Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sticky Notes Are Making Alma Even Better: Impressions from the New Alma UX Workshop

Dana Sharvit, Product Manager, Ex Libris

Working with the Ex Libris community has always been an integral part of the Ex Libris philosophy. This week we were excited to be able to host a great team from our Alma community for a hands-on Alma New User Interface workshop.

The team has been working hard all week on a live environment of the new interface. Each participant has been working on typical workflows that they normally carry out in their day-to-day operations. Many new suggestions have been made on how Alma can be even better, stronger and faster for the entire community.

Check out the photos below -- each sticky note is input from one of the team members with another great idea coming our community.

We would like to thank our friends who participated from:
  • University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
  • KULeuven / LibisNet
  • Northwestern University Libraries
  • Getty Research Institute
  • University of Oslo 
  • PWG representative
  • University of Tennessee 
  • State Library of Queensland
  • University Manheim
  • Monash University
Do you want a sneak peak to the upcoming new Alma User Interface? Take a look!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

NISO KBART – Standardizing Holding Transfers between KB and Content Providers

Christine Stohn, Senior Product Manager Discovery & Delivery, Ex Libris

NISO KBART (Knowledge Base and Related Tools) was originally initiated in 2008, and grew to become something much greater than what it was initially intended for. Today KBART is not only a format that is widely used in the industry, but also a baseline for new processes and developments. But before I talk about the newest and very exciting initiative of automatic holdings transfer, I would like to look back at the history of KBART and its original purpose.  

KBART was originally initiated to improve the transfer of data between content and knowledge base providers. Knowledge bases are the central resource for OpenURL link resolvers such as SFX or 360Link to provide users with links to the full text of a reference. In the early years of the millennium, the OpenURL framework revolutionized the world of linking between a reference and the full text users are entitled to access based on their institutional affiliation. While before this point links had to be managed separately in every database, now the database would simply transfer the metadata in a standardised way (through NISO OpenURL standard Z39.88) to the link resolver. The library can now manage its entitlements in only one place, the link resolvers’ knowledge base.

The OpenURL linking framework relies on two factors: the quality of the metadata in the OpenURL and the accuracy of the data in the knowledge base used by libraries to activate and localize their subscriptions. A report (“Link Resolvers and the Serials Supply Chain) commissioned by UKSG in 2006 found serious gaps in understanding the importance of OpenURL linking, and outlined the pitfalls of users finding and linking to full texts they are entitled to if the data in the knowledge base is not correct.

Following the report, UKSG and NISO tasked a working group consisting of representatives of all stakeholders to devise a format that could be used as a guideline for improving the data transfer from content providers to publishers. In 2010 the working group published their recommendations in the KBART phase I report. It was followed by KBART phase II, meant to provide additional recommendations specifically for consortia packages, ebooks, and open access material. The Phase II recommendations were published in 2014. Since then, the working group has become a standing committee, tasked with market education and endorsements.

Creating a Standard for Automated Holdings Transfer
Over time we have increasingly heard from libraries and content providers that KBART was not only the format used for transferring data about generally available content to knowledge bases, but was also used by content providers to provide client-specific holdings data to libraries. So at Ex Libris we have added export and import options for KBART formatted files to SFX in order to allow libraries to localize their knowledge base with these files and to exchange holdings data with other systems and parties.

In 2014, we were contacted by Elsevier about the possibility of automating the  KBART holdings transfer between their content platform and the knowledge base. This was a very exciting development for us and we released the Elsevier automation as our first AutoUpdate service to our SFX and Alma customers in 2015. The release received a lot of positive feedback. In 2016, in collaboration with Ovid, we extended the service to cover their content as well.

I am very happy that NISO has now taken up the task of creating recommendations for this process. The new working group will be in place shortly and hopefully this will lead to wide support of these processes. They benefit all stakeholders, simplifying holdings management for libraries, improving user experience, and contributing to the increased use of electronic resources.

