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Jonathan Rochkind: Really slow rspec suite? Use the fuubar formatter!

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-05-20 15:19

I am working on a ‘legacy’-ish app that unfortunately has a pretty slow test suite (10 minutes+).

I am working on some major upgrades to some dependencies, that require running the full test suite or a major portion of it iteratively lots of times. I’m starting with a bunch of broken tests, and whittling them down.

It was painful. I was getting really frustrated with the built-in rspec formatters — I’d see an ‘f’ on the output, but wouldn’t know what test had failed until the whole suite finished, or or I could control-c or run with –fail-fast to see the first/some subset of failed tests when they happen, but interrupting the suite so I’d never see other later failures.

Then I found the fuubar rspec formatter.  Perfect!

  • A progress bar makes the suite seem faster psychologically even though it isn’t. There’s reasons a progress bar is considered good UI for a long-running task!
  • Outputs failed spec as they happen, but keep running the whole suite. For a long-running suite, this lets me start investigating a failure as it happens without having to wait for suite to run, while still letting the suite finish to see the total picture of how I’m doing and what other sorts of failures I’m getting.

I recommend fuubar, it’s especially helpful for slow suites. I had been wanting something like this for a couple months, and wondering why it wasn’t a built-in formatter in rspec — just ran across it now in a reddit thread (started by someone else considering writing such a formatter who didn’t know fuubar already existed!).  So I write this blog post to hopefully increase exposure!

Filed under: General

FOSS4Lib Upcoming Events: Hydra Virtual Connect 2016

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-05-20 15:12
Date: Thursday, July 7, 2016 - 11:00 to 14:00Supports: Hydra

Last updated May 20, 2016. Created by Peter Murray on May 20, 2016.
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Hydra Virtual Connect is a new opportunity for the Hydra community to ‘connect' online in between face-to-face meetings, complementing the annual fall Hydra Connect conference and regional Hydra events. Presentations will include some of the Hydra talks given at Open Repositories 2016 for those that were unable to attend, plus reports from partners, community members, and interest groups.

For more information, see the Hydra Virtual Connect wiki page at

OCLC Dev Network: Retrofitting an Existing API with JSON-LD

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-05-20 13:00

Learn about how to use JSON-LD to add linked data support to an existing JSON API.

Peter Murray: Happy to Announce that I’m Joining Index Data

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-05-19 21:25

Index Data posted an announcement on their blog about how I will be joining them next month. Confirmed! I'll be working on the open source library service platform that was announced by EBSCO last month, and more specifically in a role as an organizer and advocate for people participating in the project. It feels like my career has been building to this role. And it also means getting re-engaged in the OLE project; I was part of the design effort in 2008-2009 and then drifted away as professional responsibilities took me in other directions. In the executive overview of the OLE design report, we said:

…the project planners produced an OLE design framework that embeds libraries directly in the key processes of scholarship generation, knowledge management, teaching and learning by utilizing existing enterprise systems where appropriate and by delivering new services built on connections between the library’s business systems and other technology systems.

That vision is as important to libraries today as it was then — even as the state of technology has advanced to make this vision harder (in some ways) and easier (in others) to achieve.

I will miss my colleagues and work at Cherry Hill. Cary, Jungleen, Justin and everyone else are great to work with, which is really important with a virtual organization. The client work has also been interesting and challenging with the opportunity to learn more about Drupal and relearn how to do operations in a cloud computing environment.

This job change also means that I'll be moving away from the Islandora and CollectionSpace open source communities. I've learned a lot from these groups that I'll be taking forward into my next adventure. (Anyone interested in creating a virtual gathering point for library open source project community managers?) I have a soft spot in by heart for these projects, and I'll be watching them as the grow.

DuraSpace News: OpenVIVO at OR2016

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-05-19 00:00

Austin, TX  Join Michael Conlon, VIVO project director and Graham Triggs, VIVO technical lead from Duraspace for an OpenVIVO poster presentation at Open Repositories 2016 next month in Dublin. OpenVIVO is a hosted VIVO for representing scholarly work that anyone with an ORCiD can use.

FOSS4Lib Recent Releases: pycounter - 0.14.0

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 19:43

Last updated May 18, 2016. Created by wooble on May 18, 2016.
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Package: pycounterRelease Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016

FOSS4Lib Recent Releases: Evergreen - 2.9.5

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 18:54
Package: EvergreenRelease Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Last updated May 18, 2016. Created by gmcharlt on May 18, 2016.
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Evergreen 2.9.5 fixes the following issues:

Email templates now properly encode header fields.
Fix an incorrect link field in the IDL.
Fix labels for Author and Title fields in Items Out of the OPAC when viewed on a small screen.

LITA: Jobs in Information Technology: May 18, 2016

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 18:47

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

University of Rhode Island, Associate Professor, Librarian (Data Services), Kingston, RI

Reaching Across Illinois Library System, Cataloging and Database Supervisor-PrairieCat, Coal Valley, IL

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

Evergreen ILS: Evergreen 2.9.5 Released

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 17:52

We are pleased to announce the release of Evergreen 2.9.5, a bug fix release.

Evergreen 2.9.5 fixes the following issues:

  • Email templates now properly encode header fields.
  • Fix an incorrect link field in the IDL.
  • Fix labels for Author and Title fields in Items Out of the OPAC when viewed on a small screen.

Please visit the downloads page to retrieve the server software and staff clients.

David Rosenthal: Jeffrey MacKie-Mason on Gold Open Access

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 15:22
I've written before about the interesting analysis behind the Max Planck Society's initiative to "flip" the academic publishing system from one based on subscriptions to one based on "gold" open access (article processing charges or APCs). They are asking institutions to sign an "Expression of Interest in the Large-scale Implementation of Open Access to Scholarly Journals". They now have 49 signatures, primarily from European institutions.

The US library community appears generally skeptical or opposed, except for the economist and Librarian of UC Berkeley, Jefferey MacKie-Mason. In response to what he describes as the Association of Research Libraries':
one-sided briefing paper in advance of a discussion during the spring ARL business meeting on 27 January. (I say “one-sided” because support of gold OA was presented, tepidly, in just nine words — “the overall aim of this initiative is highly laudable” — followed by nearly a page of single spaced “concerns and criticisms”.)he posted Economic Thoughts About Gold Open Access, a detailed and well-argued defense of the initiative. It is well worth reading. Below the fold, some commentary.

He summarizes US research library community's concerns thus:
  • Will gold OA further strengthen the monopoly scholarly publishing firms?
  • Will there be a change in the current market model?
  • Will research-production-intensive institutions be made worse off?
  • Will gold OA hurt under-resourced institutions?
  • Will flipping to gold OA take too long and cost too much?
He starts by pointing out that although there isn't a monopoly in scholarly publishing there is very significant rent extraction:
articles that people want to read have scarcity value — you can only get them from one publisher, generally (this is why publishers care so much about obtaining and protecting copyrights). Whoever has copyright on an article that readers want to read can charge a scarcity rent (price > cost).

The market for publishing has evolved so that a small number of organizations control copyright on the most valuable articles (e.g., Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, the American Chemical Society). They are able to charge prices well above incremental and average cost, so they are are earning above-competitive profit margins. In recent years the profit margins of the largest for-profit scholarly publishers have been around 35% or higher; a competitive, risk-adjusted profit margin is probably closer to about 10%. ... So, on the order of 25% of what we’re paying is not for the cost of publishing value added, but for excess (above-competitive, or monopolistic) profit.This rent amounts to several billion dollars per year, which the incumbent publishers will fight tooth and nail to preserve. They have powerful weapons with which to do so, among which are co-opting librarians with slots on "advisory boards", and co-opting faculty with editorial board positions (apparently the care and feeding of the editorial board is the largest single cost at some journals).

