Planet Code4Lib

Tech screens, how do they work / Andromeda Yelton

I just had So Many job interviews, which means I had so many tech screens, all of which ran differently. I didn’t know what to expect going into most of them — I’ve only interviewed in the library world in the past, where many organizations don’t have tech screens at all, but some of these were industry jobs — and organizations varied in how much they explained what to expect, so I’m going to outline the varieties of tech screen I faced in hopes this will help you. All organization names are, obviously, anonymized.

The Order of the Promethean Banner

A screen (preceding any human interviews) via Triplebyte, which presented short blocks of code and asked multiple-choice questions about their outputs, flaws, et cetera. Questions were timed. Googling, documentation, REPLs, et cetera were disallowed.

I am pretty sure I went down in flames on this one. While I got to choose a language I am familiar with, the questions mostly concerned obscure edge cases and details of that language — some of which I know, some of which I have literally never used in ten years of writing software. (One of which my husband, who has been writing extremely hardcore software for thirty years, thinks he’s used once.)

But also: I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of my skills, or the job’s skills. In the real world, I actually do read documentation, or write tests, or try something out in a REPL if I’m not sure of how something works. And: the job description wasn’t for someone writing 6-line functions to exercise weird edge cases; it was for someone operating at a much more senior level where architecture and communication skills are important.

This was also, in effect, the front door to the company. I decided I didn’t want to work at a place whose opener was so hostile, and withdrew this application.

The Society of the Emerald Smiles

“Bring a piece of code you have written, or substantially contributed to, and tell us about it.”

This was great. I knew exactly what to expect in advance. My prep was limited to choosing code and finding its GitHub link, and that was short because I know off the top of my head the code I’m proudest of. I knew that code showcased — not only my skills in general — but the particular skills I wanted them to see for this position. I came in feeling confident and relaxed, because I know this code, and I know I did an excellent job with it. I got to be the expert in the room storytelling and fielding questions rather than a supplicant in an interrogation. The code was firmly grounded in the real world. We got to talk about design decisions, aesthetics, documentation, et cetera as well as syntax-level stuff. 👍

The Union of the Ancient Oak

A take-home: they added me to a private repo which contained a small but working app, and asked me to add some small and clearly-scoped features. Then in the interview we talked about the code I’d written, why I made those choices, alternative possibilities, et cetera.

I’m sensitive to concerns that take-homes unfairly privilege people with lots of spare time, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask candidates to do short prep work, and this was well-scoped. (They said it should take less than three hours, and it did; quite a lot less if I recall correctly.) It used a familiar web framework and followed its conventions, so for anyone familiar with that framework (which successful candidates for this job will be) it was quite easy to get oriented to the code and figure out where the new features might go. The code came with tests (not all of which worked — a nice way to check that your candidates actually run the tests — all of which were simple to fix). Writing the code here was not hard but it was realistic. The sample data had a sense of humor, which was fun, and made their company culture look good.

As with the previous format, this meant that I got to come into the interview with code I was familiar with and could talk about from a position of expertise, which meant I felt confident. Not coincidentally, in both of these interviews, I got strong positive feedback about my code — because both of them had set me up for success, made it easy for me to show them my best work.

The League of the Ghostly Well

Another take-home, this one strictly timed to 90 minutes (solidly within my “reasonable to expect of a candidate” realm). Two parts: one writing up a feature proposal; one doing code review. In other words, this one is striking for involving no actual coding! But above the junior level these skills of design, communication, and mentorship are more important, and this exercise seemed well-scoped to capture those skills. At the same time, it did draw on my syntax-level knowledge due to the utter haplessness of the code I was reviewing 😂

I did feel some breathlessness from the time pressure (while simultaneously appreciating that the organization was being respectful of people who have less available time). But as with the preceding, the format meant that I got to the subsequent human interview with code that I was familiar with and could discuss from a position of some confidence. The interviewers were also totally aware that in the real world they would have needed more time to do their best work on these prompts, so they didn’t expect me to be perfect. It left room for conversations about alternatives I would have considered with more time, which is a good sort of thing to talk about in an interview.

The Guild of the Radiant Visage

We had a video call via Hackerrank. They sent me a link to a Hackerrank sandbox first so that I could get familiar with the platform, which was a hospitable touch. It’s quite nice, actually; in-browser coding with input, output, REPL, editor; nice syntax coloring, tab completion, the stuff I do subconsciously while typing works more or less as I expect, the editor has vim and emacs modes too if you’re into that sort of thing.

I was worried this might be like Triplebyte, but no; they presented me with a description of a function they wanted to implement. This function was a simplified version of something they encounter in their day-to-day work, and they took the time to explain the context. The description included sample input and expected output.

I found it extremely nerve-wracking to do live coding, but they were nice about both stepping back when I needed space to think, and throwing me some lifelines. In the end I missed one edge case and was totally kicking myself about that (it’s absolutely the sort of thing I would have caught in a calmer situation) and sure I’d tanked it. But my husband (who does a lot of interviewing for his company) said that the fact that I finished with time to spare was a good sign and that in his standard interview problem (a code review), people who get 40% of the available bugs get a thumbs-up from him. Whew. And as it turns out I did get an offer from this organization, so apparently you really don’t have to be perfect!

Hope this helps, people of the internet. Good luck in your interviews.

Universal design for work? / Meredith Farkas

I’ve had migraines for over 20 years.

I didn’t seek workplace accommodations for them until this year.

The biggest barrier to getting accommodations at work was my own internalized ableism, but of course I came by it honestly in our society. There were two elements holding me back. The first was shame about my limitations. It felt like I should be able to muscle through it. For years, I taught classes, worked reference desk shifts, and gave talks while feeling excruciating pain, nausea, dizziness, a fuzzy brain, and sometimes delightful visual or olfactory aura (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to work while strobe lights only you can see are blocking more than half your field of vision). Not muscling through felt like weakness. I wanted to be a team player! The other thing that held me back was feeling like what I had wasn’t really a disability. Sure, it often kept me from living my life and completing important tasks — lying in a pitch black room, feeling like there’s a knife in my head and I’m on a boat on stormy seas, doing everything in my power not to move so it wouldn’t get worse. Sure, sometimes I have had migraines half the days of each month, but it’s not a disability. I think there’s something about migraines being called headaches that make them seem like no big deal. I read somewhere that they’re starting to be called migraine syndrome, a reflection of the fact that they cause more than head pain and impact more than the brain. Migraines impact each individual so differently; some people don’t even have headaches but experience dizziness and weakness, debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms, or even temporary paralysis. My migraines range widely in severity and symptoms — some are almost manageable and others destroy me for days. But they are a disability. When I have one, they substantially limit many of my life activities. And yet I spent years thinking that other people with disabilities would laugh at me for thinking I belonged under their tent.

Part of confronting my workaholism meant confronting my tendency to downplay and muscle through my own physical and psychological pain. So I decided to finally seek accommodations for my migraines. The two years working fully from home made me realize that I could work through many migraines by working in the dark lying down. I only needed to take sick leave once in two years for migraines. I first informally asked my boss (after first checking in with my amazingly collaborative and supportive fellow reference and instruction librarians on my campus) if I could work remotely when I had a migraine. My manager asked me to go through the College’s ADA accommodation process, which she believed would support me better in the long-term (and yes, I can understand that having it documented that way means it can’t be summarily taken away by a future boss). Unfortunately, it’s also a dehumanizing process. First, I had to get my neurologist to complete the unnecessarily invasive form from my College, which she initially didn’t want to complete at all because it asked her to tell them what my accommodation should be when she really wasn’t the person who should be determining that. Then, after two months with no response from HR, I went to a meeting with my manager and the ADA coordinator. First of all, the ADA coordinator told me that my request was so strange and difficult because I couldn’t predict exactly when I’d get migraines. It made me wonder how much she knew about disabilities, given that most chronic conditions are unpredictable. The whole conversation, in which I was mostly spoken about in the 3rd person, made me feel like a massive inconvenience, the very thing that had kept me from acknowledging my disability for two decades. Ultimately, we agreed on the exact same thing I’d asked my manager for many months before. And more than a month later, I still have nothing in writing. It’s been really demoralizing, and yet I know it’s so much less onerous and humiliating than it’s been for many library workers who’ve gone through these processes at their institutions.

Two weeks ago, at the super-fantastic CALM Conference, there were a few sessions about ADA accommodations and creating an inclusive and accessible library culture (I believe only one was recorded). Part of me felt a sense of belonging, knowing I’m not the only one dealing with these issues. Part of me felt angry that so many people who already have heavy struggles have to jump through these ridiculous hoops to get what they need to do their jobs effectively. Because this isn’t about getting special treatment. It’s about equity. It’s about getting everyone to a place where they can do their best work. It got me really thinking about what a truly accessible workplace would look like if we applied universal design.

From the National Disability Authority in Ireland comes this definition of Universal Design:

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. 

-From What is universal design

The NCSU Center for Universal Design (which ironically is not currently funded because, you know, this isn’t important), proposed these principles of UD:

  • Equitable use
  • Flexibility in use
  • Simple and intuitive use
  • Perceptible information
  • Tolerance for error
  • Low physical effort
  • Size and space for approach and use

The goal of universal design is to design spaces to minimize the need for accommodations because they work for everyone by design. While has primarily been discussed in the design of spaces and objects, I feel like the concept could be extended to organizational design. What if we provided not only spaces and furniture that helped employees do their best work, but also designed the organizational structure for maximum inclusivity?

There are so many problems with my current office workspace (a cubicle farm) and all of them, while impacting my and my colleagues’ comfort and well-being, also impact our ability to do our best work and to be at all productive. Most involve noise issues, lots of people coming into and walking through our space, temperature issues (so cold it literally makes my fingers cramp up so I can’t type), and smell issues from a microwave that none of us who work in the space actually use. We’ve brought up these issues with our manager and have not really received support. The only gains we’ve ever made have been when we could tie improvements in our space to bigger issues like COVID (we got air filters), student privacy (we’re getting a tiny windowless closet-like space in which to do Zoom reference), and the rodent problem in the library (we might get permission to remove the microwave); concerns about our well-being and productivity do not seem to move the needle. The result is that we are significantly less productive than we would be without the constant noise interruptions AND we feel like our needs are being categorically ignored (which, let’s face it, will also impact productivity).

So what would universal design in a workspace include? These are just off the top of my head. I’d love to hear suggestions from others:

  • Highly adjustable furniture and ergonomic tech — there will probably still be a need for custom chairs to be purchased for people with very unique needs, but offering highly-adjustable chairs will work for a wider variety of individuals. I just recent got a new chair that has adjustable seat depth, tilt, etc. and I can’t tell you how much better I feel when I get up from that chair than I ever did in anything I’ve had in the past. My chairs in the past just went up and down and didn’t really fit my 5′ frame. I plan to start wheeling it to the reference desk because the chair there is way too big for me and it’s caused back and shoulder tension that helps cause migraines. I also have a sit-to-stand desk that goes below the average desk height, which is perfect for a tiny person like me. Adjustable sit-to-stand desks really should be the default now.
  • Better control over temperature or some kind of portable heating (that won’t cause a fire) for people who are cold. My Bob Cratchit gloves are not cutting it.
  • If it’s not possible to give everyone workspaces that aren’t full of noise and interruptions, at least offer spaces where people can go to work in silence when they really need to concentrate or become overwhelmed by all the activity in their workspace (and those spaces also need highly-adjustable furniture so that person doesn’t have to hurt their body to work there). I’ve been many many times more productive at home over the past two years because I’m not constantly interrupted by slamming doors, people talking loudly on their cell phones just over my cubicle wall, etc. I can’t even imagine how much more awful spaces with constant interruptions like that are for people with ADHD or are neurodivergent.
  • If people work in a cubicle or open office setting, they should be offered noise-cancelling headphones (with choices about the type they prefer) without even needing to request them.
  • Alternative lighting to the horrible overhead fluorescents for shared workspaces. They trigger migraines for me and aggravate existing ones, but because I work in a space with many other people, it’s not like I can unilaterally choose to turn them off. My colleagues were kind enough to allow me to have blue light covers installed over them so they’re less harsh, but they’re still a problem. It would be great if people were all given lamps so if a colleague needed the overhead lights turned off, it wouldn’t be a problem. Migraines are super-common in our profession and others struggle with those awful harsh overhead lights.
  • Maybe also spaces where people could easily talk to each other and collaborate without disturbing everyone else. It’s damn hard to be working on something that requires concentration and have two people talking to each other just a few feet away from you. I’ve been on both sides of that equation. I think this would also be helpful for people to take online meetings. Pre-COVID, it was frustrating to have to work while a colleague was doing an online meeting right behind or next to you, but now, with the huge number of online meetings we have, it would be intolerable.
  • Certainly a convenient private place for new mothers to pump breastmilk that isn’t a bathroom. Also a prayer and meditation space. Definitely gender neutral restrooms. People shouldn’t have to ask for these things because only people with the most political capital and the least precarity will.
  • When there are events that include meals, ask people about their dietary restrictions/allergies in advance so everyone has access to full, healthy meals.
  • And certainly let people work from home when they need to do work that requires concentration and they don’t otherwise have to be in the library.
  • I’m sure there’s a lot more stuff that I’m not thinking of. What else would you add to this list?

