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New Library Technology Report: Library Services Platforms

Fri, 29 May 2015 14:15:34 +0000

(image) Library Technology Reports (Vol. 51, No. 6) Library Services Platforms: A Mature Genre of Products, by Marshall Breeding, is at the printer. You can read it now, however, on ALA’s journal site: journals.ala.org/ltr.

The Report starts with an explanation of this class of products and how it has diverged from the traditional integrated library system to take advantage of platform architecture. You’ll see in-depth descriptions of Ex Libris Alma, Kuali OLE, OCLC WorldShare Management Services, ProQuest Intota, and Innovative Interfaces Sierra. While neutral on product recommendations, Breeding offers advice on selection and procurement strategies.

Library Technology Reports is open access through June 2015. We also have a special $99 offer on our digital subscription, which includes Smart Libraries Newsletter.

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Subscribe to Library Technology Reports and Smart Libraries Newsletter for $99

Thu, 21 May 2015 14:36:29 +0000

Library Technology Reports and Marshall Breeding’s Smart Libraries Newsletter will be open access for another month. Be sure to check them out. And, if you like what you see, please subscribe. Our best offer is on—a 15-month digital subscription is only $99. Your library will save $150 off the regular price. And your purchase will fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.

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Now Open: Library Technology Reports and Smart Libraries Newsletter

Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:02:03 +0000

Library Technology Reports and Smart Libraries Newsletter are on a new hosting platform, using Open Journal Systems. For a limited time, through June, both will be open access. We’re hoping you will like what you see and get your library to subscribe. This year brought a new cover design to our Library Technology Reports. Here's what's inside. David Lee King, who has managed to keep a still up-to-date personal blog, wrote Managing Your Libraries Social Media Channels. Bohyun Kim wrote Understanding Gamification. She will also present a workshop on gamification Wednesday, May 6. If you’ve purchased it or are thinking about it, download her report. For our newest issue, Coding for Librarians, Andromeda Yelton surveyed colleagues to get ready-to-use-or-adapt snippets of code, as well as “deep dive” examples. She set up a companion website on Github. Even if you have the print issue in hand, you’ll want to download the PDF to link directly to the code samples on GitHub. Marshall Breeding is libraryland’s authority on product development in the library automation industry. His Smart Libraries Newsletter presents news and analysis on both the business and technology side. Breeding recently published vendor responses to a survey on the privacy and security functions of major automation and discovery products. His goal was to increase awareness and start a conversation that might lead to needed improvements. How are your vendors protecting patron privacy? See Smart Libraries Newsletter, January 2015. A regular writer of Library Technology Reports, Breeding’s most recent issue is “Library Resource Discovery Products: Context, Library Perspectives, and Vendor Positions” and his “Library Services Platforms” is our forthcoming May/June 2015 issue. We migrated the Library Technology Reports and Smart Libraries Newsletter archives from our previous platform. As report titles did not carry over, the archive list is by date of issue only, making findability a little challenging. The author index and search will help. To give you a taste of what's there, I'll point to a few “known-items,” hidden gems, especially for LIS students or anybody looking for background in a new area. Karen Coyle offers remarkably clear explanations of complex concepts, writing the back-to-back reports in 2010, Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata and RDA Vocabularies for a 21st Century Data Environment and then in 2012, Linked Data Tools: Connecting on the Web. In 2013, Mirela Roncevic wrote E-book Platforms for Libraries, surveying 51 vendors. Though product offerings have changed since, the report shows the breadth of the marketplace and various approaches to the business model. The archives will remain open for Library Technology Reports one year after publication and for Smart Libraries Newsletter six months after publication. We're joined on the platform by several other ALA publications. See the full list at journals.ala.org.[...]



App Learning for Librarians

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 19:06:53 +0000

Nicole Hennig would love to see more librarians reviewing apps.

“Have you noticed how uniformed many of the app-store reviews are?” she asks readers of her recent Library Technology Report "Selecting and Evaluating the Best Mobile Apps for Library Services." Often people write a review without understanding what the app was meant to do. Or they dash off a technical support question. Librarianship has a long tradition of reviewing books. Now is the time to apply those well-honed skills to apps and help your community find what they need in a chaotic marketplace.

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For a general guide to reviewing, Nicole recommends the the thorough Elements for Basic Reviews: A Guide for Writers and Readers of Reviews of Works in All Mediums and Genres,from the ALA/RUSA CODES Materials Reviewing Committee (2005).

