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Weekly News Digest

August 3, 2021 — 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.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

ALA Introduces New Advocacy Resource

ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office developed a tool that will help library advocates meet with elected officials during Congress’ August 2021 recess: How to Conduct an In-Person Library Tour. It shares best practices and steps needed to request and schedule a library tour, offers what to consider when developing the tour’s content and points of interest, and teaches how to publicize the tour via social media. ALA is encouraging libraries of all types to conduct a tour this August.

The press release notes, “Several important discussions and legislative opportunities for libraries are currently being negotiated, including securing the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 appropriations funding increases for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grant, and ensuring that funding for library facilities is incorporated in an infrastructure plan through the Build America’s Libraries Act. Now is the time to illustrate the significant impact that libraries have on communities to legislators and decisionmakers.”

For more information, read the press release.

IBM Research Europe and Thieme Chemistry Join Forces to Share Data

IBM Research Europe and Thieme Chemistry teamed up to improve the IBM RXN for Chemistry cloud platform, which uses AI to help synthetic organic chemists predict the outcomes of chemical reactions. Thieme Chemistry is providing synthesis data via its Science of Synthesis digital publication source on organic chemistry. The press release shares that “initial results show that Thieme-trained models predict correct reactions twice as often as baseline models when tested on Science of Synthesis chemistry.”

“Six highly-renowned organic synthesis experts and their groups have agreed to test the retrained models. Together this collaboration will help drive the development of state-of-the-art custom-fit tools for organic chemists,” says M. Fiona Shortt de Hernandez, senior director of product management, strategic partnerships, and Science of Synthesis at Thieme Chemistry.

“The collaboration with Thieme is an important landmark between AI solution providers and domain specific data publishers, with important business opportunities for both,” says Teodoro Laino, distinguished scientist at IBM Research Europe. Laino is “curious to see how [the preliminary results] will lead in the next months to an improved AI experience for synthetic organic chemists.”

For more information, read the press release.

'Twitter Partners With AP and Reuters to Address Misinformation on Its Platform' by Sarah Perez

Sarah Perez writes the following for TechCrunch:

Twitter announced today it’s partnering with news organizations The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters to expand its efforts focused on highlighting reliable news and information on its platform. Through the new agreements, Twitter’s Curation team will be able to leverage the expertise of the partnered organizations to add more context to the news and trends that circulate across Twitter, as well as aid with the company’s use of public service announcements during high-visibility events, misinformation labels and more.

Currently, the Curation team works to add additional information to content that includes Top Trends and other news on Twitter’s Explore tab. The team is also involved with how certain search results are ranked, to ensure that content from high-quality searches appear at the top of search results when certain keywords or hashtags are searched for on Twitter. …

By working more directly with AP and Reuters, who also partner with Facebook on fact checks, Twitter says it will be able to increase the speed and scale to which it’s able to add this additional information to tweets and elsewhere on its platform. In particular, that means in times where news is breaking and when facts are in dispute as a story emerges, Twitter’s own team will be able to quickly turn to these more trusted sources to improve how contextual information is added to the conversations taking place on Twitter.

For more information, read the article.

RBmedia Introduces Ascent Audio for Business Titles

Audiobook producer RBmedia is rolling out a new business audio brand called Ascent Audio, which provides a catalog of audiobooks featuring all of the major categories of business education: professional development, coaching management, entrepreneurship, leadership, investing, and finance.

The press release notes, “The new Ascent Audio is the successor to RBmedia’s Gildan Media brand and will be home to all business titles produced by RBmedia in partnership with Wiley, Harvard Business Review Press, Princeton University Press, Oxford University Press, Mango Publishing Group, Entrepreneur Press, and more leading business publishers. RBmedia’s recently acquired McGraw Hill Professional audiobook publishing business titles along with new McGraw Hill works will be published under the McGraw Hill-Ascent brand.”

For more information, read the press release.

Innovative Rolls Out Vega Discover for General Availability

Innovative’s Vega Discover is now in general release for libraries using the Polaris ILS. This public library discovery solution has been under rapid development for the past year, with four libraries testing it out. Now, 40-plus libraries are using Vega Discover. With this release, customers get an expanded list of Syndetics Unbound elements that are woven into the user experience, which means that patrons can browse virtual stacks and search for titles that meet their needs and match their interests. 

A module in the Vega Library Experience suite, Vega Discover “transforms traditional MARC records into BIBFRAME, allowing those records to be connected through complex, linked data relationships. This unique approach empowers Discover to offer interconnected search results that are more accurate and relevant through an intuitive design that makes it easy for people to uncover content with the simplicity they expect from modern technology,” according to the press release. In addition, it allows patrons to save their searches and the individual titles they find, create customized lists, place holds and check out items, and more.

