Library On/Library Off

Nicolibrarian explores the secret life of information

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Monetize community participation?

leave a comment »

I signed up for the community at yesterday – and was interested in their opportunity for community members to “monetize” their participation (through their Google AdSense accounts):

Konigi community signup - monetize

Konigi community signup - monetize

I’m not yet familiar enough with this community to know if this actually works – I’m going to suspect nobody is raking in the cash here – but thought it an interesting concept, audience appropriate. Are other web designer, ux, or other communities doing this so far as you know?


Written by nicolibrarian

April 23, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Quick additions to the blog – email + blogroll

leave a comment »

At a reader request, I’ve now added the subscribe-by-email widget. Be careful, you might just get what you ask for.

I’ve also added a blogroll (right had nav, few widgets down). It’s hard to choose what to include, but it is a work in progress. For now, I’ve included some of the standouts from my RSS reader:

Got a blog you think I should include? A link or two you think I and your fellow Lw/oW readers might enjoy? Comment away!

Written by nicolibrarian

April 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with

Library of Congress gets Twitter archive

with 2 comments

I so look forward to seeing how this all shakes out over time, how the archive is made accessible, and all the gritty details, but I did want to shout it out that at least somebody has the archive, and that somebody is a library (yippee!). And while the LoC has had a flag staked in the digital preservation claim for a long time, here it is loud and clear:

“In other words, if you’re looking for a place where important historical and other information in digital form should be preserved for the long haul, we’re it!” From

Here’s hoping next semester’s Digital Preservation class will get to tear into it. Yum!

Written by nicolibrarian

April 14, 2010 at 8:05 pm

To be skeeved, or not to be skeeved? That is the question.

with 6 comments

I’m trying to determine if the below exchange should elicit skeeved-ness, or if this is just what happens when you share your iTunes library in public places and are stupid enough to have your name on your music library and your Facebook profile.


The scene: a public coffee shop with wi-fi, Iowa, USA. The place is packed with college kids.

The actors: Me and a fellow I will call GB, because those are his initials.

The situation: I default to having my iTunes library shared. I am working away at aforementioned coffee shop, when I get a Facebook message from GB. I have never met this person before. I am surprised, shocked…and, well, here’s how it went down

GB: Do you know that your songs are shared at (coffeshop) right now?

NF: I generally keep the sharing on; why not? But I guess I’m skeeved enough to turn it off for now…hello, BTW, across the room.  (mildy shocked, turning iTunes sharing off, IDing person sitting across room)

GB: not sure where you are … can’t recognize your picture … I guess I am not only brown dude here … easy to recognize me … hope did you scare you by sending the message … I see you like punk … I was listening to them … hope u did not mind it much

NF: oh, what the hell. I’ll turn it back on. Nah, I guess not bothered. Just, um, surprising, I guess. (recognizing fear response, thinking it unnecessary, turning sharing back on; also grabbing his ip address for some reason or another)

GB: Hey Thanks … sorry again… I think I may feel better if could formally introcude myself to you … as I have not idea who you are … but I already know what types of songs you like … 🙂

NF: I think I’m better now. No worries. Sharing is fun.

GB: Looks like you are sharing lot more music now … thanks … listening to someone’s music, I wonder whether it is possible to tell how that person is … interesting idea … think about it … ha ha … This is funny – I don’t know how you look like or who you are but music wise I can take a guess what type of person you could be …On the otherhand, you know how I look like but don’t know what type of person I could be … 🙂

NF: (ignores for 3+ hours; turns sharing off before leaving)

GB: Ahh … you took away some music again … btw: I narrowed you down to one of three girls now …

NF: (skeeved now. paranoia sets in. calls husband to alert him leaving coffee shop and to expect me home.)

(end scene)

Here’s the truth of it: I believe in being social on the Internet. I blog under my name, I tweet under my name. I generally try to be safe – I don’t use location-based services, I try not to disclose too much personal information online, but realize we all make mistakes (e.g. My name was on my iTunes library; this has since been anonymized). Was I too friendly in the above; was I too defensive: and who the hell wouldn’t think “you know how I look like but don’t know what type of person I could be” is creepy, creepy, creepy. Some have said that perhaps GB was trying to teach me about privacy; I say there’s far less menacing ways to do so. In the interests of full disclosure and lest you think me too paranoid, I used to work for a domestic violence shelter and sexual assault center; stalking and crimes of violence are not abstractions to me.

