November 12, 2007

Next Gen Libraries & RefShare (e.g)

Been thinking about what I saw & heard at the Next Generation Library Catalogs session at UMass last week. What struck me most was David Lindahl (Director of Digital Library Initiatives at the University of Rochester) said in his prefatory remarks before talking about Rochester's eXtensible Catalog (see his PowerPoint slides).

He said he wasn't going to talk about "next generation catalogs" per se, or such innovative catalogs as Oklahoma State University's AquaBrowser catalog or the University of Washington's WorldCat Local -- both of which are very interesting -- in large part because they are not "next generation" catalogs but rather CURRENT GENERATION catalogs. Meaning, of course, that more traditional catalogs, such as Voyager and ALEPH are, well, your mother's library catalog.

David went on to talk about the next generation of library catalogs ... and then the next generation of libraries which, he argued, should be where PATRONS are rather than where we are or want them to be. This is a perennial debate in library-land, but I think he has a good point.

So ... I've been thinking about David's "next gen libraries," and then I went to training on RefWorks, the web-based citation management system, and had an ah-ha! moment. RefWorks (and its web-based citation-managing cousins) would be a place where our patrons would go ... and where we in the library could meet them.

I've showed RefWorks to many graduate and undergraduate students, and it is a big hit. RefWorks lets you export citations from most online databases, such as PsycINFO and WorldCat, so you can manage tens, hundreds, or thousands of citations for your research. But wait! There's more: it also formats your collected articles, books, conference proceedings, etc. in hundreds of citation styles, from APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian ... you name it.

But wait! There's more! RefWorks has some interesting collaborative options. I was able to create a folder of my publications that I can share with the world. Within RefWorks' folder-sharing ability, I have some intriguing options, which might be useful for librarians and/or scholars:
  1. I can allow comments. I could share my references with you, and enable you to comment on them. We could start a conversation about a particular article or you could refute a point I make about teaching as an adjunct.
  2. I can allow RSS feeds, so you could subscribe to the feed and find out my latest publications ... or new items I added to this collection.
  3. This list can be public, if I post it on a blog, Web site,, etc. OR it could be private if I don't post the URL on the Web, so it could be used for a variety of confidential tasks.
The list I'm sharing here is mildly interesting, but there are a number of possibilities:
  1. Libraries / academic departments could post a list of the publications of their staff, faculty, graduate students, alumni, etc. See the list of publications authored by Staff and employees of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation as an example.
  2. I'm the new communications coordinator for the American Society for Information Science and Technology's Special Interest Group Information Needs, Seeking and Use (SIG USE). They'd like to create a bibliography of publications by members ... and voila! I've created one (it's not ready for prime time yet, but I'll be sure to promote it here when it is).
  3. Libraries, working groups, collaborating scholars, and anyone working together can create a shared RefWorks folder to manage any citations, articles, books, works of art, music, newspapers ... that may be relevant & useful to their work. Public or private, enabling comments or not -- there are many ways of making these collections interactive and useful and collaborative for folks.
  4. I might use this to generate my reading list for class next semester. My only problem is that I can't sort it the way I want with any one of five user-defined fields. I have lots of sorting options, but I need to see if I can expand those options further. See a few articles in my Fall 2008 Reference folder.
  5. The University of Texas at Arlington has a nifty database of Tests and Measures in a RefShare account. They list information about the test or measure (in social sciences) and then provide the URL to the catalog entry explaining where the test or measure is at UTA.
RefWorks has already enabled us to put the University of Connecticut's OpenURL resolver in our account, so UConn community members (or those at one of our campuses) can easily find the full-text of any articles in a UConn RefWorks folder.

Back to David's point about the next generation library being where the users are ... where else are our users? Facebook! Library databases (hopefully). Google /Google Scholar. Course management systems like Moodle, Blackboard, etc.

All of these applications already incorporate some interesting library tools. This is yet another great opportunity for us to think outside the library book box.


John Dupuis said...

I agree that RefWorks is pretty good. But you should give Connotea a try as well for some of the applications you mention. It's a more academically focused

Also, you should give Zotero a go too. It's still missing a few key features, and probably won't really substitute for Refworks until version 2, but the interface is unbelievable. It leaves RefWorks in the dust.

Maxine said...

I met just yesterday with someone who's creating an online bibliography. He plans to use Access (groan), and I'm trying to talk him into using RefWorks or some other web-based citation manager. It's searchable (tho' clumsy with keyword) and you can add/edit descriptors, so I think I'll keep hammering on this until he sees the light.

Eric Frierson said...

We turned down RefShare here at UM a few months ago. Many, many of our grads and undergrads use it, but most of our faculty and PhD students use EndNote for their bibliographic management tools.

That said, this means that all those compiled bibliographies are hidden on faculty computers and drives.

I like John's suggestion about Zotero - I'm a big, big, BIG fan of Zotero, especially when coupled with a LibX tool.

I noticed on some of the links you posted that RefShare provided me with an openURL link that took me to Simmons' OpenURL resolver, not my own here at UM. That's one thing that Zotero + LibX *will* do.

Zotero 2.0 also promised to have a lot more social networky kind of tools, and I'm eagerly anticipating that release.

All that said, funny you should mention UTA - in December, I'm leaving UM, and in January, I start work as the Education/Political Science librarian at UTA!!!


(ps - go colts)