Posts Tagged ‘documentation’

Risk Analysis and Success Plan

Posted on March 25th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

The long-term risks of not developing and innovating in our library services (loss of relevance for the library’s services; student, teacher and researcher dissatisfaction; the inability to further innovate because of the ‘chilling’ effect of out-of-date technology) outweigh any risks internal to the project. Through work done so far, we are confident that we have sufficient skills and experience among team members to undertake each of the deliverables. The project has support from the most senior level of university management.

Our main concern is around the licensing of our data, some of which is supplied by third-parties.1  We will ensure that mechanisms are put in place during the development of our APIs, that ensure we conform to any licensing agreements and have a sufficient body of data that we own to make the project worthwhile. IPR issues are further addressed below.

As always, there is a minor risk that team members may be absent during the project due to illness, but this will be mitigated by close collaboration on work packages and sharing of responsibilities.

We have worked on Jerome, experimentally, for the last four months and have resolved many of the initial questions that might arise in a project like this. From the point of view of our ICT systems, many of the technological and related cultural changes (i.e. the use of No-SQL rather than relational databases) are being worked through and positively demonstrated in our work on Total ReCal.

We hope to achieve a number of objectives through the deliverables of this project. If we find we have been over ambitious, we will prioritise the release of bibliographic data and the development of sustainable, supported APIs. The public-facing search portal and personalisation engine can be completed post-project, based on the achievements of our other deliverables.

In line with the RDTF report, the Jerome project has recognised that “change is vital if library catalogues are to retain relevance and visibility in the wider networked discovery environment.” Similarly, we also understand there is a business case for making our library services data available in open and standardised ways and will derive a number of indicative use-cases from those provided in the Open Bibliographic Data Guide to inform our business case. 

The proposed project receives the full support of the University Librarian, and concords with the Library’s strategic aim to develop innovative and student-centred services, responsible to new ways of thinking and doing, and which support the Student as Producer agenda.

The proposal is born out of lessons learned from the Learning Landscape project, Total ReCal, JISCPress and our investigative work on Jerome so far. We are committed to developing and improving our virtual research, teaching and learning environment and see our work on Jerome as fundamental and integral to this commitment.

We will engage in a number of ways to communicate with stakeholders throughout the project (blog, Twitter, conferences, case studies) so as to ensure that our work is widely known, understood and supported.

We will demonstrate the value of innovation around library data to all stakeholders, in terms of how they express our virtual Learning Landscape, improve the effectiveness of communication across the university and contribute to a more efficient use (and re-use) of data.

The University of Lincoln can demonstrate that past JISC-funded projects have led to sustained services that continue to benefit our staff, students and the wider community.

  1. Including MARC records sourcd from national libraries via Z39.50 services (though not directly from OCLC); e-book MARC records from commercial vendors; journal TOCs via RSS. []

Projected Timeline, Workplan & Overall Project Methodology

Posted on March 25th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

Timeline of work packages within the Jerome project:








1. Project Initiation


2. Assess third-party licensing and IP restrictions.



3. Assess sources of data and limitations thereof



4. Community engagement







5. Evaluation of existing standards for data exchange
6. Investigation and development of personalisation algorithms


7. Investigation and development of third-party APIs and Linked Data services


8. Development of formal API methods


9. Documentation and use-cases







10. Dissemination







11. Evaluation and Project Closure


We are aware that JISC is explicit about the methodology employed in this programme area and are pleased to find that it accords with the methodology that we have already begun on Jerome. We can confirm that in our work so far

  • The set of assigned URIs has been made available in a machine-processable form (e.g. XML or JSON), indicating relationships between things of interest.
  • Every URI resolves to a machine-processable resource containing metadata about the thing of interest.

During the course of the project, we will ensure that our current practice accords with best practice and guidance elsewhere. 

We also have some experience of working with Linked Data following the JISCPress project, which prototyped the production of Linked Data from a multi-site WordPress installation and posted it to the Talis Platform. We maintain an interest in Linked Data and will endeavour to provide our data in this way if project time allows.1 In particular, we will approach the W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group and the Talis Linked Data events (which Jerome project members have attended in the past) , to ensure they are aware of the possibilities for using Jerome APIs to generate and manipulate bibliographic LD.

