Friday, June 29, 2007

Service Oriented Library Systems Pt. 2: What We Have Today

In this second post on SOA, I will focus on how computer applications have been traditionally built using library examples. What I will present may be an overly simplistic explanation of system design. The intent for this series of posts is to provide a basic conceptual model which less technical oriented librarians can understand, not for those with CIS degrees.

Most of our current (and legacy) library systems take on the structure depicted by the graphic below:

Each of the systems that libraries use are self-contained silos. Each has its own embedded database/data structure, built-in search tool, and presentation / interface layers. Each requires library customers to use its unique presentation and search tools to access its unique content. Each has a completely different look, feel, and functionality.

From the user experience perspective, this system design strategy is why it is so difficult for librarians, let alone library customers, to find Time. It is also why many libraries have spent a great deal of resources creating extensive educational programs to teach how each of our systems work.
(This would be the point in the conversation that I would normally discuss federated search. I would talk about how it is in many ways a patchwork solution to get around the silo structure of our information systems. But that is a discussion thread for another time.)
The silo structure (or, as I also like to refer to it: monolithic structure) is also one reason why we have difficulty in getting our services integrated. For example, this structure almost requires libraries to purchase interlibrary loan management systems with integrated Internet document delivery tools. What if we do not like the built-in Internet document delivery tool? We are either stuck using a system we do not like or run two, three, even four different systems and build work flows around them!

Lastly, the data/content we create becomes fixed within each silo. The costs in real dollars and staff time, required to export, convert, and import are some times so significant that we hang onto our systems and rarely change. This results in a phenomenon called 'lock-in' which vendors are not only aware of - they build business models around it! It creates an effective library systems paradigm which libraries have not been able to break away from.

It doesn't have to be this way.

In part three, I will discuss how service oriented architecture (SOA) can improve resource aggregation and the user experience.


Part One: Introduction

Part Three: Where Are We Heading?
Part Four: Challenges
Part Five: Final Comments Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 22, 2007

Service-Oriented Library Systems Pt.1: Introduction

This is the first of a short series of posts that will discuss Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and libraries.

I am certainly not alone discussing SOA. Marshall Breeding is one of several that have been discussing SOA approach as has OhioLinks' Peter Murray and CISTI's Richard Akerman (NOTE: The July 15th issue of LJ will have an article by Richard on SOA). It is a concept that librarians need to be exposed to as often as possible.

SOA is a systems design architecture approach / philosophy that has been around for a while, but one that has come of age. It is also a difficult concept to explain to non-developers and those without a techology orientation. The documentation for SOA is pretty thick and geared towards CIS professionals. That is why I have found the analogy of changes in the early twentieth century automobile assembly line communicates the general concept. The most visible result of the SOA approach is the emergence of web mashups.

The move towards SOA for library systems has the potential to improve the ROI by providing a better access to and aggregation of the information resources we license. For example, with SOA consortia libraries could work together to build systems sharing common bibliographic / resource data and then build customer interfaces and search systems which look and work quite differently. SOA can allow libraries to use and improve information resources contributed by others and customize its delivery to customers.

The adoption of the SOA models can enable libraries to evolve into stronger organizations at the very moment in time that the use of libraries is becoming just another piece of the customer’s information seeking experience. All librarians, especially library leaders, need to understand SOA.


Part Two: What We Have Today
Part Three: Where Are We Heading?
Part Four: Challenges
Part Five: Final Comments Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Create Your Own Mashup

Last week at the Library 2.0 Seminar I was asked about Yahoo Pipes. I had heard about Pipes but hadn't played around with it to know how it worked. Yahoo Pipes allows individuals to create their own mashups or "pipes." The process involves dragging and dropping prebuilt modules, and then create connections between them.

The Pipes method of building mashups does require some time to learn. (I spent 15 minutes, which admittedly is not a great deal of time. Yet, that would seem to be a reasonable threshold if they want the 'average' person to use it to create mashups) They use terminology and structure that is used may turn away many potential mashers that have a non-technical orientation. I had hoped to use Pipes has a tool to teach librarians about SOA and Web Services. It is going to take some time to figure out if it can be used for teaching.

The number of sources from which to build mashups is limited at this time which limits creating mashups relevant to libraries. The also seems to take quite a while for the tool to load the sample Pipes. I learned HTML by tearing apart other people's code and hope I can learn Pipes using a similar method.

Microsoft's Popfly is another plug-and-play mashup tool. Like with Pipes, one can drag prefab building blocks. mashup that you can add to an existing Web page or turn into its own site. For example, one can produce a mashup that grabs pictures from a site like Flickr and then displays them in a rotating cube. As with a growing number of new tools, PopFly is invitation based and requires a WindowsLive ID.

