Archive for September, 2008

The Story Place is children’s collection I came across recently with some good resources for children and their parents.  The Story Place pre-school library offers 15 subjects for children’s activities, each with an animated story, animated activity, take-home activity, suggested reading list and parent activity.  This is a nice resource for parents and children’s librarians to reinforce concepts for children beyond story-time.  The activities supplement and reinforce the vocabulary learned during story-time, and the parent-child interaction promotes bonding and information retention.  Toddlers pay very close attention to their primary care-givers, learning speech and behavior from their example, so they are more likely to absorb information from primary care-givers than from a librarian they only see once a week.  Parents and librarians working together will be doubly effective in locating appropriate resources and facilitating effective learning techniques.

The Internet Archive Children’s Library has a very nice interactive feature that gives the user the impression of turning pages in a book.  I know it’s just a trick of animation and it shouldn’t make such a big difference, but I find this so appealing, so much more satisfying than just viewing static pages!  This collection is more for older children and individuals with archival interests, I think.  It includes children’s books that have passed out of copyright, into the public domain.

In other news, after class today, I went to the computer lab to try out the Greenstone digital collection building software.  I skimmed the introductory info and browsed the sample collections.  I can’t say I feel that it’s any better or worse than Omeka, but I’ll have a better feel for it when I can start building my collection.  Greenstone is not currently set up in the lab for students to upload objects and practice building, because I’m sure the IT department doesn’t want the lab computers to become a free dumping zone.  Still, I will feel more comfortable when I can practice uploading and manipulating information.  Omeka will be available for building soon enough—I’ve got plenty to read while I wait.

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My Readers Advisory class is so much fun!  You’ve got to love a class where novels are part of the required reading.  I never realized how spoiled I was as an English major, just reading novels all the time, until I had to face my first semester of grad school, which was completely devoid of fiction!

I have to admit, I wasn’t too enthused about having to read a romance novel as part of our genre studies.  I mean, I only made it to book six in Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series before the romance drove me off.  All the sex was getting in the way of my vampire story, dang it!

Nevertheless, I’m learning to rethink my scorn of the romance genre–it never hurts to reanalyze the validity of your prejudices.  I’m learning about the appeal elements in various genres so I can offer customers suggestions for books they may like.  Romance fans are looking for a romantic fantasy, a fairy tale love story for the escapism, vicarious enjoyment of the emotional relationship, and the happy ending.  I have to admit that escapism has been a major motive for my reading habits.  If my guilty pleasures are the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it isn’t really fair for me to disparage other readers’ appreciation for escapist literature.

For my romance study, I read Honor Bound by Sandra Brown.  I have to admit, I tore through the book in about two days.  It wasn’t terribly suspenseful, but just enough to keep me turning the pages, wondering what would happen next.  Which doesn’t make much sense to me because at the end of the book I had to say I didn’t care for it much.  The characters were too flat, too idealized for my personal tastes, but I have to understand that some readers are looking for an idealized fairy tale story.  Some people want a knight in shining armor and a happily ever after, even if I can’t buy into that stuff.

I guess the thing that always turned me off from Romances is the gender stereotypes, the woman that has to be rescued by the handsome hero, the hostage who falls in love with her kidnapper.  blech.  It seemed to me that these stories painted unrealistic pictures of relationships and reinforced gender stereotypes.  I hated to think of young women reading these stories and buying into the misogyny.  But Dr. Van Fleet suggested that these romance novels could actually be empowering to women–these novels encourage female readers to carve out some time for themselves in their busy schedules.  These books give women permission to enjoy a little escapism, to preserve a personal time and space for themselves.

And then I thought, aren’t I being rather misogynistic, thinking that women need to be protected from the lie of romance novels?  I’m assuming that women cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy.  Who am I to tell anyone what they can and cannot read?  I certainly don’t want anyone dictating what I read.  If I believe in the freedom to read–and I do–I have to quit judging readers and start serving them!

The Romance Writers of America report that over 64 million Americans read at least one romance novel in the past year.  These readers are part of my service community.  I don’t have love romances, but I do need to respect the reading needs of my customers.

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In her article “Eternal Bits,” Mackenzie Smith discusses the ephemeral nature of digital formats, explaining,

“In an era when the ability to read a document, watch a video, or run a simulation could depend on having a particular version of a program installed on a specific computer platform, the usable life span of a piece of digital content can be less than 10 years.”

