Thursday, March 1, 2007

why code4lib?

Despite the fact I'm kind of burnt out on writing code, I find code4lib to be one of the most invigorating conferences I've attended in the last few years. Why? I think it's because it's where the new opportunities in the broader web world meet the digital library world.

Some interesting ideas that have come up this year:
  • the SOLR platform for indexing and faceting a library catalog or a digital library of anything really, XML based
  • The Talis platform's concept of data "stores": large bodies of xml data that can be queried and related to data in other stores in an unlimited number of ways using "web scale" infrastructure
  • the idea of hooking up openurl resolver type services as a microformat
  • using as a content management system for library subject guides
  • a subject recommendation engine based on crawling intellectual data associated with university departments
  • using a protocol like zeroconf so that library patrons can auto-discover library services upon entering the physical library space
It seems like most of the big players here work in larger universities or organizations that have large local data sets to work with in the form of institutional repositories or digital collections. There's a lot of concern about building large, searchable digital libraries . This is fine if you have control over a large body of data. I can tell you that in the small college library environment, most of the data we work with is generic data about books and journal articles that is living in some database that is out of our control. We're often only able to add value to that data once it's arrived in a user's search results, through an OpenURL resolver or perhaps a tweak to our catalog.

This is not to say that the what the big players are doing isn't useful or interesting to us. It's just different and makes me wish we had more opportunities to creatively manipulate the digital content to which we provide our patrons access.

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