MacKie-Mason's analysis of the sources of the publishers' ability to extract rent is acute:
  1. They have journals that have a reputation for prestige, and so authors want to submit their articles to be published in those journals, rather than in journals published by less monopolistic organizations.
  2. They have many such journals, which they can sell in “big deal” bundles that make it very difficult for purchasers (mostly libraries) to put competitive pressure on the publishers by dropping subscriptions to their weaker journals (that is, those for which there are reasonably good substitutes).
  3. (This is a big one, and will come back below.) The decision to commit resources to purchase a journal is for the most part made by someone different (usually a librarian) than the decision about where to submit an article for publication (made by the author). Even if authors realize in the abstract that by submitting to publishers that charge monopoly prices they are reinforcing the power those publishers have, which results in their university or research lab having to spend too much on subscriptions, we have a classic collective action problem: the decision of each individual author about where to publish does not directly affect the amount the author’s institution spends on subscriptions, but does affect his or her readership and prestige, so authors (for the most part) quite rationally ignore the monopoly power of the publishers to whom they submit.
He argues that these factors are greatly diminished in a gold open access world:
When subscription purchasing decisions are made at the level of the journal (bundle of articles) — and increasingly the “big deal” (bundle of journals) — the only possibility for competition is between journals or bundles of journals, and as I pointed out, different articles published in different journals are not very good substitutes for each other. But in a gold OA world there is competition at the level of the article submission, and before the article is accepted for publication, multiple journals can be very good substitutes for each other (for example, an economist generally gets as much readership and prestige whether her article is published in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, or the Quarterly Journal of Economics).Of course, this mechanism only works if the author's choice for a more expensive APC diverts resources from other uses the author values. To the extent that their institution dedicates funds to APCs and thus insulates the author from the consequences of their choice, they disable the mechanism. MacKie-Mason somewhat fudges this aspect:
campuses might offer only a fixed reimbursement, equal say to a reasonable estimate of the current resource cost (not price) of publishing an article — today around, say, $2000 — and if the author wants to publish in a journal with an above-competitive (monopolistic) APC she will have to come up with additional funds herself. (An elegant alternative that may seem less harsh to authors, suggested to me by Mark McCabe via his collaborator Mackenzie Smith, is to give authors a somewhat higher amount — say, average cost plus $1000 — per article, and let the author bank the difference between that amount and the APC in a research account.)$1000 is not much compared to the perceived difference in value to an author of different journals. The money has to come from somewhere; the only place it can is from library subscription budgets:
central campuses could reduce the budgets of libraries by the amount that we save by not having to pay for journal subscriptions. and, importantly, these funds would have to become discretionary funds that authors could spend whatever they needed. The publishers need this not to happen, which is why they want to keep subscriptions stable and refund APCs to libraries:
Some advocates for gold OA argue that libraries — especially consortia — will be able to negotiate “offsets”, that is, reducations in subscription payments to offset the amount of revenue the publishers collect in APCs. There has been some progress in this regard, for example in the UK, Austria, and the Netherlands.

I suspect that offsets will only partially cover the costs of transition to a gold OA world. Even where progress is being made, offset savings are lagging behind growing APC payments. And my economic arguments above suggest why offsets are unlikely to fully finance the costs of transition: the dominant publishers have substantial market power, and they are going to use that power to resist the transition to gold OA, trying to make sure we (research-producing institutions) find the transition to be costly.The priority for both sides of the current system is to prevent the funds currently flowing through their hands from being diverted to other, less worthy hands. This makes what MacKie-Mason refers to as "merely a problem of the distribution of scholarly communication funds" extremely difficult.

It is important to note that the Max Planck initiative is different from the "hybrid" gold open access model behind these offsets. The publishers are happy with subscription journals in which, for an APC, authors can make their work open access. They can refund (later) these APCs but they don't lose the subscription income. The Max Planck proposal is that, instead of article-by-article open access, journals would "flip" to open access. No subscription, just APCs. Neither publishers nor libraries like this, it carries much higher risks for both.

District Dispatch: Ready, set, #Readathon2016

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 14:36

Saturday, May 21, is National Readathon Day 2016 – an opportunity for readers of all ages to come together at their local libraries, schools and bookstores to celebrate reading and raise money for early literacy. Proceeds from the event will benefit ALA’s Every Child Ready to Read initiative, which supports literacy skills among children from birth to age 5.

Leading up to and during National Readathon Day, you can proselytize the cause of early literacy by using the hashtag #Readathon2016 on your favorite social media platforms. You can also make a donation to the cause on the event’s Firstgiving Fundraising page.

Penguin Random House also is using #Readathon2016 to roll out its Library Awards for Innovation, which will afford libraries across the country the opportunity to apply for grants for community-based programs.

Be sure to visit the #Readathon2016 share page, for shareable images and videos and information on local reading parties. #Readathon2016 is part of ALA’s Libraries Transform campaign to raise awareness of all that libraries and library professionals do for their communities in the digital age.

Read on, everyone.

The post Ready, set, #Readathon2016 appeared first on District Dispatch.

LITA: The Frivolity of Making

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 12:00

Makerspaces have been widely embraced in public libraries and K-12 schools, but do they belong in higher education? Are makerspaces a frivolous pursuit?

When I worked at a public library there was very little doubt about the importance of making and it felt like the entire community was ready for a makerspace. Fortunately, many of my current colleagues at Indiana University are equally as curious and enthusiastic about the maker movement, but I can’t help but notice a certain reluctance in academia towards making, playing, and having fun. From the moment I interviewed for my current position I’ve been questioned about my interest in makerspaces and more specifically, my playful nature. I’m not afraid to admit that I like to have fun, and as librarians there’s no reason why our jobs shouldn’t be fun (at least most of the time). My mom is a nurse and there are plenty of legitimate reasons why her job isn’t fun a lot of the time. But it’s not just about me or even librarians. In higher education we constantly question if it’s okay to have fun.

Things like 3D printing and digital fabrication are an easy sell in higher ed, but littleBits and LEGOs prove slightly more challenging. I recently demonstrated the MaKey MaKey, Google Cardboard, and Sphero robotic ball for 40 of my colleagues at our library’s annual “In-House Institute.” My session was called “Intro to Makerspaces” and consisted of a quick rundown of the what and why of the maker movement, followed by play time. I was surprised to see how receptive everyone was and how quickly they got out of their seats and started playing. As the excitement in the room grew, I noticed one of my colleagues sitting with a puzzled look on his face. “But, why?” he said. As in, “why are you asking me to play with toys?” A completely reasonable question to ask, especially if you’ve been working in higher ed for 40+ years.

For starters, we know that learning by doing can be very effective, but that’s only part of it. Tinkering with littleBits does not make you an electrical engineer and it’s not supposed to. Tools like these are meant to expose you to the medium and to spark ideas. Cardboard is a great introduction to virtual reality, MaKey MaKey opens up the world of electronics, and Sphero is a much friendlier intro to programming than a blank terminal window. Many of these maker-type tools are marketed towards kids, but I’m convinced that adults are the ones who really need them. We need to be reminded of how to play, tinker, and fail; actions that many of us have become completely removed from.

