Tag Archives: library

Autonomous Self-Checkout Idea

Here’s an idea I had today that I wanted to get down so I don’t forget it…autonomous self-checkout with cell phones. Here’s the idea:

You write a web-service that logs the customer into their account from their cell phone browser, and then takes over the camera on their cell. They point the camera at a bar code on the book in question, and you software looks it up in the catalog and checks it out to the patron.

The difficult part for the library is how to enable the deactivation of the security strips that most of us use…ideally, the security system would be tied to the catalog, and would know when a book was checked out and when it wasn’t, and alarm only as appropriate.

This would take library staff completely out of the checkout process (which self-checkout already does) but would ALSO take any specialized equipment out, and allow for nearly complete patron autonomy in the stacks.

The interesting thing is, I’m pretty sure that all of this is possible with current open source software. Certainly there would need to be some development, but I don’t think anything would have to be completely written from scratch…maybe connectors that transfer data from one system to the other.

Thoughts? Is this being done anywhere? Or did I actually have an original thought?

Metasearch aka Federated Search aka The Mind Killer

This is the period during the year at MPOW that we are reviewing our goals, and really looking at what the next 6 months will bring. As a portion of that, it’s up to me to try and figure out how our IT department fits in with this, given that we are mentioned in no less than 99.999999943% of the Library Wide goals. Pretty much every overarching goal for the library as a whole has some part of it that IT is going to support, or design, or maintain, or drive.

This makes for job security. It also makes for many hats.

After looking at where we are headed (new building, re-thinking the library, focusing on the students) we decided that the area that could most impact the way that we do things is metasearch. No one is happy with their ILS, and patrons just aren’t using our catalog at all…circulation statistics for books is through the floor. But foot traffic, website visits, database use, reference questions…all are up from previous years. So we’re definitely being used, just not for books. Given that the library “brand” is books, that’s worrying.

As an attempt to bridge this gap to the books, the library IT council decided unanimously to pursue Metasearch over the course of this year. The idea is, of course, to have books presented to patrons side-by-side with all of our other resources.

The gap between theory and practice in this case seems like the Grand Canyon.

Is anyone happy with a metasearch product? I know that most of us agree that the technology isn’t mature yet, but at this point implementation of a metasearch solution seems less daunting than trying to roll to another ILS. Especially since I can give LibraryFind a try without signing away my soul to the Library Corporate Masters.

Help me build a new library

Ok, library gang: I need some help.

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re building a new library here at UTC. We are in the planning stages now, and are in the process of putting together a program plan.

Here’s the rub: the program plan that we’re coming up with is based on, of course, current processes.

My challenge to you, library bloggers (and feel free to answer on your own blogs, just linkback so I can follow): if you had a new building, 16-18 full time librarians, and roughly 20 staff members, how would you put together the best academic library possible? How many people doing what? How do we deconstruct “Systems” into something useful? Same for “Reference”? We’re not tied to existing paradigms, and are looking for radically out of the box thinking…give me your best shot at a library for the 21st century.

The point is to ignore existing skillsets of the people here, and instead build the ideal set of positions…we can fill them afterwards. But that’s hard to do from the inside. Give us your best shot!

Technophobia or payola?

Welcome to the gang from Digg! I think the site is finally stable now (thanks Blake). Thanks for stopping by…

In an article today on CNet, the Register of Copyright of the US, Marybeth Peters (who, let me remind you, is an Associate Librarian for Copyright Services for the Library of Congress) admitted that she was a:

…self-proclaimed “Luddite,” who confessed she doesn’t even have a computer at home. “In hindsight, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

*boggle*

I’m sorry, but I thought that just said that the person responsible for administering Copyright law in the US doesn’t own a computer.

Oh wait, IT DOES SAY THAT THE PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR COPYRIGHT IN THE US DOESN’T OWN A COMPUTER.

She goes on to say things like:

Peters indicated she was less thrilled, however, about a portion of the DMCA that generally lets hosting companies off the hook for legal liability, as long as they don’t turn a blind eye to copyright infringement and remove infringing material when notified. That’s one of the major arguments Google is attempting to wield in fighting high-profile copyright lawsuits, including one brought by Viacom, against its YouTube subsidiary.

“Shouldn’t you have to filter? Shouldn’t you have to take reasonable steps to make sure illegal stuff that went up comes down?” she said. She added, without elaborating further, “I think there are some issues.”

No, you shouldn’t, Marybeth. Filtering means that we are placing the responsibility of policing onto the providers of the service, and not on the people ultimately responsible for the infringement. It also means that we move farther from Net Neutrality, because there is a slippery slope from “monitor everything” to “oh, since you CAN monitor everything, prioritize something”.

Is there anyone at all in the actual copyright process that understand that the law is broken beyond repair right now, and that the digital world really does change the rules? Or is it just that all of our media laws are now being written and propped up by corporate interests instead of being written for the good of the people?

Google Book Search: My Library

Google has made an interesting move with Book Search…they just added a “My Library” component, which allows you to catalog your home library using Google.

Now, if you do a search in Google Books, one of the options is “Add to My Library”

Google My Library

If you click the link, and are logged into Google, it starts your collection:

Google My Library 2

The links on the side give an option to Import/Export you library, but the import options is woefully weak…it only allows you to paste in a list of ISBNs. No CSV or Delimited files, no xml, no other formal metadata. Just ISBNs.

Export is possibly even worse. Google My Library exports an XML file with the following structure:

<book>
<id>drYIAAAACAAJ</id>
<url>http://books.google.com/books?id=drYIAAAACAAJ</ur>
<title>Pattern Recognition</title>
<contributor>William Gibson</contributor>
−
<identifier>
<type>ISBN</type>
<value>0425192938</value>
</identifier>
</book>

Google? What’s with the non-existent metadata? I can do better at Amazon, not to mention a real library tool like LibraryThing.

