E-Discovering Reference

With the advent of the internet and growing popularity of Wikipedia, traditional library reference tools have experienced a decline in use.  As a result, many reference publishers began producing electronic books or converting traditional print multi-volume titles to online databases.  While this has been a valiant effort, much of the content still goes undiscovered due to limited access from subscription costs, firewalls, passwords, and lack of indexing in search engines.

A new book from IGI Publishing, the first in the Advances in Library and Information Science (ALIS) series, discusses the myriad issues with e-reference discovery in libraries.  The 23 chapters explore the topic in academic, public, and school libraries as well as from the publishers perspective.  The book is available in print or e formats.  E formats offer the ability to purchase individual chapters.  The first ALIS newsletter featured the preface and 8 selected chapters from the book.

E-Reference Context and Discoverability in Libraries: Issues and Concepts, edited by Sue Polanka

The Detailed Table of Contents:

Section 1 The Changing Landscape of E-Reference

Chapter 1

Reference Products and Services: Historical Overview & Paradigm Shift

Jack O’Gorman, University of Dayton, U.S.A.

There is a paradigm shift in progress in reference collections effecting the content, format and use of reference materials.  This shift is a result of changing formats for reference products and presents challenges to traditional reference services. In order to better understand where reference collections are heading, we must take a look back to see how we got here. This chapter defines a reference paradigm, looks at the history of reference in libraries, and examines the shift from both a reference library product and reference service perspective. It also describes how major changes have impacted traditional reference titles and how libraries and users have adjusted to those changes.

Chapter 2

The Impact of Electronic Reference Content and Discovery on Publishers

Peter Tobey, Salem Press, U.S.A.

The introduction of electronic reference sources has changed the landscape for publishers of traditional, vetted reference content.  Sharing content, simultaneous use, pricing electronic content for a fair reward, accountability for product use, patron-driven selection of content, and the importance of content discovery are several of the issues and challenges that publishers are grappling with.  These issues and challenges are presented from a publisher’s perspective and serve as an introduction to the myriad issues with electronic reference discovery and context.

Chapter 3

The Challenges of Discovering Online Research/Reference Content:  An Introduction to the End User’s Perspective

Anh Bui, HighWire Press, U.S.A.

“Discoverability” is the quality of being readily found by information seekers actively engaged in the search process.  The path to discovery can vary based on a number of factors, including both external factors (such as accessibility issues) and ones specific to a particular user (such as the individual research habits of a given end user).  However, the goal of finding efficiency within these discovery paths is universal. This chapter provides a broad outline of the problems of online research/reference content discoverability from the academic end-user perspective–in this case students in higher education and researchers.  Starting with a look at common information seeking practices and the ways in which both “discovery failure” and “filter failure” can play a role, the primary challenges of new tools, content silos, accessibility, and loss of serendipity are reviewed within the context of end-user interviews, surveys, and studies conducted at Stanford University and elsewhere.  The use of value signifiers—the signals that end-users look for to determine the relevance of found resources—is also discussed as an important part of the content evaluation and filtering process.

Section 2 The Value of Information Literacy in Research

Chapter 4

An Overview of Trends in Undergraduate Research Practices

James Galbraith, DePaul University, U.S.A.

The resources undergraduates use for research have changed significantly over the past two decades as the Internet has become the predominant conduit for information. Access to academic resources has never been easier, undergraduate papers now include more citations, but more non-traditional, non-academic sources are being cited. Libraries’ initial reactions to the ascendancy of the Internet ranged from mild concern to alarm, but soon libraries were themselves using the Internet as both an access point for academic resources and as a tool for information literacy. Studies also suggest that students’ motivations and research methodology have remained consistent. The key to Libraries’ success is understanding the motivations that shape students’ research practices and tying information literacy to the curriculum.

Chapter 5

The Research Habits of Graduate Students and Faculty:  Is there a need for Reference Sources?

Miriam Matteson, Kent State University, U.S.A.

The work of faculty and graduate students is information intensive. These researchers make heavy use of particular types of resources to support their research, teaching, scholarly communication, and current awareness. They less frequently use traditional types of reference sources, however, raising questions of why that might be and what should be done about it. This chapter examines the research practices of graduate students and faculty to understand their information needs, their information seeking strategies and the information sources they use. It also looks more specifically at researchers’ uneven use of reference sources and discusses reasons why these practices exist. An argument is made that changes must be made to the types of reference sources available to researchers, and that academic librarians must change the way they promote these resources to their constituents.

Chapter 6

Hidden Greenlands:  Learning, Libraries, and Literacy in the Information Age

Frank Menchaca, Cengage Learning, U.S.A.

This chapter considers the role of libraries and educational publishers in the information age. Studies show that, for most college and university students, the trigger for research remains the classroom assignment. Tasks associated with specific learning objectives—writing a paper, preparing an interpretive reading, engaging in historical or statistical analysis—still motivate students to engage in research. What has changed is the fact that students no longer rely on librarians, libraries, or traditional publishers for information resources. They go directly to search engines. Today’s learners are, however, quickly overwhelmed and, despite being “digital natives,” struggle to evaluate information and organize it to build ideas. The ability of publishers, librarians, and libraries to address this issue will determine their relevancy in the 21st century and, perhaps, the success of students themselves in the information age. This chapter reviews a wide variety of literature and experiential data on information literacy, findability, metadata, and use of library resources and proposes how all players can re-think their roles.

Chapter 7

Online Research without E-Reference:  What is Missing from Digital Libraries?

Jackie Zanghi-LaPlaca, Credo Reference, U.S.A.

With so many e-resources in the library, and so many avenues to it, what tools point users to the information relevant to their research?  Investing in an electronic library without a strong online reference service leaves resources undiscovered, unapproachable, and underutilized.  This chapter will discuss the important and welcoming function of reference services in order to increase the value and use of an institution’s e-resources collection, especially resulting with increased information literacy for students.

Chapter 8

Undergraduate Information Seeking Behavior, E-Reference and Information Literacy in the Social Sciences

Jason B. Phillips, New York University, U.S.A.

As we consider the potential impact of e-reference, librarians should keep in mind another important concern that has received much attention in recent years, namely information literacy.  The composition and differential usage of specialized indexes in the social sciences – resources that are not necessarily designed for undergraduate research – and of aggregated interdisciplinary databases present challenges to achieving information literacy.  Users have e-reference tools at their disposal to help them navigate information found in such resources but it is a classic problem of reference and now e-reference that these resources are underutilized.  Interviews conducted with twelve undergraduates at New York University form the basis for a case study which is used to illuminate the issues discussed herein.

Section 3 Design and Delivery of Reference Content

Chapter 9

Interactive Reference:  Online Features to Enrich Content and Improve the User Experience

Tom Beyer, iFactory, U.S.A.

This is a survey of the current state of online reference products and the variety of interactive features that can help make the next generation of these products more functional and their content more discoverable.  Topics examined include: addition of multi-media content to text; interfaces for comparing texts; timelines and maps for browsing; taxonomy and ontology; improvements to search functions and search results; inter-linking of products; issues around saving data, personalization, and creation of custom publications; and mobile devices.

Chapter 10

Theory and Practice:  Designing for Effective Mobile Content (Service) Delivery

Alix Vance, Architrave Consulting, U.S.A.

David Wojick, Ph.D., Office of Scientific and Technical Information, U.S. Department of Energy. U.S.A.

Design of mobile applications to deliver reference content and services is a new grand challenge. We present a template of design considerations, ranging from the general theory of content restructuring to strategic planning and tactical execution.

Chapter 11

Medical E-Reference: A Benchmark for E-Reference Publishing in Other Disciplines

Ximena Chrisagis, Wright State University, U.S.A.

Terese DeSimio, Wright State University, U.S.A.

Electronic medical information retrieval systems and reference sources were some of the first discipline-specific e-resources to be developed, due to physicians’ need to access the most current and relevant clinical information as quickly as possible. Many medical publishers and information aggregators have been incorporating the features their users demand for years. Thus, medical e-reference publishing could serve as a benchmark for e-reference publishing in other fields. Yet medical e-reference is not without its challenges. Today’s physicians and medical students expect immediate and user-friendly electronic access to media rich and value added clinical references, particularly via their mobile devices. Publishers, librarians, and network administrators will need to ensure that mobile information sources users demand are discoverable and easy to access and use, even in healthcare environments where increased data security is necessary.

Chapter 12

INFOhio Transforms Content Delivery for PreK – 12 Students: From Physical Classrooms to Virtual SchoolRooms

Theresa M. Fredericka, INFOhio, U.S.A.

Jennifer Schwelik, INFOhio, U.S.A.

This is a case study of how INFOhio, Ohio’s library and information network for PreK-12 schools, transformed content delivery through  partnerships and collaborations to benefit today’s digital learners.  It chronicles the formation of a unique relationship between INFOhio and library software vendor SirsiDynix, a partnership that was shaped by the common vision of creating a virtual classroom of reference, research, and discovery material to support student curricular needs. Discussion covers the creation and implementation of the Discovery Portal for student research and inquiry, which brings together Internet content, electronic resources and physical library materials under one, online interface for Ohio students. Significant traditional and non-traditional partnerships have enabled INFOhio to become one of the largest school library information technology projects in the country.

Section 4 Solutions for E-Reference Discovery

Chapter 13

Discovering Authoritative Reference Material:  It’s all about “Location. Location. Location.”

Lettie Y. Conrad, SAGE, U.S.A.

For reference publishing, recent revolutions in digital communications undermine the success of traditional methods of information delivery and retrieval. The need to present online reference material for easy discoverability presents challenges and opportunities for technological advancement – for data management and website design. Equally, reference discoverability demands that we foster a greater understanding of what today’s researchers need, and incorporate that knowledge into modern publishing tactics.

Chapter 14

Indexing Scholarly Reference:  Helping Researchers Do Less

Eric Calaluca, Paratext, U.S.A.

The diminished interaction between novice or non-specialist researcher and trained librarian has its root case as much in increased financial pressures on libraries as it does with the simultaneous promotion of single search discovery systems being developed for academic and public libraries systems.  Nevertheless, the historical context of the role of specialist finding aids in research, and additionally, the renewed appreciation for the value of specialized subject encyclopedias to facilitate solid research, can provide needed context.  The application of new technologies to unlock and apply the content of specialized encyclopedias offers a familiar, yet newly-configured approach to ‘discovery’ and scholarly search.  Rather than exposing the novice to an increasing amount of materials they may not be ready to absorb, a renewed attention to this genre within libraries holds the promise of allowing researchers to actually achieve more by researching less.

Chapter 15

Open Web Capture for Libraries:  Reinventing Subject Encyclopedias for the Open Web

John Dove, Credo Reference, USA

Ingrid Becker, Credo Reference, USA

One of the principle purposes of reference, especially subject encyclopedias, is to facilitate a new learner’s approach to a field of study by providing context and vocabulary for the effective use of the rest of the library.  Some have even referred to the subject encyclopedia as the “Rolls Royce of the Library” (East, 2010). With the economic pressures on libraries and the dramatic changes in usage patterns brought on by the shift from print to electronic content, subject encyclopedias must be re-invented if they are to embody their intended function.  While print reference has been overshadowed by information on the web, studies on student research habits show that the need for context, which reference provides, is higher than ever before. This chapter will argue for the contemporary relevance of the subject encyclopedia in response to student research needs in the information age and explore current and possible visions for the transformation of the subject encyclopedia to suit digital media and the open web in particular.

Chapter 16

Acquiring, Promoting, and Using Mobile-Optimized Library Resources and Services

Chad Mairn, St. Petersburg College, U.S.A.

Although the reasons vary, it is apparent that the majority of library users prefer electronic reference content primarily because information provided in that format is easier to find and use; plus, much of this content is accessed via mobile devices. This chapter will discuss best practices for acquiring, promoting, and using mobile-optimized library resources and services including reference content — although most Ready Reference print collections have disappeared because of the ease of finding factual information thanks to Google, Wikipedia, and others. A report on mobile library surveys and vendor usage statistics regarding the use and future aspects of mobile-optimized library reference resources and services will also be discussed in order to provide a snapshot of what is working in this emerging technology that is impacting most everyone today. The chapter also will attempt to answer questions to determine if promoting mobile-optimized content is helping users discover oftentimes hidden library reference content while they are on the go.

Chapter 17

The Semantic Web: History, Applications, and Future Possibilities

Darrell Gunter, Gunter Media Group, U.S.A.

The Semantic Web provides a common structure that allows data to be shared and reused across a variety of applications.  The history and terminology of the semantic web, examples of STM achievements with semantics, an examination of semantic technology companies, and future possibilities for reference publishers are discussed and examined in this chapter. Cooperation between publishers will be imperative if we are to fully benefit from the advantages of the semantic technology.

Chapter 18

Hooligans in the Archives:  Easing Restrictions and Partnering with the Users

Laurie Gemmill, LYRASIS, U.S.A.

Jane Wildermuth, Wright State University, U.S.A.

Archival reference has changed dramatically with the advent of the web which challenged archivists to rethink their role as gatekeepers of archival materials.   Traditionally, archival reference tools and materials were difficult to gain access to or required meditation by archivists.  Archivists moved from gatekeepers to innovators, by putting reference tools and digital surrogates of collections online.  But as with any new step, there are challenges.  The traditional archival tension in trying to balance access and preservation has morphed.  As access has changed, preservation concerns have given way to control concerns. Archivists are now poised to take the next step by engaging the users, sharing control over collections and potentially empowering the users to become true partners in the reference and research experience.

Section 5 Case Studies

Chapter 19

E-Reference in Public Libraries: Phoenix Public Library Case Study, Our Website is Your 24/7 Reference Librarian

Ross McLachlan, Phoenix Public Library, U.S.A.

Kathleen Sullivan, Phoenix Public Library, U.S.A.

This case study offers insight into how Phoenix Public Library attempts to meet customer’s needs for 24/7 access to Library information and services.  Strategies to achieve quality results, successful and failed initiatives, and lessons learned are presented.

Chapter 20

Changes in Customer Behavior: A Case Study in Reference Service at the Santa Monica Public Library

R.Wright Rix, Santa Monica Public Library, U.S.A.

Today’s library customers exhibit a decreasing tendency to regard the public library as the primary local repository of research information. The rise of the Internet is at the root of this and many other changes that have taken place in public libraries during the past twenty years. Customer preferences have shifted away from print tools in favor of the simplest available online tools. A pervasive user expectation is that information access should be free, easy and immediate. Information literacy issues continue to occupy a growing portion of librarians’ time. As customer needs and expectations evolve, so must the library’s services and products.

Chapter 21

Embedded Librarianship:  A High School Case Study

Buffy J. Hamilton, Creekview High School, U.S.A.

This case study chronicles the learning experiences of 10th grade Honors Literature/Composition students who participated in a 2009-10 learning initiative, Media 21, at Creekview High School.  This program, spearheaded by school librarian Buffy Hamilton and English teacher Susan Lester, provided students a learning environment facilitated by both Hamilton and Lester in which Hamilton was “embedded” as an instructor. Media 21, rooted in connectivism, inquiry, and participatory literacy, emphasized students creating their own research “dashboards” and portals and the creation of personal learning networks to help students engage in their learning experiences and to evaluate a diverse offering of information sources more critically.

Chapter 22

Making an Impact:  Digital Resources for Teens

Miriam Gilbert, Rosen Publishing, U.S.A.

Roger Rosen, Rosen Publishing, U.S.A.

In this case study, Roger Rosen and Miriam Gilbert describe the creation of Rosen Publishing’s award-winning, critically acclaimed Teen Health & Wellness: Real Life, Real Answers database. They focus on how Rosen was able to offer a unique value proposition both to teens and librarians, craft age-appropriate and credible content, and build an interactive site that offers an engaging, dynamic user experience. They review the process of creating a resource that had no barrier to finding information, made the discovery process fast and easy, and supported different styles of learning and information-seeking behavior. They discuss the challenges of ensuring that Teen Health & Wellness remains relevant and current in today’s crowded digital landscape, and share the successes in building a unique health and wellness resource that is indispensable to teens and librarians alike.

Chapter 23

From ‘Gateway Site’ to Reference Content:  The Role of Bibliographies in Research, a Case Study of Oxford Bibliographies Online

Rebecca Cullen, Oxford University Press, England

Robert Faber, Oxford University Press, England

It is suddenly axiomatic that today’s researchers, faculty and students alike, begin their research online. The gateway sites (e.g., Google Books, Wikipedia) may provide a user-friendly and serendipitous searching experience, while simultaneously keeping the most authoritative and vetted content out of sight. This chapter will examine the research chain as it is currently understood, as well as discussing the planned and actual role of Oxford Bibliographies Online within this shifting research context.