ThirdScribe Launches Today

Today is February 17, aka President’s day, which used to be known as George Washington’s Birthday. As old timers will remember, we only got the day off (along with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12). No lumped together presidents’ birthdays, no week-long vacation from school. But today is still a holiday, so yea for a day off of work.

Second bit of good news: iTunes’ season pass for Season 3 of Game of Thrones earns its money today as the entire season is supposed to be available for download starting today. I’m crossing my fingers on that one; iTunes can be finicky when it comes to streaming multiple downloads, especially if several people on the same account but with different computers watch the same shows. Not to mention that if I’m downloading 10 episodes, everyone else who bought the season pass is doing the same thing.

Third, but hardly the least important bit of good news for today: Rob McClellan’s  book-centric social media network ThirdScribe goes live today. I’ve created book pages for the two library-oriented books I’ve contributed to.

I’ve been alpha testing Thirdscribe for the past few months; I’m pretty happily impressed with the design. It’s designed from the ground up to be a social media tool for books, authors, and readers. Authors and readers can choose from paid or free accounts, depending on the perks they want to be included with their setup. DNS hosting and transfers are available as is URL forwarding, and entire site migration is available for bloggers and website owners who want to go whole-hog into adopting ThirdScribe as their new medium of choice.

ThirdScribe uses a WordPress framework to manage various site admin rights, visual arrangements, and interactive facets. The thing to remember is that while Thirdscribe does include full-featured blogging tools (hey, it’s WordPress) it’s meant to be primarily a social network. Books have pages, authors and contributors, and sales links. Each one also has a forum which you set up at the time you create the book (or not, the choice is yours). Once your account is set up, you can check on your own books, modify the information about them more or less at will, then check out other members’ pages and see what books they’ve created pages for and who is saying what in their book forums.

Beyond that, you can synch your ThirdScribe network profile (but not your blog) to any social media platforms you already have, so that what’s posted in ThirdScribe is pushed to, say, Facebook and Twitter.

My testing has convinced me that ThirdScribe is something genuinely useful for books, and the people who read and write them. Meaning that I’ll be sticking with it for the forseeable future. I probably won’t be transferring this blog over to my ThirdScribe space simply because there are different people who read this than who are likely to want to talk about the books I like, but sure, there will be some cross-over as time goes on.

ThirdScribe is live, so take a good, long look at it. I think this thing has a bright future.

7 Uses I Can Think of for Google Glass

Google Glass just got some cool new glasses frames. This is a nice development, especially for those of us who are visually challenged enough to need prescription lenses.

Beyond the fashion sense (or lack thereof) involved in this, I decided that while the gizmo itself is still a bit on the goofy side, it became something to lust after when combined with a real-world application (read, “sight”). That led me to wonder whether it was being used in libraries. And that led me to to do a bit of searching to find that yes, indeed, libraries are putting the tools to the test:

Library Journal has this report concerning the uses that Colorado’s Arapahoe Library District has put their new equipment to, while OEDb managed to think of 6 things libraries can do with Google Glass. Meanwhile the folks at Claremont Colleges Library haven’t actually begun to use their new equipment but they are gearing up for an exploration of its uses a bit later this spring.

While I’m not a GG developer and the technical facets of developing for this type of tech are beyond me (for now), I do have a list of tings I’d ultimately like to see Google Glass do:

1. Call Number Linking: At the moment we have StackMap installed on our online catalog. It’s helpful, but it’s tough to carry a monitor off to the stacks with you. . Why can’t location maps be projected on a Glass screen that leads you to the correct shelf?

2. RFID Linking: Scan a bar code with your eyes and watch the ILS register a checkout or a discharge.

3. Combine BookMyne with Google Glass: Since BookMyne is a SirsiDynix product (which allows you to search the online catalog from a iOS or Android powered device) you’d have to substitute your own vendor’s equivalent, but I think the application is there. The utility of building a similar type of functionality into Google Glass should be obvious.

4. Metadata Scanning: point Google Glass at a shelf of books that have been tagged with RFID sensors (or, since we’re talking about optical recognition technology, possibly just a call number tag) and watch the title, author, and borrowing history flow past your eyes. There’s no reason to stop there, either. If a book isn’t available you should be able to shoot an e-mail request for it or place it on hold with a spoken command.

