Those of us in libraryworld may have noticed that Google has announced an end to its RSS reader, Google Reader, coming this July. In their blog post they referred to this product as one used “to follow your favorite websites” whose “usage has declined”. The subsequent reaction from the technology community was overwhelming with many scrambling to find viable alternatives (some 3 million Google users quickly signed up for Feedly) – hardly an expected reaction for a “dead” technology whose “usage has declined”.
It is perhaps understandable, however, why Google has decided to declare war against RSS. RSS feeds from blogs rarely contain the ads from which Google derives much of its revenue. The problem, of course, is that RSS feeds are not used exclusively to follow blog content. As librarians, we frequently use RSS feeds for a number of different tasks: doing mash-ups, embedding a news/search query into a libguide, following court opinions, legislative and regulatory changes, and etc. It is troubling that Google, with its massive influence, would declare a thriving format to be dead when there appears to be no viable alternatives. In the past, the technology community would direct its ire against Microsoft for challenging open-source formats but at least they always offered an alternative in its place.
In response, this column will go over some of the alternatives to Google Reader for those that are preparing to make the switch this July:
This is frequently mentioned as the most compelling alternative to Google Reader. I have been using it for over a week now and I am quite pleased. The web-based interface is clean and useful and the feeds from Google Reader migrate over very nicely. Right now, the service is syncing with Google Reader itself but Feedly is promising a new syncing engine will be available before Google shuts it off. One thing I particularly liked about the feed migration was that my folder structure remained intact. I have over 400 feeds in my current Google Reader and they are all divided into a number of folders. Losing these folders really impairs by ability to keep the feeds organized. Another positive is that there are already mobile apps for this service. One negative I have noticed is that the site is quite slow but I believe this is because so many users are in the process of migrating.
This is a nice clean and simple web-based RSS reader. There are currently no mobile apps for this service but the developers are promising that one is coming soon. As with Feedly, you can easily migrate RSS feeds from Google Reader or any other application that uses OPML.
NetVibes is widely known among librarians as a portal service. Our reference desk here at Santa Clara Law is currently using NetVibes as a portal for our staff calendar, desk statistics, Facebook page, etc. It also has a nice RSS reader application. This may be a great option if you are already using NetVibes for other purposes.
As we deal with an increasingly electronic world, the demand for digitization services by our patrons only rises. Our patrons expect electronic access to materials to meet their legal information needs. Many libraries, however, are struggling to accommodate these requests as they feel ill-equipped to make the necessary decisions required for creating a digitization workflow. This brief article will discuss some of the issues considered in this process and share some of the experiences we have had digitizing in a large academic law collection.
The first issue a library needs to consider when embarking upon a digitization effort is whether these services will be done “in-house” or contracted out to third parties. If a library has only a small collection of materials to scan, it may be unwise to purchase digitization equipment as the return on investment will be too low. There are a number of companies that provide digitization services, some of them at a surprisingly low cost. A company in San Jose, for example, will scan monographs at a cost of $1 for every 100 pages. The reason, however, why the price is so low is because this is “destructive book scanning” meaning that the spine is removed from the book and is not returned to the library. Obviously, this would be an unacceptable choice for digitizing materials that have archival value. For those materials, non-destructive book scanning would be the only choice but the price is much higher as human intervention is required. For film and bound-book non-destructive scanning, companies such as Hein provide reasonably priced services to their institutional customers.
If your library has a collection of materials to scan that is large enough to justify purchasing scanning equipment there are a few things to remember. First, flat-bed scanners, even though very popular and cheap, are poorly suited for scanning monographs. The scans from a flat-bed scanner will often be low quality and pressing the book face down on the scanner may result in damage to the spine. The alternative is using a plenary/overhead scanner. This avoids damage to the book and often results in a much higher quality scan. The disadvantage, however, is that these scanners are considerably more expensive than a flat-bed scanner. You can purchase a basic unit from Atiz starting at around $6000 or you can make an overhead scanner yourself using two SLR cameras and a “DIY” kit for even less. To make these scanned documents searchable, you will need to purchase OCR software. Many libraries already have licenses for Adobe Acrobat which has a price of $300 (or $120 with an educational discount). There are other OCR products available (such as ABBYY FineReader) that have a higher cost but also promise a higher accuracy rate.
