Monday, December 30, 2013

Video: Understanding Derivative Works (< 3 minutes)

This video from Artist House Music is a short interview with attorney and professor Maggie Lange talking about "derivative works". She uses the example of "Weird Al" Yankovic using music from Michael Jackson, which seem to work in providing a clear explanation.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Copyright for Information Professionals (IST 735), weeks 10-14

{Because I've copied text in from MS Word, I suspect the fonts below are going to be wonky or inconsistent.  My apologies.}

letter CThe semester is over and it is time for me to to finish blogging about the copyright class that I taught this fall...and what I want to talk about are the assignments.

This year, I changed some of the assignments and pushed the students outside of their comfort zone.  For example, I had them create a one-page explanation of a section of the law, with the idea that this explanation would be understandable by anyone.  A few students did theirs as infographs!  The idea around the one-page was for them to understand the law well enough that they could explain it simply.

They also developed a brief on a current copyright issue, wrote about a copyright-related court case, and developed a training plan to be used to train others about copyright.  Some students had not written lesson plans before, which was needed for that last assignment, and so some were really outside of their comfort zone!

What impressed me was that students delved deep into the law and into resources that are available about copyright. The scoured the Internet looking for resources and ideas, and I was amazed at what they found.  There is a lot more good content available on copyright than I realized.  (And I'll be sharing some of them in upcoming blog posts.)  I'm also impressed with their understanding of the law and their ability to communicate it to others, which is not always an easy task.  Yes...I threw them a challenging semester and they thrived in it.

All of these assignments are good pieces for their portfolios.  These pieces demonstrate their knowledge of copyright law; their ability to analyze and write; and their ability to understand how to pass their knowledge onto others.  I know that instruction is a huge need in many libraries, so those training plans can be used to demonstrate that they understand that need and are ready to help meet it. [BTW looking for a soon-to-be MLIS graduate with copyright knowledge?   Let me know.]

READ doorMandatory Readings: (Please excuse any font discrepancies.)

Week #10 - Exerting Your Copy Rights & Copyright Court Cases
Week #11 - Copyright and Sound Recordings
Week #12 - Archives, Risk & Case Study
  • Crews. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Ch. 17.
  • Hirtle. Copyright and Cultural Institutions. Chapters 10-11
Week #13 - Licensing
Old City architectureWeek #14 - Educating Your Colleagues and Users (including library notices), and Staying Up-to-Date
Related posts (or a walk through this class):

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blog post: Am I a Good Steward of My Own Digital Life?

Holiday decorations in Macy's (NYC)Reading this Library of Congress blog post, I am reminded that each year I vow to become a better digital steward of my materials.  And each year, I fail to get better.  Why can't I change?  First, the digital life is hidden.  I have to go find it, unlike the pile of photos sitting on the table.  Second, it will take significant mental work to decide how to organize it, and then sort through everything.  It'll be a solo operation and not like a family sorting through a box of photos, where everyone gets involved, even if just for a few moments.

I did make one small step this year, though.  I have setup file folders for my digital photos by year.  While I haven't completely reorganized my photos, I know that putting them into these big buckets will be a step in the right direction.  Maybe I'll get it done over the holidays?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Using Big Data for Library Advocacy (webinar recording)

Erin Bartolo
Yesterday, Dec. 17, Erin Bartolo and I did a one-hour webinar entitled "Using Big Data for Library Advocacy."  This webinar was based on the presentation that we did at the New York Library Association Annual Conference in September.   A recording of the sessions is available on this page, which also contains a link to our handout.  Since this was so what we did at NYLA, I'm placing below the slides from NYLA.

One question that we did not receive was about how libraries are currently using big data/data science. I know from the NMC webinar that we did that we don't have good library examples yet, because we (libraries/librarians) are just thinking about how to use data science in our work.  I expect that those examples will come, as we begin using big data to help us with assessment and advocacy.  For now, we need to talk about what is possible and get people interested in using these techniques, which are already widely used in business.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation: An NDSA Report

Staffing is important and often we're not sure about what we need in terms of skills or people. This report helps to provide information on staffing for digital preservation.  It was co-authored by:
  • Winston Atkins, Duke University Libraries
  • Andrea Goethals, Harvard Library
  • Carol Kussmann, Minnesota State Archives
  • Meg Phillips, National Archives and Records Administration
  • Mary Vardigan, Inter‐university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR)
According to the blog post about it, this report "shares what we learned by surveying 85 institutions with a mandate to preserve digital content about how they staffed and organized their preservation functions." 

Monday, December 02, 2013

NMC On the Horizon > Big Data (webinar recording)

In November, I had the honor of participating in the New Media Consortium webinar on big data.  The event was recorded and is now available through YouTube. Information on all of the presenters is available on the NMC web site.  Thanks to Dr. Ruben Puentedura for moderating the event and to the NMC staff for their coordination.

This webinar used the Google+ On Air platform and was broadcasted live on YouTube. For me, it was very interesting to do a webinar in this way.  For example, how do you interrupt or get the attention of the moderator?  (Obviously, waving doesn't work!)  I'm used to other platforms that have a bit more functionality, yet I have to admit that this worked amazingly well. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cory Doctorow on general purpose computing, privacy & copyright

Me on stage 2, Dreamers, Renegades, Visionaries, The Glenn Gould Variations, Toronto, ON, Canada, Photo by Anna OlthoffCory Doctorow was interviewed by RN Future Tense on "the coming war on general purpose computing." I found his thoughts about general purpose computing to be interesting; however, my ears really perked up when he talked about privacy and then about copyright. The interview is 21 minutes in length and I think you'll be pleased that you gave it a listen.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Is copyright a serious issue? (video)

Earlier this year, I was asked to do a short video on copyright (7 minutes). Since it is shareable, here it is! I talked about five different things in this video: the Internet, eBooks, digitization, databases, and research, as well as copyright clearance.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Blog post & podcast: Conversation #21: Copyright

Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle piecesThe blog from the Center for the Advancement of Teaching at Xavier University of Louisiana has published a post and podcast with Dr. Kenneth Crews.  The 35 minute podcast is on on teaching, learning and copyright.

Monday, November 04, 2013

University of Minnesota Fair Use Checklist Tool (or Thinking Through Fair Use)

Copyright Football by BanksyThe University Libraries at the University of Minnesota have an interactive tool to help people discern whether a specific use of copyrighted material would be considered Fair Use.  This tool allows a person to think through her answers and create documentation that can be saved (actually sent to the person via email).  Th UMN web site does not keep any of the information.  This is a tool that is worth bookmarking and using!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New England Library Association Annual Conference

Portland, MEI attended the New England Library Association (NELA) Annual Conference in Portland, ME this year (Oct. 20-22). The conference was attended by approx. 600 people, including people from across New England and from a few other U.S. states. I went in order to participate in a panel session on Tuesday morning and enjoyed the entire conference.

I tweeted the conference and thus don't have a lot of notes; however, there is a conference blog at Handouts or slides, if available, are at Brian Herzog has also published a recap of the conference.

Rich HarwoodI enjoyed the keynote speaker, Rich Harwood from the Harwood Institute. His presentation about community, and turning outward, built upon what I had heard at the R-Squared Conference last year. At that conference, John McKnight taught us about doing community asset interviews, in order to understand how the library can support the community.  The survey sheet that we used in KcKnight's exercise can be found here, along with the interviewer's prompt card.  (A video of McKnight is below from R-Squared.)  McKnight ties his interviews to the library, while Harwood's focus is solely on the community itself.  He wants us to learn as much as possible about the community, without interjecting how the library might help.  His goal is that we learn, then find the natural connection.  That connection might be something that we do outside of the library or in support of some other group's efforts.

Portland (ME) Public Library Bookmobile
There were several highlights for me over the three days: visiting the Portland Public Library; stepping inside the Library's bookmobile, which was parked outside of the conference on Monday; meeting colleagues from other LIS programs; hearing about an awesome makerspace in New Hampshire; visiting the headquarters of LibraryThing; and making new friends.  I, and five LIS colleagues, spoke on Tuesday morning about LIS education, which is what brought me to NELA.  I now look forward to attending another one in the future!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Copyright for Information Professionals (IST 735), weeks 4-9

So my idea of blogging each week about my copyright class has failed.  My life as both an instructor and director of two programs seems to get in the way of my blogging.  I'm sorry.

