MeaningCloud – Extracting Meaning from Content


I received an email the other day to inform me that Textalytics had changed its name to MeaningCloud. This was really handy, as it reminded me that it existed – I’d signed up for it during the summer, but hadn’t had much of a chance to use it, as I was working on the Library A to Z.

Anyway, it’s something I want to explore more. It’s an online service that analyses the content of text, documents or web pages you supply it with and it highlights key subject, people, places, things and other entities and concepts for you. As a librarian (specifically with my classification head on) I’ve been interested in the idea of automated classification for some time and have tried various experiments including using Yahoo pipes and my recent WordPress snapshot cards to extract meaning from text.

I’ve tested a few other online services like MeaningCloud, but this was the one that seemed the most straightforward and easy to use. The documentation is clear enough for me to understand all I need to and, as I have only really got my head around working with XML output, having this as one of the 2 output options is important to me. It also helps that it’s free up to a certain amount of use.

The way it works is you submit a url containing all the key parameters to the online service:

  • The text, document file, or url of the web page you want to analyse.
  • The type of results you want returned to you (eg sentiment – positive/negative/neutral; text classification – very broad categories such as “libraries and museums”; topic extraction – more detailed subjects and concepts).
  • The output format (eg json or XML).

You can specify more than this and you can define topic dictionaries that are used.

It then returns the information you requested to the service you sent the request from. So, in my case, it would most likely be sent via a program written in Processing. You can then do whatever you want with that response. So, in theory I can develop my WordPress snapshot cards idea to include the subjects, concepts, people, places etc that it returns.

Even though I recognise that analysis tools don’t always pick up on the finer points of text and lack human understanding that is sometimes needed to make complete sense of a piece of text, I like what they can do, and I hope I can do something useful with MeaningCloud.

If you want to try it out, take a look at the demos and enter your own text into the box. The image below shows some of the results it gave me when I entered the text from this blog post. It threw up a couple of odd things “begging” (request) and “boss” (head), but as I say, if you are using it properly you can take the time to set up a dictionary to overcome these sort of issues.

Screenshot of MeaningCloud analysis of blog post

Happy 100th Birthday Wallasey Children’s Library!



I must send a card!

Originally posted on Adventures of a Retired Librarian:

I was intrigued to see this tweet the other day:

It’s one of many Suzanne has been sending out to invite birthday cards for Wallasey Central Children’s Library’s centenary. In case you can’t read the text, it says:

Wallasey Central Children’s Library is celebrating Its 100th Birthday! One of the first separate public libraries for children in the country, the library was opened during WW1, survived being bombed in WW2, has been much loved by generations of Wallasey children and reaches its centenary in 2015. Readers and Staff at Wallasey Library would like to invite anyone who loves libraries to help us celebrate by… Sending us a birthday card! Please send a 100th Birthday card – homemade cards welcome of course – as early in the year as possible…

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What I did for National Libraries Day 2015


Library A to Z book and note

Yesterday (7th Feb) was National Libraries Day. Libraries and their supporters all round the UK ran events, activities and protests in support of all types of libraries.

In the morning I did a little bit of social media for my library service promoting and providing hints and tips for using the library catalogue.

As well as helping promote my library service yesterday I also wanted to do something with the Library A to Z. Part of the idea of the day is to not only celebrate libraries but also get the message out to people that libraries have so much to offer. During the launch of the A to Z Andy Walsh, myself and many other people did this by sending out materials to key decision makers, politicians and the media. We also ran on online campaign.

For National Libraries Day I decided to again share the message about the importance of libraries beyond Libraryland itself.

So, I took out a stack of A to Z books and greeting cards on a journey, with the intention of leaving them in places for passers by to pick-up and read.

I put a message in the books and cards. Both messages mentioned National Libraries Day, what it is and why libraries are still relevant. As well as the message in the card I also attached an 1850 – 2000 public libraries commemorative 50 pence piece and emphasised that 15 years on from this celebration, libraries were facing huge budget cuts and closures and that campaigners were fighting against this.

