Welcome to Fall 2009

The campus is busy with students again and another summer project season is over.

When you’re doing your planning in the spring, summer always holds the promise of limitless sunshine, and boundless time to concentrate on fun enhancement projects and new ventures – but it doesn’t always work out that way.

It was a dark and stormy summer — the weather of June and July closely matched some of the dreary projects the Library Systems team worked on.

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A quick recap of the Summer 2009 LibSys Hit Parade:

Boston Library Consortium (BLC) / WorldCat Local project
This still-ongoing project seeks to implement a BLC “Union Catalog,” to streamline resource sharing (InterLibrary Loan/ILL) between BLC libraries. Working closely with OCLC, we have been able to implement most of the functionality required for the project (besides a few items that are bugs in the software we use for our own catalog). Some highlights of the work are: setting up an NCIP server, upgrading our InterLibrary Loan server (ILLiad), installing an additional proxy server (EZProxy) dedicated to brokering traffic for this project, and implementing CoSign to enable Brandeis logins to WorldCat Local. In the Fall, Brandeis will start lending books to other libraries through this service and soon after that will use it for borrowing books from other BLC libraries.

ILLiad Upgrade
In July we upgraded the InterLibrary Loan (a.k.a. Resource Sharing) system ILLiad to the latest and greatest version. We would have been doing the upgrade this summer anyway, but the BLC project (see above) helped dictate exactly when we performed the upgrade. The new release will provide the ILL department with better functionality and enable some upcoming improvements for users, such as enabling users to login to their ILL accounts using CoSign.

ILLiad & CoSign
We are in the midst of implementing CoSign logins for the ILLiad system. In the past, users have had to setup (and remember) a separate account and password in order to use the InterLibrary Loan service. Once CoSign is enabled, users will be able to login using the same username and password they use for email and other major Brandeis online systems. We are planning on making this live in the near future… stay tuned for an announcement and details from the library staff.

LOUIS / Aleph database re-index
May through August we evaluated the indexing rules for the Aleph (LOUIS) database, and re-indexed the entire database August 7-10. The re-index will improve keyword searching within LOUIS, and also implemented a new internal index specifically for the BLC project (see above).

Electronic Resource Management System (ERMS) investigation
A project to investigate implementing an ERMS. The project included assessing department needs and goals, gathering functional requirements, and beta-testing selected systems such as Ebsco Essentials, and ERMes (an open source ERM developed by University of Wisconsin). The hope is we can determine which product best fits our needs this fall.

Miscellaneous:

  • Oracle upgrades and critical patch updates for LOUIS, Scholar and the Institutional Repository
  • Weathered the CoSign 3.0 upgrade and several rounds of network and SAN upgrades
  • Developed and released a new build for the LTS Toolbar, which fixed some searching problems with LOUIS, made it compatible with Firefox 3, and enabled the searching of LibGuides from the toolbar.
  • Revised and updated several LibGuides over the summer and created a new banner for all Brandeis LibGuides that includes basic navigation.
  • Project planning for Fall, Winter and Spring
  • A whole lot of unglamorous operational activities like routine maintenance, data loads, data cleanup, tech support and problem solving.
  • None of us took vacations. Perhaps we will soon!

Next Generation Catalog investigation
Ending on a bright note: the big sparkly in the summer project season was a May & June project to investigate the possibility of implementing a next-generation catalog.

What’s a Next Generation Catalog?

Current library catalogs, LOUIS included, are typically not structured to allow significant enhancements or additions to existing functionality. As a result, libraries are looking outside of their traditional systems to so-called “next-generation catalogs” to achieve the kind of feature-rich experience expected by users, with tagging and comments, book covers, critical reviews, table of contents, and inclusion of other resources such as e-journals and scholarly databases.

The technological sophistication of Brandeis’ user community is increasing, and expectations are increasing accordingly. Users expect a Google- and Amazon-like one-stop discovery experience, and expect greater interaction and participation via features like tagging and comments. Most of these increased expectations cannot now, nor will they ever be, met by LOUIS.

An implementation of a next-generation catalog would attempt to:

  • enhance usability and discovery of library resources
  • offer one-stop discovery for as many resources as possible, including e-journals, electronic databases, books and print journals, institutional repository data, etc
  • provide an enhanced user experience including: relevance ranking; synonyms; book cover images; sending citations as text messages; faceted searching ; Web 2.0 functionality including tagging, comments, “more like this” and “did you mean” suggestions
  • enable users to discover library resources using web-enabled mobile devices

For more reading on the subject of Next-Gen Catalogs, I recommend:

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Now it’s the end of August, and good weather has finally arrived. The library systems team is looking forward to finishing up our current projects and starting on the next ones. Right now, though, I myself am planning to go enjoy the bright breezy Friday afternoon, and cocoon with wine and movies and friends if Hurricane Danny comes calling this weekend.

Summer is fleeting. Time and life are fleeting. Go make the most of it all while it lasts.

– Tania