A Retrospective of the 2018 ELUNA Conference


The Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA) hold an annual meeting for the regional user group of Ex Libris in the United States and Canada. Steelsen Smith, Technical Lead for Client Services and IT Operations, attended the conference this past in May and has written about the sessions and news from the conference.

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Demo of an Ask Yale ChatBot

The Library IT Summer Interns,  Annissa Carter, Bryana Kilpatrick, and Jhoselyn Jara, created a Library Help Desk ChatBot demo. Adding a ChatBot to the Yale University Library would allow students to have  24/7 access to answers to questions they may have when the library is closed and no staff is available to help. The Interns took two of the most popular Ask Yale Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and added two additional questions they felt would be something a new student would need to know.

The questions they used in the ChatBot demo were:

  • I just graduated do I still have access to the library?
  • How can I reserve a locker in Bass Library?
  • What time does the library close/open?
  • What is the Yale Library website?

A ChatBot is a computer program designed to simulate a text-based conversation and have become increasingly popular in providing customer service over the internet or smart phones. Using the software platform provided by PlayBot, a company specializing in the creation and distribution of chatbots, it took the Interns three weeks to complete the Library Help Desk ChatBot demo.

Out of the box, a ChatBot is very limited in its responses, the person scripting the Bot needs to anticipate the different words the user may type in to ask questions. Those language nuances need to be taken into account for the user to receive an accurate response. In the example of the Library Help Desk Chatbot, Bryanna Kilpatrick, used scripting to determine the different forms of a greeting. She scripted the various forms of “hello” including “hey” and “hi” as possible options. Programming is essential, the ChatBot is only as responsive as the scripting is planned for, if you type outside of the prescribed phrases the ChatBot doesn’t know what you mean.

Example of ChatBot coding in AIML

The ChatBot tool uses AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language) which is an XML-compliant Lagrangian (Extensible Markup Language). XML is a markup language much like HTML that is designed to store and transport in a self-descriptive manner so it is human readable as well as machine readable. The demo was very successful and there may be a ChatBot coming to Ask Yale some time in the not so distant future.

Blacklight Summit 2016

The second annual Blacklight Summit was held this year at Princeton University on November 2-4. Blacklight is an open source discovery interface used in libraries, museums, and other public institutions.  At Yale we use Blacklight both for our Quicksearch discovery service and for the public interface of our Findit Digital Collections repository.

The summit included representatives from 24 institutions from the U.S. and Canada.  Two people attended from the Yale Library, Kalee Sprague and Tracy MacMath.  The first day of the conference consisted of a morning round-robin of presentations from each institution, followed by an afternoon workshop on best practices for localizing Blacklight.  The afternoon workshop was led by Blacklight core developers Chris Beer and Justin Coyne from Stanford.  The workshop was also on opportunity to get hands on experience with Blacklight 7.1, a new release of Blacklight expected sometime in late Spring of 2017.

The second day of the conference featured informative presentations on different Solr configurations, the Traject MARC record indexing tool, Blacklight plugins, and other topics, followed by several break-out sessions. One break-out session focused on upgrading to the latest production release of Blacklight, version 6.7.  As part of the break-out session, the group worked together to upgrade Yale’s Quicksearch code to release 6.7, which was an exciting and very practical outcome of the Summit.  Although the upgrade isn’t completely finished, the workshop resulted in very real progress on the upgrade work currently happening at Yale.

Yale also participated in a breakout session on UX and Blacklight. Many members of the Hydra UX interest group were present, so it was decided that Blacklight-specific UX issues would be discussed by the Hydra UX group rather than a separate Blacklight interest group. Methods of group communication were discussed, including the creation of a GitHub repository for sharing of documents, usability testing results and findings, and anything else of interest.

Hydra Connect 2016

Hydra Project
This week, from October 3rd to October 6th, Boston Public Library hosted the Hydra Connect 2016 conference. Project Hydra is a repository solution managing components involved in storing and providing access to digital content. Project Hydra can be described in broad terms as the confluence of community and collaboration made manifest in the development of open source software, and the conference brought together close to 200 people from institutions across the globe to connect. Seven people attended from Yale Library, Mike Friscia, Anju Meenattoor, Lakeisha Robinson, George Ouellette, Youn Noh, Osman Din, and Eric James.

The conference was organized as workshops on Monday, a plenary session Tuesday morning, a poster session Tuesday afternoon, multi-tracked presentations/panels/lightning talks Wednesday, and breakout sessions Thursday. Topics were varied but commonly themed. There was discussion of service management and project management taking into consideration issues such as adoption, migration, and upgrade paths. There was a focus on the learning, sharing and best practices of the technology itself – the software stack, infrastructure, deployment, and monitoring. Much of the presentation centered around the community efforts driving base applications such as the Sufia institutional repository, the Avalon AV system, and the Fedora repository. Content specific challenges were addressed from both an an abstract modeling perspective to the unique considerations of GIS assets, newspapers, images, AV materials, and research data, through frameworks such as the PCDM/hydra works and the IIIF specifications.

The enthusiasm was palpable and the project hydra motto “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” was evident, but in many ways there what prevailed was a constant tension between customization and consolidation – the need for diverse institutions to implement a variety of special features while simultaneously developing towards an easily maintainable common core. In any case the takeaways from the conference will influence the direction of services provided by the Yale Library longterm, from the digital collections interface FindIT, the Yale instance of the AV Avalon Platform, to the unified search interface Quicksearch.



Slides and Recordings from Rediscover Discovery III


Thanks to all who attended, online or in person, to the Library’s third Rediscover Discovery Day! The goal for this presentation is to provide updates on our major discovery interfaces to public services, instruction, and information desk staff so that they can incorporate the most current information on our discovery systems into their instruction sessions in the coming semester.

This session covered recent updates to features and functionality for:

We also shared the some of the upcoming changes in store for these discovery systems as well. A big thank you to Angela Sidman for covering the recent and upcoming developments in Articles+ and other e-resource access systems!

The slides and session recording of this year’s Rediscover Discovery can be accessed here: https://yale.box.com/v/rediscodisco3


For those who attended or viewed online, or for those who will watch the recording afterwards, please take a few minutes to let us know how we didhttp://tinyurl.com/rediscodisco3

LIT and partners Tech Talk | Wednesday September 21st 2016

On Wednesday September 21st, from 3pm-4pm in Bass L01, join Library IT and partners in our monthly discussion of tech-related projects around the Library and beyond.

Our tentative agenda includes:

  • Hathi Trust (Robert Klingenberger)
  • YUL and Accessibility (Kalee Sprague and Tracy MacMath)
  • Service Now (Beatrice Richardson)
  • Avalon for Music Library (Cindy Greenspun, George Ouellette and Jonathan Manton)

For those who cannot join us in person, the session will be streamed via Adobe Connect:

http://greet.yale.edu/littechtalk/ [sign in as a guest]

Slides and recordings of the Tech Talk sessions will be archived in https://yale.box.com/LITTechTalkArchives.

Please remember: any Library staff is welcome to present at the Tech Talks! Please send topic suggestions to Jenn  Nolte or anyone else in Library IT.

See you there!

Spotlight on Spotlight


Do you have content in blacklight? Do you have content in other silos? Would you like to create dynamic exhibits and/or collections?  Would you like to manage content, display, search, and facets in a highly configurable online interface?  If you answered yes to any of this, welcome to Spotlight!

“Spotlight is open source software that enables librarians, curators, and other content experts to easily build feature-rich websites that showcase collections and objects from a digital repository, uploaded items, or a combination of the two. Spotlight is a plug-in for Blacklight, an open source, Ruby on Rails Engine that provides a basic discovery interface for searching an Apache Solr index.”

Exhibit page content can be directly tweaked from the browser.
Exhibit page content can be directly tweaked from the browser.

On August 9th and 10th the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) and Yale Library hosted the event “Spotlight on Spotlight”.  We were pleased to have members of the Spotlight team here to give a full demonstration, Q&A, and developer unconference.  Stu Snydman, Gary Geisler, and Chris Beer from Stanford, and Trey Pendragon from Princeton lead the sessions. The main demonstration Tuesday morning included a brief history, a review of the initial use cases, context surrounding the platform, and walk throughs of the application and its features. In the afternoon the Q&A session provided a further chance to answer questions collected from the morning presentation and a live conversation. On Wednesday developers stood up individual instances of the application, exercised its extensibility using the DPLA API to import content, and held further technical discussion. After attending the event Steve Weida, Yale Library Webmaster commented, “Spotlight is exciting technology and has matured at a very impressive pace. Along with our commitment to Omeka, Spotlight could play a key role in the future of the Library’s web presence.”

A full recording of the demonstration is available here:

Project website with codebase and further links:

Event wiki:


Event Announcement: Rediscover Discovery III: Updates to Discovery

This Friday August 19th, attend the Library’s third Rediscover Discovery session!
The session is aimed providing updates on our major discovery interfaces to public services, instruction, and information desk staff  so that they can incorporate the most current information on our discovery systems into their instruction sessions in the coming semester.  This session will cover recent updates to features and functionality for:
  • Articles+
  • Quicksearch
  • Digital Collections (FindIt)
We will also share the some of the upcoming changes in store for these discovery systems as well.
Join us on Friday August 19th, from 2:30-3:30pm in Bass L01 A&B for our third Rediscover Discovery event.  Sign up to attend the event in Bass in person here: http://schedule.yale.edu/event.php?id=1146001
Alternatively, you can watch live online at http://greet.yale.edu/rediscodisco. The event recording will also be distributed after the session is over.
See you there!
~Jenn Nolte

LIT and partners Tech Talk | Wednesday July 20th 2016

On Wednesday July 20th, from 3pm-4pm in Bass L01, join Library IT and partners in our monthly discussion of tech-related projects around the Library and beyond.

Our agenda includes:

  • Avalon for Music Library (Cindy Greenspun and Jonathan Manton)
  • Desktop video conferencing pilot (Beatrice Richardson)
  • Quicksearch enhancements, integrations, upgrades (Kalee Sprague)
  • LIT service overview documentation (Ray Frohlich)

For those who cannot join us in person, the session will be streamed via Adobe Connect:

http://greet.yale.edu/littechtalk/ [sign in as a guest]

Slides and recordings of the Tech Talk sessions will be archived in https://yale.box.com/LITTechTalkArchives 

See you there!

Emerging Technologies Discussion : Programming without Coding using IFTTT and Zapier

This Friday May 27th, join Cindy Greenspun, Tara Kennedy and Jenn Nolte in Bass L01 from 1:30pm-2:30pm for a short presentation on professional and personal uses of IFTTT (If This Then That) and Zapier to automate and optimize productivity without using a single line of code.

The presenters will share examples of their uses of IFTTT and Zapier in their work, and then shift into an open discussion of how other workflows in the Library could potentially benefit from using these services.

Some example uses:

log an email into a spreadsheet

send any picture tagged with #yalelibrary on Facebook to Flickr

Streaming available at https://greet.yale.edu/emergingtech/ 

The presentation and discussion will be recorded and archived here:


A chat option will be available for those participating remotely.

See you there!