Technology Priorities for the New Library Reality

These are lightly edited notes from Sarah Houghton’s talk at ALA Annual 2014. Tweets from this presentation may be found at #alaac14.

Starts off with results of a survey: ‘Why are we talking about this now?’ Now that budgets are starting to recover from the Great Recession, libraries have the option to think about where to allocate restored funds. Do we spend on the things we did 10 years ago, or do we choose new priorities?

About half of libraries are losing money; half are gaining. Everyone feels that they don’t have enough and cannot keep up. No matter what kind of library responded, we all wanted the same things.

Libraries who thought they would get an increase were spending on staffing (27%), digital materials (26%), information technology (22%), facilities (17%). (137 respondents). Facilities were a smaller set, but the things that were wanted were often building safety and maintenance, not technology.

How is technology support managed? About 42% of respondents had libraries that ran their own IT. 28% by a parent organization, 24% some combination thereof, and 6% outsourced.

How much spending control does library staff have over the IT budget? 50% had none or “a wee bit”.

Your web services librarian doesn’t have to be a librarian. Get someone qualified, and have a librarian advisory group to advise.

Fewer people made collection decisions based on usage statistics for digital materials than for physical materials. Seems odd because it is so much easier to gather statistics on the digital materials.

If libraries had $1k, 42% chose non-tech things to spend it on. One said “actually pay the visiting clown.” If libraries had $100K, non-tech was still 42%, but answers were much more diverse. Hardware, digital content, software & staff, and other stuff are the big desiderata in technical areas.

If libraries could get one extra staff position of any kind, 42% said tech-oriented NON-librarian. 23% said tech librarian and non-tech librarian (each),

What concerns do people have? Staff capacity is biggest: 47%. Training (23%), outdated mindsets (14%), outdated technology (12%)

Libraries see using hosted services as a good way to get around IT’s rules (33%). Simply breaking the rules is also popular: 39%.

As technology integrates more and more into our jobs and lives, everyone has an opinion on how we should focus our technology spending. Few know what the hell they’re talking about.

How do you develop a budget? Establish priorities first. Determine needs for each. Draft a budget, revise with broad feedback. Make mid-year adjustments.

The Internet of Things

These are the notes I took during today’s OCLC Symposium on “The Internet of Things” at ALA Annual 2014. For tweets from the presentation, please see the Tweets at #oclciot.

The presentation was by Daniel Obodovski, co-author of The Silent Intelligence: The Internet of Things.

How do humans and machines communicate and connect? This is the Internet of Things [IoT]. But what is that? It’s all kinds of things today: smart thermostats, medical sensors and alert systems, smart electric meters… And more. Package, and person tracking is enabled through scannable codes or RFID tags for low-value things, and GPS devices for high-value (people, pets, valuable items). What are the privacy concerns around this? How to ensure that data are used as intended, by whom intended?

The IoT allows us to connect to the broader analog world around us in a digital way, to integrate, interpolate, and benefit us all. Relates to a new digital nervous system connecting us with our environment?

How big will this be? There could be as many as 50 billion by 2020. We have a lot more “smart” technology in our homes already than we might think. Up to 7% of U.S. population already has some sort of wearable technology (exercise trackers, medical monitors, etc.). By the end of this year, it is forecast that 10% of U.S. population will have wearable, internet-connected device on their person. And today, 45% of fleet vehicles in the U.S. have some form of monitoring — for vehicle maintenance, for driver compliance, for vehicle location, etc.

This is, all together, what we call “The Silent Intelligence.” And it is, ironically, very verbose.

We think of the future as rocket cars and jetpacks. But the reality is, it’s already here, slowly emerging, out of these interconnected devices. The most exciting area is healthcare — with immediate feedback for how treatment is working, or if there is an emergent situation before the individual even knows something is wrong.

What we have seen in social media — where the user is the source of data that the social media company then sells — is already emerging in the Internet of Things. Your car’s data is being sold to third parties. (I wonder, if it’s so easy to get the vehicle’s diagnostic reporting codes out of the vehicle, why it costs so much at a dealer to read the code and translate it into a fixable problem.)

