If you want to know what is happening in the small town where I live in upstate NY, then you read the local weekly paper. It has been that way since the 1800′s. The papers in the nearby cities do not carry local information the residents here need. For things like gatherings, obituaries, wedding announcements, awards, &tc, residents of Sidney, NY (and the surrounding few towns) rely on the Tri-Town News.
Across the country this remains true in many areas, especially many rural areas. These papers are a valuable source of historical information and I fear that in many places, due to lack of education or funding, these resources are at risk of being lost.
So, about 6 months ago I started thinking and brainstorming a project that involved borrowing approximately 120 reels of microfilm from the local Historical Association to digitize and make available online and in our library. Not only would this project preserve the information in another format, it would also make it more accessible. And I think that access is the best form of preservation. The more people can access, view, and copy information, the longer life it will have.
It quickly became clear that this was not a project I could do in my spare time. There is too much information and even if I had all the required skills and knowledge to do it, I would not have the time without sacrificing too many of my other projects and responsibilities.
The First Steps
The first part of the process was the research. In December 2012 I began looking into companies and getting quotes for the project. I wanted to find a company that would scan, OCR, and index the newspapers. Since I wanted to eventually make it available online, I also got quotes from companies that offered different levels of support for that.
Once I had some numbers, I met with someone from the Historical Association to talk about the idea. I was invited to give a presentation there the following month. There was some heated debate from a few of their members who had concerns about letting the microfilm leave the building for the purposes of scanning. I answered questions and gave my opinion before backing off to let them talk about it for the next month. At their next meeting they agreed to the project with an unanimous vote.
Finding the Funds
Now that the Historical Association had agreed to the project, I started looking for ways to fund it. I applied for a $5000 O’Connor Foundation Matching Grant. In March they agreed to release the funds provided I find a $5000 match. By this time word had spread around to a few places in town and I got word that the Sidney Central Schools Alumni Association might be interested in donating towards the project. So, in early April I presented to their board, who approved to give $2500.00 towards the match. Then in mid-April the Friends of the Libraries agreed to give the other $2500.00 towards the project.
Advantage Preservation will be handling the project. They gave the best quote, will build and host a website where the papers will be easily searchable, and were generally the most pleasant to deal with. Additionally, they provided many examples of libraries who have used them and the quality of their work is impressive.
I shipped the first box of 30 reels of microfilm to them last week. Within a month or so that information will be on the website and I’ll be shipping out the next batch of reels.
Over the Long Term
The plan is to ship the reels for scanning in a couple of batches over the next few months. All of the ~120 reels will be completed in about a year or so. The Tri-Town now puts all of their papers online, which should make the process going forward much easier.
The papers included in the project are the Sidney Record, Sidney Enterprise, and the Tri-Town News. The Sidney Record began publishing a weekly paper in December 1882. The Sidney Enterprise ran concurrently with the Sidney Record from 1914 – 1958. In 1968 the Sidney Record folded in with the Bainbridge News to form the Tri-Town News, which remains the local paper of record today.
In the beginning I sat down and wrote out the major objectives of this project. This helped when I had to present to the Historical Association and Alumni Association. It also made the grant writing go more smoothly.
1. Increase the ways in which people are able to access historical information
a. Provide on-demand access to local papers in more than one location (Library, Historical Society, Website)
b. Liberate content that cannot always be physically accessed
i. Make content available for those who cannot visit Historical Society during the four hours per week they are open
ii. Make content available online for those who are no longer living in the area, are researching relatives from area, etc
c. Increase potential amount of users
i. Information accessible in different locations and mediums means more people can use it
d. Eliminate hybrid systems and confusion
i. Put all the content of the papers into one easily searchable and uniform format
e. Add classification and indexing systems for easier searching
i. Greatly reduce research time and make information more useful
2. Preserve the information stored by updating the storage devices
a. Content can be copied ad infinitum without degradation
b. Original microfilm handled less
i. Less of chance of damage or loss
c. Disaster back-up
i. Information stored in separate buildings and online to prevent total loss in case of flood, fire, etc
d. Create additional format to store information
i. Information spread across formats (microfilm, hard drive, website) saves data if one format becomes obsolete
3. Enhanced the services offered by the library
a. Resources can be used and searched in different ways
b. Increase productivity
c. Rebuild local history collection
4. Teaching Tool
a. Promote digital literacy
i. Using the new Public Computing Center the library can teach users through classes and one-on-one training how to research in new mediums (digital, website)
ii. Users will not just be learning how to find historical information; they will also learn valuable computer and searching skills in the process
I spend a lot of my time teaching basic technology workshops at my library. Many of the participants in these workshops have never had the opportunity to learn about computers or technology. For some, sitting down at one of our laptops may be the first time they have even touched a computer.
