I noticed this morning a blog post on the Wellcome Library plans to build a cloud-based digital library platform, ‘Moving the Wellcome Library to the cloud‘  It’s a fascinating piece of news.  The Wellcome Library’s amibition and scale, talking about having over 30m digitised pages by 2018 and about building a platform that could potentially be made use of by others is interesting to see.

As we’ve seen with Library Management Systems, cloud-based systems are becoming commonplace but where digital libraries seem to be concerned, most of them are operated as locally hosted systems.   The article also talks about the use of IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework)  which is something for digital libraries to take notice of.  It also flags some developments to Wellcome’s media player to create a new Universal Viewer to handle video, audio and other material.  Given how tricky we’ve found getting accesible media players it will be interesting to keep an eye on these developments.

Mention of APIs, commodity services and APIs are also in scope.  Something definitely to watch for the future.

So we’re slowly emerging from our recent LMS project and a bit of time to stop and reflect, partly at least to get project documentation for lessons learned and suchlike written up and the project closed down.  We’ve moved from Voyager, SFX and EBSCO Discovery across to Alma and Primo.  We went from a project kick off meeting towards the end of September 2014 to being live on Alma at the end of January 2015 and live on Primo at the end of April.

So time for a few reflections about some of the things to think about from this implementation.  I’d worked out the other day that it has been the fifth LMS procurement/implementation process I’ve been involved with, and doing different roles and similar roles in each of them.  For this one I started as part of the project team but ended leading the implementation stage.

Reflection One
Tidy up your data before you start your implementation.  Particularly your bibliographic data but if you can other data too.  You might not be able to do so if you are on an older system as you might not have the tools to sort out some of the issues.  But the less rubbish you can take over to your nice new system the less sorting out you’ve got to do on the new system.  And when you are testing your initial conversion too much rubbish makes it harder to see the ‘wood for the trees’, in other words work out what are problems that you need to fix by changing the way the data converts and what is just a consequence of poor data. With bibliographic data the game has changed, you are now trying to match your data with a massive bibliographic knowledge base.

Reflection Two
It might be ideal to plan to go live with both LMS and Discovery at the same time but it’s hard to do.  The two streams often need the same technical resources at the same time.  Timescales are tight to get everything sorted in time.  We decided that we needed to give users more notice of the changes to the Discovery system and make sure there was a changeover period by running in parallel.

Reflection Three
You can move quickly.  We took about four months from the startup meeting to being live on Alma but it means that you have a very compressed schedule.  Suppliers have a well-rehearsed approach and project plan but it’s designed as a generic approach.  There’s some flexibility but it’s deliberately a generic tried-and-tested approach.  You have to be prepared to be flexible and push things through as quickly as possible.  There isn’t much time for lots of consultation about decisions, which leads to…

Reflection Four
As much as possible, get your decisions about changes in policies and new approaches made before you start.  Or at least make sure that the people on the project team can get decisions made quickly (or make them themselves) and can identify from the large numbers of documents, guidance and spreadsheets to work through, what the key decisions you need to make will be.

Reflection Five
Get the experts who know about each of the elements of your LMS/Discovery systems involved with the project team.  There’s a balance between having too many and too few people on your project team but you need people who know about your policies, processes, practices and workflows, your metadata (and about metadata in general in a lot of detail to configure normalisation, FRBR’ization etc etc), who know about your technology and how to configure authentication and CSS.  Your project team is vital to your chances of delivering.

Reflection Six
Think about your workflows and document them.  Reflect on them as you go through your training.  LMS workflows have some flexibility but you still end up going through the workflows used by the system.  Whatever workflows you start with you will no doubt end up changing or modifying them once you are live.

Reflection Seven
Training.  Documentation is good.  Training videos are useful and have the advantage of being able to be used whenever people have time.  But you still need a blended approach, staff can’t watch hours of videos, and you need to give people training about how your policies and practices will be implemented in the new LMS.  So be prepared to run face to face sessions for staff.

Reflection Eight
Regular software updates.  Alma gets monthly software updates.  Moving from a system that was relatively static we wondered about how disruptive it would be.  Advice from other Libraries was that it wasn’t a problem.  And it doesn’t seem to be.  There are new updated user guides and help in the system and the changes happen over the weekend when we aren’t using the LMS.

