Currency, Convenience and Access

The poster sessions were right outside the door, so a fair amount of noise bleed-in and door open-and-shutting was occurring behind us. Jenny Levine couldn’t make it, so standing in for her was Karen Schneider of Librarians’ Internet Index. She joined with John Law of ProQuest to give this talk. Check the LITA site after the conference for copies of the presentation, as it doesn’t match what was in the conference binder!

Karen Schneider of LII

A brief explanation of RSS (the operative word being syndication) and why to use it:

  • create content — text, audio, video — in one place
  • display it in many places — websites, podcasts, RSS readers, your own site, syndicated onto other sites

RSS Puts You Out There
"Ambient findability": "Related feeds" feature in Bloglines. The constant updating of the RSS reader that the audience is using means they’re constantly reminded of you and brought onto your site or even into your library catalog.

LII launched its RSS feed in spring 2004 and now has over 8,400 subscribers in fall 2005. In that time, accesses to the site have also doubled, largely driven by the RSS feed. From the user’s point of view, installing an RSS aggregator or using a service like Bloglines

  • Saves time — don’t have to check multiple websites to find updates
  • Gets to the point — only presents content that’s actually updated
  • Lets me compare — find out which sources actually provide updates

John Law of ProQuest

An RSS feed of subscription database content can provide our audience with content in context. Usability studies at Rochester showed this context is important to students.

Examples: Integrating an RSS feed of new articles in a library web page; integrating an RSS feed of new articles in a course web page.

ProQuest is just starting to make available Custom RSS Feed (roll-your-own feed on a specific topic/keyword). Currently they offer a small number of preconfigured feeds that can be added to websites by their subscribing institutions. Well, that’d be fun. At our public library we subscribe to ProQuest Newsstand — newspaper articles fulltext — which would be a perfect candidate for allowing people to view daily updates!

In Q&A after the session, though, I think the authentication issue is still being resolved, so I don’t know how useful this would be for our library. Darn.

Back to Karen

What have libraries done with RSS so far? A few of the examples shown:

  • Hennepin County — teen events updates
  • Kansas City — news & events
  • Kenton County Public Library — a long list including new-books lists
  • Manitoba — recommended feeds list in a topic
  • Ann Arbor District Library and Ed Vielmetti — his home page contains a list of what he’s reading and what he has on reserve at Ann Arbor (Karen remarks: "After all we do to protect patron privacy! But I like that option"
  • Yorba Linda — seniors page incorporating an LII feed of new entries on Seniors topics

The first ones are examples of feeds you might provide; the last are examples of ways you and your patrons can incorporate feeds from other sources into your web pages. See also the RSS Creator presentation given as part of the Breaking Out of the Box session at this conference — RSS Creator makes a feed from a database search of new additions to a subscription database.

RSS4Lib strongly recommended.

Go where your users are! As Anne Lipow said, "It is not the users who are ‘remote’."

Some Q & A and commentary

What about the server load on our website when Bloglines picks up an update and now thousands of people hit our site? There is a don’t-recheck-until header that our RSS feed can send out, but not all the major aggregators respect that.

Vendors should include doing the work of RSS Creator so we don’t have to — provide a feed that works with our OpenURL link resolver.

We use to subject-index our feeds.

IE 7 has a built-in RSS reader, so odds are, this time next year we will have a lot more users of RSS since they’ll no longer have to install a separate aggregator. Aiieeeeeee!

How about adding a link to our RSS feed of new articles from a specific journal into our catalog record for that article? I like that! Just add another 856 field. "Subfield r." "No, subfield f!" Hmm, I sense an incipient controversy here. Has anyone brought this to MARBI’s attention yet?

Currency, Convenience and Access: RSS Technology Applied to Subscription Database Content

John Law (ProQuest Information & Learning) and Karen Schneider (LII) spoke about the wonderful world of RSS to a full room on the last day of the conference. Karen Schneider did a fabulous job of filling in for Jenny Levine, the original second speaker.

Karen Schneider
Really Simple Syndication lets you create content in one place (text. audio, video) but display it in many places: RSS aggregators, websites (intranets, public websites). RSS puts you out there to the public—it puts you into search engines (Google, Technorati).

