deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[personal profile] allen and I formed Suberic Networks back in 1997, which is hard to believe. Our baby is a millenial! Over the years we've providing hosting solutions to myriad non-profits, small businesses, informal organizations, clubs, and individuals. When doing freelance programming, we've done so under the umbrella of Suberic Networks.

Suberic was formed back in the wild old days of the Internet, when "there shalt be no commercial speech on the Internet" was extremely recent history (only three years after Canter and Siegel spammed Usenet). We've grown a lot over the years. I can't recall for sure, but I bet we once had little icons that said "Bobby approved!" and "Best when viewed in Lynx."

Today we're launching the new home page for Suberic Networks, LLC. Our gorgeous new logo was designed by Pablo Defendini. The site's launch aims to showcase my freelance programming work.
We build database-backed software solutions with rich user interfaces that provide a tested and welcoming user experience. Suberic Networks is particularly adept with the Perl and Python programming languages, and we can modernize legacy software as well as design, build, and test new projects. We have specialties in accessibility, user experience, digital libraries, and publishing.

I know many of you are involved with accessibility, library, archives, and publishing. Not coincidentally, those are particular strengths of Suberic Networks consulting! I encourage you to consult our expertise and consider whether we might be of use to your organization. And I'd be grateful if you'd signal boost (without spamming, of course) to interested parties.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
"What Can Old Menus From Hawaii Tell Us About Changing Ocean Health?"

The basic premise is this–if a species of fish can be readily found in large enough numbers, then it’s likely to make it on restaurant menus. Van Houtan and colleagues tracked down 376 such menus from 154 different restaurants in Hawaii, most of which were supplied by private menu collectors.

The team compared the menus, printed between 1928 and 1974, to market surveys of fishermen’s catches in the early 20th century, and also to governmental data collected from around 1950 onward. This allowed the researchers to compare how well the menus reflected the kinds of fishes actually being pulled from the sea.

The menus, their comparative analyses revealed, did indeed closely reflect the varieties and amounts of fish that fishermen were catching during the years that data were available, indicating that the restaurants’ offerings could provide a rough idea of what Hawaii’s fisheries looked like between 1905 and 1950–a period that experienced no official data collection.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
  • "So You Want to Read YA?", a guest post by Amy Stern at Stacked. Everything she says there is completely worth reading, except for how I think Rob Thomas' later statements about his work have poisoned everything he wrote earlier in his career, to the extent that I find it impossible to talk about his earlier work in any non-negative fashion.[1]
  • "Specimens: Figurines, fishers, bugs and bats – how things in the world become sacred objects in a museum": I want to understand how things come to take their place — especially in museums and collections — as embodiments of knowledge, artefacts out of time and nature, provoking curiosity and wonder. How they become objectified.
  • "Fist-clenchingly poor science": But every time such fist-clenchingly poor science as the current paper is published, the prejudice is reinforced and the cause of open access publishing undermined. Thus, while I’m sure everyone involved is dedicated and scrupulous, it is paramount that PLOS works harder to increase its editorial standards to reduce the chances of such embarrassingly weak science being published.
  • "Colleges Leaving Low-Income Students Behind": Schools have gone from helping to make college more affordable for those with the greatest financial need to strategically awarding merit aid to students who can increase their standings in rankings like U.S. News & World Report and bring in more revenue.

1. But then, I'm still capable of saying positive things about Ender's Gamer and Speaker for the Dead, and I'm sure plenty of other smart people feel the way about Orson Scott Card that I feel about Rob Thomas. Apparently I draw the line somewhere after "gay marriage is destroying my family" and before "women who make rape accusations are lying liars who lie." Or possibly I think Ender and Speaker are good enough books to get me past my anger at their creator; certainly I can no longer read lesser Card with any pleasure. And the highest quality Rob Thomas surpasses the quality of the worst OSC, but doesn't even come close to the best. [back]
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Brynt Johnson is a records manager in the clerk's office of the District of Columbia's federal court by day, and a personal trainer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan by night.

