JISC Federated Access Management Conference

I recently attended a useful JISC conference entitled Federating the next generation which looked at access management using tools such as Shibboleth and Open Athens to authenticate logins to publisher resources. There was also strong representation from Eduserv Athens – for example their new release of OpenAthens LA 2.0 includes not only a Shibboleth install package but also a single-sign on to Google Apps for each institution domain – free to existing subscribers!

Some librarians reported workflow issues when they switched from Athens to Shibboleth (it seemed for one institution that their IT department had simply installed it on a server and left the library to do all the testing of links!). Other libraries reported a smooth switch over and that they were continuing to use Athens to support non-standard users so adopting a hybrid approach.

Many publishers could not agree on standard login, and some were still not ready; a common solution for libraries was EZProxy which allow off-campus access to products that did not offer either Athens or Shibboleth access.

Successful approaches to identity management were obviously relevant here :  ‘Unless institutions have a much better grasp of who its external users are, its almost impossible for the library to sort out‘  – was one key quote for me. Apparently a Shibboleth server install can be done in 12 mins –according to one speaker – so its not just about how to set it up but how to use it eg who is logging on, what format/syntax of ID they are using, and where they are logging on from: these are the things that will impact the student experience the most, especially as commercial and educational applications of federated identity may converge more in the future. 

JISC have put all the presentations up at http://sites.google.com/site/jiscfam/ and these will be added to the main conference site too in due course.


Visit to Huddersfield Library

I had an interesting time at Huddersfield library yesterday, we had a packed programme hearing about their experience in customer service excellence, enquires, staff development, reading lists, marketing, the library catalogue and much more.

We also had a tour of the recently refurbished library which I felt was a very welcoming, light & colourful space with great features, such as shelf ends with pictures of student work to really help define that area of the library floor.


One of the highlights of the day was hearing Dave Patten talk about his work on the library catalogue, where he has been able to tweak, add & remove features. He has introduced some great customer focused enhancements such as

  • spell checker
  • serendipity search
  • RSS feeds for keyword search
  • borrowing suggestions
  • Email alerts for search terms
  • tag cloud of search terms

This constant tweaking and trying out new things on the catalogue is really refreshing to hear about and I think chimes with the type of implementation of  Prism that Talis propose.

A big thank you to the staff at the library for such a warm welcome and useful day, it provided me with lots of food for thought and things to be envious about.


RFID Conference

I attended the CILP RFID in Libraries conference on Tuesday in London, where I got the opportunity to hear some interesting talks and chat to the suppliers.

One of the key issues was the welcome announcement of the adoption of the new standard ISO 28560 which will hopefully pave the way for some  interesting innovations and exploitation of the technology, including the possiblity of using technology/equipement from different suppliers to provide the perfect solution. While excited by the possiblities I am also aware that there is still plenty of work to go in this area before the benefits are appreciated including personally more thinking about what services and development the library would like to achieve with RFID.

One of the highlights of the day was a case study by Sarah Pumfrey, Team Leader (Systems) at Liverpool John Moores University. Sarah talked about the drivers behind implementing self service, the process and lessons learned, it was  a really useful personal perspective which I could relate to.  It also made me realise how beneficial opportunites for libraries to work together in resolving many common issues could be, so will be signing up the the LIB-RFID-UK mailing list.

I attended Track 2 in the afternoon aimed at those libraries which have already implemented RFID and was looking to the future, I particulary enjoyed the talks where there was an element of future gazing  such as library robots to do stock checks, location awareness tags etc. There were some inspirational ideas which helped highlight the potenial of RFID but it also reminded me that I am keen to see it deliver the functionality that is available currently today.

It was an enjoyable day and I was really pleased to meet some twitter folk. I unfortunately didn’t get to meet Mick Fortune but highly recomend his blog for all things RFID in libraries.

Resource discovery: demonstration by Innovative Interfaces

harvest 2 The 4th of the demos we’ve organised  from resource discovery system suppliers takes place on Friday November 6th at 10:30, when Innovative Interfaces will be talking about their Encore platform, together with their federated search tool ResearchPro.

For examples of Encore sites, see University of Glasgow library’s page ; and also University of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Please come and join us for more tea, coffeee, biscuits and another peek at what resource discovery for our students might look like in the future.