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LITA: Quick, Clear, Concise: Communicating Effectively

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-12-02 16:00

Recently I read an article that discussed digital signage at the San Jose State University library. The concerns raised by librarian Laurel Eby are very valid, especially if you don’t have any background in graphic design. Questions about content, slide duration, number of slides, and even branding are big questions that can impact how effectively your message gets across.

Many, many jokes have been made about how short our attention spans are lately. (Ooh, look – a kitty!) But when you’re designing things that are meant to get – and, hopefully, keep – a person’s attention, there is a seed of truth behind the joke…and you can’t ignore it. Because if you ignore that, then your patrons will ignore you.

When I studied television production, we were told about the “elevator pitch”. If you’re not familiar, imagine you’re in an elevator with a famous director – let’s say Steven Spielberg. You just so happen to have The Best Idea Ever for a movie (about a plucky young librarian who blogs in her spare time?) but you only have until he gets off the elevator to thoroughly describe your story. You have to talk, and you have to talk fast. What do you tell him?

Now translate that into some digital signage. Your patrons are just as busy as Mr. Spielberg and have just as much time to listen to your spiel about your next library event (so basically, none). You’ve got to reach out to them, and you have to do it fast. How do you go about it?

You can take another tip from the television world when you figure out how to answer that question: You’ve got to make it clear, you’ve got to make it quick, and you’ve got to make it concise. Here’s how:

Make it quick: Okay, so we’ve got to get the patrons’ attention. Since we can’t stand on corners yelling about our events, we need to think about what gets our attention – and the answer is imagery. Use vivid, fun colors and, if possible, include a photo (or two) of your event. Make it something that forces people to look – don’t use blurry, dull photos and keep clip art to a minimum.

Make it clear: So now we’ve got the patron, what are we going to tell them? Simply slapping an event name and a date on your signage will generate more questions than answers. Elaborate where you need to – we’re meeting in Room A of the B Branch Library. Give a one-sentence description of the event with active language. Most importantly, make sure your text is as legible as your idea: there are a lot of beautiful script typefaces out there, but if your patrons can’t read them, they’re not worth the pixels they’re made out of.

Make it concise: Journalists operate with these questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Answer at least three of those questions (typically what, where, and when) and you’re golden. Remember your one-sentence description? That’s all you get. You can maybe squeeze a second one in there if you’re determined. But Keep It Simple, Silly. There’s a reason that acronym exists.

Here’s an example of a digital sign I made for our “Talk Like a Pirate Day”. It gives just enough information to tell what’s going on, yet it still invites the patron to come ask about it if they have more time.

Our “Talk Like a Pirate Day” signage. All the stamps and fonts were found for free online.

Is this hard? You bet it is. You don’t have to go all-out Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce for your new story-time signage, but you don’t have to make it “Jeopardy!”-dull either. It takes a lot of practice and you’ll learn a lot from your mistakes. Look at other digital ads – the rotating banners on many library pages are an excellent example of what you could do with digital signage. Keep your eyes open for design inspiration, digital and analog, and your ears open for patron feedback. Even if you couldn’t PowerPoint your way out of a paper bag, you can design effective digital signage.

So tell Mr. Spielberg about your awesome new storytime. Who knows – he might make an awesome movie out of it!

William Denton: Westlake and Powell

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-12-02 01:41

“When Widmerpool appeared on his ‘run’ in the cold late afternoon mist, wearing a sweater once white and a cap at least a size too small, Jenkins was returning from the High Street.”

I just finished The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany, which is just what it says it is. Levi Stahl edited it and put together a wonderful collection.

Donald E. Westlake is one of my favourite writers, foremost of course for the Parker novels, which are stone masterpieces (except for the one even Westlake doesn’t like, where Parker actually cares about someone), but also for, to pick a few, Put a Lid On It, the Dortmunder novels (which showed me that comic crime novels don’t have to be bad), and The Ax, a better novel about business, the economy and the upper middle class than pretty much anything else out there in the last two decades, but because it’s a crime novel it got sidelined.

Westlake was a great admirer of Anthony Powell, also one of my favourite authors, whose twelve-novel sequence A Dance to the Music of Time is one of the finest works of English literature. I can’t remember when I first found this out, but it might have been when I read Plunder Squad and found this in part three (always the part in the Parker novels where you see what the other characters are doing), chapter two:

The air conditioner had been on, but Sternberg switched it off first thing, turned the thermostat up to seventy-three, and opened the window slightly. By the time he’d unpacked and desanitized everything, the air in the room had a bit of life in it. Sternberg stripped to his boxer shorts, turned down the bed, settled himself comfortably with his pillows behind his back, and opened the Anthony Powell novel he’d started on the plane. It was Magnus Donners he wanted to identify with, but he kept finding his sympathies going to Widmerpool.

If you don’t know Powell, this means nothing. If you do know Powell, first you wonder what the hell he’s doing in a Parker novel, and then you think about Donners and Widmerpool, and you think about Sternberg and what an insight that is into him. Then you think maybe it’s time you reread the Dance, and then you get back to Plunder Squad, because once you’ve started a Parker novel you can’t put it down.

Now, Levi Stahl also likes Powell. He wrote a foreword for the University of Chicago Press (where he works) edition of Venusberg. So I wasn’t surprised there was a mention of Anthony Powell in The Getaway Car. Westlake has very high praise for Rex Stout, and in a 1973 letter, he says:

Rex Stout has done something very rare in his novels. He has created an on-going mini-world, a sealed-off chamber as distinct from our world as Middle Earth. When I pick up the latest Ross Macdonald I expect his character in our California, but when I pick up the latest Rex Stout I know I will enter once more into that same alternate universe, in which Archie Goodwin will drive a Heron through the streets of some city called New York. The only other writer I know of currently working in that sort of separate continuum (not counting fantasists like Tolkien) is Anthony Powell, with his Dance to the Music of Time series; which is where that comparison ends, since Powell’s purposes and methods are very different from Stout’s.

There are a few other bits about Westlake and Powell online. Ethan Iverson (who helped Stahl with the book) says in Westlake and Powell (check the whole post for more):

Westlake told me that Anthony Powell was his favorite novelist. When I read A Dance to the Music of Time, I understood why. I’ve been through Dance twice, and will read it again.

Westlake had some strange theories about some famous books. He thought that the uninitiated should start reading Dance beginning with the fourth volume. “The first three are only really good after you read the rest.” (He had a similar idea for Nabokov’s Ada, that you should skip the first couple of chapters and only read them after you finish.) I am a completist, so I ignored his advice and began Dance with A Question of Upbringing, which I found thrilling – after the first couple of pages. Every volume of Dance starts in an abstract, highly erudite place, almost like Powell doesn’t want anybody but the committed to dig in.

I’d ignore Westlake’s advice too. Start with the first book, but don’t expect it will actually go anywhere. The second book, with the astounding 150-page description of dinner at the Walpole-Wilsons’, the Huntercombes’ ball, and the party at Milly Andriadis’s (and the temporally complex way you’re introduced to Mr. Deacon), is where I got hooked.

Terry Teachout also likes them both, as Iverson’s Interview with Terry Teachout shows:

EI: Westlake was the guy who told me to read Anthony Powell.

TT: I love that. I love the moment when we discover that one of the characters in a Parker novel is a Powell fan. And that it’s Widmerpool whom he identifies with - that’s the really funny part.

EI: There’s a surprising number of people who love Parker and Dance to the Music of Time, which seems like the least likely combination imaginable.

TT: They’re both acts of serial storytelling. The effects of the series come from our increasing intimacy with their key characters. Another part of what’s fascinating about A Dance to the Music of Time is that it resembles life in that people who you like, die. Or are transformed in such a way that you don’t like them anymore.

From a 1973 interview by Vince Cosgrove:

My admirations are not necessarily my influences. My favorite living novelist is Anthony Powell [author of the 12-volume “A Dance to the Music of Time”]. If I ever took an influence from him it would destroy me because he writes such a controlled but leisurely way that if I put anything of that into my stuff, it would break the springs. I love those books.

From a 2006 interview by Paul Kane:

PK: What writers have especially influenced you?

DW: I was about 15 when I read Hammett’s THE THIN MAN and first discovered what writing could do. He told two stories, one open and one concealed. The open story was a light romantic comedy with a slight mystery in it. The concealed story was a very sad tale of a man who has lost his role in life and has no way out. I hadn’t known you could tell the reader something without actually saying it, and I’ve loved that effect ever since. Nabokov was a master of that. But I also love good writing just for its own sake, and go back to reread Anthony Powell every once in a while. I have to be careful with him, though. After I’ve read Powell a while, my sentences get longer and longer. That works with him, but not with me.

Some of the best parts of The Getaway Car are where Westlake is analyzing other writers and why their books work or don’t. “The Hardboiled Dicks,” a talk given at the Smithsonian in 1982, is a masterful analysis of the genre, especially about Hammett (who he liked) and Chandler (who he didn’t). There’s an essay on Peter Rabe where he sets out why some of Rabe’s books are excellent and others are very poor. (He wrote Rabe for background information, and Rabe would have read the piece: Westlake is honest, and when something’s bad, he doesn’t hedge.) There’s a letter with advice to someone on the draft of a novel, and it takes a lot of experience and wisdom to clearly get to the problems like he does. Westlake has little time for Ross Macdonald, either, for example in this 1977 interview with himself and his pseudonyms:

Moderator: What about Ross Macdonald?

Donald E. Westlake: The former editor of the New York Times Book Review has admitted in print that that was the result of a conspiracy to see if he really could boost an author he liked onto the bestseller list. Since he claimed that was the only time such a conspiracy occurred, Macdonald is a fluke.

Moderator: Do you have an opinion about his work?

Donald E. Westlake: He must have terrific carbon paper.

Ouch.

I wish Westlake had written an essay about Powell and the Dance. His analysis would have been crisp, deep, fresh, respectful, irreverent, wise, warm, personal, and you couldn’t have put it down.

The thing is, Powell would never have even picked up a fucking Westlake novel. But we know that, and we accept it, because that’s who Powell was.

Jodi Schneider: QOTD: Scholarly communication online, circa 1996

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-12-02 00:51

Here is a glimpse into scholarly communication 20 years ago, from a paper about Alzforum, the Alzheimer Research Forum website. “In July of 1996, the website made its debut at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders in Osaka, Japan.”1

Having established a foothold in cyberspace, the challenge for Alzforum was and continues to be to define new types of scientific publishing that take advantage of the speed and wide distribution of the Web and to curate and add value to information available from other public sources. This is a perennial challenge, thanks to the rapid advances in biomedical resources on the Web.

This uphill struggle, however, seems less strenuous when we compare the current situation with the “old days.” Recall that in 1996, PubMed did not exist! (PubMed was launched in June of 1997.) Medical institutions had access to Medline, but in order for Alzforum to produce its Papers of the Week listings, the editor had to ask the Countway Medical Library at Harvard Medical School to provide weekly text files listing newly indexed AD papers. The Alzforum hired a curator to paraphrase each abstract so that this information could be posted without violating journal copyrights. These documents were manually edited, sent out in a weekly email to the advisors for comments, and compiled into a static HTML page. Looking back, we can see that the entire process seems as antiquated as the hand-copying of manuscripts in the Middle Ages.

(emphasis mine)

From pages 459-460 of “Alzheimer Research Forum: a knowledge base and e-community for AD research”2

  1. page 458, Kinoshita, June, and Gabrielle Strobel. “Alzheimer Research Forum: a knowledge base and e-community for AD research.” in Alzheimer: 100 Years and Beyond, Mathias Jucker, Konrad Beyreuther, Christian Haass, Roger M. Nitsch, Yves Christen, eds. Berlin Heidelberg:Springer-Verlag, 2006: 457-463.
  2. Kinoshita, June, and Gabrielle Strobel. “Alzheimer Research Forum: a knowledge base and e-community for AD research.” in Alzheimer: 100 Years and Beyond, Mathias Jucker, Konrad Beyreuther, Christian Haass, Roger M. Nitsch, Yves Christen, eds. Berlin Heidelberg:Springer-Verlag, 2006: 457-463.

DuraSpace News: CALL for Proposals for Open Repositories 2016: Illuminating the World

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-12-02 00:00

From the Open Repositories Conference 2016 organizers

OCLC Dev Network: December 2 FAST System Maintenance

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 20:30

On Wednesday, 2 December 2015, there will be a brief scheduled service downtime for all experimental FAST  
Web services from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm EST (-5 GMT).

District Dispatch: Where does the U.S. stand on “right to be forgotten” policy?

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 20:03

Whether we follow the EU’s lead will be debated at ALA 2016 Midwinter session

The Right to be forgotten issue raises a fundamental tension between the rights of individuals and society (Image: Wikimedia)

In the European Union, a user has the right to have links to certain personal information removed from the results of web searches involving his or her name. This “right to be forgotten”(RTBF) has stimulated robust debate about the appropriateness of such a regime in other countries. ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) will delve into the pros and cons about its possible adoption here in the U.S. during a Breakout session on Saturday, January 9, at 10:30-11:30 a.m. at ALA’s Midwinter Conference at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

Expert speakers include Gail Slater, vice president, legal and regulatory policy, Internet Association, which represents the leading Internet companies, and James G. Neal, university librarian emeritus, Columbia University, member of the board of trustees, Freedom to Read Foundation, and a member of ALA’s executive board. The session will be moderated by Alan S. Inouye, director of ALA’s OITP.

The “right to be forgotten” refers to an individual’s right to compel a search engine service to have a process for removing links to certain personal information from search results involving his or her name. Personal blogs, arrest records, explicit photos and business critiques are now typically published forever. Should individuals have the right to have links to certain personal information removed from web search results? Under most current applications of RTBF, information is not removed or destroyed at its source. Rather, a search engine or web page owner prevents links from appearing in the search results list that is produced following a name search. The originally published information generally remains available and could potentially be located by using a different search engine or by trying different search terms. However, in some applications of RTBF, the underlying published information may, in fact, be removed.

Dan Lee, chair of the OITP Advisory Committee and director of the Office of Copyright Management and Scholarly Communication at the University of Arizona, explains that:

“Libraries and librarians preserve and provide access to information. Since RTBF obscures information or essentially hides it from those searching on the Internet, it effectively removes access to information. This poses a challenge to a librarian’s social responsibility to help users find the information they need, and is especially harmful when there is a clear public interest in having access to it.  On the other hand, people should have control over the visibility of their own information. Sometimes, there are compelling reasons for why access to certain information should be eliminated or minimized. Thus, there is a fundamental tension between the rights of individuals and society. This should be a very interesting panel.”

The post Where does the U.S. stand on “right to be forgotten” policy? appeared first on District Dispatch.

District Dispatch: Public libraries, employment & digital inclusion

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 19:35

Co-Authoring the Digital inclusion blog series are John Bertot* and Larra Clark**

Libraries go a long ways in promoting entrepreneurship and small business development.

For more than five years, the Public Libraries and the Internet survey has explored how libraries leverage their technology resources and services to enable employment opportunity for community members. The research consistently shows libraries go beyond bridging the digital inclusion gap by providing computer and Internet access to patrons who lack such employment necessities in their homes. Librarians strive to assist individuals who lack digital literacy, which includes the skills needed to search for jobs online, fill out online forms such as applications, use software tools to create resumes, and more.

Most recently, the 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey finds that:

  • 73% of libraries provide programs that assist individuals apply for jobs, create resumes, and prepare for interviews; with access to jobs databases and job opportunity resources;
  • 68% of libraries provide access to programs that assist individuals with accessing employment databases and job opportunity resources; and
  • 62% of libraries provide access to online job/employment materials.

In addition, 36% of libraries provide work space(s) for mobile workers.

Libraries go further—promoting entrepreneurship and small business development. Of the one-third of libraries that offer such programs, 59% offer small business startup assistance, 49% help develop small business plans, 39% offer business collaboration space and meeting rooms, and 37% provide market research services.

These services are increasingly essential. According to the Federal Communications Commission, 17% percent of American households do not have broadband access, reaching up to 53% in rural communities (see full report here).

With major employers increasingly using online services as the primary means of listing open positions and only allowing applications to be completed online, library technologies are vital for many Americans to find employment.

Libraries offer millions of people access to employment and career information, certification and testing resources, assistance with online job applications, skills training and free public Internet and computing access. State and local partnerships and collaborations with employment and workforce agencies can provide stronger community employment services that not only get people back to work, but also allow patrons to achieve their full career potential or pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.

More details are available in the study’s Public Libraries & Employment issue brief.

(Note: this is the second in a series of blog posts devoted to detailing aspects of libraries’ digital inclusion roles. We welcome questions, comments and suggestions for future blogs in the comments section.)

*John Carlo Bertot is the Digital Inclusion Survey lead researcher and co-director of the Information Policy & Access Center at the University of Maryland. 

**Larra Clark is ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) deputy director

The post Public libraries, employment & digital inclusion appeared first on District Dispatch.

District Dispatch: News to watch: Net Neutrality oral arguments on December 4

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 19:01

FCC Building in Washington, D.C.

In what has become something of a well-traveled rut, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be back at the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit on Friday, December 4, to make its case on behalf of the Open Internet. The FCC will defend the Order it approved in February, which the ALA and a host of library and higher education organizations advocated for, along with other network neutrality allies.

Most recently, the ALA, Association of College & Research Libraries, Association of Research Libraries and the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies took this advocacy to the court with an amicus brief in United States Telecom Association, et al., v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America.

For those looking for a preview of coming attractions, here are a few of the articles we’ve been reading:

Judge holds fate of net neutrality rules
The Hill, 11/28/15
“A major court decision that will determine the fate of new Internet regulations could be written by the same judge who struck down earlier rules only a year ago. In what the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit calls random chance, Judge David Tatel will be one of three judges slated to hear oral arguments Dec. 4 in a case challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s strongest net neutrality rules ever.”

Net neutrality, again? Why debate on Internet’s fate returns to court Dec. 4
International Business Times, 11/28/15
“There are several questions the three judges can debate, such as whether Internet service providers (ISPs) have “First Amendment” rights, if those rights have been violated and if the providers were not given enough time to meet these new demands. Yet, one issue could take center stage: whether what the FCC proposed and later adopted was within its legal jurisdiction.”

These 3 judges hold the fate of the Internet in their hands
Washington Post, 11/24/15
“Three judges from the D.C. Circuit have been named to hear the oral argument on Dec. 4. Much like the Supreme Court, the very makeup of this panel could subtly shape the course of events. What do we know about the judges? Are they familiar with the issues? How might they vote? Below, get briefly acquainted with each one ahead of the big day.”

For more real-time news and opinions, check out #NetNeutrality and #openInternet. Recordings of oral arguments from the D.C. Circuit are shared here, and stay tuned here at the District Dispatch for more reactions and analysis next week.

The post News to watch: Net Neutrality oral arguments on December 4 appeared first on District Dispatch.

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: The intersection between cultural competence and whiteness in libraries

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 11:30
photo from Flickr user gigi_nyc used under CC-BY-ND-2.0
In brief

The context for this article is Australian libraries and my experience there with cross-cultural provision. However, this article is not about providing library services for any specific group; it’s about cultural competence and whiteness. I begin with my background, so as to make clear how I participate, as a white librarian, in discussions about libraries and how they might be places where people from any cultural group find themselves reflected and where they find information the more easily for that reflection. I also start at that point because cultural competence requires an awareness of your own culture; for me, as a white person, that means thinking about whiteness. I then link experience with reading about cultural competence, and conversations with librarians who are also interested in cross cultural provision. Whiteness in libraries is introduced via these conversations. A brief comparison is drawn between the usefulness of intersectionality and cultural competence in addressing whiteness. The conclusion is that cultural competence embedded in professional approaches, library operations and the library environment can be the means for addressing whiteness, if the understandings of power and privilege outlined in intersectionality are incorporated.

Introduction

I am a 56 year old, tertiary-educated, female Anglo-Australian. I am also a librarian. I fit the demographic profile of the Australian library workforce, which is described as highly feminised, professionally educated, ageing, and predominantly Anglo-Saxon (Hallam 2007); or, ‘a largely English-speaking, culturally homogenous group’ (Partridge et al 2012, p. 26). I have worked in the library industry for eight years, coming to the job after an employment history spanning at least four other industries. In these eight years I have developed a professional interest in cultural competence and whiteness in libraries.

Three factors motivated me to write this article. The first is  the challenges I experienced in my first library job. One set of challenges helped me find my feet as a librarian; another, outlined below, set a strong direction for future work and further study. The second factor is cultural competence, about which I learned in response to those challenges. Thirdly,  the Australian library and information management industry is beginning to address diversity, often through cultural competence. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), the State Library of New South Wales and the State Library of Victoria all include cultural competence or proficiency in key policies and strategies. Charles Sturt University is committed to cultural competence in the context of Indigenous content in curriculum; RMIT University includes it as a topic in the professional experience course in its Master of Information Management. Most other library schools include in their program aims, development of skills for working in a diverse environment.

My background

I began work in the library and information industry as Special Collections Manager at Alice Springs Public Library in Central Australia. The special collections were the Alice Springs Collection, documenting the history, geography, economic development, and cultures of Central Australia; and the Akaltye Antheme Collection, a local Indigenous knowledge collection, developed in partnership with the Traditional Owners. ‘Akaltye Antheme’ translates into English as ‘giving knowledge’, the knowledge being a showcase of local culture for Aboriginal and non-Indigenous users of the library.

In addition to a Graduate Diploma in Information Management, I also brought the accidents of life to that job. By ‘accidents’ I mean those developments which aren’t the product of any particular decision, which just seem to occur as life itself occurs and which coalesce into fundamental themes or directions. One of those accidents is being born white.

Other accidents include two books, read when I was twenty: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; An Indian History of the American West, and Living black; Blacks talk to Kevin Gilbert. They were my introduction to Indigenous people’s experience of history and colonisation. I had no idea of that reality until then. The ensuing couple of decades included NAIDOC marches, Sorry Day ceremonies, reconciliation activities, and visits to the Tent Embassy. Friends and I mused about whiteness – what it means to be white when being white is the norm. This participation involved some decision-making but I had drifted into that left wing milieu – yes, an accident.

Another key accident was work as a personal care attendant in a supported accommodation centre for Koories. The health effects of a colonised life of disadvantage and discrimination were glaringly evident: very high incidence of diabetes and corollary conditions, alcohol-related brain damage, staggering male morbidity. Also clearly evident were the strength and resilience of culture, how hard people worked to maintain it and how they worked within it to maintain themselves and their community. The power of being white struck me for the first time: the residents were far more likely to do something when I asked them than when my largely Sri Lankan co-workers did. I attribute this to two things: the residents’ experience, often from very young, of near-complete control of their lives by white people in positions of power; and how, as a white person, I unwittingly used to the power and privilege that redounds to being white, and was able unknowingly but effectively to convey expectations.

Without the activist activities described earlier, I wouldn’t have perceived the effect of whiteness in an ordinary working environment for what it was; without that work experience, my understanding of the effects of a colonised life would be weaker. I outline this to indicate that I came to the Special Collections job beginning to understand my privilege as a white person. This privilege is reflected in the quality of my life; it is a product in part of the dispossession of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia, and continuing systemic advantage for white people. Why is this important to this article? As I said in a conference presentation with Sylvia Perrurle Neale, the Indigenous Services Officer at Alice Springs Public Library, being a member of the dominant group is the biggest challenge I face in working in partnership with other, minority groups.

Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been the main path for my learning about cultural competence and whiteness. However, cultural competence applies far more widely than only working with Indigenous peoples. As Ruby Hamad illustrates, whiteness resounds systemically. I would like to extend Hamad’s sentence, “[if you’re white,] you’re not going to be discriminated against on the basis of the colour of your skin” and suggest that you are also not likely to begin a sentence with the explanatory phrase, “In my/our culture …”, as I have so often heard members of minority groups do. You may never have to think about what your culture is, because as Henry and Tator (2006, cited in Calgary Anti-Racism Education) point out, whiteness in social, political and economic arenas is so much the norm, that it represents “neutrality”’. In a system that privileges some and marginalises others, often on the basis of skin colour but also on the basis of group membership, there are many marginalised groups. Jaeger et al. (2011) argue that working with any marginalised group requires cultural competence.

The challenges in that first job

In 2006, Alice Springs staff suggested that the Akaltye Antheme Collection be nominated for the Library Stars Award at the Australian Library and Information Association conference. (This happened before I worked there.) It won: delegates judged it the best initiative for its method of establishment, content, popularity with Aboriginal patrons, and the way the library adapted to the changed demand and use of the library that it generated.

Despite this organisational pride, Akaltye Antheme occupied a kind of limbo. Everything was the Special Collections Manager’s responsibility – to keep it tidy, repair items, endprocess acquisitions, liaise with Aboriginal organisations on a range of library matters, and manage incidents arising among Aboriginal patrons. Similarly focussed collections and target groups weren’t similarly quarantined; for example, the junior fiction and non-fiction collections, and children’s behaviour, weren’t considered the exclusive responsibility of the Children’s Librarian. Akaltye Antheme was considered something for Aboriginal people, not everyone who walked through the door, contrary to the intention of those who established it. Aboriginal people, who could be up to 30% of the library’s patrons, used Akaltye Antheme regardless of this differential staff approach. They would often spend hours every day browsing and reading it. I wondered why Akaltye Antheme retained its special project status long after it was established, particularly when it was such an integral resource to a significant proportion of the library’s clientele and when it was intended for all patrons. I found this frustrating and isolating. I fit the librarian stereotype, I belong to the dominant group; yet the attitude of my (largely white, older, educated, female) colleagues to a collection they didn’t seem to consider core business, affected me. Sylvia Purrurle Neale, an Eastern Arrernte woman, voiced similar frustrations.

I felt capable of learning to manage the historical collection, partly because my undergraduate degree included an honours in history. I had no idea about how to manage the Indigenous knowledge collection. This lack of educational preparation for working cross-culturally, then the isolation and frustration, echo Mestre’s research into the experience of librarians responsible for services to diverse populations (2010). She reports stress, potential burnout, and isolation of individual professionals. She also identifies opportunity costs to library organisations which rely on individuals for the provision of ‘diversity services’. The costs include loss of experienced staff and of the opportunity for all staff to learn, and benefit from learning, how to work cross-culturally. She argues that embedding culturally competent service within the organisation benefits it and all staff. Other commentators discuss the benefits of cultural competence in all aspects of library operations to organisational performance overall (Kim & Sin 2008, Andrade and Rivera 2011).

Learning about cultural competence

My next job was as Community Engagement Librarian with Libraries ACT, focussing on building engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. While in Alice Springs, I had thought that managing Akaltye Antheme could be something on which to build in my career – there probably were not too many librarians in Australia with experience providing services for and with Aboriginal people. I had also thought uneasily about the differential in the benefit that accrues to a white librarian coming to town for a short time and leaving with a marketable skill; and that which accrues to the local community, who would stay in Alice Springs after I had left. I can’t at this point cite any research that verifies this differential. However, if my experience resonates with that of others who have worked with minority groups, research in this area may suggest that greater benefit accrues to those already in a privileged position, in this instance, white librarians.

I began at Libraries ACT determined that there had to be an organisational approach to community engagement, partly to avoid aspects of my experience in Alice Springs but also to achieve organisational aims. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to want to come to their library, they have to find a place where they are comfortable, where they can see themselves or their culture reflected. Partridge et al. (2012) point out that this applies for any cultural group. That is, any groups whose identity incorporates religion, disability, sexual orientation, age, recreation, employment, political beliefs, socio-economic status, educational attainment, and class (Helton 2010, Jaeger et al 2011). Creating such an environment in a system of nine branches, a heritage library, and a central administration clearly could not be done by one person. Advocating an organisational approach and the support of management led to a decision to implement the ATSILIRN Protocols. The Protocols are a set of guidelines for appropriate library, information, and records services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, developed by Aboriginal and non-Indigenous librarians.

I document this engagement with the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in a case study (Blackburn, 2014). Findings include that:

  • a small team can achieve a lot with support from colleagues and where the community wants to be engaged;
  • synergy between library objectives and a group’s aims will enhance outcomes;
  • the Protocols are useful in designing and choosing engagement activities; and
  • the community will meet you more than half way in your engagement activities.

There are still challenges. Where staff responses to Akaltye Antheme included a kind of resistance, a significant proportion of Libraries ACT staff, throughout the staff structure, want to engage with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The first challenge was to demonstrate that it wasn’t hard; once connections are made and sustained, engagement kind of runs itself. Another challenge relates to staff being able to find the time in a busy service to make connections, including going outside the library, and then maintaining involvement. The next relates to how libraries usually conduct business. Libraries are great on systems and processes; they are essential features of information management. However, if you want to build an engaged community, an insistence on a way of operating that suits internally devised systems is going to bump up rather hard against a community with its own way of organising, which is also given to taking ideas and running with them.

These are essentially facets of the one challenge. The ‘special project’ status of a resource that should have been embedded in core business; the limitation on time for building and maintaining relationships; and a preference for uniform service delivery rather than flexibility, are each part of the challenge of sustainable cross-cultural provision. This challenge, in the manifestations just outlined, resides in library professionals and in organisations.

For the first five years of working in libraries, I searched with little success for information about cross-cultural provision, cross-cultural communication, etc. in a library context. Then a speaker who worked in education mentioned ‘cultural competence’ at a Protocols implementation workshop. This was a key moment, albeit another accident. There was nothing in the Australian Library and Information Science (LIS) literature then about cultural competence but there was discussion of it in US library literature.
Overall (2009) defines cultural competence for library and information professionals as:
the ability to recognise the significance of culture in one’s own life and in the lives of others; to come to know and respect diverse cultural backgrounds and characteristics through interaction with individuals from diverse linguistic, cultural and socioeconomic groups; and to fully integrate the culture of diverse groups into service work, and institutions in order to enhance the lives of both those being serviced by the library profession and those engaged in service (p. 176).

Other service industries, like health and education, recognise that care or instruction that does not address the cultural context could have serious negative consequences. Failing to acknowledge the inappropriateness of male clinicians providing some procedures for women from particular groups, for example, could result in those women choosing not to access health services. Overall’s definition, which draws on theory from these industries, locates the site of cultural competence development within the professional workforce and library organisations, also the locations where the challenges of cross cultural provision arise. Cultural competence has been incorporated into US library and information science education accreditation standards. Research has supported its role in recruitment and retention, staff development, organisational performance, collection management, and service and program design (Andrade & Rivera 2011, Kim & Sin 2008, Mestre 2010).

Whether cultural competence has been truly embedded into US library and information science is debated. Case studies document incorporation into library business (e.g., Rivera 2013, Montague 2013); but Berry (1999) and Mehra (2011) assert that only token efforts have been made. Others (Galvan 2015, Honma 2006, Jaeger et al. 2011, Pawley 2005, Swanson et al. 2015) suggest that the issue is broader than development of cultural competence and includes diversity, race, racism, and whiteness. Broadening the debate in this way names the issues – diversity, race, racism and whiteness – which cross-cultural provision should address.

Cultural competence clearly begins with the professional – and just as clearly should go beyond the individual to be developed within the whole organisation. The following examples demonstrate why culturally competent organisations are required as well as professionals. In 2013, during a Libraries ACT planning day exercise, I noticed that a significant proportion of staff were either born overseas or were children of migrants; and the majority of that group were not Anglo-Saxon. (This reflects the demographic profile of the Australian population: 26% are migrants; nearly three quarters of whom are not Anglo-Saxon.) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012) Nevertheless the library service remains an organisation based in Western systems. The non-fiction shelves are organised according to Dewey Decimal Classification, which privileges Western or white concepts of knowledge. The bulk of the collection is in English. The songs sung during programs for babies and young children are most often English nursery rhymes. The library service remains a white one; staff from minority groups have adapted to the prevailing structure.

Wong et al. (2003) suggest that minority groups not only adapt to prevailing structures, they also adopt the underlying values. Wong et al., Canadian health practitioners of Asian descent, found their heritage did not guarantee that they would deliver mental health care appropriately to members of their own groups. They instead adopted the racialised approaches to power embedded in the Western health system in which they worked. Why would libraries be any different, particularly as they run on complex, long established systems, systems which can be adapted without changing embedded values? Dewey Decimal Classification, for example, is an ethnocentric arrangement of knowledge which has been modified to accommodate new and emerging areas of knowledge without changing the fundamental privileging of original concepts.

The diversity envisaged in US discussions about cultural competence “encompasses race, gender, ethnicity, language, literacy, disability, age, socio-economic status, educational attainment, technology access and skill” (2012 Symposium on Diversity and Library and Information Science Education, cited in Jaeger, Bertot & Subramaniam 2013). If culture is defined as “the shared daily activities of groups and individuals” (Rosaldo 1989, cited in Montiel-Overall, 2009, p 3) then religion, political beliefs and affiliation, and recreational activities are also part of diversity and should also influence cross-cultural provision. Helton (2010) and Jaeger et al. (2011) acknowledge the usefulness of cultural competence for providing library services for all groups in diverse populations, not only those whose identity is defined by race or ethnicity.

A fundamental aspect of cultural competence is that the process of achieving it never stops. Press and Diggs-Hobson (2005) point out that the professional is of necessity constantly learning about cultures in a service population: knowing everything about all the cultures in a population, before encountering them, is not possible. Ongoing interaction and actively seeking out knowledge (Garrison 2013) are integral components of developing cultural competence. The knowledge I brought to that first job in Alice Springs has continued to expand, through work and study. Most recently, during a short-term transfer to AIATSIS, I had cause to think a lot about colonisation and its ongoing effects in a post-colonial world.

Whiteness in libraries

In a recent conversation, a woman described how, when her family migrated from Egypt to the United States and then to Australia, her parents took her and her siblings to the library precisely so that they would learn how to fit in. Relating this as an adult, she said her parents chose the library “because it was a white place.” When I mentioned this to other librarians interested in cross-cultural provision and social inclusion, responses included:

You know I am really going to have to think this through. The whiteness of a library as a place to learn how to fit in. I never considered it that. I loved to read and that is the place to find books. At the same time, one learns English – to read and write – which is part of education and educating in the ‘white’ way which is at the foundation of libraries.(personal communication with an Indigenous librarian, 16th September 2015);

and

I find it curious how they intentionally used it in their acculturation to the dominant Australian culture … the literature that I have seen generally shows that immigrants trust the library and librarians. In that sense, libraries are welcoming and friendly spaces. However, that does not mean that libraries are culturally neutral zones and/or are as inclusive as one would like to think. I don’t think that this is all bad. It sounds like newcomers can benefit from it as they transition into the new society, however, long term this may cause them to feel excluded and/or that their cultures are less valued. Likewise, this would clearly be exclusionary to minority groups, such as indigenous [sic] peoples, who are not trying adapt to the dominant culture, but are nations within their own right. (personal communication with PhD candidate researching inclusion in libraries, 20th September 2015)

These communications, and the following discussion, indicate that the need for cultural competence is not reduced by the uses people from minority groups can make of white spaces. If anything they underline the need for it, and for dexterity in its deployment. A 2003 evaluation of the project to establish Akaltye Antheme included comments that Aboriginal people came to the library because it was a “neutral space”. They meant that it was a whitefella space free from the tensions of blackfella life; it was also a space where whitefella and blackfella clashes, common elsewhere in town, weren’t going to occur, where they could relax for a while and also make use of library services. In 2008, Aboriginal people were observed using the library to do online banking, socialise, organise or inform others of community events like funerals, read hard copy and digital Akaltye Antheme resources, watch videos, draw, or browse the other collections (Kral, unpublished report for council, 2008). Aboriginal people used the Alice Springs library before the establishment of the Akaltye Antheme Collection; however its popularity and changes in library use following its establishment suggest that the changed environment, while not making the library any less a white place, was valuable to Aboriginal patrons.

The Indigenous librarian quoted before, further commented about the affirmation members of her tribe find in their own libraries. Her comment reveals the value to individuals of places that reflect their identity:

on the other side, you have tribal libraries where Indigenous people go to learn not just reading and writing, but cultural aspects and language in the comfort of their created environment. My co-worker, she finds a reconnection to herself at the place we work. (personal communication 16th September 2015)

The potential alienation of libraries built on whiteness, mentioned by the PhD candidate, can be inferred from this comment.

Ettarh (2014) suggests “intersectional librarianship” as a means for working effectively with diverse populations. Intersectionality recognises the interactions between any person or group’s multiple layers of identity and the marginalisation or privilege attendant on each. No single identity is in play at any one time; and outcomes and experiences vary correspondingly. Multiple layers of identity result in multiple interactions between privilege and discrimination or marginalisation. The differing outcomes and responses arising from that interplay are evident in by the Egyptian migrants’ use of the library for their children’s acculturation; and in the use of the public library and the Akaltye Antheme Collection by Aboriginal people in Alice Springs.

An intersectional perspective can be developed by “learning to become allies … not just learning about the issues that affect the underrepresented but also learning how our own biases and privileges make it difficult for us to build alliances” (Ettarh (2014). Cultural competence requires virtually the same strategy for modifying personal and organisational practice.

Intersectional librarianship, however, discusses power and privilege, an omission in cultural competence theory that I have read. Intersectional librarianship “involves challenging and deconstructing privilege and considering how race, gender, class, disability, etc., affect patrons’ information needs” (Ettarh 2013). Wong et al. (2003) argue that understanding power must be central to understanding culture and to negotiating its multiple layers and interactions. Ettarh identifies as a queer person of color and talks of the challenges “we” librarians as a diverse group face in a diverse environment. Her use of the first person plural pronoun, to include all librarians, accords with the effect of structurally embedded racialised power on all health staff, that Wong et al. describe.

Cultural competence, as defined by Overall (2009), does address the framework in which library operations occur: the professional development of the individual practitioner, the interactions between colleagues and between practitioners and patrons, and the effect of the environment, inside and outside the library. Privilege, while not explicitly referenced in cultural competence theory, is implicit in how culture works; whiteness, again not explicitly referenced in cultural competence theory, is central in Western library structures and operations, in the environment in which libraries are located. If the starting point of cultural competence is an understanding of the role of culture in your life (including your workplace), and in the lives of others, then you will also become aware of the interactions and interplay of privilege and marginalisation described by Ettarh (2014). It should be possible to incorporate awareness of privilege and whiteness as another starting point for culturally competent practice.

Achieving inclusive services in the diverse Australian population when the Australian library workforce is culturally homogenous therefore poses a test. Individual Australian libraries are providing services to particular groups but how these initiatives are sustained is unclear, meaning that the risk remains for individuals responsible for ‘diversity services’ to struggle with the lack of support and isolation identified by Mestre (2010). Yarra Valley Regional Library obtained grant funding to develop programs with the hearing impaired community, children and adults with low literacy, and children with autism autism (Mackenzie 2014) – which makes me wonder whether the organisational challenge, of incorporating initiatives for minority groups into ongoing core business, might also remain. Without education in cultural competence, practitioners do not have the opportunity to discuss and evaluate their cross-cultural initiatives within a theoretical framework.

Conclusion

In a workforce that is predominantly Anglo-Saxon, in an industry that is firmly based on Western concepts of knowledge and systems giving prominence to those concepts, but which provides services to a diverse population, a cultural competence that includes awareness of whiteness, of privilege and the mechanisms that make it available to some and not others, is essential. Cultural competence can make the information at the heart of a library’s existence genuinely accessible. It can help create “low intensity meeting places” where different groups can interact – or not (Audunson 2004); where people can seek answers to culturally shaped questions in culturally mediated ways (Abdullahi 2008).

I have appreciated the open-review process, particularly being able to choose one of the reviewers. It has felt more collaborative than the peer-review processes of other publications. Thanks to Sue Reynolds and Ellie Collier for picking their way through the two drafts of this article, correcting grammar and asking questions that spurred me to clarify and extend what I was writing about. Thanks also to Hugh Rundle, publishing editor. It’s been a cross-cultural exercise of itself and I particularly appreciate Ellie’s contribution in that respect.

References

Abdullahi, I. (2008). Cultural mediation in library and information science (LIS) teaching and learning. New Library World, Vol. 109, No. 7, pp. 393-389.

Andrade, R. & Rivera, A. (2011). Developing a diversity-competent workforce: the UA Libraries’ experience. Journal of Library Administration, Vol 51. Nos. 7-8, pp. 692-727.

Audunson, R. (2004). The public library as a meeting-place in a multicultural and digital context; the necessity of low-intensive meeting-places. Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61, No. 3, pp. 429-440.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2012). ‘Cultural diversity in Australia’, reflecting a nation:

stories from the 2011 census, 2012–2013, cat. no. 2071.0. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics. http://www.abs.gov.au

Berry, J. (1999). Culturally competent service’. Library Journal, Vol. 124, No. 14, pp. 112-113.

Blackburn, F. (2014). An example of community engagement: Libraries ACT and the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp. 121-138.

Brown, D. (1972). Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian history of the American West. New York: Bantam Books.

Ettarh, F. (2013).Black OR Queer? Life at the Intersection. Hack Library School. http://hacklibraryschool.com/2013/11/19/black-or-queer-life-at-the-intersection/

Ettarh, F. (2015). Making a new table: intersectional librarianship. In the Library With the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/making-a-new-table-intersectional-librarianship-3/

Galvan, A. (2015). Soliciting performance, hiding bias: whiteness and librarianship. In the Library With the Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/soliciting-performance-hiding-bias-whiteness-and-librarianship.

Garrison, K. L. (2013). “This intense desire to know the world”: Cultural competency as a

personal and professional disposition in collection development practices, paper presented

to IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2013, Singapore, 17-23 August 2013, International Federation of Library Associations, The Hague. http://library.ifla.org/66/1/101-garrison-en.pdf

Gilbert, K. (1978). Living black: Blacks talk to Kevin Gilbert. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Hallam, G. C. (2007). Don’t ever stop! The imperative for career-long learning in the library and information profession. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/6173/1/6173_1.pdf

Helton, R. (2010). Diversity dispatch: Increasing diversity awareness with cultural competency, Kentucky Libraries, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 22-24.

Honma, T. (2006). Trippin’ over the color line: the invisibility of race in library and information studies. InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, Vol. 1, No. 2. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4nj0w1mp.

Jaeger, P. T., Bertot, J. C. & Subramaniam, M. M. (2013). Introduction to the special Issue on diversity and library and information science education. The Library Quarterly, Vol. 83, No. 3, pp. 201-203.

Jaeger, P. T., Subramaniam, M. M., Jones, C. B. & Bertot, J.C. (2011). Diversity and LIS education: inclusion and the age of information. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Vol. 52, No. 3, pp. 166-183.

Kim, K. S., & Sin, S. C. J. (2008). Increasing ethnic diversity in LIS: strategies suggested by librarians of color. Library Quarterly, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 153-177. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/528887

Mehra B., Olson, H. A. & Ahmad, S. (2011). Integrating diversity across the LIS curriculum: an exploratory study of instructors’ perceptions and practices online. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Journal, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 39-51. http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/publications/ifla-journal/ifla-journal-37-1_2011.pdf   

Mestre, L. S. (2010). Librarians working with diverse populations: what impact does cultural competency training have on their efforts?. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Vol. 36, No. 6, pp. 479-488.  https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/26006/Mestre_librarians_working_with_diverse_populations_proof.pdf?sequence=2

Montague, R. A. (2013). Advancing cultural competency in library and information science, paper presented to IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2013, Singapore, 17-23 August 2013, International Federation of Library Associations, The Hague.  http://library.ifla.org/274/1/125-montague-en.pdf

Montiel-Overall, P. (2009). Developing cultural competence to create multicultural libraries. Paper submitted to the American Library Association International Papers Committee 2009 Annual Conference, Chicago, USA. http://www.ala.org/irrt/sites/ala.org.irrt/files/content/irrtcommittees/irrtintlpapers/Patricia_Montiel-Ove.pdf

Overall, P. M. (2009). Cultural competence: a conceptual framework for library and information science professionals. The Library, Vol. 79., No. 2, pp. 175-204.

Partridge, H. L., Hanisch, J., Hughes, H. E., Henninger, M., Carroll, M., Combes, B., … & Yates, C. (2011). Re-conceptualising and re-positioning Australian library and information science education for the 21st century [Final Report 2011]. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/46915/

Pawley, C. (2006). Unequal legacies: race and multiculturalism in the LIS curriculum, The Library Quarterly, Vol. 76, No. 2, pp. 149-168. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/506955

Press, N. O. & Diggs-Hobson, M. (2005). Providing health information to community members where they are: characteristics of the culturally competent librarian. Library Trends, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 397-410. https://www.ideals.illinois.edu

Rivera, A. (2013). Indigenous knowledge and cultural competencies in the library profession: from theory to practice, paper presented to IFLA World Library and Information Congress 2013, Singapore, 17-23 August 2013, International Federation of Library Associations, The Hague,  http://library.ifla.org/275/1/125-rivera-en.pdf

Swanson, J., Damasco, I., Gonzalez-Smith, I., Hodges, D., Honma, T. & Tanaka, A. (2015). Why diversity matters: a roundtable discussion on racial and ethnic diversity in librarianship. In the Library With the Lead Pipe, http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/why-diversity-matters-a-roundtable-discussion-on-racial-and-ethnic-diversity-in-librarianship/

Wong, Y. R., Cheng, S., Choi, S., Ky, K, LeBa, S., Tsang, K. & Yoo, L. (2003) De-constructing culture in cultural competence: dissenting voices from Asian-Canadian practitioners, Canadian Social Work Review/Revue canadienne de service social, Vol. 20. No. 2, pp. 149-167.

Hydra Project: ActiveFedora 9.7.0 is released

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 10:57

We are pleased to announce the release of Active Fedora 9.7.0. You can read about the changes here:

https://github.com/projecthydra/active_fedora/releases/tag/v9.7.0

Thanks to Justin Coyne, David Chandek-Stark, Jim Coble, Carolyn Cole, and Trey Terrell for their contributions to this release.

Hydra Project: Call for Proposals for Open Repositories 2016: Illuminating the World

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 10:32

The Eleventh International Conference on Open Repositories, OR2016, will be held on June 13th-16th, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. The organizers are pleased to issue this call for contributions to the program.

As previous Open Repositories have demonstrated, the use of digital repositories to manage research, scholarly and cultural information is well established and increasingly mature. Entering our second decade, we have an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and, more importantly, where we’re heading. New development continues apace, and we’ve reached the time when many organizations are exploring expansive connections with larger processes both inside and outside traditional boundaries. Open Repositories 2016 will explore how our rich collections and infrastructure are now an inherent part of contemporary scholarship and research and how they have expanded to touch many aspects of our academic and cultural enterprises.

The theme of OR2016 is “Illuminating the World.” OR2016 will provide an opportunity to explore the ways in which repositories and related infrastructure and processes:

  • bring different disciplines, collections, and people to light;
  • expose research, scholarship, and collections from developing countries;
  • increase openness of collections, software, data and workflows;
  • highlight data patterns and user pathways through collections; and
  • how we can organize to better support these – and other – infrastructures.

We welcome proposals on these ideas, but also on the theoretical, practical, technical, organizational or administrative topics related to digital repositories.  Submissions that demonstrate original and repository-related work outside of these themes will be considered, but preference will be given to submissions which address them. We are particularly interested in the following themes.

  1.  Supporting Open Scholarship, Open Data, and Open Science

Papers are invited to consider how repositories can best support the needs of open science and open scholarship to make research as accessible and useful as possible, including:

    • Open access, open data and open educational resources
    • Scholarly workflows, publishing and communicating scientific knowledge
    • Exposure of research and scholarship from developing countries and under-resourced communities and disciplines
    • Compliance with funder mandates
  1. Repositories and Cultural Heritage

Papers are invited to consider how repositories and their associated infrastructures best support the needs of cultural heritage collections, organizations, and researchers. Areas of interest include:

    • Impact of aggregation on repository infrastructure and management
    • Exposure of collections and cultural heritage from developing countries and under-resourced communities and disciplines
    • Special considerations in access and use of cultural heritage collections
    • Reuse and analysis of content.
  1. Repositories of high volume and/or complex data and collections

Papers are invited to consider how we can use tools and processes to highlight data patterns and user pathways through large corporas including:

    • Data and text mining
    • Entity recognition
    • Linked data
    • Standardized interfaces
    • Interaction with large-scale computation and simulation processes
    • Issues of scale and size beyond traditional repository contexts
  1. Managing Research Data, Software, and Workflows

Papers are invited to consider how repositories can support the needs of research data and related software and workflows. Areas of interest are:

    • Curation lifecycle management, including storage, software and workflows
    • Digital preservation tools and services
    • Reuse and analysis of scientific content
    • Scholarly workflows, publishing and communicating scientific knowledge
  1. Integrating with the Wider Web and External Systems

Papers are invited to explore, evaluate, or demonstrate integration with external systems, including:

    • CRIS and research management systems
    • Notification and compliance tracking systems
    • Identifier services
    • Preservation services and repositories
    • Publisher systems
    • Collection management systems and workflows
  1. Exploring Metrics, Assessment, and Impact

Papers are invited to present experiences on metrics and assessment services for a range of content, including:

    • Bibliometrics
    • Downloads (e.g. COUNTER compliance)
    • Altmetrics and other alternative methods of tracking and presenting impact
  1. Managing Rights

Papers are invited to examine the role of rights management in the context of open repositories, including:

    • Research and scholarly communication outputs
    • Licenses (e.g. Creative Commons, Open Data Commons)
    • Embargoes
    • Requirements of funder mandates
  1. Developing and Training Staff

Papers are invited to consider the evolving role of staff who support and manage repositories across libraries, cultural heritage organizations, research offices and computer centres, especially:

    • New roles and responsibilities
    • Training needs and opportunities
    • Career path and recruitment
    • Community support

KEY DATES

  • 01 February 2016: Deadline for submissions and Scholarship Programme applications
  • 01 February 2016: Registration opens
  • 28 March 2016: Submitters notified of acceptance to general conference
  • 11 April 2016: Submitters notified of acceptance to Interest Groups
  • 13-16 June 2016: OR2016 conference

SUBMISSION PROCESS

Conference Papers and Panels

We expect that proposals for papers or panels will be two to four-pages (see below for optional Proposal Templates). Abstracts of accepted papers and panels will be made available through the conference’s web site, and later they and associated materials will be made available in an open repository. In general, sessions will have three papers; panels may take an entire session or may be combined with a paper. Relevant papers unsuccessful in the main track will be considered for inclusion, as appropriate, as an Interest Group presentation, poster or 24/7.

Interest Group Presentations

The opportunity to engage with and learn more about the work of relevant communities of interest is a key element of Open Repositories. One to two page proposals are invited for presentations or panels that focus on the work of such communities, traditionally DSpace, EPrints, Fedora, and Invenio, describing novel experiences or developments in the construction and use of repositories involving issues specific to these technical platforms. Further information about applications for additional Interest Groups and guidance on submissions will be forthcoming.

24×7 Presentations

24×7 presentations are 7 minute presentations comprising no more than 24 slides. Proposals for 24×7 presentations should be one to two-pages. Similar to Pecha Kuchas or Lightning Talks, these 24×7 presentations will be grouped into blocks based on conference themes, with each block followed by a moderated discussion / question and answer session involving the audience and whole block of presenters. This format will provide conference goers with a fast-paced survey of like work across many institutions, and presenters the chance to disseminate their work in more depth and context than a traditional poster.

“Repository RANTS” 24×7 Block

One block of 24×7’s will revolve around “repository rants”: brief exposés that challenge the conventional wisdom or practice, and highlight what the repository community is doing that is misguided, or perhaps just missing altogether. The top proposals will be incorporated into a track meant to provoke unconventional approaches to repository services.

“Repository RAVES” 24×7 Block

One block of 24×7’s at OR2016 will revolve around “repository raves”: brief exposés that celebrate particular practice and processes, and highlight what the repository community is doing that is right. The top proposals will be incorporated into a track meant to celebrate successful approaches to repository services.

Posters

We invite one-page proposals for posters that showcase current work. Attendees will view and discuss your work during the poster reception.

2016 Developer Track: Top Tips, Cunning Code and Illuminating Insights

Each year a significant proportion of the delegates at Open Repositories are software developers who work on repository software or related services. OR2016 will feature a Developer Track and Ideas Challenge that will provide a focus for showcasing work and exchanging ideas.

Building on the success of last year’s Developer Track, where we encouraged live hacking and audience participation, we invite members of the technical community to share the features, systems, tools and best practices that are important to you.  Presentations can be as informal as you like, but once again we encourage live demonstrations, tours of code repositories, examples of cool features and the unique viewpoints that so many members of our community possess.  Submissions should take the form of a title and a brief outline of what will be shared with the community.

Further details and guidance on the Ideas Challenge will be forthcoming.

Developers are also encouraged to contribute to the other tracks as papers, posters, 24×7 presentations, repository raves and rants 24×7 blocks.

Workshops and Tutorials

One to two-page proposals for workshops and tutorials addressing theoretical or practical issues around digital repositories are welcomed. Please address the following in your proposal:

  • The subject of the event and what knowledge you intend to convey
  • Length of session (e.g., 1-hour, 2-hour, half a day or a whole day)
  • A brief statement on the learning outcomes from the session
  • How many attendees you plan to accommodate
  • Technology and facility requirements
  • Any other supplies or support required
  • Anything else you believe is pertinent to carrying out the session

Proposal Templates

The OR2016 proposal templates are a guideline to help you prepare an effective submission. They will be provided in both the Word document and plain-text Markdown formats and provide details around the requirements for conference papers and panels and 24/7’s and posters. These will be available from the conference website shortly.

Submission system

The conference system will be open for submissions by 15 December 2015. PDF format is preferred.

CODE OF CONDUCT

We will be publishing guidelines for conduct at OR2016. As a reference, the OR2015 Code of Conduct is available at http://www.or2015.net/code-of-conduct/ and the 2015 Anti-Harrassment Policy is at http://www.or2015.net/anti-harassment-policy/.

SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME

OR2016 will again run a Scholarship Programme which will enable us to provide support for a small number of full registered places (including the poster reception and banquet) for the conference in Dublin. The programme is open to librarians, repository managers, developers and researchers in digital libraries and related fields. Applicants submitting a paper for the conference will be given priority consideration for funding. Please note that the programme does not cover costs such as accommodation, travel and subsistence. It is anticipated that the applicant’s home institution will provide financial support to supplement the OR Scholarship Award. Full details and an application form will shortly be available on the conference website.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Program Co-Chairs

David Minor, University of California, San Diego
Matthias Razum, FIZ Karlsruhe
Sarah Shreeves, University of Miami

contact: or16-program-chairs@googlegroups.com

Local Hosts

Trinity College Dublin

contact: OR2016@conferencepartners.ie

Conference Website and Social Media

website: http://or2016.net/

twitter: @OR2016Dub and #or2016Dub

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ORConference/

William Denton: BiblioTech

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 03:31

I recommend John Palfrey’s new book BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google to anyone interested in that unending question of what is the future of libraries, because he sets out a future I agree with.

Palfrey was a law professor at Harvard and lately the vice-dean of library and information services at its law library, and he helped create the Digital Public Library of America and was its first board chairman. Recently he left all that to be head of posh New England private school Andover, where he gathered his thoughts and plans about libraries and set them out in this short book.

It reflects, as you’d expect, the approach of the DPLA, which is based on networked collaboration, digitization and preservation of unique resources, specialization in local material, community involvement, and open content and APIs for hackers to hack and reuse. All of this is well-argued in the book, set out clearly and logically (as law professors do), always grounded in libraries as educational institutions and librarians as educators. He knows the problems libraries (both public and academic) are having now, and sets out a way to get past them while keeping libraries both fundamental to local communities but also important at the national and international level.

I was agreeing with the book and then hit this in chapter five, “Hacking Libraries: How to Build the Future:”

The next phase of collaboration among libraries may prove to be harder. The development of digital libraries should be grounded in open platforms, with open APIs (application programming interfaces). open data, and open code at all levels. No one library will own the code, the platform, or the data that can be downloaded, “free to all.” The spirit that is needed is the hacker spirit embodied by Code4Lib, a group of volunteers associated with libraries, archives and museums who have dedicated themselves to sharing approaches, techniques and code related to the remaking of libraries for the digital era.

Damn right! The Code4Lib approach is the right approach for the future of libraries. (Well, one right approach: I agree with Palfrey’s plan, but add that on the digital side libraries need to take a leading role regarding privacy, and also need to take on climate change, with progressive approaches to labour and social issues underlying everything.)

In the next chapter he enthuses about Jessamyn West and a few others doing fresh, important, different kinds of library work. This is good to see!

Any GLAM hacker will want to read this book. I’m a bit puzzled, though: who is it aimed at? All my Code4Lib colleagues will agree with it. Non-technical librarians I know would agree with the plan, though with reservations based on worries about the future of their own areas of specialization and lack of technical skills. It will be useful when talking to library administrators. How many people outside libraries and archives will read the book? Are there more people out there interested in the future of libraries than I’d have guessed? If so, wonderful! I hope they read this and support the online, open collaboration it describes.

Peter Murray: Separating Configuration from Code in CollectionSpace

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 01:58

For the past few months I’ve been working on a project to migrate a museum’s collection registry to CollectionSpace. CollectionSpace is a “free, open-source, web-based software application for the description, management, and dissemination of museum collections information.”1 CollectionSpace is multitenant software — one installation of the software can serve many tenants. The software package’s structure, though, means that the configuration for one tenant is mixed in with the code for all tenants on the server (e.g, the application layer, services layer, and user interface layer configuration are stored deep in the source code tree). This bothers me from a maintainability standpoint. Sure, Git’s richly featured merge functionality helps, but it seems unnecessarily complex to intertwine the two in this way. So I developed a structure that puts a tenant’s configuration in a separate source code repository and a series of procedures to bring the two together at application-build time.

CollectionSpace Tenant Configuration Structure

There are three main parts to a CollectionSpace installation: the application layer, the services layer, and the user interface layer. Each of these has configuration information that is specific to a tenant. The idea is to move the configuration from these three layers into one place, then use Ansible to enforce the placement of references from the tenant’s configuration directory to the three locations in the code. That way the configuration can be changed independent of the code.

The configuration consists of a file and three directories. Putting the reference to the file — application-tenant.xml — into the proper place in the source code directory structure is straightforward: we use a file system hard link. By their nature, though, We cannot use a hard link to put a reference to a directory in another place in the file system. We can use a soft link, but those were problematic in my specific case because I was using ‘unison‘ to synchronize the contents of the tenant configuation between my local filesystem and a Vagrant virtual system. (Unison had this annoying tendency to delete the directory and recreate it in some synchronization circumstances.) So I resorted to a bind mount to make the configuration directories appear inside the code directories.

To make sure this setup is consistent, I use Ansible to describe the exact state of references. Each time the Ansible playbook runs, it ensures that everything is set the way it needs to be before the application is rebuilt. That Ansible script looks like this:

Some annotations:

  • Lines 12-18 create the hard link for the tenant application XML file.
  • Handling the tenant configuration directories takes three steps. Using the application configuration as an example, lines 20-24 first make sure that a directory exists where we want to put the configuration into the code directory.
  • Next, lines 26-34 uses mount --bind to make the application configuration appear to be inside the code directory.
  • Lastly, lines 35-41 ensures the mount-bind lasts through system rebuilds (although line 33 makes sure the mount-bind is working each time the playbook is run).

Then the typical CollectionSpace application build process runs.

  • Lines 89-120 stop the Tomcat container and rebuilds the application, services, and user interface parts of the system.
  • Lines 122-133 start Tomcat and waits until it is responding.
  • Lines 135-163 log into CollectionSpace, gets the session cookie, then initializes the user interface and the vocabularies/authorities.

I run this playbook almost every time I make a change to the CollectionSpace configuration. (The exception is for simple changes to the user interface; sometimes I’ll just log into the server and run those manually.) If you want to see what the directory structure looks like in practice, the configuration directory is on GitHub.

Footnotes
  1. From the answer to the first question of the CollectionSpace frequently asked questions.

DuraSpace News: Success: Fedora Project Exceeds 2015 Fundraising Goal

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-12-01 00:00

Winchester, MA  As 2015 comes to a close DuraSpace is pleased to announce that the Fedora Project’s annual membership campaign total now stands at $563,750, which exceeds the 2015 fundraising goal of $560,000!  We are extremely grateful to members of the Fedora Leadership Group who have actively participated in securing the financial support that will be required to:

  • continue efforts to simplify migration from Fedora 3 to 4;

Harvard Library Innovation Lab: Link roundup November 30, 2015

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-11-30 21:58

This is the good stuff.

The Irony of Writing About Digital Preservation

Sometimes that pipe isn’t connected to anything.

The Original Mobile App Was Made of Paper | Motherboard

The original mobile apps made of paper

The most Geo-tagged Place on Earth

Defaults (often times in software) influence our data and likely alter the shape of our plastic brains.

The Illustrated Interview: Richard Branson

Sketches instead of text when interviewing a person. So brilliant. Folks are likely less guarded in their responses.

Why is so much of design school a waste of time?

Use critiques as a way to get better. To learn more. As a “gift exchange.”

Islandora: Yet More Islandora Long Tail

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-11-30 14:51

At some point, I will need to start numbering these. The Islandora community has been busy building tools and modules to improve our stack, so even though we did this just back in September, it's time to have a look at modules in development outside the core Islandora release once again.

Previous installments:

Let's add a few more.

Islandora Webform

From the folks at Common Media, this module allows the use of Drupal webforms to contribute metadata for an Islandora object, with a workflow at the webform or object level for site managers to review and ingest submissions. Useful for allowing public contributions into a moderated workflow.

MIK

Developed by Marcus Barnes and the team at Simon Fraser University, the Move to Islandora Kit converts source content files and accompanying metadata into ingest packages used by existing Islandora batch ingest modules. Basically, it is a tool for preparing your objects to import into Islandora. It got its start as a tool to support their move from ContentDM into Islandora, but is growing into a more general tool to get your content ready for the big move into Islandora.

Islandora Identifier Lookup

From Mark Jordan's bag of tricks, this is an Islandora module that lets you get the UUID for an object if you know its PID, and get an object's PID if you know its UUID. Also lets you assign UUIDs to newly ingested objects.

Islandora ThemeKey

Also from Mark Jordan, this one will change a site's theme based on attributes of Islandora objects, using Themekey switching rules. You can build rules around the following attrtibutes:

  • Collection membership (using equals, not equals, contains, and not contains operators).
    • Includes pages of books, and newspaper issues and pages.
    • If an object is a member of multiple collections that are used in ThemeKey rules, the first matching rule in the theme switching chain will be applied.
  • Namespace (using equals, not equals, contains, not contains, regular expression, and not regular expression operators).
  • Content model (using equals, not equals, contains, and not contains operators).
Islandora Pydio Bridge

Built off of work done at Simon Fraser University, this tool from UPEI's Robertson Library systems team allows Pydio users to export files and folders directly to Islandora from within the Pydio application.

LITA: October + November Library Tech Roundup

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-11-30 14:00
Image courtesy of Flickr user byronv2 (CC BY NC)

Each month, the LITA bloggers share selected library tech links, resources, and ideas that resonated with us. Enjoy – and don’t hesitate to tell us what piqued your interest recently in the comments section!

Brianna M.

I shared my openness story on The Winnower, an open access online scholarly publishing platform.

An open letter to PLoS regarding libraries’ role in data curation, compiled by a group of data librarians.

Two takes on data management threshold concepts: from Jake Carlson and from Kristin Briney.

My superb assistant Cameron created data comics to celebrate Halloween and they’re too good not to share.

Cinthya I.

I only have one link to share, but it’s pretty awesome. POP (Prototype on Paper) is a program that lets you create a simulated app without having to know how to code. Simply upload an image file and you can create clickable screens to walk through how the app might work once it would be fully functional. Great for innovation, entrepreneurship, and general pitch sessions!

Michael R.

I am in a post-holiday rush period, so I will just take this opportunity to encourage everyone to review the presentations and handouts from the 2015 LITA Forum, available open access on the forum wiki. There’s some truly great material on there (including three presentations from yours truly).

Always useful is Marshall Breeding’s Library Technology site. For electronic resources and systems librarians, it really is a fantastic resource for keeping up with the latest trends, mergers, and changes in library electronic subscriptions and vendors.

Bill D.

I’ve been heavily into thinking about APIs and how to build them lately, with a focus on how to design/document any API endpoint you might build.

For the backend, the most common way to build things is in a RESTful way using something like Grape for ruby, but I’m giving a serious look at the just-one-endpoint-and-specify-everything approach used in Facebook’s GraphQL. The older and dumber I get, the more I appreciate strict type systems…

What should an API return? These days, the answer is “JSON”, but that’s not very specific. I’m taking a look at json-schema to see if it fits in with how I work.

Desining a good API is hard. There are several competing(?) ways to specify (and simultaneously document) an API you’re designing. The most interesting are API Blueprint, based around extentions to markdown; Swagger (now the Open API Initiative), which provides not only specification and design but code generation, a documentaiton UI, and a host of other things; and RAML, the RESTful API Modeling Language with its own set of tools and libraries. The good news is that one need not be locked in; a quick search shows several tools to convert from one to the other.

Looking to consume http-based APIs? The Postman Chrome extension gives a great interface to mess around with API calls.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. A robots.txt file tells robots how to behave when crawling your site; An apis.json file specifies what APIs are available on a given machine (and, if found, will be automatically added to the clearinghouse at APIs.io)

Finally, having nothing to do with APIs: Markdown Here is a browser extention that allows you to write markdown anywhere there’s a rich-text editor. I use it for GMail and a wide variety of other sites,
and wonder how I used to live without it.

Whitni W. 

In my new position, I support a lot of  free open source software (FOSS) and have been interested in to different takes on why FOSS and what it takes to support it. One article I enjoyed is about what motivates people’s work on open source software and why they continue to work on it.

Another topic I’ve been looking more into is anonymity on the web and handing online harassment. J. Nathan Matias, a PhD student at MIT put together a really helpful resource about understanding online harassment. “A New Starting Point for Understanding Online Harassment

and one last link for interested parties. I get a lot of questions about best practices for using a carousel on a website. I for one do not care for them and would rather direct someone not to use one, however it’s sometimes hard to explain this and Jared Smith put together a simple site that perfectly handles the No’s on web carousels. “Should I use a Carousel?” 

John K.

Ned Potter gives you an alternative for creating a quick website if you need to make something for a conference or a project or a webinar. That way you don’t have to do a whole domain registration, hosting space, etc. but you get something nice-looking. (via his Library Marketing Toolkit website)

David Lee King offer some suggestions on ways you can use Instagram to drive checkouts. David takes a post he read about hacking Instagram to drive sales and applies it to the library world.

And finally Library Data Visualization gives you a way to quickly check where the highest circulation rates for public libraries are in your state. Or you could look at the whole country. The resource was created by the Connecticut State Library and it uses information from the a 2013 IMLS survey. I’m not sure how useful this is but it’s fun to play with.

DuraSpace News: Letter From Fedora Camp

planet code4lib - Mon, 2015-11-30 00:00

Winchester, MA  Fedora enthusiasts from around the US and Canada got together to teach, learn and get to know one another at the recent Fedora Camp held at “The Edge”, Duke University Libraries’ learning commons for research, technology, and collaboration. The open makerspace atmosphere provided an ideal environment for Fedora Camp’s 40 participants to share ideas and work together to better understand how to take advantage of the Fedora open source repository platform.

Jonathan Rochkind: Career change

planet code4lib - Sun, 2015-11-29 22:04

Today is my last day here at Johns Hopkins University Libraries.

After Thanksgiving, I’ll be working, still here in Baltimore, at Friends of the Web, a small software design, development, and consulting company.

I’m excited to be working collaboratively with a small group of other accomplished designers and developers, with a focus on quality. I’m excited by Friends of the Webs’ collaborative and egalitarian values, which show in how they do work and treat each other, how decisions are made, and even in the compensation structure.

Friends of the Web has technical expertise in Rails, Ember (and other MVC Javascript frameworks), as well as iOS development. Also significant in-house professional design expertise.

Their clientele is intentionally diverse; a lot of e-commerce, but also educational and cultural institutions, among others.

They haven’t done work for libraries before, but are always interested in approaching new business and technological domains, and are open to accepting work from libraries. I’m hoping that it will work out to keep a hand in the library domain at my new position, although any individual project may or may not work out for contracting with us, depending on if it’s a good fit for everyone’s needs. But if you’re interested in contracting an experienced team of designers and developers (including an engineer with an MLIS and 9 years of experience in the library industry: me!) to work on your library web (or iOS) development needs, please feel free to get in touch to talk about it. You could hypothetically hire just me to work on a project, or have access to a wider team of diverse experience, including design expertise.

Libraries, I love you, but I had to leave you, maybe, at least for now

I actually really love libraries, and have enjoyed working in the industry.

It may or may not be surprising to you that I really love books — the kind printed on dead trees. I haven’t gotten into ebooks, and it’s a bit embarrassing how many boxes of books I moved when I moved houses last month.

I love giant rooms full of books. I feel good being in them.

Even if libraries are moving away from being giant rooms full of books, they’ve still got a lot to like. In a society in which information technology and data are increasingly central, public and academic libraries are “civil society” organizations which can serve user’s information needs and advocate for users, with libraries interests aligned with their users, because libraries are not (mainly) trying to make money off their patrons or their data. This is pretty neat, and important.

In 2004, already a computer programmer, I enrolled in an MLIS program because I wanted to be a “librarian”, not thinking I would still be a software engineer. But I realized that with software so central to libraries, if I were working in a non-IT role I could be working with software I knew could be better but couldn’t do much about — or I could be working making that software better for patrons and staff and the mission of the library.

And I’ve found the problems I work on as a software engineer in an academic library rewarding. Information organization and information retrieval are very interesting areas to be working on. In an academic library specifically, I’ve found the mission of creating services that help our patrons with their research, teaching, and learning to be personally rewarding as well.  And I’ve enjoyed being able to do this work in the open, with most of my software open source, working and collaborating with a community of other library technologists across institutions.  I like working as a part of a community with shared goals, not just at my desk crunching out code.

So why am I leaving?

I guess I could say that at my previous position I no longer saw a path to make the kind of contributions to developing and improving libraries technological infrastructures and capacities that I wanted to make. We could leave it at that.  Or you could say I was burned out. I wasn’t blogging as much. I wasn’t collaborating as much or producing as much code. I had stopped religiously going to Code4Lib conferences. I dropped out of the Code4Lib Journal without a proper resignation or goodbye (sorry editors, and you’re doing a great job).

9 years ago when, with a fresh MLIS, I entered the library industry, it seemed like a really exciting time in libraries, full of potential.  I quickly found the Code4Lib community, which gave me a cohort of peers and an orientation to the problems we faced. We knew that libraries were behind in catching up to the internet age, we knew (or thought we knew) that we had limited time to do something about it before it was “too late”, and we (the code4libbers in this case) thought we could do something about it, making critical interventions from below. I’m not sure how well we (the library industry in general or we upstart code4libbers) have fared in the past decade, or how far we’ve gotten. Many of the Code4Lib cohort I started up with have dropped out of the community too one way or another, the IRC channel seems a dispiriting place to me lately (but maybe that’s just me).  Libraries aren’t necessarily focusing on the areas I think most productive, and now I knew how hard it was to have an impact on that. (But no, I’m not leaving because of linked data, but you can take that essay as my parting gift, or parting shot). I know I’ve made some mistakes in personal interactions, and hadn’t succeeded at building collaboration instead of conflict in some projects I had been involved in, with lasting consequences. I wasn’t engaging in the kinds of discussions and collaborations I wanted to be at my present job, and had run out of ideas of how to change that.

So I needed a change of perspective and circumstance. And wanted to stay in Baltimore (where I just bought a house!). And now here I am at Friends of the Web!  I’m excited to be taking a fresh start in a different sort of organization working with a great collaborative team.

I am also excited by the potential to keep working in the library industry from a completely different frame of reference, as a consulting/contractor.  Maybe that’ll end up happening, maybe it won’t, but if you have library web development or consulting work you’d like discuss, please do ring me up.

What will become of Umlaut?

There is no cause for alarm! Kevin Reiss and his team at Princeton have been working on an Umlaut rollout there (I’m not sure if they are yet in production).  They plan to move forward with their implementation, and Kevin has agreed to be a (co-?)maintainer/owner of the Umlaut project.

Also, Umlaut has been pretty stable code lately, it hasn’t gotten a whole lot of commits but just keeps on trucking and working well. While there were a variety of architectural improvements I would have liked to make, I fully expect Umlaut to remain solid software for a while with or without major changes.

This actually reminds me of how I came to be the Umlaut lead developer in the first place. Umlaut was originally developed by Ross Singer who was working at Georgia Tech at the time. Seeing a priority for improving our “link resolver” experience, and the already existing and supported Umlaut software, after talking to Ross about it, I decided to work on adopting Umlaut here. But before we actually went live in production — Ross had left Georgia Tech, they had decided to stop using Umlaut, and I found myself lead developer! (The more things change… but as far as I know, Hopkins plans to continue using Umlaut).  It threw me for a bit of a loop to suddenly be deploying open source software as a community of one institution, but I haven’t regretted it, I think Umlaut has been very successful for our ability to serve patrons with what they need here, and at other libraries.

I am quite proud of Umlaut, and feel kind of parental towards it. I think intervening in the “last mile” of access, delivery, and other specific-item services is exactly the right place to be, to have the biggest impact on our users. For both long-term strategic concerns — we don’t know where our users will be doing ‘discovery’, but there’s a greater chance we’ll still be in the “last mile” business no matter what. And for immediate patron benefits — our user interviews consistently show that our “Find It” link resolver service is both one of the most used services by our patrons, and one of the services with the highest satisfaction.  And Umlaut’s design as “just in time” aggregator of foreign services is just right for addressing needs as they come up — the architecture worked very well for integrating BorrowDirect consortial disintermediated borrowing into our link resolver and discovery, despite the very slow response times of the remote API.

I think this intervention in “last mile” delivery and access, with a welcome mat to any discovery wherever it happens, is exactly where we need to be to maximize our value to our patrons and “save the time of the reader”/patron, in the context of the affordances we have in our actually existing infrastructures — and I think it has been quite successful.

So why hasn’t Umlaut seen more adoption? I have been gratified and grateful by the adoption it has gotten at a handful of other libraries (including NYU, Princeton, and the Royal Library of Denmark), but I think it’s potential goes further. Is it a failure of marketing? Is it different priorities, are academic libraries simply not interested in intervening to improve research and learning for our patrons, preferring to invest in less concrete directions?  Are in-house technological capacity requirements simply too intimidating (I’ve never tried to sugar coat or under-estimate the need for some local IT capacity to run Umlaut, although I’ve tried to make the TCO as low as I can, I think fairly successfully). Is Umlaut simply too technically challenging for the capacity of actual libraries, even if they think the investment is worth it?

I don’t know, but if it’s from the latter points, I wonder if any access to contractor/vendor support would help, and if any libraries would be interested in paying a vendor/contractor for Umlaut implementation, maintenance, or even cloud hosting as a service. Well, as you know, I’m available now. I would be delighted to keep working on Umlaut for interested libraries. The business details would have to be worked out, but I could see contracting to set up Umlaut for a library, or providing a fully managed cloud service offering of Umlaut. Both are hypothetically things I could do at my new position, if the business details can be worked out satisfactorily for all involved. If you’re interested, definitely get in touch.

Other open source contributions?

I have a few other library-focused open source projects I’ve authored that I’m quite proud of. I will probably not be spending much time on the in the near future. This includes traject, bento_search, and borrow_direct.

I wrote Traject with Bill Dueber, and it will remain in his very capable hands.

The others I’m pretty much sole developer on. But I’m still around on the internet to answer questions, provide advice, or most importantly, accept pull requests for changes needed.  bento_search and borrow_direct are both, in my not so humble opinion, really well-architected and well-written code, which I think should have legs, and which others should find fairly easy to pick up. If you are using one of these projects, send a good pull request or two, and are interested, odds are I’d give you commit/release rights.

What will happen to this blog?

I’m not sure! The focus of this blog has been library technology and technology as implemented in libraries.  I hadn’t been blogging as much as I used to anyway lately. But I don’t anticipate spending as much(any?) time  on libraries in the immediate future, although I suspect I’ll keep following what’s going on for at least a bit.

Will I have much to say on libraries and technology anyway? Will the focus change? We will see!

So long and thanks for all the… fiche?

Hopefully not actually a “so long”, I hope to still be around one way or another. I am thinking of going to the Code4Lib conference in (conveniently for me) Philadelphia in the spring.

Much respect to everyone who’s still in the trenches, often in difficult organizational/political environments, trying to make libraries the best they can be.


Filed under: General

Cynthia Ng: Code4LibBC Day 2: Moving forward with Code4libBC Breakout Notes

planet code4lib - Sat, 2015-11-28 00:03
Notes from the breakout session discussing the Code4libBC event itself how to have the intermediary discussions how to get people to know enough about each side in order to have good conversation the gathering is very diverse; the more diversity, the more we all learn communications is not easy, so it’s a good opportunity this … Continue reading Code4LibBC Day 2: Moving forward with Code4libBC Breakout Notes

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