deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Over at the Transformative Works and Cultures blog, TWC editor Karen Hellekson has posted an excellent essay "Breaking the primacy of print". Karen asks why online-only peer-reviewed journals are valued less than peer-reviewed journals with a print presence, when the delivery medium has nothing to do with the rigorous miss of the scholarship. TWC, in particular, is a multimedia-rich scholarly journal, for which a print presence would be a watered down equivalent.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I'm currently trying to normalize and shift into comma separated values files the disambiguated name lists created by four different students who don't work for my department, with whom I'm not allowed to communicate, and for whom I'm not allowed to create standard documentation. (Don't ask.) After title casing everything, my current (incomplete) Vim regular expression is: (screenreader users be warned you should skip!)

:%s#\(<\([^>]*\)>\( \)\)*\(\(\((\)*\([^)]*\)\()\)*\) \([^{]*\)\)#\2,\7,\9,,,,,,,,,\2\3\7 \9;,MS165.001.010.00001

Yes, this is what happens when the people dealing with metadata that need to be normalized are not being managed by professionals.

(I'm doing this in Vim instead of in Perl because each file is a little bit different, so every time I open one I'm doing some hand manipulation of the data and massaging the regular expression slightly to accommodate the fact that each of the students copes with variant names, titles, and unknown personal or surnames differently.)

This is why we can't have nice things.
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You know it's a good conference when you've sent your coworkers countless caffeine-fueled e-mail messages that read I AM SO BRILLIANT LOOK AT MY BRILLIANT IDEA or WE ARE SO STUPID WHY DIDN'T WE THINK OF THIS BRILLIANT THING THAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS DOING. Or when you've made a blog post illustrating academic repositories as toddlers playing with a toy truck. I strongly suspect my coworkers wish I would lay off the café con Leche already.

I have this crazy WordPad document open full of notes and links, and I can't figure out which of them are e-mails to specific departments, which of them are notes for myself for further investigation, in which of them are totally awesome blogable exciting links to share with YOU, my loyal readers.

trying not to ramble too much outside of cut: scientific workflows, datasets, faculty information systems )

I see two overarching themes of the conference: the first is Interoperability Is the One True Religion. No silo-like repository can solve everybody's problems. We are interdisciplinary and inter-institution, and we won't solve any problems and less our resources and data can be used by other tools, other resources, other datasets, etc. The second theme I see is Duraspace Helps Those Who Help Themselves. This is open-source software, and we all need to pitch in, and everything is going to be perfect in a modular happy world where everyone writes the tools they want and shares them in an open source community.
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It's international "closing tabs so therefore linkspam" day. Actually, that was a month ago -- if you noticed the links at the bottom of this post are fairly dated, that's why.

Scholarly Publishing: California Versus Nature, Institutional Repositories, Humanities scholarship  )

Librarians and archivists: no longer advanced )

Polymers for fuel cell technologies

Awesome thing at my university: "Polymers for fuel cell technologies". Four undergraduate interns are describing their summer research project on polymers for fuel cell technologies. Orthogonal to the science or the topic of the video, all four students are deaf or hard of hearing, and the science and the video is communicated via ASL. And thank you, Tufts Jumble, for presenting the video as being about the science. Because it is.
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Kill Accessibility, a blog post by Gary Barber, made me put me head down on my desk and take several deep breaths.

Barber makes some excellent points about some of the limitations of the accessibility movement. He talks about how accessibility shouldn't be an afterthought, but incorporated into good web design and universal design. He talks about how for many, "accessible" has come to mean "for people with visual impairments". He talks about the weakness of the way checklists are used, and about the low social value of improving your website's checklist.

So why does Barber lose me at the very beginning of his blog post? His first content heading: "We are not Assistive Technology users." I repeat that: "We are not Assistive Technology users." He goes on to say The old UX catch call is never truer here – we are not the users. The disparity between us and the people we are really working for, with accessibility, is sometimes just too great for us to even get a idea of what it is like, no matter how many videos of people using assitive technology we see.

