Meeting on the ledge

(or why I don't get out much…..)

Ex Libris sold again

After about 4 years Leeds Equity Partners are selling Ex Libris. The new owners will be Golden Gate Capital, another very large private equity firm. Speaking as an outsider, Ex Libris seem to me to have done well during the Leeds Equity years, having released their new LMS Alma to a good reception. Hopefully they will do as well under their new owners.

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November 19, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | | Leave a comment

Just over the horizon…..

For some years now, and in 2 jobs, I’ve been looking for a new search solution for the libraries I’ve worked in. All the feedback shows that users just want ‘stuff’: the answer to the question that they hadn’t really thought through, quickly and in one place. They don’t want to have to search for books and journal articles separately. They don’t see the point of abstracts. They don’t want to be faced with multiple authentication barriers. They do want up to date information. They want it now.

And most libraries still aren’t providing what the users are asking for. Not that this is always the fault of the libraries: the task of putting together a system to do this is expensive, time-consuming, and it isn’t easy. A lot of libraries take the easy option and implement a so-called ‘new generation’ catalogue (eg Encore or Primo in their vanilla flavours), which usually consists of an improved keyword search and friendlier screens on top of the existing library database. This fails to recognise that users want easy access to all of the information that a library supplies, not just its books.

An alternative is to take the new generation catalogue and to add article-discovery tools on top of it (eg Encore Synergy, Primo with the Primo Central Index and possibly Metalib). This means that your users are simultaneously searching your books and that subsection of your databases/ejournals which are accessible and included in the added indexes. This isn’t comprehensive, it is expensive, and I’m not confident that all suppliers have the ability to integrate this all without the sort of unexpected extra costs that University Librarians dislike intensely. Few libraries have the staffing resource to do much more than simple integration.

Another alternative is to go with the database suppliers, such as Ebsco’s EDS and Serial Solutions Summon. In both case they leverage their existing large central databases of journal resources, and the library uploads its catalogue to it on a regular basis. This results in a search of the books, plus the proportion of your ejournals which are in that suppliers central index. Your users see the Google-like single search box, which by and large the students adapt to well and the academics and library staff, who are used to separate author and title indexes, find confusing. The library needs to keep its holdings synchronised with the central index, which means procedures of varying complexities to handle new books and lost/ discarded books.

Of course there are other alternatives: I’m hopeful that the new OCLC world-scale cloud-hosted system might make things easier, and Alma, the new Ex Libris system, builds on Primo to take libraries further. DIY solutions might be possible if the library has several able developers: VuFind has been used to build next-generation catalogues in several US libraries and it may be possible to link it using web services to online resources.

But for the short-staffed library with limited resources there is still no simple solution despite the requirement having been clear for several years. Suppliers make claims which they don’t deliver on, and libraries continue to implement partial solutions which ultimately disappoint users. In IT I’ve learnt that perfect solutions to problems are rare, but paradigm changes do happen (iPad anyone?), and this situation is one that is ripe for new thinking and new approaches.

 

November 6, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | , , | Leave a comment

OCLC appointments

Jack Blount is back! According to Marshall Breeding’s invaluable Guideposts he has been appointed as the new CEO of OCLC. I met Jack when he was head of SirsiDynix and led the ill-fated Corinthian project. The appointment places him in an unusual position, as OCLC’s highly interesting Web-Scale Management System places OCLC as a rival to his former company SirsiDynix’s Symphony LMS. Alongside Richard Wallis’ recent appointment as Technology Evangelist this makes OCLC definitely a company to watch!

June 11, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | , , | 3 Comments

Library users

More wisdom from Mr P.

May 16, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | Leave a comment

Planning law

There was a rather interesting juxtaposition on the Radio 4 news today. Firstly, the Ordnance Survey have been looking at our criteria for buying houses – apparently for about about 45% of us proximity to some kind of countryside is important in our choice of a home, more so than proximity to work (sorry, no reference for this story yet as I can’t find it on the BBC news site!). Secondly, the government’s plans for reform of the planning laws have had the go-ahead, which are likely to result in a reduction of the amount of green spaces. What happened to the idea of a government representing the views of the people?

March 27, 2012 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment

Private Equity gets a foothold at III

According to Marshall Breeding’s highly respected ALA Techsource blog  two private equity companies have acquired holdings in Innovative Interfaces. Therefore the company is no longer controlled exclusively by Jerry Kline, who has run it since 2001 when he bought out the last of his co-investors. The reason why Kline has decided to do this aren’t stated, although he has taken a step back from active management in recent years, and the company’s new LMS Sierra must be taking considerable investment to bring to market.

