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Fewer Shades of Grey

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When I was in library school in the mid-nineties, I was told there was a "greying  of the profession" in process.  As I cocky, young, soon-to-be librarian, I read this threat as a promise.  So many librarians would be retiring in the next 20 years that we literally could not fill their seats with the new generations of librarians "coming online." 

I was intrigued by the challenge but utterly stunned by the professional response.  Somehow this looming threat was turning into a library school recruitment effort.  I had a different reaction.  If we were a factory, I thought, and we could literally not replace the workers on the line, we would only have two choices--slow down our production or increase our levels of automation.  In this sense, I don't consider myself an accidental systems librarian, like so many of my contemporaries.  The desire to automate processes to replace redundant, inefficient, and commoditized workflows conducted by hand was apparently in my DNA.  So, I traded in what I'm sure would have been a lucrative and fulfilling future as a rare book cataloger in order to be a systems librarian.  My humble goal: to replace those empty seats with better automation.

I've used this blog to crow about WorldShare Management Services quite a bit, especially the features, efficiencies, and network effects made available in acquisitions, discovery, and circulation.  But my product team also has responsibility for new product features that can stand alone from these initiatives.  So, I'm very proud to point at a new development in WorldShare Metadata.

Using the WorldCat knowledge base, we have developed a method to set holdings for licensed content and then deliver MARC records for those holdings.  We're calling this WorldShare Metadata collection management--the ability to manage resources at the collection level, as opposed to the traditional record-by-record workflows.  Moreover, this means that libraries can have records delivered for local system use in one step, rather than provider-by-provider.

"Using the [WorldCat] knowledge base and this new MARC record delivery service for some e-book collections is really a more efficient workflow overall. It provides more thorough and accurate access to e-books in our catalog and discovery tools."   
--Holly Tomren, Head, Metadata Services, Drexel University Libraries

This means no more tracking and managing multiple workflows, varying frequencies of updates, and dealing with a breadth of quality in metadata records.  This WorldShare service not only streamlines technical services workflows, it means better and more consistent access for patrons.  Even a slight URL change will trigger delivery of a new record.  Since the knowledge base is updated and managed by OCLC and the entire cooperative, this means more accurate linking and no more need for URL-checking in your local catalog.  We all know how quickly URLs can grey.

WorldShare Metadata collection management functionality allows you to define and configure your e-book and other electronic collections in one place, and automatically receive initial and updated customized WorldCat MARC records for all e-titles from one source, providing your users access to the titles and content from within the local library catalog or other discovery interface.  And output is determined by the library...don't want MARC?  Then choose MARC XML, multiple variations of Dublin Core, or MODS. 

In the future, WorldShare Metadata collection management will not only deliver records for local use regardless of provider and in multiple outputs, but also regardless of material format.   This means libraries can create record delivery criteria across print, licensed, and digital materials--true collection management, a vast improvement over record, format, and supplier management. This is pretty exciting stuff.  Speed up the production lines!

I had a birthday a few weeks ago and I've noticed a lot more grey hair in the mirror.  I've become what I once beheld, but it only encourages me to double the effort to increase efficiencies for libraries and patrons. 

A New Brand Day

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So at some point, blogging became like exercise to me.  It used to come easily because I did it regularly, and if I didn't do it regularly, I missed it terribly.  I hear that runners get like this...I wouldn't know.  Despite my hectic pace, it's more webscale than cardiovascular.  So, I'm trying once again to turn over a new leaf, looking for an equivalent to new year's day to start blogging again.  I figured that OCLC's introduction of a new brand is as good way to start as any.

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OCLC WorldShare

I won't bore any of you with what goes into a new name, a new brand.  Let's just say it's a lot more work than you might imagine.  And OCLC WorldShare is so much more than just a new cloud-based, cooperative library management service.  I've talked a lot about building webscale with libraries over the last few years.  OCLC WorldShare introduces three critical components of our strategy for truly cooperating at Webscale: WorldShare, our commitment to radical collaboration in library service delivery; OCLC WorldShare Platform, where libraries can collectively innovate library services; and the opening of new worldwide data centers that will support OCLC services globally.

Of vital importance to all of us at OCLC--and I think made clear in the introduction of WorldShare--is  the hand-in-hand nature in which it co-exists with WorldCat.  I still view WorldCat as the most compelling and distinguishing feature of the management services that our global team at OCLC has been building over the last four years.  It was nice to see that we are not alone in the assertion of WorldCat's place in the world of important databases.  It is truly an amazing database and a rich source of discovery.

Management Applications and The Platform

OCLC WorldShare Management Services replaces Web-scale Management Services, while giving comfort to the growing community that already affectionately refers to it as WMS. New services--from metadata management to resource sharing and consortial borrowing--will come together under this name.

WMS has served as an example of one of the most exciting developments at OCLC, the platform on which these applications are built and their associated Web Services are exposed and shared.   Libraries, developers, and 3rd parties will be able to innovate collectively on a provider-neutral platform--the OCLC WorldShare Platform.

We're taking our commitment to cooperative innovation very seriously.  The OCLC WorldShare platform is intended for the entire library ecosystem--from tech-savvy librarians to developers, from part-time coders to software engineers, from library automation start-ups to established vendors--and all for the benefit of libraries, especially those without the resources to create new services on their own.  In my opinion, this is webscale for systems librarianship.

A Pace even more hectic

By no stretch of the imagination can I claim product leadership for all things webscale at OCLC...I have six peers who lead product portfolios with equally lofty and ambitious goals and plans.  We work very collaboratively together and with the OCLC membership to ensure that our product paths have meaning to and impact on the library community.  But I will admit that building webscale with libraries and helping create a new brand have kept me busier than I expected, and too busy for this blog or even the occasional tweet. 

