I went looking for interesting January 30 events with which to draw parallels to our currents state of hopeful flux (new CIO, new Provost, new President) and found several gloomy events:

  • Charles I of England beheaded in 1649
  • Oliver Cromwell “ritually executed” in 1661
  • The Beatles last public performance in 1969
  • Bloody Sunday in 1972

I found little in the way of uplifting major events on January 30, but I suspect Wikipedia editors (like the rest of humanity) are more fixated on the dramatic and shocking than on the propitious.

What can we look forward to in the year ahead? We can’t know for sure, but I know what I am hopeful for:

  • strong, thoughtful, decisive leadership
  • a renewed and public commitment to library services in both the traditional and technological arenas
  • an acknowledgement of the resource shortages that have plagued us since the 2008 financial crisis and a plan to address them in the short and long term
  • efforts to build a supportive, inclusive and welcoming culture
  • free ice cream

It’s not easy to keep ourselves focused on the positive when there are plenty of negatives to focus on, but we have a whole new world ahead of us.  Which brings me to my post title.  This post was supposed to be about A Whole New World.  I am embarrassed to report that for 20 years I have been laboring under the misapprehension that the song “A Whole New World” was from An American Tail.  Turns out it’s from Aladdin.  But since I like the metaphor of LTS as Fievel, bravely embarking on a promising but scary new journey, I’m going to envision our road to the future as paved with cheese.  I like cheese.fievel

The Library Systems group spent the last year upgrading every damn system we have, save one. As we wrap up the last of them, we stop to take a breath and assess where we are and where we are going. We stare down the months and years ahead and feel a bit directionless. How do the things we want to do fit with the overall LTS plan, and most importantly how do they fit with the direction of higher-ed librarianship?

So we scanned the higher-ed library landscape, technology and industry trends, gleaned what explicit LTS objectives we could, and we wrote a draft five-year plan for the library systems group. We’ve been careful to make it business-like, logical and sober. As un-manifesto-like as possible so we won’t be perceived as parvenu upstarts. Careful not to the ruffle feathers of any who may believe that helping to design the library’s future is outside our purview. Which raises the question – Ain’t I a Librarian? Why do we feel we need to be so cautious? Can we systems librarians not put forth ideas, contribute legitimately to strategic planning, and help lead the charge into the technology-saturated future?

So here goes. We’re making our goals public, though the draft five-year-plan is not ready for prime time yet.  The full plan identifies concrete steps and resources for achieving the goals described below.  At the end of the five year plan period, it is the overall goal of the Library Systems group to be in a position to fulfill the following principles and obligations:

  • Be agile, responsive, innovative
  • Position ourselves to respond to a rapidly changing environment
  • Help Brandeis University Libraries shape the information landscape instead of just being a consumer of it
  • Act as a bridge between traditional library activities and the technology-focused future
  • Establish and maintain systems, technology and integration between systems to support the mission and daily activities of Brandeis University Libraries


Library Systems Five Year Plan Goals:

1. Provide always-on, highly available, device-agnostic access to scholarly information resources

LTS needs to provide always-on, seamless access to owned and licensed materials that “just works,” for our users to get full benefit from our extensive investment in information resources.

The discovery environment has evolved dramatically over the past five to ten years, with the rise of next-generation catalogs, Google, social media and Web 2.0. The technological sophistication of the Brandeis user community is increasing and their expectations are increasing accordingly. Users expect a Google- and Amazon-like discovery experience, and expect participatory engagement via Web 2.0 functionality. They expect that information resources will be available to them round-the-clock, and that they will be able to access them using a variety of devices. As of early 2011, more than 25% of Brandeis community members use smartphones and the use of tablet computers is increasing. Our community expects that the library will come to them.

2. Facilitate and support collection sharing, new models of collection development, and data-driven collection management

Budget reductions, user preferences for electronic access to materials, limited physical space, and the inability to financially sustain comprehensive collections have led many academic libraries to shift from a “just-in-case” to a “just-in-time” philosophy.*

Due to these factors, the Brandeis libraries can no longer build and maintain a collection that is all things to all users. Collaboration with other institutions to coordinate collection development, patron-driven acquisition of materials, and partnerships with other libraries to share resources quickly and smoothly through services like RapidILL, BLC Resource Sharing and traditional ILL are all critical areas of growth. LTS needs to strengthen and expand the systems that support current and future services in this area.

3. Support initiatives to make available to the global academic community those materials that make Brandeis unique

The LTS FY11 E-Scholarship plan proposed “preserv[ing] and disseminat[ing] Brandeis’s unique digital assets related to academic and cultural programs and documenting our intellectual history” as an important strategic priority.

