Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What my lived experience teach about how academic libraries can support post-secondary student entrepreneurs?

I have held very negative views about business for much of my youth, even at one time gravitating towards Marxism. However, my university years helped to bring me in touch with realities. After almost completing my Bachelors in Political Science, I started to be more conscious of the fact that I needed to be job ready. Further, I was not willing to walk into politics, which I had a new distaste for after encountering university student politics. It was only then within my university years, that I awakened to the possibility of being my own boss and starting my own company.

For throughout my education, I could not recalled being encouraged by teachers to pursue entrepreneurship. Career guidance was biased towards becoming professionals or getting jobs. I find that even children books published are biased towards getting children to think about traditional careers. This for me is why our librarians need to step into the gap and demand that our children publishers not only produce books for children on traditional careers, but also books on the life of entrepreneurs and consultants.

All this said, it is only within years of my transition from undergraduate to my Masters that I began to consider and even study entrepreneurship for myself. This led to my Master thesis and eventually my first book (Scale, 2012). Yet, the greater good that came out of this experience is that I realised by doing my Masters in Library and Information Science, how libraries could have played a more important role in shaping young persons into realizing the option of entrepreneurship as an alternative to career seeking and job search.

Well, it is with this new understanding, that I have resumed studies as a PhD student. And as such, I now attempt to operate as a potential student entrepreneur, interrogating the academic library system to see how it could support me in this endeavour. As such, I just want to share briefly some of my own findings/observations (which may or may not be peculiar to the university system that I am within:

1. Most of the resources for entrepreneurship and career development are located within the business library.

This is problematic, as the business libraries in both universities that I study at are usually separated from the general library collection that social science, science and even humanity students access. Hence, unless they actively browse the library catalogue for such resources, there is little way of serendipitously discovering these resources.

2. Only business students get adequate training in using and accessing business databases.
This is problematic because, only business students will have the competence of knowing when to check a business database to find information, the strength and weakness of each and knowledge of which database to search for particular information. 

To some extent, select library students are introduced to these databases (especially if they are undertaking a business resource course). Nonetheless, all the rest of university students are excluded from this insider knowledge that could help inform their business planning and research.

Conclusion:  The way that the business library resources are separated from other disciplines, excludes students from other disciplines that do not take business courses from exposure to business resources and even the knowledge in how to use these resources to assist them in researching and planning businesses. 

Alternately, there are business incubators on campus. However, in my experience, business incubators and librarians operate separately, and not in partnership.


  1. Academic librarians must do something to reduce this unequal access and exposure to business resources. We cannot just leave all business resources within the business faculty, and not permit other students from other disciplines to not gain exposure to these resources.
  2. Academic librarians must also approach business incubators with a partnership to train student entrepreneurs in business resources and the use of the library resources to support their business research.

When we have done this, we as librarians would ensure equal opportunities for all post-secondary students to not just seek jobs, but also to become entrepreneurs.


Scale, M. (2011). Written information and planning in Jamaican small businesses: A usability approach. LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Critique of tablet adoption in academic libraries

It is been a while, as due to teaching, writing for publication and doing my own research (as well as networking), I've been unable to maintain this blog. However, today I've been able to get some space to put down some ideas that I have been mulling over for some time. This concerns the adoption of tablets in academic libraries in particular. Based on an article in the Huffington Post and my own research and evaluation of the features of tablet devices (which should come out soon in an article in Library Hi Tech News), I am taking the opportunity in this post to contribute to the librarian discourse on tablet adoption in libraries.

In April, the Huffington Post Canada  (2013) reported Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry's CEO, as predicting that the market for tablets will decline within five years. While Heins may not provide a very strong basis for those predictions, it may be worthwhile for librarians to heed his words and consider carefully whether or not to invest in tablets within the next 5 years or perhaps consider laptops as alternatives.

