The ALA 2017 Annual Conference is just one week away. The conference covers a myriad of library topics and sorting through the program sessions to find the ones focused on library technology takes effort. Let us do the work for you.
Here is our list of programs related to library technology. You’ll find interest groups and sessions on data and metadata, makerspaces, UX, Linked Data, ILS and LMS, websites, mobile apps, emerging technologies, and more. Committee meetings were not included.
A look at global browser market share data will show that Google’s Chrome browser commands more than half of the browser market (61.2% for April 2017, to be specific). The market share might be even higher among librarians (who have a choice at work). If you’re not a Google Chrome user, these additional six browser extensions might make you switch.
If you’ve never considered browser extensions, they are plugins or small applications that add functionality to your browser. Sometimes they work in the background (like Unpaywall, below) but usually they work when you click on a small icon that gets added to the browser’s toolbar.
Throughout your professional library reading, you will occasionally come across esoteric library technology acronyms. It’s annoying to have to stop reading to look up their meanings. To help prevent that, we present our list of more common library technology acronyms.
A proxy server is a service that provides authentication and mediation between database or publisher websites and the end user by routing Internet traffic through its system.
Why learn about proxy servers?
A proxy server is a service that libraries use to authenticate their users to provide access to many online databases and publisher websites. Using a proxy service allows library resource vendors to authenticate users from a single point-of-access regardless of where they are located, on-campus or from their home computer.
For our examples, we’ll use the popular EZproxy product from OCLC.
To avoid having to provide users with an individual or institutional login and password, most database and publisher websites authenticate users by IP address. Sometimes vendors will limit access to a range of IP addresses—on a single campus, for example. But for users outside of the physical campus, you must provide a known IP address (or set of IP addresses). This is accomplished by routing users through a proxy server so that the access requests come from its IP address(es) which are recognized by the vendor. The content is then returned to the proxy server and routed back to the original user.
Because libraries can’t let everyone access their resources via EZproxy, they must authenticate their users before access. EZproxy allows user login itself, but EZproxy also provides a method of authentication using your institution’s single sign-on (SSO) server.
EZproxy is accessed using an HTTP request. To access a website via EZproxy, you must prepend the EZproxy server URL to the database or publisher’s website address. A typical EZproxy URL looks like this:
To this proxy URL, we add the URL for the website we wish to access through EZproxy. For example:
As you perform a search or click on links on a database or publisher site, you are submitting your requests to your EZproxy server which passes them on to the original website. Data is returned to the EZproxy server which sends it back to your browser. That is why the post-proxy URL ends with .ezproxy.yourlib.org (ignoring the path).
You might notice some post-proxy URLs use hyphens instead of dots between parts of the original website’s address.
The short explanation is that the EZproxy server uses a wildcard security (SSL) certificate for *.ezproxy.yourlib.org which allows one subdomain before the EZproxy server domain (ezproxy.yourlib.org). The hyphens “trick” the server into seeing the original website as a single subdomain. This is done only for original websites that use HTTPS.
EZproxy has many settings that are configured during initial installation (using hyphens with HTTPS, for example). You also set the maximum number of virtual hosts (typically from 5,000 to 20,000).
Title SPIE Digital Library
Here is a more advanced database stanza:
Title Engineering Village
OCLC publishes a list of recommended database stanzas for many of the most popular databases. Of course, websites are frequently updated and these changes often require revised or completely new stanzas. These stanzas are found in the config.txt file.
Here are some resources to learn more about EZproxy.
Learn EZproxy – OCLC’s official site with documents and links to the EZproxy community.
Online library services play a vital part in providing access to library resources and services. Thus, it is very useful for library staff to know the status of these third-party services. Downtime is rare, but when staff and users need to know the availability of online services, having a library service status page can be extremely helpful. Fortunately, library vendors know this and increasingly are providing access to websites for displaying current service status and notices of planned interruptions.
Here is a list of the known major library service status pages:
bepress supports institutional repositories with Digital Commons, SelectedWorks, Expert Gallery Suite, and ExpressO online manuscript delivery service. Their website has a Current Status page that covers all of these services including status details, scheduled maintenance, and recent product updates.
With the merger of Ex Libris and ProQuest, Ex Libris took over the support of all library systems and discovery services. The company has created a unified system status page for Alma, Summon, Serials Solutions 360 Link, Intota, Primo, SFX, and more.
From the OCLC Support & Training website, you can access OCLC System Alerts. This blog-like site reports current and past maintenance and issues for services including Connexion, hosted EZproxy, WorldCat, and WorldShare products.
Springshare understands the importance of providing status information for library resources and services to library users. That’s why they created the Systems Status Dashboard in LibAnswers that allows your library to set up and display the status of your website, LibGuides, local resources, and databases. You can alert users to any planned system maintenance and explain unexpected downtime. For any LibAnswers site that has enabled the public status dashboard, you can view it by adding /systems after their LibAnswers URL. Some examples are Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Maryland Libraries, and Georgia College.