So, I spent most of the afternoon/evening travelling around Surrey and London via train and bus and left copies on different routes. Where those copies headed for was a loose plan. I aimed for covering as much of a geographical spread as possible, so when I last saw them copies of the book and the cards were headed towards London Bridge, Watford, Epping, Heathrow, Windsor, Kensal Rise, The City, Southampton, Brighton and Reading. I suppose you could say Kensal Rise was a symbolic choice, as I know that campaigners in Brent have not had the best of times there. I also visited The British Library and left a book and card there.

As I say, I wanted to promote the value of libraries outside of the library environment, but I also wanted to do something with a bit of protest about it – hence the 50 pence pieces in the card. It was not a big protest I’ll admit, but every little reminder helps get the message out there. :-)

I don’t know how much positive impact my actions on National Libraries Day will have, and I don’t know who picked up and read/kept the books and cards, but I know that if I hadn’t done it then no-one at all would have picked them up. Maybe a copy was picked up by someone who:

  • Decides to the visit the library for the first time based on what the A to Z showed them it has to offer.
  • Is inspired to be a libraries champion in the future.
  • Changes their negative opinion about libraries.
  • Is now aware of the support libraries need and maybe they will be in a position to influence someone else about the future of libraries.
I know I wasn’t the only person to use the Library A to Z for National Libraries Day. Lots of libraries and their supporters also used the materials available to promote their services, as part of events and in other creative ways. The National Libraries Day site also pointed people to the materials. It’s great to see that these materials are being used, as that was one of the reasons they were created.
Public libraries commemorative 50 pence

ONE WEEK TO GO: Applications close February 15th

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A reminder from the International Librarians Network that applications for the next round of this worldwide peer mentoring initiative for librarians closes next week.

Originally posted on International Librarians Network:

53/365: 30 days has September, April, June and November. From Tim via flickr CC 53/365: 30 days has September, April, June and November. From Tim via flickr CC

Only one week left to apply for the next round of the ILN peer mentoring program!

In case you are still trying to make up your mind about signing up, we want to share with your some posts written by past participants of the ILN program which tell you a bit about what you can get out of the program. These include:

As you can see, there’s lots of reasons to sign up for our next round. Don’t forget, it’s important to know what you’re signing up for – so check out how the program works . Applications…

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Thoughts about the Independent Library Report for England


I realise I’m slow in getting round to sharing my thoughts on the recent Independent Library Report for England, which was presented by William Sieghart (and panel) to DCMS just before Christmas 2014, but here they are. I’m not going to do a run down of what the report contains. Instead I’m sharing what I feel are the positive/negative aspects of it. The actions and recommendations in the report are broken down into actions by central government, local government and a task force formed as part of those recommendations.

