Sunday, October 30, 2005

IL 2005 Redux

After letting the sessions, after-hours discussions, and workshops all simmer for a few days, here’s what I’m thinking about post IL 2005.

1. Patrons don't need to know the words Blog and RSS (unless they want to).
Sarah (Lib in Black) mentioned that patrons don’t have to know you have a blog on your page. Call it library news, or something else. I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to get caught up in the jargon, and isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to move away from? You have a blog on your page, big deal. The things that matters are that a. you’re creating a space for patrons and library staff to interact; b. it’s a quick, easy to communicate what’s happening and why; c. through the authentic voice of you and your colleagues, you’re showing that the library is about people: real people, ready to help; and d. built-in feeds let patrons bring library news into their own worlds.

Of course, we should also be the place for patrons to learn those words as well as be a "safe" place to play and learn tech in general. We're all things to all people: we're librarians.

2. What are we doing, and why are we doing it?
Tech plans matter. Not just for the tech, but for the people. Not only is it important to have a living, breathing tech plan, but it needs to include how you’re going to constantly work to create buy-in from staff. Also, don’t just talk. Act. Every meeting needs to end with action steps (which we do pretty well), and every action step should be follow-up (which we don’t always do so well—a good goal).

3. Online communities affect and create face-to-face communities.
The flickr stream of librarians with giant calculators is a perfect and amusing example.

Things I hope happen at IL 2006:

1. We pick the right fight.
Although I thought the discussions about Google were interesting, I can see other "threats" that are closer to us (at least for public libraries). If we really want to pick a fight with someone, it should be the vendors who are hi-jacking our Web pages, and forcing our patrons to bounce around to various interfaces, through various authentication processes, all the while making us pay not only for their so-called services and content, but for the release of our own data with additional pricing for API.

I don’t think vendors are evil. But they are in business, and we should all get together to ensure that if they want our business, they will provide interfaces that can be visually integrated with our own (with style-sheet headers and footers, not just “letting” us place our logos in little corner), free access to our own data, and standards for authentication.

2. We get rid of “tracks.”
At first, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t anything new in the Public Library tract. I mean, the information was really good, but it wasn’t new. I read all their blogs, I know what they think, and while I’m truly grateful that all these folks write blogs that help keep their colleagues up to date, I’m really disappointed that John Blyberg’s session on the totally amazing things they are doing at Ann Arbor District Library wasn’t included in this tract. He did speak for a just a few minutes as part of a what’s new with library Web sites, but it was his full-blown presentation that everyone really, really needed to see.

Here’s what I think would be oh so cool for next year: instead of “tracks,” just post each one of the presentations on the IL06 site, and let us all tag them. Then, we’ll self-organize, and the coordinators will know which sessions have the most buzz, and likely the most attendees so they can plan the room size. But, it’s not really about buzz as much as it is letting the attendees self-select, and show (not just tell) the coordinators and presenters what it is about the presentations that they’re interested in. So all I want for IL06: tags, baby, tags.

Post-IL focus and action steps

It’s the people, not the tech
Ok, ok, I didn’t learn this at the conference, but over and over again it was reinforced as I was reminded about how important it is to stay focused on the people, on the emotional attachments between people, and how to build those emotional attachments within and through libraries.

Abram said “know your customers better than Google.” We need to know our customers, our communities, and our colleagues. We need to tell our library’s stories, and we need to learn what stories our communities have about our libraries.

My action items to get out from behind my screen and talk to more people:
a. Go to lunch with a different person from work each week.
b. Get involved in at least 1 community organization or effort.
c. Improve community engagement on our Web site by encouraging patrons to share stories about the library, library locations, and staff.
d. Once our Web survey is completed, post the results and answer any common questions and alert patrons to services they might not know about (as evidenced by the survey results).

We need to be doing I.M. reference
We’ve already been kicking this around, but only from a tech-side, and I don’t think it will get enough staff buy-in if the reference staff isn’t driving the ideas.

Action items:
a. Talk to Monique (I.T. director) about the tech issues with I.M.
b. After things shake out a little with reference, work with the powers that be to find some money and see if we can’t persuade Aaron from Thomas Ford (and walkingpaper) to come in and discuss why and how they have implemented I.M., and how we can do it, too.
c. Find some staff members who are most interested to pilot reference I.M.—maybe as a start we can focus on Homework Help.

Gaming in the library
Again, it’s somewhat of a staff buy-in issue. It’s somewhat a techie/librarian co-project (good for building internal relationships), and it’s just another way to show y.a. patrons that the library wants to provide experiences they are interested in.
a. Talk to Tricia (teen services librarian) and Atabong (Web Services Coordinator) about how best to get started with gaming at the library.
b. Assemble a project team of librarians and techies.
c. Let staff know what we’re doing and why.
d. Launch a pilot project.

Encouraging staff buy-in and tech planning
And speaking of buy-in, obviously we all know that staff buy-in is important, Michael’s session with 10 tips for encouraging buy-in was really good. This is also tied to our tech plan, which needs to be listed on the Intranet as a living, breathing, interactive document.
a. Complete our internal communication needs assessment so that we can better implement a practice of encouraging staff buy-in and make sure they actually receive the information we’re trying to share and encourage their engagement.
b. Find our tech plan and post it to the Intranet. (Do we have one, or do we just use the annual work plans for this function?)
c. Post the notes and information about on-going tech projects to the Intranet and encourage staff input.
d. Work with L.I.T. and Web Content Team to develop a staff-buy in plan/check list for developing and rolling out new-tech (this needs to include the development of a staff playground and recess time).
e. Talk to Coordinating Committee about a staff buy-in plan for developing and rolling out new tech.

