Recent Events

Archive | CIL2011

The #CIL11 Conference Daily

Were you too busy during Computers in Libraries 2011 to keep track of all the links flying around on Twitter from the various sessions?

Nobody has time to bookmark every link that appeared in the 9000+ tweets tagged with #CIL11 this week, so I set up a edition to comb through the #CIL11 tweets and build a newspaper for each day of the conference so attendees and those following along from home could go back and find resources that were shared at the conference.

The current day’s edition can always found at #CIL11 Conference Daily but you can find each day of the conference in the in the archive.

#CIL Conference Daily Archive


QR Codes

QR Codes are similar to bar codes but they are two-dimensional.  They are beginning to appear in many environments, but perhaps the most frequent application is to install a reader on a mobile phone, and then take pictures of the codes, which lead the user to some relevant information.  David Lee King described how the Topeka library had a “Big Read QR Scavenger Hunt”, in which people scanned the codes to get clues to the locations on the hunt.  The first stop was a bookstore, and the next was an art gallery.  Contestants completing all 5 stops on the hunt were entered into a drawing for a basket of rewards.

Even though the hunt was widely advertised, and 300 people started it, only 8 finished.  People did not want to drive all over the city to find the codes, and at several of the stores, they were unable to find the posters with the code and were uncomfortable asking about them.  But King and the sponsors of the hunt learned a lot about codes in the community, discovered more uses for the technology, and found out that many people are using the technology.  So in that respect, the hunt was successful.

John Lutz and Margaret Clark

John Lutz and Margaret Clark from the Florida College of Law Research Center have used QR Codes widely in their library.  (Since they furnished a code for their presentation, those with cell phones need read no further!)

Here are some of their applications:

  • Make content accessible through multiple access  points.  Students can download PDF of a paper document to their cell phones.  (There is a menu option in Adobe Acrobat to put the code on a document.)
  • Used Microsoft Publisher to create bookmarks with codes to access the catalog, databases, research guides, hours, and their blog.
  • Put code on every book in new book display that accesses an online review of that book.
  • Displayed signs on shelves to educate students about online equivalents of print sources.
  • Printed codes on Avery peelable labels which can be stuck on handouts, etc.
  • Embedded vCards (a standard for formatting contact information in phones) in codes.
  • Created videos with Adobe Captivate and uploaded them to YouTube which converts the material to a Flash file and an mpeg file (using the h.264 standard) designed for mobile access.


Libraries in the Semantic Web

Lisa Goddard

In one of the best presentations of the conference, Lisa Goddard and Gillian Byrne, librarians at the Memorial University of Newfoundland gave a clear explanation of the technology and issues relating to the semantic web and how it can be applied in libraries.

Why do we need a new Web?  We often forget the kids of problems we have with the tools available to us, such as high recall and low precision with Google.  The web is very vocabulary dependent.  Today’s Web search engines do not group web pages, pull out concepts, or understand them.  There is no access to the deep web.  Identity is big issue–Google cannot disintermediate between alternate terms, and there is no way to do comparisons.  Complex queries are impossible to do on Google.  But we do have tools that can handle complex queries such as Scopus.  These search engines can do this because they have clearly tagged relational databases on the back end.  The semantic web solution is to turn the Web into something like a database, with structured data, controlled vocabularies, and linking.  The point is to create machine-actionable data because computers visit websites as often as people do.

The basis of the semantic web is the Resource Description Framework (RDF).  RDF objects are described as triples, with a subject, object, and predicate.  Here is an example:

Using these triples, we can construct a semantic network of terms:

This allows us to identify related terms, even though the relationship may not be explicitly specified by any of the RDF triples.  In the example above, we can see that “Shakespeare” is related to “UK” and “Scotland”.  Since every object must have a unique identifier (a URI), its relationship can be resolved.

