Category Archives: LIS

Speaking at Internet Librarian in October

How exciting! I received an email confirming that I’ll be speaking at the Internet Librarian conference in Monterey this October. I’ll be talking about using emerging technologies to teach information skills. The talk will be based on Beyond Google, a credit-bearing class I teach through our library.


Monkey Delight

Last night I went to Monkeybook 2 at Monkey Town to hear Brad Paley give a fascinating talk about TextArc and a few other projects. I’m still sorting out all of the ideas Brad offered us, but the major concept he seemed to want us to grasp was this: if you want someone to absorb information, offer it to them in a form that lets them find the patterns in it. He repeatedly mentioned that humans delight in finding patterns and pulling together threads of information, which, of course, sent me down a path thinking about the ways library catalogs, article databases and other digital tools don’t delight researchers. Which in turn sent me down one of my favorite paths, which is thinking about how these tools could delight researchers. So many of the aha! moments I see students and other faculty reaching when I’m working with them are moments of “Aha! I finally understand how this crazy database thing works!” rather than moments of engagement with the actual information they’re finding. Shouldn’t the database or catalog be disappearing in that moment? Or, even better, complementing the information in a way that makes it easier to understand? These seem like such simple questions, but I’m frustrated by how few resource providers in the library world even begin to address them.

Annotating the Web with Stickis

I just signed up for a Stickis account, hoping that it might be useful as we’re planning for our new OPAC. I’d like to be able to share annotations of other libraries’ OPACs across the project group. Another possibility would have been to go with Fleck, but Stickis allows for private groups, which seems more useful for this particular project. I’m still trying to understand how all the Stickis features work. Look me up if you want to play along.

ShiftSpace was another possible candidate, but it didn’t seem quite right for this project. Of the annotation tools I looked at, it’s the most interesting to me conceptually– it’s open source, and it’s geared toward reopening the web as a public space. I’m looking forward to trying it out just for fun.

UPDATE: So, Stickis looks like it might be really good for the OPAC review project if the other team members are into it, but my heart belongs to ShiftSpace. So far it looks like people are just playing with it in a really simple way, like kids with crayons on walls, but the implications for it could be so incredible. In a way, it’s sort of like adding comments for any web page where viewers opt in, but it can be so much more than that. While comments sort of sit on top of a page and maybe even create a little dialog around it, eventually spinning out into a broader dialog, they don’t deeply affect the original version of the page unless the author edits in response to the comments. What’s really powerful about ShiftSpace is that it lets the original stand, comments on it, but at the same time allows people to deeply alter the original via the image swap feature and the source shift feature. Theoretically, there could be tons of versions of the same page available at the same time. This is the first project I’ve seen in a long time that actually makes the Internet feel like a public space. Totally beautiful.

Roy Tennant & Tim Spalding on OPACs

Notes from the session at CIL…

Tim Spalding: The Fun OPAC

Quote from Casey Bisson re: searchability, findability, usability

He wants more: “funability.” Serendipity is part of it. So are findability and usability.

We expect the web to be quick, easy, fun, and “the library is the most fun you can have with your pants on.” So, how can you make your current opac fun?

  • Bring it front and center—make it part of the website, not separate.
  • Make it dynamic. A site that doesn’t change isn’t fun.
  • Allow inbound links (increase search engine hits, make linking and sharing easy) can do by providing permalinks likeupper right-hand side of google maps
  • Link outwards—the more you link out, the more people will come to you. Link not just from website, but from catalog, too (useful links in records, etc. why not link out to local bookstore, amazon—why not? Patrons know about it already—if a book’s out they’re going there anyway, why not use as affiliate?)
  • Link around within your catalog and without—in librarything, everything is clickable (fun! increases serendipity, lets users get entertainingly lost)
  • Dress up your opac—if you use amazon covers, you’re supposed to link to amazon on your page (according to their terms)
  • Somebody needs to create open database of covers—someone is working on this?
  • Link to Wikipedia—students are going anyway, why not link to it? Or, even better, link to it but wrap some education about evaluating information around that link.
  • Get your data out there so superusers can use it—let people get involved, people will think of fun things to do with your data. Where are the ILS APIs?
  • RSS feeds (new books, searches) push things out from libraries. Patrons want to tell people what they’re reading, not just find out what’s available—how about widgets? No privacy issues when someone says “I want a widget that lists what I read.” The random-book-from-my-library librarything widget is really popular.

