Thank you for your get well wishes! I am slowly recovering and hope to be back to posting soon.
Over on the WEB4LIB mailing list, there's been a fascinating discussion evolving about marketing, ubiquity, and library web services. It kind of starts here in a comment about Gmail but you'll need to use the date index to follow where it goes.
You already know where I fall in the debate (I'm closely aligned with Karen Schneider's and Alane Wilson's responses), so I'll just encourage you to read through the whole thing (watch the subject lines - they morph into new ones) because it's one of the better discussions I've seen on the topic lately with lots of good points. Finally, we're seeing a more aggressive conversation!
One thread I do want to highlight (well, I hope it becomes a thread), is Stephen De Gabrielle's attempt to suggest a course of action. There were other suggestions, but this is a new one that could help long-term if we can get the vendors to agree to it.
"Why don't we have a common API for all ILS? - and demand these of our ILS vendors.(Libraries have always led the way in standards.)
Maybe then we could focus all of our various programming efforts on the greater good instead of just our own local catalogs.
I've been so short on time lately that I've been trying to avoid using what little blogging time I do have to simply repost what other library bloggers are already putting up. This one, however, was just too good to pass up.
"Brian didn’t give me permission to publish a portion of his email, but I’m so excited about it I’m going to throw caution into the wind. He wrote [emphasis mine]:'Rule number 1: Don’t send out IM reference fliers to every middle school and jr. high classroom on the same day!
Someone recently observed that there are a lot of Eeyores in the library community, but I think we can officially declare IM reference a Martha-Stewart-good-thing for (at least) public libraries and move it to Pooh status.
Cost of purchasing the AIM software: $0.
It’s a day past Valentine’s Day, but I heart Talis!
Where to begin??
How about too damn cool!
How about a new term – PRSS? (I don’t think I’ve heard this anywhere else yet.) How about a vendor that didn’t stop to ask everybody why or take a poll? Instead, they looked around, recognized the value on their own, and just did it rather than talking about it (or worse yet, not talking about it).
All wonderful and well, but the part that really has me drooling is the “feed items provide a link to take the user, without an interviening login challenge, in to their Library interface at the apropriate page to take the required action such as renew the book on loan” feature. How perfect and useful and efficient and progressive and innovative is that?!
More after I read the white paper (I’ve been able to subscribe to the demo feed successfully and I’m most curious to learn how they prevent you from subscribing to someone else’s feed), but major, major congratulations to Talis for picking up the ball, running with it, crossing the goal line, spiking it, and kicking the extra point! Well done!
I couldn’t have planned this better if I’d tried, but this theme leapt out in 3D from my aggregator yesterday. Together, they don’t even need any commentary, although the easy one would be to just restate yesterday’s tagline that you can go on thinking these trends won’t affect libraries, but you’d be burying your head in the sand.
In the order they were posted:
Sendo X2 Packs a Punch with Music and Light Weight
MP3 Players Storm the World
Motorola E1060: The iTunes Phones“So here it is, the mythical iTunes phone. The Motorola E1060 will be the first Motorola handset to run the mobile Java version of iTunes that will become the default media player for future Motorola handsets.” [Gizmodo]
Sony Ericsson Introducing Walkman Cellphones
Thanks to Cellphones, TV Screens Get Smaller
More Cell Phone Functionality
Help me out here what’s a three-letter abbreviation for something that could help Beth display her list of checked out books?
I’m blanking out .
I just can’t think of it .
Waaaaiiiitttt a minute – could it be RSS?!
Don’t even get me started on “the librarian didn’t seem terribly enthusiastic about these ideas” part, though. The privacy issue is exactly why ILS vendors should be providing the feeds.
Only Art Rhyno could compare library catalogs to Muddy Waters and make it work. I can’t even begin to paraphrase, but here’s my favorite quote:
Click over and read the whole thing for yourself. Unfortunately, we’re left with the inevitable question of how to actually make this kind of thing happen, but at least Art is jumpstarting the conversation.
Last fall I encouraged libraries to treat local bloggers (local to their audience, be they students, residents, or employees) as they do other PR outlets. I’d been thinking about this for a while, but when I first said it out loud at the Internet Librarian conference and noted that everyone had local bloggers these days, there were skeptics.
Who else is getting in on the blogosphere? How about Os-blog, “the babbling of a 26 year old member of the DeKalb County (IL) Board?” The Utah House Republicans [via Phil Windley’s Technometria]? Even Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman at General Motors.
So who are your local bloggers, and how can you best get your library’s PR in front of them?
