In-class activities, class 2

Activity one: UCLA Library website scavenger hunt

This is not a structured, systematized process, but a sleuthing game that asks you to use your ingenuity and detective skills! See how far you can get, no pressure.

We’ve read and discussed a number of core library technologies, including:

  1. an integrated library system
  2. a discovery layer
  3. an enterprise resource management system
  4. a link resolver
  5. an online public access catalog

(Double-check your reading if you’re having trouble remembering what each thing does.)

How many of these technologies can you identify on the UCLA Library website? See if you can:

  1. find each element somewhere on the UCLA Library site, and,
  2. figure out which brand the software is (e.g., OCLC WorldCat, SFX, etc.).

How can you tell the software brand? You may not be able to at all, but three techniques can be helpful.

Check your URL

When you click on a link, watch the URL carefully. It may look as though you’re on the same website, but the URL may change to reflect that the content you’re viewing is actually hosted by a different provider. Sneaky!

Aha! You’re not on the same domain as!

Inspect your sources

In most browsers (Safari is the exception! use Chrome or Firefox!), you can either right-click, or press “control” and click, on some part of a webpage to reveal a context menu that includes an option called “Inspect” or “Inspect element.”

I’m right-clicking on the library website in my Chrome browser to reveal this menu.

The “Inspect” pane that opens in your browser window is intimidating, but it’s actually trying to be helpful by showing you the source code that operates behind-the-scenes in your browser.

Click on the “Network” tab to reveal the network inspector…

The “Network” tab is circled in my inspector pane.

…and then reload the page. You’ll watch the network inspector fill with a bewildering variety of elements as the page requests content from a server.

What is all this? Who knows!

Each line represents a resource that’s being requested from a server somewhere. Sometimes it’s an image, sometimes it’s a bit of code, sometimes it’s…who knows!

I know, it’s too much to take in, but if you hover over individual resources with your mouse, you can see where the resources are being pulled from, and that can sometimes be verrrrrrry interesting.

For example, this screenshot, taken from Melvyl, shows that Melvyl is pulling a “recaptcha” resource from Google — meaning, presumably, that it’s relying on Google for some of its security infrastructure. Good to know!

Try Wappalyzer

Wappalyzer is a product that tries to determine which technology tools are running on a website you specify. There’s a bookmark you can download for your browser, but for now, try just entering a URL in the search box (scroll down on the page if you don’t see the search box right away).


Wappalyzer won’t tell you the name of the software company that created the site, but it will tell you which web technologies the site is using.

What other sneaky stuff can you find? Remember, there’s no perfect way to do this; you’re being creative!

Extra points for determining other parts of library tech infrastructure, like archival management software, ILL software, and anything else you can suss out!

Activity two: Research a product

Researching a technology product can be daunting, especially if you’re not 100% sure how it works. Today we’ll practice some techniques for learning about corporate ownership and governance, as well as the larger competitive environment in which a product operates.

Questions to ask

  1. Who owns the technology?
  2. Is this proprietary technology, or is it open-source?
  3. If the technology is open-source, how is it governed? How does it propose to sustain itself?
  4. Is the company publicly or privately owned?
  5. How large is the company?
  6. How old is the vendor?
  7. Where is the vendor located?
  8. What is the technology’s business model? For example, does the company earn revenue via product sales, via subscriptions, via selling data? Some combination?
  9. What is the larger category to which the technology belongs? (For example: ERMS, ILS, etc.)
  10. What is the technology supposed to do?
  11. Which products are this technology’s competitors?
  12. How does this product distinguish itself from its competition?
  13. What is the technology’s market share?
  14. What factors might influence the technology’s adoption (or lack thereof) going forward?

In the service of…

…these larger questions:

  1. How is the product likely to evolve?
  2. How long might you expect the company maintain the product?
  3. How is the company’s ownership or governance likely to affect the future of this technology?
  4. For which kind of institution might this technology be suitable?

Technologies to investigate

  1. Alma
  2. SFX
  3. Alexandria
  4. Symphony
  5. Coral
  6. 360 Core
  7. EBSCO Discovery Services


Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology Guides