Evaluating the UBC Catalogue

Disclaimer: This is actually a copy of my assignment for cataloguing class, so I was being as critical as possible within a set page limit. Although it could use a few improvements, there are actually a lot of things I like about the UBC catalogue, but which isn’t reflected in here.

University of British Columbia (UBC) Library Catalogue Evaluation

  • Type: Academic library
  • Size: 6.1 million volumes
  • Key characteristics: Large research and teaching collection, diverse, multilingual, depository, unique subject descriptions for First Nations materials, large digital collection
  • OPAC: Custom on top of Voyager ILS;  Discovery Layer: Summon

Last year, our library, the University of British Columbia (UBC) Library, completed a five year strategic plan. As part of the strategic plan, the library has put focus on advancing research, learning and teaching excellence by putting emphasis on certain values, including services excellence and stewardship of collections and institutional resources. The library’s catalogue is the key resource in order to provide users access to and related services of our physical and e-book collections. Nevertheless, the catalogue can be improved in many ways to help achieve the library’s mission.

Searching & Viewing Records

One of the best features of the catalogue is the number of search and browse options, including call number browsing, subject browsing, and the various search options, in addition to the sorting options of results. However, some of the features do not work as expected and can use improvement.

Some issues are fairly small and can be easily changed, which will improve finding items for users. For example, the brief view shows a blank space next to ‘Author’ if no ‘main author’ exists, but the first or all of the ‘other authors’ can be listed in this case to help users find specific items. Similarly, in full record view, the statement of responsibility is marked as ‘Title’, which may confuse users because it contains more than just the title. Either the label could be changed or removed, or the subfields and punctuation could be used to separate title from contributors. Title keyword search also includes contents, which makes sense in the case that users are searching chapter titles, but this is unlikely what users would expect and will also result in too many results, particularly because it searches the entire contents field, which may include authors. Users should be given the option to include contents.

Item availability also uses unclear terms when there are multiple items, showing ‘multiple holdings available’ even when all or none are available. This feature could be further improved by showing availability in a preferred branch, particularly when filtered for a specific location. Similarly, e-books should be marked ‘online’ or ‘eBook’ (to match the Summon display)  instead of ‘no item information, ONLINE’ as if somehow implying that the item is not ‘in’ the library, and a separate filter should be available instead of showing online and physical books when choosing a specific location.

Perhaps one of the most critical issues is the sorting of results by publication date. At times it is incorrect due to the lack of a subfield resulting in incorrect order, such as:

260__  |b Four Worlds International Institute for Human and Community Development  |c Lethbridge, Alberta: 1998 (bid: 2836032)[1]

Another reason for records seeming to be out of order is because the sorting seems to be based on manufacture date, but the display shows the publication date such that the following is among 2011:

260__  |a [Ottawa, Ont.] :  |b [Interagency Secretariat on Research Ethics],  |c 2010  |e (Saint-Lazare, Quebec :  |f Canadian Electronic Library,  |g 2011). (bid: 5031001)

From the user’s perspective, the edition or publication date is likely to be of more importance and sorting by the subfield $c (instead of $g) would provide a displayed order that would not be confusing. However, even taking into these factors into account, there seems to be no consistent order, particularly with records that have no publication date. When in ascending order, the items with no dates are interspersed with those with dates, and some records will show out of order, such as:

260__ |c 2002 (bid: 2822328) above 260__ |b Brock University  |c 1996 (bid: 2835632)

Descending works better, but when users see one sort function not working, they may assume others do not function either, and may be deterred from using the catalogue again in either case.

Marginalized Collections Needing Improvement

While catalogue records are overall well formed, some collections (where there may not be full copy catalogue records) are lacking in comparison. For example, English non-fiction records are overall of high quality, particularly new titles, most of which have tables of contents. When the contents are detailed, the contents need to be well formatted, which is one area that could be improved upon for easier reading, or some of the content could be stripped in cases, such as:

… Chapter 1 : number relationships / senior author and senior consultant, Marian Small ; student book authors, Jack Hope … [et al.] ; teacher’s resource chapter authors, Jason Chenier, Katherine Pratt ; assessment consultants, Sandra Carl Townsend, Gerry Varty… (bid: 4005625).