Figure out how to bridge the gap between tech and content.
Everyone involved with our Web has to be relentlessly focused on what is best for patrons (ok, I guess that’s true for everyone who works in our library, but I’ll bite off what I can chew for now). It can’t be a matter in which the content team says what we want, and having the programmers and tech folks respond to our “business needs.” We all need to be on the same page, and in some way, share a brain to provide seamless, slick basic functions as well as cool tools and experiences for those who are interested. Also, we need to work with other libraries to collaborate and share applications, ideas, and code.

a. Focus on improving the functionality, usability, and ease of use of our ILS.
b. Get the spell-checker for Sirsi catalog
c. Look into the EPS system for Sirsi, look at Sirsi-provided APIs, or think seriously about converting to a new ILS.
d. Ensure JoCoWorld 3.0 is clean, crisp, and super-easy to use

a. Increase interaction between patrons and library staff online
b. Encourage patron-created content
c. Provide intriguing experiences for all ages online

Action steps:
a. Find an answer to the staffing concerns: how to ensure everyone is focused on the same goal and has the time to commit to the goals.
b. Develop Complete S.W.O.T. analysis of the Web and all Web-based products (e.g. databases and the ILS) with patrons and staff.
c. Develop tactics and action steps for 2006-2007
d. Talk to Web Junction about encouraging usability document sharing and regional usability consortiums
e. Implement, implement, implement

Take more time for in-depth analysis and thinking
It’s ok to think about Web pages and library stuff all the time, but I shouldn’t be so focused on the daily minutia. Take time to read more, write more, and unplug.

Action steps:
a. Complete 1 book a week.
b. Write article on glass.
c. Be completely unplugged at least one day a week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Abram: Top ten things libraries must do

Stephen Abram is a smart guy. But you knew that already. Here's his top ten of what we should really be spending our time on...

1. Know your market
It’s an imperative to aggregate your data (Normative Data Project:

2. Know your customers better than Google knows customers (Goolge knows data--you can know people)
Personas: understand your customers in terms of their needs, preferences, and desires
MS Personas (in this month's Computers in Libraries)
Millenials are different (and their brains are different)
Usability matters: The "A" frame adopted from newspaper layout isn't working for public library Web sites.
There is a difference between usability and satisfaction
Satisfying vs. meeting Real needs
Transactions vs. Transformation (Value-based impacts: we shouldn't worry about so much numbers--focus on how we're really transforming our communities--with hopes, for the better.)

3. Be where your customers are
How much of your usage is in person?
Simple collaboration (I.M.) 85% of people from ages 14-25 have at least 1 IM account: only 5% of people over 30's do

4. Searching for the target
Federated searches shouldn't look like Google.
Differentiate. Target your searches on specific topics/resources. Don't just be Google-Lite.
Build federated collections
Target your community
Build compelling content
In Context!
Respositories--only with compelling experiences
Understand what compelling is

5. Support your culture
"Get your texthead to nexthead"
Streaming media
Voice search (SpeechBot)
iPods & podcasting

6. Position libraries where we excel
Google does who, what, where, when really, really well.
Google sucks at How and Why: everything that is complicated is what we're good at
"Libraries core skill is not delivering information."
"Libraries improve the quality of the question." (yum)
Taking the knowledge positioning between information and behavior
Information Engagement Levels: Read/View --> Act on/Discuss --> Argue/Defend --> Present/Teach --> Stimulate/Live
"It's an information ocean, not a highway." We create discovery and interaction spaces.
"Libraries are an "exploration space" not a collection space."

7. Be wireless
The next massive wave of innovation will start 06/07
Smart: DoCoMo phones)

8. Get visual
Google news Maps, visual display of quantitative data and interactions and experiences
Search engines and searching in general need to be visual

9. Integrate
Integrate with your communities
Build community context first
It's not about the library--it's about five very specific spaces, communities:

Building portals: it's not a library portal, it's the portals on specific locally relevant topics

10. For Pete's sake, take a risk
Get over your fears and don't let the worry tank win

Focus! Pick something. Do it well, and move onto the next thing.

(Ok, the conference is over, and I'm too tired to spell check. Signing off for now...)

The best session I have ever heard at Internet Librarian. Ever. Pay attention to Ann Arbor District's even cooler than you think

Presenter: John Blyberg, Ann Arbor District Library

This is absolutely the best session I went to the entire conference. Actually, the best session I have ever attended at I.L.

Not only is Ann Arbor doing really, really great things for their patrons, but John is doing really, really great things for libraries by completely setting the standard for how library Web sites should be designed and managed, advocating for open source and development sharing, and just being a totally cool, generous, and freakin' smart guy. Has anyone else noticed that English majors make the best library programmers?

I'm so disspointed that this session was buried in a weird tract in the last session of the last day, but I'll give my conference overview later. Right now, I just want to contnue glowing about John and his great ideas.

Where did they come from?
Like many library Web sites, the first version of their library's Web site was flat html files, created in dreamweaver, with animated gifs, and "functional enough to replace the card catalog." "Dreamweaver is a design tool, not a content management tool."

The next generation of their site used "Userland/Frontier" but that's a closed proprietary database-driven CMS. And that didn't allow them to do all the things they really wanted to do. It did give them the basic functionality of a CMS with a unified look. They had a number of problems with Frontier. They had a number of databases, but none of that was really accessible from within Frontier, and it was difficult to access their data once it was in Frontier.
So, they were ready to move to the next generation site, but, they needed to convince their administration it was important enough to go through such a large-scale change (time, money, etc...)

