Moving Up to the Cloud, a panel lecture hosted by the VCU Libraries

“Sky symphony” by Kevin Dooley

“Educational Utility Computing: Perspectives on .edu and the Cloud”
Mark Ryland, Chief Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services

AWS has been a part of revolutionizing the start-up industries (i.e. Instagram, Pinterest) because they don’t have the cost of building server infrastructures in-house. Cloud computing in the AWS sense is utility computing — pay for what you use, easy to scale up and down, and local control of how your products work. In the traditional world, you have to pay for the capacity to meet your peak demand, but in the cloud computing world, you can level up and down based on what is needed at that moment.

Economies, efficiencies of scale in many ways. Some obvious: storage, computing, and networking equipment supply change; internet connectivity and electric power; and data center sitting, redundancy, etc. Less obvious: security and compliance best practices; datacenter internal innovations in networking, power, etc.

AWS and .EDU: EdX, Coursera, Texas Digital Library, Berkeley AMP Lab, Harvard Medical, University of Phoenix, and an increasing number of university/school public-facing websites.

Expects that we are heading toward cloud computing utilities to function much like the electric grid — just plug in and use it.


“Libraries in Transition”
Marshall Breeding, library systems expert

We’ve already seen the shift of print to electronic in academic journals, and we’re heading that way with books. Our users are changing in the way they expect interactions with libraries to be, and the library as space is evolving to meet that, along with library systems.

Web-based computing is better than client/server computing. We expect social computing to be integrated into the core infrastructure of a service, rather than add-ons and afterthoughts. Systems need to be flexible for all kinds of devices, not just particular types of desktops. Metadata needs to evolve from record-by-record creation to bulk management wherever possible. MARC is going to die, and die soon.

How are we going to help our researchers manage data? We need the infrastructure to help us with that as well. Semantic web — what systems will support it?

Cooperation and consolidation of library consortia; state-wide implementations of SaaS library systems. Our current legacy ILS are holding libraries back from being able to move forward and provide the services our users want and need.

A true cloud computing system comes with web-based interfaces, externally hosted, subscription OR utility pricing, highly abstracted computing model, provisioned on demand, scaled according to variable needs, elastic.


“Moving Up to the Cloud”
Mark Triest, President of Ex Libris North America

Currently, libraries are working with several different systems (ILS, ERMS, DRs, etc.), duplicating data and workflows, and not always very accurately or efficiently, but it was the only solution for handling different kinds of data and needs. Ex Libris started in 2007 to change this, beginning with conversations with librarians. Their solution is a single system with unified data and workflows.

They are working to lower the total cost of ownership by reducing IT needs, minimize administration time, and add new services to increase productivity. Right now there are 120+ institutions world-wide who are in the process of or have gone live with Alma.

Automated workflows allow staff to focus on the exceptions and reduce the steps involved.

Descriptive analytics are built into the system, with plans for predictive analytics to be incorporated in the future.

Future: collaborative collection development tools, like joint licensing and consortial ebook programs; infrastructure for ad-hoc collaboration


“Cloud Computing and Academic Libraries: Promise and Risk”
John Ulmschneider, Dean of Libraries at VCU

When they first looked at Alma, they had two motivations and two concerns. They were not planning or thinking about it until they were approached to join the early adopters. All academic libraries today are seeking to discover and exploit new efficiencies. The growth of cloud-resident systems and data requires academic libraries to reinvigorate their focus on core mission. Cloud-resident systems are creating massive change throughout out institutions. Managing and exploiting pervasive change is a serious challenge. Also, we need to deal with security and durability of data.

Cloud solutions shift resources from supporting infrastructure to supporting innovation.

Efficiencies are not just nice things, they are absolutely necessary for academic libraries. We are obligated to upend long-held practice, if in doing so we gain assets for practice essential to our mission. We must focus recovered assets on the core library mission.

Agility is the new stability.

Libraries must push technology forward in areas that advance their core mission. Infuse technology evolution for libraries with the values needs of libraries. Libraries must invest assets as developers, development partners, and early adopters. Insist on discovery and management tools that are agnostic regarding data sources.

Managing the change process is daunting.. but we’re already well down the road. It’s not entirely new, but it does involve a change in culture to create a pervasive institutional agility for all staff.

IL 2010: Personal Content Management

speaker: Gary Price

Giving generalities about mobile devices is challenging because there are so many options. If your library doesn’t already have a mobile website, go for a web app rather than something platform specific.

The cloud can be a good backup for when your devices fail, since you can access it from other places. But, choose a cloud service or backup service carefully – consider reputation and longevity. If you see something you want to preserve for future use, save it now because it could be gone later. Capture it yourself and keep it local.

Backup your computer (pay now or pay later). Price recommends Mozy and Carbonite. Also, pay attention to the restore options (internet vs. DVD).

[I kinda zoned out at this point, as I’m pretty sure he’s not going to talk about much of anything I don’t already know about or will read about on Lifehacker. Unfortunately, choosing a seat in the front row prevents me from politely leaving to attend a different session.]

CIL 2010: Productivity Tools

Speaker: Lynda Kellam & Beth Filar-Williams

Check out the presentation wiki for a list of the tools and such. I’ll just note the ones I really like or other commentary I might have. They’ve grouped them into three categories: tasks, notetaking, and scheduling.

The presenters are using Poll Everywhere to get audience input on which category to focus on first, as well as asking for hands for which one. They started with Tasks.

Things is awesome, but Mac/iPhone only. Without a cloud-based interface, it’s not accessible by any other OS. Based on Getting Things Done, the application helps you organize tasks based on contexts.

Todoist is cloud-based task tool. I just started using it myself because I wanted something that could let me add sub-task to tasks.

Remember the Milk is also cloud-based, and like Todoist, it has a mobile interface. Unlike Todoist, it has apps for Blackberry and Android as well as iPhone. Tasks can also be added by SMS. One complaint I had was not being able to see a list of everything due today or overdue in the main web interface (can see it in Gmail), but now I know how to create a saved search that shows overdue tasks (dueBefore:today) and tasks due today (due:today).

The presenters have lots of scheduling tools to share. I’ve heard of only one of them, Schedule Once. The presenters are most excited about jiffle, which pulls your Goolge Calendar availability along with your own selection of available times, and allows the user to request a meeting through the site, but only for the available times. This is really useful for students scheduling personal appointments with instruction librarians. If you’re not using GCal, there is likely a tool that will allow you to sync your calendar with a GCal account.

Cozi integrates calendars, photos, widgets, journals, tasks, and is more geared towards groups or families. It might be more friendly for folks who are not comfortable with disparate, more complicated tools.

They don’t have many notetaking tools listed (Google Docs, Evernote, & wikis). More folks were interested in Evernote. Personally, I just haven’t found a good way to integrate Evernote into my life/work, and I’m not interested in paying for the premium features until I have a reason to use it regularly. I like using the journal feature of Outlook for taking work-related notes, and I rarely need to note things for personal stuff beyond adding them to a task.

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.