LII’s success with RSS

  • LII’s e-mail newsletter has 15,000 subscribers and takes quite a bit of maintenance (the list, spam filters, etc.)
  • RSS feed has 8,400 subscribers (minimal set-up and maintenance, no spam, no list management, users find it on the web, opportunities for new formats like audio)
  • Access to the site has doubled in the last year, which Karen theorizes has a lot to do with the visibility RSS provides

Other cool things you can do with RSS: UPS & Fed Ex package tracking, weather reports, ego feeds (seeing what others are saying about you), new book lists, updates on circulation status of items, video blogging, podcasting, feeds from subscription databases.

How do you know how many people are subscribing to your RSS feed? There’s no one way. You can look in Bloglines to get an idea of how many people subscribe to your feed and that should give you a general idea.

Cool things that libraries are doing with RSS feeds:

  • Events at the library
  • Newly acquired/ordered items (can also see as a webpage)
  • Newly arrived items (can also see as a webpage)
  • Displaying local news headlines on the library’s website
  • Some library users are using RSS to displaying the books they have checked out from the library
  • The University of Manitoba Health Science Libraries has a page with recommended RSS feeds from their library and from other sources that they believe would be helpful to their users.
  • David Walker has created RSS Creator to create RSS feeds for subscription databases and e-journals that aren’t providing feeds on their own.

RSS4Lib is a blog that discusses innovative ways libraries are using RSS feeds (and of course they have a feed)!

How to display Feeds on your sit e: Rely on someone else for the javascript code (Feed2JS, Feedroll, RSS Digest) or Roll Your Own

Helping Your Patrons’ Information Literacy with RSS

  • Create a public aggregator of feeds for a specific audience
  • Academic libraries could aggregate news for specific departments
  • Public libraries could aggregate community news
  • School libraries could aggregate news for class projects

John Law
ProQuest is offering RSS feeds for its subscription databases. Law stressed that access to content (which is critical to realizing its value). Users expect content in context.

ProQuest has a link on their homepage to their RSS feeds. Very specific subject areas have RSS feeds with the new articles in that area.

Libraries can display the newest article headlines (with links into the database) for targeted subject areas on their webpages (e.g. marketing and communications, advertising, etc.).

ProQuest is also planning on offering roll-your-own feeds, allowing users to create customized feeds. The user runs a search, then clicks on a “Create RSS Feed” link. The resulting feed will contain any new articles meeting the criteria of that search.

During the Q&A period, John Law also discussed authentication issues. The pre-defined feeds are delivered to anyone and require no authentication. Because the feeds contain the citations only (with a link into the database), they’re only authenticated at the point of linking into the database. The customized feeds are only creatable once you’re inside the database and already authenticated.

Utilizing the Benefits of Native XML Database Technologies

Alan Cornish – Systems Librarian, Washington State University Libraries

Another take on the session… You should also check Karen’s earlier post.

What’s a Native XML database exactly? Alan defines Native XML as a document storage and retrieval model where an XML doc is considered the basic unit of storage, the database is DTD or schema independent, and an XML-specific query language is used to manage, retrieve and display data. No relational databases or SQL here, kids.

Alan gave a nice, brief overview of XML, DTDs and then introduced the software used for his project. Textml is XML server software from Ixiasoft. He also mentioned Cooktop – some freeware that actually worked as a pretty robust XML editor.

Alan demoed how Textml works, showed query syntax and drew comparisons with SQL statements. Those of us used to SQL syntax (SELECT * FROM tablename WHERE keyword = things) This native XML stuff is a whole different ballgame – the query syntax matches xml syntax. (i.e., The query is actually another xml document. ) It’s verbose and a little intimidating.

Here’s an example based on the same query above:

<code><xsl :stylesheet version=”1.0″ xmlns:xsl=””>
</xsl><xsl :template match=”*”>
<xsl :apply-templates select=”tablename”/>
<xsl :value-of select=”things( )”/>

This example is not spot on, but you get the idea. SELECT * FROM … is looking pretty good.

So, how can applications use native XML? Alan showed how a pilot version of the NWDA (Northwest Digital Archives) is going to using native XML to manage, find and reuse archival finding aid content. Alan showed the XML index that runs the NWDA, well-formed xml document that map out the relationships between items and collections. We also got to see how XML can be used to create a pretty standard search and retrieval interface: find titles, free text search, browse records screen. Online XSL transformation creates the display for individual items. This could be a bottleneck if the XML doc gets large. People asked questions about retrieval performance and Allen pointed out that when performance in search and retrieval lagged it usually happened during the XSL transformation stage.

