Posts Tagged technology

Open Access

[This post is based on a Graduate Trainee Session on E-Developments and ORA at Oxford University.  See introductory post here. ]

As an introduction to our trainee session on e-developments, we were provided with a BodCast link to a lecture by Mark Walport, in which he discusses the significance of Open Access Resources. The lecture provides a really interesting introduction to the topic and the challenges faced by those involved. Walport, in particular, emphasises the changing nature of education and that in order to maximise scholarship, we need to maximise dissemination of knowledge.  This is essentially at the very heart of Open Access.

However, Open Access is up against a number of difficult challenges.

Publication by academics in journals impacts on the University’s Research Assessment (REF) which means that the university receives greater funding for further research if they publish in a journal with a high impact level.   The demand for buying resources is therefore huge, in order to ensure that good research is carried out and good funding is given.

Unfortunately, the cost of buying journals is also huge and continues to increase, causing problems for libraries whose budget does not necessarily increase at the same time!

This is where Open Access fits in.  Its aim is to make research freely available in order to combat the rising costs of academic journals.  A number of universities now have an institutional repository – a central source for research outcomes produced by the university, which not only preserves the research but makes it easily searchable too.  For example, at Oxford this repository is ORA, at Sunderland University it is SURE.

A number of funding bodies also support this move and now require research they have funded to be made open access.  While this is welcomed by supporters of Open Access, the problem comes when academics want and need to publish in high ranking, high impact journals but these journals won’t allow open access depository!

It seems like a catch 22! However, that’s not the end of the story.  A number of journals do allow academics to deposit work in open access repositories (for more information see SHERPA) but there are still a number of complex copyright issues involved and concerns over regulation of what research is permitted and if it needs to be peer reviewed before submission to ensure quality.  There is also an issue of time – both in academics having to submit their own work and in others constantly reviewing and checking work submitted for copyright and quality based reasons.

An interesting one to watch!


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E-Resources are Cool!

[This post is based on a Graduate Trainee Session on E-Developments and my own experiences.  See the introductory post here. ]

Top 10 Reasons that E-Resources are Cool!

  • Online collections are more accessible. Readers have access to e-resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – whenever and wherever they are (as long as they have internet connection!)
  • E -books are always in stock so there is no need to wait for reservations, you can get a copy instantly.
  • Marking e-books is fine! E-books are personal and readers can highlight and annotate without destroying the original book!
  • When reading e-Books you can change the font style, colour and more to make reading more comfortable and enjoyable.
  • E-resources add value to service
  • E-resource opens up collections to new readers (e.g. distance learners)
  • There is no wear or tear on collections, the original book can be preserved and readers have access to a text in pristine condition – no missing pages or dusty covers!
  • E-books enable full text searches so you can find what you need quickly
  • E-books are portable! You can read on the go with a laptop, notebook, eReader or mobile device.
  • No more fines! E-books automatically remove from your device meaning no late fines!

And the downsides in brief…

  • e-resources can be expensive!
  • e-resources involve a lot of testing, we need to be certain that our resources will work on a number of different mobile platforms as well on the usual PC/MAC
  • Keeping up to date when technology improves can be costly and time consuming
  • Ensuring readers understand how to access and use the latest e-resources effectively is another challenge

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QR Codes

[This post is based on a talk I attended at Oxford Brookes University as part of my Graduate Training and a talk I attended at the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford -‘New Technology at the RSL’ – as well as my own experience. See the introductory post here.]

Okay, what is a QR Code?

Here is an example:

This small square of code contains within it the URL for my main blog page.  If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can scan the code using a QR Reader (a quick search in your phone’s app store will bring up a wide selection!) and the URL will open on your device automatically.  Pretty handy!

Even better, QR codes can also be used to encode:

  • Text
  • images
  • Address details
  • Telephone numbers
  • Calendar events

They are free to make and use and you can even change their colour to match your branding or design!  You can also track the number of users who accessed content via your QR Code to monitor how successful they have been.


So, how are they being used in libraries? 

Below is a list of uses gathered from both of the talks I attended at Oxford Brookes University and the RSL and also some from my own experience:

  • Providing quick links to enable readers to navigate library collections on mobile devices
  • Locating and saving specific and significant information quickly e.g. QR codes can be included on handouts or posters to provide subject librarian contact information, library guides, maps based on contact information, maps of the library, links to YouTube video guides, links to audio guides of the library for download
  • Q points [RSL] – scanning codes to get information about the section of the library that the reader is currently in
  • Advertising event details or new services e.g. At Sunderland University QR codes were placed beside books on shelves to advertise and link to the e-book version
  • Advertising and promoting Facebook, Twitter and other on-line services
  • Encoded onto the library catalogue to provide the shelf mark on a mobile device [Oxford Brookes and ORA(Oxford Research Archive)] so that students don’t need to write it down or memorise it!

QR Codes are therefore a great way to market your library’s services!  However, the RSL came across a couple of issues when trialling QR Codes in the library that are useful to be aware of:

  • Lighting and Placement: because QR codes need to be scanned, they need to be readable by the scanning device. This also means that you can’t reduce the size of your code too much or the code may become unreadable.
  • Reader Awareness and Knowledge: not everyone knows about QR Codes or how to use them so signage or guidance needs to be in place to ensure it works effectively
  • Wifi: if the QR Code links to a website or on-line content, then the reader will need access to wifi or 3G connection on their device in order to view it.
  • Information limit: the amount of information you can put into a QR Code is limited, so you need to be succinct in getting your message across.


