Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Open Repostories 2009

Open Repositories (OR) continues to be the best conference I attend each year, and OR 09 didn't disappoint. The diversity of the presentations (and platforms) and the amount of talent and intellectual capital aggregated in one place facilitates discussion and ideas that may not happen independently. OR has "big ideas", cool software, and offers a preview of what the future holds for "repository" technology.

ORE Implementations

One of the nascent technologies at OR 08 was the OAI-ORE specification, which wasn't even in final draft at that point in time. Workshops on ORE had taken place independently prior to OR 08, and there was a workshop held for ORE at OR 08, but even as Herbert was presenting at OR 08, the draft was not final. At OR 09, there were a number of software stacks that leveraged or implemented ORE, including but not limited to ICE-TheOREm, LORE, and DSpace. At the risk of oversimplifying these technologies, I must make an attempt at summarizing their use of ORE.

ICE-TheOREm (presented by Jim Downing and Peter Sefton) integrates electronic thesis management with repository deposit. A thesis is broken down into its components (chapters, data sets) and an ORE object is used to represent the thesis. The ORE object is the "thing" that is exchanged between the thesis management system and the repository. The repository, upon receipt of the ORE object, dereferences the components of the thesis and ingests them into the repository, maintaing the semantics of the aggregation. One of the interesting things ICE allows is embargoes on specific portions of the thesis (say a chapter or paragraph). By disaggregating thesis content in this way, it may allow more open access by allowing a thesis which would normally be entirely embargoed to remain mostly open, only restricting access to the embargoed chapter or paragraph.

LORE (Literature Object Re-use and Exchange) is a fascinating FireFox browser plugin, allowing ORE object graphs to be created, visualized, edited, and annotated in the browser and saved back out to the repository. LORE objects encapsulate FRBR bibliographic data with digital resources. LORE is not released yet, but will be released under GPL v3. I imagine there are ways this plugin would be utilized in the Rose scholarly community. LORE leverages Sesame 2 to store ORE objects. When stored in a repository (in this case a Fedora repository) the ORE ReM is serialized as RDF XML. The domain ontology is configurable, allowing it to be adapted for other disciplines. Future developments include a rules engine to infer object relationships, and the ability to attach license information to the objects in order to facilitate re-use.

Finally, the Texas Digital Library machine implemented ORE on top of DSpace, allowing DSpace objects to be exposed as ORE Resource Maps (ReMs). The DSpace data model was mapped to ORE, and a crosswalk was written from DSpace DC to ORE. This way members of the TDL DSpace federation can expose their collections using ORE via OAI-PMH. The federating server, with some modifications, harvests the ORE ReMs, and is able to present "real" DSpace collections, or it can present a collection as a view on an ORE aggregation. The TDL work allows for three levels of aggregation ranging from metadata only, to metadata with references to the items (with the bits stored on the member server), to metadata with references to the items (with the bits stored on the federating server).

Nascent Tech

The nascent technology this year is the DuraSpace initiative which is promoting a web-based approach to repositories: web apis, cloud storage (DuraCloud), etc. One of the things that the DSpace Foundation brings to the table of the DuraSpace initiative is the large, existing, install base of DSpace 1.x repositories. With its soup-to-nuts approach to repository implementation and one-size-fits-all data model, DSpace 1.x hits a sweet spot for many institutions, including museums and other cultural heritage organizations. If DuraSpace can provide hosting solutions for these folks, there seems to be a potential source of untapped revenue. It was encouraging to hear that prototypes of DuraCloud exist, with a formal release "winterish" 2009.

The second nascent technology this year is DSpace 2 (DS2). DSpace 2 is a ground up clean room re-write of DSpace in an effort to modernize its architecture: make the data model flexible, make the architecture pluggable, and enable re-use of shared components between web developers (Cocoon blocks) and repository developers (Akubra) alike. The architecture is solid but the implementation is not feature compatible (with DSpace 1.x) nor feature complete. The future of DS2 is cloudy in my mind, but I also didn't attend any of the roadmap sessions where that may have been resolved.