Reflection Nine
It’s Software as a Service so it’s all different.  I think we were used to Discovery being provided this way so that’s less of a change.  The LMS was run previously by our corporate IT department so in some senses it’s just moved from one provider to another.  We’ve a bit less control and flexibility to do stuff with it but OK, and on the other hand we’ve more powerful tools and APIs.

Refelection Ten
Analytics is good and a powerful tool but build up your knowledge and expertise to get the best out of it.  We’ve reduced our reports and do a smaller number than we’d thought we need.  Scheduled reports and widgets and dashboards are really useful and we’re pretty much scratching the surface of what we can do.  Access to the community reports that others have done is pretty useful especially when you are starting.

Refelection Eleven
Contacts with other users are really useful.  Sessions talking to other customers, User Group meetings and the mailing lists have all been really valuable.  An active user community is a vital asset for products not just the open source ones.

and finally, Reflection Twelve
We ran a separate strand to do some user research with students into what users wanted from library search.  This was really invaluable as it gave us evidence to help in the procurement stage, but particularly it helped shape the decisions made about how to setup Primo.  We’ve been able to say: this is what library users want and we have the evidence about it.  And that has been really important in being able to challenge thinking based on what us librarians think users want (or what we think they should want).

So, twelve reflections about the last few months.  Interesting, enlightening, enjoyable, frustrating at times, and tiring.  But worthwhile, achievable and something that is allowing us to move away from a set of mainly legacy systems, not well-integrated, not so easy to manage to a set of systems that are better integrated, have better tools and perhaps as important have a better platform to build from.

Absence from blogging over the last few months feels very much like some form of winter hibernation but it’s mainly been a case of not having too much time for reflection in the middle of a library management system implementation.  We haven’t quite finished yet but are a long way through the proceBeadnell wadersss and have been live on a cloud-based LMS for just over a month. So I can try to put together some early thoughts about the process and experience.

Time

I worked on our project proposal around Christmas 2012 for a project we termed Library Futures that included a library management system and discovery procurement and implementation.  But that wasn’t really the start of the process.  We’d spent a bit of time looking at what our needs were and working with some consultants to get a better idea of the best options for us.  I’d also had some involvement with the Jisc LMS Change project, all of which helped us to understand what was out there and what our options were.  So that takes us back into 2011 and maybe a bit earlier.  And a lot of the thinking was about the best timing for changing systems as the LMS market was in the early stages of the ‘Software as a Service’ reinvention and products were (and maybe still are) at an early stage.  So by my rough calculation that’s a couple of years in the planning, followed by a year to secure approval, followed by an eighteen month or so procurement and implementation stage.  It takes a long time and a lot of effort, and the final stage of implementation isn’t the most time-consuming part.

Process
In the procurement stage we went the full EU tender route and for our requirements catalogue (specification) made extensive use of the LibTechRFP exemplars http://libtechrfp.wikispaces.com/ not just the UK Core Specification but also the examples for the Library Services Platform, Electronic Resources Management and Search and Discovery.  And we also needed to add in our own requirements and cut out features aimed more at a traditional ‘physical’ university.  It ended up with quite a large and detailed catalogue of requirements.  But I’ve always felt that to be important for library systems as the detail is vital (and not just because the successful tender response forms part of our contract).  Library management systems have to cover a lot of functions and it’s important to get the detail to understand what using that system will mean for you in practice.  Interesting to me though was to find some of our search requirements already getting reused in another systems requirement document in the institution.
Tools
I’m always on the lookout for useful new tools for projects, website and so on.  So it was good to see a tool like Basecamp being used by the supplier we chose. It isn’t a free tool (other than for an initial period) but it worked well as a way of sharing files and having the sort of discussions that you need when going through the implementation process.  I felt the to do list feature worked a bit less well.  As a communication tool it worked neatly without being too formal or time-consuming.  We’ve ended up using it on two different projects with two entirely different suppliers so it is obviously doing something right.

Other thoughts
Final thoughts for the moment are about the range of skills needed in a team putting in an LMS.  Some obvious ones such as systems and IT knowledge, procurement and project management, and for libraries obvious areas such as knowledge of the library acquisitions, cataloguing/metadata and circulation processes.  But also ones that can get overlooked around training expertise, administrative support, decision making, business analysis and data quality.  And above all some determination and team spirit to get through an immense to do list.

