Category Archives: 2007

Coverage and discussion on ALA Midwinter 2007

Lita Town Meeting 2007 Report

Lita Town Meeting 2007 Report:
Including Results from the Group Snow Card Activity.

Big huge thanks to Michelle Boule for compiling the large stack of papers and cards into something that resembled an organized mass.

LITA Town Meeting

What does success look like for LITA and it’s members? Mark Beatty, LITA Vice President, gave a quick environmental scan. Then the LITA members at the Town Meeting engaged in small group brain storming and clustered their ideas into categories. Attending members were asked to generate their ideas as a reaction to Mark’s introductory scan, their own current thoughts on the state of libraries and LITA, the LITA strategic plan and a small set of questions about LITA. Details on the group activity are below along with the results.

One of the easiest and interestingly the most significant remarks that could be made about the town meeting is that people had fun. The quite full 80 plus member meeting consisted of the full range of LITA members in length of membership. All ideas were equal. All attendees jumped in and participated equally. All worked to contribute to LITA while exchanging ideas, information, knowledge, opinions and friendship in an open and welcoming social setting. As the results below show the Town Meeting, and it’s fun, in many ways embodied what the attendees said they want LITA to be.

A 25 minute podcast of an interview with Mark Beatty and Michelle Boule after the Town Meeting can be heard at:

Setting the Environment

The initial theme was ‘Delivering Value to the Membership”

We wanted to gather ideas about LITA including:
What are the indicators of success
What defines value to the membership
What environments do we need to pay attention to
To define it another way. Let’s assume that we are mostly in the business of education of one sort or another and we want to deliver true value to our members. Then what does success look like for LITA and it’s members?
What value would members be getting?
What would motivate members to volunteer?
What would keep volunteers?
What would our menu of services look like?

We want to consider any new ideas in the light of the LITA Strategic Plan:

The LITA Vision is:
As the center of expertise about information technology, the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) leads in exploring and enabling new technologies to empower libraries. LITA members use the promise of technology to deliver dynamic library collections and services.

The LITA Mission Statement is:
LITA educates, serves and reaches out to its members, other ALA members and divisions, and the entire library and information community through its publications, programs and other activities designed to promote, develop, and aid in the implementation of library and information technology.

Here are some of the current environment variables that are being talked about for communities and libraries.

Continue reading

Open Source Systems IG meeting – ALA Midwinter

Open Source Systems Interest Group meeting
Sunday, January 21, 2007, 4-6pm

The group reviewed the list of programs planned for Annual in DC

Evergreen, the Georgia PINES consortium’s open ILS program
Automating metadata creation with open source software. Patrick Yott from Brown.
The next-generation public library website with Drupal. John Blyberg from the Ann Arbor District Library.
Sakai collaboration and learning environment. Joseph Harden from the University of Michigan.
A preconference on using Dotproject for project management, rescheduled because of Katrina.

Jennifer Bowen from the University of Rochester reported on the status of the Extensible Catalog project (XC) and the grant associated with it.

The idea is to create an open source user interface for library catalogs which would work with the library’s ILS system rather than replacing it. The Mellon Foundation grant for 2006-2007 was designed to allow the group to create a project plan, determine requirements, plan the architecture, and explore currently available technologies. The group is developing partnerships with other libraries to create a community of support, with the idea of getting early adopters using each major ILS system–and there is lots of interest in this. There should be news about the renewal of the grant for the next phase by Annual.

There is a working prototype with a faceted browsing interface built on lucene, which the developers have begged her to stop demonstrating.

There was some discussion of creating a Linux distribution with a library focus, and how that might be done. One suggestion was rPath’s rBuilder, which allows you to select packages and create a customized operating system based on Linux. Simon Spero from UNC-Chapel Hill and iBiblio said that hosting, and possibly some processing power, would be available to do that.

Spero also discussed his Fred 2.0 (PDF description) project to harvest Library of Congress authority records, a little about his methods, and a good deal about the legalities involved. There was a collective groan of recognition when he described the difficulty of getting an Innovative catalog to export records in a form he could use. The data will be used for research, but also to provide an authority file to match social networking tags against. This prompted a lively discussion about how it might be useful to others as well.

One of the traditions of the IG is a trip around the room to discuss what kinds of open source attendees are using.

