Article about SkyRiver

After being away for a short while at a conference, I am catching up on some week old e-mails. One e-mail I received was about an article in ALCTS Newsletter Online about Michigan State University’s experience with the new SkyRiver bibliographic utility. The bottom line, according to the article, is that they saved about $80,000 a year and didn’t see a loss in productivity once the catalogers became used to using SkyRiver instead of OCLC for copy cataloging. They did say, however, that foreign language materials where lacking. They also mentioned the cost-prohibitiveness of uploading records to OCLC. Anyway, if you are at all interested in this alternative to OCLC, it gives a nice, albeit brief, overview of Michigan State’s experience with SkyRiver.

Code4Lib Journal Issue 10 Published

The tenth issue of Code4Lib Journal was published this morning. I was the Coordinating Editor (CE) this time around. When I volunteered to be the CE, I was afraid it was going to be a lot of work. Fortunately, while their was a fair amount of work involved, it wasn’t overwhelming. This is because the authors and the rest of the editorial committee are passionate about Code4Lib and really put a lot of effort and dedication into the Journal. My thanks to all the editors and authors.

The articles in Issue 10 are….

Editorial Introduction: The Code4Lib Journal Experiment, Rejection Rates, and Peer Review
Edward M. Corrado

Code4Lib Journal has been a successful experiment. With success, questions have arisen about the scholarly nature and status of the Journal. In this editorial introduction we take a look at the question of Code4Lib Journal’s rejections rates and peer review status.

Building a Location-aware Mobile Search Application with Z39.50 and HTML5
MJ Suhonos

This paper presents MyTPL (http://www.mytpl.ca/), a proof-of-concept web application intended to demonstrate that, with a little imagination, any library with a Z39.50 catalogue interface and a web server with some common open-source tools can readily provide their own location-aware mobile search application. The complete source code for MyTPL is provided under the GNU GPLv3 license, and is freely available at: http://github.com/mjsuhonos/mytpl

OpenRoom: Making Room Reservation Easy for Students and Faculty
Bradley D. Faust, Arthur W. Hafner, and Robert L. Seaton

Scheduling and booking space is a problem facing many academic and public libraries. Systems staff at the Ball State University Libraries addressed this problem by developing a user friendly room management system, OpenRoom. The new room management application was developed using an open source model with easy installation and management in mind and is now publicly available.

Map it @ WSU: Development of a Library Mapping System for Large Academic Libraries
Paul Gallagher

The Wayne State Library System launched its library mapping application in February 2010, designed to help locate materials in the five WSU libraries. The system works within the catalog to show the location of materials, as well as provides a web form for use at the reference desk. Developed using PHP and MySQL, it requires only minimal effort to update using a unique call number overlay mechanism. In addition to mapping shelved materials, the system provides information for any of the over three hundred collections held by the WSU Libraries. Patrons can do more than just locate a book on a shelf: they can learn where to locate reserve items, how to access closed collections, or get driving maps to extension center libraries. The article includes a discussion of the technology reviewed and chosen during development, an overview of the system architecture, and lessons learned during development.

Creating a Library Database Search using Drupal
Danielle M. Rosenthal & Mario Bernardo

When Florida Gulf Coast University Library was faced with having to replace its database locator, they needed to find a low-cost, non-staff intensive replacement for their 350 plus databases search tool. This article details the development of a library database locator, based on the methods described in Leo Klein’s “Creating a Library Database Page using Drupal” online presentation. The article describes how the library used Drupal along with several modules, such as CCK, Views, and FCKeditor. It also discusses various Drupal search modules that were evaluated during the process.

Implementing a Real-Time Suggestion Service in a Library Discovery Layer
Benjamin Pennell and Jill Sexton

As part of an effort to improve user interactions with authority data in its online catalog, the UNC Chapel Hill Libraries have developed and implemented a system for providing real-time query suggestions from records found within its catalog. The system takes user input as it is typed to predict likely title, author, or subject matches in a manner functionally similar to the systems found on commercial websites such as google.com or amazon.com. This paper discusses the technologies, decisions and methodologies that went into the implementation of this feature, as well as analysis of its impact on user search behaviors.

