Archive for the 'Modeling new services' Category

Another Step on the Road to Developer Support Nirvana

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Roy

devnetToday we released a brand spanking new web site for library coders. It has some cool features including a new API Explorer that will make it a lot easier for software developers to understand and use our application program interfaces (APIs). But seen from a broader perspective, this is just another way station on a journey we began some years ago to enable our member libraries to have full machine access to our services.

When I joined OCLC in May 2007, I immediately began collaborating with my colleagues in charge of these efforts, as I knew many library developers and had been active in the Code4Lib community. As a part of this effort, we flew in some well-known library coders to our headquarters in Dublin, OH, to pick their brains about the kinds of things they would like to see us do, which helped us to form a strategy for ongoing engagement.

From there we hired Karen Coombs, a well-known library coder from the University of Houston, to lead our engagement efforts. Under Karen’s leadership we engaged with the community in a series of events we began calling hackathons, although we soon changed to calling them “mashathons” in response to the pejorative nature the term “hack” had in Europe. In those events we brought together library developers to spend a day or two of intense learning and open development. The output of those events began populating our Gallery of applications and code libraries.

Karen also dug into the difficult, but very necessary, work to more thoroughly and consistently document our APIs. Her yeoman work in this regard helped to provide a more consistent and easier to understand and use set of documentation from which we continue to build upon and improve.

When Karen was moved into another area of work within OCLC to better use her awesome coding ability, Shelley Hostetler was hired to carry on this important work.

In this latest web site release I think you will find it even easier to understand and navigate. One essential difference is it is much easier to get started since we have better integrated information about, and access to, key requesting and management when those are required (some services do not require a key).

Although this new site offers a great deal to developers who want to know how to use our growing array of web services, we recognize it is but another step along the road to developer nirvana. So check it out and let us know how we can continue to improve. As always, we’re listening!


OCLC Exposes Bibliographic Works Data as Linked Open Data

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Roy

zenToday in Cape Town, South Africa, at the OCLC Europe, Middle East and Africa Regional Council (EMEARC) Meeting, my colleagues Richard Wallis and Ted Fons made an announcement that should make all library coders and data geeks leap to their feet. I certainly did, and I work here. However, viewed from our perspective this is simply another step along a road that we set out on some time ago. More on that later, but first to the big news:

  1. We have established “work records” for bibliographic records in WorldCat, which bring together the sometimes numerous manifestations of a work into one logical entity.
  2. We are exposing these records as linked open data on the web, with permanent identifiers that can be used by other linked data aggregations.
  3. We have provided a human readable interface to these records, to enable and encourage understanding and use of this data.

Let me dive into these one by one, although the link above to Richard’s post also has some great explanations.

One of the issues we have as librarians is to somehow relate all the various printings of a work. Think of Treasure Island, for example. Can you imagine how many times that has been published? It hardly seems helpful, from an end-user perspective, to display screen upon screen of different versions of the same work. Therefore, identifying which works are related can have a tremendous beneficial impact on the end user experience. We have now done that important work.

But we also want to enable others to use these associations in powerful new ways by exposing the data as linked (and linkable) open data on the web. To do this, we are exposing a variety of serializations of this data: Turtle, N-Triple, JSON-LD, RDF/XML, and HTML. When looking at the data, please keep in mind that this is an evolutionary process. There are possible linkages not yet enabled in the data that will be later. See Richard’s blog post for more information on this. The license that applies to this is the Open Data Commons Attribution license, or ODC-BY.

Although it is expected that the true use of this data will be by software applications and other linked data aggregations, we also believe it is important for humans to be able to see the data in an easy-to-understand way. Thus we are providing the data through a Linked Data Explorer interface. You will likely be wondering how you can obtain a work ID for a specific item, which Richard explains:

How do I get a work id for my resources? – Today, there is one way. If you use the OCLC xISBN, xOCLCNum web services you will find as part of the data returned a work id (eg. owi=”owi12477503”). By striping off the ‘owi’ you can easily create the relevant work URI:

In a very few weeks, once the next update to the WorldCat linked data has been processed, you will find that links to works will be embedded in the already published linked data. For example you will find the following in the data for OCLC number 53474380:


As you can see, although today is a major milestone in our work to make the WorldCat data aggregation more useful and usable to libraries and others around the world, there is more to come. We have more work to do to make it as usable as we want it to be and we fully expect there will be things we will need to fix or change along the way. And we want you to tell us what those things are. But today is a big day in our ongoing journey to a future of actionable data on the  web for all to use.

