Panlibus Blog

Archive for January, 2008

From the CEO’s shelf

DSC00362 A few days ago I recorded a podcast with Bob McKee the Chief Executive of CILIP – the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK.  The interesting and entertaining podcast can be listened to here.

The experience was a first for both of us – my first face to face recording in the Talis offices and his first podcast interview.  Looking for a quiet unoccupied area I used the office of our CEO, Dave Errington, as he was out for the day. I didn’t realise until his blog post that my choice of location would create such an impression with Bob.

Bob perused Dave’s bookshelf on his way out..

I had a quick peek at the reading matter on display: plenty of stuff on technology (as you might expect) but also lots of good stuff on management and leadership.

Also on the CEO’s bookshelf was John McEnroe’s autobiography, Serious? – an intriguing choice, confirming that sport can be used as a metaphor for management (and indeed for most things in life) and bringing me back to that question I’ll be thinking about while listening to the podcast.  Think of discourse through social media as having the same authority and validity as discourse through conference papers or learned journals or policy documents – you cannot be serious?!? Or can you?…

One of the books missing from Dave’s shelf that day is one that will answer Bob’s hanging question – The Cluetrain Manifesto

Markets are conversations – the message of the book backed up by insightfulness such as “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.”

Like all books of the ilk it is targeted at the commercial world, but by replacing company, employee and market with institute, member, community, and profession, the message is equally valid for CILIP and the world of libraries.  It is all about the conversation, which is not that easy with the online persona of Mr McKee – you can’t comment on his musings unless you register and login to the site that hosts his blog, and how to do that is not that obvious. 

Bob should be complemented and encouraged for his forward thinking and dipping his toe in the online social world and launching his From the Executive’s Desk blog, but go on Bob forget the toe – dive in and go the whole way.  Open up the conversation, make it easy for anyone to comment, ping the blog search engines like Technorati when you post, allow trackbacks.  If you are going to do this social networking thing – You must be Serious!

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Polaris Library System CEO, Bill Schickling Talks with Talis

BillShickling In this Talking with Talis episode I am in conversation with President and CEO of Polaris Library Systems, Bill Schickling.

Polaris scored well in the recent International Survey of Library Automation, Perceptions 2007, published in Library Technology Guides by Marshall Breeding. The survey was the subject of a previous Talking with Talis podcast with Marshall Breeding.

As well as discussing what may lie behind Polaris’ good showing in the survey, we open out the conversation to Bill’s view of the ILS sector in general.


This conversation was conducted as a SkypeOut call on Monday 28th January 2008, recorded with Ecamm Network‘s Call Recorder for Skype, and edited on a Mac with Garageband.
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What is it with all this Platform and Semantic Web stuff?

This is the elephant in the room type question that I can often feel not being asked by folks in the library community who know Talis’ history and activities over many years.

At first glance, taking an excursion around the Platform areas of, or reading the posts on our sister blog Nodalities, or listening to the many excellent podcasts hosted by Paul Miller that are published there, you could be forgiven for wondering exactly that.

In the presentation I gave at the Talis Insight Conference, in November I addressed this question – placing the library technology world in context against the background of the waves of technology in the wider world of the web. Take a look maybe it will help in the understanding of the future benefits that this work will bring in to the library technology sphere.

So what are some of principles behind his Semantic Web based Platform? Questions that Microsoft Evangelist Jon Udell probed, when he interviewed me for his Interviews with Innovators series on IT Conversations. Worth a listen also, as he inquires what we are up to.


Yes, but what practical uses will Semantic Web technologies be in the library world? There are many, but to pick just one. By evolving cataloging practices to embrace RDF (a way of semantically describing data), some of the unfulfilled ambitions of cataloguers, in the area of simply linking together authors and their works, could be realised.

SemanticMarc Three of my colleagues (Rob Styles, Danny Ayers, and Nadeem Shabir) have published a paper Semantic Marc, MARC21 and the Semantic Web [pdf] on Rob’s blog. This paper takes you through the process of translating MARC21 records directly in to RDF, then building on that basic RDF representation in to a more readable form and then on in to realising the ambitions of things like FRBR. A very readable and enlightening paper, well worth a read.

So, hopefully having browsed through that lot you will have a better idea why a library company with a nearly 40 year long heritage is actively engaging with this Platform and Semantic Web stuff – because it will help build better library services.

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Terry Reese shares his Top Tech Trends on Talking with Talis

terry_reese Oregon State University’s Terry Reese could not easily get in to the LITA Top Tech Trends session at ALA Midwinter, so he drafted his own non-LITA Top Tech Trends and posted them on his blog Terry’s Worklog.

Terry joins us on this Talking with Talis podcast to describe and expand upon his five top tech trends:

  1. Ultra-light and small PCs
  2. Branding outside services as our own
  3. Collections as services will change the way libraries do collection development
  4. Increased move to outside library IT and increased love for hosted services
  5. OCLC will continue to down the path to becoming just another vendor


Sites referenced in the conversation:

This conversation was conducted as a Skype call on Thursday 17th January 2008, recorded with Ecamm Network‘s Call Recorder for Skype, and edited on a Mac with Garageband.
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Talis goes for SirsiDynix – but not this Talis!

tasgovlogo_1 What’s in a name? Everything when two, sort of connected, organisations share the same name.

Reading the river of news that flows through my RSS reader this morning I was brought up short by the following quote:

….Now with our new TALIS partnership, we look forward to bringing the power and flexibility of SirsiDynix Symphony and the expertise…

Did I miss an email from our CEO? – Is it April 1st? – Did I get out of bed in to a parallel universe this morning? – All thoughts that flashed through my caffeine deprived brain, until I realised that it was the other Talis.

The SirsiDynix press release was actually talking about the Tasmanian Automated Library Information System (TALIS) Network, choosing SirsiDynix software.  Phew, time for a coffee and a lay down.

I’m hoping to meet with the folks from Tasmania in a forthcoming trip to Australia.  So look out for the Talis meets Talis blog post in a couple of months.  – Do you think I will get very far asking them to change their name?  

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Open Access to 10,000 Databases

Thanks to Roy Tennant for the heads up on this.

Index Data, WebFeat, and CARE Affiliates have partnered to provide SRU and Z39.50 searching of the 9,000 plus databases for which WebFeat have developed connectors.  They are calling this ‘product’ OpenTranslators™.  By adding the many databases Index Data already make available, subscribers will be able gain possible access to over 10,000.

From the press release:

OpenTranslators will allow libraries to use the federated search interface of their choice to access over 10,000 databases using SRU/SRW/Z39.50. The databases consist of: licensed databases, free databases, catalogs, Z39.50, Telnet and proprietary databases.

As Index Data’s Sebastian Hammer says in an email posting to Z39.50 Next Generation (ZNG) list:

I’m thrilled about this offering. Pushing content providers to support standards has long been an uphill battle; for many of the small, but interesting database providers, it simply isn’t possible. This technology allows us to dynamically search these resources, through whatever user interface we can imagine, without having to worry about building and maintaining complex gateways for each database. We will continue to encourage database providers to support standards, but in the meanwhile, this service provides a migration path — a way to start building new, exciting interfaces *today*. It is our hope that this in turn will lead to more interest in standards, and more database providers actively supporting this.

As Roy says:

In on stroke, they have made all of these sources available for searching by any application that can work with one of these protocols. All that is required is to contact CARE Affiliates, let them know what sources you want to search and they will provide a quote.

This new service increased the scope for those looking to add databases to their metasearch tools.

Using the name OpenTranslators for this subscription product from CARE Affiliates attracted some questioning about how ‘open’ it is.  CARE’s Carl Grant answered most of these points in his blog reply.  In summary he says that the ‘open’ is referring to the standards (Z39.50 & SRU) that you use to access the connectors and not the service or the software behind it.

Fair enough – at least we now can subscribe to a service which gives you a consistent search protocol across so many databases.  A significant step forward, along the much longer road of providing real open access to open data.

Photo of the Giants Causeway, which reminds me of lots of disc drives, by Effervescing Elephant – published on Flickr.

CILIP Chief Executive Bob McKee Talks With Talis

Bob McKee In this Talking with Talis podcast episode I am in conversation with Bob McKee, Chief Executive of CILIP – the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK.

Bob, a librarian with a long career in public libraries and local government, shares his interesting and entertaining views and opinions about the challenges faced by his organisation and the professionals it supports.

He also discusses his experience of blogging From the Chief Executive’s Desk.


This conversation was recorded on Friday 18th January 2008, on a Mac with Garageband.
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Perceptions 2007 – Marshall Breeding Talks with Talis about an International Survey of Library Automation

The subject of this Talking with Talis podcast is Marshall Breeding, of Vanderbilt University. He is well known in the world of Library automation for his conference presentations, writings and, the Library Technology Guides site.

In the latter part of 2007 he conducted a survey of the opinions of libraries, which was published a few days ago.

We discuss the the survey, which attracted some 1,700 responses from 47 countries, the results and what they may be telling us about the current state of library automation.

Referenced in this conversation:

This conversation was conducted as a SkypeOut call on Thursday 17th January 2008, recorded with Ecamm Network‘s Call Recorder for Skype, and edited on a Mac with Garageband.
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Commons 2.0

Tame The Web gives a heads up on the Bryan Sinclair article in EDUCAUSE Quaterly – Commons 2.0: Library Spaces Designed for Collaborative Learning.

The article is about the way in which the physical spaces, provided for students to gather and work with technology, need to evolve with the times to meet the needs of those students.  Moving away from the static computer lab towards an environment that incorporates the freedom of wireless communication, flexible workspace clusters that promote interaction and collaboration, and comfortable furnishings, art, and design to make users feel relaxed, encourage creativity, and support peer-learning.

Bryan comments:

With the rise of Web 2.0 and social software we are witnessing a major shift in the ways students approach and use information. They no longer merely consume and download information; increasingly, they create and participate in it. They are social creatures in every way that past generations were and in some new ways, sharing information digitally and using each other as sounding boards. They value social experiences that blend communication and learning.

Social software in the form of blogs, wikis, MySpace, Flickr, and YouTube is merely an extension of this socialization in a wired culture. The software, spaces, and instruction provided to today’s students should encourage them to become well-equipped participants in an online global community, skilled in written and visual communication and critical thinking. We can provide innovative spaces and facilities, but ultimately the instruction we provide is key to creating ethical and effective online citizens.

I contend that it is equally important for the academic libraries, who should be creating Commons 2.0 spaces for their students, to be following their own lead and ensure that the libraries become well-equipped participants in an online global community.  Looking at what online resources are available for students, from their University, it is clear that we have a long way to go in getting a joined up view.

Few would argue that academic institutions, and their libraries, have not in general grasped the online world and done much with it.  Nevertheless, in most cases you will find little or no integration between learning management systems, institutional repositories, library catalogues, local databases, course reading list systems, journal aggregators, and the like.  That’s just at the search and discovery interface level, delve down into how the valuable data within those systems is interconnected and examples become nonexistent.

Many use Google as an example of search to take notice of.  Check out their results page – be it a video, or a map, or a web page, or a book, or a person, you get a seamless integration of all those resources in one place.  How many universities can give their students that – be it a book, a reading list, a professor, a journal article, or pre-print.

The academic world has come a long way, but has got much further to go both in the physical, and the online, Commons 2.0

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Photo of Learning Resource Centre South Devon College published on Flickr by  jisc_infonet.

Library Automation Survey – Salutary reading for some vendors

 Marshall Breeding has published Perceptions 2007: An International Survey of Library Automation on Library Technology Guides.

The year 2007 saw considerable upheaval in the library automation industry. To get some sense of the aftermath of the recent rounds of mergers, acquisitions, product consolidations, and to gauge interest in open source automation systems, I created and executed a survey that aims to measure the prevailing perceptions in libraries.

A total of 1,779 individuals from 47 different countries responded to the survey. The vast majority were from the United States (1,484), Canada (125), and the United Kingdom (51). Many library types were represented, including 1,012 public, 512 academic, and 53 consortia. Survey results were gathered between August 8, 2007 and January 5, 2008.

He says:

I trust that libraries will also take the results with the proverbial “grain of salt.” Knowing something about the perceptions of other libraries regarding a given product or company can be an important component in making automation decisions. But it shouldn’t be overemphasized. I worry that surveys like this one draw out the negative more than the positive. A survey provides an opportunity to vent against a vendor during a problematic episode, even when the relations with that vendor have been positive over the longer term.

Nevertheless the folks at SirsiDynix must be a little concerned, coupling low satisfaction scores with a high interest in migration.  In a similar, but opposite way, the folks at Polaris must be pleased.

Thanks Marshall for this insight in to the Library Systems world which many will find useful and interesting.

Footnote: Marshall presented at the Talis Insight Conference and the video of his presentation Working toward a new model of library automation: Opportunities to break free from the traditional mould [Day 2, Track 1, 12:30] is available to view, along with many others, from the conference site.

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Picture published by Monceau on Flickr.