5. Inventory Control: Metadata scanning taken to the umpteenth degree. The only difference would be the scale of the project. Except in this case, you’d scan a shelf of books visually and log them as ON SHELF. 30,000 print items in an hour? With a few people and the right tools, why not?

6. HelpDesk: Google Glass can already send e-mail; having the institution help desk on speed dial and a built in metadata cache fill in appropriate data about the nature of the request should be elementary.

7. Self-help instructional videos from the user’s POV: This should be a no-brainer, and it’s one of the uses that OEDb has already described in their blog post.

I’m sure there are other uses, but these are what come to mind as I go over my daily grind in tech services. I comprehend that this is a bucket list; I have no clue what level of attention SirsiDynix or other ILS vendors are planning to unleash on Google Glass, if any. But  I think that these are natural things to wish and work for as we progress from handheld devices into handless ones. The vendor that provides these new tools will clean up. It’s that simple.

Something to think about.

NYTSL Event:”Authority Control in an Out-of-Control World”

Yes, I know we had a bit of a snafu with the earlier posting of the NYTSL Fall Program–let’s just say that stuff happens, and leave it at that. Anyway, this one sticks:

NYTSL Fall Event Registration

Register Now for the Fall Event:

“Authority Control in an Out-of-Control World”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Registration and Refreshments: 5:00-6:00 PM NYTSL Business Meeting & Program: 6:00-8:00 PM

Featuring:

Ethan Gruber, Web and Database Developer, American Numismatic Society Building Interlinked Prosopographies: A New Approach.

Ethan Gruber will discuss the development of xEAC, an open source framework for creating, maintaining, and publishing collections of EAC-CPF records using XForms, a W3C standard for editing XML in next-generation web forms.

Daniel Starr, Associate Chief Librarian, Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art Daniel Starr will discuss authority vendors.

When: December 4th, 2013 5:00 PM   through   8:00 PM

Location:

The New York Public Library

Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium

476 Fifth Avenue (at 42nd Street)

New York, NY 10018

United States

 

Monday Cancelled Due to RFID Fail

Our RFID system is a bit of Hell in a small package. When it works properly, which just lately has been less and less often, it acts like an automated kiosk combined with a robotic guard dog.

The gates guard the entrance to the library; they are connected to the internet with an Ethernet cable. Matching gate tracking software supplied by the vendor and installed on our circ PC tracks comings and goings. If a bo0ok is properly checked out via the circ computers, the gate reads an active tag and doesn’t go off. If the tag was improperly scanned or something similar, it reads an inactive tag and goes off.

This is standard stuff. Or, it should be.

Two weeks ago, the gates started sounding and nothing would make them stop. We pulled out the plug and the gates stopped, but when we plugged them back in five minutes later, they refused to go off for any reason.

E-mails were written, phone calls were made. A new gate part was sent over. A tech guy was sent over this morning to install it. I’ve worked with the vendor’s tech staff for three years and they know their stuff.

But Gate Guy doesn’t work for the gate vendor–he’s a subcontractor. So now that he’s here, he needs to get instructions from the vendor. That takes three phone calls, the draining of his cell phone battery and finally, a conversation with the guy at the vendor I generally talk to for gate related issues anyway. Finally, this is lower Manhattan and Gate Guy has the equipment truck with him, but his parking spot runs out at noon and he needs to find another one.

Finally, Gate Guy has found out that the part the vendor sent over as a replacement is not the same part which is inside the gate.

Yeah.

I’ll let you know.

 

Update: 3.44pm

Better news. The gates now have limited functionality, in that they can see (by way of the gate tracker software) tagged objects nearby, but still can’t sound the alarm.  That means another visit by another Gate Guy . . . kill me. Please.

Rumble in Da Bronx

I’m out of the office, due to the fact that SirsiDynix scheduled their annual NY Users’ group meeting for today. It’s basically a day-long schmooze fest where we (the NY Users of SirsiDynix products) get to listen to the company’s execs pitch new products and updates planned for the old ones. It’s also a chance to catch up on news form other members of the local tech services community.  Oh, and they feed us. That’s a big draw.

So, I’ll head to Fordham, and sit, and listen and ask a few questions of my own (600+ selections included in the Reporting Module and there’s still no way to break out circulation stats from a select list of ItemIDs? What’s wrong with you people?) and wonder if anyone else there is considering dropping Symphony Workflows for something a bit more  .  . . well, a bit more integrated. Like, for example, OCLC WorldShare.