Digitization of little-used and hidden collections, collection and preservation of the scholarly output of the university in an institutional repository, providing a platform for open access publishing – all these activities serve to reveal the richness of Brandeis’ unique assets to the global academic community.

4. Identify and foster the development of core technical competencies needed by library staff in today’s information environment

In the face of a rapidly evolving information environment and the accelerating pace of change it can be challenging to build and maintain critical technical skills. First we must identify what the core technical competencies of today’s library staff should be – what skillset should be expected of all library staff: general staff, specialists, technology managers, and systems staff alike. Then we must find ways to foster and focus on these skills, while continually re-evaluating current compentencies and antcipating what future competencies will be needed and how we should staff to meet those needs.

The members of the Library Systems group are in a unique position to help bridge the gap between traditional library activities and the technology-focused future. Library Systems staff cumulatively have 36 years as professional librarians, and a total of 65 years working in libraries. We have worked professionally in all areas of the library, from circulation to systems, and have a broad understanding of the mission and goals of libraries, and their place in the overall information landscape. We are also ideally situated to facilitate knowldege sharing between the two halves of LTS. Our daily activities and interactions with colleagues span all LTS units, from InterLibrary Loan to Information Security.

* ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee, “2010 top ten trends in academic libraries. A review of the current literature.” College & Research Libraries News 71:6 (June 2010): 286-92. http://crln.acrl.org/content/71/6/286.short (accessed April 5, 2011)

Anatomy of a Successful Viral Marketing Campaign

21LouFind We haven’t blogged since October 29, 2009, but there have been good reasons for our silence. Over the past 5 months the systems group, with help from our good friends in public services, worked fiendishly to get our local implementation of the VuFind Next Generation Catalog LouFind out the door, and most recently have been engaged in clandestine operations to launch a viral marketing campaign to generate positive LouFind buzz on campus.

Our campaign involved a 3-pronged approach to spreading the LouFind message.

  1. Members of the LouFind team infiltrated student social hotspots on campus and planted our message directly in the ears of the students.
    • Usdan Game Room – one of our team hustled students at pool, betting them that LouFind was way more rad than Louis
    • Cholmondeley’s – one team member performed several acoustic songs extolling the wonders of LouFind and another performed a spoken-word piece reviling Louis for its lameness.
    • The post office – we bribed a mailroom clerk to pepper his conversations with phrases like “Louis is lame” and “LouFind rocks.”
    • Shuttle to Cambridge – a team member surfed LouFind on her iPhone and exclaimed frequently and loudly about how wonderful the experience was.
    • Sherman Dining Hall – disguised as students, LTS staff took over the dining hall. We held a sit in for two and a half days until campus administration agreed to issue a statement that “Louis is bogus” and “LouFind is way cool.” Our demand for more chicken wings was not as successful.
  2. We placed hidden speakers in the InfoCommons that broadcast “LouFind is da bomb!” and “Louis is bogus” messages at frequencies only detectable by people under 30.
  3. We placed subliminal messages in Louis screens that instilled in users an overwhelming desire to switch to LouFind.

You may have witnessed the astonishing success of our campaign. Undergrads were fighting over InfoCommons seats so they could use LouFind. Students maxed out their text message plans sending themselves Call Numbers. Copies of our LouFind table tents were stolen from the library and sold on eBay for hundreds of dollars. Campus Health Center reported a dramatic upswing in number of carpal tunnel complaints from students who couldn’t stop clicking through facets. Jonathan Coulton even wrote a song about LouFind.

Yours in bibliographic espionage,
– Mata Hari

Gimme a V! Gimme a U! Gimme an F! Gimme an I! Gimme an N! Gimme a D!

What’s that spell?megaphonePROGRESS!

Some days it’s been a struggle, but VuFind is finally cleared for takeoff.

We’ll be speeding through the rest of the technical implementation in the next five weeks, preparing for a soft launch right before Thanksgiving (followed by the official beta launch with fanfare in January). There are not very many technical tasks left ; the primary work to be done is the marketing campaign for the January fanfare, which will be handled by the functional side of the VuFind team.

A wise man once said “Don’t like the look of this old town, what goes up must come down” (and by wise man I mean bellicose churl John Lydon).

bacon This week he must mean the temperatures. We’re hitting daytime highs in the 60s, and nighttime lows in the 40s. The Library Systems team is unpacking its fall wardrobe, trying to remember what goes with what (can we wear the candy corn-embroidered denim vest with the Princeton warm-up pants, or is that too much orange?), daydreaming about apple picking and cider donuts and Oktoberfest.

As for the look of the town, well, it will be dressed in reds and oranges and yellows soon. Pretty enough, but a bittersweet harbinger of the slow grey slump into winter.


