Thursday Threads: Google Scholar Coverage, Effective Meetings, Librarians as Obstacles, Cable TV

No, I am not composing this edition of DLTJ Thursday Threads on the Thanksgiving holiday. This was written the day before and scheduled for posting on Thursday. With a significant run of weekly Thursday Threads postings, it seemed a shame to break the trend because of a holiday. So if it is Thanksgiving Thursday (in the U.S.) and you are looking for something to read, how about an article questioning the need for index and abstract databases in light of Google Scholar? Or tips for post-holiday effective meetings? Or how librarians are viewed as obstacles to effective open educational resources? Or simply be thankful that you are not in the cable TV operator business.

Google Scholar’s Dramatic Coverage Improvement Five Years after Debut

Abstract: “This article reports a 2010 empirical study using a 2005 study as a base to compare Google Scholar’s coverage of scholarly journals with commercial services. Through random samples of eight databases, the author finds that, as of 2010, Google Scholar covers 98 to 100 percent of scholarly journals from both publicly accessible Web contents and from subscription-based databases that Google Scholar partners with. In 2005 the coverage of the same databases ranged from 30 to 88 percent. The author explores de-duplication of search results by Google Scholar and discusses its impacts on searches and library resources. With the dramatic improvement of Google Scholar, the uniqueness and effectiveness of subscription-based abstracts and indexes have dramatically changed.”

Introduction: “This empirical study found that more than five years after its debut in November 2004, Google Scholar is able to retrieve any scholarly journal article record from all the publicly accessible Web sites and from subscription-based databases it is allowed to crawl. From February to April 2010, four hundred randomly selected records of scholarly journal articles from eight databases were used in test- searching Google Scholar. Only two records were not retrieved by Google Scholar. The result was 100 percent retrieval for six databases and 98 percent for the other two databases. This is a dramatic improvement compared with some below 50 percent coverage found in 2005. With this kind of coverage improvement by Google Scholar, information professionals should reevaluate its value and values of subscription-based abstracts and indexes.”

This article by Xiaotian Chen generated considerable discussion on FriendFeed. It certainly seems that on a “Innovator’s Dilemma” scale that Google Scholar has gotten good enough for all but the most demanding users of advanced field searching (e.g. chemical compounds, databases with complex thesauri, etc.). So, as the author points out, “libraries can seriously consider cancelling a large number of subscription-based abstracts and indexes since their unique contents and value are rapidly evaporating.” The rise of unified index products like Serials Solutions’ Summon, EBSCO’s Discovery Service and OCLC’s WorldCat Local also points to this trend (particularly since the first is based on bypassing index databases and going directly to article publishers for metadata).

Effective Agile Meetings

Meetings are expensive. An all-day team meeting costs thousands of dollars, if we calculate the cost of all the people involved along with overheads. Hence, it is pragmatic to do a fair amount of preparation for the meeting to ensure that the Agile meetings are as effective as possible.

Here are suggestions from a variety of sources for effective meetings (or, as one commenter says, the elimination of “meetings” in favor of “structured workshops” as a more effective use of a group’s time). This comes from the “Agile software development” camp, but I find the suggestions are universal.

When Librarians are Obstacles

Heading into the Open Ed Conference and especially the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival, I expected to be one of only a handful of librarians participating. Librarians haven’t been terribly involved or engaged with the open education movement, but our values and missions align so well that I expected to be welcomed by the professors and the edupunks as a peer and fellow traveller. Well, I got the first part right – I met only a couple of librarians all week – but the second, not so much. Imagine my surprise when the other two speakers in the session on libraries and the future of [open educational resources] spent much of their time criticizing the ways in which librarians have engaged with open education, and lamenting the possibility of librarians being anything other than a liability.

Molly Kleinman posts about her experiences at an “open education” conference with faculty pushing back against a profession viewed as irrelevant and increasingly obsolete. Librarians as liability? That may be harsh, but we best not ignore the opinions of a growing number of faculty that are more than willing to meet us half-way on the path towards “open” content.

United States Map showing a predominance of cable TV systems that lost subscribers.

"U.S. media markets, sized to represent their number of video subscribers, and colored to represent whether they had more or fewer subscribers between the first and second quarters of 2010." Image from the Wall Street Journal via NPR

Fewer Americans Pay for Cable TV

The number of people who pay for TV is falling for the first time, according to research firm SNL Kagan. The total decline was small — 335,000 homes out of 100 million, a mere 0.35% between the first and third quarters this year, the WSJ notes. But the numbers by region are pretty interesting. As this map from the WSJ shows, the number of subscribers didn’t fall everywhere.

This article on NPR’s Planet Money blog calls out a Wall Street Journal article with this map of cable TV subscription trends. The legend is probably too small to read in this reduced-size version but the red and green circles are proportionally sized to the size of cable TV systems and color-coded for the number of subscribers lost and added by cable companies. There is a lot of red on that map. Paired with articles from the New York Times on how Time Warner Cable is testing cheaper cable TV packages in New York City (and reportedly in Ohio) and the new Netflix streaming-only plan, we can see that the content delivery landscape is changing.

(This post was updated on 10-Sep-2011.)