An organization that embraces universal design would be focused on figuring out how to help you do your best work rather than making you feel bad or demanding for having needs that aren’t met by the current set-up. Obviously we will work better under circumstances that nurture rather than stress us. Some of that might mean shifting management style, work hours, what tasks or roles you’re given, etc. Some of it may mean accommodating specific needs or limitations you have. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to get a doctor’s note or go through an invasive and dehumanizing process to get the working conditions you need to be successful. What might that look like?

  • This is an obvious one, but organizations should have solid documentation and a comprehensive on-boarding process so new people don’t have to struggle so much in the first place. I’ve never worked anywhere that did a good job of this. We had a new part-time reference librarian start this past week and she sent a panicked Slack message on Saturday morning because she couldn’t log in to her Zoom account through the College to get to an appointment with a student. Those of us who’ve been at PCC a while, know that for some reason the SSO Zoom login never works in regular Chrome (you get a 400 error) so you need to either open an incognito window or use Firefox. But that was not communicated to her. Thank goodness I happened to be on my computer and hadn’t closed Slack for the weekend so I answered, but that stuff should be documented. We shouldn’t normalize that panicky clueless feeling a lot of folks feel in their first year in a job; it should and can be easier. For people who suffer from anxiety, that experience is even more fraught.
  • People at all levels of the organization feel like their voices are heard and valued. Feedback is solicited, welcomed, and taken to heart; there’s no evidence of listening theater. Decisions are not made about a service area without working with and hearing from the people intimately involved in the work. Communication is transparent and frequent so everyone understands why and how decisions were made.
  • Managers erect guardrails to support healthy work-life balance for all and that prevent employees from having to set individual boundaries to protect their time and well-being, because we know that only people with secure jobs will be able to set those.
  • So long as people are getting the needed work done, they are trusted to get it done in what way works best for them.
  • Your manager should have a long conversation with you about how you work best. What management style works well for you? What is your ideal work style? What can I (the manager) put in place to help you be successful? I’m the sort of person who does her best work when I am working on one thing for a good long period of time rather than in bits and spurts. I don’t get bored and I don’t need/want to switch tasks. In fact, switching tasks is pretty deadly for me as it takes me a long time to get back into something. But my job isn’t set up in a way that enables such work.
  • Your manager would also ask you about when you’re most productive and try to give you a schedule that helps you do your best work. I am most productive in the mornings, so having 8-12pm clear helps me do my best work. I have a colleague who is productive much later in the day and prefers coming in at 10am. Within reason (obviously a library has to be staffed), a good manager would try to learn this about their staff and let them work a schedule that works for them.
  • Your manager would also ask you about needs or limitations that they can help to accommodate without needing to be invasive. You wouldn’t have to tell your boss you have a specific disability, but you could say that you occasionally need to work from home when you’re having a flare-up or that you can’t drive when it’s dark. Or that your condition makes it very hard for you to manage things like instruction calendars or managing multiple calendars. You could also talk about caregiving limitations. That you have to pick up a child at school at a certain time each day. That you might need to frequently flex your time to take an elderly parent to appointments. We have to stop treating caregiving needs like something you shouldn’t talk about at work or something that somehow shouldn’t be factored in. I felt like the minute I had my baby I was supposed to pretend he didn’t exist, at least in the sense that he had needs I had to fulfill. I once interviewed for a job where the Dean told me “people who want to spend time with their families shouldn’t take tenure track jobs.” I’m sorry, what??? It’s amazing that a feminized profession can be so hostile to parents, but stories like this abound. To this day, no one in a leadership position at my library or college has done anything to explicitly support working parents during COVID nor has even acknowledged the extreme difficulty of being a working parent during COVID. And the stress of those of us who live with folks who are immunocompromised has been equally unacknowledged by most organizations.

I think we can get stuck on the idea that everyone should be doing the exact same things or have the exact same expectations. My library is that way. Every ref/instruction librarian works one evening reference shift per week. Everyone does x# of hours at the reference desk (and now x# of hours of zoom reference coverage). It stays the same even when we know that other aspects of our workloads are extremely unequal. Occasionally we make exceptions when people have taken on additional roles, but not really to accommodate conditions they may have or limitations in their lives. We also don’t make changes based on people’s interests and abilities. My former colleague and I did that for each other informally. She took on more hours at the reference desk (her favorite thing to do) and I coordinated the instruction calendar (which I’m good at) and took on more teaching (which I love doing). Seeing how that kind of flexibility was possible made me wonder if it could be done at a larger scale. But if nothing else, we should reject this idea that equal means equitable. There are people who enjoy having evening shifts because it gives them time during a weekday to run errands (that was me before I had my son). There are people for whom having evening shifts is a constant cause of stress and juggling because of their status as a caregiver or because they can’t drive at night and have to deal with public transit that’s really unreliable in their area at night or whatever. Yet we act as if giving these people the same thing is somehow equitable. If it’s working great for one person and turning the other person’s life upside-down, it’s not equitable. But again, we’re supposed to pretend that our bodies, children, sick relatives, and needs don’t exist when we go to work, right?

Obviously, there are realities of the job and we might not be able to get schedules, work spaces, or the exact flexibility we’d ideally want. There are aspects of our jobs that allow for more and less flexibility as we all saw during the pandemic. Some parts are inevitably inflexible and others really depend on the manager. I know that I had far more gas in the tank for jobs where I felt supported, trusted, and was given more of what I needed to be successful. But I’ve never worked anywhere where there was really a focus on trying to adapt the job to the person. What would that feel like?

When we start a new job, we are expected to adapt and assimilate to the existing culture. And maybe that worked in 1950’s white-collar work when nearly everyone was a middle class White dude. We have a world of work that was mostly designed around unencumbered and able-bodied White men. If they had children, they certainly had a wife doing the caregiving. Since the 1970s, women have entered the workforce in droves, yet the essential structure of the workplace has barely changed; if anything it’s worse as its tentacles have now staked claim to our personal time as well with email, Slack, etc. Rather than providing automatic support for caregivers, we have to ask for things (if they exist at all), be it a year off the tenure clock, a place to pump breast milk, or a flexible schedule. And many of us won’t ask, especially if we work in or feel any sort of precarity, because we want to look like team players… like we’re tough enough. The option to stop the tenure clock is way underutilized by parents. And so many of us with disabilities won’t ask for accommodations because we don’t want to be seen as less capable or as a problem. How else could my college’s ADA accommodation coordinator, who has had the job for more than a decade, not have any awareness of chronic unpredictable illnesses (omg, there are DOZENS of them!!!)? How many people at my institution are not set up to do their best work, are burning themselves out, because they are too ashamed or fearful of going through the accommodation process (and after reading horror stories, who can blame them?). If people who have caregiving needs or disabilities and aren’t seeking even the accommodations that do exist, something is systemically broken. And stories like this one, where a woman only sought accommodations once she was finally in a position of power, are shockingly common.

We want to create diverse workplaces by focusing on recruitment, scholarships, creating diversity residencies, improving the interview process, etc., but if we still expect the person to assimilate to the institution — if the institution’s culture is an immovable wall — we will never be an inclusive culture. People who don’t “fit” will burn out and/or leave, and that person is far more likely to be from an underrepresented group. As someone who experienced trauma growing up, I’ve always felt like I needed to shape-shift and change to fit whatever setting or relationship I was in. I think of all the different romantic relationships I had before I got married and what a different person I was in each of them. After a while, both in romantic relationships and with work, I would realize how much of myself I’d sacrificed and end up in obliger rebellion. With my husband, from the beginning, I felt like I could be me. I didn’t have to wear a mask or change myself. I could ask for what I needed. But I’ve never felt that way in a workplace. So I change. And for people who aren’t willing to assimilate or who can’t blend in as easily as I (a White cisgendered woman with no visible disabilities) can, it’s often extremely painful to work in a place that makes you feel you don’t fit. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. Managers should help create environments where we can be our true best selves. People shouldn’t have to silence themselves or inhabit whiteness to be able to thrive in the organization. No one should have to feel hypervisible or invisible because of some aspect of their identity. We should be appreciated for the unique things we bring to the table and for new and challenging ideas we may bring. There should be openness to change from the organization by design; to allow flex and movement as opposed to a rigid brick wall. There should be universal design for work and organizations. What would that look like? How flexible is your organization? How intuitive or perceptible is it? How equitable is it? How approachable is it for someone new? I’ve had the opportunity to look at my organization through the eyes of my colleague in her first academic year as a full-time faculty member (who unlike me asks “why?” and doesn’t just assimilate) and wow is it not any of those things. Ouch.

What could managers do to make libraries more inclusive for all workers? What would universal design for work look like? Does anyone have stories of places that have made an effort to better support their employees as whole people? I know a lot of you have done a lot more thinking and reading about this topic than I have, and I’d love to hear what you think or if you have any readings you’d like to recommend.

Print Redux? / HangingTogether

Years ago, organizations like LOCKSS, Portico, and the Internet Archive emerged with a mission to preserve access to vulnerable digital materials. We have more recently seen digital materials utilized to preserve access to physically inaccessible print collections. The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdowns and closures of libraries’ physical spaces, dramatically curtailed access to print collections. In response, HathiTrust launched a new Emergency Temporary Access Service (ETAS) that offered temporary access to copyrighted digital material to communities served by libraries that held print versions in their collections. In this way, print collections became accessible through virtualization.

Adapting print to the pandemic

Some of the earliest adaptations library staff made to the conditions brought about by the pandemic involved innovative ways to re-connect patrons to the print collection. OCLC Research’s New Model Library project conducted interviews with library leaders from around the world to gather their perspective on their library’s response to the pandemic’s new operational context, as well as their vision for library futures as a result of changing practices and environments. The study found that 25 of 29 library leaders interviewed during April-July 2020 reported that all in-person services had been suspended as a consequence of the pandemic. But by early July 2020, 12 of the libraries had re-opened some in-person services, and of these, the most frequently cited were circulation and pickup of physical items, including new “curbside” pickup services.

The importance of restoring access to print materials was also underscored by the launching of the first phase of the REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project in Spring 2020. A partnership between OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle, REALM investigated good practices for mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus while handling circulating physical materials – like print – in the library collection. And access to print was further improved as many libraries instituted or expanded mail-to-user services, where physical items from their own collections and even those borrowed via inter-library loan (ILL) were shipped to users’ home addresses. 

Efforts like ETAS, REALM, and even curbside pick-up of physical materials highlight the continuing value library communities place on access to the print collection, and the disruption that occurs when that connection is severed. Yet before the pandemic, a very different perception of print collections seemed to be taking hold. Many library staff were seeking strategies to “manage down” their print collections, evidenced by efforts to move large portions of print collections to off-site storage, and the emergence of shared print initiatives as a means of distributing responsibility for retaining and preserving the print record while helping to relieve local space constraints. Print collections were seen as consuming scarce physical space within the library building that could be re-purposed for higher value activities. More broadly, print was seen as a legacy of the past, and not where many libraries were imagining their future.

