Sunday, August 13, 2006

Blog # 6: Website link

My website:
(Looks better in Internet Explorer!)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Blog #5: Archives 2.0?

Thanks to Heidi K.’s excellent post on blogs, and some archives-related blogs in particular, I was directed to . This is a very interesting blog, maintained by Peter Van Garderen, a PhD student at the University of Amsterdam, who is “studying the enabling technologies and practices that can enhance the access and use of digital archives.” Very cool, Peter. A recent post of his highlighted The Next Generation Finding Aid Project.

Anyone interested in working in an archives or special collections really needs to check this out. Admittedly, I got a bit jealous as I was reading the specifics of the project. Why does it seem like everyone else gets to do all the fun stuff? The project was established by Elizabeth Yakel of the University Of Michigan School Of Information (she is very well known in the archival education realm, and UM is one of the best archives programs in the country – so this doesn’t surprise be a bit). Here’s her philosophy:

Yakel sees current online finding aids to be inadequate, merely reproducing paper finding aids without taking advantage of their electronic environment. The digital realm allows for quick searching, interlinking, participation and collaboration, and interfaces beyond text, techniques a paper finding aid cannot do. While many repositories and archives employ EAD (or encoded archival description) in their online finding aids, no one has yet to take full advantage of all of the properties that EAD has to offer. Thus, we sought to expand the capability of EAD, make the archival and research experience collaborative and participatory, and challenge the traditional finding aid structure. emphasis mine

For those of you not familiar with EAD, it is the standard way for archivists to get their finding aids on the web. Think of it as the online library catalog for manuscript collections. This project (which features the Polar Bear collections and the Bentley Library of the University of Michigan – documenting the soldiers involved in the U.S. military intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I) is attempting to enable finding aids to link to actual digitized content, allow for comments, and encourage researcher collaboration. How cool, and how Web 2.0! A quick browse through some of the material shows that the researchers who visit and use this collection are really into the features. I saw a comment by one user whose grandfather was a “polar bear,” praising the site and also asking for anyone else to contribute further information. Another user offered the Archives more material relating to one of the soldiers featured in the collection, which if in fact donated, will round out the Archives' collection for this particular soldier.

Elizabeth Yakel and her team are to be congratulated. I hope that other archives programs out there begin to follow suit. As I read so much about Library 2.0, I have often felt that the archives profession better hurry up and jump on the bandwagon before they get left behind. Unfortunately, I often feel as if the user's needs get pushed pretty far down the list of priorities in many archives. The emphasis is often on the protection and integrity of the records, and while I realize that this is very important, these concerns often eclipse consideration of access and user satisfaction.

I feel a little better now, and who knows, maybe we can even start touting Archives 2.0!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blog Post #4: Another post about Wikipedia!?!?!

Following the thread of Louise’s post on Wikipedia…
I just finished reading a fascinating article about the online encyclopedia - Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past by the historian Roy Rosenzweig at the Center for History and New Media.
It's a really long article, nearly 50 pages printed out with the references (!!) but he writes well and it kept my interest. I'll try and summarize a few of his main points and the relevance that his discussion has to libraries and the role that librarians can play in educating users.

He starts out with some history of the 6 year old site and also some statistics that attest to its popularity. The Alexa traffic rankings (a web tracking company?) put it at number #18 - above the NY Times, the Library of Congress, and Encyclopedia Brittanica!!! With this is mind, he asks "What are the potential implications for our practice as scholars, teachers, and purveyors of the past to the general public?" Now, while he’s a historian, and is writing from that point of view, we can ask this same question as librarians – as disseminators of all types of information to the general public.

Rosenzweig goes on to recount the results of a small experiment he conducted himself to judge how well Wikipedia stacks up against other reference sources. He looked at 25 Wikipedia biographies and judged them against comparable entries in Encarta, and American National Biography Online. (ANB) When it comes to overall coverage, Wikipedia beats out Encarta, but falls behind ANB, which also has more detailed, longer entries. As for accuracy, Rosensweig found that Wikipedia roughly matches Encarta, but once again falls behind ANB. In the 25 biographies he looked at, he found 4 obvious factual errors, as opposed to the 1 error out of the ANB entries. Encarta had about 3 errors. He points out that several other studies comparing Wikipedia to other encyclopedic sources have produced similar rather favorable results. This definitely seems to support the idea of “collective intelligence” that we have discussed in class.

Rosenzweig also makes several really good points that we as librarians need to keep in mind. First - Wikipedia is merely an online encyclopedia. Many people complain about the poor quality of writing on Wikipedia – but have we ever turned to encyclopedias for inspiration and glowing prose? Also, he points out the success and popularity of Wikipedia speaks volumes about the public’s need for free and accessible information! The ANB, while perhaps the most accurate and traditionally accepted reference source, is quite expensive, and many libraries have to forego other resources in order to subscribe to it. Should we really have to make these sort of choices?

Rosenzweig says educators need to pay attention to Wikipedia because students are using it - So, of course it follows that librarians need to pay attention to Wikipedia because our patrons are using it. We need to stop bad-mouthing it, and internet sources in general, and get back to what our jobs have always been – to educate our users and give them the tools to evaluate every resource they might come across in their daily life. And if you see a mistake - get in there and change it!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blog Post #3: How to Keep Your Library Relevant in Today’s Web 2.0 World

My thoughts first started churning when I saw this post about how to sell RSS via Tame the Web. Since the original posting, the author of the post, David Rothman, has started his own blog and has provided us with an updated post.

I was so impressed with the way in which David articulated his idea and then really sold it to his patrons. The post could alternately be titled “How to Keep Your Library Relevant in Today’s Web 2.0 World.” David, who is a medical librarian in a small hospital, describes how he set up his patrons with customized RSS feeds via Google Reader so they could stay abreast of the latest medical literature in their field. Here’s how he described the service to his hospital’s head of surgery:

“How would you like it,” I asked our hospital’s head of surgery, “if you had one list of items from news or medical publishing on exactly the information you want. Imagine you could flip through this list and check off items as ‘not interested’, ‘maybe later’, or ‘the library must get me the full text of this article’. And what if, when you wanted the full text, you could click a couple of times to order it from the library?”
His eyes widened. “That’s possible?”

My favorite part of this is that if the patrons are interested in the full text of an article they see in their RSS feed, they can simply email the citation to the library’s inbox, and the article will be delivered to them via email or hard copy, depending on the library’s subscriptions and capabilities, I assume. How cool is this?

I got to thinking about how offering this service can really revitalize special libraries and their relevance to their parent institutions. At my place of work (a large professional medical association), the library is increasingly trying to increase their visibility and relevance for employees and members. Imagine if they began to offer this service for the in-house physicians, economists, and policy experts? If they really marketed the service well, it would remind staff that they have a great resource in the library and the librarians as well. It could be pitched as a great way for staff to simplify the way in which they stay current in their field. I don’t know of many professionals who wouldn’t be interested in that. And this idea could be transferred to any type of special library that serves a specialized group of patrons, museum libraries, architecture firm libraries, military libraries, etc. There’s a lot of potential here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blog Post #2:The History of the Internet...As We Know It

I love my podcasts. I’m a news junkie, and I love being able to listen to something whenever I want, wherever I want. But I’ll save the many wonders of podcasting for another post. The week after our first weekend of class, in which we discussed the history of the internet in about 10 minutes (it seems like it happened that quickly in real time, doesn’t it?) – I found delivered via my podcast subscription the weekly NOW program. And what, do you think, was the topic of their broadcast? That’s right – the Internet! How timely, I thought – as if they created the program just for me. Did they know I had my first blog post to write?

The program is specifically entitled “The Tangled Web” (they have a great webpage with a complete transcript of the program, additional resources and data, etc – you can even watch the video of the program itself). Here’s a snippet from the summary of the show:

"Is the wild west culture of the Internet about to become a thing of the past? Big business is staking its claim on the information superhighway, lobbying Congress for an exclusive faster lane, which consumers could end up paying for. This week on NOW we look at a major battle brewing in Washington D.C. over the future of the Internet.”

Here’s the short version. The massive telephone and cable companies are lobbying Washington to support proposed legislation that will allow them to create what some call a “two-tiered Internet.” Web based companies that are willing and able to pay higher fees will receive better and faster access and service, leaving start-ups and the DIY webmasters in the dust. And I can’t help but wonder, where do libraries fit in this picture? As outlined in the program, on one side you have the telecom industry, with their deceptive “Hands off the Internet” campaign, who argue that they should have the say on who gets what, and at what price, and that the government should stay out of it. On the other side, there are those who are calling for “net neutrality” – emphasizing that the very democratic and non-hierarchical nature of the web is what made it the successful and widespread communication medium that it is today. On this side you have Google, Yahoo, the start-ups like YouTube, and who else but the inventor of the Web, which truly made the internet accessible to all: Tim Berners-Lee. According to a recent New York Times editorial (available behind a subscription wall) “Why the Democratic Ethic of the World Wide Web May be About to End” (by Adam Cohen, May 28, 2006) the quiet Berners-Lee is speaking up about what he fears might be the end to the internet as we know it.

Several thoughts run through my head as I consider all this information - the history of the Internet we read for class, the NOW program, the NY Times articles. The acronyms and protocols and regulating bodies don’t really mean much to me - just alphabet soup really. I realize that it took a lot of really smart folks to get the internet functioning as it does today. But it is more than that, and as we look toward its uncertain future, we realize that its very essence - what has made it unlike any other communication medium in history - is in jeopardy. Any Craig can go out there and put together a nifty list. What will happen to the next Flickr or MySpace? Would they have had the same chance to make it if they didn’t have access to the same internet as Yahoo and Google?

Of course, the legislation in question is bundled within a huge telecommunications bill, but the main issue for that those who are pushing for “net neutrality” is that it doesn’t contain any provisions that will prevent the telecom companies from initiating this tiered pricing system. The bill passed in the House in early June, and is next due to reach the Senate. This is something we need to keep an eye on. Let your Representatives and Senators know where you stand.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Greetings. My name is Laura L. I'm a student at Dominican University. I'm taking LIS753 and so far, the class rocks.