Content Neutrality

      Comments Off on Content Neutrality

Participated in a panel at ALA last Saturday:

“Hiding in Plain Cite: The Growing Importance of Content Neutrality in Library Discovery Services”

Roger Schonfeld served as moderator.  Joining me on the panel was Lisa O’Hara, University of Manitoba; Todd Carpenter, Executive Director of NISO;  and Amira Aaron, Northeastern University.

One of the questions I took the lead on was, “What does Content Neutrality Mean to You?”   Here’s my response:

I’m sure most have heard the phrase “net neutrality” — a network model that says bandwidth providers should treat all data that moves across their network in the same way. It is certainly true that many ISPs are just in the bit-moving business..providing network access..but a smaller percentage also provide content. It’s that vertical integration (meaning significant parts of the supply chain fall under the same owner) that gives rise to trouble.

For example, in a net-netural world:

  • Comcast as an access provider shouldn’t shape traffic in such a way that Netflix video streams end up slower than content flowing from Comcast’s own Xfinity platform.
  • Verizon shouldn’t count Amazon video streams against a user’s data allowance while exempting the same user from cap charges on a FIOS video stream.

“Content neutrality” is a similar idea.  Our “access provider” in this instance is the discovery platform vendor. The analogs to traffic shaping or billing distortions occur instead around the metadata that’s being searched to “discover” relevant content. As with ISPs and net neutrality, there are some companies that just provide a discovery platform and others that are also in the content business.  As before, vertical integration and perceptions of competitive advantage are problem incubators.

Continue reading

Primo Searches

      Comments Off on Primo Searches

Eleven weeks in two things are clear:

1) use of Primo is increasing

2) researchers begin winding down a week before Spring Break and appear to need another week to get back into the swing of things.


searches on primo


Seems we now average roughly 30,000 Primo searches a week.   Over half of the 250+ public workstations in our libraries still default to our “classic catalog” (Voyager) so I suspect we haven’t yet hit Peak Primo.


      Comments Off on update…


Spent the past few days watching everyone move out of the area (due to impending construction of a new wrap-around expansion of Fenwick Library, various offices are emptying ahead of construction).  I’m still inside the office to the right (with the box near the door) but everyone else has moved to the Johnson Center library.

Plus ça change.

Over the next month, I’m sure we’ll get back to the way things looked just before we moved to Fenwick late in 2006.


In other news, we finally got a new Sun server installed over in the campus data center and for the past two days I’ve been learning more and more about ZFS.    Built a working mirrored ZFS pool today that’s currently backing up our Voyager server (via NFS).   Speaking of which, having two thirds of our server farm colo’d in the data center, I’m seeing the difference gigabit ethernet makes.   When I backup a Fenwick-based server (we’re still 100BaseT over here) to a unit in Aquia (gigabit), it seems quite sluggish compared to moving files between the machines in the data center.     Maybe we can upgrade to gigabit as they construct the Fenwick addition?

Thankfully, our proxy server (the hardest working machine in the library) now lives on the gigabit backbone.


As shown below, we continue to see building interest/usage for our Primo installation.  This past month (January 14 – February 13) we’re averaging 2300 searches per day.  Earlier this week, we hit a daily high (4,554).   That high occurred on a Tuesday, demonstrably our busiest day.  I’ve added a red dot for each Tuesday in this graph.

2013 02 14 14 09 30


Picking up speed

      Comments Off on Picking up speed

A short note to follow up on the Primo usage graph from a few weeks ago.

This graph shows the number of searches per day from Saturday, January 12th through Thursday, January 31st. We’re now regularly seeing well over 2,000 searches per day, busiest Wednesdays and Thursdays (the red dots are Thursdays).


Beefing up Discovery

      Comments Off on Beefing up Discovery

In preparation for tomorrow’s launch of inPrimo, we just added an important new service to the system: the ability to discover from within inPrimo whether any library in the WRLC holds a particular journal in their collection(s).

A few screen grabs will show how the service works:

2012 12 18 15 29 38

Let’s say an inPrimo search brings up this citation of interest.  At this point, our user has clicked the “View Online” link and now sees an in-place-reveal window (is there a better term for this?).  It is filled with information we provide based on a response from our OpenURL link resolver (360Link).

For the first of what will be a number of name checks in this post,  we rely heavily on the work of Matthew Reidsma (Grand Valley State University) and 22K of local javascript to up-style and manipulate the output delivered by the 360Link resolver. 