Today, with the pandemic experience fresh in our minds, there is a chance to take a new look at the future of print collections. A good starting point for this re-assessment is the observation that access to print collections was in fact keenly missed during the pandemic, both in academic and public libraries. The findings of the New Model Library study showed that library leaders recognized that print collections were undergoing change – not just because of the pandemic, but also because of trends re-shaping library collections that were in place well before COVID-19 entered the picture. But an important countervailing message we heard from library leaders was that print collections still were highly valued by the communities academic and public libraries serve. This point was thrown into stark relief when the pandemic disrupted access to print materials.

What the pandemic told us about print collections

The trends that were impacting print collections before the pandemic – e.g., space pressures, low usage rates, budgetary re-allocations toward expensive licensed e-content – have not disappeared, and print collections will continue to be adapted to new circumstances. But in speaking to library leaders involved in the New Model Library study, several points emerged that merit consideration as library staff continue to re-shape the future of print collections:

  • The pandemic was a good reminder that there are segments of the community who very much prioritize print materials as their preferred mode of access. In this sense, the shift to e-resources necessitated by the pandemic – e.g., through the HathiTrust ETAS, or through ramped-up provision of ebooks and other digital resources – will be seen by these community members not as a more convenient alternative, but as a necessary but temporary measure until physical access to the print collection could be fully restored.
  • The print collection is an important safety net for members of the community who do not have access to the layer of technology needed to support access and use of e- and digital resources. Not everyone is equipped with the hardware, software, connectivity, and digital literacy needed to effectively navigate and use virtualized collections; for these library users, the print collection is irreplaceable as a means of accessing books and other resources. For example, one library leader we spoke to described how library staff made special efforts to get physical materials to people without online access by bringing them to schools and shelters, or even placing them in food bank hampers.
  • The print collection will not disappear, but the pandemic prefigured ways that modes of access and use may change significantly. As the pandemic unfolded, library staff found new ways to connect patrons to print collections without entering the library premises, and some of these innovations may persist even as library spaces have since re-opened. For example, staff may take on a greater role in serving as an on-site intermediary between the user and the print collection, utilizing communication channels such as videoconferencing to aid in browsing or searching the print collection. User-driven acquisition programs may expand, with materials ordered and shipped directly to individuals’ homes and offices before being added to the library collection.

Print collections and library futures

All of this is not to say that the old perception of libraries as “book warehouses” should be resurrected. The New Model Library interviews included many instances where library leaders emphasized the competing claims on scarce library space – a point library staff were keenly aware of long before the pandemic. And the scaled-up provision and usage of e- and digital resources will likely persist even as the pandemic recedes, as users become more accustomed to and proficient in the use of virtual options. This in turn may work to diminish circulation and ILL numbers for print materials, and at the same time entrench significant budgetary re-allocations away from print to absorb the cost of licensing online materials.

Libraries will need to strike an appropriate balance between providing print collections in physical spaces and e- and digital collections in virtual spaces. And this must be informed step by step by the needs and expectations of library communities, which have undergone their own process of transformation as a result of the pandemic experience.

But even as library staff strike this balance, a key axiom underpinning the decision-making will be that print collections still are valued resources – both as a preferred mode of access for some, and as a safety net for those without access to technology resources. The means by which individuals access and use the print collection may change – and in some cases, even leverage virtual environments – but the importance of the library’s print collection will not. As library staff prepare to shape the New Model Library that works best for them, it probably is safe to say that the print collection will continue to have a significant role in library futures.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to my colleagues Brittany Brannon, Lynn Connaway, Brooke Doyle, Ixchel Faniel, Dennis Massie, and Merrilee Proffitt for helpful feedback on this post!

The post Print Redux? appeared first on Hanging Together.

Queer Superpowers: a workshop for Pride 2022 / Tara Robertson

Queer super powers: Pride 2022 workshops. Discover your queer superpowers! Comic book font and female superhero with big swoopey black hair and a masked face.

I’ve developed a new strengths-based workshop for Pride that uses superheros as a metaphor for exploring your unique superpowers. I’ve designed this with LGBTQ+, queer, and trans employee resource groups in mind. The idea for this came out of the coaching courses I just finished. Someone heard part of my story and said “it sounds like you took a difficult life experience and transformed it into your superpower.” which got me thinking that superheros are a fun metaphor to honour queer strength and resilience. 

This one-hour interactive workshop will help you to discover your superpower in being LGBTQ+. We’ll use superheros (or supervillains!) as a metaphor to explore one of your unique superpowers. You’ll learn to tell the story of your superpowers and come away with an action plan on how you can bring more of this superpower into your daily work and life.

I wasn’t too familiar with the genre of superhero movies or comics, but I’m researching by watching movies and reading comics. Last night my wife and I watched Thor Ragnarok and we had an awesome conversation about the different superpowers we saw in the characters. 

The workshop fee is $5000/group. Get in touch if you’re interested! 

The post Queer Superpowers: a workshop for Pride 2022 appeared first on Tara Robertson Consulting.

A "Blockchain Certificate of Deposit" / David Rosenthal

Front
Thanks to cryptocurrencies being decentralized they can eliminate the middleman, which leads to the fabulous offer from middleman Hex.com to revolutionize my finances that arrived unsolicited in my US mailbox last Wednesday.

How could I refuse to not just "earn up to 38% APY" but also receive "significant price appreciation" from the "fastest-appreciating digital asset in history"? It is a "blockchain Certificate of Deposit" and I know that Certificates of Deposit are issued by banks and are:
Back
a safer and more conservative investment than stocks and bonds, offering lower opportunity for growth, but with a non-volatile, guaranteed rate of return.
Middleman Hex.com says:
This common investment tool is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide with a market value in the trillions.

HEX uses blockchain technology to offer the same concept without the middleman.
The top national guaranteed rate for a 5-year bank CD is currently 3.15%, so clearly eliminating the bank middleman who seems to be taking a 35% cut means a blockchain CD guaranteed by middleman Hex.com is a winner with no additional risk!

Below the fold I look this gift horse in the mouth.

Does Hex.com have competitors? For example, there is BlockFi, backed by Coinbase, offering 3% APY on amounts up to 0.1BTC (In November 2020 it was 6% on up to 0.25BTC). Surely not a fly-by-night operation. They state:
BlockFi Interest Account clients can add their crypto and earn interest in crypto. Paid out at the beginning of every month, the crypto interest earned by account holders compounds, increasing the Annual Percentage Yield (APY)* for our clients. BlockFi uses a tiered Interest Structure. Click here to learn how our tiers work. Rates are effective May 1, 2022.

BlockFi Interest Accounts (BIAs) have not been registered under the Securities Act of 1933 and may not be offered or sold in the United States, to U.S. persons, for the account or benefit of a U.S. person or in any jurisdiction in which such offer would be prohibited.
Why is their interest rate less than 10% of Hex.com's, and about that of a bank CD, and why the restriction against sales in the US? In Grayscale Bitcoin Trust I quoted Amy Castor's Welcome to Grayscale’s Hotel California:
Crypto lender BlockFi’s reliance on the GBTC arbitrage is well known as the source of their high bitcoin interest offering. Customers loan BlockFi their bitcoin, and BlockFi invests it into Grayscale’s trust. By the end of October 2020, a filing with the SEC revealed BlockFi had a 5% stake in all GBTC shares.
Customers loaned BTC to BlockFi, so BlockFi has to give them BTC back. But it can't get the BTC it used to buy GBTC back, they're in the Hotel California. So BlockFi needs to sell the GBTC in the market to get cash to buy the BTC to give back to their customers:
Here’s the problem: Now that GBTC prices are below the price of bitcoin, BlockFi won’t have enough cash to buy back the bitcoins that customers lent to them. BlockFi already had to pay a $100 million fine for allegedly selling unregistered securities in 2021.
So even a shady operation like BlockFi can offer only low single-digit APYs.

A Certificate of Deposit is an effectively risk-free product with a guaranteed positive interest rate. Is it even possible to use DeFi to implement such a product? Fortunately, a recently published paper answers exactly that question. The abstract of Positive Risk-Free Interest Rates in Decentralized Finance by Ben Charoenwong, Robert M. Kirby and Jonathan Reiter reads:
Decentralized Finance (DeFi) aims to use advancements in both computation and cryptography to tackle standard economic problems. It must, therefore, operate within the intersection of constraints required by both the computer science and economic domains. We explore a foundational question at the junction of those fields: is it possible to generate a positive risk-free yield via smart contracts? We show using a stylized model representing a large class of existing decentralized consensus algorithms that a positive risk-free rate is not possible. This places strong bounds on what decentralized financial products can be built and constrains the shape of future developments in DeFi. Among other limitations, our results reveal that markets in DeFi are incomplete.
Charoenwong et al write:
Our main finding is that a general Turing-complete smart contract language is incom-patible with decentralized risk-free positive yield. The result follows from both Turing-completeness and decentralization properties. The former means a smart contract cannot be proven to halt while the latter means allowing an authority to intervene to halt the program is unacceptable as a solution. ... Furthermore, when coupled with the well-known Mundell-Fleming impossibility result, an economy without a positive risk-free rate faces additional macroeconomic policy constraints.
The "impossibility result" is:
The Mundell–Fleming model has been used to argue that an economy cannot simultaneously maintain a fixed exchange rate, free capital movement, and an independent monetary policy.
Charoenwong et al claim their main contribution is:
to show what classes of products cannot work – what cannot be copied wholesale from TradFi – and to cast recent advances in DeFi through the lens of an economic model that is based on computational theory. We show that smart contacts are not alchemy: they cannot generate yield out of nothing. Until someone designs a smart contract infrastructure more powerful than a Turing machine, it will not be possible to enforce risklessness with only code in a complex decentralized system.
Specifically, the product they prove cannot work is a Certificate of Deposit, a risk-free investment with a guarateed positive interest rate.

I have filed a complaint (complaint-56777) about this with the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.

Editorial — New name change policy / Code4Lib Journal

The Code4Lib Journal Editorial Committee is implementing a new name change policy aimed to facilitate the process and ensure timely and comprehensive name changes for anyone who needs to change their name within the Journal.

Works, Expressions, Manifestations, Items: An Ontology / Code4Lib Journal

The concepts first introduced in the FRBR document and known as "WEMI" have been employed in situations quite different from the library bibliographic catalog. This is evidence that a definition of similar classes that are more general than those developed for library usage would benefit metadata developers broadly. This article proposes a minimally constrained set of classes and relationships that could form the basis for a useful model of created works.

Citation Needed: Adding Citations to CONTENTdm Records / Code4Lib Journal

The Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Illinois State Library identified a need to add citation information to individual image records in OCLC’s CONTENTdm (https://www.oclc.org/en/contentdm.html). Experience with digital archives at both institutions showed that citation information was one of the most requested features. Unfortunately, CONTENTdm does not natively display citation information about image records; to add this functionality, custom JavaScript had to be written that would interact with the underlying React environment and parse out or retrieve the appropriate metadata to dynamically build record citations. Detailed code and a description of methods for building two different models of citation generators are presented.

Fractal in detail: What information is in a file format identification report? / Code4Lib Journal

A file format identification report, such as those generated by digital preservation tools, DROID, Siegfried, or FIDO, contain an incredible wealth of information. Used to scan discrete sets of files comprising a part of, or the entirety of a digital collection, these datasets can serve as entry points for further activities including appraisal, identification of future work efforts, and the facilitation of transfer of digital objects into preservation storage. The information contained in them is fractal in detail and there are numerous outputs that can be generated from that detail. This paper describes the purpose of a file format identification report and the extensive information that can be extracted from one. It summarizes a number of ways of transforming them into the inputs for other systems and describes a handful of the tools already doing so. The paper concludes that describing a format identification report is a pivotal artefact in the digital transfer process, and asks the reader to consider how they might leverage them and the benefits doing so might provide.

