OPACs, users, and readers’ advisory: Exploring the implication of user-generated content for readers’ advisory in Canadian public libraries

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Published on February 19, 2014

Author: LouiseSpiteri

Source: slideshare.net

OPACs, users, and readers’ advisory: Exploring the implication of usergenerated content for readers’ advisory in Canadian public libraries Louise Spiteri, Dalhousie University Jen Pecoskie, Wayne State University

Social reading, 1 Social media websites that allow for the creation and exchange of user-generated content have exploded in popularity and allow users to connect with each other over various themes and topics. This popularity extends to the use of libraries and books and reading-related culture. 2

Social reading, 2 Social media sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing provide popular platforms for people to share and discuss their reading interests. Corporate online booksellers such as Amazon include social components within their online sales catalogues. – Amazon customers can choose to include personalized reviews in the records of books and other items, which can be read and possibly used by other customers in their decision-making process to purchase reading material. 3

Book review landscape The book review landscape has changed significantly in the past few years: “Reviewing is no longer centralized, with a few big voices leading the way, but fractured among numerous multifarious voices found mostly on the web. In turn, readers aren't playing the captive audience any more” Hoffert, B. (2010). Every reader a reviewer. Library Journal, 135(14), 22–25. 4







Social reading and public libraries Various online public access catalogues (OPACs) are integrating social discovery platforms such as BiblioCommons and Encore that allow readers to connect with each other through user-generated contents such as reviews, comments, recommendations, or tags. 11

Traditional readers’ advisory model, 1 Readers' advisory (RA) is a service that involves suggesting fiction and nonfiction titles to a reader through direct or indirect means. 12

Traditional readers’ advisory model, 2 The traditional RA model is based on a face-to-face discussion initiated by the reader, or sometimes, by a proactive librarian, and is based very much on the reference interview, and on the premise that direct interpersonal contact is the best way to give service and encourage future interactions. 13

Social reading sites and RA Book-centred social networking sites such as GoodReads and LibraryThing have introduced a new RA model that is driven and facilitated by the readers themselves. Members of these sites use their own descriptors (tags) and reviews to “express what they like about what they have been reading or what they want to read. They are in a relaxed environment, they are taking their time, they are enjoying looking for the right words, or even using creative terms to describe what they like”. Stover, K. M. (2009). Stalking the wild appeal factor. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 48(3), 243–246. 14

How social discovery models can complement RA, 1 Readers can establish a social space where they share and discuss common reading interests Readers can provide a grassroots, democratic readers’ advisory service, whereby they make recommendations for future reading, for example, based upon shared interests Readers can classify items in the catalogue with their own terms (or tags), which may be more reflective of their language and needs than the formal subject headings that are traditionally assigned by library staff. These tags can serve as added access points by which users can search for items of interest 15

How social discovery models can complement RA, 2 Librarians and library staff can compile recommended reading lists and make purchasing decisions based on the reviews and recommendations made by readers in the catalogue Librarians and library staff can interact with readers, learn more about their needs, and become part of the online community, rather than as potential authority figures. 16

Scope of our research agenda To examine the contribution of social catalogues and user-generated content on readers’ advisory services in Canadian public libraries: – What information about books are users sharing in social catalogues? – How does shared information reflect principles and themes of RA? – How, if at all, are social catalogues used as RA tools by users? By librarians? – What, if any, social connections are evident for reading purposes in social catalogues? 17

Phase 1 A content analysis of user-generated content for a selection of adult fiction titles in Canadian public libraries that use the BiblioCommons and Encore social discovery systems to address the following research questions: • What kind of content do users contribute about adult fiction titles, i.e., tags and reviews/comments? • What categories of access points do users provide about the content of adult fiction titles, e.g., location, subject, genre, and so forth? • To what extent do user-contributed access points parallel those established for the traditional face-to-face RA model? 18

Selection of library catalogues, 1 The Canadian Public Libraries Gateway, which lists all public libraries in Canada, was used to determine which libraries use social discovery systems that allow users to contribute both tags and review/comments. Because we wish to examine user-contributed content generated specifically by public library users, those social discovery platforms that indicated they import reviews from private, non-library entities, such as GoodReads were not considered. 19

Selection of library catalogues, 2 This examination revealed that BiblioCommons and Encore are the social discovery platforms most used by Canadian public libraries and that met our criteria. We will examine the entire population of Canadian public libraries (n=4) that uses BiblioCommons (n=33) and Encore (n=7). 20

Selection of fiction titles The bibliographic records for 22 unique adult fiction titles will be examined in the 40 social discovery platforms. The 22 titles were selected from the shortlists of major literary prizes (with duplicate titles noted), namely: Giller Prize 2011 shortlist Canadian Governor General’s 2011 Literary Awards Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2011 Pulitzer Prize 2011 Fiction Finalists Commonwealth Writer’s Prize 2011 Winners 21

Selection of reader tags Unique user-generated content in the form tags and reviews/comments will be extracted from the total number of bibliographic records examined for the 22 unique titles to determine what type of content users are contributing. In the case of tags, spelling variations (e.g., labor/labour), and single or plural variant of terms (e.g., dog/dogs) will be considered as non-unique terms). 22

Content analysis of reader reviews Using Grounded Theory method, two researchers will independently extract factors (or codes) in this user-generated content that provide information about the content the titles, for example, information about the location of a story (e.g., Nunavut), or the emotional impact of the title on the reader (e.g., boring, funny, etc.). Each researcher will code inductively, grouping codes of similar content into concepts, and then placing broad groups of similar concepts into categories. A third researcher will take the two sets of categories and examine them for overlap, clarity, exclusivity, and relevance. 23

