Who doesn’t like a good deal? Some deals are better than others, some are too good to be true, but who doesn’t like to get something that is good quality for very little or no cost? With the launch of the World Bank’s Open Knowledge Repository, such a deal is now on offer.
In April 2012, the World Bank announced the adoption of a new open access policy and the launch of their Open Knowledge Repository (OKR), the first phase of this policy. The Repository gives access to more than 2100 books and papers produced since 2009 and issues from 2007-2010 volumes of the World Bank’s two journals — World Bank Research Observer (WBRO) and World Bank Economic Review (WBER). Starting in 2013, the repository will include links to datasets used for publications and over time, there are plans to add translations of those publications originally published in English. Along with the launch of the Open Knowledge Repository, the World Bank has launched a revised Policy on Access to Information. This policy governs information relating to World Bank projects, meetings, and advisory activities.
Rendering such a large variety of World Bank products open access is a boon for researchers, because of both the sheer volume of information now available for free and also the large range of topics covered, from agriculture and energy, to development and health. Additionally, included among the monographs now available for free are the World Development Report and other flagship publications for which access was previously more limited.
The Open Knowledge Repository interface is user-friendly and the layout uncluttered. Visitors can query the collection using a single Google-esque search box and filters to modify or restrict queries. Records for publications include complete metadata (handy for cataloguers though perhaps of less interest for other users), abstracts, and links to publications in the same series, by the same author(s), or on similar subjects.
Libraries of all kinds are always on the lookout for new resources to help support the needs of their patrons and the discovery of free resources offers added benefits. While some users will still prefer to consult the print versions of these publications, the availability of these monographs online for free means that the portion of our budget previously allocated to their purchase could now be liberated and reassigned.
While this resource may be of greater use to researchers at academic or special libraries, this new open access policy may have more wider-reaching effects that could benefit. Publications are now to be covered by Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) copyright license, which allows distribution, reuse, and building upon the World Bank’s published works, even commercially, as long as credit for the original publication is given to the World Bank. One of the most flexible and permissive licenses offered by Creative Commons, this license allows wider dissemination and use of the publications and data produced by the World Bank. Perhaps more organizations, including those who already make many of their publications available online, will follow the World Bank’s lead to make even more information and even better resources available for online and for free.
Source: World Bank, Press Release No. 2012/379/EXTOP, “World Bank Announces Open Access Policy for Research and Knowledge, Launches Open Knowledge Repository.” Permanent link: http://go.worldbank.org/VOS0JQ0VK0.
Friday afternoon, we received a phone call from another library. While this is a not a memorable event on its own, what was surprising was the caller’s request — could we please send them one of our organization’s knowledge products, specifically a print version of an enormous online database?
Although the library regularly receives requests for publications, which we fill or forward to the appropriate party for fulfillment, the problem was that, while publications have been produced using content from this database, no print version of the database’s full contents exists. It has been deemed impractical to try and reproduce the entire database in print format, for a number of reasons. One reason the product exists only as a database is that content is updated and added on a regular basis, meaning a print version of the product would quickly become outdated or incomplete. A second reason is that the key feature of the database is the system’s ability to allow users to play with the information, generate maps, analyze data and produce graphic interpretations of the information, features that could not be reproduced in a print document or on a single CD-ROM.
The most surprising aspect of this call, though, was the insistence of the caller, a librarian, that we should provide this product in print format, that we were in fact obliged to do so; by choosing to not produce this product on print format, we were forcing libraries to print the entire thing themselves. Even though we explained the reasons the print format did not exist and the benefits of instead using the database with it’s up-to-date content and analytical features, all accessible online from anywhere in the world, the caller was persistent and nearly irate — we must provide this information, in both analog and digital media or we were failing our constituents and neglecting our responsibilities.
It has fewer explosions and fight scenes than Escape from New York. Sadly, it does not feature Steve McQueen, James Coburn, or James Garner. But the argument could be made that this escape is no less important than the adventures described in either film.
Sally Pewhairangi’s post “20 Everyday Ways to Escape the Library Echo Chamber” at Finding Heroes has some great ideas about how to escape the library echo chamber. As had been discussed in a previous post here are Research Salad, there are dangers to being stuck inside an echo chamber, sharing ideas only with individuals of similar opinions and experiences. Instead of talking only to other librarians and information specialists about issues facing us and how they might be addressed, Ms. Pewhairangi suggests that much can be gained by looking outside our domain. The first step to escaping the library echo chamber, she asserts, is to take an interest in what is happening outside libraries.
The list’s recommendations are diverse and intriguing: watching TED talks on subjects with which you have little to no familiarity and examining interactions in retail settings, checking out signage in supermarkets and conversing with “the weirdest person” you know about what he or she is working on. Using what is learned and the responses received, policies can be better devised or revised and practices for serving library patrons improved.
One supplement to this list which I would recommend is to travel. While leaving the region or country may not be a practical or everyday activity, adventuring outside the city in which you and your library are located is easy enough and can give you new and additional insights. As the list already includes going to a park and talking to fellow plane passengers about their library experiences, travel farther afield simply takes things one step further. To illustrate this point, I will present three travel destinations to which I escaped from the library and a few insights I gained while there.