The Internet of Things is very complex. Requires that many individual device manufacturers talk to each other and interplay. Need standards not just for communication, but for data itself. All of these data will be collected, analyzed, resold — after being anonymized. A new range of services will emerge around this data collection and processing. This opens up a new world of services, but also opens up a huge range of data privacy and security concerns.

We are currently missing a clear set of rules about privacy of data — who can have access, and what do they do with it? We are generally very bad about understanding the terms of service when we click through to use some online service.

This technological revolution has an uncertain impact on the nature of jobs. We have gone through one technological revolution, in which technology replaced many manufacturing jobs, leading those workers to move into service jobs. What happens if many services can be automated; what is the next kind of job that current service workers can move into?

What will Internet of Things mean for libraries? What will interconnections enable? Combined with knowledge of other things than where physical items are located, and what rooms are being used, or aisles in the stacks, etc., you can customize and improve services. Without data, you can’t improve your services in the optimal way.

We should think about how we can understand the patterns, and the data that generate them. Connecting patrons to their needs, more effectively and efficiently, is the goal. Let needs drive the technology.

Discovering Discovery at LITA Forum

Notes from a  talk by Annette Bailey of Virginia Tech at the LITA National Forum, “Discovering Discovery.”

Virginia Tech has been a Summon customer since 2010. They have leveraged Summon to change cataloging practices locally. Still using original Summon (1.0) interface.

Library users are shifting behaviors. Increasing usage of online resources, physical spaces — but not physical resources. Discovery largely happens through Summon. How can VT know what its users are doing? COUNTER provides some information, but its delayed, and hard to process. Summon provides aggregate data on search terms and click data. How can we know what users are doing in real time? And share it with other members of the community, show visually what research is happening, live?

Discovery VisualizationThat is the heart of Discovering Discovery — what are users clicking on in Summon, in real time. Can’t tell if they use the item, but can tell that they accessed it.

This tool helps everyone — librarians, the public, students — to understand what is being done in the library. User does a search. There’s some custom JavaScript in the Summon interface that sends a record of the click to the visualization server, which stores it in a database. A visualization tool then makes a display on demand. It grabs the Summon record ID, unique for each item. They then use the Summon API to grab the metadata for that query — because Summon IDs are not persistent over the long term. All of that is stored in an SQLite database.

As a side note, they can tell how many unique items were clicked on over time — hard to do otherwise.

Current log analysis extracts and tabulates data at 1 minute, 5 minute, 1 day, 1 week intervals. Tabulates by discipline, content type, source of record, publication year. All comes from Summon, which means data are problematic. Does word frequencies for abstract, title, and abstract & title combined, and keywords & subject terms.

Use the d3.js library to do visualizations. It’s a powerful tool, but hard to work with. Follows jQuery in style. Also uses a variety of server-side technologies.

Summon 2.0 — not there yet. Unlike Summon 1.0, there is now an officially sanctioned way to include JavaScript (it’s a hack in 1.0). It now includes d3.js in Summon — they do not appear to be using it yet, but it’s there. Look out for visualizations at some point…. But they need to reverse engineer Summon 2.0 to achieve the same effect as in Summon 1.0.

Using this with other discovery services. You need to be able to record clicks, in real time. You need an API to get the machine data. If you use a different discovery service and want to try adapting this code, VT would like to work with you.

The visualization is the hard part; getting the data was the relatively easy part. Code needs to be consolidated, into a cloud solution, to make your version for your own use. (Like the Libx edition builder).

The 4th Floor and Library Transformation

This is the second keynote address at the LITA Forum in Louisville. The speaker is Nate Hill, assistant director of the Chattanooga Public Library. Follow him on Twitter at @natenatenate.

Nate Hill speaking at LITA Forum 2013The 4th Floor project is more a community organizing project than a technology project. When Nate started there a few years ago, the Chattanooga Library was seriously broken. Technology improvements are just one portion of the overall improvements being made. Chattanooga has gigabit networking throughout the city. So the city has a lot of potential and lots of recognized need for change and reinvention.

Unlike many brutalist all-concrete buildings, the CPL has large amounts of open space on each floor — it was designed with an open plan, so they aren’t as constrained by solid concrete walls. This gives them some flexibility.

