Access 2012: Conference Reflection

Honestly, my mind is still reeling from the conference. There were so many thought provoking ideas that my brain seems to still be processing them all.

Solving Practical Problems

One of the difficulties I frequently have is when people talk about great ideas, but they’re big ideas. Not that we don’t need to start these discussions, but on the more immediate front, I like to be able to take something practical back to my workplace to say “here’s how they did it, I think we can do it too.”

In this respect, one of my favourites was dchud’s Social Media Feed Manager, especially with the code available on github. I use this example first because it’s something simple enough that if you’re familiar with this sort of thing, it wouldn’t even take a day to set up. Pulling in social media feeds is something many researchers have trouble with and on top of simply solving a problem, this would be a tool that we can use to reach out to more faculty.

While I’m not sure how we might integrate the use of it into my workplace, I got really excited over Lisa’s talk on CWRC to build a connected, linked data environment and repository. Definitely one of the biggest issues of getting metadata the way we want it to be is the amount of work that is usually involved, and frequently involves technical knowledge, but the CWRC tool definitely makes it look easy to do.

New Perspectives

Another set of talks I really appreciated was looking at an existing concept in a vastly different way. A good example would be Hugh’s Keeping Books Open talk. While I have considered the definition of a book to be changing and somewhat fluid, Hugh spoke about a different model in publishing and interaction with readers that made me wonder at the possibilities.

Another good example would be Alistair’s talk on Civil Rights in Big Data and Answers. Who knew there would be connection? I have always thought of big data as just that, a lot of data. I considered big data to be a great way of becoming informed and exploring different connections. I never thought about the possible impact that it has already had on our society.

Doing Both

While roaming services and a deskless reference service are not new ideas, Marc’s Reshaping Service Delivery talk added a layer beyond simply providing roaming services within the library. I (and I’m certain many others) was very impressed on how he took the library’s circ desk out into the community.

Taking It Back

As I said, I think one of the most valuable things about Access is hearing about the new things that other libraries are doing that I can then take back to my workplace. While we have already implemented (or in the process of implementing) some of the things presented (such as a more integrated, one-look mobile site), I have definitely gotten a better idea of how to tackle other issues we haven’t even begun (like collaborative digital collections).

Final Thoughts

Another great Access. While a couple of the presentations were a bit too technical for me, I liked that once again, there were people pulled in from outside of the library and academic area.

I am definitely putting Access down as my must-go conference. Next year is in St John’s though which is rather far especially if I return to the West Coast, so I hope I can make it, but we’ll see.

Now to Get Some Rest

Access 2012 Day 3 Closing Keynote: Brain Injuries, Science Fiction, and Library Discovery

by Bess Sadler

 

We do the things we do, because it feels good. It provides us with a reward. Being intrinsically motivated is the best predictor of happiness and healthy living.

What is missing is how we can make libraries better for users.

Used emotional words to describe physical collections, but efficiency for digital collections. How can we change this?

The emotional design is more important than practical design.

Virtual Shelf List especially useful for multi-branch libraries, including closed collections with digitized materials. Using semi-automated metadata.

What is Still Missing?

Falling short of providing emotional, spatial sensory that physical shelf browsing.

Need to take inspiration from sci-fi. Render library in 3D virtual world e.g. browsing the library as if in Hogwarts

Do this at a human scale. Consider making it more personal and smaller for children.

What’s Next?

This can happen.

See also Affordance theory: a framework for graduate students’ information behavior by Bess Sadler

Emotional Design by Donald Norman

More notes on Access 2012 Live Blog.

