The situation hasn’t really changed in the world of library automation since last year’s post. Libraries find what works for them, given their economic and human resources. What is different, is a new tool, developed with some virtual interns. I call it CornerThing, because I’m not very creative with names.
I’ve got these small libraries (American Corners), where, for some of them, their “automation” consists of massive spreadsheets. And LibraryThing. Checkouts are still done by hand on cards. They compile reports by hand, going through the cards each month, to send to me, or one of my colleagues. It seemed like there must be an app to use LibraryThing to do more than just display a collection. I searched and checked as only a Reference Librarian would. Nothing was out there. So how hard could it be to make an app that could capture checkout statistics (the part I was interested in)?
I originally wanted an iPad app, but rather than spend precious little free time on it myself, I decided to get a couple interns who we willing to learn some new skills while creating a simple app. It was an interesting experience. I didn’t get an iPad app, because no one applied for that project. Several applied for the Android app project I added almost as an afterthought (why not? More options!). So I got an Android app, now in beta, which about 1/3 of those small libraries, which already have Android tablets, can use.
CornerThing: it syncs with a LibraryThing collection, downloading the metadata to the device, into a lightweight searchable database. Subsequent “syncs” only add changes. It’s possible to add an item in the app, but the syncing is not two-way. Then there’s a searchable database for borrowers, entered on the fly, or by uploading a spreadsheet file (via computer connection). Items from the collection can be checked out to borrowers, with a due date, and checked back in. When an item is checked out, the data is captured on the item record and preserved. Once the item is checked back in, the connection between the borrower and item is erased, but the numerical data on checkouts is retained on the item record, so reports can be generated by selected metadata (e.g., author, title, keyword).
CornerThing: a simple circulation app for small libraries (like American Corners) to take advantage of their LibraryThing collections. I’m pretty sure it would work for other small libraries with limited resources. It’s also open source. If you’re interested, send me a message.
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It’s kind of amazing to me that after over fifteen years in this business, I’m looking at a situation that pretty much hasn’t changed for small libraries looking for an automation system. There wasn’t much available for them at a reasonable cost back then, and there is even less today. Go ahead. Show me where I’m wrong.
Seriously, a small library, a small public library, one that is supported, sometimes begrudgingly, by (too often non-existent) local public funds, does not have a lot to spend on annual fees for a library automation system. They have even less to spend on a tech person who could install and maintain one of the FLOSS options. And even if they do, there’s still the recurring cost of a web server to put it online. O.K., maybe they could tie into the local government’s web server, assuming the local government entity has one (probably a “yes” in the U.S., but not in other parts of the world).
I actually did a complete retrospective conversion at a library years ago. It was a special library that had the funds to support a quality system. I was shocked and horrified at the “system” (basically a giant word processing document) that was being used to track titles. There was no mechanism to track costs. I have since come to appreciate the efforts of librarians in small libraries doing the best they can with what they have, and with the skill sets they have, to manage their collections. Hello, World: librarians are amazing, and you should throw money at them, because they do amazing things with your resources.
So, in the history of library systems, the first stop is Marshall Breeding’s excellent record of what was, what is, and who ate up whom. Although this doesn’t cover everything being used out there, it does give an interesting picture of the developing landscape. I was surprised and amazed that the Georgia Public Library Service, back in 2004, chose to build its own automation system (Evergreen) for libraries in the state rather than use one of the existing systems. There was, of course, Koha, out of New Zealand. But that one got mired in nasty disputes over code and trademarks. So far, so good, with Evergreen (keeping fingers crossed)
Next stop is Wikipedia’s list of Next-Generation library systems, especially the Comparison chart, but you might want to scan through the brief explanation of what Next-Generation means here. The list is notable, because it includes both large systems and systems smaller libraries can use. But note that these are all web-based systems. Some of them, however, can function on a stand-alone basis, on the desktop. This is important, because the most basic need of libraries is library management software. Getting it on the web is secondary to librarians (although not to their patrons, of course).