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The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

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At the end of November I was at a different sort of conference to the ones I normally get to attend.  This one, Design4learning was held at the OU in Milton Keynes, but was a more general education conference.  Described as “The Conference aims to advance the understanding and application of blended learning, design4learning and learning analytics ” Design4learning covered topics such as MOOCs, elearning, learning design and learning analytics.

There were a useful series of presentations at the conference and several of them are available from the conference website.   We’d put together a poster for the conference talking about the work we’ve started to do in the library on ‘library analytics’ – entitled ‘Learning Analytics – exploring the value of library data and it was good to talk to a few non-library people about the wealth of data that libraries capture and how that can contribute to the institutional picture of learning analyticPoster for Design4learning conferences.

Our poster covered some of the exploration that we’ve been doing, mainly with online resource usage from our EZProxy logfiles.  In some cases we’ve been able to join that data with demographic and other data from surveys to start to look in a very small way at patterns of online library use.

Design4learning conference poster v3

The poster also highlighted the range of data that libraries capture and the sorts of questions that could be asked and potentially answered.  It also flagged up the leading-edge work by projects such as Huddersfield’s Library Impact Data Project and the work of the Jisc Lamp project.

An interesting conference and an opportunity to talk with a different group of people about the potential of library data.

Photograph of office buildings at Holborn Circus

Holborn Circus – I was struck by the different angles of the buildings

Themes

For me two big themes came to mind after this year’s Future of Technology in Education Conference (FOTE). Firstly, around creativity, innovation and co-creation; and secondly about how fundamental data and analytics is becoming.

Creativity, innovation and co-creation

Several of the speakers talked about innovation and creativity.  Dave Coplin talked of the value of Minecraft and Project Spark and the need to create space for creativity, while Bethany Koby showed us examples of some of the maker kits ‘Technology Will Save Us’ are creating.

Others talked of ‘flipping the classroom’ and learning from students as well as co-creation and it was interesting in the Tech start-up pitchfest that a lot of the ideas were student-created tools, some working in the area of collaborative learning.

Data and analytics

The second big trend for me was about analytics and data.  I was particularly interested to see how many of the tools and apps being pitched at the conference had an underlying layer of analytics.  Evaloop which was working in the area of student feedback, Knodium – a space for student collaboration, Reframed.tv – offering interaction and sharing tools for video content, Unitu – an issues tracking tool and MyCQs – a learning tool, all seemed to make extensive use of data and analytics, while Fluency included teaching analytics skills.  It is interesting to see how many app developers have learnt the lessons of Amazon and Google of the value of the underlying data.

Final thoughts and what didn’t come up at the conference

I didn’t hear the acronymn MOOC at all – slightly surprising as it was certainly a big theme of last year’s conference.  Has the MOOC bubble passed? or is it just embedded into the mainstream of education?  Similarly Learning Analytics (as a specific theme).  Certainly analytics and data was mentioned (as I’ve noted above) but of Learning Analytics – not a mention, maybe it’s embedded into HE practice now?

Final thoughts on FOTE.  A different focus to previous years but still with some really good sessions and the usual parallel social media back-channels full of interesting conversations. Given that most people arrived with at least one mobile device, power sockets to recharge them were in rather short supply.

Friday in early October, so it must be time for ULCCs Future of Technology in Education at Senate House in London. I’ve been fortunate to be able to go several times, but it is always a scramble to get one of the scarce tickets when they are released on Eventbrite during August. They often seem to get released when I am away on holiday so I’ve sat in a variety of places and booked a ticket for FOTE.

The conference usually gives a good insight into the preoccupations of educational technologists at a particular time. In some ways I know I tend to use it as a bit of a checklist as much as being a conference that surfaces completely new things. So it is a case of looking at the trends and thinking about how that is relevant to us, what are we doing in that area, are there other things we need to be thinking about.

Current preoccupations in this area are certainly around practicalities, ethics etc of learning analytics. Interesting to see that Arkivum are here with a stand, that recognises a current preoccupation around Research Data Management.

I know I haven’t been blogging much since the Summer, mainly due to too many other things going on, a new library management system and discovery system implementation primarily. So I want to find a bit of time to reflect on FOTE and our new LMS.

IMG_0024.JPG

To Birmingham at the start of last week for the latest Jisc Library Analytics and Metrics Project (http://jisclamp.mimas.ac.uk/) Community Advisory and Planning group meeting.  This was a chance to catchup with both the latest progress and also the latest thinking about how this library analytics and metrics work will develop.