Cool Stuff

Vireo is a ETD submission and management system developed by the TDL machine, and designed for use by the 18 (?) schools of the TDL (labs demo). It is implemented using Manakin, and requires three additions to the DSpace database schema. Otherwise the DSpace codebase remains untouched. Vireo deserves a more complete review, but I'm running out of steam. It is Shibboleth aware, can be configured for different schools' workflow, and has all kinds of ajaxy goodie bits. It doesn't prescribe a workflow, so the system is quite flexible. However, it does gently nudge users and administrator in the right directions.

Matt Zumwalt of MediaShelf presented on ActiveFedora, which is a Ruby API over the Fedora API, allowing rapid development and prototyping of lightweight user interfaces on top of Fedora.


There were some themes throughout the conference: data modeling - approaches to atomistic modeling.

Lowering barriers to entry: on the user side (reducing the resistance of the wire, appropriate incentives, proper licensing of digital content) and the developer side.

Repository tech seems to be moving further towards the service/infrastructure layer, only because more and more interactive applications are being built on top of them, enabled/abstracted by technologies like OAI-ORE and SWORD. The end user doesn't know, and wouldn't care, that various services like search, storage, or deposit are being handled by the repository.

Open Repositories 2009 (OR 2009)

I attended the first day of OR 2009 and presented on the Data Conservancy, our pending award through the National Science Foundation's DataNet program. At a time of economic strain, it was amazing to note that over 320 people from 23 countries attended OR09. Tyler Walters, local organizing chair, and John Howard, program chair, deserve a great deal of credit for putting together a great conference.

This level of participation provides ample evidence that repositories remain an important topic in the digital library community. While each group held its separate user group meetings during OR09, the DSpace and Fedora organizations spoke for the first time as the newly merged DuraSpace. It's my understanding that DuraSpace's services will have specific names based on this new name. The cloud computing service that helped bring the two groups together will be called DuraCloud.

Perhaps because of the presentation on the Data Conservancy, I had many conversations about data curation. There was agreement that data are more complex than publications or images. While we have some experience with document or image repositories, our community-wide experience with data repositories is less recent and not as deep. During my presentation, I made the point that while there is an urgency to build data curation infrastructure, we also need to acknowledge that there are unsolved problems or research questions that merit further examination.

I moderated a session with three presentations exploring repository services to support research. Michael Witt from Purdue University spoke about their research into data practices, especially as they relate to potential sharing of data across disciplines. Purdue's partner for this research, the University of Illinios at Urbana-Champaign, is one of the institutions within the Data Conservancy. Mark Leggott from the University of Prince Edward Island spoke about their library's strategic decision to offer virtual research environments as a core service to their faculty. I had all too brief exchange with him about how their library made the difficult decisions about reallocating funds within their budget to support this service. Wendy White from the University of Southampton described local efforts to embed and cast the repository as part of the overall knowledge management environment. Her presentation offered an interesting view of institutional repositories as part of the decision-making framework for academic institutions. It seemed to me that the sociological issues would be more challenging than the technological issues.

I regret not being able to stay longer at OR09, which is clearly becoming one of the most rewarding gatherings of the digital library community.
Timberline Acquisitions Institute May 16-19, 2009. This is a small extremely focused conference that deals with issues and best practices in library acquisitions. I gave a talk with two other librarians on new models of funding electronic resources. Our model of a central fund for all of the e-resources generated a lot of buzz and many questions of how we were able to get the individual libraries within Hopkins to work together.

One of the more interesting sessions was on the issues, challenges, and new horizons of streaming video presented by three people from Brigham Young University. The library and their Library Systems/IT created a streaming service called BYugle. Currently it is locked down for only the BYU campus but they hope to be able to open it up to their remote campuses (one each in Idaho and Hawaii) and for at home use. The system had a lot of nice features including easy incoporation into their course management system.

Two session dealt with inter-institutional collaborations. One a collection development collaboration between University of Oregon, Oregon State, and peripherally Scripps and Stanford's marine institutes. UO and OSU marine libraries are both quite small and have limited budgets so they don't want to duplicate their collections. They have done studies to determine how best to move the material between the two libraries as quickly as possible. The other between Oregon Institue for Technology and the National Park Service. This is a digital collections project for the Crater Lake Digital Research Collection. They are creating both a scientific and a cultural heritage collection on the research that has and is being done at Crater Lake. Currently they have over 150 items in their Conent DM repository and hope to have over 400 by summer 2010.

