Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Using Virtual Agents and Blogs for Knowledge Management

I just concluded my reading of Zhang's (2005) article discussing Web-based Knowledge management systems. In the last statement in the section of future trends and conclusions, Zhang suggests that automatic and intelligent knowledge extraction and retrieval (knowledge agents) should also be studied for Web-based knowledge management. This got me to think about how virtual agents can serve as knowledge agents that potentially automatically extract and create knowledge. In this brief post, I will summarise or briefly post on the idea of how virtual conversational agents or chatbots can serve as a codification strategy for Knowledge management.

In Zhang's (2005) article, a study is mentioned that discusses the codification strategy of knowledge management, where knowledge is extracted from human beings through an interview guide, that allows them to talk about their tacit knolwegde in a  way that it can be stored in databases and retrieved for use by anyone in the company. My idea essentially builds on this principle, which I will outline below:

  1. The virtual agent is configured or programmed like the famous ELIZA program to be an interviewer, to ask questions to elicit stories and extract from persons what they know by asking clarifications and prompting long responses or statements.
  2. Responses or the ensuing dialogue can then be saved so that the transcript can later be posted on a blog for persons to retrieve when needed. The blog will then be manually tagged for the content it contains and given titles and other attributes to indicate the content of the knowledge. Blogs also will enable full search capabilities for locating content matching user keywords.
These ideas I will further develop (after my comprehensive reading examination) and possible submit to a technology-based journal. But for now, just dropping these few ideas in the embryonic stage. As usual, comments are welcomed.


Zhang, R. (2005). Knolwedge management on the Web. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and technology (pp. 1770-1777). Hershey, PA: Idea Group. doi:10.4018/978-1-59140-553-5.ch311.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hotel libraries for guests? Rise in Hotel librarianship?

This week, a librarian colleague of mine alerted me to an article in USA Today on hotels that are creating libraries for their guests (DeLollis, 2013). Oddly enough, those so-called 'libraries' seemed to be just placement of books on a shelf and a space for users to go and read the books and hang out. Missing in the article is the information about having staffed libraries, with personnel to help meet guest information needs.

This got me thinking to an entrepreneurial idea that I thought about when I worked and vacationed on the Jamaican North Coast. I considered pitching to hotel owners the idea of having libraries in our resorts, where we could not only provide fiction materials for the entertainment of guests, but also more information sources about Jamaica and its landscape, building structures, geography, people and culture. However, at the time, I wondered if any hotel or resort group would be willing to pay a librarian for such a service, especially if it is not done by other reputable hotels and resorts overseas. Well now that DeLollis (2013) has now provided evidence that overseas hotels and resorts are considering the practice, I see validity in now re-visiting that idea.

In fact, in an email conversation with another colleague on the same idea, the issue was raised about the fact that i-Pads, Kindles and other e-readers have definitely changed the face of the game and persons could already take their libraries to the resorts with them on these devices. However, not many Jamaican content in my experience may be online.

Another issue suggested was that a book mobile service may very well be welcomed by the hotels, but again, the question of will they be willing to pay for it is not yet one that I know the answer for. The bookmobile type service would definitely spread the cost sharing between hotels, and hence not put the pressure on one particular hotel to sustain the service.

On the other hand, if we operated a bookmobile type service, then more than likely, we could not give loans, as once the book goes to the rooms of guests, we would not have control to see if the books will be returned. Hence it would have to be a reference type library service, rather than book lending. However, if operated by the hotels individually, fines for books not returned can be charged on the guest account/credit card. In this case, would library service be a new form of guest service in hotels?

These and other issues have caused me to wonder when will hotel libraries come to Jamaica and if there will be a need to develop a new field of librarianship to accommodate the practice of hotel librarianship. I am definitely willing to be part of such conversation and dialogue. And I think that Caribbean librarians, whose territory depend on tourism are in a great position to discuss this issue.


DeLollis, Barbara. (2013, January 14). Hotels add libraries for gadget-laden guests. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/hotelcheckin/2013/01/10/libraries-next-big-trend-in-hotels/1822581/

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In answering reference queries: The need for experience

In a Facebook group that I am a part of, a certain question came up about the use of Library Assistants (LAs) in an academic library to provide reference services. The person asked if any librarians in academic libraries currently practice using LAs to provide basic directional and informational services as well as basic navigational instruction on the use of the OPAC while sitting at the reference desk on rotation.  the person also inquired about the practice of using library school students at the Associate and Bachelors Level to provide the same service. I gave a response that I think might be useful if I share here for others.

Firstly, I am definitely of the opinion that library assistants can be trained to do reference, especially if given an expert system/document to guide them in brainstorming where to go to find information for general reference queries. However, in my experience, neither training librarians or library assistants can really compensate for their own personal experience in doing academic research that requires them to use a variety of research resources. Sometimes, your inter-disciplinary background in library research or understanding research requirements are necessary to help you better meet the needs of patrons.

In relation to point  of experience being required for quality reference work: I recall several circumstances where I was able to help persons in the past as a student library assistant because of my familiarity with academic research and library use from my undergraduate days. (My undergraduate degree was in Political Science with Statistics). I knew where to help an social scientist to find a statistical formula because I did courses in statistics and was familiar with the literature in the field and knew personally that the formula could be found in the back of text books. I also recalled an experience where I was able to point a Mass Communication student to a relevant encyclopedia, because of my own experience of using libraries as a student and finding subject specific encyclopedias. On the other hand, I have observed in my own experience that academic librarians without such experiences seek to  find everything using the databases. But one resource cannot meet every variety of research needs, and as such any one doing reference work needs to think through the research question or query as to the most likely resource that has the answer to satisfy the patron.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blogs as sources of folklore information

I am in the process of researching information for creating a graphic novel based on Rio Cobre and Flat bridge. (I should be preparing for my exams). Nevertheless, I am learning a lot in the process, a lot of it coming back to my proposed thesis about blogs as information sources. This is because I am finding that apart from newspaper sources (as well as the few books, journals, magazines and Websites), another source of information about the legends of say the River Mumma, or the Jamaican mermaid or River Maiden can be discovered in blogs. While I was hoping to find people relating personal experience of seeing the Jamaican mermaid, I have uncovered as many informative pieces on the legends via blogs. These blogs are as informative as the more officially published and documented sources.

To illustrate the informative nature, just see the following blogs:

Curran, B. (2012, July 26). Creature of the month - Duppies. New Page Books [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Morris, K. (2010, December 14). Have You Ever Seen a Rivah Mumma? Jamaican Echoes! [Blog post] Retrieved from http://jamaicanechoes.com/2010/12/14/have-you-ever-seen-a-rivah-mumma/

Phantoms & Monsters. (2010, December 2). Mermaids of the Caribbean [Blog post]. Retrieved from

I am finding that blogs function as a source for finding even information on Jamaican folk stories that may be useful to literary writers and artists seeking to create works of fiction or art. Hence, while contemplating and working on a graphic novel based on Rio Cobre and Flat Bridge, without being able to access Jamaicans in the area for their own stories, I am still able to find actual stories gathered via either blogs or newspaper articles that blogs may also point to.

On a matter of opinion, I am totally convinced that the Caribbean region needs to convert more of our stories including those in our National Pantomime into graphic novels, books or publications so that the world can access our stories about them, and not just our people. Billions of dollars await those who can tell stories, as Hollywood, Disney, and other movie making and animation industries are looking for story ideas and fresh stories to tell. As the animation and movie industries seek fresh materials for storytelling, I have all confidence that the Caribbean possess fresh material that these industries might consider. (See more of what I have written on this matter in the past).