So considering the rapid progression of format obsoletism, how do we follow NISO’s guidelines for good digital collections, specifically Collections Principle 7: A good collection is interoperable, and Collections Principle 9: A good collection is sustainable over time?  I think Collections Principle 3, active curation, is part of the solution, if that curation can include periodically migrating data to new, sustainable and widely accessible formats.

In her article, Smith offers the project DSpace as a means of tackling the preservation issue.  DSpace is an open source digital repository that “not only accepts digital materials and makes them available on the Web but also puts them into a data-management regime that helps to preserve them for generations to come.”  This data curation is the key to assuring preservation and accessibility.

Another interesting point Smith mentions is that there are certain legal obligations that require assurance that “certain records haven’t been altered by human hands or computer malfunction.”  Yet, in the case of scanning documents with optical character recognition software, I’ve seen words get garbled–letters L and I misread as 1 or !–and these digital documents practically require some manual editing for the sake of legibility.  I wonder how the law copes with these instances?

And now, a seque to an interesting story that popped up on Yahoo! today, about a Russian archaeologist who believes he has found Itil, the lost capital of the Khazars, a nation that disappeared over 1,000 years ago.  As of yet, archaeologists have found no Khazar writings or Jewish artifacts, so some still question whether this find is really Itil.  Stalin apparently had all mention of the Khazars removed from Russia’s history books as they did not fit with his concept of Russian history.  While there are Jewish, Armenian and Islamic writings about the people of Itil, from the Khazars themselves very few writings have been found.  I wonder what happened to the Khazars’ writings about Itil?  Did Stalin destroy them all?  Did the paper burn when the Russians sacked the city, or did it simply crumble over the centuries? 

Can our bold digital collections survive the test of time?

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I’ve been thinking about what kind of digital collection I can develop for my class this semester.  At first I thought I might try to develop a collection of story-time podcasts like the Denver Public Library–perhaps choose a theme and make recordings of myself reading several children’s stories within that theme.  But the Denver Library had to request permission from the publisher of each book they read and recorded to avoid copyright infringement.  So unless I only record stories that are in the public domain, I would have to do the same.  Who knows how long it would take to get permission for this project, so now I’m exploring other ideas.

Following a lead posted by a classmate, I’ve been looking over some guidelines from the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) in an effort to conceptualize this project.  I found these collections principles helpful.  Principle #3, continued curation, is an item the Peseus collection and the Internet Classics Archive need to work on.  Here’s an interesting diagram of the Digital Curation Centre’s Curation Lifecycle Model.

An interesting point from the NISO source is that while digital collections require some form of collections development policy to be well organized and useful, some collections, such as “institutional repositories that encourage users to deposit their own intellectual property” may require more flexibility in such policy.  Librarians and archivists sometimes face pressure to engage in mass digitization without careful attention to associating resources with their metadata in the process.  Yet in order to make digital collections useful, it is very important to ensure users can access a resource’s metadata regarding details of provenance, subject matter, medium, copyright information, etc.

The Cuneiform Digital Library is a facinating collection that includes metadata relating to provenance, among other details.  Although it is a collection based largely on format, the curators have organized the records so that researchers can search by provenance, language/region of origin, subject matter, etc.  I only wish the collection included some translations of the texts.

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Went to the OU Tulsa Student Association (OUTSA) meeting tonight.  Cynthia Patterson with the Knowledge Management Society was there–I think she said she was standing in for George.  I need to double check with George, but so far, no one seems to know if the OU School of Library & Information Studies has a student representative.  If there isn’t one, I may give it a shot.  I want to make sure SLIS and OLISSA are properly registered and represented in case we need to solicit funds from OUTSA for activities.

Items of interest (for LIS/KM students) at the meeting included the announcement that OUTSA officers and Student Affairs will be selling 2-gig flash drives for $14, which is supposed to be a pretty good deal.  As a representative from the IT Dept. was present, I asked if it was possible to capture the AV feed from meetings conducted between Norman and Tulsa, such as OLISSA meetings.  This would make it possible to post recordings of meeting proceedings or guest lectures online.  Apparently it is possible, and I got the name of the person I need to contact to set it up.  However, it was suggested that we consult the legal dept. regarding posting such recordings on the Internet for general access due to privacy concerns.  I will make contact regarding capturing the AV feed tomorrow, collect information, and then report my findings to OLISSA at the meeting Wednesday night.  The next OUTSA meeting will be Sept. 25th, 2008, at noon.

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Here’s something from an online discussion I’d like to preserve here.  I’m not posting it for class credit–just for my own interest (or vanity).  These thoughts stem from reading Anthony Grafton’s article, “Digitization and its Discontents,” The New Yorker, November 5, 2007.

I agree with Grafton that humankind has struggled with information glut and access difficulties since the stone tablet libraries of Nineveh and the scrolls of Alexandria were in circulation.  True, there is more information floating around today than ever before, but that was true in every age (except maybe the dark ages, but that’s another discussion). 

I think digitalization is our newest method of coping with our informational growing pains.  It’s not perfect, but I’m not sure any of our previous methods can be characterized as perfect either.  There were access issues in ancient times in the form of illiterate populations, access issues throughout history in terms of specific populations being denied access to information (slaves in ancient Greece, Christians denied access to biblical texts in the vulgate, women and African Americans denied access throughout history).  There were access issues with microfilm and microfiche in that very few people had personal microfilm and microfiche readers.  I think this demonstrates that in the interest of the democratization of information, libraries must extend outreach efforts and strive to provide access to everyone through literacy programs, tech assistance programs, and efforts to connect the unconnected countries of the world to libraries both physical and digital.

I also think Grafton is right that all human information is not going to be captured and digitized any time soon.  Information has been “left out” throughout history, from books left out of the Christian Bible to texts overlooked for conversion to microfilm.  It is troubling to think about who is making the decisions today as to what will be digitally preserved and what won’t be.  But do we preserve everything, down to the last child’s coloring book?  One man’s trash is an archeologist’s treasure in 500 years.  But I guess that passes into archival territory.

Still, as long as people prefer reading print on paper to text on screens, as long as parents want to take their children to story-time, as long as digital information is vulnerable to a powerful electromagnetic pulse, as long as people seek that Third Place for democracy and community, libraries must persist in bricks as well as bytes.

Anyone interested in the history of libraries in greater depth should check out Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles.  It’s a facinating account.  Thanks to Doc Martens for introducing me to it!

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This represents my first post for my Digital Collections class, discussing examples of interesting digital collections.  All posts for this class will be categorized under the term “digital collections.”

ibiblio is a “collection of collections,” including art, history, literature, music, science, software, and cultural studies.  Some collections within ibiblio are in non-English languages, such as Spanish and French.  The variety of resource subjects and media is admirable; the diversity of resources makes it feel like a full library, rather than just a special collection on a limited topic.  ibiblio allows individuals and nonprofit organizations to contribute relevant collections in order to expand ibiblio resources.  By welcoming collaboration from various agencies, ibiblio has the capacity to grow and diversify so much more than it could otherwise.  I was interested to find a collection called CyberSufis, categorized under religion and theology.  Unfortunately it’s currently under construction and inaccessible, but I’ll have to revisit it.  I’ve barely scratched the surface of Rumi’s writings, but I love what I’ve read so far.

Project Gutenberg is another of ibiblio’s collections.  Founded by Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg is the oldest and largest “single collection of free electronic books.”  Besides text in multiple languages, Project Gutenberg also offers audio books, CDs, DVDs, and digitized sheet music.  My brother, a digital aficionado, actually introduced me to Project Gutenberg in the late ’90s–since then it’s grown exponentially.  It’s amazing to me that this digital collection is a 501(c)3 run almost entirely by volunteers.  To have lasted almost 40 years on only the support of grants and donations is truly impressive.  I wonder if I will ever create a digital collection that could be active and relevant for even half that time?

Being fond of Latin and the classics, I can’t help but appreciate the Internet Classics Archive, which provides 441 works of classic literature by 59 authors, including Augustus, Julius Caesar, Livy, Ovid, Aesop and Aristotle.  Texts are offered in English translation, but this archive also partners with the Perseus Digital Library to offer texts in Latin, at least those originally written in Latin.  Moreover, each Latin word is hyperlinked to provide the translation and part of speech in English.  I found this resource a couple years ago while searching for the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam. 

The Internet Classics Archive notes that in the fall of 2000, its website suffered disk failure and backup errors, but the majority of texts were recovered with the assistance of Google and the MIT Media Lab.  Unfortunately some applications of the Archive still do not work after 8 years.  Some of the links to texts in Peseus also seem to be defunct.  I wonder if this collection has been abandoned?  In any case, it is listed in the OEDb article “250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives,” dated 2007.  Hopefully it will be restored to full operation someday. 

I guess the Internet Classics Archive illustrates what happens when a digital collection is neglected.  Digital collections require upkeep as much as physical libraries, to combat bit-rot and to grow the collection.  If a site displays outdated announcements, users may assume that its contents are irrelevant and look for another resource.  We need to make the place look hospitable if we want people to come in.

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