Nate is going to focus on one aspect of this reinvention. We’ll start with the “why:” moving from Read to Read/Write. Everyone in the LITA audience at the moment can create something and make it available to everyone. Before that was possible, we needed libraries to store relatively rare copies of things. Library was about access. Now, it’s about providing tools to create things. Connectivity is a key underpinning to these tools.

CPL uses their 4th floor space as a “beta space” — the library can experiment, and the public can experiment. 14,000 square feet of space was used as an attic. They solved the problem collaboratively — invited people to meet in that space. Started brainstorming what might be useful to do. This started about 18 months ago (around January 2012).

Had a public auction, got rid of all the stuff. Net profit: $1500.

So, now what? A vast amount of empty space, with no added staff resources to do new things. Answer? Strategic partnerships with other organizations. First was with the Chattanooga chapter of AIGA. AIGA got a home for their meetings, brought in presentations, and started the seeds of current programming.

The next major milestone was the first DPLA “appfest” — 100 people came to CPL from around the country. Realized that people didn’t necessarily want to work at desks in these informal arrangements, so started to create less rigid workspaces.

Next was a local collaboration space, co.lab. Got 450 people to attend a series of pitches — entrepreneurial ideas. Again, community was amazed to see what the library could do.

The library is losing ownership of the space; it’s becoming a community platform.

“We make all of this stuff up all the way.” CPL has an amazing tolerance for experimentation and trial-and-error.

They moved their IT staff to the 4th floor, creating a coworking space.

Using Chattanooga’s gigabit network, they have done performances where dancers in two locations perform with projected images, passing the image back and forth between two locations in the city.

Making Maker Libraries — LITA Forum Keynote

I’m attending LITA National Forum 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ll be posting some conference notes sporadically. The opening keynote session is a talk by Travis Good, contributing editor of Make Magazine. His blog is He talked about “Making Maker Libraries.”

Travis Good

Once a “nerd” was not a particularly flattering thing to be called. Now, that has changed. Nerds are the smart guys you go to in order to solve a problem. Nerds have arrived. Library IT groups have solved, in a nerdy way, many kinds of problems: online catalog, computer workstations, wired Internet access, wireless internet access, ebooks… It is not just making things work, though; it is making things work comfortably in a library context.

Through making wifi available, we redefined why people go to a library.

Changes in technological landscape are a threat — and an opportunity. We will talk about just one of these changes: the maker movement. It’s a broad movement with lots of definitions. Humans have been making things since we developed opposable thumbs and tools.

What was “making”? It was done by craftsmen, focused on trades, with years of training and practice, with rudimentary tools. Took lots of practice to do well because the tools were “dumb.” Now, tools are “smart”, and more people can make things. Moore’s law has affected tools. Technology brought smarts to making; computers can manage processes. Costs drop, power rises, steadily. Tools are smarter, more powerful, and more capable. The Internet has simultaneously opened up collaboration across distributed communities. Open source software came along. And now… open source is not just software. It is hardware, too.

New, smarter, tools are already here. CNC Mill (Computer Numerically Controlled) Mill. It’s a subtractive tool — it mills away something, until what is left is the product you want. Designs can be shared, tailored, and made. 3D printing is the opposite, in a sense — it extrudes material to make something. An additive tool.

Laser cutters — these are two dimensional, and cuts a flat surface with a laser. Can cut wood, leather, acrylic, metal, and similar materials. Can create very intricate designs.

For all of these products, there are libraries of models that you can download, modify, and make yourself. Powerful tools and shared designs can make anyone a maker of things.

At the same time, we are getting cheap, flexible electronic micro controllers, sensors, and actuators. Sensors make measurements of things; actuators create a response of some kind.

Simple embedded electronics made a turn signal for a bike rider — left arrow, right arrow LEDs on the back, and a switch in each sleeve for the biker to turn them on and off. Another example — a switch in a chair that turns the TV on when you sit on it; turns the TV off when you stand up. Third example — an Arduino on a Venetian blind that opens or closes the blinds when the room is too cool or too warm.

Barriers to creating things have been reduced. Long apprenticeships to become competent are no longer required. And it’s now easier to become good at lots of things. So more people can make, more making can take place, and more people can be collaborating.

The question that arises: where is this making happening? You need spaces in which people can learn, create, share, and collaborate. Threshold to entry is low, but you still need to cross it. This is a clarion call to libraries. Libraries are already the places that offer lifelong learning. And are looking for new ways to deliver on their traditional missions.

Libraries are experimenting with maker spaces in different ways. Experimenting with different tools and technologies, seeing what local patrons will want to use. Can vary from branch to branch.

Maker spaces are catching on in libraries. It is seen, broadly, as an opportunity to be valuable to the community (in public & academic libraries). There is lots of experimentation on what kinds of services and tools to offer — it is something of the Wild West.

There are some basic things that are needed to foster the growth and development of maker spaces:

  1. A source of best practices. Why does every library need to invent this service on their own?
  2. A database of maker helpers. People who would come to your library and talk about specific topics. Tap into maker spaces, meet up groups, etc. But there is no vetting — lots of interested people, but needs to be a way to make sure the volunteers are good teachers, reliable, etc.
  3. New sources of funding. There is lots of competition for scarce resources (e.g., IMLS). Corporations are interested in funding maker spaces — they see it as future employees and future innovations. Skills of successful makers are the skills of successful innovators and inventors.
  4. Kits that fit into a library. A maker space in a box, and maker supplies that are reusable and affordable. For example, Arduino prototyping kits that can be reset and tested for basic functionality by completely non-technical library staff.
  5. Finding good projects. This is already in the works. Make it @ Your Library ( 100,000 crowdsourced projects have been uploaded and categorized.

We can build tools for our library community at large.

The power of making grows when the various maker communities collaborate and communicate — libraries, incubators, schools, government. It’s a network.

Internet Librarian Thoughts

I attended my first Internet Librarian conference this past week in beautiful Monterey, California. While my blog posts were infrequent, I soaked up a lot of good information from the presenters.
Wednesday morning’s session with a panel of three ‘born digital’ students was fascinating. Why I found it easier to grok this generation’s approach to technology from hearing it from their mouths, rather than reading Pew Internet reports or the work of danah boyd, I’m not sure. I was pleased to hear the members of this panel state how they understood the differences between ‘any old online resource’ [my phrasing] and the ‘good stuff’ [again, my words] libraries provide. I was entertained and a bit amazed at what I understood to be their attitude about technological innovation: that the speed of evolution in how we communicate and interact with the world around us is normal and unending. It makes me feel older than my years to hear eloquent and thoughtful high school students hold forth on the normalcy of technologies that I find, frankly, amazingly innovative and cool. I was struck by one of the participants’ statements that “twitter is dead”; amended by the youth librarian who helped convene the panel, who added “twitter was never alive.” The fact that this quote was repeated many times in the following minutes and hours on Twitter struck me as entertainingly ironic
Mobile devices and mobile computing were a focus of the conference as well. It seems that there is tremendous energy in libraries toward making services and functions available to the handheld devices. In not too many years, mobile devices will be the de facto standard of internet access, the one everyone has — not a computer. (This will be especially true in the developing world, which will bypass landline networking much as large swaths of the world have bypassed landline telephony.) An important point to remember is that the world does not use the iPhone, as much of a phenomenon it has been in some places. Even if the world is using mobile devices, they may not be using full graphic interfaces on those devices. Does this presage the reappearance of more gopher-like interfaces, ones that are much simpler to navigate on small-screen devices?
The Web Presence & Experience track was filled with excellent examples and advice on web design. Presentations covered a range of topics. Refreshingly, it seemed that everyone assumed that usability would be taking place — it is simply part of the process, not a super extra-special tool that only some people use. Innovation centered on services and enabling functionality, and much less on user testing and validating of designs. This is an excellent step.
Another interesting thing that I noticed is that almost nobody mentioned “RSS” as a tool or technology that needed to be explained. As I noted in my post about the lack of RSS support in Google Chrome last month, RSS is becoming invisible plumbing, something that just happens and is assumed. It appears less an active tool, and more a passive way to exchange information. Twitter, on the other hand, is alive and well. At least, among the Internet Librarians in attendance. As I publish this, there have been about 500 tweets with the #il2009 hashtag, from (in my estimate) 1,000 conference attendees.
And finally, a sign of the times…. In the lobby of the Monterey Marriott was the following sign, which made me wonder: Is there any other kind?