Automated 3D Printing in Libraries / Code4Lib Journal

This article highlights the creation of an automated 3D printed system created at a health sciences library at a large research university. As COVID-19 limited in-person interaction with 3D printers, a group of library staff came together to code a form that took users’ 3D printed files and connected them to machines automatically. A ticketing system and payment form was also automated via this system. The only in-person interactions are dedicated staff members that unload the prints. This article will describe the journey in getting to an automated system and share code and strategies so others can try it for themselves.

Automating reference consultation requests with JavaScript and a Google Form / Code4Lib Journal

At the CUNY Graduate Center Library, reference consultation requests were previously sent to a central email address, then manually directed by our head of reference to the appropriate subject expert. This process was cumbersome and because the inbox was not checked every day, responses were delayed and messages were occasionally missed. In order to streamline this process, I created a form and wrote a script that uses the answers in the form to automatically forward any consultation requests to the correct subject specialist. This was done using JavaScript, Google Sheets, and the Google Apps Script backend. When a patron requesting a consultation fills out the form, they include their field of research. This field is associated in my script with a particular subject specialist librarian, who then receives an email with the pertinent information. Rather than requiring either that patrons themselves search for the right subject specialist, or that library faculty spend time distributing messages to the right liaison, this enables a smoother, more direct interaction. In this article, I will describe the steps I took to write this script, using only freely available online software.

Lantern: A Pandoc Template for OER Publishing / Code4Lib Journal

Lantern is a template and workflow for using Pandoc and GitHub to create and host multi-format open educational resources (OER) online. It applies minimal computing methods to OER publishing practices. The purpose is to minimize the technical footprint for digital publishing while maximizing control over the form, content, and distribution of OER texts. Lantern uses Markdown and YAML to capture an OER’s source content and metadata and Pandoc to transform it into HTML, PDF, EPUB, and DOCX formats. Pandoc’s options and arguments are pre-configured in a Bash script to simplify the process for users. Lantern is available as a template repository on GitHub. The template repository is set up to run Pandoc with GitHub Actions and serve output files on GitHub Pages for convenience; however, GitHub is not a required dependency. Lantern can be used on any modern computer to produce OER files that can be uploaded to any modern web server.

Strategies for Preserving Digital Scholarship / Humanities Projects / Code4Lib Journal

The Digital Scholarship Unit (DSU) at the University of Toronto Scarborough library frequently partners with faculty for the creation of digital scholarship (DS) projects. However, managing completed projects can be challenging when it is no longer under active development by the original project team, and resources allocated to its ongoing maintenance are scarce. Maintaining inactive projects on the live web bloats staff workloads or is not possible due to limited staff capacity. As technical obsolescence meets a lack of staff capacity, the gradual disappearance of digital scholarship projects forms a gap in the scholarly record. This article discusses the Library DSU’s experimentations with using web archiving technologies to capture and describe digital scholarship projects, with the goal of accessioning the resulting web archives into the Library’s digital collections. In addition to comparing some common technologies used for crawling and replay of archives, this article describes aspects of the technical infrastructure the DSU is building with the goal of making web archives discoverable and playable through the library’s digital collections interface.

The DSA Toolkit Shines Light Into Dark and Stormy Archives / Code4Lib Journal

Themed web archive collections exist to make sense of archived web pages (mementos). Some collections contain hundreds of thousands of mementos. There are many collections about the same topic. Few collections on platforms like Archive-It include standardized metadata. Reviewing the documents in a single collection thus becomes an expensive proposition. Search engines help find individual documents but do not provide an overall understanding of each collection as a whole. Visitors need to be able to understand what individual collections contain so they can make decisions about individual collections and compare them to each other. The Dark and Stormy Archives (DSA) Project applies social media storytelling to a subset of a collection to facilitate collection understanding at a glance. As part of this work, we developed the DSA Toolkit, which helps archivists and visitors leverage this capability. As part of our recent International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) grant, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Old Dominion University (ODU) piloted the DSA toolkit with the National Library of Australia (NLA). Collectively we have made numerous improvements, from better handling of NLA mementos to native Linux installers to more approachable Web User Interfaces. Our goal is to make the DSA approachable for everyone so that end-users and archivists alike can apply social media storytelling to web archives.

Supporting open access, integrating distributed research platforms, and building a research information management platform / Code4Lib Journal

Academic libraries are often called upon by their university communities to collect, manage, and curate information about the research activity produced at their campuses. Proper research information management (RIM) can be leveraged for multiple institutional contexts, including networking, reporting activities, building faculty profiles, and supporting the reputation management of the institution.

In the last ten to fifteen years the adoption and implementation of RIM infrastructure has become widespread throughout the academic world. Approaches to developing and implementing this infrastructure have varied, from commercial and open-source options to locally developed instances. Each piece of infrastructure has its own functionality, features, and metadata sources. There is no single application or data source to meet all the needs of these varying pieces of research information, many of these systems together create an ecosystem to provide for the diverse set of needs and contexts.

This paper examines the systems at Pennsylvania State University that contribute to our RIM ecosystem; how and why we developed another piece of supporting infrastructure for our Open Access policy and the successes and challenges of this work.

Podcasts / Ed Summers

Here is a list of the podcasts I listen to:

https://inkdroid.org/podcasts/feed.opml

I use AntennaPod to listen to podcasts, and it (like other players) lets you import/export your subscriptions as OPML. I exported mine and copied it up to my website, while adding an XSLT stylesheet (remember those?) to make it presentable for the browser:

<?xml version='1.0' encoding='UTF-8' standalone='no' ?>
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="style.xsl"?>
<opml version="2.0">
  <head>
    <title>AntennaPod Subscriptions</title>
    <dateCreated>08 May 22 19:02:40 -0400</dateCreated>
  </head>
  <body>
    <outline text="99% Invisible" title="99% Invisible" type="rss" xmlUrl="https://feeds.simplecast.com/BqbsxVfO" htmlUrl="https://99percentinvisible.org" />
    <outline text="A Death In Cryptoland" title="A Death In Cryptoland" type="rss" xmlUrl="https://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/includes/adeathincryptoland.xml" htmlUrl="www.cbc.ca/podcasts" />
    ...
  </body>
</opml>

If you get a chance to share yours please let me know!

The Social “Stuff” / HangingTogether

I’ve spent a lot of my career supporting the implementation or adoption of new technologies, whether it’s a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, an open-source ETD workflow, a RIM system, or the global adoption of ORCID identifiers. Throughout all of these efforts, I heard multiple versions of the same refrain:

“The technical part is easy compared to all the social ‘stuff’.”

The social “stuff.”

It’s all the non-technical activities that ensure user adoption and project success. In other words, things like building trusted relationships, securing buy-in, and managing resistance.

This is particularly true for the new generation of research support services like data management, RIM systems, and research analytics. The provision and consumption of these services are distributed across many stakeholder units on campus, including research administration, campus, IT, academic affairs. . . and, of course, the library.

Photo by Anna Samoylova on Unsplash

Dealing with the social “stuff” is HARD!

But you already knew this. Universities are complex adaptive systems characterized by decentralized decision-making authority, self-organization, and a lot of people acting independently without consultation with others.[1] I’ve even heard this memorably described as “herding flaming cats.”

Addressing the social “stuff” requires the cultivation of a specific type of soft skill: the ability to create and maintain working relationships between individuals and organizational units that promote collaboration, communication, and mutual understanding. We call this skill “social interoperability,” and it was the focus of a recent OCLC Research Report, Social Interoperability in Research Support: Cross-Campus Partnerships and the University Research Enterprise.

How can we increase the odds that we will be successful in this environment?

I believe there are specific actions we can take to develop our own social interoperability skills. This requires an understanding of. . .

  • The campus environment and its cultural barriers
  • The stakeholders and their interests
  • Specific strategies and tactics that individuals can leverage for greater impact

Upcoming RLP social interoperability workshop

I invite our OCLC Research Library Partnership affiliates to join us in June for a concise 2-hour interactive workshop, where together we will explore these challenges and then individually identify specific strategies and tactics to apply locally. We will be offering the workshop at two different times to accommodate global participation. Note that this offering is exclusively for affiliates of RLP partner institutions.

I will be facilitating this workshop along with my report co-author Brian Lavoie. We have offered previous iterations of this workshop—

Who should attend?
  • We strongly encourage institutions to send cohorts of learners to this workshop, as it offers significant synergies for learning and implementing the social interoperability tactics.
  • We also think it will be especially useful to early- and mid-career managers and practitioners.
  • And, this event should be highly beneficial to practitioners working in an emerging area of research support at their institution. You may feel isolated, and this event can connect you with others in the same boat.
  • Finally, we encourage RLP institutions to send non-library professionals as well, as part of the cohort, as a way to practice strengthening cross-campus relationships.

Following the LIBER webinar series, participants reported feeling optimistic about developing cross-campus relationships to advance research support activities at their institutions. I’m optimistic that the attendees of this next workshop offering will leave feeling the same.

Come join us.  


[1] Rouse, William B. 2016. Universities as Complex Enterprises: How Academia Works, Why It Works These Ways, and Where the University Enterprise Is Headed. New York: Routledge.

The post The Social “Stuff” appeared first on Hanging Together.

Probabilistic Fault Tolerance / David Rosenthal

In our 2003 SOSP "Best Paper" Preserving Peer Replicas By Rate-Limited Sampled Voting (also here, expanded version here) we introduced a number of concepts. The most important was consensus based on sampling the electorate at random, in contrast to the traditional Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT), which at every step solicits votes from the entire electorate. The advantages of this mechanism are so significant that, a decade and a half later, it was re-discovered and improved upon in the context of a blockchain protocol. Below the fold I explain our original consensus system, and describe how the basic idea has been adopted and enhanced.
To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer. Anonymous

Then

In the real world computers are, alas, neither reliable nor proof against attacks. Thus when in 1982 Leslie Lamport et al published The Byzantine Generals Problem it was a major advance in computer science. They showed an algorithm by means of which a system of n=3f+1 replicas would perform correctly despite f of the replicas simultaneously being failed or malign.

Our application was long-term preservation of the digital academic literature, as libraries have managed so successfully over centuries for the paper literature. Reliability and resistance to attack were critical. In this context BFT suffered the following problems:
  • It was brittle. Despite the theoretical rigor of the sufficiency of 3f+1 replicas to survive f simultaneous faults, any practical implementation would have some finite probability of encountering F>f faults at the same time. Once F simultaneous faults occur, the state of the entire system is unpredictable, or in our case failed. Thus BFT provides probabilistic fault tolerance, and does not degrade gracefully under failure or attack.
  • It was centralized. BFT requires trustworthy global knowledge of the n members of the electorate, which through time requires a trusted central authority admintting and excluding members, and communicating these changes to the electorate. Part of the reason for the global community of libraries' success in preserving paper is that it is decentralized; there is no central authority determining whether an institution is a library. As we wrote in 2000's Permanent Web Publishing:
    Libraries' circulating collections form a model fault-tolerant distributed system. It is highly replicated, and exploits this to deliver a service that is far more reliable than any individual component. There is no single point of failure, no central control to be subverted. There is a low degree of policy coherence between the replicas, and thus low systemic risk. The desired behavior of the system as a whole emerges as the participants take actions in their own local interests and cooperate in ad-hoc, informal ways with other participants.
  • It did not scale. Because the content we preserved is owned by some of the most litigious copyright holders, we felt any scheme that involved libraries providing preservation as a service to other libraries was likely to end up in court. Important academic journals have hundreds or thousands of library subscriptions, so we needed a system that would scale to thousands of replicas. BFT requires global communication from an elected leader node, so has overhead that rises rapidly with n.
We summarized our approach thus:
In common with the Byzantine-fault-tolerance ... our voting protocol derives an apparent prevailing opinion among a set of peers, some of whom are malicious. There are many differences; our population size is too large for BFT’s global communication, we degrade gradually rather than mask the effects of failure or attack, and because we cannot assume an absolute upper bound on the malicious peers’ resources we have to consider the possibility of being overwhelmed. We use sampling to avoid global knowledge or communication, rate-limiters to prevent our adversary’s unlimited resources from overwhelming the system quickly, and integrated intrusion detection to preempt unrecoverable failure.
A library's node assures itself that its copy of some content matches the consensus of the network of libraries, each node at intervals selects a random subset of the other libraries it knows about and invites them to vote in a poll. To oversimplify, the group of nodes vote on the hash of the content. Why is this a good idea?

