How Libraries Represent Zotero

As the beginning of the new academic year approaches I think there is a good chance of winning over more users.
Many institutions now feature Zotero on their library webpages and are largely full of praise, but in many cases one finde these three "contras"
* Less adequate for formatting bibliographies for papers, since there aren't many style formats.
* Takes more time to maintain than RefWorks or EndNote. Records imported into Zotero may have more errors.
* Zotero doesn't have a feature to find duplicate records, so you need to delete them manually. This can be time consuming if you have a large library.
eg. at Harvard
or MIT:

I think the first one is manifestly false by now and we should think about ways of addressing that.
The second one - I'm not sure where that comes from. I'd think Zotero usually gets the same quality of data where there are Endnote/Refworks translators available.
I think it might be a good idea to get the word out - but how? Write to the libraries individually? What is the source of this pro and con list, which is included in a number of guides?
  • edited August 30, 2009
    Cambridge University (UK) computing service provides this information:

    This is a) quite hidden b) out of date (no mention of syncing at all - they recommend the portable firefox solution). Edit: Although, thinking about it, they may be just nervous about recommending beta software.

    It raises issue 1 from asamsmith's post as well as a couple of others which I don't believe are still current, namely:

    • They are "slightly dubious" about the stability of a very large library - this was the case a few years ago and may still be technically true if you have 70,000 or so references, but for most practical purposes would I be correct in saying that it is now a non-issue?

    • They say that saving references is "quite slow" - this certainly hasn't been my experience over the past year, and the forums haven't had any complaints about this for quite some time now (excepting individual problems, unique to specific users).
    In terms of getting the word out I say writing to libraries individually is probably the only way forward (in my opinion mass mailing libraries with emails explaining the benefits of Zotero is likely to hit spam filters, both computer and human).

    What might be useful is a page, written for libraries, that explains the benefits of Zotero for their students and researchers and can be referenced in individual emails. The best way to go about the emailing would probably be for users to email their own institutions where possible (carries more weight). I'll try and get onto an email for Cambridge in the near future.
  • there is a blog post that Sean or Trevor wrote a while ago - something like 10 reasons for your library to adopt Zotero - that seems pretty well thought out.

    The adding an item still freezes Firefox for a couple of seconds if Zotero is downloading a large file to attach, Dan has mentioned decoupling that - but overall I agree, speed in adding items is a non-issue.

    Database stability I don't think is an issue, but I think that for select operations large databases with indexed files continue to pose speed issues (large in this case - depending on computer space - upward of 2,500 items)
  • I'm having a go with Sydney Uni library at the moment, but it seems they are very much committed to Endnote - having paid $100,000+ for a 5 year licence. The librarians also give Endnote training courses more than once a week. I've offered to demo Zotero to them - show them all the cool stuff you can do in less time than it takes to even install Endnote, but getting over the neophobia is a hurdle so far.

    As the largest library in the Southern Hemisphere, and with almost 60,000 students, I'd love to get them to at least mention it as an option, with the hope of eventually supporting it more widely.

    The 10 reasons is pretty good (PDF version), and with the new features there are probably yet more good reasons we could dream up too.

    2.0 coming out of beta would be an ideal opportunity to get some extra library publicity going. Maybe something more on the website to encourage users to contact their librarians with positive experiences?

    Maybe the Zotero Evangelists group could also advise?
  • I'm afraid in most Australian universities, there's little hope without a substantial wine & dine budget. Evaluation and other processes here are entirely autocratic and hence iredeemably corrupted by manager whim. Whims find it hard to escape the gravitational pull of benefits, and Thomson/ISI, Microsoft etc have everything pretty much sewn up.
  • I know we're small (2K-3K students) but at our private college I'm working with the librarian (who told me about Zotero) to evaluate Zotero for campus-wide use. We're both pretty excited by it and I suppose he'll put in a formal submission to the executive at some point to recommend it after we get WEBDAV sorted out (waiting on the Zotero announcement) and talk to IT about the implications (eg. bandwidth requirements of file syncing, IE is the default browser at present). We're small enough to make failry swift decisions. In addtion we're private so cost effectiveness is encouraged by all.

