Drupal in Libraries

Cover of book

One of the reasons I’ve been so absent on RSS4Lib over the past eighteen months or so is a larger project I was working on: a book, Drupal in Libraries, Volume 14 of the Tech Set ® series edited by Ellyssa Kroski.

The book is written as a primer for technically proficient librarians who want to learn more about Drupal and manage a web site using it, but who are not themselves coders. The only time you’ll need to be typing commands directly into a terminal emulator (and even that is optional) is to install and decompress the Drupal software. The rest of the book is focused on what you can do with Drupal from the administrative interface. The book has 10 chapters, as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Types of Solutions Available (how and where you can get Drupal, seek development and/or technical support)
  3. Planning (this chapter is available as a free sample)
  4. Social Mechanics (working with your organization to build a successful project)
  5. Implementation (this is the bulk of the text and walks you through the basics of adding and configuring modules, creating content types, and working with various features such as views and panels)
  6. Marketing (how to sell Drupal to your staff and to your IT organization, and how to sell the site to your patrons once it’s launched)
  7. Best Practices (tips and tricks for building a secure and stable Drupal site)
  8. Metrics (measuring the success of your new site)
  9. Developing Trends (up-and-coming tools and modules to be aware of)
  10. Recommended Reading (an annotated bibliography of books, articles, and learning resources

The book also has a companion web site, with additional information and discussion forums. If you have questions about the book, or Drupal in a library setting, stop on by.

You can purchase the book through Amazon.com, from Neal-Schuman, or through your favorite bookseller.

Next Generation Discovery Tools

There was a fair amount of discussion at the recent Computers in Libraries of “next generation discovery tools” — the technologies that, many of us hope, will supplant the now aging OPAC concept and provide better, more interactive, and more extensive access to our library’s holdings.
Marshall Breeding has posted a guide to who is using these new interfaces at http://www.librarytechnology.org/discovery.pl, part of his extensive Library Technology Guides site. (I blogged about Marshall’s two presentations at CIL here and here.)
These next-generation tools, whether commercial from the usually suspect ILS vendors or open source from various places, hold great promise for improving our user’s ability to browse and find items that we libraries have already acquired.

[Via Guideposts.]

CIL2008: The Open Source Landscape

This is the presentation I hoped to have in yesterday’s keynote

Marshall maintains a list of who has what catalogs on his Library Technology Guides site.
Federated search systems: LibraryFind; dbWiz (Simon Fraser); Masterkey (developed by Index Data). masterkey.indexdata.com for a demo.
OCLC offers some open source software — but not cutting edge stuff. Fedora is a major digital repository engine. VTLS Vital is based on Fedora. Fedora Commons is a support service around it. Keystone — also by Index Data.

Open Source Discovery Products (i.e, Next Generation Catalogs)

VUFind. Apache Solr/Lucene.
– eXtensible Catalog (Mellon funded). Not a product now, but will be one day. XC are currently seeking institutional participation. This will “probably become a player” in the coming years.
– Others, such as Fac-Bac-OPAC, Scriblio (formerly WPopac).

Open Source in the ILS Arena

Shifting from open source being risky to open source being mainstream. Medium-sized public libraries are going with open source solutions for catalog; it no long requires massive technological effort or as much risk as it did.
In 2002, the open source ILS was a distant possibility — 3 of 4 tools Marshall reviewed then (Avanti, Pytheas, OpenBook, and Koha) are now defunct. In 2002, open source ILS wasn’t a trend.
In 2007, world starting to change. Slowly. A few hundred libraries had purchased an open source ILS; 40,000 had purchased a commercial product. In March 2008 — early adopters are now catalysts for others. There’s a small installed base, which makes others see the possibilities as being real. It seems now that we have a bona fide trend.
The ILS industry is “in turmoil”. Companies are merging; libraries are faced with fewer choices from commercial vendors; this gives more credence to ILS arena from standpoint of competition.
Decision to go open source is still primarily a business decision — as a library, need to demonstrated that the open source ILS best supports the mission of the library.

Current Product Options

Koha first open source ILS. Based on Perl, Apache, MySQL, Zebra search engine (from Info Data). Has 300+ libraries using it. Including Santa Cruz Public Library, 10 sites and 2 million volumes. Has relevance-ranked search, book jackets, facets, all that jazz.
Evergreen. Developed by Georgia Public Library consortium. Two year development cycle (6/2004 – 9/2006). A single shared environment shared by all libraries. One library card. Switched from SIRSI Unicorn. Succeeded in part because of standardization of policies across libraries (lending policies, etc.). Used in Georgia, British Columbia, Kent County (Maryland), and under consideration by a group of academic libraries in Canada. So far, only publics have adapted).
OPALS Open Source Automated Library System. Developed by Media Flex. Both installed ($250) and hosted ($170) services. Used by a consortium of K-12 schools in NY.
NextGenLib ILS designed for the developing world. 122 installations (India, Syria, Sudan, Cambodia). Originally closed, converted to open source in early 2008. More information from Library Technology.
Learning Access ILS. Designed for underserved rural public and tribal libraries — a turnkey solution. But may be defunct, according to Marshall. Built on an early version of Koha, but customized.

Open Source Business Front

Lots of companies offer a business plan to help support ILS software. Index Data, LibLime (Koha), Equinox (Pines), Care Affiliates; MediaFlex.
Duke is working on an open source ILS for higher education (looking for funding from Mellon; Marshall is involved).

