Thursday Threads: Teaching Search, OCLC Research Library Partnership, Shelvar App

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Another week, another set of threads of library and library-related topics. (Who ever said this profession was boring? Well, I once did, but that is a thread for another day.) Information literacy hit the mainstream this week with noted usability analyst Jakob Nielson noting that internet users need to learn better search skills and Google giving us a tool (in the form of a daily puzzle) that might do just that. Next is an announcement from OCLC about a re-energizing and re-forming of the research library partner program. Lastly, a computer scientist at Miami University creates a mobile app that will be a godsend for library shelvers everywhere (perhaps after you relabel your spines).

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Although some analysts questioned the finding of search dominance, it's a user behavior that gets stronger every year. Today, many users are so reliant on search that it's undermining their problem-solving abilities. Ironically, the better search gets, the more dangerous it gets as people increasingly assume that whatever the search engine coughs up must be the answer. ...

In the long term, we should try to improve the world rather than design to suit its shortcomings. One example of how we might do this is to teach better Internet research skills in schools.

A Google a Day is a new daily puzzle that can be solved using your creativity and clever search skills on Google. Questions will be posted every day on and printed on weekdays above the New York Times crossword puzzle. We’ll reveal each puzzle’s answer the next day in the Times and on, along with the search tips and features used to find it.

Just like traditional crossword puzzles, the difficulty of the questions increases over the course of the week, so by Thursday or Friday, even the most seasoned searcher may be stumped.

Interesting that these two items showed up within days of each other. How can we improve the skills of internet users? By making it a game, of course. This sort of thing strikes me as a good way for libraries to promote information literacy skills. Syndicated to the New York Times? How about syndicating it to library websites! (I've sent feedback to Google to see if this sort of thing is possible.)

An early word about the OCLC Research Library Partnership

OCLC Research Library Partners will be part of a leading-edge, peer-based, transnational collaborative. Institutions will participate in a challenging and rewarding set of activities designed to improve the information-driven environment in which your students and scholars work. Partners’ efforts will be backed by the full capacities of OCLC Research, and Partners will collectively influence and direct a substantial portion of the OCLC Research effort. Institutions will have an opportunity to share expertise with some of the most innovative and forward-thinking library managers and leaders in the world.

I only worked briefly at an RLG library and in that short time never really got introduced to what it meant to be a member of RLG. Now that RLG has been OCLC Research for about five years, OCLC is now looking to re-engergize and expand communication between research libraries. The expanded effort is set to launch on July 1st.

Shelvar, the Augmented Reality Shelf-reading App

[caption id="attachment_shelvar_video" align="alignright" width="230" caption="YouTube Video demonstrating the Shelvar app"][/caption]

Putting misshelved books back in their proper places is not a library worker’s favorite task. It takes time and it’s not exactly scintillating. Now a computer-science professor has come up with a way to make the process faster and less burdensome: an augmented-reality shelf-reading app that can scan an entire shelf’s worth of books at a time and alert workers which ones are out of place.
- Shelving Made Easy (or Easier), Wired Campus - The Chronicle of Higher Education

This one warms my heart because it comes from my alma mater, Miami University's Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. It is an app for mobile device that scans two-dimensional barcodes on the spines of books and shows, in real time, which ones are out of place. This 4-minute video demonstrates how it works. In comments on the YouTube video, Dr. Brinkman says: "Sorry, the application is still under development, and is not available for other people to try yet. If everything goes well we will be soliciting for beta-test partners some time around Christmas."