Michigan State is using Drupal as an intranet, as is Washington State; UNC-Chapel Hill is a LAMP shop for web services, using Joomla and other OS stuff, as well as running iBiblio, a major repository for Linux and open data of all types; the University of Washington is exploring the idea of open source for desktop computers; American University is using Dotproject, Greenstone, and an open source tech support referral system; Eastern Illinois University is using the Prospero document delivery system; the University of Hawaii is using Plone for an intranet; the State Library of Washington is using WordPress; the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana runs its help desk on Drupal.

–Chris Strauber, co-chair

Top Tech Trends (Good Parts version)

You should really listen to the podcasts. There are things I won’t be able to do in words. Like give you the experience of Karen Schneider singing her recruiting song. Or summarize Clifford Lynch (can anyone do that?).

So, for the time-pressed, here is a summary of the Top Tech Trends discussion at ALA Midwinter, in the fabulous Spanish Ballroom of the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle.
Present were: Jennifer Ward (the committee chair), Maurice York, Clifford Lynch, Marshall Breeding, and Karen Schneider. Absent speakers were: Roy Tennant, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Eric Lease-Morgan, and Thomas Dowling.

There was much discussion of possible alternatives to the traditional OPAC.
Tennant and Houghton-Jan mentioned OCLC and some version of Worldcat as a potential OPAC for consortia. Schneider questioned the assumption that our primary finding aid should be a locally tweaked dataset, and Breeding commented that the trend is toward national or international aggregations of that data. Pace commented that OCLC’s Pica, in Europe at least, is an ILS for all intents and purposes.

Several panelists mentioned the Evergreen open source ILS project in Georgia, which has been the live ILS for a 250-library consortium since September 2006. That is, a large consortium of public libraries is using a software platform they designed themselves and intend to help other libraries install and support. Breeding commented that this changes the game: For the first time there is a viable non-commercial option if commercial ILS systems continue to stagnate. (Promotional note: come see the program on Evergreen at Annual in DC, sponsored by the Open Source Systems Interest Group–CS, co-chair)

Lynch also wondered whether we were clear enough about what we wanted from a new ILS to get a really good product from anyone; and Pace commented that some of our ILS vendors spent themselves into oblivion building the features we said we wanted. And on open source, Schneider reminded the audience that “free ILS” was like “free kittens” rather than like “free beer”, but she and Breeding agreed that part of the consideration was strategic — that is, what other kinds of things a “free” ILS would make possible.

A second trend was consolidation of ILS and publishing companies. Breeding commented that the new owners of traditional ILS vendors tend to be private equity companies, which may result in a more long-term view of things — and hopefully better products. Pace commented that the scale of media company mergers dwarfs that of ILS vendors, mentioning that Ovid had recently laid off a large number of people because of extremely expensive fluctuations in exchange rates.

What I’ll call online outreach was a third topic of discussion. Houghton-Jan mentioned social networking sites as being where our users are at the moment, and that reaching out to them there was not essentially different from the other kinds of outreach we do. Lynch was interested in the still unclear possibilities for Second Life, where there is a lot of experimentation in new media going on, as well as what may be the development of a standard platform for virtual worlds. This prompted a lively discussion about when libraries should jump on this kind of bandwagon, with references to courseware and Facebook. The consensus was that if most of our patrons are there we should probably be, too, but Lynch commented that lots of undergraduates spend lots of time in bars and there is probably no good reason to set up library kiosks there.

(Though Pace suggested moving the bar into the library….)

Several panelists mentioned portable devices for Internet access and other computing, like Apple’s newly announced iPhone. Schneider intoned that she had not “drunk the iKoolaid and was iBored,” but thought that the fanatical loyalty of users to the iPod held out some hope for getting users to love our quirky services. Lynch and Pace commented that the excitement about the iPhone partly spoke to how bad cellphone interfaces currently are. Lease-Morgan’s question about how 24/7 access to the Internet changes library services is probably the critical one here. (Sadly, it was a rhetorical question).

RDA, the move toward modernizing cataloging standards, was much discussed, and much skepticism was expressed. There were several references to Coyle and Hillman’s article in D-Lib, which suggests that the fundamental assumptions of RDA are flawed and inappropriate for the current information environment. Pace described RDA as on the rails and headed for the station, but starting from the wrong place–description rather than access.

Other random items:

Lynch saw the problem of large scale management of data, research and otherwise, to be a major looming concern and opportunity to build new relationships for libraries. He also thought that anyone who says we know what the interface for 5 million online books looks like is lying. (Pace commented that Google is pointedly not answering that question).

