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Are ebooks the new CD-ROM?

I was interested to read about the realease of Dan Brown’s new title as an ebook where the publisher reported ‘the possibilities, including books with scored soundtracks and video inserts, are just becoming clear.’

This started me thinking about the added value ebooks provide, can they offer enhanced features, will they become just the new CD-ROM?

Can ebooks allow the experience of reading to be more immersive and media rich, for example with the additon of audio and video? Examples of companies investigating this already, Enhanced Editions and vook. Perhaps the location of where the books is being read will influence the content provided.

Can e-books create a more collaborative experience of reading for example could you meet other readers and share impressions of the book during reading? A feature of the  VitalSource software is the opportunity to share notes and highlighters on ebooks. Perhaps this will lead to multiple editions of ebooks edited by readers.

August 28, 2009   3 Comments

JISC digitisation conference

Cotswold Water Park

Cotswold Water Park

A few weeks ago I attended the JISC digitisation conference at the lovely cotswold water park. The conference was streamed, blogged, tweeted etc so please check out the blog posts and videos for a good summary (I would definitely recommend watching the talks by Nick Poole and Robert Miller, inspiring stuff)
It was an enjoyable conference and JISC had put together a fantastic line up of talks. It was a good mixture of people from all aspects of the digitisation world highlighting the importance of collaboration and the value it adds to the collections. While there is now lots of access to some amazing resources the volume of use, ease of integration into teaching and research, questions of copyright and IPR, ease of search and discover were all issues raised during the 2 days.
I found it hard to select which talks to attend in the 4 different streams (and was often distracted by twitter as to what was going on in the sessions I couldn’t attend) There were plenty of useful case studies and resources which I wanted to go away and look at in more detail (unfortunately still not made the time for that). I particularly enjoyed a (too brief) talk by Dave Flanders touching upon wire frames to map out potential ideas and thinking about services from the point of view of a model user, it made me appreciate how it is possible to realise some of those ideas that occasionally pop into my head.

During the conference I really enjoyed tweeting and it really helped me consider some of the sessions in more depth during the time. I am however now  wondering if perhaps blogging some of the sessions would have been more useful with regards to being able to look back and reflect.

What I hope to take away from the conference is to;

  • discover more digitisation projects
  • appreciate the amount of available resources to researchers, students and teachers
  • appreciate how enriched media resources can be used to engage students
  • gain a better understanding of the reasons behind digitising collections
  • realise the need to secure resources that maybe lost via digitisation
  • understand the importance of copyright and IPR and not to view it as a block
  • creating these resources does not guarantee use
  • appreciate the need to add value to digital collections, enhance the data with other services
  • appreciate the need to promote them further
  • investigate better search platforms to this data
  • better intergration of resources into teaching, and understand how they can be part of the workflow
  • freeing the raw data, allowing innovative and greater use
  • the importance of collaboration with partners nationally and internationally

July 23, 2009   No Comments

Library services in virtual worlds


Orchid at Kew

At Birmingham City University I’ve had a number of opportunities to hear about interesting and exciting use of technology for teaching especially virtual worlds.

One project is Shareville, a virtual world with real life video to provide gritty and realistic scenarios for learning and teaching. Students can walk around this virtual world based on Birmingham, including a representation of  City North campus, and click on various hot spots to interact with different scenarios. As well as Shareville, the University’s Faculty of Health has developed the VirtualCaseCreator, which is ‘software that supports rich, highly interactive, multimedia, online, simulations.’  Unlike Shareville however this has no real video footage and all the scenarios are  computer animated.  Hearing about these amazing projects, and getting to meet the creators, got me thinking about library services and what value they could add to these virtual worlds, and came up with the list below (I suspect there are many examples of these in practice)

  • virtual representation of a library to provide inductions and tours
  • virtual trade magazines or journals on coffee tables, buses etc which when selected provides the table of contents or links to articles
  • shelves of books, cabinets of documents etc which link directly to the online version
  • representation of student study space
  • calendars, notice boards, post it notes on fridges etc to remind users of library opening hours
  • TV/computers as hotspots once clicked can link to streamed media
  • avatars as a representation of the library catalog or search interface

I am not clear as to how much library resources play a part in this type of learning process, however it did make me think more about how the importance of being part of the students workflow and not just part of the learning process but conusmption of information on a daily basis.

July 10, 2009   2 Comments

Research Conference at Birmingham City University RESCON09

Twickenham Farmers' Market

On Monday June 22nd I atteded RESCON09 at Birmingham City University, this was the first research conference of its kind and was a really good day.

I had the opportunity to hear about the new research strategy which seems very ambitious and aspirational in moving towards being a ‘research engaged’ university. I also attended a number of presentations on various research projects across the university.

I found it a very useful day, I really appreciated hearing about the wonderful and varied research taking place and was a great introduction to the university. Sitting in the audience it was interesting to see the potential synergies between research groups, how technologically engaged many of the projects were and the real value of national and international collaborations. It depicted a picture of a vibrant, engaged and creative institution which I look forward to working for.

There are clearly some big challenges ahead for the university including co-ordinating these projects and building the infrastructure to support the growth of research across the insitution. From a library perspective this strategy raises many questions/issues regarding its impact to the resources and services we offer but there is also some real potential to provide expertise especially for example with regards to capturing research output. It will also be interesting to see how they build a research community and if web 2.0 tools could be used.

