Library Catalog

Mining for Meaning

In David Lodge’s 1984 novel, Small World, a character remarks that literary analysis of Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot “would just lend itself nicely to computerization….All you’d have to do would be to put the texts on to tape and you could get the computer to list every word, phrase and syntactical construction that the two writers had in common.”

This brave new world is upon us, but the larger question for Google and OCLC, among other purveyors of warehoused metadata and petabytes of information, is how to achieve meaning. One of the brilliant insights derived from Terry Winograd‘s research and mentoring is that popularity in the form of inbound links does matter for web pages, at least. In the case of all the world’s books turned into digitized texts, it’s a harder question to assign meaning without popularity, a canon, or search queries as a guide.

Until recently, text mining wasn’t possible at great scale. And as the great scanning projects continue on their bumpy road, the mysteries of what will come out of them have yet to emerge into meaning for users.

Nascent standards
Bill Kasdorf pointed out several  XML models for books in his May NISO presentation, including NISO/ISO 12083, TEI, DocBook, NLM Book DTD, and DTBook. These existing models have served publishers well, though they have been employed for particular uses and have not yet found common ground across the breath of book types. The need for a standard has never been clearer, but it will require vision and a clear understanding of solved problems to push forward.

After the professor in Small World gains access to a server, he grows giddy with the possibilities of finding “your own special, distinctive, unique way of using the English language….the words that carry a distinctive semantic content.” While we may be delighted about the possibilities that searching books afford, there is the distinct possibility that the world of the text could be changed completely.

Another mechanism for assigning meaning to full text has been opened up by web technology and science. The Open Text Mining Interface is a method championed by Nature Publishing Group as a way to share the contents of their archives in XML for the express purpose of text mining while preserving intellectual property concerns. Now in a second revision, the OTMI is an elegant method of enabling sharing, though it remains to be seen if the initiative will spread to a larger audience.

Sense making
As the corpus lurches towards the cloud, one interesting example of semantic meaning comes in the Open Calais project, an open platform by the reconstituted Thomson Reuters. When raw text is fed into the Calais web service, terms are extracted and fed into existing taxonomies. Thus, persons, countries, and categories are first identified and then made available for verification.

This experimental service has proved its value for unstructured text, but it also works for extracting meaning from the most recent weblog posting to historic newspapers newly scanned into text via Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Since human-created metadata and indexing services are among the most expensive things libraries and publishers create, any mechanism to optimize human intelligence by using machines to create meaning is a useful way forward.

Calais shows promise for metadata enhancement, since full text can be mined for its word properties and fed into  taxonomic structures. This could be the basis for search engines that understand natural language queries in the future, but could also be a mechanism for accurate and precise concept browsing.

Glimmers of understanding
One method of gaining new understanding is to examine solved problems. Melvil Dewey understood vertical integration, as he helped with innovations around 3×5 index cards, cabinets, as well as the classification systems that bears his name. Some even say he was the first standards bearer for libraries, though it’s hard to believe that anyone familiar with standards can imagine that one person could have actually been entirely responsible.

Another solved problem is how to make information about books and journals widely available. This has been done twice in the past century—first with the printed catalog card, distributed by the Library of Congress for the greater good, and the distributed catalog record, at great utility (and cost) by the Online Computer Library Center.

Pointers are no longer entirely sufficient, since the problem is not only how to find information but how to make sense of it once it has been found. Linking from catalog records has been a partial solution, but the era of complete books online is now entering its second decade. The third stage is upon us.

Small World Small WorldDavid Lodge; Penguin Putnam~mass 1985WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Is there a bibliographic emergency?

The Bibliographic Control Working Group held its third and final public meeting on the future of bibliographic control July 9 at the Library of Congress, focusing on “The Economics and Organization of Bibliographic Data.” The conclusion of the meetings will come in a report issued in November. No dramatic changes were issued from this meeting, and public comment is invited until the end of July.

With several panels, invited speakers, and an open forum (including a public webcast), Deanna Marcum, Library of Congress associate librarian for library services, framed the discussion by saying “Worries about MARC as an international standard make it seem like we found it on a tablet.” She went on to say, “Many catalogers believe catalogs…should be a public good, but in this world, it’s not possible to ignore economic considerations.” Marcum said there is no LC budget line that provides cataloging records for other libraries, though the CIP program has been hugely successful.

Value for money
Jose-Marie Griffiths, dean of the library school at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said there are three broad areas of concern: users and uses of bibliographic data, different needs for the data, and the economics and organization of the data. “What does free cost?” she asked, “Who are the stakeholders, and how are they organizationally aligned?”

Judith Nadler, library director, University of Chicago, moderated the discussion and said the format of the meetings was based on the oral and written testimony that was used to create Section 108 of the Copyright Law. Nadler joked that “We will have authority control–if we can afford it.”

Atoms vs bits
Rick Lugg, partner, R2 Consulting, has often spoken of the need for libraries to say no before saying yes to new things. His Powerpoint-free (at Marcum’s request–no speakers used it) presentation focused on how backlogs are invisible in the digital world. “People have difficulty managing what they have,” Lugg said, “There is a sense of a long emergency, and libraries cannot afford to support what they are doing.”

Using business language, since R2 often consults for academic libraries on streamlining processes, Lugg said libraries are not taking advantage of the value chain. Competitors are now challenging libraries in the area of search, even as technical services budgets are being challenged.

