Reflections for LIS 600

I completed this Directed Study as a preparation for research completed in LIS 597, Seminar in Advanced Research Methods. My choice of topic was driven by previous experiences with administering a Z39.50 server at a regional library in Alberta. Our Z39.50 server was set up using the defaults created by the integrated library system (ILS) vendor, and was largely ignored after the initial setup. I suspect that many Z39.50 servers are administered in the same manner.

I first realized that there were a number of options available when our technical services department started using Z39.50 to connect to remote servers, including paid subscription services, for copy cataloguing. Configuring the Z39.50 client within our ILS was challenging, largely due to the complexity of the Z39.50 protocol and the differences in configuration chosen by the various target systems. During this process, I encountered Z39.50 profiles, including the Bath profile and various national profiles.

This experience led me to consider researching profile compliance of Z39.50 servers for my LIS 505 (Research Methods for Library and Information Studies) project. However, as I explored this topic, I realized that the SRU protocol was arguably more relevant. As mentioned in the body of the paper, I was especially intrigued by the Explain operation. Once I realized that there was a lack of research in this area, I chose this as my topic for the LIS 505 proposal. I used that proposal as the basis for a successful application for a Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship.

Because of the lack of research, I chose a grounded theory methodology to discover what variables were influencing SRU use. Part of grounded theory methodology is a need for sufficient knowledge to recognize variables of interest, which is termed theoretical sensitivity. In addition to a need to develop this sensitivity, I was also driven by personal desires - I did not want to waste my participants' time become of my ignorance, and I did not want to be embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. A Directed Study in the SRU protocol was a natural response to these needs.

The Directed Study certainly fulfilled those needs, but it also allowed me to explore collegial connections and the use of virtual machines to test new software.

While choosing my topic for LIS 505, I contacted Dr. William Moen of the University of North Texas. His comments and guidance were invaluable in choosing my final topic. As mentioned in the body of the paper, Sandra Shores and Dr. Peter Binkley of the University of Alberta Libraries were very generous with their time and assistance.

In my previous employment, I made heavy use of server-based virtual machines for both testing and production services. While I had experimented with desktop installations of virtual machines, my use had been fairly limited, and I had never experimented with the export of virtual machines for other people to use.

In the Fall of 2009, I used the knowledge gained in this Directed Study to design and complete a pilot study in the use of the Explain operation and SRU as part of LIS 597. This study touched on a number of broad issues beyond technology, including the needs of users, the challenges in information retrieval and the changing nature of libraries' online presence. I expect these concepts and challenges to inform much of my life as an information professional.

Acknowledgements

This project was conducted as a LIS 599 Directed Study in preparation for a research project completed in LIS 597 - Seminar in Advanced Research Methods. I am grateful to both Dr. Ali Shiri and Dr. Lisa M. Given for their support and guidance during the respective projects. I would also like to thank my advisor, Dr. Dinesh Rathi, for his support and guidance during the completion of my MLIS program.

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