We understand that the primary objective of the programme is to release open bibliographic metadata and we wish to pursue ‘low-hanging fruit’ during the course of the proposed project so as to provide the greatest value for money to JISC and the University of Lincoln.

  1. We will provide either four star or five start open data: []

Project Team Relationships and End User Engagement

Posted on March 25th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

The project team:

Paul Stainthorp (Electronic Resources Librarian): Paul manages all of the University’s electronic library resources and systems, including the Lincoln open-access repository (EPrints) , e-journals knowledgebase, and resource discovery tools. He is a regular contributor to the ‘Mashed Library’ series of events, and managed Lincoln’s successful contribution to the JISC-funded MOSAIC project (with the University of Huddersfield) in 2009 .

  • Here, Paul will act as project manager; scheduling and monitoring all development work and deliverables, conducting project meetings, documenting processes and project events, and communicating the project (internally) to the Library and University of Lincoln, and (externally) to the HE library, ICT and information sector through blog posts, magazine/journal articles, and dissemination events

Alex Bilbie (Developer): Alex works in the ICT Online Services Team and currently works on Jerome and the Total ReCal project. Previously, he worked on the JISCPress project and developed WordPress plugins for OpenCalais and the Talis Platform.

  • Alex will work as one of the two main technical developers on Jerome, and will work closely with Paul on all deliverables.

Nick Jackson (Developer): Nick also works in the ICT Online Services Team and currently works on the Total ReCal and Jerome projects. Together with Alex, Nick runs the Online Services Team’s Labs environment. Nick has recently graduated from the university with a degree in Computing and, like Alex, is valued for his fresh and student-centred perspective on the University’s online services.

  • Nick will work as one of the two main technical developers on Jerome, and will work closely with Paul on all deliverables.

Tim Simmonds (Online Service Manager): Tim has worked for the university for over 20 years and is in charge of all online services managed by the ICT department.

  • He will bring this experience to the project and represent ICT Services as a Stakeholder.

Joss Winn (Technology Officer): Joss works in the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD). He is currently Project Manager on Total ReCal, and was Project Manager on the JISCPress and ChemistryFM projects, as well as Project Officer on the JISC-funded LIROLEM project. CERD led the Learning Landscapes project.

  • Joss will work with Paul to ensure that the work of this proposed project is understood within the wider context of its benefits to research, teaching and learning.


The Jerome team members regularly present at JISC workshops, conferences and Mashed Library events and we look forward to discussing our experience on this project and other related work we have done. As with previous JISC-funded projects, we will make heavy use of the project blog and Twitter to post ongoing reflections, solicit feedback and disseminate the project deliverables.

Specifically, we intend to present the Jerome project at the next EMALINK event (June 2011) and at Mashed Library (Lincoln 8/3/2011 and future events). We will also write an article for SCONUL Focus, and explore the possibilities for additional journal articles.

Our case studies will provide an opportunity to discuss Jerome with both technical and non-technical stakeholders, internal and external to the University, so as to understand the context of our work and its relevance to them.

The prototype will also allow users both inside and outside the University to test our work and offer feedback via the project blog. As with other recent services, we actively encourage re-use of our data.

Wider Benefits to Sector & Achievements for Host Institution

Posted on March 25th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

This post outlines the benefits of Jerome to the HE sector (as well as  within the University of Lincoln itself).

Benefits to the HE sector

The project documentation, case studies, supported API and sustained release of open bibliographic metadata will all contribute to the vision of this programme area, being “flexible, efficient and effective ways to support resource discovery and access to resources for research and learning.”

Specific benefits:

  1. Libraries will have access to a number of open, re-usable bibliographic datasets not otherwise available (MARC records) or not otherwise available in this aggregated, queryable format (MARC records, Repository data, e-journal contents)
  2. The Jerome demonstration portal and public APIs, and documentation/case studies, will provide an open model for building innovative next-generation resource discovery tools using freely-available, Open-Source tools (MongoDB, Sphinx) – one that has not otherwise been explored in HE.
  3. The APIs (and the data available via them) will be available for re-use as a “developers’ toolkit” at library data mashup events, and more generally by developers; a valuable way of exploring potential future uses for library data.
  4. We expect the ‘radical personalisation’ offered by Jerome to be of value for libraries and HE institutions exploring the notion of offering personalised, “boutique” library services1 to students and researchers.