Who is this "we" about whom you are speaking, Able-Bodied Man?

Last weekend I was in a room full of accessibility professionals, about half of whom had visible disabilities. The director of the WAI has a disability. There are people with disabilities on all of the web accessibility mailing lists I'm on. That's not even counting the other parts of the web development community I interact with, the parts that don't have any particular concern with accessibility and yet still have a multitude of developers with disabilities.

We are here. You just aren't talking to us. You just aren't listening.

Maybe the first step in the accessibility community is to recognize that some members of your own community are also the users, and to listen to us when we speak. I don't speak for all computer users with disabilities. I speak for exactly one: myself. But if you don't even know that we are here, each of us speaking for ourselves, you sure as hell are not going to be able to serve anyone in the community.
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This weekend, I attended Boston's first Accessibility Unconference. I expected to be going only for the networking opportunity, but I found the whole experience fabulous. Certainly there were some frustrations -- the location, for example, could have been more accessible by public transit. But overall, it was a great day.

I spoke about Dreamwidth, not surprisingly. Just as others have talked about the rich developer community that's built when you provide a development environment which is welcoming to women and encouraging to newbies, I talked about the accessibility gains that you get from creating a nurturing environment in your open-source community for people with disabilities. I talked about how being encouraging not just developers with disabilities but also newbies with disabilities made it more likely for your project to have a rich and motivated pool of testers using adaptive technology -- which prompted one participant to say something along the lines of, "you should rent those people out; everybody wants actual disabled testers!"

Other people's talks were also compelling. Jeanette Beal talked about low tech solutions for improving independent living, and gave us all a good reminder that adaptive technology isn't all about Web 2.0. I was sad the session on HTML 5 video was pretty brief, although that was all of our faults, because it shared a session with Flash video and we all asked too many questions of the people discussing Flash.

And the networking was nothing to sneeze at, either. I was thrilled to finally meet the blogger behind Dis/positional. I had long, enlightening talks with Judy Brewer (who was puzzled by my starry eyes) and Mike Gorse ([ profile] lightvortex), a developer who works on Gnome accessibility. I learned that Patrick Timony, adaptive technology librarian at the DC public Library, is going to be presenting at SAA, and I promised to send those of my coworkers who will be attending the conference to talk to him. I didn't have enough time to talk to him about his interesting ideas about accessibility and archives, but I made the connection!

Above all, I was overwhelmed with being surrounded by more professionals with disabilities than I had ever in my life met offline. More programmers with disabilities. More female programmers with disabilities. At one point I was hard pressed not to start crying. Dreamwidth has been great for introducing me to other professionals, other techies, other female professionals and female techies disabilities. But I underestimated the emotional impact of being surrounded by that many of us in one room.

(ETA: One glorious moment happened when an attendee of the conference was chatting with me (note that my disability is mostly invisible) and she said "I see a lot of visually impaired people here. Are they here to learn about what kind of adaptive technologies are available?" And I responded, "No, they are mostly programmers and accessibility professionals," and she looked thoroughly taken aback. I think my little heart grew three sizes.)
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1. Here's a great post from the Archivist of the United States (RSS/[syndicated profile] aotus_feed), where he uses the news that the Library of Congress is acquiring the digital archive of public tweets as a jumping off point for explaining the difference between the missions of the National Archives and the Library of Congress. And along the way, he showed an interesting historian's perspective on twitter:

Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 )

2. If you are looking for fascinating new blogs, the C-SPAN video blog (RSS/[syndicated profile] cspan_video_feed) is a great entry point into their huge collection. (I just watched a baby turtle poop in a senator's hand!)

