October + November Library Tech Roundup

Image courtesy of Flickr user byronv2 (CC BY NC)

Image courtesy of Flickr user byronv2 (CC BY NC)

Each month, the LITA bloggers share selected library tech links, resources, and ideas that resonated with us. Enjoy – and don’t hesitate to tell us what piqued your interest recently in the comments section!


Brianna M.

I shared my openness story on The Winnower, an open access online scholarly publishing platform.

An open letter to PLoS regarding libraries’ role in data curation, compiled by a group of data librarians.

Two takes on data management threshold concepts: from Jake Carlson and from Kristin Briney.

My superb assistant Cameron created data comics to celebrate Halloween and they’re too good not to share.

Cinthya I.

I only have one link to share, but it’s pretty awesome. POP (Prototype on Paper) is a program that lets you create a simulated app without having to know how to code. Simply upload an image file and you can create clickable screens to walk through how the app might work once it would be fully functional. Great for innovation, entrepreneurship, and general pitch sessions!

Michael R.

I am in a post-holiday rush period, so I will just take this opportunity to encourage everyone to review the presentations and handouts from the 2015 LITA Forum, available open access on the forum wiki. There’s some truly great material on there (including three presentations from yours truly).

Always useful is Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology site. For electronic resources and systems librarians, it really is a fantastic resource for keeping up with the latest trends, mergers, and changes in library electronic subscriptions and vendors.

Bill D.

I’ve been heavily into thinking about APIs and how to build them lately, with a focus on how to design/document any API endpoint you might build.

For the backend, the most common way to build things is in a RESTful way using something like Grape for ruby, but I’m giving a serious look at the just-one-endpoint-and-specify-everything approach used in Facebook’s GraphQL. The older and dumber I get, the more I appreciate strict type systems…

What should an API return? These days, the answer is “JSON”, but that’s not very specific. I’m taking a look at json-schema to see if it fits in with how I work.

Desining a good API is hard. There are several competing(?) ways to specify (and simultaneously document) an API you’re designing. The most interesting are API Blueprint, based around extentions to markdown; Swagger (now the Open API Initiative), which provides not only specification and design but code generation, a documentaiton UI, and a host of other things; and RAML, the RESTful API Modeling Language with its own set of tools and libraries. The good news is that one need not be locked in; a quick search shows several tools to convert from one to the other.

Looking to consume http-based APIs? The Postman Chrome extension gives a great interface to mess around with API calls.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. A robots.txt file tells robots how to behave when crawling your site; An apis.json file specifies what APIs are available on a given machine (and, if found, will be automatically added to the clearinghouse at APIs.io)

Finally, having nothing to do with APIs: Markdown Here is a browser extention that allows you to write markdown anywhere there’s a rich-text editor. I use it for GMail and a wide variety of other sites,
and wonder how I used to live without it.


Whitni W. 

In my new position, I support a lot of  free open source software (FOSS) and have been interested in to different takes on why FOSS and what it takes to support it. One article I enjoyed is about what motivates people’s work on open source software and why they continue to work on it.

Another topic I’ve been looking more into is anonymity on the web and handing online harassment. J. Nathan Matias, a PhD student at MIT put together a really helpful resource about understanding online harassment. “A New Starting Point for Understanding Online Harassment

and one last link for interested parties. I get a lot of questions about best practices for using a carousel on a website. I for one do not care for them and would rather direct someone not to use one, however it’s sometimes hard to explain this and Jared Smith put together a simple site that perfectly handles the No’s on web carousels. “Should I use a Carousel?” 

John K.

Ned Potter gives you an alternative for creating a quick website if you need to make something for a conference or a project or a webinar. That way you don’t have to do a whole domain registration, hosting space, etc. but you get something nice-looking. (via his Library Marketing Toolkit website)

David Lee King offer some suggestions on ways you can use Instagram to drive checkouts. David takes a post he read about hacking Instagram to drive sales and applies it to the library world.

And finally Library Data Visualization gives you a way to quickly check where the highest circulation rates for public libraries are in your state. Or you could look at the whole country. The resource was created by the Connecticut State Library and it uses information from the a 2013 IMLS survey. I’m not sure how useful this is but it’s fun to play with.