Professional Development

ALA – graffiti research and panel sessions

Monday, June 27, 2011 6:09 am

On Saturday I had the pleasure of coordinating a panel on cloud computing “Updates to cloud computing for library services” that built on the session from last year. This year we had speakers from a wide range of areas talk about cloud computing in the 2 hour session.

Chris Tonjes from DC Public Library talked about the Amazon downtime. Krista Stapelfeldt from the University of Prince Edward Island talked about Islandora, a project based on fedora and drupal that uses cloud platforms. Carissa Smith from DuraSpace talked about the new DuraCloud platform (yes ZSR has a trial account!) and Yan Han from the University of Arizona talked about his work with the Afganistan digital library and other projects and how cloud computing made those projects possible.

The session was overflowing again this year and I cannot thank Krista, Yan, Carrissa and Chris enough for taking time to contribute to the session. There were a lot of questions from libraries who were seeking to either contextualize their own experience with cloud computing or who wanted to push in a new direction (e.g. Hosted digital library applications).

I also had the opportunity to present with Birong Ho and Scott Garrison on Sunday in a session titled “Does VuFind Meet the Need of Web 2.0 Users?” Birong and Scott are from Western Michigan and have done some really interesting work extending VuFind’s capabilities. In preparation for the talk Birong and I independently pulled some data from our catalog about types of searching in VuFind. While our numbers did not always match (particularly for the default search type), it was interesting to see a close match on the frequency of the use of subject searches (~24%). Of note there was an interesting discussion around the utility and sustainability of tagging in catalogs that sprung up mostly because attendees had some varied experience with this service.

After the Vufind session I wandered into the Vendor area and 1, caught up with some colleagues from UNC who are now at NCSU and 2, saw a poster from Clemson University on using a graffiti wall for research. The librarians used focused questions, sticky notes and a post-it board to gather data from students. The Clemson wall (top) is admittedly, a bit more academic than our own graffiti wall efforts (bottom) :).

The rest of Sunday was Lita Top Technology Trends (Social book reading, the death of the mouse and a discussion around individual information portals were my favorite trends), the presentation of the LITA Hi Tech Award to John Wilkin for his work on HathiTrust (Congratulations John!), and the opportunity to catch up with LIS folks at the ALISE reception.

Web-Scale Management Services Seminar

Thursday, November 18, 2010 1:36 pm

Tuesday I attended a workshop on OCLC’s WebScale service. The workshop was a joint offering from OCLC and Lyrasis held at the Durham Public Library. DPL, OCLC and Lyrasis were excellent hosts as we had wifi, coffee, and lunch (I chose a basil, tomato, mozzarella sandwich).


We started the day with an exploratory talk by Tim Rodgers about the ‘cloud.’ Tim talked about a number of interesting topics and touched on some key reasons why libraries are interested in cloud computing (Expertise & $$ were key reasons). These are compelling reasons for any institution but I was struck with a statistic that Tim used – there is a county library system in NC that only has a budget of $7.50 per resident as compared to a national average of ~$20 per resident. Combined with the fact that this county is small and sparsely populated and the expertise and money arguments become very compelling.

We spent most of the rest of our day learning about OCLC’s service, talking with our fellow workshop attendees, and seeing OCLC’s services in action. There were lots of interesting features but perhaps the most compelling image that I saw came from one of the presentation slides that drove home two key ideas: First, a key focus of their presentation was the integration of work-flows with external data. They demonstrated an Amazon ordering plug-in that used web-services to exchange data between the two systems. Second, the discussion emphasized the idea that running services on a combined database and in a shared environment enables new data services (content aggregation, discovery, analytics, testing, sharing).

The demo portion included some interesting questions about specific features and when they would be available. I will not try to comment on specific development cycles and feature availability but suffice it to say that while there are lots of features now, some of the stuff you need is still coming. Generally speaking Circ seemed to be a bit more complete than Acq but they had a vision for how the system would evolve over the next year.

It was an interesting day. I got to speak with folks from Lyrasis about hosting & open source systems, with folks from Elizabeth City State University about libraries and their IT needs and got to learn a lot about OCLC & their Web Scale Management Service system. If you are curious there are lots of links, presentations and videos on the OCLC site http://www.oclc.org/webscale/default.htm.

There will be a webinar on December 2nd with OCLC that includes a live demo of functionality.

Indiana Online Users Group

Thursday, November 18, 2010 1:26 pm

Indianapolis skyline:

On November 5th I had the chance to present at IOLUG as part of their fall symposium on Cloud computing. I spoke on both the ZSR experience in moving to the cloud and in how cloud computing impacts IT and libraries in general. If you are interested in what I said, you can see the slides right here:

The rest of the day included some very interesting presentations ranging from uses of Google Docs to analysis of cloud-based discovery services. I have included a few notes below:

Noah Brubaker and Serri Parker gave an interesting comparative analysis of discovery service providers (Summons, Primo, Aquabrowser, Ebsco discovery, Innovative Encore). In addition to using a thematically appropriate racing theme they differentiated the systems based on specific features (e.g. item availability service, harvesting/indexing process, interface, faceting). Their evaluation themes included User needs, Librarian expectations, service models (Web Service, API, local indexing).

Ultimately the consortium they discussed selected Primo, citing catalog and library service (link resolution, holds, requests) integration, FRBRization, and Find a Database integration, ability to influence relevance ranking, database facets. The WFU experience with previous federated search products was not always positive so it was interesting to see the developments of these systems and find out more about how these issues are viewed in a selection process.

The afternoon began with “Storage as a service: Library digital collections in the cloud” by Chip Dye at IUPUI. His system hosts 1TB of data and 15TB of digital objects. He gave an overview of the DuraCloud platform which includes replication, retrieval, transformation ,streaming and bit integrity checking services.

Chip also covered Dspace 1.7 feature – Arichival Information Packages which works with the Duracloud syncronization service which pushes the AIP contents to the cloud. DuraCloud also includes a restore tool to download content. He observed that storage is competitive, that bandwidth is costly, internet latency is high. Michael Will speculated about whether or not Dspace would support direct-to-cloud storage (which is a really neat idea)!

Following Lunch we heard form Bill Helling, Kathryn Mills and Emily Griffin on Google apps and how it can be used to foster collaboration. They talked about how they used Google Docs in a systematic way to collaborate, schedule and document work. They provided an interesting overview of features and limitations and demonstrated pitfalls (Issues with pptx files, gaps in editing and presentation mode). While we have some experience working with Google Docs here it was really interesting to see what a significant impact incidental use of Google Docs can have on our workflows and approach to data collection.

Unfortunately I had to head out early to catch a plane back to NC so I missed a presentation by Andrew Pace on Web-Scale Management Services, a new approach to library information systems. I did have the chance to attend a session a week later in Durham, NC (which is also a post in the pd blog!). Many thanks go out to Richard Bernier, Michael Witt and the entire IOLUG community for being such great hosts. The day was a really interesting event and I look forward to seeing what they have planned for the spring!

Kevin at LITA National Forum

Friday, October 8, 2010 9:46 am

Here are a few notes from my first LITA National Forum:

  • Subjective perceptions. From the opening keynote (an epistemological discussion of Wikipedia), a couple questions resonated with me – one in particular. How do we know how to resolve conflict when we don’t really agree on reality?
  • Legitimate peripheral participation. “Through peripheral activities, novices become acquainted with the tasks, vocabulary, and organizing principles of the community.” [1] Growth depends on access to experts, on observing their practices and, through time, understanding the broader context of effort and community.
  • Interface design. Small changes in user interface can equal big changes in user behavior.
  • Cloud computing. From Saturday’s General Session, Roy Tennant discussed how the cost of innovation is approaching zero, that the model “easy-come-easy-go” enables a greater flexibility and lower risk to experiment, and cited Erik and his Code4Lib article.
  • Scrum. An iterative, incremental methodology for project management and software development. You work in a timeboxed sprint with a focus on speed and flexibility as part of your development process.

Of course, Erik, Jean-Paul, and I presented on our move to the cloud. As others have said, it went very well. Erik gave an introduction and overview of the project and service models, JP talked about the opportunities and challenges of cloud computing, Erik discussed IT service management, and I finished with our migration and production process and lessons learned. There was an exciting amount of interest following the talk. Overall, a great conference – small in size, big in ideas.

Educause webinar on cloud computing

Friday, September 17, 2010 2:14 pm

Today Barry, Kevin, Leslie, Susan, Kevin, Tim and Erik got together for a webinar on how to approach cloud computing decisions. The speaker – Theresa Rowe had a background in IT management at the University/organizational level and discussed her approach in supporting shifts to cloud computing.

Theresa discussed three factors including cost savings, service agility and resource availability that she uses to evaluate whether or not an application is appropriate for clouding.

The QnA session started with the question “What would you rank as the top applications that you could move to the cloud?”

  1. Things that are commodity services such as email and backup (storage). These are things that the vendors can do with lots of resources while individual organizations do not benefit from this scale (think Gmail)
  2. Recruitment systems such as admissions and job. These systems gather a lot of data and tend to cycle through in a short term. Here again, the vendor benefits from economies of scale.
  3. Solutions that add value to departments – niche hosting solutions around athletics (concussion tracking? (really?))
  4. Learning management systems – These prove to be more challenging because outsourcing does not make organization more agile or responsive, up-time is not impacted, cost savings is not realized.
  5. Library management systems – Theresa viewed this as an option given the ability to save cost, provide more agile services and match available resources.

The question time turned to the idea of “individualized computing selection.” Theresa indicated that as an IT organization they found benefit in helping individuals purchase compatible equipment and that this is an example of how IT organizations are starting to take on more consulting roles and often find themselves in a hands-off mode.

Another aspect of this shift is identifying service delivery and monitoring standards that you expect external vendors to adhere to. This webinar was very timely as we continue to work on similar issues with moving data to cloud-based and hosted systems and as we seek new ways to partner with IS to ensure that our systems and data continue to work well.

Sun Webinar – DuraCloud pilot project report

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 2:48 pm

Today Wanda, Barry, Molly (K), Leslie, JP, Tim, and Erik attended a webinar offered through Sun Microsystems on the DuraCloud system. The presentation included Michele Kimpton, Martin Kalfatovic, Barbara Taranto, and Peter Pinch who talked about their beta projects and included a short discussion on how libraries can participate in the DuraCloud pilot program.

The session began with an overview of the experience of the first stage pilot partners. The overview included a discussion of several providers including Amazon, Atmos, Rackspace. While the initial project is focusing on the nuts and bolts of building a cloud-based repository it is also including some interesting open source services include Djakota, Taxon-finder, and Kaltura. For example, Martin talked about the Biodiversity Heritage Library and their experience with the DuraCloud pilot. They were interested in the Taxon-finder service in particular with a focus on making taxonomic literature available. Barbara talked about how their perspective on the pilot included developing a cost comparison model, examine data transfer, management, and transfer. Barbara reported on the migration from the jpeg standard to djakota JPEG 2000 image files. Peter talked about the efforts of WGBH (which completely rocks in general) to digitize archives during the pilot project. The are experimenting with Kaltura player for streaming and are looking at preservation services.

In the late spring the DuraCloud project will be opened up for other libraries to participate. At the moment they are looking to launch a production service in Q3 2010. Initial pilot partnerships will focus on those running dspace/fedora right now. Many thanks to Barry for setting the webinar up in the screening room!

Berkman Center for Internet & Society Webinar – Lee Dirks

Friday, September 18, 2009 2:27 pm

On Friday Erik & Sarah watched a webinar sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. The speaker was Lee Dirks, the Director, Education & Scholarly Communication at Microsoft External Research.

Lee discussed the future of scholarly communication, touching on issues of preserving the entire research process (including background research, testing, collaboration, etc). He also talked about the role that linked data and complex community-based data analysis sites such as Swivel and Freebase are doing to create a new type of research archive.

His themes also included cloud computing, linked data, and preservation and archiving, and new publication mechanisms including Data.gov, SciVee, Mendeley/Papers, and Jove (Journal of Visualized Experiments). His discussion of these sites was cursory but touched on some really neat ways in which machine readable data is being used to create/preserve knowledge.

He touched on SmugMug, Google Wave, and other cloud based sites on the way to talking about Duraspace/Duracloud as examples of new approaches to archiving and providing services for complex data.

He concluded with the observation that there is still a gap between what these systems are capable of and what researchers and scientists know/think about e-research and the role it plays in science, peer review, and publication.

During the Q&A a discussion about data-aggregation sites included Fluxnet and Dataverse, a data harvesting and preservation site (similar it appears to the Internet Archive) that provides cloud solutions for the archiving and preservation problem that Lee said was one of the goals of Duracloud.

The most provocative comment of the session (roughly quoted) was:

“The safe world of collecting books and scholarly journals has been done…data curation, provision of services, working with publishers, and working with scholars…grey literature…that is the stuff we need to apply our skills to.”

Inevitably, this raised the question of “what makes a good librarian?” The answer focused on a ‘service orientation’ that builds services on top of data that includes business, informatics, legal, and technology training.

Interested in more? the NSF report on Data in the 21st Century is a good place to start!


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