See you next week.

To Wiki or Not to Wiki: That is the Question

We all know the phrase, since we’ve all had the talk with our students regarding research, so let’s all say it together: Wikipedia is not a citable source. Fine. Except we came up with that rule a billion years ago when the Wikipedia project was in its infancy. Or at least, its adolescence. Things have changed since then. Haven’t they?

Ultimately we have to re-evaluate the question and ask ourselves how reliable is Wikipedia anyway? I mean, considering that professionals like Trevor Thornton and Christina Pattuelli are using publically edited records for their own work? Does the description of Wikipedia’s contents as nonsense invalidate these models by association? The question did come up during the NYTSL panel, and they felt that for the purposes of their own work, the data standards were high enough to make it a reliable source.

On the one hand, those linked data projects were limited in scope. It’s one thing to crowdsource the conversations and quotes from musicians, or an index of personal names in a historical context. It’s quite another to use the same strategy to, say, devise medical treatments (except they are). And to be fair there is a world of difference between creating a wiki-based general catalog of informative articles and utilizing a distributed data processing model. (Except when there isn’t.)

Additionally, Wikipedia can be improved and if its own metrics are to be believed, is continually being improved by users who actually give a hoot about the quality of their submissions.  Whether or not that improves the whole project or just select bits of it is yet to be seen.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with my advice to students that Wikipedia is still not citable, but it is a decent source of useful references that might be well be worth checking out.

 

Everything goes BOOM!

“There’s always a boom. After a while . . . BOOM!”

–Lt. Cmdr. Susan Ivanova

 

It’s Thursday, November 1, 2012. (Happy Day of the Dead!) Metropolitan College of New York remains closed until Monday morning due to the continued power outage in lower Manhattan. Which is just as well, because without power the subways aren’t running, which means I can’t get to work physically. The phones are out, but the school website and emergency text services work, as they are off-site services. Unfortunately, the mail server, which is local, is also out. So not only can’t I check my work e-mail, but the webinar links and contact information I needed to learn more about RDA yesterday are sitting, unused and unusable, on my work server. No working from home, either, it seems.

We rely on electricity to make our library work properly. Without it, it’s just a room at the top of a tall building with too many stairs to climb. No databases, no online catalog, no ILS, no contact with our own materials. I remain convinced that this is a real weakness in how we run libraries. Electric current is a marvel, and we rely on it almost completely at this moment in time. So completely that it becomes part of the background noise of our lives, noticeable primarily in its absence when it goes boom and vanishes.

At times like this, I wish we had a card catalog.

This is not a universal situation: there are libraries with power offering their services to hurricane Sandy’s victims. And power outages are only part of the story for libraries which claimed damage from the storm: collections are waterlogged, equipment damaged, and entire buildings remain flooded as I write this. Intellectually, I get that my building was luckier than some. Which leaves me feeling safe, but useless.

I am looking forward to re-opening the doors to our students and faculty on Monday morning.

 

 

Sole-Source Vendors and You

We met the sales team from PrivCo. last Friday. Nice guys, but there’s a potential problem with their product: PrivCo. is a sole-source vendor.

A sole-source vendor is essentially what it sounds like. The vendor is your only known source of the material being offered. In PrivCo.’s case, it’s database information regarding the internal workings of private companies, venture capital firms, and other financial entities.

It’s a neat database. I won’t give a full review here (you can find a top-notch review from Library Journal here), but I will say that we found the package easy to navigate, highly responsive to search tweaking, and possessed of very handy export features.  Trial subscriptions are not insanely priced, either. It looks like a good deal.

But Sole Source vendors can be tricky to work with. It’s not exactly the same situation as the one that Meredith Farkas blogged about a week or so ago. In her observations, she described a situation where a library goes with a vendor to gain access to a particular journal (or set of journals) even though doing so makes less than obvious financial sense. A Sole Source vendor pulls a switch and you have access . . . or they pull another switch, and you’re out again. Since they are the only source of the stuff you need, they can dictate whatever subscription terms they like, and if you want access, you’re kind of stuck. When I worked at an electronic components broker years ago, I worked with government purchasing agents. They were very up front about their bidding rules: if you were a sole source vendor, and identified your company as such, you automatically won the bid for the part.

