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Reese, Terry: MarcEdit 5.9 – OCLC Integration: Working with Local Bibliographic Data Records

Fri, 2014-02-28 07:13

Since OCLC made their Metadata APIs available, I’ve spent a good deal of time putting them through their paces and looking for use cases that these particular API might solve, and if/how MarcEdit might be an appropriate platform to take advantage of some of this new functionality.  Looking over the new Metadata API, it’s pretty easy to see where the focus was on – providing some capacity to have read/write access to the WorldCat database, primarily the global and local bibliographic data.  In addition, the API provided the ability to set institutional holdings on records, though not work with Local Holdings Records.

For that reason, the first round of MarcEdit development utilizing these API was focused primarily on working with the master bibliographic and institutional holdings records.  These are two areas where I tend to receive regular queries from users in the mist of reclamation projects or weeding projects and needing to make changes to hundreds or thousands of records in the WorldCat database.  The new APIs allowed me to provide an answer to the two most common questions: 1) Can I batch update/delete holdings on a particular OCLC records and 2) can I batch upload records to OCLC.  While I’d definitely argue (and I think OCLC probably would agree) that these APIs are not designed to be used with batch operations in mind (i.e., they are slow) – they finally offered a way to communicate with the WorldCat database in real-time…and regardless of performance, this feels/is a big win for libraries that choose to work with OCLC.  If you are interested in how this initial work was implemented, you can read about it here: http://blog.reeset.net/archives/1245

After releasing the first MarcEdit builds and making subsequent refinements to the integration work, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with more OCLC WMS users and individuals that make use of the Local Bibliographic Data files and decided that it was time to start working on adding support for this type of data.

The challenge with working with Local Bibliographic Data records is that there is no way (at least through the API) to know if a record has a local bibliographic record attached, without multiple queries and making a set of special calls to the API about a specific OCLC number.  This means that for all intensive purposes, the process of working with local bibliographic data in MarcEdit assumes one of two things:

  1. That the user knows what data has these records
  2. That the user is likely creating new ones.

Secondly, I’ve tried to integrate this new functionality into the existing tools developed for use with the other OCLC Metadata APIs.  So for example, users looking to query a set of records and retrieve the attached local bibliographic records now will see a new option on the OCLC Search box that denotes if the master or local bibliographic record should be extracted.

The problem, is at this point, MarcEdit doesn’t know if a local bibliographic record actually exists.  Certainly, the tool could pre-query every oclc number returned as part of a search, but that approach exponentially increases the back and forth communication between MarcEdit and OCLC via the API, and remember, this isn’t an API that feels designed for batch operations.  So, rather than query, MarcEdit provides an option to download the local bibliographic record if it is present.  If this checkbox isn’t selected, the program will download the master bibliographic record for edit.  For users looking to create a local bibliographic record, the process is the same.  Local bibliographic records must be attached to a master OCLC number – so a user would query a record, check to download the local bibliographic record, and then attempt the download.

When downloading a local bibliographic file, MarcEdit will prompt users, asking if the tool should automatically generate a local bibliographic file for edit in MarcEdit if one doesn’t exist on a master record.

To generate new records, MarcEdit utilizes a new template within the application – local_bib_record_template.mot.  The template contains the following data:

=LDR  00000n   a2200000   4500
=004  [OCLC_NUM]
=935  \\$a[SYSTEM_GENERATED]
=940  \\$a[OCLC_CODE]

This template looks slightly different than a normal MarcEdit template, in that it includes a number of data points that MarcEdit will automatically generate as part of the record generation process.  This is necessary because specific data must be present in order for a local bibliographic record to be valid.  For example, a local bibliographic record must have the OCLC number that it’s attached to – data that is found in the 004.  The 935 represents a local system generated number, a number MarcEdit generates as a timestamp indicating record creating time, and finally, the 940 includes the organizational code, or the code that normally would appear in the 040 of a bibliographic record.  This information is stored and used as part of the API profile, so MarcEdit includes that data in the record generation process.

A local bibliographic record is in many ways like the master bibliographic record, just with data only applicable to an institution.  OCLC has a set of documentation around what kinds of data can be stored in these records.  Using a test record in WorldCat, I extracted the following example:

In this record, the data breaks down in the following way:

  • 001 – this is the unique lhd control number
  • 004 – this is the oclc number for the master bibliographic record that this local record is attached to
  • 005 – this is the transaction data; this data must match when updating records as OCLC uses this as a point of validation.
  • 500, 790 – in this record, these are the local data fields…data that is separate from the master bibliographic record and visible only to my users who see our local bibliographic data.
  • 935 – this is a locally defined system number – when MarcEdit generates this number, it is a system timestamp.
  • 940 – this is the institution code.

As one can see, a local bibliographic record can be fairly brief (or verbose depending on the notes added to the record).

To update/create/delete a local bibliographic holdings file (single or batch) – a user would start with a local bibliographic record.  Even delete operations require the record – you cannot just pass the lbd a control number or list of oclc numbers – at least at this point.  The API requires the record to be sent through the service as a type of validation.

Updating this data requires using the Add/Delete/Update Local Bibliographic Data option:

Selecting this option will open the following window:

When dealing with Local Bibliographic data, the option will be selected, and the option to delete those records is also presented.  Users not working with local bibliographic data will see the same dialog, but the Process as Local Bibliographic Records option will be left unchecked and the Delete Records option will not be visible.  At this point, users can process their records, and MarcEdit will return the response codes provided by the API to determine if the updates were successful or not.

My guess is, that like the first pass through the API, the use of these methods and tools that make use of them will be refined with time and use, but I think that they provide a good start.  Of course, at this point, I’ve reached the limit  in terms of functionality that the Metadata API provides.  In looking at this toolset, it’s pretty clear that at this point, these API were primarily envisioned for individual, real-time editing of the WorldCat database.  I have a feeling that the batch holdings tools, and now the ability to upload bibliographic and local bibliographic data in batches probably fall outside of the identified use cases when OCLC first released these to the public.  But they work, though a little slowly, and provide some capacity to work directly with the WorldCat database.  At the same time, the API is limited and missing key features that folks are currently asking for – most notably the ability to work with local holdings data, the ability to validate records, and a better process for search and discovery (as the present Search API are woefully inadequate for nearly any, but for the most vanilla uses).  Hopefully, by doing some simple integration work in MarcEdit and providing some useful tools around the Metadata API, it can provide a catalysis for additional work, additional functionality, and additional innovation on the side of OCLC – and continue to push the cooperative to provide more transparent and deeper access to the WorldCat resources and holdings.

Finally, the functions discussed here will be made available for download on March 2.

–tr

Morgan, Eric Lease: SPARQL tutorial

Fri, 2014-02-28 03:13

This is the simplest of SPARQL tutorials. The tutorial’s purpose is two-fold: 1) through a set of examples, introduce the reader to the syntax of SPARQL queries, and 2) to enable the reader to initially explore any RDF triple store which is exposed as a SPARQL endpoint.

SPARQL (SPARQL protocol and RDF query language) is a set of commands used to search RDF triple stores. It is modeled after SQL (structured query language), the set of commands used to search relational databases. If you are familiar with SQL, then SPARQL will be familiar. If not, then think of SPARQL queries as formalized sentences used to ask a question and get back a list of answers.

Also, remember, RDF is a data structure of triples: 1) subjects, 2) predicates, and 3) objects. The subjects of the triples are always URIs — identifiers of “things”. Predicates are also URIs, but these URIs are intended to denote relationships between subjects and objects. Objects are preferably URIs but they can also be literals (words or numbers). Finally, RDF objects and predicates are defined in human-created ontologies as a set of classes and properties where classes are abstract concepts and properties are characteristics of the concepts.

Try the following steps with just about any SPARQL endpoint:

  1. Get an overview- A good way to begin is to get a list of all the ontological classes in the triple store. In essence, the query below says, “Find all the unique objects in the triple store where any subject is a type of object, and sort the result by object.”
  • Learn about the employed ontologies- Ideally, each of the items in the result will be an actionable URI in the form of a “cool URL”. Using your Web browser, you ought to be able to go to the URL and read a thorough description of the given class, but the URLs are not always actionable.
  • Learn more about the employed ontologies- Using the following query you can create a list of all the properties in the triple store as well as infer some of the characteristics of each class. Unfortunately, this particular query is intense. It may require a long time to process or may not return at all. In English, the query says, “Find all the unique predicates where the RDF triple has any subject, any predicate, or any object, and sort the result by predicate.”
  • Guess- Steps #2 and Step #3 are time intensive, and consequently it is sometimes easier just browse the triple store by selecting one of the “cool URLs” returned in Step #1. You can submit a modified version of Step #1′s query. It says, “Find all the subjects where any RDF subject (URI) is a type of object (class)”. Using the
    LiAM triple store, the following query tries to find all the things that are EAD finding aids.
  • Learn about a specific thing- The result of Step #4 ought to be a list of (hopefully actionable) URIs. You can learn everything about that URI with the following query. It says, “Find all the predicates and objects in the triple store where the RDF triple’s subject is a given value and the predicate and object are of any value, and sort the result by predicate”. In this case, the given value is one of the items returned from Step #4.
  • Repeat a few times- If the results from Step #5 returned seemingly meaningful and complete information about your selected URI, then repeat Step #5 a few times to get a better feel for some of the “things” in the triple store. If the results were not meaningful, then got to Step #4 to browser another class.
  • Take these hints- The first of these following two queries generates a list of ten URIs pointing to things that came from MARC records. The second query is used to return everything about a specific URI whose data came from a MARC record.
  • Read the manual- At this point, it is a good idea to go back to Step #2 and read the more formal descriptions of the underlying ontologies.
  • Browse some more- If the results of Step #3 returned successfully, then browse the objects in the triple store by selecting a predicate of interest. The following queries demonstrate how to list things like titles, creators, names, and notes.
  • Read about SPARQL- This was the tiniest of SPARQL tutorials. Using the
    LiAM data setas an example, it demonstrated how to do the all but simplest queries against a RDF triple store. There is a whole lot more to SPARQL than SELECT, DISTINCT, WHERE, ORDER BY, AND LIMIT commands. SPARQL supports a short-hand way of denoting classes and properties called PREFIX. It supports Boolean operations, limiting results based on “regular expressions”, and a few mathematical functions. SPARQL can also be used to do inserts and deletes against the triple store. The next step is to read more about SPARQL. Consider reading the
    canonical documentationfrom the W3C, ”
    SPARQL by example“, and the Jena project’s ”
    SPARQL Tutorial“. [1, 2, 3]
  • Finally, don’t be too intimidated about SPARQL. Yes, it is possible to submit SPARQL queries by hand, but in reality, person-friendly front-ends are expected to be created making search much easier.

    Open Knowledge Foundation: Stop Secret Contracts: new global campaign launched

    Thu, 2014-02-27 14:00

    Today we at the Open Knowledge Foundation are launching a new global campaign, Stop Secret Contracts. Secret contracting leads to fraud, corruption, and unaccountability. It means the loss of millions of dollars of public money every year. Join our call to world leaders to end secrecy in public contracting.

    Secrecy in contracting is leading to the loss of millions of dollars to corruption, mismanagement, and lining the pockets of unaccountable corporations. The global value of government contracts is estimated at $9.5 trillion, but even in countries with strong government transparency laws the contracting process is often opaque and unaccountable. In both Africa and the EU, estimates suggest that around $150 billion is lost annually to corruption and mismanagement.

    While these numbers are staggering, the real cost is counted in the teachers who can’t be paid, the hospitals which have no medicines, and the roads which can’t be built. In the Niger Delta, over 2 million barrels of oil are extracted every day, and yet not a single new road has been built in the region for over ten years. In post-invasion Iraq, an estimated $60 billion was lost in defence and reconstruction contracts – money which could have enabled Iraq to build enough hospitals for the entire country to have a first-class health service. Across the world, the public is losing out to private interests.

    Secrecy in contracting means a breakdown in public control over public money, which in its extreme forms endangers the health, futures, and lives of citizens. We must stop secret contracting now to restore trust and accountability between governments and the people.

    The campaign already has over 30 organisational signatories including Global Witness, Integrity Action, the International Budget Partnership, the Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International, and we’re expecting many more to join. With local organisations in countries from Hungary to Nepal to South Sudan, we will be targeting governments at both national and international levels to secure reforms. We need your support to show governments the importance of this issue.

    Rufus Pollock, Founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation said:

    “Every year, millions of dollars of public money are lost to fraud, corruption, and payments to contractors that don’t deliver. Openness of key contracting information is essential to allow us to hold governments to account, and ensure that public money is used for public good.”

    Gavin Hayman, Executive Director of Global Witness, said:

    “One set of secret deals signed by the DRC government with obscure companies may have cost that state twice its annual education and health budget. Secrecy in how contracts are handed out and what they say robs citizens of the ability to know who got the contract, how they won and whether it was a good deal for their country”

    Rueben Lifuka, board member of Transparency International, said:

    “Secret contracts are never about public interest and only serve as conduits to satisfy the selfish interests of a few. Giving relevant information about public contracts to government entities, parliaments and civil society contributes to a more stable investment environment, and allows good governance and the rule of law to prevail.”

    If you support the aims of the campaign please sign the petition at StopSecretContracts.org.

    Help us make some noise about the campaign by tweeting on #SecretContracts or blogging about the issues.

    If you’d like to be more involved with the campaign, get in touch with contact [at] stopsecretcontracts [dot] org

    For more quotes and details, see our press release.

    Ng, Cynthia: Tips on Making Your Gravity Forms as Accessible as Possible

    Thu, 2014-02-27 00:34
    I’m currently using gravity forms and struggling with the accessibility of it. It sounds like there are no plans to make it accessible, but I know a lot of people use this plugin, so let’s make the best of it. Why Gravity Forms? I recognize that gravity forms is not fully accessible, so why use […]

    Summers, Ed: OCLC Works

    Wed, 2014-02-26 17:44

    The news about OCLC’s Linked Data service circulated widely on Twitter yesterday. I’ve never been a big OCLC cheerleader, but the news really hit home for me. I’ve been writing in my rambling way about Linked Data here for about 6 years. Of course there are many others who’ve been at it much longer than I have … and in a way I think librarians and archivists feel a kinship with the effort because it is cooked into the DNA of how we think about the Web as an information space.

    Like Button

    This new OCLC service struck me as an excellent development for the library Web community for a few reasons, that I thought I would quickly jot down:

    • it’s evolutionary: OCLC didn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s great to hear links to VIAF, FAST, LCSH, etc are planned. But you have to start somewhere, and there is already significant value in expressing the FRBR workset data they have as Linked Data on the Web for others to use. Also, the domain experiment.worldcat.org clearly reflects this is an experiment…but they didn’t let anxiety about changing URLs prevent them from publishing what they can now. The future is longer than the past.
    • it’s snappy: I don’t know if they’ve written about the technical architecture they are using, but the views are quite responsive. Of course I have no idea what kind of load it is under, but so far so good. Update: Ron Buckley of OCLC let me know the service is built on top of a shared Apache HBase Hadoop cluster.
    • schema.org: OCLC has the brains and the market position to create their own vocabulary for bibliographic data. But they worked hard at engaging openly with the Web community to help clarify and adapt the Schema.org vocabulary so that it can be used by our community. There is lots of thrashing going on in this space at the moment, and OCLC is being a great model in trying to work with the Web we have, and iterating to make it better, instead of trying to take a quantum leap forward.
    • json-ld: JSON-LD has been cooking for a while, but it’s a brand new W3C standard for representing RDF as idiomatic JSON. RDF has been somewhat plagued in the past by esoteric and/or hard to understand representations. JSON-LD really seems to have hit a sweet-spot between the expressivity of RDF and the usability of the Web. It’s refreshing to see OCLC kicking JSON-LD’s tires.
    Rubber Meet Road

    So how do you discover these Work URIs? Richard’s post led me to believe I could get them directly from the xID service using an ISBN. But I found it to be a two step process: first get any OCLC Number associated with an ISBN from xID, and then use the OCLC Number to get the Work Identifier from the xID service:

    So for example, to discover the Work URI for Tim Berners-Lee’s Weaving the Web you first look up the ISBN:

    http://xisbn.worldcat.org/webservices/xid/isbn/0062515861?method=getMetadata&format=json&fl=*

    which should yield:

    { "list": [ { "author": "Tim Berners-Lee with Mark Fischetti.", "city": "San Francisco", "ed": "1st ed.", "form": [ "AA", "BA" ], "isbn": [ "0062515861" ], "lang": "eng", "lccn": [ "99027665", "00039593" ], "oclcnum": [ "300691968", "318261941", "410824754", "41238513", "470718156", "558595430", "628749869", "768228949", "807901805", "43903751", "699807622" ], "publisher": "HarperSanFrancisco.", "title": "Weaving the Web : the original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor", "url": [ "http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/300691968?referer=xid" ], "year": "1999" } ], "stat": "ok" }

    Then pick one of the OCLC Numbers (oclcnum) at random and use it to do an xID call:

    http://xisbn.worldcat.org/webservices/xid/oclcnum/300691968?method=getMetadata&format=json&fl=*

    Which should return:

    { "list": [ { "isbn": [ "9780062515865", "9780062515872" ], "lccn": [ "99027665" ], "oclcnum": [ "300691968" ], "owi": [ "owi27331745" ] } ], "stat": "ok" }

    You can then dig out the Work Identifier (owi), trim off the owi prefix, and put it on the end of a URL like:

    http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/27331745

    or, if you want the JSON-LD without doing content negotiation:

    http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/27331745.jsonld

    This returns a chunk of JSON data that I won’t reproduce here, but do check it out.

    Update: After hitting publish on this blog post I’ve corresponded a bit with Stephan Schindehette at OCLC and Alf Eaton about some inconsistencies in my blog post (which I’ve fixed), and uncertainty about what the xID API should be returning. Hopefully xID can be updated to return the OCLC Work Identifier when you lookup by ISBN. I’ll update this blog post if I am notified of a change.

    Peanut Gallery

    One bit of advice that I was given by Dave Longley on the #json-ld IRC channel, which I will pass along to OCLC, is that it might be better to use CURIE-less properties, e.g. name instead of schema:name, to make it easier to use (and read) the JSON from JavaScript. To do this you would need a more expressive @context but I think it might make sense to reference an external context document and cut down on the size of the JSON-LD document even more.

    It’s wonderful to see that the data is being licensed ODC-BY, but maybe assertions to that effect should be there in the data as well? I think schema.org have steered clear of licensing properties, but cc:license seems like a reasonable property to use, assuming it’s used with the right subject URI.

    And one last tiny suggestion I have is that it would be nice to see the service mainstreamed into other parts of OCLC’s website. But I understand all too well the divides between R&D and production … and how challenging it can be to integrate them sometimes, even in the simplest of ways.

    Chudnov, Dan: The Emperor's New Repository

    Wed, 2014-02-26 17:33

    The following is the text of a piece originally published in my column "Libraries in Computers" for Computers in Libraries 28(9), October 2008.

    ---

    The Emperor's New Repository

    I don't know the first thing about building digital repositories. Maybe that's a strange thing to say, given that I work in a repository development group now, and worked on the original DSpace project years ago, and worked on a few repository research projects in between. If that qualifies me to say anything about repositories, though, it's just that I don't know much about what I'm doing, and I don't think many other people do, either.

    I'd better qualify that some. It's not that there aren't smart people working on repositories -- there are plenty. It's not that few repository projects have good, important objectives -- many do. And it's not that we haven't learned anything in the past 10-15 years since "digital repositories" grew from a buzzword into a strategic program in many libraries -- we've learned a lot. But I don't know what this smart group of people with solid goals and lessons learned add up to yet.

    Does that still sound strange? If it sounds strange to you, try this thought experiment. Say you get a new job as a director of a small library. In a new town. Without a library. So it's your job to build a library where one doesn't exist. What do you do first?

    I've never run or built a library before, but I'd guess that you'd need to start with siting property and working with a city to plan infrastructure. Then come architectural design and construction bids, and when you're far enough along to plan what goes in the building itself you split out budget lines for staffing different departments, and furniture and shelving of several different kinds, and a floor plan, and meeting rooms and utility functions. Maybe you only can hire a few people, but you know you need to cover collection development, public and technical services, computing, accounting and payroll, and maintenance, whether with three people on staff or 30.

    See? I don't know the first thing about running a library, but I know you'd better plan for at least all these things. You're probably thinking of other things I didn't mention, whether you've ever run a library or not.

    Now suppose you were hired to be a digital repository project director. For a new repository, which doesn't exist yet. What do you do first?

    Eh?

    I don't know, either. And that's what I mean!

    Collect what you know

    Given how long I've been around people and projects aiming to "build repositories", and how little confidence I have that we know what it really means to build a repository, I'd guess there are plenty of you who don't know, either. On one hand, sometimes it's okay not to know -- if you have a good goal in mind, like collecting faculty research, or making rare local materials available, the details of how you achieve your goal are less important than regularly measuring against the yardstick itself. I'd bet, though, that there are plenty of projects that don't even have this much clarity driving them. Absent such clarity, there are a lot of mistakes you can make along the way to achieving clarity in determining why you want a repository.

    The first mistake to avoid is fetishizing software products or projects. Over the years I've had a lot of conversations with friends and colleagues who've asked "do you think Greenstone/Fedora/DSpace/EPrints/ContentDM/etc. is what we should use?" My answer these days is almost always the same: "it depends on what you're doing, but you can always start with one or another and decide after you have some experience, and they're all a good place to start, so just pick one and get started." There isn't any single answer and there isn't any clear winner. In an era when we're still trying to figure out what it means to build a repository, it's great that there are so many options, and it's wonderful that there are so many free software options. If you think you need specialized software to build your repository, then the key thing is to get started with a tool that looks like a roughly good fit. You're going to learn so much along the way that the details of whether that tool's the best long term fit or not are going to become obvious to you as you build up experience loading your content and making it available.

    The flip side of avoiding agonizing over which tool to pick is that you shouldn't hesitate, once a project takes some turns you don't like, to acknowledge that maybe you've made a bad choice with a particular toolkit, or that maybe you just approached the project the wrong way, with the wrong materials at first, or with the wrong staff, or even just at the wrong time. There's a software development axiom from Frederick Brooks, author of _The Mythical Man Month_, that applies well here: "Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow." To plan for mistakes means to be ready to learn from them when they happen, and to minimize the cost in energy and expense when things go wrong. Start with a small collection, minimal staff, and a short timetable, and see what you can learn by building something quickly. All the feature comparison spreadsheets and RFPs in the world won't help you make a good decision if you haven't already started up the learning curve for yourself.

    There's a broader point to remember here, too, that software isn't usually part of our collection development plans. We librarians know approval plans, cataloging standards, and search strategies, but selecting and implementing software isn't our strength. There, I said it: we're not good at this. But that's okay! Like a reference librarian assigned to select materials in a new collection area, we can learn as we go. The key steps are to get started, and to expect to make mistakes, but to be ready to learn from your mistakes.

    I'll let you in on another secret of repository building. Adding new software isn't always the best approach to building a repository. Sometimes it's not only a mistake to introduce new layers of software between content and users or between content and staff, it's just a bad idea, period. You're probably comfortable, by now, with putting a web page online, and setting up a directory on a web server with some new files, or if you're not comfortable performing these tasks, you probably have colleagues or staff who are capable and experienced with basic web publishing. If you have a small collection of digitized or born digital items, and your primary goal is to get it online, the easiest thing to do might be to just put it online in a simple directory or two with some web pages listing and describing it all. Make a backup, too, or two, of course. But most of us with web sites can get some new files linked from a library's home page pretty easily these days. If you can do that, your users can find it from your home page, and even if they never visit your home page, the major search engines can find your items and crawl and index them, so maybe your users can find things that way.

    If you think this sounds defeatist or desperate, don't think that -- I mean just the opposite. Sometimes the shortest path between users and content is simply putting the content where users have a chance at finding it. The web does this very well for us. I've administered enough web sites and odd software packages over the years to know well that the content that lasts online the longest is almost always the content with the least amount of stuff around it that can go wrong. Whether it's an old programming language or a bad script or an odd toolkit few people ever used, if the only way to get to your stuff is through some oddly-shaped software that's out of date and unreliable, someday nobody's going to be able to get to your stuff anymore. If, on the other hand, the same content is simply available over the web like any other web content, just a bunch of files in a directory on a web server, then that content can be indexed and reindexed by Google et al., copied and recopied onto different servers by you and your staff, and migrated across changes in web server and operating system software choices over time.

    We are the repository

    The second mistake to avoid is forgetting that we are the repository. Every software repository I've helped to build has faced complex issues of planning and policy which had little to do with technology and everything to do with how to build a sustainable program for ensuring access over time. Remove any special software from the equation completely -- like in the case of "just a few directories on a web server" -- and planning and policy issues still come into play. Like with any other materials in a library, it's ultimately up to those of us working in the library to set, maintain, and uphold policies for collection development, access, maintenance, and retention. If repository technology gets in the way of making policy choices that fit in with your broader institutional mission, something might be wrong.

    Optimize for access

    A third mistake that's easy to make is to over-think what a "digital object" might be. I fall into this trap all the time, even with a few rounds of experience under my belt. If you focus on making some content available, using one specialized tool or another or none at all, and that content is useful to your community, its users will tell you how they want to use it. This is another concept echoed both in the "release early and release often" mantra of free software development and the "don't make me think" school of usability testing. Real feedback from real users will tell you the most about features your repository should add or improve, or when one degree more or less of descriptive metadata will make items easier to find or will cost you a ton without really helping people.

    If, before "just giving it to people", you spend months or years designing specifications for "complex objects" and hammering structural metadata and content files into shape to match before ever giving your users a chance to see that content, you might just find that you've spent a lot of time and energy without knowing a bit about what people want to do with your stuff. It's possible that you'll guess correctly about what to call files and how to relate files and metadata to each other and store all of that on disk, but that might not help your users at all. Give three programmers a pile of files and ask them to arrange it and you'll get five system designs for how to do it in four different programming languages and database models, but none of that tells you whether your users will use any of it.

    The best thing about letting users drive what you do, when it works (I know how hard it can be just to get feedback sometimes), is that it lets you build incrementally. Maybe you start with a simple set of collections published in a few directories and not a lot more. If your users are happy with that, maybe you can stop there. But if they ask for the ability to search across it all, or to browse it all by subjects, or for specialized functions like being able to zoom in on large images, for instance, maybe that's a reason to look deeper at a specialized software package to augment or replace your "files on disk" setup. If you try a new package, look to your user community to tell you whether it does the job better.

    I know this advice isn't going to "solve your repository problem" for you. But if you avoid over-thinking software choices and you avoid over-thinking the complexity of your content, you might find that there are immediate, cost-effective choices available to you that can help your community soon and teach you a lot along the way. And if you focus on optimizing access to meet your community's needs, you might find that the policies you'll need to sustain digital materials over time might match how you do everything else already. In five, ten, and twenty years, after all, any software you use today is likely to be obsolete, but it'll still be your responsibility to make and keep your content available and useful to your community.

    In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Me and You and Everything We Know: Information Behavior in Library Workplaces

    Wed, 2014-02-26 13:00

    Teamwork Will Get You There CC BY-NC 2.0 by Dr. Case

    In Brief As librarians, we claim to uphold the principles of open access, equitable and unbiased service, intellectual freedom, and lifelong learning. How can we better integrate these principles into our workplaces? This article is an exploration of information behaviors and structures in library workplaces, particularly the behaviors of withholding and sharing information, and the effect they have on service to patrons and overall quality of the work environment.

    Introduction: Definitions and Questions

    As librarians, we are familiar with information as the currency of our work. Information studies scholar Marcia Bates proposes that the word “information” covers “all instances where people interact with their environment in any such way that leaves some impression on them – that is, adds to or changes their knowledge store” (2010). Every day, we see information adding to or changing patrons’ knowledge stores as they discover a new author, narrow a database search, or use company information to prepare for a job interview. We may not think in the same way about the information that makes up our workplaces and workplace behaviors, whether that means cataloging a film, teaching a workshop, or creating a schedule. While we are aware that information is organized, used, and sought in the workplace, we do not always take the same care with it as we do with outward-facing collections of information.

    Throughout this article, I will apply different theories of information behavior1 (both individual and organizational) to library workplaces, whether they are made up of 5 or 500 people. The outcomes of these behaviors are often at cross-purposes with a library’s mission, particularly when it comes to populations with more limited access to information, like new librarians and paraprofessionals. I will describe some models and approaches that actively promote information sharing and clarity that can be applied in library workplaces.

    I’d like to start with Donald Case’s definition of information behavior (from an information science perspective) as not just active information seeking but also “the totality of unintentional or passive behaviors (such as glimpsing or encountering information), as well as purposive behaviors that do not involve seeking, such as actively avoiding information” (2002). The vast majority of information behavior studies, if they apply to libraries, have been done on users, not on library staff. But we, too, engage in information behaviors, both individual and institutional. The latter, at its most successful, is expressed by social anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Wenger as a “community of practice.”

    Marcia Bates points out that information scientists are interested not inherently in a social hierarchy (as sociologists are), but in the way that hierarchy “impedes or promotes the transfer of information” (2010). What are we doing in our library workplaces, among ourselves as staff, to facilitate the successful transfer of information? What are we doing to block it?  A number of researchers in information sharing have concluded that information does not “‘speak for itself’ but requires negotiation concerning its meaning and context” (Talja and Hansen, 2006). What are a workplace and a workday, if not a set of negotiations of the meaning and context of information?

    Information Cultures

    The information cultures of library workplaces do not always follow a principle we espouse as a profession: easy and democratic access to reliable, stable, and clear sources of information. It’s an ideal we strive for more with users than with each other. Like our users, we must derive meaning and purpose from a vast sea of information surrounding us. Some systematic filtering of information is necessary, of course, for us to be able to do our daily work. But surely that can exist within an environment where information is accessible to those who wish to gain access to it. (This may be more of a challenge in privately-funded libraries than in publicly-funded libraries, where more documentation is legally required.) Librarians Martha Mautino and Michael Lorenzen characterize communication and information as forms of power, equating restricted access to information to a “loss of status.” Whether it’s election-related information, consumer information, or the mechanics of database searching, one of the most gratifying aspects of librarianship is empowering users with information. Our colleagues deserve the same.

    How information is constructed, documented, and disseminated is crucial to how functional a library workplace is. One way researchers define an environment where information behavior takes place is as an “information culture.”  Chun Wei Choo, et al., in their case study of the use of information by employees at a Canadian law firm, define it this way: “By information culture we mean the socially transmitted patterns of behaviors and values about the significance and use of information in an organization” (2006). The key words in this definition are “socially transmitted.” Rules and resources may be organizationally articulated, or reside in unconscious social and other power structures. In her ethnographic studies of information-seeking behavior, Elfreda Chatman introduced the concept of the information “small world” where “insiders see their codes of behavior as normative, routine, and as fitting shared meanings, [but] outsiders to the group cannot relate, because they do not share the same social meanings” (Fulton, 2005). For example, it may be common for departments within a library to share the minutes of their meetings, or to keep them private. A technical services department may have no idea what a reference department’s priorities are, and vice versa, though their processes and priorities have direct effects on each other – because the social code of behavior is to keep information within the small world of the department.

    Choo, et al. use knowledge management research to identify two different organizational strategies: codification, in which knowledge is codified, stored, and disseminated through formal channels, and personalization, in which knowledge is shared through social networks, conversations, and other informal means (2006). I posit that in libraries, the first strategy is usually true for collections of outward-facing information, and the second for internal workplace knowledge, which may reside in silos so sturdily built that they resist even the most sensible demolishing. The distinction between outward- and inward-facing knowledge is, however, eroding a little more quickly, as open access, accountability, and social media engagement grow, which has forced some information cultures to become more open.

    Paula Singer and Jeri Hurley (2005), writing to librarians in the context of professional advice, divide valuable knowledge into two categories: explicit and tacit. Explicit information is able to be “documented, archived, and codified” – though it is important to note that not all explicit information undergoes these processes. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is defined as “know-how contained in employees’ heads.” Tacit knowledge is more subjective. Take, for example, a librarian who finds a mistake on a library web page. Different librarians might approach this problem differently, depending upon their relationships with individual staff members, and their understandings of who wields power, who is in charge of what, and who has the knowledge to get something done. In some libraries, explicit knowledge has become tacit. What may seem like a codifiable piece of explicit knowledge is intimately wrapped up in social networks and relationships, as well as perceptions of others’ willingness to both share and accept information. Singer and Hurley acknowledge that the very value of knowledge may prevent individuals from sharing it: “in many cases employees are being asked to surrender their knowledge and experience – the very traits that make them valuable as individuals” (2005). The word surrender is emotionally charged. There is an element of surrender and trust that comes with transparency – we must trust that the others in our workplace are sharing what they know as well.

    Parts and Sums

    Much of the research combining information behavior and library or information science has focused on systems. In information scientist Pauline Atherton’s view, this inhibited understanding of “the more substantive and more difficult aspects of our world of information science, namely the human being who is processing information (quoted in Garvey, 1979). There is some more recent research, however, about the factors (both systematic and individual) that influence individual information behavior. For example, Bates identified the frequently-demonstrated dominance of the “principle of least effort” in information seeking (2010).2 And Sanna Talja argues that researchers in most fields prefer informal sources and channels if available (2002). In many cases, the principle of least effort may cause people to avoid information seeking altogether, especially if the source of that information is closed off, hostile, or made inaccessible by other human or technological means. People may make do with what they have at hand, can Google, or find out from those they trust, rather than risk vulnerability or alienation with a source known to be difficult in one way or another.  Emotion is inextricably linked to information behavior, and, more obviously, to social behavior. An array of information behaviors (seeking, withholding, sharing) are related to emotional behaviors such as stress and self-concept. Even the solo librarian is part of a professional network, and a larger organization, and must rely upon others and other sources of information in order to do her job.

    Christina Courtright, writing about Thomas Wilson’s model of information behavior, refers to what he calls the “feedback loop” of “learning over time” (2007). This learning, according to Courtright, always takes place in relation to an individual’s perception of both risk and reward, and of self-efficacy.  Imagine a library employee faced with a required task, a low sense of self-efficacy, and a high risk for information-seeking; for instance, a student employee at an academic library working at the desk late at night, with a supervisor who has in the past refused to answer this student’s questions because she thinks he should remember what she verbally told him during training a month ago. A patron comes to the desk wanting to extend a loan on a reserve item until morning; the student is unsure of the permissions and process. Were there adequate documentation (an online document, for example, of policies and procedures), or were the supervisor more willing to share information, the “risk” element would be taken out of the equation, as well as, perhaps, the student’s low sense of self-efficacy. The thinking and actions this student might go through in such a situation have been described by Elfreda Chatman as “self-protective behavior” (Hersberger, 2005). Chatman identified four characteristics of such behaviors: secrecy, deception, risk-taking, and situational relevance. In this example, the student employee must choose between the risk of asking his secrecy-wielding supervisor what to do, or deception of both supervisor and patron by bluffing and risking a solution which may be incorrect. Either choice ultimately has a negative effect both on service to patrons and on the student worker himself.

    Thomas Davenport, in his book Information Ecology, discusses what happens when a system lets down individuals from the system’s very inception: if employees “don’t feel their interests have been adequately represented in deliberations over information, they’ll develop their own sources of information and subvert the…structure” (1997). When employees don’t trust their own system, they create workarounds, back doors, and “go-to” people they ask when they are afraid to approach those who may actually be more knowledgeable on the subject. Davenport found, in his studies of organizations, that the many reasons individuals engage in non-sharing behavior boil down to distrust: of either the individual’s own ability, or of what others would do with the information. Above all, Davenport found that information is often “hoarded to preserve the importance and unique contribution of its creator or current owner.” Individuals may perceive that their value to an organization is based solely on their knowledge, and if that knowledge is shared, there is no need to keep the individual around. People must trust that their value also resides in their abilities to grow and adapt, and to acquire new knowledge.

    At many libraries, categories of information are associated with people rather than departments, locations, or workflows. This can be embodied when a person takes on, or is assigned, the role of gatekeeper of information. Take, for example, a library that has undergone an ILS migration, where some data about lost and overdue books did not migrate correctly. This data is maintained by the supervisor at the main branch in the form of printouts. The supervisor considers himself the only person who can consult and understand the information. Not only do the staff at the other branches have to call the main branch to resolve problems with patron accounts, but if the supervisor is not there, the patron must return when he is in. This supervisor displays distrust of the abilities of his colleagues. Perhaps he also feels that exclusive ownership of this knowledge and how to interpret it makes him a valuable employee. This person is acting as a gatekeeper. While there are of course advantages to funneling specialized requests or questions through one person, there are distinct disadvantages. When one person controls a cache of information – whether procedures, passwords, policies, or even the names of other gatekeepers – so much more rests upon the relationship between the gatekeeper and the information seeker. And that knowledge may be lost if the gatekeeper leaves. Elfreda Chatman found that such self-protective behavior ultimately results in a negative effect on individuals’ “access to useful or helpful information.”

    One concept I’ve only glanced on is power, and how it fits into concepts of information behavior. Marcia Bates and many others point out that in most studies of information behavior, people prefer to get their information from other human beings if possible (2010). However, power structures can stymie this preference. Just as those with more social capital get ahead in the larger world, the same is true in the library workplace; they are, as articulated in sociologist Nan Lin’s theory of social capital, “more likely to be in a position to encounter useful information either directly or by proxy” (Johnson, 2005). In particular, the formation of in-groups in library workplaces that privilege or withhold information works against the free flow of information.  (While in-groups and out-groups based on larger societal categories such as race and gender are critically important factors, that is a subject for a whole other article.)3 These groups may be demarcated by departmental divisions, the length of time employees have been working at a library, social groups formed around interests, or “professional” versus “paraprofessional.”

    This last divide is a sore point at many libraries, and many have written and spoken about it.4 Some libraries have deliberately blurred these lines as they blend services across departments.  It may seem a meaningless distinction what we call ourselves, particularly when patrons are generally unaware of titles, and just want help from the person at the desk or on the other end of the phone. But Chatman found that “[h]ow you are classified determines both your access to information and your ability to use it” (2000). This is not just true for those of us with clearance classifications in government jobs. The titles we give individual library staff members and their departments affect how information is shared and accessed. A special collections “paraprofessional” with an interest in the theory behind archival arrangement may not have the time or encouragement built into her job to learn and advance. Paraprofessionals are often not invited to meetings where policies that will affect them are crafted. The MLS and other advanced degrees are keys that unlock information. I am personally grateful for everything I learned in my master’s program, and I think professional library science education has value. I think, however, a more nuanced progression in professional development, a blend of on-the-job learning and formal education, would open conduits and allow practical and theoretical information to flow more freely in all directions. We can all learn from each other, but we must all be willing to teach and learn. Communication researcher J. David Johnson writes that individuals’ own perceptions of information politics can affect their behavior: “For many individuals it does not make much sense to learn more about things over which they have no control, so the powerless tend not to seek information” (2009). Active information sharing by those with power can counteract this tendency.

    Davenport, writing from a corporate perspective, identifies three types of information behaviors that improve an information environment: “sharing, handling overload, and dealing with multiple meanings” (1997). The first of these behaviors, sharing, is part of what information scientists Madhu Reddy and B.J. Jansen describe as “collaborative information behavior,” or CIB (2008). People are more likely to move from individual information behavior (including withholding, selectively disseminating, or using secrecy or deception) to CIB when certain triggers occur. These include fragmented information resources, lack of domain expertise, and complexity of information need. In other words, when the situation is pressing enough, people will share rather than hoard. In theory, for example, enough database problems during a weekend or vacation will force an systems librarian who has kept problem-solving processes to herself to share them with other employees.

    While that is an example of an individual, one-time behavior conducted under duress, in an ideal world, similar situations would trigger the creation of more open, transparent, and flexible information environments. Lisa Lister, writing specifically about library workplaces, notes that “workplace structure itself can foster collegiality or its antithesis, competition and turf guarding” (2003). She observes that library workplaces, in theory, should lend themselves to collegiality and open sharing of information, because of the profession’s more “circular and participatory” and less “pyramidal and autocratic” nature. Libraries tend to have, and are trending toward, flat structures. It is more crucial than ever to use these structures to create more transparent, open, and flexible information environments. Such models not only improve the flow of information, but also embody the principles and values of the library profession.

    Open Access Means Both

    We don’t have to look far for models of more open information environments. The impact of the open access movement on the library universe – its implications for publishing, copyright, and access – is well-documented. Many librarians have enthusiastically embraced the principles of open access when it comes to collections decisions, or working with faculty on publishing agreements. How many of us, however, have applied these principles to our own workplaces? The Budapest Open Access Initiative includes this key principle of open access: “Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge” (2002). Replace “rich” and “poor” with “information rich” and “information poor,” and “humanity” with “library staff,” and this sounds to me like an ideal directive for information sharing in the library workplace.

    Library and information science scholar Kevin Rioux describes a set of behaviors he refers to as “information acquiring-and-sharing,” which focuses not on information seeking but on how available an individual makes his or her own information base to others with information needs  – a concept directly in line with the principles of open access (2005). When undertaking information acquiring-and-sharing, an individual actively stores and recalls others’ existing and potential information needs, makes associations with information she has acquired, and shares the information. In other words, she removes barriers to access. In order to be successful at both seeking and sharing information, individuals must be aware of other people’s information needs and sharing behaviors. This crucial act of sharing can happen in either direction. Librarians Maria Anna Jankowska and Linnea Marshall (2003) suggest sharing information via joint meetings between departments whose information behaviors might clash. In a very specific example, Lisa Lister suggests that what she calls “fugitive” information useful to public services librarians (e.g., phone numbers for referrals) be clearly documented, rather than relying on individual librarians’ memory or informal sharing (2003), which privileges particular librarians and their social networks.

    In Choo et al.’s study of a Canadian law firm (2006), employees were surveyed about the information environment in their workplace. Some of the statements with which employees were asked to indicate their agreement were:

    • Knowledge and information in my organization is available and organized to make it easy to find what I need.
    • Information about good work practices, lessons learned, and knowledgeable persons is easy to find in my organization.
    • My organization makes use of information technology to facilitate knowledge and information sharing.

    These are all statements on which librarians might easily agree if we were launching an online, open-access journal, but perhaps not on library workplaces’ own internal organization of information. This applies particularly to the last statement. How many of us are using paper files or outdated computer programs to store information about instruction strategies, acquisition processes, or community contacts? Libraries should take advantage of more inexpensive, open technologies and invest in training existing and new employees (where, of course, they are able to do so under staffing and financial constraints).

    One of the goals of open access is to make research and other scholarly work more accessible in pre-publication stages, in order to benefit from the collaborative nature of the Internet.  A number of barriers exist to implementing this approach in library workplaces. Communication researcher William Garvey identified that scientists participate in a public culture of communication, but a private culture of research (1979). While the scientific research environment may have changed, libraries have been slow to break down the “private culture” of our own workplaces, instead privileging information to make ourselves as individuals seem more valuable.  Cross-functionality and collaboration can begin to clear the logjam of what sociologists Marc Smith and Howard T. Welser call the “collective action dilemma” – when “actors seek a collective outcome, yet each actor’s narrow self-interest rewards her or him for not contributing to that group goal” (2005).  For example, working alone, a reference librarian’s knowledge of an arcane trick to produce good catalog results is an asset to him. Working in a cross-functional catalog team with a technical services librarian could force the librarian to explain how he uses the catalog and spur improvements to the system. Though it may rob the reference librarian of some “special” knowledge, the user has been served better through the pressure of others on a cross-functional team.5

    Open access thrives on the idea of the community of practice, a model enacted in some library organizations, but certainly not all. In true communities of practice, people share goals, interests, and a common language; they work with the same information, tools, and technologies. While the latter half of that description may be a tall order for specialized library functions and libraries with shrinking budgets, the former should be feasible in library workplaces. Goals, interests, and a common language: all of these can be summarized in a mission and accomplished by attendant goals, directives, and processes. How can we get disparate groups within library workplaces to agree upon a common language and to share information using it? Martha Mautino and Michael Lorenzen, quoting business professor Phillip Clampitt, offer concrete suggestions, both structural — writing interdepartmental agreements, tracking organizational processes, creating cross-functional teams — and behavioral – inclusive brainstorming sessions, show and tell at all-staff meetings (2003). All of these efforts can go a long way toward increasing access to information at all stages of creation and implementation, and to creating a common language and goals among library staff. It’s already happening to some extent – sharing among libraries is strong at conferences and on social media – but robust, open-access-style repositories of knowledge in library workplaces would be powerful.

    The New Librarian and the Principles of the Profession

    In a study of janitors with information needs, Elfreda Chatman found that they “believed that, if their supervisors or even neighbours or friends knew some problems that they were having, they would take advantage of them by using this information against them” (2000). In other studies, people did not want to be viewed as less capable than others and therefore did not seek information. This can be a particularly prevalent problem for new librarians in their first professional positions. They may be expected to jump in and learn as they go along —and without a supportive or clear structure of both human and documented information sources, they may revert to self-protective behavior.

    Those new to the profession or to a particular workplace are singularly positioned to benefit the most from an open and well-structured information environment, or to improve a closed and poorly structured one. Library literature abounds with advice to new librarians (whether to the profession or a workplace).  Both Julie Todaro (2007) and Natalie Baur (2012), writing separately in the ALA-APA newsletter Library Worklife, suggest responsibilities for the new employee, including: learning the library’s hierarchy, culture, and expectations, seeking out materials and documents, and introducing oneself to everyone (not just to those who may seem strategically advantageous). Rebecca K. Miller brings the responsibilities of both sides together: “Through accurate job descriptions and well-developed communications, a library organization can…communicate realistic expectations, making sure that new librarians come into an organization with a clear idea of what the organization expects and how the new librarian can work to meet those expectations” (2013).

    A new person coming into a library workplace may have ideas about workplace information culture from a previous position or from library school, but she must also learn the ways information is socially transmitted in her new workplace. If those ways are unnecessarily complicated (whether intentionally or unintentionally), it is more difficult for the new person to do her job. Perhaps members of a department have “always” taken vacation on a seniority basis, and when a new person is granted vacation on a first-come, first-served basis, there may be unspoken resentment. The new person is unaware of both the custom and the senior employees’ resentment; the senior employees and manager have not shared their custom with the new person. Down the line, when that new person needs information, that resentment may affect the senior employees’ willingness to share it. And no one will know why because it has not been communicated. Had the policy been documented in the first place, it would have been less of a problem. Todaro places responsibility equally on the new person and the organization to seek out and to provide information, respectively. As she points out, however, “much ‘common knowledge’ is known to all but new employees” (2007). This common knowledge includes methods of communication, and the accepted processes of retrieving and using content from common sources of information.

    One common source of information, as I previously discussed, is an established mission. Maria Anna Jankowska and Linnea Marshall describe an organization without a mission this way: “beliefs may be promulgated among the members through their own personal communications among themselves….The quantity, quality, and inclusiveness of these personal communications contribute to, or detract from, a unified organizational vision” (2003). A poorly conceived or written mission statement is, of course, just as harmful as no mission at all. But constructed carefully from both top down (larger institutional mission) and bottom up (employees’ tasks and services), they can inform everything in a workplace, including procedures and policies governing information behavior. Clearly-written missions and goals can address three important, positive types of information behavior identified by Davenport:  sharing information, handling information overload, and dealing with multiple meanings. A collaboratively written and agreed-upon set of goals and directions for a library makes information public (sharing), distills it (overload), and asks everyone to agree on a common language (multiple meanings). This may all sound obvious, but there are plenty of libraries that do not address these three behaviors, that do not have unified goals or even a mission statement. And in those libraries, as Jankowska and Marshall point out, lateral communications – which often occur in the context of social relationships and not in an open community of practice – govern the day-to-day tasks and, ultimately, long-term direction of that library.

    As Lisa Lister writes, “Our library culture and organizational structure can either foster or hinder the participatory ideals that contribute to our collegiality.” The ALA’s Code of Ethics (2008) provides principles to accomplish the former – to foster information sharing and clear, open channels of communication, through library organizational and information culture. Three of the eight principles under the code of ethics are:

    • We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.
    • We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
    • We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession.

    All three of these principles can be applied when interacting with fellow library staff as well as when serving users; employees should have equitable access to accurate information that affects their jobs. Reddy and Jansen argue that collaborative information behavior can only take place where there is “trust, awareness, and coordination” (2008). All three of these factors are reflected in the ALA’s Code of Ethics: we must trust that personal beliefs will not hinder coworkers from sharing information, maintain awareness of our own knowledge, and employ coordination through actively sharing information to foster others’ professional development. When information is shared among all individuals in a library workplace – especially from those with power to those with less power – we ultimately provide better service, and the principles of our profession are enacted.

    Many thanks to Ellie Collier as my In the Library with the Lead Pipe editor for excellent help in shaping this article, and to Caro Pinto as both external editor and stellar colleague. Thanks are also due to Katy Aronoff, Macee Damon, Hope Houston, and Matt van Sleet, for thought-provoking conversations and for encouraging me to write.

    References

    American Library Association. (2008, January 22). Code of ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from  http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual/updatedpolicymanual/section2/40corevalues

    Bates, M. J. (2010). Information behavior. In M.J. Bates & M. N. Maack (Eds), Encyclopedia of library and information sciences (3rd ed.). Retrieved from http://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/bates/articles/information-behavior.html

    Baur, N. (2012, July). The ten commandments of the new professional. Library Worklife. Retrieved from http://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2007/08/16/ten-dos-and-donts-for-your-first-ten-days-of-work/

    Budapest Open Access Initiative. (2002, 14 February). Retrieved from http://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/read

    Case, D.O. (2002). Looking for information: A survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behavior. Boston: Academic Press.

    Chatman, E. A. (2000). Framing social life in theory and research. The New Review of Information Behaviour Research, 1, 3–17.

    Choo, C. W., Furness, C. F., Paquette, S., van den Berg, H., Detlor, B., Bergeron, P., & Heaton, L.  (2006). Working with information: Information management and culture in a professional services organization. Journal of Information Science 32(6), 491-510.

    Courtright, C. (2007). Context in information behavior research. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 41, 273-306.

    Davenport, T.H., with L. Prusak. (1997). Information ecology: Mastering the information and knowledge environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Fulton, C. Chatman’s life in the round. (2005). In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of  information behavior (pp. 79-82). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Garvey, W.D. (1979). Communication, the essence of science: Facilitating information exchange among librarians, scientists, engineers, and students. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

    Hersberger, J. (2005). Chatman’s information poverty. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of  information behavior (pp. 75-78). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Jankowska, M. A., & L. Marshall. (2003). In Mabry, C.H. (Ed.), Cooperative reference: Social interaction in the workplace (pp. 131-144). New York: The Haworth Press.

    Johnson, C.A. (2005). Nan Lin’s theory of social capital. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior (pp. 323-327). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Johnson, J.D. (2009). Information regulation in work-life : Applying the comprehensive model of information seeking to organizational networks. In T. Afifi & W. Afifi (Eds.), Uncertainty information management, and disclosure decision: Theories and applications (pp. 182-200). New York: Routledge.

    Lister, L. F. (2003). Reference service in the context of library culture and collegiality: Tools for keeping librarians on the same (fast flipping) pages. In Mabry, C.H. (Ed.), Cooperative reference: Social interaction in the workplace (pp. 33-39). New York: The Haworth Press, 2003.

    Mautino, M., & Lorenzen, M. (2013). Interdepartmental communication in academic libraries. In K. Blessinger & P. Hrycaj (Eds.), Workplace culture in academic libraries: The early 21st century (pp. 203-217). Oxford: Chandos Publishing.

    Miller, R. K. (2013). Helping new librarians find success and satisfaction in the academic library. In K. Blessinger & P. Hrycaj (Eds.), Workplace culture in academic libraries: The early 21st century (pp. 81-95). Oxford: Chandos Publishing.

    Reddy, M.C. & Jansen, B.J. (2008). A model for understanding collaborative information behavior in context: A study of two healthcare teams. Information Processing & Management 44, 256-273.

    Rioux, K. (2005). Information acquiring-and-sharing. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior (pp. 169-173). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Singer, P. M., & Hurley, J. E. (2005, June). The importance of knowledge management today. Library Worklife. Retrieved from http://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2005/06/17/the-importance-of-knowledge- management-today/

    Smith, M., & Welser, H. T. (2005). Collective action dilemma. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior (pp. 95-98). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Talja, S. (2002). Information sharing in academic communities: Types and levels of collaboration in information seeking and use. New Review of Information Behavior Research, 3(1), 143-159.

    Talja, S., and Hansen, P. (2006). Information sharing. In A. Spink & C. Cole (Eds.), New directions in human behavior (pp. 113-134). New York: Springer.

    Todaro, J. (2007, August). Ten dos and don’ts for your first ten days of work. Library Worklife. Retrieved from http://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2007/08/16/ten-dos-and-donts-for-your-first-ten-days-of-work/

    Wilson, T. D. (1999). Models in information behaviour research. Journal of Documentation 55(3), 249-270.

    Further Reading

    Chen, X., Ma, J., Jin, J., & Fosh, P. (2013). Information privacy, gender differences, and intrinsic motivation in the workplace. International Journal of Information Management, 33(6), 917-926.

    Karsten, M.F. (2006). Gender, race, and ethnicity in the workplace: Issues and challenges for today’s organizations. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

    Richards, D., & Busch, P. (2013). Knowing-doing gaps in ICT: Gender and culture. VINE: The Journal of Information & Knowledge Management Systems 43(3), 264-295.

    Sewall, B. B., & Alarid, T. (2013). Managing the access services desk: Utilizing layered levels of staff skills. Journal of Access Services 10(1), 6-13.

    Somerville, M. M., Huston, M. E., and Mirjamdotter, A. (2005.) Building on what we know: Staff development in the digital age. The Electronic Library 23(4): 480-491.

    Wilson, T. D. (2010, February/March). Fifty years of information behavior research. ASIS&T Bulletin. Retrieved from http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Feb-10/FebMar10_Wilson.html

     

    1. Unless noted, researchers come from an information studies or information science background.
    2. This concept will sound familiar in terms of students to anyone who has kept up with Project Information Literacy (http://projectinfolit.org).
    3. See, for instance, in Further Reading: Chen et al. 2013, Richards and Busch 2013, and Karsten 2006.
    4. See, for example, Rachel Applegate’s 2010 article in Library Trends, “Clarifying Jurisdiction in the Library Workforce” – http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/library_trends/v059/59.1-2.applegate.html
    5. Many librarians have written articles on cross-training staff at, or combining, various public services desks (reference, circulation, technology help, writing help); Bethany Sewell and Theresa Alarid’s 2013 article in Journal of Access Services is a recent example.

    In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Me and You and Everything We Know: Information Behavior in Library Workplaces

    Wed, 2014-02-26 13:00

    Teamwork Will Get You There CC BY-NC 2.0 by Dr. Case

    In Brief As librarians, we claim to uphold the principles of open access, equitable and unbiased service, intellectual freedom, and lifelong learning. How can we better integrate these principles into our workplaces? This article is an exploration of information behaviors and structures in library workplaces, particularly the behaviors of withholding and sharing information, and the effect they have on service to patrons and overall quality of the work environment.

    Introduction: Definitions and Questions

    As librarians, we are familiar with information as the currency of our work. Information studies scholar Marcia Bates proposes that the word “information” covers “all instances where people interact with their environment in any such way that leaves some impression on them – that is, adds to or changes their knowledge store” (2010). Every day, we see information adding to or changing patrons’ knowledge stores as they discover a new author, narrow a database search, or use company information to prepare for a job interview. We may not think in the same way about the information that makes up our workplaces and workplace behaviors, whether that means cataloging a film, teaching a workshop, or creating a schedule. While we are aware that information is organized, used, and sought in the workplace, we do not always take the same care with it as we do with outward-facing collections of information.

    Throughout this article, I will apply different theories of information behavior1 (both individual and organizational) to library workplaces, whether they are made up of 5 or 500 people. The outcomes of these behaviors are often at cross-purposes with a library’s mission, particularly when it comes to populations with more limited access to information, like new librarians and paraprofessionals. I will describe some models and approaches that actively promote information sharing and clarity that can be applied in library workplaces.

    I’d like to start with Donald Case’s definition of information behavior (from an information science perspective) as not just active information seeking but also “the totality of unintentional or passive behaviors (such as glimpsing or encountering information), as well as purposive behaviors that do not involve seeking, such as actively avoiding information” (2002). The vast majority of information behavior studies, if they apply to libraries, have been done on users, not on library staff. But we, too, engage in information behaviors, both individual and institutional. The latter, at its most successful, is expressed by social anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Wenger as a “community of practice.”

    Marcia Bates points out that information scientists are interested not inherently in a social hierarchy (as sociologists are), but in the way that hierarchy “impedes or promotes the transfer of information” (2010). What are we doing in our library workplaces, among ourselves as staff, to facilitate the successful transfer of information? What are we doing to block it?  A number of researchers in information sharing have concluded that information does not “‘speak for itself’ but requires negotiation concerning its meaning and context” (Talja and Hansen, 2006). What are a workplace and a workday, if not a set of negotiations of the meaning and context of information?

    Information Cultures

    The information cultures of library workplaces do not always follow a principle we espouse as a profession: easy and democratic access to reliable, stable, and clear sources of information. It’s an ideal we strive for more with users than with each other. Like our users, we must derive meaning and purpose from a vast sea of information surrounding us. Some systematic filtering of information is necessary, of course, for us to be able to do our daily work. But surely that can exist within an environment where information is accessible to those who wish to gain access to it. (This may be more of a challenge in privately-funded libraries than in publicly-funded libraries, where more documentation is legally required.) Librarians Martha Mautino and Michael Lorenzen characterize communication and information as forms of power, equating restricted access to information to a “loss of status.” Whether it’s election-related information, consumer information, or the mechanics of database searching, one of the most gratifying aspects of librarianship is empowering users with information. Our colleagues deserve the same.

    How information is constructed, documented, and disseminated is crucial to how functional a library workplace is. One way researchers define an environment where information behavior takes place is as an “information culture.”  Chun Wei Choo, et al., in their case study of the use of information by employees at a Canadian law firm, define it this way: “By information culture we mean the socially transmitted patterns of behaviors and values about the significance and use of information in an organization” (2006). The key words in this definition are “socially transmitted.” Rules and resources may be organizationally articulated, or reside in unconscious social and other power structures. In her ethnographic studies of information-seeking behavior, Elfreda Chatman introduced the concept of the information “small world” where “insiders see their codes of behavior as normative, routine, and as fitting shared meanings, [but] outsiders to the group cannot relate, because they do not share the same social meanings” (Fulton, 2005). For example, it may be common for departments within a library to share the minutes of their meetings, or to keep them private. A technical services department may have no idea what a reference department’s priorities are, and vice versa, though their processes and priorities have direct effects on each other – because the social code of behavior is to keep information within the small world of the department.

    Choo, et al. use knowledge management research to identify two different organizational strategies: codification, in which knowledge is codified, stored, and disseminated through formal channels, and personalization, in which knowledge is shared through social networks, conversations, and other informal means (2006). I posit that in libraries, the first strategy is usually true for collections of outward-facing information, and the second for internal workplace knowledge, which may reside in silos so sturdily built that they resist even the most sensible demolishing. The distinction between outward- and inward-facing knowledge is, however, eroding a little more quickly, as open access, accountability, and social media engagement grow, which has forced some information cultures to become more open.

    Paula Singer and Jeri Hurley (2005), writing to librarians in the context of professional advice, divide valuable knowledge into two categories: explicit and tacit. Explicit information is able to be “documented, archived, and codified” – though it is important to note that not all explicit information undergoes these processes. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is defined as “know-how contained in employees’ heads.” Tacit knowledge is more subjective. Take, for example, a librarian who finds a mistake on a library web page. Different librarians might approach this problem differently, depending upon their relationships with individual staff members, and their understandings of who wields power, who is in charge of what, and who has the knowledge to get something done. In some libraries, explicit knowledge has become tacit. What may seem like a codifiable piece of explicit knowledge is intimately wrapped up in social networks and relationships, as well as perceptions of others’ willingness to both share and accept information. Singer and Hurley acknowledge that the very value of knowledge may prevent individuals from sharing it: “in many cases employees are being asked to surrender their knowledge and experience – the very traits that make them valuable as individuals” (2005). The word surrender is emotionally charged. There is an element of surrender and trust that comes with transparency – we must trust that the others in our workplace are sharing what they know as well.

    Parts and Sums

    Much of the research combining information behavior and library or information science has focused on systems. In information scientist Pauline Atherton’s view, this inhibited understanding of “the more substantive and more difficult aspects of our world of information science, namely the human being who is processing information (quoted in Garvey, 1979). There is some more recent research, however, about the factors (both systematic and individual) that influence individual information behavior. For example, Bates identified the frequently-demonstrated dominance of the “principle of least effort” in information seeking (2010).2 And Sanna Talja argues that researchers in most fields prefer informal sources and channels if available (2002). In many cases, the principle of least effort may cause people to avoid information seeking altogether, especially if the source of that information is closed off, hostile, or made inaccessible by other human or technological means. People may make do with what they have at hand, can Google, or find out from those they trust, rather than risk vulnerability or alienation with a source known to be difficult in one way or another.  Emotion is inextricably linked to information behavior, and, more obviously, to social behavior. An array of information behaviors (seeking, withholding, sharing) are related to emotional behaviors such as stress and self-concept. Even the solo librarian is part of a professional network, and a larger organization, and must rely upon others and other sources of information in order to do her job.

    Christina Courtright, writing about Thomas Wilson’s model of information behavior, refers to what he calls the “feedback loop” of “learning over time” (2007). This learning, according to Courtright, always takes place in relation to an individual’s perception of both risk and reward, and of self-efficacy.  Imagine a library employee faced with a required task, a low sense of self-efficacy, and a high risk for information-seeking; for instance, a student employee at an academic library working at the desk late at night, with a supervisor who has in the past refused to answer this student’s questions because she thinks he should remember what she verbally told him during training a month ago. A patron comes to the desk wanting to extend a loan on a reserve item until morning; the student is unsure of the permissions and process. Were there adequate documentation (an online document, for example, of policies and procedures), or were the supervisor more willing to share information, the “risk” element would be taken out of the equation, as well as, perhaps, the student’s low sense of self-efficacy. The thinking and actions this student might go through in such a situation have been described by Elfreda Chatman as “self-protective behavior” (Hersberger, 2005). Chatman identified four characteristics of such behaviors: secrecy, deception, risk-taking, and situational relevance. In this example, the student employee must choose between the risk of asking his secrecy-wielding supervisor what to do, or deception of both supervisor and patron by bluffing and risking a solution which may be incorrect. Either choice ultimately has a negative effect both on service to patrons and on the student worker himself.

    Thomas Davenport, in his book Information Ecology, discusses what happens when a system lets down individuals from the system’s very inception: if employees “don’t feel their interests have been adequately represented in deliberations over information, they’ll develop their own sources of information and subvert the…structure” (1997). When employees don’t trust their own system, they create workarounds, back doors, and “go-to” people they ask when they are afraid to approach those who may actually be more knowledgeable on the subject. Davenport found, in his studies of organizations, that the many reasons individuals engage in non-sharing behavior boil down to distrust: of either the individual’s own ability, or of what others would do with the information. Above all, Davenport found that information is often “hoarded to preserve the importance and unique contribution of its creator or current owner.” Individuals may perceive that their value to an organization is based solely on their knowledge, and if that knowledge is shared, there is no need to keep the individual around. People must trust that their value also resides in their abilities to grow and adapt, and to acquire new knowledge.

    At many libraries, categories of information are associated with people rather than departments, locations, or workflows. This can be embodied when a person takes on, or is assigned, the role of gatekeeper of information. Take, for example, a library that has undergone an ILS migration, where some data about lost and overdue books did not migrate correctly. This data is maintained by the supervisor at the main branch in the form of printouts. The supervisor considers himself the only person who can consult and understand the information. Not only do the staff at the other branches have to call the main branch to resolve problems with patron accounts, but if the supervisor is not there, the patron must return when he is in. This supervisor displays distrust of the abilities of his colleagues. Perhaps he also feels that exclusive ownership of this knowledge and how to interpret it makes him a valuable employee. This person is acting as a gatekeeper. While there are of course advantages to funneling specialized requests or questions through one person, there are distinct disadvantages. When one person controls a cache of information – whether procedures, passwords, policies, or even the names of other gatekeepers – so much more rests upon the relationship between the gatekeeper and the information seeker. And that knowledge may be lost if the gatekeeper leaves. Elfreda Chatman found that such self-protective behavior ultimately results in a negative effect on individuals’ “access to useful or helpful information.”

    One concept I’ve only glanced on is power, and how it fits into concepts of information behavior. Marcia Bates and many others point out that in most studies of information behavior, people prefer to get their information from other human beings if possible (2010). However, power structures can stymie this preference. Just as those with more social capital get ahead in the larger world, the same is true in the library workplace; they are, as articulated in sociologist Nan Lin’s theory of social capital, “more likely to be in a position to encounter useful information either directly or by proxy” (Johnson, 2005). In particular, the formation of in-groups in library workplaces that privilege or withhold information works against the free flow of information.  (While in-groups and out-groups based on larger societal categories such as race and gender are critically important factors, that is a subject for a whole other article.)3 These groups may be demarcated by departmental divisions, the length of time employees have been working at a library, social groups formed around interests, or “professional” versus “paraprofessional.”

    This last divide is a sore point at many libraries, and many have written and spoken about it.4 Some libraries have deliberately blurred these lines as they blend services across departments.  It may seem a meaningless distinction what we call ourselves, particularly when patrons are generally unaware of titles, and just want help from the person at the desk or on the other end of the phone. But Chatman found that “[h]ow you are classified determines both your access to information and your ability to use it” (2000). This is not just true for those of us with clearance classifications in government jobs. The titles we give individual library staff members and their departments affect how information is shared and accessed. A special collections “paraprofessional” with an interest in the theory behind archival arrangement may not have the time or encouragement built into her job to learn and advance. Paraprofessionals are often not invited to meetings where policies that will affect them are crafted. The MLS and other advanced degrees are keys that unlock information. I am personally grateful for everything I learned in my master’s program, and I think professional library science education has value. I think, however, a more nuanced progression in professional development, a blend of on-the-job learning and formal education, would open conduits and allow practical and theoretical information to flow more freely in all directions. We can all learn from each other, but we must all be willing to teach and learn. Communication researcher J. David Johnson writes that individuals’ own perceptions of information politics can affect their behavior: “For many individuals it does not make much sense to learn more about things over which they have no control, so the powerless tend not to seek information” (2009). Active information sharing by those with power can counteract this tendency.

    Davenport, writing from a corporate perspective, identifies three types of information behaviors that improve an information environment: “sharing, handling overload, and dealing with multiple meanings” (1997). The first of these behaviors, sharing, is part of what information scientists Madhu Reddy and B.J. Jansen describe as “collaborative information behavior,” or CIB (2008). People are more likely to move from individual information behavior (including withholding, selectively disseminating, or using secrecy or deception) to CIB when certain triggers occur. These include fragmented information resources, lack of domain expertise, and complexity of information need. In other words, when the situation is pressing enough, people will share rather than hoard. In theory, for example, enough database problems during a weekend or vacation will force an systems librarian who has kept problem-solving processes to herself to share them with other employees.

    While that is an example of an individual, one-time behavior conducted under duress, in an ideal world, similar situations would trigger the creation of more open, transparent, and flexible information environments. Lisa Lister, writing specifically about library workplaces, notes that “workplace structure itself can foster collegiality or its antithesis, competition and turf guarding” (2003). She observes that library workplaces, in theory, should lend themselves to collegiality and open sharing of information, because of the profession’s more “circular and participatory” and less “pyramidal and autocratic” nature. Libraries tend to have, and are trending toward, flat structures. It is more crucial than ever to use these structures to create more transparent, open, and flexible information environments. Such models not only improve the flow of information, but also embody the principles and values of the library profession.

    Open Access Means Both

    We don’t have to look far for models of more open information environments. The impact of the open access movement on the library universe – its implications for publishing, copyright, and access – is well-documented. Many librarians have enthusiastically embraced the principles of open access when it comes to collections decisions, or working with faculty on publishing agreements. How many of us, however, have applied these principles to our own workplaces? The Budapest Open Access Initiative includes this key principle of open access: “Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge” (2002). Replace “rich” and “poor” with “information rich” and “information poor,” and “humanity” with “library staff,” and this sounds to me like an ideal directive for information sharing in the library workplace.

    Library and information science scholar Kevin Rioux describes a set of behaviors he refers to as “information acquiring-and-sharing,” which focuses not on information seeking but on how available an individual makes his or her own information base to others with information needs  – a concept directly in line with the principles of open access (2005). When undertaking information acquiring-and-sharing, an individual actively stores and recalls others’ existing and potential information needs, makes associations with information she has acquired, and shares the information. In other words, she removes barriers to access. In order to be successful at both seeking and sharing information, individuals must be aware of other people’s information needs and sharing behaviors. This crucial act of sharing can happen in either direction. Librarians Maria Anna Jankowska and Linnea Marshall (2003) suggest sharing information via joint meetings between departments whose information behaviors might clash. In a very specific example, Lisa Lister suggests that what she calls “fugitive” information useful to public services librarians (e.g., phone numbers for referrals) be clearly documented, rather than relying on individual librarians’ memory or informal sharing (2003), which privileges particular librarians and their social networks.

    In Choo et al.’s study of a Canadian law firm (2006), employees were surveyed about the information environment in their workplace. Some of the statements with which employees were asked to indicate their agreement were:

    • Knowledge and information in my organization is available and organized to make it easy to find what I need.
    • Information about good work practices, lessons learned, and knowledgeable persons is easy to find in my organization.
    • My organization makes use of information technology to facilitate knowledge and information sharing.

    These are all statements on which librarians might easily agree if we were launching an online, open-access journal, but perhaps not on library workplaces’ own internal organization of information. This applies particularly to the last statement. How many of us are using paper files or outdated computer programs to store information about instruction strategies, acquisition processes, or community contacts? Libraries should take advantage of more inexpensive, open technologies and invest in training existing and new employees (where, of course, they are able to do so under staffing and financial constraints).

    One of the goals of open access is to make research and other scholarly work more accessible in pre-publication stages, in order to benefit from the collaborative nature of the Internet.  A number of barriers exist to implementing this approach in library workplaces. Communication researcher William Garvey identified that scientists participate in a public culture of communication, but a private culture of research (1979). While the scientific research environment may have changed, libraries have been slow to break down the “private culture” of our own workplaces, instead privileging information to make ourselves as individuals seem more valuable.  Cross-functionality and collaboration can begin to clear the logjam of what sociologists Marc Smith and Howard T. Welser call the “collective action dilemma” – when “actors seek a collective outcome, yet each actor’s narrow self-interest rewards her or him for not contributing to that group goal” (2005).  For example, working alone, a reference librarian’s knowledge of an arcane trick to produce good catalog results is an asset to him. Working in a cross-functional catalog team with a technical services librarian could force the librarian to explain how he uses the catalog and spur improvements to the system. Though it may rob the reference librarian of some “special” knowledge, the user has been served better through the pressure of others on a cross-functional team.5

    Open access thrives on the idea of the community of practice, a model enacted in some library organizations, but certainly not all. In true communities of practice, people share goals, interests, and a common language; they work with the same information, tools, and technologies. While the latter half of that description may be a tall order for specialized library functions and libraries with shrinking budgets, the former should be feasible in library workplaces. Goals, interests, and a common language: all of these can be summarized in a mission and accomplished by attendant goals, directives, and processes. How can we get disparate groups within library workplaces to agree upon a common language and to share information using it? Martha Mautino and Michael Lorenzen, quoting business professor Phillip Clampitt, offer concrete suggestions, both structural — writing interdepartmental agreements, tracking organizational processes, creating cross-functional teams — and behavioral – inclusive brainstorming sessions, show and tell at all-staff meetings (2003). All of these efforts can go a long way toward increasing access to information at all stages of creation and implementation, and to creating a common language and goals among library staff. It’s already happening to some extent – sharing among libraries is strong at conferences and on social media – but robust, open-access-style repositories of knowledge in library workplaces would be powerful.

    The New Librarian and the Principles of the Profession

    In a study of janitors with information needs, Elfreda Chatman found that they “believed that, if their supervisors or even neighbours or friends knew some problems that they were having, they would take advantage of them by using this information against them” (2000). In other studies, people did not want to be viewed as less capable than others and therefore did not seek information. This can be a particularly prevalent problem for new librarians in their first professional positions. They may be expected to jump in and learn as they go along —and without a supportive or clear structure of both human and documented information sources, they may revert to self-protective behavior.

    Those new to the profession or to a particular workplace are singularly positioned to benefit the most from an open and well-structured information environment, or to improve a closed and poorly structured one. Library literature abounds with advice to new librarians (whether to the profession or a workplace).  Both Julie Todaro (2007) and Natalie Baur (2012), writing separately in the ALA-APA newsletter Library Worklife, suggest responsibilities for the new employee, including: learning the library’s hierarchy, culture, and expectations, seeking out materials and documents, and introducing oneself to everyone (not just to those who may seem strategically advantageous). Rebecca K. Miller brings the responsibilities of both sides together: “Through accurate job descriptions and well-developed communications, a library organization can…communicate realistic expectations, making sure that new librarians come into an organization with a clear idea of what the organization expects and how the new librarian can work to meet those expectations” (2013).

    A new person coming into a library workplace may have ideas about workplace information culture from a previous position or from library school, but she must also learn the ways information is socially transmitted in her new workplace. If those ways are unnecessarily complicated (whether intentionally or unintentionally), it is more difficult for the new person to do her job. Perhaps members of a department have “always” taken vacation on a seniority basis, and when a new person is granted vacation on a first-come, first-served basis, there may be unspoken resentment. The new person is unaware of both the custom and the senior employees’ resentment; the senior employees and manager have not shared their custom with the new person. Down the line, when that new person needs information, that resentment may affect the senior employees’ willingness to share it. And no one will know why because it has not been communicated. Had the policy been documented in the first place, it would have been less of a problem. Todaro places responsibility equally on the new person and the organization to seek out and to provide information, respectively. As she points out, however, “much ‘common knowledge’ is known to all but new employees” (2007). This common knowledge includes methods of communication, and the accepted processes of retrieving and using content from common sources of information.

    One common source of information, as I previously discussed, is an established mission. Maria Anna Jankowska and Linnea Marshall describe an organization without a mission this way: “beliefs may be promulgated among the members through their own personal communications among themselves….The quantity, quality, and inclusiveness of these personal communications contribute to, or detract from, a unified organizational vision” (2003). A poorly conceived or written mission statement is, of course, just as harmful as no mission at all. But constructed carefully from both top down (larger institutional mission) and bottom up (employees’ tasks and services), they can inform everything in a workplace, including procedures and policies governing information behavior. Clearly-written missions and goals can address three important, positive types of information behavior identified by Davenport:  sharing information, handling information overload, and dealing with multiple meanings. A collaboratively written and agreed-upon set of goals and directions for a library makes information public (sharing), distills it (overload), and asks everyone to agree on a common language (multiple meanings). This may all sound obvious, but there are plenty of libraries that do not address these three behaviors, that do not have unified goals or even a mission statement. And in those libraries, as Jankowska and Marshall point out, lateral communications – which often occur in the context of social relationships and not in an open community of practice – govern the day-to-day tasks and, ultimately, long-term direction of that library.

    As Lisa Lister writes, “Our library culture and organizational structure can either foster or hinder the participatory ideals that contribute to our collegiality.” The ALA’s Code of Ethics (2008) provides principles to accomplish the former – to foster information sharing and clear, open channels of communication, through library organizational and information culture. Three of the eight principles under the code of ethics are:

    • We provide the highest level of service to all library users through appropriate and usefully organized resources; equitable service policies; equitable access; and accurate, unbiased, and courteous responses to all requests.
    • We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.
    • We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession.

    All three of these principles can be applied when interacting with fellow library staff as well as when serving users; employees should have equitable access to accurate information that affects their jobs. Reddy and Jansen argue that collaborative information behavior can only take place where there is “trust, awareness, and coordination” (2008). All three of these factors are reflected in the ALA’s Code of Ethics: we must trust that personal beliefs will not hinder coworkers from sharing information, maintain awareness of our own knowledge, and employ coordination through actively sharing information to foster others’ professional development. When information is shared among all individuals in a library workplace – especially from those with power to those with less power – we ultimately provide better service, and the principles of our profession are enacted.

    Many thanks to Ellie Collier as my In the Library with the Lead Pipe editor for excellent help in shaping this article, and to Caro Pinto as both external editor and stellar colleague. Thanks are also due to Katy Aronoff, Macee Damon, Hope Houston, and Matt van Sleet, for thought-provoking conversations and for encouraging me to write.

    References

    American Library Association. (2008, January 22). Code of ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from  http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual/updatedpolicymanual/section2/40corevalues

    Bates, M. J. (2010). Information behavior. In M.J. Bates & M. N. Maack (Eds), Encyclopedia of library and information sciences (3rd ed.). Retrieved from http://pages.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/bates/articles/information-behavior.html

    Baur, N. (2012, July). The ten commandments of the new professional. Library Worklife. Retrieved from http://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2007/08/16/ten-dos-and-donts-for-your-first-ten-days-of-work/

    Budapest Open Access Initiative. (2002, 14 February). Retrieved from http://www.budapestopenaccessinitiative.org/read

    Case, D.O. (2002). Looking for information: A survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behavior. Boston: Academic Press.

    Chatman, E. A. (2000). Framing social life in theory and research. The New Review of Information Behaviour Research, 1, 3–17.

    Choo, C. W., Furness, C. F., Paquette, S., van den Berg, H., Detlor, B., Bergeron, P., & Heaton, L.  (2006). Working with information: Information management and culture in a professional services organization. Journal of Information Science 32(6), 491-510.

    Courtright, C. (2007). Context in information behavior research. Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 41, 273-306.

    Davenport, T.H., with L. Prusak. (1997). Information ecology: Mastering the information and knowledge environment. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Fulton, C. Chatman’s life in the round. (2005). In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of  information behavior (pp. 79-82). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Garvey, W.D. (1979). Communication, the essence of science: Facilitating information exchange among librarians, scientists, engineers, and students. Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.

    Hersberger, J. (2005). Chatman’s information poverty. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of  information behavior (pp. 75-78). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Jankowska, M. A., & L. Marshall. (2003). In Mabry, C.H. (Ed.), Cooperative reference: Social interaction in the workplace (pp. 131-144). New York: The Haworth Press.

    Johnson, C.A. (2005). Nan Lin’s theory of social capital. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior (pp. 323-327). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Johnson, J.D. (2009). Information regulation in work-life : Applying the comprehensive model of information seeking to organizational networks. In T. Afifi & W. Afifi (Eds.), Uncertainty information management, and disclosure decision: Theories and applications (pp. 182-200). New York: Routledge.

    Lister, L. F. (2003). Reference service in the context of library culture and collegiality: Tools for keeping librarians on the same (fast flipping) pages. In Mabry, C.H. (Ed.), Cooperative reference: Social interaction in the workplace (pp. 33-39). New York: The Haworth Press, 2003.

    Mautino, M., & Lorenzen, M. (2013). Interdepartmental communication in academic libraries. In K. Blessinger & P. Hrycaj (Eds.), Workplace culture in academic libraries: The early 21st century (pp. 203-217). Oxford: Chandos Publishing.

    Miller, R. K. (2013). Helping new librarians find success and satisfaction in the academic library. In K. Blessinger & P. Hrycaj (Eds.), Workplace culture in academic libraries: The early 21st century (pp. 81-95). Oxford: Chandos Publishing.

    Reddy, M.C. & Jansen, B.J. (2008). A model for understanding collaborative information behavior in context: A study of two healthcare teams. Information Processing & Management 44, 256-273.

    Rioux, K. (2005). Information acquiring-and-sharing. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior (pp. 169-173). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Singer, P. M., & Hurley, J. E. (2005, June). The importance of knowledge management today. Library Worklife. Retrieved from http://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2005/06/17/the-importance-of-knowledge- management-today/

    Smith, M., & Welser, H. T. (2005). Collective action dilemma. In K. E. Fisher, S. Erdelez, & L. McKechnie (Eds.), Theories of information behavior (pp. 95-98). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

    Talja, S. (2002). Information sharing in academic communities: Types and levels of collaboration in information seeking and use. New Review of Information Behavior Research, 3(1), 143-159.

    Talja, S., and Hansen, P. (2006). Information sharing. In A. Spink & C. Cole (Eds.), New directions in human behavior (pp. 113-134). New York: Springer.

    Todaro, J. (2007, August). Ten dos and don’ts for your first ten days of work. Library Worklife. Retrieved from http://ala-apa.org/newsletter/2007/08/16/ten-dos-and-donts-for-your-first-ten-days-of-work/

    Wilson, T. D. (1999). Models in information behaviour research. Journal of Documentation 55(3), 249-270.

    Further Reading

    Chen, X., Ma, J., Jin, J., & Fosh, P. (2013). Information privacy, gender differences, and intrinsic motivation in the workplace. International Journal of Information Management, 33(6), 917-926.

    Karsten, M.F. (2006). Gender, race, and ethnicity in the workplace: Issues and challenges for today’s organizations. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.

    Richards, D., & Busch, P. (2013). Knowing-doing gaps in ICT: Gender and culture. VINE: The Journal of Information & Knowledge Management Systems 43(3), 264-295.

    Sewall, B. B., & Alarid, T. (2013). Managing the access services desk: Utilizing layered levels of staff skills. Journal of Access Services 10(1), 6-13.

    Somerville, M. M., Huston, M. E., and Mirjamdotter, A. (2005.) Building on what we know: Staff development in the digital age. The Electronic Library 23(4): 480-491.

    Wilson, T. D. (2010, February/March). Fifty years of information behavior research. ASIS&T Bulletin. Retrieved from http://www.asis.org/Bulletin/Feb-10/FebMar10_Wilson.html

     

    1. Unless noted, researchers come from an information studies or information science background.
    2. This concept will sound familiar in terms of students to anyone who has kept up with Project Information Literacy (http://projectinfolit.org).
    3. See, for instance, in Further Reading: Chen et al. 2013, Richards and Busch 2013, and Karsten 2006.
    4. See, for example, Rachel Applegate’s 2010 article in Library Trends, “Clarifying Jurisdiction in the Library Workforce” – http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/library_trends/v059/59.1-2.applegate.html
    5. Many librarians have written articles on cross-training staff at, or combining, various public services desks (reference, circulation, technology help, writing help); Bethany Sewell and Theresa Alarid’s 2013 article in Journal of Access Services is a recent example.

    Eaton, Alf: Line-oriented data formats

    Wed, 2014-02-26 12:20

    One object per line, suitable for parsing as a stream.

    CSV id,title,date 1,Example One,2014-02-26 2,Example Two,2014-02-27

    \n for newline; no data types.

    Example: PLOS Search API

    JSON {"id":1,"title":"Example One","date":"2014-02-26"} {"id":2,"title":"Example Two","date":"2014-02-27"}

    \r\n for newline; String, Number, Boolean and Array data types, no Date data type.

    Allows nested objects.

    Example: Twitter Streaming API

    XML <item id="1" title="Example One" date="2014-02-26"/> <item id="2" title="Example Two" date="2014-02-27"/>

    Data types for each field can be specified in an external XML Schema file.

    Turtle @prefix dc: <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/> . _:1 dc:title "Example One"; dc:date "2014-02-26" . _:2 dc:title "Example Two"; dc:date "2014-02-27" .

    or

    _:1 <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/title> "Example One"; <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/date> "2014-02-26" . _:2 <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/title> "Example Two"; <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/date> "2014-02-27" .

    All fields have data types implied by the predicate, but - to be explicit - add @en to the title field and ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#date> to the date field.

    Eaton, Alf: Line-oriented data formats

    Wed, 2014-02-26 12:20

    One object per line, suitable for parsing as a stream.

    CSV id,title,date 1,Example One,2014-02-26 2,Example Two,2014-02-27

    \n for newline; no data types.

    Example: PLOS Search API

    JSON {"id":1,"title":"Example One","date":"2014-02-26"} {"id":2,"title":"Example Two","date":"2014-02-27"}

    \r\n for newline; String, Number, Boolean and Array data types, no Date data type.

    Allows nested objects.

    Example: Twitter Streaming API

    XML <item id="1" title="Example One" date="2014-02-26"/> <item id="1" title="Example One" date="2014-02-26"/>

    Data types for each field can be specified in an external XML Schema file.

    Turtle @prefix dc: <http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/> . _:1 dc:title "Example One"; dc:date "2014-02-26" . _:2 dc:title "Example Two"; dc:date "2014-02-27" .

    All fields have data types implied by the predicate, but - to be explicit - add @en to the title field and ^^<http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema#date> to the date field.

    Hochstenbach, Patrick: Figure drawing on mondays

    Tue, 2014-02-25 20:10
    Again my using my 2 euro “Barbie Fairytopia” (i know, i know) markers in a old cash register journal at the drawing session.  When I’m drawing the model I try to do the body curves with as few lines as

    Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Knowledge Foundation Spain becomes an official Chapter

    Tue, 2014-02-25 18:09

    We are really pleased to announce that Spain has become the latest Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation.

    Last night, during the inaugural I OKFN awards, organised by Open Knowledge Foundation Spain, the group announced to a packed room of open data advocates, government representatives, and community members that they have become an official Chapter of the Open Knowledge Foundation. The awards ceremony was established by Open Knowledge Foundation Spain to recognise the incredible efforts of individuals and groups around the world in open data, open knowledge and transparency. It therefore provided the perfect opportunity to recognise the incredible efforts of the group themselves, by announcing their transition to Chapter status.

    Getting to this point has taken a whole lot of work from a whole lot of people. With 50 paying members, and over 200 people on their mailing list, the organisation has deep community foundations. Around 1000 people have attended events organised by the Chapter in the last year, all of whom have helped bring them to this exciting stage. The group has developed amazingly fast, having only been established around a year ago, which is a testament to the immense dedication and determination of those involved.

    The Chapter is strongly committed to transparency and openness within its own organisational structures. They have developed a format – “transparencia radical” or “extreme transparency” – which lays out best practices and mechanisms for ensuring genuine accountability and openness, and which aims to be reproducible and applicable in many contexts. Their board meetings are also open – you can view the video from November’s meeting here – and they aim for real time accounting transparency. In sum, Open Knowledge Foundation Spain has genuine participation and openness baked into its core, in a way which will undoubtedly be inspirational for other groups around the world.

    The new Chapter have tonnes of exciting stuff coming up over the coming months. They have built a dynamic data journalism community in Spain, and will be hosting a major data journalism event in May, Periodismo Datos, as well as bringing out a new edition of the Data Journalism handbook in April. They are keen to support and collaborate with other Open Knowledge Foundation groups, particularly those in Spanish-speaking countries. Having already translated and launched a Spanish language version of the School of Data, Escuela de Datos, they hope to continue strengthening and growing the movement for open knowledge abroad as well as at home. Do get in touch with them for more details.

    Rufus Pollock, founder of the Open Knowledge Foundation, spoke to the attendees at the awards ceremony by video, saying:

    “This is a great moment. We are delighted to recognise Open Knowledge Foundation Spain in this way. It is a really significant recognition of their achievement, their sustainability, and what they’ve already achieved within the community. It is brilliant to see the interconnection and flow of ideas between the Chapters, and Spain will undoubtedly inspire many others.”

    Alberto Abella, President of the Open Knowledge Foundation Spain said:

    “Many thanks to the team and all the members of the Open Knowledge Foundation Spain. Without their strong co-operation and dedication this would not have been possible. And of course, the best is yet to come in 2014!”

    Images from top to bottom: Eduard Ereza and Jorge Martin, developers sued by local governments for using data from local webs to create apps; Juan Lopez de Uralde, Leader of the political party EQUO; and Mar Cabra, Vicepresident of Open Knowledge Foundation Spain.

    Wallis, Richard: OCLC Preview 194 Million Open Bibliographic Work Descriptions

    Tue, 2014-02-25 13:42

    I have just been sharing a platform, at the OCLC EMEA Regional Council Meeting in Cape Town South Africa, with my colleague Ted Fons.  A great setting for a great couple of days of the OCLC EMEA membership and others sharing thoughts, practices, collaborative ideas and innovations.

    Ted and I presented our continuing insight into The Power of Shared Data, and the evolving data strategy for the bibliographic data behind WorldCat. If you want to see a previous view of these themes you can check out some recordings we made late last year on YouTube, from Ted – The Power of Shared Data – and me – What the Web Wants.

    Today, demonstrating on-going progress towards implementing the strategy, I had the pleasure to preview two upcoming significant announcements on the WorldCat data front:

    1. The release of 194 Million Open Linked Data Bibliographic Work descriptions
    2. The WorldCat Linked Data Explorer interface

    WorldCat Works

    A Work is a high-level description of a resource, containing information such as author, name, descriptions, subjects etc., common to all editions of the work.  The description format is based upon some of the properties defined by the CreativeWork type from the Schema.org vocabulary.  In the case of a WorldCat Work description, it also contains [Linked Data] links to individual, oclc numbered, editions already shared in WorldCat.   Let’s take a look at one – try this: http://worldcat.org/entity/work/id/12477503

    You will see, displayed in the new WorldCat Linked Data Explorer, a html view of the data describing ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’. Click on the ‘Open All’ button to view everything.  Anyone used to viewing bibliographic data will see that this is a very different view of things. It is mostly URIs, the only visible strings being the name or description elements.  This is not designed as an end-user interface, it is designed as a data exploration tool.  This is highlighted by the links at the top to alternative RDF serialisations of the data – Turtle, N-Triple, JSON-LD, RDF/XML.

    The vocabulary used to describe the data is based upon Schema.org, and enhancements to it recommended and proposed by the Schema Bib Extend W3C Community Group, which I have the pleasure to chair.

    Why is this a preview? Can I usefully use the data now? Are a couple of obvious questions for you to ask at this time.

    This is the first production release of WorldCat infrastructure delivering linked data.  The first step in what will be an evolutionary, and revolutionary journey, to provide interconnected linked data views of the rich entities (works, people, organisations, concepts, places, events) captured in the vast shared collection of bibliographic records that makes up WorldCat.  Mining those, 311+ million, records is not a simple task, even to just identify works. It takes time, and a significant amount of [Big Data] computing resources.  One of the key steps in this process is to identify where they exist connections between works and authoritative data hubs, such as VIAF, FAST, LCSH, etc.  In this preview release, it is some of those connections that are not yet in place.

    What you see in their place at the moment is a link to, what can be described as, a local authority.  These are exemplified by what the data geeks call a hash-URI as its identifier. http://experiment.worldcat.org/entity/work/data/12477503#Person/pirsig_robert for example is such an identifier, constructed from the work URI and the person name.  Over the next few weeks, where the information is available, you would expect to see this link replaced by a connection to VIAF, such as this: http://viaf.org/viaf/78757182.

    So, can I use the data? – Yes, the data is live, and most importantly the work URIs are persistent. It is also available under an open data license (ODC-BY).

    How do I get a work id for my resources? – Today, there is one way.  If you use the OCLC xISBN, xOCLCNum web services you will find as part of the data returned a work id (eg. owi=”owi12477503”). By striping off the ‘owi’ you can easily create the relevant work URI: http://worldcat.org/entity/work/id/12477503

    In a very few weeks, once the next update to the WorldCat linked data has been processed, you will find that links to works will be embedded in the already published linked data.  For example you will find the following in the data for OCLC number 53474380:

    schema:exampleOfWork http://worldcat.org/entity/work/id/12477503

    What is next on the agenda? As described, within a few weeks, we expect to enhance the linking within the descriptions and provide links from the oclc numbered manifestations.  From then on, both WorldCat and others will start to use WorldCat Work URIs, and their descriptions, as a core stable foundations to build out a web of relationships between entities in the library domain.  It is that web of data that will stimulate the sharing of data and innovation in the design of applications and interfaces consuming the data over coming months and years.

    As I said on the program today, we are looking for feedback on these releases.

    We as a community are embarking on a new journey with shared, linked data at its heart. Its success will be based upon how that data is exposed, used, and the intrinsic quality of that data.  Experience shows that a new view of data often exposes previously unseen issues, it is just that sort of feedback we are looking for.  So any feedback on any aspect of this will be more than welcome.

    I am excitedly looking forward to being able to comment further as this journey progresses.

    Open Knowledge Foundation: Open Data 1-day training on 28 March

    Tue, 2014-02-25 12:23

    The Open Knowledge Foundation will be re-running its one-day Introduction to Open Data on Friday 28 March.

    Local governments and other organisations are looking at how they can release data they hold – unleashing creativity from local entrepreneurs, researchers, journalists, third-sector organisations and citizens, and helping to build economic activity as well as accountability and trust. The Open Knowledge Foundation’s vision of a world where open data improves lives means its job is to help get data released and used. For example, it built the software that powers the UK government’s widely-copied data portal and many others. Its School of Data works to empower civil society organisations, journalists and citizens with the skills they need to use data effectively in their efforts to create more equitable and effective societies.

    The Introduction to Open Data aims to demystify the subject and give participants an understanding of the whats, whys and hows of the subject. The course is open to anyone who has an interest in Open Data in a professional capacity, and wants an introduction from one of the leading organisations in the field.

    What will it cover?

    The course will give an overview of the following: What is Open Data; kinds of data; Benefits of Open Data; regulatory requirements; data licensing; data quality and formats; an introduction to Linked Data; planning an Open Data project; data portals; publishing data; community engagement.

    Who is it for?

    The course is oriented towards organisations, such as local government councillors and officers, considering starting their own Open Data initiative. It could also be useful for organisations planning to work with or campaign for Open Data. It will be useful for those for whom Open Data is a bit of a mystery wanting to get an overview; decision makers who are supportive of the idea of Open Data, but need to understand what it will involve in technical terms; people responsible for the successful implementation of and Open Data project as well as staff who will be using or maintaing it, and anyone else interested in learning more about Open Data.

    What do people say about it?

    Feedback from the last session in December (above) include:

    • “A great introduction to the world of open data that’s left me keen to find out even more” Saira, ONE)
    • “Excellent overview of the key concepts regarding open data” (Jon Hill, London Borough of Barnet)
    • “Good introduction to the most important aspects of Open Data” (Laura Meggiolaro, International Land Coalition)

    Other feedback included “A good overview that contained something for everyone in a diverse audience”; “Great session, great location, great participants!”; “A great introduction to the issue. Engaging delivery, more interesting than I expected!”

    What do I need?

    No technical or other background is needed – just an interest in learning more about Open Data.

    Registration and cost

    The price for the day is £250, and an early-bird price of £200 will apply to registrations by 7 March. To register, visit the signup page. If you can’t make the date, the course will be running again on 20 May.

    If you have any questions about the course, please contact training@okfn.org.

    More training opportunities

    Never miss a training update, sign up below and get notified about the latest training offerings from the Open Knowledge Foundation:

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    Rundle, Hugh: Hughrundle.net is moving

    Tue, 2014-02-25 06:16

    This is just a quick update, but I’m excited (possibly over-excited) about why I’m publishing this.

    Last year I supported the Kickstarter campaign for a new blogging platform called Ghost. The Kickstarter was a success and the platform has been built. Currently at version 0.4, there’s a little way to go before it fully resembles the vision John O’Nolan articulated in his pitch video, but it’s already very usable. In fact, everything I was really interested in is already there – the Markdown editor, static pages, and full control over the layout, even with the Ghost.org hosted version.

    With my WordPress ‘premium’ subscription ending in a few days, now seems like a good time to finally make the switch to Ghost. For the same price I’ll get most of the functionality with much more freedom. I will lose some functions, but I’ll lose a lot of clutter as well, and be able to continue to support a great product that I really believe in. I’ll be writing more about why and how I moved from WordPress to Ghost in the next few weeks.

    Tonight I’ll open up the bonnet on hughrundle.net and, all things going well, by tomorrow readers will be pointed to the new platform without noticing any difference. Things usually aren’t that straightforward though, so here’s a list of some things that might go wrong:

    1. I could bork the whole domain. To mitigate against this, all content will continue to be available at http://itsnotaboutthebooks.wordpress.com. I’ve also mirrored the site at http://hugh.ghost.io (which is actually the new site if you want a sneak peek) and (because my father taught me to always have a backup plan) at http://blog.hugh.li . Check in that order if hughrundle.net isn’t working, as the hugh.li site is mostly for experiments and the blog design is looking fairly 1994 at the moment. To find a particular post, simply replace the ‘hughrundle.net’ prefix with one of the others above, and the rest of the URL will be the same.
    2. RSS feeds may need to be replaced. I’m a bit unsure about this, but it’s possible that if you use an RSS feed you’ll need to delete the current one and add the new one, even though once I switch it over the URL will not change.
    3. Some people might throw things at me when they see what’s been sacrificed in the new design.
    4. Something else I haven’t thought of yet could go hideously wrong.

    Wish me luck, and I’ll see you on the other side.


    Open Knowledge Foundation: Building an archaeological project repository I: Open Science means Open Data

    Mon, 2014-02-24 16:13

    This is a guest post by Anthony Beck, Honorary fellow, and Dave Harrison, Research fellow, at the University of Leeds School of Computing.

    In 2010 we authored a series of blog posts for the Open Knowledge Foundation subtitled ‘How open approaches can empower archaeologists’. These discussed the DART project, which is on the cusp of concluding.

    The DART project collected large amounts of data, and as part of the project, we created a purpose-built data repository to catalogue this and make it available, using CKAN, the Open Knowledge Foundation’s open-source data catalogue and repository. Here we revisit the need for Open Science in the light of the DART project. In a subsequent post we’ll look at why, with so many repositories of different kinds, we felt that to do Open Science successfully we needed to roll our own.

    Open data can change science

    Open inquiry is at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Publication of scientific theories – and of the experimental and observational data on which they are based – permits others to identify errors, to support, reject or refine theories and to reuse data for further understanding and knowledge. Science’s powerful capacity for self-correction comes from this openness to scrutiny and challenge. (The Royal Society, Science as an open enterprise, 2012)

    The Royal Society’s report Science as an open enterprise identifies how 21st century communication technologies are changing the ways in which scientists conduct, and society engages with, science. The report recognises that ‘open’ enquiry is pivotal for the success of science, both in research and in society. This goes beyond open access to publications (Open Access), to include access to data and other research outputs (Open Data), and the process by which data is turned into knowledge (Open Science).

    The underlying rationale of Open Data is this: unfettered access to large amounts of ‘raw’ data enables patterns of re-use and knowledge creation that were previously impossible. The creation of a rich, openly accessible corpus of data introduces a range of data-mining and visualisation challenges, which require multi-disciplinary collaboration across domains (within and outside academia) if their potential is to be realised. An important step towards this is creating frameworks which allow data to be effectively accessed and re-used. The prize for succeeding is improved knowledge-led policy and practice that transforms communities, practitioners, science and society.

    The need for such frameworks will be most acute in disciplines with large amounts of data, a range of approaches to analysing the data, and broad cross-disciplinary links – so it was inevitable that they would prove important for our project, Detection of Archaeological residues using Remote sensing Techniques (DART).

    DART: data-driven archaeology

    DART aimed is to develop analytical methods to differentiate archaeological sediments from non-archaeological strata, on the basis of remotely detected phenomena (e.g. resistivity, apparent dielectric permittivity, crop growth, thermal properties etc). The data collected by DART is of relevance to a broad range of different communities. Open Science was adopted with two aims:

    • to maximise the research impact by placing the project data and the processing algorithms into the public sphere;
    • to build a community of researchers and other end-users around the data so that collaboration, and by extension research value, can be enhanced.

    ‘Contrast dynamics’, the type of data provided by DART, is critical for policy makers and curatorial managers to assess both the state and the rate of change in heritage landscapes, and helps to address European Landscape Convention (ELC) commitments. Making the best use of the data, however, depends on openly accessible dynamic monitoring, along the lines of that developed for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellations under development by the European Space Agency. What is required is an accessible framework which allows all this data to be integrated, processed and modelled in a timely manner.

    It is critical that policy makers and curatorial managers are able to assess both the state and the rate of change in heritage landscapes. This need is wrapped up in national commitments to the European Landscape Convention (ELC). Making the best use of the data, however, depends on openly accessible dynamic monitoring, along similar lines to that proposed by the European Space Agency for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellations. What is required is an accessible framework which allows all this data to be integrated, processed and modelled in a timely manner. The approaches developed in DART to improve the understanding and enhance the modelling of heritage contrast detection dynamics feeds directly into this long-term agenda.

    Cross-disciplinary research and Open Science

    Such approaches cannot be undertaken within a single domain of expertise. This vision can only be built by openly collaborating with other scientists and building on shared data, tools and techniques. Important developments will come from the GMES community, particularly from precision agriculture, soil science, and well documented data processing frameworks and services. At the same time, the information collected by projects like DART can be re-used easily by others. For example, DART data has been exploited by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) for use in such applications as carbon sequestration in hedges, soil management, soil compaction and community mapping. Such openness also promotes collaboration: DART partners have been involved in a number of international grant proposals and have developed a longer term partnership with the RAU.

    Open Science advocates opening access to data, and other scientific objects, at a much earlier stage in the research life-cycle than traditional approaches. Open Scientists argue that research synergy and serendipity occur through openly collaborating with other researchers (more eyes/minds looking at the problem). Of great importance is the fact that the scientific process itself is transparent and can be peer reviewed: as a result of exposing data and the processes by which these data are transformed into information, other researchers can replicate and validate the techniques. As a consequence, we believe that collaboration is enhanced and the boundaries between public, professional and amateur are blurred.

    Challenges ahead for Open Science

    Whilst DART has not achieved all its aims, it has made significant progress and has identified some barriers in achieving such open approaches. Key to this is the articulation of issues surrounding data-access (accreditation), licensing and ethics. Who gets access to data, when, and under what conditions, is a serious ethical issue for the heritage sector. These are obviously issues that need co-ordination through organisations like Research Councils UK with cross-cutting input from domain groups. The Arts and Humanities community produce data and outputs with pervasive social and ethical impact, and it is clearly important that they have a voice in these debates.

    Engard, Nicole: Bookmarks for February 22, 2014

    Sat, 2014-02-22 20:31

    Today I found the following resources and bookmarked them on <a href=

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    The post Bookmarks for February 22, 2014 appeared first on What I Learned Today....

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    Hess, M Ryan: firefox logo

    Sat, 2014-02-22 15:00

    “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
    –Eric Schmidt, Google CEO

    “If you want to stay anonymous online, you have to break links at every step”
    –Ashkan Soltaini, privacy consultant

    I’m breaking up with Google, one service at a time. Last week it was Google’s search engine, which I swapped for DuckDuckGo. This week, it’s Google’s Chrome Browser.

    As I said a week ago, recent revelations of the commodification of our personal information, the revolving door our personal information swings through between tech companies and the world governments and the increasingly effective hacking of our financial transactions and personal information, has made me rethink my decision to trade privacy for convenience.

    Step one was to wean myself off of Google.com.

    Step two will be to sever another link in the chain between me and Google’s databases: the Chrome Browser.

    To be fair, Chrome can be configured and used in a very private and secure way. You can surf “incognito,” leaving no history of what pages you have traversed. You can also use the browser so that it deletes your cookies when you end a session.

    And as always, some of the best encryption freely available comes built into the Chrome browser.

    So, you could easily argue that dropping Chrome is actually less secure.

    But, I think you could equally argue that handing over your private data to any company is taking a big leap of faith. Especially, when that data can add up to a very personal and detailed profile of you. For example, the consolidation of Google Plus, Gmail and YouTube accounts meant that user data across these sites could now be consolidated into a single database of web activity that included a matrix of personal email, web searches, social connections, video views and even the text of attachments. Worse, Google claims ownership to this data once you “share” it with them.

    So just because Chrome can be directed (by advanced users) to minimize the data shared with Google, you have to wonder. A breach of this very robust personal data is entirely possible. Indeed, the Chinese apparently already did this. And, as privacy expert Ashkan Soltaini (quoted above) notes, why help snoopers, hackers and commercial interests gather intelligence on you by (unnecessarily) relying on its browser?

    ¡Adiós el Chromo!

    I was once a big Firefox fan, so switching back was not that hard. I stopped using Firefox, only because another Firefox-clone, called Flock, came out in 2009 with many social networking features built in. This was largely around the time the Add-on marketplace for Firefox wasn’t really keeping up. But the people behind Flock eventually abandoned the project and so I was momentarily back in Firefox. But around that time, Firefox (at least the Mac OS version) was pretty lousy in terms of handling complex websites that were deploying AJAX and other javascript intensive activities.

    One of the best things about Chrome, in fact, was its speed…and some built-in development tools that I felt were way superior to their closest Firefox Add-ons, like Firebug. So, I started using Chrome…until a week ago.

    First and foremost, Firefox comes to us from Mozilla, an open-source organization that has proven itself deeply concerned with protecting privacy and security on the web.

    Firefox Privacy Settings

    I’ve experimented with the privacy settings in Firefox, and I consider my current setup a work in progress. My focus here is to give some guidelines for how one might configure Firefox to maximize their privacy while not making everything a test of their faith.

    Search
    • Remove Google, Bing and Yahoo! from the search engines installed in Firefox
    • Add a private search engine as the default. As of this writing, I use DuckDuckGo right now, but I’m experimenting with others.
    • Optional: I added the Omnibar add-on for a more Chrome-like experience, which as far as I can tell does not report back what you enter it to the developer’s database. If you’re concerned about this, just don’t add the Omnibar.
    Privacy
    • Obviously be sure to select the “Tell sites I do not want to be tracked” setting.
    • History and Cookies: I go back and forth between not capturing history, keeping all history and deleting history upon closing Firefox. Currently, I have everything deleted when I end the session.
    • Set the browser to Never Accept Third Party Cookies
    Security
    • I use a master password…and you’d be crazy not to. To understand why, just open your preferences and, under Security, click the Saved Passwords button. Then click Show Passwords. There they are…hopefully you’re not sharing your screen when you do this!
    Sync and Advanced
    • I don’t sync, but I’ve been tempted to. I need to research this more before committing, but on the face of it, it feels less secure to do so.
    • Network, you can set up a SOCKS Proxy, but I use Private Internet Access VPN, when I’m using public wi-fi, so I haven’t explored this.
    • Make sure you have Auto-updates installed to be confident Firefox has the latest security patches, etc.

    It’s been fun to be back in Firefox. I feel a little bit like a rebel, in fact! And the good news, the browser feels more light-weight and agile then in the past with all those heavy JavaScript-ladden sites running at a good clip! And, whoa! The developer tools are now built into Firefox, so that means one less Add-on slowing things down.

    Meanwhile, I’m continuing to explore other secure ways of living online. Coming soon: Thumb drive applications, Gmail alternatives and a secure way to get Google search without using Google!


    Ng, Cynthia: Langara Computer Technology Meetup: Simple Principle for Website Security

    Sat, 2014-02-22 03:11
    The Langara Computer Science department has about 6-7 meetups a year on various technology topics. I had intended to attend one earlier, but this is the first one I got to. The presentation is to focus on practical website security principles. Presenter Lauren Wood Risk Management Website security about risk management. The level of security […]

    Hochstenbach, Patrick: Illustrating PowerPoint

    Fri, 2014-02-21 18:01
      Sometimes people ask me to illustrate PowerPoint presentations. As a cartoonist you can  help to visualise ideas. The simplistic stick-figures help to keep the focus on the idea not on the art of illustration.Filed under: Doodles Tagged: graphic facilitation,