Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) on April 16 introduced the “Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act,” a bill that would make significant changes to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which gives the Library of Congress the power to grant exemptions to DMCA’s ban on circumventing digital rights management (DRM) software, encryption, or other digital restrictions.
Since its passage in 1998, DMCA has made it a criminal offense to circumvent copy protection and security technology on consumer products, even when the ultimate use of the protected content does not violate copyright. Critics have long described DMCA as too broad. It was intended to target piracy, but the letter of the law also makes it illegal to circumvent DRM to enable text-to-speech functionality for vision impaired readers, or to unlock a smartphone, enabling a consumer to switch cellular providers, to cite just two of many problematic issues that have arisen during the past 17 years. Section 1201 of the law was conceived as a “fail-safe” mechanism, giving the Library of Congress broad powers to grant exemptions to DMCA in a rulemaking process that occurs once every three years.
A more activist Librarian of Congress might have obviated the need for this legislation. Copyright lawyer and Library Copyright Alliance counsel Jonathan Band noted that, as it is currently written, the rulemaking statute is actually very simple, and grants the Copyright Office a great deal of leeway for determining how rulemaking should be conducted. The problem, he and other critics of the process contend, is that the Library of Congress has been very conservative in its approach to rulemaking, and that the resulting system stacks the deck against those applying for exemptions.
The Library of Congress already “certainly has the ability to fix a lot of the problems [addressed by the bill] itself,” Band said.
Essentially, the rulemaking statute orders the Register of Copyrights and the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce to consult with one another and offer recommendations for exemptions to the Librarian of Congress once every three years.
The Librarian of Congress is then required to gauge the need for and impact of each potential exemption using four specific standards: the general availability for use of copyrighted work; availability for nonprofit archival, preservation, and educational purposes; the impact that prohibition of circumvention has on criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research; and the effect of circumvention on the market or value of copyrighted works. A fifth standard allows a great deal of discretion, enabling the Librarian of Congress to consider “such other factors as the Librarian considers appropriate.”
The Library of Congress and its copyright office is tasked with weighing the access needs of U.S. citizens and organizations such as libraries against the needs of individual rights holders and corporations. But when determining whether exemptions are needed, the office places the burden of proof on the entity requesting that exemption, Band said.
Occasionally, demand for an exemption rises to the level of public outcry, as it did in recently when the Library of Congress let lapse an exemption from 2006 and 2009 that had allowed consumers to “unlock” cellular phones in order to switch to a new carrier. In that case, Congress ultimately intervened to pass the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act,” which President Barack Obama signed in August 2014, making the exemption permanent.
But generally speaking, citizens are dependent on nonprofit consumer advocacy organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Consumers Union to write these exemption requests and mobilize support, and these organizations must argue their cases anew every three years, often going up against entrenched corporate interests.
Meanwhile, new fronts on this digital copy protection battlefield continue to emerge. This year, for example, John Deere and General Motors are arguing that altering the software used in tractors and cars should be a considered a violation of DMCA, making it illegal to modify, repair, or use non-approved diagnostic equipment on these vehicles, explained iFixit founder Kyle Wiens in an April 21 article in Wired. EFF is arguing that car and tractor parts should be exempt for the next three-year period.
Broad Powers, Narrow View
Placing the burden of proof on consumer advocates, then requiring those groups to start from scratch every three years and re-petition for previously successful exemptions, is an onerous and unnecessary process, Band argued.
“There’s nothing in the statute about burden of proof,” he said. And, while the legislative history does suggest that these exemption requests should be conducted “de novo” or “from the beginning,” Band said that there is nothing preventing the Copyright Office from taking into account that an exemption was granted before, or automatically renewing exemptions unless an opponent presents a compelling case for its cancellation.
“They could do all kinds of things to lighten the burden, but they have chosen not to,” Band said. “They have converted the rulemaking [process], which is supposed to be policy oriented, very much into an adjudication. Even the notion of burden of proof, that is a concept from an adjudication, not a rulemaking.”
During 2013, in the wake of criticism over the cell-phone unlocking exemption, the Library of Congress issued a public statement that outlined the organization’s mindset regarding these powers.
The Librarian of Congress and the Register of Copyrights “must consider whether the evidence establishes a need for the exemption based on several statutory factors. It does not permit the U.S. Copyright Office to create permanent exemptions to the law. As designed by Congress, the rulemaking serves a very important function, but it was not intended to be a substitute for deliberations of broader public policy. However, as the U.S. Copyright Office has recognized many times, the 1201 rulemaking can often serve as a barometer for broader policy concerns and broader policy action. The most recent rulemaking has served this purpose.”
In other words, the Library of Congress believes that these three-year exemptions were always intended to be temporary, and that Congress should be involved when permanent exemptions are warranted. And if a lapsed exemption generates sufficient heat and pressure to light a fire under a typically deadlocked Congress, then everything is working as planned.
The “Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act” orders the Library of Congress to handle the rulemaking and exemption process differently. Notably, it would add language to DMCA prohibiting the Librarian of Congress from assigning the burden of proof to the proponent of an exemption, and ordering exemptions to be automatically renewed unless the Librarian determines that circumstances have changed. It also orders the Librarian of Congress, the Register of Copyrights, and the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce to conduct a study on ways to make it easier for people to request exemptions. The bill would also add language clarifying exemptions for encryption research, security testing, strengthening privacy, and reverse engineering, and would empower the Library of Congress, at its own discretion, to conduct rulemaking outside of these current three-year reviews.
“This bill is an important step in the ongoing struggle for a balanced copyright system,” wrote EFF staff attorney Mitch Stolz on the EFF blog. “That said, much more needs to be done. Unfortunately, the ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ bill doesn’t fix the fundamental problem with Section 1201—that it interferes with important, legal uses of digital technology and media, based on the false assumption that breaking DRM in one’s own devices and software is harmful to society.”
Regardless of the progress of this bill, the sixth triennial DMCA rulemaking proceeding will take place this summer. The Library of Congress and its copyright office will be considering several exemptions, including “jailbreaking” provisions for tablets and mobile devices to remove unwanted software, permission to circumvent DRM to extract fair-use protected clips from DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, and even an exemption request for circumventing the firmware and software used to operate 3-D printers.
ProQuest, through its affiliate Bowker, on April 8 acquired SIPX, the creator of a cloud-based digital course materials solution designed to eliminate redundant spending and address copyright concerns for universities and academic libraries. SIPX co-founder Franny Lee will continue to lead the company, reporting to ProQuest Senior VP for Strategy and Business Development Ben Lewis. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Developed at Stanford University prior to becoming an independent company in the fall of 2012, SIPX is designed to simplify the creation of digital course packs, automatically determining whether a university is already paying for access to selected journal articles or ebooks, or whether that content is available via public domain, open access, or as an open educational resource (OER).
For content that is not free or already licensed, SIPX streamlines licensing (including factors such as regional or country-based pricing), purchasing, and invoicing processes into a seamless online transaction for professors, librarians, and support staff. The system integrates with a wide range of platforms, including Learning Management Systems, course websites and wikis, library course reserves, and global massive open online courses (MOOCs) to make it easy for students and professors to then access the content.
“It’s about being platform agnostic, meeting users where they are, making sure that they understand the full breadth of all of the different content that is available to them, and making sure that they can access it at the right price point,” Lee told LJ. “Often that price point should be free [to students], because someone has already paid for their access.”
SIPX customers including the University of Illinois, the University of Notre Dame, Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin have reported that the platform helps students save an average of 20 to 35 percent in materials costs in courses where it is used.
Lee said that becoming a subsidiary of ProQuest will help SIPX with another key goal—enhancing the visibility of academic libraries and simplifying access to library content. This has become increasingly vital as students become accustomed to easy retrieval of information via Google and other commercial Internet sources, Lee added.
“Being able to leverage and make library holdings more visible [to students and faculty] is a core component of the SIPX service and the value proposition to universities,” Lee said. “There’s more places where these library connections need to happen…. As a small startup we’re pretty focused on understanding access and rights and copyright technologies, but we need to draw on larger resources and larger connections and larger expertise of a company like ProQuest.”
In particular, SIPX will benefit from ProQuest’s knowledgebase and expertise in discovery. Given ProQuest’s scope, there are likely many other ways that the companies might work together, but Lee said that it is still too early to discuss areas of potential collaboration.
“We’re in the exploratory stage” she said. “In Silicon Valley, we move fast…but at the same time we have to build smart. We’re not at the stage yet where we’ve identified a product priority list or strategies.”
ProQuest CEO Kurt Sanford added in a statement that “SIPX’s contributions to the Higher Education community align with ProQuest’s mission to connect libraries more deeply into the day-to-day research and education needs of students and faculty. Its service enables universities to further leverage the investments their libraries have made in their research collections. With our support, customer relationships, and investment, we will rapidly increase the availability and richness of SIPX’s services.”
SIPX charges a setup fee to academic customers, and bundles a small transaction fee in with any articles or ebooks that require royalty payments. Free content does not incur these fees. Although she noted that it is still early, Lee said that SIPX plans to continue operating with the same business model following the acquisition by ProQuest.
“It’s business as usual,” Lee said. “We don’t plan to make any changes to the business model, but we do plan to start exploring a lot of the features and connections that could benefit our mutual customers.”
For additional commentary on SIPX see:Start-Ups Take Library Jobs | Reinventing Libraries In Higher Ed Some Intellectual Property Counts More Than Others | From the Bell Tower
Kentucky’s Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) is teaming with government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses in its community to teach people to develop websites and program software—and once those skills are honed, getting them placed in tech jobs around the region.
Like many cities, Louisville hosts a thriving technology sector, but companies have had some trouble addressing shortages of qualified software developers, a perennial problem in the industry. In the fall of 2013, former LFPL Director (and 2010 LJ Librarian of the Year) Craig Buthod and LFPL Director of Communication and Outreach Julie Scoskie met with Michael Gritton, Executive Director of the workforce investment nonprofit KentuckianaWorks. The aim of the meeting was to figure out ways that LFPL’s license for the online education tool Treehouse could enhance the city’s existing workforce training efforts, with a particular eye to filling Louisville’s programming positions.
The result was Code Louisville. In this program, local employers detail the programming knowledge that applicants will need to fill specific job openings, and sometimes provide mentors to assist in training programs. Local residents who wish to participate in the program and learn these skills can access the Treehouse online training programs at no cost using an LFPL card. Code Louisville has already attracted national attention, with President Obama recently visiting the city to laud the program as a model for the administration’s Tech Hire initiative.
Buthod retired last year, but Code Louisville is going strong, says Interim LFPL Director Lisa Sizemore, who says the program is a hallmark of the library’s commitment to community education and lifelong learning.
“LFPL has always focused not only on meeting our community’s current needs, but also seeking resources and ways to inspire learning,” said Sizemore.
Treehouse offers a good platform for Code Louisville thanks not only to the quality of its training modules, but also to its portability, which made it easy for folks to get started at the library and then continue training at home or elsewhere, learning to code where and when it fits their lives.
“The library was absolutely crucial in making Code Louisville a reality,” said Rider Rodriguez, Director of Sector Strategies for KentuckianaWorks and one of the executives behind Code Louisville. “They brought Treehouse to Louisville and made it easy for anyone with an interest in learning software development to get started.”
City and local government agencies provide funding support as well as coordination functions, with KentuckianaWorks leading the project and managing the collaboration of trainees and mentors already working in Louisville’s tech sector. Trainees complete the 12-week courses in website and mobile software development in their own time, then meet in two hour classes once a week where they have the opportunity to interact with mentors more closely.
The classes are open to anyone who wants to enroll, Code Louisville is attempting to recruit candidates who are underrepresented in the in tech industry or otherwise might not get a chance to learn the high tech skills that are in demand from employers in the area.
“We don’t have specific demographic targets but we are hopeful that this program will lead to a tech workforce that is more reflective of society as a whole,” said Rodriguez.