I don't actually use very many web sites right now that implement tagging (in fact, del.icio.us might be the only one), but I've decided that a lot of other sites should be employing folksonomies.
For example, I'm working on my presentation for Thursday's Tech Summit about social bookmark services (with a long tangent into folksonomies and then tagging and libraries), and I really wish Microsoft's Clip Art Gallery would let users tag the images because Microsoft does a pretty lousy job of it on its own.
You can tell yourself that these trends won’t affect libraries, but you’d just be burying your head in the sand.
In the future, I think we’ll look back at this as the time when RSS grew up. First we get announcements that newspapers are starting to “get it” and are offering aggregators to their readers.
Then Dave Winer opens pandora’s box and points out how the current setup for online newspapers are backwards – who really wants to sift through the whole paper online for the few items they really want to read? – and how aggregators will become the online front-end to media sites. I can’t believe it’s taken them this long to realize this.
Then, NewsGator releases their product roadmap (on a blog, no less), a visionary leap forward for enterprise RSS. If you’re a librarian at a corporate library of any size, you’ve just been put on notice that you absolutely will have to provide an RSS feed of your library’s information if you want to remain in your organization’s information flow.
And of course, when all of this hits the corporation, your neighbors, and your grandmother, it won’t be called RSS. It will just be called efficient.
And hopefully, your patrons will be able to subscribe to your library’s RSS feed and we’ll start teaching a whole new level of information literacy.
Hold the phones and stop the presses: Eric Zorn finally has an honest to god “official” blog, and it’s powered by Movable Type so you know what that means. Yep – an RSS feed! I do believe this is the first RSS feed from The Chicago Tribune, so maybe - just maybe – they’re hopping on the cluetrain! Please, oh please, oh please . [via Chicagoist]
Walt’s a bit defensive about my response to his most recent mention of RSS (on page 6) in Cites & Insights, but unfortunately he’s not really offering up a defense. I’m not really sure what to address from his various responses (here, here, and here), except to say that I still don’t see any proof of anyone advocating RSS instead of email from before he wrote his commentary. So unless he’s got a crystal ball and he was predicting the future – which, like the eight ball in billiards you have to call ahead of time and he didn’t – then he made a sweeping generalization without any supporting evidence. Maybe one of my major complaints here is that I can’t count the number of times he has chastised others (including me) for doing just that.
At the time, it was difficult to argue with that statement since he was the only one that had ever made it. Sure, Michael Sauers and Karen Schneider have taken steps in that direction today and in response to comments by others (including Walt), but that gives you an idea of why some of us think there’s an implied bias against RSS in Walt’s writing. Maybe we wouldn’t have reacted so negatively if Walt had rephrased it as, “Your library shouldn’t drop its new title lists or tell your patrons, ‘We don’t send that email any more. All you have to do is add our new title RSS feed to your aggregator.’ Otherwise, you’ll get a pretty negative reaction.” Instead, he attributed the idea to the ether, where it previously did not exist.
On his blog, Walt takes a different tack by providing a word count of responses to his commentary, an odd thing for someone that writes monthly, 20+ page PDFs. I must have missed the meeting where we set a limit on the number of words that make a commentary eligible for review, but in all fairness, I think Walt missed it, too, because his C&I commentary is 11 words longer than Aaron Schmidt’s original post that was the basis for his comments in the first place (and that’s with Aaron’s afterthoughts)! Let’s add to the word count anyway .
So, which is it, Walt? Were you raising doubts or were you not raising any objections? I’m confused. What exactly was the point of your commentary on Aaron’s post? To knock vendors for providing RSS? To encourage them to provide RSS? To encourage libraries to teach RSS? To throw out a guesstimate of users in your neighborhood? To make oblique references to folks you won’t name (“excitable” bloggers, a “top library promoter of RSS”)? What exactly were you raising doubts about? Why exactly was Aaron “asking for trouble,” especially if you agreed with him about leading the community in this area?
Side note: why is it called “commentary” when Walt comments on Aaron’s post (which cited one of my posts), but it’s called “piling on” when others comment on Walt’s writing?
Actually, let’s make the side note a main point here, because it’s really the reason I’m continuing the conversation. While I find this whole debate interesting and I’m thrilled to be able to point to Walt saying on my site, “I use RSS,” what really struck me today was the format of Walt’s responses. In the past, he’s left comments on my posts, and I love him for that. Community is a very cool thing that I never anticipated when I started my blog, and I value every comment I’ve ever gotten and ever will get, especially thoughtful ones like those Walt tends to leave.