In my first workshop I always warn them away from frustration. Think of it, I say, like you’re learning a new language, which in many ways they are. This usually puts them at ease. When learning a new language there is never an expectation that the student start out at a certain level or with a basic understanding. If someone takes a beginning French class, no one is going to judge them for not knowing the meaning of merci. This starts to erase the stigma around technological illiteracy and relaxes the classroom. Things can progress (slowly!) from here.
However, there inevitably reaches a point where we get to the more abstract terms. Everyone has heard of the “cloud” but how can I explain it to someone with a very basic understanding of technology or the Internet? More importantly, how can I explain it without making them feel stupid? How can I explain it well?
My answer to those questions are as simple as they are obvious: First, with patience. Then, with repetition.
But sometimes it’s more complex than that. Here is where language comes back. Many of our terms – our metaphors – are so abstract that they are difficult to understand. Like the “cloud”. It’s a catchy term but it misses a lot and confuses our understanding. Emails are not floating around our atmosphere.
But confusing our understanding isn’t the most insidious thing that some of our metaphors do. Frank Chimero reminded me of this the other day. He says:
I think there’s a strong likelihood that metaphors like “The Cloud” and sayings like “It Just Works™” reduce a user’s appreciation of the software/hardware they are using. “Magic” is a great word for selling product, but it also can cheapen all the sweat it takes to get there. If the seams have been covered, you can’t admire how things connect.
Justin wrote a great blog post today musing on the future of Teen Services in libraries. He sees a model of good Teen Librarianship being teams of awesome people collaborating together. It can’t be a one-man show. How can libraries do this? He writes:
Investing: To me, that’s key. Surround yourself with the people you want to work with
Yes! This reminds me of something that Austin Kleon writes in the introduction to his book Steal Like An Artist (h/t Brainpickings). It is a concept that I have been thinking about over the course of last year – especially as I move around in my profession and have the chance to meet new and cool people. The concept is this:
There’s an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.
I think the same thing is true of idea incomes. You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Remember, this is true both online and off.
Read a lot of stories and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and the lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others. – Martha Nausbaum
2012 was a big year in reading for me. I read a 63 works of fiction, 26 works of non-fiction, and 20 graphic novels.
My New Favorite Author:
This was the year that I discovered the works of Michael Ondaatje, an author that blew my heart out with every sentence. His haunting and dream-like novel Divisadero is my favorite work of fiction read in 2012. I first read it in March and then again in August after I’d cycled through all of his other novels at least once (or in the case of Anil’s Ghost, twice). I also read a lot of his poetry, though not in book form. My favorite poem by him is The Cinnamon Peeler. It makes me long to visit Sri Lanka.
I also read more contemporary books this year than in years past. There was a lot of good stuff that came out in 2012 and I didn’t get to nearly as much of it as I would have liked. Of particular note were a few debut books from authors like Christopher Beha, G. Willow Wilson, Robin Sloan, Katherine Boo, Lawrence Osbourne, and Kevin Powers. There were also some strong books by established authors like Andrew Miller, Per Petterson, Jami Attenberg, Scott Lasser, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Graham Joyce.
My Top Ten Books published in 2012:
- What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha
- Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
- Pure by Andrew Miller
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
- It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson
- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Honorable Mention: The Forgiven by Lawrence Osbourne, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story by D.T. Max, Eat and Run by Scott Jurek
Full list of stats:
All titles can be found HERE.
