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.

carnival of the infosciences #87

Welcome to the Carnival of the Infosciences #87! Not too many submissions this time, but they’re all good, so take a few minutes, kick back, and let the Carnival start your Monday morning.

Martha Hardy made two recommendations for this edition of the Carnival. The first is an essay from Roy Litwin entitled, “Annotated list of things not to forget (in the 2.0 craze)….” Litwin writes, “These days, when reading the library literature or a conference program it’s hard to find much that is not about the Library 2.0 idea. It seems to me that many librarians have forgotten that there is something worthwhile in what we do already, and that ‘Library 2.0’ is an update rather than something completely new.” This essay is a must-read for librarians, both twopointopians and those annoyed by them.

The other submission from Hardy is a news item from the Library Boy, Michel-Adrien Sheppard, about a criminal investigation in Toronto and the way authorities are using Facebook to get around the publication ban (“Is Facebook Interfering With Criminal Investigations?“). The Uncontrolled Vocabulary crew also discussed this in the January 9th episode.

Sol Lederman recommends that everyone take a look at Federated Search: The year in review, a review of the major events in the federated search industry in 2007, from the Federated Search Blog. 2007 saw commercial entities making odd business decisions, mergers and acquisitions, and new open source options.

Iris Jastram writes about her experience with creating “subversive handouts” for library instruction sessions, and what she learned from the process. This might give you a few ideas for your own “subversive” handout.

Kate Sheehan asks the question, “Are librarians culturally self-aware?” She also gets a few responses from John Blyberg (“Library 2.0 Debased“) and Rochelle Hartman (“Blyberg Speaks: Safe to come out of hiding“), among others.

The 2008 conference season kicked off with an early January ALA Midwinter meeting, which prompted Sarah Houghton-Jan to link to the useful Tips for conference bloggers, which was originally posted by Ethan Zuckerman and Bruno Giussani last October. Midwinter may be over, but there are still plenty of upcoming conferences that need to be blogged. Be sure to read their advice before you pack your laptop.

Blake Carver at LISNews has put together a list of ten blogs to read in 2008. I’m already reading a few, but I’ve added more to my pile based on Carver’s recommendations.

That’s all, folks! Please submit posts to the Library Garden for #88. You can use the online form or tag posts carninfo in del.icio.us.