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Weekly News Digest

March 23, 2009 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today. For other up-to-the-minute news, check out ITI’s Twitter account: @ITINewsBreaks.

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ACRL Issues New Strategic Thinking Guide for Academic Librarians

The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), has issued a new report titled "ACRL 2009 Strategic Thinking Guide for Academic Librarians in the New Economy" (www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/issues/future/acrlguide09.pdf). This project was originally conceived as an environmental scan that would generate discussion at the ACRL 14th National Conference in March 2009. In the wake of dramatic economic developments, government action, and a flood of higher education trends reports, the association's authors felt that a strategic thinking guide would better complement the current literature. The guide considers three important drivers in the current environment and poses questions to stimulate conversations and action in academic libraries and on campuses.

The "ACRL 2009 Strategic Thinking Guide" examines the current economic and financial turmoil affecting all of higher education. The current situation is so critical that Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University, speaking at the American Council on Education annual meeting in February 2009, issued a call for "intentional upheaval at our colleges and universities just when fiscal chaos already places us on the edge." Our choice, he said, is between "reinvention or extinction." Gee urged leaders to resist the temptation "to hunker down, hide out, take refuge in the fox hole, and wait for the storm to pass."

The guide was prepared by Kathryn Deiss, ACRL content strategist, and Mary Jane Petrowski, ACRL associate director, with contributions from the ACRL Research Coordinating Committee and the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee.

Source: ACRL

EFF Launches New Search Tool for Uncovered Government Docs

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) launched a new search tool that the organization says allows the public to closely examine thousands of pages of government documents not previously available. The documents relate to a wide range of technology issues and government policies that affect civil liberties and personal privacy. EFF's document collection-obtained through requests and litigation under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)-covers some controversial government initiatives, including the FBI's Investigative Data Warehouse and DCS 3000 surveillance program and the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Targeting System and ADVISE data-mining project. The new search tool is now live, in beta form (www.eff.org/issues/foia/search).

"Until recently, documents obtained under FOIA often gathered dust in filing cabinets," said David Sobel, EFF senior counsel and director of the organization's FOIA Litigation for Accountable Government (FLAG) Project (www.eff.org/issues/foia). "We believe that government information should be widely available and easy to research, and our new search engine makes that a reality."

EFF launched the tool during national Sunshine Week, an annual, nonpartisan event that promotes government transparency. The celebration is particularly significant this year because it comes after 8 years of a presidential administration that was widely criticized for its secrecy and 2 months into a new administration that has promised "unprecedented" openness.

Source: EFF

Academic Earth Offers Free Online Educational Videos

Academic Earth, a social entrepreneurship venture focused on expanding the availability of high-quality educational opportunities for people around the globe, announced the launch of its website at http://academicearth.org. The site has been in public beta since late January. Academic Earth offers free access to online video of full courses and guest lectures from leading educational institutions including Yale, Harvard, and MIT.

The catalog of video lectures, spanning nearly all major academic subjects, contains 60 full courses and 2,395 overall lectures. The lectures are presented through a user-friendly interface that allows visitors to browse by Subject, University, or Instructor. Site editors have also compiled Playlists such as "Understanding the Financial Crisis" and "Wars Throughout History" that bring together lectures from a number of institutions to provide multiple sources and perspectives on key issues. In addition to full courses, the site includes guest lectures on leadership, business, and policy from luminaries including Google co-founder Larry Page, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and others.

Visitors have reported a wide variety of uses for the site. Students have used it to supplement existing coursework, educators to study the teaching methods of other instructors, and lifelong learners for personal enrichment. Of particular interest have been the large collections of business, computer science, and engineering lectures, which have been utilized by professionals and job seekers.

Over the next 6 months, the company will integrate a variety of tools intended to harness community intelligence to complement the existing content and offer a rich learning environment. The first such feature is an A-F grading system that allows users to rate the quality of each lecture. Coming soon is an innovative Q&A system, which will allow visitors to ask questions about a video to be answered by other users. Academic Earth plans to grow its content base significantly over time, drawing on open licensed content and direct partnerships with sources including additional universities, think tanks, conferences, government agencies, and educational television programs.

