Code4Lib: My Conclusions

I know I’m not done with my summaries yet – and I’ll get to them over this week (in between my term paper writing), but I wanted to share my conclusions with you while they were still fresh in my mind.

First – I feel woefully behind the times. I thought that I was doing amazing things – but it’s nothing compared to what some other library programmers are doing.

Second – I desperately want to learn XML – and all that comes with that. I have been meaning to do so for some time, but it’s just impossible to find the time between existing projects at work and my life outside of the library.

Third – The informal quick pace of this conference really suits it! I felt more like I was in a classroom than at a conference – and I felt like my opinion mattered. The small size, short presentations, and fun group all helped with this feeling of belonging.

Overall, I am so grateful to the Oregon State University Libraries for offering me the scholarship that allowed me to attend this event.

I will not be summarizing every talk that I heard over the last week – mostly because I felt a bit overwhelmed and lost while some of the speakers were presenting – but I will summarize as much as I understood. You can find other blog posts on the conference by searching code4lib2007 on Technorati.

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My del.icio.us bookmarks for 2007-03-02

More of my links

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Herding Cattle

That’s what Atlanta’s airport reminded me of. I felt like we were being herded like cattle. I had been in that airport before – but only for plane changes, so I had no idea what their security was like. As Philly we have different entry points for each terminal – so there is rarely a line (although I saw a long one on my way out of the airport tonight). At ATL they have only one checkpoint for all terminals. We all get into one of 2 lines that zig zags back and forth. Then we’re herded into different gates – don’t get me wrong, it was pretty darn quick for the number of people waiting – but I felt like we were cattle. First you move through the line then you move through another line and strip yourself of all metal, liquids, and shoes. Then another line where you put everything back on – then another line that goes down and escalator to a train, where we all stand like cattle in a pen and wait to arrive at our terminals.

Anyway, the short version is – I’m home – and I had an interesting experience at the ATL airport ;)

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Code4Lib: Naughty Noisy Girl

So this morning I got into the conference room and set up. I hit the mute button my PC and assumed that it worked. I thought the beeping was coming from someone else’s IM – but it wasn’t – IT WAS MINE! I’m so bad! Sorry to everyone who heard my tiny IRC/AIM beeps.

Next – I forgot to turn my phone off!! So my first State Farm call of the day (see State Farm listed my cell as their phone number) came through for all to hear!

What a noisy disruptive girl!

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Code4Lib: Hurry Up Please – It’s Time

Karen Schneider did the first keynote. Sorry it took me so long to write this up, but it was a really great talk and the recording I got was a bit muffled and I wanted to get this right.

Libraries are in a State of Emergency

Karen started by informing us that we’re in a State of Emergency in our profession:

  • We have given away our collections
    Allowing third parties to digitize our books (ex Google Books) parties who might not have the same mission as us.
  • We don't build or own the tools that manage them
    Why aren’t ILS built by librarians – the people who know the way libraries work
  • We provide complex, poorly-marketed systems
  • We function like a monopoly service when our competition is thriving right under our nose

Of the above, I don’t necessarily agree that we’re giving away our content – I think we’re using the tools available to us to get the job done – cheap! Why not let Google digitize our books and preserve them? I guess Karen’s concern is whether they actually will preserve them – maybe #1 just needs some tweaking of the way we’re providing content to others with the necessary tools. Why not hand the books over for scanning and storing by Google, but get copies for ourselves as well. I’m not sure of all of the logistics, but I’m all for using the companies that are out there willing to help us with projects we’d never be able to afford otherwise.

Karen went on to describe our work not as “book” work – but as memory work. We are in charge of preserving access to our society’s memories. I got the impression that Karen thinks that we have forgotten our path – and wants to bring us back to it.

She urged us to follow the “5-3-1 Rule”:

  • Pick 5 issues you believe are important
  • Focus on 3
  • now, make that 1 happen.

While there are many more things (than 5) that we can fix – Karen suggests these 5 to start with:

  1. digital preservation
  2. standards adoption
  3. the sucky state of most library software
  4. third-party library content hegemony
  5. scholarly awareness of key issues in LibraryLand

Out of that list I’d pick numbers 2 through 5 (are you surprised?). Karen picked number 1, 3 and 5. The one we agree on? Our #1 thing to make happen is number 3!!

Some great things are happening in this area already.

I’d add to that list Koha – which I learned about before Evergreen.

This renaissance of librarian-built software is a powerful thing. It restores the balance of power – the ball’s back in our court. It reinstates the direction of our profession – we’re now the ones preserving memories and we’re doing it our way. Most important (to me) it sends a message to the vendors that we mean business. Who wouldn’t want to jump in and help out with this trend (if, of course, they had the knowledge to do so)?

Unfortunately – Karen’s message is that nobody cares!

  • Nobody cares about open source
  • Nobody cares about standards
  • Nobody cares about usability
  • Nobody cares about Evergreen

But, don’t take this message the wrong way. What Karen is trying to say is that we need to figure out how to sell these things to an audience who might fear the words “open source” or “free”. We need to stop talking to those who make the decisions as if they were programmers – or techies – or geeks – like us. We need to sell these things on what they mean for libraries – on what they can do for us.

