This post has been sitting in my drafts for a long time now but I still haven’t had chance to finish my mashing project (read on for details). However, I recently finished reading Nicole Engard’s Library Mashups book (which by the way, is excellent – thoroughly recommended) and it spurred me on to finally publish this post.


At Middlemash in December

At Middlemash in December - from Dave Pattern on Flickr

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that back in December I was official Tweeter at Middlemash, the latest Mashed Libraries event. Mashed Libraries is about “bringing together interested people and doing interesting stuff with libraries and technology“. I also attended the first event held in London in 2008, and followed the second event (Mash Oop North) virtually in summer 2009.

The events are unconferences – there are a number of short presentations in the morning, usually sharing existing mashups or introducing possible mashups or tools to extract/manipulate data. The afternoon is more practical in nature, where participants can work on their own projects, find others to work with, or attend a workshop.

Middlemash featured a great variety of topics – there were presentations from Ex Libris, the event sponsor, about their open platform programme; Mark van Harmelen about paper prototyping; Chris Keene about University of Sussex’s work with Aquabrowser; Edith Speller’s review of her group’s mashup from Mash Oop North to help lecturers create search terms from their reading lists; and Paul Stainthorp about University of Lincoln’s mashup of new books using Refworks and Yahoo Pipes.

I found Edith and Paul’s talks particularly interesting as I could see applications within my own work. After lunch (which involved meeting lots of tweeters face to face for the first time!), I attended Owen Stephen’s session on mapping the library. I thought it would be interesting to see how this project develops as I can see great potential. Unfortunately I couldn’t be much help to Owen as I don’t have the technical skills needed, so I took the opportunity to chat to others about an idea of my own which had developed from listening to Edith and Paul.

My idea

To take data from electronic reading lists, turn each list into an RSS feed, and subscribe to get alerts when new editions of any of the books on a list are published.

This could be of great assistance to me as a subject librarian; usually I manually check all the books on my reading lists to see if new editions had been published but it would be far more beneficial to be alerted and purchase them as soon as they’re published.

I discussed my idea first with Dave Pattern, and then with Paul Stainthorp, who thankfully really liked the idea. Dave explained xISBN to me, which lists all editions of related books, and Paul used this to add a feed link for each book in his new books list (see more on his blog post).

This is a really great start, but would require subscribing to a large number of feeds if you were to keep track of all the books within your subject area as a subject librarian. Unfortunately, our data for reading lists (Talis List) doesn’t make it easy to extract the ISBNs we need to create RSS feeds for each module, but thankfully a systems co-worker, Ben (who was also at Middlemash), has kindly looked into how we could do this by taking the data direct from the database.

He then quickly put together a pipe, but soon found that we hit the limit of the xISBN request limit of 500 per day, so this isn’t really feasible for our purposes. We did come up with a few alternative ideas, none of which I can now remember. 🙁

So it’s still at the idea stage and I’d love to take it further just don’t know how to do so (can you hear my desperate plea for help?!). Please let me know (in the comments or be e-mailing me) if you think there’s a way to achieve this.

Get mashing!

I really enjoyed Middlemash, and even as a non-techie there was a heck of a lot I took from the event. For anyone interested in mashing data in libraries, the previously mentioned Library Mashups book is excellent, and provides some great practical examples of current mashups and ideas for creating or adapting your own. I got quite a few ideas from the book, and have already started playing with one (Google Custom Search Engine), which I’ll be blogging about soon.

If you’re interested in mashing library data and get the opportunity to go along to a Mashed Libraries event (keep an eye on the Mashed Library Ning for announcements of further events), I’d urge you to do so, I really can’t recommend them enough.

And if anyone has any ideas about how to further my idea, please let me know in the comments. I evidently need people with much more knowledge and experience than myself to progress it!

Verizon and BlackBerry  Storm Debut a Collaboration from Chris Cornell & Timbaland

A little while ago, I was involved in a very interesting discussion about utilising newer mobile technologies within libraries which began on Twitter (with @ijclark, @aarontay, @ostephens, and @chriskeene) and sparked experimentation and further discussion in the office.

1. Using your mobile phone as a library card

The first idea was prompted by this blog post from Aaron Tay. It introduces the Cardstar app, which allows users to enter their loyalty/membership card details into their iPhone (they are also developing an Android and Blackberry version) and use the barcode on their phone instead of their cards. I’d seen this in the App Store but hadn’t thought about its potential for library cards, but it seems some libraries have already started using it in this way.