Access 2012 Day 3: Session Notes

Out with the Desk: Re-Shaping Service Delivery in Libraries

Marc Pillon

Challenges facing public libraries:

  • perceived as inconvenient/impractical in today’s digital world
  • budgets are shrinking
  • patrons expect a different service

Idea:

  • bring the library to them e.g. Tim Horton’s, Loblaws, Shoppers

Vision for Public Libraries in the 21st Century

  • convenience! = ‘cutting the cord’ to service
  • being able to deliver them anytime, anywhere
  • less traditional bricks-and-mortar
  • more locations for drop off, pick up, access to technology
  • partner with existing retail outlets

Library in a Box

Gave access to ILS with small computer.

Pros

  • access to ILS anywhere
  • small enough to carry anywhere
  • limited only by wireless signal

Cons

  • not easy to transport, bulky/heavy
  • complicated setup requiring IT support

Introducing CanGURU

Using Apple iPhone and Bluetooth barcode scanner. iPad and wifi receiver

  • highly portable, light weight, easy to use
  • made inexpensive by using consumer products that are readily available
  • can be easily replicated by other libraries
  • used externally and internally (getting rid of information desk)
  • highlights important of librarian (return to reader’s advisory, roving to enhance customer service)
  • collaboration with social services, parks and recreation, and other non-profit organizations

Technology

  • 3G or wifi for connectivity
  • VPN (Cisco AnyConnect) for authenticated access to internal network
  • RDP protocol for access to ILS software
  • client device suh as iPad or notebook
  • bluetooth barcode scanner
  • custom iOS software (uses protocol to talk to ILS)

Future Improvements

  • faster wifi
  • streamline connectivity process
  • self-check version for iPad
  • patron version for self-check
  • implement SIP3 options
  • integrate with RFID
  • porting to android and/or Windows 8 tablet

Where should Libraries Locate?

  • big box stores/large retail centres
  • coffee shops
  • train stations/airports
  • hospitals
  • parks
  • university/college campus

One Example: Fraser Valley Regional

Encapsulated technology in a car with public computers, books, check in/out, etc.

Another Example: University of Alberta has an embedded Edmonton Public Library branch.

Shaping the User Experience

Sonya Betz and Robert Zylstra

Problem

A lot of different web interfaces:

  • library website
  • libguides
  • ILL
  • OPAC
  • etc.

Can get 3-4 different interfaces just doing a simple look up and placing a hold on book. Users find it too difficult to find things and so much time is spent trying to train users to use them all, but it’s a losing battle.

Had no mobile interface either.

Solution

Virtual Services Integration Project

  • simplify access to library resources
  • provide access via all devices
  • provide common experience between platforms

First was mobile version (iOS App) and full-scale web (responsive design).

Key Concepts

  • one access point replacing multiple access points
  • mobile and desktop interfaces
  • user aware
  • fast and intuitive access
  • consistent and intuitive experience

Project Motto

Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast

Using Web Servies APIs

Integrating Services (e-Reserve, room booking) and Resources (Physical, electronic, etc.). Also has EDS.

My Account: Authentication to App using LDAP, which send tokens to everything in the App to simulate single sign-on.

Search: uses EDS API, which allows limiters. Can then share through mail, print, copy, dropbox, etc. Holdings details from ILS.

Library info: from website.

Featured Lists: new materials using ILS

At Present

Consolidated 3 separate spaces of library info, search, and account.

Next

  • MusicBrainz
  • citations
  • Alexander Street Press (streaming audio and video)
  • Favourites
  • shared folders
  • library maps
  • barcode scan
  • NFC/RFID

Mobile App is a pilot for the CMS. App infrastructure will serve as basis for CMS. CMS and App will share user preference and content.

Marketing

  • public press release
  • website
  • posters
  • instructional sessions (provided premade screen)
  • etc.

Worked with communications department.

More notes on Access 2012 Live Blog.

Access 2012 Day 2: Ignite Talks

Dead Easy Data Visualization for Libraries

by Sarah Severson

Why use visualization?

Synthesize information to make good decisions.

