Thursday Threads: Digital Reference Librarians, First Sale Danger, Open Access, Data Modeling

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When I say “<blank> is a question answering system. A question can be posed in natural language and … <blank> can come up with a very precise answer to that question” — what comes to mind to fill in the <blank>? If you guessed a system developed by IBM to appear alongside human contestants on Jeopardy, you’d be right. That quote comes from video posted by IBM earlier this year that is the topic of the first DLTJ Thursday Threads entry. This weeks other entries look at possible erosions of copyright first sale doctrine, the state of open access publishing, and a proposition for new definitions to terms of art in data modeling.

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A Catalog for the “Next Generation” or the Current Generation?

Are we building the “next generation” catalog for us (librarians) or our users? As a read a report from the Next Generation Summit Search Interface Working Group of the Orbis/Cascade Alliance, I have to wonder. Portions of this report are dated1 other portions are timeless. In particular, this section from page 2 (emphasis added):

How do we define “next generation”?

Schemes to Add Functionality to the Web OPAC

Schemes to add functionality to the web OPAC fall into four categories: web OPAC enhancements, web OPAC wrappers, web OPAC replacements, and integrated library system replacements. I’m outlining these four techniques in a report I’m editing for an OhioLINK strategic task force and a bit of a reality check on this categorization is desired, so if I’m missing anything big (conceptually or announcements of projects/products that fall into these categories), please let me know in the comments. Generally speaking, this list is ordered by cost/complexity to implement — from lowest to highest — as well as the ability to offer the described enhanced services from least likely to most likely.

Open Library Demonstration Screencast

Earlier this week, Aaron Swartz of the Internet Archive announced the demonstration website of the Open Library project, a new kind of book catalog that brings together traditional publisher and library bibliographic data in an interface with the user-contributed paradigm of Wikipedia. Okay, I’ll pause for a moment while you parse that last sentence. Think you got it? Read — and watch — further.

Taking a Day’s Break from SOA

No Service Oriented Architecture posting today, but here is a glimpse of the topic of the next one — the title is: “Web Services: A means to a Service Oriented Architecture end.” In the meantime I wanted to thank everyone for their public and private comments, and to ask to keep ‘em coming. The big push for writing about SOA this week was a lead up to a meeting of the OhioLINK Technical Advisory Council (TAC) today. On TAC’s agenda was a question about looking at SOA as a design strategy for new and migrated services. These blog postings served several purposes: 1) propel the topic a little further in the library community [presupposing that it was a worthy topic]; 2) serve as background information for today’s meeting; 3) flush out comments from the library community [which it did -- thanks again!]; and 4) form the basis of a whitepaper on SOA at OhioLINK. TAC agreed to keep looking at it and endorsed the writing of the whitepaper. Keep the comments and observations coming!

The Dis-integration of the ILS into a SOA Environment

This is part three of a continuing series on the application of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) design pattern to library systems. In the first part, the SOA concept was compared to a transportation network and the basic foundation for defining SOA was set down. The second part described what a “service” in SOA could be and proposed an example using OCLC’s WorldCat interface with item status information being pulled from a library catalog system. That part also left off with a teaser about the juxtaposition of “inventory control system” with “local catalog system” — a foreshadowing of the topic of this post: what to do about the Monolithic (er… “Integrated”) Library System.

Services in a Service Oriented Architecture

This post is the second in a series about the application of the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) system design pattern to library services. The first post in this series focused on defining “Service Oriented Architecture” using the analogy of a transportation network. This post goes into some detail about what makes a “service” in this architecture and offers an example using a hypothetical use case: a union library catalog (Open WorldCat) making a statement about the availability of a book.

Just In Time Acquisitions versus Just In Case Acquisitions

What of a service existed where the patrons selected an item they needed out of our library catalog and that item was delivered to the patron even when the library did not yet own the item? Would that be useful? With the growth of online bookstores, our users do have the expectation of finding something they need on the web, clicking a few buttons and having it delivered. When such expectations of what is possible exist, where is the first place a patron would go to find recently published items — the online bookstore or their local library catalog? Does your gut tell you it is the online bookstore? Would it be desirable if the patron’s instinct were to be the local library catalog?

Appreciating our Heritage while Embracing a Future

Tom Wilson, LITA past president and all-around insightful LITA Top Technology Trendster, posted a commentary to the “Where have all the programmers gone?” post that deserves top billing 1. Please read and digest it before coming back here. And it’s not late to the party at all, Tom — I believe it is only now just getting interesting.

“Is the Writing On The Wall?” — Take 2

Walt Crawford chided me — rightly so — for yesterday’s Is the Writing on the Wall for the Integrated Library System? post. My choice of language was, admittedly, sloppy. I was fired up last night…distracted, if you will, by what was happening at a really good conference. Please allow me the chance to redeem my argument.

In academic libraries, in my experience, there has been a decline in the use of library catalogs. This experience could be verified in the ARL supplementary statistics for at least that population of libraries (I think those numbers are password-protected, so it might be a challenge to try to use them). When I get back on the ground and have some time, I will either offer confirmation of that supposition or retract it.