Panlibus Blog

Archive for May, 2005

A [Red and] Green light on the Directory

In a recent posting Justin talked about the issues around reliably deep linking in to library OPACs.

As more library services become available for linking to, and they become a more important route into the library (see Richard?s blog), the problem of control and quality is only going to get worse. Even now there are a surprising number of systems that link, or try to link, deeply into the library OPAC, for example, OCLC WorldCat, and many different bookmarlets or browser plugins.

How does a library inform these third parties of a change to their systems? In most cases the library doesn?t even know there is another system depending on the exact syntax of their OPAC url! Let alone being able to inform them of changes. For the third-party system there is an expensive array of changing urls and syntaxes to be maintained.

At Talis we didn?t feel this was a very scalable solution to our customers needs. So, working with partners RLG (RedLightGreen), the Talis Research group, as part of the Silkworm project, have built a prototype OPAC deep linking directory. RLG is now using the directory live for a subset of its OPAC links.

The directory provides a single point of control and change. It hides the details of both physical location (i.e. URL) and syntax from the linking client (such as RLG). This way the client doesn?t need to know if the OPAC is a Talis OPAC or another vendors OPAC, it just links, using OpenURL and the library ID. The library can now mange the migration of systems by simply updating the directory entry as needed.

Working with redlightgreen we have now successfully launched this service. They are now using the directory for reliable deep linking into the OPACs of the community of Talis Libraries.

To see the results of this:

  • Go to
  • Search for something (eg. “The origin of species”)
  • Select one of the entries (eg, Genetics and the origin of species)
  • Click on the ‘Get it’ icon, top right of the page. (You may have to sign in at this point as a new user)
  • Select England from the country list, then Birmingham, then Birmingham University
  • You should now arrive at the correct record for that library inside their [Talis Prism] OPAC.
  • If you were quick and observant you will have seen the URL in the browser being redirected via our directory to the eventual destination.

So why again is this so useful to ReadLightGreen? Having routed their deep links via the directory now only have to be aware of a single syntax for constructing the url and just insert a logical location code for the library they are interested in. The directory takes care of the rest.

This is only a first step, increasing the coverage of the directory and providing open to its contents will add benefit to all.

In the meantime thanks to RedLightGreen for their help in proving the worth and the technology behind the directory.

Podcasting – another medium to consider

Radio Me is an interesting broadcast as part of the InBusiness series on BBC Radio 4.

Its all about podcasting and the potential implications for Broadcast media. BBC Radio has dipped its toe in with a select number of radio programmes, including the Today Programme, which is now podcasting the infamous 08.10 slot.

For those of us who are just coming to terms with the role that ordinary citizens are playing in informing various communities via blogs, podcasts etc. there is some interesting food for thought here.

Just in case you don’t get podcasts….I “happened” to hear this programme yesterday morning, it was repeated because the BBC had a day of industrial action and the normal programming had been replaced. Had I been reliant on traditional broadcasting schedules, I would never have heard it. I look forward to listening to it again properly in my own time, as my 3 year old daughter was with me first time around, so I probably caught every second sentence. Podcasts are about you choosing a time to listen to specific types of content and it doesn’t have to be commercial content. Because like blogging, there are fairly low barriers to entry, anyone can do it.

Which raises another thought, we’ve considered library blogs – what about library podcasts? Subject specialists podcasting about the latest titles in their area? Or podcasting reading group discussions? I know its a bit out there, but as libraries look at ways to extend service into the user’s workspace and homespace – e.g. Project Bluebird – here’s another technology to consider.

Getting your message to the people

This post was triggered by the Wired News report by Robert Andrews on Firefox’s marketing people have gone straight to video. They have produced three excellent humorous video clips showing web surfers using the browser for the first time.

In their attempt to get noticed they have provided a way to get to their target audience proactively. By producing something that people will want to send to their friends, the distribution process takes on a life of its own and the advert ‘just ends up’ in front of people.

The power of this approach is well demonstrated by the email distribution of a spoof music video circulating in the British Armed Forces causing the MOD computers to be brought to their knees last week. Incidentally this excellent video can be viewed in full here.

So whats this got to do with our world then?

Well there has been a debate running on LIS-PUB-LIBS over the last few days about where metadata about libraries is stored, what directories it is held in, and what responsibilities relate to the provision of that data. This is all very import and and key to making resources available.

To be useful to end users though, that data has to get to where the users are, because they won’t come looking for it.

So our next challenge then is if the user is in Google or Yahoo or their online telephone directory how do we get that information under his/her nose so that they can make use of it?

Answers on a postcard……

For those interested in Talis proposals, bloged by Paul Miller who started the thread, for the collection and provision of such data, take a look our response to the traffic on LIS-PUB-LIS:-


Thoughts on trusted source

Last month, I picked up Rupert Murdoch’s speech on the impact of the blogosphere on news media from Dan Gilmor’s Blog. When I went and read Murdoch’s speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, where he challenged the audience – a “bunch of digital immigrants” – to make themselves relevant to a new world of “digital natives” it felt very apposite to our own domain.

