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Google Plus? Or Minus?

Google+ (G+) is Google’s entry into the social media space. It has enjoyed a remarkable growth rate, achieving 25 million users within a few months of its launch. This session was entirely prepared and presented using G+; one speaker even attended and participated remotely. Nevertheless, G+ is not the answer to all your social needs; if you have a large network of friends on Facebook, you probably don’t want to move to G+ and start your network over again.

Google+ Panel: (L-R) J. Shore, Julie Strange, Joel Shields

J. Shore, MEDLINE Systems Librarian, said that if you have a GMail account, you have a G+ account (look at the upper left of the black bar). G+ is a social media site incorporated into the family of Google products. Companies can have a G+ page. G+ operates with circles, which are organized into two groups: those in your circles and those that have you in theirs. Everybody can see who you are following as a default. You can put people into various circles and control your audience.

Julie Strange reviewed what you can do with G+. However, she noted that if you have an active community on Facebook, you may want to stay with it. Don’t use technology just for itself. G+ is just another tool to push things to your community. Content + Community = Libraries.

Circles let you tailor what streams you look at and control what you are pushing out. You can tailor content to a specific audience (circles can be based on almost anything: geo location, parents of school age kids, members of a team, specific interest, book discussions, attendance at a certain program or event, etc.). Here are some library applications:

You can create circles for internal teams or people you are interested in bringing in to the library. Once you have created a circle, you can share it with others (curated groups in a community).  They are a way of connecting people more easily.

Think outside the circle. You can create an account for a character in a book, or a theme to facilitate discussions around it. You can use G+ solely for your private network, as a travel journal, or as your blogging platform. It is fast, easy, formattable, and shareable.

Let your community recommend you. Find people or resources you trust. You can recommend individual pieces of your brand. By disabling comments on a circle, recommendations can be used to conduct polls.  Or if you have a  private group, you can disable sharing of entire posts.

Patricia Anderson, who participated in the session virtually, said that hangouts, a unique feature of G+, are a bold new feature that cannot be ignored. They are a killer app. Hangouts are a video conferencing system with up to 10 simultaneous participants. One can share windows, videos, Google Docs, or screens. Hangouts are Very powerful for team meetings and work planning sessions. They are different than Skype because people can join or leave them at will, which leads to a constantly changing and serendipitous environment.

Hangouts can be used for telecommuting types of work. Job interviews are being done using them because they are richer than a phone interview but lots cheaper than bringing people in physically. Another application is outreach to homebound people. People are teaching courses on cooking, running help desks, troubleshooting, scavenger hunts, science fairs, etc., etc.

Joel Shelds wound up the session and addressed a common concern:  privacy. Google’s new privacy policy states that they will share information from any of their services to any other one.  Big Brother is watching you, and it’s Google!

Search results on Google will now show hits from G+. Don’t think of G+as a social network; it is actually a community network. G+ is now tagging information from Android phones and updates it on your G+ account.

On G+, there are no APIs; everything is being generated by humans.  Nothing is private on the Internet!  But don’t take this personally; Google does not care about you.  They only care about the information you are putting out, your search patterns, your travel patterns, etc. and how it can be used to increase their revenues.  Unfortunately, the only way you can be completely private is to unplug your computer!  Google has issued a “transparency report” that describes some of the ways they are making the flow of information through their system transparent.



Battle Decks

All is not serious learning at Computers in Libraries. Thursday evening featured Battle Decks: Dead and Innovative Technology, where “battlers” faced an array of slides they’d never seen and had to create, on the fly, in front of a large audience, a coherent presentation, theoretically about the theme of dead and innovative technology. Not only had they not seen the slides before, they had to get through every one of them in 3 minutes. Since battlers controlled the clicker, they had to move quickly through the slides, without pausing to scrutinize them. It was a fun evening!

Battle Deck contestants and judges

Battle Deck contestants and judges


Open Source in Libraries: Trends and Issues

Note:  In this session, “open source” refers to software for library automation systems, not to publishing or journals.

Marshall Breeding and Irene McDermott

Marshall Breeding led off with a review of current open source (OS) issues.  Irene McDermott followed with a case study of how she implemented an OS library automation system on short notice and kept within a limited budget.

Marshall began by observing that libraries are in a period of change and that legacy ILSs have a limited future, especially in academic libraries. There is a transition from integrated library systems to library service platforms.  Web-based and cloud computing systems are growing. In the future, APIs will distinguish applications and platforms.