3. I really like this Book Spine Poetry that the Somers Library in New York put up on Flickr. A couple of my favorites, linked and transcribed here:

Book Spine Poetry )
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In "Descartes Letter Found, Therefore It Is", I learned that a long-lost stolen letter of Descartes' has turned up in my alma mater's archives:

If old-fashioned larceny was responsible for the document’s loss, advanced digital technology can be credited for its rediscovery. Erik-Jan Bos, a philosophy scholar at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who is helping to edit a new edition of Descartes’s correspondence, said that during a late-night session browsing the Internet he noticed a reference to Descartes in a description of the manuscript collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He contacted John Anderies, the head of special collections at Haverford, who sent him a scan of the letter.
Scholars have known of the letter’s existence for more than 300 years, but not its contents. Apparently the only person who had really studied it was a Haverford undergraduate who spent a semester writing a paper about the letter in 1979. (Mr. Bos called the paper “a truly fine piece of work.”)

Guys, this is awesome. This is why I do what I do! Putting collection guides online is a royal pain (ASK ME HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE EAD STANDARD), but this is the kind of story that makes it all worthwhile. Archival collections are full of hidden treasures the archivists themselves don't know about. It takes a dedicated scholar to find these lost and hidden (and rarely digitized) gems, and digital collection guides, followed up by e-reference, followed up by spot digitization, solved the puzzle.

Viva la Ford!

On a more somber note, from "Why diversity matters (the meritocracy business)":

Now, whenever I screen resumes, I ask the recruiter to black out any demographic information from the resume itself: name, age, gender, country of origin. The first time I did this experiment, I felt a strange feeling of vertigo while reading the resume. “Who is this guy?” I had a hard time forming a visual image, which made it harder to try and compare each candidate to the successful people I’d worked with in the past. It was an uncomfortable feeling, which instantly revealed just how much I’d been relying on surface qualities when screening resumes before – even when I thought I was being 100% meritocratic. And, much to my surprise (and embarrassment), the kinds of people I started phone-screening changed immediately.
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Is there any particular reason that archival collection management tools, vendor provided or open source, are all ridiculously inaccessible? I mean, Proficio appears to have gone entirely out of its way to rewrite a widget set in order to avoid Windows APIs on its Windows-only product, thus rendering it completely mouse driven. Archivist's Toolkit, you are designed in academia with public funding, and you don't even mention the word "accessibility" on your website. And most of the other collection management databases I've tested are just as bad. Would a little bit of keyboard-driveability or non-graphical navigation really kill you?

I mean, I'm not asking everybody to have Moodle's stance on accessibility, but... who am I kidding. I am absolutely asking you all to have Moodle's stance on accessibility.

Remember that time I burst into tears in a meeting because of development manager said "we can't make these decisions thinking about the 3% of our users who have accessibility needs" and I shouted "those 3% are ME, your coworker, sitting right here"? That's how I feel today. It's my job to test the software. It's my job to make recommendations to my coworkers about what product we should be using. And I can't use it.
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I've been enjoying Public Knowledge's 4-part video series "We Are Creators, Too," but I never expected Francesca Coppa discussing vidding to come across my blog roll!

Kudos to PK for treating vidding like any other form of video remix, not as some weird dysfunctional female behaviour. And kudos to PK for doing the shockingly unusual behaviour of not normativizing male video creation; 3 of the 4 interviews are with women, and video remix not treated as a male activity that some women do as well.

And of course, kudos to Francesca for for an excellent interview which touches on so many of the key points of vidding culture, history, and law.
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Library Garden posted on The New IT Librarian Application.
Librarian in Black responded with How to Test Applicants' Tech Skills.
Caveat Lector responded with Testing Your Techies.

Full disclosure: Before I went to library school, I spent ten years as a systems administrator in large corporate environments, and I was damn good at it. I still run my own small ISP. So I'm speaking here as a librarian/archivist but also as a sysadmin.