An ontology is a model describing a particular knowledge domain.  Ontologies help establish controlled vocabularies and model relationships between entities and concepts.  They have built-in data types that support reasoning because every term must have its own URI.  Ontologies are published on the Web and shared.  Rules can be written that describe the relationships between terms.  For example “wrote” is the inverse of “written by”; “Anne Hathaway married Shakespeare” and “Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway” are symmetrical relationships; and “Shakespeare” and “William Shakespeare” are equivalent.  Using these rules, ontologies help computers to reason, and new knowledge can be inferred from given knowledge.  Ontologies are written in Web Ontology Language (OWL).  The Protege Ontology Library has a list of many of those that are available.  Many websites today use RDF,and almost any big technology player has some semantic capabilities.

We talk a lot about search, but not much about data problems, like disconnected data in silos.  Many documents are linked with no way to describe the relationships between them, and the links that are used (ISSNs and ISBNs) are not strong identifiers.  Since computers cannot see relationships between disparate materials, we need to link concepts, not data.  We must think about sharing data in a way that the rest of the world can take advantage of it (and they are not going to adopt MARC!!).

Here are some of the obstacles in implementing the semantic web:

  • Competing vocabularies: how many ways can you describe a book, article, or place? (See this article for a detailed explanation.)
  • Co-referencing: different URIs are being created for the same thing.  The sameAs tool developed at the University of Southampton helps find existing URIs and prevent this problem.
  • There is lots and lots of data out there; how can we find it?  The CKAN Data Hub is a helpful registry system for linked data, but people still must submit their data.
  • Linked data sets are being released without good examples or good ways to search the data.
  • We are good at sharing but not so good at trusting.  We need the trust to link.  External taxonomies are now beginning to be trusted, but work on the attribution of data sets is needed.
  • Preservation.  What happens when an ontology or linking hub disappears?  Chaos could result.
  • Ownership:  Who owns the data?  In an academic environment, we do not own the data; the vendors do.
  • Licensing:  There is no correlation between open and linked data.  VoID (Vocabulary of Interlinked Datasets) is a schema to describe linked datasets and allows you to say that your dataset has a license.

All of these issues involved hard work on top of what librarians do now.  We are in an age of chaotic innovation in libraries.  Fortunately, there are some “chaos tamers” available to help us.



Mobile Trends and Practices

Chanitra Bishop

Chanitra Bishop, a librarian at Indiana University said that location-based mobile networks are growing in popularity.  Information sent to a user’s mobile device based on location allows targeted marketed messages to be sent to users in a specific geographic location.  For example, businesses can send out coupons or provide deals to people in the area.  Two of the primary systems used are Foursquare and Yelp.

Foursquare is not a ballgame!  It allows you to check in at a location, list things to do, find out what friends are doing, and learn about events, restaurants, etc.  It is the most popular location-based social network and has over 205,000 users worldwide. Foursquare grew over 3400% in 2010.  If you use Foursquare, you must realize that you are broadcasting where you are, and you might not want to reveal that.  Users can add tips, comments, connect with Twitter and Facebook, and comment on what friends are doing.  Foursquare is also a game with “badges”, a “mayor” of a location, points and a “leaderboard”.  You can claim your location, add new location (like within your library) and run promotions

Library applications include giving a virtual tour of the library by setting up locations in the library.  You can reward the mayor of the location with a prize, do promotions based on locations (such as a particular area in the library), and add tips, descriptions, photos, and tags.

Jason Clark from Montana State University continued the theme, noting that location is a metric of interest.  He quoted a product manager from Google who said that about half of the queries on Google have a geographic component.

Here are some possible library applications of location-based systems:

  • Mapping data.  For example, see this map of research locations discussed in theses submitted to the university.
  • Promote your place using check-in features of location-based networks.  See the National Archives on Foursquare for an example.  The Darien, CT and Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore are also using check-in services.
  • Local interest applications–such as the walking tours done by the University of North Carolina, or the San Jose Public Library.
  • Google Earth can be used to create interactive maps and embed them on a site.
  • You can also create a cultural snapshot of a place; for example WorldCat Local can find your location and then present relevant books or videos.