It’s easy to reflect Mason’s holdings in this environment–the “Full Text Online” links show where Mason affiliates can access content published in Molecular Ecology.  Of course, there are times when Mason does not have licensed access to content which tends to complicate things.

Until today, the “next best” option was opening a new browser window and manually running a search on the WRLC union catalog to see if other libraries in our consortium might hold the journal issue of interest.  Or, you could click the “Search Aladin by Journal Title” and wade through the results trying to make sense of the Voyager display of individual library holdings.

As of today, we can answer that question with a single click–all without leaving inPrimo and without disturbing the results set of the search just run.

How? Here’s the more complete version of the MasonLink+ window we saw in the first image.   In this view, you can see all the linking options we offer for this particular title.   And yes, I did just add the large red arrow for purposes of this post…

2012 12 18 15 16 18

Clicking the “Search other WRLC libraries…”  link launches a Django application developed by Daniel Chudnov, Joshua Gomez, Laura Wrubel and others over at George Washington University–work done to support their any-day-now implementation of Summon.  Reliably forward thinking, their software offers a really simple API and that open design is the key for our purposes.  While we don’t need anything extra to identify Mason’s holdings, without the service they’ve developed we’d be without a method for seamless discovery of holdings locked inside the WRLC’s Voyager system.

On our end, a local PHP application (developed by Khatwanga Siva Kiran Seesala with a mentoring assist from our resident PHP expert Andrew Stevens) queries their “findit” service with an ISSN number and then reformats the JSON output for “pretty print” in the browser.

So, for Molecular Ecology (0962-1083), the end result looks a bit like the image below.   The output is a long scrollable display but I’ve shortened it here to show just a couple of the libraries.   Notice for print runs we offer an SMS message link (to send yourself the metadata you need if  traveling to another library to retrieve the journal).  We also offer a “Request” link to use the Consortium Loan Service (for delivery of hard copy).

2012 12 18 15 54 35

We’ve styled the service to run within the inPrimo environment, but supply an ISSN and it works fine by itself.  Remember Dr. Dobbs Journal (ISSN 1044-789X)?

Wonder if any library in the Washington Research Library Consortium has a copy?



The uncirculated monograph?

      Comments Off on The uncirculated monograph?

An interesting social media experiment is underway at Mason–each week a different member of the Mason community takes over the university’s official Twitter feed.  This week, Mark Sample had the honor and one of his tweets got me thinking about local numbers…


2012 12 07 12 27 23


The report Mark cites can be found here.  Curious how Mason might compare, we ran a few SQL queries against our local catalog/circulation system.

The highlights:

If we limit ourselves to books that might have been expected to circulate (meaning we’re not counting reference books, e-books  or government documents), we found that since December 31, 1989, we have added 958,303 books to our collection.  Nearly one million real books placed on real shelves.

By library:

  • 699,114   Fenwick
  • 186,547   Johnson Center
  • 42,080     Prince William Campus
  • 30,505     Arlington Campus

285,799 or 29% of those 958,303 monographs have never circulated.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve never left the shelf or that they’ve never been used. Walk past a “reshelving” area in any of our libraries and you’ll see that many items are in fact used but inside the library.  And though it would be bad form to speculate in any detail, surely some small number of items by-pass the circulation desk altogether as they’re taken on a one-way trip out the door.  Nevertheless, the circulation numbers are surely an adequate proxy for usage.

One more bit of fine print:  We’re counting items added to our collection since 1990 which isn’t precisely the same thing as items published since 1990.  Doubt the difference affects the numbers much.  Every year purchasing an older imprint becomes more difficult thus the monographs we acquire in book form today were most probably published fairly recently.

So which is better?  A higher number (like the 55% at Cornell) or something lower (like Mason’s 29%)?

There’s much to be said for the lower number, particularly if it tracks along with at least a moderate-sized collection.   It suggests we’re good stewards of collection development funds but with a cushion that indicates we’re not just purchasing the fads of the moment (isn’t that a downstream problem with patron-driven acquisitions?).  Further, I think it shows we’re not paying huge utility costs or stealing collaboration space just so we can warehouse books that were last touched the day they we put them in the stacks.    Probably safe to say it also suggests we’re likely taking advantage of alternative formats (e-whatever) as we build our collections.