Discuss, Internet. To be skeeved, or not to be skeeved? Beyond this exchange, how do you keep yourself safe online?

Written by nicolibrarian

April 12, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Wordling today…

leave a comment »

And another check of how the blog wordles today:

Wordle: Libraries with/out Walls

Written by nicolibrarian

April 4, 2010 at 5:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Scholarly Record becomes The Scholarly MP3

with 2 comments

When I decided I wanted to be a “librarian,” I got a lot of “Oh? You have to go to graduate school for that?” and “Why would you want to shelve books all day?” One friend teased me by looking over his glasses and saying, in a husky voice, “Your books are very overdue,” a line that will still, all these years later, elicit a good chase around the room. Before I veer too far into the naughty librarian stereotype, it’s worth noting that this default image of the public’s experience of the public library is a powerful archetype. I’d even suggest that I fall prey to it, as do my fellow LIS students, and professors, too. We’re all prone to it from time to time, but LIS-land is a vast and varied country, marked by many tribes speaking many languages and inhabiting a variety of environments. I’ve recently felt like I’ve been studying abroad in the (foreign-to-me) Lands of Academic Librarianship, most specifically in the Nation of Scholarly Communication. And you gotta come vacation here, because it is a rich culture with a warm people and a helluva lot of problems and opportunities to explore. (You’d even be surprised at the native dress, which I’ll happily tell you, is becoming hipper by the day. And, if you don’t mind a few roaches, I can recommend a great place to stay with a charming Innkeeper: The Salo Inn.)

So –  I’ve been thinking a lot about the production of scholarship these days, despite my native tendency to think about the library as a circulator of already-produced material.  Librarians would be remiss as professionals if we did not involve ourselves in a deep way in understanding how scholarship is produced, quality-checked, and disseminated – or, somewhat more interestingly, not disseminated. This duty to understand scholarly practice runs deep: as collectors and keepers of information, scholars are our customers; as researchers ourselves, scholars are our peers; as teachers, we are tasked to seek out truth and encourage critical thinking and analysis in students; and as budgeted departments of institutions, we must decide what scholarship to acquire and keep, and at what cost.

This last point and the day-to-day questions that arise from it – what do we buy? For how much? To satisfy whom? And how long do we keep it? – are at the heart of Collection Development. So what do we do when this first question is irrelevant, such as in the case of “gray literature” that is freely available on the Internet, when there is no publisher to buy from, to publish catalogs from which we choose material? How do we respond to the part of “to satisfy whom” when our patrons are no longer limited to our institutional users – the students, professors, staff and others in our physical environs?

I’ll tether these ideas down with the specific example of Open Notebook Science, as written about in the article Chemistry Crowdsourcing Using Open Notebook Science by Bradley, et al. In the work outlined in their article, the researchers advocate for and propose “exposing a researcher’s complete record of progress to the public in near real time” using “free hosted services using general blog and wiki functions to facilitate replication across any scientific domains.” Neat, right? Interesting for the practice of Science, right? Kudos for collaboration, right? Three cheers for evolving the practice of Science to embrace modern technology, right?

But hold the phone…you’re the librarian at an institution where researchers are engaging in Open Notebook Science.  Data and analysis of important research is going out on a WordPress-hosted blog, and a free PBWiki. Do you freak out? Do you feel you (and your library) are even obligated to save this stuff? How do you handle the undergraduates three years from now who come in with questions about this project? Do you shake your fist ruefully at the wacky professors and their graduate assistant drones who don’t think about preservation? Do you shrug it off and be glad it’s not your job to deal with this stuff; wish you could help but point to your lack of skills and budget as excuses for your inability to act; or get all in a huff and demand that policies must be put in place to prevent this sort of thing?