You can read Rupert Murdoch’s full speech at:
and its well worth a read.

I hadn’t given a lot of thought to the similarities between the newspaper industry and the library domain before, but the question he posed to a room full of newspaper editors is exactly the same as the question we (the library domain) are asking ourselves.

We live in an age where younger consumers or “digital natives” who are internet-savvy feel that they have sufficient information skills to connect with all the information they need. They don’t believe that the information that they can get from a library or printed media has anymore authority or air of truth about it than what they can find themselves from searching on Google.

Speaking as a user who relies heavily on Google, A9 and other search engines to find information on a huge wealth of subjects, I’m not going to denigrate them. My world would be all the poorer, if I had to go back in time and rely again on my own willpower to happen on the right places to find the correct information, but this should not make internet users complacent.

I recognise that once upon a time, when trusted reliable sources of information took more than a click of a button to arrive at, I used to think very seriously about where I was going to find out information. I spent a long time thinking about who offered authority on a subject before going to that authority for guidance. Many of us now skip that process, because of the sheer volume of data that is made accessible to us. We rely on algorithms to conduct that filtering process for us – but is that wise?

The impact of this was brought home to me, when I listened to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 on Wednesday 11th May. The subject was Hepatitis B, which is an infection that kills more than a million people every year. In the UK despite having a vaccine approved by the British Medical Association, available to us free-of-charge, we have 180,000 people who are chronically infected. We also have information that is freely available on the internet making a causal link between the vaccine and Multiple Sclerosis which have raised public fears around the treatment of Hep B.

Obviously its impossible to prove there is a correlation between the advancement of this disease in societies like the UK and the growing use of the internet. But as Tom Fielden, the BBC Science Editor pointed out, there does need to be a greater understanding by members of the public who are using the internet as their trusted source for medical information that not “all information is good information” and that we have “got to get cleverer in how we use it”.

There are lots of lessons here I feel, suggestions have been made that we lack authoritative bodies to conduct and publish the results of investigations into issues of public medical concern – the MMR vaccine has also been cited as another example where the groundswell of opinion clearly obfuscated the medical recommendations of authorities like the Chief Medical Officer.

But leaving aside the publishers of trusted information for a moment, surely we are also saying that the information profession continues to have a role in acting as a conduit, directing users to trusted digital sources? That piece of the jigsaw was missed out in the BBC report unfortunately. Within various Web2.0 discussions we hear about “reputation systems” like the eBay “seller rating” model evolving. I would like to see reputation systems built and based on knowledge acquired and understood by the information profession.

Blowing our own trumpet

Being British means, along with a great deal of other things, that we tend not to shout about our achevements too much.

Its really nice then when others do it for you, like Tate Nunley:

“Talis should also be congratulated since to my knowledge they are the only ILS vendor publicly blogging. The transparancy provided through blogging is a great benefit to both the customer and vendor in building closer relationships and in improving the product.”

Jenny Levine:

“…major congratulations to Talis for picking up the ball, running with it, crossing the goal line, spiking it, and kicking the extra point! Well done!”

and Paul Miller:

“Ever-reliable, Talis have taken a look, liked it, and done something with OpenSearch… “

With others doing it for us, I think I can overcome my British reserve and join in the chorus!

Talis is the Library System vendor who was first to blog with Panlibus, who’s CEO has a blog (Serendipity), who were first to provide RSS News feeds, first to provide open discussion forums, first with an OpenSearch implementation, and first with personalised RSS feeds for library users OK I’ll put my trumpet down now, other than to say that being in an organisation that gets it is a liberating and rewarding experience.

Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger, were not wrong in The Cluetrain Manifesto with their statement:

Employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets.

Library Link ‘is’ a good way forward

Jenny Levine on her theShiftedLibrarian blog posted an entry ‘Library Link Isn’t a Good Way Forward‘ whilst I suspect steam was emanating at high pressure from her ears.

She had prepared a presentation for a NEASIST event last week in which she shows how WorldCat could be integrated into online resources and used Wikipedia as the example resource.

I illustrated some ways WorldCat could be integrated into various online, non-library resources, one of which was Wikipedia. As an example, I edited the entry for The Da Vinci Code and under External Links, I added “Find libraries near you that own The Da Vinci Code” (snapshot).

Seventeen minutes later (that’s 1-7 minutes later), Violetriga removed my link, citing the very vague reason ” ‘find a library’ link isn’t a good way forward.”

WTF? Needless to say, I was beyond irked…..

The initial reaction is that Violetriga is being a bit precious about the content, and not getting it as to how ‘finding it in your library’ adds value to an entry.

