Archive for the 'Libraries' Category

Enjoying the Scots

Friday, August 31st, 2012 by Jim

I had a very enjoyable conversation today with Martyn Wade, National Librarian and Chief Executive, of the National Library of Scotland. He made me aware of the relatively new legislation that updates the purpose and functions of the National Library. The library had been operating under legislation that dated from 1925. The new legislation positions the Library to fulfill the kind of role that the citizenry and other national and higher education institutions expect in the digital age. The legislation is brief, to the point, seems actionable and aims to be ‘future-proof’. It’s worth a quick look at 20 very generously-spaced pages. I was particularly taken with a subheading under NLS Functions:

NLS is to exercise its functions with a view to—
(a)encouraging education and research,
(b)promoting understanding and enjoyment of the collections,
(c)promoting the diversity of persons accessing the collections, and
(d)contributing to understanding of Scotland’s national culture.

I’m not aware of other library mission statements that explicitly call out the need to ensure that their collections are enjoyed. I like that very much.

In passing Martyn mentioned the library exhibit called Going to the pictures: Scotland at the cinema. In connection with this exhibit on the library’s Facebook page there was an opportunity to “Scot-ify” famous lines from the movies – Scotland at the Cinema Strikes Back. It’s ongoing and has been very successful. It’s charming and funny. Worth a look. Postcards made from some of the submissions will, of course, be available for sale in the library shop.

Public libraries in the digital age

Thursday, July 19th, 2012 by Ricky

There is not often much in these posts about public libraries, but there are frequently posts about digital libraries. I admit to thinking there’s not all that much overlap between the two. Public libraries are ready to change that.

Last November a group of public library leaders met to begin to address the future of public libraries as information is increasingly digital. There was much discussion about the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the role of public libraries in that endeavor — as well as the possible impact of DPLA on public library usage and funding. It was agreed that this was not a time to sit back and see what happens. If public libraries don’t serve the content the users want in the forms they want to consume it, their future is grim.

A new report, America’s Digital Future: Advancing a shared strategy for digital public libraries, summarizes the themes from the meeting and lays out an action plan for moving forward.

There can be no true Digital Public Library of America without the participation of public libraries. Public libraries are eager to digitize their unique materials and make them locally available as well as contribute them to DPLA. Perhaps a more burning issue is to ensure that public libraries can provide current commercial publications, including e-books, to their users. They cannot rely on the marketplace to represent public interests; this will require a national, concerted voice to negotiate with publishers and to minimize the digital divide.

This part of the public library action plan is being further pursued in an IMLS-funded project to develop an e-book strategy that will ensure that Americans continue to have access to commercially produced content through their local public libraries, even as formats change.

While OCLC’s constituency includes all libraries, the OCLC Research Library Partnership focuses on research libraries. These issues, though, are fundamental to all libraries and library users and I am pleased to have been involved in the public library meeting and report and in the forthcoming work on e-book lending.

Two Huge Linked Data Announcements

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 by Roy

This week we have announced two major initiatives that are now providing significant library linked data resources to the world. First was the announcement yesterday that all of the 23rd Edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification has been released on the web as linked data. From the announcement:

All assignable classes from DDC 23, the current full edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification, have been released as Dewey linked data. As was the case for the Abridged Edition 14 data, we define “assignable” as including every schedule number that is not a span or a centered entry, bracketed or optional, with the hierarchical relationships adjusted accordingly. In short, these are numbers that you find attached to many WorldCat records as standard Dewey numbers (in 082 fields), as additional Dewey numbers (in 083 fields), or as number components (in 085 fields).

Second was today’s announcement that we have now added descriptive markup. as well as draft set of library extensions, to all of WorldCat. From the press release:

OCLC is taking the first step toward adding linked data to WorldCat by appending descriptive mark-up to pages. now offers the largest set of linked bibliographic data on the Web. With the addition of mark-up to all book, journal and other bibliographic resources in, the entire publicly available version of WorldCat is now available for use by intelligent Web crawlers, like Google and Bing, that can make use of this metadata in search indexes and other applications.

For more information, see “Linked Data at OCLC”. Please keep in mind that these efforts are beginning steps. We will be reviewing the feedback we receive and likely making changes as opportunities to improve present themselves. For example, we are working to pull together a group of institutions that can collaborate on establishing a set of extensions to the elements. A very beginning draft is available, but it will likely go through many changes as others become more closely involved. We welcome your participation.