"Hot Mess", children's author Zetta Elliot's post about trauma (particularly African-American trauma) in children's books, estrangement, privilege,and race in the industry.

I read a lot of science blogs, and I'm always excited to see archives show up in science blogs. Here's one we probably wouldn't have expected: "Wormholes in old folks preserve the history of insects". An evolutionary biologist from Penn State has used insect holes in prints made from old wood blocks to study the spread of particular wood-boring beetles. The prints, rather than the blocks themselves, show an accurate timestamp of when the beetles emerged and where, because the texts usually contain the information about when they were printed and where they were printed. The power of old metadata, people!
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Fred Clark is a journalist who for years worked in newspapers. With his post "Screenwriters: No, back issues of The Small Town Gazette from the 1930s are not archived online", he addresses TV writers who are convinced that their amazing hacker can find everything online. (I believe that Alec Hardison can do anything with computers, but even Hardison and Chaos working together can't find information on computers if it's still lying un-digitized in a banker's box in the archives.)

I admit I am making allowances for Fred when he talks about "the musty, subterranean archives of the old library, lit only by the dim glow of the microfilm machine and a flickering fluorescent bulb down the hallway," but he is talking about photogenic TV-ready information gathering, so I suppose I will let it pass.

The larger point is what matters. Most information has not been digitized. Many newspapers haven't been indexed, so it's not just that you can't find the newspaper, you can't find any reference to the fact that such a newspaper exists somewhere and has an article about the person in question. You should push your local newspapers to manage their digital platforms and keep track of their old issues!

And while you should remember that the open web is great for Good Enough information gathering -- and don't get me wrong, I'm as much of a fan of web search and Wikipedia as the next person with a pulse -- if you are looking for something and you can't find it on the Internet, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Not only your local public librarian, but quite possibly your local university librarian, local university archivist, or local historical society archivist, will happily help you look for the information. Heck, if you think the information is somewhere that's not local at all, send an e-mail. Reference, in most archives and libraries, is free and open to the public.

... Good. Now I can close that tab which has been open since December.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Along with Anne Sauer and Eliot Wilczek, I've just had a new paper published: "Archival Description in OAI-ORE", in the Journal of Digital Information, a free, green open access journal. This is a version of a paper which we presented last year at Open Repositories 2010, and mercifully, has been greatly improved since the draft of the paper I wrote while running a temperature of 102°.

This paper, by the way, is our attempt to COMPLETELY REVOLUTIONIZE ARCHIVES AND CHANGE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. Sort of. Revolutionize archival description using new technology, anyway. Changing the laws of physics will have to wait until we get grant funding.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
On my private list labeled "really? I wanted my coworkers and colleagues to know these things about me?" is that I apparently write parody romance well enough to win ArchivesNext's hilarious archivist romance contest in the "Cold-Hearted Career Woman" category. Thanks so much for running the contest, Kate and the panel of intrepid judges!

On an entirely different note, the Archivist of the United States just posted "How to Be a Smooth Criminal", archival patent secrets of Michael Jackson's dance moves. Archives are awesome, yo.

And Karen Hellekson over at the Transformative Works and Cultures symposium posts about "Persistence and DOIs, addressing the reasons why one could want to use an external persistent URL provider but the difficulties one can run into when doing so. Thought-provoking.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
How much time do I spend singing the praises of interlibrary loan? Because of ILL, my coworkers and I are currently passing around the marvelous Protected by the Prince, an absolutely terrible Harlequin about the Prince of Lusitanalpsvillia (or something) and a mousy, bespectacled archivist.

This LOLcats version of the book (irritatingly lacking alt text; come on, people, get with the program) is actually a pretty accurate rendition of the plot, and possibly better written. ArchivesNext is running a hilarious quiz/contest about the book and its premise.


