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.

random thoughts on this & that

Sorry, not a very descriptive title, is it?

I’m feeling slightly less ambivalent about getting involved with ALA than I did a year ago. Mainly, that is because if the awesome LITA people I meet at Annual in June. Despite that, it still took me until yesterday to remember that I needed to renew my lapsed membership. Whoops.

I ended up deciding to join LITA, and since my professional focus currently resides with the Serials Section of ALCTS, I ended up dropping ACRL. Even so, my membership cost more than $200. For one year. Yeouch. The sad thing is that I’m not sure I’ll have much energy left to get my $200 worth out of it. We’ll see.

This leads me to a question I have been pondering for a bit. I’ve been thinking about my career and where I’d like to eventually end up, and I’m thinking more and more that I want to be in a smaller university or college library where the emphasis is on being librarians and less on being tenure-track faculty. The pros are that I would be able to stop worrying so much about publications and be able to focus on my strengths like being a (freakin’ awesome*) serials & electronic resources librarian and serving in various professional organizations as well as campus committees. The cons are that I probably won’t have as much support for attending conferences and likely the salary scale would be lower.

So, the question I’m pondering is whether ALA is worth being a member of if one cannot participate on committees because one cannot afford to attend all of the conferences?

* Sorry. I don’t know where that came from. Must be the result of reading two years of Questionable Content strips over the past few days.

ala annual, part two — washington, d.c.

The Blog Salon was definitely the highlight of the social events at ALA. I met a few new interesting folk, as well as got to chat with a few folks I had met previously.

I had an illuminating conversation with an advocate for games in libraries who gave me a different perspective of gamer society, particularly how casual games fit in. My skills with the console and arcade games of the 80s and early 90s were rudimentary at best, and I haven’t tried anything since then. He let me play a basic game on his portable game device that was fairly simple to pick up and learn without instructions. Sure, the first person shooters and “twitch” games, as he called them, are quite popular, but “casual” games have been booming as well.

Come to think of it, thanks to Blogcritics, I’ve had a chance to play with and review a few casual games over the past year, and by his definition, that makes me a gamer. Weird. Anyway, it has me thinking of how we could use games as a way of making the library a friendlier place for our students, and what kinds of games would work with some of the general education curriculum.

Continue reading “ala annual, part two — washington, d.c.”

by ebb & by flow

The long awaited return of a fantastic Pacific Northwest singer/songwriter.

Years ago, I had a show called the Estrogen Nation that was broadcasted from a college radio station. I played all sorts of music from all over, with the only criteria being that it had to feature women as the lead musicians. In 2000, I attended the Folk Alliance conference in Cleveland, hoping to discover new artists to play on the radio, and that was where I first heard Alice Di Micele. I wandered into her showcase room by accident early on, and the music made me come back as often as I could throughout the rest of the weekend. I have been a fan ever since.

Di Micele has a voice that can command any room with the power and presence of it. She mainly sings in the lower registers, but her voice can soar high as well without losing any of its strength. She writes acoustic music with a jazz/rock/funk/blues soul to it that is seductively addictive. For the past five years, fans have had to make do with her seven album catalog while she took a break from writing, recording, and performing. Thankfully, the wait is over. by ebb & by flow was released recently, and it is evident that the intervening years have not diminished her musical prowess one bit.

photo of Alice Di Micele by David ShermanOne of my favorite tracks is the first one, entitled "Mexico." The music and lyrics are uplifting with a hint of calypso. In contrast, the track the follows ("Conjuring") is a slow waltz, and the lyrics are introspective. It contains this gem of a line, "time with a lover is time well worth spending when two hearts are feeling the same." These two songs are different in style and intent, and like the rest of the album, they hold the listener's attention with their unique strengths. It could be the hook, it could be the groove, or it could be the lyrics. Regardless, every tune on this album has something that says, "Listen. Absorb. Enjoy."

As one might expect from an album entitled by ebb & by flow, most of the songs reference water in some way or another. "Made Out of Water" is a toe-tapping gospel for naturalists that features some spine-tingling harmonies. Be sure to listen to the end of that one on headphones sometime. The titular line appears in "Made Out of Water," as well as the groovalicious tune "The Way Your Heart Pounds."

Even the old hymn "Wayfaring Stranger" includes a water reference in the chorus (the Jordan River). Unfortunately, it's also my least favorite song on the album. I first learned "Wayfaring Stranger" from singing The Sacred Harp version, and I prefer the more traditional arrangement. Di Micele sounds amazing in her jazzy/bluesy arrangement of the song, and it will probably appeal more to those who aren't as fond of old hymn singing as I am.

Normally, album fatigue sets in towards the final few tracks, but not on by ebb & by flow. The final song is "The Cottonwoods," and while it is mellower and sparser than the other songs, it maintains the energy and intensity that the album began with. In a way, it acts as a hook that causes the listener to unconsciously hit the play button again in a feeble attempt to make the album continue on. It's only a mild disappointment to realize that the music has ended, because it takes just a few easy clicks to start it back up again from the beginning.

Alice Di Micele is back on the scene, and music fans should sit up and listen if they know what's good for them.

also published at Blogcritics.org

Continue reading “by ebb & by flow”

buzzed on bazza

Yay! A new low-calorie energy drink that doesn’t taste like ass!

In recent years, the bottled drink market has been flooded with a variety of so-called "energy drinks" that claim to use natural (and sometimes not-so-natural) ingredients to boost energy better than the standard caffeinated and sugar-filled drinks. Whether the claims are true or not is a matter of some debate. Most of these drinks contain a higher quantity of caffeine than what the FDA recommends for standard soft drinks (68 mg. per 12 oz. serving). One might unscientifically conclude that the energy drinks get most of their oomph from the extra caffeine and sugar rather than from any herbal additives.

Personally, I do not care either way. Almost every one of the energy drinks I have tried has tasted so nasty that I concluded that any buzz I might gain from them is not worth the effort. Until recently, the only exception to that has been Bawls Guarana — not the sugar-free Bawls Guaranexx, which tastes as nasty as the other energy drinks — but for 80 mg. of caffeine per 12 oz., I would rather drink something with less than 100 calories, like unsweetened coffee or a diet cola.

BAZZA High-Energy Tea bottlesEnter BAZZA High-Energy Tea.

I first noticed this recent addition to the energy drink market a few weeks ago at my local 7-Eleven. I didn't give it much thought beyond an "oh, great, now they're making energy teas." Then the press release for BAZZA came across my inbox, so I decided to give it a try. Color me impressed.

Right now the drink comes in two flavors: raspberry tea and green tea. I had both, and they are quite tasty. In fact, they do not taste like a sugar-free diet drink at all. I prefer the green tea over the raspberry because it is not as sweet-tasting, but your mileage may vary.

As for the buzz, the 99.4 mg. of caffeine per 12 oz. is making its presence known throughout my nervous system. I feel far more jumpy and awake than I normally would, given the amount of sleep I have had recently.

If you are looking for a low-calorie high-energy drink alternative, give the BAZZA High-Energy Tea a try. Just be careful — too much caffeine can kill you.