Our research simulated attacks by three kinds of adversaries; a stealth attacker whose goal was to change the consensus without detection, a nuisance adversary wwhose goal was to discredit the system by flooding it wih false alarms, and an attrition adversary whose goal was DDoS-like, to waste resources. Because random corruption of content is both rare and un-correlated, poll results should be bimodal; landslide agreement if the node's content is good, landslide disagreement if it is corrupt. Any poll result between these extremes indicates correlated corruption, a signal of a stealth attack that raises an alarm.

Source
The stealth attacker is assumed to control many Sybil nodes, but in order to avoid raising an alarm must vote "correctly" in any poll for which these nodes are not a large majority. The attacker's problem is that he only knows which of them have been invited into each poll, not how many invitees there are in total. Thus he has to guess in which polls he has enough of a majority to win without raising an alarm. Since changing the overall consensus requires winning many polls in quick succession, the attacker has to guess right consistently many times, making an undetected successful attack extremely difficult. The sample graph shows simulations of a stealth attack. The X axis is the proportion of the network nodes the attacker controls, the Y axis is the time to attack detection in years. In this simulation no runs featured a successful undetected attack. Note that the more of the network the attacker controls, the sooner he is detected.
  • It is resilient. It is extremely difficult for an attack, even with unlimited resources, to succeed in corrupting a majority of nodes before being detected. Once detected, node administrators can recover from the majority of valid nodes.
  • It is decentralized. Each node operates autonomously, communicating with nodes it discovers because in the past they have agreed with other nodes it knows about. There is no assigned or elected leader and no global communication or synchronization.
  • It scales, because there is no global communication or synchronization, and because as n increases the fraction of nodes involved in each poll decreases.

Now

Scalable and Probabilistic Leaderless BFT Consensus through Metastability by "Team Rocket" et al claims (my emphasis):
This paper introduces a new family of consensus protocols called Snow. Inspired by gossip algorithms, this family gains its properties through a deliberately metastable mechanism. Specifically, the system operates by repeatedly sampling the network at random, and steering correct nodes towards a common outcome. Analysis shows that this metastable mechanism is powerful: it can move a large network to an irreversible state quickly, where the irreversibility implies that a sufficiently large portion of the network has accepted a proposal and a conflicting proposal will not be accepted with any higher than negligible (ε) probability.

... the Snow family tolerates discrepancies in knowledge of membership, as we discuss later. In contrast, classical consensus protocols require the full and accurate knowledge of n as its safety foundation.

Snow’s subsampled voting mechanism has two additional properties that improve on previous approaches for consensus. Whereas the safety of quorum-based approaches breaks down immediately when the predetermined threshold f is exceeded, Snow’s probabilistic safety guarantee degrades smoothly when Byzantine participants exceed f.
Does this sound familiar? And yet their extensive "Related Work" section fails to cite our SOSP paper, or the later expanded version in ACM Transactions on Computer Systems. This is all to say that "Team Rocket" et al overstate how novel their system is. Despite that, it is clear that they have made major advances in the following areas:
  • Their system's consensus is dynamic where our application required a static consensus.
  • Their system operates rapidly where our application required strong rate-limiters.
  • They provide a rigorous theoretical analysis, which our paper lacked.
"Team Rocket" et al's exposition proceeds in a sequence of increasingly effective protocols:
  • In Slush, each node repeatedly samples the set of nodes it knows in essentially the same way the we did.
  • In Snowflake, the nodes retain state counting how long it has been since it saw disagreement. This is similar to the state our nodes retained.
  • In Snowball, the nodes retain additional state that provides hysteresis, a significant improvement on our protocol.
  • In Avalanche, they use Snowball to implement the basic functions of a cryptocurrency, a completely different and more demanding application than ours.
The "leaderless" in their title is important. Nakamoto consensus is in effect a two-phase process. First there is a race to elect the node which will validate the block, in Avalanche's terms a leader, and then there is an extended consensus phase driven by the longest chain rule which convinces nodes that disagreed with the election to fall in line. This is why Bitcoin transactions should not be considered final until they are six blocks from the head. Snowball is a single-phase consensus protocol.

Note that none of these protocols defend against Sybil attacks:
A long line of work, including PBFT [15], treats the Sybil problem separately from consensus, and rightfully so, as Sybil control mechanisms are distinct from the underlying, more complex agreement protocol. In fact, to our knowledge, only Nakamoto-style consensus has “baked-in” Sybil prevention as part of its consensus, made possible by chained proof-of-work [5], which requires miners to continuously stake a hardware investment. Other protocols, discussed in Section 7, rely on proof-of-stake (by economic argument) or proof-of-authority (by administrative argument that makes the system “permissioned”). The consensus protocols presented in this paper can adopt any Sybil control mechanism, although proof-of-stake is most aligned with their quiescent operation. One can use an already established proof-of-stake based mechanism [30].
Nor do they defend against the kind of attacks we discussed in Attrition Defenses for a Peer-to-Peer Digital Preservation System by TJ Giuli et al. They write::
Without a protection mechanism, an attacker can generate large numbers of transactions and flood protocol data structures, consuming storage. There are a multitude of techniques to deter such attacks, including network-layer protection, proof-of-authority, local proof-of-work and economic mechanisms. In Avalanche, we use transaction fees, making such attacks costly even if the attacker is sending money back to addresses under its control.
Of course, fees need to be high enough to deter flooding attacks; greatly increasing the supply of transactions as Avalanche does will reduce the per-transaction fee but may not decrease the total cost of a flooding attack. But note that the Solana blockchain's competitive advantage was very low fees, and the result was:
On April 30, NFT minting bots began flooding the Solana network with 4 million transactions per second, causing the network to lose consensus. The project tweeted that "Engineers are still investigating why the network was unable to recover, and validator operators prepare for a restart." The network was offline for seven hours.

This is hardly the first instability the network has demonstrated, much to the chagrin of its users. Transaction flooding is an issue on Solana in part because of the low transaction fees compared to networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which have relatively high gas fees that would make flooding extremely expensive.
There are a number of issues around Proof-of-Stake and fees that will have to wait for a future post.

Overall, Avalanche's use of random sampling, a directed acyclic graph rather than a chain, and Proof-of-Stake results in a more efficient and more robust cryptocurrency implementation, which is a significant achievement.

Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 2022 May 3 / HangingTogether

The following  post is one in a regular series on issues of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility, compiled by Jay Weitz.

Asian Pacific/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, May 2022

In its website about Asian Pacific/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, the United States Library of Congress notes that “Asian/Pacific encompasses all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, and Easter Island).”  That covers a lot of ground, literally.

The month of May was chosen to honor Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States to commemorate two events of surpassing historical significance:  The first Japanese immigrants are said to have arrived in the United States on May 7, 1843; and the transcontinental railroad, the western portion of which was built in large part though the labor of Chinese immigrants, was completed on May 10, 1869. Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month became an official annual event in the United States in 1992.

OCLC Asia Pacific was founded as an OCLC division in 1986.  The first bibliographic records containing Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) characters were added to what is now WorldCat on May 12, 1986, using OCLC’s then brand new CJK350 cataloging system.  In April 1987, Kinokuniya Company began offering OCLC services to libraries in Japan.  Today, there are roughly 31.3 million WorldCat bibliographic records containing CJK scripts.  That count does not include the many other Asian scripts present in WorldCat, including but hardly limited to Gujarati, Khmer, Malayalam, Tamil, and Thai.

Under OCLC’s current governance structure, the Asia Pacific Regional Council (APRC) is one of the three regional councils that help connect members of the cooperative.  APRC “represents member libraries from the territory west of Hawaii, stretching from China, Korea, and Japan in the north to Australia and New Zealand in the south and Pakistan to the west.  APRC elects delegates to the Asia Pacific Executive Committee, five of whom also currently serve as delegates to Global Council.  APRC hosts an annual conference that is open to all members and interested parties, which provides a forum to discuss issues important to libraries in the region.”

The OCLC CJK Users Group was founded on April 10, 1991, serving such invaluable functions as facilitating communication between OCLC and CJK users, advising OCLC on products and services, promoting cooperation, and establishing and maintaining standards.

Founded in 1975, the Asian American Librarians Caucus, a discussion group of the American Library Association Office for Library Outreach Services (now the ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services), evolved in 1980 into the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) and became an official ALA affiliate in 1982.  Its purpose is to address the needs of both Asian Pacific American librarians and those who serve Asian Pacific American communities.  Each year, APALA honors works for children, young adults, and adults “about Asian/Pacific Americans and their heritage, based on literary and artistic merit” with the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. For Asian Pacific/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month in 2020, ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Blog made available Fighting Anti-Asian Racism:  Tools for Libraries in response to the already serious problem.  In addition to advice about library displays and collection development, youth services librarian Lisa Rand refers readers to archived APALA webinars on related topics.

Decolonizing archives

Through her perspective as a Narragansett/Niantic woman, Tomaquag Museum Executive Director Lorén Spears will speak about “the process of decolonizing archives, telling our stories through the archival belongings, understanding access and power structures, and how to build meaningful collaborations across sectors to ensure the complete history is shared.” The University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (OCLC Symbol: RIL) presents the fifth in its “Voices for Information Equity” series on May 5, 2022, at 12 noon Eastern time: “Tomaquag Museum: Decolonizing Archives, Telling our Stories, and Building Collaborations.”

EDI Assembly lightning talks

Five lightning talks on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, recorded on March 28, 2022, at the American Library Association EDI Assembly, are now freely available.

The recordings, resources, and other materials from this and several past ALA EDI Assembly meetings are available on the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Assembly 2021-2022 page.

Antidote to book challenges

Photo by Freddy Kearney on Unsplash

Standing up to book bans that have been spreading around the United States, such institutions as the New York Public Library (OCLC Symbol: NYP) and the Brooklyn Public Library (OCLC Symbol: BKL) have been creating or expanding programs to make challenged resources available to readers. New York Public’s Books for All program gives free access to readers throughout the United States to challenged books through its app SimplyE. Brooklyn Public’s Books Unbanned program gives access to readers aged 13 to 21 a free National Teen BPL eCard. BPL President and CEO Linda E. Johnson says that the library “cannot sit idly by while books rejected by a few are removed from the library shelves for all.”

IFLA reports on global cultural rights

The April 2022 issue of the IFLA Newsletter (Volume 2, Number 4) reports on policy, advocacy, sustainable development, and media literacy, including:

There is also a report on the United Nations’ Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development and an announcement of an upcoming webinar on climate equity.

The post Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 2022 May 3 appeared first on Hanging Together.

Fixed Supply, Variable Demand / David Rosenthal

BTC transaction fees
As I've been writing for a long time, because there is an auction for inclusion in the fixed supply of transactions, when no-one wants to transact they are cheap, but when everyone wants to transact they get very expensive. Vitalik Buterin is unhappy about this:
Buterin didn’t predict the rise of NFTs, and has watched the phenomenon with a mixture of interest and anxiety. ... their volume has overwhelmed the network, leading to a steep rise in congestion fees, in which, for instance, bidders trying to secure a rare NFT pay hundreds of dollars extra to make sure their transactions are expedited.
Last Saturday evening I looked at Molly White's invaluable timeline Web3 is going just great and saw that the top two entries summed up this problem to a tee. Below the fold, I explain

The top entry was entitled Popular NFT mint spikes Ethereum gas prices; OpenSea transaction fees exceed $3,500:
The much-awaited Bored Ape Yacht Club "Otherside" metaverse land sale began, and its popularity just about wrecked Ethereum for everyone else. Gas fees, which increase based on network congestion, spiked to shocking levels, with an average OpenSea sale costing more than 1.25 ETH ($3,500) in gas.

