API: Basics and Resources

API stands for Application Programming Interface which allows external applications to access software or Web services data, in the latter case by using HTTP request messages, for recombination (mashup) or custom presentation by the external application.

Why use APIs?

Application programming interfaces essentially allow programs and online services to talk to each other.  APIs provide a set of definitions and protocols for services to request and exchange data.  Many library vendors provide public and key-based APIs to their services in order to allow customers to pull bibliographic and other data into local systems and websites.

The Basics

For our purposes, we’ll only look at Web APIs.

Web services and applications exchange data through APIs using a request and response system.  The exchange uses HTTP and HTTPS (secure HTTP) like regular Web requests, however the data isn’t formatted for people to read but rather for other services.  The data format is usually expressed in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) or Extensible Markup Language (XML).

API Graphic

Continue reading “API: Basics and Resources”

FOLIO: An Open Library Services Platform

Back in April you might remember the news that EBSCO was giving $1 million (or more) to help fund the development of a new open library services platform (LSP).  American Libraries wrote about this on their blog post EBSCO Supports New Open Source Project.  EBSCO has a Vice President of Open Source Platforms & Communities, Christopher Spalding, who is taking an active role in the project.  At the time of EBSCO’s announcement the name of the project had not been announced.

At the Code4Lib 2016 Conference in March, Sebastian Hammer gave a talk on the state of the project at that time, still with no name.  Watch his presentation: Constructive Disintegration — Re-imagining the Library Platform as Microservices.  Some goals of the projet (from his slide) are:

  • Easy + fun to extend and customize
  • Apache 2 license: Everyone can play
  • Cloud-ready, multi-tenant, built around an open knowledge base, linked data, electronic and print resource management
  • Can be hosted by commercial vendors, library networks, or locally
  • Community-based
  • Modular — snap-in modules (apps) can be contributed by libraries or vendors.

During the ALA 2016 Annual Conference the FOLIO project was announced.

FOLIOFOLIO stands for the Future of Libraries is Open. It is currently a software platform to be used as a starting point to build library services. Consider FOLIO as a “cloud-based operating system” for applications.

The project is being led by the Denmark-based company Index Data headed by Sebastian Hammer (a panelist at the ALA 2016 Annual Conference) and the Open Library Environment (OLE) directed by Michael Winkler.  The main source of funding comes from EBSCO.  The Open Library Foundation, a nonprofit oversight organization, was set up to direct the project.

Index Data will be responsible for building the core platform which will be released as open source software under an Apache version 2.0 license.  The FOLIO platform software can be downloaded and installed locally or hosted on cloud-based servers from library vendors such as EBSCO, SirsiDynix, and ByWater Solutions.  Index Data intends to make the platform “as little as possible” and not create obstacles to development.

FOLIO Platform
Graphic from FOLIO.

Read the FOLIO press release: Introducing FOLIO – A new collaboration bringing libraries, service providers and developers together to speed innovation and redefine the future of library automation (June 24, 2016).

On top of the FOLIO platform, developers from library vendors, organizations, and member institutions will build modules, applications, and services.  Apps will include traditional ILS service modules such as Acquisitions, Cataloging, and Circulation.  We should eventually see LMS functionality including electronic resource management, OPAC, data conversion, and resource sharing.  Native Linked Data output is not in the works but it is expected that this model will be supported.

Developers of existing library services can choose to port their applications to FOLIO or simply build integration points to their current systems.  The FOLIO platform should make software with open APIs even more attractive to users.

In August, Index Data will release prototype code on GitHub.  Developers can then turn their attention to building microservices.  Note that although the FOLIO platform itself is open source and free, some of the premium apps built to run on it might be created and sold by library vendors.

FOLIO can also be thought of as a community of institutions and vendors working together.  There are many ways to interact and get involved with the FOLIO community:

FOLIO Website – News updates at www.folio.org/news.

OLE Website – Blog posts at www.openlibraryenvironment.org.

Email Lists – Subscribe and archives at lists.openlibraryfoundation.org.


