A sampling of SALT. How the recommender is working and initial feedback from postgrads

We’re gearing up to meet with some of our collaborators tomorrow from the M25 consortium and Cambridge University Library; they’re helping us explore whether the model we’re developing for SALT (i.e. a centralised aggregation service & a shared API) is something we should pursue further). In preparation for that I am working furiously to gather all the learning that has happened (and is happening) so far.   As I write, Lisa and Janine are running user testing and focus groups with postgraduate humanities student from the University of Manchester using the live prototype we have up from Copac.  We’ve asked this group to run their own searches and assess the results.  Below you can see a sampling of what they’ve been looking for, and what recommendations they’re getting.

The overall reaction is very positive, although in general people find the recommendations further down the rankings to be more relevant. Up top, some of the recommendations are at times off-base.  My own favourite book to search, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, is no exception — some apparently random items at the top of the list when you look at that one. (I do wonder if this represents a particular reading list for a theatre studies course at JRUL, and this is why it’s happening. Worth exploring).  Overall, though, we think this is because we’ve set the threshold (only 3 borrowers in common) deliberately low to test out our long tail hypothesis (Dave Pattern kindly explains here how the algorithm works). What we’re also hearing is that students are finding items they’ve not discovered before now which they deem relevant and likely to borrow.  A few have commented that the recommendations get them thinking a bit more laterally — that the concepts they are exploring are picked up in different disciplinary contexts.  I find this part particularly interesting when considering in light of the search and research behaviour of humanities researchers.  A fuller report on the user testing will be published shortly.

It will be interesting to see if some of the lower ranked recommendations might still be considered ‘long tail’ (and we need to consider how we’re defining ‘long tail’ in this context, of course).  This will be an interesting topic for discussion for tomorrow, and we’d definitely welcome the views of any readers on this score (as well as the question of relevancy).

Another interesting note: I ran a search for items in the University of Huddersfield OPAC to compare the recommendations. Interestingly, none of the items (admittedly miniscule sample here!) are in the Huddersfield OPAC.  Obviously we’re dealing with two very different libraries and use cases here, but it drives home to me how differentiated the benefits will be at the local level, and raises questions over the utility of sharing activity data for use at the local level.  That said, I think what we have with the JRUL data (10 years worth) is something that could likely be of real value to a lot of libraries.  How much of a ‘critical mass’ do we need for this to be critical? Do libraries need to have a similar core user base and mission to JRUL to derive benefit from this set, I wonder?

Anyway, enough musing. Here are the recommendations. (btw: For now the below links go to the Copac protoytpe, but this is only going to be public for a while –we’re planning to launch formally in the autumn, but we’ve got work to do yet!)

Translation and censorship patterns of communication and interference

Published: Dublin ; Portland, OR : Four Courts Press, c2009.

Physical description: 256 p. ; 24 cm.

ISBN

Notes:

Papers from a conference on translation and censorship held in Trinity College Dublin in October 2005.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 221-236) and index.

Contents:

Introduction — Part 1, Theory : Censorship and self-censorship in translation : ethics and ideology, resistance and collusion / Maria Tymoczko — Censorship as a collaborative project : a systematic approach / Piotr Kuhiwczak — Translators, the tacit censors / Elisabeth Gibbels — Part 2, Classical and renaissance : Censoring these ‘racy morsels of the vernacular’ : loss and gain in the translation of Apuleius and Catullus / Carol O’Sullivan — The Petrarch they tried to ban / Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin & Deirdre Serjeantson — Part 3, Censoring regimes : Translating under pressure : censorship of foreign literature in Italy between the wars / Jane Dunnett — Pasternak’s Hamlet : translation, censorship and indirect communication / Aoife Gallagher — Censorship in Francoist Spain and the importation of translations from South America : the case of Lawrence Durrell’s Justine / Cristina Gómez Castro — Part 4, Sensitivities : The case of Don Quixote : one hundred years of Portuguese translations / Filipe Alves Machado — Translation as hagiographical weapon : the French perception of Katherine Mansfield / Gerri Kimber — More than a childhood revisited? : ideological dimensions in the American and British translations of Astrid Lindgren’s Madicken / Angelika Nikolowski-Bogomoloff — … comme des nègres : : whitewashed in translation / Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin — ‘Razom nas begato, nas ne podolati’ : remixes of the orange revolution anthem / Sarah Smyth.