Making is also a great opportunity for peer-to-peer learning across disciplines. The 2015 Library Edition of the NMC Horizon Report makes a solid argument for makerspaces in libraries: “University libraries are in the unique position to offer a central, discipline-neutral space where every member of the academic community can engage in creative activities.” I refuse to believe that our music students are the only ones who can play music or that our fine arts students are the only ones who can draw. The library offers a safe and neutral zone for students to branch out from their departments and try something new.

Interacting with new technologies is another key selling point for makerspaces, and the best makerspaces are a blend of high-tech and low-tech. Our very own MILL makerspace in the School of Education has 3D printers alongside popsicle sticks and pom-poms. It’s tough to be intimidated by the laser engraver once you’ve seen a carton full of googly eyes. This type of low-stakes environment is a great way to explore new technologies and there are few instances like this in the modern academic institution.

So are makerspaces frivolous? On the surface, yes, they can be. Sometimes playing is nothing more than a mental break, but sometimes it’s a gateway to something greater. I’d argue that we owe our students opportunities to do both.

There are tons of resources about makerspaces out there, but here’s just a few of my favorites if you’re eager to learn more…

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Beta Spaces as a Model for Recontextualizing Reference Services in Libraries

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 10:00

In Brief:

Reference services are at a cross-roads. While many academic libraries continue to offer reference services from behind a desk, others are moving to roving and embedded reference models. Meanwhile, libraries are also engaged in the development of collaborative learning spaces—often rich with technology, such as makerspaces and learning labs—but these spaces are often removed from the reference services environment. Beta spaces are another type of collaborative environment used in both public and academic libraries with the potential to infuse energy into the reference space and emphasize research support through experimentation, collaboration, and user contribution. Beta spaces are user-oriented environments with a focus on innovation and experimentation, much like a makerspace but with an emphasis on ideas over technology. A beta space model for reference services would enhance opportunities for active learning, help make the research process visible and tangible, and effectively demonstrate the value of reference.


If the “library of the future” is an environment in which knowledge is created, not merely preserved and accessed (as Arizona State University Librarian James O’Donnell suggested recently in his keynote at the 2015 Charleston Conference), then reference services are positioned within this future library to foster that environment (Hawkins, 2015). In reality, traditional reference services are often questioned as an effective model for delivery of research support in academic libraries. The reference desk as a physical space was called into question by Barbara J. Ford in the mid 1980’s and Sonntag and Palsson boldly stated in 2007 that “it is unquestionably time to eliminate the reference desk and recognize that the services it originally provided have been replaced by course-integrated instruction and research assistance ‘on demand’” (Sonntag and Palsson, 2007). Whether located at a central services desk or compartmentalized as a series of services such as roving or embedded reference, the way we think about reference delivery and the role it plays in the facilitation of intellectual experimentation and student scholarship is under constant pressure to demonstrate relevancy, and it certainly faces competition from both within and outside libraries (Campbell, 1992; Campbell, 2008; O’Gorman and Trott, 2009).

Alternative “spaces” in libraries are not new, but they tend not be built around reference services. Beta spaces are defined by Jeff Goldenson and Nate Hill as “environments within a larger library ecosystem created to prototype and deploy new ventures” (Goldenson and Hill, 2013). While this often takes the form of makerspaces or digital labs in libraries, it also describes the work of student researchers (or any library user). Scholarship is a “new venture” and the reference space can be a safe place outside of the formal classroom where students can experiment, explore, and even fail without fear of negative consequences. In this article, I explore the concept of the beta space and think about the ways that reference as an activity is one that makes the most sense if delivered in a beta environment. The final section of this article is a narrative case study of my own attempt (which may or may not have been successful) to recontextualize reference services at my library into a collaborative, experimental environment designed to inspire, encourage user ownership of the space, and demonstrate the value of reference.

Beta Spaces: A Definition

The term “beta space” is not yet commonly used in library discourse, though the word “makerspace” is. Makerspaces have been around for over a decade, and according to MAKE Magazine, the term began being used widely in 2011 (Cavalcanti, 2013). According to the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), a makerspace is a “physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build” (“7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces”). Though this definition is broad, it emphasizes technology and the physical building of materials in a creative environment. Further along in its definition of makerspaces, ELI goes on to explain that “makerspaces owe a considerable debt to the hacker culture that inspired them, and many are still primarily places for technological experimentation, hardware development, and idea prototyping”. There are certainly elements of the makerspace in the beta space, but these terms (and these spaces) are not synonymous. The beta space is a prototyping space, but one that focuses more on ideas than technology. In a succinct definition from their article in Library Journal, Jeff Goldenson and Nate Hill describe beta spaces as “environments within a larger library ecosystem created to prototype and deploy new ventures.” Both Goldenson and Hill worked to co-develop two independent beta spaces at their respective institutions, The Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the Chattanooga Public Library. The emphasis for both of these projects was the development of a community that supported experimentation—not just with technology, but with ideas. (Goldenson and Hill, 2013).

Chattanooga’s project is called “The 4th Floor.” It evolved from the transformation of a 14,000 square foot storage area into a collective learning environment. The space is described as a “public laboratory and educational facility” with a focus on information, design, technology and applied arts. The space features computers with access to interactive online courses, a small collection of business and innovation periodicals, provides access to digital technology, and serves as an events space. Harvard’s project was called the Labrary. Occupying a vacant storefront in Harvard Square, it was conceived by students as part of the Library Test Kitchen, a course taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Unlike the 4th Floor, which is a permanent space, the Labrary was a 37 day experiment, essentially a “pop-up” library designed to facilitate creative collaboration, exhibit student work, and try out new ideas from the Library Test Kitchen such as tables that play low ambient noise to stave off complete silence (Koerber, 2013).

Makerspaces, technology-rich labs, and the growth of digital humanities in the library space is not without controversy. The makerspace movement can be seen as part of a larger trend of applying a corporate mindset to library services, with a focus on technology and production rather than discourse. There are wider concerns that academic libraries are under pressure to adopt business strategies and focus on library users as “customers” (Nicholson, 2015) as well as on the creation of knowledge as a consumable product (Ward, 2012). A recent article in the Los Angeles Review of Books questions the neoliberal agenda of digital humanities in particular and specifically targets the “promotion of project-based learning and lab-based research over reading and writing” (Allington, Brouillette, and Golumbia, 2016). These concerns are legitimate and it is healthy to question the motivations behind the transformation of any library service. Library makerspaces—and by extension, beta spaces—are designed to support active learning through hands-on experiences. Kurti, Kurti and Fleming explain that “maker education is a branch of constructivist philosophy that views learning as a highly personal endeavor requiring the student, rather than the teacher, to initiate the learning process” (2014). I believe that beta spaces offer an opportunity to facilitate collaborative learning outside of the classroom in a way that does not negate the value of traditional scholarship, nor supplant traditional library services, but it does offer an opportunity to enhance them.

Out of their experimentations, Goldenson and Hill establish three “shared beliefs” or themes about beta spaces. For them, beta spaces:

  1. Facilitate real-time knowledge creation
  2. Are designed for experimentation, and
  3. Encourage community-driven innovation (Goldenson and Hill, 2013).

It is important to remember the participatory element of beta spaces. The creative activities taking place within beta spaces such as the 4th Floor and the Labrary are user-driven. The spaces themselves were designed by librarians, faculty, (and in Harvard’s case, graduate students), but the work that goes on there is fueled by user inquiry, needs, and creative impulses. A participatory design approach to the development of beta spaces in libraries is therefore at the foundation of the concept. “Participatory design” was defined by the Council of Libraries and Information Resources (CLIR) in 2012 as “an approach to building spaces, services and tools where the people who will use those things participate centrally in coming up with concepts and then design the actual products” (Participatory Design in Academic Libraries). A beta space is nothing without the people who come into it to try out new ideas, whether through discussion, a more formal reference interview, the exhibition of user-created work, or even a creative response to a display prompt.

