Library Gazette

During May 2010...

Digitization Goes Open Source

Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:40 am

In our continuing commitment to exploring and utilizing community developed, open source software, one of the digitization stations located in Digital Production Services has been converted from Microsoft Windows XP into a Linux station running Ubuntu 10.04. Instead of using proprietary software to scan and edit the items we digitize, such as Adobe Photoshop, we are now running completely on open source software such as Xscan and GIMP photo editor.

So far, the experience has been very good. The aging digitization machine was running very slowly in Windows, our digitization students often dealing with error messages or programs that refuse to run more than actually digitizing and editing materials. Now the system is running quite speedily, yet still provides both the basic and advanced services we expected from the Windows software just as fast if not faster. I’m hopeful that this increased speed and stability will increase the efficiency of our digitization program once our student employees return, as well as provide a “second life” to the machine itself.

We hope that this will provide a good guide moving forward in regards to “Linuxing” other computers around the library, such as student work stations, to not only reduce licensing costs, but to support the open source community as it continues to grow and enhance our computing experiences. If anyone would like to stop by and poke around the system, please let me know!

ZSR Library running pilot project for thin clients

Thursday, May 27, 2010 9:25 am

We all know how central cloud computing is to ZSR Library. Now that we are completing our migration at the server level we are beginning to think about what cloud computing could mean for our public and staff library computers.

As a first step in examining this question we are participating in a thin client pilot project with our friends in Computer Science. The pilot project includes three public access machines which are located across from the circulation desk. The machines do not run any software (or operating system) locally – they are in essence network access points to virtual machines running on a server in Computer Science.

So if you are curious to see a thin client in action – check out the public terminals across from circulation. The initial term of the pilot project is the Summer I semester. In the coming weeks we will be doing some testing on staff-focused thin clients at Circulation and Resource services.

If you want to know all about the pilot – hit the staff wiki and search for ‘thin client pilot’

Is your computer ready to be virtual?

Thursday, May 27, 2010 8:43 am

There has been a trend emerging in computing for several years called Virtualization. Virtualization simply means that rather than running a single “computer” on a piece of hardware you can run multiple computers on one machine. Virtualization offers some interesting opportunities such as the ability to distribute and scale your applications in a cloud environment, the ability to test out different operating systems on your own laptop, and the ability to create information ‘appliances’ which have a specific scope, purpose, and interface.

There are many ways of going ‘virtual’ with computing. For example, in order to better understand server architecture, tech staff are running an application called VirtualBox on their laptops that allow them to run a virtual server on their WFU Thinkpad. On a larger scale, the library is using hosting companies such as ExLibris and Amazon cloud-computing to run persistent servers and key library services (our Voyager system for example is on a virtualized platform).

One of the fascinating aspects of virtualization is that it allows you to access technology resources on an as-needed basis. This allows us, for example, to reduce the storage and memory footprints on our local laptops by moving memory and cpu intensive operations to a cloud or other virtual environment and accessing them only when needed. Another key outcome of Virtualization is that it allows you to use a laptop and operating system of your choice while enabling you to get to those key Enterprise systems when needed.

There are, of course, drawbacks. Virtualization is more complex than standard computing and requires a more robust infrastructure (network bandwidth and server capacity). Further, Virtualization often requires network connectivity to access these resources. While this can be an issue in a lot of environments, universities (and libraries in particular) happen to already require network connectivity (and apparently coffee :)) because so many of our products and services include digital and internet-based elements.

There are some interesting projects out there which use Virtualization on a University wide scale. For example. RIT recently used virtual servers on Amazon to provide computer lab resources to students. The NCSU and UNC systems run a similar system based on different technology which allows students, faculty, and staff to provision computing resources on an as-needed basis. At UNC, this enabled small departmental computer labs to provide a virtual ‘lab-image’ which students could access from anywhere – not just using the 15 computer lab in the department. On our own campus, the computer science department uses virtualization to provide students with custom configured development environments including Linux, Solaris, and Mac OS X.

In the coming weeks the ZSR Library will be partnering with Computer Science to conduct a test of Virtualization for both public and staff computing. More information to come but for now we have three machines across from circulation doing the tough work of being thin.

If you are interested in seeing what a virtual machine looks like or want to try out a different operating system on your own laptop without messing up your current Windows setup come talk to a member of the tech team.

Starbucks Rewards

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 4:19 pm

If you are not a frequent user of Starbucks, you can just skip this post all together. But if you are one of the many staff that make Starbucks a part of your daily or (if you are really disciplined) weekly routine, there are some hidden treasures you can get with your Starbucks gift card that I thought I’d share.