At a time when learning analytics is a hot topic it’s highly relevant to libraries to consider how they might respond to the challenges of learning analytics. [The 2014 Horizon report has learning analytics in the category of one year or less to adoption and describes it as ‘data analysis to inform decisions made on every tier of the education system, leveraging student data to deliver personalized learning, enable adaptive pedagogies and practices, and identify learning issues in time for them to be solved.’

LAMP is looking at library usage data of the sort that libraries collect routinely (loans, gate counts, eresource usage) but combines it with course, demographic and achievement data to allow libraries to start to be able to analyse and identify trends and themes from the data.

LAMP will build a tool to store and analyse data and is already working with some pilot institutions to design and fine-tune the tool.  We got to see some of the work so far and input into some of the wireframes and concepts, as well as hear about some of the plans for the next few months.

The day was also the chance to hear from the developers of a reference management tool called RefMe (www.refme.com).  This referencing tool is aimed at students who often struggle with the typically complex requirements of referencing styles and tools.  To hear about one-click referencing, with thousands of styles and with features to intergrate with MS Word, or to scan in a barcode and reference a book, was really good.  RefMe is available as an iOS or Android app and as a desktop version.  As someone who’s spent a fair amount of time wrestling with the complexities of referencing in projects that have tried to get simple referencing tools in front of students it is really good to see a start-up tackling this area.

There seems to have been a flurry of activity around reading system systems in recent weeks.  There’s the regular series of announcements of new customers for Talis Aspire which seems to clearly be the market-leader in this class of systems but there’s also been two particular examples of the integration of reading list systems into Moodle.

Firstly, the University of Sussex have been talking about their integration of Aspire into Moodle.  Slides from their presentation at ALRG are available from their repository.  There is also a really good video that they’ve put together that shows how the integration works in practice.  The video shows how easy it seems to be to add a section from a reading list directly into a moodle course.  It looks like a great example of integration that seems mostly to have been done without using the Aspire API.   One question I’d have about the integration is whether it automatically updates if there are changes made to the reading list, but it looks like a really neat development.

The other reading list development comes from EBSCO with their Curriculum Builder LMS plugin for EBSCO Discovery.   There’s also a video for this showing an integration with moodle.   This development makes use of the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability standard (LTI) to achieve the integration.   The approach mainly seems to be looked at from the Discovery system with features to let you find content in EBSCO Discovery and then add it to a Reading List, rather than being a separate reading list builder system.  It’s interesting to see the tool being looked at from the perspective of a course creator developing a reading list and useful to have features such as notes for each item on a list.  What looks to be different from the Sussex approach is that when you go to the reading list from within Moodle you are being taken out of Moodle and don’t see the list of resources in-line in Moodle.

There’s a developing resource bank of information on Helibtech at http://helibtech.com/Reading_Resource+lists that is useful to keep an eye on developments in this area.

Liblink admin screen The approach we’ve been taking is with a system called Liblink (which incidentally was shortlisted this year for the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management awards for Departmental ICT Initiative of the Year).  Liblink developed out of a system created to manage dynamic content for our main library website, for pages like http://www.open.ac.uk/library/library-resources/statistics-sources

The concept was to pull resources from a central database that was being updated regularly with data from systems such as SFX and the library catalogue.  This ensured that the links were managed and that there was a single record for each resource.  It then became obvious that the system, with some development, could replace a clutch of different resource list and linking systems that had been adopted over the years and could be used as our primary tool to manage linking to resources.  The tool is designed to allow us to push out lists of resources using RSS so they can be consumed by our Moodle VLE, but the tool also offers different formats such as html, plain text and RIS.

 

 

 

 

I picked up over the weekend via the No Shelf Required blog that EBSCO Discovery usage data is now being added into Plum Analytics.    EBSCO’s press release talks about providing “researchers with a much more comprehensive view of the overall impact of a particular article”.   Plum Analytics have fairly recently been taken over by EBSCO (and here) so it’s not so surprising that they’d be looking at how EBSCO’s data could enhance the metrics available through Plum Analytics.

It’s interesting to see the different uses that activity data in this sphere can be put to.  There are examples of it being used to drive recommendations, such as hot articles, or Automated Contextual Research Assistance. LAMP is talking of using activity data for benchmarking purposes.  So you’re starting to see a clutch of services-being driven by activity data just as the like’s of Amazon drive so much of what appears on their sales site by data driven by customer activity.

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