Archive for November, 2007

The LAM hits the road

Thursday, November 29th, 2007 by Günter

We’ve held our first two workshops on library, archive and museum collaboration at the Smithsonian and Yale a couple of weeks ago. While we walked into these daylong sessions with a carefully crafted agenda, a nifty scene-setting presentation and a fabulous facilitator (Diane Zorich), we still didn’t quite know what to expect – a train wreck at this odd three-way intersection of allied communities, or a genuine recognition that pulling together around a joint vision would benefit all parties involved. I’m relieved to report that the remarkable groups assembled at each location clearly sensed that they had everything to gain by creating deep and systemic relationships between their respective collecting institutions.

si_lam.jpgAt the Smithsonian, Cristián Samper, Acting Secretary, beautifully set the tone for our first meeting with these welcome remarks: bring me a couple of really good ideas and help me frame them, he said, and I’ll help you find the funding. We spent the rest of our day with 25 Smithsonian LAM professionals working our way towards formulating these good ideas – along the way, we got an update on an impressive range of collaborations that the Smithsonian already has under way.

Our LAM workshop almost to the day marked the one-year anniversary of the Smithsonian Digitization Fair, which had brought together a large number of staff from the SI to grapple with an institution-wide vision for all things digital. As one of the outcomes of this event, SI decided that it could achieve efficiencies in a system of 19 different collecting units by providing centralized support for some of the key activities surrounding digitization. The new Digitization Office (within the Office of the CIO) was established a couple of months before our LAM workshop. This new capacity, as well as the genuine willingness to collaborate on the part of everybody gathered around the table, allowed the group to make some bold plans which we thought would qualify as the really good ideas Cristián had asked us to deliver.

I’ll only mention one particularly intriguing idea which emerged during the meeting and gained considerable traction: the creation of an intranet-only prototype for searching all collection information systems of the 19 Smithsonian collecting units. This system could help to focus internal policy discussions around a vision for one-stop access to collections by providing a tangible instantiation of what such a service could look like; it would also allow the Smithsonian to find out how the data from different units plays together, and advocate for enhancements and additional cataloging as needed for a prospective public interface.

At Yale, re-grants as part of the Mellon funded Collections Collaborative have established a significant number of projects aiming to improve access to library, archive and museum collections for the campus community and beyond. These projects include building shared tools, digitizing complimentary collections as well as cross-collections searching – you can see a complete list here and here. In an interesting reversal of starting positions, the Smithsonian had an established organizational structure and was looking for consensus around projects, while Yale had the projects and was looking for an organizational structure to make them sustainable beyond the duration of funding.

yale_lam.jpgDuring the Yale discussions, collaboration in physical space emerged with a similar urgency as collaboration in virtual space. The acquisition of the 137-acre West Campus, formerly the Bayer HealthCare Campus, inspired meeting participants to brainstorm about ways to coordinate space planning for needs as diverse as venues for cross-collection exhibits, a shared studio for digitizing large 3-dimensional objects as well as joint preservation/conservation labs.

In virtual space, the overarching need to articulate a technological infrastructure for services such as digital preservation and integrated access to collections emerged. An infrastructure point-of-view would allow the campus community to take advantage of shared services, as well as serve as a road map for plugging in locally developed services. For example, participants argued that even if a department decides that they need to run their own local digital asset management system, a clearly articulated infrastructure would allow it to connect up with the larger campus infrastructure again to leverage other shared services such as one-stop discovery and retrieval.

After this intriguing first round of workshops, we’re looking forward to our upcoming visits to Princeton, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the University of Edinburgh!

Photo 1: LAM Workshop participants at the Smithsonian
Photo 2: A Coffee Break during the Yale LAM Workshop at the Beinecke

Terminologies meeting notes available

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007 by Merrilee

With all of the flurry of activity around here, I forgot to mention* that the summary report from our terminologies meeting in September are now available. (Günter blogged about the meeting.) We’ve also made our terminologies “Strawman” document available. We developed the Strawman to give examples of different ways a terminologies service could be developed, and includes some use cases that we hoped would be illustrative. It’s far from a perfect document, but it provided great fodder for discussion, and we include it with the summary report to give the whole picture.

Günter and I are greatly assisted in this effort by Diane Vizine-Goetz and Andy Houghton from OCLC Research. We are talking to the California Digital Library, Indiana University, and Oregon State University about how we can move forward with this project.

*And then, to make matters worse, I left this posting in “draft” for about a week and forgot that I hadn’t published it! Too many postings, they are all blurring together.

Approaches to metadata creation: Our survey results!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 by Karen

The RLG Programs Descriptive Metadata Practices Survey results are now out! The report is divided into two documents:

  • RLG Programs’ interpretation of the results and the issues we identified to pursue in future projects. (13 pages)
  • The data supplement with the charts and graphs generated from the 89 survey responses and the survey instrument. (46 pages)

I blogged about our preliminary analysis of responses to this survey conducted in July and August among 18 RLG partners, selected because they had “multiple metadata creation centers” on campus that included libraries, archives, and museums and had some interaction among them. Our objective was to gain a baseline understanding of current descriptive metadata practices and dependencies, the first project in our program to change metadata creation processes.

