most web-based services are works-in-progress and built with the help of customer input.
10. All priorities should be based on solving issues and challenges faced by the information-seeking customer. If they want your catalogue to function
like that of amazon.com, strive to make it so.
11. Every customer transaction can and should be measured for both satisfaction and improvement.

     Other ideas for “new age OPACs” can be found in Gerry McKieran’s
clearinghouse web site at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~CYBERSTACKS/Onion.htm. Many libraries are experimenting with more inclusive and integrated catalogues and with more intuitive ways to search for information as well as better evaluation tools once information lists have been created. The Tacoma Public Library (Washington State, USA) has a web-based public online catalog which is powered by Tandem Non-Stop Computers. They are members of the amazon.com Associates Program with links to the amazon.com on-line bookstore for reviews, recommendations, availability information and book purchasing. More examples can be found in the resource list at the end of the chapter.

- Serving virtual communities of information customers

     Services such as Amazon.com and My Yahoo bring those with similar interests together by gathering information from their users and returning that information into more useful information to help them make purchasing and information-based decisions. In similar ways libraries can build research information communities around its services and products and the web sites of departments and individual faculty and researchers. Although controversial, data mining can be utilized with user consent. Data mining is the collection of electronic data to determine both patterns and trends of web usage to anticipate future needs. Guenther (2000) argues that with so much information now online, “ the information glut that librarians navigate on behalf of patrons is also a data glut, and requires us to extract knowledge from data produced in both our physical and virtual environments. Analyzing the server’s log files is now an integral part of library-wide statistics gathering. Data mining provides the tool to tie both physical and virtual libraries together to recognize trends and patterns among users. Understanding the needs, preferences, and behaviors of patrons ensures the creation and delivery of quality products and services.”

Libraries and information literacy

An information literate person is able to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy; Final Report. (Chicago: American Library Association, 1989.)
     Learning outcomes at educational institutions are beginning to focus more and more on the student’s experience not only on what students know. This include the types of skills they develop, what they are able to accomplish with these skills and the attitudes that characterize the way they will approach their work over a lifetime of change. This approach require that students are evaluated and curricula are built based on learning outcomes realized by students themselves and with a strong research component. The expectation is that students must become proficient as members of teams, in communicating their solutions, and effectively taking
advantage of access to information and the use of technology.
     The information literate individual is defines as one that can recognize the need for information, can locate it using a variety of media and technologies and can evaluate information in order to use it effectively.
     Information literate students have the flexibility to take these skills from their formal education and use them throughout life as citizens and professionals
and as a means toward continued learning. (From the Florida International University Library’s Information Literacy Mission Statement at http://www.fiu.edu/~library/ili/mission.html)
     How does the focus on learning outcomes affect the mission of the Library? Like other communities at the University, the library must move from a content view (books, subject knowledge) to a competency view (what students will be able to do). Within the new environment, we need to measure the ways in which the library is contributing to the learning that the University values. Like the general education program, the library has a direct and an indirect interest in the learning outcomes for all the students at the University. Like the Physics Department, the Library should be able to contribute to the achievement of learning outcomes for various academic programs across the University.
     It is useful to begin by asking, within their own expertise and their understanding of what will make students successful, what do library professionals consider key learning outcomes. One potential answer to this question is provided by the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, approved by the Association of College and Research Libraries on January 18, 2000 (Smith 2000).

Portals

Portals provide search engines, online shopping, news, reference tools, and communications services including e-mail, chatrooms, and online conferencing. Portals generally provide some level of personalization. Libraries should adapt these to allow users to create their own information environments based on the library’s electronic resources and services and those provided by the Internet at large. Portals should offer a full inventory of the library’s electronic resources and display the subject expertise offered by the library’s information and human resources. The use of portals for customized delivery of information in many organizations
and their libraries is growing. Portals will be explored further in chapter 10 and the processes and tools to manage, identify, and structure content in digital form and to create web-based library and information services will be discussed in Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

Scholarly publishing in turmoil

There is a revolution of sorts taking place in scholarly communication practices. This is not based on change-for-change’s sake or even the electronic revolution, but on unacceptable market practices and threats to the free flow of research and scholarship so critical for a health society and commerce. This will be discussed in Chapter 3.