Creating Filtered, Translated Newsfeeds
James E. Powell, Linn Marks Collins, Mark L. B. Martinez

Google Translate’s API creates the possibility to leverage machine translation to both filter global newsfeeds for content regarding a specific topic, and to aggregate filtered feed items as a newsfeed. Filtered items can be translated so that the resulting newsfeed can provide basic information about topic-specific news articles from around the globe in the desired language of the consumer. This article explores a possible solution for inputting alternate words and phrases in the user’s native language, aggregating and filtering newsfeeds progammatically, managing filter terms, and using Google Translate’s API.

Metadata In, Library Out. A Simple, Robust Digital Library System
Tonio Loewald, Jody DeRidder

Tired of being held hostage to expensive systems that did not meet our needs, the University of Alabama Libraries developed an XML schema-agnostic, light-weight digital library delivery system based on the principles of “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” Metadata and derivatives reside in openly accessible web directories, which support the development of web agents and new usability software, as well as modification and complete retrieval at any time. The file name structure is echoed in the file system structure, enabling the delivery software to make inferences about relationships, sequencing, and complex object structure without having to encapsulate files in complex metadata schemas. The web delivery system, Acumen, is built of PHP, JSON, JavaScript and HTML5, using MySQL to support fielded searching. Recognizing that spreadsheets are more user-friendly than XML, an accompanying widget, Archivists Utility, transforms spreadsheets into MODS based on rules selected by the user. Acumen, Archivists Utility, and all supporting software scripts will be made available as open source.

AudioRegent: Exploiting SimpleADL and SoX for Digital Audio Delivery
Nitin Arora

AudioRegent is a command-line Python script currently being used by the University of Alabama Libraries’ Digital Services to create web-deliverable MP3s from regions within archival audio files. In conjunction with a small-footprint XML file called SimpleADL and SoX, an open-source command-line audio editor, AudioRegent batch processes archival audio files, allowing for one or many user-defined regions, particular to each audio file, to be extracted with additional audio processing in a transparent manner that leaves the archival audio file unaltered. Doing so has alleviated many of the tensions of cumbersome workflows, complicated documentation, preservation concerns, and reliance on expensive closed-source GUI audio applications.

Automatic Generation of Printed Catalogs: An Initial Attempt
Jared Camins-Esakov

Printed catalogs are useful in a variety of contexts. In special collections, they are often used as reference tools and to commemorate exhibits. They are useful in settings, such as in developing countries, where reliable access to the Internet—or even electricity—is not available. In addition, many private collectors like to have printed catalogs of their collections. All the information needed for creating printed catalogs is readily available in the MARC bibliographic records used by most libraries, but there are no turnkey solutions available for the conversion from MARC to printed catalog. This article describes the development of a system, available on github, that uses XSLT, Perl, and LaTeX to produce press-ready PDFs from MARCXML files. The article particularly focuses on the two XSLT stylesheets which comprise the core of the system, and do the “heavy lifting” of sorting and indexing the entries in the catalog. The author also highlights points where the data stored in MARC bibliographic records requires particular “massaging,” and suggests improvements for future attempts at automated printed catalog generation.

Easing Gently into OpenSRF, Part 1 and 2
Dan Scott

The Open Service Request Framework (or OpenSRF, pronounced “open surf”) is an inter-application message passing architecture built on XMPP (aka “jabber”). The Evergreen open source library system is built on an OpenSRF architecture to support loosely coupled individual components communicating over an OpenSRF messaging bus. This article introduces OpenSRF, demonstrates how to build OpenSRF services through simple code examples, explains the technical foundations on which OpenSRF is built, and evaluates OpenSRF’s value in the context of Evergreen.

S3 for Backup, Is It Worth It?