In the meantime, they had an interim period where they re-thought everything regarding their servers, network, and Web services. (love this...brains and energy, baby...)
What does re-thinking everything look like?
  • Network topology redesign
  • Server hardware updates
  • Database consolidation (audit: what data is important and how are you going to access it?)
  • Software upgrades: stay current on your own projects and stay ahead of/on the curve of upgrades to ensure you're taking advantage of the features available
  • Migration to thin-client architecture
  • Development of software libraries: As they started new development projects, they adopted the idea that all of their software would be written by using "libraries" that could be used repeatedly
  • Adopt open standards
  • Strategic planning sessions which were already

Next...needed to choose a new CMS.

His initial, informal wish-list for a new CMS:

  • LAMP-based (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP)
  • Well Supported
  • Well Respected
  • Modular
  • Extensive API
  • Easily Themalbe
  • Blog-based technology with RSS
  • The Magic Spark: keep your eyes open for that

We should be moving away from proprietary systems. Also, open-source tools work the best, becuase they are complety tranparent.

Enter: Drupal

  • LAMP-based
  • 100% modular
  • Excellent API (API-centric project)
  • Large user-base --not only are they large, but zealous about what they do. The Drupal site went down shorly after they went live, they had a quick collection, and raised tons of money to buy new servers and got everything up fast
  • Very active project--continously launching new features that are well-documented
  • Well-documented (
  • Nice documentation site (
  • High-quality programming
  • Taxonomy-based organization (it's like tagging, but at the administrative level)
  • Bloggable: comments, RSS, etc.
  • It has the Magic Spark (it's really fun to use it)
What does ‘now’ look like to AADL?
July 4, 2005: AADL 3.0
Anyone who creates an account can post comments on their blogs. In the first six or seven hours they had over 200 users signed-up.

More cool things:
Ability to cross-post blog entries inside multiple taxonomies
Tie the blog entries to a bib record, so they will show up in the catalog as you browse them
Configurable inter-wiki links to catalog items, wikipedia etnries, whatever you want to bring in
RSS feeds for all blogs
Hitlist integration
The events engine: A centerpiece of their intermation-integration strategy (I wanted to jump up and down here...I so want a decent way to display, disseminate, search, and organize program information for patrons online)
Need good tools to bring together AV content from a program to end-users live and online.
RSS feeds of holds and checkouts. ( cool! "A great example of modular programming.")
Does this new approparch work? Uh...yeah (duh)
Patrons, and particularly teens love, love, love this. They constantly post/comment. Voracious comments from their teen patrons.

A peek behind the curtain
They needed a way for Drupal to interact with III (their ILS)
They wanted at least the appearance of fluidity between Drupal and the catalog
They absolutely needed a seamless integration

What III provided:
Patron 'API'
Returns patron information
Tests a Pnum/Cardnum and Pin combination

Taking it all apart:
They had to make the III server into an application server (Wow!)
All non-essential html was stripped from the screen files
Unnecessary wwwoptions were disabled
Added custom tags to pinpoin vital data

**warning** geeking out ahead...

Consuming the CURL
CURL: Client URL, allows your software to communicate with many differnet types of servers using different protocols.
PHP has native libcurl support
Using CURL, we were able to consume web pages from the stripped-down III server
By parsing the ouput with their custom tags, they were able to reliabley return any data set they wanted's safe again...

The Wrapper
The result is a software library that allows them to fetch and update patron information, run catalog queries, etc...
Because its a PHP5 class, it's essentially stand-alone software
All catalog traffic down runs through Drupal

But seriously....
They should not have had to do what they did
We (all libraries) should have access to our automation systems
Vendors should provide APIs in the form of web services
XMLRPC at the very least
(Novel ideas, folks--call your ILS and database vendors. Now.)

Designing for the future: making data portable
Make OOP design a requirement: take the time to create a foundation before you create the product.
Don't program yourself into a corner
Practice scalable database design
Use open-source platforms
Always ask, "What else can I do with this data."

"Libraries should all be sharing software."
A case study in portable data: AADL-GT Gaming tools
This is a Drupal module, and they are looking at the idea of sharing this with other libraries to allow others to set up gaming tournaments. It is so, so cool. Check it out:

What else are they looking into:
AJAX (asyncronous java script--this is what G-mail is written in)
SOAP services for patron access

I can't say enough about the work that Ann Arbor (and John) have done here. Giving their patrons fantastic tools, creating worlds in which librarians and communities can interact, creating spaces where culture and community, and just a lot of damn fun can bubble up, all the while sharing ideas, tools, and encouragement with other libraries. It's just incredible. This session completely wins my vote for best sesssion I have ever attended at Internet Librarian. Ever.

Building Cohesive Web-based Library Services

Karen A. Coombs & Amanda Hollister spoke on how to integrate look, feel, and functionality across all your Web-based systems and your Web site.

Disparate systems (ILLiad, Docutek, SFX, OPAC, etc.)
Differnet vendors
Distributed servers, hosted at differnet places by different vendors
Diverse content
Differnet ways for users to authenticate

Wanted a seamless solution so that they weren't bouncing their patrons off to other worlds with every click.

Potential tech solutions
Federated Search
OLDB/ODBC connections: A lot of databases can be web-enabled. Pull the data into the world you want
APIs (Application Programming Interface--particularly XML Servers)

Creating an aesthetically consistent look
Consistent navigation elements (color scheme, fonts, logo, header when they can get away with it)
Server Side Includes
Include both print and Web documents (Woo hoo!)

