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For the app to work well it needs to reference reliable sources of bibliographic data. Already in progress is some code that is capable of pulling bibliographic data from the University’s library system Aleph via the XService API. But more are needed.

The question we need to answer is which sources to concentrate our efforts on in terms of 3rd party services to lookup ISBN numbers.

Initial feedback from members of the team and other developers in the University are as follows:

——————-
“I would rank Amazon below COPAC and British Library for bibliographic record accuracy as it is primarily for buying books which are in print, and the older out of print records are often sketchy ‘marketplace’ records.”
——————-
“Some 3rd party options.”

<http://www.freebase.com/view/book>
<http://www4.wiwiss.fu-berlin.de/bizer/bookmashup/>
——————-

“I used COPAC and Amazon. However you ought to be able to use the British Library national bibliographic records now they’re open.”

These initial recommendations have given us a good starting point. We’ll discuss, test and feedback on findings in a later post.

By virtue of a discussion taking place on the  LIS-MMIT JISCMAIL list I recently found the M-Library Project (http://mlib.blog.com/) which (to paraphrase) is a collaborative project between the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI) and Edinburgh Napier University.  Funded by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) it examines user attitudes towards the creation of mobile support services in UK academic libraries, and looks at technologies currently in use in UK academic libraries.

They’ve recently published a report of their findings (http://mlib.blog.com/files/2011/09/The-M-Library-Project-UK-Academic-Libraries-Going-Mobile.pdf) and it draws out some interesting statistics.  Firstly, and most interesting to me, was the question of whether or not the students knew what a QR code was: 82% replied saying that they didn’t.  Only 8% were found to have actually downloaded a QR code reader to their phone and this certainly suggests that for a project like M-biblio (which will utilise QR codes but also other technology), that some effort will need to be put into raising awareness of both the project and the technologies involved.

“82% of students questioned didn’t know what a QR code was”

The second interesting set of statistics drawn out in the report were that nearly 70% of students taking part in the survey (1061 in total) said they owned a smart phone and 50% of those said that they regularly use their mobile phone to browse the web.

More pertinent to this project however were the stats on those utilising their mobile phone for investigating library resources, with only 15% having used it to access the web pages or services of the universities’ libraries in question.  The most common service found to be used was for renewing books online.  However, and perhaps critically, 90% responded saying that they would like access to at least one library service directly on their mobile phone.  It seems from this that the market for an app which can facilitate the collection of bibliographic references may well be there waiting for us.

“90% of students said they would like access to at least one library service on their mobile phone

Both Mike and I feel slightly disappointed that the technology on current smart phones is not really existent to enable us to pursue the idea of looking into near field communications (NFC).  This would have enabled a smart phone app to capture data from RFID tags on books and journals passively.  However, in the near future, this should be feasible and we need to keep our eye on the mobile phone market in order to track what technologies are included on the latest models, such as the upcoming iPhone 5 if and when it finally appears.

“NFC technology isn’t sufficiently developed on current mobile phones to enable passive capture of data via RFID tags”

It certainly won’t be long before these kinds of technologies are widely available and with this in mind it’s interesting to note another statistic that the M-Library report pulled out which was that within the UK there was a 70% rise in smart phone numbers between 2009 and 2010.  It’s also interesting to note that students seem to change their mobile phones on a very regular basis.  81% of those surveyed had owned their current mobile for less than 18 months and 61% had owned their current mobile phone for less than a year.  This shows that new technologies emerging within the mobile phone field very quickly saturate the market.

The report is a very interesting one for anybody considering employing mobile technology within a library context and it also has a good reference section which points towards a lot of other reports and articles around the centre – highly recommended.

Budget

The general shape and form of the budget for this project is available in the budget sheet below.  All data is anonymous.  But for those more keen on graphics than numbers here’s a pie chart showing a simplified version of where the money is allocated.

