Archive for May, 2012

21st-Century Research Library Collections

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 by Jim

I was fortunate to attend the final session of the recent Association of Research Libraries membership meeting on this topic. The panel of presentations served as the occasion for the release of a new briefing paper for research library directors, “21st-Century Collections: Calibration of Investment and Collaborative Action.”

The paper is the work of the ARL 21st-Century Research Library Collections Task Force, co-chaired by Deborah Jakubs at Duke University, and Tom Leonard at the University of California Berkeley. It’s worth your attention. The paper (pdf) focuses on the collaborative future of collections and looks at the future contours from the perspective of scholars/researchers, content, publishing and infrastructure. It’s very short and intended to be evocative and provocative as opposed to providing a blueprint or schematic on how to assemble the future it outlines. This caused some discussion during the meeting – should ARL be distilling the sense of the community and presenting it back or should it be an organization that organizes its members around an action plan to assemble the future? Given the diversity of the membership and the varying aspirations and resources of the institutions it’s hard to imagine that grand plan execution should be an ARL aspiration. That seemed to be the sense of those still assembled.

The closest to an action schematic in the discussion was the presentation by Wendy Pradt Lougee at the University of Minnesota, who said content is still a core role but the context for investments is changing as are the strategies which will require coordination and collaboration on a new scale. Her presentation titled Content & Collections:Rubrics and Rubiks is a must-read.

Her new rubric presents what I think is the correct formulation of the change that’s imperative and it highlights the inherent problem in arriving at that new equilibrium state. Essentially that state requires us to solve an equation whose left side is the newly optimized local circumstance (priorities, infrastructure, uniqueness) and whose right side is a set of shared supra-institutional factors (goals, priorities, infrastructure and services). The problem with the equation is that it has no constants. For local optimization to occur it needs to be aware of and rely on the supra-institutional factors – those are not yet in place and their characteristics not yet codified in a way that allows local choices to be made and operational processes to be confidently altered..

It seems to me that the challenge to supra-institutional providers of infrastructure and services is to define some of that future infrastructure and service provision in concert with the collective goals and priorities of those they intend to serve. Once defined those providers need to declare their intention to build, offer and sustain those services so that local institutional decisions can be definitively made. In the US there are quite a few actual and aspiring providers of shared infrastructure and services. OCLC is certainly one of the largest and is a pervasive provider along some important dimensions of the library service portfolio. Our challenge is to listen to the emerging desires of our members for a different class of shared services and then exercise leadership that commits to the provision of that infrastructure and those services where we have a unique capacity. This is the kind of change that would provide our members with the constants that let them optimally solve the local equation.

Joe Rosenthal R.I.P.

Monday, May 28th, 2012 by Jim

The death of one of the significant library leaders of the last generation was announced last week. Joe Rosenthal,who I knew during his 1979-1991 tenure as the University Librarian at Berkeley, died in early April. We interacted a lot because he was instrumental in the establishment and then early operational days of the The Research Libraries Group. My colleague, Karen Smith-Yoshimura looked up Joe’s WorldCat Identities page, and among his “most widely held works” is this one:

The Research Libraries Group; proposals for cooperation among the libraries of Columbia, Harvard, and Yale Universities and the New York Public Library by Joseph A Rosenthal ( Book )
1 edition published in 1973 in English and held by 70 libraries worldwide

For a long time I had a dog-eared copy of that spiral-bound piece of work that Joe did while the Associate Librarian at Berkeley. It seems not to have survived the many intervening moves. I am pleased to see that a copy is noted in the Guide to the Research Libraries Group Records courtesy of the Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

In any event, I remember doing a lot of work with Joe in the early days of RLG. He was smart, sardonic, and always a bit prickly. Given his origins in cataloging he had deep and strongly-held opinions about what should be done and built that were shaped by his elite library career. He stuck with it and helped build the organization. At the end of the day he was the one who’d invite me for a drink. I’ll toast him this evening. Jim

More from the ARL news:

Joseph A. Rosenthal, 1929–2012 Read the rest of this entry »

Marking Progress: print archives disclosure

Friday, May 25th, 2012 by Constance

For the past year and a half, Dennis and I have been working closely with a group of Research Library Partners and others to develop and test a method for registering print archives in WorldCat.  I’m pleased to say that the OCLC Print Archives Disclosure Pilot is now complete and a final report of our findings has been published. The report was jointly authored by Lizanne Payne (project director of the Western Regional Storage Trust), Emily Stambaugh (manager of  the California Digital Library’s Shared Print program), along with Dennis and myself.  Partners in this project included the Center for Research Libraries, (CRL), the California Digital Library (CDL), and the libraries of Indiana University; Stanford University; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, San Diego; the University of Minnesota and the University of Oregon.

