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Archive for the 'Juice' Category

LibLime Cause Upset in the Open Source Community

LibLime_logo Roy Tennant, in a blog post with a title you have to read twice, draws our attention to moves from Open Source Library Systems company LibLime which is causing much angst from supporters of Open Source.

He reproduces comments from Joan Ransom on Library Matters:

Horowhenua Library Trust developed Koha, the world’s first open source library management system back in 2000. We gave it to the world in the spirit of community. We are very happy, delighted in fact, for any organisation or individual to take it, improve it and then give their improvements back.

Recipricocity is the keystone which gives strength to the Koha Community.

We do not begrudge vendors taking our gift and building a commercial enterprise out of it, as Liblime, Biblibre and any number of others have done, but the deal is that you give back. This has worked well for a decade and Liblime has been a strong, valued and much appreciated member of the Koha international community over that time.

So it is incredibly sad and disappointing that Liblime has decided to breach the spirit of the Koha project and offer a ‘Liblime clients only’ version of Koha. Let’s call it what it is: vendor lockin and a fork.

Others including Marshall Breeding have also commented.

From the trails of comments around these posts, I get the impression that most of the upset folks are taking offence about the perceived intentions of a previously lauded open source champion who is now grappling with the commercial and operational realities of running a business that provides key services to key customers.

Even if LibLime were to turn their back on the community aspect of Koha today [their press release indicates that they are not doing that], they should still be praised for moving forward that community far further than it would ever have reached without the involvement of such a commercial organisation. 

I would suggest though that, having been immersed in the Open Source world for so long, they should have expected such a backlash of an almost religious nature and handled this much better. 

The world [not just in libraries] is rapidly moving towards Cloud Computing, Software-as-a-service, hosted solutions  There is bound to be a tension between a community mostly made up of people who develop, and often look after there own local copy of, a software instance, and an organisation that aspires to run a service of the same/similar functionality for many customers on a hosted commercial basis.

Local experience here at Talis tells me that the velocity and pattern of development is very different for SaaS applications and services.  One that does not fit in very well with the traditional process of delivering software both open and closed source. 

Open Source is a valuable contribution that must be fostered, encouraged and promoted because the innovation that it generates is a valuable asset for all of us.  Experience with projects such as Juice and Jangle reinforce this. Nevertheless there are commercial and contractual realities that companies such as LinbLime have to take in to account, which may lead to others questioning their motives as we have seen over the last few days.

 

Integrated library management systems: what we need

blcmpAs part of the “Shock of the New” strand at the UK Umbrella conference this year, Lucy Tedd from Aberystwyth University led a session entitled “Integrated library management systems: what we need”. Attendance of this session turned out to be very supplier-heavy, and I’m not sure that’s what she anticipated. I was moderately surprised too, but thinking about it afterwards, I felt that the lack of interest from practitioners was reflective of the growing irrelevance of the traditional library management system (or ILS if you’re North American) to the needs of the modern library, particularly in academia.

It’s not that the library technology landscape has stood still, of course. Lucy was able to list quite a few innovative products– from the now-established Aquabrowser to Talis’ own Aspire resource list tool – a great product that we’re all very proud of here. But taking one step back and looking at what the library has to deliver in 2009, the library technology marketplace as a whole is failing to keep up with the pace of change.

Lucy Tedd highlighted some of the key developments of this decade. Some of them, though – such as the consolidation of the library technology marketplace with mergers, acquisitions and the increasing intervention of venture capitalists in the businesses of existing suppliers – may be symptomatic of underlying trends rather than drivers.

I felt that to get a firmer grip on the fundamental shifts in our world, I had to refer back to a session I saw last month at the annual SCONUL conference, given by Marshall Breeding (a member of Talis’Library 2.0 Gang). For the uninitiated, Marshall Breeding is an American library technology guru, author of an ongoing series of library technology guides. Where he wins out over other commentators such as Lucy Tedd is his ability to look behind headline trends, take them apart, examine the implications and project them forward. So although both Tedd and Breeding identify industry consolidation as a key trend, Breeding will go on to alert us to the disruptive impact that this has on product development, and the adverse effect this has on the lead time that libraries have to plan for a product enhancement.

Marshall Breeding hears a lot of frustration with LMS products and vendors, and is adamant that systems are not keeping up with the pace of change in libraries. Innovation, then, is falling below expectations, and Marshall reports that many US libraries are unhappy with the current state of affairs. He admitted that he wasn’t so sure about UK libraries, but following the group activity at the end of Lucy Tedd’s session, I’m quite clear that the mood here is similar to that of the US. In my group there was one librarian from Open University and one from University of Hertfordshire. Each group was asked to identify its most pressing requirement of the LMS. Both librarians agreed that the inadequacy of the LMS in managing e-resources was the biggest problem in an era in which the issuing of books is no longer the primary activity.

Marshall Breeding described the conventional LMS as untenable, now that a whole series of products required to manage fundamental library processes – such as ERM systems and knowledgebases – are located outside the LMS. In the electronic era, circulation becomes fulfilment, cataloguing is no longer MARC-centred, for example. So as the traditional modules of the LMS become less important, we need to think more in terms of SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) – dividing functionality into small chunks that can be fitted together for multifarious purposes (a shift that my colleague Richard Wallis identified back in 2007 on this blog). This is very much the thinking of the OLE (Open Library Environment) Project, of which Marshall Breeding is a proponent.

But it’s not just a back-office problem, of course. The library OPAC, traditionally another module LMS, also suffers from the same problem, in failing to reflect the eJournals and digital objects that libraries spend so much money on. Breeding did identify further issues with library OPACs, highlighting their clunky interfaces, poor eCommerce facilities, and more worryingly, relatively weak search engines and poor relevancy ranking.

Open Source has, in the context of these difficulties, generated a lot of interest, though more in the US at present. However Breeding pointed out that Open Source offerings currently rank middle to low in terms of customer satisfaction, and the only libraries that are interested are the ones that are already doing it. There is no groundswell of interest, despite the pockets of evangelistic fervour.

Marshall Breeding also turned his attention to Web 2.0 tools, and argued persuasively against the tendency to adopt disparate tools without a broader strategy in place, which has the effect of “jettisoning library users away from our websites”. Instead, he says, Web 2.0 capabilities need to be built into the guts of our systems. I’m assuming here that he doesn’t mean library vendors reinventing social networking tools in a creepy treehouse kind of way, and that instead he’s advocating seamless integration with applications such as the VLE and Web 2.0 tools such as Twitter. Incidentally, Richard Wallis has recently been demonstrating a Juice extension enabling integration between Twitter and the OPAC.

Breeding looks forward to a future in which the library can offer a single point of access to the inside of all the eJournals that the library subscribes to. Scale is not the issue, he argues, and cites OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey as pointing out that the whole of WorldCat will now fit on an iPod. Instead we should be looking at what the world outside the library is doing – searching the deep content directly, and identifying and examining the tools that people are using to do this. In this way, it becomes clear that the likes of Google Scholar, Amazon, Waterstones and ask.com are the competitors of the library in the 21st century, and it is incumbent upon the vendor community to help libraries with that gargantuan challenge if they are to survive.

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.

Juice up your OPAC

prism_mta_screenshot Have you ever looked at the OPAC from another library that sports links to WorldCat, or Copac, or Amazon, or Google Book Search, or Del.icio.us, or a shelf mapping program, an author video, or something similar and thought I wish I could have that on our interface!  Have you attended a presentation about next generation OPACs and heard the presenter say “… and I added a link to an external service” and whished you had them on your library staff to be able to do cool things like that. for you?

Even in the so called library-geek community, where they know how to do these kind of things, great ideas for extending their interfaces are only copied between them, each implementing them in their own way for their own application.  Because, until now, there has been no easy way to share the great innovation demonstrated by the few, we are seeing a massive waste of what could benefit the many.

The Juice Project is an open source initiative, which I launched at the recent Code4lib conference, with the specific objectives of making it easy to create extensions for web interfaces such as OPACs and then make it even easier to share those extensions in an open community of those who want to enhance their interfaces but do not have the skill or experience to do so.

Open and easy are two key facets of the approach used for this project.  JavaScript code gurus may find the way Juice is implemented a little over complex, but it is that approach which should make it simple for the non-gurus to adopt and use.  

Duke_icons_screenshotThe design of the extension framework, which is Juice, separates the extension itself from the code that interfaces to a particular web application.  The result being that an extension created to be used on say a VuFind OPAC can be re used to extend a Talis, or a Horizon, or any other OPAC or indeed any other suitable interface.

Obviously if you are going to make changes to your interface, you need some ability to access and change the mark-up that creates the web pages.  Many libraries have staff that are capable and confident enough to make a simple change to an interface – adding a link to another site in the footer, changing a bit of text on the home page etc.  Juice is targeted at exactly those staff.  On the Juice Project site there are simple ‘How-to’ documents, that step you through how to add the couple of lines of code to introduce Juice in to your interface, and then how to copy & paste examples into your version of Juice to add shared extensions.

Visits for all visitors - Google Analytics Juice is already enhancing live library interfaces; for instance we are using it at Talis to introduce Google Analytics site usage monitoring in to our Talis Prism OPAC tenancies, as this Prism Blog post highlights.

Juice is an open source project that I have initiated, which is hosed on Google Code.  Talis are supporting it, by letting me contribute my code and time to kick-start it, and play an active part in it. This kind of initiative, that will benefit all, can only be really successful if is owned by the community that will use and enhance it.

So, calling all those that want to add value to library and other web interfaces, take a look at and join the Juice Project.   It is early days and we haven’t as yet got many interface types identified and supportable in Juice, but the more that join in and share what they know the sooner we will be able to share the innovation between all libraries.

Once you have had a browse around the Juice site, and maybe dipped your toe in to using it, I would love to hear your thoughts either in the comments on this blog, or in the Juice Project Discussion forum.