The data is reported in a series of charts and graphs that are open to interpretation. RLG Programs offers its own interpretation in the prefatory narrative, flagging questions for followup and identifying opportunities to simplify and integrate metadata practices in support of network level services.

Although we saw  some expected variations in practice across libraries, archives and museums, we were struck by the high levels of customization and local tool development, the limited extent to which tools and practices are, or can be, shared (both within and across institutions), the lack of confidence institutions have in the effectiveness of their tools, and the disconnect between their interest in creating metadata to serve their primary audiences and the inability to serve that audience within the most commonly used discovery systems (such as Google, Yahoo, etc.).

I previously blogged about one aspect of the survey, on the percentage of respondents’ collections estimated to be inadequately described, and unlikely to be without additional resources, funding, or both.

Some of the other results we commented on:

  • Although MARC is the most widely used data structure standard used, Dublin Core Qualified and Dublin Core Unqualified comes in as a close second (when combined), followed by Encoded Archival Description. 
  • The Cataloging Cultural Objects data content standard had a surprisingly strong showing, given its relative newness.
  • The single most common response to the question of the tools used to create, edit, and store metadata descriptions was a customized tool, cited by 69% of all respondents.
  • Whatever the evaluation criteria used to measure the effectiveness of one’s metadata creation tools, only a quarter think the tools used are effective, a third thought they were partly effective – and a third didn’t know.
  • About half the respondents build and maintain one or more thesauri.
  • Almost all respondents noted that their staff works with other units within their library, archive, or museum as well as people outside their library, archive, or museum but within the institution. There is less sharing when it comes to technical infrastructure, discovery environments, descriptive strategies, and metadata creation guidelines.

We identified the following goals for future projects in our Renovating Descriptive and Organizing Practices agenda:

  • Maximize resources to generate as much metadata as quickly as possible.
  • Optimize descriptive data with Web information hub targets in mind.
  • Share tools and descriptive strategies as much as possible.
  • Leverage terminologies from as many sources as possible.

Take a look yourself at the charts and graphs and let us know what you think!


Breaking and entering

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 by Merrilee

This one is just irresistible. A recent article in the Guardian (UK) caught my eye. You are read the article yourself, but to summarize….

Apparently, a group of, well, experts, broke into the Panthéon in Paris and fixed the clock. They went completely undetected until they outed themselves and told the authorities that they could wind the clock. The work took them a year.

This is a fascinating story, and has me wondering. What if someone processed our archival collections or cataloged our backlogs? When we weren’t looking? Not likely to happen, I know.

When the haiku hits the fan…

Monday, November 19th, 2007 by Dennis

Last week in Philadelphia, RLG Programs held a two-day event exploring collaborative approaches to managing print collections in a digital era.  The program, entitled “When the Print Hits the Fan,” was attended by 35 collections officers and access heads from over 20 RLG Programs partner institutions in North America, the UK, and Ireland.

On Day One we explored four major objectives in the shared management of print collections — last copy retention, shared access to low-use materials, back-up to online access, and expanding coverage/reducing duplication.  On Day Two we attempted to articulate high-level strategies for addressing persistent challenges in these areas.

In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing outcomes and lessons learned.  I’ll start that process today by sharing the context-setting documents we developed for the program.  They happen to be in the shape of haiku, the Japanese poetic form consisting of three unrhymed lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables.

On the library as destination:
(Provost POV)
Use prime real estate
To attract social scholars
Brick and mortar wins!

(Library staff POV)
New books in storage
Coffee shop in reference
Hell must be chilly

(End-user POV)
Gather my gadgets
Destination: library
My friends will be there

On the end user’s expectations:
I want it right now
Your problems don’t int’rest me
I prefer no charge

On lack of space (and users) for print collections:
It’s one in, one out
A static collection plan
Our books are cling-free

Print, print ev’rywhere
And not a user in sight
Toss me a scanner

On ensuring retention of last copies:
I have the last one
Except for yours, and for hers
I get to toss, right?

Rareness is common
Something Yogi Berra said?
Nope.  WorldCat snapshot

On ensuring back-up to online access:
My online access
Is guaranteed by someone
I’m almost certain

On ensuring access to low-use materials:
Full in the building
Even fuller in the pod
Can books become air?

Room to build cheaply
But I can’t do it on spec
Now, who wants to play?