Subject:

Other names

Ní Chuilleanáin, Eiléan, 1942-
Ó Cuilleanáin, Cormac.
Parris, David L.

SALT Recommendations

Sturge, Kate. – “The alien within” : translation into German during the Nazi Regime; Kate St 2004
Constructing a sociology of translation / edited by Michaela Wolf, Alexandra 2007
Audiovisual translation : language transfer on screen / edited by Jorge Diáz 2009
Torresi, Ira. – Translating promotional and advertising texts / Ira Torresi 2010
Brodzki, Bella. – Can these bones live? : translation, survival, and cultural memory / Bella B 2007
The didactics of audiovisual translation / edited by Jorge Diáz Cintas 2008
Claims, changes and challenges in translation studies : selected contributio 2004
Translation in undergraduate degree programmes / edited by Kirsten Malmkjær 2004
Modes of censorship and translation : national contexts and diverse media / 2007
Pym, Anthony, 1956-. – Epistemological problems in translation and its teaching : a seminar for thi 1993
Rimbaud’s rainbow : literary translation in higher education / edited by Pet 1998
Zatlin, Phyllis, 1938-. – Theatrical translation and film adaptation : a practitioner’s view / Phyllis 2005
Moving target : theatre translation and cultural relocation / edited by Caro 2000
{no authors}. – Translation perspectives 1995
The translation of children’s literature : a reader / edited by Gillian Lath 2006
Sociocultural aspects of translating and interpreting / edited by Anthony Py 2006
Kiraly, Donald C., 1953-. – Pathways to translation : pedagogy and process / Donald C. Kiraly 1995
CTIS occasional papers 2002
Kiraly, Donald C., 1953-. – A social constructivist approach to translator education : empowerment from 2000
A companion to translation studies / edited by Piotr Kuhiwczak and Karin Lit 2007
Tymoczko, Maria. – Enlarging translation, empowering translators / Maria Tymoczko 2007
Children’s literature in translation : challenges and strategies / edited by 2006
 Translating poetry : the double labyrinth / edited by Daniel Weissbort 1989
Venuti, Lawrence, 1953-. – The translator’s invisibility : a history of translation / Lawrence Venuti. – 2nd ed. 2008
Nation, language, and the ethics of translation / edited by Sandra Bermann a 2005
Bourdieu and the sociology of translation and Interpreting : special Issue / 2005
Bowker, Lynne. – Computer-aided translation technology : a practical introduction / Lynne Bow 2002
Critical readings in translation studies / edited by Mona Baker 2010
Translating others / edited by Theo Hermans 2006
Diáz-Cintas, Jorge. – Audiovisual translation : subtitling / Jorge Diáz Cintas & Aline Remael 2007
Luyken, Georg-Michael. – Overcoming language barriers in television : dubbing and subtitling for the 1991
{no authors}. – The Manipulation of literature : studies in literary translation / edited by 1985
Kelly, Dorothy. – A handbook for translator trainers : a guide to reflective practice / Doroth 2005
Wagner, Emma. – Translating for the European Union institutions / Emma Wagner, Svend Bech, J 2002
Boase-Beier, Jean. – Stylistic approaches to translation / Jean Boase-Beier 2006
Niranjana, Tejaswini, 1958-. – Siting translation : history, post-structuralism, and the colonial context / 1992
{no authors}. – Translation research and interpreting research : traditions, gaps and synerg 2004
{no authors}. – Translation and cultural change : studies in history, norms and image-projec 2005
{no authors}. – Translation, power, subversion / edited by Román Álvarez and M. Carmen-Áfric 1996
{no authors}. – Translators through history / edited and directed by Jean Delisle, Judith Wo 1995

Investment, profit, and tenancy the jurists and the Roman agrarian economy

Author: by Kehoe, Dennis P..

Published: Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, c1997.

Physical description: xiv, 269 p. ; 24 cm.

ISBN: 0472108026

Notes: Spine title: Investment, profit, and tenancy.
Includes index.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 241-260) and index.