To get started with these systems, choose data with location interest and record its latitude and longitude using any one of a number of available systems for doing this.  Then “reverse geocode” it to translate the location on a map into a human-readable place name which can then be displayed on an appropriate device.  The Location Awhere blog is a good source for further information.



Recreating the Information World: Dead and Innovative Technologies

This year’s famous and popular Tuesday evening session on dead and innovative technologies focused on re-creating the information world.  A panel of leading experts gave their ideas in rapid-fire.

The Dead & Innovative Technologies Panel: (L-R) Bill Spence, Aaron Schmidt, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Marshall Breeding, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Stephen Abram. (In front) D. Scott Brandt, Moderator (Photo by Kathy Dempsey)

Aaron Schmidt said that even if the information world were recreated, some people would still want to be gatekeepers, which is a myth because gatekeepers have disappeared.  He suggested that a recreated library’s website might look like this:

A Recreated Library's Home Page?

He noted that our downloadable materials are not easy to administer, and we have not been able to rely on content for a long time.  We need to concentrate on what we’re excellent at and look at our users.  Some libraries are even opening without books!

We do many things well, like storage or video games.  Libraries can be important in a community as a place for people to create and meet.  We have good content that users can remix.  We are community publishers–we have expertise and should have tools to make our users’ material better.  Libraries can solve problems.  We should be the  community experts who can help.

Amanda Etches-Johnson wondered if libraries didn’t exist today, would we invent them?  What do we really know about the digital scholar?  They may be perennially connected, but they really do not read the web; they scan it.

Here is a danger sign for libraries.

We are inventing academic libraries every day, but are we inventing the right libraries with the right characteristics:  a good user experience, beautiful data and personalization, APIs, and platforms. The right library is built on the principles of universal design.  It must have an open access mandate.  How do we get information to users, not users to information?

Bill Spence noted that many good ideas of the past failed, but they are returning: the idea that everybody should have a website, and every user in a social network.

Marshall breeding said that we must get to something more better than library OPACs–a comprehensive library destination.  Federated search and integrated library systems must die; there are systems available that can manage both print and electronic resources.  Here is Marshall’s suggested library management model:

New Library Management Model

We must think about the web in more sophisticated ways.  It was meant to be social and collaborative all along, not just since the inauguration of Web 2.0.

Sarah Houghton-Jan focused on one technology that must die:  Digital Rights Management (DRM).  She said that copyright and bad licensing agreements have fueled its spread.  Some people think that DRM is the result of copyright law changes, but this is not true.  The law did not change; the publishers did.  DRM is anti-consumer and anti-library, discriminatory.  It doesn’t prevent piracy, increases costs, and endangers preservation.  It acts like a tariff on the free exchange of information.

So what do we do?  According to Sarah, we don’t own any of the DRM content, so we can just say no to publishers.  We can vote with our money,  say no to content with DRM and yes to DRM-free content, and catalog Creative Commons-licensed content.  We can say yes to community-created content.  Why aren’t we publishing the what our local communities are building?  Why is all the digital content in our libraries only available to a small segment of our users?

Steve Abram wrapped up the session with a look at technologies that help us create and recreate things.  He noted that this afternoon, the court rejected Google’s Book Settlement with publishers.  But Google also got a patent for Google Doodles (changes made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays and other events) this afternoon.

Are we going to open our mouths this time or let them do it again?  What is coming at us in libraries?  Abram has an issue with somebody saying a device vendor allows it to control what a user does with it.  Can we find our voice again?  We are a multi-billion dollar market.  Do we collaborate?  Do we work together and get ahead?  This is a transformational time for libraries.  Start thinking more strategically.  Figure out what the big issues are.  We are little as individuals, but big as collaborators.  Why haven’t we collaborated?  Do we think putting a mouse on top of everything will fix our problems?  We have some flaws; how do we get over them?  Why are we referring people to Google when thousands of articles giving misleading information are added every day ?

It is too risky not to be different in this economy.  We must differentiate ourselves.

As usual, there were lots of laughs in the session, but there was lots of food for thought and good information as well.  (And the cookies offered as refreshments were delicious!)