Emerging technologies, the top trend in academic libraries – surprised no one, ever

It will come as no surprise that many of the top trends in academic libraries relate to digital technologies.

According to the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee’s “2012 Top Ten Trends in Academic Libraries,” Data Curation and Digital Preservation were two of the top ten trends in academic libraries in 2012. Some of the predictions are: cloud-based repositories will become more popular, and librarians and information professionals will play a critical role in designing and implementing strategies for data description, storage, management, and reuse. Digital preservation is becoming more important as research increasingly depends on digital technologies, but we still lack standardized policies. Continue reading


Reference librarianship in a collegiate environment

After quite a long hiatus, I have returned to Cultural Heritage and Information. I aim to get back to posting regularly, every Wednesday or Thursday.

Today’s subject is a personal one – what I’ve been learning in my newest position as a reference specialist at a small library in a large community college library network.


The library I work in has a very diverse population of users, with students and community patrons from around the globe. My evening shifts coincide with some of the busiest hours, since many students work during the day and attend school at night. The library is smallish, with a main collection of non-fiction, academic books, a designated computer room as well as computers on the main floor, access to several large and subject-oriented databases, a DVD section and a small section devoted to rotating fiction books. Continue reading

Digital preservation in a webinar, part three

I not-so-recently “went to” the third Introduction to Digital Preservation webinar hosted by ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries).

[To listen to the recordings and view the power point presentations, see ASERL’s archive]

This webinar was titled: “Management of Incoming Born-Digital Special Collections. Presented by Gretchen Gueguen, of the University of Virginia.

Without further ado, my notes:

What is born-digital?

There are two layers:

  1. Content
  2. Supporting software and operating system(s) (OS)

The same software/OS can be used for multiple files.

The Crucial Dependency

  • Hardware. Including (but not limited to) ports, wires, ribbons, drives, connectors
  • Translation between older and newer hardware can be achieved by write-blockers

The process

Imagine a doughnut.

“Preserve” is positioned in the doughnut hole, smack dab in the middle. Around the edges of the donut (starting on the left and moving clockwise, if you’re curious) reside:

  • “Provide Access”
  • “Appraise”
  • “Accession”
  • “Arrange/Describe”


Including old collections and new collections, legacy material (that has already been collected).

Do you further process these legacy collections, or deaccession them?

Appraisal Phase 1: Inventory

(the following list contains information/data you may want to collect in the inventory phase)

  • Disk #
  • ID #
  • Collection name/title
  • Record # (MARC or EAD)
  • Media type
  • Manufacturer
  • Capacity
  • Date (from label info)
  • Color
  • Damage
  • Label info

The above information can be used in cataloging, and can help future identification/location of items in the collection.

It may be necessary to:

  • Research accession records
  • Search the stacks
  • Conduct a physical survey of a statistically significant sample of disks

Appraisal Phase 2: Evaluate

Legacy collections

  • Available resources (work, costs)
  • File types and formats present in materials
  • Volume of data vs. capacity to take it
  • Condition of content: changed? corrupted?
  • Dependencies on software, hardware
  • Institution’s commitment to the content
  • Migration or transformation required?
  • Can you appraise/view the intellectual content?

New acquisitions

  • Policy framework (update it frequently and proactively)
  • What capacity do you have for acquiring new born-digital collections?
  • How will you deal with certain scenarios?
  • Do you need special hardware to read the content?
  • Do you have that hardware?
  • Does someone else? (e.g., eBay) : Given the scarcity of obsolete hardware, there is a growing interest in sharing equipment
  • Is the disk/drive natively Read Only?


Hardware types

  • Zip
  • DVD/BluRay
  • JAZ
  • Others (e.g., floppies) are difficult
  • Write blockers/forensic bridges: Hardware devices or software that block any writing onto disks (e.g., Tableau, Wiebe Tech; SAFE Block XP, MacForensicLab)

Software barriers

How to transfer the data to a new medium?

