Archive for September, 2006

Overheard last weekend…

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 by Merrilee

“Google books: books only a computer could love.” The idea being that, well, there are probably more than a few books in our collections that haven’t been checked out by anyone since being acquired. And probably some that have escaped attention all together.

Still, it’s exciting to think about the books being unfettered from the physical libraries, the stacks, the access policies, etc. Accessible to a much wider audience, even the homely may find someone to love them. Or at least books not constrained by copyright….

As if digital preservation isn’t already expensive enough…

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006 by Merrilee

Is it me, or is this idea to preserve digital data in lunar lava tubes a bit absurb? That data would have to be pretty darned valuable…


Monday, September 18th, 2006 by Merrilee

The Library Link of the Day blog led me to this article (dated September 2006), where Larry Sanger predicts:

In the next year, by the end of 2007, every major university, library, museum, archive, professional organization, government, and corporation will be asking themselves with increasing urgency: how, using what systems and methods, can we pool the entire world’s intellectual resources to create the ideal information resource? What worldwide projects and organizations should we join or help to create?

He then goes on to speculate about a better Wikipedia, which could be brought about by the creation of the Citizendium (Citizens’ Compendium).

From where I sit, I do not see universities, libraries, archives, and museums dedicating themselves to this effort; if it does come about, I’d think it would be more likely to be the effort of dedicated individuals, much like the Wikipedia is now.

What are your thoughts? Where do you predict that universities, libraries, archives, and museums will be irresistibly drawn to pooling their efforts?

Library promotion – a thank-you to Gary Price

Monday, September 18th, 2006 by Jim

Gary Price, he of and Resource Shelf, continues to do his tireless promotion of libraries in the popular press. Gary appeared on stage with me for an interview during the final annual meeting of RLG members in June 2006 (which we didn’t get around to summarizing on our web site given the variety of other demands during that time). I don’t always agree with Gary’s focus or his notion that a lot of library challenges would be addressed if we just promoted the institution more effectively but I absolutely applaud his devotion to educating the public about the overlooked wealth of opportunities that the library presents in the web environment IF you’re aware of them.

I just got around to seeing him quoted in a September 11, 2006 Wall Street Journal column about Simple Tips for Smart Searches where the columnist says:

Go to the Library

Perhaps my most unusual suggestion for making more efficient use of search engines is to get a library card — the old-fashioned kind from your local library. That’s because some of the best information on the Web is from local libraries that have made their information available free online. You need a library-card number, though, to be able to log in to these sites.

That library-card tip is from Gary Price, the reference guru at who is one of the country’s most knowledgeable people about the troves of reference material offered online….”

He’s right – the authenticated user can get at an enormous range of quality resources. But it has to be easier. I hope that the work on the next release of will get the user not just to their library of choice but present them with the resources to which they are entitled but of which they are likely unaware.

Visual navigation of textual information

Sunday, September 17th, 2006 by Jim

Anne’s recent post about the nice Programs and Research mugs featuring our own decorative tag cloud made me think about the overall lack of success at leveraging visual displays to aid in the navigation of textual information. Tag clouds are one of the few that seem to have traction and add value beyond the decorative. I’m aware of Grokker and a variety of other attempts at visual displays (cf Visual Net) – the only one that I find useful is the hyperbolic tree in the Visual Thesaurus. It’s not that I haven’t been enamored of the notion. Our very early planning for what became the RedLightGreen service (soon to rest in peace within the more expansive potential of included my own take at a tree display of results. It’s from around April 2001 and looked like this:
voltaire hyper

We were hurried away from this approach by the design firm that we retained to help us on RedLightGreen – ironically enough the folks who were responsible for ThinkMap, the software that underpins the Visual Thesaurus, and who now concentrate solely on that product. If you have any interest in words, reading and writing their web site is worth a look.

In any event I’d be glad to hear about innovative and useful visual displays that add to the utility of bibliographic searches. I expect that there will come a time when such displays will be very helpful and expected but the prerequisite at least on the discovery dimension might be the long-anticipated convergence of libraries, museums and archives .

Friday levity, cross-community style

Friday, September 15th, 2006 by G√ľnter

Our colleague Nancy Elkington served up a little Friday levity this Wednesday, and I’ve been waiting all week to share it. Lately, we’ve been puzzling over a better word for “cultural heritage community” (which is what I tend to use), “libraries, archives and museums” (wordy and not very unifying) or “memory institutions” (which just sounds so backward looking instead of future embracing). Nancy typed “library archive museum” into the anagram finder of, limited the result to 3 words, and came up with this list. She claims her personal favorite was “Mariachi lumber survey.” I personally thought “irascible heavy murmur” was lovely, too.

