My name is Jessica and I’m hanging out at here for the summer to work on a Library Lab project called Time/Slice. The idea behind it is that activity and events are part of the “data” associated with a community, but that there is no one responsible for organizing/archiving/analyzing them as such. Time/Slice is a digital bulletin board for a physical place (eg a school or neighborhood) which can be housed in the library associated with that community. It takes event submissions via email with photo/video attachments. It can also pull in video of previous events (from youtube/vimeo feeds, etc.) Everything is added and sorted automatically.

I started the project in the Library Test Kitchen course with Jeff last semester, focusing on the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Loeb Library. I ended up with a prototype that is functional but pretty buggy. You can still check it out here. (The animated blocks are entirely the work of the awesome isotope jQuery plugin.)

time/slice prototype

There were a couple of problems with it that I’m working on fixing now: speed, storing images, navigability, and a whole lot of bugs. There are also issues around how much volume it can be expected to handle, and it needs to have an easy interface for whoever’s in charge to edit content.

current version screenshot

current version as of this morning. not too pretty yet, eh?

I’ll post a link to what I’m working on now when it’s a little more stable.

We’ve been having fun with the Awesome Box lately. Signage work.

We started low-tech for the two prototype boxes we installed last month. Just a little time in Photoshop and a color printer.

The paper sign has some strengths. It’s low cost and easy to reproduce should it get damaged. But, it really doesn’t scream “Awesome.” If I checked out the paper sign from my local sign lending library, I probably wouldn’t return it to the Awesome Box. Let’s punch up the fun.

How about a sign with lights? Yes, please.

We’ve rigged up an Arduino with a photoresistor and wired that to a few LEDs. Those LEDs get routed into a sheet of plexiglass and then sandwiched between a couple of sheets of aluminum. Place a book inside, trip the sensor, and smile.

(The wires and the rest of the circuit will be cleaned up and hidden in the base of the Awesome Box.)

For situations in which the LED-based sign is not a good fit, we’re putting together an aluminum and felt sign. The thick felt will be sandwiched between two aluminum arrows much like the LED sign. Fun and stable.

Stan Cotreau in the Harvard Physics Machine Shop has been helping us fabricate the aluminum and plexi. Thanks, Stan.

Read all about it! Library Test Kitchen made the news!  Well, more accurately, we made the newsPAPER.

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Yes Ma’am that’s right, you counted correctly.  We have 16 full beautiful pages, 8 double-wides, of broadside in grayscale with a spot color of cyan.  These pages describe in words and pictures the awesome projects of the students.  Head on over to the website if you wanna watch the recorded magic.

Linco Printing out of Long Island City NY provided the printing services.  Getting assets encoded and laid out appropriately for a two-color job (black and cyan) in photoshop and indesign isn’t trivially quick.  But now that I’ve done it once….

Next time (it was too much fun for there not to be a next time), I’m thinking about using Nelson Bernard over at Eagle Printing.  They’re prices are good and they’re closer by.  Heading out to the Berkshires is always nice.

I feel like newspapers are the anti-code.  anti-software.

Most importantly, if you would like one for yourself, please send me an email with your address, and eventually, you’ll get one! jgoldenson(AT)law(DOT)harvard(DOT)edu


Here is a letter from our very own Paul Deschner, to the Harvard Library community (and – now – beyond). It was so well received here that we thought it worth sharing more broadly.

Hi all,

During this time of general re-evaluation of library services, I thought
it might be helpful to share a few thoughts from my vantage point as a
software developer at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab regarding the
relationship between our catalogers (we’re in the Law Library) and the
data they create and software development for library applications.

My project work at the Lab has time and again shown the crucial
importance not simply of cataloged records, but of cataloged records
created to a high standard. I work primarily on data platforms,
harvesting bibliographic and related data and making it accessible to
other developers who create amazing tools and services for library

One of the primary challenges in this work is getting data describing
books and periodicals (catalog records) to relate to data from
non-library sources, such as data about book talks on YouTube or to NPR
broadcasts of author interviews or to archival collections. It’s all
about connections in the data. The barer the data, the less described
it is, the more it falls flat.

On the bibliographic side, every new Library of Congress subject heading
a cataloger adds to a record creates a rich set of connective
possibilities downstream for people like me. Likewise, every uniform
title entry inserted into a record allows us to show users of our
software another edition of a given work in the context of all its
editions — a crucial feature for any discovery service in the library
materials space.

No software can create these connections if the underlying data hasn’t
been carefully composed into richly structured records, based on solid
analysis and comprehensive description. The difference is like that
between reading a newspaper consisting of headlines only and reading one
which also has accompanying articles. It is dramatic.

I hope in moving forward that we don’t lose sight of the importance of
this kind of quality analysis and description.

But also: the expertise which catalogers bring to the task of
comprehensive bibliographic description has proven crucial to me as a
reference resource in my work of designing software to harvest and
process bibliographic information. At the Law Library, the catalogers
are a few hallway steps away, and are as crucial to my being able to
create smart software as anyone on my development team. I’ve spent
countless hours, regularly throughout the years, with my cataloger
colleagues exploring the complexities of MARC data structures, uniform
title rulesets, authority record uses, holdings data locations, and much
much more. Having them as a co-located resource has been crucial to my
being able to get my software written.

There are some amazing cross-departmental symbioses here in the Harvard
Library, as well as some crucial, perhaps non-obvious, dependencies
between departments. From where I’m sitting, they comprise a major,
wonderfully effect part of our current ecosystem.

Paul Deschner
Applications Developer
Harvard Library Innovation Lab


UPDATE: Awesome Box is now well beyond the pilot phase. Visit to learn how to get one at your library.

The Harvard community now has the chance to declare something Awesome. Just by dropping it in a box. Amazing, useful and entertaining library materials can now be returned to the Awesome Boxes in Widener and Lamont.

Check out what’s been Awesomed already at

This pilot phase is intended to help figure out how to make the boxes user friendly & intuitive and also how best to integrate the Awesome Box into library staff workflow. Getting the signage right is key to the first goal. It’s been a challenge to perfect the balance between simple and informative.

We want users to understand the following without using too much text.

  • What constitutes Awesome (helpful, mind-blowing, etc.)
  • What happens when an item is Awesomed (it gets marked Awesome, shared with everyone)
  • Placing an item in the Awesome Box actually returns it to the library

Hopefully more Awesome Boxes will get released into the wild soon.  In the meantime, return an Awesome item to Widener or Lamont, check out what’s Recently Awesome, and let us know what you think.

Learn more about the project.

Paul, David, and I spent part of last week in San Francisco at DPLA West.

We were at DPLA West to chat about the DPLA, our work on the Platform, and the recent DPLA Hackfest.

The event was held at the Internet Archive and at the San Francisco Public Library. Wonderful venues.

One of the highlights of the event was a tour the Internet Archive’s physical archive.

Thanks to DPLA, SFPL, and the Internet Archive for making us feel welcome on the West Coast.

While cleaning out my phones SD card I found these two photos.

Jeff Goldenson’s copy of A Pattern Language:

Pattern Language book with page markers

From just a few days ago, here’s Karen Coyle’s explanation of how FRBR “works.” (It made sense while she was explaining it.)

Diagram of FRBR - very confusing!