So let’s take a stab at what some of the possibilities are for small (mostly) underfunded libraries today. There are two perspectives to consider here: libraries with staff that are systems-capable, and libraries with limited or no staff capable of managing the backend of a system.
In the first category (libraries with systems-capable staff), we have, first, systems that have a stand-alone option,
and second, systems that are add-ons to content management systems a library may be using, or have access to, for their web site (so far, I’m only seeing Drupal modules, are there any others out there?).
In the second category, it’s pretty bleak without (1) hiring someone, or a service, to set up a system, or (2) a funding stream to pay annual fees. In the first case I refer back to one of the four above that can be installed on a stand-alone basis. After installation, training would probably be required as well, despite the documentation. In the second case, LibraryWorld seems to have a loyal following around the world. I haven’t had an opportunity to look at it recently, so I don’t really have anything to say about it (yet). Feel free to add comments below about your experience with it.
But LibraryWorld is a closed system, and if you are looking for something open source, there are
- PMB Services (uses phpMyBibli)
- OPALS (they say they are open source, but I don’t see a download link – the acid test of open source)
There are, of course, larger open source systems, which may work for a consortium of libraries: one of the Koha versions, and Evergreen come to mind. Both have companies that will install and customize the system.
Finally, there is LibraryThing, which is oddly ignored by everyone except those who want their collections online for their patrons and have no other way to do that. Granted it is limited in terms of collection management: checkouts? reports? But it can work, because it is, actually, a next-generation cataloging system. It’s online, it’s searchable, it’s fairly easy to add resources, the cataloging options are wide open (if that’s how you want to characterize keywords). And even though the amount of resources that can be entered free of charge is limited (with the option for more space requiring a small fee), most small library collections are pretty small. Best of all, it’s accessible by difference devices. All we need is apps that extend the basic functionality offered with a LibraryThing account.
So here I am, looking for viable library management software options for small libraries outside of the U.S., and this is what I’ve come up with. Give my some feedback, library world. Which of the options above are worth taking a longer look at?
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What if you could give a book to everyone on earth? Get an ebook and read it on any device, in any format, forever? Give an ebook to your library, for them to share? Own DRM-free ebooks, legally? Read free ebooks, and know their creators had been fairly paid? –From About, unglue.it
Copyright is a round hole. Paper publications are nice, round pegs. Electronic items are square pegs. Hard copies can be passed around, shared from person to person across time and space. A copyright holder’s distribution rights are curtailed by the physical transfer of the copyrighted item (by purchase or gift) to another.
Electronic items can be similarly shared. Maybe. Because they are square pegs, a new way to control distribution was needed, so a square hole called “licensing” was carved into the copyright landscape. This pretty much upsets the shaky balance between the public right to knowledge and a creator’s right to profit from the work.
Enter the crowdfunding concept, which takes advantage of the ubiquitousness of the Interwebs and the ability to use that to more easily raise money for relatively small scale projects. Kickstarter is a fairly well known example of a crowdfunding conduit. And now comes Eric Hellman, using the crowdfunding idea to harmonize the ideals of copyright and licensing, to make that square peg fit in the round hole.
Welcome to unglue.it. I love it. Where else can you find the possibility of getting your favorite book released into the electronic domain? I’m hoping when this catches on, I’ll see In the Night Kitchen moved into an active campaign by the time my new grandson is ready to read!
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The Code4Lib Journal exists to foster community and share information among those interested in the intersection of libraries, technology, and the future. –Mission Statement, Code4Lib Journal
A colleague on the Code4Lib Journal’s editorial committee has posted a defense of the Journal’s position on peer review, or more specifically, double blind refereeing. I was tempted, several months ago, to address the topic in the opening editorial for Issue 16, but was too preoccupied with food. I don’t always see things the way Jonathan does, although I’ve learned over the years he gets it right a lot more times than I do. In this case, we both agree that the Journal is, in fact, peer reviewed, but not double blind refereed, and we both agree this is a good thing.