I see now, from that Richard’s [no not me] comment on Jenny’s posting, that Wikipedia has a standard way of doing what she wanted to show. Makes you wonder why the link wasn’t changed to that instead of just being removed.

Anyway this example rings two bells in my head. Firstly 17 minutes! Thats how long it took the white blood cells of the Wikipedia community to start the healing process for one of its pages. I suspect that the unit of measure for something like Encarta is at least months as against minutes.

Secondly the Wikipedia Book sources special page demonstrates the vast array of choice a surfer has that will hopefully lead them to a copy of the the book at a location near them.

This then raises another set of issues around maintaining those links which Justin discusses in his blog entry Taking aim at deep linking problems with OPAC directory services last month. Interestingly RedLightGreen who is partnering with us in this area are one of the links off the Book sources page.


Justin has started a thread OPAC directory and deep linking on the Talis Research Forum so that interested parties can discuss ideas for developments around the service. Come join in……..

Hooray for WiFi in Haringey Libraries

We are holding “Talis Days” for both customers and prospective customers around the UK and Ireland over April and May. It’s not just an opportunity for Talis to talk about what we are doing. It’s been good to hear about the initiatives and business innovation from our customers. A good example is Haringey Council in London. They have set up free WiFi access in their libraries. Haringey are not alone of course. Lewisham have also implemented WiFi but it wasn’t a project lead by Libraries. Diana Edmonds, the Head of Libraries Archives and Museum Services, one of our best library entrepreneurs, should be lauded for making access free and available to everyone and to make it part of the library service. It’s also part of a wider initiative to improve library services. Book borrowing is on the rise too, contrary to national trends.

“With wi-fi technology we are looking to attract a whole new audience to our libraries, including people who may never even have thought of setting foot in one before. Hopefully young people will begin to see libraries as places that have something to offer them in the 21st century.

So hooray for Haringey Libraries!

Ken Chad

Talis Prism on a PSP?

In my posting a month back I was musing on the possibilities of the not too far off time when people will be wandering around their local Library, accessing their facilities via a hand-held games console.

Adrian Mackey of our Infrastructure Team, who has got his hands on one of these, has been experimenting with running Talis Prism on it. In his posting on the Talis Infrablog Adrian says:

As far as the prism experience goes, it was much better than I really expected from a limited browser in a device designed for games, entering the initial url takes a while ( similar to an mobile phone interface ), but once there navigation is straight forward, enter your search term, get an entry point and then you can zip around the results no problem…

So its not there yet, but at least an indication of what will be possible.

A collection of blogs from Talis

Those of you who have been watching Panlibus over the last few months will have noted that lurking within the walls of Talis’ Birmingham Offices are a group of people every ready to give forth on things Library, things Web [semantic or otherwise], things search, things metadata, things Open Source, etc., etc.

The band of happy Panlibans have recently been joined, in the stable of Talis Blogs, by the members of the Talis Infrastructure Team with their blog Infrablog.

The infrastructure team at Talis is a group of often unsung heros who keep the technological wheels turning at Talis, whilst ensuring the secure and reliable operation of Talis Systems at our 100 plus customers in all corners of the UK & Ireland.

Talis Infrablog gives an interesting insight into things hardware, operating system, networking, and all things in between, plus the thoughts and concerns of the guys that keep them rolling. Its well worth a read.

Whilst on the subject of Talis blogs I can’t let Dave Errington, Talis CEO, get away without a mention. Without his influence its unlikely that the rest of us would be as prolific in the blogosphere as we are. Practicing what he preaches Dave has his own blog Serendipity, also well worth a look see.

Remixing the library

In this post, Lorcan Dempsey rightly draws attention to the great work done by the University of Sunderland in creating a coherent and high impact web experience.

For many institutions their web presence represents an incredibly important point of contact between the students and the services they need.

One of the most exciting aspects web based systems is the ability to mix together services from different systems to create an entirely new experience. Physical buildings like the library or the lecture hall don’t really like being ripped up and mixed together, but the ability to surface library services in different ways, be that in the institutional portal or CRM system, creates a world of new possibilities and challenges.

Talis Prism, the system in use at the Library in Sunderland, has always been an extremely flexible product with advanced user interface configuration, but no matter how hard you try you won’t find a configuration setting that turns the Prism OPAC into a CRM system. Of course you need a different approach. Prism today allows you to surface functionality where and when you want it (for example, University of Birmingham, University of Portsmouth) using REST and WSDL based web services and Project Keystone aims to make this much easier including toolkits for portal and other systems integration. But as Richard Wallis describes in You’ll wonder where the Library went, the technical challenge is often the easier bit.

This remixing of services isn’t even limited to the institutions own systems. Services such as or and many others, need to deep link into the library service. Enabling robust integration between systems inside and outside the institution is another level of challenge again. You can read more about how the Talis Research Group is solving some of these problems in my recent post, Taking aim at deep linking problems with OPAC directory services.

I personally can’t wait to see what gets remixed next.