Learning Commons: well-made in Japan

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 by Jim

During a very hectic, very interesting week visiting research libraries in Japan last week I had the good fortune to tour the new (April 2013) Learning Commons at Doshisha University. It is not a library-managed facility but the library helps to staff it along with other Student Support Services staff. The facility itself is as good an implementation as I’ve seen anywhere including the new facilities at North Carolina State University’s new library. The Doshisha University Learning Commons brochure

The Commons itself is a multi-story structure constructed adjacent to the library and connected to the library at various levels. As a consequence students can move very freely from the collections and quiet of the traditional library to the group study, presentation, production and technology areas of the learning commons. There are plenty of visible but unobtrusive staff available to the students. People in red jackets offer technology support, in blue jackets peer instruction and guidance, in yellow you get media production and on each floor a desk staffed by a librarian.

There are no fixed furnishings in the entire facility. Everything can be moved. As an experiment they left one group study space with two tables without rollers. That space is the most infrequently used in the building. I was impressed with the energy of the staff and the enthusiasm of the students. The location of the facility bordering on one of the busiest streets in Kyoto purposely serves to advertise the learning environment of this private university. The big study and computing rooms are lined up along picture windows that face out onto this boulevard ensuring that Kyoto citizens know that Doshisha is a good place to learn.

Check out some photos taken during my walk-through in this Flickr set. Look for the Global Village sign that designates an area where no Japanese is to be spoken.

P.S. After the original post my colleagues at Doshisha advised me that an English language version of their Learning Commons brochure is available (.pdf).

What’s happening over at ArchiveGrid

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Merrilee

As a member of the small but mighty ArchiveGrid team, it’s my happy job to bring you a few updated on what has been happening with our sandbox discovery service for archival descriptions. Today I wanted to tell you about some updates to the system architecture and also a bit about how we are trying to understand how users interact with ArchiveGrid.

As Bruce wrote over at the ArchiveGrid blog, we’ve shifted over to the Bootstrap Framework. Bootstrap brings with it “responsive design,” which allows us to accommodate a broader variety of devices including phones and tablets) and added more access points to the MARC records from WorldCat (which accounts for 90% of the ArchiveGrid content).

We introduced more access points because we wanted to allow users more ways to flow to and find other items of interest without having to type in a new search. In order to see if this system change is having any impact, we’re using click trail heat maps; early comparisions of before and after show that there is a change in the system. For more details, head over to the ArchiveGrid blog, where Bruce writes about this topic. We’ll be revisiting this analysis so stay tuned!

In general, if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of building a system optimized for archival discovery, you’ll find the ArchiveGrid blog useful, and I commend it to you. Especially check out the postings categorized under Building ArchiveGrid.

User studies and risks for research libraries?

Monday, July 8th, 2013 by Jennifer

This is the first in a series of posts that synthesize conclusions of published user studies about desires and needs for research support. I’ve collected quite a stack of them. For the past three years I’ve been reading up on what academics themselves say about all this. Along the way, I’ve also gathered studies that include administrators and librarians. When the latest Ithaka US and UK faculty surveys came out this spring[1], I integrated their findings into my growing pile of evidence.

The cumulative effect is rather foreboding. Academic libraries appear to be somewhat out of touch with the needs of researchers. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The typical library often does not provide the support that researchers need to do their research. As a result, researchers report not being as well-served as they should be, and in their eyes academic libraries are losing relevance.

Today’s synthesis introduces user studies about risks for research libraries, especially the risk of doing nothing. In separate future posts I’ll focus on what researchers themselves say. If I get ambitious, I may delve into to user studies with university administrators and – last but not least – librarians.

Why user studies?