So far, the approach is working, with women making up 41% of applicants to the program, well outpacing their representation in the tech workforce. In the long term, Code Louisville also aims to become an established pool of local tech talent from which that businesses can hire. To effectively recruit the first few classes to the program and ensure they could provide support when needed, staffers at LFPL branches had to become more familiar with Treehouse.
“Frontline staff were given information about Treehouse and encouraged to log on and view videos,” said Sizemore. “All staff were given talking points so they could answer questions and … explore the new resource.”
A few staffers took their familiarization to the next level, putting their new skills to use creating new digital resources for the library, including new mobile apps for both Android and iOS that have improved patron access to library resources—while also saving LFPL thousands of dollars in development fees.
“The positive response from the community and local businesses has exceeded our expectations,” said Sizemore. “The results helped KentuckianaWorks secure a federal grant to extend Code Louisville to surrounding counties.”
Since it launched in late 2013, more than 160 people have enrolled in Code Louisville. The latest expansion of the program, funded by federal grant of nearly $3 million, will see Code Louisville partnering with nearby Jefferson Community and Technical College, which will offer certificates and credit equivalencies for people who complete the program. In addition, information company The Learning House will be offering an intensive coding bootcamp to participants later in 2015. The current goal of the program is to have 850 Code Louisville participants employed by local tech companies by 2018.
“The addition of boot camp sessions and the ability for people to turn hands-on skills into college credit will greatly expand the reach and effectiveness of this critical effort and help us become a full-spectrum, model city for tech training,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told WDRB news.
Those who have been paying attention to the cutting edge of digital libraries no doubt know about the Hydra project headed up by Stanford. Hydra is a digital repository system that is built using Ruby and is designed to accept the full range of digital object types that a large research library must manage. Built on top of Fedora and Solr, with Blacklight as the default front-end, one doesn’t normally associate ease of installation with a stack like that. Heck, you could spend a week just getting all of the dependencies installed, configured, and up and running.
So color me surprised when it was announced that the Digital Public Library of America, Stanford University, and the Duraspace organization announced that IMLS had awarded them a $2 million National Leadership Grant to develop “Hydra-in-a-Box”. Just as it sounds, the goal is to “build, bundle, and promote a feature-complete, robust digital repository that is easy to install, configure, and maintain—in short, a next-generation digital repository that will work for institutions large and small, and is capable of running as a hosted service.”
That is no small goal, and a laudable one at that. But…gosh. What a distance there is to travel to get there. The project has it pegged at 30 months, so nearly three years. That sounds about right, and so far Tom Cramer has built one of the most broad-based coalitions I’ve seen in academic libraries around Hydra, so you won’t find me betting against him. Especially since he just landed $2 million to help him build out his pet project. So as much as it pains this Cal Bear to say it, Go Stanford!
The announcement below comes as the London Book Fair begins later this week.
3M Library Systems today announced that it will expand its 3M Cloud Library Digital Lending System to libraries in the UK and Australia. Borrowers in these countries will benefit from 3M’s entry into the market as it boosts public libraries’ options to meet the increasing demand for digital content.
3M Cloud Library has been an industry leader in advancing technology in the eLending market and is currently available in over 1000 libraries in the US and Canada.
3M’s entry into these new markets will be supported with dedicated sales and support resources across the UK and Australia. This launch will help bring awareness and boost digital lending in these territories at a critical time, as public libraries are realising the potential and the benefits of expanding digital library services. For example, in the UK, the recently created Leadership for Libraries task force has already recognised digital enablement for libraries as a key priority, and is committed to help deliver services such as wi-fi and digital lending services across libraries nationwide.
I’ve been involved with open source software projects since at least the 1990s. I even saved a Unix application from certain death that I still use today. But that doesn’t mean I’m all rosy-eyed about all open source software projects. They are not all created equal.
To be clear, there are “open source” projects that are neither all that open nor all that successful.
But let me parse my terms before you get all hot and bothered. “Open” can be as little as dropping the code out on a repository somewhere, which is the level at which many projects currently sit. Or, it could mean that the code is actively managed under an open governance model. Most fall somewhere in between, and a number die a quiet death from neglect. I’ve also seen projects that claim the open source label long before releasing any code. And, as we’ve seen with Kuali, there is no guarantee that open source software will remain that way.
Meanwhile, someone like Terry Reese, who has programmed and maintained the amazing MARCEdit application for many years, is criticized for not open sourcing his software. If he refused to also make it better and add capabilities then maybe there would be reason for concern. But it has been tirelessly maintained and improved. Managing an open source community is not easy. I can certainly understand why Terry may want to simplify his job by vastly reducing the number of variables involved.
All things being equal, open source is better than closed source. But things are rarely equal. And it doesn’t follow that software must be open source to be useful and valued. It also doesn’t mean that someone such as Terry may choose to open source the software when he no longer wishes to maintain it. So let’s stop beating up people and projects that wish to control their own code. There should be many options for software development, not just one.
Now go ahead and give me hell, people, because I know you want to.
Picture by J. Albert Bowden II, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jalbertbowdenii/, Creative Commons License CC BY 2.0.
Newport Beach, CA-based NetObjex, developer of turnkey “Internet of Things” (IoT) device management solutions for commercial enterprises, recently announced the launch of SmartLibrary, a system that enables libraries to transmit targeted, location-relevant messages to their patrons’ smartphones and mobile devices. IoT is a new area of computing and includes smart devices such as beacons and sensors that enable machine to machine communications. The company joins library app developers Capira Technologies and BluuBeam, which each separately announced the launch of beacon services in the fall of 2014.
Beacons are small, coin cell battery–powered wireless devices that transmit Bluetooth signals within an adjustable range of one foot to 250 feet. For example, a beacon placed in a library’s computer area could be programmed to send a schedule of upcoming computer courses only to patrons who approach or enter the area. A separate beacon might be deployed in a local café or commuter rail station to transmit more general messages about the library and upcoming events. Beacon messages also facilitate sharing. An individual can easily forward a message about an upcoming event to a friend who might be interested, or post the event on social media platforms if he or she plans to attend.
In a message sent to LJ, NetObjex officials added that the system works with beacons/sensors from any vendor, and can also be used for asset tracking, or to generate “heat maps” of patron traffic and activity within a library building by gathering data on the number of messages that were sent by each of their beacons during a specific time frame.
The NetObjex SmartLibrary is a cloud-based Platform as a Service (PaaS) that includes a suite of components for using the IoT devices, including a content management system for creating messages, a point-and-click device registry and admin interface for controlling the beacons/sensors, an analytics service, and a custom mobile app that patrons can download to begin receiving messages.
Unlike the apps from Capira and BluuBeam, the NetObjex Browsa! beacon app and web browser can also receive messages, such as coupons, special offers, and notifications from enterprises that use the company’s Content Management System. When asked whether some libraries and library patrons might prefer not to receive commercial content when using an app that they signed up for at their library, company officials told LJ that patrons who only wish to receive messages from libraries and non-commercial institutions such as museums will be able to opt out of receiving messages from businesses on an individual basis.
Capira and BluuBeam have made a point of creating beacon apps that are exclusive to libraries and cultural institutions, but according to NetObjex officials, the company’s view is that early adopters of this technology are interested in receiving location-specific messages from a variety of sources, and might be disappointed with an app that is only responsive within a library or museum. If a patron does not want to receive certain messages, he or she can simply opt out.
NetObjex is currently beta testing LibrarySmart with two library systems, and expects be widely available beginning in June.
Wow. April is in full swing, which means National Poetry Month is upon us. Teachers are already planning units and themed studies surrounding verse. We librarians are the ones that they come to for new ideas. “Do you have any suggestions?” they ask. This is when you smugly smile and say, “As a matter of fact, I do!”
There are a number of great resources such as the official National Poetry Month website, School Library Journal’s poetry resource page, and even the Library of Congress. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that there are some other real gems out there as well.
One of the best resources to get teens started on writing daily poetry is the National Poetry Writing Month site (similar to NaNoWriMo). This site features daily blogs with writing prompts, ideas, author links, and sample poems. The NaPoWriMo site challenges readers to pen a poem a day, suggesting such things as writing a fourteener poem similar to “Casey at the Bat.”
Twitter is a great resource for projects. My school hosts a #twittahaiku contest where students can post a five-seven-five syllable poem to be eligible to win cheezy prizes such as sidewalk chalk or a coupon for a library latte. They can also post other forms of poetry, which have been mentioned on the “Tell Me More” National Public Radio podcast, or post via the hashtag #TMMPoetry. Don’t feel creative enough to tweet? Check out Poetweet, a website that turns your previous tweets into either a sonnet, rondel, or indriso—it’s totally cool. Or better yet, follow the official Twitter hashtags #nationalpoetrymonth or #npm15 to read other poets’ creations.
Educators and students can subscribe to receive the daily Poem-a-Day email feed for inspiration. Teens can create random poems using the autocomplete suggestions in Google search to compose incredible verses—and take a screenshot of their poem. They can even submit these works to a website devoted to this endeavor, Google Poetics, or via #googlepoetics on Twitter.
Need additional inspiration? Tumblr has poetry hashtags to follow, such as #streetpoetry, #nationalpoetrymonth, and poem a day, some with great short pieces to read. There are also fun microblogs that are silly but fanciful, such as Poets and Shoes.
Several celebrities have created online contests such as the #1for30 challenge where Maria Shriver and Azure Antoinette encourage folks to write a poem a day using the hashtag #1for30.
The New York Times has a NYTimes Haiku page, and students can create NYTimes Found Poems, which use words and phrases taken from newspaper articles to submit toward their challenge.
What’s in it for the kids? They learn the impact words have on others and discover the power of the spoken word. Our students do this monthly in their poetry slams. Students read their own work in a scored competition and enjoy hearing the work of their peers. Plus, once students get really good, they can join the National Student Poets Program, and serve as poet ambassadors—and perhaps even be commended by the First Lady!
Poetry Month always winds up in our library with a Poem in Your Pocket Day celebration on April 30. We employ creative ways to help students and staff members find their voice by carrying their favorite verses with them and reading these poems to each other. Participants can also share their verses via #pocketpoem on social media.
Explore these resources with one or more of the teachers in your building. I’d love to hear what your library does to celebrate poetry.
Library Systems Landscape 2015:Managing Multiplicity SirsiDynix Adds to Community Funded Services Suite Ex Libris Launches Developer Network Open Source Picks Up the Pace Kuali Goes Commercial Company Profiles
Selecting a library management system is never an easy decision. Vendors of integrated library systems (ILS) offer solutions tailored to public, academic, school, and special libraries, but even when organized by type, libraries are hardly one-size-fits-all organizations. Choosing a new vendor tends to mean a major investment, with a multiyear commitment to a solution that often will require new training, adaptation, and trade-offs among cost, features, and functionality.
Still, it’s a tough choice that many libraries are facing once again. This second edition of Library Systems Landscape, the successor to LJ’s annual Automation Marketplace feature, will examine the impact of recent mergers, the continued adoption of next-generation library services platforms, the emergence of mobile-optimized staff clients, and new partnerships and feature development in the open source arena.
One year ago, Innovative Interfaces (III) surprised much of the library field with the April 1 announcement that it had acquired Polaris Library Systems. Sixty days later, on May 30, Innovative followed that up with the acquisition of VTLS. Just like that, two popular, privately held ILS vendors were absorbed into a much larger company. Innovative itself had only recently become fully owned by private equity firms Huntsman Gay Global Capital (now HGGC) and JMI Equity when company founder and former chair Jerry Klein sold his remaining shares in early 2013.
Such sudden consolidation raised understandable concerns among Polaris and VTLS customers. Private equity firms expect return on their investments, and consolidation, staff reduction, and elimination of perceived redundancies are all typical ways in which large companies realize profits from mergers and acquisitions. Some worried that Innovative would not continue to support its own Millennium ILS and Sierra Library Services Platform (LSP) along with the Polaris ILS and VTLS-Virtua believing that acquired customer bases could be pushed to other systems.
