Library Lab/The Podcast 006: From Brick and Mortar to 1s and 0s

Listen: 19:16
(Also in ogg)

Some might assume that libraries and museums have outlived their purpose. When every book and archive can be recreated and reinterpreted digitally to create an incredible user experience, how is the physical and human infrastructure of the institution still necessary?

It’s a challenging question, but libraries and museums aren’t finding themselves replaced by the internet, as the cynical might assume. In fact, their roles as curators and archivists are becoming more important than ever.

Susan Hildreth is the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services which serves the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

Susan recently got on the phone with Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s very own David Weinberger to talk about the role these brick and mortar institutions play in the digital age.

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Creative Commons music courtesy of Brad Sucks and photos courtesy of spaetz.

Library Lab/The Podcast 005: Stock in Paper

Listen: 25:54
Also in ogg

If you’ve worked in technology at all you probably recognize the name “O’Reilly” — it has become practically synonymous with “tech help.” For anyone who has tried to code a line of html, or figure out what the heck that icon on the iPhone screen is, O’Reilly Media has produced a manual to explain it.

In the digital age shelves weighted down with books like these are becoming less and less common. Creators are turning more to online resources and tutorials to help them with specific issues. But, as you might expect from a forward thinking technology company, O’Reilly has been there to meet their readers.

Part of this has been due to the initiative of O’Reilly’s founder Tim O’Reilly who has seen an e-book revolution coming.

Tim recently sat down with Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s very own David Weinberger to talk about using the web to curate and archive knowledge, and what innovations publishers like he have to take on in order to survive.
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Creative Commons music courtesy of Brad Sucks and photos courtesy of Flickr users Simonov and Joi.


The Harvard Library Lab, which issues grants for library innovation at the University, is holding a forum in which all the projects get 5 mins to introduce themselves. (The names prefacing these blurbs are of the presenters, who are not always the project leads or developers.)

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Sebastian Diaz: Slideshow generator. Makes it easy to create slideshows out of images from image repositories. It initially is using the VIA repository. You can search by keyword, select the slides, set the delay between slides, and publish it. It’s intended for classroom use, or, of course, for anyone.

Sebastian Diaz: Enhanced Social Tagging for Classifiation and Current Awareness. It’s currently under development. (The code is at Github.) It enables the merging of tag sets that use different vocabularies without having to define a dictionary ahead of time. The tool produces a filter, “and you aggregate based on that filter,” renaming tags (or associating them?) based on the filter. People can make their own aggregated feed out of these multiple tag sets. It’s a form of behavior-driven development.

Sebastian Diaz: Deposit@Harvard. This tool eases the process of adding open access material to open access repositories, including Harvard DASH. This is an issue because not all repositories have the same APIs or metadata definitions.

Abigail Bourdeaux: The Copyright and Fair Use Tool: An interactive workflow tool for those trying to determine the copyright status, and fair use status, of materials, particularly for use in the classroom. (It has not yet begun coding.)

Abigail Bourdeaux: Online Digital Atlas Viewer. This is a viewer designed specifically for viewing historical atlases online. These atlases may have overlap from page to page, may switch scales, etc. ODAV will help to reconcile maps through Open Layers, to overlap and scale them seamlessly. (It has not yet begun coding.)

Marc MGee and Dave Siegel: Enhanced Catalog Searching with Geospatial Technology. They’re working on ways to spatially search information in the Harvard Library system. They’re using PRESTO Web Services tools. They’ve taken 1,700 MARC records and sent them to Metacarta, a geocoding company. Metacarta assigns lat/long to words it’s extracted from text. They then put markers on a map to show docs relevant to those places.

Bobbi Fox: Library Application Collaboration Development Tools and Resources: How we can better coordinate library innovation at Harvard. They’ve reactivated the ABCD Library discussion group, which has been a “roaring success.” They’ve also been talking with groups all across the library system about what would help. They’re also coordinating with the new University CTO. From the small group discussions they’ve confirmed that everyone wants simple and convenient ways to keep up with the various projects, but we tend to disagree about what “simple and convenient” means 🙂 Also, it’s clear we need to work get over the cultural barriers against sharing what we’re doing. Most people are not all that excited about centrally provided services such as bug tracking or source code management.

Justin Daost, Chris Erdmann: Wolbach User Experience Lab. The center for astrophysics got a Microsoft Surface, which interacts with objects near its surface via infrared cameras. They’ve been working with Microsoft Research to see how it could be use in the Library. Microsoft also connected them with Andy van Dam at Brown U. where they’re working on the Garibaldi Project, a way of browsing a set of related content. They’ve been working on the LADS project that lets people scroll through a timeline, zoom in on high res images (without using much memory), click on hotspots that display related metadata, etc. They are using this to give access to special collections. Also, they created an interface to enable librarians to update it easily.

Andy Wilson: QR Codes in the Library: This project would put QR in the stacks that would load onto a mobile device research guides relevant to that area of the stacks. They will spend the fall semester gathering more usage data before going to full implementation; they want to make sure people will actually use it.

Skip Kendall and Andrea Goethals: Zone 1 Rescue Repository: 1. Working with faculty members to look at their own personal archive (personal papers, etc.), and to think about policy recommendations. 2. The Rescue Repository is a place to put content the final destination of which is not yet known.; it’s a type of staging area, for use by anyone at Harvard, with very low barriers to getting content in. People can nominate content for long-term preservation. Content can be exported into other repositories. It will be open source software. (MIT is collaborating on this project).

Carli Spina and Kim Dulin: Library Analytics Toolkit: An open source, highly configurable dashboard for viewing library statistics. It will be configurable for individuals, departments, entire libraries, etc. By having it in similar formats, libraries will be able to compare their data. It will be widget-based and extensible, drawing data from standard data collectors, and will be built on existing dashboards (e.g. NCSU, Brown U., and the Watson Library at the Met). It is at the wireframe stage.

Cheryl McGrath: Interactive Carrel Seating App: Currently getting a carrel requires a bunch of paperwork and staff time. People have a wide variety of requests: Near a bathroom, in sunlight, no glare at sunset, are there crumbs in it, etc. This open source app lets users browse and search, and reserve the carrel. Carrel users can also post msgs to one another. The team thinks this app may save 5 weeks of labor for a staff member per year.

Library Innovation Podcasts: That’s my project:

Chip Goines: DRS Access for Mobil Devices: Creating an API to enable mobile devices to locate items in a “page-turned digital research” object, returning info about that particular page. [pdf]

Kimberly Hall: The Connected Scholar: “Building ideas and exploring sources within an online culture of attribution.” It lets researchers track what they’re looking at/copying/jotting down, and enables collaboration in the management of information resources. This should help scholars see where their ideas are coming from, to better understand their creative process.” It should also help students develop the habit of attributing sources. Students will be able to see their research process through the tool.

Reinhard Engels: Highbrow: A textual annotation browser that displays the density of references to a text. E.g., you can plot the Biblical references in Aquinas, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and Maimonides. (Augustine is more interested in Psalms than Aquinas was, and no one is interested in Mark.) You can zoom in on the line chart until you get to the actual text. The source text preferably should have a clear coordinate system (e.g., chapter and verse, or numbered lines of poetry). In working with Dante references, Reinhard has hit scaling issues: one set of commentators has almost 300,000 annotations. So, he slices them by century, or by various other facets. Or you can browse by line and see how many annotations there, and what they are. He’s now working interactive annotations, enabling students and researchers to enter annotations.

Tom Dawson: Yana: “an open source template for scholarly journals to develop mobile apps.” “Yana” is Sanskrit for “vehicle.”) “The goal of the Yana project is to provide a light-weight, modular, open source template within which open acccess publishers can develop their own mobile applications.” The aim is to make it easier for journals to do open access publishing on mobiles.

I talked about LibraryCloud, and Matt Phillips did a demo. LibraryCloud is an open library metadata server. It’s coming along well.

James Burns, Jesse Shapins: extraMUROS. The aim is to provide a multimedia library without walls. It will bring together collections from all over and let users browse and search, curate in their own fashion, and be able to publish collections. James and Jesse show an early build of their browser that lets you quickly scan multiple collections. (Very cool.) You can drag objects into a scratch space — either collections or individual items. It can look at the items you’re choosing in order to refine your search. There’s a map view that is also very cool. It even has a 3D view (No, no glasses required 🙂 And a timeline view.

Q: Will you fund non-tech-heavy proposals?
A: Yes!

Q: Could these be sources of revenue for the Library?
A: Nope. It’s open source for the greater good of libraries.

Why don’t more academics do Open Access publishing?

A report on a survey of 350 chemists and 350 economists in UK universities leads to the following conclusion about open access publishing:

…our work with researchers on the ground indicates to us that whatever the enthusiasm and optimism within the OA community, it has not spilled into academia to a large extent and has had only a small effect on the publishing habits and perceptions of ordinary researchers, whatever their seniority and whether in Chemistry or Economics.

The report finds that faculty members want to publish in high “impact factor” journals unless they have some specific reason why they should go the Open Access route, e.g., they need to get something out quickly. The subscriptions their libraries buy mask from them the extent to which their work becomes inaccessible to those who are not a university.

The report ends with some recommendations for trying to move academics towards OA publishing.

Library Lab/The Podcast 004: We Read in Public

Listen: 32:18
Also in ogg

Guarding patron privacy is kind of the default in the library business. When it comes to knowing who checked out what and when libraries usually prefer to flush the cache — except when it comes to collecting fines!

But in an age of public Amazon purchase lists, automatic tweets, and even sites setup to automatically share users’ credit card statements with the world at large, are libraries simply living in the past?

Jeff Jarvis, in public

That’s what Jeff Jarvis suggests.

A professor at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, and one of the web’s most notorious oversharers, Jeff Jarvis sat down with Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s very own David Weinberger to talk about how the library can merge the values of privacy with the web’s power to share.

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Creative Commons music courtesy of Brad Sucks and photos courtesy of gypsy999 and richard.pyrker.

Library Lab/The Podcast 003: The Digital Citation

Listen: 27:09
Also in ogg

It starts with an idea: You’re a scholar and you use the web to search for sources. How can you collect your sources and their metadata without having to copy, paste, reformat? Or spend your starving researcher’s budget on some proprietary software?

That’s only the beginning for Zotero, a free, open-source plug-in for web browsers developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.

Zotero allows researchers to do much more than harness the power of the web to save citations. There is also a robust social component that allows researchers to share their research in progress.

Dan Cohen is the director of the Center for History and New Media and one of the minds behind the project. The Harvard Library Innovation Lab’s very own David Weinberger caught up with Dan for this week’s podcast to talk about Zotero, open syllabi, and other tools and ideas for enhancing and sharing research.

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Creative Commons music courtesy of Brad Sucks and photos courtesy of dan4th, orpost, and mendeley.

We’re in the Digital Public Library of America beta sprint!

We’ve entered the DPLA‘s “beta sprint,” along with thirteen fantastic partners (so far)!

The idea behind the beta sprint is that anyone with an idea about what the DPLA should be, how it should work, what it can do, or what it should look like should embody that idea in code or documentation, and submit it by September 1.

We’re proposing a version of ShelfLife re-thought for a potentially massive set of users whose interests and computer skills range all over the lot. And we’re proposing LibraryCloud as a middleware metadata server both to support ShelfLife and to make DPLA’s metadata available through open APIs and as Linked Open Data.

We’ve put up a page about our collaborative project, including our 400-word proposal to the DPLA. We’d love to hear from you.