Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Proxy Servers for Electronic Resources

As I recently struggled with Wolters Kluwer to get our CCH Intelliconnect service to work properly through EZProxy, this topic turned out to be rather timely. Many of our libraries already subscribe to a number of databases and other electronic services, and for law libraries our most popular services such as Lexis and Westlaw require individual logins and accounts. Managing those accounts can be time consuming, but for the user they typically ensure uniform access to the resource from on- or off-campus.

For many of our electronic resources, however, we tend to push for IP authentication instead of user accounts. IP authentication means that we set up the service to recognize the IP addresses (the numeric address of a ‘computer’ on the Internet) for our library or university campus. When a user connects to the service from the library, they are magically (in their eyes) identified to be a legitimate subscriber and granted access. But what about our patrons that are not actually in the library at the moment? One of the benefits of these services is supposed to be 24/7 access…

This is where proxy servers can be a key addition to your service! Basically, a proxy server (such as EZProxy from OCLC) acts as an intermediary for the electronic resource. Users connect to the proxy server, that server authenticates the user in some way, then the proxy server actually connects to the resource. The user never connects directly to the resource, so the only IP address the service sees is that of the proxy server.

In some institutions, proxy servers may also be used for on-campus access as well, simplifying the overall setup and allowing tighter control over who can access the services. Proxy servers might be set up on local servers as hosted services, depending on an institution’s size and resources. It's not always simple to configure or troubleshoot problems, as my recent experiences with Wolters Kluwer can illustrate, but the benefits of a proxy server can be many.

To learn more, visit Library Technology Launchpad’s recent post at http://libtechlaunchpad.com/2017/04/25/proxy-servers-basics-and-resources/

Monday, July 3, 2017

Project management software

In the most recent issue of Computers in Libraries, Li Chen and Xueying Chen wrote about using a free software called Trello for project management. (Li Chen & Xueying Chen, How to Manage Library Projects with Trello, Computers in Libr., May 2017, at 19.) Project management software can be incredibly helpful for technical services departments - we are so workflow-dependent and we often manage large projects with several moving parts and lots of detail to track. At Boston University, we use the University-licensed SharePoint program to manage our projects, but recognize that there are lots of great options out there. It looks like Trello has the advantage of more visual tools, but SharePoint integrates with other Microsoft products we are already using; each library needs to consider what is important to them when evaluating these programs. Moving to project management software has helped us with projects like getting an institutional repository off the ground and managing our subscription agent renewal reviews. Does anyone have project management software they love? What makes it so great? I'm curious to hear about it in the comments.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Getting to Know TS Librarians: Dana Deseck-Piazzon



1. Introduce yourself (name & position). 
Hi! I am Dana Deseck-Piazzon, Librarian at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia.

2. Does your job title actually describe what you do? Why/why not?
Yes, as the solo librarian I have my hands in a little bit of everything from original cataloging, managing electronic subscriptions, and managing undergraduate interns in our library transformation project. This next year I will commence a metadata audit of our digital library called the eCollection , which requires knowledge of metadata schemes and an investment in metadata! As an employee in Knowledge and Information Services (KIS), I just completed my three – week residential phase of the Institute for Court Management Fellows Program. Next year after I complete my court project, which is the metadata audit I will graduate at the U.S. Supreme Court.

3. What are you reading right now?
I also usually read two books simultaneously. For my new project at work (metadata audit), I am reading Metadata in Practice and (soon I will read Information Resource Description: Creating and Managing Metadata.). For pleasure, I am reading Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun. Her books continue to amaze and entertain me!

4. If you could work in any library (either a type of library or a specific one), what would it be? Why?
I would like to work at the Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Library for a month! It’s called the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library and it’s closely associated with the McCraw Foundation for Asian Art. I just love visiting the SAM, and I’ve also toured the library when I attended the University of Washington. I would really love to become more familiar with their collections and celebrate the Puget Sound region’s gems, especially the Porcelain Room that contains “vast quantities of translucent, elegantly decorated white-bodied porcelain from China and Japan”.  To be immersed in art, art history, and assisting art enthusiasts would be intriguing! The SAM’s collections encompass European, Asian, and Native American art. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lean Library Browser Extension



A colleague recently called my attention to a new library discovery product, the Lean Library browser extension. While a library who wishes to make this browser extension available to users must pay to get in configured to work with their electronic resources, library users who install the extension will get seamless access to the electronic resources licensed by their libraries, without requiring them to go to a library’s web site first. According to the Lean Library web site:


“It makes library services available right in the users workflow – where and when they are needed. One of those services is off campus access: the Lean Library browser extension simplifies the process of getting access to the e-resources that the library subscribes to. The browser extension works autonomously. Installing it requires a 'once only' installation process of two mouse clicks. The extension functions without the user having to subscribe, or register for an account. When used to simplify the process of getting access to licensed e-resources, it does not somehow provide 'free' access: users need to be affiliated with an academic or research institution that subscribes to those e-resources." 


