Open Source Software and Librarian Values


Looking to learn more about open source? Check out this article by Jason Puckett:

Puckett, Jason. “Open Source Software and Librarian Values.” Georgia Library Quarterly 49, no. 3 (July 1, 2012).

Jason is the one who taught me more about Zotero – one of my favorite open source tools!

Book Review: Zotero by Jason Puckett

Ages ago I got a copy of Zotero: a guide for librarians, researchers and educators by Jason Puckett with the intention of reading it and reviewing it. Soon after I was hit with medical problem after medical problem and even though I read it cover to cover in practically no time at all, the book has been left un-reviewed. So here we go!

I am a huge Zotero fan, in fact I learned of Zotero from Jason Puckett’s amazing research guide on the topic. I thought I had learned all there was to know, until I read this book.

I guess I should start (for those of you who don’t know) with an explanation of what Zotero is and why you’d want to use it. The official website defines Zotero as “an easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources.” I call Zotero a bibliography tool, but really it’s much more. I use Zotero to save information on articles, news, blog posts and books that I find on a daily basis, I use it to keep the bibliographies for my books and articles so that I can easily access then while I finish writing.

Jason does an awesome job of explaining how to perform both basic and advanced functions using Zotero. His book is geared not only to librarians, but to anyone doing research, to anyone who might benefit from a research assistant in their browser. The book is organized so that How Tos take up the first 5 chapters and then the last two cover how to teach Zotero to your patrons, students, friends, etc and how to support Zotero in your institution.

This handy guide is a must have for anyone who does research or writes for publication. This guide, for that matter, is for anyone who is tired of using proprietary tools to manage their bibliography and would like a bit more control and a lot more friendly functionality.

I’m sorry it took me so long to share this review with you all, but I hope that you’ll still run out and read a copy of Jason’s book because it’s well worth it!

Archiving Links

For years I’ve been using Delicious and Zotero as my two main tools for keeping track of links. Delicious is where I save links to websites and tools and Zotero is for all of my articles. When we all had that little scare about Delicious disappearing I signed up for a few alternatives.

I tried out Diigo which I think is pretty cool, but the link rolls it provides are much more limited than those from Delicious and I use those links rolls on my book sites.

Then I tried out Pinboard. Pinboard is pretty cool because it can not only save my links but also archive my tweets. I often RT fellow librarians who share interesting links on Twitter and don’t always bookmark those links, so Pinboard is pretty cool.

Next up is which right now seems to be the coolest. Using I can archive my tweets, archive my Facebook links, import my links from Delicious and pull in other RSS feeds (I pull in my blogs, Flickr and Zotero).

So here’s what I’m thinking is my final plan. I’m keeping Delicious cause I love it and have link rolls embedded in several of my sites (and the auto posting of my bookmarks here and on my other sites), but I’m going to keep using has my aggregate for all of my linked content. If you have a tool you’d like to recommend me to try out, feel free to comment.

The New Zotero

Today I finished my column for the next issue of the Collaborative Librarianship Journal and in it I talk about collaborative research tools. One of those tools is Zotero and I have plenty more to share about Zotero so I thought I’d share a review of the newest version with you all.

Short version of my review – Zotero Rocks!!

Longer version.

First, if you haven’t heard of or used Zotero, you are missing out on one of the most handy research tools available online today. Zotero installs into your Firefox browser and lets you save both citation and full text information about any resource you can find on the web. Many popular OPACs or research databases actually have support built in for Zotero meaning you simply click a button on your address bar and the citation (and full text if available) is saved right to your library. In the newest version you can even set up your local copy to sync with the Zotero site for safekeeping and sharing. I have set up a public library on Zotero so that everyone can see what resources I’ve been saving and hopefully benefit from the articles/web pages/etc that I’m finding.

The other great thing about the new Zotero are the community functions. There are now group libraries where multiple people can manage bibliographies together. One of these such bibliographies is the Free/Libre and Open Source Software and Libraries Bibliography, a bibliography that was started by Brenda Chawner in 2002 and maintained as a static web page until recently. Brenda was able to import her bibliography into Zotero and because of the collaborative nature of Zotero I am now able to help her update and maintain this amazing resource (a resource that I constantly refer students to when teaching open source).

While I do give Zotero two thumbs up, I have noticed a few glitches with the new version and popular database sites, this means that sometimes I have to enter the citation by hand instead of using the handy button provided in my browser, but this is a small price to pay for the resulting convenience and collaborative power afforded by Zotero.

If you haven’t used Zotero or if you feel like you could probably learn more, you should check out Jason Puckett’s research guide – it’s a wealth of information and well worth reading if you want to get the most out of Zotero.

NFAIS: Research in the Web Era

MacKenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology at the MIT Libraries gave us a talk entitled “The Value Equation: Social Science Perspective (or Why I Love Google).”

MacKenzie started by admitting that MIT (where she works) spends millions on research databases (570 of them including 45,000 e-journals), but she doesn’t use any of them … instead she relies on conference proceedings, white papers, email, blog posts and other related project websites. The problem she finds that most of the peer-reviewed journal articles are just way too old. She needs to know about these topics now! Not a year from now. Instead, many of the resources she relies on are free and open access – resources that are and always have been open access.

