LITA President’s Program: Internet Culture: What Do We Know About User Behavior?

Sunday, June 25, 4-5 pm in the Sheraton New Orleans

A good crowd appeared for the LITA President’s Program: Internet Culture: What Do We Know About User Behavior? despite some location confusion. The conference program guide correctly identified the location as the Sheraton New Orleans on page 34 but misdirected readers to the Marriott across the street on page 136. I discovered this by going to the Marriott first.

LITA President Patrick J. Mullen
introduced Cathy De Rosa from the OCLC Online Computer Library Center and John B. Horrigan of the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Both discussed results from demographic research conducted by their organizations.

De Rosa’s Powerpoint presentation was much like the good new/bad news routine on the old Hee Haw television program (LITA is going to Nashville this fall).

De Rosa’s good news: People still value libraries. 55 per cent say they checked out a book in the study year.

De Rosa’s bad news: When people search for information on the Internet, 84 per cent start with search engines. One per cent start with library web sites.

De Rosa’s good news: One per cent is holding steady. In a study from the 1940s, one per cent of respondents said they went to the library for medical information. A newer study indicates that Internet users go to library web sites two per cent of the time.

De Rosa’s bad news: Statistics for reference transactions at academic libraries are falling. She showed a graphic that could have come from a comedy routine about a business that is failing.

De Rosa’s good news: Libraries are not the biggest losers in the shift toward an online lifestyle. Television is the biggest loser.

De Rosa’s bad news: Libraries are losing nearly as much as television.

De Rosa’s good news: People still value time spent with family and friends.

De Rosa’s bad news: People do not question the information that they find on the Internet. They report that they trust it based on their common sense or their ability to just know what is right.

More of De Rosa’s data can be found by going to the report Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005).

Horrigan’s presentation was less about libraries, but more encouraging in terms of the people. A study from March 2006 shows 73 per cent of adults and 87 per cent of teens are using the Internet. With a trend toward more high-speed access in homes, Americans are benefitting more from the information they gather from the web.

People are using the web to reduce the uncertainity in their lives. They are asking better questions of their health providers. They are using government web sites to get services. More people are gathering information before making economic decisions, such as buying cars and investing.

Digital information is empowering. Internet users are more informed about politics and more likely to vote.

High-speed Internet access is fostering creativity. 48 million people have created or posted content on the Internet. Social networks are growing rapidly.

Much more data is available at the Pew Internet & American Life Project web site.

In the question and answer period, the speakers said that there is still a role for libraries in our society, as people trust libraries. They still want books and a place to gather.

Your Library’s Intranet: The Hidden Tool, Not So Sexy, But Oh So Satisfying

Sunday, June 25, 1:30-3:30 pm

The portions are too large. This can be said when your red beans and rice comes with two fried pork chops and a big pile of onion rings. It can also be said of the presentation Your Library’s Intranet: The Hidden Tool, Not So Sexy, But Oh So Satisfying. Everything was good, but there was too much of it. The three speakers covered a lot of the same ground. By the time I left I was thoroughly convinced of the usefulness of Intranets. I was also ready to flee.

To their credit the speakers gave us views of different approaches to building Intranets. Alvaro Meythaler of the Phoenix Public Library showed a model that emphasizes supporting the library staff. Its objectives are 1) that it be easy to use, 2) that it function as a content management system, and 3) that it be account based. He explained how it was fairly easy to design, as 1) the staff is a captive audience that can be polled for usability and 2) the designers know what hardware and software the staff uses. There are fewer variables to consider compared to designing public Internet web sites.

Andy Peters of the Pioneer Library System in Oklahoma presented his organization’s model two ways: 1) as a paperless office and 2) as a digitized office. The two ideas are very similar. Much of the paper that has been produced in the past is replaced with digitized documents that are readily available to all staff through a limited-access Intranet. The reasons for digitizing are 1) saving environmental resources and space, 2) improving workflow efficiency, and 3) securely archiving documents. The difficulties are 1) people resist change and 2) there are aesthetic pleasures tied to using paper documents.

Building the digitized office takes planning, according to Peters. 1) A structure for files has to be designed. 2) The staff has to be surveyed to learned what documents should be digitized. 3) A method for conversion must be adopted. 4) All the documents must be stored in standardized formats. All of this takes much staff training and communication.

Communication is the point of an Intranet, according to Denise Siers of the King County Library System in Washington. King County established its Intranet in 1999. From the year to 2000 to the year 2005, use of the Intranet by staff rose 284 percent. It will be accessed over 600,000 times in 2006. On average every employee in the system uses the Intranet at least twice a day. Siers emphasized that the Intranet has to be updated continually during every day. If it is not timely, it is pointless.

