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)
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.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
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.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Yesterday, in the Tufts Digital Collections and Archives blog ([ profile] tufts_dca), I talked about our newly-launched institutional repository, Tufts eScholarship. I'm very optimistic about the success of our IR, though there has been a lot of conversation in the IR world about what makes institutional repositories fail. The number one reason I'm optimistic about our IR: it's not what purists would call an institutional repository.

I'd like to buy university digitization efforts a Coke and teach everyone how to work with each other: cut for length )

The decisions leading to this wonderful conjunction of circumstances all predate my presence here at the university by many years. I'm talking about this not to toot Tufts' horn, but to push this vital idea of collaboration. Even now, I see so many institutions in the repository space that have entirely orthogonal approaches within their own organizations. The people digitizing images aren't talking to the people digitizing texts aren't talking to the people dealing with digital records aren't talking to the people doing institutional repository. Sure, maybe you would never use the same software platform or workflow approaches for all of these efforts. But maybe you will. Maybe instead of getting six different perfect software packages, you will find something that is good enough for all of you, and uses only one license, a smaller number of technical support staff, and something which will continue to be supported by your university even if hard economic times make some of the digital collections look less important.

Heck, I'm looking at this entirely selfishly, and you should too. In tough economic times, digital archives might go by the wayside. Open access institutional repositories are still untested. But management of the university's digital records is never going to be unnecessary. Work with other people instead of merely alongside them, intertwine your jobs, and you will not just save your institution money and resources, but you will increase the number of ways in which you are vital. Job security FTW.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
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.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've been getting increasingly concerned about what I see as a too-shallow view of sustainability in digital preservation. There's been a lot of lip service paid over the last few years to preservation, and I have certainly heard talks by grant-funding agencies in which they explained that they are now only funding grants which have sustainability written into the grant structure. Yet time and time again, I see soft money being awarded to projects for which the project administrators clearly have only the vaguest idea of what sustainability really means in a software environment.

I don't see this as anyone's fault, mind you. Software developers and IT folks aren't used to thinking of software projects in terms of Permanence. In the traditional software world, the only way something is going to be around forever is if it's going to be used all that time -- for example, a financial application which is in constant use needs to be constantly up. But archival digital preservation has a very different sense of permanence. For us, permanence might mean that you build a digital archival collection once, don't touch its content again for 10 years, but can still discover all of its preserved content at the end of those 10 years.

Meanwhile, in Internet time, a project which has been around for two years is clearly well past its prime and ready to be retired.

Repository managers are putting all of this great work into the repository layer* of preservation: handles and DOIs, PRESERV and PRONOM, JHOVE and audit trails and the RLG checklist. But meanwhile, all of these collections of digital objects -- many of them funded by limited-duration soft money -- are running on operating systems which will need to be upgraded and patched as time passes, on hardware which will need to be upgraded and repaired as time passes, on networks which require maintenance. Software requires sustenance and maintenance, and no project which doesn't take into account that such maintenance requires skilled technical people in perpetuity can succeed as perpetual preservation. Real sustainability means commitment from and communication with the programmers and sysadmins. It requires the techies understand an archivist's notion of "permanence", and the librarians and archivists (and grant agencies) understand how that a computer needs more than electricity to keep running -- it needs regular care and feeding.

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I'm so excited by the OTW Archive of One's Own and the Transformative Works and Cultures journal. The individuals responsible for the archive and the journal *do* have a real understanding of and commitment to permanence down to the hardware and network provider level. Admittedly, it's a volunteer-run, donation supported organization, so its sustainability is an open question. But it's a question the OTW Board is wholeheartedly investigating, because they understand its importance.)