The main problem with librarians adopting tablets that I have found documented in the literature is the mismatch between the tablet being designed for personal use, whereas library adoption of tablets typically seek to facilitate multi-person usage. This is pointed out by Lotts and Graves (2011) who applied the iPad technology to reference services and found that their use of the iPad for reference services conflicted with the intended design, as librarians sought to make the iPad available for use among multiple librarians. Baggett (2011) also suggests that tablet applications or apps are designed for personal or individual use rather than for multiple users of an institution. Hence, these sources both point out that adopting tablets, whether for use among multiple librarians or multiple library users, is a mismatch of the use of technology with its intended design.

Instead, I recommend that libraries consider the future technologies that may be more relevant for our situation. In my view, libraries should have smart touch screen tables (rather than tablets) that can serve as online catalogues, e-white boards, and devices for reading or accessing e-resources and the Web. For these purposes, smart touch screen tables are better than tablets for libraries, as they have larger screens. The technology is already here, with interactive touch screen table vendors such as Digital Touch Systems providing such technology (). As librarians, we perhaps need to take the initiative and be innovative, discussing and negotiating with such vendors, rather than just adopting every new technology fad.


Baggett, M. (2011), “Technology: A new wave of tablet computers”, Louisiana Libraries, Vol. 73 No.3, pp. 13-17.

Huffington Post Canada  (2013, April 30), "Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry CEO: Tablet will be dead in 5 years", Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/04/30/blackberry-thorsten-heins-tablet-dead_n_3186040.html

Lotts, M. and Graves, S. (2011, April), “Using the iPad for reference services:  librarians go mobile”, College & Research Libraries [C&RL] News, Vol. 72, No. 4, pp. 217-220.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Library online catalogues enhanced by harvesting online reviews

After a pause to prepare for teaching and work on some journal articles for publication, I have now returned my attention to my research proposal and in particular, my research problem. I have begun the process of narrowing down my idea again, and am exploring the possibility of studying "Blogs as narrative information sources for knowledge sharing". In this blog post, I just want to share with you some of my thinking through the issues as I formulate my research problem. Lets begin with a fictional story to represent an aspect of my problem.

Joseph searches the library online catalogue on restaurants. After reviewing the results retrieved, he shakes his head. Which of these resources should he check out? Which one will be worth his time? Why doesn't the library online catalogue provide any signals to advise him about the content in these resources? Does he have to go to Google or Amazon to read reviews for each material before taking the time to retrieve or browse them?

What Joseph contemplates is not far from reality. Libraries are already implementing online catalogues that draw on summaries and reviews from other online websites to help given readers more information about catalogue entries.  In my observation, I notice that the London Public Library (in Canada) uses the Encore, a product of Innovative Interfaces Inc., which facilitates reviews from library users/readers (Encore, 2012?), and even seems to harvest reviews and ratings from Goodreads.com. This is of interest to me, because I am developing a research proposal with the idea that one of the practical implications of my research is the harvesting of blog content to enrich library catalogue entries.

According to the overview of Encore on the Website:
Encore offers a suite of applications and web services that delivers a universe of information in ways that are intuitive, relevant, and, perhaps most important, familiar to today’s internet users. Through a single search box, Encore connects users to all the trusted resources the library collects or selects. Plus, Encore gives users ways to connect with each other and participate in your library’s information landscape.

How? Encore elegantly presents all manner of discovery tools, including faceted search results, Tag Cloud, Did You Mean…?, Popular Choices, Recently Added suggestions, and RightResult™ relevance ranking. It integrates federated search, as well as enriched content—like first chapters—and harvested data, and facilitates community participation with user tagging and community reviews.
Consequently, it appears that our online catalogues and discovery systems are already making use of online reviews generated by ordinary users to enrich the information in the OPACs.