Initially I was a little unsure about this as a colleague raised concerns that there was no way to check the identity of the owner. However, it was then pointed out that many public library cards have no photo ID and even libraries that do have photo ID on the card often have a self issue option so in theory anyone who found a lost card could use it to borrow material. As an aside, I later found out that our self issue machines could have added functionality to ask users for their PIN before allowing access to the account, which would overcome these problems (so long as the PIN was not recorded on the card of course and only given to the cardholder upon proof of identity – at my place of work we email the PIN so that only the true cardholder can get this information).

Anyway – on to the fun part! I decided to test the app to see if it would work with our systems. It took a bit of configuring (many thanks to Ben our systems guru!), but I eventually got my barcode on there and it worked! I tested it on my own PC and the issue counter (CCD barcode scanners), both of which worked fine, but I couldn’t get it to work on the self issue machines. I later discovered that this was because the self issue machines use laser scanners which can struggle to read barcodes from the iPhone as the surface is too reflective.

As Aaron points out – whether or not we encourage this app, we need to be aware of it as our tech savvy users may start using it and we will have to be aware of it and know our institution’s policy (which will likely depend on security measures currently used).

2. Using QR codes in libraries

We got chatting in the office about these sort of new technologies (I have an iPhone, my colleague has an Android phone), and the discussion turned to QR codes (watch this YouTube video for an introduction if you’re not familiar with QR codes),which you may have seen on products recently. Below is a QR code which should direct you to the homepage of the Joeyanne Libraryanne blog, try it out on your mobile (you’ll need a QR reader which are available for most camera phones, just google the model and QR reader):


QR codes are already appearing in some library OPACs. We decided to have a play, and created some QR codes to redirect to particular areas of our website. We tested it on both our phones with success, and then began thinking about possible applications for this. Some things I thought about were (not an extensive list, these are just some very simple ideas):

  • Including the QR code to electronic books/journals on the shelf near print books/journals which have an electronic equivalent
  • Including QR codes of useful websites/online reports/resources near the print stock (e.g. curriculum, education/health reports)
  • Including QR codes of relevant sections to our website at appropriate places in the building (e.g. to get up-to-date instructions for using equipment/facilities, or online bookings if we had them)
  • Using QR codes instead of URLs on guides/tipsheets and for advisors to share with users who have enquiries. This could maybe be developed to be included on clothing, like QRazystuff are planning. Many libraries use t-shirts for those helping with enquiries – maybe these could include QR codes to commonly accessed sections on the website?

I really enjoyed finding out more about these technologies. I think it’s really exciting to think about the future of libraries – both with the technologies such as QR codes, RFID and who knows what next; and also about innovative ways to develop our resources and services. There’s so much more to be done and it’s a great time to be part of the profession – I love keeping up-to-date on all the latest ideas from different areas (globally now, thanks to the improved online communication channels) and investigating their potential within MPOW (my place of work). I don’t know if either of these ideas in particular are going to become something that we use within MPOW at the moment, but the potential is there and it was really good to test the feasibility and see if it’s a viable prospect. There are a lot of ways we can definitely improve, and I’ll certainly be mentioning these ideas with other colleagues.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone is currently using either of these ideas or something similar, or if there are other similar uses we hadn’t considered? Please let me know in the comments. 🙂

Some readers will remember my nerves followed by enjoyment when I spoke at my first conference last year – the New Professionals Conference. As you can see from my write up of the experience, I really enjoyed the conference – there was such a buzz of enthusiasm. Following the success of last year’s event, CILIP Career Development Group are organising New Professionals Conference 2010 this summer, this time in Sheffield.

Quite a few people on Twitter seem to be considering proposing a paper, and I’d strongly encourage anyone to do so if you are eligible and you’re thinking about it; it is a really great opportunity. I was really unsure about what to expect initially, but the organisers where incredibly supportive, and the level of peer support from other speakers (all of whom were first-time speakers) was excellent too. Ned Potter (winner of last year’s bottle of fizz and £100!) has written a great post which answers some key questions and gives advice about your proposal. I’d echo what Ned says, particularly that you don’t need to worry too much about writing in a formal style – you just need to give a basic idea of what you would like to talk about and why. Then, if it’s accepted, you can do more research into the area and begin to develop your idea further into a full paper and presentation.

I’m hoping to attend as a delegate this year, and look forward to seeing this year’s presentations – go on, give it a go! The deadline for proposal abstracts (300 words) is 26th February.