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LibUX: 035 – Lisa Rabey

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-03-07 05:32

Amanda and I interview Lisa Rabey ( Twitter ) ( Journal ) about how the trials of the job hunt for library technologists are exacerbated by employers’ unrealistic expectations for unicorns — full-stack engineers* who work the reference desk — given that, well, libraries aren’t really sure what they need.

This lack of definition is really a detriment. Her recent writing on this — “I Want to be a XXX Librarian” / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four — exposes just how goofy the job titles have become, let alone their descriptions, unearthed and logged over the course of more than a hundred applications.

What libraries think they want versus what they actually need is the big thing nobody actually talks about. Lisa Rabey

We asked her to swing by though because we echoed similar frustrations back in Episode 008: Hiring a Web Librarian, where we gawp at the bullshit of being expected to keep-up with the rapid pace of technology outside of the job for which one is intended to use it. We bring it up again later in this episode.

The silver lining is that Lisa has been incredibly prolific and upfront, having written about and shared tons of resources for librarians in the job market. Loads here. Lots of wisdom.

As usual, you can download the MP3 directly – or now on SoundCloud, too.

  • 5:40 – TThe lack of consistent vocabulary to describe the kind of position employers are trying to hire for
  • 7:17 – On “unicorns”
  • 9:30 – Degree requirements and pay
  • 13:55 – Leaving the library world into doing back-end, server, or front-end development
  • 15:40 – Lisa’s current plan of attack
  • 18:00 – On Bootcamps and learning to code
  • 24:05 – Wisdom for librarians on the job hunt
  • 29:50 – Advice to people making hiring decisions
  • 34:45 – Getting in touch with Lisa

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* You know my feelings about “full stack engineers,” don’t you?

The post 035 – Lisa Rabey appeared first on LibUX.

DuraSpace News: Getting to Know LYRASIS

planet code4lib - Mon, 2016-03-07 00:00

As you may have recently heard, based on recommendations from the executive teams of LYRASIS and DuraSpace, the respective boards unanimously approved an “Intent to Merge” the two organizations. We are thrilled with this new potential path. Why? It brings together two global organizations focused on helping archives, libraries and museums improve digital scholarship, build sustainable technical infrastructures and obtain best of field eContent through combined purchasing power.

Richard Wallis: A Fundamental Component of a New Web?

planet code4lib - Sun, 2016-03-06 19:44

Marketing Hype! I hear you thinking – well at least I didn’t use the tired old ‘Next Generation’ label.

Let me explain what is this fundamental component of what I am seeing potentially as a New Web, and what I mean by New Web.

This fundamental component I am talking about you might be surprised to learn is a vocabulary –  But let me first set the context by explaining my thoughts on this New Web.

Having once been considered an expert on Web 2.0 (I hasten to add by others, not myself) I know how dangerous it can be to attach labels to things.  It tends to spawn screen full’s of passionate opinions on the relevance of the name, date of the revolution, and over detailed analysis of isolated parts of what is a general movement.   I know I am on dangerous ground here!

To my mind something is new when it feels different.  The Internet felt different when the Web (aka HTTP + HTML + browsers) arrived.  The Web felt different (Web 2.0?) when it became more immersive (write as well as read) and visually we stopped trying to emulate in a graphical style what we saw on character terminals. Oh, and yes we started to round our corners. 

There have been many times over the last few years when it felt new – when it suddenly arrived in our pockets (the mobile web) – when the inner thoughts, and eating habits, of more friends that you ever remember meeting became of apparent headline importance (the social web) – when [the contents of] the web broke out of the boundaries of the browser and appeared embedded in every app, TV show, and voice activated device.

The feeling different phase I think we are going through at the moment, like previous times, is building on what went before.  It is exemplified by information [data] breaking out of the boundaries of our web sites and appearing where it is useful for the user. 

We are seeing the tip of this iceberg in the search engine Knowledge Panels, answer boxes, and rich snippets,   The effect of this being that often your potential user can get what they need without having to find and visit your site – answering questions such as what is the customer service phone number for an organisation; is the local branch open at the moment; give me driving directions to it; what is available and on offer.  Increasingly these interactions can occur without the user even being aware they are using the web – “Siri! Where is my nearest library?
A great way to build relationships with your customers. However a new and interesting challenge for those trying to measure the impact of your web site.

So, what is fundamental to this New Web

There are several things – HTTP, the light-weight protocol designed to transfer text, links and latterly data, across an internet previously used to specific protocols for specific purposes – HTML, that open, standard, easily copied light-weight extensible generic format for describing web pages that all browsers can understand – Microdata, RDFa, JSON, JSON-LD – open standards for easily embedding data into HTML – RDF, an open data format for describing things of any sort, in the form of triples, using shared vocabularies.  Building upon those is – an open, [de facto] standard, generic vocabulary for describing things in most areas of interest. 

Why is one vocabulary fundamental when there are so many others to choose from? Check out the 500+ referenced on the  Linked Open Vocabularies (LOV) site. however differs from most of the others in a few key areas: 

  • Size and scope – its current 642 Types and 992 Properties is significantly larger and covers far more domains of interest than most others.  This means that if you are looking to describe a something, you are highly likely to to find enough to at least start.  Despite its size, it is yet far from capable of describing everything on, or off, the planet.
  • Adoption – it is estimated to be in use on over 12 million sites.  A sample of 10 billion pages showed over 30% containing markup.  Checkout this article for more detail: Evolution of Structured Data on the Web – Big data makes common schemas even more necessary. By Guha, Brickley and Macbeth.
  • Evolution – it is under continuous evolutionary development and extension, driven and guided by an open community under the wing of the W3C and accessible in a GitHub repository.
  • Flexibility – from the beginning was designed to be used in a choice of your favourite serialisation – Microdata, RDFa, JSON-LD, with the flexibility of allowing values to default to text if you have not got a URI available.
  • Consumers – The major search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex, not only back the open initiative behind but actively search out markup to add to their Knowledge Graphs when crawling your sites.
  • Guidance – If you search out guidance on supplying structured data to those major search engines, you are soon supplied with recommendations and examples for using, such as this from Google.  They even supply testing tools for you to validate your markup.

With this support and adoption, the initiative has become self-fulfilling.  If your objective is to share or market structured data about your site, organisation, resources, and or products with the wider world; it would be difficult to come up with a good reason not to use

Is it a fully ontologically correct semantic web vocabulary? Although you can see many semantic web and linked data principles within it, no it is not.  That is not its objective. It is a pragmatic compromise between such things, and the general needs of webmasters with ambitions to have their resources become an authoritative part of the global knowledge graphs, that are emerging as key to the future of the development of search engines and the web they inhabit.

Note that I question if is a fundamental component, of what I am feeling is a New Web. It is not the fundamental component, but  one of many that over time will become just the way we do things

Ed Summers: Trash Study

planet code4lib - Sat, 2016-03-05 05:00

For my qualitative research methods class I was asked to visit a particular place twice to experiment with a (very brief) ethnographic field study. All the names included here are fictitious, and were only included to try to help provide a sense of narrative in places. I’ve uploaded most of the photos I took to a Flickr album, but you will see some of them interspersed with the text. This was also an experiment in trying out the technique of live field notes, which is why you are seeing them here.

Please feel free to leave comments at the bottom or to annotate inline by highlighting regions of the text…thanks Hypothesis! Oh, and sorry about the typos.


For my field study practice I decided to study the Montgomery County’s Shady Grove Processing Facility and Transfer Station, which is a public dump in Montgomery County. I thought it would be interesting to look at because it is a piece of public infrastructure that I knew was accessible for people to drive their vehicles in to drop off materials that the ordinary trash pickup wouldn’t take: paints, gasoline, electronics, large amounts of yard waste, etc. I also had some things I needed to drop off so I thought it would be a good way to participate in the activity.

On my first visit I learned that while it is open to the public the facility is actually a public/private space where companies routinely dropped off large amounts of trash and other companies took it away. It was easy to identify the individuals working there because they wore fluorescent vests, and yellow hard hats. I learned that most of these individuals were not state employees, but worked for a contracting company named Covanta Energy, which is a publicly traded corporation. Maryland Environmental Service is the state partner in the facility. The boundaries between what was Covanta and what was MES weren’t completely clear to me, but the people I spoke with seemed to have a sense of it. As I was told by one employee:

Trash is big business.

The facility was equipped with lots of heavy machinery (bulldozers, and trucks) and had a train with many containers for transferring trash to an incinerator in Dickerson, Maryland.

This incinerator is a mass burn facility, that is owned and operated by Covanta, and burns the trash to generate electricity and to also extract metals. Paints were collected and recycled for local consumers who wanted to pick them up, and also shipped to Honduras where the paint was used in some fashion. I learned from one employee that the gasoline and other hazardous materials were transferred by truck to incinerators in Texas and Arkansas.

On my first visit I intentionally identified myself as a student and asked if it would be OK if I took pictures and took some notes. I was told that would be fine. But I learned that my presence was in fact being monitored the whole time. Employees had walkie talkies and I could hear constant conversations being broadcast. After I had been there for an hour and a half I was approached by three people who wanted to know what I was doing. They took a picture of my drivers license “just in case” it was needed. They were clearly concerned about the security of the facility. Just as I was documenting my experience dropping off trash there, I was myself the subject of documentation.

As I interacted with the employees I was struck by their friendliness and willingness to talk about their work. Many welcomed my interest in what they did. Even when I was being questioned myself it was clear that the employees were proud of what they were doing. Employees were in constant communication with people who were dropping off material to help people find the right place to drop particular materials off. I also observed employees sorting materials themselves, for example: finding a working bicycle in the scrap metal and moving to an area for working bicycles. On both my visits I noticed several members of the public who were there to pick up materials in addition to dropping things off. In many ways it was more like a market than a dump.

