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LITA: “Settling for a job” and “upward mobility”: today’s career paths for librarians

Mon, 2015-11-09 14:00
The Jeffersons, 1975.

I very recently shifted positions from a large academic research library to a small art school library, and during my transition the phrases “settling for a job” and “upward mobility” were said to me quite a bit. Both of these phrases set me personally on edge, and it got me thinking about today’s career paths for librarians and how they view their own trajectory.

At my last job, I was a small cog in a very well-oiled machine. It was not a librarian position and because I was in such a big institution I did not have a large variety of responsibilities. Librarian positions there were traditionally tenure-track, though it was clear that Technical Services was already on the path to eliminating Librarian titled positions and removing MLIS/MLS degrees from the required qualifications of position descriptions. A recent post from In the Library With the Lead Pipe addressed the realities of professional impact on the career trajectory of academic librarians today:

While good advice is readily available for most librarians looking to advance “primary” responsibilities like teaching, collection development, and support for access services, advice on the subject of scholarship—a key requirement of many academic librarian positions—remains relatively neglected by LIS programs across the country. Newly hired librarians are therefore often surprised by the realities of their long term performance expectations, and can especially struggle to find evidence of their “impact” on the larger LIS profession or field of research over time. These professional realizations prompt librarians to ask what it means to be impactful in the larger world of libraries. Is a poster at a national conference more or less impactful than a presentation at a regional one? Where can one find guidance on how to focus one’s efforts for greatest impact? Finally, who decides what impact is for librarians, and how does one go about becoming a decision-maker?

Though my last job taught me a great deal about management and scholarly publication, I accepted my current position at a small art school library because of my desire to take on a role that required me to wear a lot of different hats taking care of cataloging, helping with circulation and reference, and dabbling in student library programming. While this appeals to me greatly because of how multi-faceted my job can be, I often received negative opinions from colleagues at my last institution prior to my transition. It couldn’t be a very good position if I was doing cataloging and reference, they’d say. The unsolicited advice I was given was “don’t settle for a job. Really think about your career trajectory so that your resume makes sense to future employers.”

This sentiment really made me uncomfortable. The fact that someone would imply that the job I was taking was inferior to my institution at the time and that the only reasonable explanation was that I was “settling” was offensive. Isn’t a career trajectory something that should really only concern the individual accepting those positions? Librarianship is such a multi-faceted and diverse field, is there really such a thing as a career trajectory that “makes sense?” Is there one clear path for everyone that is meant to lead to “upward mobility?”

Should we all be viewing professional impact in librarianship the same way? My last professional environment heavily stressed implementing new (but inexpensive) technologies that would enhance library discovery and bibliographic control. My current environment is much more holistic in that it encapsulates information literacy, high-quality reference, and really just making the library a more welcoming place for students to be in.

So how do we determine the altmetrics of our career trajectory? Is there a right and a wrong way, and does this change from early-career to mid-career librarianship? In a DIY age where a lot of us are teaching ourselves skills we know to be highly desired on the fly, how do these factors contribute to our view of the impact we have on the field?

Ed Summers: Dead Letter Revision

Mon, 2015-11-09 05:00

You may remember last week I provided a short example of using metaphor to give depth and life to some of my otherwise shallow and boring text. I’m not sure I acheived this, but it was a fun exercise for someone like me who likes playing with words. The crucial last step in Sword’s process is to share the reworked sentence with a friend to see if the reworked sentenece works, and to get feedback on how to make it better.

During last week’s class I shared my original text and the various iterations I went through to generate a new sentence using the Dead Letter Office as a metaphor for the HTTP redirect. Just the process of trying to read my text out loud to my classmates was illuminating. I had trouble simply reading it without slipping into a muddled monotone. Fortunately, I have generous and kind classmates who gave me useful advice without ripping the idea to shreds.

The main piece of advice I took from the conversation was to stop trying to achieve parity between the metaphor of the Dead Letter Office and the HTTP redirect. As I gathered more details about the Dead Letter Office (mostly on Wikipedia) I tried to work these facts into the description. I had built up a lot of text and ideas, but hadn’t simplified them using plain language. It felt like I was going down the rabbit hole of talking about Dead Letter Offices instead of redirects. Also, the metaphor was stretched thin: aspects of the work in a DLO didn’t align properly with the redirect, but I tried to force them together anyway.

Kari pointed out that my previous sentence had a one word metaphor that worked quite well:

A more practical solution to minting the perfect URL for your Web resources is to accept that most things change, but to alert people who care when these changes occur.

I’ve used the word mint so many times when discussing URLs because of its use in the semantic web literature. All this time I hadn’t really considered how it operated as a metaphor for financial systems. Kari suggested that I might want to do something similarly understated with the Dead Letter Office metaphor. In the process of working with it I decided to abandon the Dead Letter Office and focus more on a change of address form in the Post Office, which was one of the other options I had brainstormed. It seemed easier to understand and less distracting than the Dead Letter Office:

Think of an HTTP redirect as the forwarding address you give the post office when you move. The post office keeps your change of address on file, and sends mail on to your new address, for a period of time (typically a year). The medium is different but the mechanics are quite similar, as your browser seamlessly follows a redirect from the old location of a document to its new location.

I don’t think I achieved subtlety in this version, but it felt like an improvement, and less contrived. Another thing I incorporated was Diane’s suggestion that I mention how the browser much like the postal system works seamlessly or invisibly. Most of the time you don’t even notice when the link you’ve clicked on actually results in you viewing a document somewhere else. The browser quietly follows the redirects without letting you know.

It was hard to part with the image of the Dead Letter Office. Perhaps it’s the seed of an idea for another time.

Terry Reese: MarcEdit Mac Updates

Sun, 2015-11-08 16:52

I’ve posted a new MarcEdit update.  You can get the builds directly from: or using the automated update tool within MarcEdit.  Direct links:

The change log follows:



MarcEdit Mac ChangeLog: 11/8/2015

MarcEdit Applications Changes:
* Build New Field Tool Added
** Added Build New Field Tool to the Task Manager
* Validate Headings Tool Added
* Extract/Delete Selected Records Tool Added

* Updates to Linked Data tool
** Added option to select oclc number for work id embedding
** Updated Task Manager signatures

* Edit Indicators
** Removed a blank space as legacy wildcard value.  Wildcards are now strictly “*”

Merge Records Tool
* Updated User defined fields options to allow 776$w to be used (fields used as part of the MARC21 option couldn’t previously be redefined to act as a single match point)

* Results page will print UTF8 characters (always) if present

* Adding an option so if selected, 880 will be sorted as part of their paired field.

Z39.50 Client
* Supports Single and Batch Search Options

Terry Reese: MarcEdit Windows/Linux Update Notes

Sun, 2015-11-08 16:51

I’ve posted a new MarcEdit update.  You can get the builds directly from: or using the automated update tool within MarcEdit.  Direct links:

The change log follows:



MarcEdit Windows/Linux ChangeLog: 11/8/2015

MarcEdit Application Changes:
* Updates to the Build New Field Tool
** Code moved into meedit code library (for portability to the mac system)
** Separated options to provide an option to add new field only, add when not present, replace existing fields
** Updated Task Manager signatures — if you use this function in a task, you will need to update the task

* Updates to Linked Data tool
** Added option to select oclc number for work id embedding
** Updated Task Manager signatures
** Updated cmarcedit commandline options

* Edit Indicators
** Removed a blank space as legacy wildcard value.  Wildcards are now strictly “*”

Merge Records Tool
* Updated User defined fields options to allow 776$w to be used (fields used as part of the MARC21 option couldn’t previously be redefined to act as a single match point)

* Results page will print UTF8 characters (always) if present

Validate ISBN/ISSN
* Results page now includes the 001 if present in addition to the record # in the file

* Adding an option so if selected, 880 will be sorted as part of their paired field.

* Added Sorting Preferences
* Added New Options Option, shifting the place where the folder settings are set.

UI Improvements
* Various UI improvements made to better support Windows 10.

Cynthia Ng: Mozilla Festival Day 2: Notes on Organize Better, More Inclusive Hackathons

Sun, 2015-11-08 12:35
Since I help organize conferences and events, I thought it would be interesting to attend the session. Things that Worked Well or Not / Made You Feel More/Less Included (Small Group Discussion) planning/schedule – clear schedule, what to bring, clear goal / purpose team / relationship building – prepared make it fun / social – … Continue reading Mozilla Festival Day 2: Notes on Organize Better, More Inclusive Hackathons

Cynthia Ng: Mozilla Festival Day 2: Opening Keynotes

Sun, 2015-11-08 11:00
Day 2 started with more talks to kick off the day. Mark Surman There is a new wave of open emerging. More optimistic than the corporate controlled internet talked about last year. Rally citizens / connect leaders -> fuel the movement. Told a story about making his first TV commercial that was then destroyed. What … Continue reading Mozilla Festival Day 2: Opening Keynotes

Ed Summers: Seminar Week 10

Sun, 2015-11-08 05:00

This week’s readings were focused on Values in Design with Friedman & Nissenbaum (1997), Shilton, Koepfler, & Fleischmann (2014) and (???). We were fortunate to have Katie Shilton on hand to talk about her article, and values sensitive design in general.

We actually spent the first half of the class working with Envisioning Cards, which are a deck of cards that help designers explore the value dimensions in their projects. We split up into groups, picked a technology project, and got 4 random cards to work with. My group decided to examine public transportation planning, which was hybrid socio-technical system involving human actors such as elected officials, planners, civic organizations as well as planning and data collection systems. Since this was kind of a sprawling system to think about we mostly focused on a particular planning task: designing the transportation system around a new supermarket that was being built.

One of our cards asked us to examine value tensions:

The card had us come up with three value tensions in our transportation planning system, and to then identify a design feature that favors one value over another. One of the value tensions we came up with in our supermarket planning was between car parking and public transportation. One design feature that materialized this tension was the size of the supermarket. If the location supported public transportation, then less space would need to be dedicated to car parking, which would leave ore space for the store itself.

I thought the cards did a nice job of guiding our group discussion to tease out value issues. They were especially good for getting our conversation started, and breaking the ice. We didn’t spend more than 5 minutes on each card, but even in that time it became clear that each member of our group had their own values that they brought to the table, and that these perspectives were valuable to the discussion.

Apparently it is more common to use Envisioning Cards when teaching Value Sensitive Design in classes than it is to actually use them as part of an actual design process. But I ordered a set anyway, since they seem like they could be useful to try in an actual design. Perhaps using game like elements in serious design issues could lead some to feel like values issues are being minimized or trivialized. But I think games can help unlock creativity as well. The cards reminded me a bit of CRC Cards in agile software development, which I’ve seen work quite well when designing object-oriented software. The card metaphor is a generally useful design metaphor, which is present in project management tools like Trello.

One of the interesting conversations we had around (???) involved transparency: how important is it for authors to discuss their own values in their research:

Another facet of this recommendation is connected with the aforementioned distinction among explicitly supported values, stakeholder values, and designer values. If researchers make this distinction in a given project, it may well be useful for the reader to know what are the relevant personal values of the researchers or designers, as well as the values that are explicitly supported in that project and the relevant values of the key stakeholders, so that the reader can judge how well the different kinds of values are distinguished and treated in the work. This kind of clarity is particularly important if there were value tensions or conflicts among values in these three groups.

Some felt that discussing values in a paper about quarks for example, may seem a bit out of place, and perhaps even discouraged. I think Borning’s point is not about research in general, but research involving the study of values. It becomes difficult to contextualize research into values when the researcher and designer values aren’t adequately described.

I have spent a significant portion of my career working in and with the open source and agile software development communities. Part of the reason these communities appeal to me are because of their implicit values of the commons and the value of users in design. But people can get involved in open source software for a variety of reasons, and successful projects often form because of shared values. It makes me think that the better these values are understood in design, the more fulfilling the work will be, and the easier it will be for outsiders to join in. This is just a hunch though, it would be interesting to see if other people are studying that. At any rate, I suspect that the bibliographies in these papers contain a lot of stuff I’m going to be looking at in the coming years.


Friedman, B., & Nissenbaum, H. (1997). Human values and the design of computer technology. In (pp. 330–347). Cambridge University Press.

Shilton, K., Koepfler, J. A., & Fleischmann, K. R. (2014). How to see values in social computing: Methods for studying values dimensions. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 426–435). Association for Computing Machinery.

Ed Summers: Seminar Week 9

Sun, 2015-11-08 05:00

This week we took a break from readings and reviewed each others initial research topic proposals. I believe that the idea is for these research proposals to feed into the work we do in next semester’s seminar, which ultimately leads up to our integration paper that culminates our class work, and then feeds into our dissertation. It’s not really appropriate for me to share my classmates ideas here, but I will say that I was really struck by how varied and interesting they were: methods for studying citizen science, values in design, trauma in information systems. Our discussion was useful because it revealed the degree to which I actually missed the intent behind the proposals. I also got some useful feedback about mine, which mostly brought home that I have yet to express an actual research project!

I do know that I’m interested in studying web archives. I’ve initially been focused on appraisal: how we decide what goes into Web archives, and how computers can assist in those decisions, specifically social media streams. But there is such a strong Human Computer Interaction lab at UMD that it feels like it would be a wasted opportunity not to tap into this more in the design of these web archive systems. Similarly the strengths of the Ethics and Design Lab seem like another important area to draw on. I think I’ve been focused on the digital curation because of my background, but the design of these archival systems, so that they support the varied values of curation is important to me, and is something that I would like to build into my research.

For example I want my research to support a particular set of data curation values: open access, knowledge sharing, diversity, community development and transparency ; rather than law enforcement, surveillance, and militarization. So much of information technology is dual use, and I am interested in ways of influencing use over time–so called opinionated software. I guess this is what motivated Richard Stallman’s work on the [GNU General Public License] which has had such a profound effect on the software development community. The [Creative Commons] licenses and movement that folks like Aaron Swartz and Lawrence Lessig worked on, also comes to mind. These individuals had very clearly articulated lineage of values, and I feel like it’s useful to tap into this as part of my research work, rather than letting it be completely technical and agnostic about use.

Cynthia Ng: Mozilla Festival Day 1: Notes from Disassembling the world’s worst data wrapper: PDFs

Sat, 2015-11-07 15:05
It’s no secret that PDFs are a terrible way to distribute data, so some tips and tools on helping to extract data and information from PDFs. Tabula For extracting data in tables. Online version at Also available a version to download and run locally. If you have any issues, try the other detection mode. … Continue reading Mozilla Festival Day 1: Notes from Disassembling the world’s worst data wrapper: PDFs

Cynthia Ng: Mozilla Festival 2015 Day 1: Opening Keynotes

Sat, 2015-11-07 10:31
The first day of Mozilla Festival started off with a MozFest magic carpet ride talk from @amirad and how to make the most of MozFest before moving on to the keynotes. Mark Surman Small history of MozFest. The proto-Mozilla festival in 2010, called Mozilla Drumbeat with a hackfest and with tents out in the museum … Continue reading Mozilla Festival 2015 Day 1: Opening Keynotes

District Dispatch: Librarian of Congress now term limited

Fri, 2015-11-06 22:23

With the stroke of a pen, the President has established for the first time a set term of office for the Librarian of Congress. Rather than serve for life, the next and all future Librarians will enjoy a 10-year term of office renewable for the same length of time upon reconfirmation by the Senate. Legislation authorizing the change, the Librarian of Congress Succession Modernization Act of 2015 (S. 2162), was both introduced in and passed in the Senate by unanimous consent on October 7. It was again approved by unanimous consent of the House less than two weeks later. The Librarian’s position remains vacant in the wake of James Billington’s resignation on September 30th. A successor has not yet been named. ALA has urged the President to appoint a credentialed librarian.

The post Librarian of Congress now term limited appeared first on District Dispatch.

FOSS4Lib Upcoming Events: Mid-Atlantic Fedora Users Group

Fri, 2015-11-06 18:17
Date: Monday, November 30, 2015 - 08:00 to Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 17:00Supports: Fedora RepositoryHydraIslandora

Last updated November 6, 2015. Created by Peter Murray on November 6, 2015.
Log in to edit this page.

From the website:
Our inaugural meeting will be a two-day event at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, PA on Nov. 30th – Dec. 1st, 2015. The schedule offers a combination of community presentations, hands-on training with Fedora 4, a Hydra-in-a-Box focus group, and opportunities for self-organizing breakout sessions and workshops.

District Dispatch: DOL grants offer a window of opportunity

Fri, 2015-11-06 14:32

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration is seeking grant applications from community organizations, including libraries.

Libraries are already in the business of serving their communities. Librarians may not be aware, however, that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) offers a wide variety of grants to organizations and other entities, such as libraries, that are able to match up their resources with the variety of DOL training, educational and employment programs aimed to prepare and equip the workforce for the 21st Century.

DOL’s Employment and Training Administration web portal offers a wealth of grant opportunities. There you’ll find a wide range of programs listed, many of which provide multi-million dollar grants. The nature of grant opportunities vary greatly, from programs to help give veterans a leg-up as they prepare after active duty to re-enter the workforce, to those that connect unemployed youth with training and certification programs to better arm them with the skills to successfully compete for jobs. Others seek data to better inform the government about those out of the workforce seeking employment.

The website also features a section that answers common questions about the grant application process, as well as tips toward a successful grant application. It also shares examples of grants awarded, as well as “how to” on filling out the financial information correctly.  It also provides guidance on how to make sure you include all the elements required for a complete proposal. Take a moment to check it out…you might find a window to possible resources that align with the knowledge, experience and strengths you can bring to bear.

The post DOL grants offer a window of opportunity appeared first on District Dispatch.

Journal of Web Librarianship: A Review of "Rightsizing the Academic Library Collection"

Fri, 2015-11-06 01:09
Bradford Lee Eden

Journal of Web Librarianship: A Review of "Social Media for Creative Libraries"

Fri, 2015-11-06 01:08
Robert J. Vander Hart

OCLC Dev Network: November 8 System Maintenance

Thu, 2015-11-05 20:30

Scheduled maintenence affecting WSKey will occur on 11/8/2015 from 9pm to 10:00 pm EST.

David Rosenthal: Cloud computing; Threat or Menace?

Thu, 2015-11-05 16:00
Back in May The Economist hosted a debate on cloud computing:
Big companies have embraced the cloud more slowly than expected. Some are holding back because of the cost. Others are wary of entrusting sensitive data to another firm’s servers. Should companies be doing most of their computing in the cloud?It was sponsored by Microsoft, who larded it with typical cloud marketing happy-talk such as:
The Microsoft Cloud creates technology that becomes essential but invisible, to help you build something amazing. Microsoft Azure empowers organizations with the creation of innovative apps. Dynamics CRM helps companies market smarter and more effectively, while Office 365 enables employees to work from virtually anywhere on any device. So whether you need on-demand scalability, real-time data insights, or technology to connect your people, the Microsoft Cloud is designed to empower your business, allowing you to do more and achieve more. Below the fold, some discussion of actual content.

Arguing "yes" was Simon Crosby, and "no" was Bruce Schneier, who also posted a three part essay on his blog. Crosby's opening statement for the "yes" side starts:
Running a given computing workload in the cloud, rather than on a company’s own information-technology (IT) infrastructure, yields little or no cost advantage today.Schneier's for the "no" side starts:
The economics of cloud computing are compelling. For companies, the lower operating costs, the lack of capital expenditure, the ability to quickly scale and the ability to outsource maintenance are just some of the benefits.Schneier ends by saying:
In the future, we will do all our computing in the cloud: both commodity computing and computing that requires personalised expertise. But this future will only come to pass when we manage to create trust in the cloud.So even Schneier on the "no" side thinks that the cloud is inevitable, but he zeros-in on the key question, why should anyone trust the cloud? He identifies the key areas in which trust is currently lacking:
  • Control: "Cloud computing is cheaper because of economics of scale, and—like any outsourced task—you tend to get what you get." The result is limited scope for customization. And, as Backblaze demonstrates, you don't have to be very big to get most of the economies. And, remember, with cloud services such as Amazon's, you aren't getting all the economies of scale, just the part left over after Amazon's margins.
  • Security: Crosby writes "Today’s IT infrastructure is a Swiss cheese of vulnerable networks, operating systems and applications developed before the internet. It is difficult and expensive to keep running—and easy to penetrate. In 2014 Verizon reported more than 2,100 data breaches." Schneier admits that "For most companies, the cloud provider is likely to have better security than them—by a lot. All but the largest companies benefit from the concentration of security expertise at the cloud provider." But he points out that "a large cloud provider is a juicier target. Whether or not this matters depends on your threat profile. Criminals already steal far more credit-card numbers than they can monetise; they are more likely to go after the smaller, less-defended networks. But a national intelligence agency will prefer the one-stop shop a cloud provider affords. That is why the National Security Agency (NSA) broke into Google’s data centres."
  • Accountability: Schneier calls this area "trust" but I think accountability describes it better. He writes: "I know that, at least in America, [cloud providers] can sell my data at will and disclose it to whomever they want. It can be made public inadvertently by their lax security. My government can get access to it without a warrant." And he points out "Try asking either Amazon Web Services or to see the details of their security arrangements, or even to indemnify you for data breaches on their networks."
Ludwig Siegle, the moderator, summed things up:
Simon Crosby did a great job in explaining the business imperatives for moving into the cloud. Bruce Schneier convincingly laid out the reasons why many firms will take their time to make that step: they do not feel entirely comfortable with living in the computing skies.He is right. It was a good debate and worth reading, because both sides made good arguments about general business use of the cloud. I'm still strongly of the opinion that, for digital preservation (PDF), the cloud can at most be one component of a hybrid system. I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to blogging abuout it.

DPLA: DPLA Announces Appointment of Sarah Burnes to Board of Directors

Thu, 2015-11-05 15:50

The Digital Public Library of America is pleased to announce the appointment of Sarah Burnes to its Board of Directors. Burnes is an agent for The Gernert Company, a prominent literary agency located in New York City.

After stints in the editorial departments of Houghton Mifflin, the Knopf group, and Little, Brown, Sarah Burnes became an agent in 2001. Joining The Gernert Company in 2005, she now represents adult fiction writers (Alice McDermott and Tony Earley among them); children’s fiction writers (New York Times bestsellers Margaret Stohl and Pseudonymous Bosch); and journalists and critics (New York Times Magazine contributor Jon Gertner and Freeman’s John Freeman). The awards her writers have either won or been shortlisted for include the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Story Prize, the Los Angeles Times First Book Prize, the Whiting Writer’s Award, and the Barnes and Noble Discover Award; and they have received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. Sarah also sits on the board of the non-profit progressive publisher The New Press and lives with her husband and three children in Brooklyn, NY.

“Sarah’s deep knowledge of authors and publishing coupled with her commitment to learning and reading makes her an ideal board member for the DPLA,” said Amy Ryan, DPLA Board Chair. “We welcome her ideas, expertise and vision as DPLA expands our vision to reach out to children throughout the country.”

“Sarah’s incredible experience, intelligence, and the way she understands and connects with authors make her a wonderful addition to the DPLA board,” said executive director Dan Cohen. “She will undoubtedly help us make sense of the changing landscape for writers and their readers.”

Working closely with Cohen, the Board seeks to fulfill DPLA’s broad commitment to openness, inclusiveness, and accessibility, and it endeavors towards those ends in the best interest of its stakeholders, employees, future users, and other affected parties. The Board supports the DPLA’s goal of creating and maintaining a free, open, and sustainable national digital library resource.