Library Gazette

Technology Services and Special Collections Visit ECU

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 9:28 am

On Friday, May 28, Barry, Craig, Erik, Jean-Paul, Megan, and I visited East Carolina University in Greenville to spend some time with their Digital Collections unit and Special Collections department.

After introductions, Digital Collections unit head Gretchen Gueguen gave us an overview of the origin and initiatives of the unit. Like ZSR, digitization projects at ECU began as digital exhibits, but a standard procedure for metadata and digitization was needed. Some of the policies Gretchen and her team created include a digital collections development policy as well as technical guidelines for digitization.

Gretchen discussing Digital Collections at ECU

Gretchen then described the current architecture of digital collections. Digital collections are stored in a home-grown TeXtML/asp.net repository. ECU uses dSpace for ETDs and other faculty/student research, but not for special collections. Metadata is formatted as XML in a METS wrapper, using MODS for descriptive metadata and Dublin Core for OAI harvesting. Erik and Jean-Paul mentioned that their repository is Windows-based, but we got some great ideas from their user interface.

On the Digital Collections website, Gretchen explained that digital objects were arranged according to collection strengths instead of by collection title or digital exhibit. Users can explore subject-arranged collections. In this way, Gretchen showed how digital collections can be a way to intellectually organize material in a digital interface. The option to search across all collections is featured on their website. The site includes a shuffled tag cloud consisting of shortened LC subject headings, as well as LC, geographic location, and date information as facets for digital object records. Here is an example. Note how each record includes a “Related Resources” box that links the record to subject collections and records with the same LC subject headings. One of the most innovative features of the box is that it links the record back to its source collection’s finding aid – as well as other items in the same box, folder, or collection! This is something we could do at ZSR. User comments are easy to add and are indexed in the object’s MODS record.

Archival finding aids at ECU are encoded by Mark Custer, who created a functional and creative stylesheet that allows users to interact with content and digitized material. Each finding aid has a tab for viewing digital objects, which links back to the digital repository. Here is an example. Finding aids are fully searchable and include a printable version. ECU does not use Archivists’ Toolkit but they are investigating the possibility of incorporating it into their workflow.

Metadata librarian Patricia Dragon demonstrated the web-based form that was created for her and other catalogers to use to catalog digital objects. Once material has been digitized, catalogers are sent a “job” request to catalog the objects. Using pull-down menus, catalogers choose descriptive terms for materials (even previously used LCSH and creator terms are saved). The web forms interact with a SQL database and are re-indexed regularly. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the metadata workflow is that all digital objects are made available online with basic metadata (such as title and source collection) and remain that way until fully cataloged.

Digitization and digital project requests forms are also web-based, making it easier for library staff to submit ideas. Their form is similar to a draft that I am working on, except it is connected to an SQL database that staff can interact with and prioritize. ECU is forming a “selection advisory team” similar to what we are working on, that will score, rank, and give deadlines to digital project submissions. This type of group is also being discussed at ZSR.

Touring the Special Collections Reading Room

We got a tour of Special Collections from Dale Sauter, which included their beautiful reading room and spacious archival stacks. We learned that Special Collections’ role is more focused on selection and project suggestion, less on description or project management. While Digital Collections has existed as a unit within the Special Collections department at ECU, last week the unit was moved to a new department called Library Technology and Digital Initiatives (they are searching for a department head). We also had a tour of the Digital Collections area of the library, where Joe Barricella supervises student employees’ digitization and technical metadata.

Joe Observing Digitization by a Student

The digitization task force at ZSR will be meeting early this month to discuss the ECU visit and potential policies for digitization. Overall, it was an inspiring and informative field trip!

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!

Amazing Instruction Stats

Thursday, November 19, 2009 10:46 pm

If the folks in Research and Instruction have looked a bit like deer caught in headlights this semester there is good reason. Our statistics are through the roof for both library instruction ‘one shot’ classes as well as one-on-one personal research sessions. So far this semester we have taught 124 one-shot library instruction sessions to 1928 students. That is 81% of sessions (75% of students) of the TOTAL number we did in the entire 2008-2009 year!! And the same is true of Personal Research Sessions. So far this year we have done 305 Personal Research Sessions which is 73% of the total number from all of last year. (Last year we nearly doubled the number of personal research sessions from the year before). And we still have two weeks to go and many sessions scheduled in those weeks. And it has not just been the Research and Instruction folks who have been participating. Carolyn McCallum, Leslie McCall, Cristina Yu and Erik Mitchell have all taught classes.