Benefits to the University of Lincoln

Students and academic staff

We have situated this project within the wider context of the Learning Landscape at Lincoln, and within the Library’s strategic aims to develop user-centred learning services and spaces (physical & virtual). Furthermore, by strategically employing recent ex-students (Alex and Nick), we are able to bring a student-centric perspective to the project, which aims to meet student expectations of our online services and improve the overall student experience. We are aware of JISC’s research and recommendations in this area, in particular around the impact of Web 2.0.2 When implemented, students and staff can expect to enjoy an integrated, personalised online library service with an improved design and which benefits from integration with third-party services and data.3

Technical staff

We regard Jerome, like TotalReCal and other JISC-funded projects as an opportunity to formalise our ‘labs’ work and introduce changes into the culture of our ICT systems. Clearly there is prestige in being awarded external funding for a project and it enables us to have a greater (or quicker) impact than might otherwise have been possible if Jerome remained as an ‘un-project’. Such work is an opportunity for us to learn, develop, test and implement our ideas as well as transfer that knowledge to other colleagues.

The University of Lincoln as a whole

The outcomes of the Jerome project will underwrite a Business Case for continued experimentation with and improvement of our Library Services, in effect being a welcome driver of institutional change supported by the the University Librarian. As mentioned above, this project will help the university meet student expectations and improve the student experience through the aggregation of data into a personalised online environment that connects with and feeds into third-party services.

Stakeholder Interest / Stake Importance
Students/staff Improvements to virtual research, teaching and learning space. More efficient and effective library services. Improved student experience and more integrated research environment. High
University of Lincoln Improved systems integration; improved ‘Learning Landscape’, improved (re)use of data, improved student experience, driver of change. High
Other HEIs Case studies, open data, documentation, sharing best practice. Medium
Other developers Open data, supported and attractive APIs, documentation and case studies. High
JISC Value for money, programme and project outcomes are realised. High

  1. []
  2. e.g. Great Expectations, Student experiences of technology and e-learning,
    Edgeless UniversityManaging student’s expectations of university. []
  3. For example: Google Books, Amazon, LibraryThing, reference management software. Similarly, we hope that students and staff will benefit from integration of University of Lincoln data with third-party services. []

Aims, Objectives and Final Output(s) of the project

Posted on March 25th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

Jerome began in the summer of 2010, as an informal ‘un-project’, with the aim of radically integrating data available to the University of Lincoln’s library services and offering a uniquely personalised service to staff and students through the use of new APIs, open data and machine learning. Jerome addresses many of the challenges highlighted in the Resource Discovery Taskforce report , including the need to develop scale at the data and user levels, the use of third-party data and services and a better understanding of ‘user journeys’.

Here, we propose to formalise Jerome as a project, consolidating the lessons we have learned over the last few months by developing a sustainable, institutional service for open bibliographic metadata, complemented with well documented APIs and an ‘intelligent’, personalised interface for library users.

The approximate size of the proposed metadata collection will be the entirety of our ~250,000 bibliographic record library catalogue,With the possibility of different levels of machine access/permitted re-use, to allow for records in which a third party has copyright.  along with constantly expanding data about our ~60,000 available e-journals and their contents augmented by the Journal TOCs  API, and ~3,000 additional records from our EPrints repository. All records will be available through a dedicated browser-based search interface, and (via APIs) as JSON, XML, and in reference management formats (.ris). We will expose underlying Linked Data where possible and appropriate.

Jerome will particularly focus on the ways in which our own data can interact (through our own and third-party APIs) with external datasets: for instance, using ISSN data derived from Lincoln’s catalogue and e-journals knowledgebase software, to create scalable e-journal search and discovery services using the JournalTOCs APIs (and building on the work of the WattJournals project at Heriot-Watt University).

Specifically, we will deliver:

  1. Openly licensed, bibliographic data, including books, repository records, e-journal table of contents
  2. Attractive, documented, supported APIs for all data, with timeline of data refresh cycles
  3. A sustainable public-facing search portal service, integrating third-party data via appropriate external bibliographic APIs
  4. A semantic sitemap of aggregated data
  5. Analytics on data use
  6. Documented technical user case studies (i.e. a ‘cookbook’)
  7. Documented ‘user journeys’ case studies
  8. Documented use of infrastructure: MongoDB for Marc data store, Sphinx horizontal scaling search
  9. Documented machine learning/personalisation engine
  10. Contributions to community events, workshops, training as and when requested.