Summary:

“In Investment, Profit, and Tenancy: The Jurists and the Roman Agrarian Economy Dennis P. Kehoe defines the economic mentality of upper-class Romans by analyzing the assumptions that Roman jurists in the Digest of Justinian made about investment and profit in agriculture as they addressed legal issues involving private property. In particular the author analyzes the duties of guardians in managing the property of their wards and the bequeathing of agricultural property. He bases his analysis on Roman legal sources, which offer a comprehensive picture of the economic interests of upper-class Romans. Farm tenancy was crucial to these interests and Kehoe carefully examines how Roman landowners contended with the legal, social, and economic institutions surrounding farm tenancy as they pursued security from their agricultural investments.” “Investment, Profit, and Tenancy will be of interest to students of Roman history, particularly the legal, social, and economic history of the Roman empire.”–BOOK JACKET.

Subject

SALT Recommendations

Pliny, the Elder. – Natural history 1950
Neeve, P. W. de. – Colonus : private farm-tenancy in Roman Italy during the Republic and the ea 1984
{no authors}. – The Cambridge economic history of the Greco-Roman world / edited by Walter S 2007
MacDonald, George, 1862-1940. – The Roman wall in Scotland / by Sir George Macdonald. – 2d. ed., rev., enl., and in great part rewritten 1934
Andreau, Jean. – Banking and business in the Roman world / Jean Andreau / translated by Janet 1999
{no authors}. – A companion to the Roman army / edited by Paul Erdkamp 2007
Garnsey, Peter. – Cities, peasants and food in classical antiquity : essays in social and econ 1998
Paoli, Ugo Enrico, 1884-1963. – Rome : its people, life and customs / translated from the Italian by R. D. M 1990
{no authors}. – Money, labour and land in ancient Greece : approaches to the economies of an 2002
Millett, Paul. – Lending and borrowing in ancient Athens / Paul Millett 1991
{no authors}. – Women in Greece and Rome 1977
Duncan-Jones, Richard. – The economy of the Roman Empire : quantitative studies 1974
Duncan-Jones, Richard. – The economy of the Roman Empire : quantitative studies. – 2nd ed 1982
Birley, Eric. – Roman Britain and the Roman Army : collected papers 1976
Greene, Kevin. – The archaeology of the Roman economy 1986
Plutarch. – Greek lives : a selection of nine Greek lives / Plutarch / translated by Rob 1998
Birley, Eric. – Roman Britain and the Roman army : collected papers 1953
Stambaugh, John E. – The ancient Roman city 1988
{no authors}. – Slavery and other forms of unfree labour / edited by Léonie J. Archer 1988
Camp, John McK. – The archaeology of Athens / John M. Camp 2001
Duncan-Jones, Richard. – Structure and scale in the Roman economy / Richard Duncan-Jones 1990
Holder, P. A.. – The Roman army in Britain 1982
Lintott, Andrew, 1936-. – Violence in republican Rome 1968
{no authors}. – Athenian democracy / edited by P. J. Rhodes 2004
Cohen, Edward E.. – The Athenian nation / Edward E. Cohen 2000
MacMullen, Ramsay, 1928-. – Roman government’s response to crisis, AD 235-337 1976
{no authors}. – The ancient economy / edited by Walter Scheidel and Sitta von Reden 2002
Garnsey, Peter. – Famine and food supply in the Graeco-Roman world : responses to risk and cri 1988
Mouritsen, Henrik. – Plebs and politics in the late Roman Republic 2001
Jones, A. H. M. (Arnold Hugh Martin), 1904-1970. – The Roman economy : studies in ancient economic and administrative history / 1974
Millar, Fergus. – The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337 1993
{no authors}. – Law and social status in classical Athens / edited by Virginia Hunter and Jo 2000
Lysias. – Lysias / translated by S.C. Todd 2000
Andrewes, Antony. – The Greek tyrants 1956
Manville, Philip Brook. – The origins of citizenship in ancient Athens; Philip Brook Manville 1990
Cornell, Tim. – The beginnings of Rome : Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic War 1995
Todd, S. C., Stephen Charles, 1958-. – The shape of Athenian law / S. C. Todd 1993
{no authors}. – The Cambridge ancient history, 1970-2005
Cartledge, Paul. – The Greeks : a portrait of self and others / Paul Cartledge 1993
Finley, M. I., Moses I., 1912-1986. – The ancient economy. – 2nd ed 1985

Luxury and pleasure in eighteenth-century Britain

Author: by Berg, Maxine, 1950-.

