Panlibus Blog

Archive for May, 2009

OCLC Dumps New Record Reuse Policy

Jennifer Younger OCLC logo Jennifer Younger, Chair of the OCLC Review Board of Shared Data Creation & Stewardship announced in a presentation on May 18th [video stream and presentation slides here] that they are to “Formally withdraw the proposed policy

From her presentation:

  • We affirm that a policy is needed, but not this policy
  • Formally withdraw the proposed policy
  • Until a new policy is in place, reaffirm the existence and applicability of the Nov. 16, 1987 “Guidelines for the Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records”

She goes on to explain how they are to move on to “Discuss the role and value of WorldCat in the information ecosystem, and ways in which it can be leveraged” – “Devise a process for drafting and maintaining a new policy” [quotes from slides]

In her speech [from 16 minutes in] she indicated that the process for drawing up a new policy “must involve the governance structure of OCLC – the proposed policy is fundamental to the functioning of OCLC

The development of this policy without sufficient consultation has led some to the conclusion that members are not successfully influencing the directions of the organisation; which in the eyes of some weakens OCLC.  It’s certainly not in our best interest

An announcement, and honest admission of getting it very wrong, that I suspect nobody at OCLC expected to be making only a few short months ago.  It is now up to their membership to influence and help the organisation get these fundamental principles right.

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Breaking the Open Source Barriers 2009

openlibraries I seem to be spending lots of time on trains recently.  This time I’m on my way back from the OpenLibraries Open Source Breaking the Barriers 2009 conference held at RIBA in London.

Jointly organised by Ken Chad Consulting and PTFS Europe, this was an interesting day, although I think it would have been better titled the Open Source in Libraries Conference, but that’s probably just me.

The UK library world hasn’t really stepped on the Open Source ILS/LMS band-wagon yet.  At most, interest so far has been of the ‘watching developments across the Atlantic’ type.  So for many, today was the first chance to think about it in a conference setting.  The day was kicked off by a thought provoking Charles Leadbeater who set open source in context with other trends in the web and social spaces.  Conference organiser Ken Chad was about to launch in to his presentation when he was rudely interrupted by a fire alarm.  Six flights of stairs later, we all convened in the street for 15 minutes whilst the cause of the false alarm was tracked down by the fire brigade.  Luckily this unscheduled networking opportunity took place in the sunshine – an hour later and we would have all been drenched.

What felt like far more than six stair flights were then scaled, with Ken’s thoughts on the value that an Open Source approach can provide to our sector, as a reward.

Bob Molyneux of Equinox and Mike Taylor of Index Data gave some different views from companies successfully delivering, and building a business out of, Open Source software.  Bob detailed how much their Evergreen system had developed since its initial deployment for Georgia PINES.  Mike reminded us that many proprietary systems, Talis’ included, use Index Data Open Source components.

They were followed by BibLibre’s Paul Poulain who took us through SOPAC (the subject of a Talking with Talis Podcast with it’s developer and Library 2.0 Gang member, John Blyberg) and how he was linking it with Koha.

Representative of the co-organisers, Nick Dimant then took us through how PTFS Europe, an established company in other associated areas, could support libraries whishing to contemplate either an Evergreen or Koha installation.  He painted a stark picture of what it was like in a proprietary system vendor, short on funds to invest in their products, unable to innovate, cutting back on support where sleeping cats answered the phones.  Although entertaining, and possibly based on experience in some organisations, it was not a picture I recognise from within Talis. 

Mark  Hughes and Paul Johnson of Swansea University later described the why’s when’s and how’s of the choice and implementation (still in progress) of a VuFind based OPAC for the three university consortium in South Wales – SWWHEP.  They were followed by Strathclyde University lecturer, Alan Poulter who described how he used multiple copies of Koha to give students, on his MSc Digital Libraries module, experience of a using a real library system – from creating borrowers  and library rules to cataloguing in Marc.

The last section of the day, described by Ken as the view from the proprietary systems vendors, consisted of Ex Libris’  Director of Marketing, Tamar Sadeh, and myself.

Tamar talked through the Ex Libris open-platform program, (the subject of another Talking with Talis podcast) explaining how openly sharing the documentation of their APIs with their customers, stimulates innovation that can then be shared in that community.  The code being hosted by Ex Libris under the licence of choice from the developer.   Of course most of us in the audience, not being Ex Libris customers with logins to the Ex Libris site, only have her presented screen shots to support her descriptions.  We will have to wait for Ex Libris to open up this open site before we can browse the innovations she was extolling.

It was left to me to bring the presentations to a close with 20 minutes worth on Open Source projects, Jangle and JuiceMy slides are on SlideShare, where you can see the overview I gave of why Jangle in providing a consistent Web Standards based way of connecting to Open Source and Proprietary Library Systems, will enable and stimulate innovation.  I took advantage of one of the better conference wifi connections to demonstrate the power of Juice Project extensions adding to the user experience of Talis Prism, VuFind and discovery interfaces.

Overall a very good, well attended, with something for everyone, day.

Videos from Code4lib 2009 published

The excellent presentations and lightening talks from the Code4lib 2009 Conference held in Providence, Rhode Island in February were videoed for posterity.

With sponsorship help from Talis, these have now been edited and published on the Code4lib 2009 site.

Each presentation is linked from the relevant slot in the conference schedule.

Those that followed the conference will be aware that there were 3 Talis presentations which I recommend for viewing – Ian Davis, Ross Singer and myself.

Will the eBook make it across the chasm

I’m currently hurtling through the English countryside on a Wifi enabled train having spent the day at E-books and E-content 2009 held at University College London.  An interesting and stimulating day  with a well matched but varied set of speakers, including yours truly (presentation on SlideShare).  The eighty strong audience were also a varied selection from academic libraries, academia in general, publishers and the information media.

The move towards a web of data, enabled by the emergence of semantic web technologies and practices, was one of my themes. Another was a plea for content publishers and providers to deliver their content to the user where he/she is.  Not expecting them to be driven to their site with a totally different interface.  This is a difficult one for the eContent industry, at a time when the publishers are in the middle of a “my platform is better than yours” battle.  Nevertheless, a student wants the content their course has recommended, not caring who published it or which aggregator their library licensed it from.

adoption curve In laying the ground, I initially discussed the technology adoption curve and how technologies don’t become mainstream overnight.  Any new technology, or new way of doing things, follows a standard pattern with a small number of innovators taking the initial often enthusiastic risk.  The early adopters then build on the innovators’ success and and join in, still very early with some risk. When the new way has been proven, adoption has increased and both costs and risk have fallen, the early and late majorities take it to mass acceptance and adoption.  This only leaves the laggards, who will only come on board if forced by circumstance.

As an adjunct to the adoption curve, I spoke about a chasm which technologies have to cross, between the early adopters and the early majority before they take off.  There are many promising technologies that failed to cross that chasm.  For example, technology watchers at the time predicted that the mini-disc would replace the cassette tape, but as we know the CD took that prize.

Today’s conference was mostly focussed on the eBook and it’s impact on libraries and publishers.  This is on the assumption that it will be the way of delivering book sized pieces of content in the approaching digital world.  In answer to a challenging question for the end of day panel, I concluded that this is by no means certain.  I believe direct access to articles will eventually see the end of the traditional journal issue format. In a similar way I believe there is a good chance that chunks of content, that are today of book size, may well be assembled and delivered in a digital object as yet to be identified.

So will the eBook jump the adoption chasm?  If I was a betting man I would only back it on an each way basis.  I believe that anyone betting their whole business model on it being a certain winner, may just be taking too much of a risk.

Photo from mstorz published on Flickr

What ‘is’ Web-Scale?

Cloud%003F It will have been difficult to miss OCLC’s recent Cloud Computing announcement.  If you have, the headline is that they say they are building an architecture capable of handling all the transactions of all libraries, meaning that they can add circulation, acquisitions, license management and several other aspects of library management to their WorldCat shared discovery capability.

As you can imagine, all this built upon racks of computers hosted at OCLC’s data centre combining their power to deliver a service to many users at the same time.  A well proven technology as used by Google, Sun, Amazon,, and even here at Talis where the Talis Platform underpins our Engage, Aspire, and Prism products. The rest of the computing world describes this as Software as a Service (SaaS) or Cloud Computing.

For some reason OCLC are determined to come up with their own term – Web-Scale.  OCLC’s Andrew Pace in his recently published Talking with Talis podcast [highly recommended if you want an insight in to this initiative] tries to explain why the library world needs such a term.  The inaugural post on the OCLC Engineering blog, by Mike Teets also goes in to much depth as to what Web-Scale is.

Having read and listen to all this I must admit I’m still unconvinced.  It still sounds like engineering has be brought in, to support the marketing folks’ desire to be different, with technical description.  There are enough confusing terms hijacked by marketeers in the computing and Internet worlds. So I’m sure OCLC will forgive me if I continue to describe their approach as a cloud based software as a service – Cloud Computing.

OCLC’s Andrew Pace Talks with Talis about Web-Scale ILS

andrew_pace To find out about OCLC’s move in to providing hosted, Web-scale, Software as a Service functionality for managing libraries, who better to ask than the person responsible for the programme.

Andrew Pace, Executive Director, Networked Library Services has been working on this for the last fifteen months, and as you can hear from our conversation is pleased that he can now talk openly about it.

Our wide ranging conversation takes us from the epiphany moment when Andrew announced he wanted to be a librarian through to the strategic, and architectural decisions behind this significant OCLC initiative.  