In part, Lugg credited this pressure to the basic MARC record becoming a commodity, and he estimated the cost of an original cataloged record to be $150-200. He challenged libraries to abandon the “cult of perfection,” since “the reader isn’t going to read the wrong book.”

Another area of concern is the difficulty of maintaining three stove-piped bibliographic areas, from MARC records for books, to serials holdings for link resolvers, to an A-Z list of journals. With separate print and electronic records, the total cost of bibliographic control is unknown, particularly with a lifecycle that includes selection, access, digitization, and storage or deaccession.

There is a real question about inventory control vs. bibliographic control, Lugg said. The opportunity cost of the current processes lead to questions if libraries are putting their effort where it yields the most benefit. With many new responsibilities coming down the pike for technical services, including special collections, rare books, finding aids, and institutional repositories, libraries are challenged to retrain catalogers to expand their roles beyond MARC into learning new formats like MODS, METS, and Dublin Core.

Lugg said R2 found that non-MLS catalogers were often more rule-bound than professional staff, which brings about training questions. He summarized his presentation by asking:

  1. How do we reduce our efforts and redirect our focus?
  2. How can we redirect our expertise to new metadata schemes?
  3. How can we open our systems and cultures to external support from authors, publishers, abstract and indexing (A&I) services, etc?

The role of the consortium
Lizanne Payne, director of the WRLC, a library consortia for DC universities, said that with 200 international library consortia dedicated to containing the cost of content, the economics of bibliographic data is paramount. Saying that shared catalogs and systems date from a time when hardware and software was expensive, “IT staff is the most expensive line item now.”

Payne said storage facilities require explicit placement for quick retrieval, not a relative measure like call numbers. She called for algorithms to be written beyond FrBR that dedupe for unique and overlapping copies that go beyond OCLC or LCCN numbers.

Public libraries are special
Mary Catherine Little, director of technical services, Queens Library (NY), gave a fascinating overview of her library system. With 2.2 million items circulated in 2006 in 33 languages, 45,000 visitors per day, and 75,000 titles cataloged last year, Queens is the busiest library in the United States and has 66 branches within “one mile of every resident.”

Little said their ILS plans are evolving, “Heard about Sirsi/Dynix?” With its multilingual and growing collection, Little detailed their process. First, they ask if they are the first library to touch the record. Then, they investigate whether the ILS can function with the record “today, then tomorrow,” and ask if the record can be found from an outside source. The library prefers to get records from online vendors or directly from the publishers, and has 90 percent of English records in the catalog prior to publication.

Queens Public Library has devised a model for international providers which revolve around receiving monthly lists of high-demand titles, especially from high demand Chinese publishers, and standing orders. With vendors feeling the push from the library, many then enter into partnerships with OCLC.

“Uncataloged collections are better than backlogs,” Little said, and many patrons discover high-demand titles by walking around, especially audio and video. “We’ve accepted the tradeoffs,” she said.

Little made a call for community tagging, word clouds, and open source and extensible catalogs, and said there is a continuing challenge to capture non-Roman data formats.

“Global underpinnings are the key to the future, and Unicode must be present,” Little said, “The Library of Congress has been behind, and the future is open source software and interoperability through cooperation.”

Special libraries harmonize
Susan Fifer Canby, National Geographic Society vice president of library and information services, said her library contains proprietary data and works to harmonzie taxonomies across various content management systems (CMS), enhancing with useful metadata to give her users a Google-like search.

Canby said this work has led to a relative consistency and accuracy, which helps users bridge print and electronic sources. Though some special libraries are still managing print collections, most are devoting serious amounts of time to digital finding aids, competitive information gathering, and future analysis for their companies to help connect the dots. The library is working to associate latitude and longitude information with content to aid with mashups.

The National Geographic library uses OCLC records for books and serials, and simple MARC records for maps, and more complex records for ephemera, “though [there’s] no staff to catalog everything.” The big challenge, however, is cataloging photographs, since the ratio used to be 100 shots for every published photo, and now it’s 1000 to 1.”Photographers have been incentivized to provide keywords and metadata,” Canby said. With the rise of IPTC embedded data, the photographers are adding terms from drop-down menus, free-text fields, and conceptual terms.

The library is buying digital content, but not yet HD content, since it’s too expensive due to its large file size. Selling large versions of its photos through ecommerce has given the library additional funds for special librarians to do better, Canby said.

Special libraries have challenges to get their organizations to implement digital document solutions, since most people use email as a filing strategy instead of metadata-based solutions. Another large challenge is that most companies view special libraries as a cost center, and just sustaining services is difficult. Since the special library’s primary role isn’t cataloging, which is outsourced and often assigned to interns, the bottom line is to develop a flexible metadata strategy that includes collaborating with the Library of Congress and users to make it happen.

Vendors and records
Bob Nardini, Coutts Information Services, said book vendors are a major provider of MARC records, and may employ as many catalogers as the Library of Congress does. Coutts relies on the LC CIP records, and said both publishers and LC are under pressure to do more with less. Nardini advocated doing more in the early stages of a book’s life, and gave an interesting statistic about the commodity status of a MARC record from the Library of Congress: With an annual subscription to the LC records, the effective cost is $.06 per record.