The benefits of Starbucks Rewards are many. Register your gift card, (if you’re lucky enough to have one sitting around) and you’ll get a free beverage on your birthday. After just 5 beverages purchased with it, you get free Soy Milk and flavored syrup if you want it and free refills on coffee and tea. After 30 beverages that’s when you get upgraded to a personalized gold card and the real benefits kick in. Ten percent off of all purchases, a free beverage after every 15 purchases! Personalized coupons! If you register a gift card that you’ve already depleted, you can get “credit” for all of the purchases you’ve made with it.

Other things we learned today: if you request a refill on coffee or tea, (but not Frappaccinos or other specialty drinks) they will give it to you for .54 in the same cup, as long as you’ve purchased it within the last hour, and as long as you can provide a receipt with a time stamp, even if you’ve taken that coffee back to your office.

Just thought I’d let you know, now that it’s summer and all…

ILL Direct Request – Empowering the Patrons

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:37 am

After some arduous testing, scripting and rescripting, I am happy to announce that ZSR is officially offering Direct Request for our patrons.

OCLC ILL Direct Request gives our patrons the ability to send ILL requests directly to potential lending libraries without ILL staff’s intervention. This is a big leap forward for the ZSR ILL department, functionally and psychologically.

The first step in setting up for Direct Request is to have ILL Custom Holding groups, which we already use to choose the libraries to send our requests to for best results. I just needed to tweaked it a little, so the requests would go to our favorite libraries first and that our patrons will not accidentally ask for materials held in the ZSR or the Law library. The next step is to decide what formats or the age of the materials are allowed and which patron groups can participate. To avoid delay, I decided the lending string has to have three libraries (versus one as the default) to go through Direct Request. Our Direct Request profile also excludes libraries that charge over $30. Those requests usually need extra consideration and there may be better options. As of May, our policy is that everything is fair game and everyone, including faculty, students and staff are eligible for Direct Request.

Our days after implementing Direct Request have been a little bumpy. We found out that Direct Request will only work with an OCLC number, not an ISBN, and it is only for loan (versus article) requests. Article requests are usually more complicated, mainly because of the union listing on OCLC. The system is not smart enough to interpret the various ways the union listing information is displayed therefore it may not choose the best possible lenders. Another more serious issue we noticed is that patron’s notes do not show up to the lending library in Direct Request, for example, a request for just one volume of the fifty-seven volume set. Fortunately, the lending library is willing to take the time to ask us which one we wanted. Some libraries have the tendency to just cancel it. We also have some connectivity issues with OCLC, which is more conspicuous and disruptive with Direct Request than before.

As far as the rest of the ILL operations, such as receiving the materials, updating, pulling, scanning, printing, packaging, notifying, returning and mailing are still the same as before. The turnaround time can be shortened, especially when we are faced with over 90 requests on a Monday morning or when we are short staffed. I have always encouraged patrons to use WorldCat for ILL purpose, especially for foreign titles. It really expedites the processing and patrons get exactly what they want. We are excited about this new service and we are looking forward to spreading the word.

Senior Showcase Highlights Undergraduate Research

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:41 am

L to R: Anna Nicodemus, Mallory Durr, Courtney Vris

On Tuesday, April 20, the Z. Smith Reynolds Library hosted the inaugural Senior Showcase, an event honoring exemplary research completed by Wake Forest College undergraduates. Students shared their thesis research in a three-part lecture in the Allen Mandelbaum Reading Room. The 2010 honorees were:

  • Anna Nicodemus (History, Division I), nominated by Reynolds Professor Paul Escott;
  • Courtney Vris (French Studies, Division II), nominated by Associate Professor Kendall Tarte; and,
  • Mallory Durr (Political Science, Division IV), nominated by Professor Helga Welsh.

Anna Nicodemus’ thesis, “Prudential Unionism: Southern Sentiment, Unionist Reasoning, and Maryland’s Allegiance in Early 1861,” examined the support given to the Union across Anna’s home state of Maryland at the outbreak of the Civil War. As Anna noted, Maryland’s unique position — south of the Mason-Dixon Line, yet north of Washington, D.C. — made the state geographically vital to the Union, but many citizens identified with the South. Interestingly, Southern sentiment is still enshrined in Maryland’s state song, which was written in April 1861 and adopted in 1939, but recently challenged. The song concludes: “She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb- / Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!”

