Issue 14, 2011-07-25

Editorial Introduction: Prioritizing the Future, Collaborating in the Present, and Archiving the Past

This is an exciting time for libraries and technology, and libraries have the opportunity now to build strong collaborations that both preserves our rich history and prioritizes our future. This issue shines a light on a unique blending of priorities old and new, detailed analysis of our past, and creative solutions that enhance the mission of libraries. Libraries big and small have the chance to impact our communities for the better. Come along, it’s going to be a great ride.

by Tim McGeary

This is an exciting time in the library and the technology arenas.  It seems that every week there are more and more innovative applications and projects screaming for our attention. Many of them are worth evaluating to discern the value added to our own libraries.  But the technical and user requirements for applications change so rapidly, application analysis is just as much prioritizing for the future as it is to answer a present problem.  Yet we must not lose sight that the future of libraries also includes archiving the past, a unique blending of priorities old and new, which only shines a brighter light on the need of daily collaborations.

A perfect large-scale example is Google+, which recently opened invitations to a wider user base.  For the first time in my tenure here at Lehigh University, the release of an innovative application spawned an immediate, and widespread, energy of collaboration.  Within two weeks (which in the world of academia is equivalent to the speed of light), I was sitting in the bookstore cafe with faculty members, program administrators, members of university relations, a member from the athletics department, and an alumnus, all who see potential, and effective, uses of Google+ on campus.  The discussion was not centered around whether Google+ would overtake Facebook, but rather a brainstorming session of the numerous, yet convergent, opportunities we could use Google+ at Lehigh.

The unique challenges each of these groups on campus deal with regularly can be daunting in attempting to find common uses of technology, and with the continuing uncertainty of the economy, it would be reasonable and natural to expect everyone to focus only on their essential tasks, minimizing risk and conservatively waiting out this storm.  But success rarely rewards the status quo, and, as evidenced in this issue of the Code4Lib Journal, these authors believe in the value of their endeavors.

Web 2.0 and social media/networks have lots of advantages, but attempting to aggregate or simply remember all the various resources we use daily is difficult, if not overwhelming.  And users are moving to mobile devices faster than we can say ‘smart phone’.  Two articles in this issue are beginning to tackle pieces of these two vast environments.  In A Novel Method for Creating a Distributed, Collaborative Commenting Environment for Bibliographic Items, Rurik Thomas Greenall discusses a unique approach to adding user comments for bibliographic information to existing platforms, such as library catalogs.  The strength of the described approach is that it increases the number of comments available for display in any local catalog by consolidating comments from multiple sites and by clustering comments at the FRBR Work level.  The adoption of this service is worth keeping an eye on.

Mike Beccaria describes how Paul Smith’s College implemented an information service via SMS messenging in How to Provide Live Library Information via SMS Using Twilio. This small academic library is leading the way in using a new class of ‘cloud-based‘ SMS vendors to make simple SMS-based services efficient and cost-effective to implement, and have many possible applications in the library environment.

As libraries focus on how to continue prioritizing their future, while continuing their mission of making archives and valuable collections accessible, these three articles provide useful examples.  Online viewing of high-resolution document images is problematic at best, and downright perplexing to a user at worst.  Diva.js: A Continuous Document Viewing Interface could be the solution you’ve been looking for.  Andrew Hankinson, Wendy Liu, Laurent Pugin, and Ichiro Fujinaga discuss Diva.js, a multi-page browser-based document viewer designed to present high-resolution digitized document images as a continuous, scrollable item.  To enable a more effective use of scanned text documents, specifically those digitized from microfiche, Doreva Belfiore presents a Perl scripting application to use the open-source module PerlMagick to automatically adjust the brightness levels of digitized images in Using ImageMagick to Automatically Increase Legibility of Scanned Text Documents.  Nathan Mealey reviews three titles published by “A Book Apart”, the book-publishing arm of the website A List Apart.  Mealey details the most important elements of these books, which discuss HTML5, CSS3, and content strategy.  These books will become a staple in building effective web sites in the future environment demands of users on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.

No matter how libraries deliver content and services, if our systems don’t store and disseminate data and collections effectively, our users will become frustrated fast.  It is mandatory, then, that we examine how our collections and services fit into the new, and changing, landscapes we all work in.  Karen Coyle thoroughly details MARC21 as Data, looking at the forty-five year-old data format with deep analysis, and presents a first attempt to inventory MARC21 so it can be transformed into a more effective data format in our growing web-based environments.  Demian Katz, Ralph LeVan, and Ya’aqov Ziso’s Using Authority Data in VuFind to show that authority data can still be combined with modern discovery in useful ways. This article examines several mechanisms in which the VuFind environment provides information to its users that can enhance discovery.  In a similar vein, geographical authority data can be powerful in the right interface.  Rick Bennett, Edward T. O’Neill, Kerre Kammerer, and JD Shipengrover discuss a Google Maps mashup application that allows users to see surrounding locations that are also FAST subjects.  mapFAST: A FAST Geographic Authorities Mashup with Google Maps details a mapping interface which allows for simple selection of a location, with links to enter it directly as a search into either or Google Books.  Often users will discover materials not readily available in their home library.  In Joining an Open Source Community: Creating a Symphony Connector for the XC NCIP Toolkit, Michelle Suranofsky discusses Lehigh University’s decision to adopt the eXtensible Catalog NCIP Toolkit for its NCIP service for their intra-consortium borrowing system, including the technical details about building a connector for the SirsiDynix Symphony ILS.

Finally, Gary Browne discusses Web-Based Software Integration For Dissemination Of Archival Images for the Frontiers of Science illustrated comic strip collection at the University of Sydney.  The Frontiers of Science illustrated comic strip of ‘science fact’ ran from 1961 to 1982, syndicated worldwide by over 600 newspapers.  Their aim was to create a website that could disseminate these comic strips to scholars, enthusiasts and the general public, while enabling users to search and browse through the images simply and effectively, with an intuitive and novel viewing platform.  The unique subject of the collection notwithstanding, a most fascinating aspect of this project was the rapid development cycle of six weeks to deliver the site on time, as well as provide the University of Sydney with a framework for similar projects.

It is indeed an exciting time for libraries and technology.  With excellent examples of innovation, analysis, and design, libraries have the opportunity now to be on the cutting edge of technology and service.  We have the perfect landscape to look at the big picture in the communities we serve.  Whether it is preserving our rich history or creatively pointing users to discovery paths made rich through excellent data and collaboration, our future is bright.  Come along with with us, and help us build even stronger collaborations with our communities.  We don’t have to wait for Google to do it first.  We can join together and make it even better.

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  1. Code4Lib Journal, n° 14 « pintiniblog,

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