Archive for July, 2007

Organizational & Service Relationships on the LAM

Monday, July 30th, 2007 by Günter

I promised a follow-up on my earlier posting about the convergence of libraries, archives and museums – so you just guessed what this entry will be about.

In our Organizational & Service Relationships on the LAM program, we’d like to see whether the carrots and sticks in the cross-community space now are sufficiently enticing / punishing to bring about deep collaborative efforts. Our focus will be on the campus environment – we’d expect to see the first signs of significant convergence in an organizational structure where libraries, archives and museums actually belong to the same institution.

One of the main sticks I see are user expectations: users don’t and shouldn’t invest the time and energy to make sense of our fragmented services. A quote from the narrative of a Mellon grant helping Yale to integrate access to rare and unique materials across the campus serves as an illustration: “The availability of rich museum and library collections to enhance the education of Yale undergraduate and graduate students is tempered by the lengths to which faculty and students must often go to discover and integrate them into courses and research.” [pdf]

One of the main carrots I see are economic factors: if functions can be pooled across the collecting entities on campus, cost-savings are natural result. A classic example might be digital preservation – the Digital Repository Service at Harvard, for example, has clients across the LAM community, which pay a cost-recovery fee for a central service which would have been prohibitively expensive to replicate locally.

We’ve retained Diane Zorich to support our investigation, during which I hope we’ll surface more carrots and sticks, as well as emerging models for collaboration. During the course of this initiative, we will hold in-depth conversations with staff at five partner institutions which have already made a strong commitment to integration across domain boundaries. At the core of our interactions will be a one day meeting at each institution gathering a strategic group of professionals to assess existing activities, examine incentives for deepening collaboration, and scope steps to take integration of shared functions to the next level. We’ll share the outcomes from these discussions through a published report.

If your are an RLG Programs partner, your institution features an array of libraries, archives and museums in a campus or campus-like environment, and you have made a commitment to greater cross-domain integration, you’d be a good candidate to participate in this investigation. Some partners I’ve already heard from – I’d be thrilled to hear from more of you! We’re starting to make final decisions about who to visit about a week from today.


Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 by Günter

Admittedly, this particular item has received a good deal of coverage in the blogosphere already. For those of you who haven’t checked it out yet, and those of you (like me) who always miss stuff the first time around…

Blaise Agüera y Arcas once upon a time (2005, to be exact) was a speaker during an RLG annual meeting, and he created quite a stir back then with a demo of his software SeaDragon. In the meantime, his company was bought out by Microsoft. Here’s a truly astonishing demo of what his code now does in combination with another piece of software created in collaboration with U of Washington under the moniker Photosynth. I won’t even attempt to describe what it does – suffice it to say it involves lashing together a heterogenous bunch of flickr images into cohesive and immersive whole. Highly recommended viewing!

Libraries, archives and museums hanging together??!

Monday, July 23rd, 2007 by Günter

As those of you who’ve been with us since the inception of this blog will remember (or now be reminded of, if your memory doesn’t readily flash back to August 1st 2005), we’ve started hangintogether in the wake of an RLG Forum concerned with the convergence of libraries, archives and museum. “Libraries, Archives, & Museums—Three-Ring Circus, One Big Show?” played at the Center for Jewish History and the Minnesota Historical Society, and sought to invigorate the discussion among partners about how these three cultural heritage domains can pull on one string.

