Issue 35, 2017-01-30
Those of us in libraries like to trace our history to Alexandria or to the French governmental system of record-keeping, but the construction of the modern GLAM world is far more recent, almost as new as coding. It has evolved almost as rapidly. And its future is on us, whether we choose to passively accept a status quo others build or to act and grow and develop ourselves and our workplaces.
Bridging Technologies to Efficiently Arrange and Describe Digital Archives: the Bentley Historical Library’s ArchivesSpace-Archivematica-DSpace Workflow Integration Project
In recent years, ArchivesSpace and Archivematica have emerged as two of the most exciting open source platforms for working with digital archives. The former manages accessions and collections and provides a framework for entering descriptive, administrative, rights, and other metadata. The latter ingests digital content and prepares information packages for long-term preservation and access. In October 2016, the Bentley Historical Library wrapped up a two-year, $355,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to partner with the University of Michigan Library on the integration of these two systems in an end-to-end workflow that will include the automated deposit of content into a DSpace repository. This article provides context of the project and offers an in-depth exploration of the project’s key development tasks, all of which were provided by Artefactual Systems, the developers of Archivematica (code available at https://github.com/artefactual-labs/appraisal-tab).
A band of archivists and IT professionals at Harvard took on a project to convert nearly two million descriptions of archival collection components from marked-up text into the ArchivesSpace archival metadata management system. Starting in the mid-1990s, Harvard was an alpha implementer of EAD, an SGML (later XML) text markup language for electronic inventories, indexes, and finding aids that archivists use to wend their way through the sometimes quirky filing systems that bureaucracies establish for their records or the utter chaos in which some individuals keep their personal archives. These pathfinder documents, designed to cope with messy reality, can themselves be difficult to classify. Portions of them are rigorously structured, while other parts are narrative. Early documents predate the establishment of the standard; many feature idiosyncratic encoding that had been through several machine conversions, while others were freshly encoded and fairly consistent. In this paper, we will cover the practical and technical challenges involved in preparing a large (900MiB) corpus of XML for ingest into an open-source archival information system (ArchivesSpace). This case study will give an overview of the project, discuss problem discovery and problem solving, and address the technical challenges, analysis, solutions, and decisions and provide information on the tools produced and lessons learned. The authors of this piece are Kate Bowers, Collections Services Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Standards at the Harvard University Archives, and Dave Mayo, a Digital Library Software Engineer for Harvard’s Library and Technology Services. Kate was heavily involved in both metadata analysis and later problem solving, while Dave was the sole full-time developer assigned to the migration project.
Website redesigns can be contentious and fraught in any type of organization, and libraries are no exception. Coming to consensus on priorities and design decisions is nearly impossible, as different groups compete to ensure their subject or specialty area is represented. To keep projects on track and on time, libraries may give a few staff members the authority to make all of the decisions, while keeping user research limited to a small number of usability tests. While these tactics are sometimes necessary, at best they can leave many feeling left out of the process, and at worst, can result in major oversights in the final design.
Participatory design methods can bring users and stakeholders into the design process and ultimately lead to a better design and less friction in the project. The authors share their experience and lessons learned using participatory design techniques in a website redesign project at a large, multi-location academic library, and how these techniques facilitated communication, shaped design decisions, and kept a complex, difficult project on track.
Python, Google Sheets, and the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials for Efficient Metadata Project Workflows
In 2017, the University of Virginia (U.Va.) will launch a two year initiative to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the University’s founding in 1819. The U.Va. Library is participating in this event by digitizing some 20,000 photographs and negatives that document student life on the U.Va. grounds in the 1960s and 1970s. Metadata librarians and archivists are well-versed in the challenges associated with generating digital content and accompanying description within the context of limited resources. This paper describes how technology and new approaches to metadata design have enabled the University of Virginia’s Metadata Analysis and Design Department to rapidly and successfully generate accurate description for these digital objects. Python’s pandas module improves efficiency by cleaning and repurposing data recorded at digitization, while the lxml module builds MODS XML programmatically from CSV tables. A simplified technique for subject heading selection and assignment in Google Sheets provides a collaborative environment for streamlined metadata creation and data quality control.
Since 2014, the University of Toronto Scarborough Library’s Digital Scholarship Unit (DSU) has been working on an Islandora-based solution for creating and stewarding oral histories (the Oral Histories solution pack). Although regular updates regarding the status of this work have been presented at Open Repositories conferences, this is the first article to describe the goals and features associated with this codebase, as well as the roadmap for development. An Islandora-based approach is appropriate for addressing the challenges of Oral History, an interdisciplinary methodology with complex notions of authorship and audience that both brings a corresponding complexity of use cases and roots Oral Histories projects in the ever-emergent technical and preservation challenges associated with multimedia and born digital assets. By leveraging Islandora, those embarking on Oral Histories projects benefit from existing community-supported code. By writing and maintaining the Oral Histories solution pack, the library seeks to build on common ground for those supporting Oral Histories projects and encourage a sustainable solution and feature set.
Data dashboards provide libraries with the means to demonstrate their ongoing activities and usage in an engaging and communicative fashion. Yet, due to the number of service platforms used by libraries, and the wide-ranging technical specifications they entail, bringing all of this content together in a sustainable way is a significant challenge. This article describes Portland State University’s project to design and build a data dashboard based on a scalable and flexible infrastructure that would enable them to present data in a visually compelling and dynamic interface.
The peer review system is the norm for many publications. It involves an editor and several experts in the field providing comments for a submitted article. The reviewer remains anonymous to the author, with only the editor knowing the reviewer´s identity. This model is now being challenged and open peer review (OPR) models are viewed as the new frontier of the review process. OPR is a term that encompasses diverse variations in the traditional review process. Examples of this are modifications in the way in which authors and reviewers are aware of each other’s identity (open identities), the visibility of the reviews carried out (open reviews) or the opening up of the review to the academic community (open participation). We present the project for the implementation of an Open Peer Review Module in two major Spanish repositories, DIGITAL.CSIC and e-IEO, together with some promising initial results and challenges in the take-up process. The OPR module, designed for integration with DSpace repositories, enables any scholar to provide a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of any research object hosted in these repositories.
This article describes how the Saint Edward’s University Library implemented a distributed model for the Institutional Repository. Based on Cloud Based platforms and APIs, the Library has created an Institutional Repository that is scaleable and modular, considerably lowering its implementation and maintenance costs, while lowering its technical complexity.
Gamification is a concept that has been catching fire for a while now in education, particularly in libraries. This article describes a pilot effort to create an online gamified platform for use in the Woodbury University Library’s information literacy course. The objectives of this project were both to increase student engagement and learning, and to serve as an opportunity for myself to further develop my web development skills. The platform was developed using the CodeIgniter web framework and consisted of several homework exercises ranging from a top-down two-dimensional library exploration game to a tutorial on cleaning up machine-generated APA citations. This article details the project’s planning and development process, the gamification concepts that helped guide the conceptualization of each exercise, reflections on the platform’s implementation in four course sections, and aspirations for the future of the project. It is hoped that this article will serve as an example of the opportunities–and challenges–that await both librarians and instructors who wish to add coding to their existing skill set.