Archive for March, 2012

Wanted: A resident Wikipedian

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 by Merrilee

Most of us have hosted student interns – it’s a great opportunity to get some special task accomplished while teaching some skills to an eager individual fresh to the trade. And it’s always invigorating to see our world through fresh eyes. But what do you do when you need to freshen up your own perspective and outlook? Or when your whole organization needs to be infused with a new way of thinking?

It’s not news that researchers do not start their research on library websites – they are much more likely to start their searches on the open web (84% do, according to the 2010 Perceptions report). So making sure that library resources are “in the flow” (to quote my colleague Lorcan) is of critical importance. Libraries have of course been working to be sure that their collections are exposed on the open web (for a great example of this, check out the work done by Kenning Arlitsch and Patrick S. O’Brien which they talked about in this webinar.)

But it’s not enough to ensure that our websites are crawler friendly – I think libraries (and other organizations) need to think about making sure links to their collections and services are embedded in places where users will find them. And Wikipedia is definitely such a place – we know that more people are starting their searches on Wikipedia. And how many times have you done a web search and found that the first link takes you to Wikipedia? So following in the footsteps of such institutions as the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the National Archives and Records Administration, OCLC Research will host a Wikipedian in Residence starting in May or June 2012.

What is a Wikipedian in Residence? For the answer, you need look no further than Wikipedia, which defines a WIR as a “Wikipedia editor [who] accepts a placement with an institution to facilitate Wikipedia entries related to that institution.” The WIR positions are linked to Wikipedia’s GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, museums) initiative, which is a group that focused on improving Wikipedia’s coverage of topics related to the cultural sector. (As a side note, I was delighted to find that Wikipedia had an initiative that is so closely linked to the mission of libraries and cultural heritage institutions everywhere!)

I like to think of this sort of person as not just a Wikipedian, in residence at a particular institution, but as someone who is (in the parlance of my colleague Lynn Connaway) a “resident” Wikipedian – that is, someone who dwells in that environment (on the web, I’m a resident, but in Wikipedia, I’m a visitor, as I suspect many of you reading this are.)

Ideally, the Wikipedian in Residence will work as a community coordinator and strengthen the relationship between OCLC, library stakeholders, and the Wikipedia community through a range of activities, including working with OCLC staff and libraries more broadly to help foster a broader understanding of Wikiepedia’s practices. The WIR may also help to promote new or existing Wiki projects related to increasing access to library collections and services, or may help organize special events, such as editing challenge days, for the Wikipedian community. I think there are many opportunities, and we’ll be talking about what happens with this position here on HangingTogether.

While individual libraries and other cultural heritage institutions will continue to host Wikipedians in Residence, I think this is an opportunity for many of us to learn together. I’d like for our Wikipedian in Residence to be YOUR Wikipedian in Residence. I look forward to hearing from you about what you would like to see happen! And if you are a resident Wikipedian who is interested in a paid position and shares our passion for libraries, I look forward to hearing from you.

OCLC Research remembers Encyclopaedia Britannica

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Merrilee

With the news last week that the Encyclopaedia Britannica will no longer be offered in print, OCLC Research offers up a range of memories. We encourage you to share yours as well!

I grew up with three sets of encyclopedias at home: the Golden encyclopedia which Mom bought one by one at the grocery and was geared for the very young; the World Book encyclopedia – red covers and that got heavy use in elementary school and junior high; and the Encyclopedia Britannica that Dad paid for “on time” – it came with its own bookcase – and that was used by all of us in conjunction with the World Book since it had much richer detail and fuller coverage of topics and people. (My brother Tom never liked reading books but would take a different Britannica volume to bed with him every night and thus acquired a wide knowledge base that he then used to challenge us all on facts. He would have made a great Jeopardy contestant!)

Nancy Elkington

As a child, I was fascinated with the Britannica Yearbooks, which served as an interesting compendium of what happened in the world that year. They also provided a useful lesson, to my budding intellect, that information is far from stable — it must constantly change to adapt to both the changing world and our changing perceptions of it. Thus the whole Yearbook concept could be seen as the harbinger of Britannica’s doom, in that a constantly changing web resource is more useful as a “product.” But I also mourn it’s passing in that with a constantly changing resource it is much more difficult to get a sense of how the world and our perceptions of it have changed in a year.

Roy Tennant

One of my prized personal possessions is the 1911 edition of the Britannica, long considered a required source for reference collections and reference librarians. One needed to ‘inherit’ a set, because they were rarely available from the trade. If a reference collection had 1000 titles, the 1911 would be among them.

The type for the 1911 was composed (set) by a women’s typographical union in Edinburgh. The type was is impossibly small, contributing to the knee-jerk assumption that women made great compositors because they had little hands. The women’s union undercut the wages in the (all-male) Stationers’ Company in London, who considered them scabs. This is part of a long story about women in the printing trades.

As an aside, it is delightful to consult a reference source that doesn’t know about the atom bomb, Nietzsche, world wars, etc. A primary source and a reference source all at the same time, instructive for young adults and old folks alike. The pithy articles in the 1911 were authored by illustrious scholars. Many of the entries and their short bibliographies are still considered definitive. Check out the maps!