The Idea Box at the Oak Park Public Library in Illinois is an example of a beta space-type environment that is set up by library staff, but then powered by the creativity of the public who interact with and add value to the space through participation. The Idea Box is a 19’ x 13’ glass-walled storefront with regularly rotating displays that encourage people to come in, “tinker,” and experiment. The range of activities in this space has included magnetic poetry, advice sharing, dancing, and oral histories—all driven by user contribution. Staff may have painted the room with magnetic paint and populated it with word fragments, but the poems were created by visitors and it is the visitors who give this space meaning (Library as Incubator Project, 2013). With these examples in mind, a beta space can perhaps be summed up as: a space within the library environment designed to facilitate knowledge creation in real-time through user participation and experimentation. This is also what I consider to be the heart of reference services.

Beta Spaces and Reference Services

Reference as a library service can encompass a range of activities, depending on the type of library and its particular mission. I have attempted to identify a core definition of “reference services” from ALA’s Reference and User Services Association (Definitions of Reference – Reference & User Services Association), but found only definitions for the components of this service: “Reference transactions” and “reference work.” According to RUSA, reference transactions are “information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate, and/or use information resources to help others meet particular information needs.” The makeup of this reference work “includes reference transactions and other activities that involve the creation, management, and assessment of information or research resources, tools, and services” (RUSA). These definitions were last approved in 2008 by the RUSA Board of Directors and describe a fairly straightforward exchange between library staff and user, one that emphasizes the transference of information from authority figure to knowledge seeker and explicitly excludes formal instruction. With this definition, it is easy to see why reference services are at a cross-roads.

An informal survey of reference services mission statements and statements of philosophy shows a broader scope for reference and research support services in both academic and public libraries. The mission statement for Research and Information Services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, states:

“The Research and Information Services is the University Library’s central hub for research assistance, leading patrons to the discovery of library resources and expert help. We provide assistance to researchers working in all disciplines, help people to locate difficult to find items, and make referrals to subject specialists when appropriate. We support the educational mission of the university by approaching research support services from an instructional perspective, and by fostering user independence and the development of information literacy skills” (Mission Statement & Vision).

While couched in the practical (i.e. locating items and making referrals), this mission statement addresses the centrality of reference services to the overall mission of the library, and encompasses instruction in a way that the RUSA definition does not. Likewise, New Jersey’s Newark Public Library philosophy of service puts reference at the very center of what the library does. Newark goes so far as to say: “Reference service at The Newark Public Library is one of the most vital and visible expressions of the Library’s purpose and mission and is key to each of the Library’s four primary service roles: to serve as a center for information, formal education, research and independent learning” (Reference Services Policy – The Newark Public Library).

In many cases, however, reference services are not explicitly addressed in the library mission statements and the physical footprint of these services is being dismantled in some libraries. The news is often alarmist. In 2010, a Los Angeles Times article on libraries in the digital age opened with the declaration that a public library in the Denver area replaced its reference desk in order to make space for patrons to play “Guitar Hero” (Sarno, 2010). In his 2013 study, “Shall We Get Rid of the Reference Desk,” Dennis B. Miles found that a large percentage (66.4%) of academic libraries still use a physical desk to deliver reference services. But libraries are experimenting. In addition to desk-based services, librarians are engaged in roving reference, are consolidating service points (such as merging reference and circulation), and are offering more in-office consultations with students (Miles, 2013). At Sonoma State University, the reference desk has gone through a number of transitions in recent years, starting with a roving reference program in 2012 and the consolidation of the Reference and Circulation Desks. While the combined desk allowed for more efficient staffing, it also served as a central place for answering quick directional questions and contacting subject specialists on an on-call basis (Lawson & Kinney, 2014). In 2001, librarians at Northwest Missouri State University completely removed their traditional reference desk and instead invested time in embedded instruction (both in the classroom and online), among other just-in-time services (Meldrem, Mardis, & Johnson, 2005). This model essentially disperses the research activities central to the work of the library across campus and within the online environment.

There is an uncomfortable tension between the stated value of reference services in library mission statements and the threat to the visible presence of these services in the physical environment through a dispersal of services or a limitation of services behind a static desk. Many of the newest and most exciting spaces in libraries are technology-rich spaces such as makerspaces and digital labs, but these are often built out in separate classroom-like spaces. Even the 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library, a great example of a successful beta space, is quite removed from the primary services desk. If a library does have a reference desk, its function is surely in question when the new super-star room filled with collaborative technology and innovative resources pops up down the hall. Instead, I see the potential in developing reference services spaces—such as a research or information commons space—as a beta space. Instead of dispersing reference services, they can be integrated into the fabric of a creative, user-driven environment where a research consultation is not merely a “transaction.”

Goldenson and Hill’s three themes for beta spaces (real-time knowledge creation, experimentation, and community-driven innovation) are very much in line with the scope of reference services. Because users are actively engaged in the research process while using reference services—or have the potential to be while asking more directional questions at the reference desk—the beta reference space is an ideal environment to make research visible through collaborative inquiry, curated reference source collections, and interactive and other displays/exhibits like those in the Idea Box at Oak Park. Placing reference within the beta space helps to clarify the services offered, inspire other researchers about what is possible, and educate users on available resources. Focusing on knowledge creation within reference services validates the work of the library user and helps to establish a healthy symbiotic relationship between library staff and user.

A (Very Beta) First Foray

When I was hired in July 2014 as the information specialist overseeing reference services at the Pearson Library at California Lutheran University, the lines between reference services, circulation, and information literacy were fluid and confusing. The official home base for reference services was the “Information Commons” (IC Desk), a dilapidated desk with two office chairs for staff on one side and a bank of 5 public computer workstations on the other. Open every day from 10am-10pm during the semester, the IC Desk was mainly staffed by students cross-trained in circulation. The Circulation Desk served as a de-facto reference desk during periods of understaffing. I needed to figure out what reference meant for us, how to ensure that it was meaningful to users and to the staff who worked there, and how to isolate it as a singular service in order to market it. In order to do this, I unconsciously drew on my experience teaching at an art school, where the students spent hours working in an atelier environment learning new techniques through trial and error. I was also greatly inspired by my very first library school class at San Jose State University in Spring 2015: “Innovation and Participatory Programming in Libraries,” taught by Monica Harris, to whom I owe a great deal of credit. This is where I learned about beta spaces.

Information Commons Desk with directional sign above

At the IC Desk, we were experiencing healthy patron interaction statistics. Based on internal statistics collected on Springshare’s LibAnswers Reference Analytics from Fall 2014, the IC Desk logged a monthly average of 101 in-person patron interactions and through LibChat, desk staff engaged in an average of 116 online chats with patrons per month (serving an FTE of approximately 4,100—about 2800 undergraduate and 1300 graduate students). Most of the time, the desk was staffed with students while librarians were on-call. The stats seemed good, but anecdotally, there was a lack of awareness about reference services at the IC Desk and low morale for those who worked at the “Isolation Corner.” Many users came to Circulation to ask reference questions and were annoyed at being redirected to the desk behind them. As the reference coordinator, it was challenging to staff the desk with librarians, who were heavily engaged with instruction and weren’t consistently able to commit to regular hours at the desk. For me, the Information Commons’ mission to “support research and learning by offering a conceptual, physical, and instructional space designated to deliver, instruct and gather information” was in question. It wasn’t really a commons. It was just a desk.