However, there was the little matter of the question mark in our title. Same question mark also graced the title of an RBMS conference in 2006 called “Libraries, Archives, and Museums in the Twenty-First Century: Intersecting Missions, Converging Futures?”. I walked away from these cross-community gatherings feeling that the question mark should be replaced by a (tentative) exclamation mark. Both events highlighted in particular growing convergence around interpretation and exhibits. At RBMS, Marcia Reed (Getty Research Institute) showcased various collaborations in LA which had successfully leveraged “library” objects to create highly successful exhibits in museum venues. At the Minnesota version of the RLG Forum, Eric Celeste (U of Minnesota) commented that libraries stand a lot to learn from museums in terms of telling stories with their materials, a point the following presentation by Robin Dowden on cutting-edge projects at the Walker Art Center underlined. Our host Michael Fox (Minnesota Historical Society) memorably exclaimed that same day “I continue to argue that good museums need to become more like research libraries and archives just as good libraries and archives ought to adapt certain characteristics of the museum experience.” [Word doc]

While relationships around outreach to a physical audience seemed to get museums, libraries and archives learning from and lending to one another, sharing and integrating data remained a difficult topic to discuss, let alone reach consensus on. Speakers at these events portrayed data relationships as desirable, yet discussions surfaced obstacles which seemed difficult to overcome. Predictably, librarians and archivists expressed frustration with idiosyncratic descriptive practices in museums, and noted with exasperation that museums “don’t do subject cataloging.” Bob Sink (Center for Jewish History), host of the RLG Forum in NYC, chronicled his institution’s quest for an integrated solution to managing library, archive and museum collections in one vendor system – a story which (anti)-climaxed in the purchase of two systems, one for library and archival material, one for museum objects. Both anecdotes show that in terms of data standardization and the attendant systems market, museums and their library/archive colleagues were clearly out of step.

Since then, our world has kept on changing, and I believe it has changed in ways which may turn library, archive and museum integration from simply “a good idea” into an essential ingredient to maintaining relevance in an information landscape dominated by the large-scale information hubs such as Google, Amazon and flickr. If users bypass us for the less authoritative, yet more comprehensive experience on the open web, then we have to offer services integrated across the library, archive, museum community (as well as disclosed into the online spaces where people work and play). These ideas aren’t necessarily new – if you go back to Merrilee’s aforementioned inaugural hangingtogether post, you’ll find a very nice quote by Michael Fox pointing in the same direction. However, the sense of urgency in the discussions around remaining relevant to our users seems to have increased exponentially since Michael made his remarks 2 years ago – if you don’t feel the urgency yet, check out Peter Brantley’s post correlating the rise of the web with declining use of library resources.

Maybe we’ve reached a tipping point. That’s one hypothesis we’d like to test with our new project “Organizational & Service Relationships on the LAM,” an investigation into how libraries, archives and museums do and can collaborate more closely in the space of a campus or campus-like environment. Watch out for another blog-posting this week to find out how RLG Program partners can get involved!

Millennials – again and again

Saturday, July 21st, 2007 by Jim

I have one trailing anecdote and observation from my attendance at the recent American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting based on the session Multitasking Millenials: Blessing or Curse?. The session was intended to analyze the types of conflicts that can result with multitasking law students and new associates and create specific strategies to minimize them. The first part of the session featured a professional trainer discussing the use of games and a variety of personalization in introductory legal research classes. The second part had a psychologist explaining the characteristics of multi-tasking and the generally accepted psychological and personality features that distinguish this generation.

Towards the end of the Q&A a young woman took the microphone and explained that she was, in fact, of the millennial generation and now a practicing lawyer. She had been one of the individuals consulted by the trainer about preferred tactics to enhance the training sessions. She stood to announce that as noted in the psychologist’s presentation she exhibited respect for experience and authority figures. In the case of the training consultation that had trumped honesty.

“What we won’t tell you when you suggest these kinds of tactics is that they’re lame. We think they’re stupid and demeaning. Just treat us like professionals and we’ll learn in our own way.”

Someone else stood to decry the rudeness of multitasking in the middle of the legal research classes that she led. “These students can sit through 26 viewings of Star Wars. Why can’t they muster the attention to sit through 30 minutes of this class?”

This was greeted with lots of sympathy and nods of recognition but not much discussion. It occurred to me that the reason this generation feels free to direct their attention in ways that are independent of what is happening before them has to do with their expectation that all experience is replicable and can be repeated at the time of their choosing. They are the first generation for whom that expectation is reasonably and universally true. They’ll watch your class later if they’d rather invest their current attention in an email or video or the 26th viewing of Star Wars.

