TPD at LITA Forum and CNI

Last month (where does the time go?), I was in Albuquerque for the LITA National Forum. I can’t say strongly enough what a good, small conference this is for topics on applying technology to library projects (the 2015 Forum will be in Minneapolis, which will simplify travel – I expect to see ZSR faces there!). It packs an awful lot into 48 hours.


AnnMarie Thomas, University of St. Thomas. AnnMarie is an engineering professor who specializes in playing and making. She spoke about setting up maker spaces that are something more than just a 3D printer. One of her specialties is Squishy Circuits, an innovative way to electrical circuit design using circuits made of play dough. Fun stuff (which is the point), and a good way to foster interest in STEM topics.

Lorcan Dempsey, Thinker of Deep Thoughts, OCLC. Lorcan’s talk, “Thinking About Technology…Differently” touched on a wide range of topics: how the relationship between information and knowledge mirrors the relationship between “stuff on the web” and “linked data on the web”; the growing use [by Google et al.] of embedded metadata in web pages, and the work to boost the quality and granularity of metadata for bibliographic items; the link from the reality that Google is where people are to the need to make our content more discoverable and to mesh our workflows for things like IR submission to the workflows of our authors – not the other way around.

Kortney Ryan Ziegler, founder of Trans*h4ck. Trans*h4ck is a hackathon and tech-oriented get-together for the trans a gender non-conforming community. An interesting and eye-opening talk, including the sad fact that in many libraries, trans patrons can’t even search the word transgender in library databases because filtering software automatically flags it as pornography. Another sad part of day-to-day life is the simple act of finding a public restroom where people won’t hassle you for which door you go in; one of Trans*h4ck’s first accomplishments was YoRestrooms, a mobile web site that uses Google Maps to locate gender-safe public restrooms.

Highlights of Breakout Sessions:

Forum usually packs in about 30 breakout sessions. Of the ones I could get to, highlights included further details on OCLC’s work to expand the vocabulary for embedding bibliographic data in web pages without giving Google the whole shebang of MARC fields. Also, a great session on improving libraries’ presence on social media by A) actually participating in Twitter and Facebook rather than using them as post-only media; and B) employing SMO (Social Media Optimization). As a parallel to SEO (search engine optimization), SMO helps explain a page to Facebook or Twitter in order to improve what people see when you Like that page.

Not long after returning from Albuquerque, I was on my way to Washington, DC, for the CNI Fall Meeting. If LITA Forum packs a lot into 48 hours, CNI packs at least as much into 26 hours (though with breakout sessions running in 9 concurrent streams, the percentage of content you can get to has gone down).

The opening plenary was a discussion featuring Tom Cramer, Chief Technology Strategist at Stanford; James Hilton, Dean of Libraries and Vice Provost for Educational Initiatives, University of Michigan, and Michele Kimpton, CEO of Duraspace (the organization that coordinates development on DSpace and Fedora). Interesting stuff on the role of educational institutions in creating the software we want to use; sustainable software development; and the difference between simply open source software and software that is the product of open communities.

There was a good session on interoperating with Wikipedia. There’s no denying that students’ research often follows a path of Google?Wikipedia?References, so we can at least work in the Wikipedia community to improve the visibility of relevant library holdings, and in particular digital objects in our repositories. One of the presenters is the head of the Wikipedia Library Program, which among other things is working on a program of Wikipedia Visiting Scholars. Often, prolific Wikipedia editors need the kind of database and full text access we take for granted, but don’t have access to a good academic library. As visiting scholars, they can get remote access to high quality sources, and improve Wikipedia for everyone’s benefit. Rutgers and George Mason were noted as universities that have supported Wikipedia visiting scholars.

Another good session on OCLC’s efforts to articulate bibliographic information through embedded metadata.

Several sessions on patron privacy, including some sobering examples of exactly how much private information “leaks” out of web sites. Takeaways from this session are being rolled into the forthcoming ZSR privacy audit.

“What Have You Learned, Dorothy?”

New Mexico has an Official State Question: “Red or Green?” I usually answer Green. Also, green chile cheeseburgers ftw.

One-seventh of the way through the 21st century, conference hotels still routinely fail at providing adequate wi-fi. Routinely.

Embedded metadata is happening, often in subterranean ways, but it is definitely a thing. Getting books, articles, and other library goodies in on the action is going to be important.

I didn’t mention it above, but Kuali OLE is also a thing, if only just barely. The Open Library Environment is inching forward, and two schools (Lehigh and Chicago) are successfully using its first modules in production. We track this project as having the potential to provide a community developed, open source, academically oriented ILS in the (near?) future.