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Newport News PL Launches Open Source Usage Software

Ke, 04/16/2014 - 00:11

Virginia’s Newport News Public Library System (NNPLS) launched StatBase, an open-source usage statistics program that enables libraries to track and visualize data on circulation, patron registration, door counts, reference, acquisitions, instructor-led courses, and more. The application is available as a free download on SourceForge.

“We had a strong need to change the way that we did our data gathering in order to get better results and more visible outputs,” said Alexandria Payne, digital services manager for NNPLS and project manager for StatBase. “It’s a system-wide effort that probably affects every staff member. For that volume of work, we just felt that our 20-year legacy of spreadsheets wasn’t cutting it anymore.”

As with many libraries, usage data plays an essential role in the allocation of resources at NNPLS, as well as in discussions with stakeholders regarding funding and other issues. But spreadsheets, while adequate for tracking data, offered limited visualization tools for spotting trends or building narratives around those trends for stakeholders. Businesses and academic libraries might use commercial business analytics software suites, such as SPSS and SAS, to manage data, but Payne noted that institutional subscriptions for those products are expensive.

“There are very sophisticated options out there, but we knew right off the bat that the cost and the maintenance of those resources would be a little bit more than we could probably handle,” Payne said. “We wanted something small, something simple.”

After a “casual overview” of the market, NNPLS decided that there were no products that met its needs for both long-term affordability and simplicity. Facing a pressing need to streamline data collection workflow for staff and provide NNPLS leadership with better visualization tools, Payne, along with usability specialist John Curtis and developer Vanessa Carpenter, began developing StatBase in the summer of 2011. Later, after Carpenter left NNPLS, the team was joined by developer James Messimer.

“We wanted the ability to heavily customize and make it relevant for us as a small public library rather than as a large organization,” Payne said.

The group began by analyzing the pros and cons of three open-source content management systems (CMS) including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. They decided that WordPress would have the lowest learning curve for staff, but was better suited to blogging than data transport, and might have faced scalability limitations. Drupal was much more powerful, but would have presented more of a development challenge for the small team. Ultimately, they decided that Joomla was a happy medium, offering better flexibility and scalability than WordPress, while posing fewer complications than Drupal.

“We knew we wanted a scalable, open-source architecture with a WAMP [Windows operating system, Apache web server, MySQL database, and PHP scripting language] framework, because that’s something that we all had expertise in, and we knew we could support fairly easily in house with limited resources,” Payne said. “The framework and the CMS that met all of our core criteria and gave us extensive flexibility through contributor modules was Joomla.”

The team gave themselves one year to get a beta version up and running, and managed to meet their goal, with Payne, Carpenter, and Curtis working independently on the project whenever they had time, and also meeting together for at least 90 minutes each week for a year. StatBase launched for trial and internal use at NNPLS in July 2012, and after the library beta tested the system through 2012 and 2013, StatBase debuted in public release on SourceForge in late March of this year for other libraries to use.

StatBase features customizable, web-based data entry forms that libraries can use to track data at multiple branch locations, along with visualization tools that make it easy to convert that data into a variety of charts and graphs. The system can also ingest or export data from Microsoft Excel. And unlike NNPLS’s old spreadsheet system, multiple users can work within StatBase at once. StatBase also offers user permissioning by login or branch, should a system wish to limit what individuals or branches can input or view.

Payne is hoping that other developers within the library field take advantage of StatBase’s open source license and pick up where NNPLS leaves off, creating new modules for the library community and customizing the program to fit their needs.

“We developed this resource for us internally, but there’s only so much that you can dedicate to it before you have to kind of wrap it up in a bow and say ‘this is all we’re going to put into it,’” in terms of development and expansion, Payne said. “We really felt like it held strong promise for other organizations, and if other organizations could get a head start, and get a malleable tool that would give them the flexibility to be creative and be responsive, we really felt like the community would embrace it, and we hope that it will.”

To Tackle Major Issues Affecting Kids, ALA Divisions Must Collaborate | The Next Big Thing

Ma, 04/14/2014 - 15:50

That distant rumble? It’s just me, tearing down the silos that plague the library world. Pick up a sledgehammer and help.

As current chair of the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) Advisory Committee. I work with the incredible OITP staff to explore library and technology issues impacting youth. To be effective, we’ve had to smash through traditional barriers. The issues we face now are too big for one division. We need to step up as part of the whole librarian army.

During the recent ALA Midwinter Meeting, the OITP committee was briefed by representatives from ALA’s American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Though the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) rep couldn’t make it, YALSA’s recent action report provided great perspective. Our audience included members from the Library Information Technology Association (LITA), Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Public Library Association (PLA), Chief Officers of Library State Agencies (COSLA) and more. A library school professor who’d been at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) pre-meeting was there, with an Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) employee.

I mention all this not just so you can score Bingo! on your ALA alphabet soup card, but also to underscore the importance of bringing together multiple perspectives.

The issues up for discussion had some subtle twists that might not otherwise have been considered. The ALSC speaker, Cen Campbell, spoke eloquently on technology issues impacting the youngest library users. Campbell, founder of and a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, is working to position children’s librarians as media mentors who can help parents explore the implications of screen time for young children. These librarians, Campbell said, need to be media mentors in order to help parents navigate a complex issue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics still advocates for a complete absence of screen time for children under two, a recommendation issued in 1999 to address time in front of cathode ray tubes and VCRs. Times have changed, and screen time today can be much more intentionally interactive. Is it good or bad for a six-month-old to explore stimulus-response experiences by touching an iPad screen and launching fireworks? Does no screen time mean no parents and children reading picture books on tablets? Campbell encourages librarians to model these more intentional interactions of potential parent-child screen sharing during more digitally aware story time programs.

For school librarians feeling the constant pressure of change and digitization—and seeing their jobs expand into new roles—you aren’t alone. Even story time is changing. Librarians who thought they were just going to read books and do craft projects with two-year-olds must adapt to new roles as media mentors and iPad advisors. Teen librarians are expected to know about coding and drill presses so they can run digital and physical maker labs. Public librarians are running programs for aspiring local authors. We are all in a state of flux—which, as hard as it may be, is infinitely preferable to extinction.

We need to find new ways to meet and talk across the three ALA youth services divisions. A source of potential inspiration might be LITA, established around the technology services as opposed to a specific job. Any librarian focused on tech has a second home in LITA, a place and gain new perspectives to bring back to a job-specific mothership like AASL.

If you will excuse the pun: Consider taking down a few silos and joining in on some library cross-pollination. It’s the next big thing.

Total Boox to Offer Free Ebook Access During National Library Week

Pe, 04/11/2014 - 17:17

In recognition of National Library Week, Total Boox, the “pay-as-you-read” metered ebook platform, will make its entire collection of more than 20,000 titles free to read from April 13 through April 20. The week-long promotion will allow anyone with an Android, Apple iOS, or Kindle Fire tablet to download the free Total Boox ereader app at and immediately access genre and literary fiction, ebooks on crafts and self-help, religion and spirituality, health and medicine, business and careers, and other fiction and nonfiction titles from publishers including O’Reilly, FW Media, Sourcebooks, Other Press, Elsevier, Red Wheel Weiser, Berrett-Koehler, Open-Road.

The Israel-based company is encouraging libraries to take advantage of the promotion to introduce patrons to ebook titles and to explore the service for themselves. Although the platform was developed for the consumer market, in recent months, Total Boox has begun cultivating partnerships with libraries. After a fall 2013 pilot at New York’s Westchester Library System, Total Boox in January announced the widespread availability of the platform for interested libraries.

For consumers, the proposal is straightforward. Books cost nothing to download, and readers are only charged for the portion of the book that they read. If a reader downloads a title priced at $10, but only reads 10 percent of the ebook, then he or she pays $1. If a user reads an entire ebook, the title becomes part of their permanent collection and can be re-read at any time with no additional charges.

Company representatives have described two key benefits of the model in discussions with LJ: With do-it-yourself titles, cookbooks, or similar ebooks, a user might be interested in a single chapter, and this would enable him or her to pay only for that chapter. The model takes the risk out of exploring unfamiliar authors and genres. If a novel doesn’t appeal to a reader, he or she can move on to something else while only paying for the portion of the ebook that they have read.

With the Total Boox platform for libraries, the model offers patrons unlimited simultaneous use with no loan expirations. Libraries pre-pay for a Total Boox account for their patrons, who can then download the Total Boox ereader and register for an account using their library card number. All content read by patrons result in deductions from the account, and all paid content then resides on the patron’s device.

Essentially, the library is paying for content that its patrons then keep. Some librarians have expressed concern about the emergence of “download and keep” models, which do not bolster a library’s collection, and primarily benefit patrons who can afford tablets and other devices. However, Total Boox founder and CEO Yoav Lorch has noted that the model offers another way to sponsor and promote reading within a community. And unlimited simultaneous use will likely appeal to both patrons and many librarians.

“Libraries and reading are inseparable, so it seems fitting to celebrate libraries by inviting people to read,” Lorch said in an announcement. “Public libraries continue to face many challenges with ebooks. Let’s take our minds off the issues during National Library Week and shift the focus back on reading. We are thrilled to help libraries promote reading in their communities.”

Stellar Databases: SLJ Readers’ Favorites and Other Essential Electronic Resources

To, 04/10/2014 - 23:00

Everywhere you look, librarians are on the hunt for databases, databases, and more databases. But which one is best? More importantly, when you get past the bells and whistles and confusing talk of “solutions,” which offers material that your students will use? And which one will be accessible to them? Wonder no more. We asked our readers what their most beloved resource is—our poll revealed a runaway favorite—and we also combed through this year’s database reviews and our recent tech survey to present below a list of electronic resources that make the grade.

PebbleGo, Capstone Digital

K-Gr 3SLJ readers were vocal—and almost unanimous—in their appreciation of this fun, informative resource. Contributors praise the Capstone Digital database created for students in kindergarten through third grade, not just for its excellent nonfiction content, but also for its ease of navigation and age-appropriate supplementary materials, including videos, pictures, and glossaries. For teachers and librarians, it also contains citation information and suggested cross references.

Subjects include animals, a section that boasts 200 entries; biographies (which recently added another 62 entries); Earth and space; and social studies. Librarian Sandy Pearsall of Conrad Weiser West Elementary in Womelsdorf, PA, notes, “It was difficult to find good nonfiction research materials for the varied levels of our students’ reading ability. PebbleGo has solved that problem. It is an excellent resource that is used over and over again.”

Teacher librarian Marilyn Rothberg of General Wayne Elementary School in Malvern, PA, is another ardent fan. “The database excels in its writing clarity, the appropriateness of the subtopics for each article, the ability for the text to be read out loud (and in a natural voice), the videos and pictures included, and the glossary help,” she says. “Our students enjoy researching topics on PebbleGo,” Rothberg continued, adding, “our teachers are happy to have found another source for nonfiction texts to support the Common Core. As a librarian, I love the citation information found at the bottom of the article and the cross references suggested.”

Other librarians praised PebbleGo as being ideal for their youngest patrons. According to Patricia Canini, library media specialist at Lincoln-Titus Elementary School in Crompond, NY, “PebbleGo is very user-friendly and suitable for kindergarten students—as not many databases are!”

(Capstone unveiled PebbleGoNext on April 10 at the Texas Library Association Conference. Click here to read SLJ coverage of this new product.)

BiblioBoard, Bibliolabs

See for the full review by Jennifer Prince.

Gr 6 UpBiblioLabs’s interesting new hybrid offers 14,000-plus public domain ebooks as well as images and 10,000-plus pages of other primary sources, and, unusually, a way for users to save locally created materials for patrons to access. The platform provides schools and libraries with curated collections called anthologies, which are bundles of content on specific themes. Once inside an anthology, users browse Pinterest-style through a gallery of high-resolution images—book covers, drawings, photos, and more—with each image linked to further information. If the icon is of a book cover, the attached link provides full access to facsimiles of that title’s content. BiblioBoard is also accessible via mobile devices such as the Kindle, Nexus 7, Nook, and iPad.

Air & Space and Smithsonian Magazine Archive Database, Gale Cengage Learning

See for the full review by Brian Odom.Gr

6 Up–Emerging from the great American museum and research facility, the Smithsonian, this database represents the first time the archives (up to the current issues) of Air & Space Magazine and Smithsonian Magazine have been made available to student researchers. Users can now easily search across the institution’s wide-ranging subjects that include science, the arts, history, nature, and international cultural heritage. Air & Space canvasses the innovative world of aviation and space exploration with articles from each field’s history, present technologies, human-interest stories, and future possibilities, while Smithsonian is widely recognized as a solid source of information on humankind’s arts and culture.

Digital Literacy, Rosen Digital

See for the full review by Jennifer Prince.