One of the more interesting tidbits from the session was the Adobe XML Metadata Packet (XMP). XMP is an Adobe metadata option based on W3C’s RDF which packages basic metadata and embeds it within pdf, jpeg, tiff (adobe type files). It’s really simple to add to Adobe documents. By using the document properties menu in Adobe Professional 7, you can enter your metadata. This is pretty cool stuff and could really be useful if one could begin a digitization project marking up pdfs, jpegs or tiffs with XMP. As proof of concept, Alan showed how to query using Textml and the XMP packet. XMP would be really easy to use with an Electronic Theses and Dissertation project or any project with a reliance on Adobe document types.

Other XML server software equivalents to Textml: Tamino, NATIX, and eXist (open source). Try a google search on “native xml server” for additional options.

It was another worthwhile session. Not sure I got my head around all of it… Oh well, it’s gettin’ late and I’m off for some food and grog.

3D Information Visualization: An Introduction and Practical Applications

This morning Brad Eden of the University of Nevada gave us a very nice overview of
3-D Information Visualization. The concept of Information Visualization can be defined loosely in a number of ways, but basically boils down to the representation of nonspatial data as visual objects with easily perceived relationships and patterns.

Information Visualization is becoming increasingly important in online communication and instruction. When we look at the ways our users are consuming information, increasingly by choice, they do so visually. Virtual collaborative spaces are springing up all over the Internet as is the use of multiplayer online games coupled with the use of avatars and other visual persona, landscapes and environments. Why?

“Tell me and I’ll forget…
Show me and I may remember…
Involve me and I’ll understand.”
Ancient Chinese Proverb

Increasingly faculty is looking at ways of utilizing Information Visualization to represent traditional text based and flat structure information. We looked at several examples including a 3-D map from the Rumsey map collection, which was running on GIS software through Luna Insight. There is a plethora of possibilities when it comes to 3-D presentation techniques.

Current programming languages involving 3-D are primarily Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML)/eXtensible 3D (X3D) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG).

We reviewed some library OPACs that are currently incorporating some type of Information Visualization such as AquaBrowser. You can see an example at the Lexington Public Library

One of the most interesting applications of 3-D Visualization technology can be experienced by taking a look at Cubic Eye. CubicEye breaks out your browser window into a cube with each “wall” functioning as an independent browser window. Individual 3-D elements, if supplied on the Web page, can be rotated on the floor of the cube for further examination.

We also examined several 3-D projects in the humanities, which utilized 3-D technologies to recreate architectural and anthropological sites on the web.

We can utilize these tools in our libraries not only by making our users aware of what is available in terms of completed projects in their subject areas, but also by exploring and incorporating Information Visualization into our service delivery and instruction. The serious consideration and utilization of visual technologies will add an increased level of appeal and interest in a language our users are already fluent in and accustomed to using.

Google and the University of Michigan Library Digitization Project

Rebecca Dunkle, librarian at University of Michigan (UM), and Ben Bunnell from Google, spoke about UM’s experience working with Google, as they begin what will be roughly a 6-year project to digitize 7 million volumes at UM. (Abigail Potter, a recent grad of the Information School at Michigan, now working at NPR, who worked on the Google Project while still at UM was also on hand to answer questions).

The general outlines of the project are familiar to most of us, having been presented previously: Google, as if by magic, since the technology is proprietary and they can’t tell us about it, is non-destructively digitizing the entire bound print collection at UM (and also portions of 4 other research libraries; New York Public Library, Stanford, Harvard, and Oxford) . The scanning is resulting in page images and OCR files, all up to agreed upon digital preservation standards that have been established by the library community. Michigan will receive its own copies of all the files created, and will be able to host them on their own servers and build them into new digital library services.

Dunkle made it clear that Google and UM are partners in this project – Google is not forcing the library to do anything it doesn’t want to do. She also pointed out that even though there are unresolved issues, such as the full impact that this fully dual digital/print collection will have on UM staff, the advantages of getting this huge corpus of digital texts are enormous.

Bunnell showed screenshots of the Google Print interface for public domain books, where users can page through the entire book online, and in-copyright books, where they can only see 3 (un-printable) snippets, but also get a list of how many times their search terms occur in the whole book; e.g. we are only showing you three, but your words occur in this book 57 times. Both the public domain and in-copyright views allow user to find the book in libraries or buy it. Bunnell also showed the interface for books submitted directly by publishers, which allow users to access considerably more than the snippets.