Follow-up addendum: We’ve had several folks ask about data dumps relative to the linked data announcement. Adding linked data to is, for the time being, an experiment that we’re putting out there in order to garner feedback and get some early usage results. We expect our model to change; because of that, we’re not publishing any bulk downloads of the data at this time.

Coming to terms with disciplinary repositories

Friday, May 11th, 2012 by Ricky

Academic librarians are coming to terms with the likelihood that institutional repositories and disciplinary repositories will coexist into the future. In order to provide good support to researchers, librarians should be able to assess the reliability of disciplinary repositories as part of their role in furthering scholarly discourse. [And even more important if the library is involved in operating a disciplinary repository!]

In the report Lasting Impact: Sustainability of Disciplinary Repositories, OCLC Research provides an overview of disciplinary repositories, profiles seven with different business models, and offers ways to assess or improve the sustainability of disciplinary repositories.

Harvard bibliographic data released with prominent nod to OCLC

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 by Jim

Member of the Charles River Basin Community Sailing Club Enjoy an Evening Sail. for a Dollar a Year, Youngsters Up to Age 17 Can Join the Club and Learn to Handle a Boat 08/1973

Into the flow.

Back in October we were excited to announce the final step in a project on which OCLC Research worked with the University of Cambridge – the release of their library catalog data as both MARC21 and as Linked Data. They worked with us and implemented our provisional recommendation to use an Open Data Commons Attribution license for the data release, which include data that was derived from WorldCat. While we are working to finalize and formalize that recommendation (it was a major discussion item at last week’s OCLC Global Council meeting) other institutions have been working on their own data releases.

Today the Harvard University Libraries released their library catalog of more than 12 million bibliographic records. This release furthers the mandate from their Library Board and Faculty to make as much of their metadata as possible available through open access in order to support learning and research, to disseminate knowledge and to foster innovation and aligns with the very public and established commitment that Harvard has made to open access for scholarly communication. I’m pleased to say that they worked with OCLC as they thought about the terms under which the release would be made. Although Harvard Libraries did not ultimately accept our recommendation about the ODC-BY license, the approach chosen by the Harvard Libraries takes into account some of the primary aspects of OCLC’s recommendation.

Specifically, our discussions acknowledged the Harvard mandate as well as what was most important to the OCLC cooperative – receiving attribution and making others aware of the cooperative’s norms and expectations of one another in regards to data derived from WorldCat. And again I’m pleased to say that our Harvard colleagues took the cooperative’s desires into account. The dataset is being released subject to the Creative Commons Public Domain designation (CC0) but Harvard requests that subsequent use provide attribution to Harvard, OCLC and the Library of Congress. They also request that users be aware of and act in a manner consistent with the OCLC cooperative community norms and provide a link to those norms. We think this is a well-intentioned and executed compromise.

It’s true we don’t think that public domain dedications for data derived from WorldCat are consistent with the OCLC cooperative’s norms as expressed in the WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities (WCRR) statement, particularly at Section 3.B.5. We also recognize that the WCRR statement is not a legally binding document and that interpretations of these community norms within the cooperative may differ. Releasing data is ultimately the choice of the OCLC member institution as are the terms. Would other members of the cooperative consider the release of the Harvard dataset under these terms and conditions bad acting and a risk to the long-term viability and sustainability of WorldCat? Probably not, particularly with attribution, and awareness and responsible treatment of WorldCat-derived data being requested so prominently.

Our discussions and this outcome are evidence that interpretations of community norms within the cooperative may differ. The mandates of institutional mission, the imperatives of emerging local policy, national and supra-national structures may all contribute to a differing view and legitimately demand precedence. In our discussions with Harvard we acknowledged that their direction was their choice. Their mandates took precedence. They acknowledged the cooperative’s concerns and responded as a responsible cooperative citizen by requesting attribution, and awareness of and adherence to the community norms of the OCLC cooperative. The discussion was frank and mutually supportive. After all, OCLC like its member institutions is in the early stages of large shifts in data technology and policy. There are inevitable tensions and conflicting goods that will need to be reconciled over time. The process in which we are engaged will if we continue to work together with good will, ultimately lead to a new suite of best practices that balance the common good and institutional sustainability.

Image: Member of the Charles River Basin Community Sailing Club Enjoy an Evening Sail

Raising Expectations

Thursday, January 19th, 2012 by Roy

There are precious few library speakers upon whose every word I hang. Call me difficult to please. But one person who has achieved that status is Prof. David Lankes from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. The dude rocks. And although he is a frequent speaker, including at the upcoming ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas, you don’t have to wait a single minute to hear him talk about some of his most important issues.