On my second visit I was much more comfortable because I didn’t stay in one place for a long time while taking notes on my phone and taking pictures…like I had the first time. I also felt more comfortable entering into conversation with people there since I knew they were proud and interested in their work. I was more comfortable waiting to jot down some notes until I was back in my car and moving on somewhere else.

I noticed the no cell phones sign on my first visit, and after being discouraged from taking pictures I thought perhaps that was the reason. But I learned that the primary reason was that they are a potential hazard around flammable material. This made me reflect on how easy it is to jump to particular conclusions, and how important it is to being open to alternate and multiple interpretations of events.

This was my first time doing an ethnographic field study in the small, and I was struck by how enjoyable it was to really pay close attention to things I might otherwise ignore. The conversations made me appreciate this important infrastructure work to reuse materials that are discarded. It made me wonder about the connection between corporations and governments. What are the processes that are handled by businesses, and what are handled by the government? What is the division of labor, and how do they interact? What are the policy and legal implications? What does it mean for this infrastructure to be sustained by a publicly traded company? The processing plant seemed like a rich and unique site for exploring these questions.

A couple few hour trips were barely enough to scratch the surface. A real study would involve contacting officials in MES and Covanta to get approval, and IRB approval. Ideally I would need to work in the facility, perhaps helping sort materials, and answering questions. One thing I wanted to do in this experiment was to try studying up. I think focusing on public/private infrastructure like recycling initiatives that are deeply connected to energy systems provided a way to do that.

Field Notes

Below are my field notes that I wrote up after each visit using photos and jottings I created using my iPhone. In addition I drew on audio recordings I made on leaving the facility.


I loaded up my car with some large tree branches that fell during a storm, a large plastic paddling pool that we no longer use, and an old bike and left for the Shady Grove Recycling Center at 10AM. It was a 20 minute ride along two major highways, 495 and 270. The center was open from 9 to 5 on Sundays. I thought about taking the metro there and just walking in, but I wonder if they even allowed that. I thought it would be better if I turned up with some actual recycling to drop off, so I would experience it more.

I made some audio notes with Voice Memos as I drove along the road. Mostly I was feeling a bit uncertain about how easy it would be to observe and take notes without being conspicuous. I was also feeling self-conscious about paying attention to things so closely. Noting things like the weather and the traffic along the road. Also think about William Bourrough’s technique of journaling and recording things, as part of his fiction writing. This train of thought reminded of this paragraph in Writing Ethnographic Field Notes:

Ethnographers learn to experience through the senses in antipiation of writing: to recall observed scenes and interactions like a reporter; to remember dialogue and movement like an actor; to see colors, shapes, textures, and spatial relations as a painter or photographer; and to sense moods, rhythms and tone of voice like a poet.

I think I was taking myself a little bit too seriously, but it made things more fun. On arrival I tried to take a photograph of the signs at the entrance. There was someone in a pickup truck with a fluorescent yellow vest who was watching people enter, but not stopping people. I noticed a less official looking sign for Yard Waste, and followed it to the left. To the left there were some large buildings that looked like they had loading areas for trucks. There was also someone else with a fluorescent vest walking near those buildings.

Some heavy machinery, bulldozers mostly were also there. To the right was a cement structure with multiple large diagonal entrances. I missed the sign pointed to the right for Yard Waste and ended up on a road that led out of the facility. I thought about turning around but it was a one way road. There was another person in a truck at the exit who was watching people leave. I felt a bit like my movement through the facility was controlled.

I re-entered the facility by going around to the entrance and going in again, passing by the same person in a truck. This time I followed both signs for Yard Waste. There was someone watching the entrance to the Yard Waste area. She wore a yellow vest. The rental truck in front of me stopped to ask her a question and then went off to the right to another part of the facility. As I passed her I heard her speaking in Spanish to someone on her walkie-talkie.

I entered the Yard Waste area, and went to the left and parked my car near a large pile of yard waste. It looked to be mostly bramble, thorns, vines, branches, Christmas trees, leaves, that sort of thing.

I got out of the car and nodded to Dave who was wearing a vest and the yellow hard hat. I opened up my trunk and began to take some notes on my phone using the Notes application. I noticed about 4 other vehicles there, all pickup trucks, dropping off various types of debris: wood, branches, etc. There were two other workers there with hard hats and vests: Jane and Susan. Someone was sweeping out the back of their pickup truck into one of the piles. Another pickup truck pulled in and they asked Dave if they could park on one side of the pile. Dave said yes, but they drove off a bit too far from the pile towards a large wood chipper machine and Dave whistled loudly for them to come back. It turned out they were just trying to reverse to be closer to the pile. Three Hispanic men got out of the pickup truck and quickly started unloading about 20-30 large pieces of wood that appeared to be from the same tree. It only took them about five minutes, and then they jumped back in their truck and left the way they had come in.

At this point Dave (who was about 20-30 feet away) noticed me taking notes, smiled and asked “Do you want to work here today?”. I smiled and said “Yeah”. I then thought now would be a good time to ask if it was OK for me to be there taking notes and taking some pictures. So I stood up and started walking over to Dave. I noticed Jane looking over at me, and drawing away. I suddenly felt quite self-conscious. Their walkie-talks are loudly relaying some message that I can’t make out. I can tell it is in English.

Me: Hi, I dropped off some wood, but I’m taking a class where we have to go take notes about a place and I was wondering if I could do that here? Is that ok?

Dave: Yes, that’s ok.

Me: So can I go take a picture of that pile of pylons over there.

Dave: Yes, that’s fine.

Me: Ok, thanks!

(I go take a picture of the pylons)

Me: Could I get your picture too?

Dave: Yes, sure.

(Take picture)

Me: Thanks so much.

Dave was very friendly and I feel good that it’s ok for me to walk around and take some notes and pictures. I then went back to my car. I overheard a middle aged white man Jeff talking to Dave. I couldn’t really hear what Dave was saying, but caught bits of what Jeff said.

Jeff: Nice day out here.

Jeff: They’re soft but they move a lot when the wind blows.

Jeff: The house I bought, the people bought live Christmas trees and now they are 60 feet tall.

(it looks like Jeff had cut down these trees, and is bringing them in pieces to the dump)

I got back in my car and drive around to where I entered. I ask Jane if I need to go out of the complex to drop off other materials and she says there’s no need and that I can go on a short road to the left up to the other part of the facility.

I go up there and am uncertain about where to go. There are 4 or 5 cars moving around in a pretty tight place. I notice a sign for Mixed Paper. I decide to park my car there even though I didn’t have any paper to drop off. There were big dumpster like bins below the road that I was on. There was a yellow fence that was in front to prevent people from falling in. I noticed some large containers further away near some railroad tracks. The containers have large numeric codes on them like NEAU 377, NEAU 027, etc. I also saw some other signs for Used Books, Bottles and Cans, Hazardous Waste, Car Tires, Plastic.

Two black men Gary and Tony were having a conversation and appeared to be joking. They then went into a small booth and sat there for a few minutes. During that time I noticed one of them looking over at me. I was typing some notes on my phone as he exited the booth and walked over towards me.

Me: How’s it going?

Tony: Good and you?

Me: I’m good.

I briefly think about asking if it’s ok if I take notes, but think perhaps it isn’t necessary. Tony goes over to the used book area and looks briefly at some of the books. Tony returns to the booth. I get the Paddle Pool out of the back of my car and walk over to the booth to ask where it should go. Before I can ask Gary says:

Gary: Yellow sign.

Me: Oh, I was wondering where I should put this.

Gary: Yellow sign.

Tony: Yes go over there by the yellow sign and put it in there.

Me: Ok, thanks

I throw the pool in the large dumpster. I can see lots of other plastic items in there. I can also see the loading area and cranes better from here. I go back to my car and notice 3 other cars dropping various types of things off. An elderly couple park, pop their trunk and get out to put some things in the dumpsters. I see they’ve got 7 or 8 well organized grocery bags full of something. The man has a cane and is walking slowly.

I get back in my car and drive about 40 feet over to the Hazardous Waste area. I park and get some cans of paint out of the back of my car. Two black men, Vince and James are there behind a table where things can be dropped off.

Me: Is this the right place to drop off some paint?

Vince: Yeah.

I then go back to the car and can hear brief snippets of a conversation between them:

Vince: … Oh snap

James: … woman down there …

Vince: … Not Rob but uh …

(another man comes up and puts something on the table)

Howard: How are you doing?

Vince (to James): … so that just came out of the blue?

I go over with a few more cans of paint.

Vince: That’s everything sir?

Me: I think so. Is there a place to drop off bikes?

Vince: Is it usable?

Me: Sort of usable.

Vince: Metal

Me: Ok thanks

I get back into my car and pull over to the scrap metal area. There are three different piles with their own three sided enclosures. Mine is piled high with quite a bit of metal. It reminds me of being a kid visiting the dump again for some reason. I wonder if I can take anything if it is useful. I get the small bike out of the back of my car. Immediately one younger and one older Hispanic man in a pickup truck pull up nearby. Juan notices the bike and asks:

Juan: Dropping off?

Me: Yes.

Juan: Can I have it?

Me: Sure, the chain just is rusted but otherwise it’s not in bad shape.

Juan takes the bike and puts it in the back of his pickup truck. He continues to remove some things and add them to the pile. I see a couple in their mid 20s sitting in their car just waiting for something. I notice that people are moving in and out of this area quickly. I start feeling a bit like conspicuous for some reason. I take some pictures of the metal trash, walking into the area a bit to get closer. I see a filing cabinet that has a Maryland State Police sticker on it. Right next to it is another filing cabinet that appears to have some files peeking out.

I notice that it’s quite noisy with people throwing metal on the pile in the various locations. There are probably about 6 or 7 vehicles in the area. A black man with a yellow vest and hard hat is nearby watching. I don’t notice if it Gary or Tony. But this area is very close to the booth they were in. I think it might be Tony. I hear a woman who is dropping off material nearby ask:

Annette: I have a cabinet with a sink.

