10 (or so) WebVoyage Hacks

Presented by Ed Corrado of TCNJ – here are the 10 (or so) hacks for the Voyager OPAC (WebVoyage):

  • New Book List by Michael Doran:
  • Shelflister by Michael Doran
  • Spell Checker but not checking against your db – so you can get did you means that aren’t actually in your catalog. (ex at University of Waikato)
    • Search Voyager & Spell Checker to find others (started with Google but now people are using Yahoo cause of their rights)
  • RSS feeds for new books, subject guides (tcnj has not packaged this up nicely for us to use – but others in libraries have – will give out the code – but have to ask for the SQL queries) – Ed has written articles about this – (Computers in Libraries)
  • OPAC Search Box
  • Dewey Cloud (no LC Cloud yet)
  • Allows you to add more info to WebVoyage
  • Permanent links to voyager records!! (password needed to read this page)
  • Re-initiate search from timeout page – this version just uses JS – there are others (password needed to read this page)
  • Locations/Maps (password needed to read this page)

Keep in mind that these most likely won’t work with the new release of WebVoyage 7.

[update]Made edits based on comments below[/update]

[update2]Ed has posted his slides (which include more info than I put here).[/update]

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They’re listening

I got to hear an update about the new releases of Voyager at today’s conference. One of my biggest complaints about our current system is that it’s ugly – so very very ugly! Now, I have no experience trying to edit the interface of a Voyager system (that’s not my job anymore), but I’ve heard that it’s very hard. That said, the new release that’s coming in 2008 sometime (hopefully sooner than later) will have a whole new OPAC look. It will be XML & CSS meaning that it should be easily editable and based on screenshots I saw today, it’s much cleaner and easier on the eyes right out-of-the-box.

Even more interesting to me was the new testing method being employed by Ex Libris. In addition to their existing testing procedures (QA & Field Testing) they are adding a collaborative testing phase. This phase shows that we’re actually being listened to! Basically, members of the two user groups (ELUNA & IGeLU) are brought into Ex Libris and given the opportunity to test the systems in front of the developers. This method means that the team is right there to see how people use the system and hear their comments in person. What a novel idea! This is what we all do when we’re developing in house – but I’m so happy to hear that a vendor is actually inviting users in to test with them.

I’ve only been in a Voyager library for a few months now, so I wasn’t terribly vested in the upgrades that other attendees were so passionate about, but it was nice to see a crowd applaud at the mention of upgrades that were due with the new release.

Overall, it was a great first day and I’m happy that I got a chance to attend a this new style of conference. Tomorrow I have to present on two panels, so I’ll be too busy to have too much fun – but I’ll try to keep you all updated on what I learn from others.

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WorldCat Local Demos

I’ve heard about it and read about it – but I’ve never seen WorldCat Local in action. Apparently, Jennifer Ward presented at the LITA forum and showed the University of Washington’s implementation of WorldCat Local. Read about it here and see the demo here. There’s also a demo of San Mateo County Library’s implementation.

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Automation Survey

Marshall Breeding (king of library automation knowledge – at least in my book) is doing a survey on library satisfaction with automation systems. The information was posted 2 months ago – so hurry up and get your answers in:

I am conducting a survey on library automation trends. The survey aims to measure how well libraries are satisfied with thier automation systems and the companies or other organizations that support them. It also attempts to get some indication of whether libraries are looking favorably on open source software for their automation system.

I’ve created instructions on how to complete the survey.

I am hoping to get a very large response to this survey. I will publish the results of the study in an upcoming article, provided I get enough responses to ensure its validity.

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Integrated Library Systems and Discovery Applications Survey

From my inbox:

The ILS Discovery Interface Task Force, convened by the Digital Library Federation (DLF), is studying the discovery needs of research libraries and their patrons, in order to recommend interfaces to the ILS that discovery applications can use. We want to know what kinds ofdiscovery applications (outside the traditional ILS public access catalog) are most needed in libraries, and where machine-accessible interfaces (APIs) to the ILS and its data can better support these applications.

We’d like your help with this. We’ve created a survey that you, or other appropriate people in your libraries, can fill out, to give us a better idea of the functional needs your library has, the discovery applications you’re using or considering adopting at your library, and the technical infrastructure you’re using or wanting to meet your needs.

