Tuesday, April 19, 2011

last day as Northwest Digital Archives database manager

Today, the Northwest Digital Archives infrastructure was transferred from Washington State University to its new home at the Orbis Cascade Alliance. I've learned a lot supporting the NWDA since 2003 - it shapes my work, from the management of digital resources to my recently-started hobby project, the Naval Reactors History Database.
Right now, I'm reading an article, in the current Library Resources & Technical Services, that helps to illustrate the important role that archivists can play in the current preservation demands that research libraries face - including the preservation of research materials in digital format. The article is authored by a team that includes archivists and a librarian, and the literature review cites work that I've become familiar with through the NWDA program (such as the Trusted Digital Repository Checklist, or TRAC).
It was a fun, but challenging experience; I'm sure the NWDA program will prosper in the years ahead.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

worldcat local usability results from OCLC

I've had the chance to read the most-recent usability results for WorldCat Local. I found this document extremely helpful, particularly since this round draws upon usability testing performed on 40 faculty, student, and library staff users at five academic institutions. It's completely logical for OCLC to perform this testing at the network level; in today's tight fiscal environment for libraries, this work is more important than ever.

Washington State University's WorldCat Local service is constantly evolving. A good example of this is enabling access to electronic resources. On this topic, the report notes that users prefer hyperlinks to an OpenURL button on the WCL detailed record display. This is problematic, because in some cases, the links provided in the OpenURL resolver are more accurate than hyperlinks that appear on the detailed record display. A good example of this at Washington State is the PsycArticles database records: the Findit! button presents a link that provides reliable one-click access to the full-text article. The links on the detailed record display, on the other hand, take the user to the journal index page for the CSA and EBSCO databases. This finding underscores the importance of my institution's current work in populating the WorldCat Knowledge Base and using its links over those scraped from the legacy Millennium library system. The study shows that users did feel comfortable in clicking on the WCKB links for electronic resources (which include the words "Full-text" and info on the provider and database).

The concept of "local" receives a lot of attention in the report and it's especially important at the WSU Libraries, where one WorldCat Local instance supports multiple campuses (although the Vancouver campus has built a campus-specific WCL instance, other WSU campuses have not). Testing clearly revealed that users tend to read "local" as the local campus and, in this context, the WCL first-level holdings presentation can be confusing. This would be ameliorated by having a WCL instance for each campus and, as a unified discovery and fulfillment system, this approach makes sense.

There is a discussion on the editions support in WorldCat Local, which is still problematic. The report describes an OCLC goal for presenting editions: the most recent, locally-held edition should be displayed in the detailed record by default.

The report also describes some label changes that have been made in the last year, on several displays, and the fact that format facet support is now available for the "all editions and formats" display. I found it useful to review these, particularly in showing the ongoing evolution of the WorldCat Local service and in understanding the motivation behind each change.

There are two areas that aren't covered in this report, and which are serious issues in terms of WorldCat Local's acceptance at research and academic institutions. The first is duplicate records. This is becoming more problematic as more institutions, like the University of Washington and Washington State University, add third-party databases to their WorldCat Local default search. This leads to more duplicate records in search results. It's my understanding that OCLC is working on a de-duplication strategy that addresses duplicates at time of record loading. I see duplicate records as a manageable problem, though, because modern search services, like Google, can present duplicate entries to users.

The second area is more difficult - the lack of any hits-in-context support. Not only does this impede buy-in to WorldCat Local, but this lack of functionality makes WorldCat Local an outlier relative to other modern search services - which are presenting information on why a record was retrieved. I'm not certain that the seriousness of the hits-in-context problem is clear to the WorldCat Local discovery team. In contrast, the report notes that known-item searching performance is a problem that OCLC is working to address.

Despite these two omissions, this report is very valauble to my institution as the WSU Libraries moves forward to enhance search and fulfillment services. Assessment is another discovery/fulfillment-related task that can, to a significant degree, be moved to the network level. This is shown by the last two summary reports created and released by OCLC.

Monday, April 4, 2011

data curation profiles workshop

This morning, I'm attending a workshop of data curation profiles at the University of Washington. Based upon my reading, and prior to the session's start, I can say that this is a little out of my comfort zone. This site provides a good launching point for the purpose of and past work with data curation profiles.