With the support of the library director, I set out to establish a strategic plan for reference services (as a service and as a space) and as I developed these plans, they began to solidify around the concept of the beta space. The strategic plan’s stated mission was to “inspire research by providing a variety of research services to best meet the needs of CLU students, faculty and staff by creating a scholarly environment that supports student learning across departments.” The plan was founded on five primary goals, which were stated with no clear timeline, and were based on an outline developed by Nina Simon in The Participatory Museum in order to evaluate success.

Goals for Reference Services at Pearson Library

  1. Establish an environment of intellectual curiosity and exploration at Pearson Library
  2. Raise campus awareness of research resources provided by Pearson Library
  3. Increase number of meaningful patron interactions at the reference services desk
  4. Increase opportunities for experiential learning at Pearson Library
  5. Increase opportunities for CLU community to share perspectives and experiences

An important part of setting up a framework for later evaluation was not just thinking about the goals for the service, but about how users would ideally be affected by interacting with us. These desired outcomes are admittedly lofty.

Desired User Behaviors and Outcomes

  1. Learn more about research resources and effective utilization of these resources
  2. Visit and use the Library more often, whether a student looking for research assistance, or faculty looking to support learning in their classroom
  3. Perceive Library as a center for rigorous scholarship on campus
  4. Perceive Library as a fun and approachable space for informal learning
  5. Develop academic confidence and intellectual curiosity that leads to a life of learning outside the classroom

The plan was to transform the IC Desk into the “Collaborative Research Commons” and to think of reference services as operating not just from a desk, but as encompassing all of the space around it—including the glass atrium, mobile furniture, and exhibit furniture that was already near the desk. The desk itself was due for an upgrade so I proposed moving it to a slightly more central location (but in fact just a few feet away) and adding truly collaborative furniture around a mobile, U-shaped central desk.

Proposed relocation of the “Collaborative Research Commons”


Proposed floor plan for the Collaborative Research Commons

The Collaborative Research Commons would both replace and enhance existing IC Desk services. Instead of being parallel to the Circulation Desk near the entrance to the library, the new Collaborative Research Commons would be located adjacent to the library’s open-air central atrium, which could be leveraged as exhibition and workshop space. This is where I imagined that research would truly become visible. Students working in the space can be seen from all corners of the building and completed work can be hung on the glass. Aligning the new desk to this Idea Box-like space was central to the renovation proposal. The new area would feature a more open, approachable (and mobile) desk that faces approaching patrons coming in through the front doors. Optionally, a back-facing desk would face the general computer lab and serve as technology help, which did not have a public-facing desk in the library. Surrounding the service desk(s) would be four round tables (on casters) with seating for between four to six people each. These tables would serve small groups working together on projects, as well as space for longer research consultations with librarians. They would not have mounted computers (as in the existing IC Desk area), which impede mobility and effectively block communication between staff and patrons. Laptops, tablets, and other technology could be brought into the space if needed from the existing mobile lab. These tables could also serve small classes coming in to do research together, which until then had relied on rows of desktop computers in the computer lab.

By transforming the Information Commons into a “Collaborative Research Commons,” which emphasizes the activity as opposed to the resource, we would be employing a “beta space” approach to reference services that encourages exploration of ideas and a cooperative learning environment based on social interactions and participatory practice. Including collaborative tables and exhibition space into the overall research space is a way of “envision[ing]…boundaries in more porous ways” (Rogers and Seidl-Fox, 2011). The space would become a classroom-like space outside of the traditional classroom allowing librarians to meet with students and faculty for research appointments, not tucked away in back offices, but at one of the round tables with a laptop, for example.

Now for the reality check. During the 2014-2015 academic year, we were not able to realize the physical transformation of the space through renovation, though library administration approved of the ideas and design consultants were brought in. The money just wasn’t available that year. But we ran a series of successful programs that demonstrated the potential of the beta reference space and generated new energy around reference services as the central arm for outreach and research support (as opposed to access services or information literacy instruction). In our first event, the atrium windows were used for the first time as gallery space for a student exhibition of Islamic Calligraphy and a small reception was held adjacent to the IC Desk in December 2014. Students and faculty came to speak about their work learning a new language and artistic technique through experiential learning in this calligraphy course.

Hanging the Islamic Calligraphy Show on the atrium windows in 2014

The following semester, the space was used to display erasure poetry made from weeded library materials by staff, faculty, and students. The atrium hosted two creative writing classes in which students added their final products to both the atrium’s windows and to the April National Poetry Month display, and were assisted by reference staff as they navigated the exhibit space and selected source material for their poems. The IC Desk also served as a stop for a poetry prompt station (staffed by the same faculty member who brought her creative writing classes into the atrium) where library visitors also had an opportunity to add their work to the display.

Students writing poetry inside and outside the atrium, our “Idea Box” of sorts at Pearson Library


Adding new work to the April National Poetry Month display


Students began to add their work to the atrium windows after writing poetry in a class session held in the atrium

The events we held that year in the atrium and space around the IC Desk may or may not have happened regardless of the strategic plan for reference services. But we were intentional in making the (in this case) creative scholarship visible and placing these creative activities around ongoing reference activities at the services desk. Physical transformation of the space as proposed would help to cement the connection between the process of research and the resulting scholarship on display. Going forward, we would need to expand beyond art and poetry in order to truly align reference activities to the generation of new scholarly ideas and demonstrate the value of reference services by highlighting evidence of learning outcomes, student accomplishments, and models for inspiring research projects. The official Collaborative Research Proposal included dozens of thematic starting-off points to generate research ideas and pull in work from ongoing courses with amenable faculty members in a range of disciplines. Ideas included inviting campus wellness center staff to serve as “reference librarian for the day” during Health Awareness Month in January with interactive displays and resources on health topics; a “blind date with a book” display with a table set up for users to write Valentine’s Day love notes to their favorite books during February; and a mobile technology workshop with resources on creating short videos on tablets and iPads with an option to play the films on screens mounted in the space.

The fact was that we tried these new programs in a fairly haphazard and difficult-to-assess way by making connections with faculty willing to experiment with new library spaces. We started to collectively think about the IC Desk as something more than a little desk with a bank of computers and more as the potential hub of the library. To truly assess the impact of the renovation and actual utilization of a Collaborative Research Commons, the following methods of assessment were identified as part of the proposal:

  1. Measure and compare length and type of patron interaction taking place at reference desk before and after implementation of beta space project changes using LibAnswers Reference Analytics tool; align interactions with ACRL Framework as is currently done with information literacy instruction.
  2. Include questions about awareness and effectiveness of environment and services in library survey deployed annually to students.
  3. Offer short point-of-service surveys (such as reply cards) at time of patron interaction and/or program or event.
  4. Measure attendance at programs and workshops.
  5. As programs are designed, define intended learning goals; document evidence of student learning through collection of work and/or photographs of participation and work (such as collecting found poetry and taking pictures of exhibition space after participants have added their work to it).
  6. Add a question about reference space to course evaluation for classes that utilized the space during the semester.
  7. Over time, collaborate with the alumni affairs department to identify post-graduation activities of participants and their continued perceptions of the library after graduation.

