NASIG 2008: Next Generation Library Automation – Its Impact on the Serials Community

Speaker: Marshall Breeding

Check & update your library’s record on lib-web-cats — Breeding uses this data to track the ILS and ERMS systems used by libraries world-wide.

The automation industry is consolidating, with several library products dropped or ceased to be supported. External financial investors are increasingly controlling the direction of the industry. And, the OPAC sucks. Libraries and users are continually frustrated with the products they are forced to use and are turning to open source solutions.

The innovation presented by automation companies falls below the expectations of libraries (not so sure about users). Conventional ILS need to be updated to incorporate the modern blend of digital and print collections.

We need to be more thoughtful in our incorporation of social tools into traditional library systems and infrastructures. Integrate those Web 2.0 tools into existing delivery options. The next NextGen automation tools should have collaborative features built into them.

Open source software isn’t free — it’s just a different model (pay for maintenance and setup v. pay for software). We need more robust open source software for libraries. Alternatively, systems need to open up so that data can be moved in and out easily. Systems need APIs that allow local coders to enhance systems to meet the needs of local users. Open source ERMS knowledge bases haven’t been seriously developed, although there is a need.

The drive towards open source solutions has often been motivated by disillusionment with current vendors. However, we need to be cautious, since open source isn’t necessarily the golden key that will unlock the door to paradise. (i.e. Koha still needs to add serials and acquisitions modules, as well as EDI capabilities).

The open source movement motivates the vendors to make their systems more open for us. This is a good thing. In the end, we’ll have a better set of options.

Open Source ILS options: Koha (commercial support from LibLime) used mostly by small to medium libraries, Evergreen (commercial support from Equinox Software) tested and proven for small to medium libraries in a consortia setting, and OPALS (commercial support from Media Flex) used mostly by k-12 schools.

In making the case for open source ILS, you need to compare the total cost of ownership, the features and functionality, and the technology platform and conceptual models. Are they next-generation systems or open source versions of legacy models?

Evaluate your RFPs for new systems. Are you asking for the things you really need or are you stuck in a rut of requiring technology that was developed in the 70s and may no longer be relevant?

Current open source ILS products lack serials and acquisitions modules. The initial wave of open source ILS commitments happened in the public library arena, but the recent activity has been in academic libraries (WALDO consortia going from Voyager to Koha, University of Prince Edward Island going from Unicorn to Evergreen in about a month). Do the current open source ILS products provide a new model of automation, or an open source version of what we already have?

Looking forward to the day when there is a standard XML for all ILS that will allow libraries to manipulated their data in any way they need to.

We are working towards a new model of library automation where monolithic legacy architectures are replaced by the fabric of service oriented architecture applications with comprehensive management.

The traditional ILS is diminishing in importance in libraries. Electronic content management is being done outside of core ILS functions. Library systems are becoming less integrated because the traditional ILS isn’t keeping up with our needs, so we find work-around products. Non-integrated automation is not sustainable.

ERMS — isn’t this what the acquisitions module is supposed to do? Instead of enhancing that to incorporate the needs of electronic resources, we had to get another module or work-around that may or may not be integrated with the rest of the ILS.

We are moving beyond metadata searching to searching the actual items themselves. Users want to be able to search across all products and packages. NextGen federated searching will harvest and index subscribed content so that it can be searched and retrieved more quickly and seamlessly.

Opportunities for serials specialists:

  • Be aware of the current trends
  • Be prepared for accelerated change cycles
  • Help build systems based on modern business process automation principles. What is your ideal serials system?
  • Provide input
  • Ensure that new systems provide better support than legacy systems
  • Help drive current vendors towards open systems

How will we deliver serials content through discovery layers?

Reference:

  • “It’s Time to Break the Mold of the Original ILS,” Computers in Libraries, Nov/Dec 2007.

CiL 2008: Catalog Effectiveness

Speaker: Rebekah Kilzer

The Ohio State University Libraries have used Google Analytics for assessing the use of the OPAC. It’s free for sites up to five million page views per month — OSU has 1-2 million page views per month. Libraries would want to use this because most integrated library systems offer little in the way of use statistics, and what they do have isn’t very… useful. You will need to add some code that will display on all OPAC pages.

Getting details about how users interact with your catalog can help with making decisions about enhancements. For example, knowing how many dial-up users interact with the site could determine whether or not you want to develop style sheets specifically for them, for example. You can also track what links are being followed, which can contribute to discussions on link real estate.

There are several libraries that are mashing up Google Analytics information with other Google tools.


Speakers: Cathy Weng and Jia Mi

The OPAC is a data-centered, card-catalog retrieval system that is good for finding known items, but not so good as an information discovery tool. It’s designed for librarians, not users. Librarian’s perceptions of users (forgetful, impatient) prevents librarians from recognizing changes in user behavior and ineffective OPAC design.

In order to see how current academic libraries represent and use OPAC systems, they studied 123 ARL libraries’ public interfaces and search capabilities as well as their bibliographic displays. In the search options, two-thirds of libraries use “keyword” as the default and the other third use “title.” The study also looked at whether or not the keyword search was a true keyword search with an automatic “and” or if the search was treated as a phrase. Few libraries used relevancy ranking as the default search results sorting.

There are some great disparities in OPAC quality. Search terms and search boxes are not retained on the results page, post-search limit functions are not always readily available, item status are not available on search results page, and the search keywords are not highlighted. These are things that the most popular non-library search engines do, which is what our users expect the library OPAC to do.

Display labels are MARC mapping, not intuitive. Some labels are suitable for certain types of materials but not all (proper name labels for items that are “authored” by conferences). They are potentially confusing (LCSH & MeSH) and occasionally inaccurate. The study found that there were varying levels of effort put to making the labels more user-friendly and not full of library jargon.

In addition to label displays, OPACs also suffer from the way the records are displayed. The order of bibliographic elements effect how users find relevant information to determine whether or not the item found is what they need.

There are three factors that contribute to the problem of the OPAC: system limitations, libraries not exploiting full functionality of ILS, and MARC standards are not well suited to online bibliographic display. We want a system that doesn’t need to be taught, that trusts users as co-developers, and we want to maximize and creatively utilize the system’s functionality.

The presentation gave great examples of why the OPAC sucks, but few concrete examples of solutions beyond the lipstick-on-a-pig catalog overlay products. I would have liked to have a list of suggestions for label names, record display, etc., since we were given examples of what doesn’t work or is confusing.

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.