For example, Seattle Public Library

3 types

  • infographic: decoded information, characterized by small amounts of data
  • data visualization: by-directional encoding with larger data sets, normally done algorithmically
  • data art: characteristic of unidirectional encoding, no labels, no actionable insight, just pretty

Explanatory – Clean, simple

Process:

  • Choose your question – may change, so don’t get hung up on it
  • Consider your source: Designer + audience + data

Tools:

Book to read: Designing Data Visualizations by Iliinsky & Steele

New Means to New Ends

by Mike Kastellec

Talking about the NCSU hackerspace focusing on gaming and virtual space.

Created their own cloud for students and faculty.

Providing technology as a core library service.

This presentation had a lot to do with showing off some new spaces, so it’s hard to put into words, but here’s a visual tour of the Hunt Library.

Sharing the Unshareable – Dental Clinic Images in a University Image Repository

by Janet Rothney

Drawers of slides that can only be used within the university (not public).

Have to include experts, because library staff don’t know what’s going on in the images. Also, needed something university-wide to make the repository live longer.

Fedora, Drupal, Islandora, through discovery garden hosted on Amazon and jura(sp?) space.

MeSH wasn’t specific enough, so chose crossopedia (sp?) which is a specialized controlled vocabulary for dentistry. Had path chart for tagging including all options and what went first.

Currently using shared drive in order to restrict use.

Can track patients by number without identifying patient.

ID is required to access the system.

Hope to later share structure and process with other dental organizations and groups.

More notes on the Access 2012 Live Blog.

Access 2012 Day 2: Keeping Books Open

David Binkley Memorial Lecture by Hugh McGuire

What is a book?

The distinction between “the internet” & “books” is totally arbitrary, and will disappear in 5 years.

The book is defined as a discrete coherent collection. The boundaries of a book are critically important. The creator’s intention is important. The book is intended to be coherent.

Why are books important?

A book is an best effort at providing all you need to know or feel on a particular topic.

Books govern our knowledge. A book is a:

node of knowledge.

That knowledge (and nodes) shapes our world. It’s the fabric of our world.

Books are a Network

The web was built to transform information. There is an expression of value based on links (what something is linked from and linked to). Each book should have a URL on the internet, and live natively on the web.

Wikipedia might be the best example. An article is edited by multiple authors, links to other articles to give context, and citations begin to organize external sources. Brings together knowledge into a container that makes these pieces useful.

If the web is the most efficient way to disseminate information, and books are the nodes of knowledge, why are books not published online?

What is the Business Model?

No pressing business case to publish directly online. The disruption that this will cause when it happen will be huge.

What does information want?

Information wants to be free. – Stewart Brand

Information wants to be used, and it doesn’t trust you to know how to use it correctly.

Why are books kept off to the side, apart from the network? The Business Model.

Example (of Business Model)

Build books as a web object, then make it downloadable, printable, etc.

Engagement around the idea happened through twitter, an article on theguardian which discusses the idea from the chapter, and a lot of referrals happened.

On the side: provided analytics for web version of the book.

A webbook can generate interest in ways that an ebook cannot. The ideas in a webbook spread far more quickly, and far more easily than an ebook. Easier to find, built in analytics, and can have different business models.

You have a direct connection with the reader. Whereas with an ebook, you’re one step away.

Why Books Will Live on the Web

  • not defined by format
  • most important nodes of knowledge
  • web is most efficient technology to share
  • disseminate, find, use, build on in ways cannot be imagined by the original

The Process/Model

Creating an ebook is still hard, but online tools like PressBooks/Vook/Atavist/Booktype make it (almost) trivial and free.

The avalanche of books will be overwhelming once the tools become widely known. Other kinds of book writing activity will gain relevance, meaning more and more writing will be “out there”.

More ebooks means each book is harder to find in promotion, discovery, etc. This ultimately means that those who connect with their readers better will win (which is what the web is great at).

Will ask why there even needs to be a business model, which will bring many books online.

The Book: Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto

More notes on the Access 2012 Live Blog.