THE DMCAThe conversations and information shared over the last five weeks has gotten better, as students understand more about the law and research areas of interest.  I especially liked the conversation during our week on the DMCA, as students found examples of take down notices and other information.  I learned that even Twitter has a way of reporting copyright infringement!

One of my students has been tweeting links to copyright-related web sites and articles, and I've added her to my Twitter list on copyright.  If you're interested, you can follow my Twitter list.  (Note that people do often tweet about other things, including sporting events.)

In talking about the permissions process, I relayed stories of people seeking permission to use photos that I have in Flickr.  Today I received another request, which I granted.  I tell those stories so that students know that people do seek permission and that doing so can be easy.  I've had photos used in hardcopy and online publications, and one used in a national news broadcast!  I've also sought permission to use photos and find that people are more than willing to say "yes".  Of course, using an appropriate Creative Commons license can help people understand what they can do without explicit permission, and that is a big help.

At some point, I'll tell you about the assignments that they are doing this year.  For now, I'll leave you with the mandatory readings for the last five weeks.  (Please excuse any font discrepancies.)

Week #5: Limitations on exclusive rights: Reproduction by libraries and archives, and other limitations
·         Title 17, Section 108
·         Crews. Copyright Law for Libr. and Educators. Ch. 13 & app. D & E.
·         Hirtle. Copyright and Cultural Institutions. Chapter 6.

Week #6: International copyright & copyright in U.S. government works
·         International Copyright,
·         Pamela Samuelson. Intellectual Property Arbitrage: How Foreign Rules Can Affect Domestic Protections,
·         Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright Issues Affecting The U.S. Government,  - PDF pages 16-28

Week #7: Teaching & the TEACH Act
·         Title 17, Section 110
·         Crews. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Chapter 12 and appendix C.
·         Liz Johnson. Managing Intellectual Property for Distance Learning.
·         Know Your Copyrights, 
·         Syracuse Univ., Using Copyrighted Works in Teaching,

Week #8: Digital Millennium Copyright Act
·         Crews. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Chapter 16.
·         DMCA Highlights,
·         NPPA. Two Easy Steps for Using the DMCA Takedown Notice to Battle Copyright Infringement,
·         Legal How-To: Responding to a DMCA Takedown Notice,
·         File Sharing at Syracuse University,

Week #9: The Permissions Process
·        Crews. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Ch. 18 and app. F.
·         Nolo. Copyright and Fair Use Overview.  Introduction to the Permissions Process,
·         Nolo. Copyright and Fair Use Overview.  Releases,
·         LibLicense,
·         Mary Minow. Library Digitization Projects and Copyright.
·         Hurst-Wahl, Jill. The time and effort to copyright clear materials,

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Webinar Recording: Giving Your First Conference Presentation: What No One Tells You (or When PowerPoint and Good Intentions Meet Reality)

Yesterday (Oct. 8), Maurice Coleman and I gave a one-hour webinar  entitled “Giving Your First Conference Presentation: What No One Tells You (or When PowerPoint and Good Intentions Meet Reality)”. 
Part of your professional development and support of the profession is giving presentations at conferences about your research or new initiatives. This professional presentation should help to propel your career, so how can you create and deliver content that will do just that?
We had over 80 people attend it live and now the recording is available for others to view.  The handout from the webinar is also available.  If this topic interests you, please give a listen.  From the feedback we've received, we know that even those who have done conference presentations will learn something new or be reminded of something that they need to be doing.

Maurice Coleman
Maurice is the host of T is for Training, in which I frequently participate.  Our familiarity with each other and with the topic meant that the conversation was lively! Maurice is also in the process of writing a book on this topic (Crash Course in Presentations to be released in 2014), so his mind is full of advice on this!

We did this webinar as part of the "20 Years Online" celebration in Syracuse University's School of Information Studies. 20 years ago there were no such things as webinars or learning management systems.  We've come a long way with MOOCs now being the rage. (Some do wonder if we're already in a post-MOOC world.)

