A few more links for National Library Week

The ironic thing about National Library Week is that many of the librarians are so busy doing programming that there’s less going on than usual in the blogonets. I’ve been scanning some nifty little projects as they’ve come down the pike here, figured I’d share them.

  • WeAreFree2 – not only is the library free as in no cost, it gives you the freedom to… do lost of things. This nifty little project from the San Francisco Bay Area Libraries marks the 50th Anniversary of NLW
  • Scott Douglas, the author of Quiet Please, Dispatches from a Public Librarian, was profiled in USA Today and the Orange County Register, though it appears they made him take off his glasses for part of their photo shoot. Do us proud Scott!
  • This is something that’s been in the “to post” hopper for a while. Kevin Kelly (of Wired fame) has a great report on his blog about a colleague who took a tour of the World’s Largest Audio-Visual Archive, the just-opened National Audio-Visual Conservation Center at the Library of Congress.
  • Five steps for finding content on the ALA website now that they’re in the middle of moving to a new CMS. Timing?
  • I went to see Meredith give a talk at a local library the night before last about Web 2.0 and the Future of Libraries. It was a small crowd, but decent for rural Vermont, and it was sort of neat to see the librarians I usually only see at conferences just getting to hang out. Meredith gave a good talk and the follow-up questions were, somewhat predictably, “Well what can WE do?” and I thought she had some decent concrete suggestions, one of the main ones was redesign your website. I’ll be talking more in a future post about things small libraries can concretely do with technology but this “what can WE do” is a question we should always be prepared to answer.

Why should libraries be socially networking?

For some reason, writing the talk about tech support in libraries has been making me think about libraries on social networks again. Maybe it’s the little push of friends I get on Facebook after I give a talk to a new group of people. Maybe it’s because I had to explain yet again that I think it’s worth powering through bad design and usability in order to have presence in a place where your users are or might be. Maybe it’s because social software seems like a free and easy way to give your library a human face on the larger Internet. Maybe it’s because after being at SXSW I just see social software as the default way to be on the web and so libraries that are moving forward with blogging and other web tools may as well expand into using social tools as well. This has nothing to do with 2.0 anything, although I guess you could see it that way.

So, to that end, I’m making a small list of ways that I think libraries and librarians can use thse tools to further the existing missions of their institutions. It’s nothing new, but I’ve been pondering it lately and I think specifics, and links to examples can he helpful. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  • Get your library a Flickr account. These accounts are now nearly free through a collaboration between Flickr and TechSoup. TechSoup has an article about how nonprofits can use Flickr. My advice: free image hosting and easy image uploading for staff. Consider uploading some historical photos that you can share with the people in you community. Check out what the Library of Congress has been doing and how much tagging and commenting is happening on their photos. It’s like a Letters to the Editor section for you archival photos. I use this photo quite a lot on my photoshop class, teaching people how to edit pictures.
  • Anyone can get an account on Facebook. Facebook now has the ability for businesses and organizations to create “pages” (as opposed to profiles) where you can put information about your organization. You can see a few library pages here: NASA Glenn Technical Library, Iowa City Public Library, The National Library of Scotland. You can click here to create your own organization page. For people who are already on Facebook, which includes a huge percentage of high school and college age people, they can become “fan” of your organization which means they will get your updates. If you already have a blog, you can set your Facebook page to automatically read and republish your RSS feed inside Facebook. I do this with my personal blog so people who are my friends on Facebook can read my blog updates. The same way Google really let us get information out of the web, people are searching their networks on Facebook sometimes before Google.
  • If you’re a librarian, think about getting on Twitter. You can read this post for background information about Twitter or this Library Journal article for more information about messaging services generally. This is not so much, as I see it, to communicate with patrons but to do two things. 1. create a short pithy easy to update RSS feed of news or information or links that you can repurpose to put on your blog, website, Facebook profile or elsewhere. 2. communicate with librarians who are on twitter in droves. When I was creating my talk I asked a question, literally hurled it out there into the aether, and got back seven or either useful responses within about an hour. That’s ready reference.
  • Added later: think about a 23 Things type project. Vermont is doing this. It’s an easy way to give staff a casual fun exposture to a lot of social tools and let them see for themselves what they’re good for. Offer continuing ed credits or other fun incentives. The set-up costs and investments are nearly nothing and the ongoing investment is mostly time. One of the things I hear all the time is that staff are interested in new technologies generally but lack the time to explore and so get technostressed because they feel that they’re jumping in to some very public online activities without feeling competent in what they’re doing or what they’re there for. a 23 Things project can help that immensely.

