Archive for December, 2005

To end the year – the top five

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005 by Jim

My colleagues, Bruce Washburn and Joe Zeeman, just produced a ranked list of the books in the RLG Union Catalog and shared the top five titles. They are:

1. Dante Alighieri. The divine comedy: The inferno, The purgatorio, and The paradiso. New York: New American Library, 2003.
2. Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. Don Quixote. London: Secker & Warburg, 2004.
3. Wagner, Richard. The twilight of the gods. Opera in English. Colchester, Essex, England: Chandos, n.d.
4. Shakespeare, William. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. A Longman cultural edition. New York: Longman, 2004.
5. Church of England. The Book of Common Prayer with musical notes: the first office book of the Reformation. 2d ed., rev. and corr. [London]: Novello, Ewer and co., n.d.

We’ve already begun to speculate about why these turn up as the top five most widely-held – as Joe says it might be a tribute to the power of the Uniform Title concept. Perhaps you’d like to speculate.

Here’s a new year greeting from all of us at RLG.

P.S. In case you want to compare this list with the top five in that other big union catalog – OCLC Top 1000

Digital preservation paradox

Friday, December 9th, 2005 by Merrilee

Let’s say you are not exactly bullish about digital preservation — you are skeptical about the feasibility of keeping digital items in a useful form into the future. Let’s say you do a lot of writing and publishing about your theory. Most of your work is digital of course.

If you are right, no one will know how right you are, because your work won’t live on.

If you are wrong, your wrong predictions will mock you from every digital repository and web archive.

I think the first scenario is unlikely unless your work never gets printed out and filed, or referred to in print publication. But it’s interesting to think about nonetheless. I’ve been thinking about this since Clay Shirky’s talk, and Eric alluded to this a little bit in his first post for IAG. Welcome, Eric!

A little Friday afternoon thought…

BetterLight, BetterMetadata

Thursday, December 8th, 2005 by Günter

On my way back home from work last Thursday, I stopped by the BetterLight headquarters in San Carlos to chat with Mike Collette about his scanning backs and how they could capture more technical metadata. According to Mike (the heart, soul and owner of the company), BetterLight now is pretty much the only camera manufacturer left in the scanning-back business in the US – most other cameras on the market now are area arrays, most of them powered by the same Kodak chip. BetterLight has always enjoyed a good reputation and a fair market-share in the cultural heritage community, and I’ve always had high hopes that they’d be the first camera manufacturer to support NISO Z39.87 Technical Metadata for Digital Still Images in a big way.

Looks like my hopes might come true – Mike told me he is committed to automatically capturing any data element specified in NISO Z39.87 which the cameraback “knows” about and consequently can write out. He has heard from many of BetterLight’s library, archive and museum customers about how desirable this feature would be, and he’s clearly listening. Some of his customers might have gotten their arguments from RLG’s Automatic Exposure initiative, which has been raising awareness of the need to automate technical metadata capture both within our community and among manufacturers – the metadata elements we are concerned with will be crucial for the long-term viability of digital images. While we were brainstorming, we looked at metadata harvesting tools such as JHOVE and the National Library of New Zealand Metadata Harvester, as well as Adobe’s Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP). We’re not entirely sure yet what the best mechanism would be for storing the metadata so it could get conveniently extracted by any of the aforementioned applications, but I’m sure the technology will fall into place as we keep talking to one another. I’ll keep you posted!

RLG Public Services Discussion Group at ALA

Monday, December 5th, 2005 by Merrilee

At each ALA, RLG sponsors an RLG Public Services Discussion Group. The next meeting of the group will be at ALA Midwinter in San Antonio. This time around, the discussion topic will be use of RSS/blogs in a public service setting. We are lucky to have a whole bevy of experienced bloggers on hand to tell you about their experiences, so I hope you will be able to join us and learn, or contribute your own observations from the blogosphere.

Julia Kelly and Janice Jaguszewski will join us from the University of Minnesota Libraries. Julia teaches a class on blogging, and will brief us on the University of Minnesota’s groundbreaking UThink program. Janice uses RSS as a tool, to show selected resources in four current awareness profiles on specific areas of nanotechnology research. Neat stuff!

Abigail Bordeaux and Erin Rushton will join us from the Binghamton University Libraries. Both Erin and Abigail participated in the implementation of blogs at Binghamton and have presented about blogs and RSS at faculty development workshops. Binghamton currently offers three blogs, all accessible from the Libraries’ home page. These are Library News & Exhibits, the Science Library Blog, and the Business Blog

If you are not a librarian (say you’re a museum professional, or you work at an archive or historical society) but will be in the area, please do plan to attend. Since this is an RLG-hosted meeting, this discussion group is open to all RLG members and not just those attending ALA. (Not sure if you’re a member? Check this page.)