Integrating content from disparate systems
Periodical Holdings
Export local holdings to include in list
Connect to OPAC API to link to the holdings page
(This is how the ILS target in their OpenURL resolver should work)
Creating a unived "my account" page
Goal: Items checked out from the ILS and ILL items from ILLiad together on one page
Incoporating the OPAC
Added a catalog search box to the library home page that directly searches the catalog
Added search boxes customized to specific collections on
Pull in direct information from the OPAC, like the new books page with links back into the catalog--but right now, it's a static thing they have to manually do rather than a dynamic option, which is the goal.

Lessons learned
Before you buy new systems, look to see if it's closed or the level at which it's closed (API, etc...) Will the vendor let you have access to database behind the scenes? Is there an API you can use to access data? Can you get an export of your data at any time?

Think ahead about how you are going to connect data from one system to another (Try to use the same user id throughout)

This is a really long process: they liked the idea of a federated search, but they didn't have the money

Erica's overview: Karen and Amanda are doing a lot of good things to pull these disperate systems together to improve patrons' ease of use and build a more cohesive library experience. But why do vendors have to make this all so, so hard for librarians? We need to get together to build standards for vendors, using style sheets, and making it easier to either completely customize the look and feel of their products that we purchase or to simply pull their content into our sites and streamline the log-in/autheniticate processes.

Rich & Roy wrestle over Google Print

Everyone’s a little punchy on this, Wednesday, the final day of IL 2005, and this was a fantastic keynote with lots of interesting arguments, constructive dialogue, and laughs, led by Rich Wiggins, Roy Tennant, and Adam Smith (project manager for Googel print).

Rich’s take
A few years ago, Rich and Roy started talking about a federally funded project to digitize the entire contents of the Library of Congress. And now, we see Google basically doing this, and Rich is all for it.

Questions about digitizing:
Are we digitizing the cream of the crop or the entire corpus?
It’s hard to weigh a digital library—most of the “digital libraries” are actually tiny and not even near in size to the collections of even the smallest public library.

Think big: what if we digitize it all?
Obvious issues: server space, resolution, color depth, etc…
LOC has about 20-28 million titles in print collection (119 million items in all collection). But, broadband delivery, storage space, and digital imaging is all pretty cheap now, and getting cheaper, so everything’s on the table.

Maybe if it’s worth keeping the item in the collection, it’s worth digitizing it.

Bigger issues:
Rights management: once it’s digitized can we deliver it?
The paradox of latent value: An obscure title sits on a shelf, never used, bringing no royalties to the author, but if you scan it in, and everyone has access to it, then people come out of the woodwork demanding royalties.
Improved digitizing technology (Everyone thinks/suspects that Google is doing amazing things with digitizing technology, rumors/fantasies of robots, but Google can’t comment on this at this time. Adam Smith, the project manager for Google Print, was on the panel as well)
Access and Standards (open & XML)

Ok, so what if we only digitize the good stuff? Answer: It’s really expensive to find the good stuff.

One of the really interesting things about Google Print is that it will force the issue of large-scale rights management. We shouldn’t let copyright decisions made back when Walt Disney was drawing a mouse on the back of an envelope dictate our world and our access to our world today.

Google Print has taught us to think big. It’s like the Apollo program, or rather Kennedy’s arguments for why we had to go to the moon, and it’s not because it’s easy. Google is taking on some really, really big issues: technology, institutional, legal. The big thing that’s different from the Apollo program or other think-big initiatives is that it’s not the government, but a company that’s doing it.

Why Trust Google?
Agile and innovative (AJAX)
They show no fear
They have enough money to take on Disney and other big, big players
They won’t do this alone: Ex: Open Content Alliance (added Microsoft last night)

Roy’s take

Google: Catalyst for digitization or library destruction?
Obviously, more access, easier access is better and the more players in the space is better.
It is good that Google is doing this, that the Open Content Alliance is doing this, and that libraries are digitizing things, but there are some big questions and issues.

Scary Monster 1: Copyright Cataclysm
Libraries have long enjoyed “fair use” protections
Google’s attempt to shield their activities under that same umbrella may destroy it for us all

Scary Monster 2: Closed access to open material
The Call of the Wild example: if you go to Google print, you don’t get the free, accessible version: you get a link to the closed copy of the book with a few snippets, but no real access to the text, and access only to buy the book, when elsewhere on the ‘net, you could read Call of the Wild in full-text. (Of course, the same thing happens if you try to find Moby-Dick)

Scary Monster 3: Blind wholesale digitization
Large research collections are not weeded by policy
Copyright will restrict the use of recent material and since users use what’s handy, older material will win over newer, better material

Scary Monster 4: Ads
Most of Google’s revenue comes from ads
How long before we see ads for antidepressant medication next to Hamlet?

Scary Monster 5: Secrecy
The agreements have largely been kept secret
Even the Google libraries themselves couldn’t talk to each other when making the agreements with Google
U-Mich revealed theirs after a ROI challenge
Roy sent the Open Contents Alliance Memorandum of Understanding to Library Journal
A rumor indicates that the U-Mich has the best agreement from the library perspective
But, we don’t know

Scary Monster 6: Longevity
What do Google, Enron, and WorldCom have in common?
They are/were large publicly traded companies driven by profit. Only 1 is still around.

The Harvard library is 400 years old. Google is 7 years old
Which organization do we trust must with our intellectual heritage?

Liz Lawley asked a really compelling question of Adam Smith: How does Google reconcile it’s own secrecy and policies of “no comment” with a policy of increasing access to everything published by anyone else? Adam said that he was new to the company, and that actually, no one had asked question of him in a public forum, but would be happy to continue the discussion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Auto spell check in your ILS

Thanks so much to Christopher from the Gates Foundation for tipping us off to this so, so cool tool that auto spell-checks patron searches in your ILS. He posted about this last spring, at his blog TechnoBiblio, but I didn't hear about it until last night when we were hanging out at my favorite English Pub in Monterey. (Mmmm...Guinness is yummy.)