The three presenters identified many documents, databases, and services that can be on a staff Intranet:

administrative information
policy manuals
procedures manuals
staff reports
committee minutes
accounting spreadsheets
staff news
RSS viewers
links to staff email
links to databases
staff developed knowledge bases
links to public Internet sites used by staff
links to training modules
forms used by staff
staff directories
time clocks to count employee hours
links to software for managing the public library website

The list is endless. Meythaler also said that the Phoenix staff get personal pages to use as they like.

Paper persists. Peters said that his organization is held back by the reluctance to accept electronic signatures. Siers reported that King County designs its Intranet pages to be print friendly.

All three speakers came from large organizations. Small institutions without IT departments will have pick and choice from the menu above according to their budgets and needs.

Downloadable Books, Audio and Video: One Experience

Users of downloadable eBooks and audio books want many of the same titles as print readers, according to Michelle Jeske of the Denver Public Library. In her presentation Downloadable Books, Audio, and Video: One Experience, she reported that DPL is a large customer of downloadable materials and it foresees an increasing demand for them. Being one of the first customers of eBooks from netLibrary, starting in 2000, DPL has found that service both useful and frustrating. At this point DPL owns most of the netLibrary titles, but it will not be adding any more; the difficult user authentication process and the inability to customize the service to DPL’s needs has led the library to decide that there is little future in the contract. DPL has signed on with Overdrive, which has more bestselling materials and is more user friendly; users can enter their library card numbers and do NOT have to create accounts to access eBooks; users can also download Overdrive materials onto their PCs or PDAs.

Jeske said that another reason that DPL signed with Overdrive was to get the downloadable audio books. When DPL began offering the downloadable audio books on January 3, 2005, every title was checked out within 24 hours; the library went back to Overdrive and bought more copies and negotiated unlimited checkouts for 50 titles. Many users either load these books onto their Windows Media pocket devices or burn CDs; the product does not work directly with Apple IPods.

There is a workaround for loading to IPods. Users first download the Overdrive audio books and then burn them to CDs. Then the users reload the audio books into ITunes and from there into their IPods.

There are some problems with the downloadable book and audio book market. Some publishers are resisting the movement, fearing that their content will be pirated. Other publishers that are producing downloadable books are signing exclusive deals with vendors, making it necessary for libraries to use multiple vendors if they want all the popular titles. The technical standards vary among publishers, too.

Libraries who chose to offer downloadable media must consider training numerous staff members to assist users.

Surveys and statistics at Denver Public Library show downloadable users want the same titles as print readers. Top circulating titles are the same as those on print bestseller lists – if they are available. If not, almost any downloadable books will do; classics circulate especially well; the demand is so great.

To see recent titles added to the Denver Public Library downloadable books collection, click here.

The Michigan eLibrary: A Statewide Gateway to Library Materials

The references in this piece to Illinois are my comments. The speakers never mentioned Illinois.

Anne Donohue and Debbi Schaubman of the Michigan Library Consortium spoke today on the new developments at the Michigan eLibrary, commonly known as MeL. Begun as a gopher at the University of Michigan in 1993, the web site has gone through many phases and now has several important services for the people of Michigan. The newest are MeLCat, a statewide library catalog, and MeLDelivery, a statewide delivery service. MeL also has a new user-friendly design.

Though I reside in Illinois, I have been using the Reference Desk at MeL for years; as a reference librarian I have answered numerous reference questions with its links to free web sources. I always look on the MeL Databases with envy; the Michigan State Library provides many more databases for its residents than the Illinois State Library and makes them easier to access. Illinois and other states should take note.

Donohue and Schaubman were proud of the new design, which includes a new federated search box. The results of this search point to both open access and authentication access resources; Michigan residents can use their drivers license numbers or library card numbers to get into the resources that require authentication; parents can set up MyMel accounts for their children to give them access.

The speakers spent much of their time discussing MeLCat, which is still adding libraries. Illinois is actually ahead of Michigan in the development of a statewide library catalog, but the Michigan model looks a little friendlier and shows status on most items. Building MelCat has given the state the opportunity to go into many smaller rural libraries and teach computer skills to the library staffs. Residents can get into MeLCat and place holds on items to be delivered to their home libraries.

In the near future, the Michigan Library Consortium will be expanding services on MyMeL and continuing to add libraries to MeLCat. Its focus groups continue to look for more services for Michigan residents.

Presidential End of Term Web Harvest: Lessons Learned by Mark Phillips

In a meeting room far, far away…

Mark Phillips from the University of North Texas Libraries spoke to a small gathering of LITA librarians who found their way to the remote Convention Center Meeting Room C1+C4 about web harvesting government information. If you imagine that it is a simple thing to do, you are wrong!

Why would you even consider harvesting data from government websites? 96 percent of federal government information is now digital and much of it is not archived; much of it is disappearing at the direction of bureaucrats who do not know or follow any archiving directives.

