Professional Development

In the 'code4lib' Category...

Vufind updates

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 12:05 am

JP already talked about Vufind but I thought I would add in my notes from the Vufind talk today. Demian Katz (Villanova) took some time in the afternoon to talk about Vufind and its growing support for metadata standards other than MARC. The update centered on how Vufind had been re-tuned to be more agnostic with regards to metadata standards and encoding models. The redesign made use of “Record Drivers” to take control of both screen display functionality and data retrieval processes, OAI harvesters to gather data and XSL importing tools to facilitate metadata crosswalks and full text indexing.

Demian talked at some length about basic features of the metadata indexing toolkit. At the Vufind 2.0 conference he talked a bit about his ability to use the MST from the Extensible Catalog project and I wonder (no answer, just a question) how the toolkit development with Vufind matches with the XC project. Demian reported on the OAI-PMH harvester that will gather records remotely and load them into Vufind. i have used an early version of this tool to successfully harvest and import HathiTrust records and am encouraged to see that development has continued. Demian also mentioned a new XSLT importer tool that enables mapping an XML document into an existing SOLR configuration.

This represents an interesting step forward for Vufind as it will allow ZSR to think about harvesting and indexing data from our Dspace instance as well as other sources that support OAI harvesting. All of these features are going to come in the Vufind 1.1 release on March 21st! More to come on this as we get our test instance of Vufind running.

Update on Kuali OLE

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 1:20 pm

I decided to devote a post to the OLE project given our interest in the direction of OLE in the coming year. Tim McGeary gave an update on the status of OLE – the project is currently in a build phase with nearly $5Million in funding from various sources.


Coding started in early February, working with HTC Global Services for a development partner. The organization is still shooting for a first test-case release in July 2011. The main project goals have not changed in the last year – community-sources, next-gen, re-examined library business processes, break away from print resources, reflect change in scholarly work, integrate with enterprise-level systems.

Tim spent a few moments talking about data storage and metadata formats – the projects is focusing on being format agnostic and is interested in supporting linked data and interchangeable workflows. The data model is visioned to include descriptive, semantic and relational data and will use the Kuali service bus to integrate with other Kuali systems.

One of the interesting aspects of the OLE system is its reliance on the Kuali Finance system. This approach offers an opportunity for universities that use Kuali for their enterprise information system to benefit from some economies of scale. This is part of the Kuali Rice framework that includes a suite of pre-built services common to many enterprise applications.

One of the questions asked for concrete advantages. .Tim listed them 1)store more data points and manage them more holistically 2) raise the library system to the enterprise level, breaking down barriers to integration, 3) break down barriers between libraries to facilitate more data sharing. Tim mentioned the possibility of a central record sharing system.

Dianne Hillman on collaborative opportunities

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 12:41 pm

The second keynote of the morning was Dianne Hillman – she talked about collaborations between programmers and catalogers.

Dianne dated her career by showing us a few tools that I remember from my early time as a librarian (Cord catalog rods and a card filer)! I wonder what that says about the pace of change from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. For most of her talk however Dianne focused on the emerging roles of catalogers in libraries and potential collaborations that exist between catalogers and programmers. Dianne has published a few times in the past few years about RDA 1) http://dlib.org/dlib/january10/hillmann/01hillmann.html and 2) http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january07/coyle/01coyle.html (among others) and it was interesting to hear her thoughts about the intersection between MARC, RDA, ISBD, AACR, RDF, XML and other ABTs (Acronym based technologies).

Her presentation focused on the need to re-shape the cataloging profession and as such she spent a few minutes talking about the potential impact of RDA encoded in RDF in terms of serving as a replacement for the MARC encoding and representation standards. She introduced some concepts from her recent publications including metadata registries, use of identifiers as opposed to literals in records and use of single record or vocabulary repositories as opposed to replicated records across thousands of databases.

The audience asked some interesting questions 1) about economics of migration (it is tough but not changing is not an option), 2) about the future of cataloging in libraries (traditional cataloging is diminishing – copy cataloging is the current model, distributed cataloging/data-geeking is the future, getting rid of all the catalogers first does not make sense – get them the skills to change), 4) what programmers could learn from the cataloging community (creativity in data representation and use, understanding of the complexities of library data).

The rest of the morning and early afternoon is devoted to short IT presentations & should be very interesting.

Code4Lib Opening session

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 11:01 am

The opening session of Code4Lib began with a short presentation by the Director of the UI Libraries. UI Libraries won the ACRL Library of the Year award in 2010 and my short visit showed exactly why. The library had literally transformed four floors into study space, highly networked collaboration space and an information commons that included computers, specialized equipment and support staff as far as the eye could see. Perhaps the most fun element was a printed survival guide for undergraduates.

The guide had some witty moments – if you want to see the whole thing stop by my office on Thursday!

