Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Simultaneous Searching of Multiple Databases with the Libraries’ New MultiSearch Tool

Since early January, students and faculty have had a powerful new tool available to them for conducting their research and learning with the introduction of MultiSearch. This software, developed by SerialsSolutions, Inc., allows for the simultaneous multiple searching of up to 50 specialized information resources, such as Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, the Web of Science, and the Libraries’ online CardCat.

Subject specific databases like America: History and Life and PsycINFO are also included.

“It’s one of the most significant improvements in providing access to information that this library has made recently,” said James W. Hammons, University Libraries’ Head of Library Technologies.

MultiSearch allows students and faculty to search databases produced by different vendors with one single search interface so that they no longer need to search each database individually. The product also allows users to access full-text articles and citations in a variety of disciplines with one search.

A significant feature of MultiSearch is that users can access it from remote locations such as residence halls, laboratories, classrooms, or off-campus.

MultiSearch is rapidly becoming popular with students and faculty. The University Libraries Instructional Services have offered a number of workshops to introduce MultiSearch. Students and faculty are impressed with the new resource.

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Library 2.0: Evernote – Another Free and Useful Web 2.0 Tool

by Roy “Todd” Vandenbark, Part-time Temporary Special Project Developer, Library Information Technology Services

Do you ever have a flash of inspiration yet lacked the means to record your idea? If you manage to record your inspiration, do you sometimes forget where you saved it among the multiple devices many of us own? Or have you been somewhere or seen something that you wanted to remember later? If so, then the Web 2.0 application Evernote may be just the tool you need.

Evernote is a free software application designed to help you capture information in any form, anytime, anywhere, using your preferred electronic device, and make it searchable and accessible. It is available online at www.evernote.com, and comes in versions for Windows and Mac computers, and many mobile devices including Windows Mobile phones, the iPhone, and iPod Touch. And Evernote organizes everything based on tags you add to each item, allowing you to search for items and group them into “notebooks.” You can publish any of your notebooks for others to see, and once published, it will be given its own unique URL and indexed by search engines. Way powerful!

Start by creating a free online account, and then add the “Clip to Evernote” button to your Web browser, just below the button bar. Evernote Web currently supports Firefox 2, Firefox 3, Internet Explorer 7, Safari 3, and Flock Web browsers. As you surf the Web and find items you want to remember, click and drag to highlight the item, and then click the button to add them to your library. In the resulting popup window, add one or more tags to the item to help you remember it and make it searchable in your account. If you want to remember an entire page, just click the button.

In addition to the tags you add to a new item, Evernote tags it with a number of useful attributes, date created, date modified, source, and the category of what it contains. The “contains” categories include images, audio, PDF, link, and to-do items.

Searches generate results as you type in terms and can be narrowed by clicking on different tags and attributes in the left sidebar. Evernote allows you to save searches and the results can be narrowed based on tags and attributes.

Download the software to your desktop or laptop computer, enter your account information, and you can drag-and-drop image, audio, PDF, or link files to Evernote. If you use more than one computer, install Evernote on each of them and you can search, view, and retrieve your notes wherever and whenever you want. The software will automatically synchronize and update your list of items each time you log in. If the computer you are using does not have Evernote, use the Web-based version to save information, or you can email clippings directly to your account.

Install Evernote on your mobile phone, and you can save photos directly to your library. Evernote’s recognition technology includes optical character recognition (OCR). It can recognize text in print, graphic images, and even some handwriting. Snap pictures of whiteboards in lectures, business cards, or labels of items you wish to buy and it will be available to refer to later, without the worry of lost notes or forgotten information.

Evernote offers two service plans, free and premium. The free account allows you to upload up to 40 MB of information per month, and is limited to images, audio files, link files, and PDFs. Notebooks published from any free account will include advertising in the margin. For $5 per month, or $45 per year, you can upload up to 500 MB of information in any file type, and they are secure socket layer (SSL) encrypted for added security during transfer. In addition, advertising is turned-off for premium users. The Web site offers some documentation and searchable support, and it includes a number of helpful tutorials.

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Librarians Create a Mobiquitous Environment to Deliver Library and Information Services

When using a new digital product or service, we rarely think about the behind-the-scenes work that went into creating and making it available. We just know we want an end result that is convenient, easy to use, trouble-free, and accessible. These same types of expectations come about when initiating library services and products.

Librarians and information professionals are continually creating and designing opportunities for students and faculty seamlessly to use digital products and collections for their research, learning, and entertainment needs. By providing ubiquitous, mobile access to information and digital products in an anytime, anywhere environment, librarians and information specialists serve as information architects who make a profound enhancement by designing and improving how people obtain and apply information.

Today’s library effectively comes into the consumer’s living and work space. In this context, the library is a virtual mobile resource that is mobiquitous because of its mobile and ubiquitous nature. This is because of the power of the Internet and 3G networks to deliver text, pictures, video, and data, along with the mobile phone’s features of portability, adaptability, and capability to perform Web-based information gathering applications. These combined characteristics have served to transform the mobile phone into a powerful small-screen, handheld, smart device for research and learning.

Providing our students and faculty with convenient access to an array of virtual library services means that people who use our resources do not necessarily have to walk in our front doors. It also means that they have 24-hour access to engage in the use of informational materials to meet their information needs.