Many leaders of research libraries are concerned that their institutions have become less relevant to faculty members and academics, whether due to advances in technology, success in licensing journals, or over-investment in teaching services for undergraduates at the expense of research. In the current context of disintermediation of libraries – combined with constraints on funding – administrators at research-intensive universities perceive that libraries are presently at risk. Internationally, significant attention has been given to demonstrating the value and ‘business’ of libraries to universities and funding agencies. Managing research information – whether research data, articles, or administrative information about researchers and their work – has recently become a strategy for libraries to weave themselves into the fabric of the research lifecycle, in order to demonstrate their value and mitigate risk of losing relevance and funding.

To re-establish the research libraries’ alignment with research needs, the community has called for investment in developing new services that support research workflows and university administrations. Considerable thought has been given to the nature and function of such new services. National and institutional initiatives have enabled a handful of research libraries to spend significant resources planning and developing up-to-date research services.

For years, librarians have called for studies that articulate what researchers desire by way of support for their research.[2] These blog posts are my meta-analysis of the results of some 30+ years of studies – including recent reports from RIN, Ithaka, OCLC Research, and the DCC – in order to gather together evidence of system-wide needs for research services, both within and outside libraries. Of course, methodologies used to generate the numerous studies vary, such as interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Also, the objectives of the various projects are different, so exact or parallel comparisons are difficult and the conclusions are not necessarily overlapping or consistent.

Nevertheless, clear trends and distinct patterns emerge from the body of work as a whole. Recent research on scholarly behavior converges on conclusions about all manner of information-related services in universities and across academic disciplines. Qualitative and quantitative studies of scholars and academic administrators provide a mountain of evidence about the nature of services and infrastructure required to span the entire lifecycle of the fruits of research. While we have witnessed simultaneous evolution of discipline-based and institution-based services, diverse international reports have identified gaps in digital infrastructure and provision of services to manage research information, both by libraries and by university administrations.

Risks: disintermediation, funding, value

Martin Feijen, in a literature review from the Dutch SURFfoundation titled What researchers want, gleans the crux of the matter: “There is one very concise statement about risk: ‘The biggest risk is to do nothing.’”[3]

Read the rest of this entry »

WorldCat Linked Data Made More Easily Available to Software

Monday, June 3rd, 2013 by Roy

You may recall that a while back we announced that linked data had been added to web pages. If you scroll down when viewing a single record you can reveal a “Linked Data” section of the page that is human readable and also “scrapable” via software.

However, it is much easier for software to request a structured data version that does not contain all of the other HTML markup of the page. The best way to do this is through something called “content negotiation”. Basically it enables a requestor (that is, a software program) to send a request that also tells the web server which format is required. For example, if you want a representation of the data in the Javascript Standard Notation (JSON) format, which many software developers use, then you could issue a command such as this:

curl -L -H “Accept: application/ld+json”

And that is what you would get in return. Alternatively, you could simply request that format by using the appropriate filename extension:

Formats supported include RDF XML, JSON, and Turtle. Richard Wallis has written a more thorough description of this that can be very helpful in understanding how best to use this new service.

These changes make it much easier and faster to get the data a developer requires into their application in a highly usable way. We can’t wait to see what they do with it.

We Want to Send You to SemTechBiz

Monday, April 29th, 2013 by Roy

semtechSemTechBiz is a major conference for those who are using semantic web technologies like linked data, RDF,, etc. It is being held June 2-5 in San Francisco and OCLC and LITA have teamed up to send a librarian there to share the good work that libraries are doing to produce and consume linked data.

We will pay the expenses of the selected individual to attend the conference where they will also be afforded a lightning talk slot to highlight their work for conference attendees. This is the first “Library Spotlight on Innovation” that we jointly developed with, the producers of the conference. Richard Wallis, our Linked Data Evangelist, was instrumental in putting this together.

So are you doing something interesting with linked data? Or do you know of someone who is? If so, you can nominate yourself or someone else for this great opportunity. We want the broader world to know about how libraries are innovating with linked data.

MOOCs and Libraries: Next Steps?

Friday, April 19th, 2013 by Merrilee

[On March 18th and 19th, 2013 OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries held a forum on MOOCs and Libraries. This is the sixth in a short series of postings on that event. You can read other postings on this topic in the archives, and check out all of the deliverable on the event page.]

