Archive for March, 2007

D2D Symposium: files are up

Friday, March 30th, 2007 by Merrilee

A quick note to let you know that all of the MP3 and PDF files from presentations and discussions are up on the symposium webpage. Some of the files are pretty large (particularly those for the discussions). But you can now pretend you were there, or simply relive the moment.

Just back from a great visit to UCLA. I’m behind! I have a lot to say about the visit and D2D, but feel like I’m trying to catch my breath.

Digital Preservation survey in need of museum input!

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007 by G√ľnter

I just received an e-mail from Karim Boughida, who expressed dismay that the Getty Research Institute is not receiving more museum responses to the International Digital Preservation Systems Survey. While they have gathered an impressive 144 responses so far, only 2 have come from museums! If you are a museum, and have a system which you rely on for digital preservation, I’d urge you to contribute to this survey. Karim and his team will widely publicize the findings, which will benefit the entire community.
I personally suspect that most museums who are investing in stewardship of digital assets currently work on digital asset management (also see the recent RLG DigiNews special issue on the topic), which arguably has a different focus from long-term retention / digital preservation. I recently wrote an article for an AAM book publication tentatively titled “Museums in the Digital Age” on this very issue (edited by Herminia Din and Phyllis Hecht, to be published Fall 2007), and if I may have the vanity to pre-print quote myself:

Since commercial DAMS systems are created with the intent to manage present-day digital files for use rather than for posterity, a conservative view of their capability to preserve digital files according to established standards seems prudent. Rather than a silver bullet solution, the DAMS could be seen as a museum’s first major point of engagement with the thorny issues of digital preservation. Beyond all other obvious benefits to museum operations, implementing a DAMS is a first step towards better stewardship of digital assets, which may develop into a full-blown institutional digital preservation strategy down the line.

I’d be particularly interested in museum responses from DAMS implementers – the survey could be one way to gage how far down the path of digital preservation their work on asset management has taken them.

Maybe the good folks over at Musematic could also make a call for museum input?

Services for Terminologies

Friday, March 23rd, 2007 by G√ľnter

Impression from the Getty

At the beginning of the week, I attended the CCO Advisory Group meeting at the Getty, and I continue to be impressed with the verve of this band of visual resource curators and museum professionals who have written and continue to advance this data content standard. Most of the meeting focused on the question of how to establish a solid training infrastructure for CCO, and the VRA Cataloging Cultural Objects Committee will consider the recommendations of the group at their meeting during the VRA annual conference next week.

A particularly interesting sideline-discussion during our meeting concerned terminologies. Various members of the group felt that authorities/thesauri needed to be available as a web service to:

  • support more efficient cataloguing – lower the barrier for the use of controlled terms in local cataloging tools (the existing OCLC Terminologies Service takes a stab at that)
  • provide better retrieval in local resources – a service could improve access, for example by exploding the user’s query terms to the alternative terms found in name authorities and thesauri
  • provide better retrieval in aggregate resources – once records are in a shared environment, the stakes for resolving data content issues are even higher; otherwise, the same idea as the bullet above

I agree with Lorcan that terminologies is an area where museum, library and archive interests show a strong convergence.

Each community has an interest in establishing agreed ways of noting names, places and things, and has a variety of practices to support it. This seems like a fertile area for investigation of shared attention across communities.

I’m particularly interested in how this “shared attention” would affect cataloging practices in the realm of the unique & rare across libraries, archives and museums. A cross-community and service-oriented approach has the promise to achieve economies where they’re most difficult to eke out.

Discovery to Delivery and Beyond!

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007 by Merrilee

[the title of this post should be delivered in your very best Buzz Lightyear voice]

At the reception following the first day of our recent Discovery to Delivery symposium, a few attendees gushed that they had really liked what G√ľnter and I did with the More, Better, Faster, Cheaper forum in August.

Gulp. Following each day of that event, G√ľnter and I decamped to a nearby Starbucks and recapped the days events. Our D2D symposium was structured much differently — rather than having the focus on speakers, the focus was the discussion.
Following the first day, we put our heads together not to summarize but to create an agenda for the second day. Following the second day, yours truly collapsed into an exhausted heap. On Saturday, I went out in the snow and watched the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. What can I say, I wasn’t going to miss it.

So, gentle readers, I do not have a summary of presentations or discussions yet, but I’m working on it. I’m busy listening to the MP3 files we made, which will hopefully help me in letting you know what went on. Soon enough you’ll have your summary, and access to PowerPoints and MP3 files, so if you were there you can recreate the moment. If you weren’t there, you can experience it all first hand!

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Parading in front of the Apple building Tired parade participants

Conceptualizing Metadata

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007 by G√ľnter

During the Bibliographic Control Working Group public meeting last week I had lunch with Karen Coyle, and we chatted about conceptualizing metadata – even if we didn’t pose the question to ourselves as such, I’d say we were both wondering how approaches to description and standards can create an environment which ensures cross-domain interoperability while also retaining local flexibility.

As timing should have it, an article which outlines my thinking about this issue has just been published in FirstMonday today. I co-wrote it with my friend and colleague Mary Elings from the Bancroft Library: we teach a class in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University each summer, and found that our students needed a primer on description in libraries, archives and museums, as well as a method to organize the acronym madness and make sense of all the standards in use across the board. Since we could never find a good article to provide this particular educational moment, we took a stab at it ourselves (after a much appreciated kick in the pants from the VRA Bulletin, where the article appears in print form as part of a special issue on Shareable Metadata and CCO).

Karen and her friends have also been busy, and she e-mailed me with a link to an emerging article on her futurelib Wiki. What struck me about this piece was the difference in terminology we use to describe what I believe are essentially the same concepts. While Mary and I talk about data structure, data content and data format, Karen et al. use the terms Schema (= data structure), Guidance (= data content) and Encoding (= data format). Of course I like our terms better (since I’m used to them!), but the effect of making the familiar look disfamiliar actually opens up the possibility of looking at what’s proposed with fresh eyes – and maybe that was the intended effect. And, let me just say for the record, maybe I’m over-eager in my mapping of terms, and there are important differences between our categories.

As I read it, the draft argues that all of our metadata needs should be articulated at the level of an overarching reference model, which governs the creation of an extensible and flexible Schema, which gets populated with the help of community-specific Guidance, which get rolled up into an Encoding to transports it all. So far it’s a familiar story. Here’s the more interesting part: if I extrapolate correctly, the document proposes that whoever considers themselves part of the cultural heritage community (libraries, archives, museums, et al.) could be united under the big tent of the Framework and the Schema, yet they would retain the flexibility to adapt the description to their needs at the level of Guidance. While I’m intrigued by this vision, I believe as a model for rethinking description it would probably only scale to unite the different interests and areas of specializations within the library community, which is a feat in and of itself.

What I’m proposing as a solution to interoperability issues is much less ambitious: if we could recognize that we are a community of common interest across domains, then libraries, archives and museums could start treating the same type of materials with the same type of description. For example, if we could agree to describe the rare and unique items housed in our collections using the same suite of standards, we could build up a compelling aggregate of digital objects in a similar fashion that bibliographic materials now flow together with relative ease. To my mind, integration of different types of materials (books, artifacts, papers) rests on the foundation of figuring out how to get the same stuff to play nicely together. The key to finding interoperability at that level resides in the data content rules, and that’s where I see the need to come to more agreement. We know how to map data structures, and we know how to automate transformations. However, we don’t know how to “map” between AACR2 and CCO rules, for example, or bring relative homogeneity to collections described using different data content standards, controlled vocabularies and thesauri.

I’ve gone on for too long. Karen, let’s chat some more soon! And dear reader, if you’re still with me on this one, you probably should order this T-Shirt (courtesy of Inherent Vice).

A wonderful specimen of a user!

Friday, March 9th, 2007 by G√ľnter

We’re always on the look-out for this mystical creature called “the user,” and I am exited to report a public sighting: for a good hour during the Bibliographic Control Working Group public meeting, we had a superb specimen right in front of us. Dr. Timothy Burke, an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Swarthmore College, spoke with detail and nuance about his information retrieval (read: search) behavior as a researcher, and provided a plethora of specific scenarios for different searching strategies. My only regret is that I didn’t walk up to him afterwards and thank him in person for his candor, wit and eloquence. I would have written this up in detail, but found that Karen Coyle already beat me to the punch. Thanks, Timothy (and Karen)!