The questions were the best part of the program, since attendees brought up lots of pertinent points, such as – the interface for the books submitted directly from publishers does NOT include the “find in library” link (wonder why?); UM & Google’s approach to simply do everything is going to result in the scanning of a lot of bound journals, many of which certainly exist digitally already; although Bunnell assures us (as other Google representatives also have) that GooglePrint is NOT in competition with other, existing, robust, digitizing programs at many libraries and cultural institutions, surely funding for local digitizing projects is going to diminish as a result of Google’s massive efforts; and no, they won’t let us buy their technology. Also mentioned was recent OCLC collection analysis work on the Google 5 (reported in Sept. D-Lib that shows that about 60% of the books to be digitized in the project are only held by ONE of the Google 5, only 20% are held by two, and only 3% are held by all five. The shockingly high number is that 80% of the books in the Google 5 libraries are still in copyright, so even though the full text will be digitized, only the snippets will be available. Although it is probably more productive if we stop thinking of the visible part of in-copyright books as snippets, and start thinking of them as indexing – a point brought up by danah boyd in her keynote, and echoed by Rebecca Dunkle – danah said that she couldn’t wait for Google to finish digitizing so that more of the volumes lying around her house would be indexed; Dunkle related her experience handing over books retrieved from offsite storage to users who take one look at them and say “not what I expected”; she expects the snippets and keyword counts to reduce the number of times this scenario plays out, and feels this is just one of several outcomes that make the whole project worthwhile.

Great Bloggers’ Soiree

A big gaggle of us lounged around the Paragon. If you’re in San Jose tomorrow evening and you don’t feel like cabbing to Santana Row, the Paragon is a comfy and elegant choice for cocktails. Energies ran high, we all got to mingle with people we’ve met online, and I had a fantastic glass of cab sauv.

A slightly smaller but still sizable gaggle of us headed over to Johnny Rocket’s afterwards for cheap noshes and those long, deep discussions you only really get with your buddies at conference or other places where you kick back and discuss the state of librarianship and the world, not to mention the role of the narrative voice in blogging. I with my middle-aged stomach am still burping french fries and onion rings, but it was a delightful, unforgettable dinner. Librarians really are the best people in the world.

Streaming on a Shoestring

Streaming multimedia – why to do it, how to do it, what they do with it at the National Agricultural Library. If you missed this one, let me just say, you missed a good show. John Gladstone is a fun speaker, and, well, it was a talk about multimedia, so we got to watch a lot of movies.

Updated link! The presentation slides are available at:
That contains all the details he mentioned about technical pieces to put together your streaming capability for relatively low cost. I’ll just mention a few items from the talk which aren’t fully obvious from the slides.

Basically, the rationale for doing streaming is (a) Everybody’s doing it and (b) Libraries potentially have better content to offer than Everybody. There is an explosion of multimedia content out there but much of it comes from the same big entertainment and web publishing companies — AOL, Yahoo Music, Disney. Now when you view a TV show you see a note on it saying you can see outtakes at “These behemoths are driving this bus.”

We got an overview of some of what’s going on today in multimedia on the web. “If we’re going to dip our toes in this multimedia sea, we have to see what else is swimming around there.”

What do Monica Lewinsky’s secrets have in common with Victoria’s Secret? In 1998 President Clinton’s deposition before a jury was webcast and a million people tuned in. In 1999 Victoria’s Secret had another webcast to which a million people tuned in. These have in common that when that many people tuned in at the same time to view the stream, it choked the available pipe. Failed terribly because no one could reach it. Now there are events such as the shuttle launch or Live Aid where 5 million people can simultaneously tune in and 95% of them can successfully reach the stream. The difference is that edge servers rather than central webcast farms are doing the streaming so the work is now distributed to many servers.

One of the movies we watched was a streamed lecture from a NASA archive. The audio was virtually inaudible. There are new technologies coming out like Streamsage and Speechbot aimed at capturing and indexing text from audio. But bad audio thwarts these technologies.

There are other new video indexing tools coming on the scene: Google, Yahoo, Truveo. Google only searches video submitted to it, Yahoo only retrieves video mentioned in RSS Feeds. Truveo goes out and indexes video all over the web. Searched for: Pon the river — which is a dance you do in Jamaica. Google and Yahoo can’t find it but Truveo can. (I tried it out today. It’s in beta. Give it a try and see what you think.)

