The Shifted Librarian -

« January 2005 | Main | March 2005 »

* Friday, February 25, 2005

Thank You

Thank you for your get well wishes! I am slowly recovering and hope to be back to posting soon.

10:55 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!
* Sunday, February 20, 2005


Upper Respiratory Infection
Possible Strep
Mild Gastroenteritis

11:49 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!
* Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Shifted Libraries on WEB4LIB

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.)

I assume this list is as good a place as any to start the process.

What do list members think would be appropriate services for such and API?"

Maybe then we could focus all of our various programming efforts on the greater good instead of just our own local catalogs.

9:19 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [1]  |   Google It!

New IM Record in Libraries

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.

when was the last time you had this kind of response to a new library service?

"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!

Had to have been at least 100 IMs in the first 2 hours after the kiddies got home. For a while, I had about 20 IM windows up at once.' "

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.
Cost of staff time to "man" the AIM service during those two hours: already paid for.
Satisfaction of having 100 kids respond positively and view the library in a new light: PRICELESS.

8:54 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [1]  |   Google It!
* Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Talis Actually Showing RSS from the Catalog!

It’s a day past Valentine’s Day, but I heart Talis!

Ground breaking Library Personalised RSS

Talis, in partnership with Northumbria University Library, have launched a trial of personalised RSS (PRSS) feeds for Library users. This trial is part of the Talis Research Project Bluebird. Members of the trial and other interested parties, interact on the Talis Bluebird Forum.

Subscribers to their personal feed receive alerts from their Library account such as 'Item due for return in 3 days', or 'The item you reserved is now awaiting collection at the Library', or 'Your overdue item has already attracted in excess of £2.00 in charges'. 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.

To illustrate the issues surrounding the requirement for alerting Library Users, to describe the technology used, and to give an overview of the trial I have published a white paper Personalised RSS for Library - User Interaction.

We have set-up a Demonstration PRSS Feed to show how the loaning activity of a fictitious user [Mr Draco Malfoy] would be represented in his Personalised RSS feed. Over the next couple of months Mr Malfoy will reserve, loan, and return (often late) items from the Demonstration Library to provide pseudo realistic RSS traffic.

So what is ground breaking then?

Firstly, Talis are the first LMS/ILS supplier to demonstrate live Library Borrower/Patron account data alerts using RSS.

Secondly, although there are many thousands of RSS feeds around there are very few that are personalised to a specific user on a specific system.…

PRSS opens up the third generation of RSS applications. (Podcasting ushered in the second generation. So many generations and not yet a teenager! )…

The image of Libraries just being places with lots of books where there is not much innovation is definitely old hat!” [panlibus]

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).

How about the notice of fines? How about the fact that the library’s privacy policy is still applicable to the RSS feed? That’s a hee-uge point to note.

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!

10:45 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [2]  |   Google It!

Amazingly Shifted Round-up from My Aggregator

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
“The new X2 Music Phone features stereo sound, MP3/AAC/AAC+ format support, plus Bluetooth and USB to move your music.  It will also feature a 1.3 megapixel camera with support for 1GB miniSD memory for storing your music, photos, and video.  Finally all of this content will be brought to you by a rather large 2.2 inch 65k display.  Oh, and did we mention this whole package clocks in at a mere 95 grams?” [Engadget]

MP3 Players Storm the World
“I hardly ever do ‘here's the news’ entries, but the Pew Report released today stands almost without comment for anyone following podcasting and related technologies. ‘We just got the results of the survey we took between January 13 and February 9 and for the first time asked a question to find out how many American adults have iPods or MP3 players. The answer is 11% -- or more than 22 million of those who are age 18 and older. It’s safe to say that there are several million more MP3 players owned in the teen world, but we did not survey teens in this poll.’ ” [Free Range Librarian]

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
“Remember how the other day Sony Ericsson said that 2005 is all about listening to music on cellphones? Yeah, well they’re cashing in on the Sony part of their parentage with a new line of Walkman-branded music playing cellphones. They don’t have any prototypes or pics or anything to show off, but they did announce today at the big 3GSM World Congress (which is why there is so much damn cellphone news) that they’re going to introduce the line in March. They say the phones will have large amounts of memory, good headphones, the ability to easily transfer songs over from a PC, and will work with Sony’s Connect online music store.” [Engadget

Thanks to Cellphones, TV Screens Get Smaller
“Three original television series, including a spinoff of ‘24,’ are making their debut on Verizon's new high-speed cellular phone network.” [New York Times]

