MLA Annual Meeting Blog Survey Results

At this year’s annual meeting we had a great group of bloggers who wrote on various topics during the annual meeting.  I was able to meet some of them in person (we were all very busy) and I think I can speak for all of them in saying that we really wanted to do our best to keep the membership informed of events and information at MLA. 

In an attempt to analyze success of the blog and bloggers, I conducted two surveys.  One survey was just for the bloggers themselves to determine what strategies, platforms, etc worked best.  The results of that blog will be passed on to the 2010 NPC group to help with their blog.  The second survey was for everyone who read the annual meeting blog and its intent was to help us see whether our posts were helpful and whether a blog was a good information resource for the annual meeting.

Here are the results of the second survey:

  • 70 people responded to the survey, 39 of the respondents did not attend the annual meeting while 31 did.  Not everyone responded to every question.
  • Most (34) people visited the blog once a day.  There was little difference between non-attendees and attendees as to how many times they accessed the blog. 
    • 17 non-attendees and 17 attendees reported viewing the blog once a day.
    • 9 non attendees and 7 attendees reported viewing the blog multiple times a day.
    • 4 non attendees and 2 attendees reported viewing the blog twice a day.
  • 39 respondents thought the blog “covered the various programs, sessions and meeting events” well or extremely well.  17 respondents thought the blog covered the annual meeting fairly well, while 5 people thought the blog poorly covered the annual meeting.

People were asked “What did you like best about the blog?”  Below are sample comments from those who thought the blog covered the annual meeting events well & extremely well, fairly well, and poorly. 

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting well or extremely well:

“Personal takes on aspects of the meeting: venue, exhibits, speakers, sessions. Especially liked it when different bloggers covered the same things–got to see different perspectives.”

“Since I couldn’t attend the meeting, I really appreciated the opportunity to see the highlights in the blogs.  This way the information is more current than waiting for someone to write a more formal report.”

“I am so glad the initiative was taken to have a conference blog. The blog may not be perfect but it’s a great start…the point is that we tried. Learn a little from this one and see what else next year brings! I really like being able to catch the stuff I missed because I was at other meetings. Also being able look at postings after the meeting as I reflect on the meeting is helpful.”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting fairly well:

“Very helpful to have links to related content within the blog posts (Roz Dudden and the Bosworth article, NLM update links, etc).  The blog was accessible to me at work (Wiki was not).  The organization of the blog was useful (bloggers; blogger calendar; meeting calendar, posts by date, tags, etc).  Pictures in the blog were fun — I would have enjoyed seeing more of those including some ID of members show.  (note: Flckr not available at work & checking from home a time or 2, there weren’t  a lot of pics). I also appreciated the “real time” aspect of the blog — I tracked timing of sessions & wanted to read posts ASAP afterwards. I loved the blog & think it was terrific as a start on providing this online connection to the meeting.”

“It was something to refer to since I couldn’t go to the meeting. However, it was no substitute!”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog was poor in its coverage of the annual meeting:

“A small view of the conference.”

“More in depth than twitter comments; more permanent way of “archiving” the information.”

The survey also asked people their thoughts on “What was missing or what could have been done better.”  Below are sample comments from those who thought the blog covered the annual meeting events well & extremely well, fairly well, and poorly. 

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting well or extremely well:

“The only thing is I wish there would have been more information on the vendors present and the products available. Maybe even have some vendors blog, not sure about this with bias and everything. But it is a nice way to see the new products if you are not able to attend the meeting.”

“I wish more people had commented. Maybe next year.”

“There were too many posts to keep up with.  I would have liked a smaller number of bloggers and targeted posts on key events.  Or, maybe the same number of bloggers but different blogs for different things – social events, keynote or special events, commentary, etc…”

“Best to not report about the vendor parties.  Stick to MLA events.  Sorry to be a pill.  Could use more pictures and coverage of booth activities. Needed business meeting coverage.  Did any blogger go? Who won the awards? would like a preview.”