Usually, though, when he has more than just a few sentences to say, he saves his commentary for the next issue of C&I. But he didn’t do that this time. Instead, he left a couple of comments and then felt the need to blog his major response. What he wanted to say was so important that it couldn’t wait a month for his normal publication cycle (probably because he felt attacked, which he kind of was, but in the friendly way that Walt and I agree to disagree with each other, although these days I’m not really sure what we disagree about anymore). Other than pointers to announcements of new C&I issues, I think Walt gets a lot more of an online community and conversation from his blog and the comments he leaves on other bloggers’ sites. I think it’s a very different audience for him, one that expects a conversation and is frustrated by the lack of interactivty a PDF provides. I’m not knocking the format or C&I, I’m just noting how different a monthly PDF feels from blogging.
I know Walt isn’t against blogging; instead, I want to use this example to illustrate the essential elements blogs can bring to libraries: conversation, dissemination, and community. We’re having a conversation that others are joining in on, we’re both disseminating our thoughts easily and efficiently, and we both have communities built up around our writing. Obviously Walt felt the need to make use of that interactivity and immediacy for this one.
Your library’s monthly newsletter – it has the same problems as C&I in this case. Yes, it may have its place and I’m not saying you should get rid of it, but blogging gives you something very different. Whether you’re SFPL fending off Nicholson Baker, OCLC facing a backlash because you’re suing The Library Hotel, or a small library with a “what’s new” page, blogging can give you all three of those things in spades. Ask yourself if your library has even one of those three things now, especially online. And you can’t discount the automatic RSS feed you’ll get along with your blog:
So to sum up, blogs - good for libraries and librarians! RSS - good for libraries and librarians! Conversation – good for libraries and librarians! And the best part is that I think Walt pretty much agrees with this last paragraph.
Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for newspapers to start figuring this out. Andy Rhinehart and I have been talking about newspapers and aggregators for three years, and we’re just now seeing some signs of life in this area. What does surprise me is that the Newspoint app is a download, rather than a web-based site.
But of course, the really big RSS news of the day is that Ask Jeeves bought Bloglines. What does this mean for everyone’s favorite, free, web-based aggregator, and more importantly, for its users? Hopefully just some text ads, which were coming anyway, since that’s what I use when I teach RSS at MLS. It will be interesting to see what happens with this during the next few months, but we’re definitely seeing more signs that this will indeed be a big year for RSS. Hopefully, libraries will be part of it.
On page six of the February issue (PDF) of Cites & Insights (“Rss hub-bub”), Walt Crawford pooh-poohs the idea of ILS vendors providing native RSS feeds out of the catalog. It’s a difficult assertion to challenge because nowhere in his comments does Walt use the word “because,” thereby directly stating his objection(s). There are implications, though, so let’s examine them since they are all we have to go on.
First of all, Walt seems to think that someone has advocated libraries replace their email alerts with RSS alerts. That’s a statement Walt can’t back up, although I’m sure he’ll note it if he has proof of *anyone* ever in the history of the world using the word “replace” or a synonym. If he backs off from that statement, I’ll be curious to know why his first assumption was that the two can’t live happily ever after together, side by side, especially since RSS would be the driving force behind the new titles lists he claims will vanish into the olden days of yesteryear.
In reality, the only time I’ve ever received an email from my catalog is when I had a book that was really, really, really, really, really overdue and I think they were about to send Guido after me. That they’ll email me about. But the convenience notice when it’s a couple of days overdue (or even a couple of weeks or months)? Fuggedaboutit. So SWAN libraries, consider this me begging for email alerts! Oh, and I guarantee you that none of my libraries went to Innovative (or before that GEAC) asking for email alerts. It’s just something that made a lot of sense, the vendor understood what was happening in the outside world, and the code was relatively easy to implement. Just like RSS.
Next, Walt seems to advocate that libraries shouldn’t offer a service for what he asserts is 1% or less of your population. I’m not challenging the mathematical figure, but I can think of lots of services that libraries provide for users that comprise less than 1% of our patrons. Let’s use my home library as an example. They serve a population of about 30,000 people right now. One percent of the current population would be 300 people, and 1% of actual users would probably be closer to 150. So what services do they offer that only 149 or fewer people use? Here’s a list just to name a few:
I don’t think Walt would quibble that these are all valuable, even essential, services, but then he’d probably be basing those decisions on factors other than how many people are using the service. Nowhere in his comments does Walt use any other criterion for RSS, so why the double standard?
In addition, far less than 1% of 1% of a library’s RSS users actually go to the trouble of programming for themselves services the library’s catalog doesn’t offer. However, I can name three off the top of my head (from across North America), the most obvious example being Peter Rukavina who rolled his own RSS but is [rightly] too busy to help the rest of us who would like to provide that service but aren’t programmers. If his home library wanted to, they could download his script and start displaying the list of their new DVDs on their own web site, but they can’t get it natively from their own ILS. What’s wrong with that picture?
