November 30, 2004

SciTechies on the Greatest Canadian list

See the CBC Story here. Father of medicare Tommy Douglas is certainly a worthy winner in this somewhat controversial exercise. I just thought I'd mention the scitech types who also made the top ten: Frederick Banting, Alexander Graham Bell and David Suzuki. See some of the news coverage here and the rest of the top 100 here. My choice? Well, never mind. The only comment I'd like to make is that I think it's too bad that the only hockey player in the top 10 had to be Gretzky. He is arguably the best hockey player of all time, but I think you can also make a case that the most important hockey player in Canadian history is Maurice Richard.

Bad Astronomy

From the same issue of Sci Fi Weekly, here's a review of a site about Bad Astronomy, mostly in the movies and on TV. It's pretty amusing -- the biggest offender is Armageddon, a flick I personally haven't seen. And probably never will.

Movie Review: The Librarian

Sounds like an interesting movie, so check out the review here. The movie stars Noah Wiley of ER fame.

Movie Review: The Librarian

Sounds like an interesting movie, so check out the review here. The movie stars Noah Wiley of ER fame.

November 24, 2004

Jay Bhatt on Google Scholar

Jay Bhatt, Information Services Librarian (Engineering) of Drexel University's Hagerty Library recently posted a long meditation on Google Scholar on the eldnet-l listserv. Jay makes a lot of very valid points about the limitation of Google Scholar, ones we should all pay close attention to when trying to steer our patrons to other resources that are, at least for the time being, more relevant to their needs. The only sneaking suspicions I have are that the deficiencies Jay mentions are only temporary....

Jay has kindly allowed me to quote his email here. I've decided to include it in it's entirety. Without further ado:

There are five areas that the present version of Google Scholar does not cover:

1. It does not index online electronic books and handbooks such as those from engnetbase, neurosciencenetbase, environetbase, infosecuritynetbase, materialsnetbase, and knovel, etc. It becomes even more important to educate our students especially those working on Freshman and Senior Design Projects, to use electronic books and the books available in print when they need to develop sufficient background in their project areas before using Google Scholar. We want them not to carried away by Google Scholar so much that they ignore other important resources. Especially for design projects, scholarly interature is just a component of their research; not the only component.

2. Conference papers indexed in Ei village (engineering village) appears toe not yet available in Google Scholar. I did a search for 'Biomaterials' limiting to only conference articles in Engineering Village2. I found 507 articles in Engineering Village. I tried a few in Google Scholar but could not find.

3. We may not be able to download citations to Refworks to create your bibliography. Students will need to add them manually if they want to add them in Refworks.This will be time consuming.

4. Advanced features such as searching within just Abstract rather than Full Text may not be available. Limiting search using advanced features avilable tends to increase relevancy of articles.

5. Google Scholar does not provide what is being covered, what journals are indexed, what other databases are covered, so just relying on Google Scholar may not be helpful.

6. Searching online codes (MAD CAD) is not available in Google Scholar. MAD CAD is very heavily used by our Senior Design students.

"Subscription based MAD-CAD contains the building codes and knowledge based solutions and guidelines to meet the codes. MAD-CAD provides access to a comprehensive cross-referenced collection of building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, fire, maintenance codes from BOCA, SBCCI, ICBO, ICC, and NFPA; and state and local codes. This comprehensive set of codes in conjunction with the search engine and organizational tools provide an intelligent and efficient system for architectural, engineering and educational solutions.".

7. Computer Science/IST - Books24x7, Safari, Lecture Notes in Computer Science - are important not yet available in Google Scholar. As the name implies ('Scholar'), they will not be available in future, too.

8. One can not browse among diferent volumes/issues of a particular journal.

No doubt Google Scholar appears to be a great product, but we need to consider
these limitations and promote them during our classes so that students will try to use other resources and simply not carried away by Google Scholar. I do like Google Scholar but I wanted to bring these issues. Lastly, there is a human component that Google Scholar can not provide.

Recently, I had our meeting with Freshman engineering faculty members to discuss planning for our Freshman engineering library sessions during the winter term.. I am including some important points that we discussed from the instructional perspectives.

They liked our ideas of the multidisciplinary subject headings to address searching for biomedical engineering related information in several databases. Based on our discussion during the meeting, we are going to develop a one page hand out on examples of citations from variety of sources (one from handbook, one from a library book found using the catalog (print), one from encyclopdedia, one from website, one from journal article, and one from conference proceedings). This page will be used as a reference for students as they develop their bibliography.

Discussion on Refworks was extremely well received. Infact, they all loved it. One faculty member suggested that we point out during the class that last year some students received poor grades because they did not co-ordinate well with their team members. Collaborating using Refworks in building a 'Group Bibliography' with each member of the team contributing, will be one way to improve co-ordination and
co-operation among others. This suggestion was applauded by all faculty members present including us.

They are going to ask their students to follow the sample reference page and write their bibliography in that style. Either APA or MLA style will be used but students can use IEEE/ASCE style in Refworks. No decision has been made as yet if they are going to require students to use one style.

Interestingly, they all knew about Google Scholar; we argued and tried to convince them that it is NOT the only tool and that students need to look at other resources, ebooks, handbooks, library books, and conference papers for a complete search. They all agreed wholeheartedly. Importance of building codes and specific material properties also came up (google scholar will not find them). They all agreed that we spend a few minutes in our talk to highlight our library resources, and in what situations Google Scholar is good, when it can be used, and when library subscribed other resources should be used. We will add one slide in our Powerpoint to address them. Importance of library consultations by students with librarians was again stressed by many faculty members. Two instructors are using webCT; we will plan to link our tutorial in those two faculty member's sections. This will be app. 8 sections out of the 27 sections.

