Archive for May, 2009

You Must See This

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 by Roy

I blog in so many places I can hardly see straight. So please forgive me for pointing you to a different blog to see my latest post on what an RLG Partner institution has done. Heck, I’m even old enough that I can claim a “senior moment” over whether to post here, there, or elsewhere. And I didn’t even mention yet another blog, which is currently down for maintenance. Don’t ask, unless you know the nuances of a Postgresql upgrade from 8.1 to 8.3 while upgrading the kernel from Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) to 8.04 (Hardy Heron). If you do, email me and you just may get a good bottle of California wine for your trouble.

Anyway, I digress. You have to see the latest thing the National Library of Australia is up to. Mostly because every second question I get is “how do I unify searching of all this different stuff”? I was on a conference call today about this very thing. It’s a constant question because: a) it’s important, and b) it’s darned difficult to do well.

So that makes what one of our RLG Partner institutions has done all the more impressive. I haven’t done the math yet, but we’re certainly talking about integrating access to a dozen data stores that number over 30 million items in total. Sure, most of this is content that isn’t available online, but a lot of it is. In any case, it’s a ton of good stuff. Kudos to our NLA colleagues, and here’s hoping we can learn from what they’ve done.

For those of you attending our Annual Meeting, you’re in luck. Warwick Cathro, who was involved with this project, will be in Boston with us next week. Maybe if you buy him a drink he’ll tell you how they did it. You’ll just have to get in line behind me.

Tranformational Times – 3 sentences plus

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 by Jim

The Association of Research Libraries membership meeting that concluded last Friday was themed Transformational Times. It was organized to encourage inter-institutional collaboration and creative responses to funding challenges. The presentations were uniformly strong and largely stuck to the theme. What emerged for me overall was a sense that this group of libraries has internalized the imperative for systemic organizational change and the TETs (tough economic times) have added immediacy to the imperative.

The presentations will appear on the ARL website soon but in the interim I thought I would share a few of the sentences that grabbed my attention. (A recent post by Lorcan provided me with the conceit.)

We’re surrounded by assets that have become liabilities.
Paula Kaufman, University Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

We need to look at things through the lens of the LAMs.
James G. Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, Columbia University

Well, you’ll just have to learn to share.
Wendy Lougee, University Librarian, University of Minnesota

Wendy was quoting an anecdote told many times by former Emory University Provost Billy Frye. You can read the anecdote and the spectacularly prescient short article in which it was memorialized in Occasional Paper No. 14 by the American Council of Learned Societies from 1990.

What’s different now? This time we mean it? Really?
Kevin Guthrie, President, Ithaka

Our history of collaboration is in the way of radical collaboration.
Anne Kenney, University Librarian, Cornell University

And with the self-consciousness that informs all blogging:

Books have held us up.

Digital Image Licensing – The debate rages on…

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 by Günter

Whenever the topic of digital image licensing comes up, I listen closely. While my eyes tend to glaze over when somebody tries to explain the legalese of it all to me (I’m sure it’s my fault), I find this discussion fascinating when individuals relate access to high quality images to the mission of their institution, to the way they’d like to serve the public, and to the sustainability of the business enterprise their institution represents. A recent exchange on MCN-L lets your put your finger on the pulse of this spirited discussion in the museum community.

While some of the arguments aren’t entirely new, a good bit of very creative thinking surfaced as well: Alan Newman (NGA), for example, proposed a self-service site for licensing images on a sliding scale – if the Met fares well by allowing you to set your own entry fee into the museum, so he argues, why don’t we let those who’d like to use our digital images chose how much they can afford to pay for them? At that point in the discussion, I chimed in to cheer Alan on, and to suggest that such a licensing site would be all the more powerful if it weren’t custom-built and re-built by every museum in the country, but a cloud service available to all for a reasonable fee.

While the fear that bad things may happen if high resolution images are made available online is still present in the debate, what I heard overall leads me to believe that the gradual shift towards more open access is continuing – but maybe I’m just hearing what I’d like to hear.

