LITA National Forum, 2003

This is a travel log documenting my experiences at the LITA National Forum, Norfolk, VA, October 3 - 5, 2003.

battleship
battleship
church detail
church detail
church
church
city hall
city hall
cummunity college
cummunity college
theator
theator

Friday, October 3

On the first day I facilitated a half-day, hands-on workshop called " Open Source Software in Libraries ":

Through the hands-on exercises, the student will learn how to uncompress and untar distributions, configure an application for building, build (compile) an application, install it, configure it, and finally use it. Applications used during these hands-on activities include: Apache, CVS, Hypermail, MARC::Record, MySQL, Perl, swish-e, xsltproc, and YAZ. Both Koha and MyLibrary are discussed but not described in terms of installation. The hands-on exercises are complete with sample data, configuration files, and sample scripts to get the student up and going quickly.

The workshop was attended by twenty-nine people with varying degrees of computer experience. We discussed the nature of open source software, broke into group of two or three, and walked through a number of the exercises. The participants seemed genuinely pleased in the way their time was spent.

The general sessions began in the afternoon with a presentation by R. David Lankes of Syracuse University School of Information Studies entitled "Digital reference: The first mature digital library service". Lankes described digital reference as a cross-institutional activity, an activity building bridges between various libraries. At the same time, the full potential of digital reference is not/will not become realized because of competition between libraries. "Your engineering school is not good enough to answer my engineering questions." Yet, the Ask-A types of services are flourishing even including things like Ask-A-Locksmith. Lankes seemed to switch topics to discuss librarianship and technical skills. More specifically, he advocated that when new technologies appear it behooves libraries to explore these technologies by building their own solutions. As the technologies mature it is as good idea to consider purchasing technical solutions. He alluded to the way librarianship is described in research circles. There is "Old School Librarianship" and "New School Librarianship", and the new school uses computers to automate many of its process and the old school relies too much on human-only techniques.

As the concurrent sessions began John Fiera of Cornell University and I described uPortal and how content from MyLibrary can be syndicated into uPortal. Fiera outlined the history of uPortal, its intended purpose, and its technological foundations. I then proceeded to describe how MyLibrary can syndicate its content to uPortal through a Rich Site Summary (RSS) channel. I tried to stress the point that libraries are always a part of larger institutions, and it is important for libraries to share their information in the format and context of these institutions. Syndicating MyLibrary content into a campus-wide portal is an example of such an activity.

The last session I attended on Friday was given by Kat Hagedorn of the University of Michigan called "OAIster: A 'No Dead Ends' Service Provider Project". Hagerdorn described the results of her work done to collect, index, and provide access to harvested metadata through the Open Archives Initiative - Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Her goal was to first harvest data from as many OAI-PMH providers as possible. There are about 203 such providers to date. Once collected, the harvested data was normalized to her best ability and indexed using XPAT, the indexer used as a part of the Digital Library Extension Service (DLXS). Finally, the content was made available via a Web interface: http://oaister.org/ .

Presently, the index includes pointers to 1.7 million records, and the site gets about 3,500 hits per month. I got the feeling Hagerdorm was pleased with the results of the project, and she thought the most difficult part of the process was trying to normalize the data. I suspect this is the sort of thing librarians can increasingly expect as more and more people become data providers and less of this data is classified using traditional library techniques.

Saturday, October 4

Saturday's General Session presentation was given by Liz Bishoff of the Colorado Digitization Program in a talk entitled "Digital dreaming, digital promise -- Getting ready, getting there". The crux of Bishoff's presentation was about collaboration. She says she spends most of her time as a librarian trying to get people to work together collaboratively. As a part of the Digitization Program she spends a lot of time working with all sorts of "cultural heritage institutions" including libraries, museums, and archives. She stresses that there are more similarities between these institutions than differences. Consequently, they should be working together more often. Yes, there are differences in size and vocabulary, but the goals of these institutions are basically similar. Additionally, through collaboration, collections become available that might become available in other ways, and Bishoff elaborated on this point by telling the story of papers in an archive describing the artifacts in a different museum. Through collaboration and digitization the holdings of physically separate institutions can create united collections.

Lillian Woon Gassie of the Navel Postgraduate School and Catherin B. Soehner of the University of California, Santa Cruz gave an overview of metasearch tools in a presentation called "In search of... Metasearch tools". They illustrated how metasearch tools usually worked: 1) enter query, 2) translate query, 3) send query through "connector", 4) search database(s), 5) return results, and optionally 6) use something like OpenURL or the database's native interface to retrieve individual records from results. Challenges of the process include evaluating the simple interfaces and advanced interfaces, grouping search results meaningfully, customizing the interface for different user groups, knowing how to output the search results in other formats (such as email or EndNote records), and writing the connectors. Personally, I think us librarians are barking up the wrong tree here. If we had the data, then we would be able to create our own indexes and this wouldn't be a problem. Instead, we insist on licensing access to this content or refuse to look at ways of indexing our own content, and consequently we are at the mercy of vendors. "Librarians love to search. Everybody else likes to find."

In the afternoon, I took a long walk and explored a bit of Norfolk.

mermaid
mermaid
fish
fish
flat building
flat building
hurricane aftermath
hurricane aftermath
librarian
librarian
McAruthur
McAruthur

Sunday, October 5

user's group
user's group

Sunday morning I facilitated the first MyLibrary User's Group Meeting. It was attended by about twenty people. I described the way the underlying database was going, specifically in regards to the description of resources. The bulk of the time was spent brainstorming new features -- creeping featuritis. Things that got articulated were:

We had a photo taken, and door prizes were given away. I thought the Meeting was successful, and I would do it again.

The Forum was closed by David Seaman of the Digital Library Federation in a presentation called "From isolation to integration: Major trends in digital libraries". Seaman first described the Digital Library Federation as an incubator for digital library initiatives, and he went on to enumerate a number of trends he sees on the horizon. For example, librarians should be taking a more active role in courseware applications. Authentication is always an issue, and he discussed Shiboleth for a little bit. Digital preservation is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. It is not just about books. Libraries are beginning to move into digital production services and not just small projects that start and stop. Libraries need to more "deep sharing" through things like OAI-PHM, OpenURL, and the integration of licensed journals. What I enjoyed most about Seaman's presentation were the ideas surrounding people's expectation. In his mind, people desire more than just list of resources. Instead, people what to find items from the resources and incorporate those items into their work. Search results need to be flexible enough to be reformatted for other purposes -- malleable in the same way electronic music is malleable. "We need to move beyond discovery to use and re-use. We need people to become active users. We need to move beyond searchable and browsable lists."

Conclusion

I enjoyed my time at the LITA Forum. The folks at ALA, specifically Rob Carlson , were very helpful in setting up the conference. In the halls I rekindled old friendships and made a few others. I even learned a bit about the culture of integrated library systems. My time at the conference was time well spent.

Norfolk, VA
Norfolk, VA
on the boat
on the boat
sailor
sailor
self-portrait
self-portrait
statue
statue
swirling sculpture
swirling sculpture

Creator: Eric Lease Morgan <eric_morgan@infomotions.com>
Source: This text was never formally published
Date created: 2003-10-17
Date updated: 2004-11-26
Subject(s): LITA (Library and Information Technology Association); Norfolk, VA; travel log;
URL: http://infomotions.com/musings/lita-2003/