Thursday, August 23, 2007

outsourcing a public library

This is kind of a disturbing tale from down in Jackson County, Oregon. It appears that county officials are going to outsource the operations of the library to a company in Maryland. Are we going to start seeing this "franchising" phenomenon in academic libraries?

It seems to me that you'd lose some of that local connection to the community by having a library run in a McDonalds style fashion.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Flickr ideas forum

I just posted something in the Flickr ideas forum:

I work in a liberal arts college library that is building an institutional collection of digital images (primarily of art and architecture) to support teaching. Many other colleges and universities are doing the same thing.

The problem is, the digital asset management systems that we're using (MDID, ContentDM) aren't that great. They don't have the elegance and functionality of Flickr's web interface or image management tools. This is really a drawback, especially when we're trying to get faculty to build their own personal image collections online and share them with the institutional collection.

The other drawback of using these digital asset management systems is that they are isolated systems--they must be maintained locally and they don't share data nicely in a Web 2.0 sort of fashion like Flickr.

If Flickr had organization-level capabilities, it could potentially revolutionize digital asset management in this arena. The main things missing now are:

1. an organizational account designed for larger scale use, in which several users could administer images (different than current groups capability)
2. capability to authorize a large body of users without flickr accounts to see certain photos through IP recognition, LDAP authentication, etc. (necessary because some of the images we manage have copyright restrictions)

I realize that opening up the Flickr platform to organizations could alter the flavor of the community. But perhaps it could be done in a way that preserved the spirit of Flickr. Perhaps only organizational collections that fit certain criteria would be elgible for inclusion in the broader body of Flickr work.

Opening up Flickr in this way could enrich it.

Mark Dahl
Lewis & Clark College

Thursday, August 9, 2007

on the Talis Platform

Something about these semantic web databases fascinates me, and Jeremy and I had an enjoyable conversation with Richard Wallis, Technology Evangelist from Talis, about the possibility of using the Talis Platform to mount data from the Summit catalog. Given the time difference with the UK, it was about the time of the day where he was ready for, as he put it, a "warm beer" and we were needing our coffee.

At one point, I asked him what advantages we would get by mounting the data on the platform versus setting up a MySQL database on our own. As I recall he mentioned three major advantages:
  • the platform is zero-setup and "web scale", no overhead of running a database server ourselves or scaling it to handle load; it resides "in the cloud"
  • it is already optimized for handling MARC bibliographic and holdings data and building faceted next gen type catalogs around it
  • its a semantic web type database; the data can be easily "augmented" with other value added data (bookjackets, wikipedia info) in Talis stores or outside the platform
I also learned that the platform can ingest digital objects and automatically extract metadata from them. This makes me wonder if the platform could be used for setting up lightweight digital asset management systems. Can the platform compete with something like Fedora? Many of their capabilities seem quite similar.

Open Library

The Open Library will be something to watch, though what it is seems a little vague and haphazard at the moment. This article rightly mentions the fact that there are all ready some impressive web-based systems out there that aggregate data about books, WorldCat, Amazon Google Books, being among the most prominent. The Open Library promises a more mashable data model, which I find promising.

Friday, August 3, 2007

ITHAKA report

There's some buzz around this report by ITHAKA about the future of scholarly publishing. The just of it is that:
  • universities need to pay more attention to publishing;
  • the value university presses really add comes in the peer review process;
  • university presses should share a digital publishing infrastructure.
Hard to say what this all means for libraries and smaller institutions without presses, but the report that every institution that produces research needs a strategy for scholarly communication.

ITHAKA encourages the continuance of a diversified market for scholarly communication, including commercial and non commercial players. I think the inherent complexity of such market bodes well for libraries, who will need to manage the complexity inherent in such a market.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

waiting for Google's JotSpot

At Watzek Library, we're using a combination of static web pages maintained with the Contribute/Dreamweaver suite, Basecamp project management, and Google Docs to create/maintain our intranet.

I've been wanting to move us off static web pages and on to a wiki for awhile, but
I'm waiting to see what Google does with the JotSpot wiki platform. The beauty of the JotSpot wiki platform is that you could build applications on it such as simple databases, project management systems, etc. Basecamp is nice, but isn't quite up to Google Docs in functionality. Combining that with Google Docs could be pretty powerful.

Haven't heard much news on this front for awhile.