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

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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.

Library Technology at the ALA 2016 Annual Conference

ALA 2016 Annual Conference

The ALA 2016 Annual Conference is just about a month 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 programs related to library technology.  You find interest groups and sessions on data and metadata, makerspaces, UX, Linked Data, ILS and LMS, websites, mobile apps, emerging technologies, and more. Committee meeting were not included.

For official descriptions, speakers, and final schedule, please check the conference Full Schedule page.

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Introducing Microsoft Academic

Microsoft Academic

The Microsoft Academic search tool is an open discovery service for scholarly scientific works including citation relationships between works, authors, institutions, places, and subject fields.

Microsoft is quietly developing an open discovery service for scholarly scientific works called Microsoft Academic based on Microsoft Research’s Microsoft Academic Graph (MAG).  This search database will function much like Web of Science and Scopus in linking paper citations to aid in discovery.

To build the MAG, Bing technology crawls the Web looking for “publisher websites, university repositories, researcher and departmental web pages, etc.” which then get analysed for content and citations.  If papers are determined to be scholarly works, they’re added to the MAG.

Microsoft Academic search: BIBFRAME

Microsoft describes the service in their FAQ:

This new service puts a knowledge driven, semantic inference based search and recommendation framework front and center. In addition, a new data structure and graph engine have been developed to facilitate the real-time intent recognition and knowledge serving. One illustrating feature is semantic query suggestions that identify authors, topics, journals, conferences, etc., as you type and offer ways to refine your search based on the data in the underlying academic knowledge graph. You can also refine your results using the filters on the search results page. Since we are built on top of Bing’s web crawling infrastructure, we are able to discover and index new academic papers in a more scalable manner. We now have over 150 million entities and billions of relationships in the Microsoft Academic Graph and growing!

Microsoft Academic results: BIBFRAME

Search results can be filtered by date range, author, affiliation, field of study, journal, and conference.  Users can choose to include news items or limit results to scholarly works.

The underlying MAG data is available for download or accessed via the Academic Knowledge API.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft Academic can develop the features to rival Google Scholar.  Three features would go a long way towards that goal.  The service should allow libraries to register so that search results can contain custom links including institutional authentication such as a proxy URL prefix.  Microsoft Academic could add its own altmetrics by gathering results from Bing crawling the Web and social media sites.  A simple tool to add citations to Microsoft Word documents would be a way to set Microsoft Academic apart.  But its open, non-commercial platform with downloadable data and APIs makes it a search service to watch.

Preview Microsoft Academic at https://academic.microsoft.com.

Altmetrics: Basics and Resources

Altmetrics are “alternative metrics” to measure the influence and reach of scholarly output on the Web through peer-review counts, influential news sites and blog posts, citation manager bookmarks such as Mendeley, Wikipedia citations, and social media mentions on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Why understand altmetrics?

Altmetric ScoreAltmetrics go beyond the traditional citation metrics to take into consideration how scholarly output such as journal articles and research datasets are being cited and shared by others on the Web in order to measure influence. They are meant to complement tradition metrics, not replace them.

Altmetrics counts (and scores) are updated much more quickly than traditional citation counts so are especially helpful with “hot topics” getting mainstream attention where citation counts can lag by months and even years.

The Basics

Altmetrics are basically counts of mentions and links to scholarly journals and datasets from reputable news sites (and aggregators) and blogs, peer-reviewed sites, reference managers, and major social media sites.  The company Altmetric uses a weighted score with a Twitter post counting as 1 point, a news article counts 8, a blog is 5, and a Wikipedia link is 3. Sources counting less than 1 point include Facebook and YouTube at 0.25 point and LinkedIn at 0.5.

Wiley added altmetrics to Wiley journal articles in the Wiley Online Library in 2014.  Elsevier added Altmetric scores Scopus in 2012 and to ScienceDirect in a pilot project in late 2013, but in 2015 switched to their own altmetrics system for ScienceDirect and Scopus.

We are seeing altmetrics incorporated into several library products. Two of the most prominent companies, Altmetric and EBSCO’s Plum Analytics, provide altmetrics to vendors for inclusion in services such as discovery tools and institutional repositories.

ProQuest Central Altmetric BadgeIn October 2015, ProQuest announced the addition of Altmetric badges to 360 Link and ProQuest databases.  On the abstract page of some scholarly journal articles in ProQuest databases will be displayed an Altmetric badge with basic details of the article’s reach on the Web.  Users can click through to see the complete details page [Altmetric.com version].

In February of this year ProQuest added altmetrics to its Summon service for free.  Libraries using Summon simply need to turn on the feature.  If available, search results will show an Altmetric score.  Hovering over this button (see below) shows more detailed counts.  Like above, users can click through to see the complete details page.  This same information can be displayed in the right-side preview panel.

Summon Search Results Altmetrics

Plum Analytics’ PlumX Metrics integrates with institutional repositories and categorizes metrics into five separate types:

  1. Usage – clicks, downloads, views, library holdings, video plays
  2. Captures – bookmarks, code forks, favorites, readers, watchers
  3. Mentions – blog posts, comments, reviews, Wikipedia links
  4. Social media – +1s, likes, shares, tweets
  5. Citations – PubMed Central, Scopus, patents

Unlike Altmetric, PlumX does not give a score.  At the bottom of the abstract and information page, PlumX displays a count of these metrics by category with a link to see details.

PlumX Institutional Repository Summary

Impactstory is another service providing altmetrics.  Its focus is on individuals who want to learn the impact of their research output. It’s an open-access website which you can access with an ORCID.


Here are some great online resources to learn about altmetrics:

Altmetrics: a Manifesto – Definitive post from altmetrics.org.

#altmetrics – Twitter hashtag.

Against the Grain – Link to the article “Altmetrics: Documenting the Story of Research” (2016).

arXiv – Link to the article “Altmetrics in the wild: Using social media to explore scholarly impact” (2012).

Impactstory blog – Link to blog post “4 things every librarian should do with altmetrics” (2014).

Mendeley Altmetrics Group – A group to “discuss new approaches to the assessment of scholarly impact based on new metrics.”

NISO Altmetrics Initiative – Project to create standards and best practices for altmetrics.

Here are some popular books about altmetrics:

Altmetrics by Robin Chin Roemer and Rachel Borchardt

AltmetricsThis title is actually an issue of Library Technology Reports from ALA Tech Source.  The report “outlines both the promises and major obstacles faced by the field of altmetrics” as well as covers the librarian’s role in providing education and support of altmetrics. Published in 2015.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Academics edited by Andy Tattersall

Altmetrics: A Practical Guide for Librarians, Researchers and AcademicsThis forthcoming book gives an overview and the theory behind altmetrics.  It looks at the ways libraries can utilize altmetrics and educate researchers.  To be published in June 2016.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.

Altmetrics for Information Professionals: Past, Present and Future by Kim Johan Holmberg

Altmetrics for Information Professionals: Past, Present and FutureThis scholarly book looks at key altmetrics research innovations.  It presents the data sources used.  Finally, it looks to the future to determine alternative metric trends.  Published in 2015.

View details and find a place to buy or borrow at Google Books.