Friday, April 29, 2011

Article Note: On getting that full-text article

Citation for the article:

Dixon, Lydia,, "Finding Articles and Journals via Google Scholar, Journal Portals, and Link Resolvers: Usability Study Results." Reference & User Services Quarterly 50.2 (Winter 2010): 170-181.

Read online.

I have been thinking about this topic for a few reasons. One, I've had to work at teaching students during library instruction sessions just how to find articles when they are not full-text in a database. Locally, the fact we have LinkSource means that I have to teach students how to get around it and go directly to the A to Z list on our website. The steps the instruction librarian and I follow to teach this:

  • From the citation in question, copy the title of the journal that contains your article. 
  • Open a new tab on your browser (or new window). Open the library's homepage here. 
  • Click on "Find a Journal or Periodical." 
  • On the search box there, paste the title you copied. Run the search. 
  • If we have it, you see the holdings. Pick a link that has dates of coverage for the article you want. 
  • Depending on how savvy the student is, we may have to walk them through a specific journal interface's page to find their article. If the article is available in print or microfilm/fiche (a very rare occurrence these days), we send them to the appropriate location.
  • If we do not have the journal, or we do not have the date in question, the student is told to do an Interlibrary Loan request using the ILLiad system. 
What happens if we go through these steps, and the item is not available? Depends. If the students actually has time, odds are good they will use the ILLiad system. If the student is in a rush (as in they procrastinated, and now the paper is due in less than a week), they likely give up, and we try to find alternate sources. Why do we have to do all that ritual? Because to be blunt LinkSource does not really work as advertised. More often than not links it provides are not accurate, or results overall are inconsistent. Now, the fact that the instruction librarian and I do this may displease the ERM librarian and the director because it means that a tool we pay for is not getting used. I will be blunt once more: we simply do it anyhow because we believe in getting the resources to the students who need them in the most efficient way possible. I could go on a further rant here about folks who fail to listen to the librarians in the front lines, but all I will say is that she and I will do whatever it takes to help our students.

Moving along, in two graduate courses I taught recently students specifically raised the question of "how do I get it if it is not full-text?" In addition, I get the question on a regular basis at the reference desk. This tells me that database interfaces, and our websites (speaking here of ours as well as collectively of libraries overall) still have issues when it comes to letting students know what is available or not. What I have learned from experience is that finding journal articles, as in knowing when they are full-text or not and how to get them, is a significant challenge to users. I have also learned that the solutions available online leave a lot to be desired. Furthermore, I have learned that teaching the skills and savvy to find the items does take some time, and we have to keep on doing it.

I also thought a bit about Google Scholar, which is something that students are noticing as well. It is also something I am mentioning as part of my classes. However, I will ponder on Google Scholar later so I don't make this much longer. At any rate, I did find this article to be timely for me.

The article looks at the challenges of finding a known article if you have a citation or finding a specific journal. The authors consider the issues by doing usability studies on a journal portal, a link resolver, and Google Scholar. According to the authors, "this study focused on how effective interfaces were at helping users complete the tasks" (171). By the way, the Google Scholar thing reminds me that as students use it, when they can find it, we get to teach them how to get articles listed on Google Scholar from the library to avoid having to whip out the credit card. I guess our work as instruction librarians is never done.

As usual, here go some of my notes and highlights from the article:

  • The process can be challenging to new and experienced users. "Even experienced students and faculty struggle with potential complications such as embargoed holdings, platform changes, or subscription lapses" (170). Embargoes certainly a hated bane. 
  • Issue with Google Scholar: Callicot and Vaughn "found that, although Google Scholar guarantees results, constructing complicated queries or limiting results retrieved is difficult" (qtd. in 172). In library instruction, we usually teach students to do Google last, after they have used the library databases. However, we do go over it briefly if there are questions and compare it to databases as well as discuss the pros and cons. Keep in mind this is limited by the time factor of a library session. 
  • However, the authors had a different suggestion based on their findings, but do note it is in terms of having a known citation already (not starting your research from scratch): "The observations regarding the question of which interface most effectively allows searching for articles by citation would suggest that librarians should direct users to GS [Google Scholar] as a first choice and that it should be featured most prominently for finding articles by citation" (177). I will say that very often, when a student comes to the reference desk with what looks like a somewhat vague citation, I will use Google Scholar to locate it sooner than trying to use the journal portal. More often than not GS will give me the complete citation, and then I can use the A to Z list to find it. 
  • A bit from the conclusion: "Finally librarians need to remember that many users do not begin their search on the library website. If the top tools offered on the library website are user-friendly and effective rather than frustrating and time-consuming, users will have a reason to begin their search there" (180). 

Monday, April 18, 2011

CBS News raises questions about Mortenson and CAI

Last year, Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea (link to my GoodReads review; I had a good impression at the time, though I was not particularly thrilled about the book. Not the best written thing I have ever read), came to the UT Tyler campus. I suppose like many folks who listened to the guy, who seems a lot better as a speaker than a writer, I did find the story inspiring. So I find it disappointing to say the least that he is being exposed for lies in the book as well as financial issues, such as money from the book and his book touring not really going to the CAI charity like he claims. That I find particularly egregious since a big part of his speech was promoting how the book helps the organization so they can build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Jon Krakauer, an early supporter, probably summarizes this pretty well (maybe a bit more charitable than others may be willing to be) when he says,

"Krakauer: He's not Bernie Madoff. I mean, let's be clear. He has done a lot of good. He has helped thousands of school kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan....He has become perhaps the world's most effective spokesperson for girls' education in developing countries. And he deserves credit for that...Nevertheless, he is now threatening to bring it all down, to destroy all of it by this fraud and by these lies."

Sadly, this is not just about some good guy with a few character flaws. These are serious issues, and what seemed like good acts are now going to be tainted. Worse, from the report, it seems the acts were not that great anyhow (schools claimed to be build but not built, or built poorly, for instance). 

You can read the expose from CBS news here.

Update note (same day): Galley Cat has a summary. It also includes links to statements by Mortenson and CAI that they sent to CBS regarding the 60 Minutes segment.