Friday, March 27, 2009

New LC multimedia collection sharing initiatives

This is news ... The Library of Congress will begin sharing content from its vast video and audio collections on the YouTube and Apple iTunes web services as part of a continuing initiative to make its incomparable treasures more widely accessible to a broad audience. The new Library of Congress channels on each of the popular services will launch within the next few weeks.


The General Services Administration today also announced agreements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and that will allow other federal agencies to participate in new media while meeting legal requirements and the unique needs of government. GSA plans to negotiate agreements with other providers, and the Library will explore these new media services when they are appropriate to its mission and as resources permit.

Read the Press Release.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jenny Holzer

Even though I have already posted for Ada Lovelace Day, an exchange I had with a colleague earlier today led me to want to post about someone else. I accidentally printed the entirety of a lengthy PowerPoint presentation. After the pages I actually needed printed, I canceled the print job and went to my meeting. When I got back there was a stack of messed up printouts from the failure of the print job to, well, fail gracefully. There were pages of random letters in random length rows. A colleague saw me staring at one of the pages and exclaimed "text art!" I immediately thought of Jenny Holzer.

Jenny Holzer is famous for her text-based art featuring short statements, or "truisms." Some are well known cliches while others are random phrases or slogans or exerpted phrases from larger texts or documents. Her work explores the use of words and ideas in public spaces. She works in a variety of media, including large scale xenon projections, LED signs, the Internet, plaques, benches, stickers, T-shirts, and street posters. I cannot begin to describe how mesmerizing her work is, whether a large-scale projection or an immersive gallery space. For over thirty years she has joined ideology with space through text using technology. I just found out that she is on twitter.

I cannot remember where I first encountered her work. It may have been at SFMoMA. It may have been at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts (one of my absolute favorite museums that not enough people know about). Or it might have been at Mass MoCA. I very much want to see the exhibition of her work at the Whitney, on display through May 31, 2009. There's a detailed review in the New York Times.

Ada Lovelace Day

I have had the pleasure in my life of working with a number of strong (and strong-willed) women who have seen me through various stages of my career. On the occasion of Ada Lovelace Day, I'd like to write about a colleague who I have known for many years, although we only had the opportunity to work in the same place for 4 weeks: Caroline Arms.

Caroline joined the Library of Congress in 1995 to work on the American Memory project. While the initial focus of the project was digitization and access, she saw the underlying issue that was created by such an effort: preservation. There was a profound lack of awareness in the library world about digital preservation at the time.

Caroline thought long and hard about the life cycle of digital objects, focusing in particular on one of the most vital areas that have consequences for all preservation efforts: standards for metadata and file formats. Preservation is always easier if good choices are made about digital formats. Curators should make collection decisions knowing which formats will and won’t be easily sustainable. For an object to be useful long into the future, its formats should be carefully selected and the specifications and characteristics of its formats must be documented.

Caroline and LC colleague Carl Fleischhauer’s exhaustive format research led to their creation of the Digital Formats web site, the first definitive inventory of information about current and emerging digital formats. The site is an essential resource for the international digital preservation community. Caroline also made a concerted effort to promote the use of formats with open standards, and to shepherd file formats through the standards review process.

She was also involved with the development of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. I first met Caroline working on a collaborative OAI harvesting project, and I owe much of my expertise to her mentoring.

It was a great loss to LC that Caroline retired in June 2008. She did not retire from the community, however, and is participating in a LC group looking at metadata even now.

Thank you, Caroline.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I have been suffering through a state of ennui of late. Low energy, not feeling like cooking, a short attention span for reading, lack of interest in TV shows I usually enjoy, and a strong desire to work at home, curled up on the sofa with cats. Not even getting a great deal on some fabulous shoes to wear once sandal season returns, or going to a farmer's market we'd never visited before and finding -- wonder of wonders -- bacon sage ravioli, has cheered me up much. Tasks that usually give me a strange sense of accomplishment, like a successful presentation for a group at work or being caught up on the laundry or finally depositing a stack of checks for small denominations that I kept accumulating to take to the bank all at once, have done little to enhance my mood for long.

It's partly the cold, March, why-isn't-it-really-spring-yet doldrums. It's just past the one year anniversary of putting our house in Charlottesville on the market. I have also spent the lion's share of my time doing almost nothing but writing. In the past few weeks I have written a chapter for a book, revised a conference paper, written two conference proposals, and written 3 lengthy technical documents for one project alone, not to mention sending countless emails. All that writing and spreading myself across Twitter, Facebook, and this blog has had the effect of cutting down on posting overall.

Successfully (I hope) completing my first Japanese course next week will help. And two projects I've been working on have launches next month -- getting those out the door and having the chance to talk about them them will almost certainly improve my outlook.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

copyright registries

I attended a great presentation by Siva Vaidhyanathan and James Grimmelmann at Georgetown University last Friday on the Google Book Search settlement. The question that I most wanted to raise during the discussion period (why did the facilitator never call on me?) was about their opinions on the proposed registry. This seems to me to be one of the topics most in need of clarification in the settlement.

I chatted with both of them afterwards. I worry about a potential lack of transparency of the registry's contents and its mode of operation. I have heard Dan Clancy from Google say that it will not be made fully publicly available.

While there a student from the University of Michigan School of Information mentioned Michigan's IMLS grant supported effort to create a Copyright Review Management System to increase the reliability of copyright status determinations of books published in the United States from 1923 to 1963. Last week Lorcan Dempsey was blogging about the OCLC Copyright Registry Evidence Initiative. Stanford has a Copyright Renewal Database. John Mark Ockerbloom at the University of Pennsylvania researched periodicals renewals in addition to posting scans from many volunteer institutions (including Carnegie Mellon's and Project Gutenberg's extensive work) in his Catalog of Copyright Entries. The U.S. Copyright Office has records from 1978 onward online.

So, where does a Library (or anyone, for that matter?) go to research the copyright status of a published work? One of these places? All of these places? And where might the ownership status of orphan works someday be researched and recorded and made public? What will be the most authoritative source? Will there be open resources and less open resources? This looks like an area where there might be too much competition, almost a splintering of attention that calls out for a sense of coordination in the community.

recent reading

Some reports and posts that caught my attention recently:

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation released a progress report from the DuraSpace project, a joint project of the DSpace Foundation and the Fedora Commons.

"MetaTools - Investigating Metadata Generation Tools" from JISC.

Merrilee Proffitt from RLG/OCLC posted on the "Legal and Ethical Implications of Large-Scale Digitization of Manuscript Collections" symposium at UNC-Chapel Hill. Posting Part 1 and Posting Part 2.

Andrew Richard Albanese published an article for Library Journal called "Institutional Repositories: Thinking Beyond the Box." It's a very balanced presentation of a number of points of view on the failure and success of IRs.


Via TeleRead, I found an essay about eReading devices by Jennifer Chapelle on treocentral. The piece, "Centro, iPhone, and that Other Reading Device (Kindle 2)," briefly describes her experiences with a Centro and an iPhone, focusing on the new Kindle 2.

Overall, she liked it. But she's not throwing away her other devices.

If you've ever been interested in getting an eReader type of device, I can definitely recommend the Kindle 2. It's not the cheapest gadget, but it does have a lot of features, and don't forget that 3G Sprint radio inside. If you want an eReader that is thin, lightweight, fast, looks great, has a built-in dictionary and a battery saving sleep-mode with some cool portraits, the Kindle 2 from Amazon is a great choice.

And if you don't care about those eReaders like the Kindle and the Sony device, just stick with your Treo or Centro. Those are great little eBook readers! And we know all the other great stuff you can do on them like talking on the phone, texting, writing documents, listening to music, taking photos, surfing the internet on decent looking web browsers, playing games, etc. My Centro and Treo Pro will be staying right by my side, Kindle or no Kindle.

I saw an interview with Jeff Bezos on Charlie Rose last week, which was primarily a discussion of the Kindle 2. My take-away is that the killer feature for the Kindle is the wireless purchasing of books that does not require a PC. Bezos is also a huge fan of the ability to bookmark your location in a text on your Kindle, and when you pick up another of your Kindles, the devices will sync up and you will find the same bookmark. Interesting, but I'm not sure I understand yet why you would have more than one. One at home and one at work? One downstairs and one upstairs? It's already portable. The functionality that they are working on where you can sync between your Kindle and a reader app on a cell phone and back interests me more. His example was reading on a cell phone while waiting in line at the grocery store, and having your Kindle aware of your new bookmark once you get home. That use case works better for me.

His statement that he wants to deliver "Every book ever in print in any language" gives me pause. That feels potentially monopolistic for the eBook distribution sector. Well, at least for their proprietery AZW ebooks. But if theirs becomes the most successful pipeline for eBooks, will other creators and distributors of other formats be able to compete? I can only assume the open access eBook realm will not fade away.

I found myself looking at the Sony eReader a week ago. The touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions boths have some different usability issues. The touchscreen is the better of the two, and supports annotation. It supports more files formats that the Kindle. It requires a PC has no wireless features. And it runs on MonteVista Linux, which a member of my family worked on a couple of years ago.

For now at least I plan to continue to read books on my Centro. I have about 3 dozen books, some recent, some classics. And I haven't divested myself of my nearly 3,000 dead tree books. Or my library cards.