Another Canadian library, the Toronto Public Library also uses a similar service called Syndetic Solutions™ from Bowker. According to its website, Syndetic Solutions™ from Bowker “is the premier source of specialized, high-quality bibliographic data designed to enhance library online catalogs”. It also offers Syndetics Classic™  which reportedly provides:

a wealth of descriptive information and cover images relating to videos, DVDs, CDs, audio books, and all types of books—from young adult chapter books to conference proceedings. Various elements of content are added weekly for over hundreds of thousands of new titles each year. Syndetics Solutions™ strives to provide a wide variety of the most useful and highest quality information available, much of which can not be found on online booksellers' catalogs and not available from any other source. New options are constantly being added to the service .

Hence Syndetics Solutions™ seeks to enhance the online public access catalogues of libraries through displaying descriptive data about the resources within the library's collection that can signal to readers the content within particular resources. Among the the descriptive data are summaries and annotations, tables of contents, author notes, book reviews, topical headings, images of book covers, and actual excerpts from within the books (Bowker, 2011). Of interest here are the reviews, of which Bowker (2011) reports that Syndetic Solutions product, Syndetics Classic, offers more than 2.8 million reviews as part of its enrichment elements. According to the its FAQ page,  Syndetics Solutions harvests its reviews from the following publications:

  • Library Journal - coverage beginning with 1985
  • School Library Journal - coverage beginning with 1985
  • Publishers Weekly - coverage beginning with 1985
  • Criticas - coverage beginning with 1999
  • Booklist - coverage beginning with 1988
  • Choice - coverage beginning with 1988
  • Horn Book - coverage beginning with 1985
  • Kirkus Reviews - coverage beginning with 1983
  • New York Times – coverage begins with 2007
  • Doody’s Reviews – coverage beginning with 1993
  • Quill and Quire – coverage beginning with 1996
  • Voya (Voice of Youth Advocates) – coverage beginning with 1993

  • As such, Syndetics, unlike Encore, does not harvests its reviews from any ordinary person online, but rather from selected and "trusted" publishers.

    My viewpoint on this matter is that while "authoritative" and "trusted" reviews by so-called "experts" are useful, we cannot ignore the ordinary or lay person's own review. According to a Technorati (2013) report, "blogs rank among the top five “most trustworthy” sources" that consumers use to make purchasing decisions (p. 4). Further, a study has shown that a good portion of consumers (approximately 70%) trust in and value online reviews similar to personal recommendations (Anderson, 2010).  In addition, it has been found by Johnson et al. (2008), that blogs have been deemed as highly credible sources of information for those who use them (albeit biased sources). As such, the data shows that in the online environment, online users desire authenticity, candid remarks, the biases and personal viewpoints expressed in online reviews in general and in particular, those views expressed on blogs. Which is why, my current research in validating blogs as information sources and narrative artifacts for knowledge sharing is important.


    Anderson, M. (2010, Nov 29). Local Consumer Review Survey 2010 – Part 1. BrightLocal Retrieved from: http://www.brightlocal.com/2010/11/29/local-consumer-review-survey-2010-part-1/

    Bowker (2011). Syndetics classic: Enrichment elements. Retrieved from http://www.bowker.com/en-US/products/syndetics/classic/enrichment_elements/book_reviews.html

    Encore (2009, May 22). Twelve libraries launch Encore 3.0: Libraries implement ratings, reviews, new discovery features, and more. Retrieved from http://encoreforlibraries.com/2009/05/26/twelve-libraries-launch-encore-30/

    Encore (2012?). London Public Library (Canada) patrons embrace social participation. Retrieved from http://encoreforlibraries.com/2012/08/20/lp/

    Johnson, T. J., Kaye, B. K., Bichard, S. L., & Wong, W. J. (2008). Every Blog Has Its Day: Politically-interested Internet Users' Perceptions of Blog Credibility. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 100--122. Retrieved from ttp://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/johnson.html
    Technorati. (2013). TechnoratiMedia. 2013 Digital influence report. Retrieved from http://technoratimedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/tm2013DIR.pdf