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.

musing on the next generation of electronic resource management

It’s funny how expectations are raised each time they are met. I think about this a lot when I’m working with our ERMS. My first experience with an ERMS was overwhelming and confusing, mostly because I didn’t have the time to really implement it, and it was far more robust than what we needed at the time. The next ERMS I used was simpler, and built off of a system I already knew well. It wasn’t perfect or comprehensive, but it was enough to get going.

Now that I’ve got a few years under my belt with this ERMS, I find myself longing for the next generation tool. Sure, it does this one thing really well, and sometimes even continues to do it well when the coders “enhance” it. But to get more out of it requires a lot of work-arounds, and often those are broken with the “enhancements.” And I’m still porting data from our ILS and massaging it into something our ERMS can ingest properly, often times having to do this manually.

I saw a demo of Ex Libris’ next generation ILS, Alma, a few weeks ago. It’s not perfect, and I could already see how it will require some significant workflow changes. However, the workflow/resource management problems that ERMS have been trying to solve are no longer partitioned off into something other than the “normal” ILS workflows, but rather acknowledged as at least half or more of the workflows that happen within the ILS. That’s what the first gen ERMS tried to do, but as add-on modules with connectors and legacy deadweight. Alma, from what I understand, has been rebuilt from the ground up. That seems to be making a huge difference in performance and integration.

I’m pretty excited about this because it solves two (or more) problems with one product. First, we get a next gen back-end catalog that works with more than just MARC, allowing us to integrate our digital collections metadata in whatever language that may be. Second, we integrate the workflows of all of acquisitions, not just print resources.

I’m also excited about this because I know that the other ILS vendors and ERMS vendors are going to have to step up their game as well. That can’t be bad for libraries and users, right?

NASIG 2010: Serials Management in the Next-Generation Library Environment

Panelists: Jonathan Blackburn, OCLC; Bob Bloom (?), Innovative Interfaces, Inc.; Robert McDonald, Kuali OLE Project/Indiana University

Moderator: Clint Chamberlain, University of Texas, Arlington

What do we really mean when we are talking about a “next-generation ILS”?

It is a system that will need to be flexible enough to accommodate increasingly changing and complex workflows. Things are changing so fast that systems can’t wait several years to release updates.

It also means different things to different stakeholders. The underlying thing is being flexible enough to manage both print and electronic, as well as better reporting tools.

How are “next-generation ILS” interrelated to cloud computing?

Most of them have components in the cloud, and traditional ILS systems are partially there, too. Networking brings benefits (shared workloads).

What challenges are facing libraries today that could be helped by the emerging products you are working on?

Serials is one of the more mature items in the ILS. Automation as a result of standardization of data from all information sources is going to keep improving.

One of the key challenges is to deal with things holistically. We get bogged down in the details sometimes. We need to be looking at things on the collection/consortia level.

We are all trying to do more with less funding. Improving flexibility and automation will offer better services for the users and allow libraries to shift their staff assets to more important (less repetitive) work.

We need better tools to demonstrate the value of the library to our stakeholders. We need ways of assessing resource beyond comparing costs.

Any examples of how next-gen ILS will improve workflow?

Libraries are increasing spending on electronic resources, and many are nearly eliminating their print serials spending. Next gen systems need reporting tools that not only provide data about electronic use/cost, but also print formats, all in one place.

A lot of workflow comes from a print-centric perspective. Many libraries still haven’t figured out how to adjust that to include electronic without saddling all of that on one person (or a handful). [One of the issues is that the staff may not be ready/willing/able to handle the complexities of electronic.]

Every purchase should be looked at independently of format and more on the cost/process for acquiring and making it available to the stakeholders.

[Not taking as many notes from this point on. Listening for something that isn’t fluffy pie in the sky. Want some sold direction that isn’t pretty words to make librarians happy.]

acrl northwest 2006 – day two

Panel: Using New Technologies for Teaching
Dr. Shaun Huston, Western Oregon University
Anne-Marie Dietering, Oregon State University
Elizabeth Breakstone, University of Oregon

Huston:

  • Uses blogs in the classroom: Teaches students how to write in multiple ways by providing informal writing opportunities that incorporate group feedback and interaction, as opposed to paper journals. Also teaches students how to write in an online environment, particularly for those who come from the other side of the digital divide.
  • Key concerns:
    • Platform: Go to IT department? No, they don’t have it now, so use something else. Now uses TypePad and LiveJournal, both of which are no cost to the student (has own subscription to TypePad).
    • Assignments: Structured assignments so that the students are logging in and participating regularly, rather than dumping the content in all at once.
    • Introduction to blogging: Had to instruct students on how to set up accounts and use the blog tools – does this in the first class.
    • Use campus blogging tools v. outside tools? TypePad allows for more customization and limiting to specific users for privacy. LiveJournal doesn’t allow for this as much and it’s in the hands of the students to set it up properly.
  • Blog use varies depending on the class and the students. Some are interact more in person than on the blog, and vice versa.
  • Based on the study he and Dietering did, students seem more comfortable with expressing themselves in the informal environment of a blog than they are in the classroom.
  • Blogs seem more intentional than email lists. You have to actually go to it to participate. And it’s more dynamic than a bulletin board. He uses the blog in team-taught classes to post assignments from the syllabus.
  • Categories and recent comments lists allow for non-linear interaction.
  • Social bookmarking: Set up an account for a specific class for course readings and information related to assignments to help understand the material.
  • Not sure if students are using each other’s bookmarks or if they are just contributing their own. Required students to cite a source from the bookmarks list in their paper.
  • del.icio.us is not screen-reader friendly, so take care if you have visually impaired students.

Dietering

  • Writing 121 – only required composition course at OSU, and librarians get a week of that for information literacy
  • Want to teach research as a learning process. Research as a conversation: eavesdropping to entering to engaging and back to eavesdropping on a different conversation. Students are not used to the eavesdropping/information gathering part.
  • Needed assignments that modeled exploratory research process at the beginning before coming to the library for more advanced processes. Works closely with the TA on developing topics.
  • Delivers assignments through Blackboard (meh).
  • Initial assignments involved doing broad exploratory searches, but the students didn’t know how to do that and were looking for specific items for their papers. Instead, they send them to reference sources online, so they sent them to Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • Many students ended up using Wikipedia instead, so the librarians worked on a guide to doing exploratory research in Wikipedia. As it turns out, Wikipedia was more useful for new researchers because it is easier to find topics and has better navigation.
  • The assignment sends the students to the discussion and history pages so they can see the petty discussions and how the page is constructed over time.
  • Wikipedia will win because it has navigation and hyperlinks. Easy to go from broad topics to what the student is really interested in.
  • Assignment asks the student to note something they learned and something they need to explore. The assignment also has the student evaluate the history page and who has been editing the entry.
  • Students don’t use Wikipedia in their paper. It becomes background information.
  • “We can’t use Wikipedia because it’s terrible. I know because I write on it.” – the Resistance
  • Students learn how to evaluate the authority of sources.
  • Go to YouTube and search for wikiality

Breakstone (and channeling Annie Zeidman-Karpinski)

  • Podcast: Oral history project on the Willamette
    • Download files to listen to while at certain points along the river
    • Website included a map of the places
  • Advantage of wikis in the library: different people can use it on different computers/platforms; ideal for posting updates without having to funnel through one tech person
  • Ref desk wiki: keep track of resources for class projects
  • IM at UO – launched last spring
    • Staffed by whomever is on the desk (librarians and/or students)
    • Uses Trillian – tried GAIM, but it kept breaking
    • IM screen names included on Ask a Librarian page (should also have status indicators, but they don’t at this point)
    • Created Hello My Name is kind of stickers and put them on the public PCs to publicize the screen names.
  • Have seen a dramatic increase in use this term.
  • Future issues
    • Training use for logs – how to improve ref student instruction
    • Privacy and records retention policy (could remove identifying information for archiving the chats)
    • Centralization v. specialization
  • IM etiquette allows for gaps in conversation, which is good for desks that have only one person staffing them.
  • Could set up to forward to libref email account when logged off.

Group Discussion – all of the presenters

How do you decide what 2.0 tools to use?
When you have a need, you’ll use it.
How do you teach students how to do formal writing along with informal assignments?
Blogging in conjunction with formal assignments in writing-intensive courses hopefully will teach them the difference.
If they write more, the will become more familiar with it.
Writing on a blog is a public space, so even if you are using the vernacular, you have to learn how to construct and argument.
What role do librarians have in bridging the digital divide?
WSU-Vancouver offers workshops for their students.
Find faculty who are interested in teaching technology, or at least are interested in expanding instruction beyond the classroom.
How do we harness the knowledge of students to instruct other students on technology?
student IT helpdesk
Classmates are sometimes reluctant to help each other with technology if they aren’t completely comfortable with it.
Do people IM from in the library?
Yes! Don’t want to get up and go to the refdesk b/c computers/space are a high commodity.
It can also be useful for IMing with colleagues in the building rather than calling or running around.
Make sure your policy allows them to IM in the library.
What about our catalogs? Where do they fit in?
LibraryThing has interesting implications for traditional ILS systems
NC State front-end to ILS – Andrew Pace’s snazzy coding covering up ugly Sirsi
Evergreen open source ILS from Georgia