OLE on Twitter@ole_community

FOLIO Forum on Twitter#FOLIOForum

We will certainly be following this project and bringing you more information as the platform launches and develops.

ALA 2016 Annual Conference Follow-up

ALA 2016 Annual Conference

The American Library Association has added the audio and presentation files from many of the conference sessions to its ALA 2016 Annual Conference website.  For librarians interested in library technology, there were four must-attend sessions and fortunately ALA has the audio for these four sessions.  You’ll need to log in to the conference website to access them.

Linked Data – Globally Connecting Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Saturday, June 25, 2016 • 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

Gordon Dunsire – RDA Steering Committee
Reinhold Heuvelmann – German National Library
Richard J. Urban – Florida State University

In the past years, libraries have embraced their role as global participants in the Semantic Web. Developments in library metadata frameworks such as BIBFRAME and RDA built on standard data models and ontologies including RDF, SKOS and OWL highlight the importance of linking data in an increasingly global environment. What is the status of linked data projects in libraries and other memory institutions internationally? Come hear our speakers address current projects, opportunities and challenges. Sponsored by the ALCTS International Relations Committee. Co-Sponsored by ALCTS/LITA Linked Library Data Interest Group.

The implementation of BIBFRAME and Linked Data is poised to revolutionize the access of scholarly articles and research data.  This session covered some projects including an open database of Linked Data from the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library), the Open Metadata Registry (OMR), and r-balls which contain “packages of data”—Linked Data and semantic Web representations of cultural heritage resources described using RDA.

Download the audio and presentation.

Executive Perspectives: A Strategic View of the Library Technology Industry

Saturday, June 25, 2016 • 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Marshall Breeding – Library Technology Guides
Sam Brooks – EBSCO
Matti Shem-Tov – Ex Libris
Skip Pritchard – OCLC
Jim Tallman – Innovative Interfaces
Sebastian Hammer – Index Data

Marshall Breeding, author of the annual Library Systems Report published in American Libraries, will assemble and moderate a panel of CEO or other senior executives representing organizations that produce software or services for libraries. Breeding will give a brief introduction and will then lead a lively discussion to probe at the technology and business trends currently in play, including industry consolidation, differing approaches to opening software to library programmers, and the shift toward cloud-based technologies. Panelists will be expected to candidly reflect the perspectives of their organizations, but not promote their products. The select panel will include representatives of organizations that produce commercial products, open source software, and will reflect for-profit and non-profit perspectives.

In this session, Marshall Breeding gathered executives from major library vendor companies and questioned them on topics including library vendor consolidation, comparative openness of their platforms, and more.  The three ILS vendors took subtle jabs at each other, while OCLC emphasized their nonprofit model.  Hammer took the opportunity to introduce an open library services platform (LSP) called FOLIO (of which we’ll have more soon).

Download the audio and presentation.

Library I.T.: Information Technologists or Information Thought-leaders?

Sunday, June 26, 2016 • 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Craig Boman – University of Dayton Libraries
Whitni Watkins – Analog Devices, Inc.

Library staff employed in information technology (I.T.) departments are often seen as support staff, only providing services when something breaks. But what more can library IT staff do to support the mission of their libraries? In this presentation we will explore why library IT staff should maximize their ability to work across various library departments to collaboratively design new library services rather than being relegated to support staff. We will also explore how library IT staff may challenge traditional bureaucratic organization structures to lead change efforts.

The speakers discussed the relationship of the library with its information technology staff (who may or may not be librarians).  They recommended that library IT staff be should be proactive.  “Don’t just wait around for problems to solve.”  Library IT staff should seek out opportunities to learn what other library staff do and join teams to get more involved.

Download the audio and presentation.