The opening keynote by Brad Wheeler (VP for IT at IU) focused on the value of building coalitions, building and federating resources and creating a genuine “volitional dependency” in our systems, information and processes. He couched this in the context of the need for educational institutions to scale and mentioned both MIT and their open course-ware and the University of Phoenix and their ability to attract and educate hundreds of thousands of students.

Brad touched on some common tensions in higher education including the tension between innovation and scale (Sound familiar)? He focused on identifying ways to enable innovation at small scale while adopting ways to scale for production services. He talked about understanding the balance between local and cloud-based technology and between open and proprietary technology.

Brad mentioned several Meta-university collaborations, Hathitrust, Public Knowledge Project(journals), connexions (textbooks), Sakai, Kuali (Administrative – 9 open projects). In discussing the values that encourage ongoing collaboration, he discussed the impact of licensing on encouraging commercial involvement while respecting ideals of open source software. Some other areas that mentioned needing alignment included Goals, values, time-frame, talent, governance, and problem solving.

(editorial) – This perspective makes the motivations behind the OLE project make more sense, particularly in regards to the motivation to find active partners and seek commitments to investment, installation and use. Brad went as far as to suggest that the willingness to collaborate is resulting in institutional stratification, both within the institution and between institutions.

His vision for motivating organizations to collaborate to develop systems that scale included a grassroots idea of collaboration combined with finding ways to transform local innovation to larger open and cloud-based systems. Put simply he said “we have got to move beyond toy projects.” The foundation of this talk was, of course, compelling but it left me wondering how this perspective on open source and collaborative development makes the goal of inter-institutional collaboration to create and use software more realistic. In essence, he said – commit so much that you have no other options, and I suppose that in that environment institutions stand a chance of overcoming the natural tendency to solve local problems and to focus on immediate needs over longer term software and service needs.

Code4Lib 2010 in Asheville

Tuesday, March 2, 2010 8:02 am

Asheville hosted a fantastic code4lib. Here are a few highlights:

  • Tuesday’s keynote. Cathy Marshall (Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research) discussed the nature of living digitally, where, for many, loss is an acceptable means of culling collections, where benign neglect is the de facto stewardship technique.
  • Galactic glitter glue with space debris. There was a proposal for the code4lib community to pursue cloud4lib, a cloud platform that would enable libraries to build and use a common infrastructure and service layer, the glue to hold everything together. Development enhances the entire platform, not just a single product or installation.
  • Public data. There are 3 cloud service models: infrastructure as service, platform as service, and software as service. Related to these service models is data in the cloud. One example is Google Fusion Tables, an experimental system for data management, collaboration, and visualization from Google Labs. For libraries, the cloud could include institutional data as a service.
  • Agile development. This one is all about IT project management and development cycles. When priorities and requirements change frequently (or are undefined) and others see IT as a black box, is it possible to build both software and trust? Sprint planning and iterative development make it possible to set priorities and to commit to certain functionality collaboratively.
  • Vampires vs. werewolves. How do you balance a stable production environment with a rapid upgrade cycle? How do you balance the needs of sysadmins and developers? You use puppet and nagios.
  • Thursday’s keynote. Paul Jones (Director of ibiblio.org and Associate Professor, UNC SILS) talked about Dunbar’s Number, attributed source (where liking and quality are functions of the communication source), and the changing nature of liabilities and assets on the social web (attention deficit is to multitasking as jargon is to slang as idiocentric humor is to internet memes).

c4l10 – tuesday/wednesday

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 5:17 pm

One thing I love about Code4Lib – I find out about projects that are complex, neat, well outside my technical expertise range, and every now and then, something that I can’t wait to play around with. I decided to spare everyone the gritty details from Tuesday & Wednesday – if you want to see them the session descriptions are on the code4lib wiki. But – a few common themes emerged (for me) through during the long sessions, lightning rounds, breakout sessions, and accidental discussions.

  • Code management, continuous integration, agile development and development frameworks were a recurring theme. People are seeking, and in some cases have found, good tools and methods for helping them develop more efficiently and effectively.
  • System integration – I heard several presentations that talked about using central platforms to show/manage/produce digital repositories, online catalogs, and website content. One platform used Fedora/active-fedora/Blacklight to bring together digital/book collections into a single discovery system. The eXtensible Catalog project has made a lot of progress with their drupal tools & there was some interesting talk of Islandora (a drupal plug-in for fedora).
  • Open source, open content, open solutions – It was nice to be in an environment where the ideas, tools, and projects focused on open source ideals. Ian Walls gave an interesting talk about his experience migrating from a proprietary ILS to Koha, countless presenters showed how open source solutions helped them do things not possible or too expensive in proprietary environments, and it was common to showoff ideas for solving problems in lots of different ways.
  • If tecchies are the canaries of technological change - the future is connected, cloudy, not based on a single client or operating system, not based on a single approach to solving complex problems, and not based on a single form of interaction. This conference included a wide mix of presentation formats (including an open Q&A session, a very active IRC channel, multiple lightning rounds, and one great screencast), featured virtual and real-world methods for solving common conference problems (coordination, events, spontaneous planning), and included a wide array of devices, platforms, and approaches to problem solving (e.g. virtual bookshelf browsing at NCSU, Univ. Wisconsin & Stanford).