As a customer of III I’m on the fence as yet whether it is good or bad news. The takeover of Dynix by Seaport and then Vista Equity Partners didn’t turn out well for Horizon users, but Ex Libris seems to be doing well after its purchase by Francisco Partners and then Leeds Equity. III has good relationships with most of its customers and it will have to reassure them that there is no threat, but if it means that Sierra turns out as good a product as promised that will go a long way to keeping them happy and retaining them. The Innovative Users Group Conference is coming up soon in Chicago, so no prizes for the main topic of discussion!

March 2, 2012 Posted by | Libraries | , , , | Leave a comment

Secrecy and the Internet

I’ve been following the recent furore about THAT footballer with a wry interest. I’m not particularly interested in the details of his love life, or indeed in football generally, but the way that Twitter has made a nonsense of the Superinjunction does demonstrate that the Internet is not good for secrecy. Another example would be WikiLeaks. Some of the motives behind publication are different: my impression is that WikiLeaks was initially motivated by a combination of anti-US sentiment and idealism, while the footballer furore is celebrity gossip, but  in both cases the Internet has been used to make  information public which other people strived to keep silent. Of course, a common feature in both cases was human nature: the possession of secrets makes us feel privileged, while gossip about them creates insider and outsider groups which promotes belonging and self-worth. Moreover the way that the Internet fosters conspiracy theories demonstrates that information (whether true or false) is made much more available that it once was, so there is much more opportunity for these feelings.

Maybe then, this demonstrates the way that the Internet is changing society. Information literacy – the ability to understand and manipulate information – is becoming more important, and this skill is becoming more widely important across society. Secrecy isn’t going to go away but its promotion and techniques will get cleverer.

May 24, 2011 Posted by | General | , | Leave a comment

Sierra

So III have announced that they are developing a new LMS?????? It is a pity that this was announced only at IUG so all their other customers worldwide get to hear the news second-hand…… To use David Nobbs’ phraseology:  a bit of a cock-up on the publicity front, Innovative.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Libraries | , | 4 Comments

Truth

A bit of philosophy this time. Sparked by an article in the Guardian last weekend I’ve been musing over the concept of truth in our Internet-centered lives. Arithmetical truth such as 2+2=4 can be said to still exist (unless you’re a quantum physicist) but truth and right and wrong have always been more fluid concepts. One person’s truth is not the same as another’s, so academic practice teaches that you should assess all possible interpretations and synthesize from these.  A core concept of information literacy is therefore that you shouldn’t always believe everything you read, and as librarians we teach cues which help users assess the quality of sources (is it peer-reviewed, from a trusted publisher, etc).  However information literacy often doesn’t get taught until people enter higher education.

Prior to the Internet most people’s exposure to the broader world would have been via newpapers, magazines, TV and radio as well as people they met in the course of their everyday lives. In turn they didn’t have much opportunity to pass on their views to other people. However this is changing. Now they are exposed via the Web to a wider choice of less regulated information sources, and in turn they can express their own opinions to a wider audience (indeed, I’m doing the same here). If you don’t have the skills to assess the information you hear, a simpler truth tends to appear: truth is whatever is shouted loudest (usually with a jabbing finger for emphasis I’ve noticed). This implies that more radical ideas are going to become  prevalent and that as a result society will become less cohesive. Far from being a declining career it looks like librarians (if they choose to accept it) are needed more than ever……..

April 8, 2011 Posted by | General, Universities | | Leave a comment

Talis Library division sold to Capita

You’ll have seen the press release that Talis Information has been sold to Capita Group.  For Capita it is a a useful extension of its existing outsourcing range.

For Talis however, the immediate future seems less clear. It may or may not be significant that the press release that I saw first was the one that  emerged from Talis Group rather than Talis Information or indeed Capita. It must be a rather uncomfortable split for the company as Talis Group retains Talis Aspire, the reading reading list product used widely by HE libraries, as well as other products. As a customer of Aspire, I’m not sure at this stage that I’m clear which of the other products belong on which side of the split.

It is interesting to speculate what this says about the LMS market. It strengthens the idea that the LMS is something that can be outsourced ‘into the cloud’ (in this case a cloud owned by Capita). I wonder what the new owners perspective on the development future for Alto is?  It also poses interesting questions on what direction Talis Group will now take now that it has divested itself of what used to be its core offering?

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Libraries | , | Leave a comment