PCC
Mechael Charbonneau, director of technical services at Indiana University Libraries, gave some history about how cataloging was under threat in 1996 because of budget crunches. In part, the Program for Cooperative Cataloging (PCC) came about to extend collaboration and to find cost savings. Charbonneau said that PCC records are considered to be equivalent to LC records, “trustworthy and authoritative.” With four main areas, including BIBCO for bibliographic records, NACO for name authority,  SACO for subject authority, and CONSER for serial records, international participants have effectively supplemented the Library of Congress records.

PCC’s strategic goals include looking at new models for non-MARC metadata, being proactive rather than reactive, reacting with flexibility, achieving close working relationships with publishers, and internationalizing authority files, which has begun with LC, OCLC, and the Deutsche Bibliotek.

Charbonneau said in her role as a academic librarian, she sees the need to optimize the allocation of staff in large research libraries and to free up catalogers to do new things, starting with user needs.

Abstract and indexing
Linda Beebe, senior director of PsycINFO, said the American Psychological Association (APA) has similar goals with its database, including the creation of unique metadata and controlled vocabularies. Beebe sees linking tools as a way to give users access to content. Though Google gives users breadth, not precision, partnerships to link to content using CrossRef’s DOI service has started to solve the appropriate copy problem. Though “some access is better than none,” she cautioned that in STM, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Beebe said there is a continuing need for standards, but “how many, and can they be simplified and integrated?” With a dual audience of librarians and end-users, A&I providers feel the need to make the search learning curve gentle while preserving the need for advanced features that may require instruction.

A robust discussion ensued about the need for authority control for authors in A&I services. NISO emerging standards and the Scopus author profile were discussed as possible solutions. The NISO/ISO standard is being eagerly adopted by publishers as a way to pay out royalties.

Microsoft of the library world?
Karen Calhoun, OCLC VP for WorldCat and Metadata Services, listed seven economic challenges for the working group, including productivity, redundancy, value, scale, budgets, demography, and collaboration. Pointing to Fred Kilgour, OCLC founder, as leading libraries into an age of “enhanced productivity in cataloging,” Calhoun said new models of acquisition is the next frontier.

With various definitions of quality from libraries and end users, libraries must broaden their scale of bibliographic control for more materials. Calhoun argued that “narrowing our scope is premature.” With intense budget pressure “not being surprising,” new challenges include retirements building full strength starting in 2010.

Since libraries cannot work alone, and cost reductions are not ends in themselves, OCLC can create new opportunities for libraries. Calhoun compared the OCLC suite of services to the electric grid, and said remixable and reusable metadata is the way of the future, coming from publishers, vendors, authors, reviewers, readers, and selectors.

“WorldCat is an unexploited resource, and OCLC can help libraries by moving selected technical services to the network,” Calhoun said. Advocating moving library services to the OCLC bill “like PayPal,” Calhoun said libraries could reduce its manpower costs.

Teri Frick, technical services librarian at the Orange County Public Library (VA), questioned Calhoun, saying her library can’t afford OCLC, Calhoun admitted ” OCLC is struggling with that,” and “I don’t think we have the answers.”

Frick pointed out that her small public library has the same needs as the largest library, and said any change to LC cataloging policy would have a large effect on her operations in southwestern Virginia. “When LC cut–and I understand why–it really hurt.”

Library of Congress reorganizes
Beacher Wiggins, Library of Congress director for acquisitions and bibliographic control, read a paper that gave the LC perspective. Wiggins cited Marcum’s 2005 paper that disclosed the costs of cataloging at $44 million per year. LC has 400 cataloging staff (down from 750 in 1991), who cataloged 350,000 volumes last year.

The library has reorganized acquisitions and cataloging into one administrative unit in 2004, but cataloger workflows will be merged in 2008, with retraining to take place over the next 12-36 months. New job descriptions will be created, and new partners for international records (excluding authority records) are being selected. After an imbroglio about redistribution of Italian book dealer Casalini records, Wiggins said, “For this and any future agreements, we will not agree to restrict redistribution of records we receive.”

In further questioning, Karen Coyle, library consultant, pointed out that the education effort would be large, as well as the need to retrain people. Wiggins said LC is not giving up on pre-coordination, which had been questioned by LC union member Thomas Mann and others, but that they are looking at streamlining how it is done.

Judith Cannon, Library of Congress instruction specialist, said “We don’t use the products we create, and I think there’s a disconnect there. These are all interrelated subjects.”

NLM questions business model
Dianne McCutcheon, chief of technical services at the National Library of Medicine, agreed that cataloging is a public good and that managers need to come up with an efficient cost/benefit ratio. However, McCutcheon said, “No additional benefit accrues to libraries for contributing unique records–OCLC should pay libraries for each use of a unique record.”

McCutcheon spoke in favor of incorporating ONIX from publishers in place or to supplement MARC, and “to develop the appropriate crosswalks.” With publishers working in electronic environments, libraries should use the available metadata to enhance records and build in further automation. Since medical publishers are submitting citation records directly to NLM for inclusion in Medline, the library is seeing a significant cost savings, from $10 down to $1 a record. The NLM’s Medical Text Indexer (MTI) is another useful tool, which assits catalogers in assigning subject headings, with 60 percent agreement.