November 23, 2004

Science Library Pad

A very new scitech librarian blog, this one's called Science Library Pad. It's by yet another Canuck, this one at CISTI in Ottawa. As yet the blogger is nameless. The first post is from November 20. Welcome. UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I should have read the About page for SPL. SPL is by Richard Akerman.

November 22, 2004

Ask and you shall receive

It seems Art Rhyno has already thought about some of the proxy issues I brought up: here and here. Thanks Lisa.

Google Scholar

It had to happen. I've touched on it before in postings on the way Google was sucking up metadata from various publishers. I expected it. Google, as we all know by now, has entered the bibliographic database industry with a new beta test product. Google Scholar it's called and it's pretty interesting. A few sample searches indicate that most of the content there is links to actual journal content rather than the random signal/noise ratio usually associated with search engines. I urge everyone to read their About file very carefully. I think that they understand scholarly content, are serious about making sure that their product is mostly about high quality scholarly resources. They obviously want as many publishers as possible to contribute. This is potentially THE significant development in the academic library/scholarly publishing field of the last year or so. Winners & losers:

  • Loser: the A&I industry. Big time. Google Scholar is free, their products are definately not. Can they add enough value to the data they have to make it worth our (ie. libraries) while to subscribe to their services? No one's cancelling all those indexes this year, or even next, but what about five years from now? The key here is adding value. Google's product will be one-size-fits-all, always a bit overwhelming. Also, it will be probably be limiting itself to stuff online-only. Will Google get the metadata for journal backruns that aren't online and refer users to their local academic library?
  • Winner: students. Big time. Students want to use simple interfaces, easy searches with highly relevant results. If Google can deliver that with this product like with their regular search engine, this will be a hugely popular tool amongst students.
  • Loser: non-OA journals. More and more, if a journal's content is not online for free, it will not exist for the new generation of scholars. Why use journal A behind some weird pay-money-or-else screen when journal B has their articles right here. I know that you can get to A via your friendly neighbourhood proxy server/academic library, but really, at 3 am with the paper due tomorrow and the student doesn't even know where the library is on campus, that's not going to happen. Also, anyone not afiliated with a subscribing institution will automatically choose B. It's only a matter of time before Google puts a "Free full text only" check box on the screen. Open Access will mean survival for journals in the Google world. Not this year, not next year, but maybe in five or ten.
  • Winner: academic libraries & librarians. Yes. We're winners. Think of what this could do for our budgets! Finally we can demo tools in the classroom that the students will think are relevant! No more blank stares & sneers! But seriously, the advantages of basically using one interface are huge in terms of teaching students how to get the most out of their search experience. Google will continue to be overwhelming for many and confusing to some, so we will still have the role of helping students navigate. Oh yeah, we'll actually be able to spend more time on concepts like critical thinking, scholarly communication and all those information literacy standards we talk about but rarely have time to actually teach.
  • Loser: vendors of federated searching products. One search is here. This is it. The real challenge, of course, will be figuring out how to get link resolver products like SFX to work with Google Academic. Also, for us Ontario universities, all our content is on a central server. How do we get our students using Google Scholar to find the content on our platform rather than automatically going to the publisher's site. An interesting challenge.
  • Winner: the general public all over the world. Obviously, this will bring together a lot of information and make it accessible to everyone. As more and more stuff becomes OA, more and more scholarly content will become easily accessible to everyone. This is a good thing.

I'm sure I'll be posting more on this as time goes by. Let's start a thread here with your comments -- what we really think about this. It's good to be back.

Top 10s in the ACM

Also interesting in a weird sort of way is the following Top 10 items downloaded from the DL in September 2004 lists from the same issue of the CACM as my last post. Weird because the list of top 10 refereed articles are quite uninteresting to me. None of them were even from Sept 2004, which is kinda odd, when you think about it. Also, the month rank and year rank are out of whack, leading me to believe that the results are highly influenced by random course offerings at large schools. Some topics I expected: mobile communications, curricular issues but the list didn't really strike me in an "Aha" kind of way I would have expected.

On the other hand, the list of top courses & ebooks downloaded was quite interesting, something I know is relevant for my own collection development: Java, UML, c/C++/C#, Data Modeling, Project Management and SQL. It solidifies in my mind the enduring (for now) interest among CS types for this type of information and why we can't keep the books on the shelves. What I'd like to see? How about something really good on Matlab, numerical analysis and scientific computing.

The third top ten was the list of most downloaded articles from the ACM's magazines. Again, not much from 2004, some of the year rankings and month rankings out of whack, but still very interesting. Business aspects, professional development concerns, wireless, data modeling but also a bunch of survey type articles that people are obviously using to get up to speed on certain topics.

Thanks for the info, ACM. Could we do this more often?

The Blogosphere in the CACM

Marking my return after a long hiatus, I'd like to refer everyone to the lastest issue of the communications of the AMC, v47i12. I can't emphasize enough how interesting this issue is. The relevant bits of the TOC:

November 2, 2004

Job posting for Steacie Science & Engineering Library, York University

Please note here the details of a 28 month posting at my library. Good luck.