Book Review: Library Mashups
Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data. Edited by Nicole C. Engard, Facet, 2009, 352 pages, ISBN 978-1856047036
This book is intended for readers who have some knowledge of computers, computer programming and libraries.
Many of us may be wondering what this book is all about and some of us may not have heard of the term 'mashups'. In very simple terms according to Engard, a mashup is a way of taking data from one source and combining them with data from another source to create a unique online tool. To put things into context, most of us have, for example, used Google maps. If we use it to look up libraries in an area specialising in architecture we are mashing data (maps + libraries in an area + architecture) to give us a tool to find information on the subject.
This book tries to teach us just how to do that. The book is divided in to five sections, each teaching or talking about different experiences various librarians have had while mashing up their library data. It starts off by introducing mashups, how they work and the general reference sources available. For a novice the second and third chapters could be slightly daunting to go through as they cover APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and Web Service Architectures which may represent something of a challenge to readers unused to programming or without a grasp of various Web and Internet terminologies.
The next section teaches how to use mashups to improve static Web sites by incorporating interactive tools and making them more dynamic and user-friendly. They go on to show how we can use tools like Flickr, Google maps, etc, to enhance users' experience while they are on our Web site.
The topics in this book have been compiled keeping the user in mind, not only a seasoned professional who has the computing knowledge along with a library background but also the technical novice. I really enjoyed reading this book for it presented ideas in a clear and concise manner. For every chapter that was technical and full of terminologies I found a chapter that just presented ideas on how to improve the library pages by adding a Browser-Side layer. These chapters are far from technical; there are concepts that can be used to raise the profile of the Web site by using expertise and information that may already be available (for example, Yahoo Pipes!).
However if one already has experience of programming, the topics in this book are excellent as they provide ways of mashing up data from more than two sources and creating something which fits in with what we call today Web 2.0. This book will not only help to expand your technical abilities, but also boost the rating of your organisation's Web site.
I was particularly impressed by the chapters 'Breaking into the OPAC", "Piping out Library data" and "Federated Database Search Mashups". These chapters are all about enhancing the service of the library catalogue as and when required, rather than just adding a feature because that's what everybody is doing. Prior to reading this book I had very little notion of what library mashups were and how they can be used to amplify the information we have in our databases. Now, I am quite confident that the opinions and views of people about libraries will change from their just being repositories of books to something more engaging and interactive. This work gave me an understanding of the complexities and usefulness of these technologies and services. I am now able to form more concrete ideas about how they can be incorporated into the library Web pages.
This book has a lot to offer, and I believe everyone will find something in the pages that they may find interesting or useful. Whether you are a mashup novice or a hard-core programmer this book will contribute to your existing knowledge. I would recommend it to readers who would like to learn more about the topic and to go ahead and experiment by making their own mashups.
Engard has certainly justified her choice of subtitle to this book, Exploring new ways to deliver library data.