For more information, read the press release.

eLife Makes It Easier for Researchers to Request Name Changes

eLife announced that it “is among 13 publisher organisations beginning a partnership with all 17 United States Department of Energy national laboratories to support name-change requests from researchers.” eLife’s name-change policy “enables any author, editor and reviewer to retroactively change their name in an eLife article for any reason, including, but not limited to, changes in gender identity and expression, marital status or religion.” The “new partnership with the national laboratories will allow researchers to ask their respective institutions to pursue name changes on their behalf directly with eLife and other publishers and journals.” Researchers can use the new policy to claim their works from various stages of their career, and it will be especially helpful to transgender researchers, eLife notes.

 “Our original workflow for name changes was designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, yet we recognise it can be time-consuming and emotionally draining for researchers to initiate independent requests with us and other publishers,” says Stuart King, research culture manager at eLife. “I’m pleased that, through this partnership, we are now taking a step towards streamlining that process, meaning researchers can spend more of their time on the research that they are trained to do and less time pursuing name-change requests.”

For more information, read the news item.

OverDrive's Libby App Is Getting a Makeover

OverDrive announced that it is making updates to its Libby e-lending app, especially to cater to users with “diverse accessibility needs.” They include the following:
  • Refined navigation bar—We have updated each icon in the navigation bar for clarity and consistency. The active icon displays in your library’s colors. …
  • Search enhancements—When a user taps the search icon, they will see a new ‘Explore with filters’ section, with options to easily browse by format, availability, skip-the-line titles, and more. Advanced search filters are available with the + more button on this screen.
  • New Settings menu—Many existing settings (e.g., manage notifications, change download rules, choose your language, etc.) and some new options, like adding labels to the footer icons, are available in a centralized location in the in-app menu.

For more information, read the blog post.

IMLS Readies Celebrations for America's 250th Birthday With the America250 Foundation

IMLS and 20-plus other federal institutions signed an agreement with America250, “the nationwide commemoration of America’s 250th anniversary in 2026 led by the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission.” The press release notes, “The Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Support of the 250th Anniversary of the USA, which will support the multiyear effort to mark 250 years of American independence, was announced at an official ceremony held at the Library of Congress, with Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, presenting the opening remarks and Frank Giordano, executive director for the Commission, providing the welcome to assembled federal partners.”

These federal partners will help plan the festivities, creating signature programs and activities that leverage their specific historical assets. For example, IMLS has awarded a National Leadership Grant to the American Philosophical Society to create a digital portal showcasing unknown history in Philadelphia and other grant funds to the Massachusetts Library System to make a civic education resource for “young changemakers.”

Specific plans for the celebration will be unveiled in the coming months and years. 

For more information, read the press release.

DSpace 7 Is Now Live

DuraSpace announced that the newest version of the DSpace software for building open digital repositories, DSpace 7.0, is now available. The press release states, “This release introduces a brand new (Angular) UI [user interface] which brings together the best of both the JSPUI and XMLUI worlds. All the features you’ve come to expect from DSpace are re-imagined and re-implemented. This new UI is also backed by a brand new REST API, which opens all data and features to the web, allowing DSpace to integrate or interact with external systems/services like never before. This release brings the entire user community under a single UI, allowing us to move more quickly together.”

More than 60 community developers worked on DSpace 7.0, including LYRASIS, Atmire, and 4Science.

For more information, read the press release.

'Pearson Launches a Comprehensive Textbook Solution for Students. What Are Its Prospects?' by Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson, university librarian at Brigham Young University, writes the following for The Scholarly Kitchen:

[T]he educational publisher Pearson announced the release of a new app-based service that will allow college students to buy online access to its entire 1,500-title catalog of college textbooks, plus an array of value-added services such as online annotation, flashcards, quizzes, and real-time online support, across multiple devices, for $14.99 per month. (Students can also rent individual e-textbooks for $9.99 each, per month.) Called Pearson+, this product will be a direct competitor to Cengage Unlimited … [but this] is a bit misleading, as each offers unique educational content and is therefore operating in a market of complements rather than a market of substitutes; in other words, if your professor assigns you a Pearson textbook, you won’t be able to substitute a different textbook on the same topic for that one, and you don’t have the option of buying the Pearson text from any provider other than Pearson, all of which complicates the concept of ‘competition’ considerably. …

The central question for any new product or service is, ‘what problem does this offering promise to solve for the consumer?’ In the case of Pearson+, one obvious answer to that question is ‘high textbook costs’—though it is interesting to note that according to data reported by research analyst Brittany Conley (via the Association of American Publishers), the amount of money college students spend on textbooks and other course materials has been falling sharply in recent years. …

After all, if I’m only spending $413 per year on textbooks now, how motivated will I be to get my Cengage and Pearson textbooks online for only a few dollars less—when I’m still going to have to buy my non-Cengage and non-Pearson materials separately at the usual prices? On the other hand, if spending is going down because students are increasingly unable to afford all the textbooks they need, then this would suggest that demand for services like Pearson+ and Cengage Unlimited could be growing. …

Frankly, I’m not sure that students are going to be attracted in significant numbers by the value-adds of online textbooks—I’m pretty sure the ability to annotate or highlight the books online, or take customized quizzes, or listen to a ‘non-robotic’ voice read the text to them matters much less to them than cost savings.

For more information, read the blog post.

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