Panlibus Blog

Archive for the 'Users and usage' Category

Thoughtfulness and action in equal measure

John Blyberg (that mover and shaker) muses in his latest post about the social role of the OPAC.

Dave Pattern the always active proponent of doing stuff to add value to the experience of those using the OPAC at the University of Huddersfield, has spent much of his weekend Ajax-ing to deliver functionality around serendipity suggestions and related items.

All this cranial and coding activity as made me start to wonder what would be the norm for OPACs in say 4-5 years time. In the same way the Web OPAC had become the norm by 2000 (although its early predecessors surfaced in 1995), by 2010 the results of pioneering work today should be part of the mainstream.

I’ve pondered this a bit more in a forum posting in TDN, where I’ve thrown up the question “OPAC-2010 what do you think it will look like?

I invite you to tell me where you think the OPAC as an interface to our/your libraries is headed…

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Images of Huddersfield Library PDA project

In my posting about my recent enjoyable trip to the University of Huddersfield I asked Iman Morandi [Huddersfield’s answer to Superpatron] if he had a screen shot of the PDA application which he produced as part of his library project.

Not only has he done that, as you can see, but also he has provided a link to a flash demo of it running here. ( Once it has loaded, click on the button and once the display has come up hover over the book jacket images)

I’m sure Iman would like me to emphasis at this point that this is a demonstration of a prototype, and not as yet a real product.

As Superpatron himself, Edward Vielmetti commentedthat’s a good idea“. Again Iman, a thought provoking, simple but impressive demonstration of what the technological side of Library 2.0 is all about – getting the bits of the library that a user can benefit from to where they need it when they need it!

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Getting information to library users in ways that make sense to them

With apologies for the plethora of Michaels and Crunches in this sentence… Michael Casey at LibraryCrunch picks up Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch post about Teleflip, and he considers possibilities for the deployment of such a product in the service of library users.

He covers the use of text messages to inform borrowers about holds, overdues, and similar traditional library messages; something that Talis already handles with Talis Message.

“What really got me thinking was how we could use this in libraries. Without having to purchase any additional equipment or software, we could use the customer’s cell number (with their permission, of course) to send reminders about holds, late items, etc., by simply entering their cell number (plus into the email notification field in our ILS software. From that point on, all messages would arrive as SMS text messages, right on their cell phone.”

As Gordon Fowler comments in response to Michael (Casey)’s post, the use of text messages to reach library users is surely only the beginning, but we have a long way to go to reach a model whereby any user can (easily!) select from a battery of communications methods for talking to the library, receiving information from the library, or conversing with the library. They will also, of course, need to be able to easily – and probably frequently – change their preference.

And – before anyone else says it! – we need to continue to offer broadly comparable levels of service to those unwilling or unable to use and configure a mobile phone.

Today, something like Talis Message is associated quite closely with a third party capable of sending the text messages on the library’s behalf. In a Web/Library 2.0 world, companies such as Teleflip (which appears only to work in the USA?) or e-txt should be able to market their message-sending capabilities aggressively, offering different capabilities – or prices – to individual libraries in such a way as to make it easy and painless to switch from one provider to another as and when a compelling opportunity to do so arises.

Tools are becoming ever better at coping with notions of ‘presence’, and adapting the ways in which they behave depending upon where we are, what we’re doing, and what the source of any external contact might be. More than four years ago, my mobile/cell phone was capable of being switched from a ‘normal’ mode (in which it just rang), to an outdoor mode (in which it rang loudly), to a meeting mode (in which it either vibrated, or shunted calls straight to voicemail). I had to do the mode switching, though, and I had to remember to do it. The phone was also capable of handling calls from various people in different ways, and at that particular time was set to always allow calls through from one number, ringing just as loudly as it could to drag me out of whatever meeting I found myself in, and home for the arrival of a baby. In the end, I never got to find out if it worked, nor to experience the glares of fellow meeting attendees who would doubtless assume I’d carelessly forgotten to switch the phone to silent (as if!) rather than knowing the truth of my clever and careful programming…

As products such as Microsoft’s latest battery of communications tools become better at coping with notions of ‘presence’, deciding whether my desk or mobile/cell phone rings in response to a call, and making decisions as to which device should receive IM traffic, we begin to move to a world in which some of these distinctions can be handled automatically, on our behalf.

