Plone and libraries

Last week I attended Plone Symposium East, which was held here at Penn State. Plone is an open source content management system, and should be of interest to library folks for a number of reasons.

The Oregon State Library uses Plone to power Plinkit, which provides public libraries with free web sites that they can maintain and update themselves. Darci Hanning was honored as one of Library Journal‘s Movers & Shakers for her work on Plinkit.

A number of other libraries use Plone to power their web sites, including the Rosetta Project, an online linguistic archive. [Thanks to Karl Horak for pointing that one out to me.]

At the symposium, Jonathan Smith presented a Plone product called Origami Image Tools which I think has tremendous potential for special collections and digitization projects. I really hope that a video of his talk will appear on the Plone site soon, because it made everyone in the room ooh and aah, but there is no public site using this product that I can link to.

One of the biggest projects using it is Northwestern University’s Imag(n)ing Shuilu’an, which documents a Chinese temple. Unfortunately for us, the Chinese government does not want the site to be public. (Jon Fernandez demonstrated the site at the symposium, to more oohs and aahs from the audience.) The good news is that since Plone is open source, the university has a commitment to release the Origami Image View and Image Annotator.

Origami enables the display of very large high-resolution images – at least up to 3 GB – and includes an image tiler and an annotation tool. It has been used for other projects, including Brave New Worlds, an image collection created by three humanities professors, who then used Plone’s discussion tools to create a social environment, and an art history class where students took photographs of public art in Chicago to document its condition.

You can see the Origami Flash image viewer in action at the Encyclopedia of Chicago (which is not itself a Plone site). Watch what happens when you zoom in on sections of the maps!

Update: You can also see the Origami Image Viewer on its project page. [thanks Jeanne!]

Infiltrating a tech conference

I am attending my first tech conference today – Plone Symposium East. It is being hosted at my university, and it is about an open source CMS we are using at work, so it was an easy one for me to infiltrate. So far I’m feeling a bit out of my element, but everyone has been very welcoming. And there are other library people here.

It’s a very different atmosphere from the library conferences I have attended. There are no lines in the ladies room. Everyone has their laptop out. There are power strips under all the tables so they can plug in. Jeans and t-shirts are not out of place.

I’ll write more on what I’m learning later, but I wanted to let you know that some of the conference sessions are being streamed live and all of them will be available on the web after the conference. If you’re at all interested in Plone or content management systems in general, check it out.

Open source ILS

The Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) provides yet another example that you can make an open source ILS in-house. The December issue of Library Journal includes a nice article about their Evergreen project.

In doing a little research about the project, I discovered a few new things I’ll be keeping my eye on:

  • Open Libraries, a blog written by Library Journal technology editor Jay Datema.
  • LibLime, a complany providing open source ILS solutions for libraries large and small. They distribute both GPLS’ Evergreen and Koha, an open source ILS developed in New Zealand.
  • The first Google result for a search on evergreen pines is not about trees.

All this makes me think about revisiting my own library’s ILS. We don’t so much have an ILS as some cobbled-together Access databases, using ColdFusion for the Web interface. We also don’t use MARC. These open source developments make me think we might be able to do something better, though. We don’t have much of a budget, our collection is small, and we would probably need a highly customized ILS, but we do have excellent IT support.

DIY digital libraries

In “Shoestring Digital Library” (Library Journal, July 2006), Jonathan Weber describes how to set up a digital library with whatever technological and monetary resources your library has to invest in the project. Solutions range from using blog or CMS software to tweaking digital library software to programming your own system. The advantages of going DIY are not just financial; as Weber points out, starting from scratch allows for greater flexibility:

The “bibliographic record + item” paradigm that works so well for traditional materials and is translated to the digital realm in many digital library software packages might not work for digital materials.

The solution? Don’t use digital library software.

My own library has a number of DIY digital projects, including our catalog (relatively primitive but we have a small collection) and a database of funding opportunities. Most of them use a Microsoft Access database and ColdFusion, and are made possible by a team involving library staff, our webmaster, and programming staff.

Open source software in libraries

Nylink is sponsoring a survey on open source software in libraries. [via]

I filled out the survey, partly because I’m interested in whether many other special libraries use open source software. I was surprised both by how many open source library applications were included in the survey that I had never even heard of (obviously this stuff is catching on somewhere!) and by the number of open source applications I use every day without even thinking about them (Firefox, Linux, etc.).