Tony: Is it mostly wood?

Annette: Yes.

Tony: Take it to trash.

I see lots of microwaves. One man has a full pickup truck, that he is sorting through. He pulls out a bed frame and throws it on the pile. Three asian men pull up and all get out, and get stuff out of the back of their van. They pull out two bikes and put them in the pile. After they leave Tony goes over and examines one of the bikes. He then wheels it over to another area, and leaves the other one.

I found myself thinking about the movie Wallie, I guess because of this sorting process, and finding things that work.

I walk over to the booth area where there are large containers for pouring liquids. One is for used oil, another is for antifreeze. A man is pouring some antifreeze into one. There is a metal mesh that only allows liquid in. The container is labeled 2000 gallon capacity. It appears to be full. I take some pictures of each and return to the scrap metal area.

An older man (60 years old) drops off a couple of metal disks that appear to be from a car brake system. Tony then tells me I need to move my car. I notice a bulldozer has started up and is pushing large amounts of the metal into the back of the 3 walled area.

Tony: You need to move.

Me: ok (smiling)

Tony: You don’t have to leave, you can go somewhere else to do that (makes motion of typing on a smart phone).

Me: Ok thanks.

I get back in my car and drive about 100 feet away to the garbage area. I pass three men with the yellow vests and hats that are talking at the entrance. I back into one of the spots. There appears to be about 30 or so different parking areas that abut on some large enclosed dumpsters that you can throw material down into. There are about 10 different vehicles parked there. People come in and out of the area quickly, only staying about 5 minutes or so.

There is a sign that says “No Paint Dumping”. It appears like the dumpsters and surrounding area have been splattered with lots of paint that is now dry. The dumpsters are large, about 50 feet long and 10 feet wide. It looks like they can be pulled out sideways. I realize that I’m looking at the same structure I saw on the way in with the diagonal doors. It looks like the dumpsters can be pulled out when full.

I watch as 10 other vehicles pull up and throw garbage bags and chairs and plastic sheets into the dumpsters. Some are couples, some are men and women who are alone. Ages are from 20s up into 60s or so. In this area the vehicles are more varied, not just pickup trucks. One man is smoking a cigar. It occurs to me now that this wasn’t allowed given the signs at the entrance. I also notice a sign that says “No Cellular Phones” which strikes me as odd. I have been openly using my phone to take pictures and am feeling a bit awkward. It has been a bit more than an hour (I can see from photo timestamps) so I decide to leave.

I get back into my car and head out of the garbage area and follow the signs for the exit. This is the same road I entered on where I had seen the back of the dumpster building. This time I notice a long row of televisions that are wrapped in plastic. I stop my car and turn on the hazards to take a picture because it is so striking. After taking a few panoramic photos I hear someone shout over to me:

Greg: Hey!

Me: Hi, yes?

Greg approaches from about 40 feet away with a bag of potato chips. He is wearing a yellow vest and hat.

Greg: Hey what are you doing there?

Me: Oh Hi, I’m taking a class where I need to take notes about a place.

Greg: Ok. We’ve been noticing you walking around this guy is going to want to ask you some questions.

A pickup truck pulls up and large man gets out.

Me: Hi, like I just explained to your colleague I’m just taking a class, where I need to take some notes about about a particular place. I decided to try to use this place. I’m not a journalist or anything.

Tom: Have you been taking pictures?

Me: Yes, mostly of the facility.

Tom: Have you taken a pictures of people? Because you would need consent for that.

I’m surprised and impressed that he uses the word “consent”.

Me: Well, not really. I did ask in the Yard Waste area if I could take a picture of someone and they said Ok.

Tom continues to look at me. I notice him looking behind me, and another man coming up from behind. I turn to face him and notice he isn’t wearing the standard yellow vest and hat.

Ralph: (smiling) Hi so what are you doing?

Me: I’m taking a class at the University of Maryland, where we need to do an ethnography, or study a particular place. I’m not a journalist.

Ralph: Oh is that College Park?

Me: Yes

Ralph: Ok, but you can’t do that here. We have noticed you taking notes here all morning.

Me: Well, I think I have only been here an hour.

Ralph: Ok, but we have to be careful with people around here. You know these times we are living in. We have to be careful.

He makes me think of terrorism, without him actually saying the word terrorism. I nod in agreement.

Ralph: Can I see your ID please? Tom do you have a phone I can take a picture of.

Me: Would it be ok if I come back next weekend. I need to do two observations.

Ralph: No, you would need to talk to my supervisor. If you pull over to the entrance I can meet you there and give you that information.

Me: Ok, thanks.

I get back in my car and pull back to the entrance for the Yard Waste area. I then see Dave who is now watching the entrance:

Dave: are you leaving?

Me: somewhat confused, yes.

I pull out of the exit, but pull off to the side and put on my hazards. Dave eventually comes over:

Dave: can you move your car further away?

Me: yes I’m waiting for someone who is going to give me some information about a supervisor.

Dave: ok

I wait about 10 minutes and then Ralph pulls up in his truck.

Me: so I’m sorry if I caused any trouble. I thought it was ok to take pictures and notes while I am here. It was just an ethnography exercise for my class.

Ralph: so what is Ethnography again?

Me: you know how people would study cultures by going and immersing themselves in a culture? Well nowadays people will do the same studies by going and being part of a particular activity and I thought this facility would be interesting.

Ralph: I see. I can tell you some information if you want.

Me: Oh, that would be great.

Ralph: This facility is funded by the EPA, 12 million per year. The waste is loaded onto trains that take it to an incinerator in Dickerson.

Me: But the metal, that doesn’t get incinerated does it?

Ralph: No we have different companies pick up the recycling. I am an employee, but most of the people working here that you saw work for a contracting company called Covanta Energy. The workers who work in the yard waste are from MES (Maryland Environmental Service). There are two different services one for residents and the other for businesses. The businesses pay a bond that allows them to drop off here. See those stations there are for weighing the trash. They can drop off 20 tons of trash per month and if they don’t drop off that much some of their bond is taken away.

Me: Interesting that sounds like its the opposite of what I would’ve expected. I thought that if you brought too much trash they would take money away.

Ralph: No, trash is big business. People pay for it. It is valuable. Some people just come here and leave without thinking about it. But it is important what goes on here.

I nod.

Ralph: here is the contact information for my supervisor, you can arrange for a tour if you want to look around again.

Me: Can I take a tour of the building over there? I seem to remember seeing that on the website.

Ralph: Yes, they do tours of that facility where they separate the trash.

Me: Ok, great maybe I will do that next weekend. I appreciate all your help.

During this conversation he shook my hands three times. One time he held on to my hand for what felt like a long time. Maybe I was being a bit paranoid, but I felt like was trying to tell if he could trust me. I was sitting in my car this whole time and he was speaking to me in through the open window. In hindsight it reminded me a bit of being in a conversation with a police officer where you are asked to remain in the car.

I left the site. I made a recording about my experience there. I can see reviewing the recording, that I was a bit taken aback by three people coming up and questioning me. I was feeling a little bit rattled. I was struck by the Trash Is Big Business. I also reflected on how it seemed like a public space but in reality it wasn’t with those big businesses in operation there. I thought that my taxes paid for it, but perhaps they don’t. It was a quasi public space that seems public but is not.

It was also interesting how I was documenting them, and they were documenting me. They were watching most of the time, and then took a picture of my license. I felt a little bit about how my privacy was being invaded a little bit. In some ways I invited this by Studying Up. I was also a bit thrown off because the first person I spoke with Dave indicated it was OK for me to take notes and photos. But in hindsight perhaps I should’ve asked multiple people when I interacted with them. Finally it seems notable that Ralph was interested in understanding what ethnography is.


On Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 1PM I arrived back at the recycling center. I brought some material to drop off again: some large tree branches, some old paint cans and a large broken patio umbrella. This time I drove my car directly to the Hazardous Waste area to drop off the paint. I talked to a middle aged African American man named Sam:

Me: Hi, I am taking a class where we have to describe a particular place and I was wondering if you could tell me why there are signs for no cell phones.

Sam: That’s because we have gasoline nearby, and the cellphones could cause a spark, which would be dangerous.

While we are talking a middle aged woman is waiting behind me, so I step to the side.

Maria: Is there any white paint today?

Sam: No, none right now you might want to try next week.

Maria: Ok.

She goes back to her car and tells a man inside that they told her there wasn’t any paint.

Me: Oh, so can people come and get paint.

Sam: Yes, sometimes full cans of paint that are perfectly good are dropped off. You can sign a waiver and get it.

Me: Oh nice, do you recycle other things.

Sam: Yes, see those boxes up there? They get filled up with the paints and sent to Honduras, where they are used to paint buildings.

Me: Oh, wow. What happens to the gasoline you were mentioning, does that get loaded onto the train?

Sam: No big trucks come and pick that up and send it to incinerators in Texas and Arkansas.

Me: So it gets sent pretty far?

Sam: Yes.

I get back in my car to move on to the general trash area. On my way I notice that there is a vegetable oil recycling area that I didn’t see last time. I also see an electronics recycling area, where the televisions I saw last time are processed by two men.

As I pull into the garbage area I see Greg from last week talking to someone in a van that is pulling in. He gives some directions about where they should go, and I drive past him. I pull up next to the van. Two young Hispanic men get out, and start unloading what looks like wood from a house construction site. I throw my umbrella in the garbage dumpster and get back in my car.

I’m conscious of not spending as much time at each station to take notes since that’s how I attracted people’s attention last time.

I drive around the back of the garbage area to get to the yard waste area. On the way I notice the large, nondescript concrete building to the left which is quite tall relative to other buildings around. It has no windows and a pile of rubble outside. I notice a man driving a truck the size of an 18 wheeler, but the vehicle seems designed for this facility, not for the road. The cabin for the truck is half the size of a normal truck cabin. It seems to be bringing trash or something out of the large building. There is a symbol on the side of the truck that says Covanta Energy.

As I pull up to the entrance of the yard waste area I wait in line behind a large U-Haul truck. I can see a woman with a yellow vest and hard hat talking to someone in the driver seat. The back of the truck is half open, and I can see Dave from last week inspecting the contents. He waves to the woman indicating that things are ok. I can see a large amount of branches and shrubs filling up the entire inside of the truck. Dave notices me and comes over:

Dave, smiling: You are back again? Still working on your class?

Me: Hi, yes, haha. I have a few things I wanted to drop off, but won’t stay long this time.

I’m conscious of how I could have possibly gotten him into trouble last time since he said it was ok for me to take pictures and take notes. I am relieved to see him at ease and doing his job like normal.

Dave: If you want to go around again you will need to talk to the guy.

He gestures at a building off to the left, but I’m not sure which one.

Me: Yes, I won’t be staying long this time. Thanks!

Dave: No problem.

The U-Haul truck advances into the area and reverses backwards next to a large pile of branches. The woman motions to me to park right next to the U-Haul truck. After parking I get out, and start moving the branches I have in my car into the pile. A young couple have gotten out of the U-Haul truck and are pulling the branches out and adding them to the pile.

I look over and notice that the large pile I had added my branches to last week is now completely gone, or mostly gone. The position of the wood chipping machine has moved.

I get back in my car and circle around the large nondescript building. I see some signs, and some cars and trucks waiting in a line on a ramp to enter the building. I continue circling around the building and notice a large 18 wheeler tank truck, with a hose attached to it, and the host connected to a nozzle on the ground. It looks like liquid is being drained from the tank trunk into some sort of reservoir below ground. But I suppose it could also be pulling liquid out. The side of the bus says MES, or Maryland Environmental Service.

I loop back around the building and this time take the ramp up into the building. I notice a sign indicating only vehicles with 500 lbs can go in. From last week I assume that is a minimum weight not a maximum weight. I wait for about 10 minutes with about 12 other vehicles that are in two rows. A Hispanic man with a yellow vest and hard hat is talking to the drive of each vehicle, and then the vehicles enter. I notice a sign warning that people entering need to have a hard hat and eye protection.

When it is my turn to talk to the inspector at the entrance I explain that I was just curious what was inside the building and don’t have anything to drop off. He says that is fine and tells me to turn on my headlights and drive straight through the building. As I drive slowly through the building I notice how high the ceiling is. It must be about 50 feet high. There is a smell of trash and a chemical smell. I notice that unlike other parts of the dump the trash here is dumped on the floor. I also see a lower level that appears to have bulldozers and other heavy machinery operating pushing trash around. It appears to me that this area is for quickly dumping trash and moving on. And I find myself wondering if this is where garbage trucks dump their trash so that it can be packed together and loaded into containers for the train to the incinerator.

I continue out the other side of the building and follow the road to the exit. I find myself reflecting on how the traffic flows are largely one way, and the flow of vehicles is controlled like a river. There are quite a few more cars and trucks here today compared to last Sunday. As I leave I notice the weighing stations that Ralph mentioned the last time. I also see an office near the exit. I wonder if the flow of traffic is different during the week, since it seems like the office and weighing stations are situated for large vehicles entering to drop off trash in the large facility.


Below are the jottings I made on both days using the Notes application on my iPhone. My use of these was not to completely document particular things but just to quickly write down things that would jog my memory later.


Shady Grove Recycling

Not much talking

Have a good day sir

About three people working in first area.

Two or three people unloading

A speaking Spanish on phone

B giving directions about where to go

B Whistle

3 men Unloading big blocks of wood

Pickup trucks

Sweeping out the back of truck

Mostly African American and Hispanic

American flag flying from Volvo construction vehicle

Only here for like 5 mins

Feeling a bit conspicuous may move on to drop off more

Pylons in one area

Wave Want to work with us today? Yeah I dropped off wood, but I am taking a class. Can I take photos?

Man in pickup to B Nice day out here They’re soft but they move slot and then the wind blows The house I bought the people bought live Christmas trees and now they are 60 feet tall

Walkie talkie in English Leaves sticks vines paper bags of stuff did thorns

Another pickup pulls up, looks over,

Two guys in booth cracking jokes Notices me Comes over whistling I ask how are you doing ; he says good He starts inspecting books

Woman breaking down boxes Big containers with codes on them.

Woman questions about whether some binders are just trash. Just trash.

“Yellow sign sir”

Elderly couple with well organize paper shopping bags of things about 8. He has a cane.

Oh snap Woman down there Not dan but uh

How are you doing So that just came out of the blue?

That’s everything sir? I think so Is there a place for bikes Is it usable or not usable Sorta usable Metal

You dropping? Two Hispanic guys, support belt who are dropping tbjngs off ask for bike Couple people waiting in car

Old filing cabinet with md state police Microwave drop off Noisy

I have cabinet with a sink Is it mostly wood? Take it to trash

Man drop off bed frame In and out

Man drop off Xmas tree stand

White Man with pickup with lots of stuff in back, sorting.

Elderly Man dropping off 2 cartons of oil

3 men dropping off 2 bikes, a couch

Worker moving fridge across pavement Inspecting things afterwards Pulled a bike out of metal pile men just out in, left the other one.

Thinking about wallie

Man dropping of two disks from wheel

You need to move, bulldozer If you need to motion of cellphone use

Man with cigar throwing trash

Black woman throwing garbage bags in trash. Old Cadillac.

Throwing old wooden chairs in trash

Young man throng newish baby chairs in trash.

You want to do it now?

Noticing paint marks.

Lots of car traffic

Worker observing what is in trash container by leaning over edge

Question about oil. This is sealed.

Workers in areas: 3, 2, 2, 3

Older woman throwing garbage bags and plastic sheets

Took pictures of tvs

One man came over asked what I was doing

Man pulled up in pickup asked what I was doing said I needed to consent to take pictures

Man without fluorescent vest asked me what I was doing.

Worries about security. You know these times we are leaving

Brief interview with

EPA 12 milllion 7-5 Dickerson, incinerated

Outside contractors

People pay 20 tons trash

Trash is business Revenue

Covanna recycling MES

Peter Karasik, section chief 240-472-9877

Trash is big business.

Most people come in and out and don’t even think about it.

Man told me they often have big arguments with people who come there, about where the trash should go.


Paint goes to Honduras and people can come up and get paint if the sign s waiver

Middle aged woman came up and asked about paint and was told to come back next week when they had some

Other man asked if it was ok to drop cans with no paint he said he would take car of it

Gas goes to Incinerator in Texas or Arkansas

Vegetable oil recycling

Electronics area

2 Hispanic men throwing wood from construction in trash

2 inspecting ,.. full of sticks and branches

Strange trucks

Dave recognized me: back again?

Be sure you speak to the man in office.

Mes 18 wheeler truck dumping liquid

Lots of traffic 10 ca

Metro station nearby

Office closed on Saturday lp

Weird truck cabs, 1/2 of a cab pulling things around in/out of solid waste

Waiting in line, 8 cars, solid waste building

Can separation facility is on site but not sure where it is

Beeping sounds of machines backing up

Smell of chemicals or trash

Guard asking questions and giving directions


Trash on ground

Traffic flows

Covamta energy on trucks

500 lb limit z


Geese flying

Feels good to pay attention

Wonder how many other facilities there are looking at all these businesses along this Rockville like thinking about the trash they generate

FOSS4Lib Updated Packages: Quick Search

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 21:50

Last updated March 4, 2016. Created by Peter Murray on March 4, 2016.
Log in to edit this page.

Package Links Programming Language: RailsRubyDatabase: MySQLOpen Hub Link: Hub Stats Widget: 

SearchHub: Google Search Appliance’s End of Life – End of an Era

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 20:20

As search practitioners, we have always admired Google and all the work they’ve done to redefine and advance the search paradigm. Going beyond basic results retrieval, Google has transformed our expectations when it comes to the data experience. The most frequent complaint we hear from customers as it pertains to their data-driven applications is that apps should behave more Google-like. In some instances, this means basic natural language search across data in sources like relational databases. In other instances, the results that users get returned need higher relevancy and rarely provide a personal, contextual, or even useful experience.

Google Search Appliance launched in 2002 and brought the seamless delivery of natural language search to organizations looking to provide access to all of their data – to both employees or customers. These slick yellow boxes were easy to deploy and offered immediate results. While this solution was a quick win for those looking to solve department-level needs or basic website search, it did not provide actual Google-quality search compared to what we see on every day. GSA left much to be desired in terms of the ability to fine-tune the relevancy experiences based on an organization’s unique needs and mix of data sources. These boxes also became cumbersome when it came to scaling. Our customers would typically look to migrate off GSA when their relevancy needs reached a certain critical mass or the need to scale to multiple search applications throughout the organizations became an imperative.

As Google pushes their enterprise focus into the cloud, they have announced the end-of-life of GSA leaving many customers in a lurch. While no actual alternative or replacement has been announced, their intentions to migrate GSA customers to the cloud have been made crystal clear. This announcement has created a forcing function for many organizations to re-evaluate their search needs going forward. Many companies have already chosen Lucidworks Fusion as the next step in their search journey as they outgrew the capabilities of GSA.

Here are a few of the main reasons companies have made the switch from Google Search Appliance to Lucidworks Fusion:

Higher Relevancy

Relevancy is one of the most critical factors in creating a productive and happy user experience. We are no longer compelled to rifle through results or even scroll down. Subject matter experts have to have capabilities to fine-tune the search experience based on their expertise or user behavior. These SMEs are often non-technical and need relevancy tools that are useful and easy to understand.

Fusion puts relevancy firmly in the control of the application owner with a rich UI for tuning result relevancy and the configuring and enforcement of business rules. Advanced relevancy tools enable admins to calibrate fine-grained relevancy tuning and inspection. Pipeline setup and management enables you to conduct relevancy experiments for comparing, analyzing, and optimizing outcomes.

To advance this concept a step further, Fusion’s signal processing capability captures and aggregates user behaviors and other signals (likes, reviews, credentials etc.) to automatically and dynamically rank results. This same facility can proactively deliver recommendations to users based on their personal preferences, location, and past activity. Developers can go beyond the cumbersome nature of rules management and deliver a more intelligent and powerful data experience.

Data Independence

Apache Solr is the leader in open source search with thousands of deployments across the Fortune 1000. While interest in open source search is high, engineering orgs struggle with building and maintaining the functionality to deliver search apps that run on-top of the open source stack and then also can handle the speed and complexity the business demands. The attraction to open source stems from the desire organizations have to store data independently of a vendor’s solution.

Fusion has all of the advanced feature set and capabilities needed to develop and deploy rich search-driven applications. These features run directly on-top of open source Apache Solr where the data is stored. Users have complete access and control over the data store so applications can take advantage of all the benefits of open source search while reducing the time to market and increasing value of a commercial search solution.

Cost Effective at Scale

In addition to the cost and overhead of maintaining the physical boxes, Google Search Appliance is priced by the number of documents in your collections. So as the amount of data and documents grows, so do your licensing costs.

We decided to price Fusion per node so you can scale to billions of documents while containing costs and reducing your hardware footprint. This allows organization’s to scale applications without the threat of uncontrollable hardware and maintenance costs. Leveraging Apache Solr keeps our focus on developing rich features and functionality for your developers – not punishing you for pushing the limits of search throughout your organization.

Wherever you are in your search journey we encourage you to think about your users first. Data experience is the new user experience and with Lucidworks Fusion you can deliver the most powerful search-driven applications every time.

Interested in talking to one of our GSA Migration Specialists? Contact us today or download Fusion.

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District Dispatch: Preparing for a librarian…Librarian

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 19:37

ALA, and librarians everywhere, couldn’t be more pleased and proud with the President’s choice of Dr. Carla Hayden, a past-president of the Association, to serve as the nation’s next Librarian of Congress. It’s also been tremendously gratifying, though not surprising, to see how immediate and broad the support for her nomination has been from other fields and industries. Librarians certainly aren’t alone in recognizing what a terrific candidate she is and what a great job she will do once confirmed by the Senate!

ALA’s Washington Office has been busy since the President announced Dr. Hayden’s choice preparing to help all proponents of the nomination to work with every Member of the Senate toward her earliest possible confirmation. Please stay tuned for more about how you can help once again give the nation a librarian…Librarian.

The post Preparing for a librarian…Librarian appeared first on District Dispatch.

District Dispatch: ALA seeks candidates for 2016 Google Policy Fellowship

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 17:55

ALA seeks candidates for 2016 Google policy fellowship.

The American Library Association (ALA) today announces the opening of the application process for the prestigious 2016 Google Policy Fellowship program. The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) began its participation in this program at the program’s founding in 2008.

For the summer of 2016, the selected fellow will spend 10 weeks in residence at the ALA policy office in Washington, D.C., to learn about national policy and complete a major project. Google provides the $7,500 stipend for the summer, but the work agenda is determined by the ALA and the selected fellow. Throughout the summer, Google’s Washington office will provide an educational program for all of the fellows, such as lunchtime talks and interactions with Google Washington staff.

The fellows work in diverse areas of information policy that may include digital copyright, e-book licenses and access, future of reading, international copyright policy, broadband deployment, online privacy, telecommunications policy (including e-rate and network neutrality), digital divide, open access to information, free expression, digital literacy, the future of libraries generally, and many other topics. Refer to the National Policy Agenda for Libraries for an overview of current priorities.

Johnna Percell, a 2015 master’s graduate of the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, served as our 2015 Fellow. Our 2014 Fellow, Margaret Kavaras, currently serves as an OITP Research Associate and you can read about her recent exploits here.

Further information about the program, host organizations, and the application process is available at the Google Public Policy Fellowship website. ALA encourages all interested graduate students to apply and, of course, especially those in library and information science-related academic programs. Applications are due by March 25, 2016.

The post ALA seeks candidates for 2016 Google Policy Fellowship appeared first on District Dispatch.

District Dispatch: Accepting nominations for the Patterson Award

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 16:06

The nomination period is open for the L. Ray Patterson Award, an American Library Association-sponsored honor that recognizes particular individuals or groups who “embody the spirit of the U.S. Copyright law as voiced by the framers of our Constitution: ‘to advance the knowledge of science and useful arts.’” Nominations will be accepted through April 15, 2016.

Appropriate nominees for the Patterson Award are persons or groups who have made significant and consistent contributions in the areas of academia, law, politics, public policy, libraries or library education to the pursuit of copyright principles as outlined below.

The award is named after L. Ray Patterson, a key legal figure who explained and justified the importance of the public domain and fair use. He helped articulate that copyright law was negatively shifting from its original purpose and overly favoring rights of copyright holders. His book, The Nature of Copyright: A Law of Users’ Rights, is the definitive book on the constitutional underpinnings of copyright and the critical importance of the public domain.

Please include illustrative examples of how your nominee has contributed to the pursuit of the fundamental tenets of copyright law. Nominees who have worked or collaborated with libraries will be given special consideration. Send letters of nomination outlining a candidate’s qualifications for this award to:

Carrie Russell, Director, Program on Public Access to Information
ALA Office for Information Technology Policy
1615 New Hampshire Avenue NW, First Floor
Washington, DC 20009

Submissions can also be emailed to Russell at For more information, go to


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District Dispatch: Applicants sought for Oakley Memorial Scholarship

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 16:05


Librarians interested in intellectual property, public policy and copyright have until June 1, 2016, to apply for the Robert L. Oakley Memorial Scholarship. The annual $1,000 scholarship, sponsored by the American Library Association and the Library Copyright Alliance, supports research and advanced study for librarians in their early-to-mid-careers.

Applicants should provide a statement of intent for use of the scholarship funds. Such a statement should include the applicant’s interest and background in intellectual property, public policy, and/or copyright and their impacts on libraries and the ways libraries serve their communities.

Additionally, statements should include information about how the applicant and the library community will benefit from the applicant’s receipt of scholarship. Statements should be no longer than three pages (1000 words). The applicant’s resume or curriculum vitae should be included in their application.

Note: Those applicants whose proposals implicate the broader library community benefits will be favored.  Applicants need not apply if their project is focused solely on one’s own institution or library unless that project or research can and will be used to advance copyright public policy beyond the local institution.

Applications must be submitted via e-mail to Carrie Russell, Awardees may receive the Robert L. Oakley Memorial Scholarship up to two times in a lifetime. Funds may be used for equipment, expendable supplies, travel necessary to conduct, attend conferences, release from library duties or other reasonable and appropriate research expenses.

The award honors the life accomplishments and contributions of Robert L. Oakley. Professor and law librarian Robert Oakley was an expert on copyright law and wrote and lectured on the subject. He served on the Library Copyright Alliance representing the American Association of Law Librarians and played a leading role in advocating for U.S. libraries and the public they serve at many international forums including those of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Oakley served as the United States delegate to the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) from 1997-2003. Mr. Oakley testified before Congress on copyright, open access, library appropriations and free access to government documents and was a member of the Library of Congress’ Section 108 Study Group. A valued colleague and mentor for numerous librarians, Oakley was a recognized leader in law librarianship and library management who also maintained a profound commitment to public policy and the rights of library users.


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Mita Williams: G H O S T S T O R I E S

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 14:58
G H O S T    S T O R Y    1

It’s funny that I ended up as a librarian because my earliest memories of libraries were not entirely positive.

While the children’s section of the central branch library and the school bookmobile regularly brought me joy (largely in the form of Peanuts Parade volumes), I have distinct memories of being filled with dread every time I had to move through the towering shelves of the grown-up section of the library.

Yes, the main library was largely devoid of the sound and colour and the furious activity of the children’s section, but that wasn’t the entire reason why it gave me the creeps. I distinctly remember that when I was younger I associated all the books on the shelves of the library with the work of dead people. Each book represented a person who was now gone and they had left their books behind and the terrible thing was that, by and large, it looked like most of the books stayed on the shelves, unread.

Now, I didn’t actually think that the library was haunted. And over time the whole library became  comfortable to me. Eventually I became a librarian and now I think the library is and can be many, many things to many people.

Some years ago, I wrote this

What if every person who worked at a library was obligated to create and leave one book that remained in the library as long as it remained. Imagine the sense of legacy and the sense of connection that could be established by the shelves of these books. Imagine the ways that those who made these books would choose to express themselves. Would they write a history? a biography? poetry? How could these books connect the people to the place to the time of the library? 
I still think of the library as a memento mori.

G H O S T    S T O R Y    2

#53 In The Desert February 4, 2016
“You know, there’s always that fear that an unreasonable person is going to show up.”
-- Michael Saba, on his house being The Bermuda Triangle of cell phones. 

Strangers keep coming to Mike and Christina’s house looking for their stolen cell phones. Nobody knows why. We travel to Atlanta to find out what’s going on, in our thorniest Super Tech Support yet.

G H O S T    S T O R Y    3 

Art and Math and Science, Oh My!
by sailor mercury
Technology can bring art to life.

One very literal example of art bringing technology to life is the experimental theatrical show Sleep No More: an interactive modern retelling of Macbeth where you walk around 4 floors of the set to watch and interact with the actors.
For future shows, they’re working together with the MIT media lab on making the set itself more interactive with embedded programming: mirrors that write messages to you in blood or typewriters that type out cryptic messages to you if you linger too long in front of them.

G H O S T    S T O R Y     4

In the Future, We'll All Be Harry Potter
by Jakob Nielsen on December 9, 2002


Summary: The world of magic is a world where inanimate objects come alive; it's as if they had computational power, sensors, awareness, and connectivity.
By saying that we'll one day be like Harry Potter, I don't mean that we'll fly around on broomsticks or play three-dimensional ballgames (though virtual reality will let enthusiasts play Quidditch matches). What I do mean is that we're about to experience a world where spirit inhabits formerly inanimate objects.

Much of the Harry Potter books' charm comes from the quirky magic objects that surround Harry and his friends. Rather than being solid and static, these objects embody initiative and activity. This is precisely the shift we'll experience as computational power moves beyond the desktop into everyday objects....

 G H O S T    S T O R Y     5 

After reading a book of German ghost stories, somebody suggested they each write their own. Byron's physician, John Polidori, came up with the idea for The Vampyre, published in 1819,1 which was the first of the "vampire-as-seducer" novels. Godwin's story came to her in a dream, during which she saw "the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together."2 Soon after that fateful summer, Godwin and Shelley married, and in 1818, Mary Shelley's horror story was published under the title, Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Prometheus.3Frankenstein lives on in the popular imagination as a cautionary tale against technology. We use the monster as an all-purpose modifier to denote technological crimes against nature. When we fear genetically modified foods we call them "frankenfoods" and "frankenfish." It is telling that even as we warn against such hybrids, we confuse the monster with its creator. We now mostly refer to Dr. Frankenstein's monster as Frankenstein. And just as we have forgotten that Frankenstein was the man, not the monster, we have also forgotten Frankenstein's real sin. Dr. Frankenstein's crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself. When Dr. Frankenstein meets his creation on a glacier in the Alps, the monster claims that it was not born a monster, but that it became a criminal only after being left alone by his horrified creator, who fled the laboratory once the horrible thing twitched to life. "Remember, I am thy creature," the monster protests, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed... I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."

Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.4 - Bruno Latour

G H O S T    S T O R Y    6
[Confession: the whole point of this post is to encourage you to read this]
Our Gothic Future
The other day, after watching Crimson Peak for the first time, I woke up with a fully-fleshed idea for a Gothic horror story about experience design. And while the story would take place in the past, it would really be about the future. Why? Because the future itself is Gothic.

First, what is Gothic? Gothic (or “the Gothic” if you’re in academia) is a Romantic mode of literature and art. It’s a backlash against the Enlightenment obsession with order and taxonomy. It’s a radical imposition of mystery on an increasingly mundane landscape. It’s the anticipatory dread of irrational behaviour in a seemingly rational world. But it’s also a mode that places significant weight on secrets — which, in an era of diminished privacy and ubiquitous surveillance, resonates ever more strongly....

... Consider the disappearance of the interface. As our devices become smaller and more intuitive, our need to see how they work in order to work them goes away. Buttons have transformed into icons, and icons into gestures. Soon gestures will likely transform into thoughts, with brainwave-triggers and implants quietly automating certain functions in the background of our lives. Once upon a time, we valued big hulking chunks of technology: rockets, cars, huge brushed-steel hi-fis set in ornate wood cabinets, thrumming computers whose output could heat an office, even odd little single-purpose kitchen widgets. Now what we want is to be Beauty in the Beast’s castle: making our wishes known to the household gods, and watching as the “automagic” takes care of us. From Siri to Cortana to Alexa, we are allowing our lives and livelihoods to become haunted by ghosts without shells.

Now, I’m not at all the only person to notice this particular trend (or, more accurately, to read the trend through this particular lens). It’s central to David Rose’s book Enchanted Objects, which you all should read. This is also why FutureEverything’s Haunted Machines symposium exists....
 [you really should read the whole thing]

 G H O S T    S T O R Y    7

avocado's thoughts about ghosts and thoughts about libraries are very intertwingled rn— Avocado (@RealAvocadoFact) February 27, 2016 @copystar maybe there are things we can leave behind that are even more alive than ghosts and libraries are more like gardens than tombs— Avocado (@RealAvocadoFact) February 27, 2016

Terry Reese: MarcEdit Mid-week update

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 07:01

Yesterday, I had someone indicate that there was a problem with the Add/Delete Field function.  An update in the last version to allow for deduplication deletions based on subfields tripped other deletions.  This was definitely problematic.  This has been corrected, in addition to a couple other changes.

Change log:


  • Bug Fix: Add/Delete Field: I introduced an element into the Delete function to allow dedup deletions to happen at the subfield level. This tripped non-dedup deletions. This has been corrected.
  • Update: Build New Links: FAST headings in the 600,611,630 weren’t being processed. I’ve updated the rules file appropriately.
  • Update: RDA Helper Abbrevs File: Add S.L. abbreviation.
  • Bug Fix: Validate Headings: The Check A only when subject checking wasn’t honoring that option. This is corrected.

Changes can be found on the downloads page:



Ed Summers: Practice

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 05:00

A few weeks ago Cliff Lampe visited UMD to give a talk about his work on citizen interaction design, connecting the University of Michigan iSchool with the City of Jackson, Michigan and other cities around Michigan. At a high level the goal of the project is to get iSchool students out in the field working with local governments to try to collaborate on solutions to problems that they have.

Lampe stressed that much of the work was in determining what problems could be effectively worked on in a semester, and jointly arriving at sustainable solutions. The sustainable part is hard, especially when the students are here one year and gone the next–leaving websites, databases and other artifacts behind that need attention, care and repair. A focus on the actual dimensions of the problem and not the technical solution is key, as is sustained support from the University and the city. I seem to remember he also highlighted the need for simple solutions: e.g. a Google spreadsheet, rather than a full blown Web application with a database. You can see a list of some of these projects here.

One thing Lampe really impressed on me was the importance of a practice orientation to this and other information studies work. He has been very active in the HCI community for a number of years, and feels like there has been a trend towards a broadened study of the processes and contexts that information systems are a part of (Practice paradigm). He said he was working on a paper to discuss this trend in HCI, but then found that Kuutti and Bannon had already written one (Kuutti & Bannon, 2014).

I’m still in the process of digesting the paper, but thought I’d just jot down some quotes that struck me as I was reading.

For the Interaction paradigm, the scope of the intervention is viewed as changing human actions by means of novel technology. For the Practice paradigm, a whole practice is the unit of intervention, not only technology, but everything related and interwoven in the performance is under scrutiny and potentially changeable, depending on the goals of the intervention. Thus the changing technology is but one of the options.

Only focusing on technology and immediate interactions isn’t enough. It’s important to decenter the technology by placing it in the larger cultural and social context. Of course that perspective can be difficult to maintain without getting completely abstracted and lost. Zooming in on actual practices seems like a useful way to avoid doing that. It feels like there might be connections to Latour’s work on Actor-Network Theory and Object-Oriented Ontology here too, to aid in this kind of study of practices–particularly regarding the interest in artifacts.

Practice theories do not locate the origin of the social in the mind, discourse, or interaction, but in ‘practices’ - routines consisting of a number of interconnected and inseparable elements: physical and mental activities of human bodies, the material environment, artifacts and their use, contexts, human capabilities, affinities and motivation. Practices are wholes, whose existence is dependent on the temporal interconnection of all these elements, and cannot be reduced to, or explained by, any one single element.

I like this idea of practices as wholes, since too often we focus on one small part of the practice and miss the larger picture. This larger picture where technology is just part involves the values and outcomes of particular practices. What do we want to happen in the world?

From a practices perspective the world is a network of performances that are durable, because the ways of doing things are coded in minds, bodies, artifacts, objects and texts, and connected together so that the result of performing one activity serves as a resource for another.

Kuutti and Bannon remind me a bit of work we’ve been doing in MITH on our Digital Incubator series, where we are focused on process rather tool building. Many digital humanities projects are oriented around tools or a particular set of content, but often what can be really rewarding is teaching a process or practice that involves tools and content. It’s a craft thing I guess.

Anyhow as a student I really like these kinds of papers because they serve as guide posts and provide lots of useful pointers out into the literature. The paper builds on Davide Nicolini’s Practice Theory, Work, and Organization which looks like a good introduction to this area.


Kuutti, K., & Bannon, L. J. (2014). The turn to practice in HCI: Towards a research agenda. In Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3543–3552). Association for Computing Machinery.

pinboard: GitHub - NCSU-Libraries/quick_search: QuickSearch is a toolkit for easily creating custom bento-box search applications

planet code4lib - Fri, 2016-03-04 01:13
RT @yo_bj: RT @ronallo: QuickSearch from @ncsulibraries is now open source: #code4lib

LITA: Jobs in Information Technology: March 2, 2016

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-03-03 14:00

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:

Penn State University Libraries, Digital Scholarship Research Coordinator, University Park, PA

Loyola Notre Dame Library, Digital Services Coordinator, Baltimore, MD

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

Mita Williams: The Heritage Heritage Minute and The Digital Library of Canada We Lost

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-03-03 12:45
It's time for me to write about Heritage - the ten year digitization project that is being undertaken by the non-profit charity with 50,000 reels of microfilmed historical material from Canada's national library, Library and Archives Canada - which has been partly funded by most of the university libraries of Canada through CRKN, the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, which raised $1.74 million dollars toward the deal signed on June 14th.

CRKN is a licensing agency that negotiates deals with publishers and then brings those deals to its members to sign onto. Normally, for those librarians - like myself - who are not privy to the conversations of library directors or not among the small set of subscribers to the restricted CRKN listserv, it is not unusual to hear about the proposed deals only after they have been signed and committed to by their leadership.

But that didn't happen this time. What happened?  To explain, let's have a Heritage Minute.

Part One: The Heritage Heritage Minute
We don't know when Canadiana first approached CRKN but on May 1st a proposal from Canadiana went to the library directors that make up the membership of CRKN with a signing deadline of May 31st and with a statement that the deal was under an non-disclosure agreement until June 14th when the project was slated to go to public.

Someone who had seen the proposal was concerned enough by its contents to provide a copy of the document(s) to Myron Groover a librarian / archivist who has been following writing and commenting on the decline of affairs of Canada's national library for some time now. Myron first raised the matter of the proposal on June 6th on his blog, Bibliocracy and then followed up by posting a transcript of the summary of the plan on June 10th.

Concerns from librarians, archivists, researchers, and citizens over the proposed deal were shared casually online on Twitter and Facebook but things really heated up when NDP MP Andrew Cash brought his concerns with the proposal to the attention of James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages in the House of Commons on June 11th.

Confusing matters, later that same day the CBC reported that the deal in question was to be delayed til the fall based on the Moore's comment that the digitization project would resume once a new Head of Libraries and Archives would be appointed. No one really knows if this was a simple misunderstanding during the confusion of Question Period or if this was the result of of James Moore being unaware of the Heritage deal at this point in time.

On the next day, June 12th, the Ottawa Citizen covered this story around the leaked proposal in an article with the headline, Library and Archives Canada private deal would take millions of documents out of public domain.

(As an aside, the media coverage of this story seems to implicitly frame the controversy as a battle between archivists vs. librarians. Myron is referred to as an archivist (and not a archivist / librarian) and other archivists were interviewed to give the 'against' side of the story. This framing may have come about unintentionally because no librarians involved were allowed to speak on the matter and as none one of the professional bodies that represent Canada's archives community were involved in the negotiations around the Heritage Project, so they were free to speak their displeasure).

Also around this time CAUT - the labour organization that represents university faculty and librarians started a campaign to stop the Heritage proposal from going forward.

It's worth noting that during this particularly frantic week, there was not a single official statement made publicly by CRKN on the matter.  Their Twitter feeds points to clarifying statements by Canadiana (No paywall, no privatization) and a short radio interview from a director general at LAC (Library and Archives responds to concerns about a new digital service). Meanwhile, an employee of Canadiana felt comfortable to speak out on the matter on his own personal blog (Good news Canadiana & LAC project spun into bad news?)

It appears that CKRN did sent out an email to the members of the CRKN listserv to clarify matters (which was then posted on Bibliocracy) but from what I can tell, they did not make public notice of the same information.

The most important difference between the original leaked proposal and the 'clarification' from CRKN is that the language that described the digitized content as 'open access for Canadians' (which as Heather Morrison aptly put, there is no such thing) was changed to being 'under a Creative Commons licence for non commercial use'. As an outsider, I have no way of knowing whether these changes were the result of negotiations that occurred before May 31st or afterwards once the proposal was leaked and the objections raised, but conjecture suggests the latter.

CRKN also retweeted a particular telling document on June 13th, the day before the deadline, a letter from CARL entitled "CARL urges Minister Moore to go forward with Héritage Project". For me, this suggests that perhaps the deal was in some jeopardy, either due to the fact that it had now become controversial or perhaps less palatable since the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages had gone on record stating that Canadians should not have to pay to access our achives.

A similar letter of support for this project was produced by the Ontario Council of University Libraries. These letters are not surprising since almost all of members of these organizations were the same ones who signed on to the CRKN deal. There may have been other letters of support for the deal sent to the Minister but the only other one that I know of was from the Canadian Urban Libraries Council [pdf].

addendum: The Canadian Library Association also wrote a letter of support [pdf]
On the afternoon of June 14th, there was a message sent out to the institutions of CRKN that the deal had been signed and this announcement - CRKN Participates in Innovative Project to Increase Access to Canadian Documentary Heritage - was posted on their website. What's curious about this public document is that license for the digital material of Heritage is described vaguely as under a 'Creative Commons' license instead of explicitly as a CC-NC as they had done earlier that week in their internal communication.

Which brings us to today. I've been writing this over the weekend of June 22nd and 23rd. Earlier this week, the Heritage site quietly launched. And there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the licensing of the work involved.  The next part of this post will explain why I think these unanswered questions are still very important.

Part Two: The Digital Library of Canada We Lost
Now, before I go further, please understand that I am empathic with many of the proponents of this deal who were were confused, frustrated, and even hostile to the fact that there was a group of librarians and archivists who were asking critical questions about this deal while they watched helplessly as these concerns were being raised in Parliament and in the press and remained unaddressed from their leadership.

I know several librarians whose professional judgement I trust who have stated that they believe that the Heritage deal is good for the partners involved and good for Canadian history. Some of them asked, libraries sign similar deals with commercial vendors all the time - what's the fuss here? What's the difference between this deal and the deal that presumably led to the creation of the digital product of Early Canadiana Online

So I'll try my best to tell explain my concerns.

First off, what I think is particularly damning is that - with all of the media coverage and the fact that the matter was worthy enough to be brought up in the House of Commons - the questions that critics like myself have been raising - still have not been answered by the parties involved.

Many of these questions raised by those concerned have been best captured and expressed by Kevin Read in his post, Concerning the deal between LAC and Canadiana: We ask for transparency:

But there are two questions that I would like to add to his list:
1) When, if ever, does the material in Heritage turn from CC-NC (Creative Commons Non-Commercial) to CC-0 (Public Domain) licence?

1) Why isn't the material being put immediately into the public domain (CC-0)?

2) Where and how will the Linked Open Data that was explicitly promised as part of the original proposal from Canadiana that was signed by CRKN going to be made available?If the documents and metadata in Heritage never make a transition to explicitly being open and unrestricted for commercial use (such as to be published in a book that is subsequently made for sale), then CRKN has indeed paid for a commercial product that Canadians will 'have to pay for twice' to use and as feared, millions of documents will be taken out of the public domain.

We have heard nothing that contradicts these fears.

By allowing Canadiana to maintain a CC-NC licence for the materials involved, does Canadiana essentially becomes a licensing agency for the use of scholarly materials just like Access Copyright?  And does Canadiana even have the right to apply CC-NC in the mass digitization of microfilm? One librarian well versed in copyright measures isn't so sure.

In short, the Heritage deal may prove a good deal financially for the organizations involved, but it fails the public in some profound ways.

To explain why, let's do a thought experiment. Let's imagine that CRKN responded to the Canadiana proposal with a counter proposal that would have absorbed the amount of money that was estimated as coming in from cost-recovery measures into the CRKN contribution. Let's imagine that like a true Open Access project, the costs are not passed on to the reader. Admittedly the project would indeed result in less material being described but there would be other benefits that would come from the provision that all digitized material and metadata created would be immediately placed in the public domain. Just imagine what sort of activities this new platform could support:

  • Like the British Library, libraries and archives across Canada could easily partner with organizations such as the Wikimedia Foundation to co-host events like this history-themed editathon
  • Like the Digital Public Library of America, the digital collections could be considered a platform for others to build work on. For example, once the LAC documents are geo-coded, there would be a variety of applications that could be developed that could add document discovery through geolocation.  This could allow anyone - researchers, students, entrepreneurs - to build web or mobile apps that present historical documents in an historical, gaming, or creative context without having to make arrangements to pay Canadiana ahead of time for use of the documents. 
  • Libraries could reassure the Canadian people, as well as the current Harper government, that they - unlike companies and not-for-profit charities - they exist to make information and creative works available for free to the Canadian public

I can only hope that from this controversy that our leadership has learned that our reading public now has a far greater literacy and expectations for matters regarding licensing and the public domain than ever before.

Case in point:  Aaron Swartz is on the cover of the Time Magazine this week. 

I believe that in the pursuit of brute efficiency in the manifestation of the Heritage deal, something was lost. So, in the spirit of the quiet hope that is embodied in the lament of Anil Dash's The Web We Lost, I would like to write about the the digital library of Canada that was not to be.

What could have we done instead?  Well, I like what what librarian Mike Ridley suggested over a year ago:

... we need to form a collaborative organization linking libraries, museums, and archives to operate this distributed collection and service. We need to take on the long term responsibility that this government is refusing to do. Yes I know we have no money or space or staff; we need to do it anyway.
Oh yes, he also offered this timely warning:
Shouldn’t we partner with LAC on this? OK but let’s be careful. Not being harsh here. LAC has a history of not always playing nice with others. The wonderful and visionary Alouette Canada initiative (now part of; a good model for at least part of this mission BTW) was launched with strong support from LAC; they enthusiastically offered to seek federal funding for this national, collaborative project. Money they did get and it went to LAC digital projects not those of the consortium. Lesson: Don’t get fooled again.
Well, at least this time Canadiana and LAC were upfront in regards to where all the CRKN money will go: it goes "to fund metadata creation and and to build a sustainability fund to maintain the platform"... both of which, I will remind you, belong and remain to Canadiana alone.

To imagine what else could have happened, it's useful to look at CKRN's first deal - its pilot project called CNSLP:

In January 2000, 64 universities in Canada signed a historic inter-institutional agreement that launched the Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP), a pilot project totaling Cdn$50 million over three years.
The gist of the CNSLP project was that instead of individually licensing digital products from commercial vendors, the academic libraries of Canada would band together and achieving substantial savings from the bulk licensing on a nationwide basis. In Ontario, the savings gained from CNSLP were not directed into buying more products, but were instead directed into an infrastructure fund that gave rise to OCUL's Scholars Portal.

Canadian National Site Licensing Project (CNSLP)
2000 : all OCUL libraries are participants in this Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funded initiative ($20M from CFI and $30M in matching funds from 64 academic institutions) to enable national licensing of electronic resources to increase access and reduce costs. Ontario Innovative Trust funding ($7.6M) will enable Ontario to initiate the Ontario Information Infrastructure to ensure rapid and ongoing access to these new resources for OCUL libraries...

Scholars Portal
2002: Scholars Portal (created with Ontario Information Infrastructure (OII) funding) is a shared technology infrastructure and shared collections for all 21 universities in Ontario. Scholars Portal Journals and Racer (Rapid Access to Collections by Electronic Requesting), an online interlibrary loan request system, are the first modules to go live.
And ten years later, unlike the National Library of Canada, we - the academic libraries of Ontario - have our own Interlibrary Loan Service and and a Trusted Digital Repository, among many other cherished services provided by excellent and skilled library professionals.

And what will academic libraries get from ten years from now from the Heritage project?  We will have gained no increased infrastructure or additional expertise from the digitization of historical materials that we can share with our local communities. And ten years from now, I'm afraid to say that I believe that we will have less capacity and smaller budgets to do the work that Canadiana now does for us.

We have outsourced ourselves. Again.

But maybe this dream of an open digital library of Canada is not completely lost.

As Russel McOrmand of Canadiana reminds us in his post Why is a license required for a Canadiana project built from public domain material?

I am a system administrator at Canadiana, and not someone involved in policy relating to licensing of the parts of this project that will be covered by Canadiana copyright. When it is a Canadiana decision, it is our Board of Directors made up of librarians and archivists, and our executive director, who ultimately are responsible for such policies.
Our library leadership sits on the board of directors of Canadiana.

What it is is up to us.

Peter Murray: How to fix a directory that Git thinks is a submodule

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-03-02 21:53

Nuts. I added and committed a directory to my Git repository when the directory itself was another separate Git repository. Now Git thinks it’s some sort of submodule, but it doesn’t know how to deal with it:

$ git submodule update No submodule mapping found in .gitmodules for path 'blah'

And worse, Git won’t let me remove it:

$ git rm blah error: the following submodule (or one of its nested submodules) uses a .git directory: blah (use 'rm -rf' if you really want to remove it including all of its history)

So what to do? This:

$ git rm --cached blah $ git add blah

In my case I had a situation where there were several Git repositories-inside-a-repository, so I wanted a way to deal with them all:

$ for i in `find . -type d -name .git -print | sed 's#/.git##'`; do > echo $i > rm -rf $i/.git > git rm --cached $i > git add $i > done

(Be careful not to run this find command at the root of your Git repository, of course, or else you will effectively destroy its usefulness as a git repo. )

LITA: 3 Exciting LITA Preconferences at ALA Annual, Orlando FL

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-03-02 20:49
Help LITA kick off its year of 50th anniversary celebrations.

By attending any one of three exciting new preconferences at ALA Annual in Orlando FL. They will all be held on:

Friday, June 24 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

For more information and registration, check out the LITA at ALA Annual conference web page

Digital Privacy and Security: Keeping You and Your Library Safe and Secure in a Post-Snowden World

Presenters: Blake Carver, LYRASIS and Jessamyn West, Library Technologist at Open Library

Learn strategies on how to make you, your librarians and your patrons more secure & private in a world of ubiquitous digital surveillance and criminal hacking. We’ll teach tools that keep your data safe inside of the library and out — how to secure your library network environment, website, and public PCs, as well as tools and tips you can teach to patrons in computer classes and one-on-one tech sessions. We’ll tackle security myths, passwords, tracking, malware, and more, covering a range of tools from basic to advanced, making this session ideal for any library staff.

Blake Carver Jessamyn West Islandora for Managers: Open Source Digital Repository Training

Presenters: Erin Tripp, Business Development Manager at discoverygarden inc. and Stephen Perkins, Managing Member of Infoset Digital Publishing

Islandora is an OAIS adherent and open source digital repository framework. It combines the Drupal CMS and Fedora Commons repository software, together with additional open source applications, the framework delivers a wide range of functionality out of the box. The proposed workshop will provide an overview of Islandora, it’s community of users, and allow users to test drive a full Islandora installation using local virtual machines or the online Islandora sandbox.

Erin Tripp Stephen Perkins Technology Tools and Transforming Librarianship

Presenters: Lola Bradley, Reference Librarian, Upstate University; Breanne Kirsch, Coordinator of Emerging Technologies, Upstate University; Jonathan Kirsch, Librarian, Spartanburg County Public Library; Rod Franco, Librarian, Richland Library; Thomas Lide, Learning Engagement Librarian, Richland Library

Technology envelops every aspect of librarianship, so it is important to keep up with new technology tools and find ways to use them to improve services and better help patrons. This hands-on, interactive preconference will teach six to eight technology tools in detail and show attendees the resources to find out about 50 free technology tools that can be used in all libraries. There will be plenty of time for exploration of the tools, so please BYOD! You may also want to bring headphones or earbuds.

Lola Bradley Breanne Kirsch Jonathan Kirsch Rod Franco Thomas Lide And be sure to attend the LITA President’s Program featuring Dr. Safiya Noble

Sunday June 26, 2016 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Dr. Noble is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Information Studies in the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. She conducts research in socio-cultural informatics; including feminist, historical and political-economic perspectives on computing platforms and software in the public interest. Her research is at the intersection of culture and technology in the design and use of applications on the Internet.

Safiya Noble More Information and Registration

Check out the LITA at ALA Annual conference web page.

Library of Congress: The Signal: Assessing Digital Preservation at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-03-02 19:40

The following is a guest post by Alice Sara Prael, National Digital Stewardship Resident at the John F. Kennedy presidential Library. She participates in the NDSR-Boston cohort.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library began the “Access to Legacy” project in 2007 with the goal to digitize, describe, and permanently retain millions of presidential documents, photographs, and audiovisual recordings. Since the project began the Library has accumulated over 150 terabytes of data. With this much data in our holdings, how can we preserve the digital files over the long term? That’s where our NDSR project comes into play.

Alice Sara Prael, National Digital Stewardship Resident

The goal of the project is to ‘develop a long-range digital preservation strategy’ which would address all digital archival holdings at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. This is a challenging goal, so we broke it down into three phases. The first was to assess current infrastructure against community standards and make brief recommendations on how to improve digital preservation practices. The second phase will explore potential solutions to address the recommendations made in the first phase. The final phase will determine a single path forward based on the solutions explored and create an action plan for how to implement that solution. I recently completed a report of my initial findings and moved onto the second phase, researching potential systems and solutions forward.

Since the aim of my project is to make recommendations that will be carried out after my residency, advocacy has been key. I recognized that staff input would be incredibly important early on, so I started by interviewing archivists and IT personnel about their processes and how they use the systems in place at the library. Armed with the staff perspective, I dove into researching the systems through help guides and communication with support staff. At the library we use a digital asset management system called Documentum, created and donated by EMC. For storage we use Centera servers on-site and a mirrored back-up held off site; both storage systems are managed cooperatively by IT staff at the Library and EMC. There are other systems in place, mainly for indexing and access, but these were the focus of my project.   Since these systems are proprietary it hasn’t always been easy gaining access to documentation. I was provided with a help guide, but many of the more technical details were acquired through conversations with EMC support staff.

Systems in use at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

During my research into the preservation practices and systems, I regularly referred to community standards and guidelines such as ISO 14721: Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS), ISO 16363: Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation. Each gives a slightly different perspective on what is required for digital preservation. Ideally we would want our program to pass an assessment based on any standard with top marks. However, in the reality of limited resources and staff time it’s important to recognize when to aim for “good enough” digital preservation. “Good enough” can be defined by the available resources, the needs of the collection, and priorities of the institution. It will be defined differently for different scenarios so we need to find out what is good enough for us.

After the completion of the first phase I wrote a report of initial findings. I grounded the report by connecting my recommendations to the Levels of Digital Preservation created by NDSA. The NDSA Levels are not as in depth as ISO 16363 and ISO 14721, but they are easier to understand at a glance, especially for those who are less familiar with the needs of digital preservation. It’s great that there are intermediary levels so an institution can address digital preservation without an all-or-nothing mindset. It also creates a useful visual aid for identifying strengths and weaknesses.

NDSA Levels color coded to show the strengths and weaknesses of digital preservation at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

We are strong on file formats and weaker when it comes to storage and geographic location. Making these points clearly and early on helps with long-term advocacy. With a clear starting point, we can continue to document how we improve and address these weaknesses. Now that we have identified specific places for improvement, I know where to focus during the next phase of the project.

Since the NDSA Levels are focused on the technological requirements, I pulled from the ISO standards to address the organizational and policy needs. I found that the JFK Library, like so many cultural heritage institutions, is in need of better documentation. Some processes have never been fully documented and live exclusively in the mind of the archivist, which becomes problematic when the archivist leaves – especially if it’s a sudden departure. As a new addition to the digital archives team part of my charge has been to ask questions about the existing policies and to fill documentation gaps where necessary.

My work has focused on the largest gap in the existing documentation for digital archives, a digital preservation policy. Since a policy is a record of decisions, my initial focus was to identify the decisions for digital preservation – those that need to be made, those that have been made but not documented, and those that have been documented elsewhere. I started by reviewing the policies on the Scalable Preservation Environment’s wiki of published preservation policies. I found frameworks that best suited the digital preservation environment at the JFK Library. Once I had an outline for how a digital preservation policy might work and a list of decisions to make, I returned to the key stakeholders. Together we have created a draft policy, but it is still a work in progress. We have come to a consensus on how to address many digital preservation challenges, but parts of the drafted policy are still aspirational. We hope that once the NDSR project is complete and we have a clear implementation plan for improved digital preservation, the policy will be a true reflection of the practices at the Library.

HangingTogether: The Books Shackleton Took to Antarctica

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-03-02 16:44

As was recently reported, the Royal Geographic Society in London digitized a photograph that was taken in 1915 of Sir Ernest Shackelton’s Antarctic library by Frank Hurley. They were then able to discern the book titles, which I have linked to WorldCat and any open copy I could find. Just imagine, you can read a book that Shackleton may have read before the Endurance was crushed in the pack ice and sank.

As you review the list of books he selected to take to one of the remotest parts of our planet, keep in mind that this happened long before the author of Harry Potter was born.

Books on Shackleton’s bookshelf:

About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant works on projects related to improving the technological infrastructure of libraries, museums, and archives.

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