This Week in LIS - 2 November 2012

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Headline of the Week: “Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.”

Forgive my mixing of Watsons. The quote above is attributed to one discoverer of the telephone. IBM’s Jeopardy playing Watson was named after another Watson who was IBM’s founder. Nevertheless I do want to see IBM’s Watson, especially after learning about its latest application.

There is a LinkedIn group called Watson Advocates. I think anyone might join. A post on that group led me to the first link below. It describes how IBM’s Watson is being extended to be a study partner for those in the medical industry helping them move back and forth explicitly between the scholarly literature, the particular signs and symptoms of a patient coming from the patient’s electronic medical record and the physician. It is an iterative process where the medical professional highlights key signs and symptoms and Watson works using statistics and inference to connect those symptoms to a range of potential diagnoses. Along the way there is opportunity for Watson to learn; to add additional information (e.g. from suggested additional tests to further clarify likely options) or to help Watson’s natural language processing improve or to guide Watson based on a doctor’s experience to give more weight to some connections or evidence than others. In the video Watson is shown that the word “typify” is akin to “indicate.” That semantic revelation enables Watson to compute new probabilities and make additional stronger connections. It is really quite astounding. In a related article the claim was made that Watson has ingested (semantic natural language processing) approximately 80% of the existing medical literature. It seems the boundary between machines and humans is moving.

This application fits in a genre called cognitive computing. What might cognitive computing do for a liberal arts college or a library? Imagine such a search/connection/logic tool operating over all the digital books and scholarly articles, say in HathiTrust? What does “Reference Help” look like in this scenario? We are just moving to mainstream full text search as our collection and access to digital journals and books grows much much faster than traditional media. This looks to be just around the corner.

I can only begin to imagine the impact such tools could have on how we think about information literacy, technology literacy, research and teaching and learning. What are the expectations on graduates that enter a world that implement, maintain and use tools like this?

Suggested Reading/Viewing:

IBM Watson Cleveland Clinic Demo

I.B.M. Chief on Watson, Cognitive Computing and Her Tenure

Cleveland Clinic and IBM Work to Advance Watson’s Use in the Medical Training Field

IBM’s Supercomputer Watson Headed to Medical School

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LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS. Among the topics discussed this past week were:

  • LIS Operational Agenda
    • Council members will be reporting on LIS operational views (metrics for processes and status of projects) regularly at LIS Council meetings. This week’s reports included the following:
    • Library
      • Research Help Stats for this period, compared year over year, were shared. They were up in total questions and down in reference questions.
      • 75% of questions take less than 5 minutes to handle.
      • 106 Research Instruction sessions have been held so far this year split across: Paideia, other course-related sessions, rare book room sessions, consultations, Zotero classes, and outreach categories. About half of the total number of sessions from last year have been held this year to this point.
      • Turkey Valley and South Winn students visit Preus 11/1 for National History Day research. There is one additional school visiting next week.
      • The Rare Book Room was used as the setting for several interview taping sessions including pieces for Christmas at Luther recordings.
      • John and Ryan plan to visit Viterbo next week to learn about their OCLC Worldshare implementation. They have also had some conversations with other users to better understand their experience with the system.
      • Grinnell is using Islandora/Fedora and Ryan has been in conversation recently with them. This technology may play a role in our digital media repository plans.
    • Software Development
      • SQL Server project status was shared. Plans include updating the test instance of Datatel on SQL Server (which takes 4 days to complete). Plan calls for two more over the course of the project. Customization progress for the SQL environment is being made. Held two learning sessions with a Business Objects consultant (also an alum) and the team is revisiting using Business Objects as the data analytics/report writing platform. Cost is being analyzed for the technology and overall project cost and funding was discussed.
      • LIS plans to meet with the team from the Box Office and others on 11/1 to talk about “lessons learned” from Christmas at Luther ticket scenario including testing, communication, etc.
      • The first official Admissions status counts came out of Slate this week. This is the Admissions CRM system.
      • Programming and content work underway for the Veterans Kiosk.
      • Google custom search went live yesterday on the Luther website. It is also active on the LIS website. It seems to be working well. The team plans to verify that all the sites the Google appliance had searched are now being searched by the new service and then the appliance can be retired or reclaimed for other purposes.
      • New Katie Version Workshops are in progress. Four sessions were held this week and more sessions are planned for next week. Sign up for a session at
      • The Phonathon is underway. Next spring there are plans to implement a new calling system.
      • The Marketing organization has begun searching for a person to fill a Web Content Management Position.
  • New Items
    • CLIR Workshop
      • Jennifer Rian and Diane Gossman will be attending a CLIR (Council on Library and Information Resources) Workshop next week at Washington University in St. Louis. The workshop is on participatory design in academic libraries. This is part of the “product marketing” mission to explore and satisfy unmet needs.
    • Digital Media Assessment
      • Phase I data collection (qualitative) for the campus-wide Digital Media assessment has completed and we have some good data from those who responded. Phase 1 response rate was lower than expected. Phase 2 (quantitative) assessment will begin next week with face to face meetings. The intention is to pick up groups that had not responded in Phase 1 during this phase. A steering team meeting/update was held 10/31 where the Phase 1 results were shared. The steering committee is Sherry Alcock (for Keith Christensen), Joe Thompson, Kevin Kraus, Rob Larson and Paul. Sasha presented the results. Diane also attended.
    • MetroNet Update
      • Fiber is here and in the process of being installed.
  • Returning Items
    • LIS General
      • The plan for the November LIS General is to watch the opening session for EDUCAUSE online.
    • EDUCAUSE Online
      • Reminder to consider attending one or more of next week’s EDUCAUSE Online sessions

Upcoming LIS Training, Instruction, and Professional Development Opportunities

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

Course Format Date Location Enrollment
New Katie Version Workshop Nov 6 2012 – 8:15am 9:15am Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
New Katie Version Workshop Nov 6 2012 – 11:15am 12:15pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
New Katie Version Workshop Nov 6 2012 – 1:00pm 2:00pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
New Katie Version Workshop Nov 6 2012 – 2:45pm 3:45pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
EDUCAUSE Online 2012 – Day 1 Online Conference Nov 7 2012 – 9:00am 7:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
New Katie Version Workshop Nov 7 2012 – 1:30pm 2:30pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Nov 7 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
EDUCAUSE Online 2012 – Day 2 Online Conference Nov 8 2012 – 9:00am 7:30pm Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
EDUCAUSE Online 2012 – Day 3 Online Conference Nov 9 2012 – 9:00am 12:15pm Dahl Centennial Union – Borlaug Open
New Katie Version Workshop Nov 14 2012 – 2:45pm 3:45pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
Intro to SAS Workshop Nov 20 2012 – 11:00am 12:00pm Olin 113 Open
Remote Access Options Product Demonstration Dec 3 2012 – 12:15pm 1:15pm Dahl Centennial Union – Mott Open
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Dec 5 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
Remote Access Options Product Demonstration Dec 6 2012 – 11:15am 12:15pm Dahl Centennial Union – Mott Open

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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