“I wish more of the information from the presentations such as posters, slideshares, videos, referenced websites could have been linked to from the descriptive blog posts.”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog covered the annual meeting fairly well:

“Links to posts from bloggers’ names & the meeting calendar would have been useful (not sure if that’s possible).  I also wish there were more comments on the posts/sessions from others attending the meeting.  I always come away from poster and papers with lots of notes and starred* items I want to followup on when I get home. Somehow capturing some of the ideas sparked during sessions (or just more comments on the posts) would be great. How about an “in the hallways” blogger?  What other stuff was being talked about at the meetings (there’s always some MLA business item swirling). A “walkthrough” the exhibits?  ”

“I think events could have been covered more completely–and  more events could have been covered.”

“TOO MANY bloggers added to the confusion.  Different blogging styles, etc. … The photo qualities were inconsistent.
Please just a few bloggers next year.  21 (I think) bloggers kind of seemed ridiculous to the many of us who could not afford to attend the MLA conference in Honolulu this year.”

“I attended the meeting, but if I had not attended, more comprehensive coverage would have been helpful.”

Sample comments from those that thought the blog was poor in its coverage of the annual meeting:

“MORE MORE MORE postings. There were so many of us who could not go this year. More information could only have been better. Twitter was much more lively way to follow things, with truer and more candid thoughts.”

“very sparse if done next year, there needs to be way more postings”

“Longer posts with more detail. Some posts I read on sessions I actually attended were too vague and too short. If you have one next year, please set out some guidelines for posters to follow. I did not find this year’s posts all that useful.”

Finally the survey asked whether MLA should have a meeting blog next year.  Only two people said no, five people did not answer the question, and 63 people said yes.  Interestingly one of the “No” answers thought the bloggers covered the conference events well.  The people who did not answer this question also did not answer how well they thought the blog covered the annual meeting’s events. 

Krafty’s thoughts:

After crunching the numbers and sifting through the comments it was interesting to see the two biggest suggestions (wants) and complaints were along the lines of not enough bloggers & coverage and too many bloggers & too much/cluttered information.  I have to say setting up and running point on the blog was a fairly big job.  After blogging several conferences independently and as an “official” blogger, I knew that it would be difficult for us to cover everything.  My goal was to get as many possible good writers/bloggers who were dedicated to posting about the conference.  I had two reasons for this decision. 

1. I knew that it would be extremely difficult to have only a few bloggers do adequate coverage of the conference.  Bloggers split their time between being a regular attendee and a bloger, if you remember we are attending to learn about things too.  We aren’t their solely to report on the annual meeting.  Many of us this year also had many other duties (presenting, representing committees, etc.) at this conference.  My other meeting obligations were part of the reasons I was even able to go to the meeting this year.  We couldn’t blog on everything we did and saw, that is why it helped to have many other bloggers who could theoretically blog on something when others couldn’t. 

2. Due to the economy tanking and travel budgets being restricted I knew that a lot of people who normally attend the meeting would be staying home.  So I wanted to make sure that we had enough people to try and cover many different events.

Based on the conflicting comments, “too many posts, not enough information, too many bloggers, need more bloggers,” I think it would be better to have a better list of what topics bloggers intend to cover.  We tried to do this with the blogging calendar, but perhaps we need to be a little more focused.  One thing to note is that I posted on the MLA meeting blog and on this blog asking for suggestions on what events readers wanted us to cover, there were very few responses/comments.  The bloggers can only cover so many things and if you don’t let us know ahead of time, we can’t cover it.  

Another thought would be to have better organization to the blog.  Right now I am not sure how this can be done since many blogs list entries in chronological order.  Perhaps in the future we can look at subject organization (spoken like a true librarian) and only the titles or perhaps the first 2-3 sentences show up on the main page.  That will take some investigating. 

I do wish there was more commenting and interaction going on within the blog.  I am not sure if the lack of commenting was just the usual comment malaise that faces many good blogs or if it had to do with the time difference between Hawaii and main land.  I know many conference attendees (myself included) always were on the go and had little down time and who wants to spend their little bit of down time stuck to a computer in Hawaii?  Perhaps in the future attendees will be more willing to be online in their down time in less tropically distracting locations. 