Librarything for libraries—add librarything data to opac (tags, similar books, other editions based on librarything user input) tagbrowser to look at library catalog through lens of librarything tags.currently tags are supplied by librarything tags—ultimately, libraries should be sharing tags, the more people tagging, the more successful



Roy Tennant: Catalogs for the Future

  • Won’t use “the o word”
  • Catalogs don’t have a future (at least as we know and hate them).
  • Discovery happens at network level, not necessarily at local level (i.e. people look for resources all over the place, not just in your library at a workstation).
  • Even at local level, people want to find more than books.
  • New finding tools are making catalogs obsolete.
  • By catalog, he doesn’t mean ILS—still need to manage collections, but need different tools for finding content.
  • Discovery needs to happen outside the ils (data needs to get out there).
  • Finding options available at network level—google, worldcat, worldcat local, primo (from ex libris).
  • Users want any useful info—format isn’t necessarily important.
  • Users want to search in one spot, not ten.
  • Most ils’s don’t offer the features users expect—openworldcat is doing some cool stuff (faceted browsing, clean display, relevance ranking, integrated article indexes, worldcat identities, fictionfinder)
  • Emphasize idea of finding tool (vs. library catalog)
  • Search box at top of penn library homepage—metasearch (e-resources, faq’s, books, video, research guides)


Predictions for successful future…

Integrated Library Systems:

  • Will refocus on library operations—getting the work done
  • Will be constructed with discrete components, able to work with other systems, exposed APIs, inexpensive, scalable, easy to maintain
  • Evergreen is doing these things

Finding tools:

  • Will integrate access to a variety of sources
  • APIs will be available
  • Will allow for relevance ranking, faceted browsing, etc.
  • Will be larger than library catalog, integrate library catalog




Highlights from Computers in Libraries 2007

I might still post some more raw notes, but these are the things that stood out as high points of the conference for me..

Possible projects inspired by the conference:

Make library widgets/badges like librarything/flickr/etc. Bloggers, MySpace users, etc. want to share what they’re doing/thinking/reading with other people; make it easy for them to share the way they use the library.

Make Google My Maps for Academic Libraries of Brooklyn and for Metro. UPDATE: I’m making one for ALB. Next step: annotate and add photos, then see if I can mash it up with onNYTurf.

Look at relevant Greasemonkey scripts and maybe make some.

One possible useful way for libraries to use Twitter: library account that im’s twitters to public workstations for quick, spur of the moment instruction sessions (e.g. maybe assignment based when you get a bunch of students in a row asking the same question)

Presentations that were particularly inspiring:

Jesse Andrews gave an awesome talk: The Social Web (on the importance of happy robots). This was the highlight of the conference for me.

Chad Boeninger had some very cool suggestions for using web2.0 technologies to increase active learning: meebome widgets instead of clickers for in-class feedback, feeds for reference, using wikis for instruction instead of handouts.

Tim Spalding reminded us: “The library is the most fun you can have with your pants on,” and encouraged us to link around, both within and without our OPACs to foster serendipity and increase traffic. In another talk he suggested that Books aren’t just items of commerce—they’re conversations, identity, exhibitionism, integral to our perception of ourselves (if we’re book lovers). They create a network of shared mental space (think of the one book one city programs), so why not let people find them and use them in a way that reflects that?

Derek Willis gave a great presentation on implementation of Django at He talked about “bringing beauty out of the data” and creating emotional investment in data, particularly by supporting browsability, not just search.

Marshall Breeding posed some good questions to keep in mind when looking at ILS’s: What’s the impact of who owns the company? Is it operated for long-term or short-term profits? Who’s making decisions? A board interested purely in profit, or people who know the library world? Can they understand libraries as business customers? Organic growth or growth via mergers and acquisitions?

