Panlibus Blog

Archive for July, 2007

Peter Brantley Talking with Talis

peter_brantley Executive Director of the Digital Library Federation, Peter Brantley is the guest on this Talking with Talis podcast.  Speaking from the Berkeley campus in the San Francisco bay area, he talks about his background and the activities and role of the Federation before moving to the challenges of libraries in the digital world.

Listen Now

Download MP3 [34 mins, 31Mb]

This conversation was conducted as a SkypeOut call on Thursday 26th July, recorded with Ecamm Network‘s Call Recorder for Skype, and edited on a Mac with Garageband.

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The Open Library, and keeping it open

A couple of days ago Richard blogged about data licensing on The Open Library.

Aaron came back to comment:

Our position is that the actual catalog data on Open Library consists of uncopyrightable facts and thus is public domain. We certainly aren’t going to assert a copyright on it. The real open question is what copyright to use for descriptions and bios and other longer textual material — should we use GFDL, like Wikipedia, or some more reasonable license?

Certainly I agree with him that the factual data cannot be protected by Copyright. Facts, titles, names, short phrases, single words; none of these can be Copyrighted in the sense of a Creative Work, but there is more to Copyright than that.

A few weeks back I was talking in Banff and then in Paris about the need to license data, not to keep it closed, but to keep it open. In that discussion I broke the world into three parts, Data, Metadata and Content. Aaron is doing the same kind of split – bibliographic data and review content. That’s the right distinction to be making.

For the creative aspects there is Copyright protection, and various licenses extend this in different ways, CC, GFDL and others. The Open Library should pick whichever is the closest match to what they want to achieve. I suspect a CC-BY license would be closest, but that’s a decision for them and the community.

But what about the data? The question isn’t “can it be protected?” but “how does it need protecting and what from?”.

Now, I trust the Internet Archive. They’re probably the only people on the internet to have a wholly untarnished halo and that’s a very good thing. But things can change. There are direct parallels between what The Open Library is doing and what CDDB did back in the 90’s. The Fez Guys have a great write up of what happened to CDDB/Escient/Gracenote, but to summarize… A large community generated database of music metadata got locked away by a corporate body. It didn’t happen because CDDB planned all along to dupe their community, it didn’t happen because anyone was ‘evil’. It happened because a commercial organization needed to make money and the community had no protection from that.

An alternative service did spring up, which is what you want to happen in that circumstance. set up using the CDDB software and someone in the Gracenote extended staff leaked them a copy of the database. With the correct licensing in place – a data equivalent of the GPL – FreeDB could simply have requested a copy. The community would have been protected.

I don’t want what happened with CDDB to happen with The Open Library, and to stop it requires a clear license that protects the community from The Open Library as well as The Open Library from anyone else.

This is the area we developed Talis Community License to cover (and yes, the name is draft too, it will change). We’ve been using it to protect contributions to our platform data services for over a year. It protects contributors from us as it prevents us, or anyone else, from locking the community’s data away at a later date. It’s an Open License, anyone can use it to protect their users contributions in the same way.

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Joan Lippincott talks with Talis about the Net Generation

Joan-Lippincott Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director – Coalition for Networked Information, a librarian, with a career in University libraries, that has been with the CNI since the beginning.

Joan talks through how the Net Generation of students now using our universities are creating challenges for libraries and librarians.

Listen Now

Download MP3 [47 mins, 43Mb]

During our conversation we reference these resources:

This conversation was conducted as a SkypeOut call on Wednesday 18th July, recorded with Ecamm Network‘s Call Recorder for Skype, and edited on a Mac with Garageband.

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The Future is in Web Services

LJ71507cover In an article in the latest issue of the Library Journal Netconnect supplement, Library Web Services, Richard Akerman highlights the importance of Web Services for the future evolution of library services.

No library can afford to be an information island in the modern world. Resource sharing can extend beyond the exchange of books to the exchange of software. Just as sharing books enables many people to benefit from the same knowledge, sharing services enables many libraries to gain capabilities that otherwise would be out of reach. By consuming services and perhaps even developing your own, ideally all within the context of a larger library service–oriented architecture, libraries will be able collectively to provide their patrons with the rich web experiences they have come to expect.