Edited to add: Rebecca at Derangement and Description, creator of the LOLcats comic, is going to be adding transcript or some kind of alt. Given that I rather gracelessly snarked in public instead of privately asking her to add alternative text, this is my public apology and recognition of her coolness.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
Over on the Tufts DCA blog today I am asking people to talk about your concerns (or lack of them) about preserving your own personal materials.

I hope people respond, because that will be a distraction from the post I want to make but don't have time to make about representation and race, and about someone who makes a list which is intended to show "the breadth and incredible range of YA literature" should be doing better than 1 author of color on a list of 32 books. I don't want to make that post because I don't want to single out the individual in question for hammering the final nail into the coffin of my patience.

(I should also credit [personal profile] catwalksalone for the wonderful and wholly appropriate new userpic, from her wonderful batch of Diana Wynne Jones icons.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
YES YES YES. An excellent post by Dorothea at Book of Trogool, inspired by Dan Cohen, about sustainability and chasing the shiny.

As I've had occasion to mention, scholars generally and humanists in particular have a terrible habit of chasing the shiny. [...]

The answer to this conundrum is not, however, "avoid the shiny at all costs!" It can't be. That will only turn scholars away from archiving and archivists. To my mind, this means that our systems have to take in the data and make it as easy as possible for scholars to build shiny on top of it. When the shiny tarnishes, as it inevitably will, the data will still be there, for someone else to build something perhaps even shinier.

Mark me well, incidentally: it is unreasonable and unsustainable to expect data archivists to build a whole lot of project-specific shiny stuff. You don't want your data archivists spending their precious development cycles doing that! You want your archivists bothering about machine replacement cycles, geographically-dispersed backups, standards, metadata, access rights, file formats, auditing and repair, and all that good work.

YES. We need to be working well with the people responsible for interfaces -- but we need not to be building those interfaces ourselves. (Hopefully, I will soon have exciting news about a project that follows these guidelines. I'm not going to make an announcement until we have it right, though. *g*)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
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.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I'm trying to close out many of my tabs, so I'm going to break this into two posts, one which is mostly about archival/open scholarship/library issues, and one which is about children's literature -- because I think my readership is kind of divided down the middle.

"diaries are a window into life of Kennedy daughter" was a story which really resonated with me as I struggle to learn the ethics of archivists. On the one hand, the diaries are an important part of the historical record, teaching us incredibly troubling things about Joe Kennedy in giving insights into many of the causes supported by Ted Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. On the other hand, their potential for harm to (at the time) living people was not small.

deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I'm worried that this entire blog is going to turn into a repetition of "look what I posted in that other blog this week!" but I'm getting to post such cool stuff I can't help pointing to it and saying "see!"

Seriously, this week my blog post got to include a photograph of a glass cuttlefish. How cool is that? And it was torment choosing among all the photographs, and having to decide not to use the images of the glass borellia viridis, the glass annelida, or the glass coelenterata.

I mean, seriously, glass flowers, Harvard? There are no flowers that are this cool.

Okay, maybe they are a tiny bit cool.

Aw, I can't resist. Here, have a glass Portuguese Man-of-war: behind a cut to preserve your screen real estate )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Oh, happiness. The open access, peer-reviewed fan studies journal Transformative Works and Cultures has just released its debut issue. A large crowd of volunteers and contributors has worked very hard to make this happen -- neither editor of the journal has institutional support, so their achievement is particularly impressive.

Of course I'm thrilled about adding a new open access journal to scholarship. Both the social sciences and humanities have far too few OA journals. And of course, I'm particularly smug about some of the things I brought in. DOIs might not seem such a big deal to those of you who are librarians and archivists, but think about how difficult it can be to have your library's databases provide links to material on the open web. And of course, from a preservation perspective DOIs will keep our articles accessible even if the infrastructure changes. For example, if we change our backend software so it is no longer the Open Journal Systems, our URLs might change but our DOIs will remain the same. Once we have the requisite number of published issues, I look forward to seeing our journal indexed in a large variety of indexing and abstracting services.

But one of the most exciting things about this journal is that it is fully multimedia, taking advantage of the online medium -- and of the journal is prepared to stand behind its assertions of fair use for some of the multimedia clips used. For example, Francesca Coppa's "Women, Star Trek, and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding" embeds both images and video, and Bob Rehak's "Fan Labor Audio Feature Introduction" includes audio clips from a workshop discussion at the 2008 Console-ing Passions conference that was inspired by the Gender and Fan Culture discussion (in which I was a participant) and Henry Jenkins' blog in 2007. And even the journal software itself encourages participatory culture; the software allows (and we encourage) commenting by readers.

Press Release )

The call for papers for No. 2 is available as an .rtf file here. Do disseminate widely!
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources is a new report by Ithaka "sets forth a systematic understanding of the mechanisms for pursuing sustainability in not-for-profit projects". They say some very smart things, including "Assuming that grant funding will always be available is not likely to lead to a successful sustainability plan." and "Project leaders need to adopt a more comprehensive definition of ‘sustainability’.... It is incorrect to assume that, once the initial digitisation effort is finished and content is up on the web, the costs of maintaining a resource will drop to zero or nearly zero." (Emphasis mine.) They say some other things which I don't exactly disagree with but I think need to be carefully defined, such as "The value of a project is quantified by the benefits it creates for users", which needs to be carefully defined in an archives world where the value it creates for users might be "long term preservation of rarely accessed materials to benefit the global scholarly community". (At Open Repositories 2008, I heard a lot of conversation and presentations where people assumed that digital resources which weren't being heavily used had no value. As an archivist, I say them nay -- much of what we are preserving we are preserving for the future.)

But in any case, I read the report thinking "that's just what I've been saying". I'm thrilled that major reports are coming out discussing these issues.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've made a conscious choice not to try to become a Big Name Blogger in librarianship and archives. I've got too many strings to my bow already -- I am not a Bagthorpe! Unless maybe I am Jack. -- and it would be too much work to maintain that constant level of intelligent back-and-forth. Of course, there are negative side effects to not pushing my blog out there in the world. Sometimes I say something which I think is really important about sustainable digital preservation and I wish other people would contribute to the conversation so we can have some back and forth and develop the idea, and it doesn't happen.

Luckily, I'm not the only person talking about long-term economic sustainability. Brian Lavoie's "The Fifth Blackbird: Some Thoughts on Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation" is a good article I think everyone else in the field should read.

(Still, I'm going to be using my Operational Preservation Matrix for the next new project we start up here, and I'm going to keep track of how well it works to develop it further. Even if no one but me is interested, I think it's awesome.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[Tagged as, among other things, otw, because even though I am dealing with these issues as a professional I think that The Organization for Transformative Works is very well-placed to be one of the few organizations prepared to confront operational preservation from the outset. After all, the OTW has to deal with one even more frightening aspect of operational preservation: it is an entirely volunteer-run organization which promises perpetual preservation. It takes a lot of planning and commitment to be prepared to follow through on a commitment like that. Luckily, the OTW has both.]

Introductory thoughts on Operational Preservation )

I would love to get comments from the community on this, because I truly believe that this could be a very useful model for organizations designing digitization projects. I know I'm going to prompt my institution to follow this matrix for all new digitization efforts.

Problem Statement: When an archivist deposits material in a digital archive, he or she often has assumptions that object is preserved in perpetuity, just as it would be worried a physical object. Depositors of digital material often have the same assumptions, as do institutional administrators. However, the assumptions of the software development and maintenance community do not assume permanence on the same scale in which archivists are accustomed to providing permanence. Moreover, administrators (and archivists) often have unrealistic assumptions about the labor and costs involved in daily operational maintenance to provide digital preservation, which are -- if not higher -- certainly different from the operational maintenance costs for providing physical preservation. Even worse, many digital preservation projects are funded by limited-duration soft money instead of out of an operational budget.

Or, in a nutshell, we need to remember that Digital preservation has an ongoing operational cost which cannot be provided within the archive.

Operational Preservation: To that end, I am proposing this matrix for new preservation and archival projects to see if they have thought of the requirements necessary for permanent preservation.

Anything calling itself a digital preservation project has to be prepared, in perpetuity, to provide all items down the left-hand column for all of the items in the top row. Funding is really a redundant item -- by "Labor", I mean funding for staff to provide all of the work involved, and "Physical facility" is really something which can be provided by funding -- but the fact that digital preservation requires ongoing operational money is too important to ignore. By "Bureaucratic support" I mean policies and procedures in place which support the operational business of preservation at an organizational level.

Operational Preservation Matrix
Labor Physical facility Bureaucratic support Funding
Existence of the datastream
in a file system or database
. . . .
Object access via handle/doi/uri . . . .
Maintenance, repair, and upgrade
of hardware (server, disk, etc.)
. . . .
Maintenance, patching, and upgrade
operating system
. . . .
(The following tasks are not as
essential, but still very important)
. . . .
Rolling forward file formats . . . .
Transferring data to more modern
repository and software tools when appropriate
. . . .
Modernizing user interface as appropriate . . . .

(Of course, traditional preservation of physical objects is also an ongoing operational cost. Physical objects require extensive physical facilities with narrow environmental limitations, they require re-housing and repair, they require maintenance and supervision. But these ongoing operational tasks can be performed by archivists with traditional skills. The technological operational tasks of a digital archive often can't be performed even by technologically-trained archivists, because the institution will have specific requirements about who is able to, say, maintain the network.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
As an aside, I'm really interested, as I look around the net, to see if other institutions have manged to have needs-driven digital asset management initiatives rather than tools-driven. The problem seems to be that all of these digital asset management projects (course materials, IR needs, exhibits, etc) occur all over an institution, and existing software projects have been organically slipping into other niches to fill needs. Need course materials stored? Let your course management monopoly package do it. Need to catalogue your e-journals, and then your local pre-prints? Let your OPAC software store them as well. There's exciting projects going on building more comprehensive and planned tools, but the needs are now, and users aren't just clamoring, they're using whatever they can find.

Are there potentially going to be products which will be good at storing IR text documents and websites and internal archival materials for preservation and display and multimedia objects for classroom and research use and and easy-to-use upload server for student work and whatever else comes up? Or should we resign ourselves that any good system will have to involve a number of technological solutions?

*reburies head in tool research*
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
When I did my first master's degree, I learned a basic principle: all postbaccalaureate work should be publication quality. I've tried to stick to that, at least in papers with some creativity involved (as opposed to just writing to a set assignment; the student can't be expected to do graduate-level work with an undergraduate-level assignment).

When I began this independent study project, I was extremely excited about the idea of publication. My original goal was to make a publishable academic paper as well as a public product: a website which informed news consumers of the archival policies of giving news agencies. Unfortunately, I don't think I made a publishable paper. I made a number of mistakes:
  • To start with, this is my first social science research paper. I have neither the format or the style down pat, and I think I alternate between too casual and too aggressively academic, without ever finding a comfortable medium.
  • I failed to get all of the release forms I would need to get this information published.
  • I presented my survey badly, both in the e-mail and newsliblog requests, and in the lack of a click-through explanation and release form. As a result, I got scarcely any replies.
  • I'm sure I screwed up something else. Or many somethings else.
Nonetheless, I think my findings were important, and I'd like to share them. In a nutshell, I found that online news agencies don't make permanent archives or even limited snapshots of their layout and design, and in extreme cases, don't even make permanent archives of online-only content. The first part of this is a difficult problem. It still unsolved how best to make snapshots of something as deep, multi-layered, and dynamic as a news website. But the second problem is merely a matter of culture (print newspapers have librarians while webmasters live in the present), and needs to be fixed before an important part of the historical record is lost for good. An important part of the historical record is already lost for good; can we reverse the trend?

Abstract )

Survey of the Archival Methods for Print and Web Newspapers [RTF]
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