Google My Library also has the ability to display just the cover view of your library, but there doesn’t appear to be any ordering/sorting options…although it will limit a search to just your library, it would still be nice to be able to order. How about some faceted browsing, Google?

Google My Library Cover View

This is an interesting product from Google. It is yet another set of information they can use to target advertisements (if they know the contents of your library and 982734987234 other people, they can cross reference that and target ads). But as a product from the consumer’s view, this seems way less useful than LibraryThing, which has given serious thought to what people want to do with their own books, and gives a nearly obsessive number of tools to the user.

On the other hand, this is Google. They are likely to gather a huge number of users from their existing base, even when there may be better tools out there for the given job. Haven’t seen this over at the Thingology blog…Tim, what do you think about this?

Open Source Library

Many libraries are undergoing a re-evaluation of their technology underpinnings…their ILS, their electronic access mechanisms (OpenURL resolvers, OPAC, Metasearch), and other pieces of the melange we use to get our patrons what they need.

If you were going to attempt to move away from commercial, closed-source products and towards open source solutions for the following, what would you use? What are the areas where you are just not convinced that open source is ready for prime time, and in those cases who do you think is the most progressive choice for an academic library?

  • ILS
  • OPAC (if separate from ILS)
  • OpenURL Resolver
  • ERM
  • MetaSearch
  • Other tools I’ve forgotten… :-)

I’ve got some feelings about a few of these areas, but in others I’m just not sure. Help me make up my mind what to play with…

Library Technology Conferences

Updated with correct URL!!! Please take our survey!!!!

You will almost certainly see this call for input on a few blogs this week, as well as listservs and other electronic means of communication in libraryland.

Consider that behind the scenes, some of us are trying desperately to build a different sort of library conference…Better than other conferences. Better…stronger…faster. One that makes cool sound effects when it runs.

To that end, any input you are willing to give will help. Fill out The Survey, and leave feedback here if you wish to give more thorough answers. We will pay attention.

User Interface Expectations

Been thinking a lot about user interfaces lately…what happens when the “language” of your users changes? For example, how many companies have cute phone numbers that spell their name…something like 1-800-GRIFFEY. Before cell phones, dialing this made sense: you pressed each letter in turn: 1-800-475-3339. (warning, number goes nowhere)

Post-SMS, how many teens do you think will see that number and try to dial the number as if they were texting? I’ll admit that when I think about dialing letters, I default to “txt” behavior.

This isn’t an example of the interface changing. It’s the same phone, with the same letters in the same order. But the expectations of that interface have changed.

Where have libraries been guilty of this? We have an interface, and it’s still being used…but the patron expectations have shifted slightly, and we haven’t taken that into account…

Twopointopians

Last week the Annoyed Librarian started a somewhat interesting conversation with the wonderfully caustic post “The Cult of Twopointopia“. I won’t respond fully to the post (plenty of people have weighed in, both in the comments and on their own blogs…see Meredith, KGS, and David Lee King for more). I did want to comment briefly on the AL’s followup post, “An Alternative Voice in Librarianship“. In it, the AL says (heavily edited for length, read the original if you think I’m missing anything important here):

…I can’t just ignore things when I’m bombarded with them in the premier publication of the American Library Association, now can I? That seems to be the twopointopian strategy. Never say anything critical. Don’t engage the opposition, because the opposition just isn’t on the “cluetrain,” so we can ignore them. Don’t analyze, just proselytize. Sorry, baby, it doesn’t work for me. I like evidence and argument, not mantras and affirmations.

They publish stupid “manifestos.” They ignore criticism and never seriously engage with any opposition, because they think they can ignore the opposition. The opposition is too timid and well mannered to take on the regressive thugs. The opposition (sometimes) is too poorly informed to take the twopointopians on on their own ground.

I find this to be a bit disingenuous, especially after reading things like:

the twopointopians “get it,” while the rest of us just don’t understand. They’re like religious converts preaching the gospel of 2.0 to everyone, and they just can’t understand either that nobody cares, or that everyone already knows about it.

For the diehard twopointopians, their way is the way. They don’t like criticism or discussion, because they’re not up to it. They like captive audiences of neophytes who they can impress with their speeches about all this great new stuff. They like to use the mystique of social software and new technologies to impress upon their crusty colleagues how hip they are. They like to pretend that people who aren’t impressed with how righteous and “user-centered” they all are are just ignorant clowns who don’t know anything about how libraries ought to be run.

That’s a long way around to get to my own thoughts, but here goes: The AL rants about wanting the “twopointopians” to produce “evidence and argument” for Library 2.0. I’m not a fan of the phrase “Library 2.0″, but as shorthand for “the use of web-based tools with a social bent for informational exchange, rating, searching, and creation” I think it works. Even if I don’t like the nom de guerre of the concept, I certainly count myself as one of the “twopointopians”. At least, as I think the word is being used. I will happily count myself in the company of David Lee King, KGS, Jessamyn, Meredith and others.

What I want to know is: Where is the evidence and argument from AL? Given the above quotes from AL, it appears that we are all religious zealots. I can’t say that AL reads anything like a well-reasoned and cogent argument for…well…anything. It looks like a lot of hyperbole and name calling to me. What exactly is the argument for “Not-library-2.0″?

Here’s my argument FOR Library 2.0: Alexa’s Top Websites for the US. Out of the top 10 most visited sites on the ‘net, 8 of them have some type of social facet. What’s your argument for Not-Library-2.0…whatever that might look like?