    Thanks for the '10 reasons' link, CB.
  • I wondering if and to what degree universities are locked into contracts that might specifically prohibit the mentioning/promotion of competing products. Here at Cornell the library has a refworks subscription and the only other product which gets considerable mention Endnote. (see e.g. ) Even searching for "Zotero" on the library website will get you only 8 results, most of them from the blog of a sub-division of the library. No idea if this is purely incidental.
  • I don't think they can do these types of things in contracts. It's more likely to be some type of institutional resistance - both Bruce and Dan(?) have written on their respective blogs about this.
    See it from the librarians point of view: Now they are supporting one (or two) products. Academics usually don't want to change things - so they'll probably be stuck with those two - or have to face grumbling powerful professors. If they add Zotero, that's just more work.

    It would be interesting to hear more about the reactions to GMU's end of Endnote support for that purpose.

    Endnote does try to pressure libraries though.
    After the citefest competition at Northwestern, which Zotero won,
    Endnote reps called the library to protest, claiming the contest wasn't fair. Really, I'm not making this up - I was on the Zotero team, so this is first hand information.
    Partly as a result of that, the library did not publish extended results on the webpage.
    Unfortunately, Endnote continues to be the main citation manager supported by the library. sigh.
  • Reply from our senior librarian:
    Yes, we looked at Zotero after you suggested such in 2007. The University selected EndNote as the reference management software it would supply to students and Library management agreed to support EndNote. I'm pleased you have found a product you like using.
  • komrade: typically evasive and autocratic manager-spiv crap, don't you think? No reasons, just "go away and play with your cheapo software, little man. We'll drink to Endnote and Microsoft. Nice little drop, this".
  • edited September 1, 2009
    I've gotten a similar response, even though the librarians themselves use Zotero and like it. In this case, they have to do with a technical group which makes the decisions. The politics involved in such issues are tiresome.

    And yet every single month I see hundreds of visitors arriving at my blog post on Zotero with the search query "endnote alternative". That's not coming from nowhere. And that's just one blog post.
  • edited September 1, 2009
    Re: the blog posts mentioned above, you can go here if you want to read them (check the trackbacks and comments).

    The short version of my position is that, despite some implicit myths to the contrary, the political-economy of technology adoption on campus isn't really significantly different than it is off-campus, even if the logics work a little differently (seems to me site licenses are often about sucking in users who will pay off after they leave campus). You can imagine that for administrators, once they make a decision to invest substantial money in a license, their natural impulse is going to be to avoid undermining the wisdom of that decision. Supporting Zotero as a superior free alternative would seem to do just that.

    That said, it's not too much to ask any library to include a link to Zotero (here's my library's), along with some factually correct information about it.

    I also think if you find resistance of this sort higher up the food chain, you might try talking to people farther down it, who may more be open-minded.
  • In my experience institutions tend to be much more responsive to their users than to third parties. Generally, spreading the word about Zotero to other folks at your institution and getting them to ask for the institution to support Zotero is much more powerful than having me contact them. (That said, I do, and will continue to contact folks at libraries)

    With that said, libraries are just one of the spots on campus that might help push Zotero. At many institutions individual departments or colleges have adopted Zotero as a tool they teach in their research methods courses. Writing Centers push Zotero to students and faculty starting on large research projects. Centers for Teaching Excellence have pushed Zotero to professors as part of initiatives to improve instruction. In many cases these different campus organizations operate in a completely autonomous fashion, so if you have trouble getting traction from one feel free to send an email to another.

    Alongside the ten reasons your institution should adopt Zotero doc your institution might be more interested in the (slightly outdated) 7 things you should know about Zotero from Educause.
  • Slightly unrelated, but made me happy! :-)

    Here's the Journal Oryx highly recommending Zotero!
    Is this a first directly from a journal?

    I'll be writing a style for Oryx when CSL 1.0 is ready (it's my field) - hopefully they'll want to be involved, endorse it and host the style on their site! Another first?
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