Is there a member of your public services staff who might be interested, but maybe doesn’t follow this blog? Want to RSVP? Want to see what other meetings RLG is hosting? More information here!

The time and place:
ALA Midwinter, San Antonio, TX
Monday, January 23rd, 2006
8:00am -10:30am
La Mansion Del Rio Hotel, Veramendi

The Japanese do the verb string

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 by Jim

Webcat Plus

I’m still working through thoughts from my horrendously brief trip to Tokyo and one of my discoveries there connects up with recent posts by Lorcan Dempsey and my colleague Merrilee.

Lorcan’s post in which he mentioned RedLightGreen was appreciated:

“I was reminded of the discover-locate-request-deliver string as I have been looking at various publicly available union/group activities recently, and these words crop up from time to time:

* RedLightGreen offers a rich discovery experience, based on aggregate data from the RLG union catalog. It also has a marvelous name ;-) – one of the few library initiatives to have a name worthy of the Internet times we live in. I speculate that it has not had the traction that one might have expected because it does not integrate the locate-request-deliver verbs so well into the discover experience.”

His speculative criticism is well-founded and may be remedied by the recent partnership with Talis that was mentioned by Merrilee in this blog.

While explaining their research and service agenda the folks at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) showed off a web site that they’ve built which does a very nice job on the discover-locate-request-deliver continuum. You can check it out by clicking the banner above. It shows itself off nicely in English as well as Japanese. It has some of the locate-request power of OCLC’s OpenWorldCat because NII serves as a general library service aggregator in Japan similar to OCLC. I like the associative search function – it gives good, interesting and intelligent ranked results and lets you refine using the associations they’ve discovered. Try a search for “loyal samurai“. Try the same search in RedLightGreen. It gets you to the right story despite the relatively inaccurate search terms.

And incidentally I managed a brief visit to the Senga-kuji Temple where the forty seven loyal ronin are to this day honored. A reasonable English version of the story is here. A good scholarly entry is here. And here’s a view of the temple and graves.

The Sengakuji temple The graves of the 47 ronin

Happy 30th Birthday to us!

Friday, December 2nd, 2005 by Jim

While I should not have had to be, I was reminded by a colleague that RLG’s official birthday was December 1.

RLG was incorporated on December 1, 1975. The innovative cooperative effort of New York Public, Columbia, Yale and Harvard libraries that resulted in the incorporation was announced earlier in March, 1974. The announcement merited a substantial New York Times article.

It also merited saber-rattling comments from the publishers (“if this is done without payment to publishers and authors for the systematic reproduction…“) and jeremiads from authors (“The idea that scholarly publishing can survive under a system where libraries…is an obvious self-defeating contradiction.“).

The research library leadership that created RLG was prescient and bold. I hope the extended library, archive and museum community which now exists will come together in the face of our new challenges and opportunities to create an equally bold shared vision of the future.

I deeply appreciate the leaders and all the staff in all the member institutions who’ve worked together to create expanded access to the materials of research. The scholarly enterprise has progressed because of your efforts. I’m fortunate to work with you.

Japan – flattening the library culture

Friday, December 2nd, 2005 by Jim

Michalko at Keio Media Center
Last week I was invited to give a keynote presentation at Keio University in Tokyo (that’s me carrying on about the Long Tail as a preface to discussing mass digitization). The Media Center is an RLG member and a key institution for our relationships in Japan. I enjoyed the day I spent with the Keio senior staff – many are new to their posts and ready to shake things up. A group of them have been charged with thinking about their future library system. In fact, they are visiting RLG member institutions in NY, Boston, and Toronto this week. As they investigate they’re taking Lorcan Dempsey’s thought experiment seriously.

what would a library service which can only be delivered through common services (Flickr, delicious, Technorati, ….) and browser tools (toolbars, bookmarklets, ..) be like.

That made for some interesting and unexpected conversation.

