Sunday, January 24, 2016

Look back at 10 top posts on librarianship I am proudest of (2012-2015)

It's the beginning of 2016, and nostalgia once again makes me look back at my past posts to see how they have stood the test of time.

The last time I did this was in  December 2011's Top 12 library blog posts I am proudest of and covered the first 3 years of this blog, so this post will cover the period from 2012-2015.

Of the 80 odd posts since these are the ones I am happiest with.

How academic libraries may change when Open Access becomes the norm (Aug 2014)

Written in 2014, this still reflects my current (as of 2016) thinking about the future of academic libraries. In this article, I argue that the eventual triumph of open access will have far reaching impacts on academic libraries with practically no library area escaping unscathed.

The article predicts that in a mostly open access environment, the library's traditional role in fulfillment and to some extent discovery will diminish. 

Libraries may move towards supporting publishing of open access journals (perhaps via layered journals or similar) or focusing on special collections, supporting Lorcan Dempsey's inside-out view

Given that currently faculty view academic libraries mainly in the role of purchasers, I suggest to survive academic libraries will start shifting towards expertise based services like Research data management, GIS, information literacy etc.

I end by suggesting the trick for academic libraries is to figure out the right way and time to shift resources away from current traditional roles. Perhaps the percentage of content your faculty uses/cited that is available for free could be a useful indicator of when to shift roles.

I don't have much I would change to this article as events since 2014 show that open access has continued to gain momentum. Perhaps if I wrote it now, I would mention a little about open education resources (OER).

Also check out the companion piece How should academic library websites change in an open access world? (Oct 2014) and for another strategy type article, Library and Blue Ocean strategies (I) - the case of discovery services (Dec 2013)

This article together with the others in the series, How are libraries designing their search boxes? (II)How are libraries designing their search boxes? (III) - Articles, Databases and Journals and Branding library discovery services - what are libraries doing? were massive surveys I did to study how ARL - Summon using libraries were branding the Summon search and exposing it as search boxes on their library homepages.

Echoing surveys I did on library mobile websites in the 2010s , it was done at the time when I was figuring out the testing and implementation of Summon. I spent a massive amount of time studying this, as I remember I was really fascinated by this topic. 

I would like to think many other academic librarians found these articles interesting and useful as it is now the 8th most viewed article ever.

Written when I was getting confident that I had a mature understanding of library discovery services, I believe it was a pretty fair summary of the current understanding on the state of library discove
This was a pretty popular article that presenters on discovery at conferences often pointed to when they wanted a way to quickly point to a concise summary of what was generally agreed in 2013.

Also catch the follow up - 6 things I am wondering about discovery (Oct 2013)

The most recent post on this list. In the early days of this blog, I would constantly post about various new online tools, web services that I found that were useful. For example in 2010, after I just acquired my first smartphone and then tablet, my posts were full of posts on apps and Twitter services.

In recent years, I did fewer of such posts, though I did dutifully write about history memory based apps, gamification, curation tools  and presentation tools like Haiku and Storify.

But still my favorite post is the recent post on how libraries are using Trello. It's amazing how many ways libraries have used it for their purposes from managing renewals, tracking troubleshooting requests , liaison work and more. 

How a "Facebook for researchers" platform will disrupt almost everything (April 2012)

Written in 2012, I wrote about the rise of sites like Mendeley that I described as "Facebook for researchers"

Back then I predicted they would start to occupy and then dominate a central part of the scholarly communication ecosystem and disrupt the following areas.

  • Discovery - Users would start to prefer searching  in them for discovery purposes (partly due to superb recommender systems possible by capturing tons of user data)
  • AuthorIDs - Users would prefer research profiles to other author unique IDs
  • Analytics - Due to the capacity audience they gained, they would have a host of user analytics that could be used for their own benefit.
Writing today in 2016, I think I wasn't too far off the mark. Mendeley grew from strength to strength and was eventually acquired by Elsevier who quickly recognized their growing value in 2013. Today Mendeley stands with and ResearchGate as the third surviving contenders to the throne.

Other players like Springer followed the lead of Elsevier by acquiring Papers in Nov 2012 (yet another reference manager) and Proquest started to push their cloud based reference manager - Flow (now renamed Refworks flow) in 2014, trying to leverage their dominance in the library discovery and database business in the process.
This sudden interest in reference managers is no big surprise, companies are figuring out that being where the researchers are, and owning their workflow is essential as I set out in the article.

In terms of detailed predictions I was mostly right as well.

I used to receive comments from graduate students asking why our discovery service was not as good as searching in Mendeley, and with the implementation of recommender systems, I have no doubt there is a portion of users who take much of their discovery service to such systems

At the time I wrote the article, I failed to make the distinction between author profiles on one hand and author identifiers. A single unique author identifier like ORCID could and should happily live alongside multiple author profile systems in Mendeley, Google , CRIS Systems etc

Today I am glad to report while, author profiles on Mendeley and ResearchGate and in particular Google remain popular, support of ORCID is or is nearing tipping point with publishers requiring authors to submit ORCIDs with their papers. This coupled with crossref's auto-update functionality , probably signals a bright future for ORCID.

As anyone who manages or leads the library discovery service team will tell you, much of one's responsibility as the lead is to answer to stakeholders (in particular other librarians) on relevancy issues in the discovery service 

I would write many times on relevancy ranking issues but I am proudest of this post that explains why nested boolean of the form

(A1 OR A2 OR A3) AND (B1 OR B2 OR B3) AND (C1 OR C2 OR C3)  are counter productive in library discovery.

This is based on an understanding of how the type of environment where boolean started off is a lot different today.  We no longer operate in a environment where there is no full text available for matching, where there are no big mega-indexes and where users expect precise exact search matches as opposed to search systems with helpful features that autoexpand the search such as stemming.

The day library discovery died - 2035 (September 2013)

Yet another library discovery piece, but this one was different because it was written tongue in the check.

"A tongue in a cheek, thought experiment or perhaps precautionary tale of the ultimate fate of library discovery services in 2035. 

With a sigh, Frank Murphy, head of library systems of Cambridge-Yale University made a quick gesture at his computing device and the system began to shut down the library discovery service for the last time. Or at least that was what he intended but the gesture based device - a distant descendant of the Kinect device refused to comply."

My first and so far only attempt at writing fiction on this blog, watch out for the little twist at the end.

This piece of fiction describes one of four possible fates I expect might happen in Four possible Web Scale Discovery Future Scenarios (Dec 2014). 

Also check out What would Steve Jobs say? Reinventing the library catalogue (Oct 2013) for another post written in a similar style. 

5 things Google Scholar does better than your library discovery service (July 2015)

Besides spending the last 3 years thinking almost obsessively on library discovery services, it was natural I eventually became fascinated with the similarities and differences between Library discovery services closest rival - Google Scholar.

This "series" began with How is Google different from traditional Library OPACs & databases? (May 2012) and also included

However it was this latest article that directly pointed out the strengths of Google Scholar against library discovery services that blew up eventually being cited in various places from Marshall Breeding's NISO White Paper and Horizon reports : Library edition.

I found readers of my blog were not just interested in library discovery services but more directly in Google Scholar.

The 8 surprisingly things I learnt about Google Scholar came about because I was tasked to "teach" Google Scholar to faculty who basically wanted to know how to "rank high in Google Scholar for their articles".

That's a impossible task of course, as nobody knows the exact way Google Scholar ranks articles, and as far as I know there was no SEO (Search engine optimization) experts in Google Scholar.

In any case, I tried to know as much as I could about Google Scholar from various sources including public documentation and pulling together details from articles written by others who had experimented with Google Scholar.

I was surprised by the reaction to the article as it seems what surprised me about how Google Scholar worked was new to many too. As of today it's the 5th most viewed article!

Also check out the recent but popular 6 common misconceptions when doing advanced Google Searching (Oct 2015) which explores the common mistakes advanced users used to library database syntax (aka librarians) often make.

A all-time top 10 viewed post , this was a fun post surveying how libraries were exploiting memes for marketing. I went on to do the wildly successful library memes contest that I eventually presented on at Internet Librarian in 2012.

See also : 
More good library related video that spoofs movies or tv (April 2013)
What are library facebook pages using as cover photos? A survey  (March 2012)


These 10 articles I think is a fair representation of my most read articles from 2012-2015. Half of them relate to the issue of discovery, both library and commercial systems and this perhaps fairly reflects my obsession at the time.

Towards the later part of the period, perhaps disillusioned by the growing belief that in the long run libraries will be slowly pushed out of the discovery business, I began interested in open access and also started to play trend spotter or strategist with a couple of "strategy" management articles.

What I will be interested next is anyone's guess, though I believe that article and book discovery while not a 100% solved issue is increasingly becoming easier, and the next challenge that awaits us is the handling of data.

Some people have asked me, how much  time I spend on my blog posts and one even perhaps not too kindly suggested that blogging was my job.

In all seriousness, I really can't honestly tell you how much time I have spent on my blog. With over 216 posts in all since I started blogging in 2008 and at a conservative 5 hours per post (including editing), I have easily spent over 1,000 hours blogging, mostly during weekends, often after work on weekdays. Add in the time researching and thinking it could be between 3,000 to 5,000 hours in the last 8 years.

Will I stop one day?  My average posting rate per year is trending down in a somewhat predictable fashion.

2009 - 4.0 per month
2010 - 4.0 per month
2011 - 3.1 per month
2012 - 2.9 per month
2013 - 1.7 per month
2014 - 1.3 per month
2015 - 1.0 per month

Most library bloggers who started before me have since long stopped blogging, so I may too one day.

Until then, I thank you all who continue to subscribe or read and share my posts. 
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