She supplements that guide with her own checklist for reviewing mobile apps.

Nicole Hennig is busy writing and presenting on all things apps for librarians. She will be leading the ALA ecourse “Apps for Librarians: Empower Your Users with Mobile App Literacy” starting Monday, February 2 (also Groundhog day). In addition to selection and evaluation criteria, she covers a full range of library services, including accessibilty, content creation, and reference. For a taste of what’s covered, check out the recording of her November 2014 webinar. Visit Nicole’s web page for Apps4Librians.com for additional information about the course, a self-study version, and her other offerings. 

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CES 2015 Press Day

Thu, 08 Jan 2015 15:49:43 +0000

Jason Griffey reports on what he saw at CES press day-- a few 3D printers, including Ultimaker, a good library option; another small robot programmable in Google's Blockly, a visual programming editor; Samsung's SSD; and a drone. The soundtrack starts rough, but is much better after one minute.

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Jason's coverage of CES is sponsored by Spingshare. Visit his blog Pattern Recognition for ongoing reports.

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ICV Partners Acquires SirsiDynix

Wed, 07 Jan 2015 17:05:31 +0000

A new era in the corporate history of SirsiDynix, one of the corporate giants of the library technology industry, has begun. After more than eight years of ownership, Vista Equity Partners has sold SirsiDynix to ICV Partners, with Vista retaining and company executives acquiring minority stakes in the company. While it is too early to assess how new investment owners will shape the direction of the company going forward, it is clear that SirsiDynix remains a major force in the industry with a very large number of libraries relying on its success.   SirsiDynix, along with other Ex Libris, Innovative Interfaces, and Follett Corporation, ranks as a giant in the industry, which also includes dozens, if not hundreds, of mid-sized and small companies. Each of these four companies has earnings in the range of $100 million and develops strategic technology products for libraries. However, they follow quite different business strategies and serve distinct profiles of customers according to type and geographic region. Globally diverse, SirsiDynix supports customers in more than 70 countries.   The acquisition of SirsiDynix by ICV Partners brings to close a fairly dramatic chapter in the history of the library technology industry. In 2006, prior to being acquired by Vista Equity Partners, SirsiDynix was still working its way through its merger.  Both Dynix and Sirsi Corporation were large and complex companies with multiple products under their charge through their own development efforts and via previous acquisitions.  Any of a variety of courses of action seemed possible. San Francisco-based Vista Equity Partners acquired SirsiDynix from Seaport Capital in January 2007 in a deal with an estimated value of around $260 million. Vista is generally known to follow a “playbook” that outlines an aggressive approach to business integration and operations, which centers on product consolidation and cost reduction. The acquisition of SirsiDynix was made on the premise that considerable savings could be achieved through focusing the efforts of the company on a single platform. The initial aggressive business strategy executed by Vista Equity Partners proved not to be a great match for the library technology industry, or at least for this particular scenario. The abrupt change in product strategy led to decreased confidence in the company, not only for the Horizon product that was initially abandoned, but also for libraries using Symphony. The absence of a new-generation product in a time when libraries generally felt that their current products were not living up to expectations also proved problematic. In recent years, SirsiDynix has deviated from the more austere version of the Vista playbook, channeling more resources into product development, support, and marketing. These efforts have paid off in terms of increased customer satisfaction, retention, and stronger sales. SirsiDynix has been able to forge a path forward by making adjustments to its initial product and business strategies. Reasserting its commitment to Horizon has slowed the pace of libraries moving to competing products. More importantly, the development of the BLUEcloud suite provides a path forward that leverages existing ILS implementations, avoids the need for short-term migration, and demonstrates the ability to deliver products based on current technology trends. Vista’s aggressive business integration has paid off in terms of building a more centralized company able to efficiently deliver support and develop new products. The more positive performance in the last few years is likely a factor in the Vista’s ability to sell this long-overdue investment.   ICV Partners was founded in 1998 under the name Inner City Ventures as a minority-owned private investment company. The company continues to operate as a certified Minority Business Enterprise. ICV Partners manages a pool of assets totaling $440 million, considerably [...]



Reports from CES 2015

Tue, 06 Jan 2015 16:08:34 +0000

Jason Griffey is attending CES 2015. We'll be sharing a few of his videos as he looks at upcoming consumer electronics with an eye to library service. In the first day's press event, among the technology he saw was the Ozobot, a small robot that is programmable using Google's blockly programming editor.

