InfoTech: DPLA Gets Real at Plenary MeetingNov 15, 2011
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“It’s a real pleasure welcoming you into my house this morning,” said David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, to the more than 300 attendees of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) plenary meeting at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on October 21.
It had already been a lively month for DPLA discussion. On October 11, Association of American Publishers president Tom Allen and Harvard University library director Robert Darnton, a key member of the DPLA steering committee, spoke at an event at Columbia University, New York, about the digital library project, though they remained far apart on several issues. (See more on LJ’s The Digital Shift at ow.ly/78Do8.) But the all-day Washington meeting served as a forum for many different thinkers on DPLA.
The DPLA’s go-live target date is April 2013. Although the project is still financially, logistically, and technologically in the conceptual and planning phase, it has certainly generated plenty of enthusiasm—palpable not only among the spectators but also on the auditorium stage.
Big names in the library world spoke movingly of the importance of DPLA in a technologically changing environment. Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.org asked, “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we launch the Library of Congress into cyberspace?” Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, said, “We are in the process of building a digital America, and this project is a key component of it.”
John Palfrey, chair of the DPLA steering committee and codirector of Harvard University’s Berkman Center, spelled out a vision of the DPLA as not merely a place for content but a destination for code, metadata, and other tools and services for libraries. He encouraged a “big tent” philosophy for the project.
The meeting, however, was not just about high-concept oratory. It also showed that the project was starting to truly shift from the abstract to the concrete.
Indeed, a major announcement of the day was about such a “big tent” collaboration. It came from Jill Cousins, the program director for European digital library project Europeana, who said Europeana and DPLA had agreed to work together to promote interoperability between the projects.
Earlier in the day, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the London-based Arcadia Fund each announced $2.5 million grants to the DPLA for the next 18 months. The Sloan Foundation had provided $125,000 in initial support for the DPLA last year, and the Arcadia Fund is known for its library-related support, including three $5 million grants to the libraries at UCLA, Yale, and Harvard in 2009.
The technological potential for DPLA was highlighted in rapid-fire “beta sprint” tech presentations. One highlight was extraMUROS, from metaLAB (at) Harvard, the Harvard Library Lab, and Media and Place (MAP) Productions. The tool, built on an open source HTML5 platform, draws on a variety of open application programming interfaces (APIs) to create a potentially powerful discovery tool for multimedia collections.
However, there is still plenty of organizational work to be done. This was clearly shown in the final panel, which consisted of members of the six DPLA “workstreams,” each covering a different aspect of DPLA planning: Audience & Participation; Content & Scope; Financial/Business Models; Governance; Legal Issues; and Technical Aspects. Each panelist, including Institute of Museum and Library Services director Susan Hildreth and ITHAKA president Kevin Guthrie, shared the draft mission statement of its workstream and spoke briefly about overall goals.
Polaris Developer Network Launched
Library automation company Polaris Library Systems officially launched in October its Polaris Developer Network, a website with documentation, downloads, and forums aimed primarily at providing outside library software developers with testing tools and the information needed to build their own web or mobile applications using the Polaris integrated library system’s open application programming interface (API).
Polaris senior software developer Jeff Young described the network as, in part, “a place where we could place our developer documentation and sample code on how to use the API.” The network also includes the Polaris Sandbox, an online environment where library developers can test applications using Polaris’s API and its PowerPAC public access catalog interface, without the libraries having to invest immediately in their own development servers.
Membership in the Polaris Developer Network is free to Polaris contract customers; commercial vendors may also purchase membership accounts.
OverDrive Unveils WIN Catalog
OverDrive announced in October that its representatives were meeting with publishers and book retailers at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, touting its in-development WIN (Want It Now) Catalog. The optional service will feature “complete long-tail collections” of publishers’ backlist ebooks and audiobooks via the library-branded OverDrive websites. Though patrons won’t be able to borrow backlist titles not already in a library’s collection, they will be able to purchase them, via links to outside ebook retailers.
