What is a Systems Librarian? (answered in 2010)

What I do is essentially speak two languages. I talk to librarians and act as a librarian, and I talk to IT folks and act as a project manager for IT projects that have to do with the library.

Right now here are what some of my duties are.

  • I administer an Integrated Library system on a Sun server and liaise with our vendor for routine maintainance and updates. (Virtua )
  • I administer a campus proxy server for off campus access to our licensed content (EZproxy)
  • I work with multiple vendors who host a knowledge base (LibAnswers), a wiki-like set of guides to library research (LibGuides), a search interface for our catalog (Aquabrowser), a link resolver (360 Link) (hard to explain, but I can show examples if you’re interested), and a unified searchable index of all of our journals (Summon).
  • I keep records of what electronic journals we have from our various subscriptions using a semi-automated tool (360 Core)
  • I’m also the Reference Librarian for students in IT who need help doing research
  • I blog for the library, make instructional videos, have a semi-official twitter account and participate in committees in the College. I write a lot of the content for the knowledge base and the guides.
  • I do a lot of experimenting with new services, then develop procedures for use in the library.

I’m not an IT guy, but I do speak geek, and I operate from a different viewpoint.

Originally Answered on Quora

With downloadable books will Libraries evolve or die?

So, I’m a librarian and I have a vested interest…

But, libraries will evolve. I don’t consider myself a ‘Librarian’, I’m an information professional specializing in knowledge management. Libraries will evolve in a couple of ways.

1. Libraries will likely manage large content licences for a geographic area. Information professionals will maintain the infrastructure used to find, authenticate and manage the storage of e-texts.

2. Libraries will remain as a common space in partnership with other community organizations. We have very few ‘commons’ in our modern world, public libraries are one example of this. A lot of libraries work with aid agencies, immigrant advocacy groups, the police, arts societies, disabled advocates, seniors groups and youth groups in the community. The library provides the common space and multiple entities use it.

3. Librarians are already losing the title of Librarians. Some of us are moving into knowledge management, others into data management, others into business libraries or ‘knowledge centers’ as some like to call them.

The profession is changing but the skills in filtering, judging, collecting and managing information are more important now than they were for paper books.

Originally answered on Quora

Answer to “Which indexes and databases are covered by Google Scholar?”

Enough that it’s almost more useful than vendor search solutions, but also so much that it’s hard to find what you need.

I have only a small collection of ejournals that I administer, but I rarely run into something that I can’t find with Google Scholar. We have our link resolver plugged in to Google Scholar and the combination of the two is pretty good. Not perfect, but good.

What I have noticed, and what makes me very happy with Google Scholar is that they have begun to index Open Access Repositories at universities with an open access policy. This is where Google Scholar becomes more useful than my federated search or link resolver because even if my library does not have access to a journal I can still find the article.

So, with the right training Google Scholar is an excellent tool in a researchers toolkit. It’s not the best for undergrads to learn on, but it’s good for the pros.

Originally answered on Quora

Answer to “How do libraries plan on collecting and archiving the amount of culturally relevant and useful information that exists on the Internet in a way that isn’t dependent on networked redundancies and the existence (and often conflicting interests) of large companies?”

There are a number of different ways that librarians are contributing to archiving the internet.

First, there’s the Internet Archive, which has the support of many major libraries in the United States and around the world.

There is the World Digital Library, Hathi Trust and several other regional and international archiving solutions for existing and new documents.

The National Archives acquiring the Twitter database is one example of culturally relevant and (somewhat) useful information being preserved.

For scholarly publications, there are the LOCKSS and CLOCKSS program run by Stanford university

Archivists and librarians came up with the PDF/A standard which allows for long term archiving of PDF documents.

Many of the standards are just now being set by archives in the US, LAC/BAC in Canada and by European librarians and archivists.

Originally answered on Quora

SSHFS for fileshareing between Linux machines

It’s rare that I find a piece of software so good that it deserves an unconditional recommendation. I recently had a situation where I needed to share a folder across a local network between two Linux machines. My go-to software for this is usually Samba, a linux implementation of Windows File Sharing. However, with a new version of Xubuntu on a very, very old laptop I’m using for a media server, I couldn’t get the usual tricks with Samaba I usually use to work.

I stripped Samba off the media server and tried out SSHFS, a network file share based on SSH. Since SSH is built into all the distributions of Linux I use, setting it up was trivial and now I can easily stream content from the media server to the TV computer.



Dashboards, API’s and YQL

I’ve been working on some ideas for dashboards using API’s and Yahoo Query Language and I have a proof of concept below of the kind of thing you can do with an API and a little ingenuity.



This is an example pulling from one YQL query for the first 3 headlines from Google News, and the API for the tool I use for monitoring my library websites.

The  app this is built on is Minimalistic Text,  one of my favorite apps for creating custom information displays on Android devices.

The app used to program and parse the YQL  and the API XML is Tasker

I am pulling the News content from YQL using this query

select title from rss where url="https://news.google.com/news/feeds?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&output=rss"

That gives me this XML response

I’m using UptimeRobot and it’s API for monitoring all my critical patron-facing systems

One Tasker profile checks the two XML files every 1/2 hour and splits the content into a set of variables. Those variables are passed on to Minimalistic Text and displayed in this widget on my Android homescreen.

When a connection failure is detected by UptimeRobot,  the ‘Catalog Up’ section highlights in red.

I’ll expand on how this is accomplished in Tasker later.



Excluding internal IP’s from EZproxy Authentication

I’ve noticed that this is somewhat unclear in the EZproxy documentation

ExcludeIP is a very cool function available in configuring your config.txt exproxy file that allows you to automatically bounce internal users to the database without going through EZproxy authentication.

If your local IT department has a specific range, use theirs. But if they are unresponsive when you ask about the internal range of IP addresses, the international standards are a good place to start

These three sets of ExcludeIP directives should cover all of your internal users.


ExcludeIP directives got at the end of your config.txt file.


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