The reason I think it’s important to show good examples and best paractices is because we’re still dealing with libraries like Mishawaka Library which thinks that blocking social software sites in their library because they can’t manage unruly teens is some sort of solution to a problem. I’m not saying there aren’t problems surrounding public computer and internet use in libraries generally, maybe there are even sometimes problems with teens, but really responding to the problem by blocking wide swaths of the Internet is not really going to help anyone understand the problem better. It just makes libraries look hostile and librarians look reactive. I’m sure there’s a larger post here about dealing with teens + comptuers + internet + understaffing + the fear factor of unknown online socializing, but I feel that it’s all of our responsbility as online community members of various stripes, to provide positive examples of social software online. This is mine.

why good cataloging matters

A President’s Day link for you. An NPR story about some recently surfaced photos of Lincoln’s inauguration, via MetaFilter.

The Library of Congress had discovered unseen photos of President Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration. They’d been housed at the library for years, hidden by an error in labeling.

LoC + Flickr – Commons steps in the right direction

I got into a funny conversation with a friend of mine at the MIT Puzzle hunt this weekend (my team came in third out of 37!) about finding images of things. There’s a lot of data collection in puzzling and a lot of times when you have to do is, say, look at a photo and figure out what it is or where it’s from. This is great of someone recognizes it, not so great if someone doesn’t. Every puzzler has their own personal sites they use for this. I tend to use Google images because it’s fast and I can move through it quickly. Others use Wikipedia. My friend was saying he uses the Commons site. At first I thought he meant the Creative Commons search which I don’t fiund super-useful and told him so. He actually meant the Wikimedia Commons which is a great place to find freely licensed images.

Now Flickr has launched their Commons site which does a few things.

  1. Makes LoC images available for anyone to see
  2. Allows people to tag and interact with these photos
  3. Creates a new way of licensing or explaining their IP idea called “no known copyright protections” which they go on to explain

These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials. It’s called “no known copyright restrictions.”

Hopefully, this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions would pick up, to share and redistribute the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.

So, they’re taking a risk, they’re sharing their data, they’re presuming good faith, and they’re going to try this out. Close readers may also note the small text on this page “Any Flickr member is able to add tags or comment on these collections. If you’re a dork about it, shame on you. This is for the good of humanity, dude!!” Which, loosely translated means they’re starting out trusting people and trying to maintain a light tone about it.

So, the original photos are still held by the Library of Congress and Flickr has no “ownership” of them as a result of this partnership. They’re available worldwide [well except Dubai and other places that block Flickr entirely] and they’re in a system that allows for user-generated content additions to the content. I’m pleased that the LoC, or someone at the LoC decided to step up and really demonstrate how trust and openness can help further the mission of culutral institutions. Now if I could only get LoC to friend me….

LoC goes 2.0!

The Library of Congress is on Flickr! I am charmed by their profile. “Yes. We really are THE Library of Congress.” Update: please read this longer very well thought out essay about the project that does a lot more than just my “woo!” announcement.

lol maps

The LOLbrarians group on livejournal has been somewhat quiet lately, but I enjoyed this little mockup about the Libirary of Congress and their excellent unique historical map. Reading that made me realize there was a digital version of the map online that I could go look at. Neato.

“authorities” and strap-on sex

On my fridge I have a photocopy of a letter that Sandy Berman sent to the Library of Congress this August suggesting that they establish dildoes as a LCSH. I got many fascinating photocopies along with it for supporting evidence. I enjoy being on Sandy’s mailing list. Today, vickiep from del.ico.us sent me a link to “strap-on sex” as a new Library of Congress subject heading. Hooray! Unfortunately, links that go into the Library of Congress Authorities searches aren’t permanent but I was able to replicate the search and find the listing for dildoes in the weekly list for September 26th. Of interest to me particularly is that the authority record for strap-on sex contains Wikipedia, Google and “LC database” as notes in the 670 field. update: Tim at LibraryThing has a post showing the record.

Why we need librarians, or tagging vs folksonomy, some explanations

David Weinberger has a concise summary of Thomas Mann’s long article about the concept of reference and scholarship and how it fits into modern day librarianship, especially research libraries. This is the sort of thing Michael Gorman talks about in grouchy pundit ways, but Mann really digs deeper and seems to understand both sides of the equation. Weinberger’s posts sums up some of the high points with some strong pullquotes, but I’d really also suggest reading Mann’s entire essay. Here are some quotes that I liked, but don’t think that gets you off the hook from reading it. You hve to get to about page 35 before you hit the “what sholdl we do about this?” part.

I cannot claim to have a system that flattens all the lumps, but I am concerned that many of the more important problems facing scholars are being ignored because a “digital library” paradigm puts blinders on our very ability to notice the problems in the first place.

On different types of searching:

Note that as a reference librarian I could bring to bear on this question a whole variety of different search techniques, of which most researchers are only dimly aware of (or not aware at all): I used not just keyword searching, but subject category searching (via LC=s subject headings), shelf-browsing (via LC’s classification system), related record searching, and citation searching. (I also did some rather sophisticated Boolean combination searching, with truncation symbols and parentheses, discussed below.) Further, as a librarian I thought in terms of types of literature–specialized encyclopedia articles, literature review articles, subject bibliographies–whose existence never even occurs to most non-librarians, who routinely think only in terms of subject searches rather than format searches. And, further, one of the reasons I sought out the Web database to begin with was that I knew it would also provide people contact information–i.e., the mail and e-mail addresses of scholars who have worked on the same topic. The point here needs emphasis: a research library can provide not only a vast amount of content that is not on the open Internet; it can also provide multiple different search techniques that are usually much more efficient than “relevance ranked” and “more like this” Web searching. And most of these search techniques themselves are not available to offsite users who confine their searches to the open Internet.

On folksonomies:

While folksonomies have severe limitations and cannot replace conventional cataloging, they also offer real advantages that can supplement cataloging. Perhaps financial arrangements with LibraryThing (or other such operations) might be worked out in such a way that LC/OCLC catalog records for books would provide clickable links to LibraryThing records for the same works. In this way researchers could take advantage of that supplemental network of connections without losing the primary network created by professional librarians.

LoC Blog

Two neat things. Library of Congress has a blog. Librarian.net blog is on its (currently two items long) blogroll. Woo, we love LoC! Now please consider replacing the subject heading Hermphroditism with Intersexuality. Thanks.

LoC Authority files, yours to keep!

Tim made the announcement of the announcement (pdf), so I guess this is the announcement of that. Simon Spero, superhero, has released an almost-complete copy of the LoC authority files. You can just … have them. I have a copy. I like to grep through it for fun on snowy evenings (that is how my Nerve personal ad will start, I am certain of it). I am interested to see what happens next. You can’t copyright this data, but you can sell it. Now that it’s available for free, it will be interesting to see if you can even do that.

This phase of the project is dedicated to the men and women at the Library of Congress and outside, who have worked for the past 108 years to build these authorities, often in the face of technology seemingly designed to make the task as difficult as possible.