Once you have the necessary equipment, and have selected the materials to be digitized, you can begin creating a workflow of what metadata fields are going to be collected and how these materials are going to be stored and accessed. Many libraries are purchasing institutional software to host their electronic files. This makes it easier to create a controlled vocabulary and ensure consistency of metadata. Other libraries are adding these digital assets to their online collection using next-generation ILS software. Collaborative documents, such as provided by Google Docs, may be helpful especially when a digitization project includes multiple staff members. This helps to ensure that material is not scanned twice and helps to improve consistency.
Another advantage of purchasing your own equipment is that once your digitization project is complete, you can use it for document delivery and inter-library loan services. Patrons love being able to get book or practice guide chapters delivered to their email accounts. At Santa Clara, we purchased a student scanning kiosk (the Zeutschel Zeta) that has become immensely popular among our students. Students love being able to quickly and easily digitize a document and share it with classmates or professors. We have also noticed a decline in photocopier usage in the library as students are becoming increasingly tempted to make electronic, rather than print, copies of their documents.
 See http://www.atiz.com/usstore/. Other vendors include BetterLight, Digital Library Systems Group, i2S, Indus, Kirtas, Konica/Minolta, Microbox, Phase One, SMA, Tarsia, Treventus, ZBE and Zeutschel. For a review of plenary scanners check out Jody L. DeRidder, Overhead scanners: reports from the field. 29 Library Hi Tech 9 (2011).
 See http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000621011. Here’s a tip using Acrobat for OCR (optical character recognition). You have three options provided by Adobe, 1: Searchable Image, 2: Searchable Image (Exact), and 3: ClearType. If you are scanning archival materials that you do not want altered in any way select “Searchable Image (Exact)”. This will create an OCR text file and make the document searchable but will not straighten the pages nor alter the text. If you want to make a document that you can send via email consider selecting “ClearType”. This will replace the text with Adobe’s own font, straighten the pages, and reduce the file size. Obviously, you should not select “ClearType” for any court document or archival item.
The CALI session discussed the trend among law schools towards an open access publishing model for both faculty scholarship and student law reviews. Included was a brief overview of the Durham Statement on open access legal publishing and the advantages for law schools that move to this publishing model (including improved accessibility and access and even increased citation rates). Additionally, the session focused on ways to promote an institutional repository within a law school and how to develop relationships with faculty and other stakeholders to acquire content.
Once a journal has been moved to an open access publishing model, metadata for all of the articles in the journal’s backfile must be gathered and uploaded to the journal’s online site. Before it can be uploaded, the metadata must be parsed to match the structure of the journal’s web site. The last part of the session described how Santa Clara Law, which recently moved all three of its student law reviews to an open access publishing model using Digital Commons from BePress, automated the process of gathering, parsing and uploading metadata for the backfiles of its law reviews via spreadsheets, thus saving a tremendous amount of time and human effort.
Additional files include:
- BigKahuna workbook, containing all functions used to create a finished spreadsheet ready to be uploaded to the digital commons.
- Instruction document for gathering metadata and using the BigKahuna workbook.
- Workbook with sample functions for performing specific parsing tasks.
This session discusses the trend among law schools towards an open access publishing model for both faculty scholarship and student law reviews. Included in this discussion is a brief overview of the Durham Statement on open access legal publishing and the advantages for law schools who move to this publishing model (including improved accessibility and access and even increased citation rates). Additionally, this session includes how to promote an institutional repository within a law school and how to develop relationships with faculty and other stakeholders to acquire content. Finally, this session discusses the successes and problems at Santa Clara Law which recently moved all three of their student law reviews to an open access publishing model using Digital Commons from BePress.
