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Archive for November, 2008

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is necessary to better understand how successful the project/product is. Monitoring is about systematically collecting information that will help you to answer questions about the progress and reach of your project. You can use this information to report on your project to donors and other stake holders, and to help you evaluate, learn and improve. Evaluation is about using monitoring and other information you collect to make judgements about your project. Importantly, it is also about using the information to make changes and improvements to your work [http://www.ces-vol.org.uk/index.cfm?pg=40].

I had a discussion on issues related to M&E with Ms Anna Downie and Ms Catherine Gould, IDS Knowledge Services in relation to IGIDR online services.   M&E will not only help in measuring to what extent a service is achieving its aims, but will also help you to be more effective. It helps in assessing what is working, what is not working so well and what difference the project/product is making. M&E should be thought about at the beginning of a project and it is useful to start by identifying what questions you have about the project/product and drawing out the assumptions behind your project plan. Evaluation can then be used when you are making decisions in regard to new services/products or additions to an existing service/product.

In terms of an online service tools which can help in the M&E of a product or project include:

  • Collecting web usage statistics
  • Conducting online/offline surveys
  • Conducting interviews with your target users and actual users
  • Collecting linked in statistics

The usage statistics of a service and its resources can be collected by using visitor statistics (counter) and some tools like Google Analytics. Some websites (including the IDS Knowledge Services) use commercial software (such as Hitlist), to get the detailed usage statistics as per their requirements. However, free tools like Google Analytics are also good in getting detailed statistics. It all depends on what kind of statistics the organization is looking for-and these should relate to your indicators and outcomes. Most types of software generate statistics on various forms such as number of unique visitors, page impressions, link statistics, repeat visitors etc.

Similarly, linked in statistics will help to know how popular the online service/product is. It basically shows how many people have linked in to the  service/product.

The online/offline surveys will help in getting the feedback from the users, which in turn lead towards the improvement of a service/product. However, one need to have a clear idea regarding the methods of analysis of the data which should relate to the objectives of the survey when designing the questionnaire, otherwise many a times it may take longer than expected to analyse and the results may not be very useful!. Also once the survey data is analysed, in order to keep the existing users base, it is good to let them know the results of survey and what new initiative will be taken to improve the service.

Interviewing small sample of users over phone and or in person can also be helpful in getting more detailed feedback about your product/service.

I feel it is appropriate to adopt some M&E tools for library services to analyse their usefulness. Libraries may start using free tools like Google Analytics to indentify usage statistics of their e-resources and services/products.

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Marketing communications is to make communication about a product or service a purpose of which is to encourage recipients of the communication to purchase or use the product or service. In the LIS field, we have been talking of marketing of library products since long. However, its effective utilization has been made by very few libraries.

I had an opportunity to discuss about marketing plan for IGIDR’s information project ‘Open Index Initiative‘ with Ms Cheryl, Marketing Coordinator, IDS Knowledge Services. My discussions were aimed at how to market OII to the researchers, students, policy makers and faculty members. From the discussions, I found that the good marketing plan for any product should consist of the following:

  • Objectives in relation to marketing
  • Resources for marketing
  • Push and Pull techniques for marketing

In relation to objectives, she mentioned that, these can be set based on what the project or product aims to achieve during a given time frame. She also suggested to making use of SMART technique to set the objectives. The SMART objective is the one, which should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. This clearly highlights on setting the relevant objectives, which are measurable and achievable during the given time.

Resources for marketing basically revolve around staff time and budget. How much time in a week staff can spend for working on modalities of marketing a product. In case of information project or product the work involves identifying potential organizations, key personnel and libraries interested in using the product or disseminating information regarding the product or exchanging the data. This action needs to be followed by mailing the details of product in phases over e-mail and post along with PPT or brochure or poster.

Push and Pull strategy will help in the promotion of product to the targeted group using different advertisement techniques. In case of an information product it is best to push the product to the students, faculty and researchers by writing to the Deans, Course Coordinators, Directors and LIS professionals. The Pull strategy here would be directly contacting the end users over e-mail or post by collating their e-mail and postal addresses either from institute websites or from conference delegates list.

I feel applying a good marketing plan can give a desired success for an information product/project. It will be appropriate to have a good marketing plan in place before libraries develop a project or product. It is very much necessary in the present Internet world looking into the changing format of information and information seeking behaviour of library users.

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Libraries are changing in terms of their collection, facilities and services owing to constant changing scenario of information on account of Information and Communication Technology [ICT] applications and information seeking behaviour of clientele. Libraries are no longer considered as store house of knowledge rather they now act as Learning Resource Centre; this is especially true in the case of academic libraries attached to specialized institutes and universities.