NAL urges more collaboration
Christopher Cole, associate director of technical services at the National Agricultural Library (NAL), said like the NLM, the NAL is both a library and a A&I provider. By using publisher supplied metadata as a starting point and adding additional access points and doing quality control, “quality has not suffered one bit.” Cole said the NAL thesaurus was recreated 6-7 years ago after previously relying on FAO and CAB information, and he advocated for a similar reinvention. Cole said, “Use ONIX. The publishers supply it.”

Tagging and privacy
Dan Chudnov, Library of Congresss Office of Strategic Initiatives, made two points, first saying that social tagging is hard, and its value is an emergent phenomenon with no obvious rhyme or reason. Chudnov said it happens in context, and referenced Tim Spalding’s talk given at LC. “The user becomes an access point, and this is incompatible with the ALA Bill of Rights on privacy that we hold dear,” he said.

Finally, Chudnov advocated for the inclusion of computer scientists from the wider community, perhaps in a joint meeting joined by vendors.

Summing up
Robert Wolven, Columbia University director of library systems and bibliographic control and working group member, summarized the meeting by saying that the purpose was to find the “cost sinks” and to find “collective efficiencies,” since metadata has a long life cycle. Cautioning that there are “no free rides,” libraries must find ways to recoup its costs.

Marcum cited LC’s mission, which is “to make the world’s creativity and the world’s knowledge accessible to Congress and the American people,” and said the LC’s leadership role can’t be diminished. With 100 million hidden items (including photos, videos, etc), curators are called upon in 21 reading rooms to direct users to hidden treasures. But “in the era of the Web, user expectations are expanding but funding is not. Thus, things need to be done differently, and we will be measuring success as never before,” Marcum said.

ALA 2007: Top Tech Trends

At the ALA Top Tech Trends Panel, panelists including Marshall Breeding, Roy Tennant, Karen Coombs, and John Blyberg discussed RFID, open source adoption in libraries, and the importance of privacy.

Marshall Breeding, director for innovative technologies and research at Vanderbilt University Libraries (TN), started the Top Tech Trends panel by referencing his LJ Automation Marketplace article, “An Industry Redefined,” which predicted “unprecedented disruption” in the ILS market. Breeding said 60 percent of the libraries in one state are facing a migration due to the Sirsi/Dynix product roadmap being changed, but he said “not all ILS companies are the same.”

Breeding said open source is new to the ILS world as a product, even though it’s been used as infrastructure in libraries for many years. Interest has now expanded to the decision makers. The Evergreen PINES project in Georgia, with 55 of 58 counties participating, was “mostly successful.” With the recent decision to adopt Evergreen in British Columbia, there is movement to open source solutions, though Breeding cautioned it is “still miniscule compared to most libraries.”

Questioning the switch being compared to an avalanche, Breeding said several commercial support companies have sprung up to serve the open source ILS market, including Liblime, Equinox, and CARe Affiliates. Breeding predicted an era of “new decoupled interfaces.”

John Blyberg, head of technology and digital initiatives at Darien Public Library (CT), said the “back end [in the ILS] needs to be shored up because it has a ripple effect” on other services. Blyberg said RFID is coming, and it makes sense for use in sorting and book storage, echoing Lori Ayre’s point that libraries “need to support the distribution demands of the Long Tail.” Feeling that “privacy concerns are non-starters, because RFID is essentially a barcode,” he said the RFID information is stored in a database, which should be the focus of security concerns.

Finally, Blyberg said that vendor interoperability and a democratic approach to development is needed in the age of Innovative’s Encore and Ex Libris’ Primo, both which can be used with different ILS systems and can decouple the public catalog from the ILS. With the xTensible catalog (xC) and Evergreen coming along, Blyberg said there was a need for funding and partners to further enhance their development.

Walt Crawford of OCLC/RLG said the problem with RFID is the potential of having patron barcodes chipped, which could “lead to the erosion of patron privacy.” Intruders could datamine who’s reading what, which Crawford said is a serious issue.

Joan Frye Williams countered that both Blyberg and Crawford were “insisting on using logic on what is essentially a political problem.” Breeding agreed, saying that airport security could scan chips, and “my concern is that third generation RFID chips may not be readable in 30 years, much less the hundreds of years that we expect barcodes to be around for.”

Karen Coombs, head of web services at the University of Houston (TX), listed three trends:
• The end user as content contributor, which she cautioned was an issue. “What happens if YouTube goes under and people lose their memories?” Coombs pointed to the project with the National Library of Australia and its partnership with Flickr as a positive development.
• Digital as format of choice for users, pointing out iTunes for music and Joost for video. Coombs said there is currently “no way for libraries to provide this to users, especially in public libraries.” Though companies like Overdrive and Recorded Books exist to serve this need, perhaps her point was that the consumer adoption has superseded current library demand.
• A blurred line between desktop and web applications, which Coombs demonstrated with YouTube remixer and Google Gears, “which lets you read your feeds when you’re offline.”

John Blyberg responded to these trends, saying that he sees academic libraries pursuing semantic web technologies, including developing ontologies. Coombs disagreed with this assessment, saying that “libraries have lots of badly-tagged HTML pages.” Roy Tennant agreed, “If the semantic web arrives, buy yourself some ice skates, because hell will have frozen over.”

