November 28, 2006

Weather amnesty

Although Alloway Library has remained open every day during the last few days of snow, ice and power failures, we recognize that these conditions have prevented some of our patrons from returning library material on time. Many library users have renewed their material online, or by contacting circulation staff by phone or email. Items from the Reserve Counter, the Curriculum Collection, however, are not renewable, nor are items which have been requested or recalled, or material that has exceeded our 2+1 renewal limit. (2 online renewals + one staff-moderated renewal.)

Until classes are resumed, material returned to Alloway Library will be checked in as if they were returned on Saturday, November 25. This is intended to reduce overdue fines that may have accrued during the recent disruptions.

November 27, 2006

The death of VHS

The 1979 hit "Video killed the radio star" was the first music video to be played on MTV when it was launched in the summer of 1981. Although video lives on in DVD, it's most enduring shape, the VHS videocassette has been declared dead. At Alloway Library, the trend has been to purchase DVD whenever possible, but the majority of our media collection remains accesible in VHS format.

Men With Shades posing on the floor ca 1990 TWU Archives

Writing in Variety, however, Dianne Garrett notes:

VHS, 30, dies of loneliness
The home-entertainment
format lived a fruitful life

After a long illness, the groundbreaking home-entertainment format VHS has died of natural causes in the United States. The format was 30 years old.

No services are planned.

The format had been expected to survive until January, but high-def formats and next-generation vidgame consoles hastened its final decline. "It's pretty much over," concurred Buena Vista Home Entertainment general manager North America Lori MacPherson on Tuesday.

VHS is survived by a child, DVD, and by Tivo, VOD and DirecTV. It was preceded in death by Betamax, Divx, mini-discs and laserdiscs.

Although it had been ailing, the format's death became official in this, the video biz's all-important fourth quarter. Retailers decided to pull the plug, saying there was no longer shelf space. The format flourished until DVDs launched in 1997. After a fruitful career, VHS tapes started to retire from center stage in 2003 when DVDs became more popular for the first time. Since their retirement, VHS tapes have made occasional appearances in children's entertainment and as a format for collectors seeking titles not released on DVD. VHS continued to make as much as $300 million a year until this year, when studios stopped manufacturing the tapes.

November 22, 2006

Dotto likes libraries

Steve Dotto is the host and executive producer of the popular Canadian computer show Dotto Tech, seen locally on CityTV, The New VI and Knowledge Network. In a recent column in the North Shore News he echoes what librarians at Alloway Library have said for a long time, that Google and its competitors are not always the best tool for research.

Dotto writes in his September 20, 2006 column Digital Age:

Often there are simply too many returns on a Google search to make use of the information. Plus the validity of the information is less than stellar. Separating the truth from the urban myth is a challenge. So for hard-core research, the Internet contains more promise than it actually delivers on.

He then goes on to explain how libraries can be a better solution for researchers:
Libraries have access to vast amounts of electronic information available to you right at your desktop, and all you need to access it is your library card. Visit your local library's website and you will find online resources that contain a series of licensed databases. Licensed databases are services that your library subscribes to on your behalf, and while the exact mix of databases may vary between libraries what they'll all have in common is lots of information on just about every topic under the sun. If you use your library's databases as a basis for your searches you can rest assured the information is accurate; unlike a Google or simple web search.

Experienced users may agree with Dotto when he says:

As a research tool the online databases require a little more effort than simply jumping onto Google, but the results are worth the effort.

What I like best about this article is when a "tech-guy" like Dotto sings the praises of libraries:

Librarians love to help, and they often have ideas on how to find even more valuable information nuggets. On all library home pages will be a link to Ask a Librarian, which will submit your question to your local librarian, and I guarantee, you be thrilled with the response. These are great research tools, and the best part is it's available to you anywhere you have Internet access. Maybe the best part is that it is free as part of your library membership.
(Coming in January Alloway Library will replace its Ask a Librarian service with the new AskAway service available to libraries throughout the province.)

Alloway Library is here to link learners to knowledge, you don't have to do it all on your own.

More statistics and thoughts on grades

Academic Libraries: 2004 published by the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington, DC provides findings and tables based on a 2004 survey of US academic libraries. The report presents summary data of services, staff, collections, and expenditures for academic libraries in degree-granting postsecondary institutions. Most of the data is aggregated to show the cumulative activity of academic libraries. For example, during a typical week in the fall of 2004, 1.4 million academic library reference transactions were conducted in 3,653 academic libraries.