We’ve had lots of discussions (around the pots of very strong coffee we brew each morning) about why this is the case, and we feel that it in some way goes back to the new kind of students and faculty Wake Forest is attracting and developing who are not only willing to seek out help, but who are eager to take advantage of help when it is offered. That, coupled with the fact that we are good at our jobs, means faculty keep asking us to teach sessions, and students come back time and time again and tell their friends about us. The long hours, late night emails with students to schedule meetings, hours of prep for instruction sessions and the time spent on creating LibGuides are all worth it when we see the light go on in the eyes of students when they find the exact sources that will help them write their papers or when we have faculty thank us for the help we give their students. We feel this is one of the critical ways we help our students and faculty succeed and it is the heart and soul of our jobs, but we’ll all need a break come the holidays to gear up for it all again in the Spring!

RITS 2009 Team Retreat at Fancy Gap

Saturday, October 31, 2009 6:49 pm

Fancy Gap VA.
RITS 2009 Team Portrait

L-R: Bobbie Collins, Jean-Paul Bessou, Mary Scanlon, Erik Mitchell, Tim Mitchell, Giz Womack, Roz Tedford, Lauren Pressley, Susan Smith, Kaeley McMahan, Barry Davis, Ellen Daugman, Molly Keener, Kevin Gilbertson

Last summer the RITS Team was formed by combining the Research and Information Services and the Information Technology teams. Our initial team retreat was held early-on to help organize the new unit but we met on-campus for just a morning. This fall, after a year of working together, we decided to take our retreat on the road to the Wake Forest Lodge at Fancy Gap, adopting a long-standing Tech Team tradition.

This has been an extraordinary year for the team – one that has seen this new team rise to meet every challenge that’s been thrown at it, including:

  • bad economic conditions that caused a hiring freeze that kept positions unfilled for the majority of the year,
  • a change to library faculty status for many of the team that came with a new set of additional expectations and responsibilities,
  • major consolidation of collections and services on the 4th floor,
  • a merged service project with IS that has transformed the ITC area to “The Bridge”
  • successful marketing of the library saw a 37% increase in traffic that translated to record demand for BI sessions, Personal Research sessions and other services, and
  • a mandate to move toward migrating IT services to the cloud.

It has become next to impossible to find many hours during the week where the 15 RITS team members are available to come together as a group, let alone have a meaningful all-day retreat. Realizing this, 6 months ago we booked the Fancy Gap house and put October 30th on all of our calendars to reserve the day to reflect on our accomplishments and challenges, as well as to look toward the future.

Some RITS members (Giz, Tim, Roz and Susan) formed an advance team and went up the hill to the lodge on Thursday evening to prepare for the larger group to arrive Friday morning. We had the fire burning and breakfast ready when the rest of the group arrived via carpool groups (we missed Sarah who had a family illness that prevented her from coming). We were pleased to include the new team members that luckily (for all of us!) had come aboard when the hiring freeze was lifted in July: Barry Davis ( Coordinator for Multimedia and Digital Production Services), Jean-Paul Bessou (Systems Librarian), and Molly Keener (Scholarly Communication Librarian).

After breakfast, the retreat began with an ice breaker activity (no, it wasn’t a team hike!). We divided into 4 smaller groups. Each person was given a “deck” of personal value cards and was asked to sort each of the values into one of five categories: “always value,” “often value,” “sometimes value,” “seldom value,” or “never value.” Within each group, participants discussed the reasons for their choices and compared similarities and differences. The goal of the exercise was to get people talking about their own value system and how these intersect with each other and with their professional values. An online example of a value sort will give you an idea of the types of values included. Following the group breakout, we reconvened as one large group and talked about which of these values are important to the RITS team as a whole. The values identified as important to the team are: “help others,” “knowledge,” “compassion,” “competence,” “wisdom,” “reflection,” “challenge,” “personal development,” “happiness,” “change/variety,” “community,” and “location.” We found that each of these values may mean different things to each of us, but are all qualities we find important in our professional lives at ZSR Library.