I had an opportunity to look around the activities of University of Sussex library, Brighton in this changing scenario of academic libraries and realised how it has geared to take up the new challenges. The library apart from providing traditional library services in a computerized environment is acting as a true learning resource centre by involving itself with a Learning and Teaching Department of the university. The library staff working within the information services division undertakes information literacy programmes for students, researchers and teaching faculty. The library has made available ‘infosuss‘, a simple information literacy tutorial on its website, which is quite useful for a new user in making use of the library and its resources. It is also developing tools concerned to information skills for university’s study and teaching online services named as ‘Study Success at Sussex [S3]’ and ‘Profolio: Professional Researcher Development‘.

Technologically too the library is gearing to implement new technologies, which are best suitable to Google generation users, the best example of it is soon to be unveiled its Web OPAC based on Acqua Browser having faceted searching, its interface looks like Google and results are similar to Amazon with a map of related facets (words). Since the Acqua Browser based catalogue is not yet unveiled at University of Sussex library for public, the working of it can be experienced from its implementation at Queens Library. In terms of facilities library has virtual places having set of computers in all its reading rooms and also has provision of group discussion rooms for students.

The similar kind of change, I noticed in London School of Economics and Political Science Library, London. This library too has involved itself in a big way in providing information literacy programs for its clientele. Most of these programs are delivered to users through Centre for Learning Technology, LSE. This centre has a fully qualified library and information science professional with her team, who delivers these programs for faculty and students.  In terms of use of ICT, library has made a remarkable progress by implementing many applications such as E-Prints, Cross search, Web 2.0 etc. It is also trying out with Google type of Web OPAC (Beta) similar to that of University of Sussex library based on the feedback received from the library users. In terms of Web 2.0 applications, what interested me is the use of Delicious social book marking tool to link free electronic resources available on the Internet in the subject areas of LSE. Majority of its reading halls have been converted into virtual halls having computers on most of the tables keeping an eye on the interests of Generation X.

The situation is same or better in most of the academic libraries attached to higher education institutes across UK. It shows that academic libraries in UK are adopting very well with the changing environment. The LIS professionals are playing a crucial role to see through this transition and to ensure place for libraries in the future. Computer professionals are contributing in relation to technological development , who are part of these libraries in developing and implementing ICT applications. The similar kind of change is necessary for the academic libraries in developing countries for their future existence. The library professionals in these countries have to gear themselves in a big way to bring the similar kind of changes in the library services with the help of authorities and computer science professionals.

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Digital preservation is a process of maintaining, in a condition suitable for use, materials produced in digital formats, including the preservation of bit stream and the continued ability to render or display the content represented by the bit stream [ODLIS].  The preservation of content in digital format has become a crucial for libraries. The way they preserve the printed materials, there is a need to preserve the content available in electronic format for the future use. However, it has been realised that, this is not as simple as preservation of books due to non availability of suitable standards in relation to formats, media etc.

I had an opportunity to discuss the issues concerned to digital preservation with Mr Rory Mcleod, British Library, London. From the discussions, I realised that, many issues needs to be taken into consideration before embarking on archiving digital documents (Digitized or Digitally born). For the British Library digital preservation and its sustainability is an issue and it is trying to address it by taking into consideration suitable measures. The British Library addresses these issues through:

  • Formation of team consisting of experts drawn from the field of Library and Information Science, Computer Science and Business Management.
  • Formulation of policies in regard to formats, risk assessment, digitization, evaluation etc

In regard to digitization of rare documents the library has adopted a policy to retain the print versions of documents after undertaking digitization till the time, better standards and technologies are available for digital preservation. Whereas, it has not yet started the preservation of the electronic content (digitally born), however it is planning to start it after obtaining proper sanctions from the UK government.

The library adopted a policy to use popular file formats available for use on multi-platforms to store the digital documents/objects. It is concerned about the issues of file formats in regard to migration, emulation and virtualisation. However, it is not planning to store the required hardware, Operating Systems and software for use of particular file formats in future rather believes in popular formats, which would not fade away from the market soon and there will be some alternative options to migrate into any future file formats. In regard to image data formats it has preferred to use JPEG2000.

It is worth noting some of the policies adopted by the British Library in regard to digital preservation. I feel that the approach adopted by the British Library answers many of the questions being asked in the professional circles on this issue. It is worth to use its policies as a benchmark by other libraries especially from the developing world.

Some background material in regard to policies of the British Library and Library of Congress on digital preservation is worth to have a look at it. Also, it will be useful to have a look on following projects websites.

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