Let’s catch you up on the last couple of weeks!

The ILLiad CoSign rollout on September 14 went off without a hitch. Reports from InfoPoint and ILL are that users are very pleased with the change. One less username and password to remember. Who doesn’t like that?

Planning has begun in earnest for the Aleph upgrade from version 18 to version 20. The upgrade will not introduce any major functionality changes for staff and users, but will represent a significant infrastructure shift – from physical to virtual servers, from 32-bit to 64-bit, and from Oracle 10 to Oracle 11. Aleph is currently on track to be the first Oracle 11 implementation on campus. Luckily we have confidence in our DBAs. The upgrade was slated to occur this fall, with a go-live the first week in January, but a NetSys resource crunch has moved the work to the spring semester. Exact go-live is still TBD, but we will keep you updated.

Planning and infrastructure buildout is also underway for the SFX (GetIt) migration from a physical Solaris server to a virtual Linux server. The testing will occur during the fall semester, with go-live TBD.

Miscellaneous other bits of work include: DSpace programming cleanup, masters thesis collection configurations and minor enhancements, upgrade to 1.5.2 ; InMagic to Archon data migration ; ERM system trials.


Regularly Scheduled Rant Regarding Next Generation Catalogs

Rant is probably the wrong word, but it is one of my favorite topics these days.

A very interesting article from Chronicle of Higher Education – “After Losing Users in Catalogs, Libraries Find Better Search Software” – covers the increasing popularity of next-generation catalogs. The user comments are in some ways the most interesting part of the article, because they parallel the debate in the rest of the library world over teaching users to search “correctly” in current catalogs vs delivering something that enables them to discover what they need without professional intervention.

From my perspective, it isn’t about dumbing down the catalog so that information-illiterate users can continue their lazy amazoogle style searching. It’s about convincing users whose online experiences have been steeped in the Amazon and Google environments not to go elsewhere for their information needs. If their perception is that our traditional discovery tools suck, then they suck. All the erudite arguments about why they should learn our way aren’t going to help a frantic sophomore choose our tools over Google at 3am on a Wednesday if s/he hasn’t yet had (or may never have) the benefit of formal search training.

If 30 years of “information literacy” training programs haven’t resulted in the majority of users being able to effectively find what they need, perhaps it is time to recognize that effort as futile and try something else. Even in higher ed, most of our catalog users do not strive to be scholarly researchers. Some of them just want to get through western civ.

— Tania

I hope everyone is celebrating National Day of Catalonia* (a.k.a. National Catalan Day), a holiday that commemorates the Catalans’ 1714 defeat in the Siege of Barcelona.

Apparently the defeat led to the abolishment of the Crown of Catalonia, but I’m not sure what that really means, because Catalonia had been part of Spain since Isabella married Ferdinand in 1469. Good thing I’m not a European history scholar, or I’d probably be expected to understand this.

In any case, September 11 became an official Catalan holiday in 1980.

Other important events in 1980 include:

  • Carter bails out Chrysler
  • ALEPH is created by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Bon Scott, John Bonham, John Lennon and Ian Curtis die
  • AC/DC releases Back in Black
  • Comstow Information Services (later acquired by InMagic) is founded
  • Mount St. Helens erupts, causing crappy weather all summer in Trumansburg NY
  • The Empire Strikes Back and PacMan are both released. In Empire, Princess Leia kisses Luke Skywalker. In PacMan nothing happens that will squick us all out in retrospect.

Tingui un bon cap de setmana!
– Tania

*(Out of stubborn allegiance to Patriots’ Day I am not calling today Patriot Day)

baconThe Library Systems and ILL teams gathered in Feldberg this week to prepare for International Bacon Day, which is almost upon us – Saturday September 5.

As part of our readiness exercises, we invited colleagues to stop by and test the new ILLiad CoSign login implementation.

ILLTesting-032The day started, as all important days should, with donuts. An astute team member spotted one of the new Toffee For Your Coffee contest-winning-donuts nestled quietly amongst the fall-leaf-sprinkled donuts and the Boston Cremes. A welcome augury that presaged successful testing (hey – would you rather we used entrails to prognosticate?). Despite some lingering sadness over the bacon-filled donut not winning the Dunkin Donuts design-a-donut contest, the testing group was able to polish off a box and a half of deep-fried sugary goodness.


James apparently found watching the testing to be a real nail-biter, but the testing actually went very well, and we are on target for a September 14 launch. The remaining tasks between now and launch are in the capable hands of the ILL group.

For information on how to prepare yourselves International Bacon Day, I recommend visiting

Yours in Smoked Salty Deliciousness,
– Tania

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.


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.


  • 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:


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

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