Andrew’s answers to my questions add depth and background to the brief details so far released in his blog posts and OCLC’s press releases.

The Library 2.0 Gang on Cloud Computing Libraries and OCLC

L2Gbanner144-plain OCLCcloudsAs commented previously OCLC recently announced a bold move in to providing hosted, Web-scale, Software as a Service functionality for managing libraries.  Joining other library cloud computing initiatives, such a SerialsSolutions Summon product, and Talis Prism, this is the first to venture in to the realms of circulation, and acquisitions.    

In light of this and at a time when Cloud Computing is gaining acceptance in the wider Internet and computing worlds, now was a great time for the Gang to focus their thoughts and comments on the topic.

In this month’s Library 2.0 Gang, new Gang member Frances Haugen from Google, joined Marshall Breeding and our guest Dr Paul Miller to explore what Cloud Computing is, and to speculate what the OCLC announcement should be viewed.

Mash Oop North!

mashupnorth Following on from the success of the first UK Mashed Library event organised in London last year by Owen Stephens, Dave Pattern and his colleagues from the University of Huddersfield are organising another one on Tuesday July 7th.  Talis are sponsoring the sustenance that should help keep the ideas and mashups flowing through the day.

Appropriately entitled Mash Oop North!  [best attempted with a Yorkshire accent], it promises to be another great event to get yourself registered for.

Dave is hoping to attract more than just the usual library-techno-geek suspects.  The day is also for the non-technical with ideas about what the technologies could be doing for libraries and the communities they serve.

Mashed Library is about "bringing together interested people and doing interesting stuff with libraries and technology".

For more information, reasons to attend, and the registration form – checkout the event blog.

Register now – you know you want to!

If you can’t make it, you could always monitor the the event tag mashlib09 (or #mashlib09 for tweets).

Library of Congress launch Linked Data Subject Headings

Back in December I was very critical of the Library of Congress for forcing the take down of the Linked Data service at  LoC employee, and Talking with Talis Interviewee, Ed Summers had created a powerful and useful demonstration of how applying Linked Data principles to a LoC dataset  such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings could deliver an open asset to add value to other systems.  Very rapidly after it’s initial release another Talking with Talis interviewee Martin Malmsten, from the Royal Library of Sweden, almost immediately made use of the links to the LCSH data.   Ed was asked to take the service down, ahead of the LoC releasing their own equivalent in the future.

I still wonder at the LoC approach to this, but that is all water under the bridge now, as they have now launched their service, under the snappy title of “Authorities & Vocabularies” at

The Library of Congress Authorities and Vocabularies service enables both humans and machines to programmatically access authority data at the Library of Congress via URIs.

The first release under this banner is the aforementioned Library of Congress Subject Headings.

As well as delivering access to the information via a Linked Data service, they also provide a search interface, and a ‘visualization’ via which you can see the relationship between terms, both broader and narrower, that are held in the data.

To quote Jonathan Rochkind “ is AWESOME”:

Not only is it the first (so far as I know) online free search and browse of LCSH (with in fact a BETTER interace than the proprietary for-pay online alternative I’m aware of).

But it also gives you access to the data itself via BOTH a bulk download AND some limited machine-readable APIs. (RSS feeds for a simple keyword query; easy lookup of metadata about a known-item LCSH term, when you know the authority number; I don’t think there’s a SPARQL endpoint? Yet?).

On the surface, to those not yet bought in to the potential of Linked Data, and especially Linked Open Data, this may seem like an interesting but not necessarily massive leap forward.   I believe that what underpins the fairly simple functional user interface they provide will gradually become core to bibliographic data becoming a first-class citizen in the web of data.

Overnight this uri ‘’ has now become the globally available, machine and human readable, reliable source for the description for the subject heading of ‘Elephants’ containing links to its related terms (in a way that both machines and humans can navigate).  This means that system developers and integrators can rely upon that link to represent a concept, not necessarily the way they want to [locally] describe it.  This should facilitate the ability for disparate systems and services to simply share concepts and therefore understanding – one of the basic principles behind the Semantic Web.

This move by the LoC has two aspects to it that should make it a success.  The first one is technical.  Adopting the approach, standards, and conventions promoted by the Linked Data community ensures a ready made developer community to use and spread the word about it.  The second, one is openness.  Anyone and everyone will not have to think ”is it OK to use this stuff” before taking advantage of this valuable asset.  Many in the bibliographic community, who seem to spend far too much time on licensing and logins, should watch and learn from this.

A bit of a bumpy ride to get here but nevertheless a great initiative from the LoC that should be welcomed.  On that I hope they and many others will build upon in many ways.  – Bring on the innovation that this will encourage.

Image from the Library of Congress Flickr photostream.