On expanding coverage, reducing duplication:
I bought what I said
You did, too, and so did they
Whew!  So far, so good

This method worked out so well that we’re emboldened to try other stylistic innovations.  For instance, henceforth all RLG Programs meeting summaries shall be composed and published in limerick form.  One trembles before the literary possibilities:

There once was a book from Nantucket…

Reading level

Friday, November 16th, 2007 by Merrilee

This is one of those Friday things. I saw a link to a Blog Reading Level web toy, which I assume looks at the words used in a blog. I thought I’d try it out against HangingTogether, and the result is…

On the one hand, this looks like a positive thing (of course, this means you readers are all geniuses). But I’m not certain that this is a good thing — we want this blog to be easily parsed. Maybe too many acronyms*? Passed along for what it’s worth.

“NBEs. Non-biological extraterrestrials. Try and keep up with the acronyms”
John Turturro, Transformers (what can I say, I’m a victim of United’s in flight programming)

Getting “Good Terms”

Friday, November 16th, 2007 by Merrilee

We’ve had a flurry of recent publications and projects getting to the reporting-out stage recently, which is very gratifying. The most recent of those (as I write this now, aware that others are in the hopper!) is the “Good Terms” article published in the most recent D-Lib Magazine. The article was written by Peter B. Kaufman and Jeff Ubois of Intelligent Television for RLG Programs.

“Good Terms” is a must-read for those being courted (or who aspire to be courted!) by a digitization partner. Think Google, Microsoft, but also think smaller — partners who want to digitize and license a slice of your collection. These activities have been going on for some time, but as the authors point out, this is a good time to step back, reassess, and make sure you get a deal that’s not only good for your library right now, but that will produce benefits into the future for your library and the larger knowledge community.

The article does a great job of outlining big picture issues and then making concrete recommendations for each of these issues. The main point is, libraries bring something more than just collections to the table — they also bring their own needs and aspirations.

At the most recent DLF Forum, Ricky Erway led a panel discussion that represented different agreements with different partners. Panelists included (below, left to right), Mark Sandler, Committee on Institutional Cooperation; Martin Halbert, Emory University; Laine Farley, California Digital Library; and James Hastings, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

ricky photos November 095

All the panelists were asked to answer a set of questions, such as:

  • How long is the term of your agreement? How much do you expect to have digitized at the end of the term?
  • Are you currently providing access to the digital content resulting from your partnership? Do you plan to provide access to the content you contributed? What are the restrictions on your provision of access to your content? What restrictions survive the term of the contract?
  • Are you allowed to contribute your digitized content to other aggregations?
  • What one thing would you change about your partnership arrangement? What is the most significant compromise you have made in your mass digitization activity?

More information on our project, Mass Digitization and Partnership Agreements, is on the RLG Programs website. Ricky Erway is the lead on this project.

Welcome to John MacColl!

Thursday, November 15th, 2007 by Merrilee

I am (and we are) pleased to welcome John MacColl to RLG Programs. John will be working with RLG Program Partners and other organizations in the UK, Ireland, and the rest of Europe. We’ll really benefit from having eyes and ears on the ground in this part of the world, so this is good news for us.

We’re especially lucky to have John on our team. Not only does John bring his talents (the press release reflects a long list of accomplishments), but he’s a really great guy. I met John just a few months ago, in September, and I was struck by what a warm, intelligent person he is. While we understand that Edinburgh University Library is lamenting their loss, we are all looking forward to working with John. Edinburgh’s loss is certainly our gain, and in some small way hopefully this will benefit Edinburgh, and we gain more insight into their challenges and priorities.

John will be based at University of St Andrews in Scotland. I’ve visited St Andrews before, but until yesterday I didn’t know that it’s St Andrews and not “St. Andrew’s” — the university dates from before punctuation. Or so I was informed.

Picking Up the Pace

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007 by Roy

I’m absolutely thrilled that we have recruited my good buddy Andrew Pace of North Carolina State University to join OCLC. Andrew combines a unique blend of public and private experience, having worked for both a library software company as well as a public university. He led the team that launched the first implementation of an Endeca-powered library catalog, which was ground-breaking in several important ways.

To list all of Andrew’s accomplishments would be time consuming and ultimately boring (nothing personal, pal). What you need to know is this: Andrew rocks, and more importantly, he will soon be rocking your world too through developing innovative networked library services under the OCLC banner.

surf’s up

Friday, November 9th, 2007 by Jennifer

A good friend once told me how to learn to surf: paddle out, practice, watch the waves, stand up.

While my colleagues have been traveling, I’ve been musing about all the work they are doing to bring changes to our communities. We know a thing or two about changes here at RLG Programs, having surfed a bit of organizational change ourselves. Now we’ve changed locations, too. I’m one of the few with time to post a handful of observations about change, none terribly profound:

-some people surf better than others

-they’re not always the ones you’d think

-some waves are better than others

-sometimes you catch them, sometimes you don’t

-keep your head up, there’s always another one coming

-some changes are faster or easier than other changes

-changes can cause other unanticipated changes

-everything takes longer than you want it to

-it’s not necessarily true that ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’