Most trading on OpenSea during this period was for the much-anticipated Otherside land deeds, which sell for around 5 ETH ($13,500) plus gas.
About a 26% transaction fee, which makes the "extortionate" fees credit cards charge look affordable.

Image
But it gets worse. There was
one person who bought a 0.1 ETH ($275) NFT and paid $3,850 in transaction fees.
A 1,400% transaction fee.

So Buterin is right that something needs to be done to make transactions cheaper. But wait! The second entry in White's timeline was entitled Solana goes down again:
On April 30, NFT minting bots began flooding the Solana network with 4 million transactions per second, causing the network to lose consensus. The project tweeted that "Engineers are still investigating why the network was unable to recover, and validator operators prepare for a restart." The network was offline for several hours.

This is hardly the first instability the network has demonstrated, much to the chagrin of its users. Transaction flooding is an issue on Solana in part because of the low transaction fees compared to networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum, which have relatively high gas fees that would make flooding extremely expensive.
As Solana has discovered, if transactions are very cheap, the network will be flooded with them and, as Solana did, collapse under the load. The cheap transactions effectively enable a DDoS attack on the network.

The motto of this story is "be careful what you wish for".

DLF Digest: May 2022 / Digital Library Federation

DLF Digest

A monthly round-up of news, upcoming working group meetings and events, and CLIR program updates from the Digital Library Federation.


This month’s news:

This month’s DLF group events:

DLF Digital Accessibility Advocacy and Education Subgroup – Discussion: Making Digital Literacy Inclusive

Thursday, May 5, 1 pm ET/10 am PT; Register in advance for this meeting

Please join the DAWG Advocacy and Education Subgroup for a discussion led by Don Michael Jr. about Making Digital Literacy Inclusive.

Making an inclusive learning space must start with an assessment of digital equity and digital literacy. Digital literacy asks two questions: How do you know your students are digitally literate? And where do students go for technology training? Making digital literacy solutions that do not stigmatize the beneficiary should be the goal of an inclusive learning culture.

Our discussion will include:

  • Digital literacy terminology
  • The top five ‘accessible accessibility’ methods
  • A few digital literacy best practices

Don Michael Jr. is the Digital Literacy Specialist in Central Piedmont Community College’s Library Instructional and Research Services department. He manages the CPCC Digital Literacy Learning Space (DLLS), which serves all six campuses with assessments, training, and also Charlotte, North Carolina community outreach. The DLLS is the first centralized student support for campus-wide digital literacy and workforce digital literacy issues.

DLF Climate Justice Group – Climate Justice Conversation with Nikki Ferraiolo

Friday, May 13, 12 pm ET/9 am PT; contact info@diglib.org for call-in information

DLF’s newest working group’s first Climate Justice Conversation welcomes Nikki Ferraiolo, Director of Global Strategic Initiatives at CLIR. Nikki recently hosted Season 2 of the Material Memory podcast, which focused on Cultural Memory and the Climate Crisis. This podcast offers excellent insights into the implications of climate change for the digital library community. Nikki will discuss what she learned while making the series.

You can listen to the podcast at https://material-memory.clir.org/ or on standard platforms.

Join the Climate Justice Group’s listserv for updates on upcoming events.

This month’s open DLF group meetings:

For the most up-to-date schedule of DLF group meetings and events (plus NDSA meetings, conferences, and more), bookmark the DLF Community Calendar. Can’t find meeting call-in information? Email us at info@diglib.org

DLF groups are open to ALL, regardless of whether or not you’re affiliated with a DLF member institution. Learn more about our working groups and how to get involved on the DLF website. Interested in starting a new working group or reviving an older one? Need to schedule an upcoming working group call? Check out the DLF Organizer’s Toolkit to learn more about how Team DLF supports our working groups, and send us a message at info@diglib.org to let us know how we can help.

The post DLF Digest: May 2022 appeared first on DLF.

Research into Practice / Ed Summers

These are some notes that I shared internally at work after attending It Will Never Work in Theory yesterday. The full list of presenters is near the bottom of this page. As you can see the presentations were largely from researchers who were studying software development practices. But the thing I really liked was that almost all the presenters made an effort to bring their findings back to how they could be applied in practice. The presentations were also short and very high quality. The event bridged the gap between research about software development and software development practitioners. Look for the videos to be released in the next few weeks. Here are the ones that jumped out at me while listening.

  • Alberto Bacchelli: studied code reviews on Github, and found that the ordering of the files matters (files nearer the bottom were commented on less). Annotations from the author can help guide review, and also reviewing in non-linear order. I think I’ve seen Justin Littman doing some of the former with PRs.
  • Mairieli Wessel: GitHub actions aren’t just a question of tooling, it is better to think of them as software dependencies, that can also change social interactions between developers.
  • Marian Petre: studied high performing dev teams and found that they treated bugs as opportunities for understanding their codebases better, rather than just as things that need to be quickly squashed. See http://oro.open.ac.uk/72243/1/SWSI-2020-04-0117.R2_Lopez.pdf and https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/software-design-decoded.
  • Davide Fucci: examined how teams that said they did TDD actually worked in practice. Instrumented IDEs to track what was being edited and when, and found that some worked for a long time on tests and a long time on the implementation and that things worked better when they were more granular (bit of test, bit of implementation). Also found that TDD can come at a emotional cost for developers.
  • Mei Nagappan: looked at bias in code review by examining 2.5M PRs on GitHub. Found very troubling indications that PRs by non-white classified developer are fewer, and less likely to be merged. Non-white developers were 10 times more likely to merge PRs from other non-white developers than white developers. The classification in method in this paper is potentially controversial – they used something called NamePrism, but justified it based on the observation that developers had biases about names too. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2104.06143.pdf
  • Kelly Blincoe: studied the effects of destructive criticism in code reviews. Destructive criticism generally understood as inconsiderate and/or non-specific comments. Asked developers to respond to constructive and destructive reviews, and inquired whether it would help improve code, whether it was valid, and if it was appropriate. Found that destructive criticism was often perceived as valid but that it wouldn’t help improve code and wasn’t appropriate. Destructive criticism tends to decrease task completion, and working with the other developer and on the health of the project. Devs agree destructive critiscism is harmful and will cause a negative reaction, but are divided about whether it is ok if it helps improve the code. There isn’t one size fits all approach to code review. https://storage.googleapis.com/pub-tools-public-publication-data/pdf/8b1f394be0986d5e861431d20dd59c4fc875389e.pdf
  • Peggy Storey: researches the different motivations for measuring productivity and their flaws. Qualitative measures of satisfaction and well-being have significant impacts on product quality and velocity. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3454122.3454124
  • Cat Hicks: Fostering learning culture on teams. People are always looking for clues to whether or not they are in a safe place for learning. Code that works requires continual learning. Learning Debt is when learning is necessary but discouraged, developers learning becomes hidden, covert and unhappy (padded in estimated, etc). This is a learned behavior, that then becomes a cycle. https://www.catharsisinsight.com/_files/ugd/fce7f8_2a41aa82670f4f08a3e403d196bcc341.pdf

The online commenting didn’t work, for which the organizers were very apologetic about. But I think some attendees managed to ask questions via email…which honestly is an interesting idea :) Someone commented how important GitHub was to doing some of this research, which really highlighted how important it is as a site for understanding software development. It would be interesting to see how/if anything changes when looking at organizational private repositories.

There are several things I’d like to follow up on here, especially how to create cultures of learning on teams, effective ways of thinking about errors as opportunities, and how to enrich review practices. I will definitely stay tuned for the next It Will Never Work in Theory, which provided a very accessible view into the use of empirical methods to study software development. It’s an area somewhere at the intersection of computer science and information studies, that I didn’t really get exposed to much in my schooling–maybe because I was focused more on the empirical study of data. But data is code, and code is data…

A High Schooler’s Experience Contributing to the Open Book Genome Project / Open Library

Meet Teo Cheng, a high school student who has been volunteering to lead development on the Open Book Genome Project. In 2021, Teo took Harvard’s online CS50 Intro to Computer Science to prepare for his AP Computer Science Principles exam. The following summer, he took MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course. To put these learnings into practice and gain more hands-on experience, he searched for impactful opportunities within the non-profit Internet Archive, where his father Brenton Cheng runs the UX team. For the past year, Teo has been working closely with Mek, making improvements to the Open Book Genome Project Sequencer — a software robot that reads the Internet Archive’s publicly available books and derives public insights to enable greater access to their themes and data. Meet Teo!

Goals

This year, by joining the Open Book Genome Project team, I hoped to understand a piece of production software well enough to make meaningful contributions. Also, because this project may someday be run on every book digitized by the Internet Archive, I wanted to gain experience contributing to something which needs to have a high level of accuracy and runtime performance. When I joined the project, I learned of several problems. For example, the book sequencer module, which is responsible for deriving ngrams, was noisy and wasn’t honoring the defined stop words. Also, the page type detection would frequently break because it was too strict and wasn’t robust against OCR errors, punctuation, and variety in syntax. Furthermore, because I already have experience programming, I was interested in learning more about the engineering development process, such as using tools like git, writing tests, and running pipelines.

What I’ve Learned

So far while working on the Open Book Genome Project (OBGP) I’ve gained experience with the following 10 things: I learned how to use docker to install a project in a contained way without having to mess up my computer’s file system. I used ssh to run the OBGP pipeline on a more powerful remote computer. Because the internet connection could be disrupted, we did our work using a program called tmux which ensured our processes would continue running even if the connection between the client and server died. This remote computer ran Linux and so I needed to learn basic BASH commands. I also needed to learn about XML and JSON formats, and how those are used in the results of our pipeline. We used bash commands and regex (e.g. grep) to analyze the pipeline results, such as to extract URL counts from books. Some bash commands I used to discover link counts are: for loop, grep, variables, cat, wc. I worked on improving the existing OBGP Sequencer, so I had to learn how to read through and understand a new codebase. To submit our code changes, we used the git protocol and managed our tasks on GitHub.

Accomplishments

In addition to learning a lot throughout working on the Open Book Genome Project, I’ve accomplished a few different things. I noticed the issue with the Page Type Detector, which I solved. My improvement to the detector involved allowing regex patterns in addition to exact text matches. I also improved the ISBN detector to reduce false positives, which were happening pretty commonly. Lastly, I solved the bug with the stop words that get removed from the ngrams to make them less noisy and more useful. I also added more stop words to decrease the amount of clutter in the ngram results.

How it Works

As a developer on the Open Book Genome Project, here’s an inside look at what it’s like when staff members run the Sequencer on Internet Archive’s books:

  1. Set up the project using the Docker instructions
  2. On Archive.org, identify a search query which returns the books we want to sequence
  3. Create an AdvancedSearch query which returns identifiers for these books in JSON
  4. Reformat the results from this query and feed it into the Sequencer pipeline

Here’s an example of a completed book_genome.json created by this process.

Want to try it yourself?

You can add your own processing modules too! If you’d like to try out the Open Book Genome Project Sequencer using just your browser, you can try it using the OBGP google colab.

Learn More

Want to learn more about the Open Book Genome Project? Check out the official bookgenomeproject.org website, Open Library’s announcement of the project, and learn about the work of Nolan Windham who previously led development on the project as a high school senior and incoming college freshman as part of Google Summer of Code.

Want to contribute?

Come volunteer to be an Open Library or Open Book Genome Project fellow!

Exploration and consultation: The OCLC Research Library Partnership trajectory / HangingTogether

For those institutions that participate, it is time for a “thank you” for another year of support and robust participation in the OCLC Research Library Partnership network! It is evident that now, more than ever, our program is providing a place and opportunity to connect with colleagues and grow skills in an inclusive, supportive, and caring space.

The RLP community model is based on active, engaged peer learning. This support is vital now, as we all seek to capture large amounts of tacit knowledge during a time of seismic shifts in the profession.

lightbulbPhoto by Beth Jnr on Unsplash

Peer support through significant change

Many of us are working through the impacts of massive workforce changes by reorganizing workflows, reevaluating priorities, and thinking differently about staffing. While there are tremendous opportunities in transformation, we also acknowledge the significant disruption and even grief that comes with change.