The company is: Jaunter Lucien

And, happy days, a Sirsi library only 2 hours away from me in Columbia, MO has implemented it: Daniel Boone Regional Library

Check it out, and look forward to the day you never have to spell Melville correctly again ; )

How to create buy-in at your library

Michael's presentation on creating buy-in at your library is spot-on. This is one of the hardest issues we deal with, and I think his suggestions are fantastic. His top ten list plus a bonus is at his blog:

Online program dine-around on Wednesday

I'll be hosting a dine-around on Wednesday at 6 p.m. if you want to talk about OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) and other cool, cheap tools for online programs. If you're interested, there is a sign-up sheet on the bulletin board beside the conference registration. We'll meet by the registration area at 6 p.m. if you'd like to join us.

Steven Cohen's What's new with Blogs, Wikis, and RSS

Like Lee Rainie said yesterday, the more prevalent and common place a tech becomes, the more invisible it becomes. Just a year ago, I was so excited by RSS. Now, it's a given. This is cool, but I have to admit I miss the lusty, gotta have it feeling. Luckily other new nifty tools are coming out.

Steven's presentation and lots of links are all online at:

What are Splogs? Machine generated spam/blogs. These haven't really been dealt with. Most of splogs are coming from Blogger, so people are looking to Google to fix it.

The big boys catch up with blog search (Google, Yahoo, etc...)
G! catches up with RSS: And RSS is incorporated into Google's news searches, so you can run a search, sort by date, and then grab RSS or Atom feeds for a "news" search. But blogs are in their news search, so it's more than traditional media.

What's in Your wallet? Your I.M., skype and blog should be on your business cards

Yahoo buys Flickr: Yahoo is going to have the best image search ever

The new bubble? Lots of money and hype is being thrown around (Web 2.0, etc.) Steven would like to look at a new metaphor. Rather than "bubble" which grows then breaks, he's advocating something that grows and expands, but in a sustainable way.

Up & coming:

"My" ___ returns You can create your own homepage through this. It's like My Yahoo, but you can drag and drop feeds, Web elements, social software calendar, etc... I signed up, but I haven't received my e-mailed info yet...stay tuned.

Reddit - ( Rating content

Digg - ( "I dig it"

Memeorandum - ( Like Google news, but way better. Takes content, and the content that is most popular displays first. It gets stuff out really quickly.

Oishii - ( Runs through every few seconds, and grabs the most popular things being tagged.

Library Thing - ( Love, love, love it. This got rave reviews and lots of oooh's and ah's. (so well-deserved, I might add) "This is what the next generation library catalog should be like."

Reader2 - ( Similar to LibraryThing--not as nifty

Livemarks - ( Very addictive: lots at the popular tags from

Writely - ( Work on Word docs online

Life Management: Lots of online tools to help make your life more amusing or organized. The social aspects of these products is really exciting. Bowling Alone? We don't browse, read, plan our days, plan our lives, or even hang out on the 'net alone.

43 Things - ( This is so cool--list the 43 things you want to do in your life, and find others who want to do the same things.

Planzo - ( Set up calendars, private or public; it's Web based, and you can have feeds.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Web Trends & Innovations for Public Libraries

David King: Kansas City Public
Glenn Peterson: Hennepin County
Sarah Houghton: Marin County Free Library
John Blyberg: Ann Arbor District Library

What large public libraries are doing on the Web:
Content (Subject guides, events, and programs)
Customers (help your patrons discover library resources, push information to them, focus on specific user groups)
Communication (commutating with patrons: comments forms, RSS, etc.)
Redesigning with Web Standards

How do they do it?
Staffing is actually being the curve with regard to number of staff working on the Web vs number of patrons using the Web sites.
Use your online stats as justification for why you need more staff to do more work online.

It's all about leverage: leveraging your library staff as a whole to take on as many projects as possible.

  • Utilize Web Application Software
    Integrate a lot of different information and content from different sources rather than static html (PHP, ASP, ColdFusion, perl, etc.)
  • Rapid Development Environment
    Use smarter software like Dreamweaver and Homesite, etc. so that you can decrease your development time.
  • Use your reference staff for content (Use web-based tools for staff to create content)
  • Learn more about XML (RSS and more)

Subject guides
Starting points for finding information in specific topics areas
Bring together in one place all library resources on a topic (if you find the history database page, you should find an entrance to all other history-related resources: databases, sites, links to library catalog, Topic-specific RSS feeds, classes and events, subject-specific blogs, etc.) Example: Hennpin's Countries & Travel example
I love that they have the pictures of the librarians! A human face shows that they are real people, ready to help.

Small Library Power
If you have no staff, no money, no time, and no coders, what can you do?
Answer from Sarah: Lots

  • Simple blogging & RSS
    Why love blogs & RSS: free, auto feeds, no tech skills required, you don't even have to call it a blog--it's really what's new at the library. Patrons don't need to know the words Blog and RSS.
  • Linked links: repackage pathfinders, booklists, etc.
    Quick searches: links to prefab catalog searches
    All the DVDs, new books, large type
  • Simple online forms
    Printable PDFs of common forms
    Simple HTML forms (e-mail reference requests, patron comments)
  • Lightweight virtual reference
  • IM: your users are already here: where are you? It's free or at least chap; Aggregate multiple accounts through Trillian or Gaim
  • Jybe: free right now; a library version coming out soon with links into your ; Co-browsing and text-chat
  • SMS: text-messaging with cell phones

Ann Arbor District Library
The recently redesigned darling of the public lib Web world (and their darling status is well deserved... did we mention their front page is a collection of blogs and that their director is blogging? Love it.)
AADL.ord's open source tools
L.A.M.P. (linux, apache, mysql, php)
Drupal is the CMS they are using (Again, it's Open source, completelyn PHP, completly modular, good support base, approach to CMS/Blogging fell within their needs. Oh, yeah, it's free)

Trends in Public Library Websites (Dave's best guesses)
Web redesigns galore!
Content and interaction continue to mix (more blogs, more RSS, more ways to connect with librarians like IM, text-messaging)
Video online
Who will have the next great redesigned Web?