Friday, October 04, 2013

What ALA Accreditation means

This post is my explanation and should not replace you reading information on the ALA web site or talking to your LIS program about its accreditation.  This post does not reflect the thoughts, knowledge or views of my employer. 

Hinds HallIn a conversation today, I was reminded that most librarians do not know what it means for a library program to be accredited by the American Libraries Association (ALA).  I must admit that I didn't understand it, until I had to get intimate with the details because of my work.  Yes, I went to an ALA accredited program, because I was told that doing so was important.  Yes, even when I didn't understand the details of accreditation, I have counseled people to go to a program tjat is accredited.  Most libraries seek to hire librarans that have an accredited degree.  Without an accredited degree, people often are unable to obtain the jobs that they desire.

What is accreditation?  According to ALA: (bolding added)
Accreditation is a voluntary system of evaluation of higher education institutions and programs. It is a collegial process based on self-evaluation and peer-assessment for improvement of academic quality and public accountability. Accreditation assures that higher education institutions and their units, schools, or programs meet appropriate standards of quality and integrity.

Accreditation is both a process and a condition. The process entails the assessment of educational quality and the continued enhancement of educational operations through the development and validation of standards. The condition provides a credential to the public-at-large indicating that an institution and/or its programs have accepted and are fulfilling their commitment to educational quality.
Notice that accreditation does not mean that every program is alike.  Programs, in fact, can be very different in terms of mandatory classes, exit requirements, and more.

The Office of Accreditation, within ALA, is the group that oversees all accreditation activities. Besides the staff of that office, external review panels (ERP) are involved in reviewing each program.  On a specific schedule an ERP is assembled and tasked with reading the self-evaluation documents created by a specific LIS program and then visiting that program in order to gather more information.  It is the ERP that recommends to the Office of Accreditation if a program should be re-accredited, or if it should be given a conditional accreditation and asked to address specific concerns.

Yes, a program can be given a conditional accreditation (see glossary) and asked to plan how it will improve.  Over the years, many programs have had conditional accreditation, including those that people at the time may have felt were top-notch institutions.  Remember that the accreditation review begins with the program assessing itself.  If the program isn't living up to what it desires, the conditional accreditation provides a time for the program to step up and get itself back on track.

Line-up & WaitIf you have an ALA accredited library degree (e.g., MLS, MSLIS, MLIS), it means that you received your degree from a library program that has gone through an intensive review and that it meets appropriate standards for quality and integrity.  It doesn't mean that you attended the same classes as a person in another program.  It doesn't mean that you learned the same things as someone from another program.  It does mean that ALA found that you program met its standards.

ALA does not act alone.  It is part of an "accrediting community through recognition by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and volunteer service with the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA),"  Therefore, some of what it asks of LIS programs are requirements, for example, from CHEA (e.g., the need to make program assessment data public).

Now that I have become better versed in what ALA accreditation means, I wonder why library professionals rely on accreditation, but don't fully understand it.  Yes...I'm asking that of my former self and I think the answer is that no one stands up and tells us that it is important to understand.  In addition, none of our non-LIS employers or community members ask what it means.  (If they asked, would they sit still for a full answer?)

If you are now intrigued, spend some time on the web site for the Office of Accreditation. If you are connected to an LIS program (alumni or current student), be aware of the program's accreditation and be willing to help as it prepares for its next review.  I am not sure what help you can provide (or what the program might need), but I'm sure they will be happy to hear that you want to ensure that the program remains accredited.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

#RSQ12: A year later

R2It has been slightly over a year since 350 people gathered in Telluride, CO for the Risk and Reward Conference (R-Squared or R2), a library conference that many hope is someday repeated.  Over the last year, the team behind R2 has mounted several videos from the conference, and they just put up this one below.  If you have heard something about the conference, and want to know more, please consider watching the videos.  Use the one below as your icebreaker.  You'll wonder what some of the activities chronicled in this video had to do with libraries, and then learn more about the connections through the other videos.

I hold dear my memories of R2 and even of the travel hassles that occurred, because they were part of the entire experience. We all overcame the problems of getting to and from Telluride in order to be a part of this experience. We came. We experienced. We have tried - and succeeded - to take what we learned back to our own parts of the library world.  Now let's continue to share what we've learned and keep the impact of R2 going! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Copyright for Information Professionals (IST 735), week 4

This week is about Fair Use and the mandatory readings are:
  • Title 17, Section 107
  • Crews. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Chapters 8-11 and appendix B.
  • Should "Happy Birthday" be Protected by Copyright? (8 min. video), (As you can see, some "readings" are other things.)
This topic always creates a questions and discussions that weave in and out of the remainder of the semester, and I expect the same this year.

As I mentioned in my lecture, everything in weeks 1-3 sets the stage for now talking about the limitations (or exceptions) in the law.  Fair Use is the first limitation that we'll discuss.

I try very hard not to add mandatory readings after the semester has begin.  I learned of a paper/report /essay that Kenny Crews recently wrote and added it as another optional reading.  The paper is  Snapshots of Copyright: Pictures, Puzzles, and Ponderings from 'Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators' which is meant to be a standalone piece as well as a companion to his book. (Abstract below) This is an interesting read because Crews uses the images in his book as the fodder to talk about the copyright on pictures and other things.  I could see using this to help spark an in-class discussion on copyright (e.g., on works for hire).

Crews did not write a conclusion to his essay.  However, I find the last story about Richard Wright to be  a fitting "end".  (It is just one more of the snapshots that he presents.)  Here we are reminded that even after death, the copyright on your works remains and that litigation can still occur.  As I read about Wright, I am also reminded that copyright can be complex.   He was an American, who moved to France and continued his writing career in France. He then should have held copyrights in at least two countries; a complexity that I doubt his estate appreciated.  Copyright...a simple right that can be quite complicated.

Crews, Kenneth (August 2013). Snapshots of Copyright: Pictures, Puzzles, and Ponderings from 'Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators'
Abstract:  The recent third edition of the book Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators includes photographs to enhance the exploration of relevant copyright principles. This essay goes beyond brief principles and captions to tell the more detailed stories behind the pictures and to pose challenges and legal conundrums. This essay is a useful supplement to the book, but it is also written to stand alone as a learning tool for exploring copyright concepts (all photographs are included). Photograph subjects include: Oscar Wilde, petroglyphs, Navajo Supreme Court, Munich Lions, 1964 World’s Fair, Empire State Building, Obama Poster, Bibliotheque nationale, WIPO headquarters, Beatles music, and the grave of Richard Wright.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Copyright for Information Professionals (IST 735), week 3

Each week, there are mandatory readings and those that are - in some way - optional.  The mandatory readings for this week are:
Yes, we're discussing orphan works.

With the changes in copyright law in the United States, there are works whose copyright status is unknown.  In addition, there are works where the copyright owner cannot be found.  When both of those conditions exist in the same work the problem seems insurmountable. Rather than ignoring works that seem to be in limbo, we need to learn how to work with what we know. In doing that, it is important to have a firm grounding in the law.  For example, sections 107 and 108 can provide circumstances where orphan works can be used without seeking permission.   

The Copyright Office has studied this problem and there have been attempts at defining a process that could become law.  Those that deal with orphan works do not want the process to onerous, and some proposed processes have been just that.  If we can come to an easy to implement solution, that all parties agree on, then I hope it will become law.

By the way, I know that the phrase is "orphan works", but I often say "orphaned works".  I'm betting that I'm not the only one who does that!

Copyright for Information Professionals (IST 735), weeks 1 & 2

This fall, I am going to blog about my copyright class.

As I have for several years, I'm teaching a graduate course on copyright this fall, Copyright for Information Professionals (IST 735). The course titles includes the words "information professionals" in order to distinguish it from other copyright classes on campus. Indeed mine is focused primarily on how copyright affects libraries and education, with deviations to other areas during our discussions. The class is online, which I like for this topic. It gives everyone a chance to reflect - and do research - before speaking, which is important when dealing with the law.

The required textbook for the class is:
  • Kenneth D. Crews, Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions (3rd revised edition ed.). ISBN 978-0838910924. 
The students are also reading large portions of:
  • Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws Contained in Tıtle 17 of the United States Code (Circular 92), October 2009, online in its entirety at
  •  Edward Samuels.  The Illustrated Story of Copyright.  Thomas Dunne Books,
    December 2000, online in its entirety at (This is in an odd online format, which limits how much I assign. I do suggest that students find a copy through interlibrary loan, since there are likely additional sections they would find useful.)
  • Peter Hirtle, Emily Hudson and Andrew Kenyon.  Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.  Online in its entirety at
The mandatory readings for the first two weeks in the semester were:
You will notice that the readings for weeks 1 and 2 are basic.  In these weeks, I'm setting the stage for the sections of the law that will follow.  I tell them that they must understand the basics or they will not understand, for example, section 108.   And I do ask them to learn what is really in the law, rather than relying on what they think is in the law.

Thus far, the online discussion has been lively, including some side discussions on things like the copyright of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches.  A few of the questions have had me digging further into the law and reading new-to-me sections on recordings.  This proves that there is always more to learn!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The divergence of libraries

Hard to believe that a podcast on the changes occurring in television (e.g., how do people watch TV) could spark thoughts about libraries, but this podcast did just that.

Graeme Turner, who was interviewed in the podcast, talks about the divergence that is occurring in television programming.  There are those programs that can be watched at anytime (e.g. Breaking Bad), while some should be watched in real time (local news).  Could this concept be applied to libraries?  Are the services of  public libraries diverging?

Let me take a simplicity view of what public libraries do, as I argue in favor of divergence.  First, libraries are information repositories, which help people connect with needed or desired information.  We are all familiar with the services associated with this, which include buy and circulating books, interlibrary loan, creating information repositories, etc.  These are the familiar services that people point to when the talk about the library.  When people associate a library with books, this is what they want.

Second, a library is a community center or a gathering place.  It is a place where people themselves are the information repositories and the information conduits.  This is the library where people are active and doing "stuff".  This is the library where space is important and how that space can be used.

If this point of view is correct, then we should acknowledge the divergence and figure out how to capitalize on it.  This mean not trying to make one building and staff do it all, but recognize that the building for connecting people with information may be different than the building used to connect people with each other.  For example, the community work that the library does might become a part of that community's actual community center.  Why try to make the library the community center?  Take the library staff that is focused on those community activities and put them in the community!  (Whether than be at the community center, the senior citizen center, the fire station or whatever.)  The work of these embedded community librarians might be funded by community partners, who understand that having library staff among them is a good thing.

I can hear you worrying about the impact on the library building and whether people would come to it.  I think the library's service and use of space would change.  I can imagine several scenarios including the library using less space, the library partnering more closely with the K-12 and academic libraries, the library developing innovation information delivery services, and more.  The library might even partner with other information delivery services in the community (and I'll leave that to your imagination).  I can also imagine closer partnerships between public libraries.

In this view, there could be independent services that are provided on a contract basis to the community, rather than being a part of each public library.  For example, what if there were library technology trainers that contracted their services to several libraries?  Like circuit librarians, these trainers would schedule times at specific libraries, based on the contractual agreement.  This could raise the level of training available to the community and lessen the cost.

Walkway at Government Island, Stafford, VAThis type of divergence would be an interesting and useful conversation to have with colleagues.  While what I'm proposing might not come to pass, I can see some options that might be worth pursuing anyway.  It could also yield useful conversation with library funders and community members. I think just using the word "divergence" would make people stop, listen and think about what it means for the building, staff, services and the community.  We might find that the conversations leads us down a path that none of us had considered.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rest in Peace: DialogClassic

I heard today that the classic version of Dialog® is on its last legs. All of the databases that were available in the old version of Dialog are now available in ProQuest Dialog. While I recognize that the command line version of Dialog is not what today's searchers want to use...and while I recognize that our technology has gotten better...I mourn.

Many librarians learned how to search for electronic information on the Dialog system.  We learned commands, tricks, and short cuts.  We memorized details about specific databases and consulted documentation to double-check details so that we didn't spend extra time or money online.  We spoke in phrases peppered with file numbers and field names.  We shared stories of commands (or searches)  gone wrong and the charges that they caused.  And we smiled.

In talking to someone from ProQuest today, I used the phrase "under the hood."  She immediately thought I was referring to a 2001 article by Carol Tenopir entitled "Why I still teach Dialog" (Library Journal, 126(8), 35-36), which is available through ProQuest.  In it, Tenopir writes:
For new students in an LIS program, DialogClassic helps them understand the workings of the systems they will be searching, teaching, or designing. 
This is true.  It is also true that teaching someone to search Dialog's old command line interface takes patience. The learner must be willing to try and fail, and learn from those failures as well as the successes.  It is also true that most - if not all - of our searching these days is not done with a command prompt, but through some Google-like interface or an advanced search screen.  It is difficult to teach students something that they will not use after the class is over.  Face it, no one is going to run home and search using a command prompt just for fun!

However, I believe that understanding the old ways helps you understand how we do things now. All of us that used Dialog in the old days have a knowledge about the system that our younger counterparts will never have.  Although hard to quantify, I would argue that there is value to that knowledge.

The Power of Full-Text 

I remember when full-text records came to Dialog and the power that came with it.  I no longer had to use a document delivery service to obtain the full-text.  Not only was that a cost saving, it also meant I could get the full-text to my client faster.  Initially the full-text was not searchable.  When it became searchable, it was revolutionary!  Now we take full-text searching for granted.  And instead of have full-text that is in ASCII, we have full-text that is presented in PDFs with graphics, etc., intact.  The addition of full-text has been due to re-typing, scanning, and other methods.  Some of it has come with added errors. All of it has been appreciated.

By the way, could we look at those companies that produced the Dialog databases as being early pioneers in digitization?  Yes, I think so.

First Dialog, then Google

We can also argue that Dialog paved the way for many services, including Google.  I remember working with programmers on DR-LINK, a product of TextWise, and calling upon my Dialog knowledge in helping them make sense of the files that had to be turned into coherent databases.  The command level search had taught me much about file structures and expectations. I'm sure that others that have built services have had the same revelations not from using fancy interfaces, but from "getting their hands dirty" at the command prompt.

In Memoriam

I wonder if ProQuest will throw a virtual event when DialogClassic is finally turned off?  Or perhaps some of us "old Dialog searchers" will just find a way to gather, light candles, and tell stories of a great system that began it all...

Friday, August 16, 2013

The sound that you hear vs. the sound on the recording

This week, I went on a tour of the Belfer Audio Archive, which is one of the largest sound archives in the United States, and a quick walk from where I work.  Besides looking that their collections and listening to recordings on cylinders, we had a chance to talk with Robert Hodge, who is the audio engineer and the person who is transferring sound from these older formats to digital files.

From Bob's talk, I left with two interesting examples.  First, Bob demonstrated how the sound quality of audio recorded at 78 rpm changes depending on the stylus used.  I grew up with a record player that would play 45s, 78s, and 33s.  We used the same stylus (needle) for all of them. The sound, though, is better if you use the correct stylus on the 78s.  Obviously, I think, you should digitize using the correct stylus and equipment for the recording.  In the metadata, information on the equipment used should note that decision.

Second, when you play an old cylinder recording, as an example, using the technology of that era, you are hearing what that technology allows you to hear.  However, what if you can play the recording on better technology and hear more?  While that will be pleasing to your ear, which version is correct?  Which should you digitize?  One organization might decide that using the original equipment is correct, while another might want to retrieve the actual audio that is on recording, and both would have made the right decision.  What matters is that the metadata convey how the digital version was created, so that a decision such as this is known.

Monday, August 12, 2013

2014 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance has recently released its 2014 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship.  As the site says: 

The National Agenda for Digital Stewardship annually integrates the perspective of dozens of experts and hundreds of institutions, convened through the Library of Congress, to provide funders and executive decision‐makers insight into emerging technological trends, gaps in digital stewardship capacity, and key areas for funding, research and development to ensure that today's valuable digital content remains accessible and comprehensible in the future, supporting a thriving economy, a robust democracy, and a rich cultural heritage.

Over the coming year the NDSA will work to promote the Agenda and explore educational and collaborative opportunities with all interested parties.

 In an announcement to the CNI community, Clifford Lynch wrote:

This is a very valuable concise survey and agenda for high priority areas of digital stewardship; it's also important because it reflects the wide consultation and breadth that characterizes the important leadership and coordinating work of the Alliance.