Posts Tagged ‘Ken Chad’

A pain in the midlands: JISC/SCONUL future of library systems workshop

Posted on January 31st, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

London Midland 153, very smart

In January I made the long train journey over to the University of Warwick, to attend and speak at the first day of a two-day JISC/SCONUL workshop exploring the future of library systems, under the banner of the “Squeezed Middle” – that is the LMS & other library systems, the bits of library infrastructure often overshadowed/squeezed out of the limelight by the twin heavyweights of Discovery & ERM.

Carrying on from the work done as part of the JISC/SCONUL Shared Services ‘LMS horizon scan‘ in 2008, this workshop points the way toward a new JISC call for ‘path finder’ projects addressing the future of LMSes, under the Information and Library Infrastructure: Emerging Opportunities programme: “you can’t do nothing any more”.

Thank you to Ben Showers of JISC for the invitation to speak at this event!

First, we were treated to a bit of virtual Lorcan Dempsey. In a video talk, he spoke about the trends facing academic libraries (a background of budget constraints, networked decentralisation of content vs. our tradition of vertically integrating services into the one building), and how libraries are re-examining our priorities under pressure, building more flexible spaces, making our expertise more visible, engaging with the network, etc.. Lorcan’s video will be made available via OCLC’s YouTube channel shortly.

Then to the bit of the workshop in which I was involved: a series of ‘provocations‘: radical, challenging visions for the future of library systems (by, say, the year 2020), designed to get the attendees thinking. David Kay of SERO, Ken Chad, and Paul Walk provided the other three visions.

I found it a struggle knowing quite where to ‘pitch’ my vision: it can be difficult to be provocative/radical enough without sounding like you don’t know what talking about. For possibly only the second time in my career I was careful to prefix my statement with “…this isn’t my employer’s opinion!”. I took quite a broad, scattergun approach (figuring if I was broad enough, I’d be bound to hit something…); for that reason I was pleased that some of my themes were echoed in Paul Walk’s Marshall Smith-esque sf/dystopian view of libraries in 2020, which he delivered through the “medium of fiction and the genre of bonkers”.

You can read my own provocation statement, “A vision for library systems in 2020“, on Google Docs.

Links to other blog posts about this event are here, here and here.

Building an e-library in a new university in Ghana

Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

Kumasi RailtracksDr Kofi Appiah, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Lincoln School of Computer Science, is spending a year in his native Ghana to help establish a school of technology in a new HE institution there: the Christ Apostolic University College ( in the city of Kumasi.

Before he left, Kofi asked me for advice on how he could help the new School of Technology build an e-library infrastructure and/or access to e-library resources for their CompSci students and staff.

I suggested he look at a few things:

What else would you suggest? I’ll forward on any suggestions to Kofi, or you can email him yourself if you prefer.


An elastic bucket down the data well (#rdtf in Manchester)

Posted on April 20th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

I was in Manchester on Monday for Opening Data – Opening Doors, a one-day “advocacy workshop” hosted by JISC and RLUK under their Resource Discovery Taskforce (#rdtf) programme. I delivered a five-minute ‘personal pitch’ about Jerome, open data, and the rapid-development ethos that’s developing at Lincoln.

Ken Chad is writing up a report from the day and Helen Harrop is producing a blog, both of which will be signposted from the website:

The big data question

All the presentations can be viewed on slideshare, but there were some particular moments that I think are worth picking out:

The JISC deputy, Prof. David Baker was first up. His presentation, ‘A Vision for Resource Discovery‘ should be compulsory reading for university librarians. See, in particular, slides #6 (guiding principles of the RDTF), #8 (a future state of the art by 2012), and #11 (key themes).

Slide from David Baker's presentation Slide from David Baker's presentation Slide from David Baker's presentation

Following this introduction, there were three ‘perspectives’, short presentations “reflecting on the real world motivations and efforts involved in opening up bibliographic, archival and museums data to the wider world”: from the National Maritime Museum, the National Archives

…and from Ed Chamberlain of (Jerome’s ‘sister project‘) COMET (Cambridge Open METadata), the perspective from Cambridge University Library on opening up access to their non-inconsiderable bibliographic data. N.B. slides #4 (what does COMET entail?), #9 (licensing) and—more than anything else—slide #16 (“beyond bibliography”).

Slide from Ed Chamberlain's presentation Slide from Ed Chamberlain's presentation Slide from Ed Chamberlain's presentation

The first breakout/discussion session which I sat in on looked at technical and licencing constraints to opening up access to [bib] data. This was the point at which the tortured business metaphors started to pile up. ‘Buckets’ of data. ‘Elastic’ buckets that can expand to include any kind of data. And (my personal contribution, continuing the wet theme): data often exist at the bottom of a ‘well’. Just because a well is open at the top, it doesn’t necessarily make it easy to get the water out! You need another kind of bucket – a service bucket that makes it possible to extract and make use of the water. Sorry, data. What were we talking about again?