Some background…

The University of Lincoln recently led the HEFCE-funded Learning Landscapes project which looked closely at the design and use of space for research, teaching and learning across several universities, including our own. An outcome of that project was the design of a tool to help investigate the three fundamental qualities of good spatial design. These are efficiency, effectiveness and expression. The project clearly recognised the role of technology in creating an ‘edgeless university’ the use of the web as integral to the Learning Landscape of the university and beyond. Just as the physical space can benefit from a re-evaluation of its efficiency, effectiveness and expression, so can the virtual space and in doing so, the openness, flexibility and contribution of our online information services should be valued in a similar way to our physical assets.

In assessing our own Learning Landscape, we recognise that experimentation and innovation in our library services are essential to remaining relevant and useful to our researchers, teachers and learners.

The Jerome un-project began in June 2010 using a modest amount of otherwise unallocated ‘windfall’ funding, building on what we had learned about our own data infrastructure through Lincoln’s successful contribution to the JISC-funded MOSAIC project with the University of Huddersfield.  Jerome has been an informal collaboration between Library and ICT staff with a ‘just do it’ approach. We wanted to surprise each other with what could be achieved by a few people dedicated to reimagining library services. Since June, we have converted MARC records from our SirsiDynix catalogue into JSON representations stored in MongoDB,1  creating a meta-catalogue which we can query at remarkably fast speeds, as well as perform fast full-text searches using a Sphinx search server.2

Because of the simplicity of storing JSON, we have been able to develop fast APIs that avoid unnecessarily complex queries. However, even complex queries performed through the API are being returned in a matter of tens of milliseconds. Sphinx scales horizontally by creating resilient distributed indexes. This means that we have been able to create a non-homogeneous ‘universal search’ service including book and journal records, EPrints records (via OAI-PMH), university WordPress blog posts, and more.3 In particular, our work on the JISCPress project has furthered our thinking around the use of WordPress to provide Open and Linked Data, including that of bibliographic records.4 and to apply this attention-intelligence data to a personalisation ‘engine’ through machine learning techniques.  So far, this has involved the development of a geo-location API for location data,an OAuth API for application level authentication5  and will draw heavily from our work and experience on Total ReCal.

All of these innovations have been driven by a vision of bringing to the university’s library services, what we now know and love about the web, its open standards and technologies and our growing understanding of user behaviour. With this project proposal, we feel strongly that we can contribute to the programme’s aims of developing more “flexible, efficient and effective ways to support resource discovery and access to resources for research and learning” through the sustainable provision of open bibliographic data, the provision of supported and convenient APIs which are attractive to developers, and lay the groundwork for a relevant and personalised suite of library services for staff and students at the University of Lincoln.

  1. MongoDB, a NO-SQL database used by a number of organisations such as the New York Times, and Foursquare []
  2. Sphinx is used to power sites such as Craigslist. []
  3. A demonstration of our work on Jerome was given at the Chips and Mash event at Huddersfield []
  4. On WordPress and Open Data, see In terms of the use of WordPress for bibliographic data, we prepared a funding application to Talis, which made it through to the second round and was highly praised, but was deemed to ambitious for their fund:

    In addition to the aggregation of our own data, we have also been looking at the integration and use of third-party services such as Google Books, LibraryThing, MOSAIC, etc. Our choice of a non-relational database has also made cross-service integration much easier and we have discovered the provision to store (and deliver) a large amount of data associated with items, without the need to tailor that data to Jerome first.

    Also over the summer period, the Library tagged its entire stock of books with RFID chips. The Jerome un-project saw this as an opportunity to link physical items in our library collections with their online representations, and began mapping the physical library spaces in 3D to show how shelf locations could be visualised for library users. The provision of a more intelligent, personalised experience for users of our library services has been an interest throughout our work on Jerome and we have begun work on ways to determine where the user is, who they are and what they require, ((See also, our discussion of the ‘relevancy engine’ here: []

  5. Since writing this post, the OAuth API has been written and is now in use on selected university services. []