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Author Archive | Paula Hane

Productivity Tools

The second session of the Cool Tools track focused on productivity tools. Two librarians from the University of North Carolina Greensboro, Lynda Kellam and Beth Filar Williams, presented a list of tools categorized by need:

  • Tasks
  • Notetaking
  • Scheduling


The goal of the session was to pull together the collective thoughts of the audience – it was an interactive session. The most interesting part of the presentation might have been the use of Poll Anywhere for real-time audience feedback and interactive voting. The audience members decided which tools they wanted to talk about and then were encouraged to voice their opinions. A wiki is still available that lists the tools: Here are just some of the handy tools mentioned.

Things ( – is based on the book Getting Things Done. Tasks are based on context. But it’s only to be installed on Macs or iPhones; no web-based version.

Todoist ( — An easy to use cloud-based tool for task lists

jiffle ( – an easy-to-use web-based scheduling service that enables secure sharing of calendar –with available times sent to contacts who simply click to indicate they are available

Evernote  ( — Use Evernote to clip and save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer or device you use. For free. Buy the premium version if you need to add Word files or other file types, search PDFs, need more storage, or don’t want to see ads.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.
Editor, NewsBreaks

All About Cool Tools

Web manager whiz Darlene Fichter gave a fast-paced review of some of her picks of free or inexpensive tools to help web content providers/developers. Her presentation is available on SlideShare (

Some of the tools she covered were beyond my needs (such as testing style sheets, parsing RSS, etc.), but several could be useful to lots of folks. Here are the ones I picked out.

Aviary ( — for image editing. It offers photo editing, logos, web templates, screen captures, and now an audio editor. It works with Google Apps. is an all in one RSS toolbox. It provides automatically updating news and feeds to your site. You can choose output format, select from templates, etc.

Are My Sites Up? ( When your site goes down, shouldn’t you be the first one to know? Monitor for free up to 5 sites 25 times per day. Premium edition available. Alerts by SMS. is a “real-time social media search and analysis” – to check out the buzz. It provides real-time search of blogs, events, images, news, video, etc. and provides scores for sentiment, reach, passion, and strength.

Xmarks ( is a free bookmark backup and synchronizing tool. It also integrates with Google results.

Open source expert Nicole Engard then gave her pick of open source tools. Her presentation is also available at SlideShare as well as at her site: She included many intriguing tools that I look forward to trying. Who knew that there would be a free desktop publishing tool? Scribus ( Take a look because there are tools for instant messaging, PC management, citation management, reference statistics, and more.

Dimdim ( – web conferencing, uses VoIP, share screens

Songbird ( – a replacement for iTunes; from Mozilla; play Windows and Apple formats

SurveyMonkey has some limitations so she recommends using LimeSurvey ( – it offers unlimited questions and surveys, installs free on your own servers; it’s also multilingual

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.
Editor, NewsBreaks

The Library Automation Landscape According to Marshall Breeding

Marshall is the recognized expert on library automation software. His research and writing on the ILS scene include his column in Computers in Libraries, books and special reports, and the Library Journal Automation Marketplace, which he’s done for the last 9 years. His Library Technology Guides website ( is a treasure trove of information on products, companies, and trends. He spoke in the last slot of the day on Tue., but a room full of folks turned out to hear his take on the current automation scene.

He talked about his recent Perceptions 2009 survey of librarians’ satisfaction with their current vendors, which elicited some 2,000 responses. He noted that the people who responded are usually very happy or very unhappy – the middle doesn’t tend to respond – “so take it with a grain of salt.” One interesting finding is that companies supporting proprietary ILS products received generally higher satisfaction scores than companies involved with open source ILS. Smaller libraries tend to be more satisfied– the simpler the problem, the easier it is to provide a satisfactory problem. The larger libraries are usually “grumpy about something.” And, a small service called Apollo topped the chart in satisfaction.

Marshall’s main message was transition—libraries, users, and technologies are all in a transition stage. Libraries are experiencing a huge shift from print to electronic, with increasing emphasis on subscribed content, especially articles and databases. There’s also a strong emphasis on digitizing local collections. And, libraries are increasingly demanding enterprise integration and interoperability.

