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SearchHub: Solr on Docker

Tue, 2015-11-03 13:17

It is now even easier to get started with Solr: you can run Solr on Docker with a single command:

$ docker run --name my_solr -d -p 8983:8983 -t solr

That creates a new Docker container using the new official Solr image, which includes OpenJDK and the latest release of Solr.

Then with a web browser go to http://localhost:8983/ to see the Admin Console (adjust the hostname for your docker host).

To use Solr, you need to create a “core”, an index for your data. For example:

$ docker exec -it --user=solr my_solr bin/solr create_core -c gettingstarted

In the web UI if you click on “Core Admin” you should now see the “gettingstarted” core.

If you want to load some example data:

$ docker exec -it --user=solr my_solr bin/post -c gettingstarted example/exampledocs/manufacturers.xml

In the UI, find the “Core selector” popup menu and select the “gettingstarted” core, then select the “Query” menu item. This gives you a default search for “:” which returns all docs. Hit the “Execute Query” button, and you should see a few docs with data. Congratulations!

This video demonstrates the image used with the user interface (Kitematic) from the Docker Toolbox on OSX:


Further instructions, including on how to run in a multi-container configuration can be found in the documentation, with further details in the FAQ. The code for this image is available in the docker-solr Github repository.

For those interested in how this came together: the image is based on the popular makuk66/docker-solr image, and you can see how that was further refined to be even friendlier to use and to better fit into Docker’s maintenance model in this pull request. A big thank-you to the Docker team for their help there.

The post Solr on Docker appeared first on

Jenny Rose Halperin: Body as natural disaster

Tue, 2015-11-03 02:49

On supporting a loved on with chronic illness Originally published on Medium

My mother’s disease is like a natural disaster: It’s not always a raging storm, but when it is, it’s incomprehensible, devastating, and random.

For reasons not entirely understood, my mother’s immune system has been slowly destroying her liver for the last 25 years. When she was diagnosed in the early 1990s, she was given eight years to live, but a liver transplant purged the sickness from her body ten years ago. After a few months of unexplained fatigue this summer, we learned that the disease had returned, a relatively rare occurrence in post-transplant patients. I sat and wept on a bench in Central Square when I learned it had taken up residency in her body again, sure and strange as a warm ocean current, ready to wreak havoc.

She’s lived through cancer, a stroke, epilepsy, diabetes, osteoporosis, shattered bones, dental issues, jaundice, a liver that functions at five percent of normal capacity, and a million other ailments I’ve left out because I simply can’t remember anymore. Modern medicine makes human lives seem less fragile, salvageable but broken like the wreckage from a storm. Her body bears scars like Frankenstein’s monster, incisions that run from her ribcage to hipbones, swollen joints and random bruises, brittle hair and teeth.

My mother’s disease, called Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, is not contagious or causal, and it is not strictly genetic, though I have a slightly higher chance of manifesting an autoimmune disorder at some point in my life. 75 percent of people living with autoimmune disease are women, and though the disease category is one of the leading causes of death and disability among women under 65, research into their genesis as a whole remains largely inconclusive. Although autoimmune diseases are fairly common, and are a diverse category of disease that affects every major organ group, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis is officially registered as a “rare disease.” While research into its management has been promising, I doubt there will be a real cure within my lifetime.

The pained, slightly confused expressions of sympathy that cross peoples’ faces when I tell them about my mother are predictable to me now, and I keep a catalog of promised kindnesses in my head I can call when I need them. In the case of chronic illness, the most well-intentioned acts of compassion can become a burden: trying to schedule when dinner can brought to your home, shoving another quiche into the freezer, an “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” talk. a hug as you inevitably break down when you run into an acquaintance on the street. Then, of course, there are those who don’t know what to say: the friends who disappear, the family members who never come.

I’ve learned that during a long-term illness, most people fall away, slowly becoming unglued from the spine and dropping like pages from an old paperback or moldering like a waterlogged novel. I recognize that most friends have limited experiences with long-term degenerative illness, though I have become acutely aware that each person carries a significant number of individual, hidden traumas. Even the blessed suffer, and mental pain is unquantifiable because it is as systemic and ubiquitous as a chronic illness. Pain is as inevitable and often random as death or natural disaster. It is a primary life experience that binds us to others.

Ten years ago, my mother’s physical pain was assuaged when she received a new liver from a woman I call Linda, though I don’t know her real name. Linda died in a car crash on a Saturday evening outside of New Haven, Connecticut in September of 2005, and by 9AM the next morning, her liver was pumping my mother’s bile. That Sunday, my father bought three copies of the New York Times so we wouldn’t have to share as we sipped black coffee and waited for the nurse to call our names. Transplantation saved her life, but the disease left marks on her body and mind, leaving her scarred, knocked down, and largely adrift. Wandering the landscape of a life shattered by disease, we can only look in the empty windows of what could have been.

In my college entrance essay I compared my mother’s transplant to my own prom: a momentous life event that felt strange, inevitable, and weirdly glamorous. I used the essay to describe how my mother’s fragility underscored my own need to live vibrantly. I wrote,

Had my mother not been ill for most of my life, I would be a different person. Much of my desire to embrace life and connect with people in my own, small way comes from my sense of mortality. This sense of life’s transience propelled me to grow up quickly… Our serendipitous adventures have proven that our relationship is blessed. …However, the greatest impression that she has made on me is that every minute of the day I know there is someone in the world who loves me more than anything. My mother always says that I am “the best thing that ever happened to her.” Her unwavering affection has shaped me as a confident and capable woman who shares her love of life.

This essay remains one of my favorite personal pieces, and I’ve come back to it often in the last few months. Each appointment and emergency room visit brings me back to a childhood spent in hospitals, the long waits when I first understood life and health are tempestuous and unguaranteed. Tim Lawrence wrote in his recent essay “Everything Doesn’t Happen for a Reason,” “Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed… [It] can only be carried.” Accepting that some things don’t happen for a reason can free our minds to grieve. Carrying the weight of trauma rather than taking responsibility for events beyond our control helps us better understand our pain and the pain of the people we love.

I’ve been thinking lately of a healer I know who told me that if she could be reincarnated as a plant, she would be a wild raspberry. After cataclysmic weather events, the wild raspberry is the first edible plant to return to the area, so that in times of crisis, it provides valuable sustenance. I try to find a wild raspberry in some hidden spot during the darkest times, whether it’s a few uninterrupted hours chatting in a hospital room or a trip home to drive my mother around town and have dinner with my parents. I savor the metaphorical sweetness of the tiny red berries because I know they cannot last forever, but that they allow my mother to live now, for us to live, together.

DuraSpace News: The 2015 VIVO Conference Was a Success!

Tue, 2015-11-03 00:00

From VIVO conference organizers

Winchester, MA  The VIVO2015 conference was the best yet! With a wonderful turnout of attendees, the conference was a great collaboration of ideas as it provided many opportunities for learning.