OS systems are part of the library automation industry and in the US are almost always implemented in partnership with a commercial company, such as Sirsi Dynix or Polaris. Libraries running OS systems are enthusiastic about them, but there is a lower level of interest among libraries not running OS. The most important thing that libraries look at is the quality of the support by the vendor.  Revenue sources for the providers include conversion of data from an existing system, installation, training, support, hosting, and sponsored development of custom features.  Software as a service (SaaS) can be either OS or proprietary, and many of the same revenue sources apply.

Here are several competing models of library automation:

Irene McDermott, Reference Librarian and Systems Manager, Crowell Public Library, San Marino, CA, was forced to look for a new ILS after Sirsi bought Dynix and ceased development on the Dynix Horizon system.  The maintenance contract for SirsiDynix Horizon would have cost the city $60,000 a year, so McDermott was told to find a cheaper system before the Dynix contract expired in 6 months.

An RFP was issued, and three responses were received.  The librarians evaluated each system and submitted their recommendation to the city managers, but they were required to select the cheapest system:  LibLime’s Koha.  By this time, they had only 10 weeks to implement the new system.

Staff were trained, patron data were downloaded and sent to LibLime, and over a weekend, McDermott successfully installed the system.  Several issues were addressed:

  • Koha is entirely web-based, which creates patron privacy issues, so  LibLime restricted Koha access to in-library IP addresses.
  • Koha maintains and displays patron borrowing history records.  It was difficult to hide the history while preserving the ability of patrons to view their own borrowing histories.
  • Koha is oriented to electronic communication and has no capability of printing notices to patrons.  However the library serves many elderly users who have no ability to manage text messages or e-mail.  So the staff must cut and paste notices from a text attachment and physically mail them to those users.
  • Koha’s bibliographic search is completely keyword oriented, making it difficult to find items.  The solution was to allow stop words and train patrons to use them.
  • Koha was developed by volunteers and has some quirks in the software.
  • Reports are generated using SQL.  Someone on the staff must know how to use it.

McDermott’s experience shows that libraries under budgetary stress can successfully consider and install an OS system. Her library’s choice, made under duress, seems to have pulled the library forward to a more modern information delivery system.



E-Book Publishers and Libraries: Win-Win Solutions

Following the Thursday keynote, a 2-day focus on libraries and e-books began.  E-books continue to be a topic of high interest and their usage in libraries is growing rapidly.  The first presentation in this track featured a report from Canada with some of the unique characteristics of the Canadian market, followed by a description of some models developed by eBrary.

Ken Roberts (L) and Michael Ciccone (R)

Ken Roberts, Chief Librarian, Hamilton (Ontario) Public Library, described some of the unique characteristics of the Canadian market for publishers.  Major international publishers have Canadian plants and are using Canada as test markets because it has a population of 25 million people–much less than the US or some European countries. The Canadian Urban Libraries Council (consisting of 50 of largest library systems in Canada) is the agency working with publishers.  It represents about 70% of the Canadian population. Publishers are represented by the Canadian Publishers’ Council.  Here are some lessons learned from the interactions between the publishers and libraries:

Canadian law says that if a publisher has a representation in Canada, libraries must buy from the Canadian publisher, not directly from the parent company in another country (probably the US). This protects the publishing industry in Canada, but it only applies to print materials, not to electronic, which has meant many sales are still siphoned off to the US. Thus, the Canadian distributors are worried and want to sell to libraries not through Amazon, for example.

Publishers worried about losing revenue from library users, so the Hamilton library proposed that publishers report average sales to libraries of their backlists and midlists for last 3 years, and library would agree to pay that amount for complete access to all titles for everyone in Hamilton. Random House Canada agreed to this. The library gets lots of content and users get access to lots of good information. Publishers cannot lose under this model because their base income is fixed. ACP also liked the model.All the sales stay in Canada as do the license fees, so they do not lose sales to the US distributors.

Matt Barnes

As described by Matt Barnes, VP of Marketing, eBrary has developed four model for selling e-books:

  • Subscriptions:  provides a base collection for users and backlist revenue to publishers.
  • Perpetual archive (ownership):  ensures the library owns critical titles and supports faculty and researchers.  Replicates print models. Over 400 publishers have signed up for this model.
  • Patron driven access:  A cost-effective way to expand access and support key programs.
  • Short term loans:  A way to support programs without making a commitment.  New revenue stream for publishers.
These models will help remove frustration experienced by publishers who may be trying to sell e-books using the print book model.  The combination of all these models has been a success.