Computers in Libraries 2007 Wiki

The wiki is up and running for Computers in Libraries. Not only will I be attending this year but I will be presenting on using Blogs & Wikis for project management within your library. This is another presentation about our new intranet – except instead of talking about design and programming I’ll be talking about practical uses of Web 2.0 technologies for managing in-house projects. It should be a fun talk!

Mark your schedule to see me on Tuesday the 17th from 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. (Session: D202).

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More on the Web 2.0 Challenge

Paul Miller has posted a follow up to his presentation at CIL last week. He commented on our (the biblioblogosphere’s) doubts that vendors will ever live up to the dream he presented to us.

Change is hard. Change can hurt. Given where we are now, and where the wider world is going, change is essential. We need to work with libraries in order to ensure that they can project themselves and their services (both from the individual library and in various aggregate forms that will inevitably cross multiple vendors) outside their walls and beyond their web sites and into the lives of our users, whether actual or potential.

Rather than assume that your vendor will never change, why not incentivise that change (by asking for APIs, web services, etc, again and again and again), assist that change (by showing them what’s possible, and by locating and supporting the free thinkers who do exist within your vendor), and even help to force that change (by writing appropriate clauses into your specifications for new system procurements, and meaning it)?

He calls for us to discuss possiblities in the TDN, he asks that we point our vendors there and have like minded librarians join in as well.

“Small voices loosely coupled can be incredibly powerful.” – what a nice quote.

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Another Tech Savvy Staff Tip

I was reflecting on what I learned last week at the conference and I thought I should share with you all one way that we’re trying to create Tech Savvy Staff – and it’s free!

We (meaning I) look for free webinars offered through places like OPAL, SirsiDynix and KM World and invite the entire staff to attend in our multi-purpose room. This room is wired to allow the sound from the computer to come through speakers in the ceiling and it had a large screen and projector. This way we can feel like we’re at a conference or official training session and we don’t have to pay a penny.

What ways are you training your staff? Or are there other places I should be looking for Webinars?

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Blogging a conference

This is the first year I was a blogger at CIL – it’s my first year as a blogger at all – what’s the point? Well I was reading everyone else’s summaries (now that mine are finished) and I saw this bullet point from Amanda Etches-Johnson and I just had to share it here because I agree 100%.

Blogging a conference makes the experience better. It just does. It certainly was a lot more work to summarize the sessions and add the linkage after the fact, but I'm glad I did it. It gave me a chance to check out the stuff the speakers pointed out as well as reflect upon what I'd heard. I feel like I really engaged with the content rather than having it simply wash over me. I hope you got something out of it too.

This really is true – every other year I come back to work and put my notes on our staff intranet – mostly bullet points and suggestions. This year I was able to write coherent summaries of each session and which got me thinking not only while I was listening, but while I was writing later on.

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Recovering – slowly

Meredith says in her CIL: Impressions post – “I feel like I've been run over by a train.” Great way to explain it Meredith! I was so wiped yesterday that I wrote up some of my summaries and then took a nap – and I wrote some more and went to bed early :)

I had so much fun this time at CIL. This was my first year as a blogger and it was kind of cool to have people actually recognize my name.

I got to meet people I had only read like Meredith, Dave King, Dorothea, Greg, Chad, Dave Hook, Karen, Jenica, Darlene, and Jill. I also got to meet up with my CIL buddy Tom Ipri.

I stayed awake for the Dead Tech forum for the first time and I had lunch & dinner plans every day (although I cut out on the dine-around on Thurs because I was so exhausted).

I’ve always brought back great information from this conference, but this time I got a change to bring back and experience and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.

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The Web 2.0 Challenge

I know that you’ve been wondering since I posted about the Future of Catalogs what my favorite session was at CIL this year – well, here it is!

Paul Miller is the Technology Evangelist for Talis – how fun does that sound?? Paul said “One day I’ll have a normal job” but why would you want a normal job? Not only is Paul’s job title fun – he was fun – it was a great presentation and I loved every minute of it. My hand was hurting at the end because I was trying to take notes as fast as he talked.

To start, Paul wanted to bring us back to reality – We need to reach out of the library to reach people wherever they happen to be – he said “I have really bad news for you. The library isn’t necessarily the place they think they want to go everyday.” So we need to reach out to where they actually are and help them do what they want to do better. It’s not just about vendors – it’s about all of us too.

He asked “How do people find stuff?” We all answered Google – he then asked “How else?” and there was a series of other answers that came from the audience and Paul told them they were wrong. The correct answer was Google, Google and Google – accessed in different ways – Google desktop, Google toolbar, etc. So how do we compete? And should we compete?

He pointed us to a few publications that may be of interest.

  • Johnson, O’Doherty. Vines, Eds. Mori. Understanding The Audience, CIE, 2005. (CIE, pub 2005). (not linked because the link is broken – if you can find it let me know)
  • Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources from OCLC
  • another title that was cut off in his presentation about Library Stats in the UK

I could go into the stats that Paul shared with us, but you can see the graphs yourself on his presentation. In short people are still visiting the library and they trust us – so where did we go wrong online? Why are people still turning to Google first? According to the stats, a much lower number of people have visited the library website than those who have visited the building – and Paul thinks that most “were probably put off by what they saw”. He gave us an example from the Edinburgh University Library – look at this page – look at the length of this page – and the information on this page. It’s a list of databases – and we’re saying to the average user – “pick one”. The users do not need to know the names of all of the databases you have available – in fact they are probably overwhelmed and totally confused by this list.