How far (quite?) are we from a situation in which I might receive an e-mail if sat at my desk, or a text message if on the road? Do we want such a world?

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The Library 2.0 debate – a call to arms

The Library 2.0 term is proving a valuable focus for discussion around the next generation services from which current and potential library users might benefit, the services that libraries might offer, and the new ways in which library system vendors such as Talis could and should engage with a range of current and future stakeholders in helping to make more of this real.

As well as a number of in-depth and carefully considered posts, such as those from TalisRichard Wallis and Ann Arbor District Library‘s John Blyberg, I am seeing a growing number of public and private comments along the lines that Talis’ public engagement in this discussion is welcomed by our customers and by those of our competitors. Many of those comments include a rather wistful reference to their own vendor’s apparent lack of engagement.

Library 2.0 is not a Talis-only thing. To work, it never could be.

We didn’t invent the term, Michael Casey did. He doesn’t work for us yet.

We do, however, recognise its value in providing a convenient hook upon which to hang a range of related debates, and with which to drive forward the fundamental changes that we believe are required in library systems and the ways in which online library services are made available. Our white paper is one contribution to this evolving discussion, but Library 2.0 underpins everything that we are seeking to do as we transform both the company and the services it offers.

If this future is to be realised, it requires far greater cooperation between ‘competing’ vendors. Rather than locking everything up in some proprietary mess, library companies should engage with W3C (of which Talis is a long-time member), make full use of the services of neutral standardisation organisations such as NISO (where Talis’ Ian Davis co-chairs the Vendor Initiative for Enabling Web Services, VIEWS), and seek ways to allow third parties to add value. Rather than locking our customers in, we should build systems so excellent that they choose to come to us, and to stay with us. The Talis Platform, for example, will offer a level playing field on which Talis, its customers and its competitors can work together and compete when appropriate. We believe that our offerings are good enough to be chosen on such a level playing field, and welcome others to join us. In a world of choice, interoperability, and easy moves, it’s easy to attract new custom. It’s possibly harder to keep the custom you attract, as they can go as easily as they came. The onus on us, then, is to give them no reason to leave, and plenty of reasons to come, and to stay.

We also need far more dialogue and engagement between vendor(s) and library(ies); you are not just a revenue line and an annoying drain on our support team. Equally, we are not just a contractor to deliver packaged systems in response to your tender processes… which request that we deliver packaged systems. Early in the Library 2.0 discussion, there were a number of posts questioning Talis’ ‘right’ to enter and attempt to evolve the debate. We have every right. So do libraries. So do library users. So do current non-users. We bring different views, and different perspectives. A valid and valuable whole can only be achieved by amalgamating the best of those different perspectives, not by giving primacy to any one stakeholder. A future determined solely by service deliverers terrifies me as much as a future driven by technology providers, or one driven by consumers.

So, to get to the point, Talis is actively contributing to this (and other) debates. A number of the biblioblogosphere’s A List are also weighing in with thoughtful input.

To be blunt, though, where are the other ILS vendors? Do Sirsi/Dynix have a view, Stephen? Do any of the others, where there isn’t even an engaged individual to ask? III? Endeavor? Ex Libris? VTLS? The rest?

Have any readers who said you wanted your vendors to contribute had any luck getting their thoughts?

Surely there can’t be anything that these companies want to hide, and surely they must see the value of change (even if they agree that changing will be painful)?

Let’s have the debate. Let’s gather input from as many perspectives as possible. Let’s be open and inclusive, and let’s build something better.

I’m up for it. Anyone else? (100 affirmative responses from Talis colleagues not required – I’ll take them as read!)

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Ask Charlotte what is on TV tonight….


Charlotte your talking TV guide is an fascinating demonstration of utilising talking avatars, or ‘ChatBots’, from the UK company Advanced ChatBot Solutions to front information feeds provided by BBC Backstage.
Ask her whats on tonight and she will tell you, literally – if you have your sound output enabled.
A classic example of a Web Service being used to deliver an application that the service developers probably didn’t envisage, and certainly didn’t have the time to produce themselves. Very Web 2.0.
So if we can get a cousin of Charlotte’s to be able to answer natural language questions about books and journals available via a library web service…….