  • Central government – Positives
    • Asked to provide funding for updated digital network and services (including extending access to services) and staff training.
    • Establish a task force made up of library organisations and partners to provide leadership.
    • Establish PLR for ebooks loaned off-site.
    • Recognition of the need to sell benefits of libraries to leaders within local and central government, especially those outside of the library arena – a step towards obtaining funding from other central government departments in recognition of what libraries do to support other government initiatives.
  • Central government – Negatives
    • Funding needs to be provided for core services too, not just the digital aspects of it.
    • There’s too much emphasis on free wi-fi and digital aspects. It also needs to address other aspects of libraries that need support.
    • There’s no mention of reintroducing library standards or improving library legislation and the 1964 Act.
  • Task force – Positives
    • By recommending that this task force is set up it is recognition that there was a leadership void and something is needed to fill it.
    • Hopefully this will provide a more balanced leadership/partnership that can focus on the full range of services provided by libraries.
    • A digital network for libraries could provide a cohesive national service, as well as increased range of digital services & resources nationwide.
    • It will hopefully move the e-book lending situation forward.
    • Will provide a focus to develop skills of the library workforce.
    • Reporting (and accountable?) to both central and local government.
    • Tasked with increasing visibility of libraries ie better promotion, marketing.
    • Recommends consultation with users to develop library services. Lack of user consultation in the past has led to ill-feeling and in some cases judicial reviews.
  • Taskforce – Negatives
    • The tasks it has been assigned are too narrow and will only address some of the problems that libraries are facing.
    • No guidance has been given about how the library workforce should be developed.
    • Recommendations leave the door open to an increase in volunteer run libraries, which is at odds with developing the library workforce.
    • It will only be providing temporary leadership for 3 to 4 years, with only short-term aims and no long-term strategy or plan for the development of leadership.
    • Is this the right way to provide leadership and strategy, or would a single permanent body with a wide-ranging perspective on public libraries be better placed to achieve this?
  • Local government – Positives
  • Establishing a task force which could be used to provide cohesion/consistency to library services by sharing best practice and new ideas.
  • Opens up scope for library users to have a greater say in what happens in/to their library service.
  • Even though it acknowledges that volunteer libraries are an option it does say that they aren’t necessarily the best option.
  • Local government – Negatives
    • No mention of necessary funding from local government.
    • Recommendations about library governance leaves open governance models that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of libraries or their users.
  • All of the actions/recommendations give no real acknowledgement that libraries have a great many services, resources and benefits to offer, beyond the idea that it would be beneficial to improve the digital network. What about literacy, community, educational, outreach benefits? Hopefully having such a wide range of partners involved in the task force will ensure that these other aspects of library services aren’t forgotten.
  • The report illustrates the true value/benefits of libraries, but the focus on digital services to support these benefits shouldn’t be the sole way to support them. This should be clearly acknowledged in the report’s recommendations and actions.
  • On one hand the report talks about the benefits of cohesiveness and consistency of services provided by national initiatives, but on the other suggests that different governance models for libraries are acceptable and that local authorities have the responsibility to decide what is “comprehensive and efficient” in their local area. Local authorities cannot agree on this, so how will consistency of service be achieved in England?

National Libraries Day and a #LibraryAtoZ Follow Up


National Libraries Day this year is happening on 7th February.

As the National Libraries Day site says:

It is a chance for people to organise a local event or visit their library and interact with the vital work carried out by their library and information professionals, reminding decision-makers that our libraries and librarians are valued.

Last year’s National Libraries Day map showed around 600 events happening around Britain, although I suspect that more events actually happened – they just weren’t on the map.

If you’re looking for ideas about what you could do at your local library, whether you’re a member of staff, or a library user, I collated a short list of ideas a while ago, which can be found here.

If you’re looking for promotional and advocacy material to support whatever you do on National Libraries Day don’t forget that the Library A to Z full colour materials are still available for free download here, including full colour illustrations and poster templates which you can freely adapt. For example, my library service is using them on Pinterest and Twitter to promote our services during National Libraries Day this year. I know other people have used them for displays and promotions in their libraries. In-line with the comment on the National Libraries Day site you could also use the materials for “reminding decision-makers that our libraries and librarians are valued.” I’ll be sending a few of the #LibraryAtoZ cards out to local politicians just to remind them that libraries are still here. It seems a good time to do it in the lead up to the general election this year, especially as some of the cards feature the Speak Up For Libraries election manifesto.

Before I sign-off this blog post I’d also just like to say thanks to the individuals and organisations who supported the launch of the Library A to Z back in November last year. It was a bit of whirlwind up to and after the launch week and I realise I never wrote a thank you post. During the launch week Twitter worked really well to get the message out there and there were over 1000 #LibraryAtoZ mentions and retweets. Libraries got into the spirit of the promotional material and shared the words and images. Lots of people changed their Twitter avatars to the letter that matched the initial of one of their names. It was great to see it used in this way, as it got others asking about the images and what the Library A to Z was all about. I still see some avatars using the images when I go onto Twitter now. Just over 20 blogs and articles mention the A to Z, including some in the USA and Australia. The Bookseller and CILIP Update both gave the A to Z coverage. The A to Z was also mentioned on other social networks, but Twitter was the most active. It didn’t all just happen online either. Libraries used the material for promotional events, people sent copies of the book and cards to their local politicians. Library A to Z packs including books, posters and cards were also sent out to over 100 key decision-makers and politicians in the main parties in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as around 30 media organisations. Andy Walsh spent a lot of time sending these packs out. I also had the opportunity to hand over copies of the book to politicians and speakers at the Speak Up For Libraries conference at the end of the launch week. It all helped to get the message out there. So, thank you to everyone who played a part.