Additionally (in this case), there’s another question to raise: private companies by definition don’t file the same reports with the SEC as public entities must. All the information that’s being extracted by PrivCo. is reported by their research staff, and while we met the sales guys, we didn’t meet the researchers. I would have liked to ask them what their rules of conduct were, what the penalties for false (or just sloppy) reporting were, what their histories were, what their relationship with their target firms are like, etc. Where does this information come from?

In all fairness we’ll probably get a trial subscription to PrivCo. It’s too useful not to have as a compliment to Business and Company Resource Center and we all had positive reactions to their user interface and product demo. But sometimes you just want the choice to go with a competitor.

METRO-L: All Not Quiet on the E-Book Front

From Jefferson Bailey, via the METRO-L listserv:

On October 26-27, the New York Law School is hosting In re Books, “a conference on law and the future of books.” Featuring a diverse mix of speakers  from groups such as the Sloan Foundation, Unglue.it, the ACLU, and the Copyright Clearance Center, as well as academics and legal scholars and practitioners, the conference aims to discuss a number topics, including copyright, orphan works, digitization, reader’s rights, and “long-term trends in publishing, culture, law, and technology.” To attend the conference, visit the registration page.

The conference is particularly timely, given the recent developments in the Google Books litigation. Judge Denny Chin recently allowed an amicus brief to be filed by the LCA (an alliance of the ALA, ARL, and ACRL) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The full brief is available online. An additional amicus brief was filed by a number of digital humanities and legal scholars (also is available online) and one of its authors has been blogging about the case. As well,  The Public Index, one of the sponsors of In re Books, maintains a site that chronicles the litigation (the Institute for Information Law & Policy is the other sponsor of In re Books).

Needless to say, the tangled intersection of copyright law, publishing, and technology has had a significant impact on libraries as they strive to align patron services, collection development, and other activities with the evolving landscape of digital delivery and ebooks. The In re Books conference is taking a admirably broad approach to the issue by including panels on retail bookstores and backlist issues and, one would assume, plenty of talk about the open-access movement. Being hosted at New York Law School will also ensure a wide-ranging discussion of the legal landscape around publishing in the digital environment. That said, ebooks have been a particularly contentious and disruptive issue for libraries, as the lack of a coordinated approach between publishers and libraries towards ownership, rights, and lending policy has led to what one writer termed an “e-book tug of war.”

Changes in the methods and technologies of content creation and dissemination often feature attempts to “revisit” (to put it mildly) relationships — legal and implicit — between intellectual property, mercantile determinism, and the public good. Just as the idea of permanent ownership of digital content has received more attention of late regarding personal collection (heck, even SXSW is examining the topic), the role of ebooks in libraries has also merited increased study, with two reports released in August that examine the issue.

The first is the ALA’s release of Ebook Business Models for Public Libraries (announcement and PDF). Produced by the Digital Content & Libraries Working Group, the report “describes model terms libraries should look for in their dealings with ebook publishers and distributors, as well as conditions libraries should avoid.” In delineating “features and attributes” of potential ebook business models, as well as potential “constraints and restrictions,” the brief, readable paper offers an good overview of the benefits and pitfalls of ebook business models in order to help libraries plan and negotiate accordingly.

Another report released in August was E-Books in Libraries: A Briefing Document Developed in Preparation for a Workshop on E-Lending in Libraries(SSRN page for PDF access), a product of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard written in preparation for their “E-Books in Libraries” workshop in February 2012 and “developed with helpful inputs from industry stakeholders and other practitioners.” The Berkman document features a more in-depth environmental scan of the state of ebooks in libraries, examining “licensing and lending practices,” “business models,” and “challenges,” and includes a two-page list of additional resources.

Well-sourced and featuring a number of use cases and real-world examples, the Berkman paper also remains sensitive to the perspective of ebook publishers, analyzing the ways ebooks can lead to the  “cannibalization” of sales and the general risk-aversion publishers are taking toward business arrangements with libraries. The picture that emerges is of a publishing industry struggling to reconceive “traditional notions of strategy, organizational structure and culture, economic assumptions, and business models” in light of the disruptive force of ebooks. How that disruption is impacting libraries is only beginning to be understood.

