code4lib North recap

Attending code4lib North last week was a lot of fun. It was terrific to see all the wonderful projects folks were working on in Ontario. I had some great conversations about web services for names and authority data, learned about new web services to play with from Canadiana and Scholar's Portal, and learn a little about R.

The two talks that stuck with me with most were

Dan Chudnov's thought provoking talk on where in the library Linked Data infrastructure that we're trying to build is there a place for conversation, interaction and consultation.

Chris Charles introduction to Google Refine

Both of these have real applicability to things I'm working one right now.

My own talk about the Zend Framework and how it can make using web services easier went surprisely well. Much of that had to do with my hackfest success but it also had to do with the fact that I shared my experience building stuff using Zend, OCLC web services and other web services. If you want to check out my slides they are available on this site and my hackfest code is up in the Developer Network Subversion repository.

As with any code4lib event, code4lib North was as much about community as it was about code. Yes, there were great technology things to learn about, but the real value was the sharing of knowledge between people. Several people I met weren't at all aware of the great web services which OCLC has to offer libraries. It was nice to be able to introduce VIAF and WorldCat Identities to a new group of people. My favorite conversation/question was "what do you think the best OCLC API is". Since I couldn't possibly name one I said I'd answer that question three ways

  • The most technically innovative and interesting web service
    For me VIAF is definitely the winner here. It has issues of sheer scale: bringing together data from authority files from Y different national libraries worldwide. It has Linked Data coolness. Being able to see library linked data in action is really interesting and gratifying. Plus the technology to do a truly RESTful resources oriented service just makes me drool. Its got content negotiation, cool URI, SRU search goodness, multiple output formats. Plus a community of users who are very engaged in the process of making it better. Watching it evolve keeps me on my toes.
  • The most well used web service with the broadest impact
    This has to be WorldCat Search API. When I first learned about and started using this service, I never would have dreamed of all the different interesting ways that people are incorporating it into their applications. Whether using it to find similar items, link to local library holdings in a mobile application, searching a library's collection via a next generation discovery tool, or helping with selection decision making this is service is incredibly powerful and versatile.
  • The best web service people aren't using/aware of
    It sometimes makes me really sad how few people are aware of the WorldCat Registry. Having a database of libraries and information about them is a tremendously powerful resource. Unfortunately, whether it is lack of awareness or foresight, this web service doesn't get the love it should. It is a personal favorite because I like to mine data about libraries out of it. I've used it to create a "build a library catalog search box" form, build Clorpleth maps of numbers of libraries in the U.S., and prepopulate a contact form. For LibX and Zotero it is invaluable to providing data about library catalogs and OpenURL resolvers. I keep hoping that one day the Registry might grow to be the data source for all systems that needs this type of information, saving libraries time from rekeying IP addresses, OpenURL resolver info, and catalog urls.

I hope that the folks I talked to about the services will get in touch with me if they have questions.

  • Karen Coombs

    Karen Coombs

    Senior Product Analyst