Friday, September 18, 2009

Spreading the Word and …

In an interview about his new book, A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution, Dennis Baron says, “The goal of the library is to spread the word … ”

So is Goucher College’s Athenaeum a library? Well, there is a library in there … 

I’m interested in the trend of missional convergence among archives, libraries, and museums. The early history of Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum provides an interesting model of this. Established in 1842 by Daniel Wadsworth, the Atheneum brought together a number of cultural institutions and collections, including an art gallery, a historical society, a natural history society, and a public library. Wadsworth’s vision was to support the study and enjoyment of art, literature, and science under one castellated Gothic roof.

For anther vision of a present-day Athenaeum, see Sam Demas's “From the Ashes of Alexandria: What's Happening in the College Library?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Future of Primary Sources

From the AHA Blog
The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is conducting a series of case studies, funded by the National Science Foundation, to examine the longevity of digital resources. To obtain scholarly input on these studies, CRL is hosting a series of brief (22.5 minute) online forums for researchers in the fields of history, social sciences, and chemistry. These micro-webcasts are free and open to interested researchers and scholars, and cover the following topics: The Historical Record in the Post-Newspaper Age; Political Science, Sociology, and Economics; and Chemistry.
From the series' Agenda:
Digital technology has revolutionized the very nature of scientific and historical evidence. Today’s research data exist in many electronic forms, such as news Web sites, computer models of chemical compounds, and public opinion data sets. These new types of evidence defy the traditional ways libraries and archives have preserved information--putting much historical and scientific evidence at risk.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

They’re Not Dead Yet

In Publisher’s Weekly, Robert Darnton writes about his new book:

History shows us that one medium does not necessarily displace another—at least not in the short run. … Every age has been an age of information, each in its own way. In my new book, The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future [PublicAffairs], I make that very point, because I believe we cannot envisage the future—or make sense of the present—unless we study the past. Not necessarily because history repeats itself or teaches us lessons, but because it can help to orient us when faced with the challenges of new technologies.
And now for something completely different ...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A New Open Access Publishing Model

See “Breakthrough on Open Access”: MIT, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Berkeley have committed to:
the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in open access journals and for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.
This new funding model changes the way institutions of higher education have been supporting the publication of scholarly journals. Rather than fund academic libraries, to purchase journals or pay fees to publishers for access to content, institutions would pay fees directly to open access publishers. (See also Stuart M. Shieber’s article in PLoS Biology, “Equity for Open-Access Journal Publishing.”)

A report released earlier this year, Ithaka’s 2006 Studies of Key Stakeholders in the Digital Transformation in Higher Education, examined perceptions of three roles of the library: purchaser, archive, and gateway. The most highly rated role was that of purchaser. The perceived value of the gateway role is declining. So what's left? The role of the library as archive is “uniformly high and has remained static over time” (5).

The CLIR report No Brief Candle, which was released about the same time, identifies another critical role of the library: the library as teacher. Indeed, in this report Paul Courant argues that an academic library’s “signal contribution to undergraduate education is the teaching of scholarly methods” (22).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Digital Curation 2.0

Dorothea Salo, over at “The Book of Trogool,” draws attention to and comments on the special issue of Nature on data sharing.

A couple of interesting points from the Nature editorial:

  • “Agencies and the research community together need to create the digital equivalent of libraries: institutions that can take responsibility for preserving digital data and making them accessible over the long term. The university research libraries themselves are obvious candidates to assume this role.” Let libraries be libraries!
  • Students should be taught “information management—a discipline that encompasses the entire life cycle of data … data management should be woven into every course in science, as one of the foundations of knowledge.”

Related to the second point, see Gardner Campbell, “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure,” in the latest issue of EDUCAUSE Review:

At the turn of the century, higher education looked in the mirror and, seeing its portals, its easy-to-use LMSs, and its "digital campuses," admired itself as sleek, youthful, attractive. But the mirror lied.

Then the web changed again: Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. The medium is the message. Higher education almost completely ignored Marshall McLuhan's central insight: new modes of communication change what can be imagined and expressed. "Any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment. Environments are not passive wrappings but active processes. . . . The 'message' of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs."