I’ve pulled out some of the statements people made on the list, and compiled them for this blog-post under the “more” link. I hope this discussion continues, and I hope others will find their way to MCN-L and join in! The complete context for all the quotes I’ve pulled can be found in the list archives here. To my mind, this discussion is a bellwether for how museums see themselves, and where they’d like to go. Enjoy!

Read the rest of this entry »

RLG Partnership meeting: going, going…

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Merrilee

We’ve recently put the final touches on the agenda for the RLG Partnership meeting, June 1-2 in Boston.

We have quite an array of attractive programming, including:

  • 13 update sessions: briefings on projects we have underway
  • 7 “cool tool” demos: a peek under the hood, with demonstrations of prototypes (and functioning services) put together by my more technically adept colleagues
  • Andrew Pace (OCLC) will talk moving library management services to “Web scale”
  • Penny Carnaby (Chief Executive and National Librarian, National Library of New Zealand) will talk about the special role that national libraries play
  • John Wilkin (University of Michigan) will talk about the HathiTrust
  • It’s also (as always!) a great opportunity for networking — learning from and rubbing shoulders with others in the RLG Partnership and this year I’m looking forward to interacting with a record number of partners from outside the US (check out the registration list!)

    And as if that were not enough, we also have an ice breaking trivia contest on May 31st, and two receptions (one at the conference hotel and one at the Boston Public Library), and a symposium on user studies on June 3rd.

    I’m looking forward to it, and if you are in the RLG Partnership, I hope you are, too. It’s not too late to register, so if you haven’t signed up yet, join us in wrapping up this program year and kicking off the next.

    Bottoms-up for bottom-up

    Monday, May 18th, 2009 by John

    I don’t know whether colleagues in the US talk about effective change requiring initiatives which are both top-down and bottom-up, but it’s a pairing we often approve in the UK. It has perhaps been nowhere more evident as a strategy than in the development of repositories in recent years. The top-down work looks for mandates and policies and national declarations to make the behaviour change in the academic community that will liberate research and release journal budgets from being interminably mortgaged to large commercial publishers. But the bottom-up work is often more interesting.

    And so we send congratulations to RLG Partner Brigham Young University’s University Librarian for the Harold B. Lee Library, Randy J. Olsen, who has just been awarded the inaugural Howard Goldstein Award to Advance Scholarly Communication. This award has been sponsored by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Access Resource Coalition, and Open Access life sciences publisher BioOne. The SPARC news release says:

    From his vantage point, Randy Olsen is in the perfect position to view the university library as a focal point for scholarly communication, capable of providing resources to support the entire process from creation to dissemination. As he explored the myriad publishing efforts taking place on his own campus, Olsen became aware of the challenges facing several publications based at BYU—either owned by university departments or handled by BYU faculty. He recognized that many were wrestling with the administrative burdens of peer review, and looking for cost-effective ways to publish current issues electronically, as well as to make their legacy content available online.

    A pragmatist, Olsen initiated a series of concrete steps that have since provided sustainable models for a growing number of important campus publications. These solutions have likewise served as a direction for others to follow. It was Olsen’s idea, for example, to hire Jeff Belliston as the Scholarly Communications Librarian to identify and provide publication services and programs. In 2006, Olsen encouraged Belliston to develop an institutional repository that now hosts the legacy issues for 12 publications, with several more to come. In 2007, Olsen became aware of several campus journals in danger of extinction as print-only publications. Careful review of each journal’s situation resulted in a variety of solutions that range from a library-sponsored investment in the development of Open Journal Systems software for peer-review and content management, to customized varieties of Open Access publication.

    Using library repositories within campus publishing efforts is on the one hand a seemingly obvious solution in which a workflow need is answered by a support service, and on the other, one which is really quite difficult to make happen, as I know from experience. So, raise a glass – of fruit juice! – to BYU (I still remember the clear-headed conference I attended there some years ago). Crucial as the top-down initiatives are, bottom-up efforts make more inspiring examples.

    “Knee deep in stuff”

    Saturday, May 16th, 2009 by Jennifer

    36 pages or less“  is the definition of ephemera. The feisty folks at the California Historical Society set up this blog for the hidden collections grant they received from CLIR/Mellon. Their project experiments with methods to describe huge amounts of materials in four interrelated collections of California ephemera in the Bay Area.  Wendy and Tanya decided to share their decision-making, and track their progress. Encourage them to scan a few things and post them to the blog. This is really cool stuff.

    An RFP for the second round of CLIR grants for cataloging hidden collections is underway. The deadline for a pre-proposal is June 15.

    Out of the locker room and into the classroom

    Friday, May 15th, 2009 by Merrilee

    A recent article in the Washington Post reports on the use of primary sources in the classroom at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. Nothing new there — except that the primary source materials are school records, dating back to 1926. Use of these records (processed using funds from IMLS) puts students in direct contact with elements of history with a personal connection. The records document segregation, integration, socioeconomics, and even fashion.

    This is a reminder that hidden special collections are everywhere we look, not just in libraries, archives, museums, the stalwart custodians of cultural heritage. They are in the basements and attics of all kinds of organizations. Last summer we held a symposium on Digitization and the Humanities and one of our speakers, Douglas Reed (Department of Government, Georgetown) recounted his own travails in gaining access to school records in Alexandria, Virginia. These records provided key evidence for his research but were not easy to gain access to, and certainly were not to be found in WorldCat. (Doug’s presentation, “Of Locker Rooms and Silos,” and our report on the symposium can both be found on our webpage for the event). For every Stuart-Hobson Middle School, there are dozens if not hundreds of schools that have a hidden collections problem.

    Thanks to L’Archivista for blogging about this article.

    Monster Mashathon

    Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Roy

    From my laboratory in the castle east
    To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
    The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
    To get a jolt from my electrodes
    They did the mash
    They did the monster mash” – The Monster Mash, Bobby “Boris” Pickett

    We just wrapped up two days of heavy-duty geek-ery in Amsterdam, at the WorldCat Mashathon. Library developers from Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the U.S. participated in learning about and using OCLC Grid Services.

    The event was co-sponsored and hosted by the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, which is an RLG Partner institution. Titia van der Werf-Davelaar of the IISH ably kicked off the event with an inspirational talk and Afelonne Doek provided excellent organizational assistance throughout, including arranging for amazing spreads of edibles for breaks and lunch. IISH technical staff set up each participant with storage space on a server as well as several essential applications such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and Apache. Several IISH technical staff also participated in the event.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Impact Measures and Library Selection

    Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Constance

    I have just been reading a recent article by Kathy Enger* published in Library & Information Science Research that examines the potential value of citation analysis as a selection tool in academic library acquisitions. Enger proposes that citation analysis of the journal literature might be used to identify potentially high-impact books for inclusion in a college or university library collection. The reasoning here is quite interesting: based on the observation that humanities and social science scholars rely more heavily on monographs than journals as a vehicle of scholarly communication, a sampling method is used to identify high impact journals in the social sciences and then cull from these the top cited authors. If these authors have also published books not already represented in the local collection, the titles are acquired on the premise that the content is likely to represent ‘high value’ scholarship. Library circulation figures are later examined to determine if these titles are used (borrowed) more frequently than titles selected through traditional means.

    This seems like a proposition worth testing. Read the rest of this entry »

    Information architecture and music

    Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 by Jim

    Two former RLG staff members (and two of my favorite, really interesting people) recently met up in their current professional roles. Dylan Tweney, former RLG writer, now senior editor at, and keynote speaker at our 2007 RLG Partners meeting interviewed Zoe Keating about her music and creative process. Zoe Keating

    Zoe is a fantastic cello player producing innovative music (and getting to play with other equally terrific musical talents). While at RLG she was the information architect for our RedLightGreen service. In this video interview she says

    “My music is the fusion of information architecture and classical music,” Keating says in this video. “The way that you problem-solve in the world of technology … really lends itself to problem-solving with the kind of music that I do.”

    Watch the interview, check out the performance video, and put both Dylan and Zoe into your feeds.

    P.S. Some day I’m going to find those screenshots of RedLightGreen ;)