These are all interesting and likely all very real possibilities, and in many ways, I’m not the person to be answering such questions. (Are you? Please leave a comment on this post…I’d love to hear your perspective.) Yet as a librarian-in-training and someone who has entered the field with an excitement for the evolution of librarianship, scholarly communication, and use of communications technology, I believe the following:

  • Making data new again - flickr photo from @pigdump

    Making data new again - flickr photo from @pigdump

    As librarians, we are obligated to preserve the scholarly record in all of its forms, be they new or old. So what if the comfortable institutional frameworks we’ve know for so long may be becoming outdated? So what if the world of research moves faster than we’d like? So what if the scholarly record has become the scholarly MP3, and our buildings are outfitted with record players? So what if we don’t feel we know how to start saving stuff like Open Notebook Science, because we don’t have the skills, policies, budgets or technology? We are leaders and as such are called to develop solutions and find our way around problems. Maybe those solutions aren’t technological – perhaps we need to be training our Chemists to be good data managers and digital preservationists. Perhaps we need to build inter-faculty, inter-institution partnerships to address these problems. Maybe we need to fire staff unwilling to change with the times, and maybe we need to raise some hell to get adequate funding. We need to talk often, and loudly about these issues of change.

  • We are likewise called to innovate in how we serve our patrons. The above obligations and potentially necessary hell-raising that accompanies it is not merely on behalf of our professional obligation to the scholarly record. It is on behalf of our patrons, users, and customers, both current and in the future. Will future researchers need to look at what past researchers thought, and thought online? Yes. And we can provide meaningful service to researchers by not only being at the end of the slide to pick up and keep their published research, but by being at the top of the slide and helping them manage their data along the way, or even before they get to the playground, in order that we might help them prepare adequately for what’s ahead.

So how can we start? Good question. At the institutional level I don’t know. Yet I do know what I’m doing on a personal level, as an LIS student, to get ready to answer these questions:

  • I’m learning new skills. Do I necessarily WANT to be a computer programmer? Nope! But I’m learning Python and XML anyway, and keep my eyes open for opportunities to get outside my comfort zone and learn new things.
  • I’m reading blogs on scholarly communication, data curation, digital preservation, and talking about these areas of the field with not only my like-minded fellow students, but those who may not understand or be interested in such subjects. My aim is less to proselytize and more to invite conversation.
  • I ask questions. A lot of them. All the time. Not only do I learn, but my hope is that others will, too.

So – what do you think? What are our obligations to the scholarly record, to patron service, and how can we begin and continue to change, both as individual librarians and as institutions?

Written by nicolibrarian

April 1, 2010 at 6:36 pm

What makes special collections so special, anyway?

The Iowa Ad Herrenium, from their digitized collection

I’ve been hanging out at the University of Iowa’s Special Collections department lately. My husband is doing research on a copy of the Rhetorica ad Herennium dating from 1340 CE, and I often find myself tagging along. The Iowa Ad Herennium is a beautiful thing, and there’s something magical and transfixing about being able to hold anything, especially a book, that’s nearly 700 years old. I must admit that being in the Special Collections space brings to mind specifically rare books and manuscripts and a sense of luddite-ism. You check your bag, pens, and liquids before you enter – only laptops and pencils allowed. Special Collections is an especially quiet place in the library, complete with an air of I-know-something-special-because-I’m-in-here, that certain smell of old (really old) books, and an affable dowdiness found only in certain deep reaches of academia.

As a Library and Information Science (LIS) student and a data curation fellow, I must confess I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about special collections, or rare books and manuscripts. It is part of my field that, for better or worse, I just don’t have much interaction with at this point, not unlike my colleagues who are training to be K-12 librarians. I’m friendly to their work, and recognize it as sibling to my own. I just happen to find myself awash in the digital, enamored with things like user experience, interface design, metadata, and systems analysis.

A Mac Performa

A Mac Performa

So I was interested this week when the New York Times did a story on Emory University’s preservation and presentation of their collection of Salman Rushdie’s archives – not only his papers, but his digital files, and his actual computers. In fact, you can see an emulated environment of his first computer, his Macintosh Performa 5400 at a researchers workstation at Emory. (Read the NYT article, and watch the excellent NYT video with screencasts from the emulator.)  And where’s this collection housed? The Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) – in special collections.