That said, I'm using the occasion of a new brand for OCLC to once again recommit to making Hectic Pace a place for discussion and announcements of import to technology in libraries.  I've used it selfishly over the last couple of years to talk about the work that I'm intimately involved with on a day-to-day basis.  I'm optimistic that the introduction of the OCLC WorldShare Platform, the growth of the WMS community, and other equally ambitious endeavors will provide even more opportunity to share and discuss what goes on in the world of library automation.  Let's keep learning.

Plan for Success

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I had a great opportunity to travel to the northwest this month to attend the Oregon Library Association meeting (briefly) and the Montana (combined with Mountain Plains) Library Association meeting (slightly less briefly).  I've been wanting to highlight one presentation I saw from that trip ever since I got back and this is the first free moment I've had to put it all together.

In Oregon, I was participating with colleagues Carl Grant from Ex Libris and Neil Block from Innovative Interfaces in a pre-conference on library-vendor relationships.  That sounds like enough fun in and of itself, but it's actually not what I want to highlight.  Before we spoke, Steve Shadle from the University of Washington and Steve Casburn from Multnomah County Library gave presentations on "Partnerships with vendors : case studies and lessons learned."  Each was talking about the early adoption of solutions by their libraries and gave advice to other libraries considering the same.

Initially I sat up and took notice because I have been a seeker of such early adopters for the last three years.  This has been a successful endeavor.  Nevertheless, our team has been struck by the amount of change management required even for libraries who don't fear (and those who actually embrace) early adoption.  Steve Shadle presented a step-by-step approach to increasing the likelihood of a successful implementation.  It was only icing on the cake that he happened to be talking about UW's WorldCat Local implementation.

But the other thing that struck me was not the comparison to activities at OCLC, but the similarities I saw in UW's plan to the one that was implemented at NCSU when we were implementing the Endeca catalog.  It probably seems like a truism at this point that the philosophical and political battles are much larger than the technical ones.  A successful implementation only has a little bit to do with the solution being implemented and a whole lot to do with how the organization goes about it.

I probably won't do Steve Shadle's slides justice, but I was jotting down his steps to success.  A smarter man would have asked Steve to co-author this post, but as his slides are not available on the OLA site yet and I was anxious to tell his story, here are the steps he outlined:

  1. Describe the Problem
  2. Get administrative support
  3. Brainstorm with the solution provider
  4. Develop use cases / scenarios
  5. Understand your development partner
  6. Articulate a vision
  7. Be the first on your block--use early adoption to your advantage to set development priorities
  8. Be ready to exit if necessary
  9. Know your data and your systems
  10. Understand the development culture of your partner
  11. Understand your own culture
  12. Plan for success

This is a good list (even though I joked with Steve that he had created a twelve step program).  I take full responsibility for the numbering, as he did not number the steps; in fact, since these are often not sequential, it's probably best not to think of them as steps at all, but a list of ingredients for a successful recipe.  If I had to pick my two favorite ingredients, they would be the administrative support and the planning for success.  The latter isn't just motivational.  In UW's case, it meant, planning for 59% and 101% increases in consortial borrowing and ILL traffic, respectively.  The former is a must that we all know about.  If your bosses don't support you, you have a tall hill to climb.  If I were to add one thing to the list, it would be "get staff support for administrative decisions."  Many projects have grass roots and require administrative buy-in and resource support.  An equal number, I think, start at the top and require the support of grass roots staff to be successful.

The only regret of this meeting was that there were not many, many more people in attendance.  As so much of library innovation is happening in partnerships between libraries and service providers, libraries and libraries, or libraries and the open source community, I think it would be great to have even more opportunities for presentations like the one I participated in at OLA.  But I'm cooking up an idea on that front as well.  More on that later.
Put down that mouse and keyboard!  Twenty-first century, Web-based libray management services now means finding a whole new way to interact with library data and customers.  As the team at OCLC working on Web-scale Management Services has been hammering out new functional requirements, we've had a lot of leeway in breaking new ground.  But we've really been looking for a way to take the service beyond the obvious trends of electronic content management and mobile interfaces.  That's when one of our developers hooked up his XBox Kinect sensor to our development environment and the ideas started flying faster than we could implement them.

Web-scale Gesture-based Circulation.


I recently asked one of the developers how they got started.  "The easiest thing for us to do was introduce 'gesture-based' searching in the staff interface," said Kannan Seshadri, Release Manager for the product.  Usability testers had a blast finding titles on peace, prayer, and The Fonz.  Rock, paper, and scissors also became popular search terms, but nothing surpassed the number of searches for "birds" in WorldCat that day.

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Gesture search results for "birds."

"No one wants to stop at just searching," comments Product Manager, Jeff Schilling.  "Early adopters of the software have been flooding us with development ideas with gestures for 'angry patrons', circulation staff body movements for 'claims returned', and some of the most hilarious hand and body gestures for managing subject-based fund codes."


Directors and system administrators are loving this too.  We're looking to see if we can extend the functionality to not only recognize faces for the purpose of identity management, but also a way to accurately read facial expressions of the system administrators themselves so that they can rate library personnel as they are authorized to use the system.

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A clever library director stretches her budget with Web-scale Management Services.

We've identified a lot of green pasture in the development of these new web-based services, but nothing has been as exciting as defining a whole new way to interact with library data.  Be sure to send your ideas and gestures to pacea@oclc.org.

About the Author

Andrew K. Pace

I am Executive Director for Networked Library Services at OCLC. I am also a past President of LITA. On occasion, I am known for pontificating "on stage, in writing, and via the web" on a variety of issues important to libraries.

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