There are also some cases where minor errors occur, such as extra punctuation at the end of a note, but none which may significantly impact a user’s experience. The records are also generally up to date with most records being last updated in 2008 even for older items (e.g. bid: 1651678 from 1902).

In comparison, records for the non-fiction First Nations collection are generally very brief. Although some exceptions exist with electronic or new popular non-fiction books, contents are frequently empty, or contain partial contents (only 1-3 lines), often poorly formatted. Records for First Nations resources are also more likely to have multiple records for the same work, where duplicate records have only minor differences, such as First Nations education policy in Canada  (bid: 4598655 & 4598483) where only contents differ in format. An addition which would greatly improve the use of the catalogue for the collection would be to make the local subject access fields (690), such as:

FIRST NATIONS – BAND GOVERNMENT – HISTORY – ONTARIO
FIRST NATIONS – BANDS – ELECTIONS – HISTORY – ONTARIO (bid: 2833524)

browsable, listing all items for a subject as with other subject access points . It is particularly important for these records to be well maintained as the library promotes unique services and subject descriptors for the First Nations collection in support of the growing First Nations programs at the university.

Similarly, French non-fiction records tend to be somewhat brief with sparse or non-existent contents even for new works with the exception of electronic monographs. Many of the French works only have one or two subject access points, and while rare, some have none at all (e.g. L’évaluation formative des apprentissages en français, langue seconde bid: 2697408). Errors are also frequent, particularly with series entries, such as:

 830 _0 |a Bibliothèque française et romane. Sér. D: Initiation, textes et documents ;  |v 5 (bid: 1430529)

which is missing the part subfield, $p, resulting in a narrower series search. Another example:

 830 _0  |a Bibliothèque française et romane. Sér. A: Manuels et études linguisitiques, 14. (bid: 1879073)

is not subfielded at all, resulting in a series search which would include the volume number.

More problematic is that few records use uniform title, only variant titles or notes. Although a title or variant title search may not be a problem with multiple editions, the lack of uniform title is especially a problem with translations, which is more prominent in the French collection as many monographs are translations from other languages. While a French title may have a note specifying it is a translation, such as with Enseigner la lecture : revenir a` l’essentiel (bid: 3807358), the reverse is not true, meaning the user cannot search for or even know of translations of a text except possibly by searching or browsing by author. In addition, some records do not have a note of the original work name, particularly in the case that the original work is not in English, such as with Spinoza contre Kant, et la cause de la verité spirituelle (bid: 1656761) which is a translation of Spinoza und sein Kreis : historisch-kritische Studien u¨ber holla¨ndische Freigeister (bid: 1656978). Furthermore, French titles must be searched with diacritics and will provide incorrect results otherwise, inconveniencing searchers.

Recommendations

To summarize, the following actions are recommended:

  • Check for and merge duplicate records
  • Check for consistent and correct use of subfields, particularly when copy cataloguing
  • Improve records in currently marginalized collections
  • Use uniform titles when appropriate
  • Make all subject access points browsable, including local First Nations subjects
  • Make display and search for user friendly:
    • Always show author names, not only when it is a principal access point
    • Show simply ‘online’ or ‘eBook’ for location of electronic monographs
    • Change or remove ‘title’ label in full record view
    • Provide option for user to search chapter titles or contents in ‘title keyword’ search
    • Change availability to show preferred or filtered location
    • Fix publication sort and change to publication date (instead of manufacture date)
    • Allow searching with and without diacritics in all languages

While not all of these actions are feasible, particularly in the short term, many of the recommendations can be implemented over time, integrated into the workflow or as part of catalogue maintenance.

Possible Solution

While the catalogue could use many improvements, many have to do with the interface in terms of display and searching. Rather than putting effort into implementing the related recommendations, time and resources could be focused on ameliorating the MARC records for use in the web discovery layer, Summon. The data from our MARC records operate well with Summon, which already properly organizes by date and filters by location without online resources and shows location with available item first. While it does not have all the features of the OPAC, it may be possible to add them. Furthermore, Summon has a mobile version, allowing greater, more flexible access to our records.


[1] Refers to the bib record ID in the permanent URL, http://resolve.library.ubc.ca/cgi-bin/catsearch?bid=

BCLA ALPS – Getting Hired in Higher Education

Today was the Getting Hired in Higher Education event at SLAIS, organized by Tara Stephens and Danielle Winn, executives of ALPS (Academic Librarians in Public Service) section and myself, the ALPS representative (from the SLAIS BCLA/CLA student chapter), and sponsored by BCLA (British Columbia Library Association).

Getting Hired in Higher Education is an annual event organized for SLAIS students to hear, get advice, and ask questions about looking for, finding, and securing a job as an academic librarian. This year’s event was well attended (we had a full room!) and it seemed very appreciated.

This year, we had a larger panel with five academic librarians:

  • Aleha McCauley (University of British Columbia)
  • Annie Jensen (Langara College)
  • Emma Lawson (Langara College)
  • Danielle Winn (University of British Columbia)
  • Baharak Yousefi (Capilano College)

Panelists introduced themselves talking about their educational background, a little about the positions they currently hold, and primarily about their path towards their current job. I will not summarize everything, but will instead, concentrate on the advice they gave and the Q&A session.

While in School

Classes

More specifically, while at SLAIS, students were advised learn more about:

  • project management,
  • communications, and
  • assessment & program evaluation, especially the impact of a program/service.

and take classes that are skill or project based. Some specific classes that were mentioned:

  • Subject-Based Information Services (LIBR 530)
  • Collections Management (LIBR 580)
  • Instructional Role of the Librarian (LIBR 535) – particularly needed in academic
  • Library Automation and Systems (LIBR 551)
  • Open Access (LIBR 559K – 1-credit)
  • Management of Libraries and Archives: Community-Led Libraries (LIBR 579B – 1-credit)

Experience and Involvement

Panelists emphasized getting as much experience as possible paid or unpaid:

  • Co-op position
  • GAA (Graduate Academic Assistant)/Student Librarian job
  • Professional experience
  • Practicum – particularly to see what you like or don’t like
  • Volunteer

As to general areas, instructional and reference experience are key for academic libraries.

Getting involved while at school and afterwards is also very important, especially to network with others.

  • Participate in one or more professional association
  • Attend events – just like this one!
  • Attend workshops – e.g. CTLT’s Graduate Student Instructional Skills Workshop
  • Attend and/or volunteer at conferences
  • Get published e.g. student journals, blogs, reviews
  • Get involved in publishing e.g. as editor, reviewer
  • Building a professional online presence – employers will search for you

The Job Process

Searching & Applying for Jobs

Other than experience and involvement, employers look for:

  • good communication skills,
  • problem solving – i.e. how you work through problems, how you express yourself around change, and
  • interest in technology, especially web technology and social media.

To search for jobs, it is recommended to get RSS feeds to save time on searching.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Students have probably heard all the usual advice on format, keeping to the job description and such, but some other interesting points came up during today’s discussion:

  • Personality: to include or not? – Mixed advice was given to the librarians on how much to include. One mentioned that she began to get more interviews and job offers after including more of her personality, while another was told to tone down the personality as that will be seen in their web presence
  • Get it proofread by other people
  • Read more job descriptions to get a feel for the vocabulary used and what is expected
  • See what others are doing with cover letters that work, see Open Cover Letters
  • Get a mentor  – someone who you can learn from, ask advice, and who will give you feedback on your resume and cover letter.

Interviews

  • Get as much experience as possible with real interviews
  • Expect 1-2 days for the last stage of interviews
  • You will be expected to a presentation or a mock workshop
  • The panel will generally consist of 5-6 people
  • “Don’t try to guess what they want to hear, tell them what you think.” i.e. be honest
  • Evaluate the panel to see whether you want to work there and with that supervisor

Expectations

The librarians also provided words of advice on being realistic about the job market:

  • Be flexible about geographic location
  • If you can’t be, know that it’s a very competitive market – you will have to start in auxiliary, part-time, and contract positions
  • Start early during your last term of school – many noted that they were spending as much time on job searching and applications as they were on school work
  • Consider non-academic areas e.g. public libraries, vendors – i.e. it’s not true you can’t go from public to academic (or vice versa)

Once Offered a Job

It’s not often talked about since students generally concentrate on getting a job, but once offered a full-time, permanent position job, some things to consider:

  • Salary is negotiable – call the faculty association to ask if salary is representative if necessary
  • Get moving costs covered, if applicable
  • You might get an accommodation trip – trip to look for living space, if applicable
  • Look into start-up grants
  • Ask about professional development funds, though this is pretty standard
  • Know the major points of the collective agreement

In relation, the handbook for new faculty, Negotiating Starting Salaries published by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, was recommended.

Question & Answers

Here’s what came up during the Q&A session:

  • Q: How would you answer “Why are you interested in this division/organization?” A: draw on the posting, research the institution, but be yourself and answer honestly. Aside: You might consider using university colours in the presentation.
  • Q: What was the most difficulty question you have ever been asked? A: Specific research questions, but mostly, they want to know how you would deal with it.
  • Q: What are the best continuing education options, especially when lack time or money? A: Instructional opportunities, webinars (a library webinars blog was mentioned), grants (to go to conferences, etc.). Most positions come with professional development funds. Something you might ask about at the interview or when negotiating salary.
  • Q: Can you do a co-op and GAA at the same time? A: Yes. You can schedule it so that you do both at the same time, or consider leaving your GAA position.
  • Q: Is it possible to leave a contract for a permanent position? A: Yes. Talk to your supervisor, and they will generally be very understanding that you must leave mid-contract if you are accepting a full-time, permanent position.

Summary – The Top 5

In case you found that a lot to digest or just too much to read at once, here are the top 5 pieces of (general) advice:

  1. Get as much work experience as possible.
  2. Get experience or take a course in teaching and instruction.
  3. Get involved as much as possible, and network.
  4. Take project or skill based courses while in school.
  5. Be flexible.

EDIT: Summary version was posted in the Nov 2011 v.3 no.4 issue of the BCLA Browser in the ALPS Yodeler section.

New UBC Law Library Tour

We went to visit the new UBC Law Library as part of our planning and design class, and the librarian involved with the building project was also kind enough to give us a talk on the process.

Gone with the Old, In with the New

It was great to see the new law building, especially having visited the old one. The old building was called a “Concrete Bunker” because it really did look like one. The building was in such poor state. The roof was leaky, the water would run on the inside walls, and the building was famous for having buckets lining the halls! So, a new law building has been a long time coming, and it’s definitely a big improvement.

Collection Development

Moving is always a good opportunity to weed. Other than weeding, the staff also took on the big project to reclassify a lot of the material that was not already in LC classification.

Shelving

Some might consider shelving boring, but the details that goes into making such a simple choice is quite interesting. For one, a careful choice was made on the type of compact shelving to use. The chosen one is very easy to use, manual, and seems to be magnetic (and having used electronic ones, I prefer manual). Careful measurements were also made since they were smaller than regular shelving (33″ as opposed to 36″) in order to accommodate all the books with fill space.

The open stacks shelving was the standard 36″ in a nice wood with lighting that went across (perpendicular) instead of in between (parallel) the shelves. The shelves were also filled with approximately a 50% fill, but of course it differed depending on the section from 20-70%. You can see how neat it looks right now because of the careful calculations done by the librarian.

