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).

Open Search

Z39.50 has been a useful technology for searching library catalogs and individual databases for many years, but it presents certain implementation challenges–Bath or SUTRS?

The Open Search specification is interesting, since it promises much the same thing. It was initiated by a commercial entity–A9–and some libraries are starting to pay attention to it as a supplement for SR/U and Z39.50.