In recent months, however, Innovative has given several clear indications that the company is committed to continuing to support the acquired systems, along with renewed investment in integration efforts and feature development. In November, Bill Schickling, principal architect of the Polaris ILS and former CEO of the company, was appointed VP of global sales for Innovative. The combined company also heavily promoted the launch of Polaris’s Leap mobile staff client and sold five new subscriptions to VTLS-Virtua and 25 of the Polaris ILS.
That Innovative’s leadership and investors view this as the best long-term course of action speaks as much to the future of the field as it does to the industry’s past with vendor acquisitions. To list just a few of the common challenges facing libraries and automation system vendors in 2015: electronic resources continue steadily replacing print in many collections, creating workflow and budget headaches. Digital resources from multiple vendors still need to be more tightly integrated with library systems to facilitate easier discovery and access for patrons. Libraries need to be better equipped to take advantage of mobile technology, to help staff get out from behind circulation desks and interact with patrons within the library or the larger community.
When traditional ILS platforms were designed, libraries were primarily concerned with managing print collections. LSPs are intended to address these and other emerging challenges, offering comprehensive management solutions that holistically address digital collections, databases, patron-driven acquisitions, and print.
Innovative’s goal with these recent purchases, officials have consistently stated, is ultimately to take “best in class” features from the portfolios of Polaris and VTLS—such as the new Leap mobile staff client—and build a cloud-based platform with a common suite of tools that will work with Sierra, Polaris, or VTLS-Virtua on the back end.
Since his August 2012 appointment as CEO of Innovative, Kim Massana has been working to build partnerships with other vendors while enhancing the ability of libraries and third-party developers to work with Innovative’s products.
Although competitors and some developers continue to say that the company has a way to go before it lives up to its new slogan, “The Library Is Open,” Massana is serious about this approach. In an interview with LJ shortly after the VTLS buy was announced, he argued that a go-it-alone approach to library systems cannot work in an environment in which the technology demands of libraries and library patrons are rapidly evolving.
“It doesn’t matter how big we are, we will not be able to provide [everything],” he said.
Since Massana became CEO, Innovative has actively brokered partnerships and/or overseen integration efforts with EBSCO and its EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS), OverDrive, the 3M Cloud Library, Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 ebook platform, social networking solution provider ChiliFresh, ProQuest Syndetic Solutions, materials handling and self-service solutions provider Bibliotheca, and others. Last month, the company pledged support for the Libhub initiative, which aims to enhance library visibility on the open web by implementing linked data standards and shared markup vocabularies such as schema.org and BIBFRAME.
And last April, Innovative released the first set of REST (Representational State Transfer) APIs (application programming interfaces) for Sierra, enabling libraries and third-party vendors to harvest data from bibliographic and item records in the Sierra catalog to enhance discovery and streamline record updating processes. A new API, scheduled to go live this year, will enable authenticated users to make changes to data in the Sierra system.
“We’ve been investing a lot in our open libraries initiative, trying to change the perception in the market,” Massana told LJ in January.
Innovative is also committed to ongoing support for its traditional Millennium ILS, which is currently in operation at 1,172 libraries. However, no new contracts were sold for Millennium last year. Instead, the focus of the company, as well as the focus of many libraries looking to adopt new management systems, has shifted to next-generation LSPs.
Innovative’s Sierra LSP and SirsiDynix’s BLUEcloud LSP suite make next-generation tools for administration, acquisition, discovery, and other functions available via cloud-based services that use familiar ILS systems on the back end. By contrast, Ex Libris Alma, OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services (WMS), and most recently ProQuest Intota have been built from the ground up with new code. (For more detail, see “The Future of Library Systems: Library Services Platforms” by Carl Grant in the Fall 2012 issue of Information Standards Quarterly.)
Innovative sold 123 new contracts for the Sierra LSP last year—many to libraries shifting from Millennium—and almost 500 libraries had installed the system by the end of 2014.
Libraries using the SirsiDynix Symphony or Horizon ILS continued rapid adoption of BLUEcloud Suite products, led by 218 new contracts for the MobileCirc tablet-friendly staff client and 168 new contracts for eResource Central, the digital content management platform that enables libraries to discover, download, and interact with content—including ebooks and streaming media—from multiple vendors without leaving a library’s OPAC. Enterprise remained the most popular BLUEcloud module, with 150 new customers in 2014 and 538 total contracts at year’s end. The faceted search tool enables patrons to discover content from a library’s databases, plus its physical and digital catalogs, using a single search box and can be integrated with EDS at subscribing libraries.
Ex Libris sold 25 new contracts in non-U.S. markets for its traditional Aleph ILS, which is still implemented at almost 2,400 libraries. But adoption of its LSP Alma increased more rapidly, with 43 new contracts in 2014, raising its total contracts to 406 at year’s end.
Also, adoption of OCLC’s WMS accelerated significantly in 2014, with 79 new libraries implementing the platform, for a total of 303 live by the end of the year.
Ex Libris, OCLC, and newcomer to the LSP market ProQuest argue that their ground-up approach to developing LSPs—rather than using a traditional ILS as the back end—has resulted in more efficient systems. Notably, while both approaches may result in enhancements to workflows and patron interfaces, Alma, WMS, and Intota are built with a true cloud-based multitenant architecture, which enables these vendors to apply updates, bug fixes, patches, and new features for all users simultaneously with minimal intervention necessary for customers.
“Not all of the LSPs out there are true multitenant,” says Dvir Hoffman, VP for product management and marketing at Ex Libris. “One of the key values of Alma and [discovery solution] Primo is that they are real multitenant, real software as a service. Every time we are releasing a feature, first and foremost that the feature is being designed, developed, and tested in a cloud environment,” and when those features are rolled out, everything is synchronized for all library customers.TABLE 1: ILS Three-Year Sales Trends NEW CONTRACTS U.S. SALES NON-U.S. TOTAL COMPANY SYSTEM 2012 2013 2014 2014 SALES 2014 SYSTEMS Biblionix Apollo 80 87 49 49 0 486 Ex Libris Aleph 20 25 25 0 25 2,392 Ex Libris Voyager 6 0 0 0 0 1,261 Innovative Interfaces Inc. Millennium 30 6 0 0 0 1,172 Innovative Interfaces Inc. Polaris ILS 27 44 15 13 2 483 Innovative Interfaces Inc. VTLS-Virtua 14 7 5 0 5 370 SirsiDynix Symphony 87 85 64 31 33 2,546 SirsiDynix Horizon 1 1 3 0 3 1,019 SirsiDynix EOS 58 70 42 29 13 1,137 Numbers represented here were reported to us by associated vendors SOURCE: LJ LIBRARY SYSTEMS LANDSCAPE STUDY 2015
Andrew Pace, executive director for networked library services at OCLC, describes WMS as the fulfillment of many of the goals envisioned by OCLC founding director Fred Kilgour.
“He described, in the early 1970s, something that would be used for shared acquisitions and shared collection management and discovery,” Pace says. When Pace and OCLC began developing WorldShare, they realized that technology had finally caught up to that vision.
“You rebuild library management in the cloud with the world’s largest library cooperative,” Pace says. “That was my epiphany…. Sharing was the reason that OCLC did what it did. Sharing cataloging records, resource sharing in [interlibrary loan], sharing what [member libraries] held on the open web through WorldCat.org or through FirstSearch.”
In the mid 2000s, OCLC members’ council began asking if there might be a way for libraries to use WorldCat as an OPAC, which started the WorldCat Local discussion.
“It wasn’t long after that people started looking at discovery and saying, could I get circulation with that? They started to view WorldCat in a different way—beyond its traditional role in record supply and ILL and started to see that WorldCat could be a database of record for the library community.”
Based on its potential to leverage WorldCat data in library workflows, “people saw the promise” of WMS from the time of its pilot launch in 2009, Pace says. But adoption of the new system was initially sluggish. Pace said that he remembers giving presentations on WMS in which he had to use 30 slides just to explain cloud computing. He attributed the recent surge in adoption of WMS to enhanced functionality built as the cooperative has continued to add features demanded by large libraries as well as those needed by consortia and small libraries.
“Our strategy at the beginning was to aim for the middle and scale in both directions. Aiming for the middle, those medium-sized libraries, we [then] scaled up, with functionality primarily aimed at research libraries, and scaled down to small libraries with group functionality or consortial functionality,” he explains.
Enter collection analytics
With academic libraries allocating an increasing share of static or shrinking budgets to electronic resources, often at the expense of print, collection development has taken on a difficult new dynamic, with librarians working to balance spending in the most efficient way while ensuring that acquisitions continue to meet the needs of students and faculty.
To help in this balancing act, in November 2013, ProQuest launched Intota Assessment, a collection analytics service that aims to give libraries a holistic view of print and electronic collections and subscriptions together. Combining a library’s circulation data with qualitative information from Books in Print, Resources for College Libraries (RCL), Ulrich’s, the ProQuest Knowledgebase, and other sources, Intota Assessment enables libraries to analyze their holdings and subscriptions based on cost per use, cost by subject, peer analysis, and other factors, while also offering evidence-based recommendation support, overlap and gap-analysis tools for print and electronic resources to enable “smart weeding,” and automatic generation of reports for accreditation organizations.
Intota Assessment works as a stand-alone analytics solution, but it is also part of a broader vision for ProQuest. In June, the company launched Intota v1 with the Assessment tools as a foundational element, integrating ProQuest’s Summon discovery service, 360 Link resolver, 360 Counter, and Intota e-resource management services into a single platform. The integration enables features such as demand-driven-acquisition (DDA) automation, activating ebook records in Summon directly from the ProQuest Knowledgebase. As ProQuest adds more functionality, the company says Intota will ultimately serve as a next-generation LSP that could replace a traditional ILS.
“Since the last time you looked seriously at [integrated library] systems, the fundamental nature of your collection has changed,” Jane Burke, VP of market development for ProQuest, said at the “Intota: The transformational library services platform” event during the American Library Association’s 2015 Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. “The last time we built a generation of systems, it was all about managing print collections…. We’ve reached a tipping point where collections are predominantly electronic…. To transform the way you work, we have to be coming from that reality.”
Burke acknowledged that Intota v1 does not yet offer “everything you need” as an ILS replacement. But it “consists of a package of things you cannot get from your ILS today…. We deliberately started by building the functions that you do not have in your current ILS.” ProQuest hopes that by rolling out Intota in this fashion, the company will encourage modular adoption while new functionality is added, even as its customers consider migrating to next-generation systems.
Intota v2, which is currently in development and scheduled for launch in late 2015, will include a “Delivery Resolver” that aims to manage acquisitions orders “from anywhere and everywhere,” Burke said. “It used to be that you started your order in the ILS and sent out a purchase order. Today, you go buy [a resource] someplace and as an afterthought make an entry in the ILS. We don’t think you should have to do that work twice.”
At year end 2014, 35 libraries had purchased Intota Assessment, and Burke said during her January presentation that Intota v1 was in production at more than 60 libraries.TABLE 2: Library Services Platforms NEW 2014 TOTAL COMPANY SYSTEM CONTRACTS INSTALLED Ex Libris Alma 43 406 Innovative Interfaces Sierra Services Platform 123 495 OCLC WorldShare Management Services 79 303 ProQuest Intota 35 35* SirsiDynix Blue Cloud Suite Enterprise 150 538 Social Library 53 179 eResource Central 168 329 MobileCirc 218 364 Analytics 102 116 *Intota Assessment, the first module of the new system, released in November 2013 Numbers represented here were reported to us by associated vendors Source: LJ LIBRARY SYSTEMS LANDSCAPE STUDY 2015
New mobile-optimized staff clients by vendors including The Library Corporation (TLC), SirsiDynix, and Innovative have the potential to enhance fundamentally the ways in which librarians can help patrons, enabling staff to sign up new cardholders and check out materials at off-site events. SirsiDynix was the first to market, launching MobileCirc for the BLUEcloud suite in 2013, and officials have said that it has been the most rapidly adopted product in the company’s history. TLC beta launched CARL•Connect Circulation, the first in a series of modules for TLC’s CARL•X mobile staff client, in August, and Innovative announced the general release of Polaris Leap in October.