Breeding said that he longs for “SOA [services-oriented architecture] but I’m not holding my breath.” And Walt Crawford said, “Roy is right—most content providers don’t provide enough detail, and they make easy things complicated and don’t tackle the hard things.” Coombs pointed out, “People are too concerned with what things look like,” but Crawford interjected, “not too concerned.”

Roy Tennant, OCLC senior program manager, listed his trends:
• Demise of the catalog, which should push the OPAC into the back room where it belongs and elevate discovery tools like Primo and Encore, as well as OCLC WorldCat Local.
• Software as a Service (SaaS), formerly known as ASP and hosted services, which means librarians “don’t have to babysit machines, and is a great thing for lots of librarians.”
• Intense marketplace uncertainty due to the private equity buyouts of ExLibris and SirsiDynix and the rise of Evergreen and Koha looming options. Tennant also said he sees “WorldCat Local as a disruptive influence.” Aside from the ILS, the abstract and indexing (A&I) services are being disintermediated as Google and OCLC are going direct to publishers to license content.
Someone asked if libraries should get rid of local catalogs, and Tennant said “only when it fits local needs.”

Walt Crawford said:
• Privacy still matters. Crawford questioned if patrons really wanted libraries to turn into Amazon in an era of government data mining and inferences which could track a ten year patron borrowing pattern.
• The slow library movement, which argues that locality is vital to libraries, mindfulness matters, and open source software should be used “where it works”
• The role of the public library as publisher. Crawford pointed out libraries in Charlotte-Mecklenberg County, libraries in Vermont that Jessamyn West works with, and Wyoming as farther along this path, and said the “tools are good enough that it’s becoming practical.”

Blyberg said that systems “need to be more open to the data that we put in there.” Williams said that content must be “disaggregatable and remixable, and Coombs pointed out the current difficulty of swapping out ILS modules, and said ERM was a huge issue. Tennant referenced the Talis platform, and said one of Evergreen’s innovations is its use of the XMPP (Jabber) protocol, which is “easier than SOAP web services, which are too heavyweight.”

Marshall Breeding responded to a question asking if MARC was dead, saying “I’m married to a cataloger, but we do need things in addition to MARC, which is good for books, like Dublin Core and ONIX.” Coombs pointed out that MARCXML is a mess because it’s retrofitted and doesn’t leverage the power of XML. Crawford said, “I like to give Roy [Tennant] a hard time about his phrase ‘MARC is dead,” and for a dying format, the Moen panel was full at 8 a.m.

Questioners asked what happens when “the one server” goes down, and Blyberg responded, “What if your T-1 line goes down?” Joan Frye Williams exhorted the audience to “examine your consciences when you ask vendors how to spend their time.” Coombs agreed, saying that her experience on user groups had exposed her to “crazy competing needs that vendors are faced with—[they] are spread way too thin.” Williams said there are natural transition points and she spoke darkly of a “pyramid scheme” and that you “get the vendors you deserve.” Coombs agreed, saying, “Feature creep and managing expectations is a fiercely difficult job, and open source developers and support staff are different people.”

Joan Frye Williams, information technology consultant, listed:
• New menu of end-user focused technologies. Williams said she worked in libraries when the typewriter was replaced by an OCLC machine, and libraries are still not using technology strategically. “Technology is not a checklist,” Williams chided, saying that the 23 Things movement of teaching new skills to library staff was insufficient.
• Ability for libraries to assume development responsibility in concert with end-users
• Have to make things more convenient, adopting (AI) artificial intelligence principles of self-organizing systems. Williams said, “If computers can learn from their mistakes, why can’t we?”

Someone asked why libraries are still using the ILS. Coombs said it’s a financial issue, and Breeding responded sharply, saying, “How can we not automate our libraries?” Walt Crawford agreed, saying, “Are we going to return to index cards?”
When the panel was asked if library home pages would disappear, Crawford and Blyberg both said they would be surprised. Williams said “the product of the [library] website is the user experience.” She said Yorba Linda Public Library (CA) is enhancing their site with a live book feed that updates “as books are checked in, a feed scrolls on the site.”

And another audience member asked why the panel didn’t cover toys and protocols. Crawford said “outcomes matter,” and Coombs agreed, saying “I’m a toy geek but it’s the user that matters.” Many participants talked about their use of Twitter, and Coombs said portable applications on a USB drive have the potential to change public computing in libraries. Tennant recommended viewing the Photosynth demo, first shown at the TED conference.
Finally, when asked how to keep up with trends, especially for new systems librarians, Coombs said, “It depends what kind of library you’re working in. Find a network—ask questions on the code4lib [IRC] channel.”

Blyberg recommended constructing a “well-rounded blogroll” that includes sites from the humanities, sciences, and library and information science will help you be a well-rounded feed reader.” Tennant recommended a “gasp—dead tree magazine, Business 2.0,” Coombs said the Gartner website has good information about technology adoptions, and Williams recommended trendwatch.com.

Links to other trends:
Karen Coombs’ Top Technology Trends
Meredith Farkas’ Top Technology Trends
3 Trends and a Baby (Jeremy Frumkin)
Some Trends from the LiB (Sarah Hougton-Jan)
“Sum” Top Tech Trends for the Summer of 2007 (Eric Lease Morgan)

And other writeups and podcast:
Rob Styles
Ellen Ward
Chad Haefele

code4lib 2007

Working Code Wins
Responding to increasing consolidation in the ILS market, library developers demonstrated alternatives and supplements to library software at the second annual code4lib conference in Athens, GA, February 27-March 2, 2007. With 140 registered attendees from many states and several countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, the conference was a hot destination for a previously isolated group of developers.

