Archive for April, 2009

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Improved support for Koha

Setting up LibraryThing for Libraries in Koha is now a only couple of clicks away!

The 3.2 version of Koha (which isn’t out yet) will include the improved integration for LTFL. If you are using Koha without a host, and run on the bleeding edge, you can try it now via Git.

What this does is enable and disable LTFL through the Koha Enhanced Content system preference page. Simply enter your LTFL account number (found on your LibraryThing for Libraries Account page), decide where you’d like LTFL content to display (in tabs or under other bibliographic details) and enable it. No need to edit Koha templates.

The work to make this possible was initiated by me and extended and improved by Chris Hyde of East Brunswick Public Library. Thanks, Chris!

Labels: koha, librarything for libraries, ltfl

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Podcast 3 is over there

Check out the main blog for Podcast Number 3 (“Murder! Politics! Books!”), a delightful romp through the Legacy Library project with its coordinator, Jeremy Dibbell.

The conversation touches on LibraryThing’s contribution to 18th century American history scholarship—Jeremy’s discovery, with Monticello’s Endrina Tay, of the library of George Wythe, a prominent Virginian and signer of the Declaration of Independence, reconstructed from an untitled book list in the Thomas Jefferson papers.

Check it out here

Labels: podcasts

Friday, April 24th, 2009

OCLC news reactions

This post follows on The OCLC End Game, posted early this morning.

Library Journal‘s Josh Hadro did an excellent follow-up article. Besides citing this blog post, Hadro got responses from Carl Grant, president of Ex Libris on OCLC’s tenuous non-profit status—I’ll have another post about that soon—and a number of bloggers. Iris Jastram/Pegasus Librarian’s thoughts deserve quotation:

“I’m pleased that this is yet another competitor against the current lumbering giants in the ILS market, and I like the idea that (if I understand correctly) this will add a hosted option to the ILS market. … On the other hand, this means that that pesky new policy on the transfer and use of OCLC records really wasn’t just about protecting a bunch of member-produced data after all. There were bigger plans afoot, and these plans involved leaning even farther toward the vendor model rather than the service model. And if OCLC is a vendor rather than a service, that new policy feels even more like a land-grab rather than an effort to protect member investments.”

Ms. Jastram’s misgivings are comforting to me, at least, as her previous thoughts on the OCLC Policy were more mixed. Ultimately, the fate of OCLC’s Policy will be decided by the people in the middle—the fair-minded people, not the ones who equate OCLC with the Matrix, The Empire or the All Your Bases villain.*

The Smithsonian Libraries on the OCLC Policy. I missed this, but on April 2 the official blog of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries weighed in on the OCLC Policy and the ACRL/ARL response (PDF), “support[ing] the recommendations” emphasizing a number of points. Among these were:

  • “The policy should recognize and affirm traditional library values of cooperative cataloging and shared bibliographic information without any claim of ownership of the bibliographic records.”
  • “OCLC’s new policy should recognize, and not be in conflict with, existing legal obligations or requirements that may apply to some OCLC member libraries (such as federal libraries).”

It’s great to see a federal library making such a public statement. Having been passed by in the OCLC Policy discussion—Federal librarians have told me they were amazed OCLC thought it could unilaterally change licensing terms with government entities—and not included on the ARL/ACRL board either, at least one is lending its voice to the criticism. Hooray for them. James Smithson, who left his estate for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”—and to a country he had never even visited!—would, I think, be proud.

*Chris Bourg left a comment to the effect that the AYBABTU reference was purely humorous, and she does not consider OCLC a villain, even if she thinks I’ve got a good argument. Now, can anyone think of a way to tape Jay Jordan saying “You have no chance to succeed make your time”? I’m thinking we could sky write it over OCLC headquarters in Dublin, OH and secretly film OCLC employees puzzling it out. Ideally, though, he’d need to wear the bionic monocle.

I will never run out of interesting Flickr chess images. This one’s by Shyald, from a series.

Labels: oclc, worldcat, worldcat local

Friday, April 24th, 2009

The OCLC End Game

Two years ago I predicted what OCLC, the library-data organization, was after with it’s WorldCat Local pilot program—”They’re trying to convert a data licensing monopoly into a services monopoly.” To illustrate, I changed the OCLC logo to the Death Star.

I was hardly alone in this speculation. But this concern was soon overtaken as OCLC brought forth it’s Revised Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records. The Policy, which turned a de facto data monopoly into a legally enforceable one, became a focus of intense debate in the library world. On the one side just about every library blogger with a keyboard, and eventually a review board at the ACRL/ARL, raised questions about the idea of anyone “owning” records meant for sharing and most frequently produced by government entities. On the other side, OCLC’s defenders (in truth, mostly employees), talked of OCLC’s “curation” of community content, of “protecting members’ investment,” of the “best interest of libraries,” “OCLC’s public purposes” and of WorldCat.com’s role as an essential “switching mechanism” to local catalog (references: 1, 2, 3).