Published: Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2005.

Physical description: xvii, 373 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.

ISBN:

Notes:

Title from e-book title screen (viewed June 17, 2008).
Includes bibliographical references (p. 332-356) and index.
Also available online.
Electronic reproduction. UK : MyiLibrary, 2008 Available via World Wide Web. Access may be limited to MIL affiliated libraries.
Dates of available copies: 2005, 2007.

Contents

Part 1: Luxury, Quality, and Delight — 1. The Delights of Luxury — 2. Goods from the East — 3. Invention, Imitation, and Design — Part 2: How it was Made — 4. Glass and Chinaware: The Grammar of the Polite Table — 5. Metal Things: Useful Devices and Agreeable Trinkets — Part 3: A Nation of Shoppers — 6. The Middling Classes: Acquisitiveness and Self-Respect — 7. ‘Shopping is a Place to Go’: Fashion, Shopping, and Advertising — 8. Mercantile Theatres: British Commodities and American Consumers.

Summary

Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain explores the invention, making, and buying of new, semi-luxury, and fashionable consumer goods during the eighteenth century. It follows these goods, from china tea ware to all sorts of metal ornaments such as candlesticks, cutlery, buckles, and buttons, as they were made and shopped for, then displayed in the private domestic settings of Britain’s urban middling classes. It tells the stories and analyses the developments that led from a global trade in Eastern luxuries beginning in the sixteenth century to the new global trade in British-made consumer goods by the end of the eighteenth century. These new products, regarded as luxuries by the rapidly growing urban and middling-class people of the eighteenth century, played an important part in helping to proclaim personal identities,and guide social interaction. Customers enjoyed shopping for them; they took pleasure in their beauty, ingenuity or convenience. All manner of new products appeared in shop windows; sophisticated mixed-media advertising seduced customers and created new wants.This unparalleled ‘product revolution’ provoked philosophers and pundits to proclaim a ‘new luxury’, one that reached out to the middling and trading classes, unlike the elite and corrupt luxury of old. Luxury and Pleasure in Eighteenth-Century Britain is cultural history at its best, built on a fresh empirical base drawn directly from customs accounts, advertising material, company papers, and contemporary correspondence. Maxine Berg traces how this new consumer society of the eighteenth century and the products first traded, then invented to satisfy it, stimulated industrialization itself. Global markets for the consumer goods of private and domestic life inspired the industrial revolution and British products ‘won the world’.

Review

…deserves to be the final word on the luxury debate in Britian Martyn Powell, Annual Bulletin of Historical Literature Luxury and Pleasure is an interesting, accessible and well-illustrated synthesis of new research and recent writing, and helpfully concludes by pointing to further areas of research Hannah Smith, History Journal Readers will find this book valuable Joyce Burnette, English Historical Review

Subject

SALT Recommendations

Crowley, John E.. – The invention of comfort : sensibilities & design in early modern Britain & 2000
Estabrook, Carl B.. – Urbane and rustic England : cultural ties and social spheres in the province 1998
Wahrman, Dror. – The making of the modern self : identity and culture in eighteenth-century E 2004
{no authors}. – The Cambridge history of science 2003
New Perspectives in the History of Geology (Conference : 1977 : New Hall, Cambri. – Images of the Earth : essays in the history of the environmental sciences / 1979
Jordanova, L. J.. – Nature displayed : gender, science and medicine 1760-1820 / essays by Ludmil 1999
Barker, Hannah. – The business of women : female enterprise and urban development in Northern 2006
Barker-Benfield, G. J.. – The culture of sensibility : sex and society in eighteenth-century Britain 1992
Zheng, Yangwen. – The social life of opium in China / Yangwen Zheng 2005
Vickery, Amanda. – The gentleman’s daughter : women’s lives in Georgian England / Amanda Vicker 1998
McPhee, Peter, 1948-. – The French Revolution, 1789-1799 2002
{no authors}. – The Social life of things : commodities in cultural perspective / edited by 1986

Title: The nature of human values

Author: by Rokeach, Milton..