Donovan, James M. and Watson, Carol A., “Citation Advantage of Open Access Legal Scholarship” (2011). Research on Institutional Repositories: Articles and Presentations. Paper 4. http://digitalcommons.bepress.com/repository-research/4
Donovan, James M. and Watson, Carol A., “White Paper: Behind a Law School’s Decision to Implement an Institutional Repository” (2008). Articles, Chapters and Online Publications. Paper 15.
Watson, Carol A. and Donovan, James M., “Will an Institutional Repository Hurt My SSRN Ranking?: Calming the Faculty Fear” (2012). Articles, Chapters and Online Publications. Paper 29. http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/law_lib_artchop/29
Richard A. Danner, Kelly Leong, Wayne V. Miller, The Durham Statement Two Years Later: Open Access in the Law School Journal Environment, 103 Law Libr. J. 39 (2011).
Richard Danner, Open Access to Legal Scholarship: Dropping the Barriers to Discourse and Dialogue, 7 J. of Int’l Comm. L. & Tech. 65 (2012).
Jody L. DeRidder, Overhead scanners: reports from the field. 29 Library Hi Tech 9 (2011).
- What is the primary purpose of an IR for a law school?
- Who benefits from the IR?
- What kind of legal material is most important to collect in an IR?
Primary purpose: Marketing and branding efforts, public relations for the law school, way to promote the institution rather than individual faculty members
IR as archive – organized, centralized, permanent
IR as showcase – authoritative, visible, open
IR as suite of services – special collections, faculty scholarship, student scholarship, newsletters, events, law reviews
Who benefits?: The law school, legal community, and library
80% of the traffic into Digital Commons comes directly from Google searches, because of this it is very important to properly brand your cover pages
Discoverability and Digital Commons – Full text searching, search engine optimization, Google enhancements, OAI-PMH, Dublin Core, RSS feeds, Email notifications, usage metrics
Presenters: Meg Butler, Sarah Jaramillo and Maureen Cahill
Select a presentation app that serves your pedagogical goal.
Free versions of these applications. $10 for the Keynote app from the Apple Store. The free apps may use their own branding.
What does this application do really well? What does it not do really well? Truly better than Powerpoint?
Prezi: Not Powerpoint at all. Totally different way to approach a presentation. Not a set of slides. Non-linear, single canvas. Cannot export to desktop. Also you cannot hide your presentation from public. Does offer added benefits for academic use. There is an iPad app for Prezi. Bad Prezi presentations may cause dizziness, disorientation. Font selection is pretty limited. Not many templates to start with. Must create animations separately and then import into presentation. Only supports a few audio formats. Can’t connect to an external spreadsheet.
Sliderocket: Offers features not available in Powerpoint. Can collaborate on a presentation. Can easily embed videos and audio into presentation. Single user is $24 a month. Can only get an academic discount if you are already signed up for the academic version of Google Apps. Connects well with Google Analytics.
Sparkol: “Fun” presentation app. Web-based presentation application. Can save files to your local drive (either PC or Mac). There will be a Sparkol logo on your presentation. Must work with the provided templates, you cannot customize them. Won’t import from Powerpoint effectively.
Zoho Show: Part of the Zoho office suite. It is the free app that is most like Powerpoint. Has some features not available in Powerpoint. Templates are more professional and sharper. Make it very easy to collaborate on the same presentation. Can make presentations private or public.
Keynote for iPad: Works on iPad. Must choose one of the provided templates. Can copy images in from Safari or your image library on the iPad. Can only embed videos from your iPhoto library. For charts you can edit the data inside the presentation.
XMind: Mind-mapping software. May be a great way to demonstrate relationships between government agencies, etc. for legal research presentations. Can create organizational or flow charts. Limited ability to import video/audio files.