Caroline Rowan very kindly put together her thoughts on our New Professionals Day Ireland 2015 that took place on Saturday 7th of March in Maynooth University Library on the theme of The Open Source Library.
I have been very fortunate to attend a number of NPD Ireland events and each time I come away feeling that I have learned a huge amount. The Open Source Library was no exception. First up was a demo of 3D-printing by Shona Thoma. Those of us who had been at A&SL Annual Seminar the previous week were well-primed for this after Michael Leigh and Hugh Murphy’s talk and had been looking forward to seeing it in action. Shona started off by explaining the software design process and then showing us the design (an elephant) which was to run throughout the day. Printing it would take approximately 4.5 hours, so it would be ready for us to see just before we left. Exciting to have an elephant in the room that everyone did actually want to talk about!
It was fascinating seeing the printing process from the start. The printer laid down a baselayer for stability because the previous day’s testing had found that building without the base layer led to collapse of the elephant. Each layer solidifies as it is printed, so the final product is ready to go once the printing process is finished. The printer and screen setup is shown here. There was huge enthusiasm for the 3D printing and for the possibilities it offers in terms of learning opportunities. In Maynooth, one of the Celtic Studies lecturers, used it to design a replica of a Celtic cross for use in teaching practice. The software is from Cura and can be downloaded by anyone, even if you don’t have a 3D printer. So that means we can all learn how to design items for 3D printing without having to spend thousands on the actual equipment!
It was tough to be asked to come up and follow the 3D printing but David Hughes from Dublin Business School Library (DBS) did so very successfully, as could be gauged by the rapt attention his audience gave him for his talk on the implementation of Koha in DBS. Koha is a web-based open-source library management system which was created in New Zealand in 1999 (the name Koha means “gift” in Maori).
David was quick to highlight that open-source does not necessarily mean free but it has the advantage that it can be used by multiple individuals and tweaked and edited to suit their specific requirements. In other words, you can change the software to suit what you want. David say this is why librarians should get involved in coding. Just because it is open-source doesn’t guarantee that it will be problem free. It can be complicated to install and you may only have haphazard support. Unless coding is your area of expertise, the installation of open-source software may also be dependant on the enthusiasm of your IT dept for open-source. That being said, there are a variety of open-source products available such as Koha (library management system), Drupal (web content management), Vufind (discovery tool), SubjectsPlus (libguides), CUFTS- (Electronic resource management suite), Zotero – citation mgt (free), Omeka (online digital curation), LORLS – reading list software, D-space (institutional repository) with which many of us are familiar, so using one or more of them in our respective libraries needn’t be that big a challenge.
Reminding us that not so long ago, card cataloguing was the way in which librarians organised and managed their holdings, David spoke about how Koha lets you keep track of holdings, orders, client information, loans and fines as well as providing the interface for clients in the form of an OPAC. It is also a tool for enforcing library policies (e.g age restrictions on DVD borrowing etc) and a good source of library data enabling you to assess library resources and plan how the library will operate. With extensive reporting capabilities, including pre-supplied reports and the option to create your own, Koha could be used to identify the correlation between library usage and exam success.
In addition to Koha, DBS also use Loughborough Online Reading List Software (LORLS) which was implemented at DBS in Sept 2014. There are some limits in terms of the appearance but the functionality, seemed easy to use. It was possible to specify the book, assign it to a particular reading list and lecturer, create references for it etc. What it really showed was how Zotero, Koha and LORLS worked seamlessly together. Can you image three proprietary systems doing the same?
Given how easy David had made it all look, I had to ask the question, “How much coding ability to do you need to work with Koha?”. He advised that you will need to have Linux, PERL, and SQL. So it looks like it’s time to start looking at some MOOCs!
Teresa Deevy was a deaf playwright whose plays were performed in the Abbey Theatre in the 1930s. A lot of her writing was about women in unhappy marriages and their loss of autonomy in marriage. This subject matter led to her fall from favour in the 1930s and it was only in the 2000s that she was rediscovered. The Archive includes correspondence to Deevy as well as material such as theatre programmes, typescripts and manuscripts, non-dramatic works, newspaper reviews and press coverage. It also includes works by other authors and some miscellaneous items. There are 18 Deevy plays in the archive and it is used as part of the Theatre Studies M.A. to encourage students to think about the ways in which they will archive their own productions as well as how archives can be used in theatremaking.
Padraic cited the DRI’s recent publication on Dublin Core as being particularly helpful in when cataloguing the archive. Padraic then gave examples of some challenges in scanning materials. Typescript, for example, can have issues where the typewriter ribbon was running out. Sometimes keys are hit harder than others. Handwritten notes in the margin can also be a problem. On the technical side, Padraic had to do some tweaking to make the PDF viewer user-friendly for exhibition viewers on the Teresa Deevy archive and he warned us to keep an eye out on Omeka upgrades and changes, as sometimes the upgrades can cause existing functionality to break.
Having given us that quick presentation, Padraic then got us to create our own Omeka website. Omeka is set up based on Dublin Core records which means that there a limited number of metadata fields to be completed (thankfully). The first step in creating an exhibition is to catalogue your item, then to create a collection, then to develop the exhibition. Padraic then took us through the Omeka dashboard and the plug-ins making a number of useful recommendations. CSV Import allows you to create a spreadsheet with all your info and then load it directly in to Omeka. Putting Google Analytics on your Omeka site allows you to see who is actually visiting it. Hide Elements allows you to hide Dublin Core fields which you do not want site visitors to see. Archives built on Omeka include Gothic Past, Letters of 1916 (which is a mix of WordPress and Omeka) and Cleveland Historical (Omeka and Curatescape). One key point which Padraic made is that there is a time commitment involved in learning how to use any new technology. Therefore it is important to make sure you have done your background research to check that the functionality is what you need before you start your project.
At the end of Padraic’s workshop, we all gathered around the Ultimaker 3D-printer to see how the elephant was coming along. The finished product had moveable legs and could be posed directly from being printed. Amazing!
I said previously that every NPD Ireland event teaches me a lot. I can also say that it leaves me with a desire to learn even more. The day was interesting, insightful and very enjoyable. It also made me realise that coding of some sort is going to feature in all our futures. Maybe a future NPD Ireland event might be a day of learning coding? Just a thought…
Thanks to all in NPD Ireland who organised the day and, in particular, thank you for organising it on a Saturday so that many of us could attend without having to take a day off work. Well done and keep it up. Your enthusiasm, support and attention to that kind of detail really is appreciated.