Network connectivity was a challenge for the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, but the hyperconnected group kept things interesting and the attendees coordinated by Roy Tennant artfully architected workarounds and improvements as the conference progressed.

In a nice mixture of emerging conference trends, code4lib combined the flexibility of the unconference with 20 minute prepared talks, keynotes, five minute Lightning Talks, and breakout sessions. The form was derived from Access, the Canadian library conference.

Keynotes
The conference opened with a talk from Karen Schneider, associate director for technology and research at Florida State University. She challenged the attendees to sell open source software to directors in terms of solutions it provides, since the larger issue in libraries is saving digital information. Schneider also debated Ben Ostrowsky, systems librarian at the Tampa Bay Library Consortium, about the importance of open source software from the stage, to which Ostrowsky responded, “Isn’t that Firefox [a popular open source browser] you’re using there?”

Erik Hatcher, author of Lucene in Action, gave a keynote about using the full-text search server, Apache Solr, open-source search engine Lucene and faceted browser, Flare, to construct a new front-end to library catalog data. The previous day, Hatcher led a free preconference for 80 librarians who brought exported MARC records, including Villanova University and the University of Virginia.

Buzz
One of the best-received talks revolved around BibApp, an “institutional bibliography” written in Ruby on Rails by Nate Vack and Eric Larson, two librarians at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The prototype application is available for download, but currently relies on citation data from engineering databases to construct a profile of popular journals, publishers, citation types, and who researchers are publishing with. “This is copywrong, which is sometimes what you have to do to construct digital library projects. Then you get money to license it,” Larson said.

More controversially, Luis Salazar gave a talk about using Linux to power public computing in the Howard County (MD) public library system. A former NSA systems administrator, he presented the pros and cons of supporting 300 staff and 400 public access computers using Groovix, a customized Linux distribution. Since the abundant number of computers serves the public without needing sign up sheets, “patrons are able to sit down and do what they want.”

Salazar created a script for monitoring all the public computers, and described how he engaged in a dialog with a patron he dubbed “Hacker Jon,” who used the library computers to develop his nascent scripting skills. Bess Sadler, librarian and metadata services specialist at the University of Virginia, asked about the privacy implications of monitoring patrons. “Do you have a click-through agreement? Privacy Policy?” she asked. Salazar joked that “It’s Maryland, we’re like a communist country” and said he wouldn’t do anything in a public library that he wouldn’t expect to be monitored.

Casey Durfee presented a talk on “Endeca in 250 lines of code or less,” which showed a prototype of faceted searching at the Seattle Public Library. The new catalog front-end sits on top of a Horizon catalog, and uses Python and Solr to present results in an elegant display, from a Google-inspired single search box start to rich subject browse options.

The future
This year’s sponsors included Talis, LibLime, OCLC, Logical Choice Technologies, and Oregon State University. OSU awarded two scholarships to Nicole Engard, Jenkins Law Library (2007 LJ Mover and Shaker), and Joshua Gomez, Getty Research Institute.

Next year’s conference will be held in Portland, OR.

NetConnect Winter 2007 podcast episode 2

This is the second episode of the Open Libraries podcast, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk to some of the authors of the Winter netConnect supplement, entitled Digitize This!

The issue covers how libraries can start to digitize their unique collections. K. Matthew Dames and Jil Hurst-Wahl wrote an article about copyright and practical considerations in getting started. They join me, along with Lotfi Belkhir, CEO of Kirtas Technologies, to discuss the important issue of digitization quality.

One of the issues that has surfaced recently is exactly what libraries are receiving from the Google Book Search project. As the project grows beyond the initial five libraries into more university and Spanish libraries, many of the implications have become more visible.

The print issue of NetConnect is bundled with the January 15th issue of Library Journal, or you can read the articles online.

Recommended Books:
Kevin
Knowledge Diplomacy

Jill
Business as Unusual

Lotfi
Free Culture
Negotiating China
The Fabric of the Cosmos

Software
SuperDuper
Google Documents
Arabic OCR

0 Music and Intro
1:59 Kevin Dames on his weblog Copycense
2:48 Jill Hurst-Wahl on Digitization 101
4:16 Jill and Kevin on their article
4:34 SLA Digitization Workshop
5:24 Western NY Project
6:45 Digitization Expo
7:43 Lotfi Belkhir
9:00 Books to Bytes
9:26 Cornell and Microsoft Digitization
11:00 Scanning vs Digitization
11:48 Google Scanning
15:22 Michael Keller’s OCLC presentation
16:14 Google and the Public Domain
17:52 Author’s Guild sues Google
21:13 Quality Issues
24:10 MBooks
26:56 Public Library digitization
27:14 Incorporating Google Books into the catalog
28:49 CDL contract
30:22 Microsoft Book Search
31:15 Double Fold
39:20 Print on Demand and Digitization
39:25 Books@Google
43:14 History on a Postcard
45:33 iPRES conference
45:46 LOCKSS
46:45 OAIS

Evergreen now has two support options

Evergreen, the open source ILS system in use by the Georgia PINES libraries, now has a couple of support options. The developers behind the system have launched Equinox Software, modestly billed as “The Future of Library Automation.”

