Mashing it up at Middlemash - Jo Alcock Consulting
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Mashing it up at Middlemash

Mashing it up at Middlemash

This post has been sitting in my drafts for a long time now but I still haven’t had chance to finish my mashing project (read on for details). However, I recently finished reading Nicole Engard’s Library Mashups book (which by the way, is excellent – thoroughly recommended) and it spurred me on to finally publish this post.


At Middlemash in December

At Middlemash in December - from Dave Pattern on Flickr

Those who follow me on Twitter will know that back in December I was official Tweeter at Middlemash, the latest Mashed Libraries event. Mashed Libraries is about “bringing together interested people and doing interesting stuff with libraries and technology“. I also attended the first event held in London in 2008, and followed the second event (Mash Oop North) virtually in summer 2009.

The events are unconferences – there are a number of short presentations in the morning, usually sharing existing mashups or introducing possible mashups or tools to extract/manipulate data. The afternoon is more practical in nature, where participants can work on their own projects, find others to work with, or attend a workshop.

Middlemash featured a great variety of topics – there were presentations from Ex Libris, the event sponsor, about their open platform programme; Mark van Harmelen about paper prototyping; Chris Keene about University of Sussex’s work with Aquabrowser; Edith Speller’s review of her group’s mashup from Mash Oop North to help lecturers create search terms from their reading lists; and Paul Stainthorp about University of Lincoln’s mashup of new books using Refworks and Yahoo Pipes.

I found Edith and Paul’s talks particularly interesting as I could see applications within my own work. After lunch (which involved meeting lots of tweeters face to face for the first time!), I attended Owen Stephen’s session on mapping the library. I thought it would be interesting to see how this project develops as I can see great potential. Unfortunately I couldn’t be much help to Owen as I don’t have the technical skills needed, so I took the opportunity to chat to others about an idea of my own which had developed from listening to Edith and Paul.

My idea

To take data from electronic reading lists, turn each list into an RSS feed, and subscribe to get alerts when new editions of any of the books on a list are published.

This could be of great assistance to me as a subject librarian; usually I manually check all the books on my reading lists to see if new editions had been published but it would be far more beneficial to be alerted and purchase them as soon as they’re published.

I discussed my idea first with Dave Pattern, and then with Paul Stainthorp, who thankfully really liked the idea. Dave explained xISBN to me, which lists all editions of related books, and Paul used this to add a feed link for each book in his new books list (see more on his blog post).

This is a really great start, but would require subscribing to a large number of feeds if you were to keep track of all the books within your subject area as a subject librarian. Unfortunately, our data for reading lists (Talis List) doesn’t make it easy to extract the ISBNs we need to create RSS feeds for each module, but thankfully a systems co-worker, Ben (who was also at Middlemash), has kindly looked into how we could do this by taking the data direct from the database.

He then quickly put together a pipe, but soon found that we hit the limit of the xISBN request limit of 500 per day, so this isn’t really feasible for our purposes. We did come up with a few alternative ideas, none of which I can now remember. 🙁

So it’s still at the idea stage and I’d love to take it further just don’t know how to do so (can you hear my desperate plea for help?!). Please let me know (in the comments or be e-mailing me) if you think there’s a way to achieve this.

Get mashing!

I really enjoyed Middlemash, and even as a non-techie there was a heck of a lot I took from the event. For anyone interested in mashing data in libraries, the previously mentioned Library Mashups book is excellent, and provides some great practical examples of current mashups and ideas for creating or adapting your own. I got quite a few ideas from the book, and have already started playing with one (Google Custom Search Engine), which I’ll be blogging about soon.

If you’re interested in mashing library data and get the opportunity to go along to a Mashed Libraries event (keep an eye on the Mashed Library Ning for announcements of further events), I’d urge you to do so, I really can’t recommend them enough.

And if anyone has any ideas about how to further my idea, please let me know in the comments. I evidently need people with much more knowledge and experience than myself to progress it!

  • Archie MacDonald
    Posted at 15:10h, 17 February Reply

    Hi Joeyanne

    Interesting post, I recently had a read through Nicole Engard’s Library Mashups book and have been meaning to follow it up with some mashup experiments but not found the time (not sure my free blog supports adding mashups). One thing I thought about the book was that it did not fully explore some of the long-term problems, for example, providing a service by creating a mashup which uses data that may not always be there.

    More and more web offerings are mashups whether we realise it or not and it is an interesting area, particularly if we can mashup library data and official data (e.g., if the Ordinance Survey (OS) actually decide to release there data it could lead to some very interesting mashups.

    Regards, Archie

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 17:17h, 18 February Reply

      Hi Archie, many thanks for your comment.

      I agree – I think we will see more and more mashups becoming the norm, but I also think we do need to consider the long term implications of this, as with using any web technologies (e.g. my library has a Facebook Page, but we fully accept that this may not be aound forever and Facebook may in future remove it or even the whole service).

  • Gill Kaye
    Posted at 10:49h, 18 February Reply

    There are some really interesting and (to me) new ideas here. Currently we are trying to decide on the best way forward for current awareness type services in our small but specialist NHS library and also the most efficient way to check for new editions/publications so I shall certainly follow up some of these items.



    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 17:18h, 18 February Reply

      Great to hear you got some new ideas here Gill 🙂

      I’ll be sure to keep the blog updated if I get any further with my idea of RSS feeds for reading lists or similar.

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