Open Source Issues

Rise in interest led by disillusionment with traditional vendors. But total cost of ownership is probably about the same between open source and traditional tools. Libraries hope that they are less vulnerable to mergers and acquisitions. There’s no lump sum payment (though still need hardware, support — internal or external — and development costs. Not always clear who is funding the next generation of the current system.
Risk factors: dependency on community organizations and commercial companies. Decisions are often based on philosophical reasons, but they shouldn’t be — you need to consider the merits of the system itself. Make sure features and functionality are what you need.
Open Source vendors/providers need to develop and present their total cost of ownership — with documentation.
“Urgent need for a new generation of library automation designed for current and future-looking library missions and workflows.” That is, systems built for our digital and print collections. Open source tools do OK for systems of yesterday; will they meet the needs of the new library?
Q: How close are we to a system that does not utilize MARC records?
A: Not very. We need systems that do MARC, and Dublin Core, and ONYX, and RDF, etc., etc. The value in existing MARC records is too large to ditch. (Of course, it needs to be MARC XML.)

LibraryThing — Now RSS-Enabled

Tim Spalding has upgraded LibraryThing to include a few RSS feeds (151,440, to be precise) for its online catalog. Feeds include books cataloged by each LibraryThing member, reviews by each member, reviews of your books, all books given a specific tag, and reviews of books with a given tag. Phew! Tim has been busy.
This type of activity would be great for a traditional library — letting patrons see what other patrons are reading (assuming the patrons have opted in to the sharing of their reading lists). What might be interesting is to tell the catalog what it is you’ve read and then publish new books as you read them; others who have read the same books might be interested in receiving your newly-found books. This could even be done anonymously, if groupings of books read by the same people could be identified.

More Good Stuff from Ann Arbor District Library

The Ann Arbor District Library has done it again — in addition to all the other cool features their catalog/web site offers, it’s now possible to do a search in the catalog and save it as an RSS feed.
Why do this, you ask? As soon as something new appears in the library collection that matches your original query, you’ll know about it. For example, if you added this RSS feed to your aggregator, you’d be told whenever a new book appears with “broccoli” in the catalog information. (Amazingly, there are 13 items listed, of which six are neither cookbooks nor James Bond films.)
The savvy library patron will be jumping on new books even faster now.

[Via Edward Vielmetti’s Vacuum blog.]

Polaris Joins the RSS Bandwagon

Another LMS joins the RSS fray. According to an excerpt from a document on Polaris Systems‘ extranet, their forthcoming PowerPAC 3.2 release has some basic RSS features built in:

RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is a method of publishing links to content on your Web site. In Polaris PowerPAC 3.2, patrons can set up RSS feeds for new titles from Polaris PowerPAC directly to a Web site such as My Yahoo! or Bloglines. When the feed is received, the patron can click the link on the Web site to see a list of new titles in your library catalog. Polaris PowerPAC is RSS 2.0 compliant. Processing for the RSS feed is related to Polaris PowerPAC’s New Titles dashboard feature. Automatic processing for the New Titles Web part occurs nightly, and the dashboard links contain new titles for the past 31 days. On-order items are included. For the RSS feed, Polaris background processing updates the current New Titles list hourly.

Another small step forward…

Details about Innovative’s RSS Feeds

Innovative Interfaces provides more details about their new RSS capabilities, according to a press release published earlier this week and discussed in an earlier RSS4Lib posting.
The new RSS tools will be included in the 2006LE version of Millennium, scheduled for release in late 2005. According to the press release, there are two significant RSS tools:

  • Incoming RSS Feeds Library staff will be able to insert RSS feeds directly into catalog page templates. It will be possible to use any RSS feed (library news, campus news, weblogs, etc.). Staff can customize the display to fit in with the look and feel of the catalog and select from headline-only or add summaries and modified dates.
  • Outgoing RSS Feeds Any Boolean search in Millennium can be turned into an RSS feed using Feed Builder. This is the big news! “[T] he most recent information about a particular subject, publisher, author, or items at a certain location” can be distributed via RSS to patrons, other web pages, or other web sites. In addition, “library staff can also create special review files that Feed Builder will transmit to anywhere in cyberspace regarding special topics such as award winning books, library staff picks, books by local authors, or any other topic of interest.”

Perhaps I was too pessimistic in my previous post; if Millenniuim keeps to its release schedule, this will be available sooner than I thought.
Now if only Innovative would add an RSS feed to their press releases page…

Ann Arbor District Library & RSS

The Ann Arbor District Library will be launching a new library catalog and associated services next month. According to Edward Vielmetti, a member of the AADL’s technology advisory board, the new catalog will be integrated with library weblogs so that:

There’s a plan to integrate library staff and patron book recommendations and discussion right into the catalog interface. The idea is that you’ll be reading along in a library blog about books recommended in a certain area (patchwork knitting, Middle Eastern cookery, or travel books about Vermont) and be able to click straight through to put a recommended book on reserve. Blogs will have RSS feeds, and there’s plans to have RSS feeds out of the catalog.

Additionally, Vielmetti says that the new catalog has “a module to (optionally) save your reading history and to save any searches, and to have the library automatically mail you when new books come in that match a search, kind of like an iTunes smart playlist for books.” Whether this alert service will be available via RSS isn’t clear; however, since the AADL will be running Innovative Interface’s catalog, that functionality will be available with their next major release.
Too bad I moved from Ann Arbor last year — just ahead of the innovation wave!