Two interesting and applicable tables show how Alloway Library compares to US counterparts in two key fields: collection size and hours of service. I used Alloway Library’s 2005 statistics to compare the survey’s 2004 statistics to make some comparisons between our library and 2,217 others in the USA.

Alloway Library has just over 211,000 print volumes in our collection. That puts us in the upper middle category of libraries with collections between 100,000 and 250,000 items. 27% of libraries survey out of 2,217 libraries fall into this group. 42% of degree-granting institutions have collections smaller than ours and 30% have larger collections. Looking at academic libraries like ours serving 1,500 to 5,000 students we see that only 17% of those have larger collections, and well over half have smaller collections than ours.

In providing public service hours a similar picture appears. Alloway Library is open 84 hours in a typical week. 40% of all degree-granting institutions and 54% of institutions in TWU’s population category are open less than 80 hours per week. Only 19% and 13% of the libraries surveyed respectively offer more than 100 hours week.

Circulation desk of the Norma Marion Alloway Library, ca.1989 University Archives

These statistics tend to confirm the grades we received in The Globe and Mail's University Report Card. Survey respondents, using subjective criteria, gave us a ‘B’ for hours of operation; that seems about right if we were to ‘grade ourselves on the curve’ using the US data. The Report Card also gave us a C+ for total library holdings which seems a little low; I’d argue that in comparison to similar-size US institutions we deserve a higher grade. Our patrons however, compare us to the other two major universities in Greater Vancouver, both of which rank among Canada’s top ten universities and one of them ranks among the top 40 universities in the world.

The Globe and Mail's University Report Card is available from the Reserve Counter at Alloway Library Posted by Picasa

November 17, 2006

Power to serve

Alloway Library staff are committed to service. Along with excellence and integrity, it's one of the three core values that drive our mission statement. And recently, our users identified the service provided by library staff as one of the strengths of Alloway Library. You can imagine our frustration therefore, when electrical power failures prevent us from doing what we love and force us to close the library.

Unlike many other buildings on campus Alloway Library's electric supply is not supported by diesel generators even though the library is designated as an essential service. This means that when the power goes off, we are unable to provide the most basic services to users, such as looking up an item in our catalogue, or assisting researchers in finding online resources. However, during the power failures this week, staff made heroic efforts with flashlights and hunches to find material on our shelves, conduct research skills classes in improvised settings and use pencil, paper and flashlights to put over 200 books and media items into the hands of people who needed resources. Our patrons used cell phones to light their way in the darkened stacks while many worked uninterrupted beside the large windows.

Ultimately, once the battery-powered emergency lights go out, safety dictates the closure of the building. Based on information from BC Hydro, and consideration of road conditions, (Library staff live throughout the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley) provisional plans are made as to whether a reopening later are considered. Alloway Library does what it can to link learners to knowledge, even in difficult circumstances.

Alloway Library's big windows let in a lot of daylight. However, when the power goes down it's usually not a clear, sunny day!

Patrons can always call the library at 604-513-2023 to check our status. Alloway Library strives to remain open even when classes are cancelled.

November 13, 2006

Another Alloway Library

Norma Marion Alloway Library is a special place. Participants in the Globe and Mail's University Report card confirmed that it is staffed with great people providing excellent service. The Report Card also ranked Alloway Library at the top among Canadian university libraries for providing quiet study space. TWU's library provides over half a million resources to over 4000 patrons. Special as it is however, it's not the only Alloway Library in the world!

I learned, while testing search engines, that there is an Alloway Library serving the village of Alloway, Scotland. Alloway is famed for being the birthplace of the poet Robert Burns and the setting for some of his poems and stories. It is now a suburb of Ayr, a town south of Glasgow.

The main road, Alloway Scotland. The village library is down the road from the Burns' Birthplace, seen on the left and the Tam O'Shanter Experience.

So if you notice Scots accents from the staff and if you start logging on to the Wee Webbies web page, you may have crossed the Brig O' Doon into Alloway instead of the Salmon River bridge into Trinity Western.