One note from me: We are in the middle of redesigning our site ( and the many partnership sites we manage (,,, and I would suggest that while it's partly a matter of semantics, we shouldn't talk about redesigning our sites: we should start completely over from the ground up. If the old site had some good content, elements, cool, and we'll add it. But I think it's liberating and exciting to think about something totally new that fits just right rather than trying to modify something we know we want to move away from.

Burn it, and start over. Creativity is destruction. Woo hoo!

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Want an easy and cheap way to give your patrons access to all online-programming, podcasts, and more? Check out OPAL.

I am crazy about OPAL (online programming for all libraries), and I'd like to host a dine-around on Tuesday or Wednesday night to chat with more OPAL-ites about programs and promoting OPAL at our libraries. I've sent Jane a message to see if I can't get it added to the dine-around schedule. Additionally, if anyone would like to learn more about OPAL, we could discuss the consortium, and how OPAL works. It's super cheap to join (the consortium charter for 2005 is here), and Tom Peters and Lori Bell are awesome to work with.

Plus, via OPAL you immediately have an online space for meetings (with co-browsing, VoIP, and text chat), online space for programs, and the ability to podcast your online programs. What's not to love?

If I get the official dine-around set up, it will be up on the site. If I don't, and you'd like to chat about OPAL, let me know.

Today I attended Aaron's and Michael's preconference session on Tech planning & libraries. It was terrific! I'll post on that later, but first, I'm off to the Aquarium for a few hours of unplugged bliss.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Internet Librarian day 1: preconference workshop & wine

Implementing Federated Searching and Open URL-based Linking Services
Frank Cervone
Asst. University Librarian for Info Technology
Northwestern University

Jeff Wisniewski (pinch hitter)
Web Services Librarian
University of Pittsburgh

Frank’s plane was delayed in LA due to fog, so Jeff filled in with Frank on the conference phone. Thanks to Jeff for filling in at the last minute, and being such a good sport. Overall, he did a great job, and I hope that InfoToday, Frank, and Jeff (if he’s still talking to any of us ; ) will consider presenting this online as well so we can get to all the details and nuts & bolts of implementing a federated search product. If anyone’s interested, we could easily do it via OPAL, and I would be happy to set it up with a password protect if that’s needed. Since Frank already has his slides, it would be easy-beasy to set it up in OPAL, kick back, enjoy the slides, and use the text chat and VoIP to chat about federated search engines and everything Z39.50 has to offer (and not).

Here’s my overview, but there are lots and lots of details in the powerpoint, and I’ll link to that once it’s up online.

“Librarians are the toughest critics of federated searching.” ~ Jeff Wisniewski

This is a great point, and I think one of the most important elements of implementing a federated search is managing expectations—particularly the expectations of staff.

Federated searching isn’t about trying to replace the sophisticated type of searching that you get via the native database. Federated searching is really a googlized search, and for most users that is perfectly fine. If someone is an advanced searcher and wants to use advanced-level research, federated searching isn’t the best tool. For average users, they are just doing keywords anyway, and most likely, they aren’t using our databases now, so federated searches are a great tool for libraries to provide to their patrons.

What is federated searching?
What does Open URL have to do with? How does it work?
How does federated searching work?
Implementation issues

Why do I care about federated searching?
To provide a single interface to info resources
Lots of the databases/purchased content packages have less-than intuitive names, and therefore don’t know where to start searching (Example: what do patrons think when they see a link to “Ebsco”?)
Decrease duplication of effort: you don’t want to have to re-run your search in multiple databases if you can get around it
Remote access to everything (which you probably already have with ez-proxy or some other method) PLUS a single-search interface, is a nifty thing for patrons.

Northwestern did focus groups with faculty and students to find out what they liked and didn’t like about library research, and found out that the federated search met most of the needs identified from both faculty and students.

Univ. of Pittsburgh has Web Feet. Depending on the product, you can save searches, set up alerts, and other additional services. They have had Web Feed up for 1.5 years, and they are now implementing the extra features like saved searches and alerts, and their faculty have been really excited about it.

A good question to ask federated search vendors: what can’t your software federate?
What Web Feet has always said to them: anything that has a search box, you can federate. But, it’s going to depend on the product.

Another thing that will change, depending on the vendor, will be the configuration decisions you can make regarding the pre-processing of the results, and how the results display to the user.

Where does OpenURL fit in?
Open URL is a NISO standard. So, because Link resolvers are based on those standards, there isn’t necessarily any reason to have to use the same vendor for the link resolver and the federated search engine.

If in addition to your federated search product, if you have an Open URL link resolver, you not only get a total list of citations and resources, but the Open URL resolvers makes the link directly to the full-text of the resources—no matter which database vendor is actually providing the full-text.

How is OpenURL enabled?
1. Buy/install an OpenURL (or set up a externally hosted solution)
2. Provide local holdings information
3. Tell source vendors to enable Open URL functionality (identify your OpenURL resolver to the vendors)
4. Once it is enabled, the Open URL-enabled button will appear as an option (some let you substitute an image, other text, etc…).