Internet Librarians

IL2009: When Students Go Mobile

When Students go Mobile: The Effects of Smartphones on Information Literacy and Academic Library Services
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki

Students with smartphones think of them as leisure devices, not academic devices — only 11% in a recent survey. But this is likely to grow as libraries build more smartphone-ready content and services.
2000 ACRL Information Competency Standards. Are these standards still relevant? Five standards — where are we on each one? How do smartphones effect information literacy?
Standard One — determines the nature and extent of the information needed
Should we provide access to high-value applications just as we provide access to high-value databases? For example, Netter’s Neuroscience is $40 for the iPhone; should we be licensing it for our populations?
When others create applications using public information, who validates it? For example, there are two apps for the the World Factbook 2009. Neither produced by the government. What are risks?
Standard Two — access information effectively and efficiently
Extracting information from sources and managing that information. Harder to do on mobile devices. But iPhone is beginning to do this pretty well through applications — such as Margins.
Standard Three — reads text and extracts main ideas
Mobile devices allow students to read on the go, between other activities. Enables on-the-fly reading — but what about deep reading? Will they be able to process what they read? Should smartphone makers make a ‘quiet setting’ so that the user can’t be interrupted?
Students may see information that renders well on a mobile device as more accurate than information that renders poorly. What you can use is better than what’s hard to use (i.e., the Google Scholar effect).
Librarians should help ensure that course management systems are easily accessible via mobile devices.
Standard Four — students can use information to solve real-world problems
Students need to be able to share information. The apps, like Dropbox, exist, but aren’t well known.
Standard Five — students understand the rules around information use
Libraries need to help educate students on the potential impact of posting information on the web. We could help teach how to be safe online — or help others on campus do this.
Plagiarism is still a tricky subject. But students are now in such constant contact, all the time, about their academic pursuits that collaboration is a way of life, not something one does in a course context. Figuring out what’s your own, and what’s a group effort, is harder.
Summary — standards have held up pretty well in the face of mobile computing.
Speaker interested in doing research on literacy and mobile devices.

Kristine Ferry, Lisa Serbert & Holly Tomren, UC-Irvine

Institutions that are building mobile apps don’t often include libraries in their mobile apps.
If we’re going to collect applications for mobile devices, we need to think about a few things. We need to know more about their behavior. As vendors provide mobile-ready content, will libraries be charged more? So far, not — and shouldn’t be. It’s the same users, same content — different destination. Will mobile devices need special activation or authentication?
MIT has a proxy application for iPhone, to proxy specific resources.
Add the mobile version to the catalog record — another 856 field. Simply another location for the device for mobile users.
How do we support information for mobile devices? A multitude of devices and formats. Who gets this task? Library? IT? Vendor?
Why not use mobile devices for library cards? You can check into a flight with one.

I really like this last idea — if American Airlines and Delta can send you a barcode to display on your mobile device, can’t the library do the same thing?

IL2009 D101: Digital library Network — Roy Tennant

Unfiltered notes from Roy Tennant’s talk on Digital Library Network:

Perceptions report — libraries = books
Libraries were once center of information universe. Many online catalogs are simply card catalogs on screen. Libraries were built around the idea of scarcity. World today is not this way. Even in developing world — form of internet access is cell phone (more ubiquitous than computer).
Tablet devices are on the way, and soon. Epaper is comings oon, too.
Users built workflow around libraries. Now, we need to build ourselves around users.
Massively centralized services not possible. Now, this may be our only salvation.
Quotes General Shinseki: if you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelvance even more.
We need to put libraries at the network level of web scale.
We need to be an essential part of the new ecology. Whole publishing indusry uses Onix standard for bibliographic data. Libraries use MARC. Does anyone find this funny? Libraries don’t just process metadata. We add value, put in more data based on what we know about books.
What is going to save our bacon? It’s not what we’ve been doing for last century. Research process is broken — messy desktops (virtual and real). Libraries have metadata to help researchers organize and find the information they need. We have to help people with their problems. Libraries need to be the solution.
Take a look at CDL’s Changed their IR into something more dynamic. Now a publishing tool for faculty. IT’s not an IR anymore — it’s a publishing service. IR is the backend, nobody cares. It’s all about publication and citation.
CDL is also archiving state government sites. See what the world looked like around pivotol events. Crawls state government sites twice a year, some more frequently. Also make tools available to others.
Make sure your site is indexed by Googl, etc. Your site must make its content available. Syndicate your content in places where it can be found.
Libraries need to create conversations, be the locus of ideas and discussion.
Question about future of federated search: is it basically dead?
Answer — yes, it’s time has basically come and gone, if we can build some of these new services like Summon, etc.