There is more detail available at research at Birmingham City University
and a couple of projects which particularly interested me were

June 25, 2009   No Comments

Presentation on Web 2.0

Kite reels

Within a few weeks of starting my new job I was asked if I would be willing to provide a session for library staff on Twitter as part of a summer training event (well I could hardly say no) and so last week I delivered an short session to about 20 staff. (My presentation is available on slide share, all 4 slides!)

I decided to broaden the topic to web 2.0 and as part of my preparation I tweeted asking advice on what I should cover.  As usual people on twitter were more than helpful with plenty of good suggestions and useful resources.

Following their advice I decided to focus on why I use web 2.0 tools and as I sat listing various reasons such as communcication and collaboration (my two key points regarding web 2.0) I realised the most important one was enjoyment. I don’t deny that it took me a while to feel comfortable sharing my thoughts and ideas with people I didn’t know, however the payback was worth it. I also soon learned that you get what you put into it and contributing and collaborating will pay dividends.

An example was in starting this job. Owing to space, I was located in a different building to my team and although I made sure to arrange plenty of meetings I still spent a lot of the time alone in my office. Twitter however proved to be a great method of making contact with some of my new team  and having an exsisting online community helped with any feelings of isolation and lone working while settling in. (I am pleased to say I have now finally moved into the library)

After talking about my own experience and showing colleagues my own accounts to provide them with real examples of use I then highlighted a few reasons as to why libraries are using web 2.0 tools. It was easy to find some great examples out there which was really encouraging.  I also wanted to make sure the session was a practical one, so I set up a demo Delicious account with a handful of interesting links for people to browse and a Bloglines account in order that they could have a go at adding feeds or adding a blog post. This  also gave me an opportunity to walk round and talk to everyone and answer any specific questions.

I was keen to stress, in my session, that these tools are not for everyone and they are not an instant fix to all communication problems there is however invaluable experience to be gained from having a go and engaging with these new developments.

A week after my session I found Dave Patten (University of Huddersfield) was to give a presentation on web 2.0 at the Engaing our Digital Natives conference, wish I could have stolen it :)

June 18, 2009   1 Comment

Ebsco Information Day

On Wednesday, May 13th I was fortunate enough to attend an EBSCO Information Day at the very picturesque venue, Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Over the cries of the resident peacock, I got the chance to hear about some of the developments at EBSCO and librarians from DeMontford University shared their experience of moving over to EBSCO as their main subscription agent.

The day started with an overview of EBSCO, their different sections and their road map for the future, it was interesting to hear about the different areas and how this knowledge and experience could provide libraries with a complete approach to managing subscriptions and resources, from purchase, access, authentication, cancellations etc.

During the morning they talked about new services they were developing to help libraries manage their e-resources subscription information; ‘electronic subscription management’ and  ‘e-journal package management’ – to help maintain the large journal package deals. They then demonstrated their new federated search tool ‘EBSCO Integrated search’

In looking for effective ways of managing the information related to e-resource subscriptions I think it is important to understand the context of the data in relation to the other systems within the workflow and therefore integration is key, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to question what was the level of integration  between the e-subscription database and other databases, for example if you took a subscription that included online access would that be recorded with the pint subscription details and then again in the e-resource database?

We did however get the opportunity to see a demo of their ‘Integrated Search’ product, which I think builds on established user interface. They have been able to learn from other federated search tools and minimise the complexity of the search by providing less of a learning curve for users of EBSCO products as they are in a familiar environment and can navigate the results in a similar way.

While they were keen to highlight some of the negative comments regarding competitor federated search tools I was not however clear how their product resolved some of the fundamental issues with regards to federated searching.  The speed of the search and reliability depends on the connectors with the other databases as is the case with all federated search engines.

I was interested to see what they were bringing to the market, I think the competitive price  are appealing, EBSCO are in a great position of also being publishers therefore you could choose to get a number of your databases via them, the disadvantages however are the lack of flexibility as you are not hosting the system, the reliance on the company – you could be using them not only to purchase the resource but also to provide it.

June 8, 2009   No Comments

Mobile Education at Abilene Christian University’s (ACU)

On Thursday, 22nd May, I attended a talk from ACU about their experience of providing their freshmans students with iphones/itouches.  It was an interesting session, they were good speakers and very enthusiastic about the project. ACU had quickly come to the conclusion that the one peice of technology never far from a student was their phone, and when the iphone was announced it was a solution to bringing technology into the classroom.

An ACU app was developed providing students with an array of useful information, including campus plans, schedules etc. The students have a ‘my Mobile’ section providing tailored personalised information to the student such as assignment deadlines. There are also nano-tools allowing  tutors to be able to poll the students in class, create word clouds and much more, making the iPhone a key tool in the learning experience at ACU.

The vision of ‘mobile learning’ seemed to be of key interest to the audience, the speakers talked about how the environment is constantly changing and how education needs to change with it, moving away from the notion that students are fed information to more peer to peer teaching and collaboration, and how technology could be used to achieve this. I think a key advantage of the iPhone is its flexibility and can be  easily integrated into the teaching in comparison to perhaps a VLE, where teachers could be faced with IT barriers, in the sense of having to do teaching in a PC lab so all students have access etc.

Sadly I had to leave early so missed the Q&A and the opportunity to find out more about the BCU iphone pilot.

ACU Mobile Learning

June 8, 2009   No Comments