On-going maintenance
Need to edit subscription information as your subscriptions change, your vendors change content holdings, etc. (Some vendors provide these updates monthly. Some Open URL resolvers take care of the subscription maintenance as long as you at least let them know when you add/drop databases.)

One of the challenges is the full-text content available in aggregated databases, such as Lexis/Nexis, because the information changes frequently, so it’s important to have a vendor that updates often to keep the information current.

What do you get when you metasearch/use a federated search?
Issues of consistency come from databases not having the same types of searches. A keyword search in one database will work differently in different databases. (Searches run differently, look at different fields, etc.)

Types of results returned
Level 1: Link to (Provides a link to other databases and wishes you luck)
Level 2: Search & link (The content of the database is searched by the federated search)
Level 3: Search & return a brief record (IR returns brief parsable records containing enough information to construct a basic OpenURL)
Level 4: Search & return a full record (IR returns fully parsable records)

How does federated search affect collection development and/or database usage statistics?
With regard to the stats, federated search throws everything on its head. One of the metrics that used to make sense to them (at Pitt) was “number of searches” by database. But now, it doesn’t have meaning since the federated search is going to hit the database constantly to pull any results. The number they look at now is the number of full-text retrievals.

There is also a national standards group called “Project Counter” that is working with the database vendors to standardize how database vendors count and report end-user stats. During negotiations with database vendors, both Northwestern and Univ. of Pittsburgh ask database vendors if they are supporting Project Counter. And, if they’re not, they encourage the vendors to start. (You would also want your Federated Search vendor to be supportive of Project Counter as well.)

Does federated searching affect the number of concurrent users you have to have?
Yes. At first, Univ. of Pittsburgh had an option to search everything, and they had a lot of turn-away issues because of concurrent users. Users just tried to search everything, but then they didn’t get good results. Since they have 200+ databases, it slowed it all down, so it was better for the library staff to make some decisions up front. They still have the option to search everything, but it’s not promoted as the main or first option.

Issues with federated searching:
Variety in the returned results (because of different protocols, metadata formats)
Multiple vocabularies, ontologies, disciplines
Databases that are not fundamentally bibliographic
Merging result sets is difficult
It’s difficult to handle duplicate records, because of field discrepancies (a title here isn’t a title there)
Results sets that differ due to time outs

Z39.50 issues
A lot of the problems people have with federated searching have to do with Z39.50 issues.

Z39.50 was designed prior to the Web; it has a lot of features, but it’s very complicated.
It uses MARC as its basic format, and it has robust search options (Boolean, truncation, proximity, completeness).
It has lots of benefits and functions as the “fundamental glue” that binds disparate systems together (For example, many use it to search multiple library catalogs).

Transaction overhead: There is a lot of stuff going on to complete each transaction, so it slows the system down, or takes a long time to deliver the results. Therefore if you have a federated search vendor that is doing a number of Z39.50 transactions at once, it can really affect your network. It can also affect the server side as it tries to de-duplicate all the results.

Differences in implementation of the standard: When people compare how the federated search results look next to the results of the native database, they will often see that native database results are quite different. But, this is because of the variations in the implementation of the standard (what is a keyword, what does keyword search, etc…)

On the horizon: CQL query: XML based, but it’s lighter, faster, easier to process

(There was lots and lots more here, but we didn’t get a chance to get into most of it. Frank was trying to talk to us via phone, but the connection faded in and out.)

Pitt uses 3 different entry points to the federated search:
From the front page of the library: the search pulls four major general databases and the catalog (and you can exclude either the databases or the catalog)
Databases by Subject: search across a collection of subject-specific databases –has the option to do a basic search across all or an advanced search across subject-specific options
Resource A-Z list—users can chose which databases are included in their total federated search (they do have the option to search all, but it’s at the bottom of the page, so they don’t slam into their concurrent user limitations)

Major trouble spots to implementing federated searching and open URL:
Configuring databases and resources: Have the correct technical information—it’s not complicated, it’s just getting that information pulled together.
Defining collections: Kick start the process by appointing a small group to make the first pass at each area to get a draft out, and then work on it with the subject specialists. Also, look at performance characteristics: “do these databases ‘play well’ together?”
User interface: How much are you going to customize the interface? Will you de-dup the results and have relevance ranking?
Rollout and acceptance: Be ready for internal resistance and plan for promoting it to the public.

In the end, a federated search isn’t perfect, but for most patrons, good enough usually is. Yes, librarians are often troubled by the discrepancies in the searches between native and fed searches, but we need to manage expectations and not sell federated searching as a replacement for native database interfaces. There are a lot of users who don’t look at the library as a source for information, and if we can bring those users into the library (or library Web page) to show them how the library’s resources are beneficial and a good ROI, it’s all good for all of us in the end.

Now...onto the wine!

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Packing for Monterey?

The weather looks lovely and mostly sunny (lows 45ish/highs 60ish).

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

On my list for Monterey...

I can't wait for IL 2005, and I'm excited to be listed as a IL '05 blogger. Here's a running list of ideas/projects that I want to bounce off/learn about from others at Monterey...

1. Library Web Usability consortium--I know that next time I write a grant for a Web-based service/resource in the future (like, say, an online database of local health services serving the underinsured, or a digital collection management system to deliver local history) I will build the funding for usability studies into the budget. But, in terms of regular usability needs, it's hard to conduct these oh-so-important studies on an ongoing basis, since to do good studies, you need a fair level of time-commitment from moderators who can say that they didn't have anything to do with the site design and development. We've ran a few rounds of usability studies in preparation for the big re-design, but now, everyone who I can cajole into serving as moderators has, in fact, helped design and develop the Web sites (including me of course). So, what we library folk could do is agree to serve as usability moderators for each others' sites. Maybe we should write an IMLS grant or find some other funding to help us get this set up. Or, maybe it's just enough to agree to help each other with usability studies, and we share docs/tracking/procedures that we already have set up.