Providing Automated Updates in Alma and SFX – Join Us!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Library’s Buzz - January 2017

 Dani Guzman, Product Marketing Director, Ex Libris

At the start of this new year, we note both how libraries provide access to the past and how they are adapting (or should) to the future. From examining news from 150 years ago through current ebook cataloging to tomorrow’s virtual reality, the modern library has a role to play and capabilities to explore to their fullest. How? Read on…

Artificial intelligence researchers from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom examined over 35 million digitized articles from the British Library's newspaper collections from 1800 to 1950 using Big Data methodologies. Their goal, according to an article in Scientific Computing, was “to establish if major historical and cultural changes could be detected from the subtle statistical footprints left in the collective content of local newspapers.” Find out if they succeeded >>>

The Research Information website published some interesting results from the Altmetric Top 100, which ranks research papers that have generated significant international online engagement in news and social media during the course of 2016. Several of the top ten papers touched on health, with former President Barack Obama’s paper on the Affordable Healthcare Act in the medical journal JAMA receiving one of the highest scores ever. The results were also analyzed by country of origin, with international collaborations accounting for about half of the leading published research. Read more here >>>

Over 180,000 digitized manuscripts, maps, photographs, sheet music, lithographs, postcards, and other images in the public domain are now available online courtesy of the New York Public Library. The Library has taken the collection to the next level, in terms of interactive librarianship, with search, sort and gamification features. A report in The Verge, an online tech journal, notes that digitization “is all the rage among libraries and museums these days….” Take a look here >>>

In another interesting Research Information online article, an initiative undertaken by Cambridge University Press to improve the discoverability of library resources is described. The CUP has updated or enhanced metadata and MARC (machine-readable cataloging) records for almost all its collections, with more to come in 2017. Concetta La Spada, library data analyst at Cambridge University Press, commented: “I hope this project will help to make the lives of librarians and cataloguers easier, so they can get on with the work they need to be doing.” Read more about the initiative here >>>

After making images and resource collections more accessible, libraries need to consider the implications for copyright. The Library of Congress issued a call for input on choosing the next Register of Copyrights (the last one resigned in October), who “will influence the changes that the United States copyright system is weathering….” Four library copyright experts told The Library Journal what they see as important considerations for the incoming Register of Copyrights and for the Library of Congress. Find out what they said here >>>

Looking a little further ahead, Carl Grant, Associate Dean for Knowledge Services and the Chief Technology Officer at the University of Oklahoma Libraries, advocates interactive virtual reality to enrich the library experience. He writes, “it not only builds traffic in the libraries, it positions the library as the point to engage with, learn about and experience leading-edge technologies.” But more importantly, in Grant’s view, virtual reality can enhance learning and knowledge in some dramatic ways. Read about why and how here >>>

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ex Libris at ALA Midwinter


ALA Midwinter in Atlanta is here! Don't miss the presentations on Alma, Primo & Summon, and Leganto. This year we're talking about openness and collaboration, history and innovation, and the challenges of higher education.


Saturday, January 21
Your Connected Library: Openness, Integrations, and Knowledge-Sharing
8:30 - 10:00 AM | Georgia World Congress Center | Room A315
Increasingly, libraries are looking for open solutions to customize day-to day-workflows and to collaborate with peer institutions. Open solutions have been especially influential in the realm of discovery. Join this session to learn about current open source projects, plans to enhance and extend existing APIs, and other Ex Libris supported initiatives.

Sunday, January 22
Where They Are Now: A Conversation with Alma Early Adopters
10:30 - 11:30 AM | Georgia World Congress Center | Room B207
Join an open conversation with the Alma Early Adopters, some of the first libraries to make the transition to a unified library service platform. The panel discussion will provide an update on how the libraries are operating today, features that have been developed since go-live, and the Early Adopters' ideas for future development based on their experience with the rapidly innovating Alma platform.

Sunday, January 22
50 Shades of Collaboration: From Ad-Hoc to Consortial Benefits in a Library Service Platform
3:00 - 4:00 PM | Georgia World Congress Center | Room B215
Almost all institutions today are participating in some form of collaborative work; from ad-hoc purchasing/buying clubs and resource-sharing networks to a more defined consortium, working in partnership with cataloging, licensing, etc. Join this session to more about the opportunities available within Ex Libris Alma to facilitate resource sharing, centralized acquisitions, cross-institutional reporting and more for individual institutions as well as members of a consortium.