Academic Earth plans to introduce a monetization platform with the goal of making the production and distribution of educational resources sustainable at a time when many university programs are facing budget cuts. The company will offer content providers the option to host content on a completely noncommercial basis or to share revenue generated through targeted marketing of educational goods and services.

Source: Academic Earth

Scribd Partners With Book Publishers to Reach New Readers

Scribd, Inc., the social publishing website, announced that it has partnered with major publishers to bring books and other professional works to its community of more than 50 million readers. Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman Publishing Co., Berrett-Koehler, Thomas Nelson, and Manning Publications are among the companies uploading and sharing entire novels, sneak preview chapters, and exclusive excerpts from best-selling authors and book series for free on Scribd.com.

"Scribd has quickly become a unique online community where readers of all tastes can go to discover, explore, and share first-rate content," said Ellie Hirschhorn, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Simon & Schuster. "Its unique approach provides us with the desired flexibility to determine how our content is viewed and used on a case by case basis, and is proving to be an effective tool for creating excitement for our books."

Media brands already using Scribd to embed documents on their own websites include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, NPR, Fox Business News, and many others. More than 50,000 new documents are uploaded daily using Scribd's iPaper reader, a technology that makes it easy to upload, share, and embed original writings and documents in their "printed" layouts, regardless of file format. Scribd documents are indexed by all major search engines, making them easily discoverable by internet users. For more information about Scribd's program for publishers, visit www.scribd.com/publisher.

Source: Scribd, Inc.

Bibliotheca Announces “On-the-Fly” RFID Conversion Software

Bibliotheca, Inc. (www.bibliotheca-rfid.com) announced nonproprietary "on-the-fly" RFID conversion software that allows libraries equipped with bar codes the flexibility to convert to RFID at the self-check station or book return as patrons complete routine checkout/check-in of library materials. The software helps unburden libraries from the amount of time, labor, and cost needed to convert entire collections from bar codes to RFID. Bibliotheca's flexible, patent-pending BiblioChip conversion software will work with Bibliotheca's line of self-check stations and book returns, as well as with products from other vendors.

Blank RFID labels are simply applied to media and placed on the shelves. When the patron checks out items at the self-check station, the bar code is read and, at the same time (and unnoticed by the user), the RFID chip is initialized with the bar code item ID data. Or, in the same manner, media can be automatically converted to RFID at the book return when patrons return materials to the library. In addition to parallel processing of bar codes and RFID labels, Bibliotheca's BiblioChip conversion software makes possible the following:

  • Smooth implementation of new data formats as they evolve
  • Simultaneous reading of multiple formats
  • Reading/writing of different vendor formats
  • Reading/writing of older, nonstandard chips

For libraries needing to upgrade to RFID while still using bar codes and EM security strips, Bibliotheca's SelfCheck Hybrid models are capable of deactivating EM security strips as well as performing on-the-fly RFID conversion.

Source: Bibliotheca, Inc.

Libraries to Benefit From Journal Transfer Agreement

Twenty publishers have now endorsed the TRANSFER Code of Practice, which has been developed by a U.K. Serials Group (UKSG) working group to try and reduce the frustrations and complexities of journals transferring between publishers. The code provides best-practice guidelines and outlines responsibilities to ensure that journal content remains easily accessible in the event of a change of ownership. This means that library and reader access to more than 8,000 journals will now be protected in transfers between publisher signatories.

Major signatories to the code include Elsevier, Nature, and Wiley, but it is equally appropriate to smaller publishers-those signed up so far include the American Diabetes Association, Earthscan, and the Rural Sociological Society. UKSG's objective is to persuade all publishers of the importance and value of endorsing the TRANSFER code.

Many critical issues, such as continuity of access during a transfer or perpetual ongoing access to archives, were previously a grey area in journal sale agreements; this resulted in frustration for end users and librarians as key ejournals became temporarily or even permanently unavailable despite license terms. For more information and to sign up to the TRANSFER Code, visit www.uksg.org/transfer.

Source: The U.K. Serials Group



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