The report has actually been out for a few weeks now; it was published without fuss or fanfare at the end of April. Gary Price was kind enough to feature it in an InfoDocket post last month, and it’s been making the rounds on some of the specialized discussion lists devoted to print archiving and preservation activities.  The specifics of the report — guidance on how and where to register print preservation commitments — apply to a relatively small number of institutions, but the publication itself marks a milestone for library community as a whole.  It represents the culmination of several related efforts directed at redesigning the critical (and costly) business of  preserving print books and journals.

It’s been a long road.  Back in 2009, an OCLC Research working group undertook a review of shared print policy documents that revealed some significant gaps in existing guidance, particularly with respect to how and where print archiving commitments should be expressed or registered:

About half of the policies [examined in the report] stipulate that the special retention and/or shared access status of documents covered by the agreement should be systematically registered; less than 20% specify a location in the MARC21 bibliographic or local holdings record where this information is to be recorded. Only a quarter of the policies reviewed mandate disclosure of the retention or shared access status in regional, national or international union lists.

This last finding has important implications for collection-sharing efforts that seek to achieve significant scale or impact on system-wide economies. More effective and systematic disclosure of retention commitments, in particular, might produce significant network effects by enabling anonymous participation in collection-sharing initiatives, generating secondary benefits for the entire library community.

Predictably, the report closed with a set of recommendations (or admonitions) intended to address the policy gaps that we felt were most important:

Cooperative agreements that are intended to achieve or to enable truly transformative change in the way library print collections are managed should include:

  • A business model that acknowledges the changing value of library print resources in the current information environment;
  • An explicit acknowledgment that effective disclosure of library holdings and retention commitments is necessary to support distributed management of print archives; and
  • A commitment to capture, retain and share item-level condition information so that the preservation quality of print archives may be better judged.

The working group that contributed to the policy review was disbanded in 2009, but several participants continued to work, more or less informally, on drafting a set of guidelines for print archives disclosure in WorldCat.  That effort was explicitly modeled on modeled on practices developed in the 1990s for recording preservation microfilming information.  At the time, NEH was funding a large-scale brittle books preservation program and, to reduce duplicative effort, participating libraries needed a mechanism for identifying the titles and volumes that were already queued for filming.  Nancy Elkington was a prime mover in developing standard practices for recording this information in bibliographic union catalogs, using the MARC 583 Preservation Action Note.

Along with Deb McKern, a preservation officer at the Library of Congress, Nancy encouraged us to extend use of the 583 Action Note to print archiving activities.  Since 2005, use of the 583 had already been extended to registration of digital archives in the Registry of Digital Masters, a joint effort of the Digital Library Federation and OCLC.  It seemed sensible to build upon this past work in developing guidelines for registering print archiving commitments.  However, our initial effort to define guidelines for print archives disclosure foundered when it became clear that the bibliographic record was not an appropriate vehicle for recording item-level condition or retention statements.  For journal archiving efforts in particular, it was difficult to convey in a title-level record how much of a given journal run was actually preserved.  And, in a master-record union catalog like WorldCat, it was even harder to see how archiving commitments from multiple institutions could be adequately represented.

For a year or more, our efforts to define descriptive metadata guidelines for print archiving lay fallow.  Other projects were taken up.  But by 2010, with the emergence of several large-scale print journal archiving efforts and increasing public awareness of the importance of distributed preservation, it was clear that common approach to identifying shared print collections was urgently needed.  As anticipated in our 2009 report, the largest archiving efforts were finding it impossible to “scale up” without some shared infrastructure.  Happily, in the intervening years, support for item-level holdings information in WorldCat had increased substantially and it was possible to design and test a disclosure strategy that was better adapted to journals.  With the support of OCLC product management, the Print Archives Disclosure Pilot project was launched.  And as a result we are now — collectively — in a better place to design and implement scalable strategies for print preservation.

OAICatMuseum now supports the LIDO XML Schema

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by Bruce

One of the contributions made by OCLC Research to its Museum Data Exchange project was the OAICatMuseum OAI-PMH repository software. OAICatMuseum is an extension to OCLC’s OAICat software that included support for delivering records in the CDWA Lite XML schema.

Since that project completed in 2009, work has continued within the cultural materials community towards improving the ways in which object descriptions can be conveyed in machine-readable form. One result of that work is the LIDO (Lightweight Information Describing Objects) schema. Version 1 of the schema was announced at the ICOM/CIDOC conference in November 2010. LIDO was built upon the success of CDWA Lite, the German Museum Association’s museumdat, and input from the community and technology professionals.

Though a relatively recent descriptive standard, LIDO is already seeing increasing use, particularly in Europe. To facilitate its use, over the past few months we worked closely with David Parsell of the Yale Center for British Art and with Ben Rubenstein and colleagues at Cognitive Applications to extend OAICatMuseum to support LIDO XML output.

The updated version of OAICatMuseum (version 1.1) is now available from the OCLC Research website.

Welcome our resident Wikipedian!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by Merrilee

A while back, I blogged about our Wikipedian in Residence position. I’m pleased to announce that until the end of August, Max Klein will be serving as OCLC Research’s Wikipedian in Residence.

Max will work with OCLC Research as a community coordinator. In this role, he will explore and pursue mutually beneficial projects between OCLC, library stakeholders, and the Wikipedia community. Initial points of entry will target two goals. First, he will work with OCLC staff and libraries to help foster a broader understanding of Wikipedia’s practices. And secondly, he will launch an inquiry into what technological integration is possible both technically and politically.

Max has a BA in Mathematics from University of California Berkeley. While a student, he lead and facilitated a student-run course on the Politics of Piracy which incorporated editing on Wikipedia. He also served, recruited and lectured, as a Regional Ambassador as part of Wikipedia’s Education Program.

We are all very excited about our work with Max and about opportunities between libraries and Wikipedia. In putting together this position, and while interviewing candidates, I have met so many wonderful and passionate people who are involved with Wikipedia. I’m excited by all the possibilities.

If you work at a library, and have had either positive or negative experiences with Wikipedia, we’d love to build on your experience, so please get in touch.

Max will be blogging about his work here, so stay tuned!

Thick Description: Fingerprints, Sonnets, and Aboutness in Special Collections

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by Jennifer

Discoverability of special collections has long been a top concern of the OCLC Research Library Partnership.  What works? Break out of the OPAC? Beyond MARC? End run around EAD?

Constance recently started a conversation here in the office about “catablogs.”  She’d seen that NYU’s Chela Weber taught a workshop in New York about how to use a blog as a low-overhead collection management system.  A “catablog” can create searchable, browseable online presentations of collections.

Today the Atlantic posted a short article about the impact of blogging rare books. At St Andrews, Daryl Green’s blog played an unusual role in what are otherwise standard special collections procedures – identifying new acquisitions and raising scholarly and financial support. (Book-nerd disclosure: I’ve been following Daryls’ blog for his 52 weeks of fantastic bindings, but Constance sent me the Atlantic article this morning.)

Ellen’s blogging about collections in ArchiveGrid is driving a healthy amount of traffic to ArchiveGrid itself. This is exactly the kind of research question we wanted to pursue with ArchiveGrid. Bruce has wondered if commentary and interpretation wouldn’t improve discovery and make it easier for a researcher to decide what to pursue.

This has prompted me to revisit The Metadata IS the Interface and user studies of relationships between description and discovery or use. Archivists and librarians contribute to discovery when they discard illusions of neutrality and express their excitement for the materials and their opinions about their significance. MARC and EAD have enhanced our management of collections, but don’t necessarily serve all the needs of our users these days.

Over on the RBMS-ish (rare books and manuscripts) side of our profession, considerable thought has been given recently to more rich description – “records more like sonnets,” as the Beinecke’s Ellen Elickson put it. I might borrow a term from the anthropologist Cliff Geertz and call it “thick description.” Michelle Light and Tom Hyry have advocated post-modern colophons and annotations. One of the RBMS hipsters has been arguing it is time to bust out of “the coldness of our description.” Mark Dimunation (Library of Congress) and others have imagined meaty and flexible descriptions of special collections like a wheel: hub and spoke. Merrilee blogged about Mark’s talk:

“Dimunation has been intrigued by James Asher’s call for progressive bibliography in which catalog records are viewed as hubs where information can be linked in, or hung on the core record as necessary. In this way, additional information can accrue over time, and doesn’t necessarily need to be contained in the catalog. Links to information that lives outside the catalog form a virtual vertical file that can document unique characteristics, and help form the fingerprint of an item.”

When I first joined OCLC Research, in the days of Shifting Gears, I thought that I’d wasted the past 10 years of my career building curated web exhibits of boutique collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives. In 2007 we needed to scale up digitization. Now my thinking is coming full circle. Curated blogs and exhibits, combined with the voice of the librarian/archivist, accomplish exactly what we’ve always wanted – to make collections visible and increase their impact.

Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to terms with disciplinary repositories

Friday, May 11th, 2012 by Ricky

Academic librarians are coming to terms with the likelihood that institutional repositories and disciplinary repositories will coexist into the future. In order to provide good support to researchers, librarians should be able to assess the reliability of disciplinary repositories as part of their role in furthering scholarly discourse. [And even more important if the library is involved in operating a disciplinary repository!]

In the report Lasting Impact: Sustainability of Disciplinary Repositories, OCLC Research provides an overview of disciplinary repositories, profiles seven with different business models, and offers ways to assess or improve the sustainability of disciplinary repositories.