Jonathan has, from my perspective, a rather entertaining analogy of the process as open source software development. He also makes the argument that the Journal’s purpose is to provide value to our audience, and, just to make sure the elephant in the room is not ignored, stresses in very blunt terms that the Journal is not here to validate librarians’ or library technologists’ work for purposes of tenure or advancement. I’m not going to disagree, but I am going to address the elephant differently.
I understand how “peer review” has been a good thing. It has provided outside confirmation of the relevancy and quality of scholars’ work. This was not the reason we started the Code4Lib Journal, however. We were looking for a way to encourage and facilitate the (relatively) rapid dissemination of helpful information to our audience (which we did not see as being limited to people self-identified as members of the Code4Lib community).
Because of this goal, we do things a little differently at the Code4Lib Journal. We don’t require entire drafts be submitted, but we do have a rather tight timeline to publication, so it is obviously a plus when we get a draft up front, or when the author is already working on a draft and can get it to us quickly if the proposal is accepted. All of us on the editorial committee are library technologists of some kind, although not all the same kind. We all consider each submission, sometimes engaging in lively and lengthy discussions about a proposal. In that regard, I would argue that the Journal is not just peer reviewed, it is uber-peer reviewed, because it is not one or two “peers” who are making the call on whether to accept a proposed article, it is typically 7-12 peers who are making the call.
Again, because of the goal to encourage and facilitate rapid dissemination of information, we are committed to working with authors to get their articles ready for publication. This typically takes the form of (electronically) marking up a draft with specific comments and suggestions that we, as peers, think would make the article more useful to our audience. The process sometimes goes through several iterations. It doesn’t always work. We have had some fall off the table, so to speak. But the consistently high quality issues we have published are a testament to the validity of the process. Double-blind refereeing here would be an inherently inferior process for achieving our mission and goal.
But back to the elephant in the room. Why, today, given the current state of disruptive technology in the publishing industry, are we even talking about refereed journals? I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding that process. Why are libraries still hyper-focused on double blind refereeing and peer review as validating mechanisms in tenure? Isn’t it time to rethink that? After all, libraries have already registered their disgust at being held hostage by journal publishers: Universities require their scholars publish, and their libraries have to pay whatever the publisher demands for a license to see that scholarship.
Double-blind refereeing is time consuming. So is what we do at the Code4Lib Journal. But I would posit that our way is more effective in identifying relevant information and ensuring its quality. How much ROI is there, really, in sticking with the old vetting process for validating tenure candidates? May I suggest letting that other shoe drop and cut to the core of
- Why is tenure needed in your institution?
- How effective is the current tenuring system in supporting your institution’s mission and goals?
- What value does scholarly publishing bring to your institution?
- What are you willing to do to ensure continued scholarly publication?
The Code4Lib Journal was started 5 years ago by a message from Jonathan Rochkind to the Code4Lib mailing list asking, basically, “who’s in?” Change can be done. It just takes someone willing to voice the call. If publishing is important to tenure, send out a call to your colleagues to start a Code4Lib type journal. If it looks too scary, ask. I’m willing to help. I’m sure there are others out there as well.
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With a little help from the DrupalEasy folks in Orlando, the Miami and Fort Lauderdale groups are finally putting on a Drupal Camp! (Thanks Mike Anello, for giving it the final push!)
Nova Southeaster University in Davie is hosting the event on Saturday, October 22. Admission is a only $10 — if you are anywhere in South Florida, come! There are corporate sponsors, but consider chipping in $40 to be an individual sponsor. Details are at the Drupalcamp website.
For the Drupal wary: there is a Beginner’s track, using Drupal 7, the easiest Drupal ever!
For experienced Drupalers, there will be plenty to chew on, such as drush awesomeness!
If you are somewhere in between, trust me, you won’t be bored.
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