Total Fiction: 63
Total Non-Fiction: 26
Total Graphic Novels: 20
# of above read as eBooks: 15
Average per month: 9.1
Average per week: 2.1
Best month: November (13 titles)
Worst month: January (5 titles)
Favorite Fiction Book Read: Divisidero by Michael Ondaatje
Favorite Fiction Book published in 2012: What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha
Favorite Non-Fiction Book Read: *The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film* Michael Ondaatje
Favorite Non-Fiction Book published in 2012: Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands
Favorite Graphic Novel Read: Habibi by Craig Thompson
Favorite Graphic Novel published in 2012: any of The Unwritten titles by Mike Carey that came out this year
John Palfrey recently gave a short TEDx talk about his work with the DPLA. It’s a good introduction to the project and why it is needed.
More info at DPLA
I’ve been participating in Daniel Russell’s (previously mentioned HERE) free Power Searching with Google course. It is a lot of fun. I’ve refreshed stuff I already knew and learned a few new tricks I didn’t. The third class and mid-term assessment went live this morning.
I just posted this on Facebook but thought I’d share it here too.
I found myself returning to this article over and over during the last two days. It’s a rather chilling yet perspicacious examination of the increasing bifurcation of our society into a rich upperclass and underprivileged lower class (or, as put in the article, “Perfect world travelers versus people who don’t have passports. The drone owners versus the drone targets. And, strangely, those who can move freely in physical space and those who can’t.”) and the extent in which tech can play a role.
The sci-fi author M John Harrison recently blogged about how the traditional rhetoric of disaster (think The Road) is worn out – those issues are no longer the important issues – and that there is some other kind of disaster ready to be written. I tend to think that this is it – the ability of technology to either democratize everyone or fuel the machinations of the powerful elite. In which case, access to, knowledge of, and education about technology may need to be thought of differently, maybe even as a “human right.”
Imagine if a patron came into the library and asked the following question:
What’s the phone number of the office where this picture was snapped?
Maybe you think the answer is close to Impossible? But this is the exact question that Daniel Russell put to his audience of investigative journalists during a recent talk on Google Search Tips. Luckily, John Tedesco was in attendance and has written an interesting and helpful list of notes from the talk that should help with finding the answer.
A few of my favorites:
*Think about how somebody else would write about the topic.
Search is all about someone else’s language. Think about synonyms and use OR operators. Google’s “related search” feature on the search page also offers suggestions.
“Part of the skill here is being fascinated about language,” Russell said. “You’ve got to think about equivalent terms.”
*Force Google to include search terms.
Sometimes Google tries to be helpful and it uses the word it thinks you’re searching for — not the word you’re actually searching for. And sometimes a website in the search results does not include all your search terms.
How do you fix this?
Typing intext:[keyword] might be Google’s least-known search operations, but it’s one of Russell’s favorites. It forces the search term to be in the body of the website. So if you type:
intext:”San Antonio” intext:Alamo
It forces Google to show results with the phrase “San Antonio” and the word Alamo. You won’t get results that are missing either search term.
*Find relational search terms.
What if you’re curious about search terms that are near each other on a website?[keyword] AROUND(n) [keyword] is incredibly handy for finding related terms such as “Jerry Brown” near “Tea Party.” (“n” is the number of words near the search terms.) Typing “Jerry Brown” AROUND(3) “Tea Party” will show you all the websites where the phrase “Jerry Brown” was mentioned within three words of “Tea Party.”
*Think like a reporter.
When Russell teaches his students search skills, he tells them: “Think like a reporter.” What do you know, and how can that information help you find what you need to know?
A big part of a reporter’s job is knowing where to find information. Which state agency regulates the issue you’re interested in? How might that information be documented? Who would know more about the issue?
“You have to have a concept about what’s possible,” Russell said.
A common argument against libraries is the specious appeal to the fact that everything is a Google search away. The above would seem to support that claim. Of course, Google can’t perform a reference interview.
I had a patron come in this week with a simple request. He wanted to know the name of a woman featured in a segment on Good Morning America that aired over the weekend. The woman collects blankets and sends them overseas to countries in need. He had searched and searched and found nothing. Thinking the answer was just not available, he was ready to give up.