The problem she finds when searching databases (and this is one I’m very familiar with) how do you search across disciplines – how do you know what database to use to find information that crosses disciplines. In my world this would be my common research areas of open source development (technology/computer programming) for and in libraries (social sciences).

In addition – even though she has access to EndNote & RefWords she uses Zotero. This is because Zotero is evolving more quickly to deal with the varying types of content we want to save and cite. Also, Zotero offers more mobility – accessibility form all over – and the ability to share resources with her colleagues. (As a side note, MacKenzie pointed out Mendeley which is Zotero for scientists).

When it comes to searching, MacKenzie doesn’t usually use advanced search, she instead starts with a seed and then builds on that. Then to review the content she doesn’t use the publisher to decide on the quality. She instead uses the author, the organization or the person who recommended that she read the article. In the end this devolves into the fact that we depend very much on our social networks.

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Zotero Groups & Libraries

I took a webinar on Zotero taught by Jason Puckett earlier this month and since then I have been playing a bit more with it. I installed the beta release of version 2.0 which includes the ability to share libraries and store data online. This means that you can see my public library by visiting my page on Zotero. It also means that I can join groups and share resources with those who have similar interests to me.

If I have one complaint – it’s that it’s not easy to find my friends and colleagues who have shared their resources on I’d like a find friends connection to Twitter or Facebook or something that allows me to find people with ease (like many other websites these days). I also find that many groups allow you to join and view resources – but not add resources – which seems silly for a group.

To learn more about Zotero, check out Jason’s guide. Also, if you want to join a group or two – check out the Koha Group and the Open Source for Libraries Group.

[update] If you manage a group you can allow members to add items by going to Manage Group > Library and then changing the permissions. [/update]

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Code4Lib: Zotero

Trevor Owens talked to us about Zotero. The slides are already online and the video should be there soon.


What is it?

Zotero is a Firefox add on that lets you:

  • store items and take notes
  • bring in attachments
  • drag and drop into the collection and tag things if you want
  • archive entire webpages and highlight text and add sticky notes
Zotero Icon

Pages that support Zotero have an icon that appears in the address bar in Firefox (like the RSS icon)

State of the Community

  • Hundreds of thousands of users
  • 2288 discussion on Zotero forums
  • 23 language locals all user contributed
  • 80k views on quick start guide last month

Get Involved

  • Make your tools play nice with Zotero (just a note – Koha does)
  • Make your campus a Zotero campus — offer support and promote Zotero among students
  • Get your hands dirty and extend Zotero
  • Get things to work with Zotero by having them generate COinS
  • See who’s recommending Zotero and tell people about it!!

Stats from the Room – and the Future

Trevor asked us a few questions to see how many people were aware of/using Zotero:

  • How many people here have used Zotero – almost all hands
  • How many are in institutions where Zotero is supported – not many hands at all
  • How many are in institutions where other management tool is supported – lots of hands

After these results, Trevor stated: “Okay, this has to change!” He’d love to see more academic institutions using Zotero, the future of the tool hopefully includes moving from being just a client side app in your browser to being an entire suite of tools. They’d love to have a reliable set of syncing plugins for tools like, and plugins for MS Word and Open Office.

He pointed out the SIMILE page at MIT, a project that

seeks to enhance inter-operability among digital assets, schemata/vocabularies/ontologies, metadata, and services. A key challenge is that the collections which must inter-operate are often distributed across individual, community, and institutional stores. We seek to be able to provide end-user services by drawing upon the assets, schemata/ vocabularies/ ontologies, and metadata held in such stores.

Zotero Commons

Lastly, he mentioned that Zotero will be introducing something in collaboration with the Internet Archive entitled, Zotero Commons, in the opes of encouraging a new type of openness.

More can be found about this at Dan Cohen’s blog:

I’m pleased to announce a major alliance between the Zotero project at the Center for History and New Media and the Internet Archive. It’s really a match made in heaven—a project to provide free and open source software and services for scholars joining together with the leading open library. The vision and support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made this possible, as they have made possible the major expansion of the Zotero project over the last year.


I have to admit that I don’t use Zotero that much – I have it installed, but never took the time to explore it. My cousin swears by it and can’t live without it – and others have said the same thing – maybe I should start poking at it. Trevor’s presentation was great and taught me a lot and made me want to learn more about Zotero and how I can use it to my advantage.

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Zotero – Only for Firefox 2.0

Well – as you can tell I never finished listening to the podcast – in which I’m sure they mentioned the tiny important fact that Zotero is only for Firefox 2.0 :( I went to the site first thing this morning to download it – but I don’t want to upgrade until I’m sure my extensions will work with the new Firefox – so I guess I’ll have to wait – maybe I’ll give it a whirl on my work computer (not as many extensions installed there). I’ll keep you posted.

On a related side note – my husband was reading my blog last night and turned around and said “What’s Zotero?” Ooops – I forgot to mention that part. This is from their site:

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use research tool that helps you gather and organize resources (whether bibliography or the full text of articles), and then lets you to annotate, organize, and share the results of your research. It includes the best parts of older reference manager software (like EndNote)-the ability to store full reference information in author, title, and publication fields and to export that as formatted references-and the best parts of modern software such as or iTunes, like the ability to sort, tag, and search in advanced ways. Using its unique ability to sense when you are viewing a book, article, or other resource on the web, Zotero will-on many major research sites-find and automatically save the full reference information for you in the correct fields.