Prior to today’s virtual library services, students and faculty accepted that making a trip to the library was absolutely necessary to fulfill their course-related information needs. Now, much of the information required for projects, classroom assignments, and timely scholarly research is available online through full-text specialized information resources such as databases, electronic catalogs, digital image collections, and document delivery services. Librarians have greatly facilitated the development of well-conceived and robust virtual collections while also improving customer service and providing outstanding information support to visitors who come into the physical library.

At the Ball State University Libraries, we continue to develop library applications that can be accessed by using small screen mobile devices such as iPhone, Blackberries, netbook computers, and other similar devices. Please view www.bsu.edu/libraries/mobile to see what is available for our mobile device user. Applications of this type build on our students’ experiences with using their mobile computing devices and digital technology as their information tool.

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Cell Phones are Collaborative Tools Connecting People to Information

Walking around the University Libraries, it is easy to see that cell phones are popular among students. They are constantly engaged in their use to call and text each other, listen and share information, take and send pictures, record sounds, transfer files, listen to music, e-mail, and use them for a variety of other information gathering functions. This is possible because of the power and adaptability of mobile phones.

With an average of 4,900 daily visitors to the University Libraries during the academic year, the challenge is how to manage the resulting levels of sound. While some would like to ban or greatly restrict cell phones use in any library as a nuisance, our librarians understand the value and importance of the cell phones in scholarly activities.

"We view cell phones as collaborative tools for learning," said Dr. Arthur W. Hafner, Dean of the University Libraries. "There are ways to remind students and library visitors about cell phone etiquette."

Periodically, at Bracken Library’s entrances and on various floors, we place large poster-size signs that encourage our visitors to use their cell phones responsibly and respectfully. The fourth floor remains a Quiet Zone.

The Libraries' professional and paraprofessionals want the BSU community to experience the University Libraries as a comfortable, productive destination for research, learning, and friends while using the Libraries' programs, services, and collections. To accomplish this, the University Libraries promote the use of cell phone activity that aids our students in their scholarly activities and pursuit of learning.

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Perspective Following ALA Mid-Winter Conference

by Marcy L. Simons, Head of Access Services
The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter conference has long been a staple for the “think-tanks” behind the association, its members, and committees. Unquestionably, the theme of this year’s mid-winter was budget-cuts and how to deal with them.

Whether in a discussion with colleagues, during a more formal presentation, or in round-table discussion groups, an item on every agenda was how to deal with shrinking budgets.

The attendance numbers have been confirmed – 7,905 actual attendees – a far cry from the almost 11,000 who registered for the conference. Cancellations of discussion groups, panel sessions, and committee meetings were many due to panel members not able to travel, and, even in some cases, chairpersons having to give up their positions because they would not be able to attend the 2009 conferences.

As so many of our colleagues commented, there is strength in numbers, and there is no better way to jumpstart creativity than by spending time with like-minded people who all have the same goal: providing information and services that our users need and want. On everyone’s agenda was the question of how libraries prepare for, and implement, budget reductions while still taking advantage of future trends to support student and faculty research and learning. Below is a brief list of some of the interesting take-aways that I heard.

Librarians should anticipate an insistence on data management for all types of libraries. For academic libraries, this means measuring our impact on the educational experience of our users.

Today’s practicing librarians have a stake in what is being taught to future librarians in our graduate library schools. The curriculum needs to include course topics such as the following:
- evaluation of library services using well understood metrics
- evaluation of the “user experience”
- community service
- “each one reach one” mentoring programs
- library service advocacy

Librarians need to become more experienced at advocating for their library’s programs and services. In addition to receiving training to accomplish this, practicing librarians at all levels need to get out among their community of members to inform people about libraries and the services available to them.
Librarian administrators, deans, and public service directors spoke about various ways to manage budget reductions. Some of the more creative ways were the following:

- shared print repositories and consortia making “group” collection decisions
- creating formal assessment tools/programs to answer the “how do you provide
value” questions coming from boards, trustees, and others
- using today’s uncertainties as a qualified opportunity for reevaluating programs
and services and for re-structuring and right-sizing for organizational efficiency

There is more interest on developing an interface to efficiently deliver more mobile content for small-screen mobile devices such as the iPhone or iTouch, Blackberry, PDAs, smart watches, and other devices with restricted processing, memory, screen size, and bandwidth.

Librarians need to direct more attention to enhancing and evaluating the user’s library experience by actively employing collection techniques that go beyond placing posters throughout the library soliciting comments.

As a new professional to librarianship, the most important thing I learned was the importance and value of practicing librarians sharing our stories among each other so that we can capitalize on our successes for providing library programs and services.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Greek Organizations + Library = A Good Partnership

A large portion of the third floor at Bracken Library is known as the “Greek floor” because so many members of Ball State’s sororities and fraternities meet there to study and work on projects. There is also a log book at the circulation counter for members to sign so a record is maintained by the sororities and fraternities.

In 2006, we created posters with several sorority and fraternity members shown using resources at Bracken. The posters added color and interest to the walls, and the idea went over well with members of the Greek community. We are scheduling new photo sessions with the fraternities and sororities of to update our 24”x36” posters in Bracken Library.

Brittany Blake, a member of Sigma Kappa sorority, who also works as an intern with the Office of Student Life, promotes Greek life on the Ball State campus. She is helping to organize the photo shoot. In the future, Brittany would like to have a poster recognizing those in Greek organizations who have achieved a 3.5 GPA or better.

“The third floor is a popular area with Greeks,” she said. “I come here with my sorority sisters to work on projects and get things done and I want to think of ways I can promote the library to others.”