Gr 7 Up–Digital Literacy provides users with a know-how that will allow them to maximize the usefulness of a variety of online resources and be smart and responsible while doing so. The most significant strength of this database is the high relevancy of the articles to today’s students’ needs and the wide breadth of information covered in them. Articles are presented under the headings “Cyberbullying and Safety,” “Communication Basics,” “Social Networking,” “Privacy and Digital Ethics,” “Search and Research Skills,” “Tools for the Digital Age,” “Careers and Entrepreneurship,” “Internet Biographies,” and “Gaming.” The strong presence of audiovisual accompaniments will be of particular use to users who are studying English as a second language and to those who struggle with reading comprehension. Links to dozens of videos are embedded throughout the database content, and Rosen also provides interactive tutorials that help with, for example, recording a podcast.

Rourke eRead and Report

See for the full review by Jennifer Prince.

K Up–Rourke’s “eRead and Report” provides one-stop shopping for schools and libraries seeking science, social studies, fiction, math, and “high-interest” ebooks. Some of the books for very young children are written so that they can be sung to the tune of a children’s song. For that same age group, the resource also provides rebus stories. Each title is not only Common Core compliant but comes with student assessment functions as well, with test results immediately available to teachers. Purchase includes unlimited access for an entire building, with the material being accessible using PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones. All of the collections feature terrific illustrations. Some of the titles have full-color photographs, while others have bright, cartoony drawings. All text is in large, plain font.

National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World, Gale Cengage Learning

See for the full review by Kara Schaff Dean.

Gr 6 Up–“National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World” is part of the National Geographic Virtual Library. The database allows access to full-text books on travel, science and technology, history, the environment, animals, photography, and peoples and cultures. Also included are full-text articles from National Geographic Traveler magazine from 2010 to the present, 325 videos, 655 full-color maps and atlases, and 600 downloadable images.

Britannica School, Britannica Digital Learning

See for the full review by Cara Moffett.

PreK Up–This resource that offers material for even the very young contains more than 140,000 current and expertly written informational articles and countless multimedia items including video and audio files, maps, illustrations, photos, primary source documents, ebooks, recommended websites, and much more. The homepage features three encyclopedia files: “Elementary,” “Middle,” and “High.” Additionally, “Britannica Learning Zone” is offered within the Elementary interface for preschool students. A distinguishing feature of the material is that within each file there are three reading levels to choose from—Level 1 (Elementary), Level 2 (Middle), and Level 3 (High)—so that whichever option is purchased, users at varying reading levels will find accessible material.

Career Cruising, Career Cruising 2.0

See for the full review by Cheryl LaGuardia.

Gr 9 Up–Career Cruising 2.0 is a web-based career guidance system designed to help students choose and plan their working futures. It includes self-assessment tools and copious up-to-date information about postsecondary schools, scholarships and financial aid, and effective job searching, along with advice on how to keep a job. The main difference compared to the previous version is that Career Cruising 2.0 focuses strongly on the student’s self-built portfolio (My Plan), with each of the main sections of the system (Assessments, Careers, Education, Financial Aid, and Employment) feeding directly into that plan.

Merriam-Webster Unabridged, Merriam-Webster, Inc.

See for the full review by Cheryl LaGuardia.

Gr 6 Up–Merriam-Webster Unabridged is an American online dictionary containing over 700,000 definitions, 143,000 etymologies, and 100,000 word-in-context quotations from well-known writers. Using the advanced search feature enables users to access citations from the Merriam-Webster citation files (a collection of over a million real-world usage examples that the publication’s editors use to track words and their meanings). This edition, the largest revision made in 50 years, includes 5,000 new words and definitions, supplementary notes providing additional context, and usage paragraphs offering guidance and suggestions for words with disputed usage. The dictionary is supplemented on a continual basis. The new site also has a blog, quizzes, top 10 lists, and word-popularity rankings.

EasyBib, ImagineEasy Solutions

In the survey that drove Lauren Barack’s recent “Device and Conquer” article for SLJ (, librarians mentioned EasyBib as one of their favorite tools. The citation generator (which also offers lesson plans and advice for those teaching citation skills) is free to use for those creating MLA-style entries; libraries where students or staff use APA or Turabian style must sign up for institutional subscriptions. The most commonly cited item types (website, book, newspaper, journal, database) are tabbed options on the homepage; another tab links to “All 59 Options,” a list that includes choices from cartoon to patent and more. See for tips on using the service with elementary school students.

Glogster, Glogster EDU

Glogster, another tool cited by those who took the tech survey, allows users to create “glogs”—online multimedia posters. Its interface is easy to use: students can choose from pre-made image galleries or upload their own materials, and it’s also possible to use animation, draw, and include attachments, data, and more. A free version is available, but those who choose the premium option can take advantage of extras such as class and school sharing of posters, student portfolios, tech support, and—best of all—no ads. It’s easy to share glogs on multiple social media sites, too.

Elizabeth Michaelson is a freelance writer and editor in New York City and a contributing editor for She previously worked as a librarian in the Queens library system.

Putting the Pieces Together | Library Systems Landscape

To, 04/10/2014 - 17:08

Library Systems Landscape:

Imagine a future library use case: a mom picks up her son from soccer practice, and he mentions that he has a report due the following day. He doesn’t have all of the materials he needs, and the local library is closing soon. So, the mom calls up the catalog using her car’s voice-activated web browser and reserves what he needs while driving.

If that sounds like a pipe dream, it shouldn’t. Many new cars already feature voice command devices (VCD) that allow drivers to interact with their stereo, GPS, and other systems, or even dictate text messages or emails. According to global information and analytics provider IHS, these features will be included in 55 percent of new cars produced in 2019.

In a recent conversation with LJ, Will Evans, managing director of consumer experience design for TLC Labs at The Library Corporation, described the scenario above and pointed out that libraries are already in the middle of a similar interface shift, with desktop computer usage in decline and tablet and smartphone usage rising sharply. As that shift has progressed, people have come to expect consumer websites—and, increasingly, libraries’—to be developed with responsive web design (RWD) techniques or a mobile app that will work with their tablets and phones.

“If you look at any of your data, you realize that it’s getting above 19 percent [of users]—especially among people under 30—who are accessing the [catalog] through a mobile device. That’s where you’re going to grow,” he says. “Most [libraries] are going to be realizing that a mobile-first strategy is incredibly important. The other thing is the importance of context. They’re no longer accessing the catalog from a screen inside the library. That’s going to be less and less the case. They’re going to be accessing it on the go, they’re going to be accessing it from the web browser in their car navigation system.”

User experience (UX) design is a strategic focus for TLC, and part of Evans’s job is to anticipate and prepare for these types of advances. But his argument should ring true for any librarian. There’s every reason to think that patron expectations will continue to evolve in tandem with emerging commercial technologies.

This first edition of Library Systems Landscape, the successor to LJ’s annual Automation Marketplace feature, will examine how library systems are currently evolving, specifically focusing on recent advances in ebook integration, the emergence of next-generation library services platforms (LSP), new tools that are expanding the boundaries of what library websites and catalogs can do, and the maturation of open source options as competitors to commercial products.

Table 1: The Next Generation COMPANY SYSTEM TOTAL CONTRACTS TOTAL LIBRARIES* Ex Libris Alma 48 329 Innovative Interfaces Sierra Services Platform 113 336 OCLC WorldShare Management Services 92 177 ProQuest Intota Assessment component
released in November SirsiDynix BLUEcloud In rollout VTLS Open Skies In rollout Numbers represented here were reported to us by associated vendors. *Year End 2013 SOURCE: LJ LIBRARY SYSTEMS LANDSCAPE STUDY 2014

The next generation

OCLC was first to market with a next-generation LSP, launching OCLC Web-scale Management Services to early adopters in 2010. It was rebranded a year later as WorldShare Management Services (WMS). WMS and other LSPs aim to consolidate the functions of the varied, existing tools needed for acquisitions, circulation, workflow, analytics, discovery, and metadata and license management of print, electronic, and digital collections into a unified, web-based solution that replaces a traditional integrated library system (ILS).

“Happiness is best attained through fidelity to a worthy purpose,” says Andrew Pace, executive director of Networked Library Services for OCLC, quoting Helen Keller. “She meant [fidelity] in the sense of faithfulness, but from an OCLC perspective, it’s also [true in] the sense of stereophonic fidelity. We’re making these pieces fit together. Even though we have disparate development teams and disparate product teams, we’re marching together with a single purpose.”

Vendors have taken two distinct approaches to building their next-generation platforms. OCLC WMS, Ex Libris Alma, ProQuest Intota, and the upcoming Kuali OLE platforms have all been built from the ground up with new code. Alma was built by the company responsible for tools such as the Aleph ILS, the SFX OpenURL link resolver, Verde e-resource manager, and DigiTool digital asset manager, but this new system will be consolidated and seamless, eliminating the need to synchronize data across systems.

Intota is in the earliest stages of rollout; ProQuest released the first component of the system in November 2013. Intota Assessment is a collection analytics tool that combines a library’s historical circulation data with qualitative information from the Serials Solutions Knowledge Base, Books in Print, Resources for College Libraries, Ulrich’s, and other sources. Although Intota Assessment can integrate with a library’s existing ILS and work as a stand-alone collection analytics solution, it is just one component of the broader Intota LSP, which will ultimately offer tools for electronic resource management (ERM), patron-driven acquisition (PDA), print fulfillment, financial management tools, and other standard components needed to replace a traditional ILS.

In contrast to Alma, WMS, and Intota, the Sierra Services Platform from Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III), SirsiDynix’s BLUEcloud Suite, and VTLS’s Open Skies platform build on existing ILS solutions and consolidate features and functionality from other automation and discovery products offered by these companies and their partners.

Streamlined vs. time-tested

As Carl Grant, chief technology officer for the University of Oklahoma Libraries and independent consultant, notes in a series of 2012 blog posts written shortly after many of these platforms were announced, there are benefits to each approach. The built-from-scratch platforms don’t rely on legacy code, are more streamlined from the start, and can promise a true cloud-based multitenant architecture, in which all updates, patches, and bug fixes are handled on the developer side and only have to be performed once to be applied to all customers.

Each of these vendors also brings to the table a distinct advantage. With its massive member base, OCLC enjoys significant benefits from existing collaborative efforts, and WMS draws from data available in WorldCat and its other centralized data repositories. In January, OCLC announced WorldCat Discovery Services, offering access to a central index that will enable the discovery of 1.3 billion electronic, digital, and physical resources in libraries around the world. Meanwhile, digital and electronic resources are ProQuest’s core competency, and a central goal of these new LSPs involves integrating the management, delivery, usage analysis, and discovery of growing digital and electronic collections alongside print and other resources. And Ex Libris has the most experience building and operating comprehensive automation solutions.

Table 2: ILS Three-Year Sales Trends NEW CONTRACTS U.S. SALES NON-U.S. TOTAL COMPANY SYSTEM 2011 2012 2013 2013 SALES 2013 INSTALLED Auto-Graphics AGent VERSO 12 16 17 17 0 591 Biblionix Apollo 79 80 87 87 0 441 Ex Libris Aleph 18 20 25 n/a n/a 2,367 Ex Libris Voyager 1 6 0 0 0 1,261 Innovative Interfaces Inc. Millennium 32 30 6 1 5 1,304 Mandarin Library Automation M3 42 38 13 n/a n/a 3,013 Mandarin Library Automation Oasis n/a n/a 33 n/a n/a 349 Polaris Polaris ILS 53 27 44 43 1 3,300 SirsiDynix Symphony 41 87 85 17 68 2,496 SirsiDynix Horizon 2 1 1 0 1 1,099 SirsiDynix EOS 91 58 70 62 8 1,132 VTLS Virtua 12 14 7 0 7 1,804 Numbers represented here were reported to us by associated vendors. n/a: not available. SOURCE: LJ LIBRARY SYSTEMS LANDSCAPE STUDY 2014

However, III, SirsiDynix, and VTLS are building on familiar, reliable systems. Since the three firms still allow a variety of deployment options—including software as a service (SaaS) hosting, private cloud hosting, and local hosting for libraries with specific needs or security protocols—multi­tenant updates won’t be possible for all of their customers, and these companies may need to support multiple versions of their platform, Grant notes. But existing Millennium customers will enjoy the enhanced front-end functionality of Sierra with minimal staff training and a simple migration. Similarly, BLUEcloud and Open Skies customers may need to keep pace with the releases and updates to SirsiDynix’s Horizon and Symphony, or VTLS’s Virtua ILS, if they want to use the latest next-generation features upon rollout, but a data migration won’t be necessary, since a library’s core ILS will remain essentially the same.

