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Library of Congress: The Signal: Cooking Up a Solution to Link Rot

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-08-17 14:40

This post is cross posted on the blog of the Law Library of Congress, In Custodia Legis, which is an excellent source of information on current legal trends and materials from the Library’s collections pertaining to the law. It is a guest post by the Law Library’s managing editor, Charlotte Stichter. When Charlotte is not at her day job she loves to cook, and is currently on a quest to find the perfect recipe for clafouti.

Vivian Jarrell’s canned goods, produced from her garden, including tomato juice, pickles, grape juice, and beans. (Photo by Terry Eiler, 1997) (Source: Coal River Folklife Collection, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, )

For those with vivid imaginations, the terms “link rot” and “reference rot” might conjure images of moldy fruit in the back of the office refrigerator or a pungent bag of something unidentifiable pulled from under a car seat weeks after its “use by” date. But the food analogy can only go so far. What the terms are really referring to is the all-too-common problem of hyperlinked web addresses — in legal and academic writing or on web pages, for example — that fail to lead the reader to the consumable content desired, either because the link is rotten (not working at all) or because the particular item sought from the Web’s vast menu has been modified or changed.

The problem stems from the Web’s impermanence, the effects of which have been documented by a number of researchers: Websites can be redesigned or shut down, content can be moved, or service can be restricted without advance notice, making the Web a fluid environment ideal for the fermentation of creative ideas, but also uniquely susceptible to decay. The ubiquitous “404 – File Not Found” error message, among other error messages, alerts the user to link rot. Reference rot can be more difficult to spot, as it concerns modifications to the original ingredients, but might be indicated by a “last modified” message at the bottom of a web page, if noted at all.

During a 2014 internal quality assurance review of recent foreign, comparative, and international law reports prepared by the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Directorate and available on, we found that a significant number of linked references in our reports no longer work. The results of our “taste test” were not surprising: studies by other legal entities have found that more than half of linked webpages in law journal and court opinion footnotes don’t work as intended, which is especially problematic in the legal world, where research documentation and reliable access to historic precedents are paramount. A study that appeared in the Harvard Law Review Forum last year found, for example, that about 66-73 percent of web addresses in the footnotes of three Harvard law journals and nearly 50 percent of web addresses in U.S. Supreme Court decisions from 1996 to 2012 suffered from reference rot. Link rot figures were close behind, and both problems were found to increase dramatically over time.

Our dyspepsia-inducing discovery led us to consider archiving solutions that would allow readers to access linked content in real time, while eating . . . er, reading, without having to jump out of the report to search a database of archived material. This quest ultimately led to a solution known as, which was developed for the legal community by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. A plan for implementing in the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Directorate is now being cooked up, with a target implementation date of October 1 this year — the beginning of the new fiscal year. This means that hyperlinked footnote references in new reports by the Directorate will also contain a link to an archived version of the referenced web page, allowing readers permanent access to key legal materials. Bon appétit!

District Dispatch: Time to vote for libraries at SXSW

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-08-17 13:53

From Flickr

Believe it or not, the annual interdisciplinary fete known as South by Southwest (SXSW) is once again around the corner – and, as in years past, we need your help to make sure libraries are well represented. Last year, with your help, OITP’s Larra Clark participated in the Austin-based event (which consists of four separate convenings – SXSW Interactive, SXSW Edu, SXSW Music and SXSW Film) with D.C. Public Library’s Nick Kerelchuk and start-up MapStory’s Jonathan Marino. Larra, Nick and Jonathan’s SXSW Interactive panel described how hundreds of U.S. libraries meet the needs of this country’s growing cohort of self-employed, temp and freelance workers by providing workspaces and programming that foster entrepreneurship and creativity.

This year, ALA once again hopes to make an impression at SXSW. The Office for Information Technology Policy proposed two programs, one for Interactive and one for EDU:

Technology Adoption as Policy Linchpin
As technology innovation speeds forward, the gap between early and late adopters is growing to the detriment of individuals and communities. Digital adoption is central to addressing a range of policy woes from underperforming schools to unemployment to housing security. Home broadband adoption took policy center stage in 2015 with President Obama’s Broadband Opportunity Council, the FCC’s Lifeline proceeding and HUD’s public-private ConnectHome effort. This session will discuss the gap, how to consistently link access and adoption across sectors, critically explore policy options, share exemplary examples and look to the future of continuous digital adoption in relationship to innovation.

Improving 3D Printing Workflow to Boost Learning
3D printing is taking off in libraries, schools and universities, expanding opportunities for creative learning and expression. But one of the biggest obstacles to helping all people benefit from this trend is a lack of capacity in these institutions – in terms of physical space, equipment, technical know-how, broadband capacity and person power. How can these learning centers lead everyone onto the 3D printing on-ramp without creating a logjam? It’s possible! Hear from a panel of burning souls from across the 3D printing world who have dedicated blood, sweat and tears to advancing the 3D revolution.

But wait, there’s more. Re:Create, a new copyright coalition of which ALA is a founding member, proposed this program:

Copyright & Creators: 2026
What does the future hold for copyright? Who are the gatekeepers and how does this power structure need to change to meet not only the needs of today’s digital age, but also the needs of future creativity and innovation? The Copyright & Creators: 2026 panel will speculate on where the innovations and advancements will be in 2026. Will our laws keep pace with the times or fall behind? And how will people continually interact with copyright? Moderated by a veteran reporter, panelists include a respected academic, a noted futurist and a fan fiction leader who will debate the trajectory of copyright law and where some of the future conversations and conflicts will be a decade from now.

And…Benetech, a non-profit social enterprise organization, proposed the following program for Edu to highlight its establishment of a new 3D printing coalition between libraries museums and schools, in which ALA is involved:

No More Yoda Heads: 3D printing 4 diverse learners
Research suggests that 3D objects are important for learning and reinforcing complex spatial concepts that are difficult to convey or explore in any other way (e.g., cells and DNA). Although many schools have access to 3D printing technology, many machines are underutilized and used to print novelty items. In this session, learn about new collaborations with libraries and museums to help support teachers in providing multi-modal access to complex STEM topics as well as utilizing student talent to create innovative learning tools.

SXSW received more than 4,000 submissions this year—an all-time record—so we need your help to make the cut. Public voting counts for 30 percent of SXSW’s decision to pick a panel, so please support these great programs. It’s easy: Become a “registered voter” in the Panel Picker process by signing up for a free account here, and get your votes in before Friday, Sept. 4. Supportive comments are even more helpful in making one proposal stand out from another.

ALA also is a member of the SXSW library “team” that connects through the lib*interactive Facebook group and #liblove. Join the group and learn more about library proposals around the country.

Please share far and wide! Selected panels for SXSW Interactive will be announced starting Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. Those for SXSW Edu will be announced starting Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. Thanks!

The post Time to vote for libraries at SXSW appeared first on District Dispatch.

Islandora: Announcing Individual Membership in the Islandora Foundation

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-08-17 13:48

One of the biggest changes to come out of our Annual General Meeting on August 6th (aside from changing our Chairman from one Mark to another) was the creation of a new tier of membership, designed for individuals who want to show their support for the Islandora project on their own, outside of institutional membership. We evaluated several options, but the one voted in is a tiered model that allows you to select the amount you want to donate, with benefits varying based on the bracket. Memberships are yearly. The Individual levels and their benefits are as follows:

  1. $10 - $50
    1. Acknowledgement on
  2. $50- 150
    1. Acknowledgement on
    2. e-badge
    3. Tuque Tuque (Not included in Annual Renewal)
  3. $150 - $250
    1. Acknowledgement on
    2. e-badge
    3. Tuque Tuque (Not included in Annual Renewal)
    4. 10% discount for Islandora events 
  4. $250 +
    1. Acknowledgement on
    2. e-badge
    3. t-shirt (Not included in Annual Renewal)
    4. 25% discount for Islandora events
    5. Tuque Tuque (Not included in Annual Renewal)

To join as an Individual member of the Islandora Foundation, please donate today.

Of course, we still welcome (and rely on) the support of our institutional members, so if you are part of an organization that is (or should be) considering membership in the Islandora Foundation, these levels still apply and you should contact us to get on board:

Member - $2,000 / year

  • 2 Islandora Community Supporter T-Shirts (Not included in Annual Renewal)
  • e-badge for organization website
  • 50% discount for 1 Camp registration per year 
  • 25% discount Online Training 
  • Link to organization website 

Collaborator - $4,000 / year

  • 3 Islandora Community Supporter T-Shirts (Not included in Annual Renewal)
  • e-badge for organization website 
  • 1 free Camp registration per year 
  • 50% discount Online Training 
  • Appointment of 1 representative to IF Roadmap Committee 
  • Links to organization sites/collections 

Partner - $10,000 / year

  • 10 Islandora Community Supporter T-Shirts (Not included in Annual Renewal)
  • e-badge for organization website
  • 2 free Camp registrations per year
  • Free access to Training
  • Appoint 1 to IF Board of Directors
  • Links to organization sites/collections
  • Camp booth

Cynthia Ng: Accessible Format Production Part 6: DAISY Book

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-08-17 03:35
Finally, here is the last part of the series, talking about creating DAISY books from edited e-text. Just a reminder that the following assumes you completed step 5 and you have an accessible RTF document to work from. Software Options and Which to Choose The option you choose depends on the kind of work you … Continue reading Accessible Format Production Part 6: DAISY Book

Patrick Hochstenbach: Brush Inking exercises

planet code4lib - Sat, 2015-08-15 06:13
She didn’t know I was secretly drawing here with fast brush sketches.        Filed under: Comics, Figure Drawings Tagged: brush, comic, figure drawing, inking, sketch

William Denton: Unreasonably, Ridiculously Long

planet code4lib - Fri, 2015-08-14 20:03

Coursera sends me emails every now and then suggesting courses I might want to try. The emails are filled with stupidly long URLs like this, which I present in 20-character lines: _WtLvKefAb4HnpCdGvrQ 2Bzme2yv6Vbcd4MdVvIA AHedEK3IwHDRNzGbV5R1 1c43qg-ohDi3F4H4lL1K qvDPBg.DVNpoJbn4hljT 4VLZbW1Cg.Uz-IOZ2YNh Fi1RAvvYlFfrp8yzjINi 9_AfhUNf7kYjg2ZfF36n fY8EiibmNlPznFJVn4ue 8qRs0SM_mWqyoNNQk9Dx qFeymHudQYCQs2xX3nAT hQ0lbLN_Rxz1ht8k3aTk Il3FUWpTfVhkkViMBsvn y7kkgpArIc9gF1TC8DeU p9Y8iCfRJfFT5pEkJUF3 VcBWKGUxQ1wZ88i79cCX xH6WPX11pb-gQgDSSUMN gK1ZMuZweIsc4tLbjXqS rUpx8Ot672hFol7a5YSM 5DUBaFhO_5bdEEmIgN9D J0YzrZuMqDmdzdlZqhVl UrQbkMHAedLOJPhOXOWm IMzJZH-KYx-DDys6jsSb swOemmenthal7dMVIceI 98sB285q1GMrIyZYM2Vq telTYNMWkperOLU9y7nW cvg-kNp2cBtiXFV-Lu8z c_wHdBdHUNd9IS0NdqG1 l0J0CQIIhyCVTlF81agA B2IrOF0_XPjXNoETLRcv whOf4OQ-ZUJdHGWUvXiW sfWqenNfCfFHNanfsaet vom-h43cK-oVlYMxSk1y 61YKrNZWhGFS4Vll1SO2 jRASohdxl-bEv2dz3YNW kzlr-PW-KpBYqtUVxe3T l69PUWmCiPOJ1Aji1zt7 LTCtooooastlt8tBO8gM xiST4k6qLRxbpkChl6vZ TWmvTEky58_duy-wibto 3pa_-aVfrdpn2TTEHd73 D76Ageve48W7hS8UG7eP raJ1EItRnW3K3V5VwMMr _UU5YVNeuED1Pq9GYXTG VRbZp071g-iiOP5EE_W2 vKipOa1YnwO2S-LN7Lvc uBF_nOexEE0daZlKXbjiZi

That is 942 characters long. With lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, underscores and hyphens available, each character in the string can be one of 64 choices, so there are 64^942 possible strings, which Wolfram Alpha says is on the order of 10^1701.

What is going on in Coursera’s notification system?

William Denton: Genius at Play

planet code4lib - Fri, 2015-08-14 15:47

Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway, by Siobhan Roberts, is the best biography I’ve read in a while, and it’ll be in my top ten favourite books of 2015. Conway is a mathematician, an unruly digressive eccentric fascinating genius mathematician, and this is an unruly digressive eccentric fascinating biography, because no normal narrative structure (like Roberts used for her fine biography of straitlaced geometer Donald Coxeter) could get across what Conway is like. Conway’s such an unstoppable force he gets his own typeface in the book, so he can explain mathematics or tell a story or just interject.

Here’s a trailer Roberts did for the book:

Everyone in mathematics and computer science knows Conway, for the game of Life (which he grew to hate), combinatorics, games, surreal numbers (which inspired Donald Knuth to write a novel), group theory, the Doomsday algorithm (a great trick, and part of Conway’s regular shtick), the free will theorem, and much more. He’s done major work in many different areas of mathematics.

One of the delights of the book is how well it gets across Conway’s unceasing desire to know everything, especially mathematics, and his absolute excitement and delight in numbers and geometry and groups and games. He’s a genius. The way he is in this world is not the way that other people are.

Conway is quoted extensively in the book. I especially like this one, from near the end:

Richard Dawkins wrote a book before he wrote The God Delusion called Unweaving the Rainbow. Now, this title is taken from a few lines from Keats. He says, “Shalt thou unweave the rainbow?” And it’s a vaguely unscientific theme. He’s saying if you explain the rainbow, it is somehow making it less beautiful, by taking away the mystery from it. But everybody who knows anything about anything knows that the more you know, the more beautiful it is.

This is the same point Richard Feynman made:

Feynman said:

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says, “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty.

First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is, I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean, it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimetre; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colours in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting: it means that insects can see the colour. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Conway was talking about rainbows because he’s fascinated with them and and how they work—which, of course, most people don’t, or why you can sometimes see two rainbows, or that third and fourth rainbows are also possible. The quote continues, in classic Conway style:

And I think that is the theme of Dawkins’s book—he’s referring to Keats and saying, “No, it’s a good idea to unweave the rainbow.” I keep on meaning to catch Dawkins one day and interrogate him on how the rainbow is formed. Because I think if he’s written a book called Unweaving the Rainbow, he should actually succeed in unweaving the rainbow. Maybe he does, I don’t know, I haven’t read his book. So maybe he knows how the rainbow is formed, but it’s really quite conceivable that he doesn’t, because so very few people do.

This is an unusual book, and the only one I can think of that’s similar is Willeford by Don Herron, his biography of Charles Willeford, the great American novelist. (The Burnt Orange Heresy is the finest novel about modern art ever written.) When I first read it I didn’t appreciate how good it was. Herron knew Willeford. Willeford was a supreme storyteller (and bullshitter, in the best sense), and the usual biographical approach wouldn’t work with him, so Herron did it differently, with the kind of approach Roberts takes with Conway. Willeford still deserves a serious academic biography, but you wouldn’t get to know the man in that book like you do in Herron’s.

(By the way, if you’re ever in San Francisco, take Don Herron’s’ Dashiell Hammett walking tour. I went out with him, just the two of us, in 2008, one of the most memorable days of my life. He took me all over Hammett’s San Francisco, including where Brigid O'Shaughnessy shot Miles Archer, and most amazingly of all he was able to show me the apartment where Hammett lived when he wrote The Maltese Falcon—the apartment is the exact model for Spade’s. I’ll never forget that.)

Back to Genius at Play. I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not too interested in mathematics, it’s worth reading. Roberts and Conway do a fine job of explaining the math, but what’s most important is Conway himself, and his utter joy and complete involvement in what he does, same as a composer or painter might have, or, perhaps, that we all seek in our own lives. (Though probably with fewer marriages and affairs.)

Finally, here’s a Numberphile video with more from Roberts, where Conway goes to McMaster University so Sandra Witelson can run an fMRI on his brain. The grumpy visit is also described in the book.

William Denton: Minty fresh

planet code4lib - Fri, 2015-08-14 14:31

I listen to Rdio a lot, and I hooked up an old laptop to my stereo with a FiiO E10 USB digital-to-analog converter (it’s great, and priced low) for maximum home listening pleasure. The laptop is a Lenovo Thinkpad X120e, running Ubuntu. I like Thinkpads (I’m writing this on an X240), and they wear well, but the battery on it is pretty much dead, and I spilled a glass of red wine on the keyboard and Page Down sticks, but still, if you spill wine on an advanced computing device, that’s a small price to pay. It was cheap Argentine malbec, so no major loss there either.

A few days ago I ran the updater. One of the updates was to the kernel, which might have been where the problem arose: the machine wouldn’t boot! It started up, detected the hard drives, the screen flashed … and then instead of the login screen showing up in a few seconds, the screen stayed black. If I booted into recovery mode and then rebooted it would work, but at low graphical resolution, and that’s a stupid fix anyway.

After some fiddling I decided Ubuntu just wouldn’t work on it, so I tried to install Debian. The Thinkpad requires a non-free driver for the wifi to work, so I installed with the thing plugged into my router with a cable, got it going, made sure it would reboot properly, added the firmware-realtek package … and it just wouldn’t see the wifi device. After more fiddling I decided Debian wasn’t the thing either.

Next I tried Linux Mint, is based on Debian and Ubuntu, and (philosophically troublingly, but installationally pleasingly) includes non-free wifi drivers, so it all worked pretty much out of the box. (Debian’s great on servers, but Ubuntu and Mint have made installing on a personal machine much, much easier.) All I’ll ever do on it is use Firefox or ssh in from the other side of the room, so I don’t care what it looks like. I got the sound configured to use the FiiO E10, and all is well. I logged into Rdio to find Iron Maiden have released “Speed of Light,” a song from Book of Souls, which comes out next month, so I cranked that up and got back to work. Up the Irons!

Harvard Library Innovation Lab: Link roundup August 14, 2015

planet code4lib - Fri, 2015-08-14 13:19

Friday Fun Day

Use the words normal people use

Use the words normal people use

Medieval Sword contains Cryptic Code. British Library appeals for help to crack it. | Ancient Origins

A library, a sword and a cryptic code

PomPom Mirror

PomPoms as pixels. The fluidity is beautiful.

The Last Kings Of Kong

“a player using optimal strategy and getting as many lucky breaks as possible would score 1,265,000 points.”

Old graph paper

“Specialty graph paper was a big deal before computers took over all of our plotting chores.”

LITA: Taming the beast: a case for task-driven projects

planet code4lib - Fri, 2015-08-14 13:00

Have you ever been assigned to a project? If so, you know that they can be daunting, sometimes overwhelming creatures that seem challenging to overcome. Where do you begin? What next? Before you know it you’re lost in the jungle with no clear way out. So, how do you tame the beast? How do you get through a project without getting lost along the way? In this post I’ll be making a case for tasks.

Paving the way through the jungle

Tasks are the real, tangible steps taken to accomplish a goal, in this case, a project. Together, they build the roadmap that helps you get from point A to point Z. So, how do you come up with tasks for a large, sometimes abstract project? First, you need to understand what the end goal is. Second, you need to understand where you are currently at. Then you start plotting the tasks. Begin with high-level, somewhat tangible tasks (I sometimes call these objectives). From there, break down each of those tasks into smaller, more refined tasks. Continue that process until you feel you have a solid map to begin with.

Many times tasks are evolutionary. You come across something you didn’t expect, or one of your tasks falls through. Just keep plotting forward towards the end goal. Below is a real-world example from a project I’m currently working on.

The real-world example

I began employment at Iowa State University (ISU) back in June. A month into the job I met with my fellow amazing metadata librarian, Kelly Thompson, to be assigned my first legit metadata project. She tells me that she’d like for me to analyze ISU’s digital collection metadata for data cleanup purposes and to come up with a core set of metadata fields to use for all of the digital collections with the end goal of contributing to consortia like the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

So there I was with my first big-boy project. How was I supposed to tackle this project when I had very limited knowledge of ISU’s digital asset management system (an OCLC-hosted ContentDM instance), in addition to the fact that I had no in-depth understanding of their metadata model? Luckily, my task-driven instincts kicked in. First, I needed to figure out the end goal: prepare ISU’s digital collection metadata for outside sharing through OAI and DPLA. Then, I needed to understand my current standing: ground zero. From there, I began paving the way.

The initial tasks I came up with, seen on the sticky note above, gave me enough fuel to get the engine running. Eventually some of these tasks fizzled, while others have exploded into multi-step mini-projects. I’m almost two months in now, and the project has grown exponentially. But I am not stressed out, because I have tasks to keep me grounded.

Concluding thoughts

Reflecting on the project thus far, I do have a couple of thoughts and tips. I have the files for this project organized in a hierarchical folder structure, which helps me keep related files neatly together. They are divided into categories like “Data dictionary”, “Metadata fields to be cleaned”, and “Data cleanup workflows”.  As you can see from my sticky note, my tasks are not as organized. For future projects I would like to arrange my tasks to reflect how I’ve organized my folders/files to better pair the two. This would make the tasks easier for me to keep track of. It would also increase clarity when I meet with colleagues to discuss a project.

One recommendation I would make is to flesh out your tasks and plan ahead as much as you can before the project begins. The more you can prepare beforehand the easier it will be to keep the beast tamed. I have been on past projects where the group did very little preparation beforehand, and it showed. It was very difficult to get the project going and to keep everybody on the same page.


Cynthia Ng: Tips on Recording Audiobooks with Audacity

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-08-13 22:49
While there is a ton of documentation out there for using Audacity, recently, I’ve been recording some audiobooks in Audacity and struggled sometimes to find how to do specific things that are less to do with mixing tracks and more to do with editing a single track. So, here are a few tips and list … Continue reading Tips on Recording Audiobooks with Audacity

David Rosenthal: Authors breeding like rabbits

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-08-13 15:00
The Wall Street Journal points to another problem with the current system of academic publishing with an article entitled How Many Scientists Does It Take to Write a Paper? Apparently, Thousands:
In less than a decade, Dr. Aad, who lives in Marseilles, France, has appeared as the lead author on 458 scientific papers. Nobody knows just how many scientists it may take to screw in a light bulb, but it took 5,154 researchers to write one physics paper earlier this year—likely a record—and Dr. Aad led the list.

His scientific renown is a tribute to alphabetical order.The article includes this amazing graph from Thompson-Reusters, showing the spectacular rise in papers with enough authors that their names had to reflect alphabetical order rather than their contribution to the research. And the problem is spreading:
“The challenges are quite substantial,” said Marica McNutt, editor in chief of the journal Science. “The average number of authors even on a typical paper has doubled.”Of course, it is true that in some fields doing any significant research requires a large team, and that some means of assigning credit to team members is necessary. But doing so by adding their names to an alphabetized list of authors on the paper describing the results has become an ineffective way of doing the job. If each author gets 1/5154 of the credit for a good paper it is hardly worth having compared to the whole credit for a single-author bad paper. If each of the 5154 authors gets full credit, the paper generates 5145 times as much credit as it is due.  And if the list is alphabetized but is treated as reflecting contribution, Dr. Aad is a big winner.

How long before the first paper is published with more authors than words?

Library of Congress: The Signal: DPOE Interview with Austin Schulz of the Oregon State Archives

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-08-13 13:30

The following is a guest post by Barrie Howard, IT Project Manager at the Library of Congress.

This post is part of a series about digital preservation training inspired by the Library’s Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) Program. This series focuses on exceptional individuals who have, among other things, completed one of the DPOE Train-the-Trainer workshops.

Today’s interview is with Austin Schulz, who led a digital preservation training workshop at the Oregon State Archives during 2014 National Archives Month. He is currently a Reference Archivist at the Oregon State Archives.

Austin Schulz at the 2014 Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards. (Photo by Kimberly Jensen)

Barrie: Can you tell the readers about your experience with the Train the Trainer workshop, and how you and others have benefited as a result?

Austin: It was a privilege to attend the September, 2011 “Train-the-Trainer Workshop” in Washington, D.C. and I am grateful to have worked with such a wonderful group of people on such an important topic in digital preservation. The presentations by our regional groups during the workshop were very helpful and provided an opportunity to see how they look from an audience perspective, as well as the chance to present some of the concepts in front of an audience. I particularly enjoyed the chance to work in regional groups because we could modify the presentations to better fit our prospective audiences. The simplicity and adaptability of the digital preservation concepts covered in the Digital Preservation Outreach Education (DPOE) baseline curriculum makes them applicable to anyone that creates and/or maintains digital content. The modules emphasize the primary aspects that both individuals and organizations need to consider as they develop a digital preservation plan, or improve upon an existing plan.

In the months after attending the 2011 DPOE workshop, I led the first in a series of one-hour workshops here at the Oregon State Archives. We decided to make the workshops open to the public with no charge to attend, so that we could better gauge the level of interest in these types of trainings. The following year we hosted another series of workshops which were designed to run approximately two hours and focused on two of the DPOE modules per workshop (all of which I modified to fit a more general audience). Based on the feedback I received after leading the second round of workshops, and those I presented in 2012, we decided to make some additional changes to the format. Due to the distance some attendees were traveling and the time between the workshops, we decided to present all six modules in a single half-day workshop instead of hosting multiple workshops throughout the month. This has allowed more people to attend and resulted in reducing the staff time needed to present each workshop.

Interest in digital preservation workshops is increasing and we continue to receive requests from both public and private entities regarding these workshops. In response, we have incorporated these Digital Preservation workshops, based on the DPOE curriculum, into our Archives Month celebrations each October and I look forward to utilizing the revised DPOE Curriculum this year.

Barrie: Since becoming an official DPOE Trainer, have you provided any other training than the most recent event? For example, have you developed any distance learning materials from the Curriculum, and delivered any online training?

Austin:I recently had the opportunity to lead a digital preservation workshop for a group of genealogists at the Canby Public Library. This gave me the opportunity to re-configure the DPOE workshop slides to fit a more specific type of audience. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to create any online training but we have made the workshop materials available for individuals and organizations that have been unable to attend the live workshops.

Barrie: The DPOE Curriculum, which is built upon the OAIS Reference Model, recently underwent a revision. Have you noticed any significant changes in the materials since you attended the Workshop in 2010? What improvements have you observed?

Austin: The core concepts and much of the content in the DPOE Curriculum has remained largely unchanged but there have been some improvements introduced in the current version. The most significant change that I have noticed is that the new module presentations include very useful notes for trainers regarding the purpose of each slide and tips on how to more effectively present them to the audience. This is a helpful addition that will only increase the effectiveness of DPOE trainers. Each of the revised modules includes slides describing expected outcomes and outputs from each module so that both the instructors and participants have a clear understanding of what should be accomplished.

The revised “Store” module now includes a concise statement of the relationship between Archival Storage and Digital Objects. It also includes a slide on the Ingest stage from the OAIS Reference Model that was not part of the 2010 presentation slides. These additions help to highlight the connection between the DPOE curriculum and the OAIS model in a way that is easier to understand.

In addition to the above changes, I also noted that more descriptive information has been added to the Object-level Metadata slide regarding the types of metadata that should be captured. I believe that all of these changes increase the clarity of the DPOE concepts while providing additional information for trainers presenting the DPOE Curriculum.

Barrie: Regarding training opportunities, could you compare the strengths and challenges of traditional in-person learning environments to distance learning options?

Austin: Distance learning allows participants to access the presentations when it is convenient for them, and requires far less resources to make available than in-person trainings. In addition, distance learning also allows presenters to contact a much larger group than would be possible with in-person trainings. Challenges that I have encountered with distance learning are that it can be a more difficult environment to engage with the audience, and the presenter may not know if the concepts presented were received and understood by the audience. Distance learning requires technology on the part of the presenter and participants in order to function. This can sometimes result in technical difficulties. However, if a presenter is trying to reach the most participants possible, distance learning does provide a viable avenue for doing just that.

Traditional in-person learning options are often geared towards smaller audiences which makes it easier for a presenter to engage with and assess how well participants are following and understanding the materials as they are being presented. This format makes it easier for participants to ask questions during the presentation and provides the presenter with the opportunity to address individual audience concerns and questions during the relevant parts of the presentation. In my experience, in-person learning environments allow for more effective discussions and participants may find it easier to engage with the presenter. However, in-person learning environments do present some challenges as they require a physical site where the training will be held and staff to present the materials. Participants must travel to the training site which creates a cost and distance barrier that may prevent some people from being able to attend. This also limits the number of people that can actually attend the in-person training. Even with these challenges I prefer the in-person format as both a presenter and participant, as it provides an opportunity for more in-depth analysis of the presentation materials.

Barrie: What’s on the horizon for 2015?

Austin: Earlier this year we applied for a grant to provide basic digital preservation training, using the DPOE Curriculum, to some small and medium sized historical repositories in Oregon. Many of these repositories currently have a minimal or nonexistent web presence and very little experience in digital preservation or online publishing of historical records. As one of the regional DPOE trainers, I would be involved in editing and leading the training workshops. Unfortunately, the grant we received was not sufficient to completely fund such a project at this point. Therefore, we have decided to scale the project back and are applying for a smaller grant to do a demonstration project this year which still includes a digital preservation component. If the grant is approved, we are planning to report back with our findings next year. The following year we will re-apply for funding of the original project to provide basic digital preservation training. I am excited to have the opportunity to be involved in such an important project and utilize the revised DPOE Curriculum to assist smaller historical repositories in Oregon.

Thank you very much for allowing me to be interviewed for The Signal. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a regional DPOE Trainer and look forward to continuing this important work in the future.

Hydra Project: Sufia 6.3.0 released

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-08-13 08:37

We are pleased to announce a new gem release.

The 6.3.0 version of Sufia includes a new widget in the administrative statistics page allowing users to display the number of deposits for a date range that they select [1] and adds a content block to the homepage where administrative users may post site-wide announcements (such as for system downtime or new features) [2]. It pulls in the latest version of ActiveFedora::Noid which handles minting and validation of short, opaque identifiers for Fedora objects [3]. It also contains the following highlighted fixes and enhancements:

* Numerous UI improvements related to layout, accessibility, and mobile displays [4][5][6][7][8][9]

* Single-use links should work when Turbolinks is on [10]

* Unregistered users should have the ability to see file citations [11]

* Remove hard-coded headers from About page [12]

* Allow downstream users to extend and override the administrative statistics module [13]

See the release notes [14] for the upgrade process (NOTE: requires running a new rake task!) and for an exhaustive list of the work that has gone into this release. Thanks to the 12 contributors for this release, which comprised 51 commits touching 342 files: Carolyn Cole, Drew Myers, Trey Terrell, Michael Tribone, Lynette Rayle, Dan Kerchner, Justin Coyne, Colin Gross, Hector Correa, Adam Wead, and Olli Lyytinen.















FOSS4Lib Recent Releases: Sufia - 6.3.0

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-08-13 01:27

Last updated August 12, 2015. Created by Peter Murray on August 12, 2015.
Log in to edit this page.

Package: SufiaRelease Date: Wednesday, August 12, 2015

DuraSpace News: Invitation to join the DSpace User Interface (UI) Working Group

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-08-13 00:00

From Tim Donohue, DSpace Tech Lead, DuraSpace

Winchester, MA  Based on the recently approved Roadmap [1], a new working group to oversee the DSpace User Interface (UI) replacement project is underway. We are extending an invitation to any interested community members to join this working group or take part in UI pilots.

James Cook University, Library Tech: Urquhart's Law: really?

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-08-12 22:39
Sorry, this is just fluff, but this morning's Campus Morning Mail another bit of fluff that I felt drawn to comment on: <!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-AU X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]>

LibX: Which languages does LibX support?

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-08-12 14:40

We have translations for LibX in a number of languages, the full translations of all terms can be found here. As of 8/15/2015, this includes English, German, French, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese.

Contributing a new language:

To contribute, download the en_US/messages.json file and translate it. Save the file as UTF-8 and send it to

To fix issue with existing translations, do the same. The translation files for the supported languages can be found here.

Testing new languages/using a different language:

LibX will use the default locale of the underlying browser. Extensions that can switch that locale should therefore affect the language in which LibX’s user interface is displayed, and this is the only way to do so. For the Chrome browser, instructions on how to switch the locale are here. Note that a restart of the browser is required.

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: New Grads, Meet New Metrics: Why Early Career Librarians Should Care About Altmetrics &amp; Research Impact

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-08-12 13:00

Photo courtesy of Peter Taylor.

In Brief

How do academic librarians measure their impact on the field of LIS, particularly in light of eventual career goals related to reappointment, promotion, or tenure? The ambiguity surrounding how to define and measure impact is arguably one of the biggest frustrations that new librarians face, especially if they are interested in producing scholarship outside of traditional publication models. To help address this problem, we seek to introduce early career librarians and other readers to altmetrics, a relatively new concept within the academic landscape that considers web-based methods of sharing and analyzing scholarly information.


For new LIS graduates with an eye toward higher education, landing that first job in an academic library is often the first and foremost priority. But what happens once you land the job? How do new librarians go about setting smart priorities for their early career decisions and directions, including the not-so-long term goals of reappointment, promotion, or tenure?

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?

The ambiguity surrounding how to both define and measure impact quantitatively is a huge challenge for new librarians, particularly for those looking to contribute to the field beyond the publication of traditional works of scholarship. To help address this problem, this article introduces early career librarians and LIS professionals to a concept within the landscape of academic impact measurement that is more typically directed at seasoned librarian professionals: altmetrics, or the creation and study of metrics based on the Social Web as a means for analyzing and informing scholarship1.  By focusing especially on the value of altmetrics to early career librarians (and vice versa) we argue that altmetrics can and should become a more prominent part of academic libraries’ toolkits at the beginning of their careers. Our approach to this topic is shaped by our own early experiences with the nuances of LIS scholarship, as well as by our fundamental interest in helping researchers who struggle with scholarly directions in their fields.

What is altmetrics & why does it matter?

Altmetrics has become something of a buzzword within academia over the last five years. Offering users a view of impact that looks beyond the world of citations championed by traditional metric makers, altmetrics has grown especially popular with researchers and professionals who ultimately seek to engage with the public—including many librarians and LIS practitioners. Robin, for instance, first learned of their existence in late 2011, when working as a library liaison to a School of Communication that included many public-oriented faculty, including journalists, filmmakers, and PR specialists.

One of the reasons for this growing popularity is the narrow definition of scholarly communication that tends to equate article citations with academia impact. Traditional citation metrics like Impact Factor by nature take for granted the privileged position of academic journal articles, which are common enough in the sciences but less helpful in fields (like LIS) that accept a broader range of outputs and audiences. For instance, when Rachel was an early career librarian, she co-produced a library instruction podcast, which had a sizable audience of regular listeners, but was not something that could described in the same impact terms as an academic article. By contrast, altmetrics indicators tend to land at the level of individual researcher outputs—the number of times an article, presentation, or (in Rachel’s case) podcast is viewed online, downloaded, etc.

Altmetrics also opens up the door to researchers who, as mentioned earlier, are engaged in online spaces and networks that include members beyond the academy. Twitter is a common example of this, as are certain blogs, like those directly sponsored by scholarly associations or publishers. Interested members of the general public, as well as professionals outside of academia, are thus acknowledged by altmetrics as potentially valuable audiences, audiences whose ability to access, share, and discuss research opens up new questions about societal engagement with certain types of scholarship. Consider: what would it mean if Rachel had discovered evidence that her regular podcast listeners included teachers as well as librarians? What if Robin saw on Twitter that a communication professor’s research was being discussed by federal policy makers?

A good example of this from the broader LIS world is the case of UK computer scientist Steve Pettifer, whose co-authored article “Defrosting the Digital Library: Bibliographic Tools for the Next Generation Web” was profiled in a 2013 Nature article for the fact that it had been downloaded by Public Library of Science (PLOS) users 53,000 times between 2008 and 2012, as “the most-accessed review ever to be published in any of the seven PLOS journals”2. By contrast, Pettifer’s article had at that point in time generated about 80 citations, a number that, while far from insignificant, left uncaptured the degree of interest in his research from a larger online community. The fact that Pettifer subsequently included this metric as part of a successful tenure package highlights one of the main attractions of altmetrics for researchers: the ability to supplement citation-based metrics, and to build a stronger case for evaluators seeking proof of a broad spectrum of impact.

The potential of altmetrics to fill gaps for both audiences and outputs beyond traditional limits has also brought it to the crucial attention of funding agencies, the vast majority of which have missions that tie back to the public good. For instance, in a 2014 article in PLOS Biology, the Wellcome Trust, the second-highest spending charitable foundation in the world, openly explained its interest in “exploring the potential value of [article level metrics]/altmetrics” to shape its future funding strategy3. Among the article’s other arguments, it cites the potential for altmetrics to be “particularly beneficial to junior researchers, especially those who may not have had the opportunity to accrue a sufficient body of work to register competitive scores on traditional indicators, or those researchers whose particular specialisms seldom result in key author publications.” Funders, in other words, acknowledge the challenges that (1) early career academics face in proving the potential impact of their ideas; and (2) researchers experience in disciplines that favor a high degree of specialization or collaboration.

As librarians who work in public services, we have both witnessed these challenges in action many times—even in our own field of LIS. Take, for instance, the example of a librarian hoping to publish the results of an information literacy assessment in a high impact LIS journal based on Impact Factor. According to the latest edition of Journal Citations Reports4, the top journal for the category of “Information Science & Library Science” is Management Information Systems Quarterly, a venue that fits poorly with our librarian’s information literacy research. The next two ranked journals, Journal of Information Technology and Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, offer versions of the same conundrum; neither is appropriate for the scope of the librarian’s work. Thus, the librarian is essentially locked out of the top three ranked journals in the field, not because his/her research is suspect, but because the research doesn’t match a popular LIS speciality. Scenarios like this are very common, and offer weight to the argument that LIS is in need of alternative tools for communicating and contextualizing scholarly impact to external evaluators.

Non-librarians are of course also a key demographic within the LIS field, and have their own set of practices for using metrics for evaluation and review. In fact, for many LIS professionals outside of academia, the use of non-citation based metrics hardly merits a discussion, so accepted are they for tracking value and use. For instance, graduates in programming positions will undoubtedly recognize GitHub, an online code repository and hosting service in which users are rewarded for the number of “forks,” watchers, and stars their projects generate over time. Similarly, LIS grads who work with social media may utilize Klout scores —a web-based ranking that assigns influence scores to users based on data from sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Wikipedia. The information industry has made great strides in flexing its definition of impact to include more social modes of communication, collaboration, and influence. However, as we have seen, academia continues to linger on the notion of citation-based metrics.

This brings us back to the lure of altmetrics for librarians: namely, its potential to redefine, or at least broaden, how higher education thinks about impact, and how impact can be distinguished from additional evaluative notions like “quality.” Our own experiences and observations have led us to believe strongly that this must be done, but also done with eyes open to the ongoing strengths and weaknesses of altmetrics. With this in mind, let us take a closer look at the field of altmetrics, including how it has developed as a movement.

The organization of altmetrics

One of the first key points to know about altmetrics is how it can be organized and understood. Due to its online, entrepreneurial nature, altmetrics as a field can be incredibly quick-changing and dynamic—an issue and obstacle that we’ll return to a bit later. For now, however, let’s take a look a the categories of altmetrics as they currently stand in the literature.

To date, several altmetrics providers have taken the initiative to create categories that are used within their tools. For instance, PlumX, one of the major altmetrics tools, sorts metrics into five categories, including “social media” and “mentions”, both measures of the various likes, favorites, shares and comments that are common to many social media platforms. Impactstory, another major altmetrics tool, divides its basic categories into “Public” and “Scholar” sections based on the audience that is most likely to be represented within a particular tool. To date, there is no best practice when it comes to categorizing these metrics. A full set of categories currently in use by different altmetrics toolmakers can be found in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Altmetrics categories in use by major altmetrics tools.

One challenge to applying categories to altmetrics indicators is the ‘grass roots’ way in which the movement was built. Rather than having a representative group of researchers get together and say  “let’s create tools to measure the ways in which scholarly research is being used/discussed/etc.”, the movement started with a more or less concurrent explosion of online tools that could be used for a variety of purposes, from social to academic. For example, when a conference presentation is recorded and uploaded to YouTube, the resulting views, likes, shares, and comments are all arguably indications of interest in the presentation’s content, even though YouTube is hardly designed to be an academic impact tool. A sample of similarly flexible tools from which we can collect data relevant to impact is detailed in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Examples of altmetrics data sources used by different toolmakers.

Around the mid-2000s5, people began to realize that online tools could offer valuable insights into the attention and impact of scholarship. Toolmakers thus began to build aggregator resources that purposefully gather data from different social sites and try to present this data in ways that are meaningful to the academic community. However, as it turns out, each tool collects a slightly different set of metrics and has different ideas about how to sort its data, as we saw in Table 1. The result is that there is no inherent rhyme or reason as to why altmetrics toolmakers track certain online tools and not others, nor to what the data they produce looks like. It’s a symptom of the fact that the tools upon which altmetrics are based were not originally created with altmetrics in mind.

Altmetrics tools

Let’s now take a look at some of the altmetrics tools that have proved to be of most use to librarians in pursuit of information about their impact and scope of influence.


Mendeley is a citation management tool, a category that also includes tools like EndNote, Zotero and RefWorks. These tools’ primary purpose is to help researchers organize citations, as well as to cite research quickly in a chosen style such as APA. Mendeley takes these capabilities one step further by helping researchers discover research through its social networking platform, where users can browse through articles relevant to their interests or create/join a group where they can share research with other users.6 Unique features: When registering for a Mendeley account, a user must submit basic demographic information, including a primary research discipline. As researchers download papers into their Mendeley library, this demographic information is tracked, so we can see overall interest for research articles in Mendeley, along with a discipline-specific breakdown of readers, as shown in Figure 3.7

Figure 3. Mendeley Readership Statistics from one of our articles.


Impactstory is an individual subscription service ($60/year as of writing) that creates a sort of ‘online CV’ supplement for researchers. It works by collecting and displaying altmetrics associated with the scholarly products entered by the researcher into their Impactstory account. As alluded to before, one of the biggest innovations in the altmetrics realm in the past few years has been the creation of aggregator tools that collect altmetrics from a variety of sources and present metrics in a unified way. Unique features: Impactstory is an example of a product targeted specifically at authors, e.g. displaying altmetrics for items authored by just one person. It is of particular interest to many LIS researchers because it can track products that aren’t necessarily journal articles. For example, it can track altmetrics associated with blogs, SlideShare presentations, and YouTube videos, all examples of ways in which many librarians like to communicate and share information relevant to librarianship.

Figure 4. The left-side navigation shows the different types of research products for one Impactstory profile.


PlumX is an altmetrics tool specifically designed for institutions. Like Impactstory, it collects scholarly products produced by an institution and then displays altmetrics for individuals, groups (like a lab or a department), and for the entire institution. Unique features: Since PlumX’s parent company Plum Analytics is owned by EBSCO, PlumX is the only tool that incorporates article views and downloads from EBSCO databases. PlumX also includes a few sources that other tools don’t incorporate, such as GoodReads ratings and WorldCat library holdings (both metrics sources that work well for books). PlumX products can be made publicly available, such as the one operated by the University of Pittsburgh at


Altmetric is a company that offers a suite of products, all of which are built on the generation of altmetrics geared specifically at journal articles. Their basic product, the Altmetric Bookmarklet, generates altmetrics data for journal articles with a DOI8, with a visual ‘donut’ display that represents the different metrics found for the article (see Figure 5). Unique features: One product, Altmetric Explorer, is geared toward librarians and summarizes recent altmetrics activity for specific journals. This information can be used to gain more insight into a library’s journal holdings, which can be useful for making decisions about the library’s journal collection.

Figure 5. This Altmetric donut shows altmetrics from several different online tools for one journal article.

Current issues & initiatives

Earlier, we mentioned that one of the primary characteristics of altmetrics is its lack of consistency over time. Indeed, the field has already changed significantly since the word altmetrics first appeared in 2010. Some major changes include: the abandonment of ReaderMeter9, one of the earliest altmetrics tools; shifting funding models, including the acquisition of PlumX by EBSCO in January 2014 and the implementation of an Impactstory subscription fee in July 2014; and the adoption of altmetrics into well-established scholarly tools and products such as Scopus, Nature journals, and most recently, Thomson Reuters10.

One exciting initiative poised to bring additional clarity to the field is the NISO (National Information Standards Organization) Altmetrics Initiative. Now in its final stage, the Initiative has three working groups collaborating on a standard definition of altmetrics, use cases for altmetrics, and standards associated with the quality of altmetrics data and the way in which altmetrics are calculated. Advocates of altmetrics (ourselves included) have expressed hope that the NISO Initiative will help bring more stability to this field, and answer confusion associated with the lack of altmetrics standardization.

Criticisms also make up a decent proportion of the conversation about altmetrics. One of the most well know is the possibility of ‘gaming’, or of users purposefully inflating altmetrics data. For example, a researcher could ‘spam’ Twitter with links to their article, or could load the article’s URL many times, which would both increase the metrics associated with their article. We’ve heard about such fears from users before, and they are definitely worth keeping in mind when evaluating altmetrics. However, it’s also fair to say that toolmakers are taking measures to counteract this worry—Altmetric, for example, automatically eliminates tweets that appear auto-generated. Still, more sophisticated methods for detecting and counteracting this kind of activity will eventually help build confidence and trust in altmetrics data.

Another criticism associated with altmetrics is one it shares with traditional citation-based metrics: the ability to accurately and fairly measure the scholarly impact of every discipline. As we’ve seen, many altmetrics tools still focus on journal articles as the primary scholarly output, but for some disciplines, articles are not the only way (or even the main way) in which researchers in that discipline are interacting. Librarianship is a particularly good example of this disciplinary bias. Since librarianship is a ‘discipline of practice’, so to speak, our day-to-day librarian responsibilities are often heavily influenced by online webinars, conference presentations, and even online exchanges via Twitter, blogs, and other social media. Some forms of online engagement can be captured with altmetrics, but many interactions are beyond the scope of what can be measured. For example, when the two of us present at conferences, we try our best to collect a few basic metrics: audience count; audience assessments; and Twitter mentions associated with the presentation. We also upload presentation materials to the Web when possible, to capture post-presentation metrics (e.g. presentation views on SlideShare). In one case, we did a joint talk that was uploaded to YouTube, which meant we could monitor video metrics over time. However, one of the most poignant impact indicators, evidence that a librarian has used the information presented in their own work, is still unlikely to be captured by any of these metrics. Until researchers can say with some certainty that online engagement is an accurate reflection of disciplinary impact, these metrics will always be of limited use when trying to measure true impact.

Finally, there is a concern growing amongst academics regarding the motivations of those pushing the altmetrics movement forward—namely, a concern that the altmetrics toolmakers are the ‘loudest’ voice in the conversation, and are thus representing business concerns rather than the larger concerns of academia. This criticism is actually one that we think strongly speaks to the need for additional librarian involvement in altmetrics on behalf of academic stakeholders, to ensure that their needs are addressed. One good example of librarians representing academia is at the Charleston Conference, where vendors and librarians frequently present together and discuss future trends in the field.

There are thus many uncertainties inherent to the current state of altmetrics. Nevertheless, such concerns do not overshadow the real shift that altmetrics represents in the way that academia measures and evaluates scholarship. Put in this perspective, it is little wonder that many researchers and librarians have found the question of how to improve and develop altmetrics over time to be ultimately worthwhile.

Role of LIS graduates and librarians

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, new academic librarians are in need of altmetrics for the same reasons as all early career faculty: to help track their influence and demonstrate the value of their diverse portfolios. However, the role of LIS graduates relative to altmetrics is also a bit unique, in that many of us also shoulder a second responsibility, which may not be obvious at first to early career librarians. This responsibility goes back to the central role that librarians have played in the creation, development, and dissemination of research metrics since the earliest days of citation-based analysis. Put simply: librarians are also in need of altmetrics in order to provide robust information and support to other researchers—researchers who, more often than not, lack LIS graduates’ degree of training in knowledge organization, information systems, and scholarly communication.

The idea that LIS professionals can be on the front lines of support for impact measurement is nothing new to experienced academic librarians, particularly those in public services roles. According to a 2013 survey of 140 libraries at institutions across the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, 78.6% of respondents indicated that they either offer or plan to offer, “bibliometric training” services to their constituents as part of their support for research11. Dozens of librarian-authored guides on the subject of “research impact,” “bibliometrics,” and “altmetrics” can likewise be found through Google searches. What’s more, academic libraries are increasingly stepping up as providers of alternative metrics. For example, many libraries collect and display usage statistics for objects in their institutional repositories.

Still, for early career librarians, the thought of jumping into the role of “metrics supporter” can be intimidating, especially if undertaken without a foundation of practical experience on the subject. This, again, is a reason that the investigation of altmetrics from a personal perspective is key for new LIS graduates. Not only does it help new librarians consider how different definitions of impact can shape their own careers, but it also prepares them down the line to become advocates for appropriate definitions of impact when applied to other vulnerable populations of researchers, academics, and colleagues.

Obstacles & opportunities

Admittedly, there are several obstacles for new librarians who are considering engaging with research metrics. One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of discourse in many LIS programs concerning methods for measuring research impact. Metrics are only one small piece of a much larger conversation concerning librarian status as academic institutions, and the impact that status has on scholarship expectations, so it’s not a shock that this is a subject that isn’t routinely covered by LIS programs. Regardless, it’s an area for which many librarians may feel underprepared.

Another barrier that can prevent new librarians from engaging with altmetrics is the hesitation to position oneself as an expert in the area when engaging with stakeholders, including researchers, vendors, and other librarians12. These kinds of mental barriers are nearly universal among professionals13 and are somewhere within the domains of nearly every institution14. At Rachel’s institution, for example, the culture regarding impact metrics has been relatively conservative and dominated by Impact Factor, so she’s been cautious with introducing new impact-related ideas, serving more as a source of information for researchers who seek assistance rather than a constant activist for new metrics standards.

Luckily, for every barrier that new LIS grads face in cultivating a professional relationship with altmetrics, there is almost always a balancing opportunity. For example, newly hired academic librarians almost inevitably find themselves in the position of being prized by colleagues for their “fresh perspective” on certain core issues, from technology to higher education culture15. During this unique phase of a job, newly-hired librarians may find it surprisingly comfortable—even easy!—to bring new ideas about research impact or support services to the attention of other librarians and local administrators.

Another advantage that some early career librarians have in pursuing and promoting altmetrics is position flexibility. Librarians who are new to an institution tend to have the option to help shape their duties and roles over time. Early career librarians are also generally expected by their libraries to devote a regular proportion of their time to the goal of professional development, an area for which the investigation of altmetrics fits nicely, both as a practical skill and a possible topic of institutional expertise.

For those librarians who are relatively fresh out of a graduate program, relationships with former professors and classmates can also offer a powerful opportunity for collecting and sharing knowledge about altmetrics. LIS cohorts have the advantage (outside of some job competition) of entering the field at more or less the same time, a fact that strengthens bonds between classmates, and can translate into a long term community of support and information sharing. LIS teaching faculty may also be particularly interested in hearing from recent graduates about the skills and topics they value as they move through the first couple years of a job. Communicating back to these populations is a great way to affect change across existing networks, as well as to prepare for the building of new networks around broad LIS issues like impact.

Making plans to move forward

Finding the time to learn more about altmetrics can seem daunting as a new librarian, particularly how it relates to other “big picture” LIS topics like scholarly communication, Open Access, bibliometrics, and data management. However, this cost acknowledged, altmetrics is a field that quickly rewards those who are willing to get practical with it. Consequently, we recommend setting aside some time in your schedule to concentrate on three core steps for increasing your awareness and understanding of altmetrics.

#1. Pick a few key tools and start using them.

A practical approach to altmetrics means, on a basic level, practicing with the tools. Even librarians who have no desire to become power users of Twitter can learn a lot about the tool by signing up for a free account and browsing different feeds and hashtags. Likewise, librarians curious about what it’s like to accumulate web-based metrics can experiment with uploading one of their PowerPoint presentations to SlideShare, or a paper to an institutional repository. Once you have started to accumulate an online professional identity through these methods, you can begin to track interactions by signing up for a trial of an altmetrics aggregation tool like Impactstory, or a reader-oriented network like Mendeley. Watching how your different contributions do (or do not!) generate altmetrics over time will tell you a lot about the pros and cons of using altmetrics—and possibly about your own investment in specific activities. Other recommended tools to start: see Table One for more ideas.

#2. Look out for altmetrics at conferences and events.

Low stakes, opportunistic professional development is another excellent strategy for getting comfortable with altmetrics as an early career librarian. For example, whenever you find yourself at a conference sponsored by ALA, ACRL, SLA, or another broad LIS organization, take a few minutes to browse the schedule for any events that mention altmetrics or research impact. More and more, library and higher education conferences are offering attendees sessions related to altmetrics, whether theoretical or practical in nature. Free webinars that touch on altmetrics are also frequently offered by technology-invested library sub-groups like LITA. Use the #altmetrics hashtag on Twitter to help uncover some of these opportunities, or sign up for a email listserv and let them them come to you.

#3. Commit to reading a shortlist of altmetrics literature.

Not surprisingly, reading about altmetrics is one of the most effective things librarians can do to become better acquainted with the field. However, whether you choose to dive into altmetrics literature right away, or wait to do so until after you have experienced some fundamental tools or professional development events, the important thing to do is to give yourself time to read not one or two, but several reputable articles, posts, or chapters about altmetrics. The reason for doing this goes back to the set of key issues at stake in the future of altmetrics. Exposure to multiple written works, ideally authored by different types of experts, will give librarians new to altmetrics a clearer, less biased sense of the worries and ambitions of various stakeholders. For example, we’ve found the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s blog Scholarly Kitchen to be a great source of non-librarian higher education perspectives on impact measurement and altmetrics. Posts on tool maker blogs, like those maintained by Altmetric and Impactstory, have likewise proved to be informative, as they tend to respond quickly to major controversies or innovations in the field. Last but not least, scholarly articles on altmetrics are now widely available now—and can be easily discovered via online bibliographies or good old fashioned search engine sleuthing.

As you can imagine, beginning to move forward with altmetrics can take as little as a few minutes—but becoming well-versed in the subject can take the better part of an academic year. In the end, the decision of how and when to proceed will probably shift with your local circumstances. However, making altmetrics part of your LIS career path is an idea we hope you’ll consider, ideally sooner rather than later.


Over the last five years, altmetrics has emerged in both libraries and higher education as a means of tracing attention and impact; one that reflects the ways that many people, both inside and outside of academia, seek and make decisions about information every day. For this reason, this article has argued that librarians should consider the potential value of altmetrics to their careers as soon as possible (e.g. in their early careers), using a variety of web-based indicators and services to help inform them of their growing influence as LIS professionals and scholars.

Indeed, altmetrics as a field is in a state of development not unlike that of an early career librarian. It’s future, for instance, is also marked by some questions and uncertainties—definitions that have yet to emerge, disciplines with which it has yet to engage, etc. And yet, despite these hurdles, both altmetrics and new academic librarians share the power over time to change the landscape of higher education in ways that have yet to be fully appreciated. It is this power and value that the reader should remember when it comes to altmetrics and their use.

And so, new graduates, please meet altmetrics. We think the two of you are going to get along just fine.

Thanks to the In the Library with the Lead Pipe team for their guidance and support in producing this article. Specific thanks to our publishing editor, Erin Dorney, our internal peer reviewer, Annie Pho, and to our external reviewer, Jennifer Elder. You each provided thoughtful feedback and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Recommended Resources

Altmetrics Conference.

Altmetrics Workshop.

Chin Roemer, Robin & Borchardt, Rachel. Meaningful Metrics: A 21st Century Librarian’s Guide to Bibliometrics, Altmetrics, & Research Impact. ACRL Press, 2015.

Mendeley Altmetrics Group.

NISO Altmetrics Initiative.  

The Scholarly Kitchen.

WUSTL Becker Medical Library, “Assessing the Impact of Research.”

  1. There are in fact many extant definitions of altmetrics (formerly alt-metrics). However, this definition is taken from one of the earliest sources on the topic,
  4. This ranking is according to the 2014 edition of Journal Citation Reports, as filtered for the category “Information Science & Library Science.” There is no way to disambiguate this category into further specialty areas.
  5. While the first reference to “altmetrics” arose out of a 2010 tweet by Jason Priem, the idea behind the value of altmetrics was clearly present in the years leading up to the coining of the term.
  6. One such group in Mendeley is the Altmetrics group, with close to 1000 members as of July 2015.
  7. Another feature that may be of interest to librarians undertaking a lit review – Mendeley can often automatically extract metadata from an article PDF, and can even ‘watch’ a computer folder and automatically add any new PDFs from that folder into the Mendeley library, making research organization relatively painless.
  8. The bookmarklet can be downloaded and installed here:
  9. “It’s been a while… but we’re working to bring back ReaderMeter” has been displayed for several years.
  10. Thomson Reuters is currently beta-testing inclusion of “Item Level Usage Counts” into Web of Science, similar to EBSCO’s tracking of article views and downloads. More information on this feature can currently be found in the form of webinars and other events.
  11. Sheila Corrall. and Mary Anne Kennan. and Waseem Afzal. “Bibliometrics and Research Data Management Services: Emerging Trends in Library Support for Research.” Library Trends 61.3 (2013): 636-674. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Jul. 2015.
  12. The authors can attest that, even after publishing a book on the topic, this is an obstacle that may never truly be overcome!
  13. One recent study found that 1 in 8 librarians had higher than average levels of Imposter Syndrome, a rate which increases amongst newer librarians. 
  14. An overview of one stakeholders’ perceptions of libraries and librarians, namely that of faculty members, is explored in the Ithaka Faculty Survey.
  15. The value of new graduates’ “fresh perspective” well known anecdotally, but also well-evidenced by the proliferation of Resident Librarian positions at academic libraries across the country.


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