Even with the little information he gave me I thought this would be a simple answer to find. I pulled up Good Morning America’s website and hit a few of the keywords into their search bar. Nothing. I then broadened my search a bit. Nothing. Okay. Something is wrong.
“When exactly did you see the show?” I asked.
“9 am on Sunday morning.”
So, we hop on over to the local Channel 12 website and check their programming guide. From 9 to 10:30 am on Sunday morning they air CBS Morning News, not Good Morning America. Of course, it was easy to find the answer from there.
Who knows how long he searched before he asked me. Google does not say, “Wait a minute, something is not adding up.” But librarians do.
During his Keynote last night, Micheal Stephens mentioned that he thinks this conference (Library 2.011) is a “game changer” in the world of conferences and connectivity for LIS professionals. After spending time yesterday and today participating, I couldn’t agree more. For the last few months I’ve been mired in a depressingly difficult job hunt but this conference has re-sparked my interest in the profession and reminded me of all the positive and innovative people in the field.
I hope that others are participating and enjoying the conference. There’s still plenty of sessions today. If you have missed any, the recordings will be available soon.
And remember Stephens’ advice to librarians from last night’s Keynote:
In less than one week, on June 8th, I will have turned in the last of my school assignments. On June 11th, even though I’m not attending the commencement, I will officially be a MLIS graduate. Working on this degree over the last year and a half has, at times, been inspiring, frustrating, boring, emotional, difficult, fun and challenging.
My last semester at Binghamton University, where I double-majored in Philosophy and Pre-Law (PPL), I wrote a meta-philosophy paper as part of an independent study. I wanted to know exactly what I had just spent four years of my life thinking about and studying. Was it really important? What, if anything, did I learn from the experience?
My paper was really not that impressive and essentially said that philosophy is important even if it does not provide concrete answers because it still asks questions, advances the dialogue, blah, blah, blah. It was very abstract and, looking back, relied on a lot of weird rhetorical and creative flourishes that did not necessarily make sense and that I would never have attempted in a class assignment as it would have been a sure way to receive a poor grade in a department full of ethical philosophers.
So, the paper kind of failed on a philosophical level. However, it still is one of the most important tasks that I undertook while at BU. It was only a semester long but it was mostly self-directed. I got reading suggestions from my advisor and was allowed to write and explore in whatever way I chose. I gained a lot personally from this paper and it made me really think critically about the degree I was receiving and what it meant – and would mean – in my life. Those were the things I could not write about – yet they may be the most important.
Now that I am at the end of my MLIS I find myself wishing that I was given a chance to explore the degree in the same way. What would a meta-MLIS paper look like? It is difficult to really think critically about the MLIS degree from inside of it. Drexel is on the quarter system. So, I took five 10-week quarters starting in March 2010 and ending June 2011. The breaks between quarters I spent catching up on things that would get pushed aside during the busy 10 weeks before it. There was not much time to look inward and assess what I was learning.
But now that I am graduating and facing an unsure job market I suspect that I will have some free time for just such an endeavor and I plan to document it here. More than just writing about LIS education, I really want to figure out what I gained from it on a different level. Sure, I learned about metadata and information architecture and web design. But what else? What did I learn that is not specifically taught? How has the last five quarters changed me?
I think that a blog (specifically, this one) is a good way for me to start exploring the thoughts I touched on above. I am not necessarily saying this because I think that what I have to say is profound or even important to anyone but me. But blogs allow for conversation – even if that conversation is only perceived. They are dialectal in nature. Lacking any sort of advisor or professor as I had during my undergrad, a blog is a decent substitution.
Claire Creffield recently said this much more eloquently:
Blogging might seem (has always seemed to me) like a hideously public way of conducting personal reflection, but its saving grace is its joyful acknowledgement of the inescapably communicative nature of thought. Blogging puts into practice a recognition that, if a private language is an impossibility, so, too, it is impossible to pursue self-knowledge by means of a wholly private use of language.
In addition to blogging about my MLIS experience, I also hope to write more about education in general and comment on some of the ideas that Michael Stephens brought up in his recent LJ column.