Photo: "The Pipes, The Pipes" by Steve Garfield. Published through Creative Commons license. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 18, 2007

CIC / Google Cooperative Agreement Details

For those of you that find reading legal documents enjoyable, the 16-page Cooperative Agreement between the CIC and Google has been posted on the CIC web site. Sphere: Related Content

Interview with Clayton Christensen (The Innovator's Dilemma)

Business Week's Jena McGregor recently interviewed Clayton Christensen to mark the 10-year anniversary of his book the Innovator's Dilemma.

I would highly recommend this book if you are involved in library IT or in a library leadership position. As you read it replace the phrase "hard drive industry" with "libraries" as I did. Doing so creates a new perceptive and meaning to the work.

Here are some snipits from the interview. (the italics are my emphasis)

"you have to be careful which customers you listen to, and then you need to watch what they do, not listen to what they say."

"The problem is when you say "listen to your customers," your customers are only going to lead you in a direction that they want to go in. Generally, that will never lead you to disruptive growth. You've got to find that new set of customers, and listen to them and follow them. That's the trick."

"People come up with lots of new ideas, but nothing happens. They get very disillusioned. Never does an idea pop out of a person's head as a completely fleshed-out business plan. It has to go through a process that will get approved and funded."

"... many of the programs we teach are fundamentally biased against innovation. There are just a whole bunch of paradigms of financial analysis that really lie at the root cause of companies' under-investments in innovation."

"It's hard for me to see what will disrupt Google. I think they've got a pretty good run ahead of them. "

"The iPhone is a sustaining technology relative to Nokia. In other words, Apple is leaping ahead on the sustaining curve [by building a better phone]. But the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won't succeed with the iPhone. They've launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: It's not [truly] disruptive. History speaks pretty loudly on that, that the probability of success is going to be limited. "
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Library 2.0 Seminar Day Two

This was day two of the Library 2.0 seminar being held here at Ohio State.

I started the day discussing mashups and providing a primer on Service Oriented Architecture and Web Services. The later two turned out to be pretty difficult concepts to present. I knew I was in for a challenge when I overheard discussion at the coffee table that they never even heard of mashups before. Even though I distilled the concept to non-technical concepts I still saw glazed over eyes.

Perhaps I should have stuck to the mashup concept and should not have tried to explain the underlying architecture/concepts used to create them. Yet, there was some value exposing the attendees to the concepts and terminology although many may not have gotten them right away.

I will post my slides after I remove some copyright protect elements. All the webcasts are being archived at OSUs institutional repository and I will post a link to them once they become available. (NOTE: If you attended the seminar please see the endnote in this posting)

Second on the agenda was Ellyssa Kroski (InfoTangle) presenting Folksonomies and Social Tagging. She provided a well organized discussion of tagging and introduced the concepts of enterprise and library oriented social tagging as well as the advantages and disadvantages of folksonomies.

After lunch, Stephen Abram (Stephen's Lighhouse) offered up "Our User Experience: Puzzle Pieces Falling in Place." Stephen's discussion focused on the idea that libraries should be spending their energies on creating a library experience that the customers want, not one that librarian's think their customers want. If you have never see Stephen present, he has a very interesting vision of where libraries should be heading (for many it may be too real to deal with). I found this Powerpoint on his blog which was very similar to the one he used.

Last but certainly not least, the seminar was closed with Lorcan Dempsey' (Lorcan Dempsey's weblog) "From Discovery to Disclosure: How Will Libraries Connect Resources to Users in the Web?" Lorcan had several messages including a continuation of his In the flow theme. If libraries want their resources to be discovered they have to be disclosed to a discovery environments that people actually use. For example, to project the discovery experience into other contexts is to syndicate services or data to a discovery environment which is outside the library's control to bring people back into the library's networked environment.


- To remember the basic concept of SOA just think of the Ford/GM assembly line analogy I provided.

- Think of Web Services as a way for a web site to syndicate ( or publish, expose) their content for other web sites to use or aggregate.

- An API is that it is a small application that actually exposes the content as a Web Service.

- The mashup music example was PartyBen's Boulevard of Broken Songs. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Library 2.0 Seminar Day One

I spent the day at the Library 2.0 seminar being held here at Ohio State. There were about 70 people at the location with 135 signed up for the webcast.

The day started with Steven Bell (The Kept-Up Academic Librarian) presenting It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Web 2.0 World: Hidden Treasure or Just More Pressure? Steven provided a nice keynote. Steven had a great prop, which must have cause questions at airport security. He had a ratchet, a bolt, and a chunk of 2x4. He used it to demonstrate how the influx of technology ratchets up ones stress level. He suggested that librarians needed to find ways to flip the switch on the back of the ratchet and release the pressure.

Chad Boeninger (Library Voice) then presented "Wikis in Libraries: Enhancing Services, Promoting Sources, and Building Community? Chad went over the ways in which a wiki can be used in the library, demonstrated how one is maintained, and provided information locally installed and hosted services.

After lunch Brian Mathews (Ubiquitous Librarian) offered up "Social Context - A Place for Libraries on the Social Web". Brian presnted a great overview of the socail aspects of the web and how libraries are, and can, leverage the tools that are already available.

