Tuesday, November 20, 2012

6 Library related services online that use your library holdings

There's a fascinating discussion going on now (Nov 2012) at the NGC4LIB (Next generation catalogs for libraries) Listserv about the value of cataloguing, RDF, Linked data etc.

First the thread, "Authority in an Age of Open Access" links to a talk given by Clay Shirkey  and there is a brief interesting discussion about how the Smithsonian Institution crowdsourced tags for photos on flickr on the list.

At roughly the same time Karen Coyle (who was also posting on the above thread) posted  also a video of her talk entitled Think Different , there's also a text version. You can find the resulting discussion here

It's a great discussion about the love affair librarians have with alphabetical order (and why it occurred) and why it makes very little sense most of the time now.

She makes to me in the talk a very clear case on how libraries should move away from being “thing” oriented to focus on relationships and supporting knowledge discovery, without referring to buzz words like link data, RDF etc. This is a great quote

"The mission of the library is not to gather physical things into an inventory, but to  organize human 
knowledge that has been very inconveniently packaged."

I also found the following interesting.

"One strong assumption in the library field is that what we have to contribute to the Web and the greater 
information world is the contents of our bibliographic databases. Yet there would be little to be gained by flooding the Web with hundreds of millions of records, most of which already exist. In fact, the Web is awash in bibliographic data, from booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, to Google Books, which is a mix of actual books and bibliographic data, to book fan sites like LibraryThing and GoodReads"

She goes on to say with the exception of a few special collections, the web mostly does not need our bibliography, what they need among other things is holdings (which she clarifies in the thread is not the only thing we can contribute but is the lowest hanging fruit).

This led me to think not just about books but also about our journal holdings, how easy it is for web services to get at it? Karen mentions openURL of course as one way but that doesn't seem sufficient.

Interestingly enough  I am now aware of the rise of a fairly new group of services that actually use library holdings data. Here's a list


This service is described as "the largest, free collection of scholarly journal Table of Contents (TOCS)".

Also known as a current awareness service, there are over 20,000 journal titles (including 4,852 open access) from over 1,000 publishers included in one place.

It's a free service that researchers can use to create accounts to track journals of interest to receive email alerts or RSS feeds.

You might wonder why a researcher wouldn't go directly to each ejournal site to grab the rss feed or setup an email alert. The answer is simple, it's too much work to figure out with dozens of different interfaces where the rss feed link can be found differs from journal to journal. A single aggregation site makes a lot of sense.

While usage is free for researchers, libraries can customize the service for a fee , this includes the ability to add their openurl settings and gives users more search options including

- in the journals subscribed by your library/institution
- in Open Access journals
- in Open Access journals and your subscribed journals
- in the journals that a particular user is following

For more information about customization see this post

The first is particularly interesting, but requires that the institution send JournalTocs their online holdings as they will need to know in advance what journals you have access to.

As pointed out by some, this has the potential to become a poor's man discovery service, assuming the Tocs go back far enough, as one can search and setup alerts for those searches over tocs of journals subscribed though obviously this search will cover only TOCS and not full text.

Image via http://www.journaltocs.ac.uk/API/blog/?p=899

In addition , with a institutional license, you can also see what journals researchers from your institution have added. So for example, if NUS had a license, we could see how popular Journal of Academic Librarianship is by all researchers with @nus.edu.sg addresses. Other Statistics you can see include

- Number of journals that each user is following
- List of journals for which the user has click-through their websites
- Number of articles per journal for which the user has tried to view the full-text

Google Scholar , PubMed & PubGet

In fact, services that need your holdings in advance to display appropriate results to users isn't new. While most referring sources that support OpenURL do not require knowledge of your holdings in advance to register with Google Scholar's library link programme, you need to send them your library holdings.

This is used to selectively display the "Find it!" (or equalvant link) only when the holdings given to Google Scholar indicate that the article is available.

Google scholar link to full text shown selectively based on holdings 

Pubmed has various options for implementing of full-text linking but two options "Link out local" and "Linkout" , require that they have a copy of the library's holdings (the third option, outside tool works like a normal Openurl option and does not need your holdings).

Similar to Google Scholar, the fact that Pubmed has your holdings will allow them to selectively show the button to link to full text only if you have access to it.

Unlike Google Scholar, but like JournalTocs , it allows makes good use of the holdings given to them to allow users to restrict searches to the library's collection.

Pubmed and holdings filter

Another new service that I am not that familiar with is Pubget, it's like Google Scholar/Pubmed to some extent but currently restricted to life science and it's main selling point is that it can link directly to the pdf from the search results, so you could in theory just download the pdf without even hitting a single page on the ejournal site.

If the library is participating , researchers can use it to get access to full text available only to their institution.

It's unclear to me how the holdings get transferred, the signup page seems to suggest it is automatic? Still it is using your holdings... 

Related to Pubget is Paperstats  a way to track usage of eresources which aggregates usage data from different publishers. Somewhat similar to Serialssolutions 360counter service I think.

Watch the webinar, there's a interesting slide entitled holdings are the cogs.. and talks about the importance of holdings...