Richard identifies the role Google and Amazon have played in shaping these expectations of library users, causing them to be more demanding of the library web presence, but “libraries, constrained by catalog vendor offerings, have struggled to advance their online visibility and capabilities

He uses the analogy of Inter Library Loan to emphasize the point that web services are not very different to what libraries have been doing for years.

Web services let your organization reach out to other libraries, enabling better technology tools for library interconnection, going beyond basic interlibrary loan (ILL) to more advanced types of search and data combination.

To many the tools and terminology of the Web 2.0, Web Services, world is unfamiliar, so he points to some useful briefing papers to fill in the background. Having said that, the concepts are probably simpler than getting your head around Z39.50.

The difference, for the library community, is that the web service standards have come from the wider world as backed by the W3C and can be used for any sort of interaction, they are not just for libraries. This is a challenge, not just for the libraries, but also for the system vendors who do not have a great track record in opening up their systems with industry standard APIs or web services.

It is in recognition of this that we at Talis have produced Talis Keystone. Keystone uses web services to liberate the data and functionality of a library system so that it is easily consumed by non-library systems. Keystone is already delivering live borrower/patron information injected in to campus portals (Queens University, University of Greenwich, University College Dublin, University of Manchester) – check-out the video to see how [because of the use of Web Services, and having a sandbox development area] Keystone has opened up opportunities for delivering library functionally across the Queens University Campus. With implementers preparing to, open source, share their portal integration work (JSR168 – for those that are interested) it will be even simpler for others to follow their lead.

It is by exposing library data for use in systems far beyond the library walls, for purposes that librarians probably will not currently envisage, its true value to the wider community will be realized.

In the article Richard provides some examples:

Library web services explode catalog modules to make dynamic content available in catalogs and where patrons live online. For example, with existing library web services, you can get a list of ISBNs that match a particular book (OCLC’s xISBN service or LibraryThing’s functionally similar ThingISBN), install Amazon’s SimilarityLookup, or find information from Talis on library branches that actually hold a copy. You can pull in all sorts of additional functionality that you may have neither the time nor the capability to develop locally.

Those using web services require some technical sophistication but often not much beyond what’s needed to put together a complex web site. As consistent—and documented—sets of web services become more widely available, the barriers to use get lower all the time.

With its work building a library platform, for example, the UK-based Talis has created a set of interconnecting and documented web services suitable for use in enriching existing applications or in creating wholly new applications such as its proof of concept Project Cenote. Paul Miller, Talis senior manager and technology evangelist, says, “Web services offer all of us a long overdue opportunity to break apart the monolithic library system, permitting its reassembly from best-of-breed components drawn from across the industry.”

U.S. and UK developers have used the Talis Platform to make new catalog views available in quick order. Ross Singer, an LJ 2007 Mover & Shaker and a developer at Georgia Tech, says, “Overall, I’m really impressed with the Talis API. It is a lot easier to use than, say, Z39.50.”

The Talis Platform and the Talis Developer Network, its open development community, stand as the company’s technical, social, and business vision of the future. Talis currently claims to serve about 25 percent of the library market in the UK but does not have products for sale in the United States.

Its great that he uses The Talis Platform as an example – there again, it is such an obvious one. I must pick him up on a couple of points though.

Firstly, he gives the impression that Talis is a UK only organization. It is true we are based in the UK, and our traditional ILS/LMS application is a UK & Ireland only product, but the Talis Platform is a Web-scale product and therefore by definition geography is not a restriction to its availability – as proven by one of the early adopters being in Georgia USA.

Secondly, you could be forgiven for believing that the Talis Platform is only for library application builders. This is far from the truth – the Platform is a generic platform suitable any sector dealing with information-rich applications.

For the library world we do nevertheless have a version of the Platform specialized for libraries – the Talis Library Platform that has built in awareness of library formats such as MARC, ISO2709, Dublin Core etc.

Nevertheless, despite these couple of clarifications, this is an excellent article and well worth a read.

For those that want to know more about the Talis Library Platform, and Keystone developments, we have recently launched the Talis Library Platform News, a monthly newsletter to keep you up to date with developments around the Platform of specific interest to the library community. – Take a look and subscribe to the monthly updates.

License for Open Library ?