Although any ILS with a web-based client can technically claim to be usable on mobile devices, desktop interfaces may not translate well to tablets or phones, and functionality may be limited. In a recent interview with LJ (“Meet the Tabletarians,” LJ 1/15, p. 39–41), Heidi Lewis, information services librarian for the Boise Public Library, ID, discussed how her library was an early adopter of tablets, implementing four in a roving reference program in 2011. However, staff soon found that it was difficult to place holds or complete other basic tasks using their OPAC.
“It turned out that interacting with customers in the stacks and then walking back to [a] PC to look something up continued to be at least as effective, if not more so, as trying to use the iPads within the stacks,” Lewis says.
These new staff clients resolve these issues with touch screen– and mobile-optimized design. For example, CARL•Connect Circulation, which launched last August, is Bluetooth ready and includes a wireless patron registration feature that will email new patrons a scannable digital library card that can be used immediately to check out books and other materials.
CARL•Connect Circulation is the first in a series of modules for TLC’s CARL•X web-based staff client. It includes tools to facilitate weeding and collection analysis from within a library’s stacks. Ultimately, TLC intends for CARL•Connect to replace the CARL•X Windows-based client. The company is already working to translate the collections, cataloging, and acquisitions interfaces and expects to add that functionality to the web-based client this year. A custom reporting module with a tablet-friendly drop-down interface is also in the works.
Lorrie Ann Butler, director of product strategy and customer relations for TLC, notes that some tasks, like cataloging, may always favor a desktop/keyboard environment. The company employs focus groups, user testing, and UX principles throughout its design process, in an effort to ensure that new features are easy to work with, whatever the device.
“UX, for us, is ingrained in our institution,” Butler says. “TLC’s development processes ensure that the user is included throughout…from the very beginning when we are planning and creating our user stories, through to demoing the product while it is still in development.”
In 2014, TLC’s data services division also launched RDAExpress, a service that converts MARC records to comply with Resource Description and Access (RDA) cataloging standards, which were initially published in 2010 and implemented by the Library of Congress (LC) in 2013, as the successor to Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, Second Edition (AACR2). The service converts print records and works in tandem with TLC’s eBiblioFile cataloging service to offer customized records for ebooks and other digital content offered by OverDrive and the 3M Cloud Library, regardless of a library’s ILS or LSP.
RDA uses an entity-relationship cataloging model, as recommended by Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), which was developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). This structure, coupled with the modernized controlled vocabularies of RDA, could help facilitate discovery of library records in a linked data environment.
However, as RDAExpress product owner Heather Powers noted at launch, the prospect of converting an entire catalog can be intimidating.
“RDAExpress removes that intimidation factor and delivers library records with more cross-relationships, better item descriptions, and consistent terminology to prepare for a linked data environment with outside sources like Google and Wikipedia,” Powers says in an announcement. “A library can choose to convert its whole database, or send records for conversion according to their own pace and budget via the online conversion dashboard.”
Butler tells LJ that TLC’s development of RDAExpress also reflects the company’s broader view on the importance of linked data.
“We are strategically planning for [the Library of Congress Bibliographic Framework Initiative] BIBFRAME and linked data,” Butler says. “My strong belief, as a strategist, is that this is something that ILS vendors need to do, regardless of when the Library of Congress finishes their adoption [of BIBFRAME as a replacement for MARC 21]. Providing for metadata that is searchable on the web and beyond the silo of the library catalog has to be done. And it has to be done soon. Library users want that.”
This may prove to be a prescient statement. Between the adoption of RDA standards, LC’s BIBFRAME Initiative, and the work of the Schema BIB Extend Community Group, with participants from OCLC and other organizations, linked data initiatives appear to be gaining critical mass in the library field. If these efforts ultimately help surface library content on the open web, it could result in a seismic shift of the library systems landscape.
Library Systems Landscape 2015:Managing Multiplicity SirsiDynix Adds to Community Funded Services Suite Ex Libris Launches Developer Network Open Source Picks Up the Pace Kuali Goes Commercial Company Profiles
Beginning last August, patrons signing up for library cards at Illinois’s Lansing Public Library, Mississippi’s Lamar County Library System, and Maryland’s Frederick County Public Libraries have been offered an unusual option—the “I Love My Library” card, which also doubles as a prepaid Visa card.
Developed by SirsiDynix in partnership with Visa and Card Limited, the debit cards are the third component of SirsiDynix’s suite of Community Funded Services (CFS) products, which began with the 2013 launch of Buy It Now, a CFS service that enables patrons to purchase everything from books and DVDs to clothing and furniture via a library’s website and gives libraries a percentage of each transaction.
Last year, SirsiDynix launched the second CFS product, integrating BLUEcloud Commerce with Horizon and Symphony, enabling libraries to accept credit and debit cards as payment for fines, fees, or services. Libraries can also choose to charge a convenience fee for each credit card transaction. Now, these new Visa cards—along with a tie-in program that enables partnerships with local businesses and restaurant owners—are set up to give libraries a small donation upon activation, as well as percentages of monthly card fees and sales transactions.
SirsiDynix’s rationale for CFS products is simple: libraries need money. Survey after survey indicates that many frequent library users also buy a lot of books and media. Why send those users to Amazon when the library could benefit from those sales? More than eight percent of U.S. households don’t have bank accounts, and an additional 20 percent are “underbanked.” Why should they resort to payday loans or buy prepaid cards at retail stores when the library could offer similar cards with a transparent fee structure, pair them with community business partners and financial literacy programs, and raise funds at the same time?
These arguments are straightforward enough, but many librarians are conflicted about tapping patrons for revenue—particularly those who don’t have bank accounts, since they may be among the most financially vulnerable. And even at libraries where leadership believes these programs are a fair, viable, and sustainable source of funding, CFS products won’t gain much traction without the support of frontline staff.
With the Visa program especially, “We can’t just have buy-in from the director. We’ve got to have the staff—particularly the circ staff—buying into the notion that this is a service that is valuable and needed by their patrons,” says Eric Keith, VP of global marketing, communications, and strategic alliances for SirsiDynix.
Nine new libraries have recently signed on to launch prepaid Visa programs, and while the rollout is still in the early stages, there have been some positive signs. When patrons choose an “I Love My Library” card, the Visa activation element and funding rates are three to six times higher than SirsiDynix had anticipated.
Library Systems Landscape 2015:Managing Multiplicity SirsiDynix Adds to Community Funded Services Suite Ex Libris Launches Developer Network Open Source Picks Up the Pace Kuali Goes Commercial Company Profiles
April 2014 marked the launch of the Ex Libris Developer Network, a new, open environment designed to enable IT professionals, developers, third-party vendors, and others to collaborate and experiment with applications and extensions for Ex Libris Group products, including the next-generation Alma library services platform (LSP), the Primo discovery solution, and the traditional integrated library systems (ILS) Aleph and Voyager.
The new Ex Libris–hosted Developer Network is, itself, the successor to EL Commons, a customer wiki and developer site established in 2008 by Ex Libris, the International Group of Ex Libris Users (IGeLU), and the Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA).
The Developer Network features comprehensive documentation for APIs, a testing environment/sandbox in which developers can experiment with Ex Libris APIs, a central location for viewing contributed code and apps (including links to complete projects hosted by GitHub), a dashboard for managing implementation of open interfaces and viewing usage analytics, and developer forums and blogs for discussing ideas.
“We see it as an extension of our product,” says Dvir Hoffman, VP for product management and marketing at Ex Libris, describing the Developer Network as a “critical part of our ability to extend the range of services we are offering.”
Librarians are no strangers to collaborative development efforts, and some Ex Libris competitors, including Polaris and OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services, offer hosted developer networks of their own.
Yet the launch is evidence of Ex Libris’s ongoing dedication to open development. The testing environment and dashboard features are fully embedded in the company’s core cloud infrastructure, and Hoffman says Ex Libris has been publishing API updates for the Developer Network monthly. The APIs are free to use. “As a rule,” he says, “we never charge for integration. It’s part of the product, its ability to integrate.”
In an announcement regarding the launch, Kevin Kidd, head of library systems and applications at Boston College, an early adopter of Alma, discussed the utility of the new Developer Network and the importance of making it possible for libraries and third-party developers to work with these systems.
“We can easily build, manage, and share multiple applications and services in the Developer Network. As a result, we will be able to extend library services through tight integration with mobile applications, our learning management system, student portal, institutional repository, and vendor selection systems,” Kidd says. “Our vision for the future of online library services at Boston College rests heavily on open APIs. We welcome this strengthening of openness by Ex Libris and look forward to collaborating with fellow users in the new platform.”
Library Systems Landscape 2015:Managing Multiplicity SirsiDynix Adds to Community Funded Services Suite Ex Libris Launches Developer Network Open Source Picks Up the Pace Kuali Goes Commercial Company Profiles Koha and Evergreen aim high with development targets
This February, EBSCO Information Services announced plans to provide funding and technical assistance for contributors to the Koha open source ILS platform. Led by the Koha Gruppo Italiano (KGI)—founded by the American Academy in Rome, American University of Rome, and the Pontificia Università della Santa Croce—with development support from ByWater Solutions, Catalyst IT, and Cineca, the partnership will enable an upgrade of Koha’s core search engine to Elasticsearch, the popular open source, multitenant-capable full-text search engine.
According to an announcement published by KGI, the partnership will also enhance Koha’s speed and API access; increase the functionality and accuracy of faceted classification and search; include the development of a browse function that enables patrons to explore by author, title, subject, or call number; and include a MARC to RDF crosswalk and enhanced flexibility for ingesting metadata schemes other than MARC21. Last month, EBSCO separately announced a partnership with ByWater to integrate EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) with Koha, giving Koha libraries the option of adopting EDS as a web-scale discovery service and ensuring full Koha OPAC functionality within EDS.
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, and descriptions of the scale of the partnership by the parties have been somewhat divergent. KGI’s announcement described EBSCO’s “massive support” that “will ensure the long-term viability of Koha.” Meanwhile, EBSCO officials have characterized it as a matter-of-course move. In a conversation with LJ, Neil Block, EBSCO’s VP of discovery innovation, academic libraries, described it as the latest in a long line of partnerships that EBSCO has cultivated with about 30 ILS providers worldwide, including the community-sourced Kuali OLE project (see sidebar).
“We very much believe in partnerships with ILS vendors, and we are an active supporter of open source technology for libraries,” EBSCO EVP Sam Brooks said in a statement regarding the Koha partnership. “We are a member of Kuali OLE and believe that both OLE and Koha are excellent options for libraries worldwide.”
With its large, active global user base, Koha wasn’t on the ropes prior to this deal, and EBSCO isn’t playing the role of savior. But these development plans and EDS integration are significant, bolstering both the functionality of Koha and its credibility as an option for many libraries that have been on the fence about adopting an open source ILS.
“It’s a really big deal for Koha,” says Nathan Curulla, co-owner and chief revenue officer for ByWater Solutions. “Having a strong discovery component that works very well with the system is very important for [its] long-term stability…. To have EBSCO’s help with this is huge, because they’re a very large and reputable company. It helps to validate the sustainability of Koha a bit.”
Third-party development houses are key to that perception of viability as well. While open source systems are free for any library to use, many libraries do not have the IT staff needed to maintain or modify an open source ILS without help. ByWater, LibLime, and Equinox Software, among others, offer services including installation, data migration, hosting, training, tech support, and new feature development for these open source systems. At year-end 2014, ByWater served 872 libraries using the most common, community-managed version of Koha. LibLime offers two proprietary, customized forks of Koha—one designed for public libraries and another for academic libraries—and serves about 750 libraries total. Equinox serves more than 30 libraries using the community-managed version of Koha as well, but the company’s primary focus is development and support of the open source Evergreen ILS, used by more than 800 libraries.
