August 24, 2004

Northern Children’s Book Festival 2004

Running from November 8th-20th, this will be the 21st occurrence of this tremendous event, organised by the library services of 12 local authorities in the north east of England. It is Europe’s largest free children’s book event, with top authors, poets and performers visiting schools and libraries in the region and culminating in a gala day. What a great way to encourage reading, inspire children and support schools and libraries.

Libraries, blogs and RSS revisited

Just to note another excellent introductory article: Ian Winship’s Weblogs and RSS in information work published in the May 2004 CILIP Update.

Service oriented again

Following on from last Friday's post I googled for 'service oriented' and opened up a massive new vista on service oriented architecture and web services. Once again it's that experience of trying to take a light drink from a fire hydrant. After a few minutes the most concise and informative article I found is, which is part of a much larger site full of good related technical stuff that is generally at the right level to inform business thinking.

August 20, 2004

Service-Oriented Frameworks

In my opening blog entry I observed how how pervasive the use of technology is becoming in HE teaching, learning and research. I've just come across a recent paper (20 July 2004) on the JISC web site that helps to clarify the kind of coherent technical infrastructure that's needed to support and realise the potential to improve activities in a broad domain, such as e-learning. Service-Oriented Frameworks: Modelling the infrastructure for the next generation of e-learning systems (a PDF) explains an approach to infrastructure development to achieve the integration of a wide range of systems that is needed to realise the desired improvements. In this context, a framework comprises a broad set of services required to support the business of a community. Services are pieces of application logic or behaviour in the various systems - so a library management system could expose the item reservation business logic as a service to be consumed in the institution portal or VLE. Some services may be common to multiple applications and frameworks, for example authentication, authorisation and service registry functions. And typically this would all be achieved using Web Services technology.

August 18, 2004

Get with the BEAT

The Library of Congress Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team (BEAT) celebrated its tenth anniversary this summer. There is an extensive description of their work in the LC Cataloging Newsline (LCCN) vol. 12 no.9 (which I get via email but is not yet posted on their web site). BEAT’s work is about ‘enriching the content of Library of Congress bibliographic records, improving access to the data the records contain, and conducting research and development in related areas.’ Anyone interested in enriching bibliographic records to improve retrieval and presentation should be aware of the excellent work of David Williamson and the BEAT:

Serials cataloguing shake-up

Another item that caught my eye in LCCN, this time vol.12 no.10, is the announcement of the availability of the recommendations and conclusions from the CONSER Summit on Serials in the Digital Environment, which was held March 18-19, 2004, in Alexandria, Virginia. These are outlined (in some detail) in the summary on the Summit Website at This involved major players from across the serials industry and libraries. There is some fairly radical thinking to make records more useful in the digital environment. This, together with the current turmoil around the future of the ISSN, is going to make for interesting times ahead for serials management.

Metadata format pluralism

Libraries must embrace metadata format pluralism or die. This seems to be Roy Tennant’s current theme, whose latest manifestation is his article Metadata leadership, published in the August issue of the Library Journal. He discusses three important players: cataloguers, their bosses and appropriate tools. At least in the UK, it will take a considerable mental u-turn for many library chiefs to realise the importance of metadata, having reduced and downgraded cataloguing staff for many years. On the other hand, one can hope that library schools are recognising the need and are devoting more time and effort to cataloguing, in its new forms, after long neglect. And there seems to be plenty of cataloguing training going, judging from email announcements that I see, not only the Allegro / Ian Ledsham courses but also in the area of educational metadata, which I suspect is often involving people who are not initially cataloguers and where there is also an initiative to address quality concerns, which echo issues that have been addressed over many years in MARC & AACR cataloguing.

August 16, 2004

Cyberinfrastructure, library groupware and other musings

I’ll kick off by summarising a few things that have been new to me recently and have altered my thinking. The JISC-CNI conference in Brighton last month introduced me to the term cyberinfrastructure. It was eye-opening to see real examples from both sides of the Atlantic of how pervasive the use of technology is becoming in HE teaching, learning and research. Even in the humanities, as witnessed by the last two speakers. Most of the presentations are available at

Remote access, digital information sources and VLEs I’ve understood in an abstract sense for some time, but it was fascinating and utterly different to my student experience back in the mists of time to see what’s happening in terms of physical technical infrastructure and its effect on both formal and informal teaching and learning. Enormous investment is going into buildings in some institutions for wireless networking, videoconferencing, enabling computing to be an integral part of course delivery and consumption, as well as creative architectural design for formal and social spaces conducive to new ways of learning. The idea of students collaborating on a project in the café, each with their laptop wirelessly connected to the network, was particularly striking. This put me in mind of some ideas in the OCLC Environmental Scan: the idea that those who have recently grown up with computing have attitudes and expectations conditioned by gaming, multitasking and mobile technology; and the idea of the third space, a comfortable informal environment that isn’t work or home but could be the library, which supports people in a neutral and trusted way to satisfy their information needs and collaborate and communicate with each other.

Another new concept (to me) that could form part of the cyberinfrastructure is library groupware. There is an article on this in the latest Ariadne: This is about information management for individuals and groups using a set of tools that could constitute a new area of library service that is core to the library mission. It would enable users to manage information in the complex environment of diverse online information resources. The authors consider how library groupware could, for example, integrate link resolvers, bibliographic reference managers and weblogs. This seems like food for thought by library system vendors.

And so to blogging. Penny Garrod’s excellent article in the latest Ariadne - - has helped me to realise how blogging can be valuable, rather than just another outlet for the confessional urge of some Americans. It took some badgering to get me to start this blog, but I’m beginning to get it after reading this article, which shows how blogging can be beneficial in education as well as how it is being put to creative use by some libraries.

I’ll finish with a few words about another step I’ve just taken into cyberspace: RSS. I’ve been meaning to try it for some while, in the hope of more efficiently keeping in touch with all the news, articles and now blogs that I’m interested in or need to know about. After failing to get a couple of free Windows-based RSS readers working, I tried Pluck - -, which integrates into your web browser. It’s excellent, very easy to install and use and does just what I want including some things I hadn’t even thought of. Now I’m building up a stock of RSS feeds and also starting to think about how RSS might be used in library systems.