As I mentioned in my introduction to the Best Practices Exchange 2007, one of the tracks was Metadata & Discovery. Under this heading were a number of sessions aimed an answering the question, “How can we find out about new state publications if the agency won’t tell us when they put out new stuff?” This is a question that still plagues me in Alaska, even though I have a spidering program that generates a list of new files added to agency web servers. The basic problem is that what I get is a list of files, which me and an assistant need to comb through to see if there are any documents to be claimed, printed, etc. This is time intensive, taking between 10 and 20 hours for a state with a gov’t as small as Alaska’s. The holy grail for us would be any way to be notified just about documents.
One of the sessions I attended offered two options that I think will really help my program. I intend to start implementing these options this week. If they work well and I remember, I’ll report back in six months or so.
The session was done by Michelle Reilly of the Arizona State Library and Mary Jo Lazun of the Maryland State Law Library.
Michelle’s presentation was on using the calendar in Microsoft Outlook as a way of reminding program staff to check for new agency serials and annual reports. While we have a paper “print from web” listing that my assistant checks every Friday, what I like about Michelle’s use of Outlook Calendar is the ability to check off issues captured and that we can key reminders to publication frequency. So instead of visiting EVERY serials page every Friday just in case, we can put frequency appropriate reminders so only a small set of pubs needs to be visited on any given day. Michelle’s instructions and screen shots should be available on the presentations page in the next few weeks.
Mary Jo is interested in capturing new titles the library doesn’t know about yet. Her presentation was concerned with using page alerting software to track agency pages. I tried and discarded this option about three years ago but alerting services appeared to have improved since then. Mary Jo is currently using WatchThatPage, which seems to be working for her, but encourages people to try other options. Mary Jo sets her page watchers on agency home pages and any obvious “publications pages.” She currently has about 500 page watchers organized by agency. She estimates about 2/3 of the page updates are trivial changes (date changes, etc), but that the rest hold some value for her library.
Because the conference held five simultaneous sessions most of the time, I didn’t get to most of the metadata and discovery tracks. Hopefully we’ll see more writeups from attendees.
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