Portable Future
“We seem to be on the verge of a big breakthrough in portable entertainment similar to the emergence of so many MP3 players back in 1999-2000. This time, the breakthrough isn't yet another device to lug around weighing down pockets already overloaded with cell phones, digital cameras, iPods and other cancer-inducing battery-powered leg warmers. Instead, we are extended support for existing formats in the same old devices we've grown accustomed to fill our pants…. The convergence that succeeds will combine audio and video player with what we currently recognize as a cell phone into one unified portable entertainment hub, finally providing some justification for that $25-per-month unlimited Internet access charge…. When Nokia announces improved support for Real media formats, Windows Media and Flash in the same week, it's time to take notice.” [Jake Ludington’s Digital Lifestyle]

More Cell Phone Functionality
“Cell phones do alot already. Companies are looking at adding even more functionality:

  • Internet radio
  • Music
  • Document scanning
  • Three-dimensional sound….

You can read more about these ideas at” [Library Technology in Texas]

7:57 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [1]  |   Google It!
* Monday, February 14, 2005

A Rude Awakening

Library Daydreams

“…what I've been daydreaming about is the ability to export a list of books I've checked out so that it could be put on my university website and automatically be updated--sort of like Bloglines maintains my blogroll.  A ‘currently reading’ list on my university website would help communicate my current research interests.  I guess I can do this via (still need to check out that site, recommended by Mel earlier), but it would be neat to do it through my own library….

Also, (and this might actually be possible soon, if it isn't already possible) I would LOVE to be able to provide deep links to the library catalog, allowing those who see my "currently reading" list to learn more about each book.  I can do something similar through Amazon, of course, but I'd rather not advertise a for-profit business on my university website.  Plus, the deep links would be handy for course websites, too (e.g., for listing what I've put on reserve for a class).  (Yes, students can get that from the catalog, but it would be handier to deep link.) 

The librarian didn't seem terribly enthusiastic about these ideas.  Apparently, she doesn't blog, heh heh.  Seriously, her lack of enthusiasm stemmed from her abiding concern for patron privacy.

It's so sad that a library has to be more worried about protecting information than sharing information.  I am grateful that my library is attending to the issue, I just think it's sad….” [iBeth, via It’s All Good]

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.

11:28 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!

Blues Had a Baby and They Named It the OPAC

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:

“What if the current crop of ILS interfaces are the psychedelic experimentations that will lead to the best combinations of content and delivery? Whatever the case, this seems like an opportune time to explore the possibilities of using the web as a powerful linking engine for systems in addition to content.” [LibraryCog]

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.

11:06 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!

Blogging, PR, and Libraries

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.

You know how they always evaluate a movie’s potential by asking “how will it play in Peoria?” Well, check out Peoria Pundit and IlliniPundit.

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?

10:33 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Google It!

Tagging Everything

I don't actually use very many web sites right now that implement tagging (in fact, 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.

3:11 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!
* Sunday, February 13, 2005

Your Future Taxpayers

90% of US College Students Own a Cell Phone and Other Mobile Stats

In 2000, just over 33% of US college students had cell phones on campus, according to a national survey by Student Monitor. In the fall of 2004, nearly 90% did. [via ItFacts]

On this same page from ItFacts is a mile long list of ‘Mobile usage statistics’ from around the world. Here are just a few:

-- 171.2 million Americans have cell phones
-- 300 million cell phone subscribers in China by the end of 2004
-- 36% of personal calls are made from cellphones…
-- 75.5 Americans to use SMS by 2007…
-- Americans send 2.5 bln text messages a month“ []

You can tell yourself that these trends won’t affect libraries, but you’d just be burying your head in the sand.

10:09 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [2]  |   Google It!
* Thursday, February 10, 2005

I Knew RSS When It Was Just *this* Tall

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.

“Imagine putting your best news, with links to pages with your ads on it, in the right column of a River of News style aggregator with all your competitors' news on it (and weblogs of course, thank you). Now the readers no longer need to go to your competitors' home pages, you've just given them an incentive to come to you to get news from them.” [Scripting News]

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.

“Dino could be characterized as ‘NewsGator Enterprise Server’, for lack of a better name. Imagine NewsGator Online, picked up and installed on a server behind a corporate firewall. Imagine it also (optionally) connecting with Active Directory and Exchange server. No longer would a system administrator need to go install NewsGator Outlook edition on 3000 desktops; rather, with Dino, they could install a single server, make some configuration choices, and employees will just get ‘more stuff’ somewhere in their Exchange mailbox without having to install anything on their own machines. Outlook; Outlook Web Access; Blackberry; Exchange ActiveSync; all of this is enabled by the Dino/Exchange integration.