From here the discussion turned a bit – Karen explained (from a director’s point of view) what directors “know” about Open Source Software. In case you didn’t catch that – the word know is in quotes – meaning things directors think they know about open source.

  • One guy in a garage"¦ probably in a torn Duran Duran tee-shirt

    • One car accident away from orphan software
  • No support model
  • Cheesy “make-do” quality
  • Arcane and developer-oriented
  • Nobody else is doing it

This is a little funny – and a lot sad. The problem comes down to the fact that we aren’t selling OSS right. We’re selling it like we’d sell it to people like us. We need to sell it to people who sometimes think that homegrown and OSS are the same thing – people who had to work in libraries that were developing their own cataloging systems – people who apparently had a great sigh of relief when ILS vendors came along and took over the work. What they don’t realize is that OSS is not the same as those homegrown products of years ago.

My problem is that I’ve been doing this very thing. Trying to sell people on Open Source when I should be selling them on the product itself. Karen critiqued open-ils.org, stating that the FAQs are not really frequently asked questions. Instead of answering questions about open source the first question should be “Why should I use this?” – makes sense to me – but then again so did the FAQ page the way it was. It’s all a matter of us changing the way we view things and trying to talk to the users – in this case our library directors and staff.

Karen warned us that there is no such thing as free software – not something you want to say in a room full of OSS supporters – but what she says has some merit. The fact is that there is always a chance you’re going to have to take your software package home, install it and tweak it to your needs – that’s not free – my time is no free. Dan Chudnov made a comment during questions and answers that the word “free” when used in conjunction with OSS really means “freedom” – I really like that idea – and maybe we need to start marketing OSS as freedom – freedom from vendors, from locked down software, from systems that don’t meet our needs – freedom to alter the code to fit our own special model.

Karen concluded by stating that every library needs a developer. There was a time when libraries didn’t have ILL staff – now it’s a requirement. Let’s make having developers in our libraries a requirement as well. I’d actually go one step further and require that your developers have library experience. I’ve worked with outside developers who don’t know a thing about libraries – and now we’re cleaning up their mess.

View the Powerpoint

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Code4Lib: Ranganathan’s Laws for Conferences

My posts are all out of chronological order – but at least I’m posting :)

Roy Tennant opened up the conference on Wednesday with Ranganathan’s 5 Laws for Conferences.

  1. Restrooms are for use
    No explanation needed here :)
  2. For every attendee his/her opportunity to participate
    Code4Lib offers breakout sessions & lightening talks which anyone can sign up for – a very different format from any conference I have attended in the past
  3. For every speaker his/her audience
    In addition to the audience in the room, they are filming the conference so that they can stream the videos to all of you who weren’t able to be there. There is also the usual blog coverage.
  4. Save the time of the attendee
    In order to save our time the only 2 people introduced at this conference were the keynotes. Everyone else was in charge of introducing themselves. The presentations were also pretty quick – so if someone was talking about something you didn’t understand it didn’t last very long.
  5. This conference is a growing organism
    In addition to the conference there is the website and IRC channel

While I maybe should have posted this on the first day – I find that it all has more meaning to me now that I have attended most of the conference.

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My del.icio.us bookmarks for 2007-03-01

  • eIFL.net – Home Page
    eIFL.net is an independent foundation that strives to lead, negotiate, support and advocate for the wide availability of electronic resources by library users in transition and developing countries. Its main focus is on negotiating affordable subscription
  • RESCARTA Foundation
    The ResCarta Foundation, a non-profit organization, was founded to encourage the development of a single set of open community standards and open source implementations of those standards.

More of my links

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Code4Lib: Breakout 1

Rob Styles - 3 stages of life

I went to the Library APIs Breakout session today. It turned into a talk about Talis & their products & business practices. It was pretty neat ;)

Rob Styles (of Talis) went off on a pretty neat tangent/analogy. Rob introduced us to his 3 children.

His 18 month old son is at a stage in his life where he will willingly give away anything. He goes around the house and finds things to give to others – if you ask for something he will hand it right over. He has no concept of ownership.

His 4 year old daughter is the complete opposite. She feels that everything that’s hers is hers alone. She doesn’t share and doesn’t like other people to touch her things. She has put up a wall around her stuff and stores it away from others.

Lastly, his 7 year old son knows that if he has 2 toy cars and gives one to a friend he can have much more fun than if he keeps it to himself. He understands that while he’s letting his friend use his car – it’s still his car – it’s just more fun when you share with others. At the same time he can go outside and race bikes with his friends – he knows it’s a competition, but 5 minutes later he can come inside and play and have fun.

The library vendor world is like the 4 year old. It’s an “it’s mine” world. Talis feels that it should be a 7 year old world – this is why they share their APIs and software with others. We should be able to share with our competition – because it’s no fun if we’re playing alone. The models are changing and people are realizing that they can have much more fun if they share. Web 2.0 – Creative Commons – it’s all about sharing!!

What a neat idea. I know it doesn’t have much to do with the topic at hand (Library APIs), but it was the best part of the breakout (basically because I hadn’t used any of the APIs that everyone was talking about).

[update] added picture from similar lightening talk [/update]

[update2] Watch the Lightening Talk [/update2]

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