Some of the best ideas I took from this were about combining audio or video with a “slide push” for distributing tutorials, lectures, conference presentations over the web. (Using audio-only works if you’re trying to save bandwidth and have interesting slides to look at!) The presentation slides are coordinated on a timeline with the audio or video. For this, Microsoft Producer will now do for free what it used to cost $2,000 – $15,000 to do.

“Not only is it not cost-prohibitive, you can do it, it’s not rocket science!”

The Michigan eLibrary: A Statewide Gateway to Library Materials

The references in this piece to Illinois are my comments. The speakers never mentioned Illinois.

Anne Donohue and Debbi Schaubman of the Michigan Library Consortium spoke today on the new developments at the Michigan eLibrary, commonly known as MeL. Begun as a gopher at the University of Michigan in 1993, the web site has gone through many phases and now has several important services for the people of Michigan. The newest are MeLCat, a statewide library catalog, and MeLDelivery, a statewide delivery service. MeL also has a new user-friendly design.

Though I reside in Illinois, I have been using the Reference Desk at MeL for years; as a reference librarian I have answered numerous reference questions with its links to free web sources. I always look on the MeL Databases with envy; the Michigan State Library provides many more databases for its residents than the Illinois State Library and makes them easier to access. Illinois and other states should take note.

Donohue and Schaubman were proud of the new design, which includes a new federated search box. The results of this search point to both open access and authentication access resources; Michigan residents can use their drivers license numbers or library card numbers to get into the resources that require authentication; parents can set up MyMel accounts for their children to give them access.

The speakers spent much of their time discussing MeLCat, which is still adding libraries. Illinois is actually ahead of Michigan in the development of a statewide library catalog, but the Michigan model looks a little friendlier and shows status on most items. Building MelCat has given the state the opportunity to go into many smaller rural libraries and teach computer skills to the library staffs. Residents can get into MeLCat and place holds on items to be delivered to their home libraries.

In the near future, the Michigan Library Consortium will be expanding services on MyMeL and continuing to add libraries to MeLCat. Its focus groups continue to look for more services for Michigan residents.

Office for Information Technology Policy Update

Rick Weingarten and Carrie Lowe from the ALA Washington Office for Information Technology Policy presented on library and IT issues in the current political climate.


  • Library participation continues to slide. Over 30% are eligible, but only 7% participate in E-Rate (I think I got the #s right). The application process is seen as too complicated and the discount is too low to off-set the workload involved.
  • We’re facing threats to E-Rate money.
  • ALA is lobbying to simplify the program, change the way poverty is measured, and try to get E-Rate back to doing what it was intended to do.

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act)

  • The law states that carriers must re-engineer systems to assist law enforcement with wiretapping. The law had exceptions. It did not apply to “information services” or “equipment, facilities, or services that support that transport or switching of communications for private networks.” (e.g. the Internet and private networks).
  • Now lawmakers are attempting to amend the law to extend this to apply to broadband information services.
  • ALA has been meeting with the FCC and lawmakers to try to get libraries exempted from this law.
  • On September 23rd, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rule Making laying out who would be covered by the CALEA extension. It will have a serious impact on libraries in terms of cost and staff burden (the amended law requires a 24/7/365 contact at the library to respond to wiretap requests). There are serious privacy and security concerns with this proposal, and libraries and ALA will be fighting it heavily.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and Internet “Governance”

  • ALA has been quite silent about ICANN, and the speakers emphasized that this is something that will need to change.
  • There is a big US vs. international issue here. Since the US dominated the scene for a long time, there’s a sense of ownership and control that can’t be sustained in an international environment.
  • The World Summit on the Information Society concluded that greater international involvement is necessary and proposed four scenarios for governance structures.
  • ICANN just voted to approve the .xxx domain, which is the first content-defined domain (for sexually explicit material).
  • The US Government is largely rejecting all international findings and opinions, and continuing to attempt to act independently to control things.

Utilizing the Benefits of Native XML Database Technologies

Before the talk, some of us joked about the phrase “native XML” and how XML could be indigenous, immigrant, etc. It turns out we weren’t that far off: native XML refers to when the XML document is considered the basic unit of storage, the database is DTD- and schema-independent and the database uses an XML-specific query language.

Alan Cornish of Washington State University Libraries walked us through some excellent XML basics, stuff that grounded me in topics I’m a little shaky on, through examples of XML code, illustrations and hands-on use of an XML editor, and examples of how applications use XML, with an emphasis on digital collections. The handouts are real keepers, and include references to articles about native XML. Google up TEXTML when you’ve got a minute to see an interesting tool Alan demoed.