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April 2009

In Smart Libraries Newsletter This Month:

Smart Libraries Newsletter January 2009Open Source Discovery Interfaces Gain Momentum
by Marshall Breeding

"The library community's intense interest in discovery interfaces that allow libraries to offer more modern tools to their users for searching their collections continues. While many libraries cannot make wholesale changes in their automation environment, many seek better interfaces for their end users. Almost all of the commercial library automation vendors now offer products in this genre, including Encore from Innovative Interfaces, AquaBrowser created by Medialab Solutions and distributed by R.R. Bowker, Primo from Ex Libris, LS2 PAC from The Library Corporation, Illuminar from Auto-Graphics, BiblioCommons, and Enterprise from SirsiDynix. As fewer libraries purchase new ILS products, the sale of products like discovery interfaces represent an increasing proportion of revenue for these companies.

In addition to these products, which were created by commercial companies, a number of alternatives have emerged in the open source arena. These open source products allow libraries to follow a more experimental approach in establishing their next-generation discovery interface strategy. Libraries can download and install the software on a test server, load sample data sets, and customize it without the need to make a major commitment or financial outlay. They can even experiment with multiple products. The availability of these open source products allows a library to make an initial investigation of a new generation interface and gain hands-on experience, even if they might eventually decide to purchase a commercial product.

The number of libraries currently making commitments to open source discovery interfaces currently falls well below the number of libraries who have purchased commercial products. Yet, we still see momentum building toward open source versions of discovery products. The list of those going with open source discovery products now includes some very large and prestigious libraries. In the library automation arena, success builds on success. If these projects to implement open source discovery interfaces prove successful, they will pave the way for others. Just as in the ILS arena, commercial and open source alternatives will coexist as libraries seek products to replace their aging ILS OPACs."

-Marshall Breeding

Also in this Issue

Voice Lessons
by Tom Peters

In the last half of February, the TTS function in the Kindle 2 hit a buzz saw of controversy that may have a significant long-term effect on the options available to readers, the libraries and bookstores that serve readers, and the makers of portable electronic reading appliances. Just a day or so after the Kindle 2 was officially released, Roy Blount, Jr. had an op-ed piece published in the New York Times in which he took the Kindle 2 to task for how its TTS feature essentially enabled the reader to enjoy an audio book without compensating authors and other rights holders for use of audio book or performance rights. Blount, mainly an author of humorous books who currently is serving as the president of the Authors Guild, called it the Kindle swindle.

Implementing Libraries and Learning in Second Life
by Tom Peters

The literature on librarianship in Second Life and other virtual worlds continues to expand. Late in 2008 a collection of contributed chapters called Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries: Librarians and Educators in Second Life and Other Multi-User Virtual Environments, edited by Lori Bell and Rhonda Trueman, was published by Information Today. Library Technology Reports issued Librarianship in Virtual Worlds, authored by yours truly, in October 2008. In March 2009 LTR published another issue (Volume 45, Number 2) called Implementing Second Life: Ideas, Challenges, and Innovations, by Joe Sanchez, with a chapter contributed by Jane Stimpson. Sanchez and Stimpson explore new territory that does not merely reiterate ideas and details covered by earlier publications.

E-Textbooks at Northwest Missouri State University
by Tom Peters

Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville is one of the first institutions of higher education in the United States to try using predominantly electronic textbooks for their courses. The university administration, faculty, and staff are seeking ways to cut student costs while delivering a better way to carry and interact with textbooks. The expanding experiment, which began as a small pilot project last fall, has garnered national attention.