Library Garden's post is misguided: "If the person's resume and cover letter meet your standards, TEXT their cell phone to set up an interview. Unorthodox? Perhaps, but part of the IT personality is embracing modern technology. Texting is one of the most popular means of communication with our younger population and, if we want to stay current with our patrons, then we need make sure our IT people are familiar with it as well."

This is maybe good advice if you are trying to hire a Library 2.0 guru, but is it good advice to hire IT personnel? No, no, and no. Your IT people need to be able to make sure your servers are backed up. They need to make sure you have fast reliable networks. The need to make sure you have all of the rights you need to administer your data, and all the right tools at your fingertips. They need to make sure that your data are secure. They need to be on top of improvements in file systems, aware of security alerts, knowledgeable about server-class hardware. They probably need to be capable database administrators in a pinch. And if the library staff believes the best way to communicate with users includes setting up text notifications, then your IT people need to be able to set up a good infrastructure for sending text notifications.

Does that mean they need to take in text messages themselves? Maybe you think so. Maybe you think that nobody can set up a good infrastructure of a tool they don't themselves use. But I will tell you, there are plenty of fantastic sysadmins who are complete Luddites about personal technology. Are you really going to hire a sysadmin because she uses twitter? Or are you going to hire her because she writes Debian Linux kernel patches in her spare time? I will give you a hint: there is only one right answer to this question.

Librarian in Black hits it: "And testing an IT person's skills is a lot tricker, but it can be done...assuming you have someone on the other end who can verify the accuracy of the responses. I advocate for essay questions and actual problem-solving questions that present a real problem and ask for code,or a project plan, or a network diagram."

There are two hugely important points here: testing and having someone in-house who can verify the accuracy.

I have no idea how people do real interviews without doing skills tests. My favorite sysadmin test is to hand people this snippet:

crw-rw-rw- 1 root tty 3, 175 2008-06-07 23:43 ttyzf
prw-r----- 1 root adm 0 2008-06-10 10:04 xconsole
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 202, 2 2008-06-07 23:43 xvda2
drwxrwxrwt 7 root root 5120 2008-06-10 15:56 tmp
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 4 2008-04-24 15:48 lib64 -> /lib
-rwxr-sr-x 1 root mail 395107 2008-06-09 10:07 elm
-rwx--x--x 1 root staff 15340 2008-06-09 10:07 mmencode

I ask them to talk about it. It's a great piece, because if you have any UNIX admin experience at all, you should be able to at least give a four-word description of that whole class of text. And there are lines in there of some fairly intense levels of complexity, which in many cases only an experienced administrator would be able to describe. It's not a Pass/Fail test, it's a Show Me What You Know test, which is a far better kind. Alternately, I would ask problem-solving questions: "User calls up yelling about [situation]. Fix it." This gives you the opportunity to watch both problem-solving skills and at least the job applicant's stated user-communication skills.

But the vitally important issue here is what Librarian in Black says: assuming you have someone on the other end. It's very, very difficult -- almost impossible -- for an entirely non-technical hiring committee to select a good technical applicant. You can select someone nice, and you can select someone who will fit in with your corporate culture, and you can select somebody who talks a good game. But without finding somebody else with a similar set of job skills to sit on your hiring committee? It's all luck. Trust me, no matter how smoothly the person comes off, no matter how competent he or she seems, you can't do an accurate assessment of technical skills without having the knowledge yourself. Technical people often sound extremely confident in their skill, oftentimes with no good reason. If it is at all possible for you to get an IT person from somewhere else in your organization to sit in on the hiring committee? Do so.
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Clearing out old tabs, I find this great post by [ profile] free_govt_info, "New Best. Title. Ever" really exemplifies two points which are so strange about copy-blocked PDFs. This post showcases a government publication for which the PDF was released so that the text could not be copied out or the images extracted. First of all, this copy protection was completely legally unnecessary; the PDF was of a public domain government document, so it was crippled for no reason whatsoever. And more humorously, as you can see if you look at the various ETAs in the post, the electronic limitations of the PDF don't even work! It's very easy for anyone with technical know-how to break the protections on any PDF that's readable by the user, and without violating any provisions of the DMCA, either. As long as you can view it, you can copy and print it -- but you have to know how. So this government document, public domain and owned by the citizenry, was ineffectively and unnecessarily crippled. What's up with that?