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Visit Jason's blog Pattern Recognition for ongoing reports.

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Operational Sofware in 3D Printing

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:11:24 +0000

Editor's Note: This post is one of a series excerpted from Jason Griffey's Library Technology Report "3D Printers for Libraries." I’m using the term operational software to refer to your direct interface with the 3D printer, whether you’re preparing STL files for printing or actually creating the output file that the printer understands. This post focuses on the software needed for Fused Deposition printing, as that’s the most likely to be of use in a library. And once you get into SLS and other types, the software/process will likely be proprietary. Much like a desktop printer doesn’t speak “Microsoft Word,” even if that is the most common filetype that you print, 3D printers don’t actually print STL files. An STL is a mathematical representation of a shape, while the 3D printer itself needs instructions: how much filament to extrude, where and how fast to move the nozzle, how far and when to lower the build platform, how hot the extruder should be. The actual mechanical movements are encoded in a separate file, and the filetype depends on the printer. Most FDM printers use an open filetype, called a G-code file, that is an ascii representation of all of the values needed to create the object. G-code is handy; because it’s simply a text file, you can manually alter known values in order to change the way the print is done. If you want to lower the extrusion temperature, no need to re-encode the file. You can just change the value, once you know where it is. G-code is also open, which means there are multiple programs that can generate it. The process of moving from STL file to G-code for 3D printing is called “slicing,” because you are in effect taking the 3D object and slicing it into thin layers that the printer will reproduce. Some slicing software has a ton of control, letting you “plate” the models. Plating means to place them on a virtual representation of the build plate of the printer, allowing for printing of muliple parts simultaneously by plating more than one STL. Other slicing software is more bare bones, allowing you to just make choices as to printer settings during the print process. The most popular slicing engine is called, appropriately enough, Slic3r. Slic3r is an open source project that is usable as by itself, but is probably more commonly used as a backend slicing software for more popular packages that include plating and other options. These would include MatterControl, Pronterface, ReplicatorG and Repetier-Host, the most popular management software for 3D printers. Slic3r does allow for rough plating of objects, but its strength is in the detail given to the slicing process. Slicr3r has three main areas of control: print settings, filament settings, and printer settings. Each can be saved independently of the other, allowing for a collection of presets to be designed around your most common printing needs. The simplest of these areas is the Printer setup, which allows you to set the size of the printer build platform, as well as details about the extruder. Generally speaking, you only need one printer setup for each printer that you want to use with Slic3r. The filament settings are also not likely to change much, as it only allows you to set the diameter of your filament and the desired printing temperature for the extruder and bed. The real power comes from the print settings, where you have almost total control over every other aspect of the behavior of the print. Under print settings, you’ll find options for layer height, infill, speed, skirt and brim, support, and more. We’ve discussed layer height, but the other settings are likely to be a bit mysterious. Infill controls the solidity of the print, the amount of material used to fill the interior, expressed as a percentage. The software does the math and determines how to arrange the type of infill you choose ([...]