Campbell argues that institutions of higher education can inspire and empower students to become creative web users by providing them with tools and training to build personal cyberinfrastructures—to become “effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives.”

And far away Trogool upon the utter Rim turned a page that was numbered six in a cipher that none might read.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

On This Day in History, 09/09/09--Nothing

At least according to the Google News Timeline, mentioned over at the AHA Blog.

No news for or about tomorrow, either. There is one Wikipedia article for this month in 1909 (old news?), but nothing for the year 1009. And 909 “is not a valid date.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

After the Deluge: Or, Libraries This Week

An interesting article about data curation recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal: “A Data Deluge Swamps Science Historians.”
Over at CNN, there is “The future of libraries, with or without books.” (I was pleased to see this: “Some libraries are trying to gain an edge by focusing on the ‘deeply local’ material—the stuff that only they have.”)

At the Boston Globe, there is an article about a school that is getting rid of its “traditional library”: “Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books.” More.

And the image below links to an Economist interview with Paul Courant on the Google settlement:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard

This week Harvard announced the public launch of its scholarly repository, DASH, which supports the school’s open access policy. In the repository I found an interesting article by Robert Darnton, “Collecting and Researching in the History of Books.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Last Library?

Is Google’s Book Search the last library? See: “Google's Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars.”

Google's five-year head start and its relationships with libraries and publishers give it an effective monopoly: No competitor will be able to come after it on the same scale. Nor is technology going to lower the cost of entry. Scanning will always be an expensive, labor-intensive project. Of course, 50 or 100 years from now control of the collection may pass from Google to somebody else—Elsevier, Unesco, Wal-Mart. But it's safe to assume that the digitized books that scholars will be working with then will be the very same ones that are sitting on Google's servers today, augmented by the millions of titles published in the interim.

A rebuttal to Nunberg’s complaints about quality is available over at Northwest History. More serious objections to Google’s book-scanning project have been raised elsewhere.

Another concern about this project has to do with preservation: I wonder to what extent digital preservation is covered in the settlement. Will this collection exist 50 or 100 years from now?

There’s Too Much Confusion: Or, the Great Mall of Alexandria


The metaphor of the library as mall prevails. There must be some kind of way out of here …

Ritual and Retention

An article in today’s Inside Higher Ed, “Early Pomp and Circumstance,” highlights a trend to revive convocation ceremonies. The goal is to build a sense of community and commitment. The article points out that convocations have a long and continuous history at many small liberal arts colleges and selective four-year universities.

Yesterday, Inside Higher Ed featured a convocation address—“Convocation Critique of ‘I Love College’”—that was delivered at my place of employment.

Update: Later, looking at the above image, I was reminded of the ending of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, which reminded me of the ending of the “I am death” bit in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.





Digital Lincoln

For its special issue “Lincoln at 200,” the Journal of American History created a companion online project called “Building the Digital Lincoln.”

This special resources site offers a snapshot of how historians and digital humanists have helped to build a new understanding of Abraham Lincoln with a series of innovative and powerful Web-based tools.

Lots of Literacies

From the August 2009 issue of Primary Source, the newsletter of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS):
IMLS has just released Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills. The booklet outlines a vision for the role of libraries and museums in the national dialogue around learning and such 21st century skills as technology literacy, problem solving, creativity, and global awareness. It also provides a self-assessment tool that enables museums and libraries to determine where they fit on the continuum of 21st century skills.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Northwestern Wanderer

I just came across some materials from a 1920s railroad advertising campaign for the Pacific Northwest. I was interested to see that the image in one advertisement (above) is based on Caspar David Friedrich’s Romantic painting “Wanderer ├╝ber dem Nebelmeer” (below).


From the advertisement copy:
Into the lives of most men comes at some time an urge—
An impulse to journey out and see what lies beyond the local horizon, to prospect other, newer lands.
The story of many a man’s success is a record of that impulse acted upon—of a fortune found in the “land beyond.”