BLUEcloud, for example, “will include, by the time it’s done, a completely new front end…while the back end stays largely intact. If you’re a Horizon user you can stay on Horizon, if you’re a Symphony user you can stay on Symphony,” says Eric Keith, VP of global marketing, communications, and strategic alliances for SirsiDynix.

BLUE is an acronym for “Best Library User Experience,” Keith notes. “Everything we do is focused on improving the library user experience, whether it’s staff, patrons, or students—everybody that uses our software.”

Although BLUEcloud is still in development, SirsiDynix is committed to the platform as a new chapter for the company. After surveying their customers, company officials acknowledged during their 2013 COSUGI user group meeting that many libraries were frustrated with SirsiDynix for focusing development efforts too much on new products, rather than enhancing existing ones. With BLUEcloud, the goal is to offer a comprehensive, cloud-based administration, acquisition, and discovery system for current Horizon and Symphony customers. Many of the system’s features are covered by existing maintenance fees, and, in January, the company announced BLUEcloud Rewards, a loyalty program that will give BLUEcloud adopters annual vouchers worth at least five percent of their maintenance costs to apply toward other SirsiDynix products such as the eResource Central ERM solution.

The company has made significant investments in the service, increasing its development staff by more than 30 percent in 2013 and announcing plans to hire 39 new programmers this year.

With the November 2013 acquisition of EOS International, a provider of technology solutions for legal, government, corporate, and other special libraries, SirsiDynix has the largest customer base of any ILS provider.

Popular option

Compared to VTLS and SirsiDynix, III has a head start of more than a year with its next-generation platform, Sierra, which was launched in 2012. But if Sierra’s rapid adoption is any indication, expanding the functionality of an existing ILS is a popular approach, which could bode well for these two competitors. At year-end 2013, Sierra was deployed at more than 430 library systems worldwide, according to recent press announcements, with most of these customers upgrading from Millennium.

Sierra works with an open source PostgreSQL database and an open source Apache Lucene index. Combined with Sierra’s suite of application programming interfaces (APIs), the open architecture of the system is designed to make it easier for libraries and third-party developers to integrate new applications into the system, or to facilitate interaction with social networking sites, for example.

“We’ve been focusing on communicating this idea of ‘Innovative: The Library Is Open.’ That’s been our theme for the past year,” says Gene Shimshock, senior vice president of global marketing for III. “It’s really become a rallying cry within the company. There’s no way any one vendor is going to do it all. If you look at all of the peripheral components of what goes on in today’s LSPs—mobile, analytics, ebooks, whatever—you have to pick your strengths and really look to libraries to give you direction on important areas for partnerships.”

Shimshock adds that though the lines between content providers and technology providers have begun blurring, III does not have plans to enter into the content business, which will help ensure that those lines of collaboration remain open.

LANDSCAPE DESIGNS (from the top), TLC’s LS2kids OPAC;
VTLS helped KCPL build a Civil War website using linked data;
Boston University was an early partner with Ex Libris’s Alma

Discovering partnerships

EBSCO Information Services has pursued a similar strategy from the content side, electing to pursue new partnerships with automation providers rather than enter the LSP market.

For example, in June 2013, III announced an expanded strategic partnership with EBSCO Information Services, featuring enhanced integration between Innovative’s Encore Discovery platform, Sierra, and EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) that will offer access to EDS’s unified central index and enable patrons to search a library’s EBSCOhost databases via the Encore interface. In addition, last year EBSCO added to its existing list of automation partners—which include SirsiDynix and OCLC—announcing new EDS partnerships with EOS prior to its acquisition by SirsiDynix, as well as several international ILS vendors, including Aurora Information Technology in Australia, SVOP in Slovakia, Cosmotron in the Czech Republic, and Talis in the UK. In June, the Kuali Foundation welcomed EBSCO as a Kuali Commercial Affiliate, brought on board to offer the company’s expertise in integrating discovery services with Kuali OLE (for more on Kuali OLE, see “Open Source Options”).

Although many automation vendors offer discovery services of their own, access to EDS’s unified central index significantly expands the amount of content available through those discovery interfaces, as well as the quality of searches.

Cool tools

Polaris Library Systems, meanwhile, has been working to expand the concept of discovery to include resources within a library’s community. March 2013 marked the official launch of Community Profiles, an add-on feature to the Polaris ILS that offers local organizations the opportunity to create profiles in a library’s catalog, upload information, and share event calendars, all of which become discoverable alongside other library resources during a regular search for print materials and e-content. For example, a search for cookbooks could reveal local cooking classes, while a search on a local history topic could reveal a local historical society or even an individual expert on that topic.

At its most recent user group conference in October, Polaris announced the development of LEAP, a web application that will enable access to Polaris’s staff client from a tablet or other mobile device.

“We want to make the interface more touch-friendly, more tablet-friendly, so that you can get away from that desktop environment and move among patrons and other staff, and still be able to use the system on any device,” explains William Schickling, president and CEO of Polaris.

The initial beta release will include a circulation module that will allow staff to roam and help patrons.

In January, III also announced Mobile WorkLists, a new feature for Sierra that organizes paging lists for filling requests or finding missing items and optimizes their display on tablets and mobile devices. Similar functionality will soon be added to LEAP.

Semantic web

Linked data has been a buzzword for quite some time, and, in 2013, VTLS leveraged its expertise in automation, digital asset management, FRBR, RDA, Bibframe, and Drupal design consulting to help the Kansas City Public Library, MO, launch the first of several planned microsites: “The Missouri-Kansas Conflict: Civil War on the Western Border.” At first glance, it appears to be a local history site, albeit a very well-designed one, with an unusually large collection of thousands of scanned documents from more than 25 institutions relating to the history of conflict over the Missouri-Kansas border before and during the U.S. Civil War.

But dig deeper, and librarians will soon find what the linked data and RDA buzz is all about. Options to explore this extensive collection include a map, a time line, and a digital gallery, but the dynamic relationship viewer is the real showstopper. In many cases, clicking on someone’s name will bring up a visual interface highlighting battles that the person fought in, regiments, organizations, or other people that he or she was affiliated with, and more. Users can either browse from affiliation to affiliation, which in turn continues to open up more visual browsing options, or click on the links between to check out the digitally preserved items that document these affiliations. The entire system operates with the catalog.

“When you are in your catalog, and you click on something, you can see a visual, semantic web–type display of the content, showing all of its links,” explains Vinod Chachra, president and CEO of VTLS. “You can keep browsing through this linked data display. When you hit the focal point of the node, you go back to the catalog display at the point you [initially] clicked on to go to the visual display. The visual display and the catalog are interchangeably connected.”

Finding ebooks

Commercial ebook integration was a key theme in 2013. ILS providers and ebook vendors alike addressed librarians’ complaints, improving third-party commercial interfaces for discovering and checking out ebooks and other digital content, and making sure that, once patrons got through a sign-up process, these interfaces were intuitive and easy to use. But these separate, siloed interfaces were still creating barriers to discovery. Librarians simply wanted their patrons to be able to find and check out digital content from any vendor without being forced to navigate away from the catalog.

By early 2012, ebook vendors had gotten the message. Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform already included an integration of collection development services for print and digital formats; in the spring, OverDrive announced a suite of APIs that would eventually enable discovery and checkout directly from a library’s catalog; and the 3M Cloud Library announced a partnership with Polaris that would ultimately offer this functionality to any customer of both systems. That summer, 70 library systems formed the ReadersFirst Initiative, issuing a joint statement reiterating the need for comprehensive access to ebooks through the library’s catalog and clarifying specific demands for vendors.

“Part of the frustration [within the field] was that we didn’t have the vocabulary to articulate what we wanted,” Michael Santangelo, current coordinator of ReadersFirst and electronic resources coordinator for BookOps, the technical services organization serving the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library, told LJ in an earlier interview. “The ReadersFirst requirements were based on what people wanted; we just changed it into technical language.”

Rapid response

By the end of the year, everything began quickly falling into place.

In December 2012, Polaris and 3M were the first to go live with a fully integrated catalog at the Baltimore County Public Library; Polaris later announced plans to integrate with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform and OverDrive as well.

TLC was the first ILS vendor to integrate fully with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform. It was also among the first ILS providers to announce integration with OverDrive’s first round of metadata, search, and availability APIs, which were released in the second half of 2012. These enabled patrons to view OverDrive ebooks from the library catalog, although checkouts and holds still required navigating to OverDrive’s interface.

OverDrive released its circulation APIs last fall. These include the Patron Authentication API, which enables a library’s ILS to confirm with OverDrive that a patron who is logged in to the library’s catalog is in good standing and is allowed to check out ebooks. Collectively, these two sets of APIs enable full integration with any ILS, allowing patrons to place holds or check out OverDrive ebooks and other content without leaving their library’s catalog.

Upon the release of OverDrive’s full suite of APIs, most vendors began working on integration efforts with the company. III achieved the first full commercial integration with OverDrive and the III Encore discovery service, going live at Ohio’s Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) in January. III had completed its integration efforts with the 3M Cloud Library months earlier, in September 2013.

VTLS is also working to integrate its Chamo Discovery service and its MozGo Mobile App with OverDrive, and in December 2013, the company announced that it had successfully integrated these services with the 3M Cloud Library.

Additionally, when SirsiDynix announced the general availability of its eResource Central (eRC) ERM system in June 2013, the company was already working with eight major digital content providers, including EBSCO Information Services, Oxford University Press, Baker & Taylor, OverDrive, 3M, and Recorded Books. eRC makes ebooks and other digital resources from multiple vendors available through the Symphony and Horizon ILS via the SirsiDynix Enterprise and Portfolio discovery tools.

Simply put, everyone is now working with everyone else to address the issue of ebook integration. Scheduled to release their initial vendor scorecard in October 2013, Santangelo and ReadersFirst opted to wait owing to the flurry of integration announcements. When the “ReadersFirst Guide to Library Ebook Vendors” was released in January, OverDrive, Axis 360, and the 3M Cloud Library all received relatively high scores—none less than 80 out of 100—thanks to their work and cooperation with ILS vendors over the prior two years.

The road ahead

In 2006, frustration with the state of commercial OPACs had become so acute that the blunt statement “the OPAC sucks” briefly became a meme within the library field, cropping up in blog posts, presentations, and even a song on YouTube. As patrons were becoming accustomed to increasingly sophisticated search engines and the social collaboration features of “Web 2.0,” OPACs were beginning to look downright creaky by comparison.

“There was no spelling [correction], no relevance rankings, no ‘did you mean?’ feature, no social web features, no tags, reviews, ratings—there were a lot of things at the time that did not exist in the classic OPAC,” says Jimmy Thomas, executive director of Colorado’s Marmot Library Network.

Catalogs and patron interfaces certainly haven’t achieved a state of perfection since, but in less than a decade, these and other features have been introduced by most vendors. Open source ILS and discovery options have grown to become real competitors within the systems landscape (see “Open Solutions”), pushing commercial vendors to stay ahead of the curve with features and functionality. The demands of ReadersFirst were addressed almost immediately, so enabling patrons to discover ebooks alongside print resources in a library’s catalog will soon be de rigueur. And a new generation of library automation systems is just beginning to showcase its potential. You may not be able to ask your car to reserve a Glen A. Larson retrospective on DVD just yet, but that future doesn’t seem so far away.

Open Source Options | Library Systems Landscape

To, 04/10/2014 - 17:00

Library Systems Landscape:

Led by Koha and Evergreen, open source ILS solutions continued to demonstrate steady growth in 2013. These systems appeal to libraries for a variety of reasons. Unlike commercial ILS products, open source code can be accessed and altered by anyone with the expertise, enabling libraries to conduct or outsource priority development work on their own schedule, rather than wait for their requests to wend their way through a vendor’s queue.

There are also no annual maintenance or licensing fees, although many libraries that adopt an open source system will spend at least a portion of these savings on third-party maintenance, creation, and training support from vendors such as LibLime and ByWater Solutions, which primarily support Koha, and Equinox, which primarily supports Evergreen. If a Koha or Evergreen library becomes unhappy with its current support, the availability of other development houses ensures that it isn’t subject to the “vendor lock” issue faced by libraries using commercial products. It has the option of switching providers without undergoing an ILS migration. Development houses include Edoceo, Emerald Data Networks, Edusys, Lyrasis, Mill Run Technology Solutions, and Projektlink Konsult Limited.

Koha grows

“We’ve seen an explosive amount of interest in terms of libraries switching over to Koha,” says Nathan Curulla, executive vice president of ByWater Solutions. The development house added an average of more than five new customers per month in 2013, ending the year with 68 new contracts totaling 150 libraries. With these additions, ByWater now services 785 total installs of Koha, making the company’s customer base comparable to midsized commercial ILS vendors.