Our work was decidedly beta. We tried something new and made some concrete proposals. Many libraries do the same kind of work and run the same kinds of programs that we did, but we placed these programs within the reference environment and linked the products of creative scholarship to the research process through physical association, and mindfully reconceptualizing the reference space as an informal learning environment founded upon experimentation. It is impossible to truly assess the success of what we did (beyond the communal feeling that we were on to something) because the Collaborative Research Commons proposal wasn’t actualized and the methods of assessment couldn’t be tested. I left the Pearson Library the following summer and I know creative work continues to be done there, but I can’t know for sure how much of the original proposal will be supported in my absence.


Questions have been raised about the value of reference services in the 21st century library. What value does it offer users? How are users engaging with reference spaces? Applying a participatory design model to reference services is an alternative to dismantling it all together or dispersing it to the point of invisibility. As libraries design and develop collaborative learning commons, digital labs, makerspaces, and beta spaces, why not centralize them around reference services. If these are the places where users engaged in new ideas and technologies really want to be, then what better way to facilitate new learning and guide the process than the physical and conceptual merging of beta with reference? In his 2009 article, “Libraries and Learning: A History of Paradigm Change,”Scott Bennett wrote the following in regard to library learning spaces designed in the 1990’s and early 2000’s:

“Some features of a learning-centered design – with the generous provision of group study spaces and information and learning commons chief among them – are now regular features of library planning. It is far from clear that our concern with learning goes much beyond these features, however” (Bennett, 2009).

I believe that incorporating the ethos of the beta space into the library learning space, and placing reference services within this context, is a way to take this next step.

In my dream of dreams, academic reference librarians and subject specialists would not have offices deep in the back of the library building only to emerge for a couple of hours at the reference desk, but they would be permanently based out in the open—visible models for research and intellectual engagement in a user-driven, participatory environment like a beta space. Understaffing is likely to continue to be a problem for many libraries long into the future, and the beta space model is an experimental step towards blurring the lines between faculty office, classroom, scholar commons, and gallery. Librarians would not have static “shifts” out at a desk, or recede into the depths of an interior office to hold consultations. In the beta space model, there are opportunities to place librarians more permanently in public spaces by placing their offices within the space. This has the potential to relieve some of the pressure on reference librarians forced to bounce back and forth between office, desk, and classroom. It also has the potential to infuse reference services with subject expertise from teaching faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars. It could be a place where faculty or graduate “subject experts” could hold public office hours or drop-in research sessions, groups could engage in collaborative research projects, and technology experts could triage technology questions. These alternative activities keep the space alive even if there isn’t a reference librarian on duty at a given time. Again, these things aren’t necessarily new to reference services, and these activities may be happening in other parts of the library or across campus, but I see an opportunity to centralize these key learning activities around reference services.

In terms of curating the products of knowledge creation, our work at Pearson Library captured primarily examples of creative work—poetry, art, etc. But other examples could include collections of bound theses and dissertations, screens highlighting student and faculty work collected in institutional repositories, physical collections of student or community newspapers, campus journals, zines, or thematic user-curated displays of library materials. White boards, chalk-board paint, over-sized sticky notes, and tables topped with white-board surfaces are just some of the ways to collect the ephemera of the research process within the reference space. In addition, these activities support focus on student creation of knowledge as part of information literacy education as described in the ACRL Framework and have the potential to be expanded into a larger information literacy program in collaboration with other library departments (“Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education”). Showcasing the work of student and faculty researchers provides a model and a shining light of what is possible. It is both inspiring and encouraging. When this is done in the active, participatory environment of the beta reference space, research is highlighted as both an end-goal and a process.

The heart and soul of reference services is the personal interaction between librarian and user, which is itself an entrypoint into intellectual discourse. As technology evolves, this interaction takes on many forms—it can be a telephone call, an online chat, an embedded classroom session, or a conversation while sitting in front of a computer workstation. Reference services is not bound by a desk, nor even by a room, but allowing the reference space to incorporate the elements of the beta space through display, participation, collaboration, and simple conversation, the “beta space” model positions reference services as essential to branding the library and facilitating an environment of intellectual curiosity and exploration. This might not work for every library—not everyone has a central atrium of course—but I truly believe in the value of reference services and in the value of the beta space. By merging the two, libraries offer a unique opportunity for user empowerment, demonstration of value, and research support.

I would like to offer my most sincere thanks to Ian Beilin and Kate Adler for their incredibly meaningful feedback and guidance during the peer review process. As the internal reviewer for In the Library With the Lead Pipe, Ian offered supportive, substantive commentary on multiple drafts and some keen editing skills. Kate made connections I wouldn’t have thought of on my own as external reviewer, and I have greatly valued her insights. Many thanks to Erin Dorney, publishing editor at In the Library With the Lead Pipe, for her support and guidance. I would also like to sincerely thank Monica Harris for first introducing me to the beta space. Thank you!


4th Floor – Chattanooga Public Library. (n.d.). Retrieved from

7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces (n.d.). Retrieved from

Bennett, S. (2009). “Libraries and Learning: A History of Paradigm Change.” portal: Libraries and the Academy. 9(2), 181-197.

Campbell, J.D. (1992). “Shaking the Conceptual Foundations of Reference: A Perspective.” RSR: Reference Services Review, 20(4), 29-36.

Campbell, J.D. (2008). “Still Shaking the Conceptual Foundations of Reference: A Perspective.” The Reference Librarian, 48 (100), 21-24.

Cavalcanti, G. (2013, May 22). “Is it a Hackerspace, Makerspace, TechShop, or FabLab? Make Magazine.” Retrieved from

Definitions of Reference – Reference & User Services Association (RUSA). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ford, B. J. (1986). “Reference Beyond (and Without) the Reference Desk.” College And Research Libraries, 47(5), 491-94.

“Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education” (2015, Feb 2). American Library Association. Retrieved from:

Goldenson, J., & Hill, N. (2013, May 16). “Making Room for Innovation.” Library Journal. Retrieved from libraries/making-room- for-innovation/#_

Hawkins, D. (2015, Nov 5). “Star Wars in the Library.” Charleston Conference Blog. Against the Grain. Retrieved from:

Kurti, S., Kurti D., & Fleming L. “The Philosophy of Educational Makerspaces: Part 1 of Making an Educational Makerspace.” Teacher Librarian. 41(5), 8-11.

Koerber, J. (2013, May 28). “Looking Through the Labrary Lens: Lessons from the Library Test Kitchen.” Library Journal. Retrieved from

“Library As Incubator Project.” (2013, June 26). Out of the Archives: Live Art & Community Participation in the Oak Park Public Library Idea Box. Retrieved from

Medlrem, J., Mardis, L., and Johnson C. (2005). “Redesign Your Reference Desk Get Rid of It!” In Currents and convergence: Navigating the rivers of change : proceedings of the Twelfth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, April 7-10, 2005, Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

Miles, D. (2013). “Shall We Get Rid of the Reference Desk?” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 52: 4, 320-333. Retrieved from

Mission Statement & Vision. (About Research and Information Services). Retrieved from

O’Gorman, J., & Trott, B. (2009). “What Will Become of Reference in Academic and Public Libraries?” Journal of Library Administration, 49:4, 327-339. Retrieved from:

Nicholson, K. P. (2015). “The Mcdonaldization of Academic Libraries and the Values of Transformational Change.” College & Research Libraries, 76(3), 328-338.

Participatory Design in Academic Libraries: Methods, Findings, and Implementations. (2012, October). Council on Library and Information Resources. Retrieved from

Reference Services Policy – The Newark Public Library. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Sarno, D. (2010, Nov 12). “Libraries reinvent themselves as they struggle to remain relevant in the digital age.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from:

Simon, N. (2010). The Participatory Museum. Santa Cruz, Calif.: Museum 2.0.