In my post about the launch of the Open Library, I questioned what licence would cover the data that is contributed.

The question elicited the following in a comment from the Open Library Project’s Aaron Swartz:

Some information provided for promotional purposes by the publisher. Additional information and edits added by users. All contributions are in the public domain. For more information about our data, see how you can help.” We’re hoping to decide on licensing terms in more detail with the help of the community on the lists.

From my, very limited, understanding of copyright “in the public domain” means whoever can do whatever they like with it – probably not what is actually is required.

Coincidentally over on our sister blog, Nodalities, Paul posted this –A good reason to license your ‘open data’ ? – I didn’t prompt him, honest.

The post references Chris Rusbridge, Director of Digital Curation Centre who appears ….

….to back our assertion (eg listen to Rob Styles make his opening statement in the Linked Data panel at WWW2007) that ‘simply’ throwing data out onto the web to be re-used and abused is a bad idea

Even (especially?) if you wish data to be as widely and freely used as possible, it is important to apply an appropriate license.

As Paul goes on to say…

Such licenses make it clear to the scrupulous (who will interpret the absence of explicit permission as “All Rights Reserved”) that reuse is permissible, and can act to prevent the subsequent lock-down of ‘public domain’ data by those who follow.

So I recommend that those behind the Open Library do not put off the choice of licensing for too long.  In my post I recommended the Talis Community Licence as a candidate for consideration.  Paul also referenced it in his post:

The Talis Community License is one example of an explicit Open Data license, and we are working with a number of partners to ‘finish’ this license, rename it, and hand it off for independent upkeep moving forward. As always, I’m happy to discuss this further…

That’s two of us happy to discuss!

Picture by Laughing Squid displayed in Flickr under a Creative Commons License
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The Open Library – Open for Business

OpenLibrary From Aaron Swartz:

… today I’m extraordinarily proud to announce the Open Library project. Our goal is to build the world’s greatest library, then put it up on the Internet free for all to use and edit. Books are the place you go when you have something you want to share with the world — our planet’s cultural legacy. And never has there been a bigger attempt to bring them all together.

There have been rumors about it for a while now, its great to see it open for business, even if it is only in demo mode for now.

Backed by the Internet Archive and the Open Content Alliance – from the look of the links in the footer, this ambitious project is looking good.

It is based on the wiki approach, with every page editable, both for the interface and for the bibliographic records.  I can imagine great fun in the future comparing the revision history of a contentious record as passionate cataloguers fight in virtual space over the correct form.

Visually it is has a certain almost antique charm about it, nevertheless I like it.

Creating a site which “For the first time, we’ll have an open, public, curated, universal catalog of all books” presents several challenges.  Not least which cataloguing schema to use.  Open Library are creating their own called ‘futurelib’.

Like the MARC format, we’ll want our schema to contain all the important bibliographic information that librarians want to collect about books. But we’ll also want to take advantage of all the things we’ve learned since MARC. We’ll also want to store some information that’s of less importance to librarians, but of more importance to publishers (like the ONIX format stores) and arbitrary users. And we’ll have to figure out how to present all this data in a way that makes sense to relatively untutored users.

For those interested, here is a draft schema.

Not satisfied with proposing a new cataloging schema, they are also proposing “a new, universal book identification scheme – OLN” – the kind of stuff to keep the library mailing lists exited for months!

The only thing I can not find in my brief browse around the site is any reference to licensing for use of the data contributed to the Open Library – if I’ve missed it someone please point me at it.  For the Open Library to be truly open, little things like licensing need to be clarified.  The Talis Community Licence is an obvious candidate for addressing this aspect of openly sharing freely contributed data. I will be more than happy to discuss it with the people behind the Open Library, as we are with several other organizations and communities interested in Open Data and commons licensing.

I welcome the project and complement the people behind it, they have done a great job in a short time.  I shall be watching it closely as it develops – and I bet I won’t be the only one.

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Talis – Talking with Peter Morville about Ambient Findability

petermorville001 Peter Morville’s career started with an advanced degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan’s School of Information.  He has since become an internationally recognized consultant and thought leader in Information Architecture and Findability.

In this free ranging conversation we discuss some of the issues that his books Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and Ambient Findability, address, and the way search and findability are handled on the web today. The conversation is even more interesting because of Peter’s library science background.