Koha was originally developed for small, single-site libraries in rural New Zealand, and the view that it is best suited to smaller libraries has persisted. Just a few years ago, the system lacked the granularity to allow individual branches within multisite institutions to manage their own circulation, set their own fine rules, establish their own patron categories, or restrict access to patron information within a single library, for example. But Koha has evolved, Curulla says, and larger libraries and consortia are starting to take notice.

“It’s grown organically to handle larger and larger institutions,” he says. “Now, it’s to the point where you can literally have a consortium of 50 libraries, and each library, for all intents and purposes, could [act] as a stand-alone system but still share the same database with everybody else.”

Patrick Jones, executive director of LibLime for parent company PTFS, Inc., which develops forks of Koha under the Liblime Koha and Liblime Academic Koha brands, agrees.

“From a functional standpoint, [Koha] stands up pretty well with commercial products that have had the benefit of lots and lots of research and development money put into them,” he says. “Three or four years ago, if I went to respond to an RFP, maybe 30 percent of the things [requested] I would have to say ‘we can’t do that, however we will build it for you if you like.’ That [percentage] has been drastically reduced in the past couple of years.”

LibLime added 30 new customers this year as well and now services 578 total installs.

Table 3: Three-Year Trends for Open Source Developers NEW CUSTOMERS U.S. SALES NON-U.S. TOTAL SYSTEM 2011 2012 2013 2013 SALES 2013 INSTALLED ByWater Solutions (Koha) 54 34 68 63 5 785 LibLime Koha 27 37 30 17 13 578 LibLime Academic Koha 7 5 4 0 4 132 Equinox (Evergreen) 21 37 74 74 0 713 Numbers represented here were reported to us by associated vendors. SOURCE: LJ LIBRARY SYSTEMS LANDSCAPE STUDY 2014

New and notable

Koha kept pace with key industry trends in 2013. Eight of ByWater’s customers agreed to collaborate and fund the OverDrive Integration Development, which makes it possible for libraries to integrate results from their OverDrive ebook collections directly into Koha search results. ByWater CEO Brendan Gallagher says that the company plans to complete similar integration efforts with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 ebook platform and 3M’s Cloud Library by the end of 2014. Other current projects at ByWater include an advanced cataloging module and enhancements to Koha’s federated search capabilities. In addition, both ByWater and LibLime have developed APIs (application programming interfaces) to facilitate integration with third-party products. In January, LibLime released Academic Koha 5.6, which includes a new discovery layer incorporating these APIs, along with an OPAC editor, and mobile device support.

Evergreen advances

Although Koha is now capable of supporting larger library systems and consortia, Evergreen’s scalable, client-based architecture historically made it the go-to open source option for large academic libraries and complex public systems. Recent months have seen several significant announcements from Equinox, a leading development house founded by the original designers of the Evergreen ILS.

Equinox is in the final stages of translating the Evergreen staff client—which currently runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux—into a browser-based client. The move was driven partly by necessity. Evergreen previously depended on ­XULRunner, a runtime environment developed by the Mozilla Foundation and used by applications including Mozilla’s popular Firefox browser and the image hosting website Flickr. However, several XULRunner features that Evergreen relied on were no longer supported by Mozilla. The results were headaches for developers and client freezes for users. Fortunately, the solution—building a new browser-based staff client through the open source ­AngularJS Java­Script framework, supported by Google—proved to be the direction that many Evergreen ­libraries were already hoping to go.

“There were some technology-related reasons that we felt like it was a good idea to move away from the platform. But there’s also an overwhelming consensus from our users that they would prefer browser-based delivery of their tools,” says Grace Dunbar, vice president of Equinox. “It’s easier to train on, it’s more familiar.”

Subscribing to service

Separately, Equinox introduced a new suite of services at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in January, including two new subscription services designed to offer users enhanced support, while making the ongoing maintenance and improvement of Evergreen more sustainable. Idea Lab subscriptions will help fund on­going development efforts led by Equinox and the open source community, and in exchange for their subscriptions, participating institutions will have input on the selection and development of features that are most important to their ­library. Similarly, AIM (Active Integrated Maintenance) offers three different service levels/subscription types, all of which allow libraries to prioritize bug fixes and receive immediate access to Equinox-approved fixes, much earlier than these fixes will be available through their respective community code bases.

For some libraries, these three services might help ease the transition from commercial solutions to an open source ILS.

“Coming from a proprietary [ILS] world, if you’re not an open source early adopter, there are certain assumptions built into your worldview that are hard for a peer-community effort to take care of,” explains Mike Rylander, director of development and technology for Equinox. “As a service provider focusing on these things, we’re able to dedicate resources where the volunteer community may not be able to.”

Tying these new services together is Sequoia, a new cloud-based platform that will enable users of Evergreen to dispense with local servers and have Equinox host their ILS in a fully redundant cloud environment.

“It’s a hosting and services platform that will [also] allow us to deliver AIM-derived bug fix and [quality assurance] releases to our customers immediately,” explains Rylander. “All of the code that we produce through AIM and Idea Lab are open and available to the community at large, but with Sequoia, we’ll have a platform for delivering those improvements to our customers in a more timely fashion.”

In addition, the Sequoia platform will help simplify integration efforts with ebook distributors and other vendors, he adds.

“Things that usually take some configuration and instance-specific changes to make sure everything is working right, we can do that once on the Sequoia platform, and all of our customers will benefit from it.”

Maturing market

As these solutions have matured and their user bases have grown, the choice to go open source has become less of a leap into the unknown. These are now well-established ILS options with many of the same features, functionality, and stability as their commercial counterparts. And some librarians feel that open source offers a greater level of control over how their systems work.

“Everyone on staff can contribute to making it better,” Henry Bankhead, town librarian, Los Gatos Library, CA, and an LJ 2014 Mover & Shaker, told LJ in a 2013 interview regarding Koha. “A clerk, a library assistant, a cataloger, a librarian says, ‘I want the catalog to work this way.’ We can make a proposed improvement, get a price for that improvement from our developers, and then ask the community if anyone else wants to contribute to that improvement…. If they don’t, we can decide whether it’s worth it to us to fund it.”

However, there are limits to this flexibility. Open source may be well suited for customization, but, at a certain point, modifications can result in a new version of the software that is no longer fully compatible with the version used by the broader open source community. One notable example of a project fork is the heavily customized version of Evergreen in operation at the King County Library System (KCLS) in Washington.

Similarly, in 2010, Liblime delivered about 70 new development features to its clients before the broader Koha community had incorporated those features into a production release. Liblime Koha and Liblime Academic Koha have continued down a separate development path ever since. Unless a library, like KCLS, is willing to pay for a high level of customization, open source development requires some degree of consensus within a community, and libraries may need to choose among different forks of similar products.

Kuali makes an entrance

Regardless, opting for noncommercial ILS solutions has become a mainstream trend, and this year will see the much-­anticipated entry of the Kuali Open Library Environment (OLE) into the market. This next-generation system is organized into four separate modules, including acquisitions, cataloging and records maintenance, circulation, and systems integration, a module that will facilitate Kuali OLE’s internal integration, as well as integration with other campus enterprise systems, such as financial, identity, and learning systems.

Kuali OLE is a “community source” project, which differs from open source in that initially the software was controlled by a coalition of research libraries that agreed to contribute to the project in exchange for input regarding its development in the earliest stages. Those libraries include Indiana University, Bloomington; University of Maryland, College Park; Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA; University of Chicago; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Duke University, Durham, NC; North Carolina State University, Raleigh; Bloomsbury Colleges at the University of London; Villanova University, PA; and a consortium of university libraries in Florida. Project funding has included contributions from several of these libraries, along with grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the most recent of which was for $882,000 to Indiana University in March.

Kuali OLE 1.0 was released in November 2013 under an open source Educational Community License. This release will allow early adopters to review installation requirements and begin mapping data from their current ILS. Version 1.5.0 was released in February and offers all of the necessary functionality for full implementation, although critical bug fixes are still being addressed. The University of Chicago and Lehigh will be the first to go live with the system in its 1.5 iteration and are aiming for summer 2014.

Custom Discovery

In december 2012, the Baltimore county Public Library—in partnership with the 3M Cloud Library and Polaris—achieved a long-awaited goal for libraries, becoming the first library to go public with a fully integrated online catalog that enables patrons to view physical book and ebook collections together and to discover, check out, and place holds on ebooks without navigating away from the catalog.

Around the same time, using the metadata, availability, and search APIs that OverDrive released in 2012, combined with screen-scraping techniques to pull data from human-readable outputs on OverDrive’s site, Colorado’s Marmot Library Network quietly accomplished something very similar with its VuFind+ open source library resource portal. That system automatically integrates each Marmot member library’s OverDrive collection into its search results, displaying print, ebook, and audiobook content together and allowing patrons to filter by EPUB or Kindle compatibility and send selected ebooks to their device without ever leaving the search interface.

Marmot’s quick rollout of an ebook integration solution shortly after OverDrive released its initial set of APIs is a good example of the flexibility and functionality that open source software can offer when backed by a good development team. And, as Marmot’s executive director Jimmy Thomas notes, opting for an open source discovery layer has allowed the consortium to enhance and customize the interface used by its patrons, while continuing to work with standard commercial ILS staff modules (currently Millennium from Innovative Interfaces). Marmot’s members seem generally pleased with this happy medium, he adds.

“When I talk to my stakeholders—librarians all across my consortium—about the open source experience, they all say, ‘We love VuFind, we love the experience. Yes, it was ragged sometimes. Bleeding edge is kind of painful. But we’re really happy with the result,’ ” Thomas explains. “When I ask, ‘What do you think about having the same experience with the ILS?,’ everyone says, ‘No, that was enough fun.’ ”

Developed and maintained by Villanova University’s Falvey Memorial Library, PA, VuFind has become the leading open source discovery solution since its launch in 2010. In addition to public library groups such as the Marmot Network and Pennsylvania’s statewide SPARK system, VuFind has been adopted by several major academic libraries, including the University of Michigan, Brown University, RI, and the London School of Economics. Core features of VuFind include a “Google-like” search experience via a single, basic search box with faceted results drawn from catalog records, digital library items, institutional repositories, institutional bibliographies, and other resources, “more like this” resource suggestions, persistent URLs enabling patrons to bookmark their queries, compatibility with Zotero research assistant tools, and more. In January, VuFind 2.2 was released with several new features, including new themes that incorporate responsive web design principles, which will enhance patron experience on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices.

Other open source discovery projects include the Blacklight open source OPAC developed by the University of Virginia, Stanford University, John Hopkins University, and Boston’s WGBH and SOPAC (Social OPAC) developed and maintained by John Blyberg and supported by Connecticut’s Darien Library.

Much like open source ILS solutions, working with an open source discovery interface can be rewarding, but Thomas cautions that libraries shouldn’t view these options as “free,” particularly if they are interested in customization and development.

“In our limited experience here, open source is not saving us money,” compared with using a commercial discovery layer, Thomas says. “We are getting, in our situation, way more of what we want, when we want it, for—in very simplistic terms—the same price. I used to say twice the functionality for half the price, but more carefully looking at the finances, I’d say it’s three times the functionality for the same price.”

Library Systems Landscape: Company Profiles

To, 04/10/2014 - 16:55

Library Systems Landscape:

Auto-Graphics, Inc.
Ontario, CA; 800-776-6939

Auto-Graphics offers a suite of modular, integrated automation and resource-sharing products including the VERSO integrated library system (ILS), SHAREit interlibrary loan (ILL) and consortial borrowing solution, SEARCHit federated search tool, and MARCit cataloging resource. Following a partnership with FastPencil, first announced in 2012, Auto-Graphics recently added COMPOSEit, which offers library patrons access to FastPencil’s book publishing engine in order to write, design, and publish books in print or digital formats.

VERSO’s customer base comprises primarily small North American libraries, but the release of Version 3.9 in early 2012 added new functionality to meet the needs of consortia and larger library systems. VERSO has since been selected by the Library Management Network consortia in Alabama, the Central Utah Collaborative ILS Project, and in July 2013 VERSO was successfully implemented as a consortial solution for 95 public libraries across Tennessee as part of an ongoing initiative of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Axiell Group
Lund, Sweden; (011) +46 46 270 04 00
Ottawa, Ont. (for Selago Design); 312-239-0597

Axiell Group made its first foray into the North American market with the November 2013 acquisition of Ottawa, Ont.–based Selago Design, developers of the Mimsy XG logistics and collections management system used primarily by museums, galleries, and archives.

The move fit with the company’s goal of international expansion. Axiell’s March 2013 acquisition of the Netherlands-based Adlib Information Systems netted the company 1,600 new clients in 30 countries—predominantly Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, and Ireland—solidifying its position as the largest library, museum, and archive technology provider in Europe and the fifth largest in the world.