The browser extension works with librarians to provide access to e-resources without making library users jump through all the usual hoops. They do not have to be in the library itself to access the resources through IP address authentication, and they do not have to remember their login information to access resources through a proxy server when they are away from the library.


In addition to its main purpose of simplifying access to licensed e-resources, there are some other features of Lean Library. It can be used to provide analytics about e-resource use. Also, if a user is trying to access an article that is not licensed through their library, Lean Library can re-direct them to an open access version, if it exists.


 More information about Lean Library can be found in this blog post on Musings About Librarianship.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

LexisNexis acquires case analytics firm Ravel Law

Data is the name of the game! And now Ravel, a legal research and litigation firm, has proved data is very profitable. LexisNexis has acquired the firm and plans to use its technology to enhance Lexis services. Ravel uses machine-learning techniques to analyze litigation records and predict the behavior of judges, firms, and courts. Ravel is also working to complete a project with Harvard University to digitize all case law in the school's library. Ravel Law chief executive Daniel Lewis says Lexis will support the effort in providing public access and expanding materials with APIs. 

This acquisition shows the further utility and adoption of artificial intelligence in analytics tools created for legal research. Find the entire article at http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/lexisnexis_acquires_ravel_law

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

OCLC Works with Wikipedia to Link Citations to WorldCat

Sources are integral to verifying facts in articles, and OCLC has been working with Wikimedia’s Wikipedia Library to improve linking of citations to library materials in WorldCat. OCLC’s WorldCat Search API has been integrated into Wikimedia’s cite tool, an interface that “helps editors automatically generate and add citations that link back to resources represented in WorldCat.”

You can get more details in OCLC’s press release at http://www.oclc.org/en/news/releases/2017/201713dublin.html.

Monday, June 5, 2017

ALLStAR

We live in an increasingly data-driven world, and if you're anything like me you find playing with data and statistics fun, interesting, rewarding, and sometimes confusing and frustrating. It can also be time consuming - my colleagues and I spent more hours than I'd like to think about completing all the surveys to our reporting agencies this year. When there's a tool available to make all of this easier and less time-consuming, I'm immediately interested in learning more.

ALLStAR, the new tool created in partnership with NELLCO and Yale, is certainly fun to play with, and while it does have a learning curve, once you've spent a little time with it it can make your life easier.  It's preloaded with the last several years of survey data from the ABA, USNews, IPEDS, and other agencies, which gives us a jumping-off point for using the data. We've started to use it to benchmark things like collections spending, staffing levels, volumes and databases added, and records added to the catalog, but the possibilities don't stop there. If you're interested, I'd recommend checking out the link above, and attending the deep dive at the AALL Annual Meeting this year for a great hands-on workshop (we saw a version of it at NELLCO this year).

We've mostly been using it for these benchmarking tools from data preloaded from the major surveys; however, we're also going to start to use it to help us complete those surveys by setting up accounts for all of our staff to complete the ALLStAR Employee Questionnaire. ALLStAR talks to LibAnswers, which we use to track our reference statistics (and statistics from a variety of other library projects, like faculty requests and institutional repository work). After LibAnswers puts its data into the system, it should not be more onerous for staff to complete the Employee Questionnaire than it is for them to email the responses we need to complete the survey data. We are really hoping this cuts down on managerial time completing these surveys.

Finally, if enough schools begin to use ALLStAR, we could use it to define our own benchmarking and statistics that we want to keep. The information we send to various agencies (volume count, anyone?) is not necessarily useful for us. If we have the discretion to create our own tool from ALLStAR, we could begin to keep statistics that are truly meaningful - for internal tracking purposes, for reporting to stakeholders, and for benchmarking among ourselves.

ALLStAR has real possibilities to help us use statistics and data to our advantage. It will be even better if we use it as a community, especially if we decide to use it to track our own metrics as a group. I'd like to encourage everyone to take a look at it and see if we can really use this tool to make our lives easier.