Code4Lib Preconferences – Koha/blacklight/dev tools

Monday, February 22, 2010 5:32 pm

JP and Erik hit Code4Lib on Monday and started off with attending a pre-conference on Koha. Koha has hit version 3 & includes some interesting serials and acquisitions functionality now. The presenter was Galen Charlton, the programmer who previously helped ZSR on our Meridian implementation.

During the break we had an opportunity to chat with Evergreen & Koha users & found that the Acquisitions and serials implementations are in process (evergreen) or functioning (Koha). We had an interesting discussion about the utility of serials check-in.

During the dream-the-dream segment some ideas for best world scanrios included lots of talk of system integration – integration of digital library stuff with the ILS< integration of ERM stuff with the ILS, the integration of Koha/Evergreen.

After a lunch at Salsas JP & I split up. He hit the Blacklight session & I went to Dan Chudnov’s tools session in which we learned some python programming, talked about Django, Kohana, and the overall value of testing your code :)

Educause Webinar – “What Happened to the Computer Lab?”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:12 pm

Last week among all of the closings and delayed openings I was able to attend a webinar entitled “What Happened to the Computer Lab?” Our presenter was Beth Schaefer, Associate Director in Client Services and University Information Technology Services, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her discussion centered on changes the university computer labs have taken over the past year. With an enrollment of over 30,000 students the campus has 6 campus computer labs housing around 450 computers running Windows XP or Mac OSX. Along with the 450 computers there are also 130 SunRay Kiosks scattered across the campus that the students can use for web base applications such as twitter, checking in on facebook, or checking their email. Computer ownership among the students run about 49% desktop and 83% laptops. She said that the percentage of students using their labs was 19%. Using a program called Lab Stats they are able to tell how many users log into the machines and what applications are launched. Last year they averaged 62,000 total users with over 578,000 total logins and an average of close to 1600 logins a day.

The Student Union lab went through a few changes in the past year. To make it more open, enclosure walls were brought down. It also saw expanded hours and became more food friendly. Several of the labs have also become unstaffed and now contain security cameras and have security guards walking through periodically. In the past year they also closed a 24/7 lab and opened a 24/5 (Sunday thru Thursday) lab in the Library Learning Commons. The Library Learning Commons now houses 200 computers, made up of both PCs and MACs and is staffed by library staff, IT staff, and students. The Library Learning Commons also houses several Classroom/Teaching labs and group study rooms. In the past year they also saw the addition of a coffee bar. A couple of projects they are looking at for the future are a quick print release station and virtual desktop computing.

Her conclusion was that university computer labs aren’t going away any time soon and I tend to agree. Even though our students are given a laptop they continue to come to the library and use our labs. Many sit at a station using both desktop and their laptop. Like at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the biggest draw for our students seems to be printing and the software available on the desktops, along with the collaborative space available here in the library.

Kevin at code4lib 2009

Sunday, March 8, 2009 7:38 pm

In addition to a nice blur of technologies and acronyms, here, in distilled form, are a few key ideas I gathered from code4lib 2009:

  • libraries vs. museums of books (or how the ecosystem of information will become all electronic)
  • a chair in a room, a catalog on the web (or how design requires context)
  • linked open data (or how to turn the web into an API)
  • a web of data (or how information goes from books of pages to journals of articles to webs of hyperlinks to networks of relational assertions)
  • not simply a web of data (or why the goal should be to enrich lives through access to information)
  • “if you have something to say, release it as code” (or how to become an advocate in your library)
  • data outlasts code (or why open data is more important than open source)
  • the value of data (or why we should engineer for serendipity)

code4lib – standards rule

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 10:47 am

Sebastian Hammer started out the second full day of Code4Lib with a discussion f the origin of open source software. After talking for a few minutes about the growing challenge for libraries to remain relevant in a changing informaiton economy, he bridged to the concept of builidng things not through api use but rather by standards based data and development approaches.

This keyed in to the ongoing discussion of linked data at this conference and what happens when the information is encoded using open standards rather than being made available through regulated APIs. The demos in freebase yesterday began to hint at this capability and it will be intersting to see how this theme develops during the rest of the conference.

Following the keynote, tim McGeary from the OLE project updated the room on the progress of OLE. In covering the timeline Tim talked a bit about the OLE reference model and took the time to pitch the development aspect to the room. In the last pre-break session of the morning, the folks from Blacklight discussed the development of their discovery platform. During their presentation they mentioned a service that they use to retrieve data on music for incorporation into their catalog.


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