According to OverDrive director of marketing David Burleigh, after each sale referred by a library, the retailer will pay an “affiliate fee”—an as-yet-unnamed percentage of the sale—to OverDrive; the referring library will be able to apply a credit of the entire amount of that fee toward its OverDrive collection.
The WIN Catalog will also include browsable samples of titles from the backlists, and patrons may also have the option to recommend that the library obtain a backlist title for lending.
All publishers that partner with OverDrive for library lending are “automatically a part of the WIN Catalog,” Burleigh told LJ. The backlists will only include titles for which the publishers have library-lending rights.
The retailers involved have not yet been announced, but it seems likely that Amazon will be one of them, particularly in light of OverDrive’s recent integration of Kindle ebooks.
OverDrive expects to test the WIN Catalog with a few pilot libraries “soon,” but no firm go-live date has been set for the service for all OverDrive customers.
Univ. of Colorado Project Improves IT Relations
Rice Majors, assistant professor and director of libraries information technology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, gave a quick “lightning talk” at the recent Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) National Forum. In it, he spoke about a project that has, in a small way, improved relations between the university’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the libraries’ separate IT unit.
Majors told LJ that when he first came to the campus a year and a half ago, the libraries’ and university’s IT departments had a long history of noncooperation. Majors and university administration wanted that to change.
At a monthly meeting he had late last year with OIT director of academic technology Deborah Keyek-Franssen, Majors said, they discussed a particular stalled OIT project involving a campuswide media streaming technology. The two formulated a plan to have a library IT staffer manage the OIT project—something that hadn’t been done before.
So, Majors said, the libraries’ IT department’s network infrastructure and security manager, Mark Sondergard, began spending 25 percent of his time as a project manager for the OIT project. The OIT “bought out” one-quarter of the cost of Sondergard’s position during a six-month “lease” period. The libraries’ IT department used the money (plus a little more) to hire a part-time staffer to fill in for Sondergard.
Though the streaming-media project has not yet launched, it moved considerably forward in those six months, Majors said. It also helped foster better departmental relations, Majors said, “because now we have someone on our team who understands how hard it is to be a project manager for the campus IT [department]” and because now people know each other on both sides.
LJ blogger Roy Tennant recently blogged about how he wrote a provocative statement, "If You Are a SysAdmin, You Are TOAST," on a napkin while reflecting on the rise of cloud-based services in libraries:
"When I, as just a moderately savvy librarian, can learn maybe five to ten very specific steps and be able to deploy any application I would likely want to deploy, why do I need to talk to my system administrator ever again? Let alone bring this person pizza or cookies to keep them happy? Just asking.
"Let's just say you need a full-featured website. If it's possible that some existing piece of software, such as WordPress, or Drupal, or a variety of other applications are what you need, then you are only a few clicks away from being up and running in the cloud. You need to understand this, and this is why the job of system administrator is in jeopardy—at least in libraries.
"If you join that up with cloud-based offerings such as from my employer [OCLC], or our competitors like Ex Libris or Innovative Interfaces, then you realize that the future is not in hosting your own systems and employing your own system administrator—it's in managing your own cloud-based solution. So that is why I am so down on the future of a library-based systems administrator. If you're not at a large academic library, which will likely continue to need your skills, or some other large organization that has particular requirements not well served by cloud solutions, then, yes, start job-hunting. I mean, totally. You can thank me later."
Join the discussion on the LJ website at ow.ly/78FjP.
Project MUSE announced in October that more than 14,000 ebook titles from 66 university presses and scholarly publishers are now available to order but won’t be made accessible until January 1, 2012. The titles are part of 26 separate collections and will not be sold individually. Each will be a searchable PDF file, without digital rights management or bars on simultaneous use, printing, or downloading. Free MARC records and COUNTER-compliant usage statistics will also be available.
SirsiDynix announced on October 13 that it had hired Ranny Lacanienta as its new director of product management to oversee the company’s integrated library system product strategy. He formerly led the technical services systems and content database department at Brigham Young University’s library in Provo, UT.