December 10, 2008

Defrosting the Digital Library

Hull, D., Pettifer, S. R., & Kell, D. B. (2008). Defrosting the digital library: Bibliographic tools for the next generation web. PLoS Computational Biology, 4(10), e1000204. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000204

The authors evaluated key "digital libraries" (a very squishy term as used in this article) for computational biologists: PubMed, IEEE Xplore, ACM Digital Library, ISI Web of Knowledge, Scopus, Citeseer, arXiv, DBLP (Digital Bibliography & Library Project), and Google Scholar. Their main focus is "searching and organizing literature data together with their metadata." They identify three major problems with digital libraries as they are now: the lack of a uniform way to identify online publications, the frequency with which article files are not associated with their metadata, and the lack of standards in metadata (including URIs). They described some tools that help address these problems:, Mendeley, MyNCBI, Mekentosj Papers,,, and The best of these offer personalization, the ability for users to have their own collections of literature and citations, and socialization, the ability to share their libraries and see what others are sharing. However, none of them are perfect. They recommend simplifying URIs and making them persistent, exposing metadata, and developing and using uniform ways of identifying publications, specifically URNs, and people (as both authors and users of digital libraries).

October 16, 2008

U of M report on expert databases

Final Report, Senate Joint Subcommittee on Databases, University of Minnesota, February, 2008

This report looks at the possibility of creating a system-wide database of information on scholarly activities of faculty and staff at the University of Minnesota. Two uses for this information are noted: 1) making it easy for those inside and outside the University community to locate individuals in particular expertise, and 2) gathering activity data for annual evaluations and promotion and tenure decisions.

The subcommittee recommends that such a database be created, and it is referred to as an Integrated University Expertise and Activity Report System (IUEARS). They state that this system should be able to interface with current enterprise systems at the University.

The report summarizes the current landscape, notes potential benefits, lists system needs and requirements, and outlines best practices for development. An appendix also offers links to background documents and examples from other institutions.

Keeping and refinding information.. by Bruce, Jones and Dumais

Bruce H, Jones W, Dumais S. Keeping and re-finding information on the web: What do people do and what do they need? In: ASIST 2004: Proceedings of the 67th ASIST Annual Meeting. Chicago: Information Today; 2004:1-10.

This study, from the Keeping Found Things Found project,, focuses mainly on keeping and relocating info found on the Web, although e-mail is also mentioned. Researchers observed study participants and also administered a survey. They concluded that of the many methods people used to keep info, none had all the qualities users desired, and each user employed a variety of methods.

Those methods include bookmarking, copying the URL into a document or personal Web page, printing it out, e-mailing the URL to yourself with annotations, writing it on a post-it, and doing nothing. They varied in portability, providing multiple access points, and providing a reminder function.

In looking at refinding, the authors note that people were extremely successful, and often used methods such as searching or remembering the URL, which do not make use of the keeping techniques they employ.