Koha was originally launched in 2000 as a solution for small, single-site libraries in New Zealand, while Evergreen debuted in 2006, serving a Georgia consortium that, at the time, consisted of 44 library systems with more than 250 locations, eight million items, and 1.6 million cardholders. The origins of each system shaped the course of its early adoption and development priorities, and Evergreen is still the more popular open source option for multitiered consortia and large library systems. But both systems are scalable—Evergreen can be used by single-site libraries, and Koha has been making inroads with academic and larger public libraries as well.
Curulla cites the Rutgers Law Library’s recently migration to Koha as an example. “We’re starting to get bigger names adopting Koha,” he said. Libraries “are starting to realize that the features and benefits of Koha, in many cases, outweigh those of proprietary systems.”
Similarly, in November 2013, LibLime was awarded a five-year, multi-million-dollar contract to implement and support its web-based version of Academic Koha for U.S. federal agencies. Unique customizations include a discovery layer map interface designed to facilitate searching of content by geospatial coordinates via “GeoMARC” and integration with LibLime’s digital content management system, enabling the ingestion and findability of bibliographic records and digital content side by side.
These libraries had been using a legacy commercial ILS but felt that “it was getting a little long in the tooth and not really functioning well for them,” says Patrick Jones, executive director for LibLime. “They wanted a new system, but they wanted it to do things beyond traditional library software management duties.”TABLE 3: Open Source Developers NEW CUSTOMERS U.S. SALES NON-U.S. TOTAL SYSTEM 2012 2013 2014 2014 SALES 2014 INSTALLED ByWater Solutions (Koha) 34 68 51 47 4 872 LibLime Koha and Academic Koha 42 34 41 41 0 751 Equinox (Evergreen) 37 74 107 107 0 803 Numbers represented here were reported to us by associated vendors SOURCE: LJ LIBRARY SYSTEMS LANDSCAPE STUDY 2015
The road ahead
In addition to the integration with EDS and plans to implement Elasticsearch, ByWater is also forging ahead with several other development efforts for Koha. In 2014, the company enhanced support for multiple languages and designed a new cataloging interface that will be included in the next release of Koha this year, notes Brendan Gallagher, co-owner and CEO of ByWater.
The company also expects to complete Koha’s integration efforts with major e-content providers in 2015, including OverDrive, Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 ebook platform, the 3M Cloud Library, Recorded Books, Freading, and more, enabling patrons to discover and check out content from these vendors without navigating away from a Koha catalog. ByWater made several minor enhancements to acquisitions workflows last year and soon will have Koha integrated with EDI (electronic data interchange) for invoicing and ordering.
Funding for these efforts has long been driven by small groups of Koha libraries that decide to pool money to pay development houses such as ByWater to build specific new features or functionality into the Koha system. Those features are then shared with the broader Koha community. In a move that may help ByWater speed this process, grow the company, and take on more projects, ByWater in January announced the beta launch of a new crowdfunding website devs.bywatersolutions.com. There, Koha libraries can suggest new features for the system and potentially join funding for those features from broader coalitions donating in smaller increments.
For many libraries that have become accustomed to commercial systems, there can still be a reluctance to embrace this type of customization approach, Curulla acknowledges. Even seemingly minor functionality issues in an open source system can lead a library to stick with its existing commercial system, and some directors are unaware that any perceived issues can be remedied, for a fee.
“We still have some libraries say ‘we have to click this button one extra time to complete this task, so we’re not going to go with you.’ Literally,” Curulla says. “They could have saved $20,000 per year by clicking that button one extra time, or paid $5,000 once to have that feature developed for them.”
Regardless, Curulla remains bullish on the future of Koha and other open source solutions, arguing that the functionality of an open source ILS will eventually surpass that of commercial solutions.
“The libraries that are coming over [to Koha] are starting to realize that there is a large paradigm shift going on,” he says. “Libraries are realizing that open source software is cheaper, it’s just as good, if not better, and any features that are lacking can be easily developed for a lot less money.”
Equinox grows Sequoia
Evergreen is keeping pace with commercial vendors as well. Last July, Kent County Public Library (KCPL), MD, became the first system to move to Equinox’s Sequoia Service Platform, a new cloud-based environment that enables Equinox to host instances of Evergreen, Koha, and FulfILLment using a software as a service (SaaS) model. By using redundant hardware, continuous data backup and live database replication, and a cloud configuration designed to handle peak loads, Sequoia aims to provide zero downtime for users.
The hosted SaaS model does not require on-site servers, and it enables Equinox to perform system updates and apply bug fixes and security patches without assistance from library staff.
KCPL is a three-branch system serving 20,000 residents on Maryland’s rural eastern shore, so its deployment of Sequoia offers a good example of the system’s scalability for small libraries. But the system is proving popular with Equinox’s larger customers and consortia as well. Almost 345 libraries have moved to Sequoia, and a majority of the company’s other customers will be on the platform by the end of 2015, according to Mike Rylander, president of Equinox and lead architect of the Sequoia platform. Rylander added that the company will also continue working in a support and development role with several large libraries that plan to continue local hosting of Evergreen.
Sequoia “customers are seeing increased uptime and less issues with unexpected high-load [situations],” Rylander says. “We can absorb summer reading program [traffic] a lot more easily. And a lot of the ancillary services that aren’t necessarily core to the ILS, like SIP2 servers, perform better,” managing data exchanges between Evergreen and third-party hardware and systems, such as self-check stations.
Last year Equinox also began translating the Evergreen staff client into a web-based model. The move was necessitated by Mozilla discontinuing support for several features of XULRunner, upon which Evergreen was dependent, but Equinox took the move as an opportunity to rethink what its customers and the broader Evergreen community wanted in a staff client. Notably, some modules of the web-based version will work well with tablets and mobile devices, which reflects another trend among Evergreen’s commercial competitors. The first development “sprint” was completed in August, implementing circulation and patron registration features, and as Rylander notes, making the new client tablet friendly was “one of the goals. The circulation module, in particular, is one where we focused on responsive design so that handheld devices would be much easier to use.”
Sprint 2, focusing on cataloging workflows, was still in progress at press time. After that, two more sprints are planned—one for serials and acquisitions and another for admin functions. Equinox plans to be finished with the web-based client in January 2016.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” says Equinox VP Grace Dunbar, adding that the first sprint also involved laying the groundwork for future development. “We implemented WebSockets and did a whole bunch of great stuff that is going to make supporting the [new user interface] easier, but it’s also going to make Evergreen faster and more responsive.”
Library Systems Landscape 2015:Managing Multiplicity SirsiDynix Adds to Community Funded Services Suite Ex Libris Launches Developer Network Open Source Picks Up the Pace Kuali Goes Commercial Company Profiles
Last August, the libraries of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, and the University of Chicago Library became the first to launch the Kuali Open Library Environment (OLE), a community-sourced library management system developed by a partnership of research libraries (including Lehigh, Chicago, Indiana University, the University of London, Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of Florida, the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, and Villanova University, PA). Within days of Lehigh and Chicago officially announcing their implementations, Brad Wheeler, chair of the Kuali Foundation Board of Directors, announced in a conference call that the foundation would be creating a for-profit commercial entity (later named KualiCo) to support future development of the Kuali project.
Although the move may have surprised and disappointed open source purists who had watched the project grow since its Mellon grant-funded inception in 2004, commercial development houses such as Equinox, LibLime, and ByWater Solutions have played a vital role in the growth of open source integrated library systems such as Evergreen and Koha during the past decade. These companies have helped speed development of these systems, and by offering training and technical support, maintenance, hosting services, and feature development for hire, these companies make open source systems a viable option for libraries that might otherwise opt for more expensive commercial solutions.
Kuali OLE is just one component of a suite of enterprise solutions intended to replace commercial higher ed software for finance management, student administration, human resources, research management, and other functions. And there were already commercial development houses offering support for some of these components. Notably, the rSmart Group, developer of the OneCampus student services solution, was a member of the Kuali Foundation from the beginning and had built consulting and cloud-hosted software as a service (SaaS) businesses for Kuali finance and research products. In October, the newly formed KualiCo acquired rSmart’s SaaS business and hired the staff and engineers supporting those services. The consulting arm of rSmart was acquired by Navigator Management Partners the same day.
Arguably, launching KualiCo with the express purpose of speeding the suite’s development efforts and then almost immediately enhancing its hosting capabilities with the acquisition of rSmart was a necessary step for the project, which has depended on a series of large grants from the Mellon Foundation and ongoing development support from a relatively small core of participating institutions.
But as Kenneth Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, noted in a September post on his Digital Tweed blog, hosted by Inside Higher Ed, the move also raises several questions. Most important, where will financing come from, considering that KualiCo has promised not to accept venture capital funding? Green states that despite the profits involved with higher ed enterprise software, the market for these products is small, with Kuali having potential appeal to “the roughly 600 U.S. colleges and universities that enroll more than 10,000 students.”
It may have substantial appeal to that limited market, however, since commercial higher ed enterprise software remains very expensive. In the August conference call announcing the commercial entity that would become KualiCo, Wheeler stated that during the past ten years, Kuali has saved U.S. higher ed institutions “well over $100 million in implementation and recurring costs—likely much, much more,” that 59 institutions were currently in production with Kuali products, and that another 100 use the business continuity product Kuali Ready.
Library Systems Landscape 2015:Managing Multiplicity SirsiDynix Adds to Community Funded Services Suite Ex Libris Launches Developer Network Open Source Picks Up the Pace Kuali Goes Commercial Company Profiles
Ontario, CA; 800-776-6939
Auto-Graphics offers a suite of modular 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.
In summer 2014, Auto-Graphics released VERSO 4. This latest version of the company’s web-based ILS enables library staff to use tablets and mobile devices for tasks including checkout and inventory management. Purchase Alert Ratio and Library Turnover rate reports can now be generated by VERSO 4’s enhanced reporting system. A new UX (user experience) design module makes it easy for staff to customize the appearance of a library’s website and OPAC, while responsive design techniques have been employed to make it easier for patrons to use the website and OPAC on mobile devices of any size. Separately, a new “ClusteRed results” feature presents all formats in which a resource is available in a single search results display.
Lund, Sweden; (011) +46 46 270 04 00
Ottawa, Ont. (for Selago Design); 312-239-0597
Axiell Group is the leading supplier of IT systems and services to European libraries and since the company’s March 2013 acquisition of Netherlands-based Adlib Information Systems offers a range of tailored library management systems under the Adlib Library, Adlib Museum, and Adlib Archive brands. These basic systems are primarily focused on cataloging, but optional expansion modules including Adlib Acquisitions, Adlib Loans (for circulating books and other resources), and Adlib Serials as well as the Adlib Internet Server customizable OPAC, Adlib Mobile Suite staff client, and Adlib Mobile Connect patron app enable libraries, special libraries, and museums to scale these solutions to fit very specific needs.
Axiell systems are used in more than 1,000 public libraries and 3,000 school and special libraries, primarily in northern Europe, and Adlib systems are used by more than 1,600 clients in 30 countries. The company also operates Ottawa, Ont.–based Selago Design, developers of the Mimsy XG logistics and collections management system, used primarily by museums, galleries, and archives.
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. Other tools include mobile apps, platforms for managing events and reading programs, and the vendor-agnostic BiblioDigital ebook platform and web-based, HTML5-compliant BiblioReader. BiblioCore is also fully integrated with OverDrive, the 3M Cloud Library, and Baker & Taylor’s (B&T) Axis 360, enabling the discovery and checkout of ebooks directly from the catalog at libraries that do not use BiblioDigital.
In partnership with the Chicago Public Library, BiblioCommons debuted BiblioCMS in April 2014. The fully integrated catalog and website content management system (CMS) enables libraries to highlight collections, events, services, staff members, and other resources on a flexible, customizable homepage designed to encourage browsing.
BiblioCommons also launched its Partner Portal last year, featuring a new ticketing support system, documentation on all BiblioCommons services, Community Forums to encourage collaboration, webinars for library staff, and other resources.