I’ve been using Amazon’s S3 to back up my blog for a while now, and I really like it for that purpose. The amount of data my blog has is very little, so I end up getting billed $0.01 a month. It probably costs Amazon more money to bill me then they make off of me! This has got me looking at using S3 to backup ELUNA‘s document repository. Currently, we have about 12 GB of data. Assuming we transfer all 12 GB in and out each month (which we wouldn’t, but I’m just saying) it comes out to $4.65 a month for regular storage and $4.05 for reduced redundancy storage according to the AWS calculator. Not bad – especially considering this is certainly an over-estimate (providing we don’t actually need to restore, which in that case I’m not worried about a few bucks to get my data back!). I have other free-to-me options, but this seems like a pretty good deal to me and is something I am considering suggesting to ELUNA.

However, does Amazon S3 scale as a backup solution for my library? It does, but I think only to a point. Let’s say you have 500 GB of images, video, and other data. It will cost you $50 a month for Reduced Redundancy and $75 a month for regular storage (and can you imagine telling the boss, I’m sorry, Amazon lost our data, we were using the Reduced Redundancy plan? I don’t think so.) – not counting data transfer which could double the costs. That is $600 to $900 a year. Maybe that is still reasonable depending on the nature of your project, but you can see it grows quickly to a point where other, local, options that you have more control of our looking more and more reasonable.

We are lucky enough to have a campus-wide IT department that does a good job handling backups so this isn’t something we are considering here in the library, but it seems to me that it could be a good solution if you hit the sweet spot when compared to local storage options. Obviously, the advantage of Amazon being off-site storage is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, which makes the sweet-spot a little higher price range. I have multiple locations I could store a network-based backup up device, so that isn’t as huge of a deal for me. Still, I’d say it is worth other libraries investigating if they have non-huge data that need to be backed up.

Jing for Grading

As some of you know, I occasionally teach an online class in Multimedia Production. The students are assigned the task of creating a Web site that contains various multimedia production. While reading Higher Ed’s “Technology and Learning” blog by Joshua Kim post about Jing For Student Authoring I was intrigued that one of the commentators mentioned using Jing to provide feedback on assignments. Since my class is online and I’m grading multimedia, feedback can sometimes be a challenge. I never thought of doing it with a screencast. I’m not sure if I’ll use Jing or something else, but I think I’ll try using a screencast program in the next time I teach to see if it can compliment the rubrics I have been using.

Nylink shutting down

I just read a press release that says that Nylink will wind down its operations over the next 12 months. Nylink, like other regional OCLC Networks had to look for different revenue streams due to changes at OCLC and the economy in general. However, unlike most (all?) of the other regional networks, it was tied to a state institution, in this case, the State University of New York. This restricted Nylink’s options, such as merging with other regional networks. I have only been in New York for two years so I don’t have a lot of experience with Nylink, but they seem like good people that were trying to do a good job for the libraries in the State of New York, and I am sure that they will be missed. I wish the employees of Nylink a good final 12 months and good luck in the future.

3G Netbook vs. 3G iPad pricing

As some of you may know, I’ve been wanting to get an iPad. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but probably will soon. Everyone I know that has one seems to likes their iPad (at least according to their blog posts). Yes, it may not be everything to everyone, but it apparently fills a niche for many early adopters. As part of my investigations into buying one, I am trying to decide if I want a iPad 3G or a regular one. Since AT&T does not require a contract, I think I am going to buy a 3G whether or not I activate it. Apparently the 3G also comes with GPS, which may make the extra $130 worthwhile even without the cell service (depending on what apps are designed to take advantage of it).

In order to look at all my options, however, I also looked at data service via a USB modem, MiFi, and the Netbook deals many cell phone providers are offering. Most wireless providers charge about $60 for 5 GB of data (although Sprint has unlimited if you are in a 4G area – which obviously Bingo is not). The deal with the iPad is unlimited data for $30 a month. So doing some simple math, I compared the costs of an iPad vs. a Netbook with data plan. I am using $80 for a Netbook since that is what most of them cost when bought with a plan from AT&T. Pricing from other wireless vendors seems to vary greatly depending on model/particular deal you can find. I also included pricing for the MiFi from Verizon, which would be my third option.

So what are the total costs (numbers rounded, pre-tax)?