All in all I am very satisfied with the blog and the bloggers.  I think we did an awesome job (of course I am really biased) 🙂  I think based on the feedback, MLA should consider continuing the annual meeting blog.  But what are your thoughts?  I would love to hear them, especially from those of you who did not complete the survey.  Drop a line and leave a comment, this is your chance to help shape communication at the annual meeting.

Listing of STM Publishers Who Froze or Lowered 2010 Prices

The list of STM publishers who have frozen or lowered their 2010 prices is now available.  The MLA’s Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications compiled the list with help from members of the library community. The list shows many publishers who have frozen 2010 prices at 2009 levels and who are offering libraries additional pricing options in recognition of current economic constraints.

This list will continue to be updated as information becomes available, so if you are a publisher or a librarian who knows of a publisher who should be added please notify the contact person on the web page.

Posts Will Be Sporadic

These last two weeks have been extremely hectic for me.  I have tried to keep posting on my off time but I have been off my normal routine.  This is not the way I usually do things.  I love writing and posting and enjoying hearing from readers.  But I have been busier than normal and just haven’t had time to post as usual.  For those of you who don’t know, I sold my house.  After 2-3 years of it being on/off the market we had somebody come in on July 4th weekend and buy it.  The key stressor (and the reason I have not been posting as much), the buyer wanted to close on July 23rd!  We have outgrown our starter home and have been wanting to move for so long, and in this market when somebody wants your house you will do almost anything to sell it.

We had two weekends to find a place to live and to move our stuff.  A family of four (plus one large dog) has a lot of stuff and it is difficult to move out quickly.  After going on a whirlwind tour viewing 10 potential houses in 5 hours, we decided after several cold beers and Tylenol that we didn’t want to rush into buying anything.  Additionally it was highly unlikely that we would be able to close on even an empty house and move in by July 23rd.  So we decided to move into an apartment until we could find a new home.  Still, finding an available apartment for a family at a reasonable price (not more than my mortgage) and allowed large dogs was impossible.  Once we decided Baxter, the beloved family dog, would go on “vacation” with my mom in St. Louis, it made finding an apartment slightly easier. 

Last weekend was spending packing and moving.  This week we are still in the middle of moving little odds and ends out and cleaning the house.  Cross my fingers all will go well and we will only be squooshed in an apartment for a small amount of time.  But in the mean time my posts will be a little sporadic as I just don’t have the time or space to sit down to write or keep up with all of the library world events.  When things start to settle down I will be back to posting as usual. 

One weekend to pack and move.
One weekend to pack and move.

Doing More With Less

These days everybody is trying to do more with less money.  Although this is usually viewed negatively and most often discussed as budgets shrink, the concept of doing more for less or getting the best bang for your budget really shouldn’t be thought of in a negative light.   In lean times it can help keep or maintain some programs, resources and services.  In prosperous times (when we don’t often talk about this topic) it often means having the ability to purchase something extra.  

In my previous posts I mentioned the various publishers who were freezing or lowering their 2010 subscription costs.  With the advent of the Internet and the electronic journal there are a whole host of ways to get creative and try and save money on your journal budget.  Saving money on journals doesn’t always mean cutting the journal collection.  Some publisher’s offer cheaper subscription costs for online only access.  It is also important to take into account the other “hidden factors” in your journal collection.  One publisher’s online only journals might be more expensive than the printed version, but you don’t have to spend time (salary dollars) checking in the journal, you don’t have to spend time and money on binding, you don’t have to worry about theft, and your usage statistics are easily collected online.  The cost of a printed journal is more expense than the subscription.  It is also probably extremely helpful to invest in an A-Z product through a company like Serials Solutions or EBSCO.  These products are relatively inexpensive for the amount of time they save maintaining the online links to journals, collecting and providing usage statistics.  Now it sounds funny to say spend money to save money, but an A-Z service can also help you better determine your electronic journal collection overlap.  Why pay for something when you are getting it from other sources or packages? 