Judge for yourself – here are the first 10 suggestions:

For the rest, see the site directly.

The Beginning of the End of our Uncertainty

Friday, September 8th, 2006 by Anne

When organizations combine there are inevitably uncertainties for all involved ‚Äď staff, management, customers, members, partners, affiliates, and friends. During the weeks leading up to the July 1, RLG OCLC combination, we spent time, lots of it, ‚Äúpooling our uncertainties‚ÄĚ, as Lorcan Dempsey so aptly put it.

Let me give you one example of how two cultures are really not as far apart as first it seemed. The week before the American Library Association meeting in New Orleans this past June, we had many discussions about what to do with the two booths. While too early to blend the two we decided to keep our respective sites in the exhibition hall. In fact this turned out to be a good thing. Lots of customers, members, partners, affiliates and friends stopped by the RLG booth to tell us about their uncertainties and to hear about ours.

Fast forward to the Society of American Archivists meeting in Washington DC earlier this month. In this case, we decided it was appropriate to have only the one, blended booth, an opportunity to work side by side with new colleagues and tell our combined stories. Prior to the meeting however I was asked to help select an image that represented RLG Programs, an image that would blend with and complement the OCLC images.

Here is what I suggested might serve as a representative image of what we are all about:

word cloud snapshirt

This was rejected in favor of a stock photograph of some people meeting together.

Fast forward to our first all staff meeting in Dublin, Ohio in the middle of August. RLG Programs staff spent two days working with our colleagues in the OCLC Office of Research, looking for ideas on how to combine our future agenda.

Imagine my surprise when at the end of the two days of meeting, we were given new coffee mugs with this image:


So we are on our way to clarity with some shared vision of our future.
More certainty to follow so watch this space.

A workshop that worked!

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006 by G√ľnter

[Edit: added link to online workshop materials]

Usually I spend my Fridays working at home trying to stop my cat from encrypting my e-mails, but Friday August 25th I spent at the DLF Open Archives Initiative (OAI) Implementer’s Workshop (I’ll link to handouts once they come online) at Stanford. During the general introductions, I declared my purpose at the workshop as “to poach as much information as I can for the museums I’m working with” (and in particular the Museum Collections Sharing Working Group), and subsequently I found out that a lot of the instructors and participants had interesting stories to share about OAI and the museum world. Here’s the link to all the materials from the workshop.

Tom Habing from UIUC commented that he was working with the UC Berkeley Art Museum on OAI harvesting for their Museum Toolkit, a FileMakerPro database recently renamed from DAMD to DAVIS (I wonder whether it had anything to do with propriety?). He also thought that this tool would include a data transformation to CDWA Lite XML (I’d still like to confirm that with my former colleagues at BAM).

Martin Halbert told me about a tool called “Metadata Migrator,” a tool developed during the project “Music of Social Change.” This project involved various museum / historical societies / archives who couldn’t run their own OAI servers, but using the migrator tool they could map their local data to DC and automatically create OAI-compliant XML records (I assume in the form of a static OAI repository; see below). It also yielded a report [pdf link] (which I have printed, but not yet read), which details the museum’s OAI experience.

I also learned about so-called “static repositories,” which consist of one long OAI compliant XML file ‚Äď once these files get registered at a static repository gateway, they, too, can be harvested and shared. For small institutions not capable of running a server themselves, this would be a way lower the threshold for participation.

I also gathered that a reasonably big leap in the further evolution of OAI must be a clearer way to demarcate what sits at the end of an identifier URL. Harvesters can’t really make much hay of the URLs if they don’t know whether these lead to a webpage about the collection the resource is a part of, or an image of the described resource in context, or a full-resolution image, or a thumbnail. The “Asset Actions” developed during DLF’s Aquifer project are a step towards resolving this issue. While OAI traditionally has been purely about sharing the descriptions, clearly interest in sharing the digital content along with it is on the rise.

Kudos to the workshop instructors Tom Habing, Kat Hagedorn, Martin Halbert, Liz Milewicz and Jenn Riley, and to DLF for pulling it all together! The format of the workshop (some introductory lectures & small themed break-out groups for the rest of the day) worked really well for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed all the interactions between the instructors and the participants. In oh so many ways, a big improvement over fighting for the keyboard with my cat…