Yesterday, OCLC unveiled the end game that brings everything together. As reported by Marshall Breeding in Library Journal:

“This new project, which OCLC calls “the first Web-scale, cooperative library management service,” will ultimately bring into WorldCat Local the full complement of functions traditionally performed by a locally installed integrated library system (ILS).”

The new service will be “free” to (paying) WorldCat First Search customers.

The move to “web scale” (OCLC-speak for “web”) catalogs was an inevitable one, and is a good one. It’s silly to have every library in the country running their own racks of servers. The economics of server architecture, equipment and systems administration make a single, hosted solution economically superior. It makes particular sense for OCLC. With a large percentage of world libraries’ data sitting in servers for copy-cataloging purposes, a locally branded and faceted web-app. catalog was the next logical step.

The move casts new light on its Policy defenses. OCLC isn’t “curating” library records; it’s leveraging them to enter a new market. It wasn’t “protecting members’ investment,” it was investing members’ money, intended to support OCLC’s core mission, to build a new service. WorldCat isn’t a “switching mechanism” to local catalogs. It will replace them.

I’d love to follow them. I’d love to make a large-scale hosted library catalog. I think LibraryThing could do a lot better. OCLC is full of smart people, but it develops slowly and has shown singular inability to produce social features that anyone would want to use. I think Talis, AquaBrowser, LibLime and Equinox could do better too. And I think, if library programmers got together, they could make truly open community-run service—something others, like LibraryThing, could provide plug-ins for.

We’d all love to try, but we aren’t allowed. According to the Policy, you can’t build the sort of truly “web scale” database that would make such a project economically viable. Anything that replicates the “function, purpose and/or size” of WorldCat is not “Reasonable Use.” Any library participating in such a venture would lose its right to OCLC-derived records, something that would literally shutter most public and all academic libraries in the country. When it comes to large-scale online catalogs, there can be no competing with OCLC.

Let me be clear: I have no problem with OCLC developing software. They do good work. I for one think WorldCat/WorldCat Local is a better product than most server-based OPACs.

But, now more than ever, OCLC must end its attempts to restrict and monopolize library data. It was ugly and unfair for OCLC to claim ownership over what is largely public data. It is obscene to leverage that data monopoly into a software monopoly.


Chess images from Flick users malias and furryscaly. Chess outside makes me think of the Deus’ song Slow. What is it with Europeans and outdoor chess sets anyway?

Labels: oclc, worldcat, worldcat local

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Flash-mob cataloging in Chicago

Quick cross-post from the other LibraryThing blog:

There will be a flash-mob cataloging party in Chicago this Sunday, April 19th, at the the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. Read more here.

Puerto Rican Cultural Center Website

Labels: Uncategorized

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Dirigo!* (Maine takes the lead)


The University of Maine’s New Media Department has approved new promotion and tenure guidelines that take into account social media, so professors get some credit for a widely read blog, contributions to popular or professional wikis, and so forth.

A “rationale,” “New Criteria for New Media” was written for the peer-reviewed journal Leonardo (but you can be sure 99% of people will read the link just cited). As David Weinberger writes:

“This the right thing to do not only because it is a more realistic assessment of an academic’s worth. It’s also the right thing to do because it helps to build the value of the network. If knowledge and expertise are becoming properties of the network, it is the social responsibility of our institutions to encourage the enhancement of that network.”

As a Mainer, I take special pride in this. I only wish the New Media Department, at Orono, outside of Bandor, were closer to Portland.

*Dirigo, I lead, is the state motto. Maine has a lot of pithy mottoes. Portland, ravaged by fire four times, has the doughty Resurgam, “I’m gonna get up again!”

Labels: academics, maine

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

LTFL webinar by WiLS

There will be a webinar* on LibraryThing for Libraries (LTFL) from Wisconsin Library Services (WiLS).

Details: Thursday April 9th, 2009, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Central Time
Blog post here | Sign-up info here

Jenny Schmidt (SWITCH consortium) and Ingrid Lebolt (Arlington Heights Memorial Library) will be explaining “how LTFL works and detail the process of implementing LTFL features into your library’s catalog (Web Opac).” WiLS hosts a series of webinars for libraries.

Note: this is one in a series of webinars, all which cost smallish amounts of money.

Both speakers work at libraries using LTFL (see the whole list here). I have a long-standing love for the Arlington Heights library. They were an early adopter of LTFL, and of good things in general. Here’s their LibraryThing Local page, and a picture of me standing outside their building (to corroborate my story). The far-away half of my family lived there, and I grew up going to AHML when I’d visit.

*definition of ‘web conference/webinar’

Labels: librarything for libraries, ltfl, webinars

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

G001? Neil Gaiman and top-level categories

GinaGlenn tweeted this photo from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC, where she is a bookseller. As she put it to Gaiman, “you defy categorization!”

Some members are arguing that the Open Shelves Classification shouldn’t have Pets at the top level. Well, make way for a top-level Gaiman category!

Labels: neil gaiman, OSC