There are all sort of other ways to save and get the most for your library dollars.  One of the librarians at my institution has submitted the abstract to a poster for Midwest MLA detailing how she has saved the library approximately $5,000/year by actively requesting for a donated copy of each new book authored or edited by our institutional authors.  Right now about 50% of the institution’s staff authors donate a copy of their book to the library.  Think of the savings if she were to get the donation rate even higher.  The librarian also discovered other ways to save money through other types of book donations and by negotiating with publishers.  I don’t want to steal her thunder so if/when her abstract is accepted I will link out to it and her poster.

Of course these budget issues are hitting more than just the academic medical and the hospital library world.  The recently released study (July 15, 2009) Ithaka Case Studies in Sustainability project is a multi-year, international exploration of the strategies being used to support digital initiatives over the long term.  Twelve cases are presented with special attention to cost management strategies.  Some of the studies are from groups and projects outside of the United States and some are humanities based. 

There are those in the medical library world who are looking at ways to save money or creating lists of companies with more favorable pricing and conditions.  As I mentioned in an earlier posts, MLA’s Scholarly Communications Committee is creating a list of STM publishers who have frozen or decreased their 2010 subscription prices.  Mark Funk, previous MLA president is also looking at innovative ways medical librarians are using to save money and fund resources and services.  Recently he sent a post to MEDLIB asking for suggestions (re-posted with permission below).

I will be speaking at the UNYOC Chapter meeting in October on collection development in times of diminishing budgets. Oh sure, I have some things I do to deal with budget issues, but that won’t fill up 40 minutes. And most of them only work for academic medical libraries. So I’m asking the medical library community to send me the things you are now doing to deal with a diminished budget to my blog.

I will put the best suggestions into my presentation, and make the presentation available for everyone. So consider this a joint cooperative publication, with me as the editor. I suspect that many of us are doing the same things, but I will identify interesting techniques with your name, if you allow me.

Please post your techniques, even if they seem obvious to you. Here’s what I’m doing (although some pre-date the current economic situation):

  • Join consortia (lowers pricing, saves on negotiation time.)
  • Partner with the main library (our annual share of the Springer ebook package  is less than what we used to pay for print Springer books from our  approval plan, and we get tons more.)
  • Substitute free “lite” versions for little used paid databases (AGELINE, AGRICOLA.)
  • Use those cancellation privileges in your big deal (every $100 helps. /sarcasm)
  • Go e-only whenever possible (although sometimes this is more costly, watch out.)
  • Cancel the approval plan.
Come on, show the world your brilliant idea. Let me know if I can credit your idea. I’ve already received some excellent ideas; please keep them coming.


So what are you doing in your library?  How are you doing more (or the same) with less money.  have you cut things or have you been more judicious in your selection process?  Let Mark know and feel free to also leave a comment.  I think we all can learn a few new tricks.

MLA Scholarly Communications Committee Tracking STM Publishers Who Freeze or Decrease 2010 Prices

Shortly after I wrote the post about AMA freezing their 2010 subscription prices at 2009 price, I cam across this poston liblicense.  According to the email posted on the list, MLA’s Scholarly Communications Committee is creating a list of STM publishers who have either frozen or decreased their 2010 subscription prices for some of their journals.

They are willing to share this information once they have it all compiled. 

Below is a list of the publishers they are currently aware of so far.  If you know of any STM publishers not on the list who have frozen or decreased their prices for some of the journals, contact Karen Albert, Senior Director for Education and Information Services at Talbot Research Library karenalbert[at sign]fccc[dot]com.

  • ASM (American Society for Microbiology)
  • *American Mathematical Society
  • Annual Reviews
  • ***European Endocrinology Societies –Price freezing on selected
    individual titles for libraries that can commit to continuing to
    subscribe for 2010-12
  • SPIE
  • National Academy of Sciences – PNAS
  • Oxford U. Press: there will be no increase in the online only price between 2009 and 2010 for the majority of our journals.
  • Rockefeller U. Press
  • Earthscan

This list might be very helpful.  I think it would be interesting to have a list of database providers, ebook providers, and other online resources too.  However that might be initially biting off more than we can chew.

