egcon2013: open library ecosystem

egcon2013 website header image by Jon Whipple
egcon2013 design work by Jon Whipple

I just finished chairing the organizing committee for the International Evergreen conference in Vancouver. It’s been more than a year of planning and a labour of love. From our own evaluation and from participant feedback we put on a really excellent conference. Now that I’m caught up on sleep here’s some of my thoughts.

Why this was an awesome  organizing  experience  for me

  • great community – the Evergreen community is awesome. People are kind, hardworking and have a DIY get ‘er done kinda attitude. I don’t write code, so can’t make that kind of contribution to the project, but I am good at event planning. While I’m sure I could organize an event for a group of people I didn’t know, it’s easier and more fulfilling to do this for a community of people I care deeply about.  One of my first jobs out of library school was doing training and support for the Sitka Evergreen installation in BC. I learned a lot and this experience helped me get interesting library technology jobs. I feel grateful for the skills I built and to the people who mentored me. On a personal level it feels good to be able to contribute something back to the Evergreen community.
  • great  organizing  team – This was the second conference that we’ve organized together. I have a lot of respect and admiration for these folks: Anita Cocchia (BCELN),  Caroline Daniels (KPU),  Mark Ellis (RPL),  Mark Jordan (SFU),  Paul Joseph (UBC)  and Shirley Lew (VCC). While Ben Hyman (BC Libraries Coop) wasn’t on the organizing committee he did a stellar job of communicating with and buffering us from the Evergreen Oversight Board and the Software Freedom Conservancy. We all work hard and trust each other. I’ve learned a bunch of soft and hard skills from this group. I enjoyed our group dynamic and loved working together. We were comfortable asking questions and challenging each other. There were a bunch of times i felt like, as a group, we came up with a way better decision than any one of us as individuals would have.

Things that didn’t cost anything and added value

  • We had an amazing team of volunteers who did live note taking as well as helping out stream the technical track. These folks were super enthusiastic and committed. The live notes are written documentation of the conference that makes it easier for everyone to write reports afterwards. One of the participants said “The team of note-takers was awesome.  It let me focus on how any given session could affect my work, without worrying that I’d miss something important as I chased down random thoughts.”  For me they function as a quick summary of a video, and I’ll likely scan the notes of the sessions that I missed to figure out which videos I want to watch. Many thanks to  Kimberly Garmoe,  Eka Grguric,  Mary Jinglewski,  Jonathan Kift,  Jonathan Schatz, and  David Waddell.
  • No-host lunches were a great way to get people outside the building to see a  little  bit of Vancouver. They also were a way to create a structured  opportunity  to socialise in small groups. From an organizing perspective it wasn’t a lot of work. We created a map of places that are nearby the venue with tasty food  that can  accommodate  8 people, found locals who were willing to lead the groups, and put out signup sheets (7 people plus a leader). We made sure we identified places for vegetarians and gluten free folks. According to participant feedback the no-host lunches were a big hit. Also, we had a really tight budget, so this allowed us to provide something for lunch without actually having to pay for it. We did this for the Access conference, but didn’t organize it enough and it was a bit chaotic. With a bit more forethought this time things went much more smoothly.

Live note taking and no-host lunches are ideas that can be adapted to any kind of conference or event, not just an open source library software event.

This was the first time that the conference proceedings were streamed. It was expensive to pay for AV for the main track, but I think is important and should be a requirement of future conferences. There were a total of 183 people watching the live stream from the United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Japan, Mexico, Finland and the UK. As Mark, Shirley and Ben from the BC Library Coop were willing to figure out a DIY streaming solution for the tech track, we were able to also do this for next to no money. It was awesome to hear from someone watching in Mexico (a CS Masters student who is implementing Evergreen for two university libraries) via Twitter. Thank you to Sam Mills  for volunteering to edit the video from the main track and to Mark Jordan for getting it up on the Internet Archive.

Evergreen Unsung Heroes

I was inspired by Chris Cormack’s excellent series of blog posts highlighting awesome people in the Koha community. I wanted to adapt Chris’ idea to the Evergreen community. Here’s the call for submissions from a few months ago.