Thanks to DLF support, we now have this survey posted on SurveyMonkey, and we invite you to fill it out. You’re welcome to have multiple people at your library submit it. (which may be useful if you have different people thinking about functional requirements vs. technical infrastructure), or you can collaborate on a single submission. The survey consists of 19 questions, and can be found at

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=o1Kkl8qUfrmJ9sI4UNVnLQ_3d_3d

We will be meeting later this month to start drafting a set of recommendations for APIs to the ILS, so we’re on a fairly fast timeline. For your response to be considered in our drafting, you need to respond by *next Friday, September 14*. (We may do some follow up surveying of folks who indicate they’d like to be contacted, but our main data collection will take place next week.)

We may post aggregated results and anonymized comments from the survey, but nothing from the survey where particular respondents or libraries can be identified. Based on the results of this survey and our own activities, we hope to present and hold an open discussion of a draft proposal for ILS and discovery application integration at the upcoming DLF Fall Forum in Philadelphia in November.

We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your help!

John Mark Ockerbloom
Chair, ILS Discovery Interface Task Force

Intro to Koha Redux

Back in May I wrote about a Koha Demo that I organized at the Jenkins Law Library. Well, I did it again! Only this time I got Chris Cormack, VP of Research & Development at LibLime and one of the original developers of Koha to come and talk at the Princeton Seminary Library.

First, on a personal note, this presentation was very different for me. Last time I was sitting in the presentation as a Web Developer. This time around I’m a Metadata Librarian and Cataloger.

So, if Koha is open source and freely downloadable, where does LibLime come in? The main argument that libraries had against switching to open source was that there was no support. So, after helping migrate the Nelsonville Public Library, Joshua Ferraro decided to fill the need for open source support and so started LibLime.

Chris opened his presentation with a slide in Maori, Chris’s native language. The slide is a common saying among the Maori people, and a great slogan for Open Source (in my opinion). The slide read “With your basket and my basket, we sustain the people.” In short, two people sharing together leads to something better than one on their own.

Other great open source quotes from Chris (loosely quoted):

  • The open source model usually means features are implemented in days and weeks instead of years and decades.
  • The best ideas bubble to the top and get implemented first – the people control the development process, not the CEO
  • Source code is like a recipe and the cake is the executable. With open source you get to see the recipe and add more sugar or substitute margarine for butter until the cake is the way you like it. With proprietary software you get the cake and if you don’t like it, you just have to wait for the next version of the cake to come out.
  • Proprietary vendors bank on being the smartest person in the world, open source developers admit that they’re not.
  • Open source is like peer review.

So, how many libraries are using Koha? The number is somewhere between 300 and 50,000. There are 300 known implementations, but there have also been 50,000 downloads. Since you can run Koha without ever contacting LibLime, no one knows for sure how many Koha implementations are out there. What we do know is that the first customer in US was not a library. It was General Motors! They use Koha to catalog their manuals. (To see other Koha users, you can view this slide or this list).

One attendee brought up a potential open source problem – and I’m sure we’ve all had this experience. You download your open source product and you customize the hell out of it. Then a month later a new release comes out and you have to weigh the pros and cons. Is it worth losing all of your work to get the new features, or should you just stick with what you’ve got working. Chris says that the solution is to become a part of the community. Share you changes with the community and your changes will become part of the mainstream.

Another person asked, “Why is Koha here at the Seminary?” I got to answer this question. Basically, I really wanted to meet Chris! Also, I had seen a Koha demo before and wanted to share the product with those around me. Lastly, the Seminary is using Voyager and since Endeavor is no more – Voyager is probably doomed, so we need to be up on what’s out there in the ILS world in case the time comes that we have to switch.

I know I haven’t gone much into the design/features – and that’s cause I did that last time. This time I want to point out that version 3.0 is due out by the end of the year and it addresses a lot of feature requests and user concerns. One feature that I was not impressed with this time around (coming from a new viewpoint) was the cataloging module. The good news is that there is a new cataloging module (note that you’ll need to install Google Gears) in the works.