Comparison of our categories to traditional RA categories The final set of categories will be compared by the two principal researchers to the fiction access categories for traditional RA models (see slide 32). 24

Assumptions of the traditional RA model The reader approaches a librarian with RA questions The librarian approached is the correct person to provide assistance Enough information is obtained in an interview to provide good RA service Quality RA service is possible, given time constraints Face-to-face RA encounters are documented sufficiently to support follow up 25

Possible limitations of the traditional model, 1 The reluctance of some readers to discuss their reading interests with librarians, possibly due to shyness; A lack of awareness that some librarians are trained to provide this type of service A perception of librarians as authority – and thus intimidating – figures 26

Possible limitations of the traditional model, 2 Assumptions that a librarian of a different age, gender, culture, and so forth may not relate to them A fear of having their reading interests dismissed or judged, and so forth. 27

Challenges with bibliographic records, 1 Another challenge to the traditional model of RA provision is the structure of the bibliographic records in library catalogues. The assignation of access points to works of fiction can be problematic for a variety of reasons: “claims to neutrality and inclusivity are central to public libraries’ self-understanding.” Bates, J., & Rowley, J. (2011). Social reproduction and exclusion in subject indexing: A comparison of public library OPACs and LibraryThing folksonomy. Journal of Documentation, 67(3), 431–448. 28

Challenges with bibliographic records, 2 This attempt at neutrality is normally manifested in the careful selection of subject headings that provide what is perceived to be a balanced and unbiased opinion about the content of the work. It is not clear, however, the extent to which neutrality and inclusivity are possible via systems such as LCSH, which may contain biases and assumptions that reflect certain sociopolitical or cultural norms 29

Is neutrality what readers want? The provision of neutral, unbiased reviews is flying increasingly in the face of the growing popularity of sites such as GoodReads and Amazon, where readers freely add their own reviews to supplement those written by professional reviewers. Can “neutral” bibliographic records meet the potentiallydifferent cultural needs of the members of library communities? 30

Reflecting diversity Social discovery systems may help provide bibliographic records that more closely reflect reader needs, since they offer readers the chance to describe the content of works in their own words, via tags or reviews/comments, which may help reflect the diversity and range of Canadian society. Spiteri, L. F. (2012). Social discovery tools: Extending the principle of user convenience. Journal of Documentation, 68(2), 206-217. 31

Reasons for selecting reading materials (fiction) Emotional experience Explicit content Factual information Specific characters Characters’ occupations Characters’ relationships Setting Time Plot development Real events Pacing Subjects Time Plot development Real events Pacing Subjects Readability Intended audience Genre 32

RA tools, 1 Tools such as NoveList and What Should I Read Next provide valuable resources to advise RA librarians with ways to connect readers to their reading interests. RA librarians can make use also of social reading sites such as LibraryThing, Good Reads, and Shelfari, which allow readers to document, discuss, and share their reading. 33

RA tools, 2 LibraryThing for Libraries allows library catalogues to import LT tags and user reviews. RA librarians can easily consult social reading sites for reading ideas, regardless of whether any data are imported to their catalogues Librarians can mine GoodReads to create read-alike lists, and can help show readers how to use GoodReads as a virtual book-browsing tool. 34

Our clients’ expectations Social reading sites are creating “a Web nation of feral readers’ advisors is being born, who in turn will inform their friends and colleagues of good books to read using the language we’ve provided in our tags, bookshelves, reviews, and annotations.” Stover, K. M. (2009). Stalking the wild appeal factor. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 48(3), 243–246. 35

Creating shared spaces, 1 RA staff have competition from services such as LibraryThing, Shelfari, and GoodReads, and they need to consider how best to blend the concepts of reading appeal with the idea of readers tagging books with their own headings. “we are steeped in a society that expects to interact, recommend and share. But are we allowing our readers to share?” Tarulli, L. (2012). The library catalogue as social space: Promoting patron driven collections, online communities, and enhanced reference and readers' services. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited. 36

Creating shared spaces, 2 Since the ultimate goal of RA services is to create conversations about reading and reading materials, incorporating reader interaction in library catalogues is an important step forward for RA. This interaction “connects the collection and readers to each other in original, flexible, and idiosyncratic ways. It allows for reader-to-reader conversations sparked by interest, whimsy, and personal knowledge. It makes greater use of librarian expertise as well, offering another way to interact and offer suggestions.” Wyatt, N. (2007). 2.0 for readers. Library Journal, 132(18), 30–33. 37

Relevance of this project, 1 Our study can help provide library staff with a greater understanding of how readers connect to the catalogue, the records, and to each other via social discovery systems. By examining closely the tags and reviews/comments applied by readers to fiction titles, the project can increase our understanding of what readers think are important for fiction, rather than those that library staff, including cataloguers, think are important; for instance, user tags produced by readers may result in recommended updates or changes to existing LCSH headings for fiction. 38

Relevance of this project, 2 Can we determine the balance between providing enough access points to enable a good understanding of content, but not so much that we give away the plot? What are the types of access points that readers believe are important for fiction titles? Do these categories reflect those established in the more traditional forms of RA service? – Are the access points that have formed the traditional backbone of bibliographic records sufficient for the needs of readers and library professionals who wish to access and evaluate fiction sources? 39


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