IL2009 Keynote: Vint Cerf

I’m recording my mostly unedited notes from Internet Librarian 2009 here.
Vint Cerf was interviewed by Paul Holdengraber — the conversational format made for an entertaining and informative session. I’ll comment on one particular point below (where Vint talks about cloud computing); the rest is presented in raw form.

Business interests don’t like the idea of the web from a copyright perspective: every time you look at a page, you *copy* it.
How should we rethink copyright in the internet age? Copying and distribution is very inexpensive. We still want people to be able to make money and protect work. Creative Commons does this very well. We need flexibility to have free content and paid content.
Email started out as a tool of convenience for programmers. Quickly moved to commercial world through 80s. Commercial email died when it was connected to the Internet (as opposed to proprietary, closed, systems).
What is impact of email, in terms of attention span, interruption. Kids multitask a lot — and they may be training their brains to do so more effectively than we can, because they are learning to do it earlier. But we tend to spend less time reading and thinking before acting. We aren’t necessarily paying enough attention to problems, issues, as we did in the past. (Cites conversation with Henry Kissinger, who posited this.)
What does it mean to be attentive in an age of distraction? “Power corrupts; Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.” Brevity is the enemy, in a sense, of careful thinking and analysis.
Tell us about ‘bit rot’. Vint is concerned that, as we build more digital archives, the archives will not be meaningful if the applications are not available to render those bits. Old files may be perfectly valid, but not interpretable. It’s not just a question of preserving the bits. You can’t just preserve the software; it’s often proprietary. And it’s not just the software, but the operating system. And the OS won’t work unless it’s on the right hardware. How to address this set of problems?
Cloud computing may turn out to be helpful; older programs may be available in the cloud, not personally/individually.

This is where I think Mr. Cerf hinted at where Google is going. With its massive computing capabilities and its experience in the cloud, my guess is that Google aims to make old computer files available via the web. This would be a step or two in the direction of making the world’s information available to everyone — including those musty, bit-rotting files that are already hard to read. With virtualization, Google could well provide access to those old files you created in 1993 on your first PC using a now-defunct Windows 3 application.

Ebooks have very different rights structures than printed books — all you can do is read it; you can’t sell, loan, destroy, etc., the ebook.
Books will evolve if for no reason that they’re static. Our world is dynamic. We need some form of electronic book. Much of what we will want to use are not usable in static printed form (spreadsheets, models, videos, etc.)
We should stop using the word ‘teach’ — we need to focus on ‘learn’, how people learn.
Does Internet inspire passivity? No — Not at all. Idea of the Internet is open — it allows people to try things out. Openness inspires activity. It unlocks creativity.
Internet was designed, not invented.
What are your thoughts on neutrality of the ‘net? Broadband access is increasingly important, but we have limited sources of broadband access. Often have zero or one choice; sometimes two. Broadband providers have a potential motivation to favor their own applications, not their competitors. Need to make sure the pipes carry everything equally, not play favorites.
What about privacy in the Internet age? Privacy is expected by most people on ‘net. And yet… there is monitoring going on. Tension is between anonymity and privacy, and law enforcement and protection of society. Anonymity is important. Strong authentication is important where it is needed.
Challenges for next archivist? Bit rot is huge challenge.
Internet looks like postcards. Explain. A postcard is like an Internet packet. You put it in the system, and it may or may not get to its destination.
What is Google Wave? What would world look like if email, IM, chat, tweets, etc., were all in one system? It puts all the comments on a ‘wave’ (a conversation), participants see it where they want (blog, email, Wave, etc.). Highlights problems of ephemeral and permanent records. Things you might think were ephemeral might end up in Wave.
We now live in an environment like the global village. Abberation of the Industrial Revolution is ending. We’re now back when we all lived in small villages and knew everything about everyone. (See Transparent Society, David Brin)