M-biblio Budget

M-biblio Budget

 

m-biblio
Directly Incurred
Aug 11 – Jul 12
      TOTAL £
Actual grant
Project Management £5,741.00 £5,741.00 £5,741.00
Technical Development £19,727.00 £19,727.00 £19,727.00
Total Directly Incurred Staff (A) £25,468.00 £25,468.00 £25,468.00
Non-Staff
Aug 11 – Jul 12
      TOTAL £
RFID tag readers £600.00 £600.00 £600.00
User incentives £250.00 £250.00 £0.00
Travel to JISC meetings £300.00 £300.00 £300.00
User Engagement £1,500.00 £1,500.00 £1,500.00
Website design £1,400.00 £1,400.00 £1,400.00
Total Directly Incurred Non-Staff (B) £4,050.00 £4,050.00 £3,800.00
Directly Incurred Total (A+B=C) (C) £29,518.00 £29,518.00 £29,268.00
Directly Allocated
Aug 11 – Jul 12
      TOTAL £
Advisory Group Member £1,519.00 £1,519.00
Advisory Group Member £1,264.00 £1,264.00
Advisory Group Member £1,264.00 £1,264.00
Central staff salary costs £1,761.57 £1,761.57
Estates – Bristol £3,517.03 £3,517.03
Directly Allocated Total (D) £9,325.60 £9,325.60
Indirect
Aug 11 – Jul 12
      TOTAL £
Bristol £26,024.36 £26,024.36 £732.00
Indirect Costs (E) £26,024.36 £26,024.36 £732.00
Total Project Cost (C+D+E) £64,867.96 £64,867.96 £30,000.00
Amount Requested from JISC £30,000.02 £30,000.02
Institutional Contributions £34,867.94 £34,867.94
Total cost of project £64,867.96 £64,867.96
Percentage Contributions over the life of the project              JISC         Partner           Total
0.46 0.54 1

One of the key pieces of information for discovering bibliographic data will be the barcodes on the books – either the barcode used by the Library at the University of Bristol or the ISBN numbers associated with the books.

It would be nice if we could take advantage of the camera on the device to scan the barcode and save the user from having to type the numbers in manually. There are a couple of libraries for scanning barcodes:

  • ZXing (Zebra Crossing) – a Java library with Android support. There is also a partial port to iOS that only supports QR Codes.
  • ZBar – a C library that has bindings for a number of languages and includes an SDK for the iPhone.

These libraries have good support for a number of formats such as UPC-A, EAN-8, Code 128 and QR Codes. However, they don’t support the proprietary telepen format that is very popular in UK academic and public libraries.

It therefore seems that one of the first key development tasks will be adapting one of the libraries to support for telepen barcodes.

Risk Analysis

As with any project there are various risks associated with this one.  Perhaps first and foremost is that we have just one developer working on this project.  If he is unable to complete the project for any reason we will need to hand the work on to someone else within the University’s pool of developers.  Most of the developers work on a multitude of different projects simultaneously with different start and end dates and there is often capacity for someone else to pick up work in other projects as and when necessary.   Much the same applies to the Project Management post.

As previously mentioned there are certain limits to the technology currently available in smart phones.  This is not necessarily a threat to the project but a limitation which needs to be understood in terms of directing effort in the project.  One of the elements of the project we were keen to investigate is whether Near Field Communication (RFID) can be used to facilitate the generation of bibliographic references within a library context.  However, the technology for detecting this form of code is not widely available currently.  There are several devices which can facilitate working with RFID codes on certain mobile phone platforms and we will investigate those but it is likely that the core element of the project will need to focus on other forms of object identification such as bar codes and QR codes.

Advisory Group – a small risk associated with the Advisory Group is the amount of time people have available for supporting the work of the project.  This is something the project manager is currently looking into and efforts are being made to ensure that sufficient time is allocated by advisory group members throughout the duration of the project.

We have also taken action to recruit several other advisory group members partly due to the above but also due to certain gaps that we identified in terms of knowledge and/or expertise.  The “time” risk stated above largely relates to the ability of people to attend physical meetings. However, we have also established a wiki and an e-mail list which means that any information required can be garnered as and when required without impinging on staff time to any substantial level.

Timeline and Work Packages

The project started at the beginning of November and is now due to finish at the end of July 2012.  The following Gantt chart gives a brief overview of the project in terms of its work packages and projected timelines for their completion.

gantt chart

In terms of an overall methodology for the management of the project, although the project manager is Prince 2 qualified it is more likely that we will adopt a more lightweight methodology such as Agile given the nature, short duration and size of the project.

The M-biblio Team

Project Team

Dave Kilbey, Project Manager (D.Kilbey@bristol.ac.uk)
Mike Jones, Technical Lead (mike.a.jones@bristol.ac.uk)
Stuart Church (Pure Usability Ltd), User Experience specialist
Ben Hayes, User Interface Designer

Advisory Group

Mike Wall, Head of Information Management
Julian Hill, Subject Librarian for Chemistry
Debra Avent-Gibson, Faculty Librarian, Science and Engineering
Ruth Dawson, Library Specialist IT Support Officer

 

Meet the Team

 

Mike Jones, Lead Technical Developer

Mike is a Senior Web Developer / Researcher based in IT Services / R&D with over ten years experience of software development.
Mike was technical lead on the Mobile Campus Assistant and MyMobileBristol projects and has experience in developing for mobile platforms, including native and mobile web solutions.
He holds an MSc in Computing with Distinction (Cardiff University, 2003) and has skills in software development, including Java, JavaScript, Objective-C, HTML and CSS.

 

Dave Kilbey, Project Manager

Dave is currently working as an IT trainer for the University of Bristol. He is an experienced project manager and registered PRINCE2 practitioner and is currently managing the JISC-funded Nature Locator project.

 

Stuart Church (Pure Usability Ltd), User Experience specialist

Stuart Church has been employed in usability, web development, accessibility and information architecture roles for the last eight years.
He has worked on a wide variety of web-based projects for the University as well as for other clients, including The Millennium Mathematics Project, Microsoft, Defra, and Process Management International.
Stuart will work closely with Ben Hayes, the project’s Web Designer, to fulfil the essential requirements of Usability and Stakeholder components.

 

Ben Hayes, User Interface Designer

Ben has been designing websites and web applications for commercial and HE clients for a number of years.
He is responsible for creating easy-to-use interfaces, HTML and CSS coding, branding, accessibility and usability.
Ben has an MSc in Computer Science from Oxford Brookes University (passed with Distinction, 2001) and an MPhil in Computer Speech and Language Processing, awarded by the University of Cambridge in 2001.

 

Julian Hill 

Julian is Subject Librarian for Chemistry, based in the Chemistry Library, and a Web Developer for the University Library.

B.Sc. Physics (Leicester University, 1981)

Post-graduate Diploma in Librarianship and Information Studies (Newcastle-upon-Tyne Polytechnic, 1983)

Assistant Librarian and then Information Officer for Redland Technology Ltd (the R&D arm of Redland Group PLC, manufacturers of building materials), 1983 – 1987.

Joined the University in Feb 1987 as Senior Library Assistant in charge of the Chemistry Library, and has since become Subject Librarian for Chemistry, based in the Chemistry Library, and a Web Developer for the the University Library (from 1997 onwards).

Since 2007 he has been involved with a trial of RFID taking place in the Chemistry Library, using a system from 2CQR for circulation of stock (in conjunction with the Aleph library computer system), self-issue, and security.

 

Ruth Dawson, Library Specialist IT Support Officer
Ruth Dawson

Ruth Dawson is a Library Specialist IT Support Officer in IT Services at the University of Bristol. She is a member of the IT Services Special Interest Group on Mobile Devices and has over a decade of experience supporting innovative research and development in the IT Services R&D/ILRT.

As a member of the Service Delivery Group, Ruth provides IT support and advice to both academics and members of the other support services, including the Library and Educational Support Unit.

 

Debra Avent-Gibson

Debra is the Faculty Librarian for the Faculties of Science and Engineering at the University of Bristol and has over 12 years professional experience in University Libraries.
Debra leads the Faculties’ Subject Librarian teams, co-ordinating academic liaison, collection management activities, information literacy programmes and promotion of the collections and services, in support of teaching, learning and research.

 

Mike Wall

Mike is currently Head of Information Management at the University of Bristol.

He has over 20 years of professional experience in University Libraries, including five as a senior manager. Mike currently has responsibility for managing all aspects of providing access to information resources in print and electronic media. His current interests include achieving value for money in the procurement of information resources.

Project Outputs

The final outputs of this project will include a mobile phone application which, in the first instance, will be coded natively for the iphone platform.  This application will enable students to record and organise references to any books and journals they utilise.  It is anticipated that the application will also be able to generate references specific to relevant articles within each Journal (those that include Digital Object Indentifiers anyway).  The application may utilise an active form of recording (which might include scanning a barcode or utilising a QR code) but we will also be looking into the possibility of embracing Near Field Communication technologies such as RFID tags (the Uni’s Chemistry Faculty has implemented the use of these throughout its library).

The mobile phone application itself will have two functional elements to it.  The first will be the “surface layer” which will provide the facility for students to organise their bibliographical references.  The second will be the provision of usage data to the library.  The latter will be of considerable benefit to the library since unless an item is physically removed (booked out) then gathering information on usage patterns for resources is extremely difficult.  They will therefore be able to start filling this information gap.

Benefits to Institution and wider HE community

If such a methodology were to be made widely available to, and adopted by, students it is feasible that the data collected by libraries could be used to inform future purchasing patterns and stock levels for books and journals.  Libraries could then begin to more closely match requirements to the items they stock with potential for saving money on unrequired items by reducing purchasing, shelving, admin and preservation costs.

The product will be made available freely within the HE community and other institutions interested in looking into or developing this technology may therefore make a start using our application and research as a platform.

Aims and Objectives

Simply put, the main aim of this project is to look at the potential for smart phones to be used for the recording and organisation of bibliographic information for students within a library context.  In addition, the app developed will also provide useful usage information to the library.

Broadly, the main objectives of the project will be to look into what is and what is not currently possible.

This project is effectively looking at an area which has not been studied much before.  Some of the phone based technology necessary to test some of the ideas contained within the project is not yet widely available.  Therefore, as we progress through the project we will begin to get a much better idea of what is and isn’t feasible at the current time.  Once we’ve worked out the areas we can effectively develop, the primary objective will be to get a prototype service up and running which will be tested within one or two faculties at the University.

Primary sub-objectives will be to:

  • try and gauge whether students would actually utilise the technology were it to be made widely available (this will be based largely upon evaluating how useful the service will be to them)
  • look at the benefits (and costs) to the library itself.

Measuring the success of a project objectively  is often relatively problematic, especially for one which is only going to deliver a prototype service.  However, given that our objective is to deliver a service for both students and the library the success of this can relatively easily be measured. 

More important will be to try and quantify how useful the new service is, especially in relation to existing methodologies (pen and paper?? Endnote?? Endnote Web??).  We can obviously do this by evaluating the processes both parties employ currently (and gauging their satisfaction with these) versus their reaction to the service we provide.  Therefore, if a student using our app says they will never again go back to writing their references by hand because the app makes it so much easier and more reliable, we’ll know we’ve cracked it.

Validating barcode numbers

It would be great if the app could send a barcode number to the web service without the user being forced to decide upfront what kind of barcode is being sent, e.g. a barcode used by the library or an ISBN number. Clearly, the service needs to know what kind of number it is dealing with to make a sensible decision on what bibliographic source to query.

I’m exploring the use of validators to help the service to determine what type of value we are dealing with. At the moment, the interface is pretty simple:

public interface Validator {
    boolean validate(final String value);
}

Basically, an implementation would take a value and determine whether or not it believes it is valid. The first implementation developed covers the barcode numbers used by the Library at the University of Bristol.

Barcodes at the University are ten digits long and follow the following format:

  • The first digit is the prefix and is always the number 1
  • The second through to the 9th digit will be from the range 0 to 9.
  • The tenth digit is the check digit and can range from 0 to 9 or be the character X

The validator can therefore declare any value it receives that is not 10 digits in length as invalid. It can also dismiss any 10 digit numbers that don’t start with 1. Beyond that we need to apply an algorithm that determines the validity of the check digit (tenth digit) against the other numbers (excluding the prefix).

Each number is multiplied against a relevant weighting in the following list: {7, 8, 4, 6, 3, 5, 2, 1}. Modulus 11 is then used on the sum of the weighted values to get a remainder. The remainder is then subtracted against 11 to get the check digit value. If the value is 10, then that is represented by the character X. Clear as mud?

So, for the barcode 1511075964, we ignore the prefix and multiply the next 8 digits against the appropriate number in the weightings list:

(5 x 7) + (1 x 8) + (1 x 4) + (0 x 6) + (7 x 3) + (5 x 5) + (9 x 2) + (6 x 1) = 117

Find the remainder:

117 % 11 = 7

Subtract from 11 to find the check digit:

11 – 7 = 4

Therefore, 1511075964 is a valid University barcode because the last number matches the check digit created by the algorithm.

ISBN 10 numbers have ten digits but use a different weighting to calculate the check digit. It will be interesting to calculate the probability of a clash – the possibility of a number being a valid University barcode number and a valid ISBN 10 number.

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