You will find much more informed, and targeted insights on the information-seeking behaviors of this Millennial generation in the work of my Research colleague, Lynne Silipigni Connaway. Or see this post by Lorcan on student use of the network..

I want to be a starchivist!

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007 by Merrilee

Nope, I’m not an archivist, either*. But what I really want to be when I grow up is a starchivist. I found this term one of my favorite new reads “Suggested Donation,” which is a mostly museum blog. Check it out, it’s fun and cheeky.

I trust that starchivists won’t get all bent out of shape when they are discovered by the New York Times (it’s the Style section!) or In Style magazine or what have you.

*Which may lead discerning readers to ask, “What do you do, then?” Well, I’m a Program Officer!

Legal Mutualism

Monday, July 16th, 2007 by Jim

I’ve just returned from the 2007 American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in New Orleans. I spoke on “Bringing the Library to the User: the Theory” – a title conferred by the conveners. It was a companion session to one subtitled ‘the Practice’. They were both well-attended despite the fact that barely half of the attendees were from libraries based in academia. Without explicit coordination the sessions were also fairly complementary. The ‘practice’ session was given by Casey Bisson, David Lindahl and Emily Lynema with each focused on the ‘next generation’ catalog work that they are leading. I talked from a system-wide perspective about many of the themes that we’ve written about here and in our Information Context document. I addressed Web 2.0 characteristics (again at the suggestion of the conveners), explicitly emphasizing being in the network, supporting workflow and used Lorcan’s protologism – networkflow – hopefully getting it some new traction.

The most illuminating moments for me came from the time in the exhibit hall where the vendor group was very different than the group at more general library conventions.

Here, of course, it was dominated by divisions of Thomson (West, Gale, Global, etc.) and Lexis-Nexis. Everybody else was decidedly second tier. Not surprising given the ubiquity and centrality of these information providers to legal practitioners. What hadn’t been clear to me was the extent to which they are embedded in the applications that support legal workflow. From what I could see these information sources were seamlessly featured in the processes supported by case management, research documentation, and other software that’s central to a firm’s business. In some cases Thomson or Lexis-Nexis are the providers of those applications but the field seems to have plenty of competition.

I remarked to a vendor rep acquaintance of mine about how this seemed to contrast with the competition and/or indifference between the information and system providers in the academic library world. She allowed that the clients demanded it, it was necessary condition to compete and that in this industry it wasn’t thought of as a zero-sum game. There was plenty of money to go around. I expect that’s true but more importantly the metrics of legal practice including financial success seem to have imposed a discipline on process design that has extended through to the functionality of information resource provision in these enterprises. Those metrics and that discipline have been missing or far less prominent in the academic enterprise. The culture of service among law firm and corporate librarians is quite evident. They are embedded in the workflow of those that they support. They judge success around helping to get things done and saving the practitioners time. That’s reflected in the tools they purchase.

Side comment: I didn’t have time to be a tourist but I did manage to see a set of Glen David Andrews & The Lazy 6 – a family band of mostly first cousins who delivered spirited traditional New Orleans jazz. I’ve seen a lot of jazz but never at any price a group that worked harder. Preservation Hall was full on a Sunday night with a tourist crowd of which about half seemed to be native English speakers. They loved the music and knew it. I was slightly disconcerted and then delighted to have the Japanese couple standing next to me sing along with “You are My Sunshine” at full volume. And they knew all the verses.

P.S. I was lucky that this night a youthful trumpeter named Troy (Trombone Shorty) Andrews – another family relation - was sitting in with the band. He was extraordinary. If there’s any justice lots more people will hear him in the future.

Offsite storage and LAM relationships

Thursday, July 12th, 2007 by Merrilee

This week, we’ve had two announcements about forward progress on our Work Agenda.