Published: New York : Free Press ; London : Collier-Macmillan, 1973.

Physical description: x,438p. ; 24cm.

ISBN: 0029267501

Notes:

Includes index and bibliography: p. 341-354.
Bibl.: p.341-354. – Index.

Subject

SALT Recommendations

Scheibe, Karl E.. – Beliefs and values 1970
Rokeach, Milton, 1918-. – Beliefs, attitudes and values : a theory of organization and change 1970
Field, Andy. – Discovering statistics using SPSS for Windows : advanced techniques for the 2000

Textile production at 16-22 Coppergate

Author: by Walton Rogers, Penelope..

Series

The Archaeology of York ; vol.17 : The small finds, fasc.11
The Archaeology of York. 17, The small finds ; fasc.11
Archaeology of York. fasc.11.

Published: York : Published for the York Archaeological Trust by Council for British Archaeology, 1997.

Physical description: viii, p. 1687-1867 : ill., (some col), maps ; 25 cm.

ISBN

Notes:

Published in association with the York Archaeological Trust.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 1863-1867) and index.
Published in association with the York Archaeological Trust.
In English.

Summary

A great deal of material was recovered from Coppergate during archaeological excavations. Of 1147 artefa cts found there, 1006 are from the 9th to 13th centuries and nearly 700 are from the Anglo-Scandinavian period. Many rel ate to the textile industry ‘

Subject

Other names

York Archaeological Trust.
Council for British Archaeology.

SALT Recommendations

{no authors}. – The Archaeology of York / (general editor, P.V. Addyman) 1989
J›rgensen, Lise Bender. – North European textiles until AD 1000 1992
Hald, Margrethe, b. 1897. – Ancient Danish textiles from bogs and burials : a comparative study of costu 1980
Barber, E. J. W., 1940-. – Prehistoric textiles : the development of cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze 1991
Wild, John Peter. – Textiles in archaeology 1988
{no authors}. – The archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England : basic readings / edited by Catherin 1999
Fletcher, Mike, 1943-. – Digging numbers : elementary statistics for archaeologists / Mike Fletcher a 1991
{no authors}. – The Age of Sutton Hoo : the seventh century in north-western Europe / edited 1992
{no authors}. – The archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England / edited by David M. Wilson 1976
{no authors}. – Historical archaeology : back from the edge / edited by Pedro Paulo A. Funar 1999
Hodder, Ian. – Reading the past : current approaches to interpretation in archaeology. – 2nd ed 1991
{no authors}. – Engendering archaeology : women and prehistory / edited by Joan M. Gero and 1991
Dickinson, O. T. P. K., Oliver Thomas Pilkington Kirwan. – The Aegean Bronze Age 1994
Thomas, David Hurst. – Archaeology. – 3rd ed. 1998
{no authors}. – The Function of the Minoan palaces : proceedings of the fourth International 1987
Parker Pearson, Michael, 1957-. – The archaeology of death and burial / Mike Parker Pearson 1999
{no authors}. – Interpretative archaeology / edited by Christopher Tilley 1993
{no authors}. – Architecture and order : approaches to social space / Michael Parker Pearson 1994
Johnson, Matthew. – Archaeological theory : an introduction / Matthew Johnson 1999
{no authors}. – Interpretive archaeology : a reader / edited by Julian Thomas 2000
Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agreeing licensing of data

The John Rylands University Library New Directions Library strategy includes a commitment to ” investigate innovative ways to extract, reuse and expose data across our systems to enhance the searching and usage of our resources.”  The release of JRUL loan data (details of about 8 million transactions going back 10 years) is viewed by the JRUL as part of this commitment.

The main issue to address in releasing this data is how you do this in way that protects personal information whilst ensuring that the data can be used in a meaningful way.  Within JRUL the following approach was agreed.

The first step was to anonymise the data.  This was partly done by removing all details about an individual for each loan transaction apart from a single user ID field which provides a system generated ID unique to that system.  Following discussion with colleagues on the project it was then agreed that student course details would also be removed to eliminate the small risk that an individual could be identified in this way.

