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Code4Lib Midwest Lightning Talk, July 2016


Many thanks to the folks at the University of Chicago for hosting C4L Midwest last week. After hearing some of the presentations and discussions on data plans and availability, I put together a short lightning talk about the data we have at the Code4Lib Journal, or at least what can be cobbled together (literally). Surprise statistic (for me): the percent published and percent rejected, over the history of the journal, are equal.

As Eric Lease Morgan pointed out, most of the data we can’t share from the Journal are confidential. But one of the problems with gathering even shareable data is that it’s messy. As I mentioned in the lightning talk, the two main reasons for this are (1) it’s just not a priority for a volunteer committee, and (2) very few people even ask about the data. Even gathering statistics like “rejected” is difficult, because not all proposals and rejections are tied to a specific issue, and some that are accepted are later rejected for publication. But globally, we can get some generalized statistics.

Ongoing project from this: try to gather editor numbers over time (even trickier since it involves identifying when people came and went, and there’s nothing available, other than emails, to nail that down).

Automation and Small Libraries, and CornerThing

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.