For our MOOCs and Libraries event, it was important to come away with concrete of opportunities for librarians — hopefully now that we have a cohort of attendees (in person attendees, remote attendees, and those of you who have watched the videos, reviewed the Twitter stream, and read these summaries!) there are some positive and meaningful ways that librarians can engage with MOOCs. To help the end of the day on both Monday and Tuesday, my colleague Chrystie Hill led us in small group discussions. (We also tried to include the remote audience in the discussions, with mixed results).

The questions for discussion were:

  • What have you learned here today?
  • What are the implications for your library?
  • What should you or your organization do next?
  • What are the key strategic moves that libraries should make in regards to MOOCs?
  • On the last point, the small groups were asked to come up with their top three recommendations. Then as a whole, we heard all the “top three” from each table. Not surprisingly, there was quite a bit of overlap, and my colleague Dale Musselman nicely transcribed and organized the outcomes into 9 rough categories.

  • Get the library involved
  • Start talking/collaborating/sharing between libraries
  • Take MOOCs
  • Get in front of licensing and access
  • Create MOOCs
  • Support MOOC faculty
  • Support MOOC students
  • Create in-person support opportunities
  • Re-assess library assumptions and practices
  • Of these, from my perspective, the things that every librarian can do is to take a MOOC, and contribute to the conversation by listening to others who have been invovled in MOOCs, and sharing information and experiences.

    My thanks to Chrystie for structuring and facilitating this sessions, and to Dale for helping to organize the outcomes document.

    You can take a look at the summary document and also the individual recommendations as contributed.

    You can also watch the video for even more detail.

    MOOCs and Libraries: Who Are the Masses? A View of the Audience

    Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 by Merrilee

    [This is the fifth in a short series on the forum on MOOCs and Libraries held by OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, March 18th and 19th, 2013. Look back to the archives for earlier posting on this topic]

    MOOC Audiences
    MOOC Audiences by *s@lly*, on Flickr, cc-by-nc

    We wrapped up the content portion of our meeting by reflecting on the audience for MOOCs (or what we know about participants), and also considering the audience through the lens of public libraries (which I admit, I don’t think about a lot of the time, except when I’m acting as a patron). I find the role (or potential role) for public libraries in MOOCs to be very exciting, and I think you’ll see why if you read the summary or watch the video of Margaret Todd’s talk.

    We heard first from Howard Lurie (Vice President, Content Development, edX), who said he was from the “other platform.” (Although we tried to balance the program, many of the presenters were from “Coursera” institutions — I don’t think the platform matters all that much when talking about the library’s role in MOOCs, but there you have it.) According to Lurie, MOOCs provide an opportunity to look at learning/pedogogy through the lens of “big data” gathered during course implementation. Even with “low” completion rates the numbers are still quite high. Taking one edX class as an example (6.002x, Circuits and Electronics): 154,763 registered for the class; 26,349 tried the first problem set; 10,547 took the mid term; 9,318 passed the mid term; 8,240 took the final exam; 7,157 received certification. This is a lot of data to analyize that could help improve teaching — it would take many years of iterating a class in a traditional setting to get to those numbers (and of course, Audrey Watters would ask as she did in an excellent talk at WebWise, “Whose educational data is it?”) As with many presentations on MOOCs I’ve heard recently, Lurie highlighted “global stories” reflecting exposure to a topic for those who might not have had the opportunity otherwise (such as the Pakistani participant who said “this course was the most important experience in my life” One role for MOOCs might be to gather stories of learners around the world, and help universities identify talent.

    Next we heard from Deirdre Woods (Interim Executive Director, Open Learning Initiative, University of Pennsylvania) who joked that in this environment, being around for a number of months makes you an old timer. Penn’s is in the open learning business because it’s a public good, and also because it’s good for Penn — online courses provides prospective students a taste of what they might expect from the college before they make a commitment. It’s also a good way to stay in touch with alumni. Woods shared that the faculty who have taught MOOCs acknowledge that it’s a huge undertaking but all say they would do it again. Part of the satisfaction? Faculty members reach more people in one course than in entire career. A little more about participants demographics: the majority of participants in Penn MOOCs were working in full time positions. 65% are male (they aren’t sure why). 30% of participants hang in through the duration of the course, but don’t do assignments.