*I'm somewhat tempted to make an archival model of preservation that follows the layered structue of the OSI model of network communication. Collection policy layer, Accession layer, Content layer, Descriptive Metadata layer, Preservation Metadata layer, Application Layer, Operating System layer, Hardware layer. Then you could make sure any new preservation project has all of those checkboxes ticked. Sort of an uber-simplification of the RLG Checklist, in a nice, nerd-friendly format.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (loc)
Yesterday I went to an extremely valuable BLC community of interest institutional repository meeting. The reason it was valuable was because most of the people attending were in about the same place we are -- barely started, no software yet chosen or a recently installed software package with a few articles in it. Many of the bloggers, speakers, and presenters on this topic have more established programs, with software, and a program, and administrative support, and invested faculty. Speaking with other librarians who, like us, are barely started in the process of setting up an institutional repository highlighted some valuable questions and concerns.

One which really came to light for me is a problem which is probably so resolved for the established repositories that people don't even consider it a question: should the institutional repository hold what we find valuable or what the faculty find valuable? Specifically, should we be driving toward open access articles, which the faculty aren't demanding, or should we be serving the faculty's actual demands, which for most of us seems to be file management of vast piles of working data (images or datasets, usually).

My argument is that we should be serving both of these needs, and it is deceptive to think of them as both "institutional repository". One need is driven by our faculty, and should be thought of as a business process requirement. Their business process requires them to be able to manage terabytes of data. Some libraries might be taking on the responsibility for helping them do this management (in terms of backups, metadata application, etc.). If, in a given university, managing this data is the library's responsibility, than as employees of the University we should of course be fulfilling our requirement.

But this is entirely separate from the open access archives of faculty research. One comment that multiple people made in yesterday's meeting is "but why should we be giving them open access archives, when they don't want them?" And my argument would be that in this particular place we're not responding to a faculty request -- and that's okay. We're being visionaries in our field. We're serving the greater scholarly community, which happens to include our faculty, even if they don't know it yet. We are getting ahead of the game, so when requirements about open deposit of research start coming down from grant funders, we'll be able to provide them with the repository.

Saying "but the faculty don't want Thing B, a one Thing A," is a false dichotomy. We provide them with Thing A, if that's part of our mission, but we also provide them with Thing B. Just because they aren't asking for it doesn't mean it's not our responsibility to give it to them. They don't have to use it -- though many of them, once they learn about increased impact factors, eventually will. But we should still give it to them.

Because open access archives aren't just for our own faculty. They benefit scholarship and education and research in the world, and that doesn't just help our own universities.

Certainly doesn't hurt, though.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Okay, folks, I need your help. I am currently getting soaked in a brainstorm, and I'd like to get this idea down before I lose the details. But since this is a brainstorm, it might make no sense at all. Tell me if what I'm talking about is an incredibly stupid idea that will never work. Alternately, tell me if what I'm suggesting is ridiculously common, and everybody does it this way already, and how could I not have noticed?

The two-part problem:

1. As we investigate products for digital asset management in the library, it's extremely likely that no one product will solve all of our needs. We will perforce find ourselves with digital resources in a number of different products, and will need to design either a single front end, or we'll have to accept a certain amount of user confusion at not knowing which tool holds the resources they need.

2. It's entirely possible that a single asset might be simultaneously part of our institutional repository and yet necessary for our learning management software, or similarly dual-purposed. How do these assets get filed? In what product?

My idea: carefully design an institution-specific set of metadata fields for each purpose. One indicating institutional repository, for example, and another indicating learning management. Assign as many of these metadata fields as necessary to each asset, no matter what product the asset is stored in. Store the asset in a product which is best suited for that asset-type. Then, using some kind of harvesting (e.g. Z39.50, OAI), harvest the contents of the various products and repositories. Write an institution-specific search mechanism that knows how to search the harvested data for all, say, institutional repository items. Or for all items in the special collections.

This idea of course ellides several major problems: designing the metadata; building what is effectively a small-scale federated search tool; deciding the appropriate product for the appropriate kind of asset; submitting assets into a multitude of products, possibly by non-librarian users such as faculty members and students. But is there any meat to this idea?ed
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*
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