Apple iPad: $630 (iPad) + $720 (2 yr unlimited data) = $1350
Netbooks: $80 (Netbook) + $1440 (2 yr 5G data) = $1520
MiFi: $50 (MiFi 2200) + $1440 (2 yr 5G data) = $1490

Add into the fact with Apple iPad you can cancel wireless any time without a termination fee, and you can see that it is the least expensive option. Even if the Netbook was free it still would be. Does that mean it is the best value? I’m not sure, it depends on what you want to do I guess, but I think so. With the MiFi, you can connect multiple devices (including your iPad), which may be useful, but you are also limited to 5G. 5G of mobile data might be a lot, but if you try streaming some Netflix or downloading music/videos, you can use that up pretty quickly.

For my money this comparison has eliminated a 3G Netbook from my list of options since the iPad is cheaper overall. I’m still a bit intrigued with the MiFi. However, since if I bought it I’d also want a non-3G iPad, it is an almost $1000 a year option.

Koha – LibLime keruffle continues

There was some hope by me and others that LibLime being acquired by PTFS would lead to an improvement in the strained relations between LibLime and a large number of other Koha community members. For a brief while it looked like that was going to happen – maybe not completely, but at least it looked like an improvement in the situation was possible. However currently there has been a major set back.

To some degree it has been a bit of a he said-she said situation and since I wasn’t involved in the discussions, I don’t know all the details. While on principle I support the Koha community committee members position, I am not sure what really happened and I think it was a mistake to call off the meeting with PTFS. I can sympathize with the committee members stated reasons for doing so (as described in their blog post), but closing communication isn’t going to get anyone anywhere. Yes, an open e-mail or IRC discussion would be better than a closed phone call, but a closed phone call is better than no communication at all. And the excuse that one committee member made about the call being at 6:00 AM his time as a reason for it not practical to participate is disappointing to say the least. If this is an important issue for the world-wide Koha community, you need to make time and adjust your schedule. After all, it is going to be 6:00 AM (or worse) somewhere around the world.

PTFS has also made a post about there position on this situation. To read more views on this, check out the Koha E-Mail list archives.

Open Source FUD

As people who read this blog regularly no doubt know, I am a big supporter of Open Source Software and its use in libraries. I am happy to say that here at Binghatom we use a number of Open Source applications – some built specifically for the library environment such as E-Prints, and other more generally applications such as wiki and blog software. We also use a lot of proprietary software, including the Aleph ILS, Metalib [1], ContentDM, Content Pro, and so on. All of these applications, whether they are Open Source or Proprietary have there pluses and minuses.

In the past, the Open Source community had to deal with a lot of FUD. As Bob Molyneux reportedly described at the Evergreen Conference, “people used to asked ‘Open source? you going to use code written by a bunch of dope-smokin’ hippies?’ now they are a bit more educated.” Thankfully I have found that as well and that is a good thing. However, Nicole Engard’s post reminded me of something that has been a slight annoyance to me lately.

Over the last year or so at a number of conferences and on blog posts I’ve been hearing criticisms of proprietary offerings from library vendors such as SirisDynix, III, and Ex Libris. The usually related to some feature a product doesn’t have. For example, maybe a particular ILS doesn’t have relevancy ranking. The presenter or blogger will fairly point that out, but they will extrapolate the issue to all proprietary ILSs, saying something like we had to use Open Source because the proprietary systems don’t support X, Y, or Z. The problem is, they do not mean that all proprietary systems don’t support X, Y, or Z. They mean the particular one at their institution choose to use does not. I don’t know why they do this, whether it is because they are ill-formed or maybe just careless, but I’m sure most Open Source advocates wouldn’t want to be judged by the worse, or most limited, Open Source project out there. Why judge all proprietary offerings based on the limitations of some of the proprietary offerings?

If you want to make the argument that Open Source is better philosophically than proprietary, I am all for it. However, if you are comparing feature sets, please be specific to what you mean and don’t lump all proprietary solutions, or for that matter, all Open Source solutions together. While not as divisive as some of the FUD used against Open Source in the past, it is still FUD, and these over generalizations have no place in the conversation in my opinion.