It might seem odd that such highly digital, tech-forward work is being done in an area of libraries that – to be frank – would seem to prefer the physicality of paper and the cult of the tangible over bits, bytes, data and devices. But if being in library school has taught me anything, it’s that librarians and information scientists are often not what they seem, stereotypes be damned. According to the bloggers from OCLC Research, the debate over if special collections is the place for digital “stuff” is certainly not new. Last October, the Association of Research Libraries hosted a conference in D.C., An Age of Discovery: Distinctive Collections in the Digital Age. In his remarks there, Clifford Lynch summed up the tensions between the special collections and digital worlds:

“For cultural memory organizations, these stewardship obligations are paramount—and make no mistake: now that the technology is available and increasingly affordable and well understood, the creation and geographically distributed replication of digital representations of unique treasures is fast becoming an obligation of good and responsible stewardship.”

So let’s assume this divide and debate is passe, that all special collections departments are digital friendly, and that they’re training and staffing themselves for a robust technological future. (Shall I say “Yeah, right?” Down, Cynicism! Down!)  How might the increasing ability of scholars and the public to discover materials formerly limited to physical-only entities, stored in esoteric special collections, affect information behavior? The hope would seem obvious: that scholars, researchers, and other interested parties will find material more easily without expending as much effort. These knowledge seekers will no longer have to travel to musty nooks far and wide for primary and secondary documents. These seekers will also be able to know and share information about the holdings of libraries, and research topics and questions will be sparked and ignited by this knowledge of collections. This great flowering of availability will in turn result in a great flowering of important, stimulating scholarship, a more in-depth understanding of our history and world, and special collections departments will be funded adequately by their institutions because their value is recognized, appreciated, and supported. The manna rains from heaven and we all dance naked, filled with joy and love!

Or wait. Maybe we should do the dancing clothed.

It is hard to say if increased digitization and the possibility of increased access and easier discovery will be, or if it is currently, that big of a deal. After all, scholars have been finding what they need for a long time, through printed indexes of holdings and information-sharing scholarly networks.  Just because you put something online doesn’t mean it is findable – if you build it, they will not necessarily come. Is your digitized collection’s interface easy to use, and if you are digitizing text, is it actually helpful and usable?  (e.g. How accurate is the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and what are the ramifications for searching as discussed here?) Is your collection’s metadata being harvested and aggregated elsewhere, or is it just on your site, a meek satellite with no force amplification? Are you tracking, analyzing, and reviewing metrics on the use of your digital collection and using that data to further bolster use, discoverability, and usability?

By way of demonstration, I propose a challenge. Without using the above link, find the digitized copy of the Iowa Ad Herennium. Quickly. Go. (Leave a comment and let me know how fast this was for you.)

Now how likely was it that as a scholar you were able to find that volume without knowing it was there, and digitized? And how likely is it that you know the digitized copy is not in the order of the physical item (as my husband’s research has found)? If you were doing in-depth research, attaching your name and scholarly reputation to said research, would you be likely to come and see the real thing? Methinks in certain fields that yes, you would need to.

I don’t mean to sound skeptical or against the digitization of works in special collections; and I do suspect that making online copies available will be helpful and very useful over time. I also believe that there will always be a need for the original object, and that they will be worth saving and using. The challenges will be to make collections quality, highly usable and interoperable, be able to demonstrate the value of both the digital and physical to host institutions, and the ability to market and promote resources (something I worry libraries, not to mention special collections, are not as good at as they need to be.)

So what do you think? What barriers exist now, and into the future, for both bridging the special collections stereotype to the digital future? Will there be a need for physical objects in an digitized future? How will information behavior change going forward? Other thoughts?


This post is, as so many of my other posts are, indebted to my colleagues in LIS590CDO, taught by Dorotha Salo, who is mentioned so often in this blog I’m considering renaming Libraries with/out Walls to “A Drooling Fangirl of Salo Rants On and On,” or perhaps “Dorothea Salo is My Hero.” Of particular note among my classmates is one Trevor Muñoz, co-author of the above-linked OCR paper, and who pointed out that the Rushdie and Updike papers mentioned in the Times article all fall under the purview of special collections. As always, a tip of the hat to you, good sir, and thank you.

Written by nicolibrarian

March 18, 2010 at 7:45 pm