In joining the SALT project, the JRUL agreed to make its loan data available for use by the SALT recommender service and to make the data available to others.  The second step was to agree the terms on which this data would be released.  JISC and the Resource Discovery Taskforce argue, in the context of bibliographic data, that the most open licence possible should be used and that restrictions, such as restricting use to non-commercial activities, should only be applied if the impact of this is fully understood.  They also strongly recommend that institutions use the standard licences now widely available rather than developing their own http://obd.jisc.ac.uk/rights-and-licensing.   Whilst there are common principles between the sharing of activity data and bibliographic data there are also some differences.  In particular, activity data is unique to that particular institution and is generated from the behaviour of individuals within the institution.  Rather than waiving all rights, therefore, a recommendation was made to the University Librarian that JRUL activity data be licensed for use outside of the University and that this be done using the most open licence available.

The University Librarian has now agreed that JRUL anonymised loan data will be made available under a Creative Commons attribution only licence (CC BY).

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The benefits of reusing activity data

.

Recommender function in Copac -- prototype

A working prototype based on just 5 weeks of data from John Rylands UL

July is proving to be a fast and furious month in terms of presenting on SALT, crunching the remainder of the gargantuan amount of data we’re receiving from our partners at JRUL, finessing the API, implementing the developments in the Copac prototype (and showing it off to people at the CILIP Umbrella conference), and running various workshops and user testing sessions to test our hypothesis (as much as we can in this time frame) and see whether the ‘shared service’ side of all this might actually scale.

We’re working intensely, but reflecting too.  The workshop hosted by the RISE project earlier this month was an excellent opportunity to step back and see the bigger picture, and reflect on the benefits we’re aiming to realise for libraries and their users.  A reminder of what we’re attempting to find out:

Hypothesis…

Library circulation activity data can be used to support humanities research by surfacing underused ‘long tail’ library materials through search

Also… how sustainable would an API-based national shared service be?

And can such a service support users and also library workflows such as collections management?

What we already know
We know that arts and humanities students and academics borrow books.

Research conducted in-house by Mimas, and also by others (for example Carole Palmer ) also highlights the differences in search methodologies between this demographic and their STEM counterparts.  In short, humanities researchers tend to search centrifugally, ‘berry picking’ from various trails. Mimas’ recent research with Mindset and Curtis and Cartwright indicates that newer postgraduates tend to work in quite an isolated way – asking few if any for advice on where to search (supervisors feature heavily in this regard, whereas subject librarians do not at all) and sticking with a few ‘known’ resources). While these users are typically suspicious of the idea that allowing other users to annotate, tag, or rate items would be of benefit to them, there is generally a positive response when asked about the usefulness of a recommender function; in fact Amazon is used significantly in this regard to help users find related materials that are not surfacing through a ‘traditional’ library search.

Library recommendation systems are already achieving benefits for undergraduates – University of Huddersfield being the obvious example. Indeed, Huddersfield’s system helps students move beyond the ‘nose’ to the long tail of library collections – and there is some evidence that new borrowing patterns are emerging, with students taking out books from outside what is assigned.  In humanities research especially, the long tail is obviously much more relevant.

The benefits
So what additional benefits might we realise through this work, especially if we move on t

o aggregating data from additional libraries?

  1. Key to our hypothesis is the belief that such systems can help surface and hopefully increase the usage of hidden collections. Obviously circulation data is only going to offer a partial solution to this problem of discoverability (i.e. many ‘hidden gems’ are of course non-circulating) but nonetheless, we believethat the long tail argument borne out by Chris Anderson can also hold true for libraries – that the collective ‘share’ or recommendation of items can turn the Pareto Principle on its head.  For libraries this means being able to demonstrate the value of the collections by pointing to increased usage. It  might also give libraries a better sense of what is of value to users, and what perhaps is not.
  2. For users, particularly those in the humanities, a recommender function can help providing new routes to discovery based on use and disciplinary contexts (not traditional classification).  In other words, what you areviewing through ‘recommenders’ are patterns of real usage, how other users with similar academic interests are aggregating texts. This is particularly useful for finding conceptually related groupings of texts that cut across differentdisciplines, and which will not ordinarily sit together in a standard results set.
  3. It also means we can support humanities users in their preferred mode of discovery, powering ‘centrifugal searching’ and discovery through serendipity. The downstream benefits of this concern the emergence of new, original research, new knowledge and ideas.