Sontag G., & Palsson, F. (2007). “No Longer the Sacred Cow – No Longer a Desk: Transforming Reference Service to Meet 21st Century User Needs.” University of Nebraska: Lincoln Libraries. Retrieved from

Ward, S. C. (2012). Neoliberalism and the Global Restructuring of Knowledge and Education. New York: Routledge.

Ed Summers: Plagiarism

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 04:00

Because I wish I said these things. I’m glad Samantha did.

Right now, web archiving feels big: big ideas, highly-technical solutions, big conferences in Iceland, etc.

— Samantha Abrams ((???)) May 18, 2016

Seems like, on the whole, we've forgotten about the things that sustain these big ideas: outreach, advocacy, training, and access.

— Samantha Abrams ((???)) May 18, 2016

We talk a lot about what we lose by neglecting the need to capture websites.

— Samantha Abrams ((???)) May 18, 2016

I'm afraid we talk very little about what we lose by leaving our colleagues behind.

— Samantha Abrams ((???)) May 18, 2016

When thinking about web archiving, I hope we remember to ask one question: is this accessible, in some form, to those w/out time, resources?

— Samantha Abrams ((???)) May 18, 2016

I love web archiving; I do web archiving. But, man, sometimes it feels impossible to sustain at even a moderately-sized organization.

— Samantha Abrams ((???)) May 18, 2016

DuraSpace News: VIDEO UPDATES from the DSpace New User Interface (UI) Initiative team

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-05-18 00:00

From Tim Donohue, DSpace Tech Lead

Austin, TX  In the weeks leading up to Open Repositories 2016 (and beyond) the DSpace New User Interface (UI) Initiative team will post regular, brief video updates on progress available on YouTube. Viewers are encouraged to send feedback or contribute to the initiative. Currently, the team consists of volunteers from Texas A&M, @mire, Cineca and DuraSpace. We welcome new volunteers. 

Current DSpace New User Interface (UI) video updates:

LibUX: 038 – Tim Spalding

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-05-17 21:20

In our interview with Tim Spalding (the founder of LibraryThing) we talk about the design and development of TinyCat, the poor usability of libraries’ critical software, and loads more.

Here’s what we talked about
  • 0:53 – You wouldn’t believe how big a feral iguana gets!

What's happening!? #theHorror #florida

A photo posted by Michael Schofield (@michaelschofield) on Feb 12, 2016 at 3:10pm PST

  • 1:15 – All about LibraryThing
  • 4:30 – We are critical about the OPAC experience

It’s a tragedy, it’s more than just broken software. Somehow we’ve stumbled into this world where libraries are not part of the normal web experience of people. When they’re your local library and you end up using their interface to their catalog, it’s terrible. The problem is sort of circular: terrible software has lead to this situation, terrible choices have lead to this situation, but it’s somewhere in between a catastrophe and a disgrace. Tim Spalding

  • 6:30 – TinyCat
  • 9:43 – What if Springshare teamed-up with LibraryThing … ?

I thought having something that’s like LibApps plus TinyCat would be an incredibly compelling product that comes in swinging-around quite a big bat on this spectrum of library vendorware. Michael Schofield

  • 13:16 – Lazy use of stock photography
  • 14:51 – It’s impossible in the library world to have public pricing

Library software in general is far too expensive for what it actually is and not as good as it should be. There’s something fundamentally broken in the library software market that’s produced that situation. Tim Spalding

  • 15:30 – On the usability of the TinyCat interface
  • 20:00 – The promise and tragedy of the current open-source solutions

I’ve been in this game for so long and I’ve been pushing Evergreen and Koha because they’re open source and they can get better, they can transcend this market, but they haven’t. They’re not markedly better than other things, they’ve just kind of copied the dysfunctions. I still think people should go with an open-source solution but it hasn’t produced the sort of Nirvana that five years ago I thought it would. Tim Spalding

  • 22:18 – “Bibliocommons is sort of the library catalog I would have built.”
  • 23:00 – Speed vs UI, and we come back around to mobile-first designs – and its future being something more like API-first.

There was this dream that the library technology world would be given APIs, given open source, and just do these amazing things. I think that dream failed for a number of reasons. There aren’t enough library developers. Once you do it by language you have tiny little communities. Some of the best products – just to mention Bibliocommons again – they’re not something you can get inside … they’re controlling the interface. Largely that’s been a good thing. There’s so many library catalogs out there where someone’s been put in control of the interface and it’s dreadful. So there’s this kind of push/pull between openness and extensibility and people who create the right product …. I’ve lost the religion that I long held that if library programmers are finally given access to everything the world would be better. I think we’re moving into a somewhat darker world where everything is in the cloud, things are locked down, and they’re probably pretty good. Tim Spalding

If you like, you can download the MP3, or you can subscribe to LibUX on Stitcher, iTunes, Google Play Music, SoundCloud or plug our feed right into your podcatcher of choice. Help us out and say something nice. You can find every podcast right here on

The post 038 – Tim Spalding appeared first on LibUX.

District Dispatch: House Appropriators Narrowly Vote to Politicize LC Subject Heading Choices

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-05-17 18:56


The full House Appropriations Committee met earlier today to “mark up” (amend and vote on) legislation to fund the Legislative Branch for FY 2017. As previously reported and expected, language inserted in the official Report accompanying the bill at the Subcommittee level essentially instructing the Library not to implement proposed changes to the subject headings “aliens” and “illegal aliens” was hotly debated. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL23), the Ranking Member (most senior Democrat) of the Legislative Branch Subcommittee, spoke passionately and at length in support of her amendment to remove that language from the Report. She was joined by full Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey and by many other Members of the minority. The amendment also was supported by a joint letter, entered into the record, by the Chairs of the Hispanic, Black, and Asian Pacific American Caucuses.

Although three Members of the majority broke with their party and Committee leaders to support the measure — Reps. Diaz-Balart (R-FL25); Joyce (R-OH14) and Valadao (R-CA21) – the amendment regrettably failed 24 – 25 (with two Members of the Committee absent or not voting). However, neither the Senate’s version of the legislation nor its report is expected to include similar instructions to the Library. Consequently, even if the bill and its Report approved today by the Appropriations Committee is passed by the House, whether the Library’s instructions remain in the final “conferenced” version of the bill will be up to House and Senate negotiators. While clearly not the preferred outcome, today’s tightest of votes on the Wasserman Schultz amendment will make it much harder for House negotiators to successfully insist on retaining the objectionable Report text.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, or any other such funding legislation, actually will make it all the way through this Congress before it adjourns at year’s end. In recent years, the appropriations process has stalled forcing Congress to resort to a procedural measure called a Continuing Resolution (“CR”) to fund the government for a specified period of time at the previous fiscal year’s levels. Typically, report language like that debated today does not accompany a CR. Look for developments on that front, however, no sooner than September.

The post House Appropriators Narrowly Vote to Politicize LC Subject Heading Choices appeared first on District Dispatch.

DPLA: Reflections on DPLAfest from a DLF Cross-Pollinator

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-05-17 16:58

This guest post was written by Nancy Moussa, Web Developer at University of Michigan Library, DPLA Community Rep, and DPLA + DLF ‘Cross-Pollinator.’ (Twitter: @nancy_moussa)

It has been a month now since I came back from DPLAfest in Washington, D.C. This year, there were over 450 people that attended the fest, which was co-hosted by the Library of Congress, National Archives, and the Smithsonian.