The University of North Texas Libraries (UNT Libraries) was contracted by the Government Printing Office (GPO) in 1997 to begin harvesting the web pages of government commissions that were filing final reports and agencies whose functions were ending. The result is the CyberCemetery, which archives the websites of 42 defunct agencies and makes them available for public use.

In theory, the GPO tells UNT Libraries when a commission or agency needs a final harvest so nothing will be lost. In reality, many bodies have disappeared without notice; their web pages which were stored on private industry servers often disappeared before anyone at GPO or UNT was aware of their demise. UNT tries to find the data secondarily through sources like the Internet Archives, but often much is lost.

In 2004 the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) approached UNT Libraries about conducting an end of presidential term harvesting of federal information with the results to be sent to the California Digital Library. UNT first declined but then accepted when asked a second time. The project was very time sensitive. Phillip’s department had only a month to prepare and another month to do the harvesting. NARA provided UNT with a list of URLs that any good government documents librarian could tell was incomplete, so Phillip’s department had to go to other sources to collect URLs. They also had to get software for the harvest, set up computers, and decide on procedures. Phillips described this operation.

Problems began to crop up as soon as the harvesting began. NARA had promised that necessary notices and permissions would be given; notices may have gone to management administrators in government agencies, but many server administrators knew nothing when they discovered their files being massively copied. Phillips got many angry calls ordering him to cease and desist. There were other technical problems. By the time of the presidential inauguration, UNT libraries had only captured about one-third of the federal web data, but it was still more than NARA had said they would find.

Phillips did not have a digital presentation, but numerous documents on his department’s work can be found at

I have been reading for years about the problems of disappearing federal information. Phillip’s presentation gave it a whole new twist. We have plenty of reasons to worry.

LITA Forum and the Art Connection

You may not have noticed, but the LITA planners have done a good job of scheduling forums to correspond with art events.

Go back five years to the LITA Forum in Portland, Oregon. I arrived the day before the opening session, dropped off my bags at the hotel, and caught the light rail to the Portland Art Museum. It happened to be a day the museum was running a food drive for the local shelter program. The admissions clerk told me that I could save the $10.00 admission fee if I walked to the Safeway on next block and brought back a couple of items for the drive. I did and got in the museum for the price of canned corn and fruit cocktail. I enjoyed seeing a big show of the Hudson River School painter Frederick Edwin Church’s landscape paintings. There was also an exhibit of early Soviet painting that was very grim.

In 2001 the LITA planners brought the forum to Milwaukee the very week that the Milwaukee Art Museum dedicated its beautiful new wing designed by Santiago Calatrava. On exhibit at that time was a fantastic collection of colorful glasswork by Dale Chihuly, which fit very nicely in the bright white gallery space. I also saw my favorite contemporary work in the museum, the very lifelike Janitor by Duane Hanson.

At the LITA Forum in Houston, I spent four or five hours in the Museum of Fine Arts. It was again great timing as there were two big shows. The first was an exhibit of French Impressionists and the second was a large part of the Phillips Collection from Washington, D.C., which was on loan while its home was being remodeled. I saw many Renoirs, Van Goghs, Monets, etc. I also saw a show of quilts from Gee’s Bend.

I do not remember there being any special shows at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk during the 2003 LITA Forum, but my visit was still very memorable. The admissions clerk insisted on checking whether I qualified for free entry because I was a member of the Art Institute of Chicago. Sadly I did have to pay to get in, but I got a free audio tour. The woman in charge of handing out the audio tour devices told me about all her favorite pieces in the museum and how to find them. She was right about there being a great collection of art glass. I also enjoyed the galleries of European art, including the painting titled Saint Philip by Georges de La Tour. The Chrysler museum had the friendliest staff I have ever met.

Last year I went to the Saint Louis Art Museum, which had just installed a 37 foot long wood and mixed media work by Leonardo Drew called Untitled #45. (Rust was a major ingredient.) I was more impressed by the beauty of the building than the museum collection. Built for the 1904 World’s Fair, the marble-covered museum is on top of a hill overlooking Forest Park. There were good displays of European and American painting, and I particularly liked Winslow Homer’s The American School. The St. Louis Art Museum is always free to visitors and worth a visit.

This year many of us are going to San Jose, which means we can go the San Jose Museum of Art. It is free to visit and it appears to be in easy walking distance of the Forum hotel. The San Jose Museum of Art is a relatively new institution, founded in 1969, and its collection includes works of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It has had permanent displays only since 2003 and puts a lot of effort into its shows. Currently it has Brides of Frankenstein, a show of works by contemporary women, who use video, robotics, the Internet, computer animations, and other digital and traditional media. It sounds like an appropriate experience for LITA librarians at a forum in Silicon Valley. I’ll see you there.