Thursday, January 20, 2011

my thoughts on the LITA streaming incident

As many librarians know, there was an incident at the LITA board meeting at ALA Midwinter in San Diego, during which the board voted to shut down a live stream of the meeting. This article provides a good summary of the incident and references to some editorial pieces on it.

I did not have a strong feeling about this incident going into the LITA Town Meeting on ALA Monday morning. I did, however, ask questions about it at my large table, because I had, in the previous two days, read Twitter posts describing the incident. The answers that I heard, the discussion at the meeting (including info provided by several board members taking the floor and speaking) and the message that Karen Starr sent me (as a LITA member) yesterday all had the same effect on me: the longer they talked, the angrier I became with the LITA board's cutoff decision and with its attempts at moving beyond the incident.
  • The primary remedy described in the letter, the proposed creation of a content streaming task force, appears, from the charge, centered on programs - not meetings; it was a board meeting that's at issue in this incident. The "ancilary events" mentioned at the conclusion of the document also seems program-centered ("author/presenter chats").

  • There is no suggestion that LITA member input is needed - or even wanted - in determining the composition of the content streaming task force. It's implied that "the Board" will draw upon the talent available in LITA - but only as its current members choose.
Really, each LITA member must decide his or her own response. I trust that members will do what's best for themselves and do what they think is right. There are opportunities for service in LITA, in non-library technical associations, and in organizations like ACRL. I believe that the January 19 letter, apparently the product of careful reflection by the current LITA board, illustrates the limits of contributing through LITA more clearly than the streaming cutoff decision itself.

Also, I urge librarians who have not yet seen the tape of the board meeting and the cutoff decision to watch it: URL

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ala midwinter 2011

Attended the 2011 ALA Midwinter meeting in downtown San Diego.

I simultaneously attended the OCLC symposium on transformational literacy (with Dr. Mimi Ito as the primary speaker) and monitored the RMG President's Panel on Twitter. Dr. Ito asserted that we need to train students to be lifelong learners, so that they can adapt to jobs that haven't been created yet. It's both humbling (building services to educate students in order to prepare them for the jobs of the future) and frustrating, as voters and their elected officials have turned against public education. I happened to be reading Remix at the time I attended this session, and Ito described and showed examples of transforming works - "the genie is out of the bottle...the sharing and appropriation is going to continue."

And, as far as the RMG panel: The tweets were enlightening; here's the report of one attendee who was tweeting during the session; a number of other attendees were tweeting their thoughts as well, many of which reflected frustration with existing ILS vendors, whose reps were speaking at this event.

I attended a session on bX Recommender (Nettie Legace of Ex Libris; John McDonald of Claremont College). At the WSU Libs, we have licensed bX and experimented with displaying recommendations in the SFX context menu. One of the interesting possibilities described by Legace is using the bX API to create a widget that displays recommendations in other contexts - for example, current "hot" articles in a discipline, based upon click activity at the institutions contributing usage data to bX.

I presented at the OCLC Cooperative Platform presentation, along with OCLC's Robin Murray and Kathryn Harnish. First, I was impressed at the turnout - approximately 50 attendees for an initiative that's still in the pilot stage. During my remarks, I contrasted the black box, proprietary architecture of current ILS systems with the Cooperative Platform. I cited the III Millennium bursar's office functionality (which is licensed and employed at WSU) as an example, and compared it with the possibility of using local and community development to build the same functionality - and to do it in a way that enables ongoing improvement.

I attended an Ex Libris presentation (Susan Stearns, John Larson) on its next-generation system, Unified Resources Management (URM)/Alma. URM is the larger, services-based architecture; Alma is the cloud-based library management system. Alma does have significant parallels with the OCLC WMS initiative. One of the goals of Alma is to turn format-based vertical silos to service-based horizontal workflows. Also, the presenters showed bibliographic records being maintained in a community (group) context. Finally, the infrastructure for Alma is cloud-based, and I was intrigued that Ex Libris is using Amazon Web Services EC2 to support its early adopter testing of the Alma system (though the long-term hosting arrangements haven't been determined). The Alma development seems significantly behind OCLC WMS, based upon the description at this session, with general release expected in 2012.

I participated in the WorldCat Navigator User's Group meeting. At this meeting, Christa Starck of OCLC described the Navigator enhancements coming in 2011.

I presented at the OCLC Developers Luncheon on some local development efforts that Jon Scott and I have done related to autocompletion in systems. My presentation slides are online in Research Exchange.

I attended the public session for OCLC Web-scale Management Services (WMS), which was led by Andrew Pace and included three presenters from early adopter institutions - Jason Griffey (UTC), Jackie Beach (CPC regional library system), Michael Dula (Pepperdine). All three of the presenters were positive about the current or eventual success of their WMS migrations. What's most intriguing to me, listening to Pace's remarks, is the possibilities offered by a workflow engine - enabling a management system build around more customizable workflows. I thought about this in preparing for the Cooperative Platform presentation and the relatively closed-architecture system (Millennium) that we employ at WSU for our management system. How much is our current organizational structure, the way we do our work every day, driven by the management system? What if we could tailor it to our needs, instead of setting up workflows to work with a more inflexible system (albeit one with rich staff-side functionality)?

Then, on Monday morning, I attended the LITA Town Meeting. There was a lengthy discussions on the fact that the live stream and recording for a Saturday AM LITA board meeting. I'm of two minds on this - on one hand, I do believe that rules should be followed. There was info presented at the Town Meeting that made it clear that saving/distributing a recording to the meeting is not acceptable under ALA rules. The live streaming part, I'm less clear about. But on the other hand, I did get a sense from those who supported the stream cut-off that there's not intense interest, given the technical difficulties and possible financial repercussions (in enabling ALA participation without registration and attendance), in actually pushing a change to rules related to streaming of meetings.

[Postscript: There was a LITA message/press release today, from Karen Starr, LITA President, that described the policy issues in greater detail. The text is at URL I do think that my interpretation of the meeting, described above, is accurate.]

All in all, it was a very good conference for me. It was the last conference with my BlackBerry, so I'm certain that the future exhibit floor photos won't be so blurred. I do believe that we are on the brink of generational change in library systems, as management systems shift from locally- to cloud-based; as libraries gain the ability to customize their own workflows and to manage all formats equally; and, as the pendulum in library automation work shifts from infrastructure maintenance to the creation of services. I am glad to see vendors like OCLC, Ex Libris, and Equinox embracing this vision, albeit with different approaches. And I'm confident that libraries will, for the most part, move their services to more forward-thinking vendors.

Friday, January 14, 2011

naming confusion...

Marshall Breeding posted an Ex Libris press release today, which describes an apparent name change for the vendor's next-generation library management solution, from URM to Alma. I am scheduled to attend a breakfast describing URM on Sunday morning, but the branding folks have other ideas....

Along the same lines, I've found OCLC's designation of content, as the vendor simultaneously makes third-party content available through WorldCat Local, to be another confusion generator. It's more confusing than it sounds on the surface, and it's very difficult to obtain accurate and current information on the content (databases, approximate number of objects) that makes up
Postscript: Okay, I did attend this Ex Libris session in San Diego. It's now my understanding that Alma is narrower, that URM is a broader technology initiative by Ex Libris, while Alma involves the cloud-based management system piece.