Last week I caught up with him virtually via Skype, and recorded him for our ongoing podcast series “What keeps you awake at night?” What resulted was a rollicking 25-minute romp through some fairly important issues for us all. Central to his theme was “raising expectations” — for ourselves, for our institutions, for the clienteles we serve. He also talked about making innovation a core part of what we do. To do this, he asserts, we need to create environments where taking risks and failing is OK, and he cites Seth Godin’s definitions for “mistake” vs. “failure”:

A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal.

A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding.

Prof. Lankes covers a lot more ground than this, including a segment on “dead wood” in the organization, and much better than I can attempt to parrot back to you. What I’m trying to do, if it hasn’t become obvious by now, is to intrigue you enough that you will listen to the whole thing. It’s only 20 minutes since I sped up the recording by 20%. Yes, we know your time is valuable. After all, you have some expectation raising to do. 

OCLC Research 2011: it’s starting to look like a lot of Linked Data

Thursday, December 29th, 2011 by Jim

This is the sixth post in a mini series, where we look back at accomplishments in 2011.

While OCLC has gotten some (deserved and undeserved) bashing in the blogosphere during 2011 about the cooperative’s practices over the release of major bibliographic subset we’ve also been active in the Linked Data arena in ways that have moved the library linked data community forward.

Exhibit number one is, of course, the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF), about which much has been written. It fits the pattern that I think will emerge in the linked data arena. Rather than lots of institutional releases of data we will see the emergence of significant hubs based around authoritative aggregations on which many applications and implementations will arise. This file created through the manipulation of twenty-one authority files from eighteen organizations is prominent in the Linked Data Cloud and getting more than 2 hits/second from Google. Thom Hickey, the principal force behind the creation, extension and maintenance of VIAF has sensible commentary about its development on his blog including how VIAF relates to other name identifiers. The principals in VIAF – LC, DNB, BnF and OCLC – are working to formalize VIAF’s integration as an OCLC offering where it will be offered under an Open Data Commons Attribution license. Right now it’s out in the cloud without a license which counts as “not openly licensed” in that community.

Exhibit number two is the very recent release of the Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) file as linked data. I blogged about this not long ago. It has now shown up in the Linked Open Data Graph.

Exhibit number three is the Dewey linked data. Exhibit four OCLC’s support for and involvement with the Library Linked Data Incubator Group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) where my Research colleague, Jeff Young, was a participant and contributor.

We expect more activity in the linked data arena during 2012 and hope to see some creative implementations and use cases as the year progresses. For now it’s Robert Burns and Auld Lang Syne time.

I understand that the earliest known manuscript of Auld Lang Syne autographed by Robert Burns is at the Lilly Library Indiana University but I couldn’t find a digital image…

FAST on the street

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by Jim

Tokyo Drift

leaving the garage for the street FAST

I’m pleased to say that today OCLC Research released FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology) as linked data under an Open Data Commons Attribution license.

FAST has been a multi-year project of OCLC Research in collaboration with the Library of Congress. The FAST authority file is an enumerative, faceted subject heading schema derived from the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

You can read the details in the press releases and announcements but even better would be to take a look at the web search interface to FAST. You can also see a nice example of FAST in action by looking at MapFAST which uses FAST to show library materials using the geographic focus of the content.

FAST itself has been a lot of work over many years and I was pleased that Ed O’Neill who led the project was here in our San Mateo offices when the release occurred. We were able to give him a big round of applause. Of course, this project demanded a broad range of effort from many Research staff over the years but the principal developer and the kingpin in the linked data release is Rick Bennett. We applauded him virtually.

Now I hope to sit back and hear about the interesting ways that FAST is mobilized in the linked data cloud.

Photo sourced from zweiff

The staffing challenge – it’s not just new skill sets

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011 by Jim

At the last Association of Research Libraries (ARL) membership meeting (which means I’ve been carrying this thought around since mid-October, shame on me) I sat in on the Transforming Research Libraries Committee meeting chaired by my long-time friend, Carton Rogers. He precipitated what turned out to be a very engaged and frank discussion about the staffing challenges research libraries face while trying to navigate the increasingly urgent imperatives to transform their operations and renovate their portfolio of services.

He got things started by sharing an excerpt from an survey of ARL directors that asked what were the top three areas ARL should emphasize on behalf of members over the next three years. The first choice of 41.7% of the respondents was

Workforce needs of 21st century research libraries, including new roles for professionals.

