NEASIS&T Buy, Hack or Build Followup

I was tempted to speak without slides yesterday, and I must offer my apologies to anybody trying to read them now, as I’m not sure how the slides make sense without the context of my speech. On that point, it’s worth knowing that Lichen did an outstanding job liveblogging the event, despite struggling with a blown tire earlier that morning.

It’s probably well understood by anybody reading this that most library services are at the web 1.0 stage. My slides show a number of screenshots of our current library catalog, but my speech went something like “I’m not here to tell you how we re-painted, re-wallpapered our catalog….” So, skip past those slides, and read here for context.

My following points were about some of the hacks I’d put into production to bring our library services up to about web 1.5 status. They include an awareness that library services include not only the OPAC, but also our website and a number of databases. We’ve all encountered difficulty trying to describe the different reasons to use each of these resources, but our patrons have less and less patience for it. Among the barriers to use is access. Even when our databases are freely available on campus, off-campus use often requires a special password for one stage or another of the process.

The slides demonstrate our current solution. By integrating our resources into the university portal and leveraging the authentication service it provided, I was able to hack single sign-on access to our databases and patron self-service module. This lowered the barriers to access, and we saw our usage of those resources increase dramatically.

All this was good, but it still wasn’t web 2.0, and it revealed a larger problem looming ahead: identity management. The more we try to provide individualized, customized, targeted services, the more we’ll bump into that issue of how we identify our patrons.

Moving forward to our web 2.0 future, I wanted to posit the idea that one of the most useful recent developments is the way we can now separate the tools that store and manage our data from the tools that display and manipulate our data. Yes, I’m talking about APIs, Webservices, XML, RSS, REST, SOAP, et all.

As examples, I offered a personal vacation map (using Google Maps), the Colr Pickr (using Flickr), our reviews and bookjacket pages (using Amazon), and this silly home made search engine (using Yahoo, Technorati, Amazon, Flickr, and Wikipedia).

Even more specific to libraries, I offered my OPAC suggest, integration and this functional (but not pretty) prototype of how I’d like to make subject headings a more prominent part of the search process.

So, you’re free to go through my slides, but you might do better to read around here and at LibDev. If you do go through the slides, be sure to follow the links out to websites. I didn’t visit even half of them during my talk, but I put them there to offer some redeeming value on review.