VuFind: The Library OPAC Meets Web 2.0 — Access 2008

Andrew Nagy
VuFind Developer


What is a “next generation catalog”? The term is not Andrew’s favorite — he wants to get away from the word “catalog” and start talking about “resource discovery.” A different approach between librarians and users: we view things as known-item searches, users have no idea, generally speaking. We need a tool to facilitate browsing, sharing, and organizing resources.
Users go to Amazon, Google, and Delicious to find and discover, and then look in the catalog. Libraries should be in that discovery role. Definition of “catalog” should include things that your users have access to (as through consortial borrowing or online access).
Villanova decided to turn product into an open source one because they wanted broader development base and broader help for making it better. It took about 2 months to get university approval to open source the software. Over next two years, development continued at VU and elsewhere.
Many institutions are in process of adopting VuFind — alpha, beta, and live. VU’s catalog is tightly integrated with the web site.
Browsing is important, along with functions that exist in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, elsewhere — both online and in physical stores. Bring in demographics — show sophomores, for example, what other sophomores have looked at in a given topic search. Ability to save and share searches is also important.
Villanova found that, in the physical library, students were confused by multiple service points (reference, information, circulation, etc.). They’ve combined the physical desks into one — and feel very strongly that students would do better with a single point of service via the web. Catalog, web, digital collections, search — should all be integrated.
Tool must integrate directly with the ILS — LDAP & SIP2 authentication, bring in live circulation status, display holdings data, and — most importantly — interoperate with major ILS systems.
Data migration — VuFind community built SolorMARC to import MARC data into SOLR. You specify the mappings of MARC records into SOLR, the way you want. Investigating OAI Import and (possibly) Z39.50 import.

Search and Browse

A VuFind search (see the VuFind demo) for a phrase like world war two (no quotes) does an “and” search first, and then an “or”, so it searches for all the words, then any of the words. For phrase searching, use quotes. You can narrow results using the facets VuFind returns. Author facet for a general search is not particularly helpful — for a broad search, some authors always show up (Shakespeare shows up in the world war two example, and they clearly were not writing about World War II. Nagy is thinking of ways to have facets display in a different order depending on the kind of search being done. Suggests removing author from “very large” systems (those with millions of records).
An author search in the demo brings up a list of matching authors before the search results — so users can disambiguate. Clicking on an author’s name from this list pulls up the Wikipedia entry for that author, so that users can verify which of the similarly-named authors they meant.
There’s a experimental browse tool that lets you navigate through the catalog, iTunes-style, without typing a keystroke, to get to a collection of books on a topic. This tool only shows top 50 results in the last panel — so it leaves out a lot of things, even in a smallish catalog like the test catalog (with 850,000 records).


Q: What are weighting systems in the search process?
A: In general, the all fields search gives more weight to title, exact matches, author, call number, subject headings. It’s not currently configurable, but it’s in the code and you can play with it there.
Q: Where is VuFind in development process for bringing in non-catalog materials?
A: Villanova has a lot of digital library material. But haven’t brought in non-MARC records. Want search results to show thumbnail of digitized object. A record display would include different types of data. This is probably the next step. VuFind 1.0 is next step. Bringing in other content through OAI and/or federated search is likely the next step.
Q: How frequently is bibliographic content?
A: Villanova updates/adds/edits/deletes about 150 records a day, on average — they update nightly. It can be done more often, if wanted/needed. Their Voyager ILS does a nightly update of the previous day’s changed records. Deletes and suppressed records are separately output and removed from VuFind nightly.
Q: Have there been any III libraries?
A: None public, but quite a few are in development. Holdings are currently available only through screen scraping. Sirsi-Dynix is also under development.
Q: Internationalization?
A: Yes — the whole interface has been translated into about 10 languages.