November 29, 2004

JISC Watching the Semantic Web

The JISC Technology and Standards Watch has commissioned a report on Semantic Web Technologies by Dr. Brian Matthews of CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Deputy Manager of the UK and Ireland Office of the W3C. 'This JISC report will discuss the current state of the art of the Semantic Web, how it may impact the UK Higher and Further Education sectors, and how it may develop in the next few years.'

They've also commissioned another interesting report, mentioned on the same page:
Future location-based experiences by Professor Steve Benford. This is about digital content adapted to the user's location and delivered to portable or wearable devices through wireless communications. The brief doesn't mention libraries but it set me imagining finding out, through my PDA, the nearest library with an available copy of a book that I'm looking for.

November 26, 2004

Scientific publications: storm in a tea cup?

On Tuesday I attended a UKSG event - Scientific Publications: Free for all?

The day was focused on the much-anticipated report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on scientific publications which appeared in July, and generated a great deal of interest throughout the academic community, libraries and publishers.

The event was very interesting - there were presentations from librarians, and publishers, but my fears were confirmed. The government in its response to the report doesn't think there's a problem, whilst the academics are burying their heads in the sand, or appear to be completely unaware of the flaws with the existing scholarly communication model - yet it is the academics who are at the heart of the process - publishing their research findings in scholarly journals. Why wasn't an academic perspective presented?

It is the academic community which is at both ends of the publishing cycle. Academics publish the content, and they read other's work once published. It strikes me that until they actually comprehend that, then the fundamental model will not change. So while the publishers and librarians discuss the issues around journal bundling, journal prices and the model as a whole, the discussion does not really involve the other key stakeholder - the academics.

Metasearching: a new approach

The latest issue of the Library Journal has an article, 'Moving Beyond Metasearching: Are Wrappers the Next Big Thing?', about a $2 million project 'to deliver electronic content no matter where the search is conducted'. The functional ideas are interesting and have the crucial benefit of being easy, intuitive, to use.

But I need to find out about 'wrappers' before I can understand the technology behind it. I must be missing something - from the description given in the article, it sounds like the XML equivalent of html screen-scraping, which the NISO Metasearch Initiative is seeking to get away from. I particularly like the sentence: 'All results from the same vendor are returned in the same layout wherever you search.' It must be true if they're throwing $2 million at it, right?

FRBR News and Prototype Catalogue

A new FRBR Prototype Application has been made available on the Web. It is an experimental adaptation of the CDS/ISIS system. The intention is to release the software modules as either freeware or Open Source. Some brief information about the prototype with a few links is available.

The interface simply presents the user with search options based on the primary FRBR entities and the database is very small, but it demonstrates the principles and models the relations between all the entities.

A preprint version of a technical paper is available; it's published in Cataloguing & Classification Quarterly vol. 39 no. 3-4 2004. This is devoted to FRBR and edited by Patrick Le Bœuf of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, who is at the hub of IFLA's work on FRBR. The title of the CCQ double issue is FRBR: hype, or cure-all? There has certainly been a lot of hype about it and Patrick is the first to point out that it is an imperfect conceptual model, but it does seem to offer possibilities to improve the performance of catalogues for key types of material such as literary works and music to better fulfil Cutter's principles.

Scanning the contents list for CCQ 39, 3-4, there are many fascinating articles that I look forward to reading from key players in cataloguing research, but there doesn't seem to be a user study. Given the well-documented user preference for Google's simplicity, I would have thought that those who are investing in the application of FRBR concepts would want to know whether their systems are going to appeal to their intended user-base and how best to design their user interfaces to do so.

November 22, 2004

RSS - good article

RSS offers libraries the potential to deliver services in new ways and to create completely new services, with relatively little effort or cost. What is RSS and how can it serve libraries? [pdf] is a 14 page thorough introduction to RSS, how it works and how it can be applied, with a full section on its potential for libraries. Well worth a read by anyone wanting to be inspired to exploit RSS for library services.
Found via blogwithoutalibrary.

November 18, 2004

Google's new scholarly literature search

Google has just released a beta version of a new service: Google Scholar. According to the information about itself:

Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.

Just as with Google Web Search, Google Scholar orders your search results by how relevant they are to your query, so the most useful references should appear at the top of the page. This relevance ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature. Google Scholar also automatically analyzes and extracts citations and presents them as separate results, even if the documents they refer to are not online. This means your search results may include citations of older works and seminal articles that appear only in books or other offline publications.

Where a book is referenced, it includes a link 'Library search' to OCLC's OpenWorldCat to find a library location. The FAQ advises users who want to get to full text to visit a library, implying look at a print copy. It doesn't say that, via membership of a library service, you might have access to restricted online content.

Thanks to Paul Miller's CIE blog for alerting me to this. As he points out, there is a good initial reaction on ResourceShelf.