When asked what new technology would bring users into the library, Schneider responded “Meetware”. Meaning that personal interactions with staff, happy users, and word of mouth are the way to go. Pace said that his favorite form of marketing was “awesome services, collections, and technologies,”.

And with some reluctance I feel obligated to mention that Houghton-Jan did, in fact, get the committee chair to say “stinky-poo” twice, while reading her trends item on OPAC interfaces. And now I’ve fed it to a thousand RSS readers. Curse you, LiB!

It was a very long, detailed session and a spirited conversation. Very much worth your investment in the easily digestible series of podcasts.

Greetings from the LITA President

I managed to corner both current LITA president Bonnie Postlewaite and Vice-President and President-Elect Mark Beatty at ALA Midwinter 2007 and get some brief video of them. We at LITABlog realize that not everyone attends conferences, and so might not recognize Bonnie or Mark. Hopefully these next couple of videos will put a face with the names…I apologize for the low audio, at Annual we’ll have a slightly better sound rig.

First up: Bonnie Postlewaite, LITA President

Lots of ideas at the LITA Emerging Technologies IG

When: Monday Jan. 22, 2007

The scene: Around 60-70 people attended this IG on the final day of the ’07 Midwinter conference. It was standing room only, which of course meant that several sat on the floor. The discussion was wide-ranging, with Joe Ford, of Joseph Ford & Associates, presiding as incoming chair.

The primary role of the Emerging Technologies IG at Midwinter is to program the summer session as close to the bleeding edge as possible, and to that end, nearly everyone attending had suggestions on what they would like to see this coming June in Washington D.C. With very little coaxing, the group took off on a free-wheeling discussion, talking about what emerging technologies most interest or concern them.

Several themes quickly emerged: the implications of widely available broadband, large amounts of personal storage capacity, the effects of widely social information consumption, as well as the legal and social implications of what it all may mean.

Following are nearly all of the ideas brought up by the group: Continue reading

Tech Trends 2007

Tech Trends, Midwinter 2007

One area that was greatly discussed during the two hour exchange was the ILS. Trendsters discussed open source, convergence of vendors and the fact that these are no longer boot strapped companies but ones that private investors think have value.

The top technology trend that are and will continue to have a great impact on library services are enterprise ILS services, outsourced services, green / sustainable building design including heat source pumps, RFID, gaming, and techno mobile vans .The recognition of “the library as place” and the need to recognize new sets of services is having the greatest impact on librarians. Librarians need to learn that their services are both virtual and place-centered. They need a forum with experts who can share trends that are changing services.

For example, there is a product called Goldfire. This is an innovation platform that indexes everything. As a matter of fact, this product was so good at indexing that a client had trouble stopping it from making a library out of every file on its global computing center. In another case, there is an E-Government initiative that used BEA’s middle ware technology. The entire county’s web platform is being run on this system where managers select a few templates and create content on the fly, but do not have information science experience or knowledge of subject headings so the entire system is being built and impacted from a lack of best practices. Ask Google about this – their building a book search module and they don’t even have a librarian or a library. Although subject heading are not new, it was the first time that a lack of library presence is being made up on the fly. Where were does Google get their subject headings? LC?

From a planning perspective, the top tech trend is the Wiki. It has the ability to capture project planning documents, support new training initiatives and expand staff’s vocabulary. During a facility planning exercise a public library technology director explained. Skeptical that the technology is useful for more then encyclopedic activities, he gave an example of how to use a Wiki. He said that they use it for creating agendas, allowing members to ask questions associated with the upcoming discussion, and enabling the team to capture post meeting notes. This was a eureka moment. The importance of the wiki and meta data still require some thoughts. This technology creates a natural opportunity for librarians to create readers advisory services, control outreach programs and capture strategic knowledge.

With more participation from new LITA members, the LITA Wiki will, over a few years, be a wonderful asset to learn and share from and more of a communication devise. It will be an asset that new librarians can browse and learn from in the years to come.

One last thing – top technology trends were – Wii (the impact of its playful interface will intersect with library user interfaces – hopefully soon), Wiki (new ways to capture and share knowledge), and Enterprise ILS systems vrs. Open Source – may the little guy win whenever possible and “The Long Tail” – Wired’s editor got it right – now start posting your knowledge even if one in a million can find it. When they do, there will be value. See you all in Washington…