Monday, June 26, 2006

Open Source for the Reference Librarian

Bright & early Sunday morning, I had the privilege of going to Open Source for the Reference Librarian: ALA 2006 in New Orleans. The program was sponsored by the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA).

The program featured six different open source solutions. These solutions are the following:

iVia, an open source system for building Web-based virtual libraries and subject portals
LibX Firefox extension, an add-on to the Firefox browser that provides direct access to your library's resources
Jabber IM, instant messaging (IM) programs which allow the user to communicate with many other different IM programs (e.g. AIM, etc.)
Gaim, like Jabber + a commercial free interface to see other users
MediaWiki, open source software that allows for a user-editable forums (the same software that powers Wikipedia)
JabRef, citation management software

The program overall was very informative. If you go to the program’s link above, you can read the pros and cons of each of the six open source solutions. If you look at the Q&A section, I was the one who asked about whether or not iVia will harvest Dublin Core (DC) metadata. (Answer from the panelist = probably). After poking around a bit in iVia’s documentation, I did not find any information on whether or not iVia’s metadata harvesting program could recognize DC in HTML. I did find out that batch importing of metadata under the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is possible. OAI-PMH is expressed in XML, and the DC schema may be used in conjunction with the protocol. So, in a roundabout way, iVia can harvest DC metadata.

A sexier topic is the LibX Firefox extension. How cool is that--bringing your library to your browser! Instead of libraries waiting & hoping their users will search their Web OPAC first, initiatives like this one and Open WorldCat are meeting users where they find information. What a novel idea! User-centric strategies! Anyway, the LibX Firefox extension has some of the coolest features ever—seriously. My absolute favorite was an example given in the presentation. OK, say you’re at’s website, and you’re browsing a selection of books. The LibX extension will place your institution’s icon next the book’s title. The icon is hyperlinked back to your catalog through the OpenURL protocol—meaning that if you click on the icon & your institution has the book**BAM!**your patron now loves you. Go to the LibX website & click on Screenshots for visual examples.

Other websites of interest for open source include the following:

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