A higher number…well, if a library’s never-circulated percentage is high enough (and I’ve seen estimates as high as 80% for some)  you reach the researcher’s library nirvana: a collection so deep that even the most obscure request will likely be immediately satisfied. That is certainly a worthy aspirational goal for any library.

Slowly building…

      Comments Off on Slowly building…

Coming up on our go-live date but I’ve been tracking the results of our stealth promotion activity. The graph below shows the number of Primo searches each day–still quite small but over the past 30 days we’re averaging 543 daily searches (and that includes a few really down days over Thanksgiving).  For the thirty days prior to that (Oct 6 – Nov 6) the daily average was 406 so I guess that means we’re making slow but steady progress…

2012 12 07 12 05 56







Discovery = Disaggregation = Disruption

      Comments Off on Discovery = Disaggregation = Disruption

Now that we’re about done with our Primo implementation, I thought it might be useful to share a few observations …

It’s Ready

We resolved the last of the show-stoppers about six weeks ago and announced to staff that our new Primo discovery system was readySupported by what proved to be a great in-house implementation group and with solid vendor support (surprised to find that included very helpful weekly WebEx meetings) it wasn’t too hard to deliver a useable service even on an somewhat agressive schedule


As an aside, I have promised our implementation team that after they did such a great job navigating the really difficult stages of a project, I’ll do what I can to make sure they’re not forgotten when the final stage kicks in.

The clock began ticking in June

 As I look back on it now, I think I failed to appreciate that in this context the word “disruptive” had a very particular and actually rather narrow scope. It has indeed proven to be a disruptive technology…but chiefly for staff. Based on what I’ve seen, from users it’s more like “what took you so long.”

The work of getting Primo ready began in mid summer. From the moment the ink dried on our contract I felt the sooner we could get it in front of our users the happier (and more productive) they would become. An early and continual concern was making sure we got the introduction of this disruptive technology right. More on that in a bit…

Discovery = Disaggregation = Disruption

So, why is discovery disruptive inside the library? Not really sure but let me offer a theory:

Continue reading

What are they e-reading? (2011)

      Comments Off on What are they e-reading? (2011)

Based on usage, here are the ten most popular e-books in our Safari Online Books collection for 2011.  Each title includes [number of accesses during the year].   In total, an e-book was pulled from our virtual shelves 356,563 times last year.   The top 10:

  • Program Development in Java: Abstraction, Specification, and Object-Oriented Design [26,372]
  • Internet & World Wide Web: How to Program (4th edition) [20,417]
  • Effective Java: 2nd edition [15,853]
  • Computer Security: Art and Science [8165]
  • Joomla! 1.5:  A User’s Guide: Building a Successful Joomla! Powered Website, 2nd Edition [6,914]
  • Test Driven: Practical TDD and Acceptance TDD for Java Developers [4,131]
  • Head First Servlets and JSP, 2nd edition [4,061]
  • Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML [3,791]
  • Head First Design Patterns [3,465]
  • OCA Oracle Database 11g: Administration: Exam Guide (Exam 1Z0-052) [2,713]

And the least popular e-book? Hard to say.  We had 1,054 titles that saw only one virtual access during the year and 2,983 that just gathered cosmic dust.  5,097 (roughly 63%) of the titles in this particular e-book collection had at least one access.


What are they e-reading?

      2 Comments on What are they e-reading?

I often wonder who reads the e-books we link into our catalog. While I love reading on my Kindle I can’t go more than few “pages” into a web-based e-book before my head starts splitting. Of course, I have to overcome years of paper-based reading to be satisfied with these webified versions so perhaps my reaction isn’t typical.

We offer just over 8,070 Safari e-books in our catalog and during the first two months of this year 1,370 of those titles were accessed (roughly 17% usage). So, what’s hot?

Top ten titles for 2011 (with year-to-date access in parentheses):

  • Program Development in Java: Abstraction, Specification, and Object-Oriented Design (3587)
  • Computer Security: Art and Science (3202)
  • Head First Design Patterns (1146)
  • CCIE Professional Development Routing TCP/IP (1180)
  • Internet & World Wide Web: How to Program, 4th ed. (1062)
  • Learning SAS® by Example: A Programmer’s Guide (877)
  • Effective Java™, Second Edition (772)
  • CompTIA A+® Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, 7th Edition (671)
  • Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML (660)
  • Test Driven: Practical TDD and Acceptance TDD for Java Developers (658)

Least popular title that had at least one use thus far in 2011?

  • Zend Framework in Action