Then a series of 5-minute ‘personal pitches’, including mine just after lunch. I didn’t use slides, but I’m typing up my handwritten notes on Google Docs and I’ll post them as a separate blog post when I get a chance.

David Kay (SERO), Paul Miller (Cloud of Data) and Owen Stephens delivered the meat of the afternoon session in their presentation, ‘The Open Bibliographic Data Guide – Preparing to eat the elephant‘. The website containing the Open Bib Data Guide (which has not been formally launched until now) can be found at:

The site itself is going to be invaluable in hand-holding and guiding institutions through the possibilities in opening up access to their own bibliographic data (OBD). Slides from the presentation that are particularly worth noting are #8 (which shows the colour-coding used to distinguish the different OBD use-cases) and #14 (examples of existing OBD).

Slide from the OBD presentation Slide from the OBD presentation

Paul Walk’s presentation, ‘Technical standards & the RDTF Vision: some considerations‘, is the source of the slide which I photographed (at the top of this blog post). Paul talked about ‘safe bets'; aspects of the Web that we can rely on playing a part in allowing us to create a distributed environment for resource discovery: including “ROASOADOA” (Resource- / Service- / Data-Oriented Architecture), persistent identifiers, and a RESTful approach. See also this blog post.

In the second breakout/discussion session, we discussed technical approaches. One of the themes which we kept coming back to was that of two approaches (encapsulated by Paul’s slide) which—while not mutually exclusive—may require different business cases or different explanations in order to be taken up by institutions. We characterised the two approaches as:

  • Raw open data vs Data services
  • Triple store vs RESTful APIs
  • Jerome vs COMET (bit of a caricature, this one, but not entirely unjustified!)

I was gratified that Lincoln’s approach to rapid development and provision of open services was also referred to in non-ungratifying terms, as a model which could be valuable for the HE sector as a whole.

Finally, we heard what’s next for the #rdtf programme. It’s going to be rebranded as ‘Discovery‘ and formally re-launched under the new name at another event: ‘Discovery – building a UK metadata ecology‘ on Thursday, 26 May 2011, in London. See you there?

Ken Chad is writing up a report from the day and Helen Harrop is producing a blog, both of which will be signposted from the website:

Disruptive influence

Posted on November 27th, 2010 by Paul Stainthorp

This week we launched our long-awaited strategic review of the Library’s ICT systems, with a day’s discussion and planning with library-technology consultant Ken Chad.

Anti-cuts protest in GloucesterJoss Winn (who was there on the day) has already blogged about the love he thinks we can build between us and our users if we get beyond the impersonal ‘survey’ mentality and build a lasting, resilient and genuine relationship out of shared activity…

“By creating a library system that learns from every person who uses it and adapts over time to the environment it is part of, we create a resilient and therefore a sustainable library system that its users fall in love with.”

I’m not very good at self-reflection (see what I did there?), so I’m not here to respond to Joss’s post. Instead, knowing where our systems and processes are at, I’ve been contemplating Ken’s ideas about disruptive technologies in HE libraries, and where we are on the cycle of accepting that our existing model has already been disrupted.

Here are a few reasons why Lincoln is perfectly poised for a bit of disruption:

  • Because we don’t have too much history. Lincoln is a young institution (in its current incarnation, at least), and we’ve been through a lot of changes. (We must have opened—and sadly, closed—more libraries than some institutions have had hot dinners.) We’re pretty good at coping with change; change is our only constant, etc.
  • Because, if we’re being honest, we probably don’t have as much at stake as some older, richer, universities. We’re more than used to doing things on a shoestring and looking for free solutions to our problems, ideally to supplement, but as often as not instead of investment in commercial systems (poverty breeding experimentation). As a result, our systems are not too overdeveloped, and we should be able to make quick changes of direction without too much pain.
  • Because we have the Student as Producer agenda; we have a Library Innovation Group; we have projects such as Jerome, Nucleus, Total ReCal, and so on. In short, we’re surrounded by the academic theory, the administrative machinery, and the working examples to justify an actively disruptive approach to systems development.
  • Because of where we are: I’m convinced there’s a benefit to living on the periphery.
  • Because (like the countryside, ho ho) the Library staff structure is relatively ‘flat’. No-one’s going to be strung up for speaking out of turn; nobody’s ideas are beyond the Pale; there’s not too much store placed in hierarchy. I sincerely hope this to be true.
  • Finally, because of our vice-chancellor’s attitude. Professor Mary Stuart has mentioned (at least twice, in presentations I’ve attended) the imperative to—for want of a better phrase—mash things up. Assuming she really means it—and I’ve no reason to doubt that she does—we’re much better off than if we had to work under the disapproving gaze of a University executive unhappy with experimentation. There are perhaps fewer techno-reactionary voices in the Lincoln establishment than at some other, older universities.

I’m intrigued now by the idea of disruptive technologies in the library, so I’m going to see if I can dig out a few of Clayton Christensen’s books and have a read. Thanks, Ken. (I’ve been following the Disruptive Library Technology Jester for a while now, but I hadn’t realised it was anything other than a clever name.)