Austin, TX; 877-800-5625
Austin, TX–based Biblionix offers the Apollo ILS. Since Apollo debuted in 2006 at Austin’s Westbank Community Library, Biblionix has adhered to a targeted philosophy with three key elements: Apollo is available exclusively as a hosted software as a service (SaaS), sales of the ILS are limited to public libraries only, and a library can freely extract its own data/catalog records at any time. Company officials say that approach streamlines updating, third-party integration, and support services for customers, while enabling Biblionix to take a more focused approach toward development than would be possible if Apollo was also used by K-12, academic, and special libraries.
The web-based ILS is accessible on tablets and mobile devices. In November 2014, the company introduced responsive design techniques into the public catalog, enabling libraries to present a consistent interface across desktop and mobile devices.
Biblionix was recently ranked the best library technology vendor in LibraryWorks’ 2015 Library Purchasing Survey.
West Haven, CT; 888-900-8944
ByWater Solutions supports the open source Koha ILS, offering training and hosting solutions and helping libraries with migration, feature development, and 24-7 tech support. Although Koha originally debuted in 2000 as an ILS solution for small, single-site libraries, 15 years of community-led development have since made Koha a viable option for larger libraries as well. For example, the Rutgers University Law Library in December 2014 announced its intent to migrate from a commercial ILS to Koha with the support of ByWater.
ByWater made two major announcements in recent months. In January, the company launched a crowdfunding site that will help fund patches and new functions. In February, ByWater announced that it would be working with EBSCO to integrate the EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) into Koha and would be a key contributor to a broader Koha upgrade effort funded by EBSCO.
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.
EBSCO integrates EDS with products from about 30 ILS providers including SirsiDynix, Innovative Interfaces Inc., and OCLC (WorldShare Management Services).
Last April, EDS parent EBSCO Information Services announced a new policy on metadata sharing that made all metadata for 129 of the company’s full-text databases, more than 550,000 ebooks, and more than 70 historical digital archives available to third-party discovery services, including EDS competitors.
EBSCO in February announced plans to fund and assist the integration of EDS into the open source Koha ILS (see “Open Source Picks Up the Pace,” p. 35ff.), along with several other Koha projects, including the upgrade of Koha’s full-text search engine to Elasticsearch.
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. Evergreen was originally developed to support a large consortium of Georgia libraries.
Last year was a busy one for Equinox. July marked the official launch of the company’s new Sequoia Services Platform, a cloud-based environment that enables Equinox to host instances of Evergreen, Koha, and FulfILLment (a new open source ILL product) with a software as a service (SaaS) model. Although Equinox plans to continue offering support services to libraries that host Evergreen locally, company officials expect the majority of their customers will be moved to Sequoia by the end of 2015.
Separately, Equinox has been working to translate the Evergreen staff client into a web-based client. In August, they completed the first development “sprint” of this process, implementing circulation features and building the infrastructure necessary for future work. Cataloging workflows are the focus of “Sprint 2,” which was in progress at press time.
Ex Libris Group
Jerusalem, Israel; 972-2-649-9100
Newton, MA; 617-332-8800
More than 5,500 libraries in 90 countries worldwide use Ex Libris products, which include the ALEPH and Voyager ILS, Primo discovery solution, Rosetta digital preservation system, and SFX OpenURL link resolver. The company’s next-generation library management service Alma was designed from the ground up to unify the management of print and digital resources and enable comprehensive analytics of a library’s entire collection.
Ex Libris has long encouraged open development of extensions for its library management products, and last April the company launched the Ex Libris Developer Network. The successor to the company’s EL Commons platform, the Ex Libris Developer Network is an open environment designed to facilitate collaboration among programmers, IT professionals, and others interested in building applications and extensions for Ex Libris products. It features comprehensive API and integration documentation, an API testing environment, a blog and online forum for users, links to community-developed code and apps, and a dashboard for viewing usage analytics and managing implementations of open interfaces.
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. The system is designed to offer seamless integration with other Follett solutions—including those outside the Destiny family—such as the TitleWave and BryteWave procurement platforms, the WebPath Express Internet search and filtering tool, and Follett’s State Standards Service.
FSC introduced several new features to Destiny Library Manager last year as part of versions 12.0 and 12.5. Most notable was the “Universal Search” federated search tool introduced last spring. Universal Search enables students to search their school library’s print and electronic resources with a single query, and in the fall, new features were added to enable students to limit search results to reading level, interest level, or reading program. Other recent features include the addition of ebook cover images from Follett’s TitlePeek service.
Infor Library & Information Solutions
New York; 800-260-2640
Although international enterprise software conglomerate Infor is headquartered in New York City, the company’s V-Smart ILS, V-Insight analysis tools, and Iguana platform are most widely implemented in Europe, where the system originated in the late 1970s as the Vrije Universiteit Brussel Information Systeem (VUBIS) at the Free University of Brussels library in Belgium. Launched in 2010, the Iguana platform melds a library’s website and catalog, and integrates social media sharing tools and personal interest profiles in an effort to enhance online browsing while encouraging visitors to promote their library to friends. Current V-Smart libraries include the City of Paris Library Network, the Amsterdam Public Library, and the Vatican Library in Rome.
In December, V-Smart 3.0 was released for general use, featuring a new version of the ILS’s browser client interface, RDA support, enhancements to order administration via EDI, new indexing and searching tools, including restriction by statistical category, added-by-date, by authority lists, and searching in multiple fields with Iguana.
Innovative Interfaces, Inc.
Emeryville, CA; 510-655-6200
Innovative Interface Inc. (III) made waves last spring with its acquisitions of Polaris Library Systems and VTLS Inc., bringing the Polaris ILS and VTLS’s flagship Virtua ILS, Chamo Discovery (catalog with integrated social media functions), and VITAL digital asset management solution into the fold with III’s proprietary Millennium ILS, 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.
In November, Bill Schickling, principal architect of the Polaris ILS and former president and CEO of the company, was named VP of global sales for III. In October, Polaris launched Leap, a tablet-friendly mobile staff client.
Other unique, recently launched features of the Polaris ILS include “Community Profiles,” a tool that allows local organizations to input information about events, resources, and news into the library catalog, to be surfaced through regular OPAC searches.
Ultimately, III plans to take the “best in class” solutions from this portfolio of products and build a next-generation, cloud-based suite of tools that will work with Polaris, Virtua, or Sierra on the back end.
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 used in more than 700 libraries globally, with most of the company’s customers in the United States. Since 2010, LibLime’s variants of Koha have proceeded down a different development path from the broader Koha community, and updates, patches, and new functionality developed for LibLime versions are not compatible with general Koha. However, 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.
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 consortia and large library systems such as the Los Angeles Public Library; and Library.Solutions for Schools for the K–12 market, each of which can be installed on local servers or hosted by TLC. Last year marked the family-owned company’s 40th anniversary.
In August, TLC launched CARL.Connect Circulation, the first module of a tablet-friendly mobile staff client. This initial module is designed to enable librarians to conduct tasks such as weeding and collection analysis while in the stacks, or handle patron registration and materials checkout and check in at off-site events. Cataloging, acquisitions, and serials interfaces are on the way, and, ultimately, Carl.Connect will fully replace the Carl.X Windows-based staff client.
Last year, the company also launched RDAExpress, a new ILS-agnostic service that converts a library’s catalog records to conform to resource description and access (RDA) standards while adding enriched content such as relator terms in name fields to enhance discovery.
Mandarin Library Automation, Inc.
Boca Raton, FL; 800-426-7477
Mandarin Library Automation offers M3, a traditional ILS solution, as well as the Oasis/CMS web-based, hosted ILS service. The M3 core package includes cataloging, searching, and barcode label printing functions, but optional, individually priced modules are available for a web OPAC, serials and acquisitions management, SIP2 authentication, textbook management, and more.
As its name would imply, the Oasis/CMS includes an integrated content management system (CMS), which enables libraries to meld catalog functionality into a customizable patron-facing website, simplifying the creation and management of common website features such as events calendars, book selections, reading lists, slide shows, top ten lists, RSS feeds, and embedded videos. The company has been encouraging M3 customers to move to Oasis with incentives including free migration.
Recent developments include the launch of an OPAC for children, which incorporates reading level–range search functions to help align materials with Common Core Standards. Oasis is also integrated with TABvue, the online content platform with 3,000 titles curated for grades K–8.
Dublin, OH; 614-764-6000
OCLC has played a growing role in the next-generation library services platform (LSP) marketplace since the launch of WorldShare Management Services (WMS) in 2011. The system leverages WorldCat data, drawn from the collections of more than 74,000 libraries in 170 countries, to streamline tasks ranging from acquisitions and cataloging to resource sharing.
OCLC describes WMS as “vendor neutral,” and the cloud-based, software as a service (SaaS) LSP features an open infrastructure intended to encourage integration of applications from third-party developers. Development of applications and extensions is facilitated by the OCLC Developer Network, which includes extensive documentation for OCLC products, electronic lists and forums for developers, an API explorer, and more.
Although WMS got off to a slow start, adoption of the system increased dramatically during the past year. In June, the University of Delaware library became the 200th library to go live with the system. Within the next nine months, more than 125 additional libraries went live with WMS.
Ann Arbor, MI; 800-521-0600
In November 2013, ProQuest launched Intota Assessment, a collection analytics service 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 comprehensive reports such as cost per use, cost by subject, and peer analysis.
Intota Assessment can integrate with any ILS to operate as a stand-alone analytics service, but it is also a key component of the Intota library services platform (LSP) which officially launched in June. The “v1” release integrates ProQuest’s Summon discovery service, 360 Link resolver, and Intota Assessment and Intota e-resource management services into a single platform. Intota has been built from the ground up with the view that e-resources will continue to displace print collections, and this earliest version primarily streamlines e-resource workflows. For example, the integration enables demand-driven acquisition (DDA) automation, activating ebook records in Summon directly from the ProQuest Knowledgebase. With “v2,” scheduled for release at the end of 2015, Intota will get closer to ProQuest’s goal of offering an ILS or LSP replacement.
Lehi, UT; 800-288-8020
Offering the Horizon, Symphony, and Unicorn ILS platforms, the eResource Central electronic content integration tool, 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 systems in over 70 countries.
Rather than build a cloud-based library services platform from the ground up as OCLC has done with WorldShare Management Services and Ex Libris has done with Alma, SirsiDynix has been building its BLUEcloud Suite (BCS), a portfolio of new and upgraded SirsiDynix solutions available as cloud-based modules for its existing Horizon and Symphony ILS. This approach has enabled the company to offer next-generation administration, cataloging, circulation, serials, and analytics tools without requiring customers to migrate to a new system.
Patron-driven revenue streams are a unique new initiative at SirsiDynix (see sidebar, p. 31). A January 2014 service pack release integrated BLUEcloud Commerce into the Symphony ILS, giving Symphony libraries a native payment processing solution, and also enabling them to charge convenience fees for processing debit and credit cards.
Our Public Library
Walking through a vast network of medieval streets and houses, it’s easy to get lost. Luckily, I can fly. So I can see that up ahead, a team is building a castle with parapets and a wide moat. Someone next to me is posting signs with historical facts about the city. In outlying areas, people tend farms and raise livestock. Below, another team is creating a vast network of dungeons and prison cells.
I’m in Minecraft, of course—the phenomenally popular, open-ended game that places players in a world in which they can live and build things infinitely. Marcus “Notch” Persson, the Swedish creator of Minecraft, started out by creating a simple game, allowing players to construct whatever they wanted, using a few different colored blocks, each equivalent to one cubic meter. Released in 2009, it has evolved into a massive, world-building video game in which players uses those blocks to create anything they can think of, from houses, caves, and machines to a scale version of the Death Star. Microsoft purchased Minecraft from Notch and his team for $2.5 billion in November 2014.