The reference area also has shelves with a built-in mini-table at the end of each end for convenience.

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Reading, Study, & Computer Spaces

There are various areas for reading and studying. There is the big reading room and each floor also has a couple of smaller areas with lower reading love-seats. The top floor primarily has study carrels, but the open type instead of the closed ones (divider on three sides). On the second floor, there is a computer lab area with a print room, next to the teaching room. The reference room also has long tables with chairs where you can study.

Making a Space Pleasant

A lot of what I liked about the library was the pleasantness of it. The lighting was nice (it points towards the ceiling so it’s not direct), the high ceilings with the stained glass, the stairs (are kind of a shiny granite) and the artwork. There are no paintings or sculptures, but there are the stone backgrounds to the signs for example. My favourite piece was the donor “wall” just in front of the entrance which was actually made of glass balls with names written on them.

Overall, it was just a very pleasant space with some nice views whether looking back in the building or to the outside.

Ingrid Parent – Fast Forward: 21st Century Libraries in a Global Context

The university librarian at UBC presented today at the SLAIS colloquia. There were a number of interesting and salient points that she made, so I thought I’d summarize them here.

Fast Forward: 21st Century Libraries in a Global Context by Ingrid Parent

Information is worldwide and information seeking behaviour is rapidly changing along with technology. So do libraries change user behaviours or do user behaviours change libraries? Really, it’s both. “In the face of seismic shifts in technology and social organizations, librarians and library staff face changing roles” (2010, Gutsche), but this need not be a seismic change, but rather, a wave of adaptation. The sharing of knowledge and networking allow for collaboration and can ease this adaptation. Not a lot has changed in what the library is so much as changes are happening in how information is delivered.

“information overload triggered a crisis in the way people saw their lives. It sped up the way we locate, cross-reference, and focus the questions that define our essence, our roles – our stories…” (Douglas Coupland, Player One) Libraries and librarians are still needed to help our users even if they have direct access to resources.  Librarians’ skills in organizing information are needed more than ever whether in libraries or in other organizations.  More creative positions are being created in response, and employers are looking for skills including in areas of communications and marketing.

“If there is a future for libraries this is where that future will be made – in the digital realm.” (Allan Bell, Director of Digital Initiatives, UBC Library) A large part of the strategic plan is focused on digital projects and initiatives.

Assessment has also become critical, but the shift in focus is on the library’s impact by trying to measure the influence and success the library has with its users.

Convergence & Collaboration
An example of a radical convergence is the Library and Archives Canada. Convergence needs to happen in more areas, mostly in the form of collaboration. It begins with contact and may end in convergence.  The way to do this is through digital technology in order to converge the knowledge and information. Users don’t care who the information “belongs” to, but simply that they can use and find it. Collaboration not only serves our users, but allow us to do more. Even technologies are converging, such as cloud computing.  Digital libraries and collections are quickly growing.

Examples of Collaboration Projects

Still the perception is that libraries are only associated with books. Libraries have the challenge to change that perception to include management of information, accessible from home, and really, a “living lab.” This is important as “information consumers are shifting into ‘prosumers.’ These hybrid users are producing, classifying, and distributing content as well as consuming content from others.” (Tom Evens, University of Ghent)

We are up to the challenge of meting these challenges. Digitization is a key factor, collaboration and converging, and come to an understanding on how to best deal with all the information. We need to move forward together in a global world where information is available to so many and in so many ways.

Q & A

What academic librarians need to do in moving forward? More consistent messaging and communications because things are done inconsistently as well. Need to talk to students more. Need more community engagement, which Irving K. Barber is a good example. Train staff to go out to the community.

What are you looking for in new hires? What kind of skills and knowledge set? Understanding and willingness to understand the information community out there. Going out to find the skills. Teamwork. Not hired for one job for whole life. Looking for possibilities working in different ways, innovation, and creativity. Can we do something better even if done the same for many years before. Need to be open-minded on sharing ideas and knowledge.