It is no different here at OCLC. We have also said goodbye to colleagues and considered our refactored future. We have spent the last year closely examining needs and requirements in relation to metadata workflows, access to collections, and the role of the research library in a world where the global effects of the pandemic have shifted the way we operate.

Holding generous spaces

In previous communications, we have shared information about the Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project and its convening held last June. The resulting publication from this effort, Reimagine Descriptive
Workflows: A Community-informed Agenda for Reparative and Inclusive Descriptive Practice
, is now
available. The need for this project was articulated in the OCLC RLP Metadata Managers Focus Group, and we are grateful for the inspiration.

We learned so much from the Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project’s approach of community-centered design that integrated participant support and featured regular community feedback. We intend to extend this successful model of learning as we plan to further engage Partners with the report findings by providing opportunities for meaningful conversations.

During the course of the Reimagine Descriptive Workflows project and other recent initiatives, the OCLC RLP team has become sensitized to the needs of a workforce that is stretched to its mental and emotional capacity. We are carrying that valuable insight into all of our engagement planning. It is our intention to host learning spaces that honor the contributions of all participants, support trust building within our
communities, and are built around reciprocal and respectful exchanges. Our team of program officers have been increasing their facilitation skills to provide the best learning experiences for our members and for those we invite to share their knowledge.

Upcoming engagement opportunities

We often hear from our Partners that they really appreciate being able to meet with our program officers to discuss recent research efforts and ask follow-on questions.

Recently, we began hosting office hours to provide just such an opportunity. Recently we offered learning and engagement support for the report Research Information Management in the United States. This provided an informal opportunity to meet with the report authors to ask questions and share your own insights. Look for more office hours from the OCLC RLP coming soon.

We are also offering RLP members exclusive access to the Social Interoperability Workshop: Successfully Engaging Stakeholders Across Campus, based upon a 2020 OCLC Research report. This interactive workshop, facilitated by one of the report authors, will give members of your team the opportunity to connect with peers on the challenges of cross-campus collaboration and identify strategies to build stronger relationships with units across their institutions. This workshop is offered on two dates (June 14 and June 21) to accommodate time zones.

What’s new and next for the RLP

Since my last letter, we welcomed Kathryn Stine, Senior Program Officer for Metadata Engagement in November 2021. Kathryn is working not only with the RLP metadata management groups, but also with metadata engagement colleagues across the OCLC organization to synthesize and support the needs of the broader metadata community.

In a recent blog post, Kathryn lifts up changes in metadata workflows, focusing on the themes of flexibility and hybridity:

Despite the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic, metadata managers shared opportunities and positive developments that have grown out of what was an initially abrupt shift away from library spaces
and physical collections. . . . Though equipped with useful learnings from where we have been, persistent change can admittedly come with frustration and fatigue. The sensitivity that managers and staff have
brought to supporting each other’s well-being is a skill worth honing and continuing as well.

Managing metadata, managing hybridity, HangingTogether January 25, 2022

This need for sensitivity resonates across all of our programmatic areas. Future Metadata Managers Focus Group conversations will delve into staffing and leadership issues, from shifting job descriptions, to critical advocacy for cataloging and metadata workflows, and how managers can be responsive allies for staff and their work.

Improving access to collections

In January, we presented a “year one” progress report on our research project Operationalizing the Art
Research Collective Collection
(OpArt for short). The project is supported by a grant from the Samuel H.
Kress Foundation
with significant co-investment from OCLC. Inspired by discussions with members of the
RLP’s Art and Architecture Group, OpArt is a two-year study designed to help art research libraries identify potential collaborative models for addressing shared sustainability barriers.

Year-one milestones included:

  • Convening and collaborating with our advisory board
  • Identifying 85 North American art libraries whose aggregated WorldCat holdings will serve as a proxy for the art research collective collection
  • Completing preliminary analysis of that proxy collective collection
  • Building a dataset of all interlibrary loan transactions since 2016 where one of the 85 art libraries was a borrower or lender

Year two will focus on completing the collections and ILL analyses, which will inform the final phase of the project: a series of case studies of existing partnerships entered into by art research libraries.

What makes this project great is that it pulls together the art library group of RLP members and works with them as a cohort. This model is based on the highly successful SHARES community model. Yes, SHARES was developed to be a lending network service, but it is much more. SHARES has become a strong community of practice, where resource sharing colleagues gather and share innovative ideas and engage in collective problem-solving. The past year has generated several great initiatives, including an international toolkit that helps libraries share resources across national borders. SHARES is also currently developing guidance for sharing collections with accessibility in mind.

Caring for communities

Throughout the pandemic, the talented RLP staff of program officers have intentionally shifted from “managing” to “caring” for communities. RLP is shaping its 2022 slate of activities to think not only about network-level services and fundamental workflow shifts, but also how to support the people and their well-being. Our WebJunction colleagues hosted a webinar on 10 March (recording now available) that focuses on taking care of yourself, staff, and your community.

We will be convening those who work in leadership capacities at our member libraries to connect and reflect on the changing work environment. To make the most of our time together, we will send out a short survey to identify the best topics to frame a conversation and approaches to facilitate a meaningful experience.

Finally, we are happy to announce new Partners, the University of Rhode Island and the return of the London School of Economics.

On behalf of the RLP team and the larger OCLC Research group, thank you for your time, attention,
and contribution to our work.

The post Exploration and consultation: The OCLC Research Library Partnership trajectory appeared first on Hanging Together.

Lessons learned from my first year in business / Tara Robertson

A bit over a year ago I started my consulting business. I had a good first year and am grateful for all the support people gave me and for all the things I learned. In open source we often say “documentation is a love letter to the future”. So, I’m documenting what was useful in my first year of running my own diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consulting business in case it’s helpful for others in the future. 

Be clear about your strategy

The first big business decision I had to make was my own business strategy–what did I want to focus on? And, what was I not going to focus on? Given what I know about what moves the needle in an organization and the experience that I have, I chose to focus on data-informed DEI strategy. 

One of the things I said no to was offering DEI training. At first I questioned this decision as 95% of my calls with prospective clients started with “We’re looking for someone to lead an unconscious bias workshop.” Research shows that unconscious bias workshops on their own do not make lasting positive impacts on an organization. Now I ask prospective clients “How do you know unconscious bias is actually the first problem you need to address?” to see where we might partner. I’m also happy to refer people to consultants who specialize in workshops and training. 

Prepare your elevator pitch to communicate your services and ideal clients. There are many helpful connectors in my network who have asked me this and then sent potential clients my way. 

Find your people

I’ve built my network of other trusted consultants who do similar work. We share research links, and sometimes refer clients to each other. Some of us have partnered on project proposals and I hope we’ll get a chance to team up and serve clients together. DEI is a huge field and it’s impossible to be an expert on everything, but it is possible to be part of a generous and reciprocal community of experts. These relationships energize and inspire me. 

Ask for help

I am so grateful to the entrepreneurs and consultants in my network. I got great advice from people in the Mozilla alum network (thank you Marissa “Reese” Wood and Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale), the Vancouver tech world (thank you Boris Mann and Claire Atkin) and established DEI consultants, who shared things like their consulting rates, which helped me set mine. 

In addition to hiring a lawyer and accountant, I also hired Tall Poppy to audit my security and help me proactively make a plan about online harassment. I also subcontracted an amazing editor for a few projects where I was delivering a written report. 

Pay for useful tools

These are all tools that I spent money on and have renewed for another year. 

  • Calendly – ($144USD/year) Scheduling app that integrates with Google Calendar and Zoom so that it’s easy to book meetings with people and get the time zones right.
  • Timing.app ($144USD/year, referral link) – automatically tracks your time, I like how it tracks Zoom meetings. This has enabled me to see how long projects actually take vs how long I think they’re going to take. 
  • Google Workspace – I use Slides, Docs and Sheets all the time. I’ve also been using Jamboard as a virtual whiteboard with clients. 
  • Zoom ($200CAD/year) – My preferred video conferencing software. 
  • Microsoft Office subscription – A few of my clients have used Microsoft products. 
  • Block Party – ($120 USD/year, referral link) filters out unwanted mentions on Twitter 
  • Canva – ($204 CAD/year, referral link) for making images for social media. I didn’t start using this until a few months ago and it’s really useful. 
  • Ownr – (save $30 with referral code: RC-VEWXN39VRG) easiest and cheapest way to incorporate a business in Canada.

Define your own measures of success

The goals for my first year was to see if I could actually run a profitable business and to see if I liked working for myself. I loved the flexibility and freedom and all the opportunities to learn. I got to learn from working with different clients in different industries, from other consultants, and from figuring out how I want to do things in my business. 

Going into my second year my business goals are impact and joy. I’m still focused on DEI strategy as an integral part of an organization’s core business strategy and looking to partner with leaders who are hungry to make systemic change. I’m looking to partner with other consultants, especially other women of color, where we can come together like a giant Transformer to tackle more complex projects. I’ve also launched my coaching business to partner with leaders (especially DEI leaders!) to get unstuck and unlock transformation in their work and lives. If this resonates with you, get in touch

The post Lessons learned from my first year in business appeared first on Tara Robertson Consulting.

Gathering emerging insights from the field – a REALM project update / HangingTogether

Throughout the first part of 2022, the Reopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project has been hosting a series of online forums to foster discussion, knowledge sharing, and mutual support among those who work in and with the cultural heritage field. The proposed purpose of these forums was to “gather emerging insights from the field” and apply those ideas to future REALM deliverables. In this blog post, I’ll share briefly how these forums will inform REALM’s work, what we learned in the first two sessions, and what’s on the horizon for the third and final forum.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up with an entomologist for a parent, but when I think of emerging insights, I picture cicadas popping up through the ground, shedding their old skin, and taking flight after 13 or 17 years spent toiling underground, waiting for just the right conditions to emerge. Likewise, when I think of gathering from the field, I picture standing in a marsh wearing hip waders, scooping up insects and storing them in glass vials to bring to the lab for further study—something we children sometimes did to help Dad, gaining a little STEM learning along the way. But, of course, those are just my sense-based memories leading to a strained metaphor.

A cicada emerging from its chrysalis.Photo of cicada by maxime raynal from France, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

For the REALM project, gathering insights arising from the pandemic experiences of staff and leaders in the cultural heritage field does not involve insects, or wading in a marsh, and it certainly couldn’t wait 17 years for the perfect conditions to emerge. It does involve convening, understanding, and sharing within and beyond our professional sectors, to strengthen our collective capacity to adapt and respond to new conditions.

As a reminder, the REALM project launched in April 2020 to provide science-based information to support cultural heritage institutions in their local decision making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the ensuing two years, the project has

  • collected and summarized research related to the COVID-19 virus that may be applicable to the collections, operations, and facilities of archives, libraries, and museums
  • completed and published a laboratory study on how the COVID-19 virus interacts with materials commonly handled by staff and public in those facilities
  • produced toolkit resources that support operational and other decision making specific to cultural heritage institutions.

Throughout this work, the OCLC and IMLS project team members have continuously consulted with a steering committee, operational and scientific working groups, and other subject matter experts from cultural heritage institutions, their professional associations, government agencies, and public health organizations. Focus group sessions and a survey conducted last year helped us gauge whether the information the project was producing was useful and what was needed to help staff and leaders feel informed and supported through the next phase of the pandemic. We also have listened to the questions and suggestions from those working in archives, libraries, and museums during the 40+ live presentations we’ve given and the 160+ questions we’ve fielded through our project mailbox.

As we turned our calendars to 2022, we introduced another method to listen and learn: a series of three virtual facilitated conversations with representatives of archives, libraries, museums, and related service organizations and agencies. Our goal for these conversations has been to elicit examples, perspectives, and ideas that can lead to new initiatives and projects to bolster capacity and resilience of cultural heritage institutions. The input from these discussions is being used to inform the development of crisis management toolkit resources for libraries, archives, and museums; and, to develop ideas for follow-on initiatives that would strengthen the capacity of cultural institutions as local community hubs. The forums have been constructed to cover the following topics.

