The Instruction and Outreach Department manages and coordinates library research instruction for students, faculty and staff through course-related workshops, outreach activities, personal consultations, research guides and other instructional materials.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Looking at Zotero

We were fortunate that TRLN sponsored two sessions of Zotero training – one at NCSU and one at Duke – with Trevor Owens,   Zotero’s “community lead” and super trainer.

Our full day of training began with a look at the four major functions of Zotero:  collecting, organizing, citing and collaborating.  Trevor encouraged us to think of Zotero as more than a citation management system -- it is a tool for organizing research resources and managing scholarly workflow.  Many of Zotero’s strengths flow from that conceptual base.  For example, Zotero is flexible and accommodating to a wide range of research materials, there’s free storage space for PDFs and other files, and collaboration doesn’t depend on whether a researcher’s home institution has a subscription to a particular product (like EndNote).

Emily asked Trevor to summarize the strengths of Zotero, and he pointed to ease of use, emphasis on sharing and collaboration, the active Zotero community that comes from being an open source product, and the fact that it’s free.  And weaknesses?  Because Zotero works with “messy data,” users might need to do more clean-up than with products like EndNote; and the I-Tunes like interface and functionality might be difficult to get used to for long-time users of other systems.

I asked Trevor to describe the current landscape of library citation management support, since he is in touch with the library community through his training and support work.  He said that major research libraries tend to support EndNote, RefWorks and Zotero, but that budget cuts mean that campuses who have site licenses for EndNote are discontinuing them.  Here at Duke, we’re thinking seriously of how to support Zotero in some of the ways we now support EndNote and RefWorks.  First up is a “train the trainer” session this summer, so we can informally explore Zotero and share what we learned before we forget!

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