The company consists of members of the Evergreen development team as well as the Georgia Assistant State Librarian, Julie Walker. Libraries are being offered custom development, hosting, migration, and support.

This is an interesting development, and brings to mind some automation history, from NOTIS originating out of Northwestern to the original Innovative software coming from UC Berkeley.

Casey Bisson named one of first winners of Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration

Casey Bisson, information architect at Plymouth State University, was presented with a $50,000 Mellon award for Technology Collaboration by Tim Berners-Lee at the Coalition for Networked Information meeting in Washington DC December 4.

His project, WP-OPAC, is seen as the first step for allowing library catalogs to integrate with WordPress, a popular open-source content management system.

The awards committee included Mitchell Baker, Mozilla; Tim Berners-Lee,W3; Vinton Cerf, Google; Ira Fuchs, Mellon; John Gage, Sun Microsystems; Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media; John Seely Brown, and Donald Waters, Mellon. Berners-Lee said, “These awards are about open source. It’s a good thing because it makes our lives easier, and the award winners used open source to solve problems.”

Library of Congress?
The revolutionary part of the announcement, however, was that Plymouth State University would use the $50,000 to purchase Library of Congress catalog records and redistribute them free under a Creative Commons Share-Alike license or GNU. OCLC has been the source for catalog records for libraries, and its license restrictions do not permit reuse or distribution. However, catalog records have been shared via Z39.50 for several years without incident.

“Libraries’ online presence is broken. We are more than study halls in the digital age. For too long, libraries have have been coming up with unique solutions for common problems,” Bisson said. “Users are looking for an online presence that serves them in the way they expect.” He said “The intention is to bring together the free or nearly-free services available to the user.”

Free download
Bisson said Plymouth State University is committed to supporting it, and will be offering it as a free download from its site, likely in the form of sample records plus WordPress with WP-OPAC included. “With nearly 140,000 registered users of Amazon Web Services, it’s time to use common solutions for our unique problems,” Bisson said.

The internal data structure works with iCal for calendar information and Flickr for photos, and can be used with historical records. It allows libraries to go beyond Library of Congress subject headings. Bisson said. Microformats are key to the internal data, and the OpenSearch API is used for interoperability. Bisson is looking at adding unAPI and OAI in the future.

At this time, there is no connection to the University of Rochester Mellon-funded project which is prototyping a new extensible catalog, though both are funded by Mellon. [see LJ Baker’s Smudges, 9/1/2006]

Other winners include:Open University (Moodle), RPI (bedework), University of British Columbia Vancouver (Open Knowledge Project), Virginia Tech (Sakai), Yale (CAS single signon), University of Washington (pine and IMAP), Internet Archive (Wayback Machine), and Humboldt State University (Moodle).

LibLime powers Koha and now Evergreen

Making the link from a statewide project to something more:

LibLime is one option for libraries outside Georgia interested in Evergreen. Joshua Ferraro, LibLime president, said they provide “hosting, data migration, installation, training, and technical support” to libraries looking to switch to Evergreen. LibLime was retained by the PINES project during development to provide Quality Assurance and National Circulation Interface Protocol (NCIP) support.

Ferraro said, “[PINES] librarians are happy because both circulation and holds are up. Plus, suggestions are sometimes implemented within hours.” One benefit of open-source projects is the visibility of the bug list, where enhancements and problems can be openly tracked.

LibLime currently has four employees and partners with ten subcontractors, and is hiring another four employees for development and support with expectations of hiring four more in the near future. The company has 50 clients, including public libraries in Ohio and libraries in France, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, and interest from large public library systems.

The company’s origins are in the Koha project, an open-source ILS developed for New Zealand libraries. Ferraro became familiar with Koha when he implemented it with Stephen Hedges, then-director at the Nelsonville Public Library, OH, and he was chosen as release manager for Koha version 3.

LITA National Forum 2006

“Shift Happens”
Preservation, entertainment in the library, and integrating Library 2.0 into a Web 2.0 world dominated the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) National Forum in Nashville, TN, October 26-29, 2006.
With 378 registered attendees from 43 states and several countries, including Sweden and Trinidad, attendance held steady with previous years, though the Internet Librarian conference, held in the same week, attracted over 1300 librarians.

Free wireless has still not made it into technology conferences, though laptops were clearly visible, and the LITA blog faithfully kept up with sessions for librarians who were not able to attend.

Keynotes
The forum opened with a fascinating talk from librarians at the Country Music Hall of Fame entitled “Saving America’s Treasures.” Using Bridge Media Solutions in Nashville as a technology partner, the museum has migrated unique content from the Grand Ole Opry, including the first known radio session from October 14, 1939, as well as uncovering demos on acetate and glass from Hank Williams. The migration project uses open source software and will generate MARC records that will be submitted to OCLC.

Thom Gillespie of Indiana University described his shift from being a professor in the Library and Information Science program to launching a new program from the Telecommunications department. The MIME program for art, music, and new media has propelled students into positions at Lucas Arts, Microsoft, and other gaming companies. Gillespie said the program has practical value, “Eye candy was good but it’s about usability.” Saying that peering in is the first step but authoring citizen media is the future, he posed a provocative question: “What would happen if your library had a discussion of the game of the month?”

