IGeLU 2008

Between September 6-10, 2008 I attended the International Group of ex Libris Users (IGeLU) conference in Madrid, Spain. One thing I really miss about Endeavor Users Group (EndUser) is the international aspects. The Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA) conference is mostly attended by librarians from the United States, along with some Canadians. True, there are other international attendees, including some from the Caribbean, but they are very small in number. IGeLU, on the other hand has people from many European countries with a few Aussies, South Africans, Americans, Israelis, etc. thrown in for good measure. I think of IGeLU as mostly an European conference (or at least a “Western-world” conference, if I can use that term) and I really like getting the different view of the library world I get when I go to a conference such as IGeLU. That said, it still doesn’t have that same feel as EndUser did to me.

Having just gone to ELUNA a little over a month ago, I wasn’t expecting a lot of new news from Ex Libris management. For the most part this turned out to be true. However, there was one bit of important news for Metalib customers. Metalib 4.3 will be the last version of Metalib as we know it. Metalib 5 (or whatever it will be called) will be a complete re-write. The underlying database and administration portions of the code may be based on Primo but that is still unclear. The user front-end (i.e. discovery layer) will use Primo. Apparently customers of Metalib will not be charged extra for the Primo front-end to Metalib. That is, of course, if they only use the Primo front-end for Metalib. I think using the Primo front end for Metalib like this makes sense for Ex Libris on a couple of accounts. First, they won’t have to develop a new Metalib front end. That means less development is needed and less products to support. Secondly, it will give customers a little taste of Primo. If customers that get this taste decide they like the Primo front end, they may purchase Primo for use with other products. In other words, Ex Libris saves costs and might get a few more sales of Primo out of it.

Most of the user sessions were pretty good. I’m not sure if I got anything specific to bring back home and implement however. One session I enjoyed focused on Metalib. It was interesting to learn about how others are working with Metalib and doing things like creating RSS feeds out of it. However, the approach they used appeared to require a fair bit of work to implement, and with Metalib going away as we know it, I am not sure it would be worth it for us to try to do this now.

I think my presentation on RSS A to V went well. I definitely find it harder to read European audiences than I do American ones. I am not sure if that is because I am from the USA or not, but I think it might not be based on a conversation with a Swede who has presented in the USA a number of times. He said (and I agree) that Americans are more likely to provide visual clues that they are “getting” a presentation by doing things like nodding their head. Overall, Europeans seem to be more reserved in that aspect and seem to more intently focus/concentrate on what you are saying without showing much emotion during a presentation. I am not sure why this is, maybe it is a cultural thing or maybe it is because for most of them, while excellent English speakers, English is not their first language so it takes more focus/concentration for them. For those of you in the Mid-Atlantic states, you can see an encore of my RSS presentation at the Ex Libris Mid-Atlantic Users Group (EMA) meeting in early October.

One topic I found very interesting was the presentation and ensuing discussion abut the future of e-book management. Representatives from ELUNA, IGeLU, and, I believe, Ex Libris created a report about what customers need to manage e-books. As my friend Zoe says the “first you have to acknowledge that an e-book is not always a book in “e” form and then things just go downhill from there. :-)”

One of the things they mentioned was the enormous challenges of managing e-books. Some of the challenges include: variety of formats, different purpose and use (textbook, research book), diversity of hardware/software, digital rights management (DRM), pricing models, licensing models (do you lease or have ownership), digital curation, metadata creation, and discovery and accessibility. With all of the different formats, e-versions, and sources of e-books, putting like items together is a problem. One of the recommendations is that libraries need a solution that provides sophisticated de-duplication in a FRBR-ized manner. Libraries and library software vendors have there work cut out for them.

Three other things stood out to me about their recommendations. First, the task force felt that the ability to meta-search full content of e-books is not an immediate priority. Secondly they believe browsing is not required for e-book discovery. Thirdly, they recommend that the e-book management system needs to allow libraries to include not just licensed content, but freely available content as well if they wanted to.

Considering the challenges of getting the full-text content into a meta search tool (esp. with all of the possible sources of electronic texts) it would be a daunting task to have full text search in an e-books discovery application. With that in mind, I can understand this one – although I think it will be needed at some point (which the recommendation also implied). We have it for journal articles and patrons will come to expect it in e-books. Also, I just think that it would be really useful if you are looking for information about a specific aspect of a topic.

My initial reaction about the no need for browsing recommendation is that I do not agree. Yes, if students are looking for a specific book (esp. a text book), they don’t need to browse. However, when not having known items, I think a browse is very effective discovery method. The task force pointed out that some ILS don’t currently have a browse function. While this is true, that doesn’t mean it is good. Also, while you might not be able to browse the catalog, you can typically (at least in the USA) browse the shelves. The physical shelf browse-ability is obviously not available for e-books. I think browsing by author, title, subject, classification number, etc is very useful for electronic items. What is great about e-items is that they can be in multiple places at once, so you can assign multiple class numbers, authors, etc. The reasoning the task force provided for not needing browsing is that while it may work for hundreds or a few thousand items, browsing is not so useful for very large collections (which is what the task force expects libraries to be dealing with). I’m not sure if I agree with this logic, I regularly browse shelves of large research libraries with millions of volumes to great effect. Just recently I was looking for a book that was on the shelf about communities of practice and I discovered two other books that were useful to my topic I didn’t find in the catalog. Other occasions you might not know the exact spelling of an author names, so browsing becomes more useful, maybe even necessary. Without full text searching, I think browsing is that much more important. This is amplified if my assumption that our metadata won’t be much better then what we get in a typical full AACR2 MARC record. I’ll have to read the report and think about this some more.

The third recommendation to allow libraries to include freely available materials in the e-book discovery system seemed logical to me. However, it prompted a good deal of discussion. Someone from a national library asked why you would want to include non-licensed (or non-purchased) items that were not selected by her library. The answer from one of the panelists was “Why not?” What you think about it, what are the books that are out there that are freely available. Typically these books are coming from mass-digitization products involving libraries. This means these books were selected at some point by librarians; usually at major research universities. The reason why other libraries wouldn’t have these items is not typically because of the content contained in them, but instead because of costs. This is when the person who posed the question mentioned that they have a very specific collection policy on only collecting items about the history and culture of their country. I can see this is an important distinction. Of course, this is probably one of the reasons why the task force recommended giving the libraries a choice.

Ex Libris did offer the conference attendees a few insights on how they will deal with these issues, but my guess is that is getting closer to proprietary information, so I’ll keep it to myself for now.

Overall a good conference and it was nice to see some of the people I used to spend time with at EndUser who because of their location now go to IGeLU instead of ELUNA. I am already looking forward to the next IGeLU conference in Helsinki, Finland next September.


  1. blog.ecorrado.us » Libraries and Freely Available Materials said,

    September 16, 2008 at 08:09:09

    […] a recent blog post, about IGeLU 2008, I mentioned a discussion about why you would include free e-books in your e-book discovery layer. […]

  2. Max Planck vLib News » Blog Archive » Returning from Madrid said,

    October 1, 2008 at 08:10:19

    […] Ed Corrado’s comprehensive blog posting […]