Axiell library management systems are used in more than 1,000 public libraries and 3,000 school and special libraries, primarily in northern Europe, and, in May 2013, the company announced plans to intensify its strategic focus on schools.

Toronto; 647-436-6381

BiblioCore is the foundation of BiblioCommons’ suite of patron interface tools. It integrates with a library’s ILS and replaces the functions of a traditional online catalog, adding features including patron-friendly discovery tools, faceted searching, and social media functions such as user commenting and tagging. The company’s suite of tools also includes mobile apps, an events platform, an integrated online platform for managing reading programs, a content management system (CMS) for customized website development, tools for making public library resources available through school library catalogs, and a suggest-for-purchase module to track patron requests.

More than 200 public libraries in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand use BiblioCore, including prominent U.S. clients such as the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, Seattle Public Library, and Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR. In 2013, the Chicago Public Library and Washington’s King County Library System also came on board. In May 2013, BiblioCommons went live with a beta version of BiblioDigital, an ­ebook platform that fully integrates into Biblio­Core, enabling discovery and checkouts of ebooks from any vendor directly from the catalog.

Austin, TX; 877-800-5625

Austin, TX–based Biblionix offers the Apollo ILS, specifically tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized public libraries and consortia. Deployed as a hosted software as a service (SaaS), Apollo doesn’t require on-site servers; all patron and staff interfaces are fully web-based. For small libraries that have never had an ILS, the company offers Biblionix Automated Retrospective Conversion (BARC), a flat-fee service that enables those libraries to function with volunteer labor to upload their collection by simply scanning ISBN barcodes or keying in ISBNs.

In addition to standard ILS capabilities, Apollo has a robust set of features including automated text and email reminders for patrons, a mobile-friendly catalog, and free integration of public domain content, such as ebooks from Project Gutenberg and audiobooks from LibriVox.

The company has integrated with OverDrive and, more recently, Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 platform to enable patrons to discover and checkout ebooks and other digital content from within the Apollo catalog.

ByWater Solutions
West Haven, CT; 888-900-8944

ByWater Solutions offers support for Koha, an open source ILS that is generally most popular with small and medium-sized libraries. ByWater’s services include migration support, Koha training, 24/7 tech support, and hosting solutions that enable libraries to deploy Koha without using local servers.

ByWater also offers development support for libraries that wish to customize and enhance Koha. For example, in September 2013, eight Koha libraries pooled funding to pay ByWater to bring OverDrive integration to the Koha community.

In June 2013, ByWater announced that it would begin providing hosting, installation, and support for Libki, an open source PC reservation system that integrates with the Koha ILS. In February 2014, ByWater partnered with library consulting and tech support firm the Donohue Group to develop an advanced cataloging module for Koha, featuring direct import and export of ­USMARC/MARCXML records, integrated Z39.50 searching, free entry of tags and subfields, support for macros, and more.

EBSCO Information Services
Ipswich, MA; 800-653-2726

EBSCO Information Services is a leading provider of research databases and offers the EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) discovery layer, which indexes content from more than 20,000 journal publishers and 70,000 book publishers—providing full-text search capabilities for much of this content—and enables patrons to search their library’s entire catalog alongside other EDS content via a single search box.

Through EDS, EBSCO partners with several ILS and discovery providers including SirsiDynix’s eResource Central, Innovative Interfaces’s Encore, OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services, and many other U.S. and international library technology providers. In June 2013, EBSCO and the Kuali Foundation announced that ­EBSCO would work to advance discovery layer implementation with the anticipated open source Kuali OLE platform.

EBSCO regularly announces new additions to EDS, most recently 30,000 new publications from the California Digital Library in February and in December 2013 full-text content from 1976 to the present and PDFs from 1790 through the present from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Equinox Software
Duluth, GA; 877-673-6457

Founded by the original developers of the open source Evergreen ILS, Equinox Software offers hosting, training, and development support primarily for Evergreen, as well as the open source Koha ILS.

Equinox is in the final stages of translating the Evergreen staff client into a browser-based client. In January, the company introduced a new suite of services: Idea Lab, a service that will help fund Evergreen development and offer subscribers a greater degree of input into Equinox’s development goals; AIM (active integrated maintenance), a service that will allow subscribers to prioritize bug fixes; and Sequoia, a new cloud-based platform that will offer Evergreen libraries the option of dispensing with local servers and let Equinox deliver AIM-­derived bug fixes and QA releases to customers ­immediately.

Separately, in February, Equinox announced the version 1.0 release of ­FulfILLment, an open source ILL product designed to allow direct patron requests of ILL materials and reduce staff mediation of requests. The system is designed to work seamlessly with multiple ILS platforms.

Ex Libris Group
Jerusalem, Israel; 972-2-6499100;
Des Plaines, IL; 847-296-2200

More than 5,500 libraries in 90 countries around the world use Ex Libris products, which include the Primo discovery solution, the ALEPH and Voyager ILS, Rosetta digital preservation system, bX Usage-Based Services suite, SFX OpenURL link resolver, Verde electronic resource management (ERM) solution, and the DigiTool digital asset management suite.

First announced in 2011, Ex Libris Alma consolidates many of these solutions into a single, next-generation library management service (LMS) that unifies the management of print and digital resources, eliminating the need for staff to synchronize data across multiple systems. The unified environment also enables comprehensive analytics of a library’s entire collection.

Alma also features deep integration with Primo as a discovery layer and includes a Smart Fulfillment framework that presents patrons with a single place to find available resources and place requests for ILL or demand-driven acquisition purchases. Since its general release in 2012, Alma has enjoyed rapid adoption, with 170 new customers transitioning to the cloud-based, software as a service (SaaS) platform in 2013.

Follett Software Company
McHenry, IL; 815-344-8700

A division of the Follett School and Library Group, the Follett Software Company (FSC) offers the Destiny family of resource management products for K–12 schools, including the Destiny Library Manager ILS and the Destiny Textbook Manager, Destiny Media Manager, and Destiny Asset Manager for districtwide inventory tracking, budgeting, and cost control of various school resources.

FSC issued two new releases of Destiny Library Manager in 2013. Destiny 11.0, released in March 2013, implements resource description and access (RDA) cataloging support. The release also expands Destiny Quest mobile app support to include Kindle Fire devices, in addition to existing Apple iOS and Android support, and has a new dashboard that allows staff to view circulation statistics, overdue notices, and holds requests in a single, user-friendly graphical representation. Destiny 11.5, released in ­October 2013, streamlines the discovery of ebooks with book cover images from Follett’s TitlePeek and provides enhanced integration with Follett’s Titlewave collection development and curriculum support tool.

Innovative Interfaces, Inc.
Emeryville, CA; 510-655-6200

Innovative Interface Inc. (III) offers the Millennium ILS, as well as the next-generation Sierra Library Services Platform (LSP), Encore Discovery Services Platform, SkyRiver cataloging utility, Decision Center data-driven collection management solution, and Content Pro digital asset management system, among other products.

Since the Sierra LSP was first announced in 2011, it has enjoyed rapid adoption. At year-end 2013, it was deployed at 430 library systems worldwide, including many III customers that have migrated from Millennium. Sierra employs an open source PostgreSQL database and an open source Apache Lucene index. Combined with Sierra’s suite of application programming interfaces (APIs), the open architecture of the system is designed to make it easier for libraries and third-party developers to integrate new applications into the system, or to facilitate interaction with social networking sites.

In 2013, III announced integration efforts involving Encore, Sierra, OverDrive, and the 3M Cloud Library, which will enable patrons to discover, check out, and place holds on OverDrive and 3M ebooks from their library’s catalog. In January, the company announced Mobile WorkLists, optimizing paging lists for display on mobile devices.

LibLime, a division of PTFS
North Bethesda, MD; 301-654-8088

LibLime provides services, training, and development support for the LibLime Koha and LibLime Academic Koha forks of the open-source Koha ILS. Since 2010, LibLime’s variants of Koha have proceeded down a different development path from the broader Koha community, but LibLime has continued to publish its version of Koha as open source.

All instances of LibLime Koha are installed as software as a service (SaaS) in LibLime’s distributed computing cloud platform, eliminating the need for local servers. An annual subscription fee based on a library’s total bibliographic record count includes hosting, maintenance, and tech support. LibLime also offers sponsored development, enabling libraries to pay for customization and enhancements to the ILS, which later become available to other LibLime Koha users. This process has led to the development of LibLime Koha features such as patron notices by phone or email, social networking features, patron-managed holds suspension, customizable OPACs, patron reading history retention or anonymization options, support for enriched content subscriptions, and more.

The Library Corporation (TLC)
Inwood, WV; 304-229-0100

The Library Corporation (TLC) offers the Library.Solution ILS for public, academic, and special libraries; Carl.X for large libraries and consortia; and Library.Solutions for Schools for the K–12 market, each of which can be installed on local servers or hosted by TLC. Implemented at more than 4,500 libraries worldwide, Library.Solution pre­sents patrons with a touch-screen optimized interface with tablet-friendly functionality. Modules for Carl.X and Library.Solution include the LS2pac catalog interface; LS2kids, a separate version of the OPAC designed for children; the LS2Mobile catalog interface for smartphones; and the LS2Staff and online selection and acquisition (OSA) tools for staff.

In July 2013, Baker & Taylor (B&T) announced that Library.Solution and Carl.X had become the first systems seamlessly to integrate with the B&T Axis 360 ebook and digital media platform, enabling the discovery and checkout of Axis 360 content directly from the catalog. TLC announced integration with OverDrive using OverDrive’s initial round of APIs in January 2013.

In January, TLC announced RDA­Express, a new service that converts a library’s catalog records to resource description and access (RDA) standards.

Mandarin Library Automation, Inc.
Boca Raton, FL; 800-426-7477

Mandarin Library Automation offers the Oasis/CMS cloud hosting service, a fully web-based, cloud-hosted ILS that requires no local servers and includes an integrated content management system (CMS), enabling libraries to customize their website and incorporate Mandarin ILS functionality into the site. Current modules for the CMS make it easy for libraries to manage top ten lists, a built-in events calendar, RSS feeds, slide shows, a newsstand, embedded videos, and suggested reading lists.

Mandarin also offers the M3 ILS and has been encouraging M3 customers to upgrade to Oasis for free. Both ILS solutions can be further customized with a variety of additional modules, including a serials and acquisitions module, a module for tracking and management of textbook inventory, a mobile OPAC module, a Z39.50 server module that enables a Mandarin library to be a part of a union catalog, and a MARC Magician handheld scanner solution. Recent developments include the launch of a brand-new kid’s OPAC, which incorporates reading-level-range search functions to help align materials with Common Core standards.

Dublin, OH; 614-764-6000

Members of OCLC, the Dublin, OH–based nonprofit, global cooperative, collectively produce and maintain WorldCat, a union catalog that includes the collections of more than 74,000 libraries in 170 countries. The cooperative has been increasingly involved in library automation efforts, with products including the CONTENTdm digital asset management system, EZproxy for remote user authentication for licensed content, and the WorldShare platform.

In January, OCLC launched WorldCat Discovery Services (WDS), a suite of cloud-based applications combining the functions of FirstSearch and WorldCat Local, offering subscribers access to a central index representing nearly 2,000 e-content collections. WDS enables the discovery of 1.3 billion electronic, digital, and physical resources via a single search.

In April 2013, OCLC launched Library Spotlight, a free service for members that uses data from the WorldCat Registry to make it easy for patrons to discover library location and contact information on the web. Also in April 2013, OCLC began supporting demand-driven acquisition through its WorldCat Knowledge Base.

Polaris Library Systems
Syracuse, NY; 800-272-3414

Polaris Library Systems describes its eponymous Polaris ILS for public and academic libraries as a solution offering “a truly integrated discovery experience for your community.” In addition to being the first ILS to conform to ReadersFirst principles by fully integrating with the 3M Cloud Library in 2012 and performing similar integrations with OverDrive and B&T’s Axis 360 digital content platform in 2013, Polaris has embarked on efforts that reimagine what an OPAC can help patrons discover.

In March 2013, Polaris went live with Community Profiles, a new add-on component that enables local organizations to create profiles, upload information, and share a calendar of events within a library’s catalog, all of which patrons can then discover alongside other resources via regular catalog searches. The OPAC also includes the Feature It discovery tool, which allows library staff to promote specific catalog items or other resources based on keywords in a patron’s search queries.

This year, Polaris will introduce LEAP, a next-generation platform that will enable librarians to use the Polaris staff client on tablets and mobile devices.

