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 2012: Transforming Roles: What Do You Want to Be?

monarch butterfly, freshly hatched
“monarch butterfly, freshly hatched” by Joan

Moderator: Donna Scheeder
Speakers: Marshall Breeding, Nicole C. Engard, Scott Brown, Cecily Walker, & Renee Chalut

Cecily thinks that among some people that there is a perception that if you are a techie, you aren’t a “real” librarian, and that bothers her. Regardless of her title, first and foremost, she’s a librarian and advocate for libraries. Whatever you think a librarian is, you’re wrong.

Marshall says that there are a lot of folks who do work in libraries at a lot of levels who don’t have library degrees, and there aught to be many ways to grow up in the profession and contribute as you can.

Audience member says that a lot of her relatives think she’s not a librarian because she doesn’t work in a public library.

Nicole says that the distinction between those who have a library degree and those who don’t does nothing but cause a rift.

Are library schools up to teaching the skill set needed to deal with constant change? Cecily says no, and that they should open up the curriculum so students can learn from other programs/schools. Audience member says that it’s a class issue kind of thing, and some people are uncomfortable with the title “librarian.”

Another audience member says she’s proud to be a librarian and proud to have an MLS, but thinks that you don’t need one to work in a library. She shared an anecdote of an excellent and skilled staff member who was not admitted to a MLS graduate program because of her 30 year old undergraduate GPA.

Scott sees the MLIS as an overlay on the skills he has already. You can’t teach the soft stuff in graduate school. Students need to learn how to think strategically. Renee thinks we need to have courage.

Nicole thinks we need a desire to keep learning, and in three years she hopes she will be doing more of the same, and getting to see libraries becoming more one in the same as she travels. Marshall says you need to think about what is coming in three years and start becoming an expert on it. Cecily says that flexibility has served her best, and although she has no idea where she’ll be in three years, she thinks she’ll be ready for it.

Audience member says she didn’t learn much in library school as far as skills, but she learned attitudes about working with users that is transferable to any kind of library. She says her job is to be a change agent, to be supportive, and to have a professional network that is broad and wide.

What would be your advice to young professionals graduating from library school? Nicole says you didn’t learn it all, so take an internship. You can’t learn it all in school; you have to see what a real job is like. She also recommends finding a mentor.

Michael Sauers says he’s a mentor, but he doesn’t think that he does it in a way that the mentees know they are being mentored.

Cecily says that recent grads should be a special snowflake — find something that you can do that nobody else is doing and let the world know you are doing it. Marshall agrees, continuing on his earlier recommendation of finding a niche. Renee says that if you get hired in a place without a lot of innovation happening, it’s okay to be a little pushy and bring the organization along with you.

“That homeless person who hits you with their socks… that doesn’t happen in library school.” Audience member’s point on how library programs don’t teach the real world.

Audience member says that mentoring today is much easier with technology. Another audience member agrees.

Marshall says there’s the career in your organization and then there’s your career beyond it. The organization might not be able to support your ambitions for your broader career. So do what you can and the pay-off will be in your next job.

Nicole says that if you can’t make your passion your career, find a way to do it anyway.