How is the library helping with research? One of the major objectives is to accelerate research. Need to work with faculty more, but life sciences more open than some others. Librarians sometimes to help with grant proposal. [Okay, I didn’t quite get the complete question/answer here.]

Transition between high school to university is a hot topic. How is the university helping with that? Learning commons to support writing skills and other skill sets, which is well used. Online tools on how to write essay, manage projects, etc. Anyone who is interested can come. No dedicated approach in the high school community. Will bring the topic to advisory committee in order to discuss how best to help support students to have skills before they leave high school.

What are your ideas for initiatives and if you see any changes when your presidency of IFLA? Have yet to choose theme that cuts across libraries. Libraries drive you to knowledge, but what do you do with that knowledge? Trying to look from user’s perspective, so looking at how libraries impact people including looking at inclusiveness, multiculturalism, collaboration. One initiative/event that want to do: Indigenous knowledge and how do we approach expressions of traditional knowledge.

Going out to the community requires support of institution. What do you find works for advocating within an institution? It’s not really common in part because of funding. Part of it is setting up advisory group in order to be in touch with people. Becoming involved in associations, but it all comes down to resources and priorities, but see it growing.

Usability Testing

Last week (was it really just last week?), I did my first usability test and I thought it went well enough, but there are of course improvements needed.  I looked up some resources (which I will put up on a later date), but while there is a general outline, no resource can give you specifics on how to conduct a usability test for a particular site.

Methodology

  • 5 participants, 1-2 from each user group
  • Each participant was given the choice of using a PC or MAC.
  • Each participant was given a scenario of working on assignments by themselves without facilitators to help with the task itself.
  • Participants were given 5 tasks to do, presented one at a time.
  • Participants were asked to voice their thoughts and were asked questions about their process during a task, after a task, and/or after all tasks were completed.
  • Each session was recorded using video, audio, and screencapture programs.

Results Analysis
Results were compiled for completion rate, but no other metrics were found useful. For example, time completion did not work in this case since users were asked to voice their thoughts and some did so very thoroughly, while others did very little.

Most of the analysis then was drawing conclusions based on behavioural trends and repeated comments made by users.

Results
The results might have been as expected. Users tended to be either novice or expert users, which may seem fairly obvious, and 1 of 2 types:

  • selective user: tends to look over things carefully, choosing that which seems to best fit what he/she wants. Unlikely to click on unfamiliar things.
  • explorative user: tends to click on the first link that looks like it might be what they are looking for. Does not mind making mistakes. More likely to click on unfamiliar things.

Recommendations were made about the site in an attempt to make the site user-friendly to both types of users, and to ensure both types navigate the site as it was designed.

A number of recommendations were also made revolving around content, as there were numerous content issues and content is not taken care of by the developers (which includes me).

Reflections & Improvements
Overall, I thought the sessions went fairly well. There were a couple of improvements that we implemented in the middle of the study. Although in a more academic-based research study, this might be considered taboo, we thought it would produce more useful results.

Some improvements we made:

  • printed copy of tasks
  • added to script that task completion is user determined (not determined by facilitator)
  • made sure to clear browser cache for every session (browsers can be set to do so automatically of course)
  • minor rewording of tasks to make examples as unambiguous as possible

For the next usability test, further improvements can be made:

  • more context for scenario to give participants appropriate perspective

I think it is also very valuable to have a second facilitator since each facilitator tends to catch/see and focus on different aspects of the user experience, so each will contribute to the questioning of the participant.

Conclusion
The usability test was very valuable in seeing whether the design and organization worked for our users.  It also helped to identify various problems and what’s better, how we might improve them (as some tasks were purposefully chosen because they might be problematic elements on the site).  Some improvements of the site will depend on others, but hopefully, the results of the study will convince them that the improvements need to be made.