Issue 15, 2011-10-31
This Hallowe’en finds our contributors working away like (benign) mad scientists, assembling and deploying their creations to bring services and information in novel ways to their patrons and staff, approaching their work with a vital sprit of invention and discovery.
The University of Arizona Libraries currently circulates over three hundred pieces of equipment including laptops, netbooks, projectors and iPads. This article describes the best practices and workflows we have developed since 2003 to create a laptop/equipment lending program that is efficient and mindful of financial resources and that our student body loves and continues to support.
The developing “information age” is continually unraveling new ways of discovering, presenting and sharing information. Most new academic material is digitally formatted upon its creation and is thus easy to find and query. However, there remains a good deal of material from times prior to the “information age” that has yet to be converted to digital form. Much of this material can be found in library collections—whether academic, public or private—and thus remains available only to a limited number of locals or willing-and-able sojourners. Using OCR technology, most typeset documents can be digitized and made available online; and there are several projects underway to do exactly this. However, there remains little to be done for handwritten materials. Those who own collections of handwritten documents are increasingly wanting to make the content thereof available to the general public. Unfortunately, traditional transcription models typically prove to be expensive or inefficient and pdf snapshots are not searchable. We have developed a model for digital transcription using Google Docs and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Using this model, one can use an online workforce to efficiently transcribe handwritten texts and perform quality control at a cost much lower than professional transcription services. To illustrate the model we used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to transcribe and then proofread the Frederick Douglass Diary which we have made available on a public searchable wiki. The total cost of transcription and proofreading for the 72 page diary was less than $25.00 with some pages being transcribed and proofread for as little as $0.04. Our results show that using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk holds great promise for providing an affordable transcription method for hand-written historical documents making them easily sharable and fully searchable.
In October 2010, the NCSU Libraries debuted its first public touchscreen information kiosk, designed to provide on-demand access to useful and commonly consulted real-time displays of library information. This article presents a description of the hardware and software development process, as well as the rationale behind a variety of design and implementation decisions. This article also provides an analysis of usage of the touchscreen since its debut, including a numerical analysis of most popular content areas, and a heatmap-based analysis of user interaction patterns with the kiosk's interface components.
Library technology and other professionals with diverse skills must be able to locate each other during the workday, in order to most responsively serve their clients. While staff often carry cellular phones, contact can be especially challenging given the constant, highly mobile nature of library work, especially on larger campuses with variable cellular phone service. Western Michigan University (WMU) Libraries has developed an Android/LAMP application that library staff may use on their increasingly prevalent Wi-Fi enabled mobile devices to “check in” at various locations where they do work, so that their colleagues may locate them as needed. The application takes advantage of WMU’s widespread Wi-Fi network, a set of free platform and software development tools and open standards, and methods from the computer science literature, and overcomes GPS and telephony limitations. This article describes the application, which is based on Wi-Fi fingerprinting, and suggests how other developers could use it and new methods from the computer science literature as starting points to create their own applications.
In January 2009, the Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) suspended publication of its print quarterly journal, Colorado Libraries, as a cost-saving measure in a time of fiscal uncertainty. Printing and mailing the journal to its 1300 members cost CAL more than $26,000 per year. Publication of the journal was placed on an indefinite hiatus until the editorial staff proposed an online, open access format a year later. The benefits to migrating to open access included: significantly lower costs; a green platform; instant availability of content; a greater level of access to users with disabilities; and a higher level of visibility of the journal and the association. The editorial staff chose Drupal, including the E-journal module, and while Drupal is notorious for its steep learning curve—which exacerbated delays to content that had been created before the publishing hiatus—the fourth electronic issue was published recently at coloradolibrariesjournal.org. This article will discuss both the benefits and challenges of transitioning to an open access model and the choice Drupal as a platform over other more established journal software options.