1. Disk imaging – one file, bit-level copy

  • Captures unused space, sometimes called “file slack,” made up of binary zeros, can take up a lot of space
  • Benefits: compact, single file, intact, complete
  • Drawbacks: can capture unwanted data, requires specialized tech, can transfer across write-blocker if file is still readable

2. Logical imaging – select what you want and create an image

Transfer using (examples)

  • NTFS (New Tech File System)
  • MAC : HFS (Hierarchical File System)

Rendering files

  • Transfer methods: over a network, using Duke Data Accessioner, or Bagit, or FTP transfer tool such as FileZilla, CyberDuck (how about these names?).
  • Web harvesting (e.g., Internet Archive)
  • Save to modern media (CD, external hard drive)
  • Image the hard drive in person


Is the file corrupted, lost, or changed?

  • Checksums. If these haven’t changed, the file hasn’t changed.
  • Check for viruses (stabilizing material): Do this in an un-networked space BEFORE uploading the files to a network!
  • Search for Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
  • Search for duplicate files using checksums.



  • Use media inventory
  • File inventory of contents (e.g., date, size, file name, type)
  • Extract technical, forensic, and preservation metadata (using PREMIS, PBCore, for examples)
  • Use a spreadsheet if you don’t have fancy infrastructure to record this information


  • Make multiple copies! (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe, heh heh)
  • Use repositories or a managed service system for metadata and storage
  • If you don’t have one, how will you store and track content? (Spreadsheet and storage database)

Questions (a selection)

Q: Do you have any rules of thumb for materials NOT to accession?

A: The folks at the University of Virginia have not seen anything that they have decided not to take – nothing too unusual. Make sure you have access to the hardware to read the data/content. For some formats UVA doesn’t actually have, they obtained copies of the software from the donor.

Q: Do you manage the bit-stream or physical for commercially produced materials such as DVDs related to other materials?

A: Only physical management at the moment.

Q: Does UVA’s gift agreement contain language for digital preservation?

A: The agreement does state that the donor will agree not to offer the same content to other sources or institutions. It provides information about intellectual property rights. UVA reserves the right to do whatever is needed to preserve the content. Allows donors to ask for access restrictions. It does not contain any statement to the effect that UVA agrees to preserve content via a particular material or for a specific time.

Final words

Appraisal and accession are CRUCIAL.

Metadata is important – use checksums, spreadsheets.

Consider consortia – have someone else read the disks you can’t, and vice versa.

The Future of Libraries: An Infographic

This infographic represents some of the recent changes libraries have made to keep up with emerging technologies and usage trends. Via @sabram.


The Library of Congress’ International Summit of the Book, Part 1

A very long time ago (the first week of December), I attended the International Summit of the Book, held by the Library of Congress. The program covered one and a half days, with discussions and perspectives on the past, present, and future of the book. I attended on the first day.

Before returning to my notes, written on the day, I remember most clearly the discussion that took place between library directors from many different national libraries in countries like Spain, Russia, Peru, South Africa, and Great Britain. Another session that sticks in my mind is the conversation with Elizabeth Eisenstein, one of the most well-known scholars of book history.

The welcome included introductions by James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, Hon. John B. Larson (CT), U.S. House of Representatives, and Hon. Jack Reed (RI), U.S. Senate. They mentioned ideas like “storehouses,” “fortresses of knowledge,” and that libraries embody the ideals of democracy. Surprising (to me) statistics:

  • Illiterate adults make approximately 50% less than literate adults.
  • 30% of college graduates in the United States never read another book.

This introduction raised the questions:

  • What is the definition of illiteracy?
  • How does digital literacy fit into literacy programs and the recognition of the problems of illiteracy? One has to be able to read to be digitally literate, since digital information is still so dependent on the written language (can a person find the information s/he needs online without being able to read?).

The keynote speech took place directly after the introductions. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (the new one, not the ancient) gave a brief overview of the ancient and modern history of the book, and introduced the ideas of textual fixity, linked internet data, and knowledge revolutions. As an ancient historian, I particularly enjoyed his references to Herodotus and Byblos, a Phoenician export city. Serageldin posited that all changes in book technologies follow similar processes. That is,

  1. use of old technology
  2. development of new technology
  3. use of both technologies side by side, with old tech still dominant until
  4. the new technology supersedes the old.

He noted that the book has already survived the radio, movies, TV, the internet, and mobile technology, and believes that books are still necessary for the maintenance and development of language.