I have two observations from the last few months. First, people were reluctant to promote themselves and write bios listing all their accomplishments. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this. It was more effective to ask someone’s coworker, colleague or boss to highlight their contributions. I like that our community values humility, but know that most people enjoy being recognized for work that they are proud of. Second, some people felt that the work that they did was insignificant and not worthy of being recognized. Almost all of these people were women who had been nominated by other people in the community. After an email or two all of these people agreed to be profiled.
I’m going to continue this project for the next year. I’m sure the design students at Emily Carr University will do something interesting with this content (ebook? website? deck of playing cards? laser engraved beef jerky?) for the Evergreen 2013 conference.

sharing serial prediction patterns

One of the core strengths of libraries is shared standards and sharing library data. Since we migrated to Evergreen in May I’ve been doing migration cleanup, implementing acquisitions and trying to figure out serials. Setting up serial prediction patterns is ugly in any ILS because prediction patterns are ugly.

There’s a great opportunity for the open source ILS world (both the Koha and Evergreen) communities to develop a standard so that libraries using these systems can save time and money by sharing serial prediction patterns. As more academic libraries are considering migrating to Evergreen, this would also help remove a barrier to selecting Evergreen. While it’s painful and annoying for me to manually set up all of our serial prediction patterns, I work in a small library, so it’s still possible. There’s only about 150. For a large university library it would not be possible set up a prediction pattern for each title.

Examples of serial prediction patterns

Can you guess what these prediction patterns describe?

  • Published Monday , Saturday, except for Christmas Day. Issues are identified by date. (daily newspaper in most cities)
  • Published weekly on Thursday, except for a double issue in the last two weeks of December. Issues are numbered continuously and four volumes are published annually, starting in Jan, Apr, Jul, Oct (The Economist)
  • Published twice monthly, except monthly in Jan, Jul, Aug, Dec. Issue numbers restart in each volume, which starts in Jan (Library Journal)

None of these are terribly complicated and yet they are still pretty messy. Thanks to David Fiander for letting me pinch these examples from his slides.

What’s a serial prediction pattern? Who cares?

Scholarly journals/magazines/periodicals/newspapers are published on different schedules. For example, some are published weekly, monthly, bimonthly, quarterly or yearly. There are also cataloguing codes for semiregularly, 3 times a year, biennial, triennial, and completely irregular.

In academic libraries it’s important to know if the library has a specific issue of a title, as users are most often looking for a specific article in a specific issue of a title. Generally, in public libraries this level of detail is not necessary. However, if libraries shared these prediction patterns perhaps more public libraries might use them.

Prediction patterns are also used to figure out which issues of a title should have arrived but haven’t. Libraries can then claim the missing issues with the vendor or directly with the publisher. (As an aside, I think journal claiming is a silly process that involves a lot of correspondence that doesn’t often end up in the issue being replaced. Some libraries are giving up on claiming for each issue.) Still, it’s important for both the user and the library to know which issues are missing in a run.

If serial prediction patterns interests you I highly recommend watching David’s webinar from 2009 on this topic.

What’s information is included in a serial prediction pattern?

There’s a bunch of information in a MFHD record, namely:


  • Hierarchy of enumeration, for example volume, issue, number, part (can have up to 6 levels in the hierarchy)
  • Does the numbering restart? If so, when?


  • How often does the title come? weekly? monthly? 4 times a year?
  • Are there exceptions to this pattern? If so, what are they?

Pattern (both publication and enumeration)

  • When is the journal published?
  • What publications will be omitted?
  • What issues will be combined?

Next steps

I’m not really sure what the next steps are. I think the open source ILS communities are best positioned to tackle this and figure out a standard way of sharing prediction patterns. We might want to talk to serials and cataloguing experts, like perhaps the folks at CONSER or NASIG. Perhaps it would be useful to talk to folks at OCLC or NISO. We might want to look outside the libraryland–what other industries are sharing information about odd, picky, sometimes irregular patterns? How are they doing things and what can we learn?

I’ll be presenting on this topic at the Evergreen conference next week and want to explore some next steps with people. I’ll be copresenting with Grace Dunbar and Mike Rylander from Equinox Software on Resource Sharing in Evergreen on Friday, April 27th from 3-4pm


Evergreen unsung heros: an invitation to participate

I’m so excited about the Evergreen community. There are a lot of smart people who work hard and do really excellent work.

I’ve really enjoyed Chris Cormack’s blog posts about the unsung heroes in the Koha community.

I also appreciate all the other people who do work in this community. It’s inspiring to see people working on documentation, translation/internationalization, governance, testing, submitting bugs, teaching Evergreen in library school and library tech programs, doing design work, writing code and contributing in other ways to make the software better and the community more stable and functional.

