I came across a great example of roving support from across the pond at the Kutztown University. As with many things our American cousins are quite the innovators.

Roving or roaming support in HE libraries is pretty common-place but I love this idea of booking a librarian for a particular class or space. Where I work now we are developing roving support through our other learning spaces, outside the central library to support students wherever they are (within reason!).

There’s no reason why, with the abundance of mobile technology and location software that librarians need to be refined to the traditional reference desk.

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

Image via Wikipedia

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One of Google’s greatest achievements is to make itself indispensable to its users. As the graph from Statcounter below shows Google is utterly dominant in world search engine use. If you look at the chart for mobile search engine use it’s even more ubiquitous.

Such is this dominance that other search engines, however good, will face the immediate problem of legitimacy. If you actually compare Google, Bing and Yahoo results there isn’t an enormous amount of difference but most users will probably be inclined, even if using another search engine, to check Google as well to be safe.

As a librarian I see it as my duty to try out other search engines and as a result I’ve managed to ween myself off sticking everything in Google. My current search engine of choice is DuckDuckGo but I’ve also tried many of the search engines from this list to see how my results change.

Google is a very powerful search engine which gains relevance every time it is used however it is worth remembering that that which is popular isn’t necessarily that which is best.

Global search engine use in 2011

Image representing Duck Duck Go as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

Fed up of Google constantly adding things, trying to sell you things based on your private data or being evil in general?

Don’t want to try Bing because let’s be honest Microsoft aren’t exactly angels themselves.

Don’t want to try Yahoo because it’s Bing with a different dress on…

Try DuckDuckGo then! It’s very simple (a bit like Google was 10 years ago), produces relevant search results, has little to no advertising, doesn’t collect private data, provides instant answers and is easy to plug-in to Firefox.

The (excessive) title of this post is a cunning reinterpretation of Max Beerbohm‘s quote “History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another” which leads us nicely into the subject of the day: Twitter and Archives; specifically the National Co-operative Archives in Manchester where at, this time last year, I had the pleasure of volunteering for a couple of months.

Now before you hurl a torrent abuse across cyberspace in my direction I know archives and libraries are different things but they essentially perform similar functions in that they store collections of information. Also I’ve recently been doing some work at said Co-operative Archives, which is the real reason I’m blogging about them!

The National Co-operative Archive holds books, periodicals, manuscripts, photographs and videos detailing the development of the worldwide Co-operative movement. They have recently started using Twitter so I was keen to get their view on its use and potential.

At the moment they tend to use Twitter to advertise events, new collections and jobs although they have been experimenting with more innovative Tweets such as ‘on this day’ and historical facts relating to the Co-operative Movement. Interestingly, when speaking to the people who update the Twitter feed, they aren’t entirely sure how to use Twitter. They are aware of the massive potential of it but not sure whether they should bombard their followers with random junk or Tweet more selectively. There is also the issue as to whether it should be an individual at the archives Tweeting to give it a personal touch or the organisation itself which would demand a more professonal approach. It’s a shame there isn’t a book called ‘How to Tweet for Archives’.

Perhaps some other archives can help them out. Manchester Archives Twitter page is a varied affair with Tweets about events, research projects, and even asking followers questions to help with research. Their most prolific and interesting Tweets come from their picture archives via Flickr with Manchester images from the 19th Century onwards.

The CBC Digital Archives holds historical material from the Canadian Broadcasting Company. It too is varied on its Twitter page with Tweets about important dates, and predominantly concerning the output of the archive itself. This is the advantage of having a digital archive: you are able to directly link materials to your followers through Twitter and is perhaps the most fundamental reason why the National Cooperative Archives aren’t totally convinced by Twitter.

The latest in the war of words and apps between Google and the Rebel Alliance (FB, Myspace and Twitter as they’re commonly known) has seen the latter release an browser add-on powered by the ‘don’t be evil‘ code which shows how much Google+ alters results. The app is available from a site called Focus on the user.I'm with stupid

This in response to Google’s use of its new social arm, Google+, to increasingly personalise results based people’s Google product use. It improves search results by doing the following according to Google’s blog:

  1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;
  2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,
  3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

The Rebel Alliance say, and prove with their new bookmark app, that this disproportionately favours Google+ results thus skewing the user’s choice in a way that is a far cry from Google’s PageRank principles which show above all else that which is popular first. Instead users are getting that which is Google first.

This is the latest in a divergence in Google’s principles which I also commented on in a former post in which Google has gone from a site which wanted to keep users there for as little time as possible to a site that wants to keep users full stop. Whether it’s evil or not I’m not sure but I think it’s very stupid to mess with something that has worked so very, very well up to now.

This series of posts, as you may have guessed from the cunning title, is about the use of Twitter in libraries. I’m not going to focus on any particular sector rather I’m going to blog about the best examples of Twitter use in libraries from across the world, why it’s important and what they tweet about. This first entry however is a gentle introduction to Twitter for those among you who have been living on Mars, or Norwich (kidding) for the past 5 years.

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site. So where as here I’m effectively ‘macro’ blogging on Twitter there is a character limit of 147 characters so you have to be short and to the point in your Tweets (which is the name for a micro-blog entry). People can Tweet about anything however random (and there are some very random things on Twitter) and their Tweets are seen by whoever follows them. The more people who follow you the more coverage your Tweet will have and vise versa if you follow more you’ll see more Tweets on your homepage.

Aside from being popular there are several tools you can use to make your Tweets more widely known. Firstly you can re-Tweet other people’s Tweets which will appear on the pages of people who follow and likewise other people can re-Tweet your Tweets. Secondly you can use ‘hashtags’ to make your Tweets appear in trends and searches. So if you were Tweeting against closures to public libraries you could put #savelibraries in your Tweet. This hashtag recently trended worldwide in the course of one day.

Trends are fairly self explanatory – Twitter will note when a certain number of Tweets have included the same hashtag which then appears in the ‘trending’ column on the homepage. The trending facility has been described by Twitter creator Biz Stone as “a discovery engine for what’s happening now”. Finally you can also reply to people’s Tweets which will then show up on their page and allow others to see it.

Twitter is also a social networking site, like Facebook. A social network “is a website which allows users to communicate directly with each other on topics of mutual interest”. However one of the main differences in Twitter compared to Facebook is in its usage. Whereas Facebook is generally used by people to find friends that they know in ‘real’ life Twitter is more about following people you don’t know. In fact I would say Twitter is about opinion whereas Facebook is about people. This distinction has been noted in books like ‘The Little Book of Twitter: Get Tweetwise!’ (Collins 2009) which covers what could be described as Twitter etiquette.

So there you go – a crash course in Twitter. The next entry will actually get round to looking at our subject: Twitter use in libraries. Tune in next time.

Picture source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/17/twitter-support-libraries-worldwide

10 Search Engines to Explore the Invisible Web.

Saikat Basu’s article above showcases a number of search engines to penetrate the murky world of the deep or invisible web. In it Saikat Basu notes that:

“ the size of the open web is 167 terabytes. The Invisible Web is estimated at 91,000 terabytes. Check this out – the Library of Congress, in 1997, was figured to have close to 3,000 terabytes!”

This means that the open web makes up just 0.18% of the web. This also means that search engines like Google and Bing only index a minuscule fraction of the web given that neither indexes the deep web.

So folks when a librarian tells you not everything’s on Google they really do mean it!

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