The Way Forward – Contemporary Issues in Digital Preservation

Here is a PDF version of a powerpoint presentation of my capstone research topic:

Kastellec – The Way Forward – Contemporary Issues in Digital Preservation

Research Proposal Draft Abstract

This study explores users’ opinions on different models of reference service at one academic library. In recent years, some libraries have embraced alternative models of reference service, such as virtual reference, “embedded librarians,” and the “Brandeis-model.” In anticipation of a move to a new library, administrators of a large research university, appointed a team to select or develop a model that will serve users of the new library most effectively. A professional moderator will conduct nine focus groups, consisting of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members who are both users and non-users of the library. The aim is to gather qualitative data on users’ research needs and processes, and their opinions each service model. In order to solicit informed opinions of multiple reference models, the groups will be asked for their reactions to computer-generated simulations that demonstrate each model of service. The reactions will be audiotaped, transcribed, coded and classified, and then analyzed to determine preferences of service from the participants. Although the preferences identified through this simulated approach may not be generalizable to all reference environments, the results may be of application to other academic libraries considering various reference models but lacking funds for their own user studies.

Designing a Database to Track Inventory and Purchase Data for a Library

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The Oconee County Libraries (OCL) has to keep track of information on over 100 pieces of electronics (computers, monitors, printers, etc.)  Currently, a combination of Excel spreadsheets and an online tool from webjunction.org are used to record inventory information.  The result is an unwieldy system that is time consuming to keep updated.  The goal of this project is to create a database to record essential inventory data for both branches.  It is hoped that, if the system performs well, it may one day be expanded to cover the other libraries in the Athens Regional Library System (ARLS).  Most frequently, the system will be used to record or update the location and relation (e.g., which monitor is hooked up to which computer) of pieces of equipment.  In its current incarnation, the database will only be accessed by the author (OCL’s sole IT staffer), but in part that will entail translating requests from the Library’s Manager and Regional Business Office staff into database queries.

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Tagging

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Tags are keywords chosen by users of a system to describe an item (e.g., a website or book).  Tags gained popularity at Web 2.0 sites like Delicious, Flickr, and LibraryThing, and have now begun to appear in a few library catalogs.  Tags, which usually consist of single words but can extend to short phrases in some systems, offer an alternative to the assignment of subject headings in traditional cataloging.  There are four strategies libraries can pursue with respect to the relationship of tags to subject headings, in order of most conservative to most radical: Ignore tagging and continue to exclusively use subject headings; allow tags to Coexist with subject headings, but maintain a clear boundary between the two; utilize tags and subject headings side-by-side, permitting each to inform the other (Cooperate); or deprecate subject headings and Replace their function with tags.

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The Changing Nature of the Catalog – A Response to Calhoun, Mann, and Yee

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The central premise of Calhoun’s report is that technology has “created an era of discontinuous change in research libraries—a time when the cumulated assets of the past do not guarantee future success” (2006, p. 5).  Calhoun’s perspective is that this notion applies directly to traditional library cataloging.  Yee argues that traditional cataloging is fundamental to the value of libraries (2007).  Mann makes the case that research libraries’ primary mission is to serve the specific needs of serious scholarship (2006).  Each is right in their own way.  Mann and Yee, though, fail to recognize the changes that the coming of the Information Age has wrought on the world outside libraries.  Far too much valuable information is outside the reach of traditional catalogs.  Libraries must embrace technology to extend the grasp of catalogs beyond local holdings.

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Ethics Paper: On Access

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Access Defined

Access is defined in libraries by the American Library Association (ALA) Code of Ethics, the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and a number of interpretations of the Bill of Rights issued by the ALA.  Access inhabits the region where intellectual freedom and service intersect, in that it concerns applying intellectual freedom principles to the deployment of libraries’ resources and to shaping service to enable maximal use of those resources.  Aspects of access are often defined in opposition to barriers to access; librarians are charged with overcoming, eliminating, or reducing physical, societal, procedural, and economic elements that hinder users’ information seeking (Rubin, 2004, pp. 45-47).  Conceptually, access can be broken down into two categories: equity of access and access to information.  “Equity of access means that all people have the information they need-regardless of age, education, ethnicity, language, income, physical limitations or geographic barriers” (American Library Association, 2010).  The other half of the equation is access to information—what information does the library make available to users?

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Ethics Paper: On Intellectual Freedom

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Intellectual Freedom is “[t]he right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution of any person to read or express views that may be unpopular or offensive to some people, within certain limitations (libel, slander, etc.)” (Reitz, 2010). The other notable legal limit on free speech is obscenity, defined as a work that, taken as a whole, includes offensive sexual content (according to community standards) and lacks serious literary or other merit (Preer, 2008). A few seminal American Library Association (ALA) and Canadian Library Association (CLA) documents define intellectual freedom in libraries. The application of intellectual freedom in libraries has been, and continues to be, a source of tension.

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Ethics Paper: On Service

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No matter the profession, “the essence of profession is service to society” (Preer, 2008, p. 3)—for the library profession, service has always been central, but the understanding of how best to serve society has evolved.  Furthermore, while service is the most important ethical precept governing librarians, it is not the only precept, and other precepts inherently conflict with service.  Professional codes define the meanings and practice of ethical precepts and help arbitrate when precepts conflict.  An examination of the ethical codes of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Canadian Library Association (CLA) reveals the meaning of service in their constituent institutions.

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Does Cataloging Scale?

Recently, on the This Week in Tech podcast (twit.tv), I heard an interesting comparison of a difference between
Apple and Google. In reference to the Apple App Store, one of the commentators said that Apple’s model was to have the equivalent of a giant room full of employees doing nothing but manually approving each addition to Apple’s offerings. In this way, Apple maintains absolute control of its users’ experiences. I can’t remember exactly what Google product was mentioned in comparison, but the important point was this–Google is *not* offering a certain feature for now because they can’t figure out how to automate the process that goes along with it. The point being, Google absolutely refuses to pursue offerings that require manual control/input because only automated processes are capable of “scaling up” to the enormous number of uses Google products have to cope with. Despite the mainstream success of iPods and iPhones, Apple still has the soul of a niche company. Google, on the other hand, is entirely a creature of the Internet Age–it works, and *only* works, on a massive (and necessarily massive) scale.

That long winded intro does lead back to Cataloging, I swear :) Doesn’t the Apple model sound a lot like a Cataloging Department? Hsieh-Yee asks [in Organizing Audiovisual and Electronic Resources for Access], “will cataloging have a role to play in the organization of information in the twenty-first century?” I would ask, “*can* it have a role? If Cataloging is stuck in the “Apple model,” can it scale to 24x7x365 geyser of information object creation that is the internet? Or is a fundamental change required to keep up?

The State of Open Source in the Integrated Library Systems Market

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Commercial, closed source solutions dominate the Integrated Library System (ILS) market, with open source (OS) ILSs serving less than three percent of the total (Breeding, 2007b; Public Libraries in United States). There may be a natural affinity between the mission of libraries and the principles of OS: Dorman identifies “commitment to cooperation, open standards, and common communication protocols” as values shared by libraries and the OS community (2004). Many libraries have used examples of open source (OS) software for years, in the form of operating systems and server applications (like Linux and Apache), or the popular Firefox web browser. OS ILSs, though, have been slow to make inroads to the library market but there are indications that the OS model’s share of the market is growing.

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