2. Cross-tagging and the functionality of tags across sites like flickr, technorati, etc...I want to understand how tags work across the Internet, and how we can use tags more effectively.

3. Library Web Awards...I sometimes have a hard time explaining what we do or quantifying what we do to library colleagues/boards/powers that be/etc... but they understand awards, and one question I'm always getting is if there is some kind of award for the best library Web page. I don't know of one, but I think that having some type of criteria/rating system/best of thing would be cool to create. (like Dave's cups o' java ratings) Maybe this is something InfoToday would like to coordinate or award?

4. I'm always on the look out for a really good public library Web-based calendar of events. In a perfect world, it would include multiple display options, customizable RSS feeds out, online registration for patrons, online reservations for rooms and equipment, and help manage online meeting space as well as physical space--all in a super-slick, patron and staff friendly interface. I wish a vendor would create this, because I would love to buy it.

5. More to come...

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Brains, energy, otters, literature, and love

I'm getting excited about Internet Librarian 2005, where I'll be presenting with my colleagues, Tim Rogers (infocommuner) and Sharyl McMillian-Nelson. Anyway, in addition to the fabulous presentations and the opportunity to meet lots of cool folks with lots of energy and brains, I get to go to one of my favorite places in the world: Monterey.

I won't go into all the reasons I love Monterey, but one of them is otters. If I hadn't named this blog after a character from Moby-Dick, I would have named it something otter-esque. Otter-daughter was one of my nick-names as a kid, but also otters are happy and when you talk about energy and brains, otters have all that wrapped up and more. Anyway, I've been checking out the exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I was thrilled to see the otter family album, and learn that many of the otters who live there (and are on display via the Web-cam) are also named after Steinbeck characters. Plus, there are otters that were rescued from Katrina hanging out, too. Love it.

Oh, one more note about otters: they look cute and fuzzy, but they are also one of the most expensive animals in the world to try to keep in captivity. They have expensive taste in food, and they have to be kept busy all the time or else they'll destroy their man-made environments. Brains & energy can equal creation or destruction.

"Temples of thought" it's all good on Wasow

A great post from It's All Good on Omar Wasow--co-founder of I love this..."bulk of Mr. Wasow's comments were about how libraries must move from a focus on information to one of transformation." And, once again, Pine & Gilmore pop up, "He applied the concepts laid out in The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore to libraries, saying that we should pay as much attention to the experience our users have when they use our services as we do to the services themselves. 'The experience of being in a library can be as important as the information available,' he said. 'Part of the magic of libraries is the experience.'"

Monday, October 03, 2005

Esquire's Wikipedia article experiment

LISNews reports on AJ Jacobs's experiment with a wiki article for Esquire posted in Wikipedia. The experiment was to see if and if so, how quickly, Wikipedia readers would find and edit mistakes in Jacobs's original and intentionally error-ridden post. "According to the Wikipedia page for Jacobs' story, the article was edited 224 times in the first 24 hours after Jacobs posted it, and another 149 times in the next 24 hours. Check out the experiment, cast in Web-stone with the article text and the history of edits.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Promiscuous volunteering

Whitney at :30 librarian and I have obviously been volunteering for far too much (and you know, I don't have a two-year old at home...)....

It's Presentation Season...stop your presentation before it kills again

Creating Passionate Users has a wonderful overview of what is good and bad about using powerpoint, "Stop your presentation before it kills again." Although my love for all things Tufte is well-known, in all honesty, there are some ways to use powerpoint successfully that is hard to replicate if you're going for ease of use and effectiveness (hint...text-heavy bullet-points aren't among them).

Current practices and plans for public library Web sites

Library Stuff tips us off to an interesting report on current practices and plans for public library Web sites and redesigns that says most libraries redesign their sites every three years. We're in the middle of a complete redesign at my library, so I think I actually will drop the $$ to get the full report. I'm guessing most public library webbies will be saying the same thing: usability studies matter; do what patrons want the most; locally relevant, original and patron-created content is king (or queen); use social networking software and cool tech like RSS, blogs, wikis, to give patrons avenues to share their own content, etc... but I also think that quotes from the report might be good evidence in proposals for why we need more Web staff (we always need more staff, but I have to say that I'm blessed with a wonderful team of content developers and we work with a whip-smart programmer) and why the Web is the most important service point "in" the library.

Ego Searching

Librarian in Black has a great link to a tidy list of ego searching tips with auto RSS feeds. Although of course, "ego" searches can be used for all kinds of non-narcissistic reasons...stay up on all the blog and online references to your library or to your favorite topic (you maybe your favorite 150+ year old book, or a particularly well-loved information design author/guru).

I heart librarything

What a nifty idea...

I'm not a cataloging freak, and organizing my own books is not even close to making it on one of my to-do lists in the next 10 years, but I love this as a way to let others know what you're reading, what you've loved reading, and/or what books are in your collection (for those who love to buy me books, but forget what I have...this just happened last week when my Dad was in Harvard Square and was going to pick up the new Melville biography for me, but didn't know if I had already bought it...). Plus, I want to get my nieces' library in here so I know what books they have already acquired. They live in NY, and I'm always wanting to buy/send them books, but I often avoid buying some of my favorites because I think they might already own them.

Plus, they've added so many tools...nice way to add your own tags, comments, and blog widget (mine's on the right side of this page). Love it!