Unfortunately, I missed Ken Varnum's (RSS4Lib) presentation "RSS Basics and Beyond: Tips and Tricks for Getting the Most out of Syndicated Content" due to a prior commitment.

I was originally scheduled to present 'Mashups' in the PM on Thursday but was moved up to 9 am. I am still editing my presentation and it will be posted in the next few days.

It is an interesting phenomenon when one goes to a conference and you recognize people from their blog names and their real names! Last month I was having a drink with a group of people after a presentation and unbeknown to me sitting across from me was the Krafty Librarian. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OhioLINK's Tom Sanville Receives ASCLA Award

One of many reasons that it is great to be a librarian in Ohio (yes, there are many) is OhioLink. For the past fourteen years, Tom Sanville has served as OhioLINK's executive director. He also led the way for the partnership that created Libraries Connect Ohio and is one of the founders of the International Coalition of Library Consortia.

Tom's hallmark has been demonstrating that librarians can successfully negotiate with vendors. While having breakfast at a conference with a vendor representative last year he looked at the institution on my name tag. His first words were, with a hint of fear in his eyes, "Oh, you are from Ohio. I have had many tough negotiations with Tom Sanville."

I just received an email that Tom has been named the 2007 recipient of the Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) Professional Achievement Award. This award is presented for professional achievement within the areas of consulting, networking, statewide service, and programs.

The award will be presented during the ALA Conference as part of the ASCLA President’s Program and Awards Ceremony, "Is Your Information Technology Accessible? Section 508 and Libraries," on Sunday, June 24, 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel, Constitution B.

Congrats Tom! Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 11, 2007

Are "How We Done It Bad" Abstracts Making the Cut?

Reading Steve Lawson's recent comment about conference presentations describing projects that didn't work in his See Also post How we done it...bad got me thinking. (The site is not responding for me today, so here is an an alternative Feedburner feed.)

I wonder if the relatively low number of "how we done it bad" presentations is a problem with the conference abstract review process. How many potential "how we done it bad" presentations are left as abstracts on the cutting room floor? Do conference planners select those abstracts that support their perspectives, or, are they so overly concerned than attendees walk away with a positive feeling that they filter out the "how we done it bad"?

On a related note, last year Rick Anderson (a fellow LJ Mover & Shaker 'rebel' class of '05 ) put out a call for such articles for a column in the publication Against the Grain . Yet, a recent review of the table of contents reveals that the column has yet to run. Is the column still in the cue or did the call not receive any response?

Could all of this (gulp) potentially indicate that there may be a more systematic bias in the library profession towards reporting only favorable outcomes? Are unsuccessful projects being modified in mid-stream to create positive outcomes in order to not look incompetent? Are only the successful aspects of an unsuccessful project being communicated? Or, even worse yet, are unsuccessful projects are being spun as being successful?

Just as studying diseases helps health care professionals understand how to nurture good health behaviors, understanding our failures can provide libraries with new understanding. Unsuccessful projects provide an opportunity to learn from mistakes and minimize the risk of making similar mistakes. Disseminating all outcomes is a key to our continued survival and evolution. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

CIC Enters Google Books Project

It was announced this morning the twelve Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Libraries (of which Ohio State is a member) have entered into agreement with Google to digitize up to 10 million titles from their collective library collections. The details of the agreement will be released shortly by the CIC and Google. A FAQ is available.

Digitized titles from the collections that are in the public domain (generally those published before 1923 or by government agencies) will be made freely and fully available, while digitized titles still in copyright will be completely indexed and discoverable (readers will still be required to get the full text from a copy in a library or through purchase from the copyright holder/publisher).

The CIC is a consortium of 12 research universities including the 11 members of the Big Ten athletic conference and the University of Chicago. With campuses in eight states, CIC universities enroll more than 300,000 undergraduates and 76,000 graduate students, and employ some 33,000 full-time faculty and 139,000 full-time staff. The CIC is guided by the provosts of the member universities. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 01, 2007

Northern Pines Open ILS

On April 17th, the British Columbia, Canada Public Libraries Service Branch (PLSB) proposed a 5-year phased implementation of the Evergreen ILS in BC. From their talking points:

- PLSB finds the risk associated with the Evergreen Open ILS to be no greater than the risk associated with the acquisition of an ILS product in the traditional marketplace. In fact, PLSB finds the risk reduced.

- The Public libraries in BC currently pay ILS vendors a conservatively estimated $700,000 annually for software maintenance. If the six federation ILS groupings and each independent public library system in BC purchased or upgraded their vendor ILS products to one of the leading products on the market by the end of 2011, PLSB estimates the total expenditure at over $10 million for the 5 year period.

- PLSB estimates implementation of Evergreen across BC at just over $2 Million over 5 years, one fifth of the cost projected for market-based solutions.

Oh, and I love their quote:

"libraries can do so much more collectively than any one library can do individually!"

Still, for some reason libraries seem to embrace this philosophy for everything but information systems. Sphere: Related Content