Mendeley Institutional Edition

Mendeley is known to many librarians as a reference manager/pdf management, but I have argued (with a bit of hyperbole) that's it has greater ambitions than that.

In case you are not familiar, in a nutshell, because so many researchers are using Mendeley to add documents in their libraries for pdf and reference management, Mendeley has plenty of data, they can exploit.  150 million unique items (as of Jan 2012) are searchable in Mendeley thanks to the items imported by users, information about what researchers add to their libraries also allow smart recommendations etc.

Users can add openurl setting on their own (endnote, zotero and other reference managers are similar) without libraries having a institutional version.

I added my OpenURL setting to Mendeley

 However, if libraries sign up to the institution versions , libraries can obtain usage data of their researchers. For example what journals are being added to their mendeley libraries.

I am informed Mendeley needs to know your holdings for certain statistics.

I believe, Mendeley currently doesn't do this, it could in theory use your holdings to show only results you would have access to (like Pubmed, Journaltocs, PubGet)


The newest of the services listed here is a very new service that targets the iPad and tablet using researchers.

The idea is simple to provide a one-stop app for researchers who want to access all their journals from one app. The company has approached various publishers and obtained permission to feed the table of contents into their app.

Libraries will then indicate to Browzine what their holdings are. When researchers login, they will be presented only with the journals they have access to , which they can add to their favourites/book shelves.

Add a couple of niffy features such as a ability to export to reference managers (Mendeley, Zotero and dropbox ) and push alerts of new issues you have a fairly compelling service.

This idea is in many ways remiscient of JournalTOCs and web discovery services except this aggregates ejournal content on tablets.

Rather than dealing with multiple apps each with its own quirks in interface and worse yet differences in authentication (which currently there is no standard way of doing so, though I would like the way Browzine does it to become standard), Browzine simplifies everything.

Again similar to the other services in the list, browzine needs your holdings for this to work.

Bonus LibX

Libx is of course a well known browser tool/plugin that many libraries support. When installed it gives the user a host of library related functions including but not limited to

  • hotlinking of issn/isbn/pmids/doi , so when you click on it, it will use the appropriate library service (library catalogue search, A-Z list, Openurl resolver) to try to find the item.
  • Ability to highlight any text and right click to search using library services
  • "Cues" on papers like Google, amazon that you can click to go to library services
  • authenticate on ejournal pages with ezproxy or WAM
  • support for sites that embed their metadata using COINS

Via http://libx.org/how-to-set-up-libx-with-the-summon-api/

This is very close to what Karen was talking about I believe about enhancing web data with our holdings though this does not use Rich snipplets  and arguably relying on users to install plugins isn't scalable.


As it stands now, our holding data is starting to "leak out" into other services. The simplest way of course which requires no co-operation from libraries is simply for services to construct urls that search our catalogues, discovery services, A-Z services, OpenURL (with COINS) with the right settings.

But as we can see, some services like PubMed, Google Scholar, Mendeley for institutions, Journaltocs, prefer to have library holdings in advance so they can scope out results. The main issue here is that there doesn't seem to be a automated way to handle this, and librarians end up having to export their holdings from their knowledgebase and sending it manually to each provider.

Leaving aside issues on whether this is allowed by the knowledge base vendors , this doesn't seem to be sustainable to maintain manually so many different silos of holdings.

What about APIs? This seems promising, with so many of the web scale management systems putting "open APIs" in their feature set.... , APIs would seem to be a way for libraries to enable other services outside the library to use it to enhance their services with our holdings, though whether Google would bother beyond a niche service (in Google's eye) like Google scholar is unclear.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My experiences at Internet Librarian International 2012, London

Hi all, this is yet another conference report from me, my 3rd and last international conference for 2012.

This time around, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at Internet Librarian International 2012 in London. I was very excited to attend because I knew from looking at the tweets and slides coming out from the past editions, this was my type of conference & I wasn't disappointed.

Compared to ALA Annual 2012 (see my blog report here), this was relatively smaller scale about 200-300 people but it was chock full of interesting and awesome people & presentations.

There were presentations on everything from "big picture" talks on what it means to be a librarian and the future to "harder" more practical talks about using social media for marketing, marketing institutional repositories and open access, gamification (lemontree), Augmented reality in library (the amazing Scarlet projectthe latest search/web 2.0 tools, engines, Scopus , Web of Science , Google Scholar, talks on impact of discovery services,  and more.

I know, people always say this when there are multi-tracks but I really had problems choosing between tracks since there were quite a few I really honestly wanted to see at the same time.

For example, I had to choose between a session where there were presentations by librarians from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presenting on user behavior on discovery systems and Trevor A Dawes (@tadawes) from Princeton University Library talking about how they combined Primo and Summon


Dave Pattern (@daveyp) presenting on one of my favourite projects to watch the Library impact data  project  & Brian Kelly (@briankelly) on What does the evidence tell us about institutional repositories?

In the end the discovery session won out, because I figured I could always read Dave Pattern and Brian Kelly's blog posts but I wasn't sure if the discovery sessions presenters blogged about their work.

In any case, for those of you looking for slides and coverage of the event the following links will be helpful

All the links above are courtesy of Brian Kelly's blog post round up of the event 

Speaking and presenting at Internet Librarian International

A big difference from the past few library international conferences I have attended (this must be my  4th so far including one in Singapore) was that I actually had to present in front of an international audience.

Needless to say, I was nervous (my accent isn't the clearest to audiences not from Singapore), and when I was informed about the session I was speaking at, I was both nervous and excited.

Excited because, I knew the other 2 presenters in my session and was looking forward to meeting them both for the first time.

One was Matthew Reidsma (@mreidsma) of Grand Valley State University - the Summon and library website guru I have blogged about in the past.

The other was Gary Green (@ggnewed) of Surrey County Council and Voices for Libraries the UK library advocacy group, who I have followed his blog Information Twist for a while on mashups.

Nervous because, I knew the caliber of the presenters, in particular Matthew Reidsma who always gives impactful and well received talks on why library websites suck, as such I was hoping not to embarrass myself too much.

Picture by Matthew just before we presented, Gary is seated next to me

I presented on a small project our social media team did with a meme content that resulted in 600% increase in Facebook reach. It wasn't a earth-shaking idea or project by any means, but hopefully it was an unusual idea that the audience had not considered yet and could be simple enough for them to consider implementing.

It was also something I didn't blog or talk about much before because I thought it would be good to give the audience at ILI2012 something they haven't read about before and I think I generally succeeded, we all did.

But again, perhaps I worried too much, as I noted before , while sessions are nice, the main objective of library conferences is to meet great people and connect with them before and after the presentations.

I wouldn't be surprised that during the conference, Olympia Conference Centre, London, UK had one of the highest density of amazing, energetic library people on earth.

Iman of Running in the Halls/Lemontree probably said it best (though the comment is a bit embarrassing, since I am not the one with a unique and novel gamification library game!)  , there were so many amazing people at the conference, you couldn't turn around without running into someone amazing.

Some I managed to talk to include Bram Luyten of Atmire , who I had a good talk about Dspace and of course I finally met in the flesh @akenyg of  Stockholm Public Libraries, @briankelly, @Karenblakeman  , @ed_jewell of  Guernsey and many other UK based Librarians and somewhat unexpectedly I ran into Joe Kraus @jokrausdu of University of Denver at the reception.

Both Joe and I are members of the LSW community (were we the only 2 members at ILI2012?), and Joe's speciality is Open Access and Scholarly Communication a area I am trying to learn more about.

Joe Kraus

I would have had the opportunity to meet more people, if I had decided to join people at the Hand & Flower Pub which became almost an unofficial meeting place for the delegates on the preconference and first day to socialize.

But I was feeling a little jetlagged and more importantly nervous about the presentation I had to do the 2nd day, that I decided to head back to the hotel early to prepare for the presentation, something I regret.

The Hand & Flower 

By the time my presentation was over on the 2nd day, and I was all relaxed , most of the UK delegates were on their way home. That said, I managed to meet up with Matthew Reidsma for dinner and it was interesting to know more about the guy beyond just what I see on twitter and blogs.

Matthew Reidsma

I also managed to meet up with Carol Gauld of Queensland University of Technology (@carolgauld) a day after the conference for dinner (again using the old trick of tweeting "Who wants to meet for dinner"  ) and she gave me some interesting ideas on 360link. 

One thing you might have noticed is that practically everyone I mentioned has a twitter account, which probably isn't surprising given that this is the internet librarian international and it drew some of the most tech savvy or tech inclined people from the library industry including library developers, system librarians, web librarians or simply instruction/reference/school librarians who were deeply into the use of technology.

That said Brian Kelly asked on his blog - Does Sharing on Mobile Devices Hinder Real World Discussions? Before that he tweeted cheekily this picture (of people at the conference staring at their smartphones ignoring everyone else) followed by the tweet "it's all about meeting new people"

As someone who is naturally a big introvert, I can say Twitter and social media is a big boon for me, because it allows me to connect and "know" people first in advance to meeting them. It's a lot easier to break the ice and talk if we have connected virtually before.

Still, there are times when it is easy to retreat to the virtual world when one feels all tapped out, something I have to watch out for.

The other interesting thing that occurred to me while tweeting the event was that, people who were not on site physically but interested were more likely to want to interact over online channels , well obviously because they had no other way! They didn't have the option of  tweeting "Let's meet to talk".

So at times, while I was at the event, I was getting tweets from offsite interested librarians who wanted to interact, which was a little distracting , though fortunately most came at the time during the session where you couldn't speak with the guy next to you anyway.

I extended my stay in London for 4 days, and I won't bore you with what I did, though a short summary would be I visited a lot of museums and did other tourist things.

The days flew by and very soon it was time to head back to Singapore. Personally, Internet Librarian International is now one of my favourite library conferences to attend and I would like to thank the organisers for accepting my proposal to speak and for my library to fund the trip.

I suspect if you like most of the things I blog about here, the conference would be a natural fit for you.

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