The reopening of the Library in January meant digging my way through my inbox, checking in journal issues that had piled up in the intervening weeks. The colleague who delivers the mail had filled the box as full as possible and left the rest on my desk. Normally, as I prepare the tables of contents for distribution, I browse and find at least one or two articles of personal interest to me. At least three periodicals had December or January issues with “best articles of 2011″ or “most important x of 2011″, and as these articles traditionally provide good synopses of 2011 from different perspectives, I had expected these issues would provide rich and intriguing content.
Instead, I found myself trotting over to Google Reader (which I still use as I am still evaluating some of the options SES suggested in “Google Reader Fail”) and scrolling. It was a mixed bag, but there were some very good and helpful year-in-review style posts that might have been otherwise overlooked in the first month of the year, when suddenly one realizes that there are hundreds of new e-mails and thousands of new posts and one really needs to invest in a better strategy to manage information overload.
Now that February is giving me a chance to breathe, I wanted to share the few end-of-year review posts that I think are not to be missed.
As you may have noticed, on Wednesday, 18 January 2012, Wikipedia didn’t work.Wikipedia and a wide range of other sites including blogs like BoingBoing went black and many other sites including Google and Flavorwire used censored logos and content in protest against legislation proposed in Congress to protect copyright. The two pieces of legislation, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), would ostensibly block sites that illegally provide copyrighted content for free, but would also have a detrimental effect on access to websites and information legally and legitimately available on the Internet.
On Wednesday morning, I received one request from a colleague for clarification on why Wikipedia wasn’t available. For another user, I tried unsuccessfully to track down the posts I’d seen the previous day about how to make one’s blog go dark; the posts themselves were difficult to find because the blogs supporting them were on strike. For my own benefit, I found myself visiting sites I knew were down, simply to see what was up in place of the usual content. A couple library-themed online comics and most of the library-related blogs I follow had messages in protest and links to resources for learning more about the laws and contacting government representatives. I eagerly read the information posted on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and thoroughly enjoyed the LOLcats protest video with appropriate lyrics set to the tune of Don McLean’s signature song “American Pie.”
“A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.” – Lao Tzu
Graduate school is a large life decision that can both enrich your life and frustrate you. Like our friend Lao Tzu alludes, it’s not the pursuit of comfort that you exercise by entering graduate school, but the pursuit of knowledge. As I put the close on this semester and look back, I think about how many challenges and triumphs we had this Fall. For one, my husband recently completed his first semester of graduate studies. Now, I have been a student or worked in an academic environment for the last 11 years, so I took for granted the struggle of a professional coming back to school for the first time in a decade. In this blog post, I want to give a little “Grad School for Beginners” for those who might be needing a little refresher in the basics. Some of you may be seasoned veterans who are teaching a class for the first time,. I hope this post serves as a good starting point for your students. For others, you may be dipping your toe in the grad school waters, taking a class this Spring semester. As we get ready to get back in to the swing of things, here are some of the best lessons and resources that I’ve learned to help get you through it.
‘Twas the last Friday before the holidays
and silence reigned in the stacks.
There were no patrons nor queries,
not a call, e-mail nor fax.
The books were all shelved
in their places with care
in hopes that, undisturbed,
they would stay there…
(with apologies to Clement C. Moore)
For some libraries, the holiday season means a massive rush to the finish, followed be peace and calm and an opportunity for inventory, staff training, and wearing jeans to work. In the last week before the holiday break, there were some important lessons learned which I thought might bear sharing as they apply for librarians and library patrons, beyond this stressful period and into the rest of the year.
“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” — unknown
“If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is around to hear it, and it hits a mime, does anyone care?” — Gary Larson, The Complete Farside 1980-1994
If a TV show host and political commentator states that libraries are irrelevant, that no one needs or uses them, should we freak out, disregard him as ignorant, or take a different tack?
While going for a walk the other day, my husband said he’d been pondering something recently. Wouldn’t it be nice, he asked, to have the ability to imprint your thoughts onto an object that will persist throughout space and time, rendering yourself and your words immortal, after a fashion? He had a particular object in mind and wanted me to guess what it might be. My first guess wasn’t correct: as it turns out, despite being a Superman fan, he wasn’t thinking of the crystals that Jor-El used to convey history of Krypton and countless other universes as well as loads of other useful information for his son Kal-El. As that had seemed the most logical answer, I didn’t actually have a second guess.
My husband explained that it was really quite simple. It was a variation of a device that had been developed in Holy Roman Empire, in Europe, and China, in Asia. He was specifically thinking of printing and the printing press. While one might argue about which culture was the first to keep written records or the timing of the transition from oral to written records having greatest authority, it’s difficult to argue with printing as an effective means of compiling, storing, and preserving words and images in a way that will last a substantial period of time.
While playing tourist this weekend, I passed one of the city’s larger libraries and peeking in, saw the sight that inspired this post. The wind had picked up and a sunny day had turned grey, blustery and chilly, decidedly unsummery. Just inside the sliding glass doors of the library entrance and past the check-out machines, however, was a little piece of summer. Patches of astroturf lay on the library’s linoleum floor, beneath brightly coloured garden umbrellas. Folding plastic chairs and small tables stacked with books were arranged around the space.
And unlike in the other study and work spaces scattered throughout the library, every chair in this little oasis was occupied. Read the rest of this entry »