Seattle, WA; 206-336-7691

ProQuest retired the Serials Solutions brand name in January, but the company continues to support its portfolio of products including the Summon web-scale discovery service and the new, next-generation Intota cloud-based library services platform (LSP).

In November 2013, ProQuest launched the collection analytics service Intota Assessment, designed to enable academic libraries to work with print and electronic resources together, combining circulation data with qualitative information from sources including Books in Print, Resources for College Libraries, and Ulrich’s to generate dozens of reports such as cost per use, cost by subject, and peer analysis.

Intota Assessment can operate as a stand-alone collection analytics solution integrated with a library’s existing ILS, but it is just the first component of the Intota LSP, which is designed to replace the traditional ILS. The next component, the Intota E ERM (electronic resource management) and patron-driven acquisition suite, is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2014, and by the end of 2014, ProQuest hopes to have a full beta version of the Intota LSP, including financial management tools, ready for ­testing.

Lehi, UT; 800-288-8020

Offering the Horizon, Symphony, and Unicorn ILS platforms, as well as the Portfolio and Enterprise discovery solutions and the BookMyne mobile app, among other products, SirsiDynix has one of the largest customer bases in the field, supporting more than 23,000 library facilities in over 70 countries.

In March 2013, SirsiDynix announced BLUEcloud Suite (BCS), a next-generation library services platform that integrates Horizon, Symphony, and the company’s other products into a cloud-based architecture without requiring existing customers to migrate their databases. Most functions of BCS, including administration, cataloging, circulation, serials, analytics, and BLUEcloud PAC discovery, will be covered by existing maintenance contracts. The company has made significant investments in BCS, increasing its development staff by more than 30 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Separately, SirsiDynix launched ­eResource Central last year, an ERM system designed to make ebooks and other digital content from multiple vendors discoverable and accessible through Symphony and Horizon via Enterprise and Portfolio.

Blacksburg, VA; 540-557-1200

VTLS offers a full suite of automation products including the Virtua ILS; Chamo Discovery, an OPAC with integrated social media functions; VITAL, a digital asset management solution; Vorpal Solutions for Drupal design and consulting; the MozGo mobile app; and Fastrac RFID solutions.

In 2012, VTLS announced the next-­generation Open Skies library services platform (LSP). VTLS’s strategy with Open Skies has been to build new functionality into its existing Virtua ILS technology and incorporate features from its suite of products into a single platform. This approach will allow existing Virtua customers to move to the new system without undergoing a database migration. Open Skies features a unified framework that enables staff to manage print and digital resources together and for patrons to discover print, digital, and subscription content together. The LSP can be deployed on local servers, as an individual system in a cloud-hosted environment, or as a cloud-hosted software as a service (SaaS). In 2013, VTLS also integrated OverDrive and 3M Cloud Library content into Chamo Discovery and its MozGo Mobile App.

Gale Releases Analytics On Demand, a Demographic GIS for Libraries

To, 04/10/2014 - 16:00

Gale today launched Analytics On Demand, a new geographic information system (GIS) that combines local demographic data with information from a library’s ILS to generate real-time reports on circulation trends and patron lifestyles.

Powered by business analytics provider Alteryx, with regularly updated demographic and consumer lifestyle segmentation data from Experian Mosaic, the foundation of the new service is built on the same tools as Gale’s DemographicsNow: Business and People. That subscription service, which launched in March 2012, enables business owners and executives to generate interactive maps and charts that can help them understand potential customers, optimize marketing plans, or even choose the best site for a new location. With Experian Mosaic working under the hood and grouping locals into 71 distinct consumer segments, users of DemographicsNow can get a significantly more granular view of potential customers than other sources of demographic data—such as the U.S. Census—might provide.

Where DemographicsNow is designed for businesses, the new Analytics On Demand service is tailored to the needs of libraries. By incorporating anonymized address and circulation data from a library’s ILS, librarians can create maps, charts, and reports that illustrate where their patrons live, how different demographic groups are utilizing the library, which genres or resources are most popular among different consumer segments, and much more.

“Obviously, a library makes different types of decisions on strategic planning and operations, but they’re faced with all of these decisions, just like a business,” said Gerry Sawchuk, senior director for new products at Gale parent company Cengage Learning. “A library is, in effect, a business. Their products are their content, their patrons are their customers.”

The new service positions Gale as a competitor to other library-centric, data-driven research and marketing solution providers such as OrangeBoy, and CIVICTechnologies, notes Sawchuk. The distinction with Analytics On Demand is that subscribers will be able to generate a variety of reports on the fly.

The service enables this by overcoming a key stumbling block faced by demographic analytics tools—non-standardized data. In this case, patron addresses are one prime example. When applying for a library card, different patrons might misspell a street name, use a variety of non-standard abbreviations for “street” or “boulevard,” or forget to include their zip code. Analytics On Demand automatically standardizes this information by running addresses through the U.S. Postal Service’s address verification system and Tom Tom GPS mapping.

“What we’ve attempted to do here is simplify the whole process [of local demographics analysis] so that a library doesn’t have to clean up any of their data,” Sawchuk said. “They can simply extract files, load them into these applications, and immediately get results.”

The option to run reports—and different variants of reports—as often as needed, also enables the real-time tracking of targeted marketing or outreach efforts, new programs, or significant additions to a library’s collection, Sawchuk added.

Instant Insights

“We can do specific marketing programs, and take a pre-program look at patrons coming in and a post-program look at patrons coming in, and actually see if we’ve been effective,” said Kathryn Lynip, Manager of Reference and Adult Services for the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library (MDEPL) in Broomfield, CO. MDEPL worked with Gale during the later stages of the product’s development, allowing Gale to test the effectiveness of the data standardization components of the program in exchange for an early look at what the system can help them learn about their patrons.

Even this preliminary look offered several insights, Lynip said. For example, MDEPL librarians were surprised to find that a significant number of their most frequent visitors were from higher income brackets. And, just prior to the product’s official launch, Lynip was working on an outreach effort that would highlight databases and library programs that would appeal to residents of a north Broomfield neighborhood aged 55 and up, who fell into similar Mosaic lifestyle segments.

“I’m hoping that we’ll actually see an uptick in new patron registration from those areas as a result,” Lynip said.

The initial release of Analytics On Demand was designed for public libraries, and launches with two modules: a “patron profiles” integrated demographic, market segmentation, and geo-spatial data module to help libraries better understand their patrons, and a “collection intelligence” module that helps libraries understand how different demographics and lifestyle segmentation groups are using their collections and resources.

A “predictive insights” module will soon be added to help subscribers analyze potential future scenarios using any set of past time-series data from their ILS or other tracking systems. And other modules are under consideration as well, including “voter registration insights” which would overlay voter registration data with patron data, enabling highly targeted outreach for referenda, budget increases, and other get-out-the-vote efforts. Gale is also planning to write applications for the program that will be more appropriate for academic libraries and school libraries, such as an application that could help educators analyze the impact that summer reading programs have on student grades. Price per app/module will vary based on the population served by the library, with annual subscriptions starting at $2,000 for a single module for a small library. Discounts will also be given with the purchase of multiple modules.

The system was designed to protect the privacy of individual patrons, Sawchuk said. Addresses and circulation data are disassociated from patron names and sent to Gale over an encrypted connection. After reports, maps, or charts are generated, the original files containing that information are automatically destroyed.

“The only thing that is output, the only thing that is saved is the summarization of the data by groups, which protects the privacy of all of their individual patrons, but yet at the same time allows them to learn about them in order to meet their needs more effectively,” he said.

eBooks and Audiobooks: Baker & Taylor Announces Enhancements to Axis360 Platform

To, 04/10/2014 - 05:04

From B&T:

The enhancements upgrade the library user experience by providing more intuitive and engaging ways to discover and access digital materials. And, on the service administration side, the changes provide libraries with the opportunity to create customized Staff Picks Magic Wall displays and to create notifications and order parameters for holds and content license expirations to more nimbly manage their ebook and digital audiobook collections.


The enhancements include:

Increased flexibility in the display and navigation of the library’s collection via the engaging Magic Wall. Design flexibility for the Magic Wall, allowing libraries to create and manage the presentation of collections they would like to showcase to users. Enhanced browse-by-subject options for users, with visually appealing graphics and less text. A streamlined and intuitive interface for the administration of Axis 360 websites, including new user management options, reports, alerts and cart creation for high-demand items, as well as publisher content licensing tools.

Read the Complete Announcement

A Paean to the Filesystem

Ke, 04/09/2014 - 17:55

pae·an - :  a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph – Merriam-Webster

I returned from the Code4Lib Conference recently chock-full of things I want to investigate. I was also reminded about just how much I love the Unix filesystem. Yes, really.

I’ve long thought that the simplest solution to a problem is often the best. That is, complicated solutions tend to have more things that can go wrong. Plus they can be more difficult to learn, manage, and replace. That is why I’ve developed quite a bit of skepticism towards throwing databases at every problem.

I remember the time I was backing up my server and I neglected to dump the database that backed up one of my web sites. Yes, I really did. And yes, I had to rebuild it from scratch when I went to restore from the backup and realized my error. Running a tar job on the directory is SO inadequate when you lack the database that is required to make sense of it all. Sure, that is a stupid mistake, I’ll admit, but it would have been so much easier and less complicated had the site all been sitting on the filesystem.

And the thing is, often it can. Many web sites that are supported by a database like MySQL don’t really need a database at all. Mostly all they need is a way to search. And you don’t need a database for that. For that, all you need is an index. There are a lot of options out there for indexing, from the simple (such as my go-to favorite Swish-e) to the more complex (for example, XTF or Solr, which both support some very sophisticated sites).

Some benefits of relying on the filesystem include:

  • A tried and true technology that is as old as time. Well, maybe not time, but you get the idea. Filesystem technology has been around as long as there have been computers. You can take the word of an old-timer on that.
  • Drop-dead easy backup. Tar up the directory tree, gzip it, and throw the file on something else. Done and done.
  • Complete transparency. If you want to see a file, just look at it. You don’t have to figure out some complicated SQL query to pull something back out. It’s sitting right there where you can see it.
  • Slower obsolescence. Filesystems age at the rate of mountains. Databases age at the rate of flowers. Pick one to rely upon. No, seriously.

I understand that a number of open source applications such as Drupal and Omeka have made it relatively easy for people to set up a web site that needs to support a variety of user interactions by using the classic stack of Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP. That is a good thing, and I support it. All I’m saying is that not everything needs to go into such a stack, and using that method comes with real consequences that should be understood from the beginning.

So what does this all mean? For me, it means that I will think long and hard before I set up another instance of the classic stack. I’m actually totally cool with that stack if you remove MySQL. I really don’t want to be a database administrator. I don’t. Just give me the filesystem and a decent indexer. That’s frequently all I need. And it may be all you need for at least some projects. Because, you know, the filesystem rocks.

Being a Savvy Social Media User

Ti, 04/08/2014 - 19:25

Recently my colleague Karen Smith-Yoshimura noted a blog post that demonstrates effective traits for using social media on behalf of an organization. Titled “Social Change”, the post documents the choices that Brooklyn Museum staff made recently to pare down their social media participation to venues that they find most effective. As they put it:

There comes a moment in every trajectory where one has to change course.  As part of a social media strategic plan, we are changing gears a bit to deploy an engagement strategy which focuses on our in-building audience, closely examines which channels are working for us, and aligns our energies in places where we feel our voice is needed, but allows for us to pull away where things are happening on their own.

This clearly indicates that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to simply get an account on every social media site out there and let’er rip. For one reason it is highly unlikely that your organization has the bandwidth to engage effectively in every platform. Another is that without the ability to engage effectively, it’s best to not even attempt it. Having a moribund presence on a social platform is worse than having no presence at all.

Therefore, being a savvy social media user means consciously reviewing your social media use periodically to:

  • Identify venues that are no longer useful to you and either shutdown the account or put it on ice.
  • Identify venues that you find useful and maintain or increase your use of those venues.
  • Consider whether the nature of your engagement should change. For example, should you use more pictures to make your posts more engaging? Should you craft messages that are more intriguing than informative, thus potentially increasing visits to your site?

Kudos to the Brooklyn Museum for doing this right. Read the post, and understand what it means to be a thoughtful social media user. We should all be so savvy.


Image courtesy of Brantley Davidson, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Wanted: Presentations for LJ/SLJ October 1 Virtual Event “The Digital Shift”

Ma, 04/07/2014 - 20:22


Library Journal and School Library Journal are looking for a few good presentations to enhance our annual virtual program “The Digital Shift” on October 1, 2014. This year’s theme: “Libraries @ the Center.” If you have a compelling story to share about innovation in libraries—from new takes on curation, workforce development, and content creation, to great examples of collaboration and programs that enhance learning—we’d like to hear from you.

But you’d better hurry, proposals are due by May 2.

We’re looking for presentations that will provide attendees with insight on the future of library services with a practical learning benefit for the audience (no product pitches, please). Again, the sessions are virtual and we’re currently accepting proposals for 15- to 45-minute discussions. Presentations of 30 minutes or longer may involve two or more panelists and a moderator.

Full specs on submitting a successful proposal are available on our tech satellite site “The Digital Shift.”

Last year’s event “Reinventing Libraries,” drew over 3,500 live attendees. Crowd-sourced presentations that day included a popular panel on makerspaces and one on how to leverage Internet memes to enhance your library’s online presence.




New Jersey Librarians Get $116,000 in Makerspace Grants

Ma, 04/07/2014 - 17:00

Patrons playing with 3-D modeling in The Studio M Makerspace in the Monroe Public Library (NJ).
Photo by Stephen Hrubes

A neglected garden in the courtyard of Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library will soon be transformed, part of a horticultural program that will teach gardening skills, garden renovation, and plant-to-plate techniques in a new makerspace slated to open this month.

Old Bridge is one of 15 libraries—including public, school, and academic institutions—benefiting from a grant initiative called “New Jersey Library Maker Spaces—The Leading Edge,” sponsored by the New Jersey State Library (NJSL) and LibraryLinkNJ, a membership-focused cooperative.

New Jersey State Librarian Mary Chute says that the integration of makerspaces into libraries is well-timed with the current emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

The grants are a response to an initiative launched last July by LibraryLinkNJ that aims to transform local libraries into “community anchors.” Called the Strategic Plan for the Future of Libraries in New Jersey, the project has embraced makerspaces as a way for libraries to remain relevant and attract patrons, both new and current.

The program has awarded $115,700 to recipients, including the Atlantic City Public Library, the Caldwell Public Library, and the East Brunswick Public Library, to name a few, with grants ranging from $3,750 to $12,500. The Old Bridge Public Library received $10,000.

While Old Bridge’s director, Darren Miguez, plans to use his library’s courtyard space to demonstrate gardening skills, a 3-D printer will be applied to create tools, solar-powered panels, and furnishings for the garden such as planters and benches.

Chute and Cheryl O’Conner, executive director of LibraryLinkNJ, had been inspired by two exemplary makerspaces launched by the Piscataway Public Library and the Monroe Township Library. “Piscataway’s [makerspace] project incorporated a special focus on STEM learning which resulted in some project proposals with a STEM, STEAM, and STREAM [writing] learning focus,” said O’Conner.

The makerspace grants were “very competitive,” according to Chute. “Our 15 awards represent 35 percent of our applicants.” Grant selection honed in on library applicants’ technology and measurable and actionable results. “We looked closely at evidence of community input, potential community partnerships, and marketing strategy,” notes Chute.

After the grant’s announcement in September 2013, Miguez emailed surveys to the library’s surrounding schools and other libraries to gauge the community’s wants and needs, which included gardening, kitchen arts, technology, and home DIY arts.

Amy Edwards, the media specialist at Manasquan High School—the only school library to receive a grant ($5,000) in this initiative—says her makerspace program will be integrating 3-D printers. “I’m working with one of our science teachers to integrate the technology into our ninth-grade survey course ‘Integrated Science,’” says Edwards.

“We will design and print our own shoes before this school year ends!” said Manasquan seniors Gabby Chinchilla and Charlie Nesnay.

With regards to makerspaces meeting Common Core standards, O’Conner says, “All I know is that there will be tremendous learning opportunities across New Jersey later this spring as the makerspaces launch.”

Baker & Taylor, collectionHQ Launch ESP, a Predictive Collection Development Tool

Pe, 04/04/2014 - 20:52

Baker & Taylor (B&T) and its collection management subsidiary collectionHQ announced the launch of ESP (Evidence-based Selection Planning), an optional feature for collectionHQ that aims to predict system-wide and branch-level demand for books, ebooks, and other materials, including newly published items. The feature works by analyzing a library’s circulation history using collectionHQ, while leveraging data from B&T’s online collection development and ordering system Title Source 360, identifying forthcoming titles that would be best suited to a library, highlighting those titles with a relevancy ranking, and determining branch locations where copies should be placed to satisfy demand.

CollectionHQ’s suite of analytics and collection management tools already enabled libraries to evaluate and enhance existing collections with evidence-based suggestions for weeding materials or transferring titles between branches to maximize usage. And, its demand analysis tools were already advising libraries which authors or genres might perform best at specific branches. The goal of ESP is to integrate this advice into the ordering process. “The way our [collectionHQ] customers do it now, they get a great understanding about what content is moving in their collection either on a systemwide perspective or a branch perspective, or on a collection-by-collection perspective. They then take that knowledge…and make future collection development decisions,” explained Scott Crawford, collectionHQ’s vice president and general manager. “What ESP is doing is bringing a level of automation to that.”

ESP generates title-level relevancy rankings in Title Source 360, making these analytics-based suggestions a seamless part of a library’s purchasing workflow. Crawford notes that ESP also factors in aggregate data from libraries with similar profiles that order through Title Source 360. So, if a library has never bought and circulated a book by a particular author or in a particular genre, the system won’t automatically assign a low relevancy ranking to that author or genre. “We know, based on our peer database, how that author or that subject or that series is circulating in library systems around the U.S., so [a title] would still get a relevancy score that would potentially suggest that a library select that title, even if they don’t have a history of it being [circulated] in their community,” Crawford said.

Success in Phoenix

The Phoenix Public Library (PPL) has been outsourcing a portion of its collection development activities to B&T for over 10 years, and was one of the earliest adopters of collectionHQ, going live with the system in May 2011. As LJ noted in a September 2012 profile of collectionHQ, the system made it possible for PPL’s two collection development librarians to assess systemwide materials usage and select, order, and process 25,000 replacement books funded by a grant from the Maricopa County Library District (MCLD) within nine months. PPL once had 10 FTE staff conducting collection development activities in addition to their other duties, but over the years, hours spent on collection development had been refocused toward direct public service, according to Phoenix City Librarian Rita Hamilton.

B&T’s suggestions, combined with collectionHQ, have made it possible for the library’s two full-time collection development librarians to ensure that PPL’s selections continue to meet patron needs. “In a time of budget cuts, that was very, very useful for us,” Hamilton said. As an early adopter of collectionHQ, the Phoenix Public Library (PPL) was one of four libraries that chose to participate in the pilot test of the new ESP feature beginning last summer. “What [collectionHQ] provides is data that measures the success of your choices and how you’re spending money, giving you direct feedback based on use,” Hamilton said. “We have been using that data for the past three years, really honing our ability to make the best use of our resources. When they started talking about ESP—how we could further automate our selection processes, we were very interested in that.” The additional automation of ESP has met with little disagreement from staff, Hamilton said, partly because of PPL’s history with B&T and collectionHQ. “Over time, we’ve built up this trust that we’re getting a great collection,” she said. “We fine tune it based on ‘this building needs more of this and less of that,’ those kinds of things, but there’s not any angst…. I think they feel that [collection development] is something we don’t have to worry about.”

Of course, libraries will continue to be able to order books and other materials from Title Source 360 regardless of ESP relevance ranking, and the system will have inevitable blind spots due to the vagaries of publishing. However, Hamilton believes that ESP will help PPL respond to spikes in demand, even when a title is an unexpected hit. “You can’t always predict something like 50 Shades of Grey going through the roof,” she said. “So, what you then have in place is a method to respond to demand, and one thing we’re looking for ESP to help do is to help us stay ahead of demand…. Data can [predict demand] better than someone saying ‘well, we got four more holds on this book today, we need another copy.’ If they’re looking at broader-picture data and seeing what is happening in other libraries, they’ll be able to predict better.” The optional ESP feature will be priced separately from collectionHQ, although at press time the company had not yet finalized a pricing structure, according to Crawford.

Innovative Acquires Polaris Library Systems

Ti, 04/01/2014 - 23:46

Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III) today announced that it has acquired Polaris Library Systems, bringing together two of the leading providers of library automation technology. The combined companies will be led by III CEO Kim Massana, with former Polaris President and CEO William Schickling joining Innovative as VP, Public Library Products. Several other Polaris executives will also join Innovative’s management team, including VP of Sales Scott McCausland and VP of Customer Operations Jodi Bellinger. Polaris’s headquarters in Syracuse, NY will be retained as a center for operations, joining III’s offices in Emeryville, CA; Dublin, Ireland; and Noida, India. Other terms of the sale were not disclosed, but the companies described the acquisition as a strategic fit.

In a statement, Massana said III would be “fully committed to supporting the customers of both companies.” III SVP of Global Marketing Gene Shimshock confirmed with LJ that this would involve continued development support for the Polaris ILS.

“Our investors are investing for growth,” Shimshock said. “Kim [Massana] has been very clear about our growth strategy…. we’re looking for opportunities to bring the best products to market.”

John Blyberg, Assistant Director for Innovation and User Experience at the Darien Library in Connecticut, who has worked with both Polaris and III’s Millennium ILS, expressed surprise at the announcement, but noted that the two companies’ product lines could prove to be complementary.

“This move will allow Innovative to rethink how it structures its product line, and how that will align with its existing customers, both public libraries and academic libraries,” Blyberg said. “If I could look into the future, I’d bet that they are going to focus on those two branches and say ‘here, on the Millennium side, we’re going to adapt this to the unique needs of academic libraries…’ and then, on the Polaris side, they’ll continue to focus on addressing the needs of public libraries. There are some similarities, but the two types of libraries diverge significantly. I think it’s interesting that a software company is acknowledging that in this way.”

Both companies also need to find a long-term way to address the emergence of next-generation library services platforms (LSP) such as Ex Libris’s Alma and OCLC’s WorldShare, noted Carl Grant, Associate Dean for Knowledge Services and the Chief Technology Officer at the University of Oklahoma Libraries. Grant notes that III’s current next-generation solution, the Sierra Services Platform, does offer enhanced functionality compared with Millennium, without requiring significant staff training or changes to workflow. But, unlike Alma and WorldShare, Sierra is built on legacy code, and does not have a true multi-tenant cloud architecture.

“Both of them really need to get a next-generation platform together and on the street,” Grant said. “Combining forces makes a lot of sense for them at this point in time.”

Grant and Blyberg both said they expect to see concerns arise among both customer bases, regarding specifics such as pricing, or intangibles such as corporate culture. However, Grant praised the direction in which Massana has taken III since joining the company in 2012, placing an emphasis on partnerships with other technology providers, such as EBSCO Discovery Service and the recent partnership with Bibliotheca. And, he noted that Polaris has long had a reputation for providing quality customer service under the guidance of Schickling.

“Any time [mergers of ILS providers] have happened, there is a tremendous amount of effort involved. [Librarians] know the focus has been broadened, which means it has been slowed down. So, both customer bases are going to be worried,” Grant said. “But Kim [Massana] is a smart man and he’s making smart moves in many ways…. If they can preserve the customer-oriented nature of Polaris as they merge it into Innovative… I think that would be a very positive thing for the company.”

For a FAQ from III which addresses some potential customer concerns, see

It Didn’t Start With You

Ma, 03/31/2014 - 17:30

Recently a couple things happened that make me despair of ever having prior work not be repeated.

The first incident was at a large library conference at the beginning of the year, with a panel about aggregating metadata from multiple contributors. The room overflowed with attendees, as the topic was much more popular than the conference had allowed for. I first sat on the floor, then stood, but I was pained not by my lack of a chair, but by the proceedings.

We listened to individuals who seemed to imagine that this was the first time anyone had attempted to aggregate metadata from diverse contributors. I was in awe of Diane Hillmann, who was on the panel. She sat there mute and expressionless as the other panelists completely failed to acknowledge the work of the National Science Digital Library that had preceded their attempt by some years and that Diane had been deeply involved with. How she remained silent I will never know, and I am embarrassed that I failed to speak up on behalf of her and her colleagues whose prior work in the field was unacknowledged.

But it wasn’t just the NSDL work that was being ignored — no one was cited as having contributed anything to their thinking about the issues or their strategies for dealing with them. Europeana is an obvious example. UKOLN perhaps. JISC is another. As is CIC. And CDL. You can’t take a step in a Google search of “aggregating metadata”  without falling over prior art.

Then a few months later I was at another event where something similar happened. It was an informal discussion about data aggregation issues. In this case someone was describing writing code from scratch to cleanup dates, which are well known to be a big problem in metadata aggregations — particularly ones that include MARC data. It turns out they had never heard about the utility that CDL developed many years ago to do the same basic thing. Because they hadn’t even looked. A simple Google search on “date normalization” turns it up as the first hit.