There aren’t any express objectives or any real way to win in Minecraft. It’s a “sandbox,” in gaming speak—offering free play without a specific goal and currently used by more than 18.5 million players, with some 20,000 more signing up every day. Users may choose between Creative Mode, in which they can build using unlimited resources by themselves or with friends, with no real danger or enemies, and Survival Mode, where they fend off enemies and other players and fight for resources and space. They can trade items and communicate using a chat bar. Modifications (or mods) can add complexity by creating things like economic systems that let players buy and sell resources from in-game characters using an in-game currency system. These downloadable mods can also add computer science concepts and thousands of additional features.
Minecraft’s worlds and possibilities are truly endless—and increasingly, so are its educational adaptations for school use. Available on multiple platforms (Apple, Windows, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, Raspberry Pi, iOS, Android, Windows Phone), the game’s flexibility and collaborative possibilities make it a favorite among devotees of gamification.
“Minecraft is like LEGOs on steroids,” says Eric Sheninger, a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education. “Learners of all ages work together to ultimately create a product that has value to them,” he adds. “The simple interface provides students in the classroom with endless possibilities to demonstrate creativity, think critically, communicate, collaborate, and solve problems.” A Swedish student research study also showed that collaboration in Minecraft provided a more immersive problem-solving experience than group LEGO building.
These days, MinecraftEdu is the premiere source of educational resources for the game. Developed in 2011 with Mojang, Notch’s video game company, MinecraftEdu’s original objective was to create a way for teachers to deploy Minecraft in schools with minimum cost and effort. Educators and game developers have collaborated via MinecraftEdu to create many sharable worlds for the game that are directly correlated to the Common Core State Standards. “This is true game-based learning,” says Christopher Harris, currently a fellow for Children and Youth Technology Policy Initiatives at the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy. “The key point about MinecraftEdu is that we aren’t just playing Minecraft in the classroom, we are able to manipulate the game to create an intentional instructional experience for students.”
Prebuilt worlds expose students to places like the Forbidden City of the Ming Dynasty and Virginia’s Jamestown Settlement. There are worlds centered on mathematical and scientific exploration. You can easily place your whole class into a world built to teach them long division, and then transfer them to a new one where they can dig for scale replicas of dinosaurs.
In a MinecraftEdu world called “Decimal Island,” students are placed on a small map and are required to find three different quests hidden on the island. These quests ask students to calculate different sums and differences for purchasing items. Students must complete these math problems and put their answer into the game. The teacher can track each student throughout the world and find out how many questions they’ve answered and which ones are correct.
Players of MinecraftEdu’s “Water Challenge Remix” are in an environment with a single source of water. They must work collaboratively to survive with a limited water supply, planning together to develop methods of irrigation and farming, as well as build a settlement planned out on graph paper. A large scoreboard tracks the number of deaths for each group in order to show how effective different societies are at managing their resources. Further extensions to this world challenge students to develop self-sustaining farms once they have mastered the original objectives.
One great benefit of a framework like MinecraftEdu is the community surrounding it. MinecraftEdu offers discounted licenses to schools to get them started, along with a huge community of fellow educators who can help teachers and librarians sustain their programs. Educators from around the world post lesson plans, activities, tutorials, and worksheets for others who want to use their game worlds. They provide step-by-step instructions for teachers who are new to the game.
A user, Kurt Mac
(Twitter profile photo, above), has been walking west in the same world since March 28, 2011. He has travelled over 1,480,000 blocks from the map’s center. He will keep walking until he reaches the end of the map, called the Far World, which is 12,550,820 meters (or blocks) from the center. It should take him around 820 hours of continuous play.
MinecraftEdu isn’t without costs, especially if you need support getting your server up and running. The base program varies in price because of the need to purchase individualized licenses for students. A classroom of 25 students will cost about $400 after buying the licenses and the MinecraftEdu server. If your district has a designated IT staff member, or even a tech-savvy parent who can help, this should be your only fee. Alternately, for $20 a month, MinecraftEdu will host and maintain your worlds. Some educators leverage their Minecraft-savvy students to get them up to speed—recruiting them to explain the game over a few lunch periods or during after-school programs.
Once your classroom is up and running, all other MinecraftEdu resources are free, including teacher-made lesson plans, worlds, tutorials, and worksheets.
Embedding the Common Core
Jason and Crystal Hubler, teachers at Carter Traditional Elementary School in Louisville, KY, have been running an educational Minecraft server for over a year. They spent six months creating their world, which includes separate areas across the landscape focusing on different Common Core standards. In this open “sandbox,” Jason notes, “students can travel to different regions, each containing different activities for each of the content areas.”
To get up to speed on server knowledge, Jason got involved in online forum communities, reading tutorials, and documentations for servers, and researching frameworks, including MinecraftEdu. He connected with computer programmers who were passionate about education and agreed to create additions. “We distributed an in-game quiz that was custom-made by a programmer [and] asked Common Core questions every 15 minutes,” says Jason. “The server scanned for correct answers in chat,“ and students could win materials for use in the game. Programmers also created unique items, such as bookcases where students could write their own in-game books that can be loaned out. Once students acquire an empty notebook, ink, and a feather, they can write a book up to 50 pages long.
Another section of their world allows students to use pressure-sensitive plates in order to create graphs. Players step on these squares to move colored blocks on the x/y axis to place them at certain coordinates. A different area is modeled after the American South during the Civil War, with a plantation, a ferryboat, and architecturally accurate houses and railways. Throughout, in-game characters enhance student learning with targeted questioning and accurate storytelling.
The Hublers studied the impact of their Minecraft game on student achievement as part of their National Board Certification for teaching. Responding to a survey they created, students “commented time after time that they were pulling information from the game” for short and extended test answers, Jason wrote. Local schools and the public library now use the Hublers’ server in their educational programs. Jason added, “I now have a virtual classroom in which to engage my students, and those of several other schools, beyond our classroom.”Five Outstanding Worlds
Great learning environments in MinecraftEdu
Escape from Everest Players awaken after 200 years to find that Mount Everest is the only dry land on Earth. They must work together to balance environmental concerns through a series of quests in which they attempt to re-green the Earth.
qCraft Curriculum Map (above) Students explore the three principles of quantum physics through guided experiments within the world. Created in conjunction with the California Institute of Technology.
Coordinate Hunt Students must find 40 hidden objects within this world, laid out in a coordinate grid. Once the object is found, the students must document its coordinate location within their journal.
The Forbidden City—Digital Historian Project (above) An accurate 1:1 representation of The Forbidden City of the Ming Dynasty. Built by a team of amateur and professional historians as an opportunity for students to tour this ancient site.
HungerCraft This world allows students to explore Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” universe. Users are either placed in the Capitol or District 12 and must procure different resources to survive.
Minecraft and visual thinking
Colin Gallagher, a teacher at the International School in Singapore, has used the MinecraftEdu framework and Minecraft to teach about medieval times to sixth graders, cultural influences in architecture to second graders, and communities and systems to third graders. His classes have even created an entire student-built city that is modeled after ancient Chinese settlements.
His third graders had created cardboard dioramas previously; when using Minecraft, they became “highly motivated to plan, organize, and create a model community of systems” and a form of governance, adds Gallagher.
“Minecraft can help students visualize concepts, work on communication and collaboration skills, foster positive online behavior, [and] differentiate for students who need more than just words in a textbook,” says Colin.
Gallagher describes an experience with a fifth-grade student who was not a native English speaker. “During a project on renewable sources of energy, he asked if he could use Minecraft for his summative assessment,” Gallagher says. “He ended up creating a functioning hydro dam in Minecraft with gates to release water. He may not have been able to stand up in front of the class and present in English…but he could show what he learned using Minecraft.”
Teachers like Gallagher enhance their students’ Minecraft experience with mods (Minecraftmods.com)—downloadable, user-created additions or changes to Minecraft that create entirely new aspects within the game. There are thousands, allowing players to do everything from creating nuclear reactor technology to large, automated machines that can dig and facilitate farming.
Additional mods can add computer science concepts, advanced manufacturing techniques, and even more complex problem-solving activities. A mod called ComputerCraft adds actual computer systems into the Minecraft world. Users can create robots, called Turtles, that harvest resources for them automatically. They can create a wireless network of computers using modems to communicate with others. All of these systems are built off of a real-world programming language, Lua, that players use within the game. The community around these mods is just as supportive as the MinecraftEdu community.
Teams of programmers also create “mod packs,” combining mods to completely change the game. One example is the RPG Immersion Pack, from a prolific programming team called Feed the Beast (feed-the-beast.com). RPG Immersion transforms the game from an open-ended experience to a traditional role-playing game by adding in bosses, new weapons and blocks, and quests.
Minecraft’s education options are as vast as the game itself. Don’t worry if you feel limited by time or your own imagination. Thousands of others are imaging worlds, too—and are willing to share.
Hold in Schools
Talk to most adults about Minecraft, and you find that even though many have never played, they know what it is. “Oh yeah, my child is constantly online with her Minecraft friends,” a parent will say. Speak to an 11-year-old, and he will likely launch into a technical manifesto about his latest redstone-powered chicken farm. The longevity of Minecraft’s popularity is unprecedented. Why? It may have something to do with the game’s open-endedness—the fact that there are no specific goals, just myriad different block types and in-game physics. Players bring the key ingredient: their imagination.
Minecraft has also turned my public library into a gathering spot for friends, new and old, and a place to decompress. I’m the assistant director for innovation and user experience at the Darien (CT) Library. Like many other libraries, we became aware of Minecraft early on and experimented with various programming initiatives. Our immediate challenge was that there were never enough PCs for all the kids interested in participating. One day, I casually asked our teen services librarian, Erica Gauquier, if she might like the library to run a Minecraft server. “Yes!” she said. “They’ve actually been asking for one.”
Down the rabbit hole we went. Three years later, we run a single server for all the libraries in our county: the Fairfield County Minecraft server . Each participating town has a dedicated world where its players can build and even “claim” land. There’s another world where players from all towns can cooperatively build. In-game games, known as “minigames,” are available: Parkour courses for the more nimble players and a collection of “Hunger Games” arenas for those who like a little action. A MOB (monster or beast) arena, tucked deep underground, lets players try their hand at mortal combat (and collect “experience points” that they can use to enchant objects).
An afterschool sanctuary
For a certain segment of our population, the Minecraft server is the most valuable service the library provides. Our “regulars” begin to log in around 3:45 p.m.—shortly after school lets out. Minecraft isn’t just a game to these players. It’s where they go to find other like-minded kids. They chat with each other about their day, idly fixing a chimney here, a wall sconce there.
What’s remarkable about this time is that it’s when they decompress. As this group of players has become more familiar with one another, they’ve grown closer. Friendships have developed across town lines. Watching them interact, you would get the impression that they have assembled into a supportive peer group—and you’d be right. Of course, there is the usual early teen awkwardness. There’s conflict, frustration, misbehavior, and occasional flirting: normal kid stuff.
What began as an experiment at our library has turned in to a sanctuary and a core service for a group of young users. Because the Fairfield County Minecraft server is a loose, county-wide cooperative, each participating library has its own way of incorporating it into their programming. Typically, however, librarians set up face-to-face events where players come in and play Minecraft on library PCs. Sometimes they bring in laptops, and a LAN party-type atmosphere quickly forms. Librarians often take these opportunities to issue or renew players’ library cards and whitelist them on the server. These are primarily social gatherings, opportunities for players to meet each other in person and collaborate on builds.
Minecraft setup: nuts and bolts
Running a Minecraft server can be really easy or incredibly complicated and time consuming. Our server is a complex example (read the technical details), but there are easier options.
The majority of Minecrafters know how to quickly set up a LAN World. This can be done in-game by going to the game menu and clicking on “Open to LAN.” This shares the player’s world on the local network only, but it’s a good way to quickly get up and running with multiplayer, and a fine option for libraries with persnickety IT departments.