You will not want to miss 2016's conference. This year's conference will offer more insightful information, great networking events, and exciting keynotes.

Mark your calendar now to attend the 2016 conference happening:

DuraSpace News: HELP Create a DSpace 6.0 Test Plan for Non-Developers

Tue, 2015-11-03 00:00

From Bram Luyten, @mire  

Heverlee, Belgium  To follow up on one of the topics that came up at the UK DSpace User Group Meeting last week, I am distributing information about the test plan that DCAT (DSpace Community Advisory Team) is currently building.

LITA: Get Social and Create Activities at the 2015 LITA Forum

Mon, 2015-11-02 21:05

The 2015 LITA Forum Online Registration ends Sunday November 8th at 11:59 pm.
Minneapolis, MN
November 12-15, 2015

Register Now!

Join your LITA and LLAMA colleagues in Minneapolis, November 12-15, 2015 for the 2015 LITA Forum. On site registration will be available at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, where there are still some hotel rooms available at the conference discount rate.

This year get social and create activities at the 2015 LITA Forum

There will be many ways to get involved and “play” with your colleagues. The Forum wiki is the primary tool for additional activities, join in the listed fun and create your own activities for others to join you. You could:

  • go bowling
  • take a skywalk walk
  • suggest game night games
  • stay up late at a disco
  • get up early for yoga

The Networking dinners, on both Friday and Satuday evenings, are always popular and offer a wide variety of experiences. You can choose by leader, or by colleagues or by restaurant

The Forum UnCommons room will be an always open multi-purpose area to gather, meet, share, interact, and explore together. Activities can be planned using the Forum wiki or ad hoc and spur of the moment. The room will have meeting tables with power and a theater seating area with a screen and projector. Space to do whatever meets your and your colleagues needs for collaboration, learning and fun.

Be sure to try the Forum’s Virtual Uncommons room on Slack, read up and sign up here.

Plus there will be all the usual Forum social interaction opportunities like the Friday evening Sponsor reception, Breaks, and the end of the day Saturday Poster session and Lightning Talks.

This year’s Forum has three amazing keynotes you won’t want to miss:

Lisa Welchman, President of Digital Governance Solutions at ActiveStandards.
Mx A. Matienzo, Director of Technology for the Digital Public Library of America.
Carson Block, Carson Block Consulting Inc.

Don’t forget the Preconference Workshop

“Beyond Web Page Analytics: Using Google tools to assess searcher behavior across web properties”.
With presenters: Robert L. Nunez, Head of Collection Services, Kenosha Public Library, Kenosha, WI and Keven Riggle, Systems Librarian & Webmaster, Marquette University Libraries

Full Details

The 2015 LITA Forum is a three-day education and networking event featuring a preconference, 3 keynote sessions, more than 55 concurrent sessions and 15 poster presentations. This year including content and planning collaboration with LLAMA. It’s the 18th annual gathering of the highly regarded LITA Forum for technology-minded information professionals. Meet with your colleagues involved in new and leading edge technologies in the library and information technology field. Attendees take advantage of the informal Friday evening reception, networking dinners and other social opportunities to get to know colleagues and speakers.

Forum Sponsors:

EBSCO, Ex Libris, Optimal Workshop, OCLCInnovative, BiblioCommons, Springshare, SirsiDynixA Book Apart, Rosenfeld Media and Double Robotics.

Get all the details, register and book a hotel room at the 2015 Forum Web site.

See you in Minneapolis.


Islandora: Islandora 7.x-2.x Community Sprint 001 is underway!

Mon, 2015-11-02 18:49

The latest Islandora community sprint, announced back in October, is now underway. Sixteen wonderful people signed up for the two-week adventure into the Islandora 7.x-2.x codebase, and this morning the team met for the first time to take in a demo from Nick Ruest and Danny Lamb (recorded here for those who could not attend live). The sprinters then had their first "stand-up" where they went through existing tickets and picked tickets to work on.

We are tracking work through GitHub for this sprint, and you can see the list of issues here (you are very welcome to add your own!). We loaded the sprint with a lot of documentation tasks, with a special focus on basic user documentation to help new users get used to how to make their way around this new version.

Want to be a part of an Islandora sprint but couldn't make it this time? There will be another in December, and hopefully once a month thereafter, to keep development rolling on 7.x-2.x. Developers, documenters, and testers are all welcome. If you have the time and willingness to help, we will find an aspect of the project where you can work!

Cynthia Ng: Code4Lib is for you, for me, for everyone

Mon, 2015-11-02 18:12
This was originally published in the November 2015 issue of the BCLA Perspectives newsletter. The original article was meant to be a short published piece in order to encourage more attendance and participation in the next Code4LibBC unconference. Code4Lib is an opportunity for people to talk about library technology and brainstorm solutions to our library … Continue reading Code4Lib is for you, for me, for everyone

Dan Cohen: George Boole at 200: The Emotion Behind the Logic

Mon, 2015-11-02 17:34

Today is the 200th anniversary of George Boole’s birth, and he certainly merits a big celebration at University College Cork, where he was the first professor of mathematics, and even that rare honor: a Google Doodle. The focus has been on his technical breakthroughs, since his brilliant advances in mathematics and logic formed the foundation of modern computing.

But on this bicentennial it’s also worth looking at the emotional motivation behind Boole’s supposedly dispassionate technical work—and at ourselves in the mirror. As I wrote in my book Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith, Boole lived in a time of painful polarization, unfortunately not so dissimilar to ours. While his attention was on religion rather than politics (although those were intertwined, as they are in our day), Boole found the divisiveness unrelenting and sorely lacking in compassion.

My thesis, documented in his notebooks and letters home, and in his published articles and books—his Laws of Thought includes as much about social and philosophical concerns as it does mathematics—is that Boole saw his logic as a way to transcend the overwrought differences of his time to find an ecumenical way to work together toward divine truth. Boole hated that it had become so hard for opposing sides to talk to each other about many issues, and that even minor distinctions were amplified by the modes of discourse and by everyone’s quick jumps to strong opinion and judgment.

Boole’s contemporary and fellow mathematical logician Augustus De Morgan summarized the problem when he wrote that if you asked someone if the craters were larger on the dark side of the moon than on the side we can see, “The odds are, that though he has never thought of the question, he has a pretty stiff opinion in three seconds.” To counter this dogmatism, Boole and De Morgan not only created symbolic logic, but also through their generous interactions with those of many sects and faiths, tried to be true to the spirit of their work.

So today let us honor George Boole the mathematician, but also George Boole the human being. His entreaties to respect all sides, to be charitable with those with whom you disagree, to not jump to conclusions but instead to pause and think carefully first, to try to find a way bridge divides—these are all too rare qualities in our age as well as his.

LITA: A Linked Data Journey: Proof of Concept

Mon, 2015-11-02 16:54

Courtesy of Alex Berger under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license


This is part two of my Linked Data Series. You can find the first post here. Linked Data is still a very abstract concept to many. My goal in this series is to demystify the notion. To that end I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to put Linked Data to practice, to build a proof-of-concept record”, so I did. I decided to create a Linked Data catalog record, because I wanted to write something relatively quickly, though I later found out that even writing a simple catalog record in Linked Data was going to be more effort than I anticipated.

About the Record

Link to display record: link
Link to visual graph of record: link
Link to code: link

First, here’s a link to the display record. It might take a second to load, as it is pulling in a bit of data. At first glance it doesn’t seem to be anything special. It just looks like a normal HTML display. However, under the hood there’s a lot of Linked Data magic going on. Almost all of the data you see on the page, including text values and links, are coming from RDF files (RDF is a framework for representing Linked Data. I’ll go into more detail on RDF in a future post). There’s actually multiple levels of Linked Data in the record. The first level of data is coming from an RDF file I wrote to represent the resource, in this case the book Moby-Dick. The second level of data, labels such as Melville, Herman, 1819-1891 and any data nested under more info, is coming from third party resources that I am linking to in my RDF file. For example, Creator and Subject labels are being pulled from the Library of Congress’ Linked Data Service.

Since all of the data is being pulled from online resources (using PHP), there is no duplication of data that we currently see in traditional catalogs. One big advantage to this is that when one of the linked-to sources updates its metadata, that metadata is automatically updated on the page I created!

In case this still seems foreign to you, I would recommend taking a look at  a visual graph representation of the record. All of the little bubbles represent RDF resources that I am linking to. Clicking on one of the bubbles will expand that resource and will show other metadata about the linked-to resource. This is what Linked Data is about!

Here’s a screenshot example of the visual graph:


There are a few challenges that I ran into during this adventure. First, I had to write a fair amount of PHP code to pull in the Linked Data from RDF files. I will admit that I’m a novice PHP coder, so this is most likely due to my limited knowledge of PHP and the EasyRDF PHP library that is being used. I challenge any coders out there to hack at my code and provide a cleaner solution! Here’s a link to the code (hosted on GitHub).

The second challenge is that in order to pull in third party Linked Data, I had to familiarize myself with each source’s data model (ex. Dublin Core, MADS). Almost every source’s metadata that I linked to had its own model, which reminds me of tales about the early days of library XML metadata before interoperability standards were designed. We need more interoperability in the Linked Data world! The third challenge is the main caveat of Linked Data: dependency on stable URLs. If any of the sources I link to decide to remove a URL or alter a domain without providing a URL redirection, that data is unreachable. Linked Data adds more power to metadata, but with great power… In all seriousness, stable URLs are needed in order for the Web of Data to become a reality.

All of these challenges are things developers and metadata professionals will need to face, not necessarily the catalogers, reference librarians, and archivists.


I hope this proof-of-concept example helped demystify Linked Data (at least to a small extent). If you have any questions or want to talk about the code, don’t hesitate to contact me! I will continue my efforts in future posts. Up next in my series will be a few interviews with librarians in various aspects of digital libraries who are working on or with Linked Data. Until next time!


Harvard Library Innovation Lab: Link roundup November 2, 2015

Mon, 2015-11-02 15:46

This is the good stuff.


One page of the iTunes Terms & Conditions illustrated (in a different artist’s style), every day.

How I 3D-printed a fashion collection at home — danit peleg

3D printed fashion

French Vending Machines Dispense Short Stories Instead Of Snacks | Mental Floss

Get a free short story from a vending machine

Swiss Style Color Picker

Need some colors? This is a pretty source.

Chicago Ideas Week

Books left on Chicago Transit Authority trains for the community to read

Mark E. Phillips: Finding collections that have the “first of the month” problem.

Mon, 2015-11-02 15:30

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post exploring the dates in the UNT Libraries’ Digital Collections. I got a few responses from that post on Twitter with one person stating that the number of Jan 1, publication dates seemed high and maybe there was something a little fishy there.  After looking at the numbers a little more, I think they were absolutely right, there was something fishy going on.

First day of the month problem.

I worked up the graphic above to try and highlight what the problem is.  In looking above you can see that there are very large spikes on the first day of each of the months (you may have to look really closely at that image to see the dates) and a large spike on the last day of the year, December 31.

I created this graphic by taking the 967,257 dates that in the previous post I classified as “Day” and stripped the year.  I then counted the number of times a date occurred, like 01-01 for Jan 1, or 03-04 for March 4, and plotted those to the graph.

Problem Identified, Now What?

So after I looked at that graph,  I got sad… so many dates that might be wrong that we would need to change.  I guess part of the process of fixing metadata is to know if there is something to fix.  The next thing I wanted to do was to figure out which collections had a case of the “first day of the month” and which collections didn’t have this problem.

I decided to apply my horribly limited knowledge of statistics and my highly developed skills with Google to come up with some way of identifying these collections programatically. We currently have 770 different collections in the UNT Libraries’ Digital Collections and I didn’t want to go about this by hand.

So my thought was that if I was to calculate the linear regression for a month of data I would be able to use the slope of the regression in identifying collections that might have issues.  Once again I grouped all months together, so if we had a 100 year run of newspapers, all of those published on January would be together, just as April, and December.  This left me with twelve slope values per collection.  Some of the slopes were negative numbers and some were positive.  I decided that I would take the average of the absolute values of each of these slopes to come up with my first metric.

Here are the top ten collections and their absolute slope average.

Collection Name Collection Code Avg. Abs Slope Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports OSTI 19.03 Technical Report Archive and Image Library TRAIL 4.47 National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Collection NACA 4.45 Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection OKPCP 4.03 Texas Digital Newspaper Program TDNP 2.76 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission BRAC 1.25 United States Census Map Collection USCMC 1.06 Abilene Library Consortium ABCM 0.99 Government Accountability Office Reports GAORT 0.95 John F. Kennedy Memorial Collection JFKAM 0.78

Obviously the OSTI collection has the highest Average Absolute Slope metric at 19.03. Next comes TRAIL at 4.47 and NACA at 4.45.  It should be noted that the NACA collection is a subset of the TRAIL collection so there is some influence in the numbers from NACA onto the TRAIL collection.  Then we have the OKPCP collection at 4.03.

In looking at the top six collections listed in the above table,  I can easily see how they could run into this “first of the month” problem.  OSTI, NACA and BRAC were all created from documents harvested from federal websites.  I can imagine that in situations where they were entering metadata, the tools they were using may have required a full date in the format of mm/dd/yy or yyyy-mm-dd,  if the month is the only thing designated on the report you would mark it as being the first of that month so that the date would validate.

The OKPCP and TDNP collections have similar reasons as to why they would have an issue.

I used matplotlib to plot the monthly slopes to a graphic so that I could see what was going on. Here is a graphic for the OSTI collection.

OSTI – Monthly Slopes

In contrast to the OSTI Monthly Slopes graphic above,  here is a graphic of the WLTC collection that has an Average Absolute Slope of 0.000352 (much much smaller than OSTI)

WLTC – Monthly Slopes

When looking at these you really have to pay attention to the scale of each of the subplots in order to see how much the slopes of the OSTI – Monthly Slopes are really falling or rising.

Trying something a little different.

The previous work was helpful in identifying which of the collections had the biggest “first day of the month” problems.  I wasn’t too surprised with the results I got from the top ten.  I wanted to normalize the numbers a bit to see if I could tease out some of the collections that had smaller numbers of items that might also have this problem but were getting overshadowed by the large OSTI collection (74,000+ items) or the TRAIL collection (18,000+ items).

I went about things in a similar fashion but this time I decided to work with the percentages for each day of a month instead of a raw count.

For the month of January for the NACA collection,  here is what the difference would be for the calculations.

Day of the Month Item County Percentage of Total 1 2,249 82% 2 9 0% 3 3 0% 4 12 0% 5 9 0% 6 9 0% 7 19 1% 8 9 0% 9 18 1% 10 25 1% 11 14 1% 12 20 1% 13 18 1% 14 21 1% 15 18 1% 16 28 1% 17 21 1% 18 18 1% 19 19 1% 20 24 1% 21 24 1% 22 22 1% 23 8 0% 24 20 1% 25 18 1% 26 8 0% 27 10 0% 28 24 1% 29 15 1% 30 16 1% 31 9 0%

Instead of the “Item County” I would use the “Percentage of Total” for the calculation of the slope and the graphics that I would generate. Hopeful that I would be able to uncover some different collections this way.

Below is the table for the top ten collections and their Average Absolute Slope based on Precent of items for a given month.

Collection Name Collection Name Avg. Abs Slope of % Age Index AGE 0.63 Fraternity FRAT 0.63 The Indian Advocate (Sacred Heart, OK) INDIAN 0.63 Southwest Chinese Journal SWCJ 0.58 Benson Latin American Collection BLA 0.39 National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics Collection NACA 0.38 Technical Report Archive and Image Library TRAIL 0.36 Norman Dietel Photograph Collection NDLPC 0.34 Boone Collection Bank Notes BCBN 0.33 Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports OSTI 0.32

If you compare this to the first table in the post you will see that there are some new collections present. The first four of these are actually newspaper collections and in the case of several of them, they consist of issues that were published on a monthly basis but were notated during the digitization as being published on the first of the month because of some of the data structures that were in place for the digitization process. So we’ve identified more collections that have the “first day of the month problem”

FRAT – Percentage Range

You can see that there is a consistent slope from the upper left to lower right on each of the months of the FRAT collection.  For me this signifies a collection that may be suffering from the “first day of the month” problem.  A nice thing about using the percentages instead of the counts directly is that we are able to find collections that are much smaller in terms  of numbers, for example the FRAT has only 22 records.  If we just used the counts directly these might get lost because they would have a smaller slope than that of OSTI which has many many more records.

For good measure here is the plot of the OSTI records so you can see how it differs from the count based plots.

OSTI – Percentage Range

You can see that it retained the overall shape of the slopes but it doesn’t clobber the smaller collections when you try to find collections that have issues.


I fully expect that I misused some of the math in this work or missed other obvious ways to accomplish a similar result.  If a I did, do get in touch and let me know.

I think that this is a good start as a set of methods to identify collections in the UNT Libraries’ Digital Collections that suffer from the “first day of the month problem” and once identified it is just a matter of time and some effort to get these dates corrected in the metadata.

Hope you enjoyed my musings here, if you have thoughts, suggestions, or if I missed something in my thoughts,  please let me know via Twitter.

Ed Summers: Dead Letter Office of the Web

Mon, 2015-11-02 05:00

For the past few weeks (honestly, perhaps event months) I’ve been in the process of writing a piece for MITH about techniques for preserving websites. The idea is for it to be part of a series that Porter Olsen and Trevor Muñoz started on the topic of stewarding digital humanities work on the Web. I’m trying to follow on from Porter’s piece which focused on the materiality of web servers, or how to work with webserver hard drives as objects of preservation and data curation. My contribution on the other hand is going to examine the ephemeral nature of the Web: how broken links break the illusion of a World Wide Web, and what we can do about it. Most of the content will be centered on techniques for mitigating this breakage using principles of repair borrowed from Web architecture.

Part of the reason why this post has taken so long to put together is that I’ve also been using it as part of a writing workshop in one of my classes with Kari Kraus this semester. We’ve been working through Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing and trying out some of the ideas in our own piece of writing along the way. While I’m uncertain about living up to the notion of stylish writing, Sword does provide some practical techniques for exploring the range of options available in academic writing–and how to test some conventional boundaries.

This past week we’ve been looking at a specific technique, or really more of a heuristic, for introducing figurative language (metaphor, analogies, similes) into otherwise bland and boring text, to capture readers attention, and add meaningful detail. It basically goes like this:

  1. identify an uninspired, dull or boring sentence
  2. come up with a list of similes that relate to it
  3. pick one simile and expand it into an analogy
  4. play with the analogy by adding detail, and exploring its limits & “dark side”
  5. work the analogy back into the sentence
  6. share it with a friend to see if it works

In order to explain how a link breaks on the Web, I found it necessary to explain what redirects are, and consequently how HTTP requests and responses work. Initially I had this bland sentence:

A more practical solution to minting the perfect URL for your Web resources is to accept that most things change, but to alert people who care when these changes occur. An established way to do this is to use the humble HTTP redirect.

Before diving into the details of HTTP requests and responses I wanted to have a metaphor for how redirects work. So I started by brainstorming a list of similes:

HTTP redirects are:

  • like getting directions when you are lost
  • like a letter with a corrected address
  • like a clue that is intentionally left at the scene of a crime
  • like a pointer in an old computer language like C where you have to do memory management
  • like Ariadne’s thread that will hopefully lead you out of a dead end in a maze
  • a helpful mail worker in the dead letter office

I then picked one to use as an analogy:

If an HTTP redirect is like a helpful mail worker in the dead letter office, then the person leaving their forwarding address is like the webmaster who knows the new location, and the letter that is sent in response is like the HTTP response.

Then I tried to explore the limits of the analogy by thinking about the 404 as a letter that is marked “Return to Sender”:

Receiving a 404 is like getting your letter stamped with return to sender ; the unseen hands of the postal worker in the dead letter office, passing the request on to the next post office ; attempting to decipher the varied handwritings and names of places they have never been to.

Finally I tried to work the metaphor back into the original sentence:

An established way to do this is to use the modest HTTP redirect. Think of a redirect as the work of an unseen postal worker in the Dead Letter Office of the Web, who squints at your URL’s cramped handwriting, perhaps consults an index of supplied forwarding addresses, and sends your HTTP request on to the next post office that may be able to get your request to where it needs to go. Or, in the event that no forwarding address is found, returns your HTTP request stamped Return to Sender, 404 Not Found.

The Dead Letter Office at Washington

I feel like I stretched the metaphor a bit too far because, according to Wikipedia, workers in a DLO would open up the envelope or package looking for clues about where the letter should go. If the destination still cannot be determined the item will either be destroyed, or (if it’s valuable) auctioned off. The worker would never would stamp the letter or package return to sender, since it only goes to the DLO when a return address is not included. Incidentally 99% Invisible have a recent podcast episode about DLO auctions, which is entertaining.

Anyway I digress. If you have any comments or ideas for how to improve this metaphor (including completely removing it from my blog post) shoot me a message on Twitter until I get comments working again… Hopefully the blog post itself will get published soon.

Coral Sheldon-Hess: The mental side of chronic illness

Mon, 2015-11-02 03:27

I wrote last year about the physical side of my particular chronic illness, psoriatic arthritis. Most of what I said in that post is still true: I’m still on methotrexate, still not pain-free, still not doing everything I should to take care of myself. There have been some promising steps made toward new treatments in the last year, but (as far as I know) nothing new has hit the market, so treatment options are functionally the same. Some of the particulars of my situation have changed (different parts of my body hurt), and I assume so will my medication after I see a rheumatologist again. (I waited four months for an appointment in Virginia and then had to cancel because I was moving. Now I’m waiting again. It’s been a rough year.) But not enough has changed that I need to write a new post about facts and figures or about my symptoms. What I wrote last year is true enough.

I have, in the intervening year, promised some folks that I would write about the mental side of chronic illness; but I’ve found that it’s really more than one post. I want to write about how chronic illness messes with my plans, about the isolation that comes from being different (in this particular way), and about hope, at a minimum. I feel like there might be more than three posts coming, but we’ll see.

I missed World Arthritis Day and International Psoriasis Day. Sorry.

On the bright side, it’s November, now, which many folks celebrate as some kind of writing month. I believe I’ll do some hybrid of NaNoWriMo and NaNonFiWriMo, aiming not for one giant work, but just to get some writing done every day, hopefully hitting a total of 50,000 words in the month. (They are not all going on this blog.) The posts I’m writing as part of that effort will be a little less strongly edited than normal (though I always try hard to fall more on the “ship it” side of bloggerdom, anyway; perfectionism is overrated); I’ll try to remember to label them as part of writing month, to make that clear.

Finally, I hope this goes without saying, but I write from my own perspective. I do not presume to speak for everyone with disabilities (how could I? I don’t have experience with them all) or everyone with chronic illness. We’re all individuals, with individual strengths and weaknesses and situations and challenges. People with disabilities are people, and we vary as much as people without disabilities vary.

Here’s the series:

Open Library: It’s Aaron Swartz Day – Here’s an Open Library status report

Sun, 2015-11-01 21:05

Next week is the third annual Aaron Swartz Day (2013, 2014), a celebration and Hackathon which takes place at the Internet Archive on November 7th. Please consider joining us. More information about this year’s events can be found here. We have a lot of good news on our end.

My name is Jessamyn and I’ve been working for Open Library for the past few years after being inspired by Aaron Swartz Day 2013. I work with Giovanni Damiola and Michelle Krasowski and many of the other wonderful people at the Archive to keep this valuable resource up and running.

Mita Williams: Libraries are for use. And by use, I mean copying.

Sun, 2015-11-01 16:15
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure to speak to the good people of ILEAD USA. The words below are the notes that I brought to the stage with me. If you want to hear what I actually said during my talk you can watch it on YouTube.

My name is Mita Williams but because it's October I've changed my name on Twitter to something Hallowe'en related. But you can still find me there and in many other online places as copystar.

I am going to start with a statement of disclosure. I use copystar as my IRC nick and Twitter handle because years ago I learned there was a Japanese photocopier company called mita copystar. And so, even though today I am going to be talking about copying and the library, I am not a financial benefactor of the photocopier industry.

And I'm not going to be talking about the legalities of photocopying in the library. Instead I'm going to be exploring this particular idea: the use of copying as a means of collection development.

Now I think it's safe to say that as librarians, we don’t tend to think about collection development in this way --  we buy materials or subscribe to them -- which I think is interesting because arguably the most famous library in the world was built from copies. And piracy. Literally piracy.

The Great Library of Alexandria became great because it was meant to be great and it was funded enough to be so. Copies of scrolls from far and wide were acquired by purchase but were also procured using more dubious practices. Of note, ships entering the harbour of Alexandria would be searched for scrolls and these would be seized, brought to the Great Library where a copy would be made, and the Great Library of Alexandria would keep the original.

I would like to ask you why, in this world in which we can hit Control A, Control C and Control V (otherwise known as Select text, Copy text, and Paste text) and copy a book in just three keystrokes, why don't we have a Great Library of Alexandria of ebooks now? Why do we still look backward in time, instead of forward, when we think of a collection of the all the most important written works that the world has ever seen?

Depending on your level of fluency when it comes to the legal framework of ebooks, you may or may not know these are the bad guys that are standing in the way of digital preservation and our future library of Alexandria : DRM and DMCA

In order to better express what I believe might be happening in our day and age, I made this flow chart. On this slide I'm trying to describe the circle of life of print books: an author writes, a publisher prints and sells, a library buys and shares, a reader reads, a reader writes...  it is a thing of beauty (the process, not my chart).

Now, as I'm Canadian, I'm not as familiar with US law as my own. For example, we make use of Fair Dealing whereas you guys speak of Fair Use.  So I have to rely on sources such as the good people of ALA to let me know that the reason why libraries are allowed to lend print books in the first place is because of something known as the First Sale Doctrine. The gist of which is this: if you buy a print book, you can re-sell, rent, or lend the book to someone else without having to acquire permission from the copyright holder. 

But as librarians we all know that the rules around ebooks are fundamentally different. The parameters of what you can do with an ebook are not governed by the First Sale Doctrine and are instead set by a license agreement between the you and the publisher.  Again, this text is from the ALA's "Libraries Transforms" site:

The usual e-book license with a publisher or distributor often constrains or altogether prohibits libraries from archiving and preserving content, making accommodations for people with disabilities, ensuring patron privacy, receiving donations of e-books, or selling e-books that libraries do not wish to retain.

So as I mentioned before, in Canada, we have something that called Fair Dealing which has established that you can copy and use some of an ebook for the purposes of research, private study and teaching.

This is great if you are an instructor at a university and you would like to provide your students with a copy of an essay from an anthology.  It's great, that is, unless your library has signed a license that trumps Fair Dealing and instead establishes that the contents of the ebook in question cannot be copied and shared as such and can only be linked to in a course reserve system or learning management system.

And copying a link from an ebook platform is somehow, perhaps coincidentally, absurdly difficult to do. Now the library is the position that it needs to communicate to faculty how to find a permanent link to books at a chapter level and how to add an ezproxy prefix to said link if that link is to be added to the Learning Management System and ... and at this point, no one can even.

The most egregious example that I know of this is the Harvard Business Review who, a couple years ago, took the top 500 articles from the magazine and said that if you want to do anything else than read the article - including the ability to directly link to said articles - colleges and universities would have to pay an additional fee - which has been said to be in the five figures for at least one institution.

Many institutions have refused to pay the ransom for these 500 articles and have to opted to keep their print subscriptions to keep these rights. Clearly, we need more than read-only access to library materials, but it's unclear where that line gets drawn from library to library. How much should the ability to print an item cost? How much is the right to save a personal copy? Why are these questions even acceptable?

Even material that's in the public domain can be effectively be taken out of it as soon as its been placed in a wrapper of what's known as Digital Rights Management or DRM.  In this somewhat well-known example, Adobe once suggested that one could not read aloud its ebook version of Alice in Wonderland.

And so the population who could arguably benefit the most from the ascendance of ebooks - the visually impaired - are by and large restricted from using text to voice software lest that ability should cannibalize on the publisher's market of audiobooks.

And there are other shortcomings with DRM. For one, many DRM systems require some form of authentication with a server online. If this server is down, you may not be able to get access to the game, movie, or ebook that you have already locally downloaded.  People who have tried to do the right thing and "bought" music from an online retailer such as MSN Music, Yahoo Music Store, or Puretracks (like me) can no longer access their licensed music because the servers that handled the DRM authentication have long been taken down.

One way to think of DRM is as a lock. But as digital locks go, DRM isn't actually particularly difficult to break. But it's particularly illegal to break DRM because of the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act which states that it is illegal to even try to bypass DRM.

The terms of the agreement that are enshrined in DRM are ideally formed from a negotiated  agreement that balances the needs and desires of the publisher and the reader. However, as we have seen with the example of Harvard Business Review, publishers are largely in the position of power because they can always opt to cut libraries completely out of ebook circulation.

This webpage I found captures almost everything wrong with the state of ebooks and libraries today. And we are at this point - as I think we all know - because libraries have largely outsourced the management of ebooks to Overdrive...

... and the management of the DRM which is largely performed by Adobe, who does not have the same commitment to reader privacy as libraries.

It should give us pause that DRM is so effective at locking out third parties from a producer's relationship with their customer, that companies such as John Deere are telling farmers that's now illegal for them to repair their own farm equipment because the electronics of the tractor are now encased in the DRM and legally safeguarded by DMCA.

So now what? Are we screwed?

I know of librarians who refuse to buy ebooks with DRM for their own use but I only know of two libraries that have made the same pledge (one is the library where Barbara Fister works).

That being said, I know of many librarians who know how to bypass DRM but will not suggest that they can do to the public because of the illegality of it all. If you are interested in exploring a "what if" scenario of librarians transgressing DRM, you might be interested in this talk by Justin Unrau.

Now I'm sorry to starting this talk off on such a dark note but my purpose was to get the bad news out of the way. I also wanted to talk about DRM and the DMCA because I have a feeling that many of us in the profession aren't aware that the capacity to make exceptions to the DMCA and break DRM is - in theory - in our wheelhouse.  Every three years, the Librarian of Congress is able to make exception to the DMCA. It is one of these exceptions that has made it possible to unlock a phone that is provided by a carrier.

This means that the possibility for libraries to unlock DRM for the purposes of accessibility and preservation *is* possible.

But this doesn't mean libraries get to wait until that day that happens. Libraries are already embarking on a variety of strategies to thrive in a world where text is no longer a scarce resource

Now I suspect you are at ILEAD are here to discover and share your own strategies which just might include...

... lending out objects that aren't easily copyable such as musical instruments, scientific equipment, or household tools

... building environments where objects can be made...

... exchanging co-working space for community mentoring or teaching...

... hosting pop-ups or running events such as How to Festivals in your community...

... or just being there for community when your community needs you most.

But despite DRM and DMCA, still want you, my dear colleagues - to consider the role of copying in collection development.

And I want you to consider this because culture itself, depends on copying...


All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . .

—John Donne

The same might be said of all art. I realized this forcefully when one day I went looking for the John Donne passage quoted above. I know the lines, I confess, not from a college course but from the movie version of 84, Charing Cross Road with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. I checked out 84, Charing Cross Road from the library in the hope of finding the Donne passage, but it wasn’t in the book. It’s alluded to in the play that was adapted from the book, but it isn’t reprinted. So I rented the movie again, and there was the passage, read in voice-over by Anthony Hopkins but without attribution. Unfortunately, the line was also abridged so that, when I finally turned to the Web, I found myself searching for the line “all mankind is of one volume” instead of “all mankind is of one author, and is one volume.”

My Internet search was initially no more successful than my library search. I had thought that summoning books from the vasty deep was a matter of a few keystrokes, but when I visited the website of the Yale library, I found that most of its books don’t yet exist as computer text. As a last-ditch effort I searched the seemingly more obscure phrase “every chapter must be so translated.” The passage I wanted finally came to me, as it turns out, not as part of a scholarly library collection but simply because someone who loves Donne had posted it on his homepage. The lines I sought were from Meditation 17 in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, which happens to be the most famous thing Donne ever wrote, containing as it does the line “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” My search had led me from a movie to a book to a play to a website and back to a book. Then again, those words may be as famous as they are only because Hemingway lifted them for his book title.

Literature has been in a plundered, fragmentary state for a long time.

If you have the chance, I would highly recommend you read the rest of Letham's The Ecstasy of Influence and if you do, you have to read to all the way to the end -- I'm not going to spoil it for you!

And it’s not only literature that has been in a plundered state for some time. One can argue that one learns the art of many a particular creative field by the act of copying, transforming, and combining elements.

The wallpaper from the previous slide is from The EveryThing Is a Remix Project which makes the case that much of culture contain copied elements of works of the past, that are transformed and recombined and remixed. The first part is dedicated to music, the second on movies, the third on invention, the fourth on system failures of intellectual property

So please let me be clear. I am personally not anti-copyright, I do think of the artists who struggle to make a living while pursing a creative career, and I'm certainly not giving any personal license to plagiarize. But as this graphic from Steal Like An Artist suggests, it should not diminish art or artists to recognize that creative work does not come from thin air.

Anyways, if this topic interests you at all, I recommend these reads - although - I ain't gonna lie - my favorite is Reality Hunger, which changed the way that I look at the novel.

When the personal copying of intellectual property is outlawed, only outlaws and artists can copy. For example, I'm pretty sure that Mick Jones of the Clash does not own the copyright of most of the 10,000 items in his collection and therefore, isn't in a legal position to invite and allow users to make and take home scanned copies of the items in his collection for themselves. While Jones has named his collection "The Rock and Roll Public Library" it's really more like a moving curated art exhibition.

Some years ago, C Magazine, which is a Canadian magazine dedicated to the visual arts, dedicated an entire issue on libraries. A former colleague of mine Adam Lauder, wrote an article within it called Performing the Library.

And that's where about I heard of Jeff Khonsary's The Copy Room. The project involved a room in Vancouver where there were photocopiers for people off the street could use for free on the condition that they leave a copy in the room. The copies build a reading room of material that reflected the community that use the copiers. It is sort of like the harbour of Alexandria, without the coercion.

So, let's take a scroll from the Copy Room and the Library of Alexandria Playbook and consider how we could also build collections using copies despite DRM and DMCA

Let's consider copying through the act of publishing. Or in other words, in digitization.

There are other libraries that have done this, but the first library that I have heard using this strategy is the Winnipeg Public Library who encouraged local bands to bring in their own music memorabilia such as posters for their gigs and gigs past and the library would scan the work, keep a copy and give the work and the high-end scan back to the user.

The Edmonton Public provides a similar collection and has recently offered to host 100 albums from local bands music for distribution to the library-card holding public. 

My own public library, the Windsor Public Library as one of the most successful self-publishing programs that I know of, with over 10,000 books published in 3 years using the Espresso Book Machine. One could only imagine if the library also ran a book distribution service for the books it published just as other self-publishers do such as Amazon and Lulu publishing.

That's admittedly a large ask, when, as we know, most libraries don't even host the ebooks that they already have. But there are exceptions - like the Evoke system of the Douglas County Libraries of Colorado who, as they say in their manifesto, they hope will become an ebook service without unnecessary constraints on access by the public.

I also think we should remember that are contexts in which we can only make copies before an item is published.

And that context is the University -- where we should not forget that copying plays and has played a role in the scholarship since the middle ages.  In times of old, there were scribes that would make copies for students and faculty and I think we all of know of that little copy shop that's not quite on campus, but really close and don't blink an eye when someone comes in with a textbook.

 But the scenario I want to bring to mind is the present day. I've been in Academic Librarianship for over sixteen years and that's a long to be in the midst of ever present Serial Crisis. And this crisis persists because faculty give their copyright away to the most prestigious journals who resell the scholarship back to libraries with obscene profit margins.

One of the strategies employed by institutions is to create a safe harbour for scholarship called an institutional repository, where faculty of an institution are encouraged - either compelled by good will or mandate to place a copy of their scholarship. In some ways, its not dissimilar to the idea of legal deposit that some National Libraries require of publishers in their country.

You know that this idea is a powerful one because until recently, the publishing behemoth Elsevier decreed that the only way it was going to allow its authors to deposit in their home institution's repository if there was no mandate in place [image]. 

Speaking of legal deposit...

... the British Library has extended its traditional requirements of books to be placed in its collection and have extended its mandate to collect web sites of the nation.

Academic libraries are also beginning to start investigating and pursuing similar web archiving. But I don't think mine is at the moment, (at least not that I know of) and that makes me worry a bit. I am reminded by experiences of the University of Virginia Libraries who had already some experience with web archiving when one of the largest crises to hit their campussuddenly erupted and they were there and ready to capture the history as it unfolded.

There are options if you think it’s important to preserve a website for the future even if your library doesn't have the infrastructure in place. One option is the Save Page Now option that's provided by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

It's important to be aware that there is a very simple defense mechanism that can be used to prevent websites from being added to the Internet Archive and that's a simple request is what is known as the robots.txt file - a file that designates whether the owner doesn't want their page indexed in search engines.

Unfortunately, there are terrible side effects from such a simple mechanism. A site might be archived and accessible by the Internet Archive's Wayback machine, but if the domain ever expires and is then bought out by someone else who then adds a robot text file, then the archive of same address will be lost forever.

Which all goes say this: relying on a single copy is a dangerous way to preserve our culture. That's why there's the strategy called LOCKSS - lots of copies keep stuff safe.

Social media has its own challenges in terms of archiving.

If you want to collect, for example, all the tweets related to the police shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, you have to use Twitter's API in order to maximize what you can capture and Twitter's API only goes back the last nine days, so you need to act in the moment.

Alternatively, you can pay Twitter for the tweets after the fact. The present is free but the past has a cost.

Of course the conditions of how much you can access Twitter's archives or the conditions of Twitter's API is subject to change at their discretion. Recently, Twitter shut down the access of 31 accounts that captured the deleted tweets of politicians from around the world.

That's not to say that the mass collection of tweets and other social media sites is without issues related to personal privacy and the right to be forgotten.

And for my last consideration of copying as collection development, I would like to suggest that libraries provide things for their readers to copy

The Prelinger Library and The Reanimation Library are both examples of carefully selected of books and ephemera from variety of sources, including weeded collections of discarded published material from libraries, to create a collection of visually interesting material for the inspiration for artists and writers.

While libraries have done a very good job experimenting with makerspaces and I think these libraries would be remiss not to also read these two books and to consider how their library can also be thought of as inspiration and raw material for the various creative arts.

This is an example from the blog Handmade Librarian from which the previous book, Bibliocraft came from. This activity shown involves making fancy bookmarks featuring ornamental stitching

That stitching was based on the braid alphabet found from the Etching and Engraving Picture file, a collection that the San Francisco library clearly marks as copyright-free images. Creating similar such collections is an endeavour is something I wish all libraries would undertake.

Penultimate section!

Please don't be disappointed if a participant in your library's National Novel Writing Group decides to write Fan Fiction.  Remember how people learn to be creative.

I like to think that there's a growing understanding for those who create of 'transformative works' and a better appreciation for these writers who are both writing out of love and writing within a community of readers who can provide support and guidance.

When we can, we should consider placing work in the creative commons so others may transform and adapt our work for their own use. Creative Commons Licenses are incredibly important and powerful tools. Everything on my blog that's my own work is designated as CC-BY.

But let's not forgot the larger picture.

Copying is an act of love. Copying is how we as readers and writers demonstrate such love. As Cory Doctorow and many others have also noted, the greatest threat to artists is not piracy but obscurity.

Last set of slides!

Remember way back when I showed you this circle of life of printed material?

( BTW, as these slides are my own work they are available for you to reuse and remix as you see fit.)

Then DRM came along ...

But now we know that this is not the whole picture. Libraries can bring their communities to the world by facilitating works that are in the creative commons and/or open access.

The title of my talk, as you probably have figured out, was a riff on probably the only thing from our collective library education that we can collectively all remember. The first of Rangathan's laws is that books are for use.

A couple of years ago, librarian and author, Barbara Fister re-wrote the 5 laws in the most the cynical language of our days.

But then she re-wrote the same laws this way. I can't possibly improve on how we she captured many of the ideas that I was hoping to share with you today and so with that I would like to say...

Thank you.

Patrick Hochstenbach: Dragonlance Campain

Sun, 2015-11-01 11:02
Filed under: Comics, Doodles, Sketchbook Tagged: dragon, dragonlance, dungeon, dungeonsanddragons, sketch, sketchbook

Patrick Hochstenbach: Inktober 2015 – Final drawings

Sun, 2015-11-01 11:00
Decided to create page filled with book doodles. Rotring 0.3mm with Photoshop greys Filed under: Comics, Doodles, Sketchbook Tagged: inktober, sketch, sketchbook

Nicole Engard: Bookmarks for October 31, 2015

Sat, 2015-10-31 20:30

Today I found the following resources and bookmarked them on Delicious.

  • Open Food Facts Open Food Facts gathers information and data on food products from around the world.

Digest powered by RSS Digest

The post Bookmarks for October 31, 2015 appeared first on What I Learned Today....

Related posts:

  1. Open Access Day in October
  2. See me at SLA Annual for 2 CE Courses
  3. NFAIS: Now About that Filter!

District Dispatch: On the road for libraries: Cape May and Lewes

Fri, 2015-10-30 22:43

The new library being built in Lewes, Delaware.

As Larra Clark reports, we had the pleasure of working with the “chiefs” (as in the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA)) at their recent fall meeting in Cape May, New Jersey. During the past years, ALA has worked with COSLA on many issues, notably advocating for an improved E-rate program, federal appropriations for libraries (i.e., the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)), robust and affordable broadband capabilities at libraries, and more reasonable terms for library ebook lending. At the Cape May meeting, our focus was on the Policy Revolution! initiative—both in terms of how COSLA engages in national policy goals but also how the work of the initiative may advance the work at the state level. I am optimistic about our future work together on policy and thank COSLA leadership and members for their engagement.

More often than not, I attach other meetings on my travel to workshops or conferences. This time, I stopped off in Lewes, Delaware, just a delightful ferry ride across from Cape May. The Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) has had several interactions with the Lewes Public Library over the last few years. Lewes Public Library heard about former OITP Fellow Roger Levien’s work on the future of libraries and his report Confronting the Future. The folks at Lewes invited Dr. Levien to advise them on their new building project and he indeed travelled to Lewes for this purpose. I kept in occasional contact with the people in Lewes, but here was my opportunity to finally meet them in person.

During my visit, I met with board president Beckie Healey, board members Ned Butera, Chanta Wilkinson, and Barbara Vaughan, library director Ed Goyda, and president of the Board of the Friends of Lewes Public Library Candace Wessella. We had a wonderful exchange at which I learned a lot about the evolution of the new building project—which by the way is slated to be completed next year. I got tours of the current library and the construction site, but even more impressive are the energy, knowledge, and enthusiasm of the board members. It was clear that this was no mere building project (as formidable and ambitious that is), but a new major component of the town and larger service area. Obviously, they put in countless volunteer hours to make the new building project a reality.

Not surprisingly, there were a few bumps on the road, and these bumps were striking in their comparability to those we encounter here in Washington. Some folks in their community asked why do we need a library; why do we need a new library building; or what is the role of a library in an increasingly digital society? The answers are familiar to us, namely many people do not have personal access to new technologies and services and there is a big difference between access to technology and the ability to convert that access to important educational, economic, social, or political outcomes—not to mention the larger role of a library as a key community anchor institution, which resonated in Lewes.

I was happy to be able to share a little about trends in technology, society, and public policy as I see them. I also talked a bit about ALA resources such as the United for Libraries division. These visits really help with our work, both in spreading the word about national policy (it is really true that all politics is local) and learning about what’s happening in the real world to inform discussions inside the beltway. I also thank our Lewes’ colleagues for a fabulous lunch at a restaurant in their charming downtown area!

The post On the road for libraries: Cape May and Lewes appeared first on District Dispatch.

District Dispatch: Moving from agenda to action for libraries

Fri, 2015-10-30 21:30

Cape May Public Library, Cape May, New Jersey

What a difference a year makes! I had a few moments to reflect on this in preparation for a working session with our nation’s state librarians last week at the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies’ (COSLA) Fall Meeting. We traded Teton Village, WY, bears for Cape May, NJ, yellow-rumped warblers in the landscape, but more importantly we built on our progress co-developing the National Policy Agenda for Libraries.

Last year, we spent several productive hours with state librarians and participants from IMLS, the Aspen Institute and Mountain State libraries to discuss how libraries and librarians contribute to important national goals, and how might we translate this into a national public policy agenda. Among the issues that emerged were:

  • the concept of libraries as a critical national infrastructure (or backbone) for this country;
  • the need for improved digital content systems to support public access and preservation;
  • the roles libraries can play in a time of disruption in formal education; and
  • the difficulty of translating locally based and funded services into a national agenda. One size does not fit all, but we do need to find common language and boost awareness of modern libraries as essential institutions.

I heard reverberations of many of these points in presentations last week on e-book innovations, the Digital Public Library of America, and STEM, state library agencies and public libraries. And they certainly were reflected in the draft policy agenda shared in January.

Thanks to feedback from the Library Advisory Committee (including state librarians Ann Joslin from Idaho, Susan McVey from Oklahoma and Ken Wiggin from Connecticut representing COSLA), I believe we crafted an agenda that broadly reflects the strengths and values of the profession at the intersection of national policy priorities. And, as Ken mentioned in the opening to our session last week, we did it all in less than a year!

But the agenda was not meant to sit on a shelf nor to be adopted as a whole by any single group. Rather we hope various entities will connect their policy priorities under the rubric of the national agenda to build shared momentum. The national agenda also may serve as a model or template for planning and action at the state and local levels, which was a focus of our time with COSLA.

COSLA Vice President Sandra Treadway led the working session after a few opening remarks from Alan Inouye, Ann, Ken and me. Small groups considered library strengths, capacity needs and potential partners related to Education & Learning, Employment & Entrepreneurship, Health & Wellness, Heritage & History, and Veterans & Military Families. A common theme among the needs were increased broadband capacity (e.g., to support telehealth and digitization uploads and downloads), investments in library building upgrades and staff capacity, and increased awareness among potential funders and partners (e.g., having a scanner does not equate to digitization success). Potential and existing partners ran the gamut from medical schools to workforce investment boards to public television.

Sandra and a working group of COSLA members will now take these notes and consider the most promising path(s) forward in supporting COSLA priorities and local library needs. We also learned a lot that will directly inform our work at the national level, along with conversations with leaders in the Association of Rural and Small Libraries and others inside the library community and beyond. As I would have shouted at Arizona Wildcat games in my youth, it’s time to “bear down” on moving the ball on policies and partnerships that add to library capacities to meet diverse community needs.

Finally, I would like to thank Peggy Cadigan, Deputy State Librarian for Innovation & Outreach at the New Jersey State Library, and amateur birder for taking us out at 6:30 a.m. to see the warblers, ducks and hawks. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and it was a lovely start to a day of meetings and driving home. Thanks also to NJ State Librarian Mary Chute and her staff for a warm welcome to the Garden State, to the Cape May County Library for a wi-fi enabled work space, and to COSLA’s director and members for their leadership and partnership.

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