Access 2012 Day 2: Morning Notes

Zero to 50K in Three Weeks: Building a Digital Repository from Scratch, Fast

by Brianne Selman

Decided within a day to build a digital repository. While had previously thought about digitizing materials, there had been no repository to put it in. Note: No web programming support in house.

Process:

  • looked into archival standard
  • brainstormed
  • call out and identification of potential content
  • invited public in to scan personal artifacts (e.g. postcards) of local history
  • quick preparation of a budget and project plan (to keep money in the library)
  • met with collector and historian to talk about content and how it would displayed
  • first priority: collaboration on images (to show off knowledge)
  • met with scanning consultant to provide and discuss preliminary metadata
  • met with director and head of IT

At the three week mark, had not spent anything, but had created plan, which convinced

Hurdles:

  • ITS Expenditure Request
  • Software RFP (set evaluation matrix with extra weighting on OAI, etc.)

Purchased software and paid for scanning ahead of time. Ended up with ContentDM and at this point, done some scanning, added controlled vocabularies, test PDFs, contacted Canadiana.

Still to come:

  • workflow for future collections
  • identification of additional materials
  • Local History Nights
  • Collectors’ Scanning Days
  • Digitization days for public
  • Local History Talks

Prototype Demo


Zero to 50k in Three Weeks on Prezi

Open Source OCR for Large Collections of Scanned Documents

by Art Rhyno

Newspaper Death Watch – The state of newspapers.

Removing Barriers to Discovery

Currently, most old newspaper issues on microfilm. This is not accessible!

OCR:

  • Commercial: Abbyy
  • Open Source: Tesseract (can add own symbols)

Even with top of the line commercial software, low accuracy. In open source, need to do some Gaussian pre-processing first.

Line Segment Detector to help separate columns and Olena to help with pre-processing.

Python has good image support, then use MapReduce and Hadoop Streaming to coordinate tasks and machines (but use very odd ports).

Abbyy works well if images vary and no consistent approach to cleaning, have non-flexible windows environment, can do processing on one station, and one-off project that needs to get done in a hurry.

Tesseract Mods on Github

Break Time

Ignite Talks

Are in a separate blog post.

Cooking with Chef at the University of Toronto Libraries: Automated Deployment of Web Applications in a Library Context

by Graham Stewart

Not really about hardware, instead, focus on efficient web operations and services to users:

  • fast
  • reliable
  • highly available
  • useful

Technology used:

  • open source tools
  • Linux, KVM
  • web apps
  • others (didn’t catch them)

Chef:

  • configuration management for infrastructure automation, as code
  • ensures servers running specified programs with specified configurations
  • chef-server stores information about your environment
  • chelf-client gets information from chef-server what it should do, how configured, what other nodes need to know

Chef Components:

  • recipes: perform specific task(s), mostly install
  • attributes: data about chef clients
  • templates: files used to dynamically generate content, frequently for config files (can execute Ruby code)
  • Cookbooks: modules
  • Roles: collection of recipes, other roles, and attributes -can be building blocks of an application
  • Data bags: data about the infrastructure that exists outside nodes e.g. user accounts

One of the best parts of Chef is the community. Very active with conference, wiki, etc. Can use Ruby.

Why Useful?

  • server configs similar
  • never do anything twice
  • “easily” recover infrastructure: separate config from data and applications
  • end of monolithic, critical, fragile server
  • there is more than one way to do it, but best to do it consistently
  • can start another project right away

Problems

  • complicated: steep learning curve
  • potential for big fail
  • a bit bleeding edge: very aggressive release schedule
  • acquisition potential

Interest to the Library Community

  • IT no longer the roadblock
  • leads to greater cooperation

More notes on the Access 2012 Live Blog.

Access 2012 Day 1: Afternoon Notes

Adventures in Linked Data: Building a Connected Research Environment

by Lisa Goddard

Linked data doesn’t just accommodate collaboration, it enforces collaboration. Need a framework that can handle a lot of data and scale.

