Monthly Archives: March 2010

Databases, URLs, and Date of Access: Things I don’t cite with APA 6th ed.

With a new year comes a new citation guide to update. To contribute my part, I’m currently working on updating the APA handout we have for students to help navigate and present examples for proper citation formatting. Having used APA for my graduate studies, I thought this will be easy…except for some of the new changes regarding electronic resource.  Now, I keep imagining myself as Johnny Carson’s Karnak. Let me explain.

While MLA has streamlined their citations with getting rid of the URL, library name, and city of library requirements for database citations by simply providing the database name, APA now no longer requires any indication that the article is from a database. For many schools, this is less of an issue since the journals are cataloged in the OPAC separately so you can search the OPAC and determine the database from there. However, without a link resolver, you’ll need to borrow Johnny’s turban to divine which database has which journal for which coverage period. (Granted there is Ulrich’s Index, but who needs the extra work of logging in or finding a print Ulrich’s to confirm a journal’s aggregator?)

Next, for online journals, APA is now asking for DOIs (Document object identifier) instead of URLs. While I am quite familiar with the havoc changed URLs can create as pages are redesigned and reorganized, DOIs have yet to be a consistently applied standard for online articles. Although the presence of free DOI lookups like Cross Ref are available, the fact that I can struggle finding DOIs for articles listed via Google Scholar doesn’t give me much confidence that the students will find them.  For example, as a sample search in PubMed, I was typically able to find the DOI for those articles once I clicked through to the full text of the article.  However, in Google Scholar, the results are not exactly the same, as I found a 2006 New England Journal of Medicine article with a DOI nowhere to be found.  Other problems with the DOI standard is that journals have not found a standard way to identify the DOI number even when it does include the information.  For example, a 2009 article from NEJM provides the number but no label identifying it as the DOI. In JSTOR, the DOI is not listed as a number but instead as part of the stable URL; the JSTOR wiki provides the background information of the difference pieces of DOI, how to decipher the DOI from the persistent URL, etc.  So are journals going to go back and provide DOIs for those older articles or just the newer ones? Will they start identifying them as DOIs consistently across platforms?

And, finally, removing the date of access from electronic citations is another remorseful update to the APA citation format.  After the other two items, this packs less of a punch but, for long ranging research, I feel it is still important for understanding when the student was reviewing a site in comparison to when you receive their paper.  For example, for students citing a newspaper article found online and one aspect from the source paper ends up being retracted and updated on the site as such, I would have less issue with the student’s discussion and would probably take the date of access vs the date of revision issue into consideration when grading.

In short, as the web continues to evolve, so does APA’s methods of citing it.  Perhaps my general comments will prove to be a fleeting concern based on past models or perhaps they will pan out like the MacBook Air, an innovation ahead of its time but frustratingly short-sighted and problematic in current usage.  Dealing mostly with MLA citations, I’m curious what other people have been experiencing with students using the new APA citation format.  Have you had to create local or personal adjustments for your own citations? Or have the general 6th edition APA formats been a success?

What the Tweet are you doing?

I couldn’t resist sharing David Letterman’s Top Ten signs that you might be spending too much time on Twitter. And on that note, enjoy the new Twitter feed feature in the left-hand column. While Twitter could seem annoying or a time waster (and yes it can be both), I find that just finding information using the feed is fantastic. In the library field, job listings from LibGig, professional development articles from American Libraries, and updates from national organizations like ACRL are just some of the ways I can simply, easily, and in one brief part of my day stay in touch with the professional world. Given that I also live in a mostly TV-less house, I use the NPR, NYTimes, and BBC World News. Even universities are finding that Twitter is helping boost student participation in the larger classroom settings, as students don’t have to worry about interrupting their professor but can still get their question asked and answered in real time. So while many people do enjoy waiting for Lady Gaga’s lunch order and I definitely see and participate in the not-so-brain-intensive aspects of the site, I’m still happy its there and think it makes me a better librarian and better informed citizen. Who do you follow?