Last week we sat down with a group of collections managers from JRUL as well as Leeds University and talked with them about other possible benefits related to library workflows which we weren’t yet seeing.  Here are the potential benefits we came up with:

  • Aggregated activity data could support activities such as stock weeding by revealing collection strengths and allowing librarians to cross check against other collections.
  • By combining aggregated collection data and aggregated activity data, librarians will see a fuller picture.  This means they can identify collection strengths and recognise items that should be retained because of association with valued collections. We thought about this as a form of “stock management by association.”  Librarians might treat some long-tail items (e.g. items with limited borrowing) with caution if they were aware of links/associations to other collections (although there is also the caveat that this wouldn’t be possible with local activity data reports in isolation)
  • Aggregated activity data could have benefits for collection development.  Seeing the national picture might allow librarians to identify related items – “if your collection has this, it should also have…” 
  • This could also inform the number of copies a library should buy, and which books from reading lists are required in multiple copies.
  • Thinking more outside the box, we thought it might also inform digitization decision-making – i.e. if you digitized this, you might also consider digitizing…
  • Aggregated activity data could inform stock purchase – allow librarians to see what’s new, what’s being used elsewhere and therefore what’s worth buying. 
  • This could also have benefits when discussing reading lists and stock purchases with academic staff, and thus enhance academic engagement

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll have quite a bit more to report as we analyse sustainability issues with other libraries, and perhaps most importantly, put the recommender itself in front of postgraduate humanities researchers to see if our hypothesis is likely to be proven true — at least based on what they tell us (the true test will happen over the next year as we monitor impact via JRUL and Copac).

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

See SALT – a demo

A further set of sample data from JRUL, comprising 100,000 loan transactions this time, has been processed and used to test a prototype web API.  Signs are encouraging.

The process begins with data being extracted from the Talis library management system (LMS) at JRUL in CSV format.  This data is parsed by a PHP script which separates the data into two tables in a MySQL database, the bibliographic details describing an item go into a table called items and the loan specific data, including borrower ID, goes into a table called, you’ve guessed it, loans.  A further PHP script then processes the data into two additional MySQL tables, nloans and nborrowers; nloans contains the total number of times each item has been borrowed, and nborrowers contains, for each combination of two items, a count of the unique number of library users to have borrowed both items.

With the above steps complete, additional processing is performed on demand by the web API.  When called for a given item, say item_1, the API returns a list of items for suggested reading, where this list is derived as follows.  From the nborrowers table a list of items is compiled from all combinations featuring item_1.  For each item in this list the number of unique borrowers, from the nborrowers table, is divided by the total number of loans for that item, from the nloans table, following the logic used by Dave Pattern at the University of Huddersfield.  The resulting values are ranked in descending order and the details associated with each suggested item are returned by the API.

For a bit of light relief here’s an image.

A screenshot of a demonstrator for SALT.

This is a screenshot from a piece of code written to demonstrate the web API.  For a given item, identified by the ISBN, the details are retrieved from the items table in the MySQL database and displayed in [A].  An asynchronous call is made to the web API that accepts the ISBN as a parameter, along with threshold and format values which are set using the controls in [B]; threshold is the minimum number of unique borrowers that any given combination of items must have to be considered, and format specifies how the returned data is required (either xml or json).  Results from the web API are displayed in [C], with the actual output from the API reproduced in [D].  Note that all available results are returned by the API but the test code only shows the number set by the third control in [B].

The exact format of the output is yet to be ratified but the API is in a state where it can now be incorporated into prototype interfaces at JRUL and in COPAC.  In addition the remaining 3 million or so loan transactions from JRUL will be loaded and processed in readiness for user testing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

What do the library users think?

As the SALT project and the Activity Data programme progresses, I’m finding the results of the various user engagement exercises really interesting.  As Janine’s already mentioned, we’re planning a structured user evaluation of our recommender tool with subject librarians and researchers, but before that we wanted to talk to some students to test some of our assumptions and understand library users experiences a little better.