What’s Next?

Finally, as is usually the case with new technology, there is always something bigger and better around the corner!  Oxford Brookes University suggested that the next big thing to look out for is: Near Field Communications.

The possible uses for NFC suggested by Oxford Brookes included:

  • A library card which is also able to provide access to the library (like a keyfob) and pay library fines
  • If built into phones, could replace QR Codes with readers simply holding their phone near to the poster/handout/map and having the information transferred.

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Yay for the New Shiny Things!

[This post is based on a talk I attended at the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford –  ‘New Technology at the RSL’  – as well as my own experience. See the introductory post here. ]

I’d best start this post with a confession: I love gadgets.  If it’s new and shiny and does clever things at the swish of a finger – I’m sold!  In fact the (sometimes slow) building friendship between libraries and new technology is one of the reasons I love this field of work.

However, when I first got into librarianship as a volunteer for Sunderland University, the last thing I expected to see was a set of iPad2s!  Turns out that a number of libraries are now experimenting with the latest tablets and finding effective uses for them in the everyday running of the library…


iPads are a particularly useful resource for roving staff who can use the technology to support readers instantly with queries about library services.  The iPad’s camera feature can be used to record a virtual library guide and design guides to learning spaces (or just take photographs and quickly upload them to the library’s social media sites!).   The Radcliffe Science Library used them in a range of projects including de-duplicating old material and found they increased efficiency.  At Oxford Brookes University Library they’re also used in staff meetings and in giving demonstrations.

iPads can also be loaned out to readers as a powerful device which enables access to  library resources on the move, the option to read e-book and e-journal PDFs on the go or even to design and give presentations by connecting the device to computers and projection screens!  iPad is also great for apps – the Radcliffe Science Library, for example, found a number of useful science related apps for readers to explore!


‘Smartbooks’ for the iPad could be the next thing to watch out for as textbooks become purposefully designed for tablet devices.  Apple, for example, recently updated their iBooks app to allow for ‘interactive JavaScript powered widgets… [meaning] much richer iBook publications.’ – San Francisco Chronicle

Learn more: Apple Eyes Interactive Textbook Revolution – The Independent

Although a couple of years old, this paper on the ‘New Generation e-Book’ by Koychev, Nikolov and Dicheva gives an interesting insight into the possible future of ‘Smartbooks’, which are intended to not only be multimedia, personalised and accessible on the go but like much of web 2.0, are also designed for interaction!  The founders of ‘Inkling’ have already taken some of these ideas on-board, maximising the potential of the iPad in publishing.

RSL – Pros and Cons of iPad Use

This all sounds promising and during their trial period integrating the iPad into the library, the Radcliffe Science Library found a number of positive results. iPad is popular with readers and having them available in the library allows readers who wouldn’t normally have access to such technology, experience and benefit from it first-hand.  It provides a great way to access library resources on the move and is a very flexible and powerful tool.

There were however, also some issues with the practical aspects of having an iPad available for reader use, iPads after all weren’t designed specifically for use in the library.  Staff aren’t always comfortable managing new technology and need training to use the technology confidently, readers also require guidance when using the technology so library guides and help materials had to be created.  New procedures had to be put in place not only to check the device was charged and updated regularly but also to monitor and remove any reader added materials in order to ensure data protection and confidentiality didn’t become major issues.  Readers also had to sign a loan promise to pay for a replacement if the technology is damaged – considering the cost of an iPad this might put off many readers who couldn’t afford taking the risk.

There is also the fact that in the not too distant future the iPad may well be old technology and the expense of constantly updating to the next gadget – not only money, but time to re-train staff, remake guides etc – is also an issue.

However, in my opinion, the benefits out way the issues in this case.  New technology such as the iPad provides a modern image for the library which boosts reader confidence in our ability to give them the best service possible, it provides readers with another way to access information and gives the library new ideas for service delivery.  At the very least, if you don’t give it a try, you might miss out on something really useful and keeping up to date ensures you’re developing professionally in a positive direction.

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New Technology and E-Resources

There is no denying that the future of libraries is digital and a lot of my recent training has emphasised the latest digital and technological trends in libraries right now.

  • On a visit to Oxford Brookes University library we were given a brief talk about how their use of technology and social media has evolved over the past few years – emphasising the importance of ensuring library technology is up to date and used effectively.
  • During a trainee session on E-Developments we were given an overview of e-resources at the Bodleian Libraries and introduced to some of the issues facing the development of e-journals and Open Access Repositories.
  • At a talk at the Radcliffe Science Library, they detailed their experiences with new technology such as iPads, Kindles and QR Codes, looking at the benefits and issues new technologies bring to everyday life at the library.

Below are links to blog posts in which I’ve summarised and expanded on some of the ideas and challenges raised in these sessions.

Yay for the New Shiny Things!

QR Codes

E-Resources are Cool!

Open Access

One of the main ideas that came across from these sessions was that libraries need to constantly evolve and try new things – even if they don’t work out as expected.  As the caretakers of information and knowledge, it’s important (perhaps now, in the digital age, more than ever) that we adapt to changes in the way information and knowledge is both produced, stored and absorbed by readers so that we can provide the best service possible.

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