    Finally, we heard from Margaret Donnellan Todd (County Librarian, County of Los Angeles Public Library). Right now, LACoPL is loved and trusted by the community; as evidence of this, county residents recently voted to increase library funding. Not content to rest of their laurels, LACoPL has identified online relevance as an important component of their strategic plan. And the library has a challenge in terms of serving an educational shortfall in their community. Right now high school dropout rates are at about 40%, and community college graduation rates are low. Higher education in California (as elsewhere) is increasingly squeezed, and the option to go to community college in order to catch up, is no longer an option for all. All of these factors will lead to a decline in a local qualified workforce. With fewer and fewer options, LACoPL has begun to see itself as a center of learning, and positioning itself to support very practical and real educational educational needs. Public libraries excel at connecting people to services, partners, and peers. At an academic institution, MOOCs are an extension of existing online presence; in public libraries, MOOCs (and support for those taking MOOCs) may be an extension of their broad public education mission. Todd described how LACoPL has experimented with offering course through Ed2Go — even with little promotion, these courses have been very popular. What might be possible if public libraries extended their online courses, or worked with material being produced in MOOCs? One desire expressed by participants in MOOCs has been a need for a common space to come together with others taking the same class. Why not the public library as that space?

    N.B. You may have noticed that in these postings, I purposefully am referring to those who take MOOCs as “participants” and not “students.” That’s a purposeful choice on my part. I don’t think we know enough about who is taking MOOCs and why to label them as students yet.

    MOOCs and Libraries: New Opportunities for Librarians

    Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 by Merrilee

    [This is the fourth posting in a short series on the forum on MOOCs and Libraries held by OCLC and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, March 18th and 19th, 2013.]

    This, alongside the copyright session, was the most meaty in terms of seeing where libraries are currently connecting with MOOCs — as I learned during my investigations, there are a lot of people with opinions about MOOCs and libraries, but not many folks with hands on experience. This session focused on where library research skills fit into MOOCs, where that might take us.

    The panel was moderated by Marjorie Hassen (Director of Teaching, Research, and Learning Services, University of Pennsylvania Libraries) with participation by Sarah Bordac (Head, Instructional Design, Brown University), Jennifer Dorner (Head, Instruction and User Services, University of California Berkeley), and Lynne O’Brien (Director of Academic Technology and Instructional Services, Duke University). You can watch the video and / or read my summary of the event below.

    This panel featured perspectives from both Coursera (Duke and Brown) and edX (UC Berkeley) institutions, as well as from librarians who have been involved with a number of courses (Duke) to those who are still preparing for launch day (Brown). For those who have been in the game or on the sidelines, “MOOCs create the perfect storm for new ways of thinking about things” quipped O’Brien. And if people go to MOOCs to learn, it’s critical for libraries to be involved. The question is, what is the right level of support, and where to invest? As a first steps, the pedagogical needs for a course need to be outlined before you can judge what the role of the libraries is, and where library support makes sense. For example, at Berkeley, courses on math and computer science don’t have library related learning objectives. A good exercise for those at academic institutions might be to scan the course catalog and ask what library support is currently offered for each course — in an online environment, expect support to be similar. Is the main focus of support given to faculty who are planning the course, or to participants who are taking the course? For those who are taking courses, librarians may serve a role that’s more like an information guide rather than an information provider.

    Certainly looking anew at teaching creates opportunities for cross campus teams. At Brown University (and elsewhere), the library is involved in a number of these teams, which positions the library strategically and helps the library act in a “connector” role. At some institutions, such as UC Berkeley, online learning has not been centrally coordinated, which allows for creativity in course development but makes it difficult for the library to get involved.

    Dorner shared information about two library-based edX groups, one studying “content accessibility” (copyright) and another looking at “research skills.” Both groups will issue reports and recommendations, and those reports will be shared.

    Other observations:

  • You can’t fully understand and appreciate any technology unless you use it. In MOOCs, there are two layers of experience — that of an course participant, and that of an administrator on the platform.
  • Another reason to take a MOOC — you can see the degree to which students share information resources among themselves.
  • Additional resources:
    Study of how MOOC participants (in one course) went about finding relevant information resources (via Eleni Zazani). A small sample size, but I think this gives some indications of where students are headed.
    A thorough analysis of a MOOC, the report on Duke’s Bioelectricity course — this is the most through reporting out from a course I’ve seen to date.