IL 2010: Dashboards, Data, and Decisions

[I took notes on paper because my netbook power cord was in my checked bag that SFO briefly lost on the way here. This is an edited transfer to electronic.]

presenter: Joseph Baisano

Dashboards pull information together and make it visible in one place. They need to be simple, built on existing data, but expandable.

Baisano is at SUNY Stonybrook, and they opted to go with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to create their dashboards. The content can be made visible and editable through user permissions. Right now, their data connections include their catalog, proxy server, JCR, ERMS, and web statistics, and they are looking into using the API to pull license information from their ERMS.

In the future, they hope to use APIs from sources that provide them (Google Analytics, their ERMS, etc.) to create mashups and more on-the-fly graphs. They’re also looking at an open source alternative to SharePoint called Pentaho, which already has many of the plugins they want and comes in free and paid support flavors.

presenter: Cindi Trainor

[Trainor had significant technical difficulties with her Mac and the projector, which resulted in only 10 minutes of a slightly muddled presentation, but she had some great ideas for visualizations to share, so here’s as much as I captured of them.]

Graphs often tell us what we already know, so look at it from a different angle to learn something new. Gapminder plots data in three dimensions – comparing two components of each set over time using bubble graphs. Excel can do bubble graphs as well, but with some limitations.

In her example, Trainor showed reference transactions along the x-axis, the gate count along the y-axis, and the size of the circle represented the number of circulation transactions. Each bubble represented a campus library and each graph was for the year’s totals. By doing this, she was able to suss out some interesting trends and quirks to investigate that were hidden in the traditional line graphs.

a response to rewarding conference speakers

As I was sitting in a CIL2009 session that was essentially something that could have easily been a blog post with a bunch of annotated links, I wondered to myself why this was chosen to be a session over something else, and why I had chosen to attend it rather than something else. I concluded that sometimes I need to have something whack me upside the head to “get it,” and a good presentation is often the best tool to do it.

Kathryn Greenhill writes, “I suspect it’s not that I *know* it all, but that I know how to find out at point of need and that I am more likely to use my human networks than to look back at conference notes or handouts to find out.” I rely heavily on my human networks, both in person and online, to keep me informed of the things I need to know — much more so than professional literature and formal presentations. However, sometimes even those things can spark an idea or clarify something that was previously muddy in my mind. I’m happy to reap the benefits of shared information, regardless of what format is used to deliver it.

That’s all fine and good for me, someone who is only moderately on the side of information creator and more on the side of information consumer, but what about those “shovers and makers” out there who are generating new ideas and, well, shoving and making in libraryland? Greenhill notes that she has “found much, much more value hanging about talking to other presenters than in attending the formal sessions,” and she suggests that rather than cheesy speakers’ gifts, they could instead be given “something to stimulate the presenters’ brains and challenge them.”

I like the idea of this, but I also worry that it has the potential to widen the gap between creators and consumers. I benefit greatly from being able to listen in on the discussions between the speakers in LobbyCon/CarpetCon settings. And, even when I am in sessions that challenge my skill set, I am motivated to expand that skill set, or at the very least, I know more about what I don’t know. I’d rather have that than continue in ignorance.

Greenhill, along with Cindi Trainor and John Blyberg, spent many hours during Computers in Libraries secluded away while crafting The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians manifesto. The end result is available to us, but I wonder how much more we consumers would have learned by being able to listen in on the process of its creation? Isn’t that part of what the unconference movement is about?

CIL 2009: ERM… What Do You Do With All That Data, Anyway?

This is the session that I co-presented with Cindi Trainor (Eastern Kentucky University). The slides don’t convey all of the points we were trying to make, so I’ve also included a cleaned-up version of those notes.

  1. Title
  2. In 2004, the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Electronic Resources Management Initiative (ERMI) published their report on the electronic resource management needs of libraries, and provided some guidelines for what data needed to be collected in future systems and how that data might be organized. The report identifies over 340 data elements, ranging from acquisitions to access to assessment.

    Libraries that have implemented commercial electronic resource management systems (ERMS) have spent many staff hours entering data from old storage systems, or recording those data for the first time, and few, if any, have filled out each data element listed in the report. But that is reasonable, since not every resource will have relevant data attached to it that would need to be captured in an ERMS.

    However, since most libraries do not have an infinite number of staff to focus on this level of data entry, the emphasis should instead be placed upon capturing data that is neccessary for managing the resources as well as information that will enhance the user experience.

  3. On the staff side, ERM data is useful for: upcoming renewal notifications, generating collection development reports that explain cost-per-use, based on publisher-provided use statistics and library-maintained, acquisitions data, managing trials, noting Electronic ILL & Reserves rights, and tracking the uptime & downtime of resources.
  4. Most libraries already have access management systems (link resolvers, A-Z lists, Marc records).
  5. User issues have shifted from the multiple copy problem to a “which copy?” problem. Users have multiple points of access, including: journal packages (JSTOR, Muse); A&I databases, with and without FT (which constitute e-resources in themselves); Library website (particularly “Electronic Resources” or “Databases” lists); OPAC; A-Z List (typically populated by an OpenURL link resolver); Google/gScholar; article/paper references/footnotes; course reserves; course management systems (Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT, Angel,Sakai); citation management software (RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero); LibGuides / course guides; bookmarks
  6. Users want…
  7. Google
  8. Worlds collide! What elements from the DLF ERM spec could enhance the user experience, and how? Information inside an ERMS can enhance access management systems or discovery: subject categorization within the ERM that would group similar resources and allow them to be presented alongside the resource that someone is using; using statuses to group & display items, such as a trialset within the ERM to automatically populate a page of new resources or an RSS feed to make it easy for the library to group and publicize even 30 day trial. ERMS’s need to do a better job of helping to manage the resource lifecycle by being built to track resources through that lifecycle so that discovery is updated by extension because resources are managed well, increasing uptime and availability and decreasing the time from identification above potential new resource to accessibility of that resource to our users
  9. How about turning ERM data into a discovery tool? Information about accessibility of resources to reference management systems like Endnote, RefWorks, or Zotero, and key pieces of information related to using those individual resources with same, could at least enable more sophisticated use of those resources if not increased discovery.

    (You’ve got your ERM in my discovery interface! No, you got your discovery interface in my ERM! Er… guess that doesn’t quite translate.)

  10. Flickr Mosaic: Phyllotaxy (cc:by-nc-sa); Librarians-Haunted-Love (cc:by-nc-sa); Square Peg (cc:by-nc-sa); The Burden of Thought (cc:by-nc)

things you don’t know about me

Yo, tell me what you want, what you really really want!

So, I got tagged by Amy for this meme last week, and I’ve been putting off responding because I’m lazy like that. Anyway, here goes…

Here are seven things you might not know about me:

  1. I can wiggle my ears without moving most of the other muscles in my head/face.
  2. I was born with a rare condition known as neonatal chylothorax. I had a hole in my lymph system near my heart, which leaked fluid and caused my heart to be pushed into a lung, which collapsed. Luckily, they got me to the medical/research school hospital in time to do emergency surgery and all that’s left of it is a circular scar on my left side.
  3. When I was about three years old, I would stand on a stump behind some bushes near my dad’s church and pretend I was preaching to a congregation.
  4. I used to get horribly car sick as a child, particularly while sitting in the back seat. As a result, I now have a strong dislike for dried bananas or anything with strong artificial banana flavoring, since home-dried bananas were often a road trip treat my mom made for us.
  5. “Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back” is not something that you should tell someone with OCD tenancies. It’s taken me most of my adult life to stop staring at the sidewalk and pacing my strides to avoid the cracks, and to not feel guilty and imperfect when I do step on them.
  6. I think that a creme (the almost icing kind) filled glazed donut is one of the most perfect vehicles for sugar, fat, and carbohydrates ever invented.
  7. Even after all these years, the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” is still a guilty pleasure.

Per the rules, here are the seven folks I’m tagging for this meme:
Betty Dickie
Brent Hoard
Cindi Trainor
Dani in NC
Kris Anne Swartley
Mary Carmen Chimato
Mike Kapper

CiL 2008: Woepac to Wowpac

Moderator: Karen G. Schneider – “You’re going to go un-suck your OPACs, right?”


Speaker: Roy Tennant

Tennant spent the last ten years trying to kill off the term OPAC.

The ILS is your back end system, which is different from the discovery system (doesn’t replace the ILS). Both of these systems can be locally configured or hosted elsewhere. Worldcat Local is a particular kind of discovery system that Tenant will talk about if he has time.

Traditionally, users would search the ILS to locate items, but now the discovery system will search the ILS and other sources and present it to the user in a less “card catalog” way. Things to consider: Do you want to replace your ILS or just your public interface? Can you consider open source options (Koha, Evergreen, vuFind, LibraryFind etc.)? Do you have the technical expertise to set it up and maintain it? Are you willing to regularly harvest data from your catalog to power a separate user interface?


Speaker: Kate Sheehan

Speaking from her experience of being at the first library to implement LibraryThing for Libraries.

The OPAC sucks, so we look for something else, like LibraryThing. The users of LibraryThing want to be catalogers, which Sheehan finds amusing (and so did the audience) because so few librarians want to be catalogers. “It’s a bunch of really excited curators.”

LibraryThing for libraries takes the information available in LibraryThing (images, tags, etc.) and drops them into the OPAC (platform independent). The display includes other editions of books owned by the library, recommendations based on what people actually read, and a tag cloud. The tag cloud links to a tag browser that opens up on top of the catalog and allows users to explore other resources in the catalog based on natural language tags rather than just subject headings. Using a Greasmonkey script in your browser, you can also incorporate user reviews pulled from LibraryThing. Statistics show that the library is averaging around 30 tag clicks and 18 recommendations per day, which is pretty good for a library that size.

“Arson is fantastic. It keeps your libraries fresh.” — Sheehan joking about an unusual form of collection weeding (Danbury was burnt to the ground a few years ago)

Data doesn’t grow on trees. Getting a bunch of useful information dropped into the catalog saves staff time and energy. LibraryThing for Libraries didn’t ask for a lot from patrons, and it gave them a lot in return.


Speaker: Cindi Trainor

Are we there yet? No. We can buy products or use open source programs, but they still are not the solution.

Today’s websites are consist of content, community (interaction with other users), interactivity (single user customization), and interoperability (mashups). RSS feeds are the intersection of interactivity and content. There are a few websites that are in the sweet spot in the middle of all of these: Amazon (26/32)*, Flickr (26/32), Pandora (20/32), and Wikipedia (21/32) are a few examples.

Where are the next generation catalog enhancements? Each product has a varying degree of each element. Using a scoring system with 8 points for each of the four elements, these products were ranked: Encore (10/32), LibraryFind (12/32), Scriblio (14/32), and WorldCat Local (16/32). Trainor looked at whether the content lived in the system or elsewhere and the degree to which it pulled information from sources not in the catalog. Library products still have a long way to go – Voyager scored a 2/32.

*Trainor’s scoring system as described in paragraph three.


Speaker: John Blyberg

When we talk about OPACs, we tend to fetishize them. In theory, it’s not hard to create a Wowpac. The difficulty is in creating the system that lives behind it. We have lost touch with the ability to empower ourselves to fix the problems we have with integrated library systems and our online public access catalogs.

The OPAC is a reflection of the health of the system. The OPAC should be spilling out onto our website and beyond, mashing it up with other sites. The only way that can happen is with a rich API, which we don’t have.

The title of systems librarian is becoming redundant because we all have a responsibility and role in maintaining the health of library systems. In today’s information ecology, there is no destination — we’re online experiencing information everywhere.

There is no way to predict how the information ecology will change, so we need systems that will be flexible and can grow and change over time. (Sopac 2.0 will be released later this year for libraries who want to do something different with their OPACs.) Containers will fail. Containers are temporary. We cannot hang our hat on one specific format — we need systems that permit portability of data.

Nobody in libraries talks about “the enterprise” like they do in the corporate world. Design and development of the enterprise cannot be done by a committee, unless they are simply advisors.

The 21st century library remains un-designed – so let’s get going on it.