Listen Now

Download MP3 [40 mins, 36Mb]

During the conversation we reference the following:

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A message to Library Vendors from Jon Udell

JonUdellBlog Microsoft’s Jon Udell – he of LibraryLookup fame – got up early this morning to post A message for library catalog vendors.  (posting at 6:45am indeed! – he’ll get us bloggers a bad name).

Jon’s LibraryLookup project is almost five years old – have library mashups been around that long! Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun.  For the odd one or two who have missed out on LibraryLookup, it is a browser installed bookmarklet which looks up books, found on book-related web sites such as Amazon, in your library catalogue.  The forerunner of many similar tools, including our own Amazon@Libraries Firefox extension which connects you with library holdings contributed to the Talis Platform.

Having had the library lobe of his brain stimulated by a post from lifehacker about book-hacks, he delivers three of bits of simple wisdom to the library system vendors of the world.

  1. Add a simple search pattern url to your OPAC interface:

    If only it was that simple I hear issuing from my fellow system vendors.   Well it flipping well should be, and if it isn’t that simple it is our fault.

    OK the syntax is not quite the same ( but the current Talis OPAC has always done this, because it was an assumption from the start of its design that the search prompt may not be the only way to fire off a search.  Up until recently, that assumption was pretty rare in our community.

  2. Use the OCLC’s xISBN service to expand the search to include all manifestations of the work indicated by the given ISBN.

    Did I hear another shout of “if only it was that simple” from someone?

    That one is a little more difficult Jon, as it requires delving in to the inner search logic of the system to get it to interact with the normal search results and then do a bit more searching.  You would also have to do some digging around in the display logic in ways that librarians have been agonizing about for years – how do you simply display to the user that you hold various versions of the same book without confusing him/her?

    [Update]There is another hurdle to clear when following this suggestion, that I omitted to mention when I wrote this earlier.  Can the library justify the expense in implementing this.  xISBN is free to use if you are serving less than 500 searches per day.  But as I discussed previously, the costs rise significantly for higher usage levels.  So even if implementing it is easier than I describe, a library will have to decide as to the cost benefit for providing the service to their users. 
    Again the fact this is not easy is the fault of the developers of the systems we [currently] rely on in libraries, which almost without exception have software in them that are several years old.

  3. Create a bookmarklet for your library and display it, and how to use it, prominently on your site for users to download.

    Now that one is that simple – so why is it not done? – Lack of understanding/motivation by library system managers, possibly.  – Lack of guidance/enthusiasm by vendors, almost certainly.

Thanks Jon for your message, keep sending them.  Whenever you point your thoughts in a library direction, it is always stimulating and interesting.  These three thought show in sharp relief of un-agile the software behind the current crop of OPACs is.  Things are a changing – watch this space!

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Tony Durcan talks with Talis

tony_durcan Tony Durcan, President of the Society of Chief Librarians, joins me for the latest in the mini-series of podcasts on future of Public Libraries in England.

Tony who is Head of Culture and Lifelong Learning, for the City of Newcastle, has only recently become the Society President.

We discuss his background in Libraries, the challenges a public library service of today faces, and the role of the Society of Chief Librarians.  Our conversation moves on to the way forward for public libraries in England, and the current associated debate.

Listen Now

Download MP3 [22 mins, 20Mb]

During the conversation, we refer to the following resources:

The conversation conducted by telephone on Monday 9th July 2007, edited in Garageband.  

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Hampshire’s Richard Ward talks with Talis

RichardWard This episode in a mini-series of Talking with Talis podcasts for and about those with opinions and interest  in the future of Public Libraries in England is with Richard Ward, Head of Library services for the county of Hampshire.

We talk about the challenges of providing library services to a diverse population in a large English county; Hampshire’s Discovery Centres; and how being the case study for Tim Coate’s controversial “Who’s in Charge?” report impacted on the library service.

We then move on to discuss the future of Public Libraries and the debate between those concerned about that future.

Listen Now

Download MP3 [39 mins, 36Mb]

 During the conversation, we refer to the following resources:

The conversation conducted by telephone on Thursday 5th July 2007, edited in Garageband.  

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