AMA Journal 2010 Subcription Prices

According to a post on liblicense from Elizabeth Solaro, Manager of Marketing and Promotions for JAMA and Archives Journals, the American Medical Association has announced that 2010 subscription prices for JAMA, Archives Journals and American Medical News will remain at 2009 prices. 

This price freeze applies to those who have an AMA Site License, Institutional Limited Access, individual print and online only supscriptions, and the JAMA & Archives Backfiles collection.  If you need more information about this or have any questions you should contact JAMA & Archives. 

I find it interesting to look at the various publishers, vendors, and producers to see who is responding to the ecomonic situation and how.  Not every company is able to freeze prices, some of your smaller companies or society publications still have to raise prices since they too are suffering in the same economy.  However, it appears that even many of those smaller companies and societies are responding to economic worries with smaller prices increases than in years past.  I am not completely naive, I know a lot of the reason for this is to preserve their overall subscription base.  There is more competition than ever for subscription dollars.  The bigger institutions and libraries are becoming extremely cost conscious.  Three years ago a larger library may have been able to access journal or resource from two different companies.  There usually was some reason for paying two companies for the same product.  Perhaps patrons liked one interface better and the librarians liked the other.  Perhaps there was some duplication and overlapping of packages across vendors.  Who knows what the reasons were, but now institutions are going over their subscriptions with a fine tooth comb and cutting loose the under performers and consolidating access and eliminating overlapping and duplicated resources. 

What I find even more interesting are the companies that continue on as normal, as if we weren’t in a global recession.  You usually find out about these companies either directly from your 2010 price quote or indirectly from the librarian grapevine.  Once I am able to separate myself from the emotions of the process, I find it quite intriguing to see who these companies are and their rational(s) for the price increase.  I wonder whether their strategy will ultimately be effective or whether their product will be on the chopping block for many libraries.   

Time will tell.

Journals Going Digital Only

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article about the American Chemical Society ending the print editions and begin producing only online journals for all but three of their journals.  It was a financial decision.  “Printing and distribution costs now exceed revenues from print journals,” according to a story in Ars Technica which The Chronicle sites. 

On the biomedical side of things BMJ was one of the first journals to use the online version as their official version instead of the printed version.  BMJ’s “continuous publication” means that all articles appear on before being included in an issue of the print journal. While this has caused some among readers and librarians, it is clearly a just the beginning of what is soon to come. 

Adverstising dollars, subscriptions, and even article submissions are all affected in some way as the switch from the printed issue to the online issue happens within the publishing industry.  In some areas there are great opportunities and promise with an online article such as the multitude of ways that data, images, sound, etc. can now be better represented.  But for every growth opportunity there will be some growing pains. 

As we move away from the printed issue librarians and readers will need to ween themselves off of page numbers and rely upon the doi for citation and reference purposes.  It is a little awkward but doable.  One big hurdle we librarians must start to deal with is archives.  If a journal goes all online such as the American Chemical Society journals, there is no printed issue subscription to hold in archives on our shelves.  The debate about keeping the print copy for just in case circumstances becomes pointless if there is no print edition to keep.  ILL issues need to be ironed out a little better.  It is common fair use policy to ILL a copy or scanned image of the printed article to another library via email or Illiad.  Things get murky when dealing with the online copy.  Some journal publishers have adopted the same fair use policies for their online editions as they have for the printed editions.  Other publishers have far more restrictive policies on fair use and ILL of the online article.  A great many publishers do not have any policies regarding ILL and their online articles. 

Finally we as librarians need to start looking at ourselves and our libraries to see how we are set up to handle the transition.  We are already beginning to see some of this in the shifting perception of the library as a repository of information to an information services provider.  As librarians we need to evaluate how we personally are ready for this kind of shift.  Do we know our IP ranges?  Are we aware of the journals that have wonky ILL policies for online editions?  Do we have access methods established (A-Z, LinkOut, etc.)?  Do we have education and elevator speeches ready to help some of our patrons?  How are we doing in “training” our administration to not be fooled into thinking that just because it is online it is cheaper or free?  There are other issues and challenges to consider, these are just a few that I can easily think of and describe. 