Primo & Summon

Saturday, January 21
Accelerating Innovation: A Summon and Primo Special Report
10:30 - 11:30 AM | Marriott Marquis Atlanta | Room A703
Over the past year, ProQuest and Ex Libris have come together to accelerate the innovation of advanced discovery services through Summon and Primo. This session will review how we have seized the opportunity to combine product strengths, resources, and visions to improve discovery and what that means for the future of libraries.


Saturday, January 21
Challenges and Opportunities in Providing Course Content within Changing Instructor and Student Behaviors

3:00 - 4:00 PM | Georgia World Congress Center | Room B203
Teaching and learning is a core mission of higher education institutions, but the pushes and pulls of online learning, creative digital tools and escalating costs of education are carving out a new unfamiliar landscape for most. This session explores real world examples to discover both successes and failures in navigating and providing value in this new world of course content.

And be sure to visit us at Booth #1310 to learn about the latest features and development!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Library’s Role in a “Post-truth,” “Fake News” Era


This post was originally published on the ProQuest Blog.

The Oxford Dictionaries 2016 word of the year: post-truth.
Amazing that even one or two years ago, phrases like post-truth and “fake news” were essentially unknown in popular usage. 
But there is plenty of precedent:
- As far back as 1992, according to Christian Science Monitor, the first known use of “post-truth” appeared in a Nation article about the Iran-Contra scandal. 
- Certainly Google and Wikipedia, with their random and sometimes unverified results, have been a bane of librarians, educators and students for well over a decade. (In fact, notes The Verge, “the first Google search result for election results for several hours [post-election] was a tiny conspiracy blog that wrongly showed Trump winning the popular vote.”)
- Ten years ago, “Colbert Report” star Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness,” understood as “believing something that feels true, even if it isn't supported by fact."
- Clickbait, with its provocative and misleading headlines, has driven countless users to suspect sites over the years. 
- Then with the rise of social media came the inevitable viral spam and hoaxes.
But this past year has ramped up the concept of post-truth/fake news dramatically, with awareness driven by Brexit and the U.S. presidential election. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2016 some 62 percent of adults got their news from social media, compared to 49 percent reporting on a slightly different version of the question in 2012.
Facebook, Twitter and Reddit are the most-cited platforms for such users, and the majority of  them “stumble” upon the posts while they’re doing other things on the sites.
“The issue is that legitimate news stories get mixed in with everything else on your Facebook ‘news’ feed,” says c/net. “That includes stories from websites that are posing as news sources to harvest your clicks. What's more, even if you click a link to a well-researched Wall Street Journal story, Facebook could show you related stories from sites that don't meet those same standards.” (Facebook announced a crackdown on fake news in November 2016, with efforts including third-party verification and making it easier to report false news.) 

The view from the reference desk

Can librarians effectively counter fake news? Any attempt is certainly a challenge. 
“We’re just inundated with so much information it becomes just more difficult to parse out where the quality information is.” That quote, from University of Illinois Professor Nicole A. Cooke, is part of an interview in The Verge
“We used to talk to students about ‘How does the website look? Does it look like you could have done it on your laptop or does it look like there’s a corporation behind it?’ ...But these new sites are so savvy, the interfaces can be really slick, and they can look a lot like what we consider to be reputable sources.”
The “Annoyed Librarian” of Library Journal’s blog says that theoretically, “librarians could have a role to play in the battle against fake news. Libraries in the mass certainly have the resources to fact-check anything, and they could bombard Facebook. Except of course they would only be seen by people who already agree with them, which is part of the complaint against Facebook.” 

Taking steps

A new ProQuest survey of 200+ librarians reveals the goals and challenges of their information literacy efforts. Download the white paper
In a learning environment where, as a Stanford University study revealed, 82 percent of middle-schoolers “could not distinguish between an ad labeled ‘sponsored content’ and a real news story,” librarians can take steps to help foster information literacy.
- Prof. Nicole Cooke: “When you see a very salacious headline or something that’s challenging, sometimes the inclination is to forward it without checking. You have to ask: does this appear in multiple places or did you only see it on Facebook?”
- Georgina Cronin, University of Cambridge Research & Support Librarian and author of “Cardies & Tweed” blog: “If you’re not an outreach type person then hook your users up with someone who is. ...Lead by example by sharing good resources on social media accounts and by running effective teaching sessions on literacy, social media use and critical thinking, and build up the skills of your communities.”