It’s really exciting to see where Evergreen libraries have sprung up: it takes guts to be the first one in your country to migrate to Evergreen, or to be one of the new Evergreen libraries in a specific sector (government, K-12, corporate, etc.).

I want to create a slideshow showing lots of awesome people in our community.

Please send me:

  • a photo of the person (print quality if possible)
  • their email address (I want to get permission from the person profiled)
  • city, state/province/whatever
  • library name
  • information about how they contribute to the community, in less than 100 words

You are also welcome to submit information about yourself–please don’t be shy.

The Evergreen International Conference organizers in Indiana have agreed to show the slideshow that I put together. I’m part of the organizing team for the Vancouver conference and we’d like to build on this–perhaps with a longer slideshow, posters, or perhaps an ebook.

The deadline is Friday, March 16th.

DIY course reserves kiosk, or, the day we tossed the grotty old binder

We’re using Laurentian’s reserves interface (see Kevin Beeswick’s code on github) and just rolled out a reserves kisok on our circulation desk using:

When we were on our legacy ILS our reserves staff person would manually create a page for each course in Word, print them, then file them (alphabetically by instructors last name) in an old navy blue binder that was tethered to the desk with a lanyard that was at least 3 years old. I can date the lanyard because it said Emily Carr Institute, and we were granted university status in 2008.

This kiosk is a way better user experience for students and it saves staff time in creating and maintaining paper sheets of reserve items. Hopefully this small improvement in user experience improves the perception of the library in students’ eyes. Much like redesigning the library forms, I think that caring about these details demonstrate that we are thinking about ways our library can reflect the values of our students. I’m the liaison to Design and Dynamic Media, which includes communication design, interaction design, industrial design and animation. I know that my faculty and students notice and care about these details.

Dan Scott has a great post on other ways to manage course reserves in Evergreen.

hello Sitka! hello Evergreen!

This past week my library went live with Evergreen, hosted by the Sitka consortium, which is part of the BC Library Cooperative. It was really satisfying and exhausting to migrate our integrated library system (ILS).

It was such a pleasure to work with the Sitka team again. I adore my old teammates, and the new folks that have joined the team bring huge amounts of experience with ILSes (how do you pluralize that word without making it ugly?) and technology.

It was interesting to be on the client/site side of a migration. The Sitka team is made up of smart, creative, hardworking people who care about libraries. Sharon Herbert, the Project Manager, is organized, pragmatic, diplomatic and calm. I’m thrilled that Ben Hyman is back as the Executive Director of the Cooperative, as he was with Sitka before it was even called that.

I was so impressed by Mark Bucholtz understanding of how our legacy data was structured, his clear and friendly communication skills, and speed–he works extremely quickly. I don’t think I would’ve ever described a data migration as elegant before, but it was. He was part of the proprietary vendor team that initially automated our library over 10 years ago. I thought we automated 13 years ago, but Marshall Breeding’s site says it was 16 years ago.

James Fournie did a bunch of work to adapt the KCLS PAC for our library catalogue. At an art and design university how the library catalogue looks is as important as how it functions. The new catalogue is a big improvement in both areas. If you look at the catalogue in Chrome, you will see a tiny microphone icon in the search box. Click on the icon, and speak into your computer’s mic to enter search terms. This is something that Dan Scott added to the PAC that James also added to ours. While it didn’t seem to actually work it really impressed my boss and underscored how we would benefit from an active development community. This is a radically different model than most libraries have been used to.

On the training and support side, Tina Ji and Laurie were fantastic. They both have so much experience with ILSes and understand library workflows. Tina knows Evergreen so well, I’m always impressed on Sitka committee teleconferences at her detailed knowledge of various settings and permissions.

While go-live is past, there’s still a bunch of work to do: more staff training, setting up serials’ prediction patterns (which may be the bane of my existence–I’d really like to explore how we can standardize and share these between libraries, regardless of the ILS), streamlining our acquisitions workflows and setting up new ways to tracks funds that don’t involve extra spreadsheets, and setting up bookings, which used to be a manual process for us, and figuring out how we want to do reserves. Thankfully our summer semester is relatively quiet, so we have time to clean up, fix things up, and gear up for September.

I have some half formed thoughts on the migration process, the Evergreen community, and changing business models for library software and resource sharing. After some reflection I hope to post them here.