Thankfully this transition isn’t going to happen over night.  We have time to work on a lot of the areas that we are lacking in.  However, now is the time to work on it.  To sit by and still invest in the print with no eye toward the future changes would be very costly in money, time, and potentially personal and library usage.

Twitter Tips

I have begun to really get into Twitter.  I have said several times that I am not quite sure how Twitter can be used in medical libraries, however there are some medical libraries out there with a Twitter account using it. 

So far, many libraries seem to be using it as a news communication device, either replacing or supplementing their blog.  You can easily grab the RSS feed and hook it into your web page to display current library news and events.  For example if our library had a Twitter account we would have been able to easily display a tweeted message  on our site about an issue we were having with the lights in the library.  As it was, we were able to add a message to our web page that our lights were off but all other power (i.e. computers) was working and we were indeed open.  So if we were able to put that message on our web page already why would be interested in using Twitter?  Well, it might be a little easier than bringing up the page, changing it, and uploading it to web server. 

Like every tool each librarian needs to look at Twitter and see whether it is useful for the library or for the professional or personal life.  I find it a very useful tool for me to stay connected to other medical and library colleagues.  I use it to stay current and to ask questions and discussion issues with others.  It has been so useful that it has almost become a sort of light version MEDLIB-L to me. 

If you are thinking of using Twitter for in your library you might be interested in 5 Ways to Build a Local Following on Twitter and twitterless.

The first is an article on ways that you can easily build your group of followers.   Their examples can be adapted and applied for institutions.  They suggest using Twellow to find people in your city or state, which may not be of interest to most medical libraries.  But Twellow has a rather robust (for Twitter) search feature allowing you to find people who mention your institution’s name.  It can search for an exact phrase, people matching groups of phrases, and it can search within a specific field.  Another nice feature is that it can also exclude phrases. 

Twitterless is an easy way to keep track of your followers.  If you have an institutional Twitter account it would be helpful to know how many people follow and stop following your account.  It graphs your follower history over time. 

A lot depends on how you or your library intends to use Twitter.  How you intend to use Twitter will somewhat drive your decisions on who you follow, whether you protect your updates, your RT and @ behavior (RT= repost someone’s tweet, @=reply to someone’s tweet). 

If you are already a Twitterer or if you are just interested in trying it out for your self or your library you might be interested in learning about some of these Twitter tips.

Get a listing of Twittering librarians. Just Tweet It, is a directory where people can add there name and search for others on Twitter who share the same interests.  There is a listing of librarians as well as accountants, archaeologists, engineers, mortgage brokers, and even wedding planners. The directory relies on self submission.

Twitter is not for everyone and every institution.  It took me a while to decide whether I wanted to stick with it or not.  I had to find my Twitter legs so to speak.  Not only did I have to decide if I even wanted to Twitter, but I wasn’t sure what my purpose for Twittering would be.  Did I want a completely personal (not library related) account where I tweeted about things going on in my personal life including my quest to sell my house (finally sold thank goodness) or did I want a completely library professional account where all I tweeted about was medical and library related things?   Eventually my own personal Twitter style (a mix of professional and personal information) emerged and once it did I really found that I began to enjoy using Twitter.

Applying for Library Jobs

I ran across an fun and interesting blog post from In The Library with the Lead Pipe, titled “What Not To Do When Applying for Library Jobs“.  The post is interesting not only in content but how it was created.  They decided to do a “collective wisdom” post about library job hunting mistakes.  Essentially it is a group post pooling information on the “do’s and don’t’s” of looking and interviewing for a library job.

There is practical information on planning, applying for a position, application process and materials, phone interviews, interview prep, interviews, references, the offer, and “after you land the job.”  There is something for everyone and it doesn’t hurt to read through these things before you decide to apply for a job.

Once you have read the post and you find you have some suggestions, they welcome any of your thoughts, advice and questions.

Of course looking for a job is serious, but if you find you need a little stress relief, you might want to check out the the recent article, “43 Things Actually Said in Job Interviews” from Career Builder.