or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk




NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Randy Robertshaw

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Randy Robertshaw speakingRandy Robertshaw, Tyngsborough (MA) Public Library
Randy has converted his small public library over to as much open source Linux applications as possible.

His goal in this conversion was to save the library money by paying less for hardware and software, and by saving staff time in supporting the library computers. Randy's presentation focused mostly on available open source applications, such as Firefox, Drupal, Open Office, and on a company they use to maintain their Linux clients, Userful, and offered a lot of practical implementation tips (download his presentation below).

But Randy does not see open source software (OSS) as the be-all and end-all or library computing. He covered both pros and cons, in that it offers reduced cost and high flexibility, but the trade off is that the software isn't necessarily as high-quality or as stable as commercial software. When deciding to go with OSS, we really need to evaluate both what we want to accomplish as well as the available OSS tools, to find the best fit.

   [download Randy's presentation: pdf (5.2M)]

Speakers

drupal, firefox, libraries, library, linux, nela, nela-its, open office, open source, randy robertshaw, userful



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Joshua Ferraro

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Joshua Ferraro speakingJoshua Ferraro, LibLime
Although representing a support service company, Joshua was really here to talk about the Koha ILS. I didn't know much about Koha before this, but during Josh's sixty-minute talk, it became my favorite library tool.

It originated in New Zealand, but has since been implemented in American libraries, too. The beauty of its open sourceness is that libraries are not tied to a single vendor for support and developments - we can do things ourselves, or benefit from the contributions of others in the community, or pay companies like LibLime to do the development for us.

And of course, this is all to our specifications and on our timetable, rather than that of a vendor who is more interested in profiting off of us than in serving our patrons.

Here's a few things I really liked about Koha (using the Nelsonville (OH) Public Library's catalog as an example):

  • Intelligent ("field-weighted") searching works like patrons expect: searching for "it" returns relevant matches, rather than junk. Also, searching for "Stephen King" returns different matches than "King, Stephen," because the catalog presumes the latter is a search for books by King, rather than information about and by him
  • Facetted search results show on the left, to let patrons easily and quickly refine their search
  • Native rss feeds available for every search (allows people to keep up to date with new acquisitions)
  • Multiple sort options, including currently available items only (and that's live data, not based off an indexed file)
  • Extensive and powerful advanced search options
  • Records and editions grouped via FRBR and xisbn
  • Book jacket images, reviews, description, and more right where patron can find it, from Amazon (for free) or companies like Syndetics (for a fee)
  • "Virtual Shelves" for both award winners, best sellers, staff-generated lists, etc., and patron-generated lists (once they've logged into their account)
  • Patrons can also submit purchase suggestions
  • Supports multiple data formats, not just MARC - even websites
  • Offers built-in federated searching with something LibLime calls MasterKey

Obviously, I took good notes on this section. My library has been reviewing another open source ILS, Evergreen PINES, and since LibLime supports both, it was interesting to hear Josh's comparison of them. It basically broke down like this:

  • Evergreen: 1.5 years old, used by 1 library system, and is designed for top-down control (a single decision is made by the administrators for the entire system)
  • Koha: 8 years old, used by 500+ libraries, and is designed for local control (each libraries can make custom interface changes independent of the others in the consortium, while still sharing data)

Koha also offered some other cool features, like a page translation option, varied interfaces for adults, kids, etc., and much more.

Speakers

evergreen, ils, joshua ferraro, koha, liblime, libraries, library, nela, nela-its, open source



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 – Elizabeth Thomsen

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Elizabeth Thomsen speakingElizabeth Thomsen, NOBLE
Elizabeth energetically spoke on the world of software in general: how it is developed, how it should be viewed, and what is necessary to making good software:

  • Her basic message: Software is easy!
  • Software should be designed to be used by people. Therefore, any shortcomings of the software is the fault of the programmers, and users can't be blamed for errors
  • Communication is vital to development, both amongst programmers and between programmers and users; users should be seen as co-developers
  • Design is important, as poor design can hide even the best features
  • A few quotes from Brook's Law to underscore pitfalls with software development:
    • "Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later"
    • "Childbirth takes nine months no matter how many women are assigned to the task"

   [view Elizabeth's presentation]

Speakers

elizabeth thomsen, libraries, library, nela, nela-its, open source



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NELA-ITS Spring Program 2007 Recap

   June 6th, 2007 Brian Herzog

I spent today at NELA-ITS' Spring Program, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Open Source," focusing on open source software use in libraries. There were four speakers, and I tried to summarize the main points of each:

Update: Check out session reviews by Emily Alling, too

All I'll say about the location, Tower Hill Botanical Garden, is this: go there if you can (photos).

libraries, library, nela, nela-its, open source



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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Open Source

   May 17th, 2007 Brian Herzog

Looking for a way to learn more about using open source tools in your library? Sure, we all are. Have I got a program for you...

One committees I'm on is the Information Technology Section of the New England Library Association. In addition to going to the meetings and sponsoring sessions at NELA's annual conference, we're also planning the NELA-ITS Spring Program, called "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Open Source."

This program is being held Wednesday, June 6, 2007, at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden, in Boylston, MA. I'm looking forward to going, both for the program itself and because I've heard Tower Hill is a great place to spend a nice day outside.

More about the program:

Program Schedule:
9:30 Registration and Breakfast
10:00 Opening Session - Elizabeth Thomsen, North of Boston Library Exchange
11:00 Break
11:15 Koha Open Source ILS - Joshua Ferraro, Liblime
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Running Linux Applications in a Public Library - Randy Robertshaw, Tyngsboro Public Library
1:55 Flavors of Linux (Ubuntu and more!) - Wes Hamilton, Technology Coordinator, Western MA Regional Library System
2:40 Q & A with our panel of speakers
3:30 Program ends

Cost: NELA Members - $40 Non-members - $50

More details and online registration is available, but feel free to ask me any questions you might have, too.

Going to various committee meetings is okay, but I really enjoy getting off the desk and out of the library to find out what other librarians are doing and how they handle the same issues I see in my own library. This program will be great for that - maybe I'll see you there.

Elizabeth Thomsen, ils, information technology section, Joshua Ferraro, Koha, koha, Liblime, libraries, library, linux, Linux in a Public Library, nela, nela-ite, nela-its, new england, new england library association, open source, Open Source ILS, public libraries, public library, Randy Robertshaw, spring program, tower hill, Tower Hill Botanic Garden, tower hill botanical gardens, Ubuntu, Wes Hamilton



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Standing on the Keyboards of Giants

   April 21st, 2007 Brian Herzog

During Jessamyn's Pimp My Firefox talk at cil2007, something occurred to me. So much of the code used on websites today was written by someone else - themes, rss feeds, widgets, etc.

I think this is great, as freeware/open source/creative commons all allow people to share good ideas - repacking them, repurposing them, resuing them.. you know, recycling.

(not to mention that this has been my style of coding ever since I started coding in 1996. I am almost exclusively self-taught, which means I learned from seeing something I liked on the web, viewing the code, and figuring it out. Often, this meant I grabbed the code and tweaked and modified it to do what I wanted. You can learn a lot through trial and error)

Site Made with Recycled Code iconSo, it was during that session that I got the idea for this new movement, the "made with recycled code" movement. By "movement," of course all I mean is create a little icon and stick it on my webpage. And not being a graphic designer, it's not even a very good icon, but I think it's a catchy phrase.

If you like it, grab it from flickr or the psd file from my website (big [575x575px, 316kb]; small [130x130px, 119kb]).

cil2007, code, coding, freeware, jessamyn, jessamyn west, made with recycled code, open source, recycle, recycled, recycled code, rss, site made with recycled code, themes



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