National eContent licensing?

While scrolling through today’s Twitter news updates, I stumbled across one of  Springer’s self-aggrandizing articles about establishing a national eBook license for higher education in Germany.  As I’ve discussed in previous budget scare entries, our current system of campus to campus or university to university licensing doesn’t seem to be working.  In California, the UCs and the Cal States have a decent consortium put together to share the expenses, but what about the community colleges and public libraries?  As far as I understand, each community college or community college district has its own separate contract for access to resources, allowing each to have different numbers of resources.  Because of the split efforts, community colleges are constantly struggling to maintain access to the databases we currently have.  So why couldn’t we try a statewide or national plan for at least certain target databases to be shared?  If investment in community colleges is really a priority, this ought to be a good first step, don’t you think? Also, the different resources among public libraries can be quite shocking as well as their user policies. SFPL has a great collection, with access to many more databases that our college can offer. Shouldn’t I be able to help the English majors find articles, biographies, etc. in Gale’s Literature Resource Center without having to preface that they need to trek over to San Francisco and sign up for an SFPL library card that’s available for any Californian resident? Although statewide people can sign up for an SFPL card, the offer isn’t really for statewide access. Other public libraries are now providing library card sign up online for immediately eResource access since they are available for residents of California so what’s the holdup, SFPL? If anyone has information about this whole setup, I’d be thrilled to learn more about this.

In conclusion, as I was telling my Library Studies students just last night, being able to identify and access quality information is what will keep them employable with the quickly changing job expectations and creation of new career paths today.  Database access at the community college and public library level are one major avenue to helping people with this process. While simply stating that during a 3-hour lecture tends to not stick, I find this video (chocked full of stats) helps drive the point home.

In order for community colleges and public libraries to help support students to provide consistent access to vital information, California, the US, the Western States or any other combination of the libraries ought to try to work together and see what we can get setup with our collective power.

What is the value of an education these days?

While slowing sipping on my hot coffee, I nearly choked when I stumbled on ASEE’s blurb describing the loophole for-profit universities are exploiting by buying up smaller, indebted schools AND those schools’ accreditations (see the Bloomberg article for details). Shocked, stunned, appalled are just some of the words I have for this new practice. As a recent grad of a now all online program, I understand the perks and costs of moving your education into the virtual realm. However, our program still faced the same accreditation criteria as all the other library schools. While I feel that some courses, like cataloging, web design, and collection development should also be part of the required course curriculum, I still feel comfortable knowing that every graduate has a basic understanding of how information systems (databases) function, the library field in general, and basic management principles.  By circumventing the process, for-profits don’t necessarily have to go through the 5-year process for the school’s overall accreditation and doesn’t have to guarantee basic standards for their curricula.  Furthermore, the accreditation allows the for-profit to start receiving federal student aid, something they would normally have to wait 2 years before receiving.  According to the article, 80% of for-profit education revenue derives from the federal aid aka via the taxpayer money.  No offense but I’d much rather redirect those funds into the community colleges, many of which offer nights-weekends and vocational training similar to the for-profit ones.  And, finally, they are using these accreditations to exponentially increase enrollment.  Again, I’ve been in that situation and the students always lose because the normal  intake and review of a professor’s qualifications and teaching ability are downgraded as a priority for being a body with some skill level who is willing to grade.  The number of professors who lack the ability to teach, lack the willingness to provide feedback, or make a course that engages the students and prepares them for their possible futures is a waste of the student’s time and money.  Furthermore, even though a school may promise to fire an underperforming teacher after a consistent lack of improvement over a series of semesters, the teachers are so desperately needed that no one gets let go because they don’t want to deal with searching for a new and better qualified person.

While I don’t know how to fix this particular problem, I do feel that this is a large issue to consider about the changing landscape of academia today.  What could we learn from the business models of these for-profit ventures that might help refocus or reorganize the public counterparts to be more effective?  What “fat” does the for-profit venture trim and what is the cost (in services, facilities, IT support, etc.) for students?