3D Scanning

Fri, 05 Dec 2014 16:28:57 +0000

Editor's Note: This post is one of a series excerpted from Jason Griffey's Library Technology Report "3D Printers for Libraries." In addition to creating “born digital” objects, you can digitize existing real-world objects to make them printable. Of the various methods of 3D scanning, as it's usually called, I’ll cover my favorite three possibilities at the moment. Like much of 3D printing, the technology for scanning is changing quickly. Still a rough art, no capture method in 3D scanning reproduces exactly the object. Some types of scanning technology have issues with separating the background from object or even factors like going from a very dark to a very light surface. Most 3D scans will require some finessing in order to get good results from the resultant print. With a bit of work, though, you can get really interesting and useful objects from a scanner. Makerbot Digitizer Makerbot Industries has released a desktop 3D scanner called the Digitizer. Roughly the size of a turntable, it scans objects up to 8 inches in diameter. It uses a camera and lasers to “draw” the edges of an object as it is slowly turned around a single point. The Digitizer is also linked to the Makerbot Desktop software. If you have a Makerbot printer, you can set up the Digitizer + Replicator to act like a copy machine, placing an object on the Digitizer platform and then feeding the file directly to the Replicator. The Digitizer is limited in that it only collects volumetric information and can’t capture surface colors. Other scanners can, and while the most common FDM printers available now can’t do full color, higher end printers can. It may be a situation where scanning things and expecting them to be archival quality will become more realistic as the scanners get better. The Digitizer now sells for $799. 3D Systems Sense Sense by 3D systems is a handheld scanner that uses proprietary methods (but include at least camera and IR sensors) to create 3D scans of objects from 8 inches to 118 inches. It’s a far more interesting and overall more powerful scanner than the Digitizer in that it allows you to scan absolutely arbitrary objects, rather than being limited to things that will fit onto a turntable. You can scan freestanding objects, people, parts of rooms, nearly anything. The software for the system originally ran only on Windows PCs, but they recently released a version for Macintosh systems. They also showed off a version of the Sense that worked with the iPad at CES 2014, which would be an excellent truly portable solution. Sense also has price going for it. It’s only $399 for the basic Sense unit, and for the power that it affords you, it’s a very good deal. 123D Catch The last of the 3D scanning gadgets that I’ll cover actually isn’t a gadget at all. The 123D Catch is one of the coolest options for capturing a physical object. The software and app-based option uses standard photographs to recreate objects through the use of very clever and complicated math. You simply take a series of photos around the object, changing the position each time, until you circumscribe the object in roughly 15 degree arcs. The software then interpolates the object from the photos, using the shadows and highlights to get depth from the series of photos. The 123D Catch is available in three forms: free as a universal iOS app that allows you to take pics in the app itself; as a Windows app that allows you to load photos into it directly from another source (a DSLR or other digital camera); or as a web app that does many of the same things as the PC app, allowing you to upload photos taken elsewhere and convert them to a 3D model. All of these are free to use, in limited ways. The free version is licensed only for noncommercial uses of the models. It’s borderline magic, especially as a freely available se[...]



3D Printing Software

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:42:39 +0000

Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a series of posts excerpted from Jason Griffey's Library Technology Report "3D Printers for Libraries." Let’s start with a high-level overview of the process FDM printers follow, which is similar regardless of printer. You start with a digital model of your object, in STL format, either created with one of the  software packages described below or downloaded from a website. You open the file in a plating and slicing program, like Makerware, Repetier host, ReplicatorG, or Pronterface. The program will show how the object sits on the build platform, and you can manipulate it to some degree (scale it up or down, rotate it for a better fit). You will then choose a number of settings for slicing, things like layer height, infill, and extrusion temperature. Once you have your settings, you will either print directly from the computer over USB or export the STL file as a gcode file and move it to the printer on an SD card. The STL will be sliced into hundreds of layers, and the 3D printer will get instructions on how to build it one layer and a time. The other half of the 3D printing process is the software, which is of two types: one prepares your designed files for printing (slicing and plating software); the other is design software for creating the 3D object that you wish to print. We'll cover design software here. The two filetype standards for 3D printing are .stl and .obj. Obj files are typically those used in high-end printing, and include features like color information that are superfluous for the sorts of consumer-level printing that libraries are likely to offer. For FDM and STL printing, the needed output file is a .stl format. This is the equivalent of needing a .docx file if you want to work in the most recent version of word, or a .pdf file for cross-platform document consumption. The .stl file is a very simple description, in either ascii or binary, of the external shell of a 3D object in terms of triangles. Nearly every 3D modeling software that you might use will export to .stl, it is that common a file format in 3D design. One of the things that has really helped the 3D printing business take off is the availability of freely-sharable .stl models of just about anything you can think up. The most popular online library of 3D models is Thingiverse, a freely available resource owned by Makerbot Industries. Thingiverse allows anyone who has created a 3D model to upload it to the website and make it available for download. It’s open access 3D objects, in effect. Thingiverse is the perfect first-stop for anyone who has a 3D printer, as it will give you hundreds of things to print, from toys to tools. The downloadable files have easy to follow instructions for printing as necessary and clearly labeled intellectual property rights. As libraries start creating and sharing objects, Thingiverse would be the logical place to store them, especially for findability by the 3D community. I’m hopeful that over time we’ll be able to find shelf brackets and more there. I’m going to sequence this recommendation area for 3D design software from beginner to expert levels. With far more options for design software than I can cover here, this section, divided by level of expertise, is designed to give you a solid starting point. I will also point out a couple of options for the creation of STL files from photographs. My favorite piece of software for the beginning in 3D design is a website called Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a freely-available web application for creating of 3D models by using simple shapes to build up more complicated ones. You must create an account, but the free account (at least currently) gives you unlimited models online. The free account’s only real limitation is the requirement that your creations be Creative Commons A[...]