Other recent news has put the publishing industry in a somewhat less-flattering light regarding their ebook businesses. Last Thursday, a federal judge approved a settlement between the DOJ and three publishers over alleged conspiratorial market practices and price fixing. Though that case did not directly involved libraries, a story in Publisher’s Weekly the next day detailed one library system’s pricing report (a cheer here for open data) and shed light on both the impact of publisher boycotts on ebook collection development and the egregious fact that, when publishers do sell ebooks to libraries, the markups are often “up to six times the consumer price for the same title.”

The In re Books conference will certainly focus more on the legal ramifications of ebooks than on the operational challenges they pose to libraries as far as costs, infrastructure, and services. Panel Three does, however, focus directly on libraries and while I love the provocation of the session description, which begins “some observers think libraries are obsolete. Others think the time is ripe to build a new Library of Alexandria,” I would prefer a little sourcing to that comment, as proclamations such as those deserve a bit of skepticism. The “libraries” panel will also discuss the recent “Georgia State” decision on e-reserves, which just yesterday publishers announced they are appealing (because clearly we cannot go two days without more legal churn regarding electronic publishing and copyright) as well as the mother-of-all-zombie-copyright-topics, Section 108 review.

The conference is sure to continue a wide-ranging discussion within the library, legal, and publishing communities about on the difficult and still-evolving topic of ebooks.

In re Books: A Conference on Law and the Future of Books

A couple of other related or useful resources:

Columbia University recently posted video from their recent conference on Fair Use: http://copyright.columbia.edu/copyright/2012/08/24/fair-use-conference-at-columbia-university-archived-from-march-2012/
ARL’s recent Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries: http://www.arl.org/pp/ppcopyright/codefairuse/index.shtml
American Libraries E-Content blog is a good source of news related to ebooks:http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/e-content
Cornell’s ever-valuable Copyright Information Center: http://copyright.cornell.edu/

Make your plans now!

Undying Faith in Technology

James Howard Kunstler questions a very real quasi-religous fatith in technology:

The Aspen Institute is supported by a bizarre array of corporate donors and individuals ranging from the secretive, devious, extreme right-wing Koch brothers to Goldman Sachs, to Michael Eisner to Duke Energy. The mission of the Environment Forum is divided about equally between publicizing the gathering horrors of climate change and promoting an ethos of wishful thinking that all the problems of mankind will yield to technological rescue remedies.
It’s a very odd mix of hard-headed science and the most dismaying sort of crypto-religious faith in happy endings, tinged with overtones of corporate log-rolling and government propaganda. The basic message is: the world is hopelessly fucked up but thank God for technology. There is not even a dim apprehension that many of the aforementioned vexations originate in technology itself, and its blowbacks. Alas, this is about the best that the American intelligentsia can do right now, collectively, and it explains why we have such uniformly impotent and clueless leadership across the board in America, from the White House to the CEO offices to the diploma mills to the news media and every other realm of endeavor where thinking realistically about the future might be considered valuable.
The implication is that technology is good for its own sake: without it, where would we be? Kunstler follows up this question more fully in his new book “Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation“, which I’ve just finished. A fair portion of it is a re-hash of his previous volume, “The Long Emergency,” which, he says, we are now finally dealing with. Essentially, if the peak oil production numbers of 2005 were not the official starting gun, the financial crash of 2007-2008 was. We are now officially in decline, and things will only get stranger from this point on.
It’s worth keeping this point of view in mind, even if you think of Kunster as a doom and gloom crank (I don’t.) Kunstler notes in the (new) book that even libraries, for instance, are now devoid of the gadgetry that kept them running before the advent of cheap, ubiquitous electricity. Card catalogs are largely gone, more of what we have to offer students and researchers are electronic in nature, namely databases, e-books and free Wi-Fi and internet connections.
On the one hand, he’s right. We have completely changed over to the new stuff, mostly because we have had no choice in the matter. We keep ourselves financially solvent by changing, adapting, improving services. If he turns out to have been premature in his estimation of what the quality of life in the next thirty years entails and we do somehow manage to tech our way out of the decline he says we’ve entered, then we’ll still be needed. If not, we’ll be needed even more.
I expect the truth will fall somewhere in the middle, but in the mean time, we’re still tagging our collection with those fancy RFID chips and adding new databases to our electronic stable.
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