In addition to the size of this conference, what makes it unique is the location at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. You get to spend a lot of time with the other librarians there discussing acquisitions because, well, there really is no where else to go in the evening. However, there is almost always still plenty of snow on the mountain so skiing, snowboarding, and showshoeing are available. We actually went snowshoeing one day during lunch.

The Lodge is beautiful, a historic landmark, but rustic - no WIFI in the rooms. The WIFI worked on the ground level and in the conference room. It was also really hard to control the temperature in my room, one day it was 90 the next it was 55 . By the way, they did get 4" of new snow while we were there. Here's a link to some pictures I took while there.

Cyberinfrastructure Software Sustainability & Reusability Workshop

In late March 2009 I attended the National Science Foundation-sponsored Cyberinfrastructure Software Sustainability and Reusability Workshop. The NSF, which funds millions of dollars worth of software engineering, is examining what needs to be done in order to recoup their investment in software engineering and better support scientific research. (Presentations are hard to link to individually: see a list of all presentations here: http://cisoftwaresustainability.iu-pti.org/nsfworkshop/nsfCalendar/nsfCalendar.html)

One of the most fundamental questions to be answered is what are the distinguishing characteristics of Cyberinfrastrure (CI) software; what distinguishes CI software from other software? How is CI funded, and how is it sustained beyond the initial funding period (both from a fiscal and software engineering perspective). What changes can be made by NSF to enable CI sustainability? Plenary sessions introduced these topics and set the stage for breakout sessions, where the workshop participants examined these questions interactively and in more detail.

Plenary sessions examined existing models of software sustainability, with the idea that they might be adapted for sustaining CI. Brad Wheeler presented on why software sustainability is a problem and how it manifests itself in the higher-ed/research community. One challenge is the diversity of research domains, and the relative maturity and familiarity that these communities have with software engineering. Across these communities Brad discussed commonalities of various (open source?) software projects: Code, Coordination, and Community - noting that the models used in one community may not work in another. Different disciplines may use models to address software sustainability challenges.

Neil Chue Hong (the Director of OMII-UK) gave an excellent presentation on the work done at Open Middleware Infrastructure Institute, an organization which is responsible for supporting e-research software in the UK. OMII-UK was funded in two phases. With their first phase of funding, they focused on hardening existing software and writing code to fill gaps in software functionality. Existing software artifacts were ingested into their workflow, hardened, supplemented with additional functionality (if required), packaged and distributed. With their second phase of funding, OMMII-UK kept their QA and software ingest workflows, and switched their focus from middleware to user relevance and adoption of the software (an aspect of sustainability). Currently they provide community developed software and consulting services. They provide foundational services such as centralized help desk support and testing for software under their umbrella. They also provide responsive development: where gaps in a software artifact are identified, they try to fill them (with original development if needed). OMII-UK is addressing many aspects of sustainability in the UK, and their experience should be invaluable to the NSF.

Neil had a good metaphor. We've heard "free as in beer" and "free as in speech". Neil used "free as in puppy": the kids get a puppy for free from an animal shelter or where ever, but you still have to take care of the puppy and all that entails.

I attended two breakout sessions. The topic of the first session was building inherently reusable software, where the following issues were discussed:
- What is being sustained? Sustaining the abstractions/API (noting that the abstractions/APIs differ across domains, and that many domains (Astronomy is one exception) haven't identified the abstractions or services) or the actual bits?
- Having professional auditors look under the hood at the software build process, testing, and source code management practices
- Identifying metrics to evaluate the health of a software project
- What role does the funding agency play in certifying or auditing software quality

The second breakout session topic was metrics for software sustainability: what can (or should) be measured in order to describe sustainability; a so-called sustainability score. This session disappointedly wasn't able to supply concrete recommendations. General ideas were posited but specifics were left out.

Cliff Lynch wrapped up the meeting with a few observations:
- the need to distinguish between CI software and software
- the assumption that sustainability can only be achieved with open source
- the software lifecycle is too short (OMII-UK says the shelf-life of an artifact is 6mo - 1yr)
- the archival of software is something not well understood (and packaging it up in a VM is a heavy-handed solution)
- increasingly data is seen as an asset; embargoes on data; human subjects data; Issues surrounding privacy and informed consent.
- investment in a stable, backwards compatible, stack costs. Linux distros releasing every 6 months make it easy to be on the cutting edge for "free". Backwards compatibility isn't cheap.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More Observations from the MLA Convention!

Heidi Herr 

The MLA convention in Ocean City is the very first library conference I have ever attended, and I found it to be a great experience as the various sessions expounded on situations I have experienced both at work and through my studies at UMD’s I-School.  Indeed, I found some of the sessions to be so absorbing as to totally ignore the constant noise of the participants in the other big event in town, the speed-happy, fast car drivin’ attendants of OC’s annual cruiser’s week! 

The first session I attended, aside from the dynamic conversation with New York Public Library’s Paul Holdengraber (who I might add has mastered the art of name-dropping without it seeming like name-dropping), was a fascinating presentation on Frederick County Public Libraries’ foray in mobile reference.  The FCPL received a grant to launch a six-month mobile reference service, utilizing small computers and Vocera communication badges to contact other library staff when needed.  The library offered 21 hours of mobile reference a week, in which a librarian would walk around the stacks and study areas equipped with the mobile reference gadgets to see if anyone was in need of assistance.  The results, based on 7,584 reference contacts, were very impressive, with an 11% increase in circulating materials, 49% increase in database usage, and a 67% decrease in in-house referrals.  The librarians felt this test was successful because it not only promoted cross-training among participating library staff, but it also made patrons feel much more at ease with asking for help.  The main branch of the FCPL was the first public library in Maryland to offer this particular service, and is now adding mobile reference to its featured services.

I also attended Blog Like You Mean It, which Mark Cyzyk discussed in his blog entry. Another worthwhile session was Business Resources for the Literature Lover, in which three librarians walked all of us hapless humanities-types through business reference case studies.  The case studies involved reference situations with characters from literature, including everyone’s favorite Pekingese, Tricky Wu, from “All Creatures Great and Small”, who wanted to know where to find information about pet supply market shares, and Bob Crotchet, who wanted to explore whether working at Starbucks was a better option than continuing as an assistant to a certain Mr. Scrooge!  Needless to say, the reference librarian saved the day in each case study, ensuring all inquiring patrons a happy ending.

Alas, happy endings were not always in the cards for the patrons discussed in the session called Millenials’ Mysterious Search Habits.  Lucy Holman, a librarian at University of Baltimore’s Langsdale Library, discussed her research on the search skills of 21 undergraduates.  She observed students searching for information and asked them to describe their information-seeking processes. Holman’s results seemed to agree with other studies I have read in my library school classes, such as the prevalence of Google as a mental model for younger people, the inclination to search instead of browse, the inflated view of search skills found among undergraduates, and the perception that if the website looks good, then the information must be reliable. 

Holman mentioned some anecdotes that managed to bring forth simultaneous feelings of mirth and horror among the attendees, including one undergraduate’s remark that he preferred searching on the web because librarians hide information behind call numbers! Another anecdote mentioned was of a student researching information on Republican and Democratic energy policies, with the student using information found on a Chevron site for his paper.  He did not know that Chevron is an oil company, and he did not think to look into who the authors of the site were because the site looked reputable.  Another rather interesting finding was how polarizing Wikipedia is for younger people, with some students viewing it as an unreliable resource to stay away from at all cost (it seemed that some of their librarians and instructors were over zealous in their cautions against Wikipedia), whereas others use it all the time.  The session ended on a bit of down-note, with some librarians commenting that it is useless to attempt to teach students to use library resources if instructors are willing to accept questionable resources for projects.

The last session I attended was the only one where seemingly calm librarians became fractious – Protect Patron Privacy: It’s the Law!  Though the speaker’s lecture caused rather cantankerous comments from some attendees, I personally thought the presentation to be quite informative as it dealt with state and federal privacy laws and their implications in libraries.  Of particular interest, and what really appeared to steam some people, was the speaker’s discussion on situations where librarians broke privacy laws, resulting in devastating consequences for patrons.

All in all, the convention was a great experience, and the venue was quite good as it was within walking distance to Dumser’s fabulous milkshakes!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maryland Library Association (MLA) Conference, 2009

Mark Cyzyk’s notes on the Maryland Library Association (MLA) annual conference 2009 in Ocean City, Maryland

This was a wonderful conference! It was an eye-opener to realize that other sorts of libraries around the State -- public libraries, school libraries, special libraries, academic non-ARL libraries, even prison libraries -- are wrestling with the same sorts of problems as we do, have the same sorts of concerns as we do, and in many cases come up with the same sorts of solutions as we do: We all have materials to purchase, collect, and catalog; we all have organizations to run, staff to manage; we all have physical facilities in need of constant attention; we all have archives and special collections to digitize and push online; we all have patrons to provide for and to educate; we all have public terminals, staff workstations, servers, and networks to run; we all have policy and funding issues and concerns.

Highlights of the conference included an entertaining and inspiring session by Paul Holdengraber, Director of Public Programs at the New York Public Library; an interesting presentation on the use of Blogs in Libraries by our colleagues up the street at the Albert S. Cook Library at Towson University; an open session on "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know about IT" led by an expert panel of librarians and technologists from several sorts of libraries across Maryland; and even a final dramatic reading by a Recorded Books artist, something I would not normally have seen at a conference, and something I found surprisingly valuable and entertaining.

I had only been to MLA once before, perhaps 15 years ago, and I have to say that attending it this year was an eye-opener. There is a whole, vibrant library world out there, a world of dedicated professionals and staff actively bringing Knowledge to the World, whether it be from a small academic library, a special library, a public library, or a prison library.

I would say that our values as librarians, and the techniques and technological tools we use to carry out our missions, are ultimately what bind us.

We are, in the end, more alike than we are different.


Studied philosophy at Louvain
New York Public Library.
Director of Public Programs
Lecture series, interviews on stage. Salman Rushdie, David Remick, Malcolm Gladwell, Anthony Bourdain, et. al.
His charge: "oxygenate the library"
"Make the lions roar"
"Make it live"
get two people -- Studs Terkel and Tim Robbins -- on stage and see what happens.
staged an opera based on The Elements of Style in the main readng room!
learning from failure. try bold things
dynamic, inspiring
"cognitive theater"
artist in residence at NYPL. "draws conversations as they happen" INCREDIBLE!
initiative. Ask for forgiveness, not for permission. And don't even ask for forgiveness.
some events are brilliant disasters
Oram Pamuk, incredibly shy on stage. long silences
you MUST compile email lists
get one or two big stars, at the beginning of the series
each one of you should find an artist in residence
minimize lectures; maximize conversations. More entertaining
NYPL 2-3 events a week

Ancient History and New Discovery at the NOAA Library
History of NOAA; treasures of the library. History of exploration
NOAA formed in 1970. combined 19th century federal agencies dating back to 1807
1807 survey of the coast, Geodetic Survey
annual reports, facinating accounts of coast surveys. maps charts
science of surveying
pioneering oceanography
survey of California coast
Civil War maps
hidden collection, uncataloged
Weather Bureau
special collections digitized on Website
rare books, 1485-1800
evolution of weather maps
foreign climate data
30% of collection is cataloged; 1% is online
volunteer weather observers, severe weather data submission
Monthly Weather Review, Look up the weather on a particular day in US history
polar research
Historical Map and Chart Collection
oyster reef maps
NOAAWATCH Website, fed by RSS by various of the 880+ NOAA Websites
NOWData, weather data
JetStream - online school for weather
NOAA Photo library 40k images
use of new media, YouTube, Flickr, virtual worlds, RSS, Twitter

From Towson University, Albert S. Cook Library!
Emerging technology librarians
audience: colleagues
YouTube video: What is a Blog?
Blog platforms. Wordpress/Blogger
Blogs are dead? Announced at Computers and Libraries last fall
but engaging, authentic blogs are alive and well. Fulfilling a need
audience, scope, tone
"Pimp My Search Engine" -- be wary of titles
Peer review; collaboration; frequency of posts; consistency of tone
post regularly!
marketing the blog
FeedBurner blog-to-email gateway
blog as staff development tool
automated integration with LinkedIn
assessment: surveys; analytics

Expert panel
Why are IT departments run by [dictators]?!
"Locked down PCs reduce our work. Reduced work saves money."
IT staff "different type of people"
Baltimore Education Research Network
prioritization of bandwidth. Packeteer
[The term "Nazi" was used quite a bit during this session!]
Using Twitter in libraries. Harnessing the hive mind. Just another tool.
13 Maryland prison libraries. How to share collections, securely? One PC per library. Intermittent Internet access. Tie into public library system, "Marina". Health and Hygiene libraries share a catalog.

Ask Us Now
AskALibrarian service
WOW factor.
Phone reference. AIM
mosio "Text A Librarian" service
AltaRama SMS
library h3lp routes messages
Do you exist where people are? Facebook, Twitter
Google Alerts "What people are saying about you."
Special libraries and AskUsNow
teachable moments
Explain what you are doing Involve the patron. Teach e.g. boolean searching. About subscription databases
Explain about authoritative sources.
Suspicious openers "What is the point of life?" "How many arms can people have?"
Pick up promptly; scripted greeting; user customer's name if given; identify oneself
short responses; use of elipsis; encouraging comments
QuestionPoint - end of transaction survey
Assume the question is legitimate. Avoid the snappy comeback.

Journaling to keep track of books read, books on list to read.
Synopses of books
Reading logs
Summer reading program
Using Twitter to document/track reading
Kindle -- highlight words, lookup definitions directly from within interface
"Self-directed learning paths"
"Balanced scorecard"! used in Delaware libraries
everything must link back to our collections
IMLS funded program
[I'm the only male in the room!]
Reader's advisory service in public libraries
Lifelong learning. Learning styles. Self-directed learning. Informal learning space
The learner "owns" the question
Commonplace books, 18th century. Public education --> passive learners.
There is no concept of "lifelong learning" in Spanish! [?]
Libraries in Delaware are claiming the Lifelong Learning space because the schools are not, it literally is not part of the DE K-12 mission.
Neurological connections. Bushy brains.
Multiple intelligences. Different types of intelligence
Mind mapping one's reading interests
LibraryThing, Goodreads, Shelfari
Tools: Journals,

A dramatic reading by a Recorded Book artist.
Theater background
This guy's better than Rich Little!
At Recorded Books they only allow two hours of reading a day. Quality goes down after two hours...
He ideally likes to read a book twice before recording it.

Spring DLF Forum & Visit to Duke University

I attended the Digital Library Federation's Project Managers Group which convened prior to the conference to discuss topics around the theme of Portfolio Management and Managing Multiple Projects. The format consisted of four 10-minute Lighting Talks and three 20 minute in-depth presentations. Joseph Ryan of NC State Libraries gave an overview of their use of the Basecamp tool for tracking projects, and the usefulness of the high level view afforded by the Dashboard feature. This generated a round of questions & discussion about project management tools in general. The feedback indicated that a variety of tools was in use by the group; no one owned up to using MS Project solely. A strong interest was expressed in sharing best practices around specific tools once a management structure for the group is in place. It was beneficial to hear and share the experiences of other managers regarding the art/science balance of project management. By consensus vote, the group chose to remain intact while administrative changes occur within the parent organization, CLIR.

To describe the newly renovated area in the Perkins Library as state of the art in a teaching and learning space seems inadequate. The Link is a highly successful, implementation of a flexible environment supported by all the inputs necessary to meet the classroom needs of students and faculty. Other interesting features were the self-managed quiet space designation and the food and drink policy. It was a very worthwhile visit.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring 2009 Digital Library Federation Forum

Since I arrived at the DLF Forum late Tuesday evening, I wasn't really able to attend much of the Forum itself. In addition to noting that David really likes barbecue, I mainly noted the reactions to the DLF merger with CLIR. There is widespread understanding that the current economic climate is having a signficant impact. The number of attendees at this year's Forum was notably lower. Everyone I spoke with agreed that the DLF Forums are a valuable and worthwhile experience. There is an obvious self-selection bias in this case, but it's worth stressing the value of the community that gathers during these forums. Additionally, DLF Forums have been an important venue for launching and nurturing new initiatives and communities. The Project Managers' preconference is the most recent example of a self-organized, motivated group of colleagues who have now found kindred spirits. Sometimes there's no substitute for realizing that others are facing--even struggling--with the same challenges. This type of engagement is critical for our community, especially toward building shared capacity.

I heard about one case of an institution which is a member of DLF, but not a member of CLIR. There are undoubtedly implementation details that need to be resolved with the recent merger. But it was clear to me that they should be because DLF Forums represent an important component of our community's fabric.

Indo-US Workshop on International Trends in Digital Preservation

The Indo-US Workshop on International Trends in Digital Preservation convened members of the digital preservation community from India and the United States to discuss case studies, especially as they might inform the development of an Indian national strategy. The presentations featured a diverse set of topics ranging from technical architecture to national policy frameworks.

The Indian delegates indicated that there are many instances of DSpace and Fedora within India, though it wasn't clear whether one system was particularly favored over the other. The recent merger of the two communities will be relevant news for the Indian digital preservation community.

I noted, with some degree of familiarity, that several of our colleagues from the Indian cultural heritage sector talked about the amount of attention and resources allocated toward the science and engineer sector. The vast amount of Indian cultural heritage is rather mind boggling. Through our work with the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, we have discovered new audiences and possibilities for research and teaching. It would be interesting to find out if there are scholarly reasons to consider even broader digital humanities efforts that span Europe and Asia.

The Indian delegates identified several methods through which collaboration might occur. It's my sincere hope that we explore ways to build upon the interesting and insightful dialogue that occurred during this workshop.

On a personal note, I had not been back to South Asia for twelve years. It is astounding how much things have changed--and how much they have not. My reflections are available on my personal blog.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Digital Library Federation Forum and Duke visit

While the most important thing I learned at the Digital Libraries Federation Spring Forum is that eating barbecue everyday will make you gain weight, I'll focus on some library themes here. The Forum was held in Raleigh, North Carolina, but the Sheridan Libraries attendees also visited the new learning commons at Duke University.

Project Manager Group Preconference
About 20 conferees from the Project Manager Group gathered for a half-day preconference on Monday. This group was recently formed to share best practices and to provide a support group for those of us who are new to digital project management. The most useful presentation I heard was from Tito Sierra of North Carolina State University who talked about having a formal "project retrospective" meeting at the end of a project. This structured meeting gives the team a sense of closure, identifies problem areas that can be addressed in future projects, and celebrates what went right. It is important to provide a safe environment for this meeting so that participants to share openly. The guidebook that Tito uses for his project retrospectives is Project Retrospectives by Norman L. Kerth.

I gave a presentation about communicating with stakeholders and managing expectations. This seemed to strike a chord with other participants as most of us have not done an exceptional job in identifying all stakeholders and thinking about how we communicate with different groups. A good source that I have discovered is on the Mind Tools site. Both the Stakeholder Analysis article and the Stakeholder Management and Planning articles provide good background reading. My presentation focused on how I had mis-handled some of these things and what I had learned from the experience. Surprisingly, more than one person thanked me for owning up to problem areas--they said that too many conference presentations only talk about how wonderful a project is.

Duke "Link" visit
Several of the JHU participants visited Duke University after the Forum to get a tour of their learning commons called Link. The Link has been open for one academic year and has been a rousing success. The Link offers flexible classroom and group study spaces as well as a welcoming environment for students to meet informally. Each of the classrooms and group study spaces have wall-to-wall white boards, tables and chairs that can be easily moved to new configurations, and plenty of a/v support. In addition, the common areas have a variety of types of tables and chairs to facilitate informal groups. Wi-fi coverage was well designed as was access to electrical outlets. There is also a support desk to troubleshoot problems and facilitate teaching and learning.

One of the first things our hosts said about the Link is that it is a "service model, not a physical space". They thought carefully about what services they wanted to provide to students and faculty and configured the space accordingly. It has been wildly successful, and they have had a number of interesting surprises. For example, several professors have been most impressed by a sort of rolling, portable lectern available in the classrooms. You can adjust the height and move it to where you need to be. It was almost an afterthought in the planning phase, but it has proven to be a big hit.