Text data is really messy, because it doesn’t fit into a single category. Linked data should allow all of this.

Identify Top Level Entities

Main types of identities with mint URIs for entities include:

  • people
  • places
  • events
  • documents
  • annotations
  • books
  • organizations

Abstract away from implementation details to make it manageable in the long term.

Canonical URIs means that one ‘link’ is actually 3 depending on format through content navigation.

Define Relationships

Through RDF, make machine readable definitions.

Linked data is basically an accessibility initiative for machines.

Use ontologies to provide definitions for entities, relationships, and impose rules.

An ontology is for life.

Ontology searches are available, such as Linked Open Vocabularies (LOV), e.g. foaf:Person (Class) – friend of a friend

Tie the entity and class using rdf:type, such as creator. Which then results in a data model.

CWRC Writer

Provides a way to create a document, which provides an interface to tag in XML, where you can select existing authority file, the web (using APIs), or custom. You can then add relations.

Slides

Quick Comment

This looks like a really neat tool to easily add XML tags in a document. Would want to see it integrated into a standard document writer, much like RefWorks does through Write’n’Cite. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing this move forward.

Big Data, Answers, and Civil Rights

Alistair Croll

If you want volume, velocity, and variety, it’s actually very expensive.

Efficiency means lower costs, new uses, but more demand and consumption.

Big data is about abundance. The number of ways we can do things with this data has exploded.

We live in a world of abundant, instant, ubiquitous information. We evolved to seek peer approval. It all comes down to who is less dumb.

We look for confirmation rather than the truth.

The more we get confirmation, the greater the polarization.

Abundant data has change the way we live and think.

The Problem with Big Data

Polarization can lead to increase in prejudices. You don’t know when you’re not contacted. Increasingly moving from culture of convictions to a culture of evidence.

Genius says possibly. Finds pattern, inspires hypotheses, reason demands testing, but open to changes.

Correlation is so good at predicting that it looks like convincing facts, but they’re just guesses.

See also: Big data, big apple, big ethics by Alistair Croll

Break Time

BiblioBox: A Library in Box

by David Fiander

Inspired by PirateBox, which allows people to share media annonymously within a community using a standalone wiki router (not connected to the Internet). People in the same place like to share stuff.

LibraryBox then simplified by taking out chat and upload function.

Dedicated ebook device that allows browsing and searching of the collection.

Components:

  • Unix based file server using a wifi access point and small flash drive.
  • Ebooks using OPDS metadata format.
  • SQLite database
  • API module usually available in language of choice e.g. Python
  • Bottle – framework for web developing in Python
  • Mako Templating – templating in Python

Adding books much more complex than serving books. For example, author authority file. Want to automate taking out metadata from ePub files, but no good module for reading ePub files in Python.

User View

Add catalogue to ebook app. It then looks like a store, where you can browse by title or author.

Available on GitHub.

Question Answering, Serendipity, and the Research Process of Scholars in the Humanities

by Kim Martin

Serendipity occurs when there is a prepared mind that notices a piece that helps them solve a problem. It allows discovery and thinking outside of the box.

Chance is recognized as an important part of the historical research process.

Shelf browser of some sort in the catalogue can be useful, but what we really need in a system is something that allows personalization and in-depth searching. Researchers just do not typically leave their offices and use search engines.

Visualizations, such as tag clouds, could allow more serendipitous browsing.

More notes on the Access 2012 live blog.

Access 2012 Day 1: Notes on Locked in the Cloud

Locked in the Cloud: What lies beyond the peak of inflated expectations

by John Durno & Corey Davis

Right now, the ‘cloud is quite the hype:

Getting Locked into the ‘Cloud’

Using cloud-based system might still be closed and locked down that is vendor-managed and based on a subscription model. Supposedly a ‘one stop’ solution. While many of the features sound positive, can have many drawbacks.