[1] For those that don’t know, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the Ex Libris Users of North America‘s Steering Committee.

Obligatory iPad Post, Part 1: Why I want an iPad

Here is the first of two posts I’m going to make about the iPad. The next will come tomorrow or the next day. I wasn’t going to post about the iPad until I go to use one, but that isn’t stopping everyone else from posting about it, tweeting about it, and send links left and right about it, so why not me? This post is about why I want to get one. I may not get one, or will, most likely, wait until the second generation iPad comes out, but iWant one. The next post will be about my thoughts about the iPad in higher education in general, and academic libraries more specifically.

I dented/tweeted/facebook status-ed the following a few hours ago:

I’m reading email, checking Twitter & facebook on my iPhone ~2 ft away from 2 computers. Ideal use case for iPad?

I should point out I do this often from my iPhone, sometimes while on my computer. Okay e-mail, twitter, identi.ca, and facebook is only a small part of what an iPad can do, and the price of an iPad is pretty high for those tasks, but it is part of my everyday life. Also, how many other things can the iPad do, that his device, in theory would be great for. Obvious the iBook application, watching (non-Flash) multi-media, reading news and blog posts are just a few hings that it should be ideal for. Basically 90% of what I do at home on my laptop or desktop can be done easily and more conveniently on an iPad compared to doing it on my computer. Why do I think this? Because a lot of the stuff I do, I already do on my iPhone instead on my computer because it is quicker and easier. Add more screen real estate which allows for more functional apps, it will even be more so.

Take this scenario: Almost every morning (esp. work mornings) one of the first things I do is check my e-mail and calender. I used to do this on my laptop or desktop. That involved sitting in front of it, turning it on or waking it up, and reading the screen while cats climbed all over me. Now, I roll-over grab iPhone, start checking my e-mail while feeding and watering the cats, making coffee, etc. It just seems much easier and better use of my time. Now I may not actually save time over my old routine, but it feels like it does and now, at least on workdays, unless there is something I need to check I don’t open the laptop. But the size of the iPhone screen is a little small for some of these things, so I think the iPad will do this better, and make me happier. Add to this that I think the iPad would be sufficient for travel and I can leave my bulkier computer at home when I go away for a long weekend, I think it would make me even happier. Thus:

iPAd = iHappy

And that is why I want one.

I know all the criticism that it doesn’t do that, doesn’t have this, its not open, and it doesn’t come with a free pony, but I don’t care. I want something to use and if someone makes a similar, more open one that comes with a free pony I’ll want one of them, but since there is nothing else that will do what the iPad can do, the way the iPad can do it available, I want an iPad.

Uphill Battle on Digital Preservation

Inside Higher Ed had a nice review of a symposium that focused on the Uphill Battle of Digital Preservation. The article points out some of the many challenges of digital preservation, especially with born digital information. In many respects I believe this is much more of a policy problem then it is a technical problem. Yes, you need technology to preserve and make information available, but that technology exists (See the Internet Archive). The bigger issue is having scholars realize the importance of preserving heir stuff, and more importantly making sure that the have incentives and structures to do just that.

The incentives, which can include requirements that any scholarly output that originated out of a grant, sabbatical, etc. be deposited. It can also include tying some promotion and tenure requirements to submitting materials for preservation, and making sure guidelines are written that publishing in Open Access journals is not looked as less worthy then other journals. Certainly which carrots will work better will depend on the institution and the discipline, but the point is there needs to be some form of incentive. Professors are busy people and they are going to focus on what will make them succeed at a university and if digital preservation is not one of those things, for most of them it will with get ignored or be a very low priority.

Tied to professors being busy is that it must be made as simple as possible for them to submit stuff for preservation. One way to do this is to have someone (most likely in the library) where they can just e-mail the paper , URL, etc. to that will do the rest. The burden of preservation should not be too cumbersome. After all, faculty are paid to research and teach in their giving field. They are not paid (unless it is there field) to be experts in digital preservation. Librarians and archivists have long been experts in preserving information, and they should continue to be so regardless of format.

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