LITA Top Tech Trends

Sunday, June 26, 2016 • 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Maurice Coleman – Harford County (MD) Public Library
Blake Carver – LYRASIS
Carolyn K. Coulter – PrairieCat Library Consortium, Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS)
Nick Grove – Meridian Library District – unBound
Laura Costello, MLIS – Stony Brook University
Lauren Comito, MLS – Queens Library

This program features our ongoing roundtable discussion about trends and advances in library technology by a panel of LITA technology experts. The panelists will describe changes and advances in technology that they see having an impact on the library world, and suggest what libraries might do to take advantage of these trends. More information on Top Tech Trends: http://ala.org/lita/ttt

This was a huge session in one of the largest conference rooms.  Panelists were asked to state their top tech trends in a word: concepts, real time, virtual reality, balance (security vs. access), and super-easy application development.  “Library technology staff need to read vendor contracts to ensure privacy and security.”  Tools libraries can use to encourage open everything include promotion, shifting academic attitudes, and institutional repositories.  Panelists were asked about the Internet of Things: Useful or useless technology trend?  “Security is key.”  American Libraries posted a session summary on their blog.

Download the audio and presentation.

For more session audio and presentations, see our Library Technology at the ALA 2016 Annual Conference post and the official conference Full Schedule page.

Enhance Your Library Presence on Google

Welcome to Google My Business!

Of course users can find your library on Google.  But with a few simple steps, you can enhance your library’s presence on Google services such as Search, Google Maps, and Google+ by adding library information, photos, and hours.  You do this by creating a profile for your library in Google My Business.

When searching Google you have probably seen the the information-rich box to the right of the search results list.  Google calls this the Knowledge Graph display and it has been in use since 2012.  It uses semantic search to enhance search results when a person, topic, or place is identified.  The Knowledge Graph information can also be used to add instant information to the top of the search results list, such as today’s library hours.

Google Knowledge Graph in Search Results

Here is an example of a Knowledge Graph display before it has been claimed and enhanced:

Google Knowledge Graph (Before)

If the link “Own this business?” shows in the Knowledge Graph display for your library, no one has claimed ownership for your library’s profile. Clicking this link allows you to set up your Google My Business account. Note: This process also creates a Google+ page.

First, you’ll have to check the box that says “I am authorized to manage this business and I agree to the Terms of Service.”

On the next screen you will be given the choice to verify your business by phone or by mail.  If you choose mail, you will receive a letter at the mailing address in the Knowledge Graph display that will contain your verification code (and a Google sticker).  This usually arrives in about five days.  You don’t need to wait for verification to edit your profile.

Once you have chosen your verification method, Google will create your basic Google My Business page.

Google My Business - Home

From this Home page you can edit your library information (name, address, phone, website URL) and add library hours and photos.

Google My Business - Edit Mode

Once your Google My Business profile has been completed and your account verified, your enhanced Knowledge Graph display will appear in Google search results and other services.

Google offers an app to allow you to update information and hours from your mobile device.

Available on the App Store Android App on Google Play

Technology Podcasts for Librarians

Just in the past few months several new technology podcasts have launched which are useful for any librarian interested in technology.  A few address library technology topics specifically, while others cover general technology that has relevance to libraries.

Here are some of the best technology podcasts for librarians.

Library Technology

Library 20/20: A Podcast about the Future of Libraries

Library 20/20: A Podcast about the Future of LibrariesFollow along with Charlie Bennett as he talks through the renovation and modernization of the Georgia Tech Library as an example of the future of libraries, especially with the use of technology.

The Library Pros

The Library ProsThis new podcast (since March) is produced by Chris and Bob, a technology librarian and an “Information Technology professional” who cover new technology applicable to public libraries.


LibUXCovering all aspects of the library user experience.  Amanda and Michael “talk design, development, and the user experience in libraries and the higher-ed web” with many guest contributors.

General Technology

TWiT Bits

TWiT BitsThese short podcasts present highlights from Leo Laporte’s longer This Week in Tech (TWiT) episodes at twit.tv.  TWiT keeps you up-to-date with all technology from computers to gadgets to the Web.  Topics also cover technology culture and politics.

W3 Radio

W3 RadioCurated and presented by librarian Michael Schofield, this brand-new podcast covers the week in Web technology in under ten minutes.