Courtney Vris’ thesis, “Renée Saccard et Paris, ville complice, dans La Curée d’Émile Zola” (Renée Saccard and Paris, Urban Accomplice, in Émile Zola’s La Curée), examined the role of the city of Paris in the character development of Renée Saccard, the central character in Zola’s novel. Focusing on four Parisian places — the Bois de Boulogne, the Hôtel Saccard, the Hôtel Béraud and the Café Riche — Courtney demonstrated how each location acted as an influence upon and reflection of Renée’s behavior and emotions. As later discussed during the question and answer session, Paris could be interpreted as a fourth main character in the novel.

Mallory Durr’s thesis, “Divided Societies: Power Sharing in Multilingual Democracies,” investigated four countries with differing multilingual traditions and codified linguistic policies, and how those policies impact democracy. Her research examined the role of official linguistic policies in addressing conflict and upholding democracy in Switzerland, Belgium, India and South Africa. Mallory found that no single overt, official linguistic policy best supports democracy through the engagement and protection of linguistic minorities. Instead unofficial, voluntary cultural policies must rise within the political realm to guarantee greater equality and protection.

Wake Forest senior Jermyn Davis first proposed the Senior Showcase because he felt that the level of scholarship attained by his classmates for their senior theses merited recognition. As originally envisioned, the Showcase would afford two or three select WFU seniors the opportunity to present their research before the Wake Forest community. As the Showcase evolved, the possible field expanded to five seniors: one honoree per division of the College. Even though only three divisions were represented in the nominations received this first year, the review panel of library faculty decided to respect the one-per-division structure in their selection of the 2010 presenters.

For the initial Showcase, only theses completed during the fall 2009 semester were eligible. Although this decision would restrict submissions from some departments, the review panel believed that a smaller pilot group would allow for easier assessment the first time. After receiving feedback from faculty advisers of ineligible students, plans for the 2011 Senior Showcase include adjusting the eligibility deadline to achieve representation from all five divisions of the College.

Storage Facility to Preserve Materials, Make Them More Accessible

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:39 am

ZSR staff member Scott Adair examines the shelves during a visit to the Library Service Center at Duke University. The Wake Forest facility will use a similar high-bay shelving system.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Library building exceeded its storage capacity over a decade ago. Despite the rise of electronic media, the library still buys thousands of printed books and periodicals every year to meet faculty and student needs. To accommodate the overflow, the library currently leases space from a commercial storage business to house lesser-used books, periodicals, and archival materials. As storage fees continued to mount, campus officials took action to contain costs and provide better service for library users. Soon, the ZSR Library will operate a portion of the new University storage facility and, in so doing, will join many other research libraries in North America. With a convenient location near the Wake Forest Baseball Park, climate control to optimize preservation of rare and archival materials, and an on-site consultation space for faculty and students, this WFU-owned building will be a significant improvement over the current leasing arrangement. Needed materials can be scanned and delivered to your desktop, or the ZSR Delivers service can bring printed volumes directly to your office. The University is currently renovating the storage building to meet campus needs. Stay tuned for more details as the opening date nears, probably this fall.

Returning a Book Now More Convenient Than Ever

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:38 am

The Z. Smith Reynolds Library has installed two additional book return sites to make returning materials to ZSR even easier. The Coy C. Carpenter Library on the Bowman Gray Campus kindly donated two surplus book returns for ZSR use, and the Facilities Department spruced them up before installing them. One return site stands just to the east of Tribble Hall on Gulley Drive. You can approach it by car, though you would need to lean out the passenger side to use it. The other site is next to the Reynolds Gym building just outside of the Student Health Center entrance. (See a map with all book return locations.)

ZSR staff will empty the book returns at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each weekday. Don’t forget that the ZSR Delivers service can also pick up materials from your office.

Teaching With Technology

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:37 am

Following a successful pilot and with the approval of the Committee on Information Technology, Wake Forest University will transition from Blackboard to Sakai, a free and open-source online collaboration and learning management system. Sakai will offer some new features including wikis, blogs and chat. Sakai orientation sessions for faculty will be offered throughout the summer. Sign up for a Sakai class through the PDC site. The transition timeline and answers to other frequently asked questions are also available online.

ZSR will host two workshops this summer on using Zotero, an open-source citation manager, to collect and cite your research sources. Additionally, supporting documentation for Zotero and other tools can be found online.

ZSR Hosts Irish Scholar

Monday, May 10, 2010 10:36 am

Fiona Brennan, doctoral candidate from University College Cork, Ireland, was the inaugural recipient of the Provost’s Grant for Library Research. She was in residence for a week in March to conduct research in the Dolmen Press Archives. She also gave a public lecture on William Fitzmaurice, Abbey Theatre playwright. She contextualized Fitzmaurice’s work in terms of his cultural heritage, the local landscape, and his use of Hiberno-English dialogue. Her talk focused on her PhD research and the importance of archival sources to her studies.

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