Norma Marion Alloway Library. Submitted photo

November 11, 2006

The Anti-Librarian

Have you met Ms Dewey? She is the front-end, human face for Microsoft's Windows Live search engine. Initially she's comes across as an entertaining, hip version of a librarian, but the personal touch wears thin pretty fast as you start to realize how self-occupied, impatient and sometimes downright rude this sultry "personal assistant" can be. The Flash technology that animates her and generates her usually sardonic comments seem to slow down search results and she's not too good at asking "Do you mean...?" if you make a spelling mistake. As a substitute for a living librarian, she fails miserably, especially when you compare Ms Dewey to Alloway Library's friendly and polite professionals.

Ms Dewey typifies a sort of Anti-Librarian. Certainly, she's not the hair-in-a bun, glasses and cardigan-wearing stereotype of a librarian one sees in popular media. She also lacks an inquiring mind and ultimately represents the antithesis of what researchers need in a librarian. As such, she highlights the weakness of search engines in comparison to good librarians. As Steven Abram points out in his blog:
Librarians aren't just about search; we're about improving the quality of the
question. End users are about "find and discover." We need to be clear on that.
If we focus on search, we are focusing on Google's best game. If we focus on the
question, the human touch, and overall customer experience, then we will not
only survive, we'll thrive.
Addressing libraries and their personnel, he continues:

We also have to get search down to the context of the question. Users shouldn't
have to search the entire universe of knowledge in a single commercial engine.
Nor should they have to search dozens of repositories and resources serially. We
should offer users the ability to search just the content sets that match their
needs and literacy levels. We have to segment federated search so that it
addresses the subject context of the user, based on where they are coming from.
Biology students can search just the right databases; grade six students get the
database results based on their reading level; and business searchers work in
their specific R&D milieu... All of the Googles are still focused on the
broad consumer markets --not a researcher's needs.

Talk to an Alloway Library staffer today; when we smile, we probably won't be acting.

November 09, 2006

Study Room Improvements

In response to user demand, Alloway Library has added whiteboards to Group Study Room 8 and Group Viewing Rooms #5 and #7. This means that all seven Group Study Rooms have a big board for groups to collaborate on. Erasable markers for use with the boards may be checked out for a renewable, two-hour loan along with study room keys at the Reserve Counter.

At the same time as the boards were installed, worn out chairs in all the study rooms were replaced with new chairs.

Dr Ken Davis at chalk board TWU Archives

November 08, 2006

Reading Break/ Remembrance Day Hours

Alloway Library is open through reading break with a slight change from our regular hours in recognition of the Remembrance Day holiday. Library hours will be:

Thursday, November 9 7:45 am – 11:00 pm
Friday, November 10 10:00 am - 6:00
Saturday, November 11 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sunday, November 12 1:30 pm
- 5:00 pm

Camp Sewell, Manitoba 1915 Submitted photo

RefWorks and the Patriot Act

Recent news reports have highlighted the risks to privacy that the USA's Patriot Act poses to researchers in Canada using RefWorks. According to a CBC News report:

Dozens of Canadian university and college libraries are changing how they arrange for their students and faculty to do online research, in part because of a U.S. law intended to detect possible terrorist activity. The universities subscribe to RefWorks, a popular American research tool that helps academics with research, as well as with completing citations and bibliographies. However, the U.S. Patriot Act — created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington — allows government officials to sweep through databases, including RefWorks, as part of routine surveillance.
Alloway Library is considering joining with a number of other universities which have abandoned U.S.-based servers, and are now using facilities at the University of Toronto. Alloway Library includes a Protection of Privacy Notice on it's RefWorks information page which states:
RefWorks is available to you as a member of the TWU community, though your use
of it is voluntary. Please be advised that all information in your RefWorks account is stored on servers located in the United States of America. Canadian privacy laws do not apply to personal information you provide directly to RefWorks. You may wish to review the RefWorks Privacy/Security Policy before using their service.

November 02, 2006

Access TWU webmail in the library

In recognition that email is an important tool in the research process, Alloway Library has opened up its web terminals to allow TWU students and staff access to TWU webmail accounts ( and via TWU's Student Portal.

Student posing at her computer 1992
TWU Archives

Now, researchers can view their email to see articles sent from online databases such as Academic Search Premier. It is also possible to open, edit or print email attachments such as Word, PowerPoint or Excel --if-- you open the attachment by saving it to your USB drive.

Because library terminals are intended for research purposes and all TWU members have TWU email accounts, Alloway Library has chosen to block access from library computers to third-party email accounts such as Yahoo, Gmail or Telus.