Digital Library Digest: February 28, 2013

Posted by Vicky Zeamer on February 28, 2013 in Digital Library Digest.

Obama administration creates new policy to make federally funded research results open to the public 

“If you paid for it, you should be able to read it. For publicly financed science research, the Obama administration agrees.

“In a memorandum issued on Friday, John P. Holdren, science adviser to President Obama, called for scientific papers that report the results of federally financed research to become freely accessible within a year or so after publication. The findings are typically published in scientific journals, many of which are open only to paying subscribers.

“The new policy would apply to federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture, that finance more than $100 million a year of research. The agencies have six months to submit plans for how they would carry out the new policy.

“The hope is that broad access to scientific results will encourage faster progress on research and will let anyone apply the knowledge for technological advances.

“We have seen, over the last 15 years, in the era of the Internet, that the more widely available a publication is, the more likely it is to be cited and the more likely it is to be used in patent applications,” said Myron Gutmann, an assistant director at the National Science Foundation.

“We know that the small and medium enterprise, the business community, doesn’t have a lot of access to scientific publications right now,” Dr. Gutmann said, “and the more we can make things available for those communities, the more innovation there is likely to be.” He estimated that 25,000 to 40,000 journal articles based on research financed by the science foundation are published annually.

“At the Agriculture Department, Catherine Woteki, the agency’s chief scientist, said the new policy fit in with efforts to make agriculture data like plant genomes more widely available. “We can reduce in half the time that it takes for breeding drought- and pest- and disease-resistant crops,” she said.

“The agencies could model their policies on one established by the National Institutes of Health in 2008. The N.I.H. requires scientists receiving grants to ensure that their papers can be made available on PubMed Central, a publicly available Web site, within one year.

“An online petition last May on the White House’s Web site called for “free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.”

“More than 65,000 people signed the petition, easily passing the 25,000-signature threshold that merited an official White House response. (The threshold was raised in January to 100,000 after a petition that called for building a Death Star like that in the movie “Star Wars” garnered 34,435 signatures; administration officials rejected that suggestion.)

“In a response posted Friday to the signers of the open-access petitioners, Dr. Holdren agreed.

“Americans should have easy access to the results of the research they help support,” Dr. Holden wrote, adding, “the logic behind enhanced access is plain.”

From Kenneth Chang’s article on The New York Times article, U.S. Moves to Provide Quicker Access to Publicly Financed Scientific Research

 New electronic editions of classic works filled with multimedia enhance the classroom experience

“When asked why he studies John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men with his students, Matthew Kalafat responds, “it get kids thinking—critically,” and notes that the debates that follow allow his 8th graders to become “more confident, more engaged readers.” Both Kalafat and Derrick Nelson are educators featured in Penguin’s recently released Of Mice and Men: Teacher’s Deluxe Edition ($11.99; Gr 8 Up), available on a variety of electronic devices. Along with video commentary from the two, the iBook contains the full text of Steinbeck’s novel, a lengthy introduction by Susan Shillinglaw; the Robert Burns’s poem from which the book title derives (“To a Mouse, On Turning Her up in Her Nest with the Plough, November 1785,”); and the text of Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

“Lists of discussion questions on topics ranging from “the American Dream” to “Fate” are included and paired with brief video responses by students. The questions and the videos emerged from a collaboration between two schools separated by four miles, but, as one of the educators commented, “might as well be 4,000 miles apart—there’s not much interaction” between these kids. Kalafat and Nelson also describe other aspects of the project from heated wiki conversations to meetings to discuss the classic in person.

“Why this this collaboration?  At an age when students are just beginning to question “the world around them…to look beyond themselves,” Kalafat felt that studying and discussing literature with people who were “different from themselves” offered students fresh perspectives on the novel. He added that while the themes addressed weren’t especially difficult, they “fire[d]up” the participants’ imaginations and gave rise to spirited debate. In a final assignment, students discuss their dreams as young children, and today, and how and why they have changed.”

From Daryl Grabarek’s article on the School Library Journal, Deluxe and Digital | Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’

20 new videos about different Harvard Library Innovation Lab projects and programs

“Here’s some very interesting viewing for library/database/information retrieval types (geeks). 20 new videos about different Harvard Library Innovation Lab projects and programs including Library Cloud and the Awesome Box project that we mentioned the other day.

“You’ll not only learn about the projects but you’ll also meet some of the people responsible for them. From tracking mobile usage to converting MARC to RDA to social tagging and MUCH more there is a lot of interesting material here for everyone. We’ve embedded all of the new videos below. Most run between 2-4.5 minutes and the blurbs below each video were provided by Harvard.

“Sit back, relax, and learn.”

Watch the full set of videos on Gary Price’s post for INFOdocket, Cool! Harvard Library Innovation Lab Releases 20 Project Overview Videos Online

The D.C. Public Library looks to bridge its digital and brick-and-mortar operations

“The boy on the bicycle flashes a big grin as he rides into the atrium of the Mount Pleasant Library. His father collects the bike and carries it upstairs as the child climbs the steep steps, and the two of them enter the main room on the second floor, joining a group of nervous 4-year-olds reading books to an audience of dogs.

“They’re pretty much the only ones reading. On the ground floor, all 22 functional computers are in use, with librarygoers playing games and checking their email and Facebook accounts. A grizzled man slumped in an armchair sips a can of coconut water. Two people are on their laptops, taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. The basement meeting room is occupied by four conferees; next door, a teenage girl is huddled over a notebook in a study room. There’s a woman at the checkout counter, but she’s borrowing a DVD.

“Welcome to the modern-day D.C. Public Library system, where computers and community gatherings increasingly trump books. Since the mid-1990s, hand-wringing about the future of libraries in the digital age has led cities around the world to replace their utilitarian central libraries with sleeker, more welcoming gathering places. The District may have missed out on this trend—the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is no one’s idea of an inviting aesthetic gem, except perhaps to disciples of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—but the city’s branch libraries are nearing conclusion of a massive and expensive overhaul that has already seen the construction or renovation of 14 libraries, with three more to come. Several are designed by big-name modernist architects, and most bear price tags of more than $15 million. (City officials have begun exploring ways to modernize MLK Library, too.)

“At the same time, the official number of books in the library system has declined from 3,037,696 volumes in 2007 to 1,466,010 in 2012, raising the question of what function, exactly, these bigger, fancier libraries serve.

“It bears noting that the District probably doesn’t actually have fewer than half the books it had five years ago. DCPL Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper points out that better accounting has removed books from the ledger that weren’t really there—for instance, those destroyed in the Georgetown Neighborhood Library fire of 2007, when a triage effort led the rare books of the Peabody Room to be salvaged while the entire circulating collection went up in flames. About 70 percent of the 1.6 million books no longer in the system probably hadn’t really been there for a while, which the accounting improvements made clear. The system also ditched some reference books for which it has less demand, like encyclopedias. (Some of the discarded books are sold to a used book service while the rest are recycled.) Nonetheless, the trend is clear: Digital circulation, which accounted for just 1 percent of total circulation in 2008, the first year it was tracked, was up to 8 percent, or 255,591 transactions, by 2012. Downloads of e-books and other digital media—which don’t require patrons to set foot in a physical library—more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 102,761 to 255,591. So then why have the city’s libraries become larger, pricier, and more numerous than ever?

“It’s not to house books. Though Cooper says each new library begins with an opening-day collection of at least 40,000 books and houses more volumes than when it was shut down for renovations, the impressive new structures don’t feel very book-heavy, largely because they’re doing so much else.”

From Aaron Wiener’s article on Washington City Paper, Off the Books


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