IL2009: Mashups for Library Data

Speakers: Nicole Engard

Mashups are easy ways to provide better services for our patrons. They add value to our websites and catalogs. They promote our services in the places our patrons frequent. And, it’s a learning experience.

We need to ask our vendors for APIs. We’re putting data into our systems, so we should be able to get it out. Take that data and mash it up with popular web services using RSS feeds.

Yahoo Pipes allows you to pull in many sources of data and mix it up to create something new with a clean, flow chart like interface. Don’t give up after your first try. Jody Fagan wrote an article in Computers in Libraries that inspired Engard to go back and try again.

Reading Radar takes the NYT Bestseller lists and merges it with data from Amazon to display more than just sales information (ratings, summaries, etc.). You could do that, but instead of having users go buy the book, link it to your library catalog. The New York Times has opened up a tremendous amount of content via APIs.

Bike Tours in CA is a mashup of Google Maps and ride data. Trulia, Zillow, and HousingMaps use a variety of sources to map real estate information. This We Know pulls in all sorts of government data about a location. Find more mashups at ProgrammableWeb.

What mashups should libraries be doing? First off, if you have multiple branches, create a Google Maps mashup of library locations. Share images of your collection on Flickr and pull that into your website (see Access Ceramics), letting Flickr do the heavy lifting of resizing the images and pulling content out via machine tags. Delicious provides many options for creating dynamically updating lists with code snippets to embed them in your website.

OPAC mashups require APIs, preferably those that can generate JavaScript, and finally you’ll need a programmer if you can’t get the information out in a way you can easily use it. LexisNexis Academic, WorldCat, and LibraryThing all have APIs you can use.

Ideas from Librarians: Mashup travel data from circulation data and various travel sources to provide better patron services. Grab MARC location data to plot information on a map. Pull data about media collection and combine it with IMDB and other resources. Subject RSS feeds from all resources for current articles (could do that already with a collection of journals with RSS feeds and Yahoo Pipes).

Links and more at her book website.

IL2009: Collaboration in the Clouds

Presenter: Tom Ipri

How will cloud computing impact the library as a space? Will we be able to provide the infrastructure to support collaborative computing within our buildings or resource networks?

Virtual computing labs allow students to access their software, settings, and files from any computer on campus. However, there are concerns about reliability, privacy, and the security of data. If you are sending your students to services outside of the university, what impacts are there on the policies of the university?

Who needs libraries when everything is in the cloud? The library can become fully both a warehouse and a gathering place.

IL2009: Cloud Computing in Practice: Creating Digital Services & Collections

Speakers: Amy Buckland, Kendra K. Levine, & Laura Harris (icanhaz.com/cloudylibs)

Cloud computing is a slightly complicated concept. Everyone approaches defining it from different perspectives. It’s about data and storage. For the purposes of this session, they mean any service that is on-demand self-service, broad network access, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, and measured service.

Cloud computing frees people to collaborate in many ways. Infrastructure is messy, so let someone else take care of that so you can focus on what you really need to do. USB sticks can do a lot of that, but they’re easy to lose, and data in the cloud will hopefully be migrated to new formats.

The downside of cloud computing is that it is so dependent upon constant connection and uptime. If your cloud computing source or network goes down, you’re SOL until it get fixed. Privacy can also be a legitimate concern, and the data could be vulnerable to hacking or leaks. Nothing lasts forever — for example, today, Geocities is closing.

Libraries are already in the cloud. We often store our ILS data, ILL, citation management, resource guides, institutional repositories, and electronic resource management tools on servers and services that do not live in the library. Should we be concerned about our vendors making money from us on a "recurring, perpetual basis" (Cory Doctorow)? Should we be concerned about losing the "face" of the library in all of these cloud services? Should we be concerned about the reliability of the services we are paying for?

Libraries can use the cloud for data storage (i.e. DuraSpace, Dropbox). They could also replace OS services & programs, allowing patron-access computers to b run using cloud applications.

Presentation slides are available at icanhaz.com/cloudylibs.

Speaker: Jason Clark

His library is using four applications to serve video from the library, and one of them is TerraPod, which is for students to create, upload, and distribute videos. They outsourced the player to Blip.tv. This way, they don’t have to encode files or develop a player.

The way you can do mashups of cloud applications and locally developed applications is through the APIs that defines the rules for talking to the remote server. The cloud becomes the infrastructure that enables webscaling of projects. Request the data, receive it in some sort of structured format, and then parse it out into whatever you want to do with it.

Best practices for cloud computing: use the cloud architecture do the heavy lifting (file conversion, storage, distribution, etc.), archive locally if you must, and outsource conversion. Don’t be afraid. This is the future.

Presentation slides will be available later on his website.

thing 18: web applications

It has been a while since I seriously looked at Zoho Writer, preferring Google Docs mainly for the convenience (I always have Gmail open in a tab, so it’s easy to one-click open Google Docs from there). Zoho Writer seems to have more editing and layout tools, or at least, displays them more like MS Word.

I have been dabbling with web applications like document editors and spreadsheet creators mostly because I don’t like the ones that I purchased with my iMac. I probably would like the Mac versions more if I were more familiar with their quirks, but I’m so used to Microsoft Office products that remembering what I can and can’t do in the Mac environment is too frustrating. While Google Docs isn’t quite the same as Microsoft Office, it’s more-so than iWork ’08.

Playing with Zoho Writer, however, reminded me that I need to work around my Google bias. Particularly since the Zoho products seem to have the productivity functions that make my life easier.