Of course, you could also flip this example and argue that you really should be providing a service that your users want badly enough that they resort to hacking your catalog and then noting it on their very public blog. There are at least three examples of users who are running scripts against catalogs, and there are a lot more who have signed up with Library ELF, probably without their librarys’ knowledge. Disclaimer: I love ELF, and I use it myself. I’m willing to give my personal data to a guy in Canada in order to get the email and RSS alerts my catalog refuses to give me. I can’t imagine that Walt thinks that a non-programmer like myself should be forced to do that just to get an RSS feed of what I have checked out, but he also doesn’t seem to care about RSS in the context of patron data. I assure you there is no one at MLS or at a SWAN library that can code this themselves to offer it to patrons, which means we’d be forced to have someone else do this. Why shouldn’t that be the vendor?
But just because Walt doesn’t do it, doesn’t mean I won’t look at other criteria to discuss reasons to implement RSS. In a previous post, I noted that in my library system alone, we could conceivably save 924 hours of actual librarian work each year if our vendor, Innovative, provided native RSS feeds out of the catalog. Let’s take it a step further and come up with the number of potential saved work hours for just half of the 3,700 libraries in Illinois. Let’s say that only half of them might actually take advantage of RSS feeds to change how they display new titles on their web sites. If this saved just one hour per month for 1,850 libraries, native RSS feeds would save Illinois librarians 22,200 hours in just one year.
So even if there was never a single patron that subscribed to a single feed, it would save Illinois librarians 22,200 hours, and let me tell you something: other than funding, the biggest thing we could really use more of is time (which can also be translated into more staffing, but on a personal level, I feel very constrained time-wise). So now we’ve freed up 22,200 hours of librarians’ days, thanks to relatively easy programming on the part of the major vendors. How awesome is that?! And if my vendor can’t understand that kind of savings, then I have to question them as my vendor. Sometimes you really can make a big difference with just “a flip of the switch.”
Other ways I think native RSS feeds would be used, furthering the benefit to libraries:
And yet, Walt doesn’t think it’s exciting that ILS vendors are starting to offer this type of support to libraries. In fact, Walt doesn’t seem to think that ILS vendors should be providing RSS feeds here and now at all. I don’t see any of my member libraries clammoring for Z39.50 compliance with the Bath Profile, but that doesn’t mean Innovative shouldn’t be compliant or working on it (number of patrons who are requesting this or even know about Z39.50: zero). I don’t hear about any of my member libraries doing anything with Dublin Core metadata, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be (number of patrons who are requesting this or even know about DC: zero). Should vendors offer only those services that are formally requested by 50% of library users (the implication Walt makes by noting that even in his high-tech community, less than half the residents probably know about RSS)? What’s the magic number at which Walt would consent to let ILS vendors start working on providing RSS feeds? 40%? 25%? 10%? Hopefully he will leave a comment so the vendors will know when to start.
I don’t know if he was just lobbing a softball over the plate in order to help prove the point that native RSS feeds would be valuable right now or if he truly believes the position he declines to actually support, but either way, this one clearly demonstrates Walt’s bias against RSS. That’s okay, because everyone has their biases. This time, though, Walt’s just asking for trouble.
I’m having a great time at the Ontario Library Association SuperConference in Toronto, despite the fact that I might be getting a cold. And let me tell you, they’re not exaggerating when they call it a “superconference.” I can’t believe anyone came to either of my presentations today given some of the other sessions I was up against. You’d have to clone yourself several times over to go to all of the good stuff!
Highlights today include:
The money pic:
It works, but I couldn’t really do any testing because that component isn’t finished yet. It was still thrilling to see it at all!
Darlene told me about a great analogy she used in her RSS session today; hopefully it will find its way online so I can point to it.
Also, I’ve decided that Stephen Abram is the library world’s Jeff Jarvis. He “gets” everything - the whole enchilada – and he’s incredibly good at articulating it! When Stephen talks, you’d better listen!
Spreading the meme:
Why You Should Fall to Your Knees and Worship a Librarian
Chicago Sun-Times article
What Is a Shifted Librarian?
A Shifted Reading List
Presentations and Articles
Ye Olde Shifted Librarian Moblog!
What's on My Treo 600
Library Services on the Treo 600
Life in the Treo Lane
On Being the Digital Job
Radio 101 Docs
My Past Life
Librarians' Site du Jour (the original library blog!)
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