Jen Schaffner

When I was in my first years of school, my parents purchased a set of WorldBooks (which they still have and sometimes use). WorldBooks were a marvel, and the source of much useful input to exploration, dispute, and school papers. But by the time I reached junior high, and I had encountered the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the lure of the WorldBooks greatly diminished, and the Britannica was and would continue for decades to be my favorite encyclopedia. Each article was so expert, so erudite and so beautifully crafted. My reference services course in graduate school included a rather detailed learning and sorting of various encyclopedias, each with their special advantage. Yet as I began my own work as a reference librarian at a small college, the the Britannica still stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. Even now, from time to time I miss the pleasant experience of pulling the right Britannica volume from the shelf and quickly paging through the thin paper pages to exactly the right bit of information. Alas, poor print Britannica, we knew you well.

Eric Childress

When I was in high school, there were two elderly sisters next door who owned a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Shy as I was, mom would make me go over there unannounced and use their copy for homework assignments rather than walk down to the library. They served milk and cookies and sat there quietly doing needlepoint. I miss them.

Jeff Young

News of the impending demise of the print EB immediately spawned lots of nostalgic chat on Facebook as we children of the 50s and 60s who grew up to be librarians fondly recalled the encyclopedia as artifact: spreading volumes all over the floor to work on school reports and gluing in the little update stickers that came with each World Book annual, not to mention the household excitement when the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman first came to call. But their kids? The books (inevitably inherited from parents, not bought by our generation) sit on the shelf untouched while they get the facts for their class projects from the ‘net.

Jackie Dooley

My only memories of the EB and other such comprehensive reference resources are from the library — we didn’t have them at home. I don’t know if this is because I came from a home or more modest means than my colleagues, or because my parents expected me to go to the local public library for such things. I found actually encyclopedias rather dull and dreaded any assignment that required their use, although I did love other types of reference materials — the Guinness Book of World Records was always a favorite, as was the Book of Lists, a short lived publication (which I didn’t know until today was banned by some libraries). I find it hard to be sad about the demise of the print volumes — after all, if you are going to take an encyclopedia to bed, it’s far more convenient indulge your quest for knowledge with a click than to get out from your cozy covers to fetch another volume. And you are less likely to be caught out by out of date information.

Merrilee Proffitt

My recollections of EB are all from using it at the local library. We didn’t have it at home. We were at the library so often (it was between our school and home) that we didn’t even imagine that you could have a personal copy. The only encyclopedia volumes that ever made it into the house were the ones that got sold one volume per week at the supermarket just like the sets of dishes or cookware that you were supposed to collect a bit at a time. As a consequence our family had only random volumes of the encyclopedia (World Book?), mismatched dishes inadequate to the size of the family and enough nine-inch fry pans that we could have had personal ones if we’d wanted.

Jim Michalko

Social metadata for LAMs on Facebook

Monday, March 12th, 2012 by Karen

Since sites relevant to libraries, archives and museums that support social metadata are changing and new ones are appearing quickly, the Social Metadata Working Group wanted to have a way for others to share information about the new or enhanced sites they come across. They also wanted to be able to point to interesting articles, blogs and videos related to social metadata and social media. 

Following several of the group’s recommendations (in our third report, to be published soon) such as look at what others have done and consider using third-party hosted sites rather than creating your own, we’ve  created a Social Metadata for LAMs Facebook page.

Please visit the page and “like” it so you’ll see all future postings on your own Facebook wall. We also encourage you to post any comments you have about our Social Metadata for LAMs reports, new social media “site sightings” relevant to libraries, archives or museums,  or related information.

I look forward to seeing some of you on FB!


Digitizing special collections and leveraging fair use

Monday, March 5th, 2012 by Merrilee

After several years of work, the ARL Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Academic and Research Libraries is out. I was particularly eager to read the Code for two reasons. First, I have long admired the work of Peter Jaszi and his colleagues at American University’s Center for Social Media who have been instrumental in producing several “code of best practices for fair use” documents for documentary filmmakers and other creative communities. Second, I strongly suspected that digitizing unpublished materials would turn up as one of the top challenges for academic and research libraries. And indeed, one of the eight scenarios addressed by the Code is creating digital collections of archival and special collections materials.

I was pleased to see that the Code and our own “Well intentioned practices for putting collections of unpublished materials online” (or WIP) are quite complimentary. Despite the fact that the Code was developed using what sound like Chatham House Rule and our discussions were conducted in the open, the two documents do not differ much in spirit. WIP downplays fair use in favor of managing risk (and outlines simple practical steps for doing so), whereas the Code makes a strong case for institutions to consider that collections are more than the sum of their parts, and these aggregations themselves may be transformative. It’s a powerful argument and also underscores the value of the work that librarians, archivists and curators everywhere do to build collections.

As a general observation, this is the first of the “codes of best practice” that has not only had a set of “limitations,” for each scenario but also “enhancements.” According to Peter Jaszi and Brandon Butler from ARL, the enhancements were added because librarians approach fair use with a good deal of caution. My fear is that librarians will read the “enhancements” as “requirements,” which would set us back in terms of making progress on what is perceived by some as a large digitization backlog. However, I do believe that this document should give additional courage to the community to digitize unpublished materials.

ARL and other organizations have been taking the Code on the road, and their have already been a number of webinars and in-person events so there are plenty of opportunities to learn more. As was said in one of the webinars, fair use is a muscle — if you don’t use it it will wither!