Numerous ways to be locked in

  • data
  • software
  • API
  • institutional insertia/incumbent bias

Innovation can be stifled, because stuck with what the vendor provides. Switching is considered too costly and frequently entrenched in work culture.

One of the selling points is that you will save a lot of money with cloud computing. Many administrators seem convinced that it’s about managing information, not technology, but you cannot manage information without managing technology.

Why is our backroom workflow so tightly tied to a public service point?

The problem is that even if something better comes along, you might not go with it, because it would be too cumbersome to migrate.

Have an Exit Strategy

While we need a standard to switch, this is still being worked on. Need to know the cost of moving away from the current/new system.

APIs

  • limited functionality
  • limited access to data
  • can be changed or deprecated

Still not the solution. Need unmediated access to data

Caveat Emptor

  • high switching costs
  • escalating subscription costs
  • interoperability issues
  • dwindling innovation
  • limited choice

There are in fact alternatives and something to look forward to. The ‘fabled’ innovative system.

See also: Hacking 360 Link: A Hybrid Approach by John Durno on substituting vendor link resolver.

More notes on the Access 2012 live blog.

Access 2012 Day 1: Ignite Talk – Social Feed Manager

To collect social media data (especially Twitter), researchers are doing this manually (possibly by proxy).

 

Some paid options to collect the data:

  • DataSift
  • Gnip
  • Topsy

Friendly, but not cheap, and more than what we need. Still need tools to collect, process, etc.

What researchers ask for:

  • specific users, keywords
  • historic time periods
  • basic values: user, date, text, counts
  • delimited files to import

We can do this free with APIs.

Built Social Feed Manager with features

  • Users by Item Count with temporal graphs
  • Details on user
  • can export to CSV files
  • hashtag queries by 10 minutes
  • search function with 1000

Free on github

  • python/django
  • user timelines, filter, sample, search
  • simple display with export for user timelines

Leaves out:

  • historical tweets
  • tweets beyond last 3200

By @dchud

More notes on the Access 2012 live blog.

Access 2012: Opening Keynote – We Were Otaku: before it was cool

Aaron Cope

Archives (and libraries), where things are frequently obsessively collecting, are just like what happens with otakus.

Curating: the act of choosing, e.g. flickr galleries

The Economics

Time is money. Stand-in that something that takes time has the greatest value, but the counter is no longer true. Can no longer say that something quickly and cheaply made has little value. e.g. maps

Collapsing Distinctions

Distinction between museums and archives (and libraries) are collapsing. Assumption that archives are the basement of museums. What’s happening is a kind of mushing. Blur in whether looking at archives or showcase, especially in digital realm.

Expectations

Efficiency of storage and retrieval at Amazon (robotic system). Allows you to get something delivered the next day. Makes possible a kind of expectation that the web has. If we can make it happen for trivial things, we’re going to want to make it happen for important things.

It’s About the Users

If people can’t get to it or see it, why are we keeping it? Why is it important? It is no doubt difficult to provide access to physical objects, but doesn’t mean we cannot. We can simply talk about our collection and why we have them. It’s about keeping open a narrative space. We are the timekeepers.

Trust. Users. Delivery. -gov.uk

There is no (final) design, there is only reckoning.

It is everyone else that is letting us do this. We are held to a higher standard. We have to trust our users even if it’s not on our terms. No uniform motive. e.g. Add a random button Cannot assume either the same level of expertise. e.g. Making objects, first class objects that are URLs.

The proxies are important to get people in the door, to see the physical objects. The proxies also provide a broader surface for discussion and conceptualization. Not everyone also has the luxury of travel.

It’s about being present on the network, and allowing things to happen.

The unit of measure of what is important has changed. e.g. foursquare as building registry.

It’s Messy

Ultimately, we need to think about how we share things with people, and allowing people to interact with them. Keeping something safe vs. canonizing.

More notes on the Access 2012 live blog.