We had set an ambitious list of topics to cover during the day and addressed most of them (with a break for a great buffet lunch), but two main topics seemed to resonate the most with our diverse group, so we ended up giving these the time they deserved:

  • The VuFind project. There were important exchanges about the prognosis for continued progress in relation to its current state’s impact on services during the fall semester. The technology end of the team listened to specifics from the public service end of the team that clarified the types of roadblocks they are encountering in trying to meet the library’s mission of helping our faculty and students succeed. The potential of VuFind is not yet the reality of VuFind and this disconnect has daily implications when we are trying to give our community the best help. The public service end of the team listened to the technology end to understand the actions they are taking to bring VuFind to the point where it can be relied upon to deliver the desired up-to-date, accurate data. We talked about how to modify access to it and the classic catalog to improve things in the short term.
  • “What Can Give?” I think everyone recognizes that this has been an eventful year that has stretched all teams’ ability to deliver current and new services effectively. It’s no secret that there is a higher level of stress in all of us as we take on the increase in new challenges and opportunities. We spent most of the afternoon discussing which (if any) activities aren’t producing adequate results for the investment of time and resources. We’ve compiled a list that will be offered to the library administration to contribute to a wider discussion of fine tuning our services to optimize the impact of what we offer. We finished with a lengthy discussion of what barriers are preventing each of us from optimal productivity and brainstormed possible solutions. Again, we will compile a few proposals that we hope will be a basis for a wider discussion.

The day ended with the taking of the official 2009 RITS team portrait that we have decided to title “RITS in the Cloud” in honor of our goal to move to the cloud and because the day was so foggy nobody could see past the driveway most of the day! Thanks to Bobbie’s husband Jim for serving as the photographer.

Update on RITS Organization Efforts

Saturday, July 19, 2008 8:39 am

During the past several weeks since the Research, Instruction and Technology Services Team was formed, efforts have been underway to establish its structure.

Initial organizational structure was announced last week. Two team sub-units have been established to facilitate daily operations. Roz Tedford has been appointed Assistant Head of Research and Instruction Services and Erik Mitchell has been named Assistant Head of Technology Services. Two “bridge” positions were identified that already span functions of both units: Giz Womack (Technology Training Manager) and Lauren Pressley (Instructional Design Librarian). To assist with team integration, Giz and Lauren have switched “home” units – Giz will be with Research & Instruction and Lauren with Technology. Other functional changes may take place as the team identifies ways to improve its effectiveness.

Part of the integration process includes physically placing people in office locations where they will be close to their unit colleagues. To accomplish this to some extent, we have moved some of us to new offices. Giz has moved to the 4th floor Reference Office Suite. Susan, Erik and Lauren did the “Big Move”, a circular office switch! Susan is now in 457A (Lauren’s old office), Erik is in Susan’s old office (258B), and Lauren has moved into Erik’s old location (302A). Stay tuned for an open house to show off the new offices, but in the meantime, please come visit!

Susan Returns to Her First ZSR Library OfficeSusan’s New Office
Erik's New OfficeErik’s New Office
Lauren's New OfficeLauren’s New Office
Giz's New OfficeGiz’s New Office

The process of developing a job description for the open team position (the one vacated by Mary Horton) will commence this month with a projected search to begin in early fall. We will revise the position into one on the Technology side so that we can address our need for the additional programming skills required for us to migrate to more open source systems. But we will look for a person who also can contribute to the library instruction programs.

The largest project for RITS during the next academic year is the consolidation of our Government Documents and Microtext Departments. This project will require the talents of many people within the RITS team, as well as from other Library Teams (Resource and Access Services). Mary Scanlon will lead the task force that is being formed to manage this project. Details on this important initiative will be shared as we proceed.


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