Of course, this post is only made better by the fact that the government document in question, now available as an open PDF on the FGI post, is entitled "Hills Bros. Coffee Can Chronology: Field Guide. Awesome.
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All these papers will eventually be available in the Open Repositories 2008 conference repository. I'm linking to all of the placeholders; papers should be up soon.

This will be very limited liveblogging, because I'm typing in the conference and dictating betwen sessions, so I can't say much. Hopefully I'll get some good fodder for my upcoming sustainability post.


Repositories for Scientific Data, Peter Murray-Rust )

Session 1 – Web 2.0

Adding Discovery to Scholarly Search: Enhancing Institutional Repositories with OpenID and Connotea, Ian Mulvany, David Kane )

The margins of scholarship: repositories, Web 2.0 and scholarly practice, Richard Davis )

Rich Tags: Cross-Repository Browsing, Daniel Smith, Joe Lambert, mc schraefel )

Ow. I'm not doing this for the next session. I can blog at the breaks.
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This wonderful. The Nebraska Library commission has been making archived copies of Creative Commons published works and cataloging them into their OPAC. They aren't doing this indiscriminately; they are only grabbing works which are in line with their collection development policy. They are also making spiral-bound printed copies of those works for which the license allows it, and shelving them in the physical collection.

What a fabulous, fabulous mashup of old and new.

(And does it say something about my reading habits that I got this link from lisnews and not from boingboing?)
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I've been far too overwhelmed to post here recently, or even to read my blogs, and for that I feel immensely guilty. I've been doing so much: getting settled in my new job at Tufts Digital Collections and Archives, working on my research on romance fiction, working (far too little) on the project I'm doing with Rebecca Rabinowitz on subversive children's literature.

I've also been talking with Alan McKee in preparation for our installation of Henry Jenkins' fangirl/fanboy detente. That has been an absolute joy. It's so wonderful whenever you find another scholar who delights in examining the same kinds of questions that you do. Both of us have found such pleasure in talking about media fandom, and I confess it has been from both a scholarly perspective and a fan perspective. This, of course, is the most wonderful part about being an acafan; the shameless delight in the subjects of our study.

I wonder how much further I would have gotten in children's literature scholarship if the academic blogging community had existed 10 years ago. Would I have made further inroads there? I've made such friends in media and fan scholarship, real genuine friends, people I love and care for -- and I suspect I will be making similar friends in romance scholarship, based on what I've seen of that community. As an independent scholar, it is so discouraging to have no infrastructure for my fields of study. And it's not like I'm not busy, it's not like I'm not doing this scholarship in my spare time after work and dinner and gardening and feeding the cats. If it weren't for the social network of wonderful people who share my interests, I don't know if I would be able to keep it up.
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Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanties and Social Sciences: Shaping and Advancing the Humanities Research Agenda

Much of this panel was dedicated to speakers from the IMLS and the NIH talking about their grant funding projects. A valuable talk, but not something that led me to take many notes. The key part of this panel, for me, was Greg Crane's speech, although I've heard him give versions of this talk before. While I've often disagreed with various points Crane has made, the overarching thrust of this particular talk is what I find very valuable. His focus is not a library focus about digitizing collections for preservation or access, but it's specifically a researcher focus: what tools can we add to our resources as we digitize them to give us more than we ever had before.

Humanities Cyberinfrastructure )

Ray @ IMLS on the humanities information landscape )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
The next panel I attended was Educational Digital Libraries. All but the first of these papers were short papers, which might be why it's primarily the first paper I found interesting, in that first paper was more personally than professionally interesting.