So, last week I took myself off to the JRUL and interviewed four students (three postgraduates and one undergraduate).  In the main, I was (of course) interested in their opinions about recommenders, and whether they would find such a tool useful in the JRUL library catalogue and in Copac.  There is a lot of evidence to suggest that researchers would find the introduction of a recommender beneficial (not least from the other blogs on this programme), but what would the Manchester students and researchers think?  I was also interested in their research behaviour – did they always know exactly what they were looking for, or did they do subject and keyword searches?  And finally, I wanted to sound them out about privacy.

So what did they tell me?

On recommendations

There was varied use of recommenders through services like Amazon, but all of the students could see the potential of getting recommendations through the library catalogue, Copac, and eventually through the Library Search (powered by Primo).  There were some concerns about distractions, with one student worried that she would spend her limited research time following a never ending cycle of recommendations that took her further and further away from her original purpose.  However, the biggest concerns from all four was the possibility of irrelevant material being pushed to them – something that they would all find frustrating.  A recommender could certainly help to widen reading choices, but all of them wanted to know how we were going to make sure that the suggestions were relevant.  I noticed that the postgraduate focus group participants in the Rise focus groups needed to trust the information, and were interested to know where the recommendation has come from.  It’s clear that trust is a big issue, and this is something we’ll definitely be re-visiting when we run the user evaluation workshops.

On research behaviour

On the whole, the participants knew what they were looking for when they opened the catalogue, and suggestions of material came from the usual suspects – supervisors, tutors, citations, or specific authors they needed to read.  All of them felt that recommendations would be interesting and especially useful during extended research projects such as dissertations.  However, what was most interesting to me was that, although they all said they would be interested to look at the suggestions, they all seemed unconvinced they would actually borrow the recommended books because they, on the whole, visited the catalogue in order to find specific items.  So what does this mean for our hypothesis – that using circulation data can support research by surfacing underused library materials?  These students didn’t have the opportunity to try the recommender, so you could argue that some scepticism is inevitable, and Hudderfield’s experience suggests that underused books will resurface.  However, again we need to explore this further once we can show some students a working prototype.

On privacy

I wasn’t sure whether privacy would be an issue, but none of the students I spoke to had any concerns about the library collecting circulation data and using it to power recommendations.  They considered this to be a good use of the data, as long as anonymity was taken into consideration.  On the whole, the students’ responses backed up the findings of the 2008 Developing Personalisation for the Information Environment Final Report, which found that “students place their trust in their college or university. They either think that they have no alternative to disclosing information to their institution, or believe that the institution will not misuse the information.”  They felt that, by introducing a recommender, the library was doing “a good thing” by trying to improve their search experience.  No concerns here.

Next Steps

Obviously, this was only the views of four students, and we need to do more work to test the usefulness of the tool.  We’re now planning the user testing and evaluation of the recommender prototype, and recruiting postgraduate humanities researchers to take part.  As Janine outlined, we’ll be introducing the tool to subject librarians at JRUL and humanities researchers to see if the recommendations are meaningful and useful.

I’m looking forward to finding out what they think, and we’ll let you know the results in a later blog post.

Posted in Evaluation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

But is this what the users want?

I’ll admit it, I’m prepared to out myself, I’ve just finished a post graduate research degree and more than once I have used the Amazon book recommender. In fact when I say more than once, possibly over the course of my studies we’ll be getting into double figures. I’m not ashamed, (I may be about using Wikipedia, but let’s not go there), but I’m not ashamed because I did and so did many of my peers. There may be more traditional methods to conduct academic research, but sometimes, with a deadline looming and very little time for a physical trip to the library to speak to a librarian, finding resources in one or two clicks is just to attractive. My hunch is many other scholars also use this method to conduct research. Recently on another Copac project we facilitated some focus groups. The participants in the groups were postgraduate researchers, a mix of humanities and STEM. Some had used Copac before others had not. Although the focus groups were answering another hypothesis I couldn’t resist asking the gathered group, if they would find merit in a book recommender on Copac which was based on 10 years of library circulation data from a world class research library? It’s not often you see a group of students become visibly excited at the thought of a of new research tool, but they did that night. A book recommender, would make a positive impact on their research practices and was greeted with enthusiasm from the group. I thought it was worth mentioning this incident, because when the going gets tough, and we are drowning under data, it might be worth remembering that users really want this to happen.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The SALT project plan

The SALT project plan is now available

The SALT Project Plan

Posted in Project Plan | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment