The Reading Nest: A New Installation by Mark Reigelman Using 10,000 Reclaimed Boards | Colossal
This might be a bit big for the Labrary – Annie

Library reference desks still exist – Chicago Tribune
– David Weinberger

Report emphasizes role libraries, museums play in early learning – The Washington Post
– David Weinberger

10 | These Amazing Twitter Metadata Visualizations Will Blow Your Mind | Fast Company | business + innovation
– jeff

Building a Bicycle Barometer
“A networked dial makes it easier to choose whether to ” x or y – Matt Phillips

Houghton Library
Images from the Houghton Library, in blog form – Matt Phillips

The Library Test Kitchen at Harvard University – Books – The Boston Globe
– David Weinberger

On Wednesday and Thursday I went to the second LODLAM (linked open data for libraries, archives, and museums) unconference, in Montreal. I’d attended the first one in San Francisco two years ago, and this one was almost as exciting — “almost” because the first one had more of a new car smell to it. This is a sign of progress and by no means is a complaint. It’s a great conference.

But, because it was an unconference with up to eight simultaneous sessions, there was no possibility of any single human being getting a full overview. Instead, here are some overall impressions based upon my particular path through the event.

  • * Serious progress is being made. E.g., Cornell announced it will be switching to a full LOD library implementation in the Fall. There are lots of great projects and initiatives already underway.

  • * Some very competent tools have been developed for converting to LOD and for managing LOD implementations. The development of tools is obviously crucial.

  • * There isn’t obvious agreement about the standard ways of doing most things. There’s innovation, re-invention, and lots of lively discussion.

  • *Some of the most interesting and controversial discussions were about whether libraries are being too library-centric and not web-centric enough. I find this hugely complex and don’t pretend to understand all the issues. (Also, I find myself — perhaps unreasonably — flashing back to the Standards Wars in the late 1980s.) Anyway, the argument crystallized to some degree around BIBFRAME, the Library of Congress’ initiative to replace and surpass MARC. The criticism raised in a couple of sessions was that Bibframe (I find the all caps to be too shouty) represents how libraries think about data, and not how the Web thinks, so that if Bibframe gets the bib data right for libraries, Web apps may have trouble making sense of it. For example, Bibframe is creating its own vocabulary for talking about properties that other Web standards already have names for. The argument is that if you want Bibframe to make bib data widely available, it should use those other vocabularies (or, more precisely, namespaces). Kevin Ford, who leads the Bibframe initiative, responds that you can always map other vocabs onto Bibframe’s, and while Richard Wallis of OCLC is enthusiastic about the very webby vocabulary for bib data, he believes that Bibframe definitely has a place in the ecosystem. Corey Harper and Debra Riley-Huff, on the other hand, gave strong voice to the cultural differences. (If you want to delve into the mapping question, explore the argument about whether Bibframe’s annotation framework maps to Open Annotation.)

    I should add that although there were some strong disagreements about this at LODLAM, the participants seem to be genuinely respectful.

  • * LOD remains really really hard. It is not a natural way of thinking about things. Of course, neither are old-fashioned database schemas, but schemas map better to a familiar forms-based view of the world: you fill in a form and you get a record. Linked data doesn’t even think in terms of records. Even with the new generation of tools, linked data is hard.

  • * LOD is the future for library, archive, and museum data.

Here’s a list of brief video interviews I did at LODLAM:

ASIS&T Announces Management Partnership with DCMI
– David Weinberger

The reinvention of libraries | Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project
fact-based SlideShare – David Weinberger

Accountability, libraries’ value at odds | |
Identifying the value of libraries – David Weinberger

Search for 1st Web Page Takes Detour Into NC
Jones said Berners-Lee shared the page with the professor, who has transferred it from server to server through the years. A version remains on the Internet today at an archive Jones runs, ibiblio. – Matt Phillips

This Is Your Brain on Coffee
a cup or three of coffee “has been popular for a long, long time,”, “and there’s probably good reasons for that.” – Matt Phillips

Harvard Library Portal
The Library Innovation Lab’s Stacklife virtual browser application has been added to the Harvard Library Portal as one of the six options for searching items from the Harvard Library collection. – Kim Dulin

The History of Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” Album Art
– Matt Phillips

Fokus – Emphasized text-highlighting using JavaScript
Fokus uses JavaScript to emphasize anything you select by covering the rest of the page with semi-transparent black. – Matt Phillips

Designing Libraries That Encourage Teens to Loiter – Amanda Erickson – The Atlantic Cities
– David Weinberger

Libraries expanding availability of free digital downloads |
– David Weinberger

In the Digital Age, What Becomes of the Library? | MindShift
– David Weinberger

3 Cliches To Use Today With Your Company | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
“I won’t invest in a “ask for permission” deal,” he writes. “They don’t work.” – Matt Phillips

The Free Little Library by Stereotank | Colossal
Another street library – Annie

timestamping youtube is great – jeff

▶ Jonathan Zittrain on Protecting Legal Scholarship for Posterity | PolicyCast by Harvard University
Jonathan Zittrain talks about preventing link rot in law review citations. – Kim Dulin

Don’t Panic: Why Catastrophism Fails Libraries | Peer to Peer Review
– David Weinberger

Jetpack for WordPress
Use the WordPress API with self-hosted blogs – Annie

Susanne Dorson came in the LABRARY with her family.

Son pictured here:

We got to talking and she told me about the amazing shop she co-founded just down the road in Arlington called The Little Fox Children’s Resale Shop, aka The Little Fox Shop.  So Annie and I finally took a field trip.



They’ve really got an amazing thing going there, a bulleted list of things we learned.

The space:

  • + The space is attached to the Edith Fox Library in Arlington, MA.
  • + The room was never used by the library however, it previously housed the town depts., so it’s not taking up library space
  • + It’s large (stroller friendly is key they’ve learned)
  • + A Professional look and display is important to sales

It’s a symbiotic relationship, all money goes to the library.  The impact is amazing:

  • + keeps the library open on Friday, one extra day each week
  • + a new paint job for the library
  • + new blinds
  • + computer tables
  • + non-fiction kids books, among other collections purchases made by ….
  • + bean bag chairs
  • + furniture re-upholstery
  • + sing-alongs
  • + signage

Beyond bringing in money, Little Fox Shop relies entirely on volunteers for operations, a unique community building opportunity:

  • + expecting-mother volunteers meet new mothers (while also learning about the who world of baby clothes and gear)
  • + volunteer parents can bring kids along while they work
  • + senior citizens stay connected to folks of all ages, and vice versa – intergenerational


From the moment I heard about LFS, it’s stuck with me.  It’s such a complementary use of space with a library.  Parents come in for a lapsit or sing along, afterwards they wander into the Fox Shop where children can play with toys while they can shop or just hang out and play too.

It’s an interesting thing when libraries, or services in them, begin to sell things. Is this erosion?  Some uses of space seem less so.  A coffee shop can be a natural fit.  Children’s resale shops feel like a fit too.  Perhaps the second hand nature, the grassroots beginnings, the kid’s orientation, plus the free-to-play policy feels sufficiently gentle.  I don’t feel like the Edith Fox Branch “sold out” or something.

As Susanne pointed out, for libraries faced with closure or dramatic reduction in programming and hours, an entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving doesn’t hurt.





(crossposted from

I love the whole relevance by adjacency logic that libraries rely on. Similar things are next to each other. But libraries only do this with books. Can’t we do it with more media types?


Media Wall: A gestalt, walk-by browsing experience. No headphones required.

I’ve been curious about this idea of a Media Wall for a while. A walk-along stack interlacing the “push” of motion media with the more “pull” required of print media. Then, couple weeks back, I was at a friend’s place, and he basically had the arrangement already in place (plus toy storage for his sons).


Here’s the professional sound dome technology:

Single Localizer Sound Dome Demonstration Video from Brown Innovations, Inc.


You can also imagine handing over this audio/video/shelf space infrastructure to an artist or class and see it used in unexpected ways.


This past weekend I went through two iterations. I first got a rough protoype going in the basement. I used one of the old LABRARY lamps from Ikea.

Then got a second version (using different speaker) working on a bookshelf. Plus tried to lay down some yoga mats for acoustic dampening.

All in all, the sound domes I created worked poorly at best. It seems brown innovations is doing more than throwing a speaker in a salad bowl.

Here’s a bit of science fiction. I improved my sound dome’s sound localization performance in post. It doesn’t work this well. But further illustrates effect.


Next steps?

I received an overdue notice a little while back.  I’ve received them many times.  But I looked at it and I realized it was pretty complicated.



  • Did I really need to know the Barcode number?
  • The date and time I originally took it out.
  • Why was the title so buried?
  • etc…

So here’s just an idea, implementing such a thing into our ILS would be difficult and demand sign-off all the way up the food chain.


But what if it could be simple HTML?




Maybe we could add a 1-click renew button.  Or, maybe a courtesy auto-renew.  Perhaps in the future we could add opt-in events listings or book recommendations, etc.

Overdue notices are the primary correspondence between the library and its community.  We should give them their due attention.



Last week we launched what we think is a useful and appealing way to browse books at scale, timed to coincide with the launch of the Digital Public Library of America. (Congrats, DPLA!!!)

StackLife DPLA (a version of what we use to call ShelfLife) shows you a visualization of books on a scrollable shelf, which we turn sideways so you can read the spines. It always shows you books in a context, on the grounds that no book stands alone. You can shift the context instantly, so that you can (for example) see a work on a shelf with all the other books classified under any of the categories professional cataloguers have assigned to it.

We also heatmap the books according to various usage metrics (“StackScore”), so you can get a sense of the work’s community relevance.

There are lots more features, and lots more to come.

StackLife DPLA is an intersecting set of functionality with StackLife Harvard we’ll be releasing the Harvard version this week. The DPLA version mashes up the books in the Digital Public Library of America’s collection (from the Biodiversity Heritage Library) with books from The Internet Archive‘s Open Library and the Hathi Trust. These are all online, accessible books, so you can just click and read them. There are 1.7M in the StackLife DPLA metacollection. (Development was funded in part by a Sprint grant from the DPLA. Thank you, DPLA!)

Here are some links:

StackLife DPLA:
The DPLA press release:
The DPLA version FAQ:

The StackLife team — along with the fabulous Caleb Troughton —has worked long and hard on this. We’re pretty durn proud. And we’re very excited about the launch of the DPLA, too!

LibLabStampSmallThe Harvard Library Innovation Lab is looking for a highly creative and motivated developer to dream up and develop innovative projects that chart the future of libraries.




We are a tightly knit team of six and are passionate about solving problems, having fun, and improving lives through libraries.  Join us!


This is definitely a dream job for somebody out there.


The best way to get a feel for what we do is by looking at our projects.


A sample of our work

Awesome Box is current project in the Lab


StackLife, our soon-to-launch Library Browser



Library Test Kitchen is a course we run in the Fall, in it we launched LABRARY, a Pop-Up Library Experiment


What you’ll do

* Work on a range of software projects, from large to small, that can bring immediate benefit or prototype the future.

* Make stuff with modern web technologies.  Some will be larger LiL projects, others are your own.

* Work alone with a good bit of freedom, which means a great deal of initiative is required.

* Work collaboratively on long-term and short-term projects.

* Rely on your good design sense and user-centricity.


Two possible misnomers

* While we are part of the Harvard Law School Library, which is awesome, our mission and work applies to the entire Harvard Library and academic and public library worlds.

* Our vision of the library is a flexible and ever-changing one.


We are open to a wide range of skills, from a front-end “wow the user in the browser” nerd, to a back-end “organize the world” geek. If you build cool things and can show us products that you’ve shipped, we want to talk to you.

Chat with us at lil @ or apply directly to job ID 28133BR at