Steps to better research 

For students doing assignments or general patrons looking for information, the library is still a “safe place” to gather facts that lead to informed conclusions.
- On open web searches, even such simple sources as the site’s About Us and Privacy Policy page, clear dates on posted articles or author credentials that are easy to track contributes to confidence in the content as trustworthy. 
- Providing vetted content to aid with critical thinking can start at the middle-school level with products like ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher (a Library Journal winner and CODiE finalist), which presents balanced pro/con arguments from global sources.
- ProQuest’s Research Companion, an award-winning cloud-based information literacy solution for researchers and educators, is aligned to both to ACRL Information Literacy and Common Core English Language Arts standards.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Serendipitous Discovery: 3 Important Ways to Expand Your Research


Anyone who has worked on a research project knows how valuable it is to find unexpected material related to your topic. There are numerous ways to do this.

  1. In the world of serendipitous discovery, citations— in particular, who cited a work and who is
    cited by another work— provide a defined track for expanding your research. Following this string of citations—the citation trail— can lead you to discover new books and articles you were not aware of, enriching your research and sometimes leading you in new directions.

  2. Browsing  the library bookshelf is a great way
    to find material that shares similar topics with the book you started with. The works that have been classified as close to your book in topic will likely sit next to it on the real or virtual shelf. In the electronic world, browsing through a virtual book shelf provides the same experience and will allow you to find works you might not have found with a search query.

  3. Progress in research is a community endeavor, and using community knowledge enables you to find interesting material for your topic that you yourself may not have known to look for.
    This is exactly what a
    recommender system provides. It looks at material that has been used together by the wider community and creates recommendations based on that information. This is a wider range than what you will find in a citation trail, but equally important for enriching your research.

At Ex Libris, serendipitous discovery is our passion. To see five ways you can use Ex Libris discovery services to enhance your serendipitous discovery, click here.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thirty Years of Ex Libris – Personal Recollections

Barbara Rad-El, Senior Librarian, Ex Libris

This year Ex Libris is celebrating its 30th anniversary. This remarkable milestone caused me to stop, pause, and think about my own personal journey with this amazing company.

I joined Ex Libris in 1991. At that time there were actually two companies – Aleph Yissum, located at the Hebrew University, which developed the Aleph software, and Ex Libris, which marketed it. These two companies merged a few years later.

Many of my activities in those early years involved travelling abroad to demonstrate Aleph to various university libraries. What did this mean in those pre-Internet days? I travelled with the Aleph software copied onto a disk (at first a Digital TK50 disk with a stunning 94mb of memory…) and had to first install it on one of the university’s computers before I could start my presentation. If I ran into difficulties I would then have to phone the head office, to get the help of our brilliant programmer, Yohanan Spruch, who was always able to visualize what I had done wrong, and would always help me eventually get it right.

Some years passed and the computer revolution was well under way. Aleph was ported from VAX/VMS to UNIX. Eventually I found myself travelling with a small UNIX machine (no more of those tricky installations); we progressed from Aleph 200, to Aleph 300, and then to Aleph 500, with a new graphic user interface, client server—all the buzz words. For me this meant that I could travel with two laptops—one a server, and the other the client. (Not much room for personal hand luggage with those two…)

Thinking back over those years, I remember a few landmarks – the first Aleph System Seminar in Israel in 1992 with 40 participants; the first American Aleph Users meeting (no name for the group at that time) held in a hotel suite at an ALA in San Antonio with about 8-10 participants; how the user groups ICAU and NAAUG and SMUG (!) grew into IGeLU and ELUNA with hundreds of members.

As Ex Libris grew, we developed additional products: SFX, MetaLib, Verde, Primo, and now of course Alma. Who in those far off days could have envisioned the changes in the computer world? If the word ‘cloud’ was mentioned – it was just about the weather; SaaS – you did mean ‘sassy’, right?

I am still with Ex Libris, now a devotee of Alma as I was (and still am) a devotee of Aleph. I am sure that the company will continue to grow and expand, with the vision that it has so ably demonstrated for all the many long years of its existence.

What memories do you have from the past 30 years with Ex Libris? Let us know in the comments below!