Interview with Chris Keene

Now for part 4 in a possible series of 70 blog chats with the people who’ll be coming to “Mash Oop North!” This time, it’s the turn of Chris Keene from the University of Sussex 🙂

Chris at Mashed Library UK 2008

Chris, can you tell us a little bit about your job at the University of Sussex?

Sure. My official job title is ‘Technical Development Manager’, which summed up in three words is ‘e-resources and web’.

In more than three words: I run our SFX and metalib servers, look after the website, help embed technical innovation within the Library, including web2.0 stuff, run the institutional repository and generally promote Open Access to any one who will listen. I’m interested in Search & Discovery and Open Access. I avoid users and books. 🙂

What’s new and cool at your library?

We launched Aquabrowser in January (we call it the beta catalogue to avoid confusion with ‘normal’ catalogue). This has gone down well and we’ve received good feedback.

We’ve also recently launch a Twitter account and Facebook page. The twitter account in particular seems to have gone down well. In fact the replies/mentions we’ve had highlights there are people out there who are quite technical who are doing interesting stuff with our resources. I also created a simple iGoogle widget at the same time.

There’s a lot of interest in “Next Generation Catalogues” (NGCs) at the moment — could you tell us a bit more about Aquabrowser?

I wasn’t personally responsible for setting this up (A colleague of mine, Tim Graves, manages the LMS), but have been involved in how we can extend and develop it’s interface, and perhaps integrate it with the Electronic Library.

I think it’s great, and our users seem to agree. There are areas I would like to see improved, such as cool URLs and better integration with things like Endnote or Zotero. Aquabrowser has various add-ons though it can be a bit of challenge finding out what’s available (and what comes at a price!)

I think all next generation catalogues which are separate from the LMS struggle with being a seamless service, as soon as a user clicks on a ‘my account’ or reserve link they are taken to another website (i.e. the old catalogue). Once there, the ‘My Account’ webpages of Library Systems are not designed to then take the user back to the separate catalogue again, it was just not something they have had to cater for.

This whole area is changing rapidly, and I think it will be a different situation in a year or two. As a pathetic plug for my own blog you can see some ramblings here.

Can you remember where and when you first used a web browser?

Yes, in the Library at Northampton School for Boys. Netscape 1 around 1995.

Arriving at University in October 1996, with the worlds slowest internet connection (using something called SLIP), I basically consumed every page I could load. My twitter bio says “mission: read internet (again)”.

Do you think libraries and librarians should adopt a cautious approach to new technologies, or should they be rolling up their sleeves and embracing it fully?

I think the public sector as a whole has been guilty of trying to find reasons not to do new things. We have to try new things, and sometimes we will fail. And sometimes they will blow up in our face. It’s a question of how we deal with, and learn from, that.

There’s a chap at Huddersfield, I forget his name, who added various in house enhancements to the library catalogue. The world didn’t end. Users didn’t boycott (as far as I’m aware) because of these new fangled features.

Mind, it’s easy for me to say this when I sit in a back office. Though having to listen to grumbling academics who don’t like change is not an excuse to not do things.

Are you currently using any mash-ups at Sussex?

Good question…. No I don’t think so.

Though I did set up a account a while back

Not really a mashup but looks pretty 🙂

Have you got a favourite mash-up?

A couple I like:

Live train times Google map mashup. I like the fact the little red dots move along as you watch it (pathetic isn’t it)

The other one I like is this:

It’s just some guys website, where he has bought old UK maps and scanned them in and mashed them up with the Google Maps. I think things like this are so useful, it’s a good example of one person spending there spare time and money on something which everyone can make use of. How the web should be!

Got a favourite beverage?

Harveys of Lewes Best & Old Bitters (web site).

Chris blogs at and is @chriskeene on Twitter.


~ by Dave Pattern on 12/June/2009.

%d bloggers like this: