Academic Libraries

At Library of Congress, changes are afoot in technology as well as in physical space

From The Washington Post: "The Library of Congress no longer needs the computer room that visitors once used to search its electronic card catalogue. These days the entire library has a wireless Internet connection, so workers this summer put a collection of old microfilm machines in that room instead. Meanwhile, the library’s old-school physical catalogues, the kind filled with carefully penned index cards, have long since been relegated to cool basement hallways where schoolchildren marvel at their obscurity. “I told them, ‘Before Google, this is what we used to do,’ ” said Fenella France, the library’s chief of preservation research. “They had never seen [card catalogues] before. Then I was teaching children another day, and I said, ‘Let’s go clockwise,’ and they just looked at me. I said, ‘Oh, no. Didn’t you learn analog?’” These are some of the several quiet moves that hint at much larger changes underway at the Library of Congress." Full Story

MIT Didn't Target Swartz; Missed 'Wider Background'

Aaron Swartz, an advocate for open access to academic journals, committed suicide in January after being charged with hacking into MIT computers and illegally downloading nearly 5 million academic journal articles from JSTOR, one of the largest digital archives of scholarly journals in the world. At the time of Swartz's death, the 26-year-old faced 13 federal felony computer fraud charges — and the near certainty of jail time.

In this NPR blog All Tech Considered, MIT denied "targeting" the programmer and claimed no wrongdoing. But the report raises concerns about existing university policies and whether MIT should have been actively involved in supporting Swartz.

Today’s Computer Commons is Tomorrow’s Card Catalog

http://acrlog.org/2013/07/29/todays-computer-commons-is-tomorrows-card-catalog/
Perhaps the best thing we can do, in planning for onsite library computing today, is to aim for maximum flexibility. Students may express a demand for desktops today, but it’s hard to imagine that will be our future. When we gaze out upon our fields of computers we should, in our mind’s eye, envisions it as a room that holds nothing but an enormous, as far-as-the-eye-can see card catalog. Because, ultimately, as the next generations of students make it to our doors, it is less likely they will expect us to provide them with computers, and it may be that they would consider such amenities laughable and a waste of their tuition dollars. It is a bit premature perhaps, but not unreasonable, for us to begin thinking about how we will use all the space currently devoted to desktop and laptop-loan computers. My crystal ball is less clear on this matter, although I suspect we can always improve things by expanding the café.

History Group Slams Open Access

In a stunning demonstration of Poe's law, the American Historical Association has released a policy statement favoring the restriction digital theses ("with access being provided only on that campus") for fears that open access versions could be read. The basis for this argument is FUD about a tenure system that apparently cannot be changed. See Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle for more coverage.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Where? Academic Publishing Scams

Phishing attacks targeting academia aren’t the most high-profile of attacks, though they’re more common than you might think. Student populations in themselves constitute a sizeable pool of potential victims for money mule recruitment and other job scams, in fact anything that promises an easy supplemental income, unfeasibly cheap or free trendy gadgetry, and so on. But I’m talking about attacks against the institutions, rather than their ‘customers’: for example, targeted social engineering attacks as a means of accessing intellectual property. Some academic research has appreciable monetary value in its own right, and much of it is developed in partnership with and funded by businesses with a direct interest in monetizing it: that makes it of interest to people with an interest in getting in first.

Mendeley and RefWorks Flow: The next, next generation of citation management software

A decade or so ago, ISI's EndNote bought out most of the competition, practically obtaining a monopoly on the reference manager business. In the early Library 2.0 boom, web-based products like Zotero and CSA's RefWorks became the norm. Thomson Reuters played catch up by introducing EndNote Web, and NoodleBib and other adware/freemium clones cropped up in what is now again a crowded marketplace.

Mendeley, recently purchased by Elsevier, has gained fame by offering social media integration and and sharing cababilities. It notably works on the old Questia model of selling itself directly to individual users, not institutions. ProQuest is also putting the finishing touches on RefWorks Flow, which features similar collaboration tools.

The way these newer products allow users to share articles with peers raises interesting questions about them potentially being used as a new "Napster for subscription journals," especially since they are now both owned by major publishers. See my comment for some more philosophical questions....

The Card Catalog is Dead; Long Live the Card Catalog

The Boston Herald reports on a project undertaken by Greenfield, MA Community College Librarian Hope Schneider.

On a wall in the corner of Greenfield Community College's Nahman-Watson Library, 128 artifacts from the library's card catalog hang preserved in a glass case — signed by the authors who penned the very books to which the cards once led.

The project has been 14 years in the making for librarian Schneider, who wanted to memorialize the cards after the library's catalog went digital in 1999. In the years that followed, Schneider sent cards to local authors and artists, asking if they would sign their card and make some contribution to the display. A decade later, after GCC's library was expanded, she resumed her quest — sending letters across the country to novelists, poets and politicians.

Library Director Deborah Chown said Schneider's project captures a time when people would find new books through serendipity — simply because it was next to another book or classified through a similar subject matter. Chown and Schneider don't deny the advantages that new library technology offers — the opportunity to search rapidly through online databases and access books, journals and newspaper articles.

But there was also some surprise and sadness when a tour of prospective students came through the library, saw the display and didn't recognize the cards.

Library's Map Collection Poem

It's not often that poems are written about the special collections of libraries. However, University of Cambridge museums and collections have recently taken part in 'Thresholds', a poetry project whereby leading poets attached themselves to a different museum or library and were commissioned to write a new poem informed and inspired by the collections in that institution http://www.thresholds.org.uk/.

Imtiaz Dharker was the Poet in Residence at Cambridge University
Library. During her many visit to the library she was shown some maps
from the collection and was inspired by these, and in particular a world
map from the Abraham Ortelius' "Theatrum orbis terrarum" published
in 1584 (the map where the mended crack on the copper plate can be seen), to write a poem entitled: "When the copperplate cracks"

She can be heard reading this poem, accompanied by a video which
includes pictures of this map, at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkAhvoUzakE or
http://www.thresholds.org.uk/when-the-copperplate-cracks/

So, who can map the future?

“The Quiet Volume,” Stealth Performance piece at New York University’s Bobst Library

From The New York Times Arts Beat:

What is the sound of two heads reading?

On Tuesday, in a hushed sixth-floor reading room in New York University’s Bobst Library packed with students cramming for final exams, the answer might have seemed to be: nothing much.

But for three pairs of readers scattered among the laptop-laden tables, wearing special headphones hooked up to iPod Nanos and shuffling through a pile of suspiciously literary books, the act of reading was transformed into a strange — and sometimes very loud — drama of turning pages, pointing fingers and eerily drifting thoughts.

“The first thing you notice is that for a place dedicated to silence, there’s not really that much silence at all,” a British-accented voice whispered into the readers’ ears. “After a while you start to think that it might be better considered as a place dedicated to the collection of sounds.”

The readers, who had signed up in advance, were both the audience and the stars of “The Quiet Volume,” a 55-minute stealth performance piece by the British artists Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells being staged through Sunday by Performance Space 122 as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. (The piece, which also comes in a Spanish-language version, is also running at the Schomburg Center in Harlem.)

“The whole thing made you think about the nature of your sensory experience while reading, the relationship between the voice in your head and the words on the page,” said Jessica Harris, a graduate student who had just finished performing the piece with a friend.

LISTen: An LISNews.org Program -- Episode #237

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