The way I see it, Koha is still a kid in the ILS world, but that’s a good thing (are you as creative now as you were when you were young? I’m not – I used to be able to make a castle out of an empty box – now I hate boxes)!! We’ve all been using systems that have been around for too long – nothing has come along to challenge them – push them to change with times. And I’d rather get behind a new product with staff that love what they’re doing – staff that want to listen to what I have to say – than get behind a product that’s not going anyway – except maybe into the trash (as many systems are with all of the buyouts going on).

If you’d like to learn more, you can read this diary by Stephen Hedges of Nelsonville Public, or any of the case studies. There’s also the Koha Documentation and Koha Wiki.

See more pictures from the event.

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PALINET & LibLime

Hopefully this will make Open Source a more viable option for libraries who have been holding off:

PALINET is aware that not all of our members have the technical support or skills necessary to install or test the open source applications that are currently available. We're looking at a number of ways to address this issue, but we've taken two initial steps already. First, a member Technology Caucus has begun regular discussions of open source software tools in monthly meetings. Yesterday, a group of library developers met at the PALINET offices in Philadelphia to install test copies of Koha and Evergreen for evaluation and comparison. It's my hope that we'll be able to put together a couple of really clean, well integrated, model systems, which will demonstrate the kind of functionality that is possible with these open source ILS solutions.

Second, we're just finalizing an agreement with LibLime, a leader in open source solutions for libraries, to offer discounted setup and support for the Koha Classic, and Koha Zoom ILS software. See our announcement at ALA Annual 2007.

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Standing up for Open Source

There is an awesome article in Library Philosophy and Practice 2007 by Lee David Jaffe and Greg Careaga entitled Standing up for Open Source.

While the article does talk about the fact that Open Source Software (OSS) is not used in all areas of libraries, there is an focus on the ILS.

More than three decades after libraries built the first automated systems, we now depend on commercial black box systems, despite growing evidence that the proprietary ILS has outlived its usefulness. In the intervening years, librarianship has come into its technological maturity, with a generation of tech-savvy librarians proving we have the skills in-house, and yet we cling to the belief that only a commercial entity can provide the solutions we need to manage our services.

The systems available to us, to be sure, are not mechanical beasts of science fiction nightmares. They run, usually reliably, and rarely hurt us or our users. Our issue is with their closed nature. The innards of a proprietary ILS are hidden. Often our own data is hidden from us. If we want a change, we must plead our case to the vendor and, if our request is granted, we pay for the enhancement. Adherence to standards is uncertain and therefore system A cannot talk to B. Without access to the source code we cannot engineer add-on components that we need. We wait years for critical features, then are forced to implement features we do not want.

Here! Here!

The possible reason why libraries stick with the proprietary software though, is that most libraries do not have people on their staff to tell them that access to the code and data would allow for changes – and even if they do – they may not have someone on the staff to make the changes anyway.

I think that trying to sell OSS to non-techie librarians as a way to access your data is not going to cut it. We also have to explain that these proprietary systems are built on code from the 80s and 90s. Things have been upgraded along the way, but the backbone (of most of these systems) hasn’t changed. That means that sometimes the vendors can’t make the changes you want. With an OSS ILS you have new code – code that can be updated by anyone in the world (with the right skills).

I fear that my tired brain is not making as much sense as I hope it is – so I’ll close with another line from the article and then you can go off and read it on your own.

If libraries wish to turn the tide and reclaim our place as leaders in the information world, we must position ourselves where we can best take advantage of new developments. If we want the flexibility to meet these challenges, we do not have the luxury of relying on information technology solutions that are opaque and inadaptable.

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Loving the new addition (editions)

LibLime has just announced the addition of an editions tab to the Nelsonville Public Library’s catalog (powered by Koha). In short – Koha now has FRBR!

There's been quite a lot of talk lately in library tech circles about OCLC's new commercial xISBN web service as well as similar free services available from LibraryThing and PINES. ….

I'm happy to announce that the Nelsonville Public Library has just put live a new web services module in Koha that supports all three of these services, and exposes the content in a new "╦ťEditions' tab on the OPAC detail page for every record.

In true Koha fashion, this option can be turned on/off by the library. It also allows you to choose whether to include results from LibraryThing and throttles the number of queries sent to xISBN in order to stay within the realms of their terms of free service.

This is way cool!!