When faced with a challenge, the very first step should be to investigate what has come before. The very first. Only by doing so can you avoid relearning lessons that were learned years ago, and that could help you avoid the bumps and bruises that learning as you go will entail. This will not always be the case — you may need to do things completely differently and create things from scratch. But if you do, you will know with a certainty that you must.

Believe it or not, it is possible to learn things from the previous experiences of others. Sometimes, just sometimes, it didn’t start with you.

Not Your Mama’s Library Program: Lanyards give way to coding and power tools in summer tech camps nationwide

Ma, 03/31/2014 - 17:00

The “2nd Floor” is a space for kids, tweens, and teens at the Chattanooga Public LIbrary.

Computer coding programs and robotics are just some of the tools intrepid young patrons will be using this summer as school and public librarians nationwide gear up for technology camps.

“A lot of school librarians treat summer like a refresh and get-away-from-work time,” says Melissa Techman, a school librarian at Broadus Wood Elementary School in Earlysville, VA. “I never mastered that.”

Techman is always one to roll up her sleeves, write code, and remix video alongside her students. She’s currently developing a summer program with her local public library around Mozilla Webmaker, a hub for teaching digital skills.

Justin Hoenke, teen librarian and manager of the 2nd Floor kids and teen space at the Chattanooga (TN) Public Library, is also gearing up for summer. Last year, the library ran a four-week camp called “Dev Dev” (Developing Developers), in which students learned to code HTML, Python, and CSS and played with robotics. Hoenke believes that summer is the perfect time to work with students.

“During the school year, kids are so booked with extracurricular activities,” says Hoenke, who blogs at justinthe “The summer is a good time to hook them to get into the library.”

For many, camp brings to mind memories of fishing on a lake, scratching mosquito bites, and roasting marshmallows. But for others, camp is an opportunity to wade knee-deep in technology—at the library.

Hoenke didn’t go it alone. He enlisted the help of a local technology nonprofit, Engage 3D, as well as the American Institute of Graphic Artists. One element Hoenke wanted to impress upon students was the importance of design skills. “We wanted kids to think about how a website looks,” he says.

Set for June 30–August 1, Dev Dev 2014 will involve two daily sessions at the library for three hours each. The free, four-week program is supported by a $40,000 grant, which helped fund the purchase of 55 Chromebooks, among other supplies.

Not all tech camps lean toward computers and coding. The Berkeley, CA–based Camp H, run out of the REALM Charter School combined art and architecture, mixing in some science, technology, engineering, and math in sessions held last summer. The camp is aimed at girls, who get to use jigsaws and welding equipment to create their own projects, from toolboxes to metal sculptures.

Girls are a special focus for Techman, who, in addition to the Mozilla Webmaker program, is also planning to help out this summer at Tech-Girls. Founded by Kim Wilkens, a former tech educator in Charlottesville, VA, Tech-Girls runs throughout the year and offers sessions on video game design, website development, and coding, in languages from HTML to JavaScript.

For Techman, the camps are a great way to excite students about technology and get them to actively engage with it. Another benefit? They enable Techman to hone her own skills and bring them back to benefit her community at Broadus Wood in the fall. Plus, she says, it takes very little for a teacher or librarian to launch a camp around the programming language Scratch or Mozilla’s video app Popcorn Maker. Both programs are practically plug-and-play and free of charge.

“So many teachers are tech adverse or don’t want to try something unless they’re already an expert,” says Techman. “But the cool thing about tech summer camp is that you can learn alongside the kids and then be seen as a leader in your school.”

Innovative Interfaces, Bibliotheca Announce Strategic Partnership

To, 03/27/2014 - 15:30

Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III), developer of the Millennium ILS and next-generation Sierra Services Platform among other discovery and automation solutions, this month announced a partnership with Bibliotheca, the global RFID, EM/RFID hybrid and barcode-based library solutions supplier. Both companies describe the partnership as a strategic alliance that will enhance the integration of their respective software and hardware products, generating value-added offerings for libraries that use an Innovative ILS and Bibliotheca equipment.

Under the terms of the agreement, Innovative will have the right to market and resell Bibliotheca products under the III brand in every market they serve, including the Americas, Europe, and Australia. Formalizing a relationship between the companies’ marketing, support, and consulting organizations will help streamline the combined deployment of their respective ILS and hardware solutions, according to a joint announcement.

Gene Shimshock, senior vice president of global marketing for Innovative, noted that partnerships have been an emphasis of Kim Massana, who was appointed CEO of Innovative in August 2012. In 2013, for example, the company has announced expanded strategic partnerships with EBSCO and the EBSCO Discovery Service, social networking solution provider ChiliFresh, and Bowker Syndetic Solutions. Sierra itself was designed with an open source PostgreSQL database, an open source Apache Lucene index, and a suite of open APIs to simplify work with third-party developers.

“Over the past year, we’ve really made an effort to engage all of our partners; this really came out of some of those exploratory discussions,” Shimshock said. “The outreach, on both sides, led to what we believe will be a fruitful partnership.”

Shimshock declined to describe specific features that will result from the partnership, although he noted that end-user experience will be a focus.

“A lot of it has to do with circulation—checking in and checking out materials—so that the patron experience is a lot smoother and a lot quicker,” he said. “We can bring more information to the [self-check] screens. And on the staff side, we see opportunities in management reporting and better control of the extended system through one common interface, which we’ll be working on.”

This III and Bibliotheca alliance is somewhat similar to a partnership announced between Polaris Library Systems and 3M Library Systems two years ago, while those companies were working to integrate the 3M Cloud Library with the Polaris ILS. In July 2012, Polaris began selling 3M’s automated materials handling, RFID, and SelfCheck systems. As that partnership demonstrated, when vendors work closely together, it can help simplify similar work with other vendors down the road. The APIs that Polaris and 3M developed together within months helped facilitate the integration of the 3M Cloud Library into other ILS and discovery solutions, including III Encore.

Like the Polaris and 3M partnership before it, this Bibliotheca, III alliance does not imply exclusivity for either brand.

“The way that we are integrating our systems, from a technology point of view, is using standards that are either out in the market at the moment [such as SIP2], or are in the process of being adopted, and we’re very clear that we want to do it that way,” said Andy Chadbourne, director of marketing and product development for Bibliotheca. “What we’ll be looking to do is align our development teams to make the customer experience the best it can be, but equally, showing the market that we’re doing that by embracing new, open standards. Moving forward, I think we’ll be very vocal on both sides, on how we’re doing things, and on the open standards philosophy that we’re approaching.”

Chadbourne predicts that customers of both companies will begin to see benefits as soon as this summer, although he also declined to discuss specific features.

“I think the customer base can have confidence that they are going to see some things pretty quickly,” he told Library Journal. “We’re already working on them.”

ER&L Conference Sees Rapid Growth

Ke, 03/26/2014 - 17:42

The ninth annual Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) conference this year hosted more than 650 attendees from 40 states and six countries, representing a spike in attendance of more than 20 percent compared with 2013. Online viewership of the conference’s sessions rose significantly as well, with more than 50 U.S. academic libraries registering for ER&L Online. Registrants for the online conference had access to three simultaneous presentation tracks, adding up to dozens of hours of content over the course of the three day show.

Organizers had noticed growing interest in the show as early as last fall.

“We knew something was up when we had our call for proposals, and [it] yielded about a 95 percent increase in proposal submissions,” ER&L founder Bonnie Tijerina said in her opening remarks on Monday, March 17. Participation in the community voting process used to select presentations and panels from these proposals rose sharply as well, from 450 voters for the 2013 conference, to more than 700 for this year’s show.

This “led to a lot more work for our program planners, but wow, was it worth it,” Tijerina said. “This allowed us to hand pick some really great sessions and to merge [similar] presentations.”

UX Day Debuts

One new component of this year’s show was “UX Day at ER&L” on Tuesday, March 18. With special presenters Susie Herbstritt, senior interaction designer for Dell; Brian Taylor, senior user experience researcher and designer for Dell; and Matt Franks, Professor at the Austin Center for Design and product owner and lead interaction designer at MyEdu, UX Day included a track of user experience-related sessions, featured a hands-on workshop led by UX for Good founders Jason Ulaszek and Jeff Leitner, and TEDxAustin Executive Producer Nancy Giordano.

“So much knowledge is now being disseminated via TED. So what is the role of libraries, since they have essentially been removed from the equation of spreading the latest ideas and knowledge to users? Is there some way to work together with TED or work locally to connect the ideas at TED to libraries?” Tijerina explained to LJ the central theme of the workshop. Group brainstorming sessions resulted in a variety of ideas, such as TED US, a concept that would have libraries help break the “cult of individuality” around TED Talks, delving deeper into a subject by highlighting the people whose work and ideas support a prominent speaker. Other suggestions included detecting the location of TED Talk viewers in order to suggest topical books or other resources available at their local library, or harnessing the capabilities of TED’s production staff to help librarians learn to make high-quality videos featuring experts on subjects of local interest.

Practical Knowledge

ER&L 2014 featured almost 90 presentations, panels, and workshops organized into eight tracks, ranging from e-resource management and collection development, to emerging technologies and the library as publisher trend. Many focused on specific case studies or offered practical, applicable advice, such as a panel discussion on building electronic resource management (ERM) systems using alternative tools like Google Sites or Microsoft CRM, a nuts-and-bolts panel on EZproxy administration, and a presentation on the benefits and drawbacks of a collection budget management strategy involving the cancellation of electronic journals and purchase of individual articles.

“There are many situations [in which] you are the technology experts in your libraries, the people who have done the most to further our missions by making technology work invisibly,” librarian, author, and LJ columnist Barbara Fister said during her keynote presentation. “Your work isn’t really about technology. It’s about much more. It’s about what we can do with our tools to make our libraries better. To make our communities better. To make each other better at connecting people with ideas, and helping them make their own ideas public.”

In addition to Fister’s opening keynote, Sarah Durrant, principal of Red Sage Consulting presented Tuesday’s plenary on how the emerging field of Resilience Training could benefit librarians. Brent Hecht, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Minnesota discussed the influence of User Generated Content on the Internet in his closing keynote on March 19.

Sessions recorded and streamed for the ER&L Online conference will be archived and accessible for show attendees for the next year.

Cool Ways to Use Google to Inspire Your Students to Create Dynamic Worlds

Ke, 03/26/2014 - 15:00

Thanks to the Internet, we can now see more detailed views of the world than ever before. A student wondering what the Eiffel Tower looks like doesn’t have to wait for that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris: Google Street View has the answer. As interesting as virtual sightseeing can be, the novelty wears off sooner rather than later. However, having your students create and present their own tours for class assignments will maintain their interest.

Google Maps and Google Earth, both free, are two of the most popular tools for taking virtual journeys. With both applications, students can create tours of the places they hope to visit someday—or, perhaps, the settings of their favorite books—and build tours of places they’ve been.

Their excursions don’t all have to be rooted in reality: encourage students to invent stories about a character traveling the globe who meets people along the way. Rather than assigning another PowerPoint presentation about Civil War battles, have them design virtual tours of those battles and use placemarks in lieu of slides.

Google Maps Engine Lite is a Google Maps tool for crafting custom maps by adding placemarks. A noteworthy feature is its support of multiple layers on one map. The old version of Google Maps, now called “Classic Maps,” required that all your placemarks appear at once. By creating layers with different placemarks, students working collaboratively on an Engine Lite map can edit their own layers on the same map.

If students are using this tool to create literature-inspired trips (, they can collaborate and make a different layer for each chapter of a book. Or, kids mapping the history of an event such as the Civil War, could design different layers for each year. One shortcoming of Google Maps Engine Lite is that it doesn’t support videos or narration. Google Earth is the tool for adding those. Google Earth must be installed on your computer, whereas Engine Lite runs in your Web browser.

(Google Earth is not collaborative, so students have to work on their own. Once it’s installed, they can use the built-in recording tools to narrate a tour or add video.)

Take your students outside with digital cameras and Android phones or tablets to document street views for their own—or someone else’s—virtual expedition. The Google Photo Sphere program allows anyone with an Android phone or a DSLR camera to make and share these perspectives. Say Streetview imagery isn’t available in an area your students want more people to know about—that rock quarry down the road, for example—they can remedy that with Google Photo Sphere. This is a project for older students and more advanced technology users.

If these map-based tour builders seem too complex or just not quite right for your kids, consider the Google Cultural Institute, which allows them to browse virtual exhibits and create their own collections of interesting imagery as they go. Here, students will find a mix of Streetview imagery, static images of artifacts and landmarks, and videos.

The next time you’re thinking about having students create a slideshow or write a story, consider flipping that project into a virtual outing. Your kids will enjoy the break from slides, and you will, too.

Richard Byrne ( writes the award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers.