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

planet code4lib - Fri, 2015-11-06 01:08
Robert J. Vander Hart

OCLC Dev Network: November 8 System Maintenance

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-11-05 20:30

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

David Rosenthal: Cloud computing; Threat or Menace?

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-11-05 16:00
Back in May The Economist hosted a debate on cloud computing:
Big companies have embraced the cloud more slowly than expected. Some are holding back because of the cost. Others are wary of entrusting sensitive data to another firm’s servers. Should companies be doing most of their computing in the cloud?It was sponsored by Microsoft, who larded it with typical cloud marketing happy-talk such as:
The Microsoft Cloud creates technology that becomes essential but invisible, to help you build something amazing. Microsoft Azure empowers organizations with the creation of innovative apps. Dynamics CRM helps companies market smarter and more effectively, while Office 365 enables employees to work from virtually anywhere on any device. So whether you need on-demand scalability, real-time data insights, or technology to connect your people, the Microsoft Cloud is designed to empower your business, allowing you to do more and achieve more. Below the fold, some discussion of actual content.

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

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

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-11-05 15:50

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

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

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

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

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

LITA: Follow Up Post to: Is Technology Bringing in More Skillful Male Librarians?

planet code4lib - Thu, 2015-11-05 14:48

My main motive for my recent post was to generate discussion on the topic of stereotypes of male librarians, technology, and our profession.  It can get lonely as a writer when you do not have exchange with readers.  It was not meant to be an opinion piece.  I wanted to move away from posting on a technology review or share something I tried at my library.  I wanted to present information I found while reading.  These negative views of our profession are alive and well in our society – to not write about it is to sweep it under the rug.

It may be an exploration of my own experience.  I live it every day.  I am a 40 year old male librarian who fits the stereotype and all these stereotypical elements point to someone who is less than.  When I tell someone that I am a librarian, I get the “you must read a lot” comment which insinuates that my job is not that important if I am leisurely reading passively. Or that librarianship is a “women’s profession” and not worthy of respect.  Or I could not make it in a more stressful, rigorous career environment, cell_phone_spyingso librarianship became my default.  Being a librarian was my first choice and I continue to love this profession.  Only recently have I seen a shift in reactions, since I work at a College of Medicine.  Since medicine has a higher reputation, I get some more respect and aww.   I am a father and married to my lovely wife, and I hold the opinion that our sexuality is fluid and not a box you can check off.  I do not follow or play sports.  I am not a manly man.  I love to read and consider myself scholarly.  I wear thick plastic glasses on purpose and did before the fad and will continue after the fad fades.  I am categorized as brown or colored in some parts of the nation.  All these elements make me less than in society’s eyes.

These are elements that affect the way we are perceived, affecting our salaries, seat at tables, and, most importantly, the level of respect our profession receives from the outside world.


I do recommend reading this month’s ALA article in  American Libraries magazine, The Stereotype Stereotype: Our Obsession with Librarian Representation,  that goes into the topic further at 

Coral Sheldon-Hess: On chronic illness (and other disabilities) as perceived imposition

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 23:21

This is another entry in a series of posts on the mental aspects of chronic illness (for me; I speak only for myself). The image above (which says “You’re not a burden. You’re a human.”) is available as a card from Emily McDowell.

We have this ideal, in American (western?) society, of a “low maintenance” person, and it feels to me like this ideal is placed especially heavily on women’s shoulders.* We should be easygoing, never complaining; and whatever is offered to us should always be enough, should be accepted with gratitude. We must never impose on others. Being properly low-maintenance seems to also require that, if one suffers, they do so in silence. (OK, that one is applied equally across genders, I think.)

It’s a little bit Puritan and a lot … whatever you call the school of thought that yearns for the “good old days” and just wants things to be simple and straightforward. (Never mind that the past was not as simple or as great as these nostalgic folks seem to believe.) Maybe it’s conservative? Or regional? But wherever it comes from, it suffused so many of my childhood teachings that it became a large part of my behavior and preconceptions of others’ behavior well into adulthood.

I think I’m having trouble describing it, because it was like water to a goldfish for me, for a long time. Parts of it probably still are, as I’ll describe below.

The thing I should make clear, at this point, is that anybody who has a disability of any kind is, kind of by definition, “high maintenance.” We have to do a lot of extra work (maintenance) to keep our bodies functioning. We sometimes (often? always?) need different affordances than people who don’t have disabilities, and if you think of able-bodied people as default, then it’s easy for you to think of our needs as impositions.

And the world around me has always thought of able-bodied people (and people without illnesses or dietary restrictions or allergies) as default. For a long time, I’m ashamed to admit, so did I.

In some ways, I still do it—I treat my disabilities as impositions, as something I should apologize for—it’s hard to leave a worldview entirely behind, right? I take an apologetic stance about everything from my inability to wear most shoes (not just high heels, but most flats and even many tennis shoes) to my lack of energy for attending every possible event I might be invited to. (, why do you not have a “maybe” option? Seriously.)

Although I’ve only recently come to think of it in these terms, avoiding being labeled “high maintenance,” or an imposition, due to a disability has been a life-long struggle for me, because I have really, really bad pet (cat, dog, rabbit) allergies—like, serious asthma attack bad. Countless times, I have apologized profusely to people when I couldn’t spend time at their houses, because their pets make me physically ill, or—this is how serious this social conditioning was—I have gone anyway and felt miserable and excused myself to another room when I needed to use my inhaler, so that I would seem like less trouble. I have felt—and many people have subtly made it clear that they agreed—that my disability** was my fault and an imposition on them. Even my current landlord, no joke, put the word “allergies” in scare-quotes in an email and acted like my spouse and I were trying to swindle her when we asked her to remove the pet-stained carpet in the house we’re renting, because it smelled like dogs and was full of dander and was making us sick. (She told us she would replace all the carpets before we moved in. We didn’t get that in writing, so everything is horrible.)

Maybe pet allergies are a special thing; pets are basically family members, and here I am telling people that I can’t be in their houses because of them. I’m sure that sounds a lot like blaming the pets, or not liking them, and I get how that could make someone angry. In reality, I love cats and dogs (and rabbits and birds and lizards and hedgehogs and pretty much all animals, really), but, I admit, not being able to spend time near certain animals is a real damper on my exuberance.

So let’s talk about food, instead of pets. Maybe that’s closer to universal. (I’ll get to arthritis in a bit.)

Maybe this is a weird example, but although I remember practically nothing about the movie “Twister,” all these years later, I still remember how my gut wrenched at this scene, because I was vegetarian at the time (against my family’s wishes) and because I fell for the (rather good) evocation of simplicity and of family and friends-who-grow-into-a-chosen-family and of home and of … just lots of good things that I felt I couldn’t be a part of, because I didn’t eat steak; the lady who raised her eyebrows at the steak was so clearly an outsider, in the scene, and that hurt.

The thing is, vegetarianism was, for me, a choice; since then, although I have gone back to eating meat, I have also developed quite a few food allergies and sensitivities, so I’m in the same boat for a different reason. I imagine that clip would have hurt worse, when I was a kid, if I’d had an allergy to one of those foods.

(I should say, I’m over it now. Happily, I am far less credulous than I was as a teenager. Honestly, it’s a weird thing for me to remember. I should also say, as far as I know, vegetarianism is not ever really a disability, though there are people with allergies to various meats. Still, although neither is a disability, I believe vegetarianism and veganism are things we should respect, in the interests of inclusion.)

This is from 2013, and it boils my blood.

For a more recent example, check out this cartoon. Now, I get that the goal of this is more to skewer liberal parenting, or something, than kids with food allergies. But imagine you are a kid with food allergies, and you see this. Or not even a kid; this one got my goat, and I’m fairly information literate and used to awful rhetoric. Imagine how much it would hurt to have your legitimate needs—”if I eat this and don’t get to a hospital in time it will probably kill me”—lumped in with clearly ridiculous demands like “gender-neutral candy” and “caramel-phobia.”

The cartoon artist should be ashamed: picking on people with food allergies, even just catching them in the spray of some other social commentary, is kind of punching down instead of up, and picking on children is [figuratively] punching literally down. Children with food allergies should be protected, never made fun of.


As far as the arthritis goes, my main feelings of imposition—and subsequent apologies—have mostly had to do with not having the energy to be social. Every now and then there’s awkwardness about not being able to sit on the ground. (To be clear, I actually can sit on the ground. But standing up from it, with an arthritic wrist and knees, can be a challenge, and some days I’m not willing to risk it.) I don’t think I’ve ever actually apologized for that, but sometimes I want to, like when I’m visiting with my little niece and nephew.

And then there are weird one-off things. Like, I had an interview, a while back, and a few days before it happened they sent me the schedule, which had two building tours on it; it didn’t occur to them to ask if I needed accommodation, so I ended up writing a kind of awkward email, asking if I could wear sneakers for the tours. I didn’t disclose a disability, just referred to the foot issue as “an injury” (which is true enough; 3 years ago, I injured it, and because of arthritis it never healed). They were super cool about it, but part of me wonders if that affected my chances at the job. (I didn’t get it. It’s OK. It wasn’t Pittsburgh-based, and I am glad I live here now.)

Or, I don’t know, I went to a corn maize with some friends and almost couldn’t climb the hay bale “steps” into the top of the barn, where there was a huge slide. (I’m glad I made it; it was fun!) I don’t remember if I apologized, but it was awkward, because I also don’t think they knew I had arthritis, at that point. So maybe they just thought I was very out of shape? Again, nobody was mean about it—we’re all still friends—but I felt awkward and misunderstood.

But that’s kind of what it always comes down to: lots of time I either have to disclose my disability, or else offer some alternative explanation for why I am falling outside of people’s expectations for “normalcy.” And with that explanation, by default, comes an apology, because I’m worried people will feel imposed upon. Even friends. Even family.

These attitudes that privilege those who have the luxury of being “low maintenance,” that treat disabilities and differences of any kind, including allergies, as impositions? They are incredibly harmful.

Please understand that there are people with chronic illnesses, disabilities, depression, allergies, autism, etc.—there are lots of people who might fall outside of your defaults.

There are too many examples of people treating others’ disabilities as inconveniences or added costs. (On that last link: I’m not slamming Nina for writing that very good post; I’m slamming the folks who ask the question she was answering.)

So perhaps when I say that I am apologetic when I shouldn’t be, that isn’t quite right. I am apologetic when I shouldn’t have to be, but when most of the implicit signals I receive, both day to day and in the moment, suggest that I should be. Still, it’s a habit I’m trying to break.


* Maybe it’s worse where I grew up, or in my family. Maybe other people don’t feel this as strongly as I do, and it’s blown out of proportion in my head? (up)

** The Americans with Disabilities Act includes allergies in its protections. If you have a library cat, or your office allows dogs other than service animals, maybe think about who you’re excluding. Legally, you can be asked to change that policy. Personally, as someone who is in danger if I go somewhere full of cat or dog dander, I am asking you. Please. (up)

Patrick Hochstenbach: Jakarta Street View

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 21:25
Filed under: Doodles, Sketchbook Tagged: copic, doodle, doodles, jakarta, Photoshop, sketchbook, urbansketching

LITA: Jobs in Information Technology: November 4, 2015

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 19:53

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week:

Serials Librarian, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Head, Technology Systems and Support Services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Vice President for Libraries & Information Technology Services, CUNY Queens College, Flushing, NY

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

NYPL Labs: Emigrant City: An Introduction

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 17:09

NYPL Labs and the Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy are excited to announce the launch of Emigrant City, the Library's newest, online participatory project. Emigrant City invites you to help transcribe recently digitized mortgage and bond record books from the Library’s collection of Emigrant Savings Bank records. Your transcriptions will help make the materials digitally accessible to all, including genealogists, educators, historians. In the process, you'll get a detailed glimpse of real estate transactions and immigrant life during a foundational period of New York City's history. Help the Library build this exciting new resource!

Still operating today, Emigrant Bank is the oldest savings bank in New York City and the ninth-largest privately owned bank in the country. It was founded in 1850 by 18 members of the Irish Emigrant Society with the goal of serving the needs of the immigrant community in New York. NYPL’s Manuscripts and Archives Division houses the Library’s collection of the early records from the bank. The collection’s first mortgage record is dated February 20, 1851. From the mid-19th century through the 1920s, there are an estimated 6,400 mortgages, each telling a story of upward mobility in a rapidly expanding city. (Two of these stories are found in mortgages 1 and 87, belonging to Francis A. Kipp and Mary O'Connor, respectively. Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post detailing their stories.)

These real estate records have remained largely invisible and difficult to search. However, the full Emigrant Savings Bank collection is frequently consulted by genealogists and historians, among others. This collection contains a wide variety of materials about the bank's depositors and borrowers, including minutes of the board of trustees and finance committee. Portions of this larger collection, the test books,  have even been digitized and made available through (This resource is available onsite at all NYPL locations.) Through digitization of the real estate records, and transcribing the hand-written information they contain, we hope to expose this underused portion of the collection to enable new discoveries and research.

Emigrant City is also an experiment. Digitizing materials is much more than simply creating a digital image of a manuscript or artifact. Though computers have made fantastic advances in automatically converting digitized pages into searchable text, vast troves of information exist in libraries and archives that require careful human labor to unlock their deeper contents to search engines and digital researchers. So here at NYPL Labs, we’ve been working with the citizen science mavens at Zooniverse, with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, to prototype of a highly configurable crowdsourcing framework called Scribe that could be used on a wide range of historical and archival material.

Emigrant City joins a collection of crowdsourcing projects launched by NYPL in recent years, including Building Inspector and What's on the Menu? Go to to get started! There are lots of records to go through, and when finished, we’ll have a robust data-set of verified, structured data. Meanwhile, the team is working to create browsing and bulk download options for this wealth of information. With the growing data set, we’ll be able to find myriad stories, like those of Francis Kipp and Mary O'Connor, and to ask innumerable questions. It’s a lot of work, but we’re confident we can do it. Join us!

Roy Tennant: EBook Reader Ownership Falls. Duh.

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 16:56

A Pew Research Center survey has discovered something that some might be surprised to read: “Today, about one-in-five adults (19%) report owning an e-reader, while in early 2014 that share was a third (32%).” This is quite a notable drop, especially considering that MP3 player ownership has dropped only slightly in the same period. One could argue that a smartphone is an excellent replacement for an MP3 player, but is a less than satisfactory replacement for an ebook reader.

Tablet ownership (45% of U.S. adults) is much higher than that of ebook readers, but of course as we all know tablets can be quite serviceable ebook readers. In fact, I called single purpose devices dead upon the arrival of Apple’s iPad, and although it has taken much longer than I expected, the trend surfaced by Pew seems to bear out that prediction. I know that I happily use my iPad as an e-reader, and I know that many others do as well.

The fact that I can also stream video, play music, do online banking, surf the web, etc. makes an ebook reader begin to sound like the brick that more people are discovering that it is.

Islandora: Dispatches from the User List: Embedding objects, CPU loads, and ingest performance improvements

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 15:21

The Islandora listserv is a great place to get help, let the community know about interesting things you're working on, and seek collaborators. This week (as we have done in the past), we'll take a quick look at some conversations going on that more people should know about.

Embedding islandora content in other sites is a use case brought up by Jennifer Eustis from the University of Connecticut. They have users who might like to grab an Islandora object, copy a line of code, and plop it into other sites running of different platforms - jut s as you can do with a Youtube video or a Google map. Turns out there's been a JIRA ticket for this feature since June, where Nick Ruest notes that the University of Oklahoma has already started some work, using oEmbed and the Drupal oEmbed module, which could be generalized for the Islandora community. If it's something you might want to use too, chime in and add your use case. Certainly there are multiple ways of tackling this need - Donald Moses and Paul Pound from UPEI built their own Islandora Video Filter module to accomplish site-wide embedding of videos.

The thread CPU Load was Went up sharply! contains some brilliant troubleshooting by University of North Carolina Charlotte's Brad Spry, after a user reported problems with CPU load for an Islandora site that had to support 10,000 users. The original problem is still under investigation with further support from some other volunteer troubleshooters, but Brad's tools and methods for diagnosing and alleviating server load issues have broad applications for other sites and are well worth exploring if you have experiences similar issues.

In another example of volunteer troubleshooters being awesome, Eric Koester from Andrews University went to the listserv to get advice on options to improve overall ingest timeframes, and Diego Pino and Brad Spry delivered some options that are worth just quoting here:


First: RAM. Derivatives and ingestion of binaries is Memory consuming. The more fine tuned you have your java env, the more speed you will get. @Brad Spry has a deep knowledge on this. Second: Logging. Generating logs is good for debugging and understanding what is happening, but if you already have everything tuned and working, tested, etc, my experience is that if you have too fine logs for fedora, gsearch, solr and catalina, then this will also add some ingestion time. Third: if you disable gsearch (even ActiveMQ if needed) on massive ingestion, tenable afterwards and do reindexing manually, speed up is gained also. Same for derivatives, good idea to do them offline.   But there are also other options here:   a.1) you can batch ingest only metadata first, then put together a script for completing the binary datastreams (keeping track of the PIDS) using fedora client (look at a2 for ideas)   a.2) @Giancarlo Birello has some good info on batch ingesting (using external tools to islandora) They have a lot of books and they do derivatives outside Islandora.  a.3) They also have a taverna workflow.   b) Fedora allows read-only replication. This is very useful because you can have an master that gets the ingestion and some "clones - slaves" that serve (using a journaling system) read online to the outside world. Since the slaves get all the activeMQ messages, they do also gsearch indexing.   c) You can also easily /but time consuming rebuild a parallel Fedora server using only the object store (Akubra or the legacy) by shutting down one fedora, copying that folder to another Fedora, rebuild, start. You can copy  ActiveMQ messages still waiting for being processed if you wan't, but i think in your case b) is more optimal.   Also, other way, the way we do things, is to have multiple REPO's acting as "one to the public" by sharing a common Solr collection using, e.g Solr Cloud. So you can split your work on different servers and expose at least global search via a common search.   Lastly but very important. It's a good to take Fedora4 and Islandora2 in consideration. Fedora4 resolves a lot of the issues regarding distributed scenarios and concurrent ingesting, and @Daniel Lamb has come up with some very interesting implementations based on Camel and also directly on php (Chullo) to manage  your problems. We are on a development stage where use cases and of course involvement (developers from the community are very needed) is a must, so i encourage you to get involved.


One performance tip: If you place your object upload location in close proximity to Drupal's temp and Fedora's temp, some like ingest file operations can happen on the same drive instead of having to copy files across the system bus between multiple drives.    

This particular issue has a noticeable effect on derivative generation performance:

...but I'm shifting my hope to Islandora 2.0 and Fedora 4.0 for ultimately resolving that issue.   Every Islandorian shares the same desire for the very best ingest and derivative generation performance!  

There are also some very advanced Islandora implementations, like Diego mentioned, which background and offload derivative generation processes.  You can read more about the characteristics of such a configuration here:

To your question of creating a fleet of Islandora boxes for simultaneous Fedora ingest, that is an intriguing possibility...  If each system could utilize the same MySQL and same filesystem, it sounds feasible; it certainly inspires curiosity :-)    On AWS, one can use RDS for centralized MySQL and EFS for a true shared filesystem, but EFS is still in preview mode and not released for production, YET.    S3 is not appropriate for Fedora's objectStore and resourceIndex, this much I learned the hard way.    But an autoscaling fleet of ingest servers has a definite appeal, for sure :-)

It is absolutely possible to have single master "ingestion" box and then copy the results to a live production server at night; that pretty much describes my current implementation.   I have such a strategy with a built-in safety mechanism, which only allows a full sync (the Tomcat side) to happen if NO ingest or BagIt writing operations are detected:

drush_ready=$(ps aux 2>/dev/null |grep drush 2>/dev/null |wc -l)
loadingdock_ready=$(/usr/bin/lsof /mnt/island1-loadingdock | grep -e "[[:digit:]]\+[wu]\{1\}" |wc -l)

if (( $drush_ready == '0' || $drush_ready == '1' && $loadingdock_ready == '0'))

#full sync

I came up with a "heartbeat" style strategy to communicate with the receiving system exactly what is about to happen.   If a full sync is detected, the receiving system will shutdown Tomcat in anticipation of full synchronization.   After the full sync is complete, the receiving system rebuilds its Fedora Resource Index and starts itself up.    It can be done!

Want more? Sign up or browse the arhicves on Google Groups

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: Gendered Expectations for Leadership in Libraries

planet code4lib - Wed, 2015-11-04 13:00

Photo by Flickr user Nic McPhee (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In Brief

Despite significant gains in representation at the administration level, there is still a disparity between the percentage of women in our profession and women as library leaders. Additionally, even when women attain leadership roles, even top positions in libraries, there are still hurdles in the shape of gendered expectations. This article examines the history of gender representation in the field, discusses some recent trends, and then makes some recommendations for creating an environment in which women can succeed and how, more specifically, the profession could become more supportive of women in leadership roles.


The path to the director’s office is convoluted for some and a straight shot for others, and the reasons we want to move up into administrative roles are even more varied. For some, financial considerations are uppermost. Others seek careers in administration based on a conviction that “I can do a better job than my boss. I know it!” And then there are those individuals who know, from the moment they fill out their graduate school applications, that they want to be the “head cheese in charge” of a library. Both men and women (and people who do not fall at either end of that false binary) can and do make good leaders, but stereotypes and gendered expectations present an unexpected barrier for many of us. Women are often perceived as nice, kind, and nurturing, while men are usually perceived as forceful, knowledgeable, and decisive. If you do not fall neatly into one of these stereotypical modes, or even if you do, gender expectations can be at the root of a lot of workplace difficulties. In our case, both authors made the decision to seek a job in administration in part based upon the disproportionate gender representation among library directors, university librarians, and other leadership positions in the field. Also, let’s be honest: we both knew we could do it better than some of the ways we had seen it done. And yes, we both ran face-first into gendered expectations.

Anyone reading this article is probably aware of the disparity in the numbers of men and women in librarianship. It’s something that people talk about. A lot. Since the beginning of the 20th century, women have comprised 75% of the librarian profession (Beck, 1991). But, by the middle of the century, the recruitment of men into the profession tipped the scales in administrative and management positions (O’Brien, 1983). Librarianship then became a predominantly female profession that was overwhelmingly led by men. This trend changed in the latter part of the last century and into the current one: according to Association of Research Libraries (ARL), male director representation dropped to around 40% (ARL, 2010, cited in a literature review published by DeLong in 2013), which is a significant change. However, since the gender breakdown of the profession as a whole is still around 80% women and 20% men (according to multiple sources cited), this is still not a representative number. Moreover, while it seems that we may have balanced the scales in terms of leadership positions (balanced to 50/50, that is, with some claims of salary parity for those that make it to the top) (Deyrup, 2004), it is clear that a related issue began to emerge, probably due to the increasing numbers of women in leadership positions: a strong (mis)perception of women as leaders. Meaning, even though there are more women leaders now, we are still not doing it right. Or, more to the point, we are not doing it the way people want us to do it. We do not act like men. This is not, then, parity. It isn’t enough to have women in administrative positions and for them to be paid at similar rates, though that’s a great start. We want leaders, male or female or people who don’t identify in those ways, to be valued for what they each bring to their organizations.

In this essay, we will consider some of the gendered expectations of leadership and how all of this bears on academic library leadership. We will also tell you how it makes us feel. We hope that it makes you angry like it did us. We hope that it makes you want to help us change the system. We are speaking both from our experiences and from evidence found in the literature, and we know that the lived daily experiences of gender-non-conforming and non-binary individuals can play out differently. We also want to affirm that race, age, and other cultural perspectives will influence not only your own experiences but the reactions of those around you. Much of our research, which affirmed our suspicions, falls within the library literature, but there is a large body of work in business and psychology about the role of gender and gendered expectations in leadership. One further caveat: we know that available statistics usually skew towards ARL libraries, but we feel this reflects the reality present in academic libraries at large. We hope that some of what we have learned personally and through considering the literature of the field is transferrable to other library types and even to other female dominated professions, but we would never presume to suggest that our solutions are a one-size-fits-all response to these expectations.

Gendered Leadership in Our Lives

The authors proposed this article out of a joint frustration with our own experiences as we transitioned from middle management as a department head and an information literacy coordinator respectively. We experienced a broad range of situations that were clearly gendered in nature, experiences we shared with each other and with other women leaders in our own and related professions (Harris, 1992) only to find that we weren’t alone. It helped ameliorate the frustration to know others have had similar or even identical experiences. Many female leaders we know were told to be nicer to their subordinates. We’ve also had similar experiences with being called slightly (or even blatantly) sexist things that, when mentioned to higher ups, were met responses like “well, that’s just the culture around here.” We we were not the only ones who’d had experiences at work with people who disliked our “style” as women leaders. Being told to contain our anger when we see male colleagues yell at even the highest administrators with no negative repercussion is another source of frustration. For us, writing this article is a way to take our frustrations and experiences and turn them into something useful.

When we spoke about our own experiences to a small group of other female library administrators, we were overwhelmed but not really surprised by their sharing of similar experiences. We asked permission to share some of their words in this essay, and promised anonymity in return. The authors both know that “challenging the status quo strongly enough to have an impact on it but not so strongly that one cannot succeed within it” (Fletcher, 1999, p. 131) is a difficult balance to strike, and giving others voice is important to us.

One of our colleagues explained, “At my current job, I recently stood/spoke up for all the women… when one employee thought it was appropriate to make a sexist comment. [Our male superior] still hasn’t spoken to this employee because the conversation makes him ‘uncomfortable.’” Another spoke about how she’s afraid to speak up: “I want to start a blog but I won’t because I know it will be used against me. I want to tweet like I used to [before coming to work at my current job] but know I can’t. It’s just so disheartening to know if I was a man that this would not be a thing.” We also heard about what happens when women take middle management roles in the intersection of librarianship and educational technology: “I suspect that the head of the tech/library department both a) thinks I’m stupid because I’m a woman and a librarian and b) is threatened by me because he’s realizing that I’m a lot better than him at certain things. It would be funny if it weren’t so frustrating.” Another participant in the conversation shared how it’s not just leaders in libraries, but also women who take leadership positions in professional organizations: “I remembered watching certain women get torn apart in my state association for being too brash, too bossy, too ‘too’. I really admired many of them, and this still makes me sad and angry.” We were also pleased to hear what can happen when things go well, from someone who had left a previous job due to gender-based problems: “Thank the high heavens I landed in a job (with an amazing female director) that supports me, encourages me to succeed and fail and all that good stuff!”

Gendered Leadership Everywhere

These themes were born out when we looked beyond our own experiences. What we found in looking through literature, both in and outside of our field, was at times enraging and at times soothing in that it made us feel better that we were not imagining bias. It exists. Gendered expectations of women leaders is a thing people in library science and beyond have been writing about for some time. A piece on the Harvard Business Review blog network is especially worth noting here. “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuz (a professor of business psychology at University College London and a faculty member at Columbia University) features a discussion of literature related to traits of successful leaders. In particular, Chamorro-Premuz posits that “the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio [in for-profit industries] is our inability to discern between confidence and competence,” (¶2). The author also spoke eloquently about the problematic nature inherent in the narcissism of Hollywood-Picture-Perfect leadership, as well as how easy it is to promote such leaders because “a much bigger problem is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men” (¶10). We all know competent, supportive, and deeply qualified male library leaders, but it does bear repeating: there are not as many career obstacles for men as for women who want to ascend to administration, which means it is easier for men who hold themselves authoritatively without actual authority to fool people into believing the lie. This is not to say that all incompetent library administrators are men, but it does say something that our profession is made up of an estimated 80% women, and yet the women in leadership is in the 50% range.

This idea that fewer obstacles are placed in the paths of men who aspire to leadership is born out in other research. Of particular interest is the work of Ruth Simpson who wrote, “Masculinity at Work: The Experiences of Men in Female Dominated Occupations,” a little over ten years ago, in her work focusing on “pink professions.” The conclusions shared by Simpson reflect our personal experiences in the field. Even if the subjects of Simpson’s study were uncomfortable with the distinctions, they readily admitted that much of what is done within “women’s work” fields is divided into front line work (women) and management (men). One particular criticism struck home: “ideologies and discourses of gender have a crucial role to play in promoting and sustaining the sexual division of labour and the social definition of tasks as either ‘men’s work’ or ‘women’s work,’” (5). Crossing the lines of expected roles has multiple possible repercussions. Negative outcomes, such as feminization and stigmatization, are possible, but the positive outcomes for men – such as “career effect” (implied professionalism and immediate respect) and “assumed authority” (being seen as the one in charge, despite a lack of experience) – are much more common. Even more discouraging was how, in this study, male librarians and nurses felt freer to make mistakes and not be called to task for it, especially with regards to mistakes outside of the performance of duties, such as being repeatedly late to work.

Women and Leadership: We Keep Reading and Writing about the Dichotomy

As previously mentioned, the struggle of women to live up to or to fight gendered expectations of leadership positions is well-documented and a topic of strong dichotomies. Some say women are doing quite well as leaders and some articles even suggest women make the best leaders. Fairly recently, the mainstream media has been touting that companies can be most successful if they hire women to lead, while surveys of personnel still reveal that people prefer to work for men (Eagly, 2007). When women are leaders, they are expected to act in a very specific, gendered way. Alice Eagly noted at an invited address at the American Psychological Association in 2006 that:

Women are faced with accommodating the sometimes conflicting demands of their roles as women and their roles as leaders. In general, people expect and prefer that women be communal, manifesting traits such as kindness, concern for others, warmth, and gentleness and that men be agentic, manifesting traits such as confidence, aggressiveness, and self direction (Eagly, 4).

To our eyes, that quote speaks to a commonly held perception: only men are expected to be agenic. If women are, then those women fail the “gender” test.

We found similar themes everywhere we looked, and we found a lot while looking. In fact, we were surprised to find how deeply our topic had been researched previously. It was not so much that we thought we were the first to realize the issues of gender in leadership as that we hadn’t expected so much of it to fall within the realm of library science literature. In our experiences and training, we’d been presented with an image of library leadership as a somewhat monochromatic perspective, as predominantly male. One piece we encountered went so far as to explain the gender breakdown thusly: “It was the natural order for men to be heads of academic libraries, particularly major research libraries, and the male minority presumably advanced the careers of other men” (DeLong, 64). Regardless of the past, the representation in our leadership has seen significant improvement. However, DeLong (who provided the statistics we quoted earlier in the article) shared a perspective that is a bit disheartening:

Women who aspire to leadership positions in libraries should be aware that the pace of change and acceptance of women in leadership roles continues to be slow, perhaps even slackening, and they will continue to find barriers and obstacles to surmount in attaining the career and leadership roles that they desire. (69)

It would be easy for us to say that we, as a profession (both librarians and the subset of academic librarians), just need to set aside gendered expectations, but that would be naive at best and more realistically could be seen as disingenuous. Fighting stereotypes definitely needs to be part of the effort, but we need to do more. By writing this article, we are hoping to confront these expectations as a first step. The larger work of intersectional feminists is slowly but surely shifting the attention of our broader culture, and this essay is our way to add our voices to theirs. We want to go a step further, however. We would like to share with you some ideas that have seen us and colleagues through difficult times. We would also invite you to comment on this essay to share your own approaches, with the obvious caveat of asking you to pay attention to the Lead Pipe Comment Policy.

More Personal Experience

So, how does it make two female library administrators feel to read article after article about how people really prefer male leaders and if they have to have a woman leader, they’d like her to fit their stereotype of “Be soft. But, wait. Don’t be too soft.”? Well, it feels like reality.

We came together to write this article because we started sharing our personal experiences with each other and found much in common. While both of the authors feel supported by our respective administrations, we have at times, especially early in our management careers, felt isolated, marginalized, and a myriad of other feelings because we weren’t perceived as the “right kind of female leader.” Not nice enough or too nice. Too harsh and bossy or too wishy washy. The interest in this literature and research came from a genuine place: from two women who do not fit the stereotype of overly warm or nice but both consider themselves to be empathetic, kind, and effective.

Conducting this survey of the literature, reading about these issues in depth, made us both angry, but it was also an affirming experience because it confirmed that we have not been imagining things. There is a clear gender bias both in how employees view their bosses and what their expectations are for those leaders. The question for us is now: what do we do to change these perceptions, if anything, and more importantly, what can we do to help our peers who understand this struggle and those who will come after us?

What Do We Do Now?

Talk to anyone who has researched the topic of library leadership and gender in the last thirty years and you will get a lot of nodding heads. “Yeah, I read that too.” “Yep, that’s what I was finding.” Librarians are writing and reading and writing and reading about the problems of gender in our profession, but we need to do more.

We need to walk the talk. We, managers and staff alike, need to be good allies. There is no one experience for women or women leaders or women academic librarian leaders, and we need to listen to the experiences of others – not just people who are like us. How do you get people to be supportive and good allies in the workplace? There are certainly best practices to follow such as partnering with campus Human Resources offices to offer training that address sexism, racism, homophobia, and encourage inclusivity. Having others come into your library to offer the training also takes away the idea that the woman leader is the one pushing the agenda. This last thought is crucial. At larger institutions with larger libraries, library administrators can probably dictate these kinds of training without pushback, but at smaller institutions like ours we want to make sure people don’t feel singled out.

But what does the woman leader do when she feels that she’s fighting an uphill battle without allies and is treated differently because of her gender? She must begin to confront the situation and document mistreatment.

We also need to work to fight against the stereotypes and preconceived notions. The tattooed and tough librarian is just as misleading a stereotype as the bunned, cardigan wearing, shushing one. Nobody is going to demonstrate exclusively female traits (conciliatory, nurturing, etc.) nor exclusively male ones (decisive, powerful, etc.). This suggestion is admittedly a perfect example of “easier said than done,” but it still bears stating.

Our national and state professional organizations need to help. There are numerous opportunities for leadership development, but none that specifically focus on the development and support of women as leaders. Women leaders may have increased our numbers and we may have achieved parity in salary in certain kinds of positions in academic librarianship, but that’s just the start. Our job descriptions might be identical, but the day-to-day reality of our jobs can look different from our male counterparts, and we need some help. Existing support systems and training opportunities, such as the Leading Change Institute (formerly the Frye Leadership Institute) and the College Library Directors Mentor Program are a helpful start, but gender is barely mentioned, if at all, in such settings. There are structures in place for general leadership growth, but almost nothing exists that specifically addresses gender.

Both of the authors have been fortunate in the support we’ve received as we worked our way up the hierarchy of academic librarianship, but we both also had major hurdles to overcome with regards to gendered expectations. We can’t help but think that if we have faced these challenges, others have to be facing similar or even worse. We needed and created a support system in order to keep growing as leaders, but we know that’s not enough. The real fear is that if we do not change the system, if we don’t create a space for women to be encouraged, respected, promoted, and treated equally in library management, then the numbers will again drop and there will be less women leadership in libraries. Again. Women leaders are receiving too many mixed messages. Those who want to make the changes do not often have enough structural power to do so. We need a larger, vocal, active voice. We want to encourage our community to take action and develop workshops and other continuing education opportunities specifically for women. But they need to be in a safe environment. Women deans and directors need a place to talk to each other where they can talk about what really happens in their workplaces and not worry that it will get back to their campuses or libraries. It needs to be constructive and honest. We need to know what to do with problem situations at work where we know we are being treated unfairly, but no one on our campuses can give us more honest advice than “keep documenting it.” The problem is that documenting things and eventually removing the people involved doesn’t get at changing the underlying culture and systemic sexism. We need training in how to deal with situations that are not taken seriously at our workplaces. We need to create a stronger, more active and open peer group.

We’ve developed this kind of community in the backchannels and whisper networks, but we’d like to see it become more intentional and supported by our professional organizations. Furthermore, there is no space where most of us feel safe enough to share our thoughts about how we are treated as leaders. That is one of the biggest problems of all. At the very least, our leadership literature and training needs to be gender-inclusive (meaning that it specifically addresses the challenges of gender) instead of gender-neutral (which usually comes out male-oriented). We feel strongly that women do not need to act more like men. Men also do not need to just play their societally expected “gender role.” And while we have mostly used the convenient shorthand associated with the fictional gender binary, we also strongly believe that people who identify as other than cisgendered need space and freedom of gender-expression as well. We all need to be ourselves.

Instead of a Conclusion, A Call to Action

We need to give each other room to maneuver and grow. The most important advice we have was reflected in a recently published article: Christina Neigel writes, “Librarians need to be empowered to question assumptions about what it means to be a librarian in the 21st century by having a clear understanding of how their own profession is subject to social relations of power and domination,” (522). In other words, we need to remember that libraries are changing and growing organizations that need room to reflect our past as well as our future.

Through writing this article, the authors struggled with how honest to be about our own experiences. We know this problem is more than our immediate environs. There are certainly individuals who have made us uncomfortable, like the administrator who made an off color comment and defended it when an objection was voiced, but it’s not about the individuals. It’s about the system, the culture. Women need to mentor each other and build each other up. Finding a network of other female administrators is invaluable. The women who are like-minded, who have been there and done that, can lead you through the minefield that is often library administration. Part of our conversation took place in a private online space, and the affirmations we got made us realize that we are trying to start a community. We need a way to pair mentors with mentees. Perhaps this article is a bit of us thinking out loud, with a solid grounding in the literature, about what shape that could take. There are only two of us, but we see a need for something like the #libtechgender movement. We are proposing a partner hashtag and community that could grow beyond this article. We want to start #libleadgender. We want to find a way to pair those who are considering leadership with those who’ve already taken that step. We know there are models that work to pair new leaders with experienced administrators, but part of our intention in writing this piece is to encourage future leaders to take that step. We’ve both had conversations with new librarians who see what it’s like to lead a library and have sworn it wasn’t for them. But again, there are only two of us and if we really want to change perceptions and expectations of gender for leadership in libraries, we will need help. What do you say? Are you in?

The authors would like to thank the people involved with #libtechgender discussions, especially Coral Sheldon-Hess, for getting us thinking in this way. We might not have pursued writing this article if not for their important work. We would also like to thank our support group of other female librarians for their insight, personal experiences and quotes that helped frame this work. And of course thanks to our reviewers Marie Radford, Annie Pho, and Ellie Collier.

Selected Bibliography

Beck, C. (1991). Reference Services: A Handmaid’s Tale. Library Journal, 116(7), 33-37.

Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2013, August 22). Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

DeLong, K. (2013). Career Advancement and Writing about Women Librarians: A Literature Review. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 8(1), 59-75.

Deyrup, M. (2004). Is the Revolution Over? Gender, Economic, and Professional Parity in Academic Library Leadership Positions. College & Research Libraries, 65(3), 242-250.

Eagly, A. (2007). Female Leadership Advantage And Disadvantage: Resolving The Contradictions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 1-12.

Fletcher, J.K. (1999). Disappearing Acts: Gender, Practice, and Relational Practice at Work. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Harris, R.M. (1992). Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman’s Profession. Norwood, NJ: Ablex. Pub. Corp.

Neigel, C. (2015). LIS Leadership and Leadership Education: A Matter of Gender. Journal of Library Administration, 55(7), 521-534.

O’Brien, Patricia Nancy (1983). “The Recruitment of Men into Librarianship, Following World War II.” In The status of Women in Librarianship: Historical, Sociological, and Economic Issues, edited by Kathleen M. Heim. New York: Neal-Schuman, 51-66.

Simpson, R. (2004). Masculinity at Work: The Experiences of Men in Female Dominated Occupations. Work Employment and Society, 18 (2), 349-368.

District Dispatch: Restrictions thwart 3D printing exemption

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-11-03 23:32

Library of Congress’ rules for unlocking 3D printers thwart the exemption. Courtesy of Amanda Slater, Flickr.

Copyright Office to makers: Break unfair 3D printing DRM – but not really.

Since late last year, the American Library Association has been tracking and participating in the latest round of the 1201 Rulemaking. Through this rulemaking process, the Copyright Office evaluates petitions for hacking barriers to digital content (formally known as Digital Rights Management) for lawful purposes. (ALA recently welcomed exemptions for the use of film clip excerpts for educational purposes as well as MOOCs and literacy programs offered by libraries and museums–see related statement).

As you might imagine – given its increasing salience in tech and policy discussions – 3D printing was a topic for consideration in the 1201 proceedings this time around. In keeping with ALA’s efforts to establish the library community as a major player in the ongoing efforts to create frameworks for using and providing access to 3D printers, ALA’s Washington D.C. Copyright team was one of the leading voices in the 3D printing debates pursuant to the 1201 Rulemaking. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) – a library organization triumvirate including ALA, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Association of College and Research libraries (ACRL) – joined D.C.-based think tank Public Knowledge in standing up for fair access to 3D printing technology.

LCA and Public Knowledge asserted that the Copyright Office should formally allow users to break digital locks designed to limit the types of filaments a 3D printer will print with because doing so
does not violate copyright law. Last week, the Copyright Office rendered its verdict on our argument, and…well, we got news alright. Here’s what it said:

The exemption [to the prohibition against breaking the digital locks] shall not extend to any computer program on a 3D printer that produces goods or materials for use in commerce the physical production of which is subject to legal or regulatory oversight…

So, in other words, if your printer has a digital lock limiting the kinds of materials that can be used in the printing process, as a user you can break that lock – but only if:

  1. Your printer is not capable of printing goods or materials intended for use in commerce.
  2. Your printer is not capable of printing goods or materials that are subject to legal or regulatory oversight.

You don’t have to marinate long over these two qualifications to be perplexed, and even vexed by the Copyright Office’s finding. Re: #1 – it’s hard to imagine a printer that’s not at least capable of printing an item that’s designed to be marketed. Re: #2 – it’s similarly hard to imagine a 3D printer that’s not at least capable of printing an item that’s subject to legal or regulatory oversight. One might even argue that virtually every item under the sun is, to some degree, subject to oversight of this kind.

Boiling it down, the Copyright Office seems to have said, “If your 3D printer has a filament-restricting technology, go ahead and circumvent it – as long as the 3D printer isn’t…well…a 3D printer.” It would be funny if it weren’t such unfortunate news for users and providers of 3D printing technology.

For a more thorough analysis of the Copyright Office’s Section 1201 3D printing rules, read a blog post by Michael Weinberg, formerly of Public Knowledge, now of 3D printing marketplace Shapeways.

The post Restrictions thwart 3D printing exemption appeared first on District Dispatch.

LITA: Double Robotics fun at LITA Forum

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-11-03 21:13

Attention Forum registrants and procrastinators!

Register for the 2015 LITA Forum in Minneapolis, MN by November 10th and be entered in a drawing to test-drive a telepresence robot provided by Forum sponsor, Double Robotics!

15 lucky winners will have the opportunity to try out networking and navigating the keynote presentations or concurrent sessions with a robot double. So if you haven’t already, take 5 minutes and register already.



Also, accommodations are still available at the Forum hotel, the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, but they’re going fast.

Are you the planning type? Design your Forum experience ahead of time by signing up for Forum events and activities on the Forum Wiki.

Forum Sponsors:

EBSCO, Ex Libris, Optimal Workshop, OCLCInnovativeBiblioCommons, Springshare, SirsiDynixA Book ApartRosenfeld Media and Double Robotics.

See you in Minneapolis!

Karen Coyle: The Standards Committee Hell

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-11-03 20:01
I haven't been on a lot of standards committees, but each one has defined a major era in my life. I have spent countless hours in standards committees. That's because a standards committee requires hundreds of hours of reading emails, discussing minutiae (sometimes the meaning of "*", other times the placement of commas). The one universal in standards creation is that nearly everyone comes to the work with a preconceived idea of what the outcome should be, long before hearing (but not listening to) the brilliant and necessary ideas of fellow members of the committee. Most of these standards-progressing people are so sure that their sky is the truest blue that they hardly recognize the need to give passing attention to what others have to say.

In one committee I was on, the alpha geek appeared the first day with a 30-page document in hand, put it on the table, and said: "There. It's done. We can all go home now." He was smiling, but it wasn't a "ha ha" smile, it was a "gotcha" smile. That committee lasted over two years, two long, painful years in which we never quite climbed out of the chasm that we were thrown into on that first day. Over that two-year period we chipped away at the original document, transformed a few of its more arcane paragraphs into something almost readable, and eventually presented the world with a one hundred page document that was even worse than what we had started with. Thus is the way of standards.
" is so perfect in fact that the underlying model can be applied to any - absolutely any - technology in the universe."A particular downfall of standards committees is what I will call "the perfect model." I can only describe it with an analogy. Let's say that you are designing a car (by committee, of course), and one member of the group is an engineer with a particular passion for motors. In fact, he (yes, so far I've only run into "he's" of this nature) has this dream of the perfect internal combustion engine. Existing engines have made too many compromises -- for efficiency and economy and whatever other corners manufacturers have desired to cut. But now there is the opportunity to create the standard, the standard that everyone will follow and that will make every internal combustion engine the perfect, beautiful engine. The person (let's call him PersonB, reserving PersonA for oneself, or perhaps the chair of the committee, or, depending on the standards body, for the founder of the standards body and inspiration for all things technological) has developed a new four-stroke engine, which he modestly names with an acronym that includes his name. We'll call this the FE (famous engineer) 4x2 engine. The theory of the FE4x2 is as finely honed as the tolerances between the pistons and their housing; it is so perfect in fact that the underlying model can be applied to any - absolutely any - technology in the universe. Because of the near-divine nature of this model, the use of common terminology cannot describe its powers. Perhaps it would be preferable to not name the model and its features at all, leaving it, like Yahweh, to be alluded to but never spoken. However, standards bodies must describe their standards in documents, and even sell these to potential creators of the standard product, so names for the model and its components must be chosen. To inspire in all the importance of the model, terms are chosen to be as devoid of meaning as possible, yet so complex that they produce awe in the reader. Note that confusion is often mistaken for awe by the uneducated.

 Our committee now has described the perfect engine using the universal model, but the standards organization survives on hawking specifications to enterprising souls who will actually create and attempt to sell products that can be certified by the August Authoritative Standards Organization. This means that the thing the standard describes has to be packaged for use. Because the model is perfect, the package surely cannot be mundane. You don't put this engine in something resembling a Sears and Roebuck toaster oven. No, the package must have class, style, and a certain difficulty of use that makes the owner of the final product really think hard about what each knob is for. In fact, it would be ideal if every user would need to attend a series of seminars on the workings of this Perfect Thing. There's a good market for consultants to run these seminars, especially those members of the community who haven't got the skill to actually manufacture the product themselves. Those who can't do, as the saying goes, teach.

The final package needs also to justify the price that will be charged by purveyors of this product. It needs to be complex but classy. It has to waft on the wind of the past while promising an unspecified but surely improved future. The car committee needs to design a chassis that is worthy of the Perfect Engine. Committee members would love for it to be designed around a yet-to-be developed material, one that just screams Tomorrow! Again, though, there is that need to sell the idea to actual manufacturers, so the committee adds to the standard a chassis made of tried-and-true materials that must be tortured into a shape that could be, but probably will not be, what the not-yet-real future technology allows.
"But what about the children?"Whatever you do, do not be the person on the committee who asks: But what about the driver? How comfortable will it be? Will it be safe? Can children ride in it? (Answer: no, anyone who cares about the Perfect Engine will obviously have the sense to eschew children, who will only distract the adult's attention from the admiration of the Perfect Engine.) And never, ever point out that the design does not include doors for entering the vehicle. It's perfect, okay, just leave it at that. This is how we get a standard, and the industry around a standard; an industry that exists because the standard is so deeply just and true and right that no one can figure out how to use it, yet, because it is a standard from the August Authoritative Standards Organization, the rightity and trueness of the standard simply cannot be questioned. Because it is, after all, a standard, and standards exist to be obeyed.
"I've got mine!"Another downfall of a standards committee is when the committee has one or more members of the "I've got mine" type. These are folks who already have a product of the genre the standard is meant to address, and their participation in the committee is to assure that their product's design becomes the standard. There are lots of variations on this situation. A committee with only one "I've got mine" becomes a simple test of wills between the have and the have nots. A committee with more than one "I've got mine" becomes a battleground. The have nots on this committee might as well just go home because their views of what is needed are so irrelevant to the process that they can have the same effect on the outcome of the standards work by not being there. Who wins the battle depends on many things, of course, but I'd usually advise that you bet on the largest, richest "I've got mine." It is especially helpful if the "I've got mine" holds patents in the area and can therefore declare (true story) "If you create it, we'll destroy you with with patent claims."

Like the engineer of the perfect model, the "I've got mine" has an idee fixe. In this case, though, the idee may not be perfect or complete or even usable. But it exists, and "I've got mine" does not want to change. Therefore every idea that is not already in the product of "I've got mine" meets with great resistance. At various points in the discussion, "I've got mine" threatens to take his ball and go home. For reasons that have never been clear to me, the committee takes this threat seriously and caves in to "I've got mine" even though most members of the committee actually understand that the committee would be more successful without this person.
"...even though they repeat often the mantra "We can always blow it up and start over" they never, never start over."This then takes me to downfall number 3: once standards committees dig themselves into a hole, once they have started down a path that is quite clearly not going to result in success, and even though they repeat often the mantra "We can always blow it up and start over" they never, never start over. The standard that comes out always looks like the non-standard that went in on day one, regardless of how dysfunctional and mistaken that is. This is one of the reasons why there are standards on the books that were developed through great effort and whose person hours would add up to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars spent and yet they have not been adopted. Common sense allows people outside of the bubble of the standards committee process to admit that the thing just isn't going to work. No way. That's the best possible outcome; the worst possible outcome is that through an excess of obedience in a community with a hive mind the standard is adopted and therefore screws everything up for that community for decades, until a new standards committee is launched.
"...we can have a new standard, but nothing can really change."If you think that committee will solve the problem, then I suggest you go back to top of this essay and begin reading all over again. Because by now you should be anticipating downfall number 4: we can have a new standard, but nothing can really change. The end result of applying the new standard has to be exactly the same as the result obtained from the old standard. The committee can therefore declare a great success, and everyone can give a sigh of relief that they can go on doing everything the same way they ever did, perhaps with slightly different terminology and a bunch of new acronyms.

Now off I go to read some more emails, asking myself:  "Is this the time to ask: what about the children?"

Karen Coyle: Libraries, Books, and Elitism

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-11-03 18:54
"So is the library, storehouse and lender of books, as anachronistic as the record store, the telephone booth, and the Playboy centerfold? Perversely, the most popular service at some libraries has become free Internet access. People wait in line for terminals that will let them play solitaire and Minecraft, and librarians provide coffee. Other patrons stay in their cars outside just to use the Wi-Fi. No one can be happy with a situation that reduces the library to a Starbucks wannabe."James Gleick, "What Libraries (Still) Can Do" NYRDaily October 26, 2015
This is one of the worst examples of snobbery and elitism in relation to libraries that I have seen in a long time. It is also horribly uninformed. Let me disassemble this a bit.

First, libraries as places to gather is not new. Libraries in ancient Greece were designed as large open spaces with cubbies for scrolls around the inside wall. Very little of the space was taken up with that era's version of the book. They existed both as storehouses for the written word but also a place where scholars would come together to discuss ideas. Today, when students are asked what they want from their library, one of the highest ranked services is study space. There is nothing wrong with studying in a library; in fact, as anyone with a home office knows, having a physical space where you do your studying and thinking helps one focus the mind and be productive. 

Next, the dismissive and erroneous statement that people use "terminals" (when have you last heard computers called that?) to play solitaire and Minecraft completely ignores that fact that many of our information sources today are available only through online access, including information sources available to most users only through the library. If you want to look up journal articles you need the library's online access. Second, many social services are available online. The US government and most state governments no longer provide libraries with hard copies of documents, but make them available online. From IRS tax preparation help to information about state law and city zoning ordinances, you absolutely must have Internet access. Internet access is no longer optional for civic life. I can't imagine that anyone is waiting in line at a library for a one-hour slot to build their Minecraft world, but if they are, then I'm fine with that. It's no less "library-like" than using the library to read People magazine or check out a romance novel. (Gleick is probably against those, too.)

Gleick doesn't seem to know (and perhaps Palfrey, whose book he is reviewing, ditto) that libraries have limits on ebook lending.
And a library that could lend any e-book, without restriction, en masse, would be the perfect fatal competitor to bookstores and authors hoping to sell e-books for money. Something will have to give. Palfrey suggests that Congress could create “a compulsory license system to cover digital lending through libraries,” allowing for payment of fair royalties to the authors. Many countries, including most of Europe, have public lending right programs for this purpose.This completely misses the point. Libraries already lend e-books, with restriction, and they pay for them in the same way that they pay for paper books -- by paying for each copy that they lend. Suggesting a compulsory license is not a solution, and the public lending right that is common in Europe is for hard copy books as well as e-books. The difference being that the payment for lending in those countries does not come out of library budgets but is often paid out of a central fund supporting the arts. Given that the US has a very low level of government funding for the arts, and that libraries are not funded through a single government mechanism, a public lending payment would be extremely difficult to develop in this country.  There is the very real risk that it would take money out of already stretched library budgets and would  further disadvantage those library systems that are struggling the most to overcome poor local funding.

I don't at all mind folks having an opinion about libraries, about what they like and what they want. But I would hope that a researcher like Gleick would do at least as much research about libraries as he does about other subjects he expounds on. They - we - deserve the same attention to truth.

District Dispatch: Libraries Transform officially launched!

planet code4lib - Tue, 2015-11-03 18:18

NBC News interviews ALA President Sari Feldman about the national Libraries Transform campaign.

Libraries Transform was officially launched on Thursday, October 29, by ALA President Sari Feldman who was here in Washington, D.C. to kick-off this national campaign to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals.

Her visit was amplified by street teams on Capitol Hill, the National Mall, Union Station, Penn Quarter, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Georgetown, among other popular D.C. neighborhoods, where the team handed out Starbucks gift cards after passers-by answered a quiz about their library experiences. Taking part in the tour with Sari were: Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director, Cathleen Bourdon, ALA Associate Executive Director, Macey Morales, Deputy Director, ALA Public Awareness Office, Hallie Rich, Communications and External Relations Director, Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library, Lisa Lindle, Grassroots Communications Specialist for ALA’s Washington Office, and me.

Museum Library

First up was a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, where we experienced the marvel of the museum’s Fantastic Worlds exhibit, featuring the worlds of fiction inspired by extraordinary 19th Century discoveries and inventions.

Mary August Thomas, Smithsonian Libraries deputy director, highlights examples of extremely valuable rare books within the Smithsonian libraries collection.

Smithsonian Libraries Deputy Director Mary Augusta Thomas and her team hosted an equally fantastic behind-the-scenes visit revealing an uncommon glimpse of some of the items that make up the Smithsonian libraries’ over two million volumes, of which more than 50,000 are rare books and manuscripts, including a jaw-dropping view of a first edition of the 1543 De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelstium by Copernicus (The Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs) and the first English translation of Euclid’s Elements from 1570 featuring 3-dimensional solids in pop-up form, among other Smithsonian library treasures.

School Library

Thomson Elementary school 4th and 5th grade students discuss with ALA President Sari Feldman how library digital learning is enhancing their educational experience, while Librarian Jeminnia States listens.

Next stop was Thomson Elementary School, set in an historic red brick building nestled among row houses and business establishments on the busy L street corridor. There, Sari Feldman was able to join Librarian Jeminnia States and 4th and 5th graders enthusiastically engaged on their library laptops and desktop computers. During a panel discussion, the students revealed how important the library and their ability to navigate online resources has been to their love of learning while also noting that for all but one, English is not the language spoken at home. It illustrated the transformative role that libraries are playing for under-served groups, overcoming language and cultural differences to foster individual opportunity.

University Library

At George Washington University’s (GWU) Gelman Library, Vice Provost for Libraries Geneva Henry and her team revealed the way academic libraries are transforming the educational experience of college students while serving faculty and researchers at the same time. Curriculum growth, research application development, community collaboration and bridging multiple disciplines through collaborative research were four significant areas highlighted.

For example, all GW freshmen are required to take one of the University Writing classes, which are co-taught by librarians who take students beyond finding sources and using databases to imaginative ideas for approaching online research. One writing class that Librarian Bill Gillis co-teaches includes a short-term study abroad writing and research class to Paris each summer.

GWU Vice Provost for Libraries Geneva Henry welcomes ALA President Sari Feldman to the Gelman Library

Social Feed Manager is a prototype application developed by the GW Libraries to collect social media data from Twitter and potentially other social media sources. It connects to Twitter’s approved API to collect data in bulk and makes it possible for scholars, students, and librarians to identify, select, collect, and preserve Twitter data for research purposes. Along with GWU, many colleges are collecting and analyzing the expansive role of social media in 21st Century life, including UCLA’s work in connecting up collections of news issues augmented by social media, and North Carolina State University’s deep dive analysis through its Social Media Archives Toolkit and Social Media Combine.

One of Libraries Transform banners displayed during  launch in D.C. This one appears outside George Washington University Gelman Library.

The D.C. Africana Archives Project is a collaborative archival resource that will document the culture, history and politics of black life in D.C. And cross-disciplinary collaboration has led to Software Developer-Librarian Justin Littman’s work with stakeholders throughout the university to implement an Expert Finder for GW faculty, librarians, and staff. This Expert Finder will make the publications and research interests of the GW community visible and searchable to facilitate new and innovative partnerships.

ALA President Sari Feldman is presented with a Libraries Transform plaque created on the laser printer by Maryann James-Daley, interim manager of The Labs at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

Public Library

Final stop of the day was Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Public Library. A vibrant part of the DC community, MLK library boasts its expansive Digital Commons which offers 70 computers loaded with software such as the Adobe Creative Suite; access to tools like an Espresso book machine; and enhanced meeting rooms and gathering spaces aimed at encouraging creation and innovation. Its Dream Lab is a collaborative, shared space for small organizations, groups and individuals using technologies to develop and sustain new ventures; Studio Lab is a state-of-the-art studio to produce a broadcast or record a podcast; and its Fabrication Lab is stocked with a laser cutter, Shopbot and seven 3D printers spitting out anything from replacement parts for broken equipment to decorative replicas of the U.S. Capitol building.

“Clearly today’s libraries are not just about what we have for people, but what we do for and with people,” Sari said at the conclusion of the day.  “The goal of the Libraries Transform campaign is to change the perception that ‘libraries are just quiet places to do research, find a book, and read,’ to a shared understanding of libraries as dynamic centers for learning in the digital age.  Libraries of all kinds foster individual opportunity that ultimately drives the success of our communities and our nation.”

Government Officials Meet with ALA leaders

During the Libraries Transform campaign launch in Washington, Sari also took part in high level meetings at the Department of Labor (DOL) and at the Library of Congress, which were organized by Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA’s Washington Office. DOL officials discussed collaborative opportunities with the ALA leaders through the Workforce Investment program; while at the Library of Congress they met with Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao and Chief of Staff Robert Newlen, who said they welcome the chance to work closely with ALA.

The post Libraries Transform officially launched! appeared first on District Dispatch.


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