I attended this conference because of the generous award I received from the DPLA +DLF Cross-Pollinator travel grant. Over the two days at the fest, I communicated with various librarians, archivists, developers and publishers.

The first time I learned about the DPLA was in Hathitrust Camp in 2014. Since I was already passionate about public goods and working in public institutions, DPLA seemed like the perfect platform to be involved in. Therefore, I applied and I was selected to be as a DPLA Community Rep for Canton, MI for 2016.

Now, back to the DPLAfest. The energetic DPLA members inspired me. They were successfully collaborating and sharing their ideas and best practices they learned from their digital projects.

The sessions presented at the fest were on various topics. These included: the 100 Primary Source Sets for education, and the implementation of service hubs in different institutions. There were also few sessions about the, which has standardized the way hubs describe the usage rights on materials.

Most of the sessions I attended were related to the usage of DPLA in Education, such as the 100 Primary Source Sets and the usage of DPLA in academia. Since I am a Community Rep for DPLA, these sessions were a natural fit for me.

The Primary Source Sets project is one of the important contributions from DPLA to teachers and schools. There are 100 ready-made lessons with activities for teachers to use. Most of the collections/primary source sets are targeted for 6-12K and college students. These resources are for subjects like Social Studies and History. However, DPLA is looking for others resources in STEAM as well.

Also, there was a hackathon session that ran before the conference where some developers brainstormed ideas for developing apps using DPLA API.

An interesting session was given by Assistant Professor Krystyna Matusiak, about “Using DPLA for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.” Matusiak had conducted a usability study among 21 subjects that included undergraduate, graduate students and faculty. The study was about the academic usage of DPLA. The study is not published yet, but the feedback from participants was encouraging. The idea of one-stop-shop was appealing for everybody.

DPLAfest attendees check out the Constitution in the National Archives Rotunda.

Finally, the special event prepared by the DPLA at the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives was impressive. The original documents from the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence were presented in this exhibit. I had the luxury to enter this exhibit and embraced the chance to see the “Charters of Freedom” original documents in their huge glass cases.

The DPLA so far has over 13 million items from 1,900 contributing institutions and it is growing fast. I hope for more collaboration between DLF and DPLA in the future; The “cross-pollination” award is one way to strengthen this collaboration and provides the opportunity for other DLF members to attend the future DPLAfests.

I am very excited to see the community of DPLA growing and getting strong. My attendance to the DPLAfest had served to strengthen my passion to spread the word about DPLA.

Special thanks to the Digital Library Federation for making the DPLAfest Cross-Pollinator grant possible.

LITA: Privacy Technology Tools for You and Your Patrons

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-05-17 16:55

Hear from the experts at the Library Freedom Project, Alison Macrina and Nima Fatemi, at 2 important LITA webinars coming soon, May 26 and 31, 2016.

Email is a postcard
Tor-ify Your Library

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about protecting yourself and your patrons.  You can attend either one, or attend both at a discounted rate.

Register now for either webinar

Privacy tools are a hot topic in libraries, as librarians all over the country have begun using and teaching privacy-enhancing technologies, and considering the privacy and security implications of library websites, databases, and services. Attend these up to the minute LITA privacy concerns webinars.

Here’s the details for each of the two webinars:

Email is a postcard: how to make it more secure with free software and encryption.
Thursday May 26, 2016, 1:00 – 2:00 pm Central Time
Alison Macrina, and Nima Fatemi

Email is neither secure nor private, and the process of fixing its problems can be mystifying, even for technical folks. In this one hour webinar, Nima and Alison from Library Freedom Project will help shine some light on email issues and the tools you can use to make this communication more confidential. They will cover the issues with email, and teach about how to use GPG to encrypt emails and keep them safe.

Tor-ify Your Library: How to use this privacy-enhancing technology to keep your patrons’ data safe
Tuesday May 31, 2016, 1:00 – 2:00 pm Central Time
Alison Macrina, and Nima Fatemi

TOR onion

Heard about the Tor network but not sure how it applies to your library? Join Alison and Nima from the Library Freedom Project in this one hour webinar to learn about the Tor network, running the Tor browser and a Relay, and other basic services to help your patrons have enhanced browsing privacy in the library and beyond.


Alison Macrina, Director of the Library Freedom Project
Nima Fatemi, Chief Technologist of Library Freedom Project

Alison’s and Nima’s work for the Library Freedom Project and classes for patrons including tips on teaching patron privacy classes can be found at:


Register now for either webinar

The two webinars are being offered as either single sessions or as a series of two webinars.


  • LITA Member: $45
  • Non-Member: $105
  • Group: $196

To register for both webinars at a discounted rate use the “Webinar Series: Email Is a Postcard & Tor-ify Your Library” register link.

The discounted rates for both sessions:

  • LITA Member: $68
  • Non-Member: $155
  • Group: $300

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to these webinars contact LITA at (312) 280-4269 or Mark Beatty,

Equinox Software: Alexander County Library Goes Live on Evergreen with NC Cardinal

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-05-17 14:56


May 17, 2016–Duluth, Georgia

Equinox is thrilled to announce that yet another library has been added to NC Cardinal recently.  Alexander County Library migrated to Evergreen as part of NC Cardinal in early May.  Alexander County Library is comprised of two branches serving over 21,000 patrons with over 52,000 items.  NC Cardinal is leveraging the Sequoia platform from Equinox to host their Evergreen instance.

When asked about the migration, Alexander County Library Director Laura Crooks remarked, “We just went live Thursday (May 5th), and so far it’s going very well.  The Equinox folks have been working with us along the way to make sure our transition to Evergreen would be smooth, and it really is.  We’ve had very few unexpected data issues (those very small), and the whole Equinox and NC Cardinal team have been very available and quick with support for problems and questions.”

Mike Rylander, Equinox President, added:  “It’s so exciting to see NC Cardinal continue to grow as quickly as they’d like on our Sequoia Platform.  NC Cardinal and all the constituent libraries have proven to be excellent partners and we couldn’t be happier to work with them.  The addition of Alexander will benefit both their patrons and the entire consortium.”

About Equinox Software, Inc.

Equinox was founded by the original developers and designers of the Evergreen ILS. We are wholly devoted to the support and development of open source software in libraries, focusing on Evergreen, Koha, and the FulfILLment ILL system. We wrote over 80% of the Evergreen code base and continue to contribute more new features, bug fixes, and documentation than any other organization. Our team is fanatical about providing exceptional technical support. Over 98% of our support ticket responses are graded as “Excellent” by our customers. At Equinox, we are proud to be librarians. In fact, half of us have our ML(I)S. We understand you because we *are* you. We are Equinox, and we’d like to be awesome for you.
For more information on Equinox, please visit

About Evergreen

Evergreen is an award-winning ILS developed with the intent of providing an open source product able to meet the diverse needs of consortia and high transaction public libraries. However, it has proven to be equally successful in smaller installations including special and academic libraries. Today, almost 1400 libraries across the US and Canada are using Evergreen including NC Cardinal, SC Lends, and B.C. Sitka.
For more information about Evergreen, including a list of all known Evergreen installations, see

About Sequoia

Sequoia is a cloud-based library solutions platform for Evergreen, Koha, FulfILLment, and more, providing the highest possible uptime, performance, and capabilities of any library automation platform available. Sequoia was designed by Equinox engineers in order to ensure that our customers are always running the most stable, up to date version of the software they choose.
For more information on Sequoia, please visit


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