Welcome to the twelfth issue of the Ex Librian newsletter, marking six years of activity as a communication channel between Ex Libris and the customer community.
The theme of this issue is the power of aggregation, and I’d like to share with you a few thoughts on this subject.
In some fields, the effect of having “more of the same” can be predicted. For example, in mathematics, we know that the same rules that apply to small numbers apply to large numbers. However, in many other fields, we cannot assume that behavior that occurs with a small number of elements will bring about the same results when large numbers are involved. With a larger number of elements, new properties might appear, altering the way in which the elements interact with each other and the way in which an aggregation of such elements interacts with external entities. A pertinent example is data in the scholarly information arena.
Over the last year, Ex Libris embarked on major programs involving data. Although the Company remains a software vendor, we have developed two services that are data based: bX, the first-of-a-kind article recommender service, was launched in May 2009 and has already gained the high regard of industry stakeholders; and Primo Central, a mega-aggregate index of scholarly materials, is undergoing beta testing at the time of this writing. Both of these services require Ex Libris to host very large amounts of data, process the data, and offer it to our customers. It is the immense global body of information that makes these two services not only viable but also extremely effective.
The bX recommender service derives from research conducted by Johan Bollen and Herbert Van de Sompel at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The recommendations are generated from data originating from tens of millions of discovery sessions at hundreds of institutions around the world, sessions that are logged by SFX® link resolvers. Ex Libris harvests this data, mines it, and analyzes it to produce useful recommendations for scholars. The widespread use of SFX is fundamental to the creation of a global network in which scholarly discovery sessions performed by researchers who have a common interest, regardless of their institutional, regional, and national affiliation, form the basis of the data from which recommendations are generated.
The second data-related initiative on which Ex Libris embarked over the last year is Primo Central, a centralized index of scholarly materials that complements the institutional Primo® search environment by enabling it to offer global and regional scholarly electronic resources together with physical and digital materials from the library. Relying on a single search solution makes sense for researchers only if they trust the search environment to provide practically all the materials that they need. Primo fulfills this trust by offering a very large information landscape that brings together scholarly materials from the full spectrum of information providers, disciplines, and types of material.
These large aggregations of data empower scholars in an entirely new way. However, we need to be cautious to ensure that such quantities are a blessing rather than a curse. Thus, Ex Libris has built mechanisms that enable libraries to offer the best available information and that enable scholars to hone in on the items that are relevant to their research. bX is one such mechanism.
The large Ex Libris customer base, which has grown almost tenfold in the last decade, also helps illustrate the power of aggregation. The manner in which community members interact among themselves and with the Company and the roles that the community has taken upon itself are exerting a great influence on the ways in which we are all moving forward.
Wishing you an exciting and fruitful year,
Matti Shem Tov
President and CEO, Ex Libris