IMLS WebWise 2007 – My sleeper-theme

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007 by G√ľnter

IMLS WebWise Welcome

[Image: Ken Hamma, Jay Jordan and Anne Imelda-Radice welcoming IMLS WebWise 2007 attendees]

At most conferences I go to, there’s the official theme, and then there’s my personal “sleeper-theme,” some issue that grabs my attention which gets negotiated by a variety of speakers in passing, and may gain more depth in hallway conversations. For IMLS WebWise, my sleeper-theme was how institutions positioned themselves vis-a-vis the network. OCLC CEO Jay Jordan started me off with his opening remarks, where he quoted the Perceptions Report [pdf link]: 84% of respondents claim that they start their quest for information with a search engine, as opposed to the 1% who start with a library website. While this statistic has been well-publicized since the report‚Äôs publication in 2005, it still gives me pause.

In the museum keynote, Elizabeth Broun (Smithsonian American Art Museum) seemed struck by that number as well, and readily acknowledged that this fact didn’t only apply to libraries, but also to museums and their online offerings. On the other hand, her presentation focused almost exclusively on how the Smithsonian American Art Museum has made their web presence a more attractive destination in and of itself – and what amazing work SAAM has done! Chewing on the 84%, however, I would have also loved to hear strategies for how the museum intends to get in the flow (as Lorcan likes to call it) and meet users where they are (search engines, social networking sites, social knowledge creation sites). During the q&a, McKenzie Smith beat me to the mic and pressed the issue – would Elizabeth Broun consider giving up some control over museum content by injecting it into contexts where the museum itself wouldn’t have any control over the content anymore, such as for example Wikipedia? Broun acknowledged that she’s getting ready to re-evaluate the museum‚Äôs need for authoritative control around issues of social tagging, but unfortunately she didn‚Äôt address the deeper implications of the question at hand.

Deanna Marcum’s (Library of Congress) library keynote on Friday morning confirmed that while museums only feel the pressure of finding their audience where they lurk to a degree, libraries know they don’t have a choice. Deanna as quoted by Holly: “What I think our challenge is, it is not enough for us to create the perfect finding system, we know from all the user studies that individuals, who are looking for information, go directly to the open web, and our marvelous catalogues are not getting used. We have to find ways to take our content and the metadata and move that content to the open web.

One of the WebWise preconferences addressed the theme of getting in the flow head-on - “Sharing Images and Data: Making Access to Collections Easier and Better” presented a packed ballroom with technological strategies, mission-driven rationales as well as case-studies on how to get digital image collections into the hands of our audience. Again, hallway conversations confirmed that the museum community is currently struggling with the right balance between control and sharing: while they‚Äôd like to be more effective in fee-free licensing of high-resolution digital images with researchers and learners, they also want to make sure that those very same images do fetch an adequate price when used commercially.

Disclaimer: I was on the WebWise planning committee this year ‚Äď and I still thoroughly enjoyed myself in DC!
Head’s up: A podcast of all talks, powerpoints, as well as a conference summary prepared by Diane Zorich will be available in the future.

Making ideas “sticky”

Monday, March 5th, 2007 by Merrilee

This has been making the rounds on the book tour: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. I’m interested in the premise, that one can make an idea “sticky,” that is memorable, compelling, and easily understandable. This is something we need in the library (and archives, and museum) community. We live in our complicated world of acronyms and shared history. We suffer from what the authors term “the curse of knowledge.” To make our story understandable and compelling to others, we need to come up with some “sticky” stories.

An excerpt from the book defines “stickiness,” and “the curse of knowledge.” There’s a great illustration of the curse (of course!), which you can find if you scroll down to or search for the phrase “tappers and listeners.” I’ve requested the book from my library, so hopefully I can give a full book report soon. I look forward to making our ideas sticky, for more delicious and memorable consumption.

IMLS WebWise 2007 – Get the blow-by-blow

Thursday, March 1st, 2007 by G√ľnter

If you’re one of the 150 people who wanted to attend WebWise, but didn’t make the registration in time before all slots were filled, may I suggest you turn your attention to musematic.net, where Holly Witchey is currently blogging her heart out. Anyone who writes things such as “Now I am not a meta data person myself (I just play one on TV) but I am always struck by their strange sense of fun,” and calls me “that congenial man-about-town” must be worth reading, don’t you think?