Other players on the same network can automatically scan and connect to the hosting player’s computer. This has limitations, however. Since the shared world is on a player’s computer, when they pack up and go home, that world goes with them. This option also doesn’t allow for many of the server-side plug-ins that add a tremendous amount of value to the experience. Additionally, when more than two or three players join a LAN game, the hosting player’s computer may struggle to keep up, causing dreaded lag.
The other option is to run a dedicated server. This is often the next step for Minecrafters who want a more highly available solution that can be accessed from the outside world.
Providing access to a Minecraft server from the Internet will usually require a little networking know-how There are many ways to implement this option. For example, you may choose to use a cloud-based Minecraft hosting solution. A simple Google search for “Minecraft hosting” will get you started down that path. The benefits are that they handle all the networking and platform issues, which still leaves you responsible for installing, configuring, and maintaining the Minecraft server software. Pricing will vary, depending on the size of your server and the number of concurrent logins you allow.
Minecraft servers can be resource-intensive, requiring a lot of RAM, but it is possible to put one on a spare PC. The various flavors of the software are all Java-based and can run under Windows, OSX, or Linux. Additionally, you need to decide which Minecraft server distribution you want to run. The officially sanctioned “vanilla” server can be downloaded directly from Mojang. This option has few configurable options but will get you up and running quickly. Most serious Minecrafters opt for a Craftbukkit fork of the vanilla server and complex multi-server Minecraft universe admins opt for the Spigot fork.
Both the Craftbukkit and Spigot servers have the ability to run plugins that can add really great features to your server that range from administrative tools for staff to minigames for players. The development community around Minecraft is astonishingly large and that is reflected in the enormous repository of plugins available.
Minecraft can also be downloaded and played on iPads and tablet devices. It’s important to note that while those versions do support LAN games, only players with other tablets can join a LAN game hosted on a tablet. Conversely, tablet versions can’t connect to regular Minecraft servers.
If your library is considering a Minecraft server, maybe you’ll want to start by hosting a few programs where participants build on a LAN map. As interest grows, speak with your IT folks about a simple Minecraft server on a PC. If you want to take the plunge, the next step could be a 24
Spring has arrived. Despite seasons of budget cutbacks, education leaders are spending again. In the last several months, two separate districts in the Portland (OR) area have visited our district looking for guidance as they seek to invest in technology. One-to-one devices are a favorite. According to TheJournal.com, worldwide spending on K–12 classroom technology exceeded $13 billion in 2013. The report, “Technology in Education: Global Trends, Universe Spend and Market Outlook,” found that technology investments “should continue to grow at a compound annual rate of eight percent through 2018. That’s being driven in large part by the rise of mobile devices, which accounted for a full 62 percent of all instructional technology spending in K–12.” How might teacher librarians support this strategic work?
“Building and Sustaining 1:1 Programs” was one of five strategic categories identified by education leaders at the Fall Meeting of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. This column has looked at strategic partnerships and digital content and curriculum. As more districts seek to implement 1:1 programs with mobile devices, there are opportunities for teacher librarians to help move their schools ahead.
In a 2014 SLJ Leadership Summit keynote event, Dr. Mark Edwards and district librarians shared how librarians in award-winning Mooresville (NC) Graded School District are supporting an established district-wide 1:1 program. Similar success can be seen in Vancouver (WA) Public Schools where a Digital Promise case study has showcased how teacher librarians are supporting similar digital initiatives.
A different kind of library program
With mobile devices, students are no longer limited by a textbook or access to the library. When the researchable moment occurs, students have just-in-time access to ideas, information, and resources. This means thinking differently about the library. With 1:1, the reason for students to visit a library may be less about tapping resources than gaining access to space and other students.
During a recent visit to Jesuit High School in Portland, OR, I talked to Library Director Gregory Lum. This is the first year in which students have iPads at Jesuit. Lum’s library is large enough to easily accommodate four classes at a time. With 20-foot high ceilings, large windows, a skylight, and copious seating, the facility immediately invokes library envy. Despite this, Lum said that plans are already underway for renovations to better meet the needs of iPad-enabled patrons. The library already offers computers, comfortable furnishings, and a rich array of digital content. Students continue to fill the library for regularly scheduled classes for library instruction or research, and on their own time. Lum hopes to add enclosed spaces so that whole group instruction can occur without bothering other patrons and small conference rooms to facilitate group collaborations. Fixed shelving may give way to more movable and flexible fixtures. “We want to provide a warm environment for students and faculty,” Lum said. “From meeting/team rooms to a balcony or loft to an enclosed instructional space, the new library space will have multiple uses.”
Digital library resources also gain importance. With devices in hand, students are increasingly likely to enter the library not through a door, but through an app or a website. The ability to download textbooks and library books and retrieve information from databases means that the 1:1 device serves as an important access point to library materials. If libraries do not provide suitable alternatives, students will turn elsewhere.
Digital literacy should come hand in hand with this increasingly digital environment. Teacher librarians need to work aggressively to make information literacy and problem-solving not merely library lessons, but also part of the instructional fabric of the school. Librarians need to shift their teaching from locating and accessing resources to evaluating, curating, and effectively using information—especially if it doesn’t come from the library’s walled garden.
Whether at school or at home, students are already taking research into their own hands.
Recently, I listened to a friend’s middle school daughter talk about how she and a friend were up in arms about a planned development that would threaten a dog park near their home. Her source? Facebook.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst on March 26 hosted the grand opening of its new MakerBot Innovation Center. Part of the library’s Digital Media Lab, the Innovation Center features 50 3D printers, several desktop 3D scanners, and MakerBot’s proprietary Innovation Center Management Platform, which links all 50 printers together, enabling print queuing and mass production of 3D prints. UMass Amherst is the first institution to offer such large-scale access to 3D printing within a library setting, according to MakerBot officials.
“The faculty are chomping at the bit to get in here and do all kinds of things,” Carol Connare, director of development and communication for UMass Amherst Libraries, told LJ. In addition to interest from the university’s College of Engineering and Department of Architecture, the center has already drawn interest from a classics professor who has been working on a digital humanities project on the archaeology of Pompeii, and an economics professor who had been looking for a better way to illustrate 3-dimensional curve graphs to students.
In an early example of the center’s potential to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration, faculty from the university’s environmental conservation, building and construction technology, biology, public health, public policy, and engineering departments were planning to utilize the center for a course on remote sensing and environmental monitoring. During a training session held prior to the grand opening of the center, 20 faculty from 16 different disciplines attended to learn about using the new center, Connare said.
The library also plans to offer a one-credit course as a basic introduction to 3D printing technology, and is anticipating the development of public-private partnerships with local businesses. Preliminary plans include an entrepreneur-in-residence program, workshops geared toward working professionals within the community, “elevator pitch” and business plan competitions, and coaching support for new venture start-ups.
“The MakerBot Innovation Center ties in firmly with the campus’s personality of being entrepreneurial and community engaged and will allow us to work more closely with the local business community,” Jay Schafer, director of libraries at UMass Amherst, said in an announcement. “Having a large-scale installation of MakerBot 3D Printers makes this resource more broadly available on campus and puts UMass Amherst at the forefront of technological innovation. The MakerBot Innovation Center will help bridge the gap between the digital and the physical realm, so students can turn designs into 3D physical objects and prototypes.”
The library began exploring the development of the center at the encouragement of Lorrey Bianke, a long-time fundraiser, donor, and UMass Amherst Library Campaign Committee co-chair, Connare said. The library had already purchased one 3D printer for its digital media lab, and a few departments had purchased units of their own, but the library is expecting demand for this emerging technology to outstrip the capacity of that patchwork collection.
Bianke “is a retired information technologist, and he loves these sorts of things,” Connare said. “We decided to make the leap, basically, because in different departments around campus there’s a [3D] printer here, there’s a [3D] printer there, but if you want to teach people, you need more than one…. And, if students are going to be running three-hour print jobs as part of their curriculum, where is that going to happen?”
Although UMass Amherst is the first university to install a MakerBot Innovation Center in a library, four other universities have opened innovation centers with installations of 30 to 50 3D printers in other university facilities, all in 2014. These include the State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz, the College of the Ouachitas in Arkansas, Florida Polytechnic University, and Xavier University in Cincinnati.
With prices for individual units ranging from $1,375 for its Replicator mini model to $2,899 for the standard Replicator and $6,499 for the extra-large Replicator z18, the technology is still priced out of reach for occasional users. However, for businesses or institutions aiming to offer employees or the public access to a technology that appears likely to play a vital role in STEM fields and manufacturing in the near future, the cost is becoming affordable. Jordan Brehove, VP of professional services for MakerBot, contends that the utility of individual 3D printers as a component of a library Maker space or university learning commons has been proven at this point. The company has sold 80,000 units since it was founded in 2009, and about 500 U.S. libraries currently offer patrons access to a MakerBot 3D printer, he told LJ.
The innovation labs, of course, represent a much more significant investment. Johan-Till Broer, public relations manager for MakerBot, compared the new innovation centers to the university computer labs of the 1980s. “They first moved into educational institutions and universities. It took a very long time before consumers adopted that technology and there was a computer in every home,” he said. “At the end of the day, [the innovation center] is about learning about the technology, learning about how to design in 3D…. If you look at the future potential of this technology, and the predicted growth, it will be a very essential skill in the future.”
MakerBot, which offers hands-on public and private workshops on 3D printing through its MakerBot Learning division, is currently implementing a three-tiered training program for institutions that have invested in an innovation center. “Deep dive” technical training is provided for the librarians or other people who will be involved in managing the center, performing troubleshooting, and keeping the equipment in working order. Separately, primary users—such as faculty who would like to use the center for a course or a project—are given courses that take “a very high level approach to design” and explain how to use the equipment in a variety of scenarios, Brehove said.
And, finally, MakerBot staff teach a course directed at the stakeholders within an institution, designed to give an overview of the technology and explain its potential.
“We found that when you’re implementing new technology, any type of solution, implementations are challenging,” Brehove said. “When you have someone that you want to understand 3D printing, and get them involved, get them engaged, if you get them to one of those training sessions, taught by MakerBot Learning, they walk away really, really into it.”
I was not much more than a newly-minted librarian when my greatest professional mentor gave me a chance at something that would launch my career beyond the confines of my institution onto an international stage. It was in the early 90s, when the Internet was just beginning to take off at large research libraries around the United States. If you can, and I know it’s difficult, imagine libraries without the Internet. Imagine society without the Internet.
Anne Lipow was entrusted with developing and delivering technology and bibliographic classes to both staff and faculty at UC Berkeley, and she took the responsibility very seriously. She would prowl the halls of Doe Library looking for young turks like myself, to pull us in to developing and delivering courses on how to connect to the newly-online library catalog or how to use this new thing called Gopher. I almost started ducking into doorways when I spotted her coming down the hall. And now I’m really glad I was more stupid than cowardly. Because I could never have predicted what would come next.
Anne retired from Berkeley and started her own consultancy: Library Solutions Institute. She began planning her very first event — an all-day hands-on workshop on how to use the Internet timed to coincide with the ALA Annual Conference to be held in San Francisco in June 1992. She signed me up to help, as well as John Ober. Clifford Lynch agreed to be the ending keynote of one group and the beginning keynote of another, thereby allowing us to sign up two cohorts over two days.
We began work on a set of handouts that soon led to a binder to hold them all and the dawning realization that we had a book on our hands. Anne changed the name of her business to Library Solutions Institution and Press and we were off to the races. Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook was published later that year and it took off, and my speaking career took off with it. Before long I was traveling to foreign countries such as Romania and Hungary, giving workshops based on that text. Between the royalties and speaking fees, my wife and I were able to financially weather the impact of twins born in February 1993. Without it, I shudder to think.
So you will not find a stronger advocate for mentorship than me. That’s why I have tried to focus on finding young female professionals interested in library technology to mentor, so as a profession we can increase the number of women in tech librarianship. I know that a diversity of perspectives, skills, and abilities is by its very nature a good thing. And the more of us out there increasing diversity of all kinds in library tech librarianship, the better off the entire profession will be.
Anne, I miss you. But your example and inspiration is alive and well.