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.

NASIG 2010: Linked Data and Libraries

Presenter: Eric Miller, Zepheira, LCC

Nowadays, we understand what the web is and the impact it has had on information sharing, but before it was developed, it was in a “vague but exciting” stage and few understood it. When we got started with the web, we really didn’t know what we were doing, but more importantly, the web was being developed so that it was flexible enough for smarter and more creative people to do amazing things.

“What did your website look like when you were in the fourth grade?” Kids are growing up with the web and it’s hard for them to comprehend life without it. [Dang, I’m old.]

This talk will be about linked data, its legacy, and how libraries can lead linked data. We have a huge opportunity to weave libraries into the fabric of libraries, and vice versa.

About five years ago, the BBC started making their content available in a service that allowed others to use and remix the delivery of the content in new ways. Rather than developing alternative platforms and creating new spaces, they focus on generating good content and letting someone else frame it. Other sources like NPR, the World Bank, and Data.gov are doing the same sorts of things. Within the library community, these things are happening, as well. OCLC’s APIs are getting easier to use, and several national libraries are putting their OPACs on the web with APIs.

Obama’s open government initiative is another one of those “vague but exciting” things, and it charged agencies to come up with their own methods of making their content available via the web. Agencies are now struggling with the same issues and desires that libraries have been tackling for years. We need to recognize our potential role in moving this forward.

Linked data is a best practice for sharing data, connecting data, and uses the semantic web. Rather than leaving the data in their current formats, let’s put them together in ways they can be used on the wider web. It’s not the databases that make the web possible, it’s the web that makes the databases usable.

Human computation can be put to use in ways that assist computers to make information more usable. Captcha systems are great for blocking automated programs when needed, and by using human computation to decipher scanned text that is undecipherable by computers, ReCaptcha has been able to turn unusable data into a fantastic digital repository of old documents.

LEGOs have been around for decades, and their simple design ensures that new blocks work with old blocks. Most kids end up dumping all of their sets into one bucket, so no matter where the individual building blocks come from, they can be put together and rebuild in any way you can imagine. We could do this with our blocks of data, if they are designed well enough to fit together universally.

Our current applications, for the most part, are not designed to allow for the portability of data. We need to rethink application design so that the data becomes more portable. Web applications have, by neccesity, had to have some amount of portability. Users are becoming more empowered to use the data provided to them in their own way, and if they don’t get that from your service/product, then they go elsewhere.

Digital preservation repositories are discussing ways to open up their data so that users can remix and mashup data to meet their needs. This requires new ways of archiving, cataloging, and supplying the content. Allow users to select the facets of the data that they are interested in. Provide options for visualizing the raw data in a systematic way.

Linked data platforms create identifiers for every aspect of the data they contain, and these are the primary keys that join data together. Other content that is created can be combined to enhance the data generated by agencies and libraries, but we don’t share the identifiers well enough to allow others to properly link their content.

Web architecture starts with web identifiers. We can use URLs to identify things other than just documents, but we need to be consistent and we can’t change the URL structures if we want it to be persistent. A lack of trust in identifiers is slowing down linked data. Libraries have the opportunity to leverage our trust and data to provide control points and best practices for identifier curation.

A lot of work is happening in W3C. Libraries should be more involved in the conversation.

Enable human computation by providing the necessary identifiers back to data. Empower your users to use your data, and build a community around it. Don’t worry about creating the best system — wrap and expose your data using the web as a platform.