Cool stuff I hadn’t heard of before (or had forgotten about):

From Jeff Wisniewski:
Yahoo Design Pattern Library
Rasterbator— turn any image huge and print it out on multiple sheets of paper for a giant poster.

From Darlene Fichter:
Many Eyes— data visualization and sharing

From Frank Cervone:
dbWiz— database selection wizard

From Steven Cohen:

From Mary Ellen Bates:
Kosmix—very beta, specific search areas are strongest (politics, health, video games—weird selection), can screen politics by leaning (left, conservative, etc.), satire, blogs, etc.

Exalead—lists search tools on advanced search screen, phonetic search, approximate spelling, adjacent words (near operator up to 16—only search engine that allows this?!) database not as large as google

Srchr—results on one page, creates rss feeds of searches, stores buttons, so you can revisit searches easily. Good for remembering complex searches.

Scandoo—metasearch, screens for hate sites, malware, etc.

Yahoo Search Builder—Search box builder. can limit results to specific sites, append keywords behind the scenes, creates search cloud to show what words have been used to search your engine,

Swicki—builds custom search engine, but then as people use it, swiki remembers what people click through to. As more people use it, sites gain weight.

Morgan & Gao: Using a CMS to Build Community– Joomla

Notes from the session…

South Carolina State LibraryCatherine Buck Morgan, Tao Gao

Joomla in libraries website—

Reasons SCSU chose Joomla: Reliable, Easier than drupal, Used internationally, multilingual strong support community, continuous improvement (open source community development),

Drawbacks– doesn’t integrate w/ opac yet, but can use wrappers to embed, or link directly into new window

Use to compare systems

Google search trends—mambo peaked in 2005 (rebranded to joomla), joomla’s increasing, drupal and plone staying at same level

SCSU went from static html, table-based layout, dead pages, basic perl scripts, no persistent nav, inconsistent style, not interactive, growing fast without oversight

Wanted Section 508 standards compliant, intuitive, interactive, collaborative, searchable, community-oriented, pushable, dynamic site

Used survey monkey for survey, best feedback from open-ended questions, used people from outside subject areas (fresh eyes) to review pages

Needed designer that understood libraries

People flipped out at first, but were happy in the end—CBM took the day off, monitored email, im

Streamlined admin, but opened up content creation (more authors)

Server specs, tutorials in powerpoint presentation (at joomla in libraries)

Wsiwyg editor, predefined styles for headings, etc., file handling, image management

Wisniewski, Fichter, & Cervone: Cool Tools & Toolkits for Webmasters

Notes from the session…

Jeff Wisniewski from U of Pittsburgh:

Yahoo Pipes—apply logic to feeds as you aggregate them, drag and drop, (e.g. scopusandwos pipe)

Google My Maps—MAKE ONE FOR ACADEMIC LIBRARIES OF BROOKLYN, METRO—mashup w/ onnyturf or hopstop?

Yahoo Design Pattern Library—like A Pattern Language! For web pages and interfaces! CSS examples, breadcrumbs, menus, etc.

What is my IP?

Rasterbator—upload an image and blow it up to about 20×30 sheets of paper to make enormous posters

Darlene Fichter:

Firefox Linkify—auto search for url on highlighted word
Linkchecker online photo editor
Trailfire web tours—don’t need the extension to see the tour (works in IE) private, public
Myxter tones—ringtones
Mybloglog—site stats
Swivel—data visualization
Many Eyes (alphaworks IBM)— can upload data (e.g. tag cloud analysis from Gutenberg, comparison btwn multiple works)

Frank Cervone:

Google Webmaster Tools—help view website from outside (e.g. are some things protected that shouldn’t be?), links in from other sites

Google sitemap—xml file that tells google what it should be looking for—builds site map for you via spider, linkchecker


Gvisit—map visitor log

Open source federated searching—
Dbwiz—simon fraser univ
Keystone ils—index data—portal, fed search, link resolver services