Friday, February 12, 2010

VALA 2010 - Tuesday afternoon (a)

The VALA 2010 conference with the theme, Connections, Content, Conversations, produced an assortment of papers about IT related developments in libraries and information organisations and advancements in electronic resources. The sessions provided an overview of some of the uses of information technology and resources currently in use plus possibilities for the future. Although this was predominantly a conference for librarians the speakers, especially the keynote speakers, were from a range of organisations and it was stressed at a number of the sessions that information technology crossed institutional boundaries. A summary of sessions I attended on the Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon of the conference is provided in this and subsquent posts. The first to posts investigated the use of e-books and a catalogue using federated searching in academic libraries but the results are also of interest to a wider audience.

Ebook usage at Curtin University Library: patterns, projections and strategy
E-books have been around for a while now and an analysis of the use of e-books at Curtin University provided information on the uptake of online material in an academic environment. Curtin University started purchasing e-books in 2003. Although the e-book collection has expanded, particularly since 2007, the electronic book format is secondary to the print version. E-journals, however, have become a dominant format for providing access to periodical literature.

Two major e-book collections described were electronic copies of textbooks and other items in the reserve collection where there would be high usage and a collection of research material in e-book format for ongoing use. Graphs from statistics of usage of the collections were provided along with a description of selecting e-book materials. Generally titles selected directly by the library staff experienced higher usage than items collected in a subject specific or other form of group purchase. The graphs showed that usage of the student e-books varied from one semester to another though overall usage did increase significantly in 2009. The numbers of students in classes and lecturers recommending the e-book titles were suggested factors affecting these figures. [Another possible factor for the variance in usage patterns could be that different subjects are offered in each semester]. It was concluded that more analysis is required.

Beyond the grave: where to with Gen (wh)Y?
The glossary on the University of Western Sydney Library website describes their Library Search Box as enabling 'a simultaneous search of a selection of Library databases, a number of web resources and the Library catalogue with additional refining and discovery features.' The talk demonstrated and discussed the new catalogue utilising federated searching. Users have been encouraged to provide feedback and this has provided information on the acceptance and usage of the new features. Requests were made to also retain the 'classic' catalogue so a link to that version will be available until Easter.

Using the Library Search Box provides not just a list of possible items relating to the search term but also a tag cloud which students appear to like and the ability to refine the search using options relating to library format, subject, date and geographic region. The ability for users to tag items is also provided but not widely used so far. Images of book jackets are provided for most entries and icons show type of material. Linked tags in the record help in searching and tables of contents provide additional information about the book contents. There is also the ability to export the details of the record to EndNote or RefWorks. The search box for the catalogue is prominent on the library home page but as 80% of students do not use the library home page a library search box is located on all pages of the website. Although the new catalogue has additional features and access to a wider range of resources in one search, statistics show probably only a 5% increase in usage over the 'classic' catalogue. Usage statistics have also shown that some students tried using the library search box for searching for other library information such as hours of opening.

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