Archive for May, 2011

Ce n’est qu’un au revoir

Thursday, May 26th, 2011 by John

The Main Library of the University of St Andrews closed yesterday for a four-month period of intensive refurbishment. Most of the Library’s staff had already been distributed to other locations around the campus for the summer. A group of us are camped out in the University’s former Medical School. Our Special Collections staff, with their collections, have been heroically decanted to our Library Store building, which nestles between the science campus and the University’s sports building on the edge of the town. They will be there for longer than just the summer, as we launch a project to build a new Special Collections facility.

All of this displacement and disruption is necessary, and positive. The Main Library was built 35 years ago, and – apart from changes to acknowledge technological advances – has remained disturbingly untouched ever since. One of the least missed components of this chronologically challenged building will be the garish mustard carpet tiles, devised it would appear to prevent anyone from feeling restful enough to want to make their stay in the Library anything other than brief.

And yet, walking around yesterday an hour before we closed, as the last students preparing madly for final exams tried to concentrate even though service desk staff were packing crates, while a few who had already finished dropped off their last clutch of books and took photographs of each other next to deserted floor space, there was a strange sadness. The Library will – barring accidents – reopen in September with two of its four levels happily transformed, space reconfigured to reflect 21st century usage patterns, new colours and furnishings, and properly functioning heating and air conditioning systems. But any academic library is a monument to its community’s search for knowledge and understanding, and as the last vestiges of a 1970s way of understanding how that search should be carried out were being removed, I felt a pang of sympathy and admiration for those who designed and built this library 35 years ago. For them it was a landmark in the University’s development. An even more heroic effort had taken place then to move hundreds of thousands of books and journals across the town from the St Mary’s quadrangle, where the newly ‘Old Library’ had housed them in high-vaulted splendour, to their new site adjacent to the St Salvator’s quadrangle. And one or two of the excited young library staff of 1976 are still with us, watching the transition to a new understanding of what being a library is in the age of internet, social web, ubiquitous laptops and plumbed-in journals.

Many of our academics rarely visit now, and when they do they often grimace at the sight of food and drink in places never allowed before, and as they pass Facebooking students on every level. Meanwhile for our student users we are an increasingly popular place for study and contact in between lectures, tutorials and socialising, a sort of natural magnet in student lives. Transforming our largest physical presence on the campus is necessary, but not sufficient. A university library has never meant more things to its diffuse communities of users than it does today, and we must be careful not to conflate the transformed space of a library building with the ongoing transformation of ‘library’ to vital services for our rich mix of home and overseas users, our users whose visits are exclusively via our web presence, our undergraduate and masters students, postgraduate researchers, our academics and scholarly and local visitors. Back in 1976, pace a number of class libraries that were precious to their departments, the new Main Library did embody the library service as the University understood it. Perhaps it is the unavoidable stirring of that memory that makes us feel a sense of loss even in the midst of this very welcome progress.

Special delivery

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by Jennifer

Deliver a lot. Deliver a little. It’s all about delivery. We’ve been doing a lot of work around here on strategies to make it easy for users to get their ‘hands’ on special collections.

Most recently, Ricky published a snazzy piece on mechanics for large-scale digitization of non-book materials,  Rapid capture. These real-life examples dovetail nicely with her work (with Merrilee) about balancing rights and risks, rallying the community around reasonable practices when digitizing whole collections for access.

On the other hand, the Working Group on scanning and cameras has just published Scan and deliver in order to clear the air about user-initiated digitization. We give ourselves permission to just get the job done, by quickly scanning what someone needs and handing it to them promptly. If you have resources, you can choose when to scale up, maybe even going as far as digitizing the whole volume or collection, as long as it is in hand.

Whether we’re scanning an item requested by a user or digitizing an entire collection, it’s all about delivering up the collections we are privileged to manage.


The Art of the Tiny Deal

Monday, May 16th, 2011 by Roy

Rick Anderson of the University of Utah gave a presentation called “Let Them Eat…Everything: Embracing a Patron-Driven Future” at the Charleston Conference last Fall. Information Today provided a brief summary of it. My colleague Karen Calhoun was so impressed with it she asked him to come to Dublin, OH to reprise the talk for OCLC staff.

His talk happened today and I was lucky enough to be in (virtual) attendance. He brought up a number of intriguing, provocative, and, to my way of thinking, spot-on points. So don’t think by my focusing on one small thing he said that this by any means was the main focus of his remarks. Far from it. He covered so much intellectual ground it would be difficult to attempt a credible summary in a single blog post. Bear with me, then, as I select one tidbit from the smorgasbord upon which to focus:

Read the rest of this entry »

What We’re Reading — Week of May 9, 2011

Friday, May 13th, 2011 by Bruce

Meanwhile, The San Francisco Public Library

A guide to the SFPL by the great Wendy MacNaughton. Absolutely beautiful. Nice quote from “D”, a guard: One thing I’ve stopped saying here is “Now I’ve seen everything”. (Bruce)

37signals Product Blog: We’ll be retiring our support of OpenID on May 1

I’ve been a fan of OpenID-who doesn’t want a single login-but it’s not going anywhere. And the Basecamp folks-whose services we rely on-tell you why. (Michalko)

Publishers Navigate The ‘Open Road’ Of E-Books : NPR

Neat way to offer e-versions of backlist titles! I appreciated the accompanying videos. Will be interesting to see how successful Open Road Media becomes. (Karen)

Tackling born-digital: First, take baby steps …

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 by Jackie

On occasion my stepdaughter Sunde hears me fret about a problem that promises to take what seems like an excess of time, energy, or brainpower to solve, and she sagely advises “Baby steps, Jackie, baby steps.” Her simple coaching tip serves me well!

So, what’s the #1 issue that archivists fret about these days that seems to require an excess of just about every resource a human can bring to bear on a problem? Born-digital archival materials, you say? Bingo. And I think Sunde’s advice could serve us well …

The survey data that we gathered in 2009 provides a very interesting picture of what is, and isn’t, going on in research library special collections and archives in the born-digital realm. I’ve given quite a few public presentations about the survey over the past year, and a slide that has gained a lot of traction says this:

Born-digital archival materials: In a nutshell … undercollected, undercounted, undermanaged, unpreserved, inaccessible.

We learned that most research libraries have at least some born-digital special collections materials (79%), but far fewer even know how much they have (35%). Half of the gigabytes reported are held by two (two!) institutions. Most (83%) need education or training. Only half have assigned responsibility to any organizational unit for managing these materials. In sum, we surmised that collecting is generally reactive, sporadic, and limited. Lots of folks feel frozen, not knowing how to get started on such a daunting new area of archival management. An ocean of literature documents a vast body of research and practice on electronic records, but is way too complex for most archivists to navigate.

After pondering all this, Ricky and I have launched a project that we hope will help our colleagues start moving gingerly forward. We’re tackling three issues: identifying the many types of expertise held by special collections curators and archivists that are relevant in the born-digital context; considering the issues that pertain for various types of born-digital formats to warrant involvement of special collections and archives experts in their management; and defining some of those baby steps.

We’ve had some terrific conversations with colleagues who are educating us about initial “do no harm” steps that they take to establish basic control of born-digital files. Just today Merrilee pulled together an informal meeting of colleagues from New York City institutions (all of them members of our OCLC Research Library Partnership) to talk about the challenges they face and solutions they’re starting to put in place. There were archivists, heads of special collections, digital library managers, preservation librarians, and IT experts in the room. The synergy was terrific as everybody recognized the range of professionals that must be at the table to identify and implement solutions to the born-digital dilemma.

What’s your advice? Get in touch and help us think smarter about it. Really. We’d love to hear from you.

What We’re Reading — Week of May 2, 2011

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by Bruce

Smithsonian Crowdsourcing Since 1847! | The Bigger Picture

Given our interest in social metadata, interesting that one of our partners (Smithsonian) has been at “crowdsourcing” for such a long time!

The Case for Cursive –

The death of cursive. Could it really lead to less of an interest in (paper-based) archives? (Merrilee)

News: No Room for Books – Inside Higher Ed

University of Denver announces book move and is greeted with mountains of criticism. Read mostly for the comments (Merrilee)

Amazon’s lengthy cloud outage shows the danger of complexity

The risks of storing in the cloud… (Karen)

Linked data creates a new lens for examining the U.S. Civil War – O’Reilly Radar

Finally a LinkedData story that doesn’t come from a library POV! (Merrilee)

Too Big to Fail | LinkedIn

on the NRC Ph.d Program evaluation: Perhaps the most significant misguided decision in the recent study came when the committee voted against including any measures of reputational standing or perceived quality of programs. [Michalko]