Stop Putting Lipstick On Pigs

Tate Nunley onTate’s Space is blogging from LITA 2005 National Forum. In his LITA Forum 2005 – Roy Tennant Keynote posting he reports some comments from Roy Tennant, of California Digital Library, which echo many of my thoughts on OPAC design.

We need to stop putting lipstick on pigs. Stop spending time tweaking systems that are broken, limited, outdated. As librarians we spend a lot of time trying to fix systems that are inherently flawed. A good example is the OPAC. Small changes rob time from more profitable activities and we find that we are often going in the completely wrong direction.

Be User focused. Part of the reason that OPAC’s are poor, we apply our standards as professionals to an interface that are used by general population – population that does not have time to learn what we know. Only librarians like to search – everyone else wants to find.

Online library overwhelmed before opening time

BBC News reports on My Book Your Book, an initiative to launch an online book sharing scheme which has found pre-launch interest has been beyond the wildest dreams of its founder.

All of its “founder members” will be able to access thousands of paperback novels – provided they donate 10 books each to the co-operative scheme.

“I always thought it would work, but I’m surprised how quickly it’s taken off,” Peter Baillie told BBC News

It will be interesting to see how it progresses over the months, and what lessons are in it for the people with buildings full of shelves, and reading rooms and other traditional accessories to book lending.

Blogging giving a library site the human feel

TheShiftedLibraian hails the Ann Arbor District Library‘s redesigned web site as ‘The Perfect Library Blog Example‘. The superlatives are well deserved.

The cross between a traditional library web site, a library blog, and the catalogue interface, produces a whole experience which is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. It’s clean simple visual style, coupled with the natural [personal] style of content which naturally emanates from blogging to their customers (as against broadcasting at them), delivers an interface which I think that the citizens of Ann Arbor, Michigan should be delighted to be part of. Using the blog commenting facilities, which their customers certainly are, gives the impression that the library is not only providing a service to, but is also part of the, community.

Just scanning the site gives you the feeling that there are humans behind it.

Great site, and yet another exemplar for what can be done, for the rest of the Library world to aspire towards and beyond

Use your Mac to check your Library Books

Came across Library Books a simple but nifty MacOSX application which runs in a user’s menubar and shows them a list of books that they have on loan.

Another addition to the ever increasing set of useful add-ons to simplify access to the library, but more unusually this one is delivering user account information.

Looks good on the web site. Unfortunately I don’t have a Mac so I cant test it. Also as of today it doesn’t work with Talis Prism, but after a few emails with the author I do not expect that situation to last too long.

A Windows version sometime?………….

Google Maps need a directory to add some GLAMour

Paul Miller notes the launch of Google Maps UK CIE Thoughts: Google Maps and Local come to the UK

As referenced by many when launched in the US, this raises the bar on mapping sites several notches. Some of the traditional mapping sites, such as, must be really concerned by Google’s entry in to their domain.

Its still a long way from perfect though, as Paul comments in his more in depth review of its capabilities:

There is value, for example, in simply being able to ask for “libraries in Pocklington”, which returns a useful result. Unfortunately, it misses the library in Pocklington. The local authority knows where that library is. So does MLA. Both would benefit from my having been able to find it via Google Maps (without me having to know the postcode…).

As with Paul’s searches for museums in London,and libraries in Pocklington, searches for libraries general are equally hit & miss. But thats all to do with the quality of the business data, not the mapping technology.

Lorcan Dempsey comments…

See for an interesting coming together of services. I think that an interesting avenue moving forward is thinking about Google, Amazon, Yahoo! etc as platforms upon which others, including the GLAM community, can build in specific ways.
GLAM = galleries, libraries, archives, museums

What you need is a directory containing locations for all GLAMs, with the addition of reliable links to their search interface. Then users would not only be able to find their local library, but also be able to quickly find out if the book they want is in stock. Or visa versa – using Google to give you directions to the library containing the book you just searched for.

These thoughts link well with the prototype OPAC deep linking directory that we are working on as part of Project Silkworm. See Justin’s blog on this for more detail.

As Justin mentions We will be talking more about this at the Talis Research Day. And we will be demonstrating a few things too!