Libraries are serving groups of users who are also in transition. We have new generations of library users–millennial, self sufficient, Web 2.0 savvy, and collaborative.

Technologies are also very much in transition. Client-server is dead. We’re moving to web services, service oriented architecture, beyond Web 2.0, from local computing to cloud platforms, and with delivery to a full spectrum of devices.

In the ILS world, all of these types of products will coexist:

  • Evolutionary ILS – it has been dominant for some time and it won’t go away soon (libraries seem to prefer an evolutionary path)
  • Revolutionary ILS path – we hope for these to succeed (Ex Libris URM, Kuali OLE, OCLC WorldCat Management System)
  • Open source ILS (Koha, Evergreen, Kuali OLE – not out yet)

In the next several years there will be some pretty diverse options. There’s a huge interest in “openness” – libraries want to be able to work with their data and have their systems interoperate. What libraries hope to offer is a single point of entry to all the content and services offered by the library…but with precision, nuanced sophistication, and multiple dimensions.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.
Editor, NewsBreaks

Social Media Enhances Next-Gen Catalogs–SOPACs

Track B on Tuesday was all about next-gen library catalogs. The morning explored the steps to a social library—moving from OPAC to SOPAC. Phil Green, CTO of Inmagic, Inc. set the stage for the day by clearly defining what a SOPAC is and what it tries to achieve. There are 2 sides of a SOPAC – It’s where “top-down” vetted content is enhanced by “bottom-up” social information from the community. People can search, rate, comment, blog, and tag the content in a social library OPAC. The goal is to help people find quality information in the OPAC and use it productively.

Green says that Amazon is a very good example of a SOPAC – it has both great vetted data (look inside, where to buy, prices, publishers notes, related media) and community data (reviews, ratings, discussions, what others bought). The key is to make the distinction clear so that people know exactly where each piece of data comes from. The content is integrated carefully but it’s easy to see what’s what.

Another example is OpenFields (, a public food/farming site that uses Inmagic Presto. A SOPAC is not a library OPAC with a blog on the side – that doesn’t improve the content. The SOPAC is founded on collaboration and knowledge creation. It serves to enhance the user experience, break down information silos, and improve productivity.

Green says that estimates indicate that 80% of what a company knows is inside employees’ minds (thus only 20% is in repositories) – and in the next few years, how many of those folks will leave/retire – maybe 50%?… If you make the OPAC attractive, people will want to contribute.

He did say that moderation is very important in a SOPAC – it’s not just the Wild West type of free for all. You need to control how things are socialized – you control the social volume knob. Not everyone will contribute and that’s ok.

Then, Mark Patrick, managing librarian for the Revs Institute for Automotive Research, talked about the organization’s use of Inmagic Presto. “Our experience with Presto has been fantastic…Information discovery is synaptic (non-linear), digital, and social.”

John Blyberg of the Darien Library, discussed their implementation of SOPAC 2.1, the social OPAC that he wrote built on the Drupal content management system. “We wanted it to be open source and merge with our catalog.” The goal was to develop a cohesive online digital strategy for the library. Three libraries are currently running SOPAC and two more will be coming on soon.

Users conduct all activities through SOPAC – they never directly interact with the ILS itself. SOPAC is user-experience (UX) driven. It’s for end users, not librarians. It has to look good so it appeals to people. When a user tags an item, it becomes part of the index – their input literally changes the ability for others to find things. The staff also uses tagging feature. “Meet us on Main Street” is a weekly program that meets physically in the library and discusses books – this has now become a tag to highlight those items discussed.

Blyberg says it’s important to make a connection between the digital and physical library. They have screens posted in their physical Main Street area of the library. One LCD screen lists the titles that have just been returned. Another lists most popular fiction. These are drawn from pre-baked searches in the SOPAC.

“Drupal is a wonderful content management system – we’re very excited about the current version and the plans for the future.” Plans include Twitter integration—announce new reviews, updates, events, etc. They also want to listen to what people are tweeting and implement mobile versions for cell phones. Check out SOPAC 2.1 at

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, Information Today, Inc.
Editor, NewsBreaks