I also visited the National Diet Library and the National Insitute of Informatics. Having discussed their issues, concerns and interests I sent references to presentations and papers that I thought they’d find useful. Maybe you will as well. Here’s what got sent:

“Museums and Digital Repositories”
Dale Flecker, Associate Director for Planning & Systems
Harvard University Library [Web presentation]
[PowerPoint presentation - go here to download]

Portico: An Important Component of a New Preservation Infrastructure”
Kevin Guthrie, President, Ithaka [Web Presentation]
[PowerPoint presentation - go here to download]
The Portico website

Digital Repository Certification – overview from the RLG website

Statement of Current Perspective and Preferred Practices for Selection and Purchase of Electronic Information – an ICOLC document

And I managed to have two Thankgivings as a consequence of the visit – Wednesday November 23 was Labour Thanksgiving Day (kinro kansha no hi) in Japan and I got back in time for the US holiday on Thursday.

Walled Gardens vs. Picket Fences

Thursday, December 1st, 2005 by Anne

OK, so I’m a little late learning about “walled gardens.” I heard this term used several times during two recent events – first at the Berkeley Digital Media Conference and then again at a recent SDForum Search SIG meeting held at Microsoft in Mountain View. I thought this must be one of those terms like “the long tail” that came up in some magazine that I don’t read as often as I should. So I looked it up in wikipedia and realized that of course I know what walled gardens are, in fact I work for an organization that sits on quite a few of them. We call them “online databases available by subscription.”

I’m not going to get into the free vs. fee-based models of access to content because we all know nothing is free even though it may appear to be. I am more interested in sharing some examples on how we are making our own walled gardens more like gardens with picket fences. My first example is RedLightGreen, a wonderful union catalog of books available freely on the web. It is derived from our mature service, the RLG Union Catalog and designed for optimizing undergraduate library research. Its design was generously subsidized by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a proof of concept project. It is beautiful and free and wants to stay that way. However, when advertising started to appear, the outcry was heard round the world, and the advertising went away. So, how does it stay free?

Well we still have the walled garden of the RLG Union Catalog that includes way more than the books in RedLightGreen. It has journals, musical scores, maps, visual materials, archives, manuscripts and special collections all searchable together. It is available by subscription.

Here’s another model, Partial content from RLG Cultural Materials, a digital image database, is available on the web. You can look at it for free and then you have an opportunity to license images that you would like to use for any number of purposes. And we still have RLG Cultural Materials that is a much richer research resource and it is available for subscription. In this instance, you can look through the picket fence and see the great treasures but you can’t pick the flowers for free and you can’t bring your dog in.

So, what are the economics of open content? This is a very important conversation that has to happen across all our cultural institutions and with the great big content aggregators that are clamoring to make our content “open”.

RLG joins Web 2.0, Library 2.0

Thursday, December 1st, 2005 by Merrilee

Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and Talis‘ work in this area have been all the buzz on the blogosphere recently — here and here and here for example. In a small, and we hope significant, way is RLG contributing to the Library 2.0 community by partnering with Talis. [press release]

Some months ago, we began discussions with our colleagues at Talis in the UK. They were interested in collaborating, and so were we. That partnership has taken the form of handing off the data that powers “Get It at your library” in RedLightGreen to power the Talis Directory Service.

What does this mean? The end of redundancy, for one thing. RLG and Talis will no longer maintain separate directories that perform essentially the same function. Instead, one open directory will be used by at least the two services — RedLightGreen and the Talis Library Platform — and hopefully many more as well. For another thing, the directory is truly open. Libraries included in the directory need not be RLG members or customers, or Talis customers. This distinguishes the Talis Directory Service from the “Find in a library” component of Open WorldCat (you will only “Find in a library” if that library is a FirstSearch subscriber).

Participation in the RedLightGreen “Get It at your library” component has always been available to any library, and of course will continue to be open. It will just be more robust, and more open.

As described in this Talis blog entry, we owe a debt of gratitude to John Udell, whose Library Lookup Service was the inspiration for the functionality in RedLightGreen. A tip of the hat goes to RLG’s Bruce Washburn, who implemented our “Get It at your library” service, and who has worked through the technical parts of the partnership with Talis.

RLG is pleased and proud to become, as the press release says, the “first global partner for the Talis Platform.”

More Flickr fun

Thursday, December 1st, 2005 by Günter

Since Merrilee’s post on trading cards was such a crowd-pleaser, I thought I’d pass on this alert on yet another fun niche of Flickr for librarians: Jill Hurst-Wahl just posted a link to the Libraries and Librarians Photo Pool, containing over 2000 images (a lot of them of library buildings), but also some oddities such as the Ask-A-Librarian Pumpkin. And for those more interested in museums, the museum cluster actually groups images into thematic or geographic clusters. Enjoy!