Children's Interests and Concenrs When Using the International Children's Digital Library: a Four Country Case Study )

Digital Library Education in Computer Science Programs )

A Study of how Online Learning Resources Are Used )

Standards or Semantics for Curriculum Search? )

Information Behavior of Small Groups: Implications for Design of Digital Libraries )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
In honor of Defective by Design's Day against DRM, I'd like to take a moment to provide free advertising for EMusic. It's a subscription-based service with no commitment (and an available free trial). Depending on the subscription purchased songs cost anywhere from $.22 to $.25/song, and they are all DRM-free MP3s which the company trusts you to use legally. The songs are almost entirely independent label -- those songs which you really don't hear about because their labels can't afford to buy huge displays at the front of the record store. Because they are so inexpensive (and already paid for, given the subscription mechanism) I've purchased a lot of songs from tiny bands I never would have heard of otherwise, and have expanded my music choices a fair amount. And it's all DRM-free!

(See more DRM-free stores here.)

Remember, the giftgiving season is coming, and a lot of the latest gadgets this year contain digital rights management capabilities which severely limit your abilities to use the content you have legally purchased in ways which are completely legal under current United States law. If you buy a DRM-enabled song from iTunes, you are technologically prevented from using that track in all the ways which are legal for you to do so. Think about digital rights management when you are making holiday purchases, or when you are purchasing electronic book content for your library. Libraries are very concerned with making sure that the rights of license holders are protected, but the license holders are going out of their way to make it difficult for libraries to enable even legal uses.)

[Day Against DRM]
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In my day job, in the local "metadata expert" -- or so they keep calling me, although I will continue to point out that they have a cataloging department, and just because it's got a fancy new computer-based word doesn't mean the catalogers are there we'll metadata experts. But my job entails constantly thinking how users find information. What metadata fields will end-users want, or be able to use? What metadata fields are important only for technical services? What metadata is used technologically to control rights or object manipulation? Under what circumstances is it appropriate to ignore metadata altogether and just do fulltext keyword searches?

Now I'm volunteering at the Second Life Library. (Or I will be, once I get back in; I've been locked out since the security incident this weekend and I can't get anyone from tech support to call me back. Not a great sign, but I suppose they were hacked, and so they're probably overloaded.)

At the Second Life Library, the virtual space is arranged something like a real library. As avatars move around the space, they may see a shelf of science fiction books in the science-fiction room, of reference books in the reference section, or of Gutenberg Project classics arranged in no particular order. Some of these books are portals which will open up a page on your web browser, outside of Second Life. Others will hand you a set of note cards you can read in-world which contain the text of the book, and still others (more clever, but extremely clunky and difficult to use) appear as enormous larger-than-avatar books an avatar can actually read in-world. And how do the users find these books? Well, they wander around and browse, or ask a librarian.

In other words, a collection of electronic texts is made available through one portal (the library building), and in order to find them, the patron wanders around a virtual space, browsing. (In the long run, I think it would be a good idea for the library to provide a list at the front door of all of the electronic texts made available at the library, with either hyperlinks or teleports directly on the list. And now that I'm thinking about it, it would be truly awesome if that list in-world appeared to be an old-fashioned card catalog -- with direct keyword searching, of course, but still looking like a card catalog.)

Do you see what I'm getting at? The idea is that the traditional experience of walking around the library building -- even for those users who were so much into computer worlds that they spend their days in a virtual environment and would rather go to the Second Life Library than to their local library -- is in some cases preferable to be much simpler and faster direct access search. In some ways, the look of the virtual space is the metadata: science-fiction books are behind that display of planets; reference materials are on the shelf by the reference desk.

All of us involved with the Second Life Library really hope it works out. But I will be really curious to see whether this model is currently only appealing because of its novelty. Maybe the experience of browsing through a physical space, looking for displays and book covers that catch the eye, is one that people really genuinely want.

Welcome to the William Gibson world.
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