First announement: RLG Programs will be collaborating with Lizanne Payne, Executive Director of the Washington Research Library Consortium on a new report examining the current state of the art in library offsite storage. This report is the first of several specially commissioned RLG white papers examining critical issues in the management of research library collections.

Additional details about our Shared Print Collections program are available on the RLG Programs website, here. Constance Malpas is the Program Officer heading up this effort, so if you have questions, you can turn to her for more information.

Second announcement: RLG Programs has retained Diane M. Zorich as meeting facilitator and author for an investigation into the service and organizational relationships among libraries, archives and museums within the context of a campus (or campus-like) environment.

Diane will assist RLG Programs staff in conducting structured discussions at a select number of RLG Partner institutions, and summarize our findings through a detailed report. If you think your institution would be a good candidate to host a day-long meeting bringing together stake-holders from the different communities represented within your organization, you’ll see a call to register your interest soon – stay tuned!

Additional details about our this project are available on the RLG Programs website, here.
This project will involve other Program Officers, but Günter Waibel is a good contact for more information, and I’m sure he will be blogging about this project quite a bit! We’ve worked with Diane in the past — she batted in the clean up position in our More, Better, Faster, Cheaper program, and we’re looking forward to working with her more.

Peter Lyman – goodbye to a colleague

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007 by Jim

The news that Peter Lyman died on July 2 is now appearing in the mainstream press. I’ve linked here to the Wikipedia page about him because I think he would have appreciated that as much as the articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and the UC Berkeley newspaper.

In the next while there will be many reminiscences and memorials from many perspectives given all the successful roles he filled in his lifetime. My fondest recollections are from his time on the board of the Research Libraries Group from 1993-1996. It was a distinguished group who all learned much from one another. At the time Peter was one of the few leaders in our world talking about the ways in which research and scholarship were being transformed by the web. He felt it as a professor, as a librarian and as teacher.

“Something very striking is that, as the technology develops for end users to search databases and get delivery directly to their desks, the library ceases to be the obvious mediator between scholars and collections. Our mediation is much more subtle and consists of setting up cooperative institutions, designing technologies, and negotiating contracts.” RLG News, Winter 1996

He urged RLG to respond. We tried and, as a consequence, did what turned out to be some interesting experiments. Peter was encouraging and supportive throughout.

Given that he lived and worked just across the Bay, we stayed in touch. Not as much as I would have liked even though Peter always offered to host lunch if I’d come over. I always said I would if he’d get me a parking permit. Usually his response was that we might as well decide to meet at an airline club in O’Hare. It would take less time for us both.

He is missed.

Librarian as (fashion) hero

Saturday, July 7th, 2007 by Merrilee

My husband pointed this article out to me by saying, “Look, it’s like you always say; librarianship is the stelth cool profession.”

New York Times, A Hipper Crowd of Shushers.

I am not a librarian. I do not classify my drinks by Dewey. Sadly.

Changes to comments

Friday, July 6th, 2007 by Merrilee

You can tell it’s Friday afternoon, because I’m fiddling with the blog. For some reason, tech housekeeping tasks are a very satisfying way for me to end the week. I guess I’m just a geek that way.

I’ve changed our comments so that now they requires reCAPCHA verification. For those of you who haven’t heard about reCAPCHA, in a nutshell, it both verifies that you are a human and assists with validating suspect OCR (optical Character recognition) for the Open Content Alliance.

We are a WordPress blog, and use SpamKarma2 to block comment spam. SpamKarma is pretty good, but I’m tired of deleting the (numerous) comments that get stuck in moderation. And I occasionally I have to delete a comment that’s snuck past SpamKarma. I find dealing with comment spam to be really depressing, so I hope that adding the reCAPCHA will serve both my purposes and will also help serve scholarship in a small way.

More about reCAPCHA here, information about the WordPress reCAPCHA PlugIn here. I’ll try to give my impressions of how it’s working in a few weeks.