Middlemash: the third Mashed Library UK event (part one)

Middlemash eventMiddlemash was the third Mashed Library UK event, following on from the event in London in 2008 and Mash Oop North held last year in Huddersfield. These events bring together those who fall on the more techie side of librarianship (whether intentionally or by accident). Structured more like an unconference with a focus on practical outcomes, the days are generally fuelled by ideas and caffeine. The official(ish) definition of Mashed Library is bringing together interested people and doing interesting stuff with libraries and technology.

Middlemash, held at Birmingham City University, began with presentations from five speakers.

Tamar Sadeh, heads up the Ex Libris open platform programme and provided the vendor perspective of opening up development to the community. Recent initiatives such as El Commons CodeShare are part of this new approach at Ex Libris.

Mark van Harmelen (Hedtek ltd/University of Manchester) demonstrated rapid design processes and various methods of planning and prototyping interactive system design. His talk covered applications such as Balsamiq in addition to traditional tools such as whiteboards. User groups are a key part of developing any new systems and users need to be involved from the very beginning. Most surprisingly was the pivotal role of Post-it notes in system design.

Edith Speller (Trinity College of Music) described the development of a new approach to keeping reading lists updated. This was an idea conceived at the previous Mashed Library event in Huddersfield, so it was good to see it brought to fruition. It also demonstrated the potential of rapid design; most of the development was completed in just a few hours.

Next up was Chris Keene’s  Discovery Layer & Next Generation Catalogues presentation. After a brief overview of the Mashed Library concept (linking it back to the infamous 10 guiding principles of Library 2.0 nirvana ) we were given a look at the implementation of AquaBrowser at the University of Sussex. The switch to a ‘nextgen catalogue’ has been fruitful but not without its own set of problems. As Chris accurately described, libraries are playing catchup with the rest of the web after years of stagnation in OPAC interface design. Other platforms such as Blacklight and VuFind are also a part of this.

The final speaker of the morning session was Paul Stainthorp, from the University of Lincoln. Like the reading list project at Trinity College of Music, Lincoln have used Yahoo Pipes to develop meaningful and useful data; in the case feeds of new books. Using the RSS provided by Refworks citation manager and Feed2JS, new subject-based feeds were created and made available both to subject librarians and academic staff.

While the morning session was a bit more conference than unconference, it provided an overview of existing projects (some of which started as ideas at previous Mashed Library events) .This was a great way to get everyone inspired for the afternoon workshop sessions covering JUICE, Yahoo Pipes and Mapping the library.

These will be covered in Part two.

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