A few of the committee members spoke to that issue and by the end of the discussion nearly every one in the room had shared their local challenges in this regard. People talked about inter-generational work issues, succession problems, and the obstacles to change posed by both union circumstances and librarians with faculty status. They wanted to have librarians engaged more directly in the research process and the outputs of their institutions but recognized that most of the current work force was not sufficiently versed in the research process or in the deliverables from that process to become effective support or service agents. All of these are real world management challenges that even with the best of will on the part of both management and staff seemed increasingly intractable.

In a follow-on conversation to the meeting I was reminded of a very good piece of research done by a group of ARL Research Library Leadership Fellows a few years ago that spoke directly to this problem. Krisellen Maloney, Kristin Antelman, Kenning Arlitsch and John Butler did a project whose results were first presented at the October 2008 ARL Membership meeting in a session titled “What are our future leaders thinking?” They later published the work in CR&L in a piece titled “Future Leaders’ Views on Organizational Culture“.

Their project surveyed 165 future leaders (see the article for their working definition) to assess whether there was a relationship between future library leaders’ satisfaction with their organizational cultures and their perception of their own effectiveness. As you might imagine the academic library profile is dominated by a Hierarchy culture and the preferred culture,as perceived by this population, is more flexible and externally oriented. The staff who are most likely to contribute to the reshaping and transforming of the academic library service portfolio feel thwarted and judge their efforts ineffective. The discussion and conclusions in the published article are worth your attention.

What library administrators identify as a staffing challenge is cast, in the most measured way, by the authors as a call for organizational cultural change. Moving from hierarchy to adhocracy – a culture of high flexibility and external focus – would liberate the motivated staff resources we already have and create an environment congenial to the people with the skill sets that the future library needs. Without minimizing the individual local management challenge it seems to me that we would do well to put in place an explicit program aimed at cultural change at the same time that we look to renew, realign and refresh library staff skill sets.

P.S. It was at their ARL presentation that I was first introduced to Prezi, the presentation software that is the anti-powerpoint, which has become my default environment for my presentations.

“I’m here to give you the mean news” — alignment over assessment

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 by Merrilee

This summer I attended the RBMS preconference (that is, the Rare Books and Manuscripts section of ACRL, and the preconference is held before ALA Annual each year. If you don’t know what ACRL and ALA are, maybe you are reading the wrong blog?).

The conference was very good, but one talk, given by Sarah Pritchard (university librarian at Northwestern University) has resonated with me, even months later.

Sarah started by saying she was there to give us the “mean news”: It’s not about us (libraries); it’s about the institution (university). Thinking politically (and practically) it’s essential that the library appeal to the mission of the larger institution. Even though “assessment” is very trendy right now, what’s even more important is “alignment.” Some of my take-aways:

  • Pay attention not just to the stated mission of an organization, but also to what parts of mission are window dressing. For example, lots of universities say they support civic and community engagement. But has the campus established programs and made and real investments in these areas?
  • Align collections and services with core research and teaching areas. This requires asking some tough questions. If there are no courses in a special collections area – even for one year – can you justify continued purchases in that area?
  • Be sensitive to enormous pressures felt by top administrators: how are libraries helping the institution be more competitive, attract better students, get more grant funds, help faculty do better research and publish more? Can we engage with faculty research beyond materials procurement? Help with publishing, research, managing data? There are opportunities here to demonstrate value.
  • “Stop talking about the library as the heart of the campus, start talking about the librarians” — it’s less about collections, and more about services.
  • This message of alignment over assessment implies (I think correctly) that libraries need to act strategically and design customized services to support campus goals, which will necessarily differ. What may be wildly impactful on one campus, may not be on another. This is not to say that we cannot usefully take ideas and models from one another — I think we can. But we need to do so strategically and with a recognition that there are key differences. And periodically look up to see what strategy is most appropriate in a given setting.

    These ideas were echoed in some of the reporting out from last month’s ARL membership meeting. In the closing session, John V. Lombardi, president of Louisiana State University told librarians (in reference to digitization and technology), “Instead of rushing in and participating in a game where you don’t have the muscle, you want to stand back” and wait for the right moment.

    The article continues:

    Ever blunt, Mr. Lombardi used humor to make his point. When people ask him for money, he said, his first question is, What will that project do to make the university more competitive? “If you can’t persuade me that the work you’re doing is going to make us more famous, we’re not going to be interested in investing in you,” he said. “Is that wise and profound and good? No. It’s stupid. But that’s the way it is.”

    His concluding comment: “The football team is allowed to run a deficit of $3- to $7-million. And you’re not.”