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Tech @ the Library
So, where is HMCPL headed with this new catalog upgrade to Koha? Why are we making this change?
Let’s talk a little philosophy here. No, not Aristotle, but computers. We’re taking a big leap with a major FOSS package, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain what that means, and why that’s good for you, our patrons.
FOSS. It's a short acronym, for a big concept.
Free. "As in beer." A concept where you don't have to pay for something you get.
Open. Not closed. Everyone can see what's inside. Often referred to as “Free, as in speech."
Source. The human-readable language that the programs are written in.
Software. The stuff that makes the digital world go round.
FOSS. That's what Koha is. It's free for anyone to use. Free to look at and inspect. Free to update and fix. There's nothing hidden or proprietary to this software. If a developer in Tuvalu has a good idea, it can make it in. If a librarian in Marseille fixes a bug, everyone gets the fix. When new features come out, we don’t have to pay for them, just decide on if they’re appropriate for our patrons and how we can best take advantage of them.
Everything about Koha is based on its FOSS heritage. And HMCPL is proud to be the first public library in the state of Alabama to use this technology.
Reports are written in the industry standard SQL (Structured Query Language) used by every open database system in the world (and, as a matter of fact, many proprietary ones). The Koha Community has a huge repository of pre-built reports that can be used out of the box, or customized to fit our specific needs. There's no need to pay for a vendor to write custom code and then wait several months just to do that special report. This allows us to be more flexible with changing needs, while being more efficient with our budget. It allows us to be more responsive and able to better serve you.
The programs in Koha are all written in Perl, an open source programming language that's been around since the late '80s, that drives millions of websites, and is included in every modern operating system by default or available as a free download. Perl is the workhorse of the industry. There are Perl programmers all over the world, and there are plenty right here in Huntsville. We’ve even got some here in HMCPL.
What's this all mean to us? More. For less. We don't pay for the software, we pay for the support service. We don’t pay for most new features. If we do dream up some wiz-bang new way of doing something, we can share the development costs with the whole community, or write it ourselves. Unlike traditionally licensed proprietary software, we don’t buy a “license” to use the software every year, we “own" this instance of the software, just like we own our data. Just like we own our servers.
FOSS. This is but one of the reasons why we’re changing out our catalog. We’ve been working on this project for close to two years now, and next week, big things will be coming to HMCPL — things that will make accessing and using our online as well as in-library resources so much better for you, dear reader!
Freegal Music is HMCPL's online music service that provides you with high quality, free-of-cost, and DRM-free, music -- songs and albums that are yours to keep forever! Now in our second year of offering this service to you, our music provider has has released a major new update to Freegal, with lots of useful new features!
During the transition period, you may experience some issues with the site loading properly; we're recommending that patrons clear their cache, make sure they've logged out and back in, and as a last resort, try again later, as the site may just be overloaded.
But, on with the new features...
The following is taken straight from the Freegal FAQ.
- A brand-new interface, search engine, and browse abilities. These changes are the by-product of your suggestions and years of research into best practices in the industry. We feel that this change alone will mark a new level in enjoyment from Freegal users.
- A more than doubling of the content. By the end of August 2013, Freegal Music will consist over 7 million songs from over 28,000 labels that originate in over 80 countries. This includes the complete catalog of Sony Music Entertainment, in your home country, on the day of release. Right now our song count exceeds 5 million songs that are live, and we are ingesting between 50,000 and 100,000 new songs a day.
- Freegal Music will be a public site, that is, and end user will be able to see the great Freegal Music content without logging in, assuming your library has not restricted access with authentication. This will enable the library to promote specific Freegal songs, and send links to the songs via social media.
- 12,000 music videos live on the site with the Freegal 4.0 launch. Library users will be able to download a DRM-free MP4 file that is theirs to keep forever. A download of a video counts as 2 of your weekly allotment. We are very excited about the music videos, some of which are musical treasures. Initially, the videos will only be available for download via the web. The videos will be available for download to the apps by September 15th.
- The following additional features are also live with Freegal 4.0:
- The ability to create a wishlist of songs that they want to download in subsequent weeks.
- The ability to backup songs downloaded into the app on their iTunes.
- The ability to delete songs from their app to save memory on their phones.
My favorite items about the above:
- The new search bar is fantastic, offering search suggestions that are categorized and neatly listed!
- Links to individual songs can be created and shared but links to whole albums or artists are even easier.
- We're also eagerly anticipating the imminent release of:
- Millions of songs that are yet to be added -- the library is growing exponentially!
- A new version of the mobile app (iOS/Android) with a much improved interface and some great new features.
- More music videos that are being added to the library.
- Streaming music -- up to 3 hours a day, every day, for free!
- Logging in to the site is enhanced, as now you can browse the site without logging in; clicking the Login button will take you to a page that will allow you to search for our library (which can be as simple as entering a relevant zip code, such as 35801), and Huntsville-Madison County Public Library will appear on the right; clicking that will take you directly to our login page!
We are expecting to see even more new features before the end of September. Stay tuned!!
Our primary database server will undergo planned maintenance this Sunday, May 19, starting at 6 p.m. Central Time. Maintenance is scheduled to be completed by 6 a.m. the following morning.
During the period, you will still be able to browse our online catalog, but you will not be able to login to your account, place holds, view lists, renew items, or other tasks associated with your account.
Our current plan is to have all major in-library services available to patrons by public opening on Monday morning. There is the possibility that some lower-priority services may be temporarily unavailable until shortly after opening, though we will attempt to have work-arounds in place as necessary.
Thank you for your patience while we continue to enhance our services for you!
Our catalog server, located at hmcpl.org/catalog, will be taken offline for scheduled maintenance starting Tuesday, April 24, at 11:00 a.m. CDT. This maintenance window should last 30 minutes, and is required to repair software issues that have been causing unplanned outages with that particular service.
This outage will affect all book and media searches for material that is within the libraries, regardless of where you search from (home, a branch, a library, etc). It will not affect access to other online resources. However, if you have the BookMyne app on your iOS or Android device, you will still be able to search our catalog, place holds, or manage your renewals, even during the server outage.
Please plan accordingly, and thanks for your understanding and patience as we improve our service to you!
While we were busy waiting for the snow to melt, we kept pushing forward with other changes to our new catalog. As some of you may have noticed, we did a software update last week; some of the changes that came with the update included a Facebook "Like" button and fixes to several bugs that prevented patrons from emailing links or effectively using RSS feeds. Those were the easy changes.
Today, our catalog's integrated social services list looks like this:
- reddit (for search results)
- digg (for search results)
- Twitter (for individual items)
- Facebook (for individual items)
And finally, you'll find that you can now view content from NoveList when looking at an item's detail view. This feature was available in our old "iBistro" catalog, but until this latest update, has been unavailable in our new catalog. We've now got this functionality back, so you can see Series Information, Similar Titles, and Similar Authors to help you more easily find your next good read!
We hope you enjoy our catalog's new features!