MyLibrary: A Digital Library Framework and Toolbox — Access 2008

Eric Lease Morgan
University of Notre Dame

MyLibrary is about creating relationships. It’s a way to catalog resources — very broadly defined (people, databases, books, you name it). MyLibrary invented about 10 years ago, had a lot of success/popularity then. Concept of “my library” picked up by others such as MyILibrary, etc. It was a turnkey application — download, install, and run. It was simple, and it worked, but wasn’t as complex.
MyLibrary is made up of four kinds of resources:

  1. Resources
  2. Patrons
  3. Librarians
  4. Facets and terms

All of these resources are stored in “Dublin Core-esque” data structures. Patrons in system have name, major, etc. Librarians have name, subject areas, contact info, etc. Resources have material types, subjects, academic level of primary audience. All of these descriptive terms are “facets and terms”. Facets are classes of terms. For example: format: book; subject: forestry; and so on. You can have as many facets as you like, and as many subjects under each facet. It’s all 2 levels deep.


Examples from the Notre Dame site:

  • Research tools — lists of research tools
  • Subject
  • Reading list — combination of things classed “format: journals” organized by subjects. This was created via OAI from the Directory of Open Access Journals. Specific subjects or specific journals can be added to “my library.”
  • Facebook MyLibrary widget. It’s not “facebook” that’s important. The fact that the MyLibrary toolbox allows it to happen is important.
  • FAQs — each frequently asked question/answer pair is a resource. They’re cataloged. Then they are browsable and can be displayed on relevant subject or topic pages.

MyLibrary is not meant to do everything — just managed “piles of stuff”. It does not support search. It does not support OAI. But data can be pulled out of MyLibrary and fed to a search engine. For example, Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts. Browsable and searchable lists of 14,000 full-text public-domain books.
MyLibrary is not a particularly strong open source project — there isn’t a community around it, for which Eric takes blame. It’s in Perl, but that’s a passé language now. Coming up is a web services interface on top of it, probably Atom. But some sort of RESTful web service is coming.
Question: It’s been in operation about 5 years; how are students using it?
Answer: Students don’t know they’re using it. They don’t customize it — it’s just the way the web site work.
Question: What are privacy issues with patron data?
Answer: Librarians take privacy more seriously than patrons. Patrons expect easy to use interface that gets them what they want. Libraries are behind the curve on this. MyLibrary makes some broad guesses about what patrons are likely to want. Any future personalization effort will be opt-in. Individuals won’t get assigned resources, but aggregates (freshmen, math majors, etc., not John Smith).