So who – other than Google – are we up against? Paul put up the widely used image of Web 2.0 logos and let it scroll by. And he defined them as:

  • Relevant
  • Innovative
  • Participative
  • User-centric
  • Nimble
  • Responsive

Isn’t that what we want to be? How many of these things can we apply to ourselves at this point in time? The thing is – we can be all of these things, we can do it just as well if not better than these companies if we work together. Paul pointed us to the Talis whitepaper on Library 2.0 – it was in our conference packs, but you can read it online.

So how do we respond to this trend? Library 2.0 is about opening the library up and delivering content to our users where they are when they want it. We need to engage our users – which we are doing, but we need to do even more. Paul called for us to “disaggregate our monolithic library systems…”. He explained this to us like this: Imagine a great big black box which a vendor sells you and instead of taking everything the vendor offers you take only the bits you need. Plugging in bits of other applications – maybe from other vendors – or that you have written yourself. Which is what I have the hardest time with – we have this ILS that was written for primarily academic libraries and we’re forced to buy the whole package and use only 1/3 of this – then out comes an add on that makes more sense for us – but we have to pay extra to get it – why not let us pay for the core and then pick and choose the other pieces we’ll need – customizing our catalogs to our specific institution? Paul says library systems should be like Lego, you can build the picture on the box or you can build something new and different.

Sidenote: Keep an eye on Talking with Talis for a podcast from the Library 2.0 gang on the “Future of the OPAC”.

Some people don’t like the idea of Library 2.0 because it implies a need for technology that some libraries can’t afford – a need for a programmer – and not just any programmer – a programmer who understands libraries – but what if we all worked together instead of individually – what if libraries with programmers shared their skills and code so that libraries without could still have new innovations? Paul called this “shared innovation” – we need to work together to fill in the gaps and make all of our libraries better.

He then went on to show us what libraries are already doing like the wpOPAC and greasemonkey plugins for Amazon that show the status of a book in the library. It’s not about black or white – library or Amazon – it’s about bringing things together and letting the user choose. Maybe the library can’t get the book for 5 days, but Amazon can deliver tomorrow – or vice versa – it’s about empowering the user to make informed decisions. He also showed the new book covers from the Ann Arbor Superpatron Edward Vielmetti and John Blyberg’s card catalog images. Paul says “It’s about letting people to take ownership and feel a connection to the items in the library. It’s a little bit gimmicky – it’s not what we’re going to replace the OPAC with. But it’s about reaching out in different ways and leveraging the data you already have. Making the data work harder does not always have to be for some worthy cause.” (maybe not an exact quote – but close enough).

The problem with these examples is that everyone has a different vendor, a different library system so we’d have to start over and program it ourselves – we need to work together – “By working together we can do better” – and I agree 100%. We need a shared platform – something that crosses vendor divides.

Now the next part of Paul’s talk was very hopeful – but knowing what I know about our vendors – it’s probably never going to happen – unless we (librarians) refuse to work any other way – and that won’t happen either – maybe I’m being pessimistic – I sure hope I am, because I want what Paul is offering – I want to work on a shared platform, I want to be able to share information with other libraries and use what they have to share.

So here we go – what is the “platform”? It’s a set of core pieces that every library system will have – built as a collaborative effort to make our lives easier. Everybody doesn’t need to start from scratch every time – instead we can build on shared pools of data. An example that he used was recommendation services. An individual library probably doesn’t have enough data to do this effectively. A lawyer may have taken out a NJ law journal and a book of business forms – they’re not necessarily related, but because we only have 9000 members and so many books, we can’t give effective recommendations – but what if we could access the data from all of the other law libraries in the world?? In aggregate we have more data than Amazon does.

The platform breaks down barriers – it has to cross the divide between vendors – it doesn’t make any sense for us to not be able to work together because we have different ILS packages provided by different vendors. It is much easier now for us to do something about this. The vendors need to work together and define the areas where they’re going to work together – and where they’re going to compete. Why should they all invest their time and money in building the core infrastructure? Why not all build it together? If we all have the same core in our ILS packages we’ll be able to communicate. Our role in this is to push our vendors to cooperate.

The platform will also allow us to expose the data to others – Amazon, a CMS – thought a similar API. The API will be the same across vendors so that changing won’t require as much changing – consistent access to data and exposure of content will allow us to build off of the core to make what’s best for our library.

Talis has built such an application called Whisper – and you can demo it online. Paul went through how it works and it was pretty darn impressive. It includes plugins to Amazon, Map mashups and desktop widgets.

So where do we start? Well first off we need to tell our vendors what we want – and we need to tell them in the right way. We need to include IT staff in the decision making and discussion with vendors so that our requests are put in a way they understand – like Roy Tennant said – it is partly our faults that things are the way they are. We need to visit Talis’ Shared Innovation site:

This resource exists to support innovators across the global library domain. It is open to all and it is free.

Content includes advice, documentation, scripts, APIs, Web Services, SDKs and other relevant resources. It is applicable to users of any library automation solution.

We encourage all contributors to join us in sharing their contributions under a Creative Commons licence and providing any source code under the GNU General Public License.

So, this is your space. Please get involved and help to shape a community that meets your needs.

And participate. We need to join together and work together and share together to get the people into the library and if not – then at least get them to use our resources online.

What a wonderful presentation – I hope that someone in your library attended and bought the recording so you can listen to it – it was well worth it!

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