Buzz
Integration into user environments was a big topic of discussion. Peter Webster of St. Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada, spoke about how embedded toolbars are enabling libraries to enter where users search.

Annette Bailey, digital services librarian at Virginia Tech, announced that the LibX project has received funding for two years from IMLS to expand their research toolbar into Internet Explorer as well as Firefox, and will let librarians build their own test editions of toolbars online.

Presenters from the Los Alamos National Laboratory described their work with MPEG-21, a new standard from the Motion Pictures Experts group. The standard reduces some of the ambiguities of METS, and allows for unique identifiers in locally-loaded content. Material from Biosis, Thomson’s Web of Science, APS, the Institute of Physics, Elsevier, and Wiley, is being integrated into cataloging operations and existing local Open Archives Initiative (OAI) repositories.

Tags and Maps
The University of Rochester has received funding for an open source catalog, which they are calling the eXtensible Catalog (xC). Using an export of 3 million records from their Voyager catalog, David Lindahl and Jeff Susczynski described how their team used User Centered Design to conduct field interviews with their users, sometimes in their dorm rooms. They have prototyped four different versions of the catalog, and CUPID 4 includes integration of several APIs, including Google, Amazon, Technorati, and OCLC’s xISBN. They are actively looking for partners for the next phase, and plan to work on issues with diacritics, incremental updates, and integrating holdings records, potentially using the NCIP protocol.

Challenge
Steven Abram, of Sirxi/Dynix and incoming SLA president, delivered the closing keynote, “Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 in our Future.” Abram and Sirsi/Dynix have conducted research on 15,000 users, which highlighted the need for community, learning, and interaction. He asked the audience, “Are you working in your comfort zone or my end user’s comfort zone?” In a somewhat controversial set of statements, Abram compared open source software to being “free like kittens” and challenged librarians about the “My OPAC sucks” meme that’s been popular this year. “Do your users want an OPAC, or do they want information?” Stating that libraries need to compete in an era when education is moving towards the distance learning model, Abram asked, “How much are we doing to serve the user when 60-80% of users are virtual?” Saying that librarians help people improve the quality of their questions, Abram said that major upcoming challenges include 50 million digitized books coming online in the next five years. “What is at risk is not the book. It’s us: librarians.”

ALA 2006: Top Tech Trends

Jackson SquareIn yet another crowded ballroom, the men (and woman) of LITA prognosticated on the future of libraries and technology.

Walt Crawford moderated the panel and spoke in absentia for Sarah Houghton. Her trends were:

  • Returning power to content owners
  • An OCLC ILS with RedLightGreen as the front-end
  • Outreach online

Karen Schneider listed four:

  • Faceted Navigation, from Endeca and others
  • eBooks–the Sophie project from the Institute for the Future of the Book
  • The Graphic Novel–Fun House
  • Net Neutrality

Eric Lease Morgan listed several, and issued a call for a Notre Dame Perl programmer throughout his trends:

  • VoIP, which he thought would cure email abuse
  • Web pages are now blogs and wikis, which may cause preservation issues since they are dynamically generated from a database
  • Social Networking tools
  • Open Source
  • Metasearch, which he thought may be dead given its lack of de-duplication
  • Mass Digitization, and the future services libraries can provide against it
  • Growing Discontent with Library Catalogs
  • Cataloging is moving to good enough instead of complete
  • OCLC is continuing to expand and refine itself
  • LITA 40 year anniversary–Morgan mentioned how CBS is just celebrating their 55th anniversary of live color TV broadcasting

Tom Wilson noted two things: “Systems aren’t monolithic, and everything is an interim solution.”

Roy Tennant listed three trends:
Next generation finding tools, not just library catalogs. Though the NGC4Lib mailing list is a necessary step, metasearch still needs to be done, and it’s very difficult to do. Some vendors are introducing products like Innovative’s Encore and Ex Libris’ Primo which attempt to solve this problem.
The rise of filtering and selection. Tennant said, “The good news is everyone can be a publisher. And the bad news is, Everyone can be a publisher.”
Rise of microcommunities, like code4lib, which give rise to ubiquitious and constant communication.

Discussion after the panelists spoke raised interesting questions, including Clifford Lynch’s recommendation of Microsoft’s Stuff I’ve Seen. Marshall Breeding recommended tagging WorldCat, not local catalogs, but Karen Schneider pointed out that the user reviews on Open World Cat were deficient compared to Amazon.

When asked how to spot trends, Eric Lease Morgan responded, “Read and read and read–listservs, weblogs; Listen; Participate.” Roy Tennant said, “Look outside the library literature–Read the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Business 2.0. Finally, look for patterns.”

More discussion, and better summaries:
LITA Blog » Blog Archive » Eric Lease Morgan’s Top Tech Trends for ALA 2006; “Sum” pontifications
LITA Blog » Blog Archive » The Annual Top 10 Trends Extravaganza
Hidden Peanuts » ALA 2006 – LITA Top Tech Trends
ALA TechSource | Tracking the Trends: LITA’s ALA Annual ’06 Session
Library Web Chic » Blog Archive » LITA Top Technology Trends