Not using Exchange? Not a problem. Dino will have a version of NewsGator Online's web-based aggregator (also also mobile edition, email edition, and media center edition). Many potential customers have asked us about an intranet-based aggregation solution, and Dino fills the bill for this as well.

And with sophisticated indexing capabilities, and integration points with other enterprise systems, Dino can become a central information distribution point for all kinds of content.  All managed in one place, leveraging organizational structure in Active Directory (if available).” [Greg Reinacker’s Weblog]

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.

10:14 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [1]  |   Google It!
* Wednesday, February 9, 2005


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]


9:21 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [1]  |   Google It!

D Fence!

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.

“So your library would just as soon drop its new title lists and substitute an automatically generated RSS feed? You tell your patrons, ‘Oh, we don’t send that email any more. All you have to do is add our new title RSS feed to your aggregator.’ What reaction will you get?” – C&I, v. 5, no.3

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….

“If nobody in the world is suggesting using RSS instead of email, great--but that's not usually the way I see it coming down. My objections to parallel RSS and email provisions of needed or useful services, done by a library that can afford the time to set them up: Zero. I think that's great…. If you're right--that nobody in the world, nobody among the anti-email techies in the library field, nobody is suggesting RSS instead of (email, postcards, whatever serves a broader audience), but is only suggesting them as a new service that doesn't displace old ones--well, then there's no objection from this quarter. And I don't believe there's any objection stated in my commentary.” – Walt – comment

“This seems to be yet another case where raising any doubts whatsoever about a new technology--or, for that matter, commenting on the doubts raised by someone else (as I was here)--constitutes an attack on that technology. (I call it the ‘DR school of argument,’ and no, I won't expand those initials.)” – Journal of Walt

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:

“Donning my hat, we had a remarkable education when we added RSS feeds. Now people find us through the blog-finding agents. Librarians, including me, suck at marketing, but by adding RSS feeds, we stumbled onto a way for the audience to find us, instead of the glacially slow process of dissemination through our existing readership.” – Free Range Librarian

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.

12:49 AM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   Google It!
* Tuesday, February 8, 2005

OLA Presentations Up!

My two presentations from last week’s Ontario Library Association Superconference are up, one on blogging and one on RSS (both are PDF files). They’re basic updates of my standard presentations, although I added some Canadian examples just for these. Questions? AIM me (cybrarygal)!

9:38 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!
* Sunday, February 6, 2005

RSS News Roundup

First The Guardian and then the L.A. Times:

“…Guardian has tied up with a till-now stealth company called Consenda, and I met up with the CEO Xavier Ferguson today in NYC. The RSS newsreader (Guardian insists on called RSS as Webfeeds), called Newspoint, is a downloadable app, with a tabbed and clean interface. The newspaper has started offering it as a test download for about 250 users....” []

“The LA Times has launched a branded RSS news aggregator in partnership with Consenda. You can find it here, however the service is invitation-only right now. The launch comes on the heels of the Guardian's RSS newsreader, which like the LAT is also called Newspoint.” [Micro Persuasion]

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.

11:48 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!

Short-Cited Insights about RSS

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:

  • Homebound service (even though we have a lot of senior housing in our area);
  • Sign language translators for patrons who are deaf and might attend their programs;
  • Night Owl telephone reference service;
  • A form for challenging “offensive” titles in the collection.
  • A web site that is accessible to blind users.
  • The ability to use a USB flash drive with the library’s computers (I’m sure that figure is rising, but I don’t see tons of patrons picketing libraries over this one and yet a lot of libraries are now offering this).

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:

  • I think there are users who would display queues (if we offered queues) or lists on their sites, just like they do now with NetFlix and Amazon. I’m even willing to bet my hat that some of them (yes, less than 1%) would display what they have checked out at this moment, just like they do with NetFlix and Amazon (“what I’m reading now”). While you’re at it, throw music in there, too, since a lot of people (less than 1%) like to post what they’re listening to as they’re composing their blog posts.
  • Library holdings could be displayed on third-party web sites, like a school’s site, an academic department’s site, or a community’s site. In fact, libraries could partner with newspapers, area sports clubs (a brilliant idea from Stephen Abrams), and other groups to more easily display material on their web sites. The content would update automatically, thereby keeping those librarian hours free for other tasks.

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.

7:15 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [2]  |   Google It!
* Thursday, February 3, 2005


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 many light bulbs going on over the heads of attendees;
  • lunch with Stephen Abram, Jane Dysart, Rebecca Jones, and Darlene Fichter;
  • finally seeing a demo of Sirsi’s RSS!

The money pic:

Picture of the XML button in the catalog!

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!

6:17 PM  |   Permanent link here  |    |   TrackBack [0]  |   Google It!