Forum 1: Crisis Management in Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Using a three-round World Café format, this two-hour discussion on 26 January explored the question: “What information and resources do cultural heritage institutions need—and in what format—to prepare for, navigate through, and recover from public health crises?” Breakout rooms delved into four topics related to crisis management: (1) Decision-making; (2) Leading staff and public; (3) Facilities and operations; and (4) Resource networks.

While responses and experiences were diverse across all participants, the collective discussion outlined some emerging practices and recommendations for crisis management in cultural heritage organizations. 

At the end of the forum, a final question posed to the group was: “What is one insight or action step you are taking away from this discussion?” The responses included:

  • Build your network before you need it. 
  • Document our crisis decision-making processes now, so that we’ll have it for next time. Providing a narrative about how and why we made our decisions will be valuable to our future selves. 
  • Rethink who our peers are—not just organizations like us, but organizations near us. Expand our community outreach and connection. 
  • Connect with different organizations in close proximity to us; they understand our hyper-local context. 
  • Consider who our partners and collaborators are and include more folks who are different from us so that we can learn from them. 
  • Reach out to partners who are in the for-profit sector, such as vendors, for support and resources. 

Forum 2: Building the Capacity of LAMs as Community Hubs During Public Health Crises

This two-hour event on 3 March gathered 27 participants to explore the question: “How do we build the capacity of libraries, archives, and museums to serve as community hubs during times of public health crisis?” Participants shared examples of how their institution showed up in this role during the pandemic, and the discussion gathered insights about the factors that might lead a library, archives, or museum to be a place that community members turn to in times of crisis for information, resources, services, sanctuary and/or programming. The Forum also elicited perspectives about the challenges of such a role and how those challenges might be addressed, so that cultural heritage institutions and support organizations can envision a path forward together.

Summaries of the key comments and take-aways from those Forums were circulated to the participants, REALM project stakeholders, and are now posted to the REALM website.

Our third and final Forum will be on 27 April, on the topic of Resource Networks and Collaborative Partnerships Toward Healthy Communities. This event will gather participants from public health, nonprofit, and cultural heritage sectors to discuss their experiences with developing, activating, or joining resource networks in response to COVID-19. The discussion will explore insights from those experiences that can help to strengthen and sustain networks toward a shared goal of improving public health outcomes.

The post Gathering emerging insights from the field – a REALM project update appeared first on Hanging Together.

Grayscale Bitcoin Trust / David Rosenthal

Amy Castor's Welcome to Grayscale’s Hotel California is a fascinating account of one of the Alice-in-Wonderland market ecosystems that grew from cryptocurrencies:
Grayscale wants to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) into a bitcoin ETF after flooding the market with shares. GBTC is trading 25% below its net asset value, and investors are rightfully pissed off. Grayscale wants them to be upset with the SEC, but the regulator isn’t really to blame. If anything, the SEC should have warned the public about GBTC years ago.
Below the fold, I provide some commentary:

The "Hotel California" reference is to the fact that BTC check in to the trust, whenever someone buys shares either for cash or for BTC, but once they have checked in only 2%/year can ever check out:
Legally, GBTC is a grantor trust, meaning it functions like a closed-end fund. Unlike a typical ETF, there is no mechanism to redeem the underlying asset. The SEC specifically stopped Grayscale from doing this in 2016. Grayscale can create new shares, but it can’t destroy shares to adjust for demand. Grayscale only takes bitcoin out to pay its whopping 2% annual fees, which currently amount to $200 million per year.

In contrast, an ETF trades like a stock on a national securities exchange, like NYSE Arca or Nasdaq. An ETF has a built-in creation and redemption mechanism that allows the shares to trade at NAV via arbitrage. Authorized participants (essentially, broker-dealers, like banks and trading firms) issue new shares when the EFT trades at a premium and redeem shares when they trade at a discount, making a profit on the spread.
The fact that there is a large fund that buys but essentially never sells BTC has an effect on the "price". But in November 2020's Why This Reflexive Ponzi Scheme Will Continue… Harris Kupperman explained that the effect was much bigger than simply demand (my emphasis):
What is GBTC? It is a vehicle that issues new shares daily in exchange for cash or Bitcoins. The shares are issued at the Net Asset Value (NAV), but with the unique wrinkle that they cannot be sold for 6 months. GBTC does not sell Bitcoin except to pay management fees and there is no mechanism in place for it to ever sell Bitcoin like a typical ETF. Think of GBTC as Pac-Man. The coins go in, but do not go out.
As everyone knows knew, BTC was going "to the moon!", so in six months the GBTC shares representing the trapped BTC would be worth a lot more. For this and other reasons:
GBTC currently trades at a 26% premium to NAV and has traded at a 18.7% average premium for the past year.
This spread provided for a number of ludicrously profitable trades, such as:
You buy GBTC in the daily offering and short free-trading GBTC. Six months later, it all nets out and you are left with your profits. ... You can recycle your capital twice a year and on an unlevered basis, even after paying borrow fees, you’re making north of 40% a year
Or:
sell your GBTC at today’s price and buy it back at NAV through the daily offering (which gets you long about 26% more shares for a bit of paperwork).
All of which involve the trust buying ever-increasing amounts of BTC, pumping the "price" ever higher, attracting ever more speculators to these trades, and driving the premium over NAV ever higher. This is why Kupperman calls this a "Reflexive Ponzi Scheme".

Like other Ponizi schemes, this all worked great until it didn't:
Everybody was happy until February 2021, when the Purpose bitcoin ETF launched in Canada. Unlike GBTC, which trades over-the-counter, Purpose trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange, close to NAV. At 1%, its management fees are half that of GBTC. Within a month of trading, Purpose quickly absorbed more than $1 billion worth of assets.

Demand for GBTC dropped off and its premium evaporated. Currently, 653,919 bitcoins (worth a face value of $26 billion) are stuck in an illiquid vehicle. Welcome to Grayscale’s Hotel California.
Source
Competition from Purpose wasn't the only factor that drove the premium down to -25%:
Fed by stimulus money, tethers, and a new grift in the form of NFTs, the price of bitcoin reached a record of nearly $69,000 in November 2021. Bitcoiners rah-rahed the moment.

However, the same network effects that brought BTC to its heights are working in reverse and can just as easily bring it back down again. At its current price of $40,000, amidst 8.5% inflation, bitcoin is not proving itself to be the inflation hedge Grayscale hyped it up to be.
It is easy to see why the holders of GBTC would want to convert it to an ETF that would trade close to NAV. It would give them an instant 33% boost to their current valuation. But Grayscale is in a win-win situation. No matter how unhappy the shareholders are, every year Grayscale gets their 2% fee, "currently worth around $200M", for doing nothing.

Among the unhappy shareholders are some pretty sleazy operators. For example:
Crypto lender BlockFi’s reliance on the GBTC arbitrage is well known as the source of their high bitcoin interest offering. Customers loan BlockFi their bitcoin, and BlockFi invests it into Grayscale’s trust. By the end of October 2020, a filing with the SEC revealed BlockFi had a 5% stake in all GBTC shares.
Customers loaned BTC to BlockFi, so BlockFi has to give them BTC back. But it can't get the BTC it used to buy GBTC back, they're in the Hotel California. So BlockFi needs to sell the GBTC in the market to get cash to buy the BTC to give back to their customers:
Here’s the problem: Now that GBTC prices are below the price of bitcoin, BlockFi won’t have enough cash to buy back the bitcoins that customers lent to them. BlockFi already had to pay a $100 million fine for allegedly selling unregistered securities in 2021.
In a similar vein, Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of the FTX exchange, in a Bloomberg interview explained DeFi's "yield farming". Molly White summarizes:
Bankman-Fried launched into an explanation in which he compared it to a box that "they probably dress up to look like [it's] life-changing" but it "does literally nothing". He explained how people put money into the box "because of, you know, the bullishness of people’s usage of the box". "So they go and pour another $300 million in the box and you get a psych and then it goes to infinity. And then everyone makes money."

[Matt] Levine responded, "I think of myself as like a fairly cynical person. And that was so much more cynical than how I would’ve described farming. You’re just like, well, I’m in the Ponzi business and it’s pretty good."
Castor concludes:
I encourage anyone reading this to submit your comment to the SEC regarding Grayscale’s application for a spot bitcoin ETF. Jorge Stolfi, a computer scientist in Brazil, has provided an excellent example of how to do this. Quality over quantity is key. Use your own words, tell your own story. Submit your comments here.
Here is my comment:
Please DO NOT authorize the Grayscale bitcoin ETF. The reasons why you rejected previous ETF proposals are still valid and should be sufficient to deny this one (and any future ones) as well.

The constant pressure to approve a spot Bitcoin ETF exists because Bitcoin is a negative-sum game - Bitcoin whales need to increase the flow of dollars in so as to have dollars to withdraw. The SEC should not pander to them.

My recent talk to Stanford's EE380 course started by pointing out that cryptocurrencies' externalities include:
Bitcoin is notorious for consuming as much electricity as the Netherlands, but there are around 10,000 other cryptocurrencies, most using similar infrastructure and thus also in aggregate consuming unsustainable amounts of electricity. Bitcoin alone generates as much e-waste as the Netherlands, cryptocurrencies suffer an epidemic of pump-and-dump schemes and wash trading, they enable a $5.2B/year ransomware industry, they have disrupted supply chains for GPUs, hard disks, SSDs and other chips, they have made it impossible for web services to offer free tiers, and they are responsible for a massive crime wave including fraud, theft, tax evasion, funding of rogue states such as North Korea, drug smuggling, and even as documented by Jameson Lopp's list of physical attacks, armed robbery, kidnapping, torture and murder.
I went on to discuss in detail the potential for mitigating these externalities and concluded:
Although the techniques used to implement decentralization are effective in theory, at scale emergent economic effects render them ineffective. Despite this, decentralization is fundamental to the cryptocurrency ideology, making mitigation of its externalities effectively impossible. And attempts to mitigate the externalities of pseudonymous cryptocurrencies are lijkely to be self-defeating. We can conclude that:
  1. Permissioned blockchains do not need a cryptocurrency to defend against Sybil attacks, and thus do not have significant externalities.
  2. Permissionless blockchains require a cryptocurrency, and thus necessarily impose all the externalities I have described except the carbon footprint.
  3. If successful, permissionless blockchains using Proof-of-Work, or any other way to waste a real resource as a Sybil defense, have unacceptable carbon footprints.
  4. Whatever Sybil defense they use, economics forces successful permissionless blockchains to centralize; there is no justification for wasting resources in a doomed attempt at decentralization.
Gateways between cryptocurrencies and the real economy should be illegal, as they impose massive externalities on the real economy. The US is far behind China in realizing this.

Program now available for Samvera Virtual Connect, May 4-5, 2022 / Samvera

The full Samvera Virtual Connect 2022 Program is now available!


Join us on May 4-5 for a great lineup of presentations, lightning talks, and updates relevant to developers, managers, librarians, and anyone with an interest or investment in Samvera technologies. Registration is free!


Samvera Virtual Connect is an opportunity for Samvera Community participants to gather online to learn about initiatives taking place across interest groups, working groups, local and collaborative development projects, and other efforts. This spring virtual event is open to anyone who would like to catch up on Community developments, make new connections, and learn more about the Samvera Community.

The post Program now available for Samvera Virtual Connect, May 4-5, 2022 appeared first on Samvera.

Image Digital Collections Getting a Modern Interface / Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan)

Gallery View of new interface for image digital collections.

It’s been nearly a decade since we last refreshed our image digital collections. At that time, we created a standard web template, constructed consistent help pages, cleaned up our collection home pages, and built what was at the time an easier way to view and interact with the images in the interface. This time, we’re doing more! We have a brand-new interface and a number of additional and improved features.

SHARE-ing is caring, feline edition / HangingTogether

It’s me again. Chobe.

I’ve already told you about my furry co-workers here at OCLC. Now let me tell you all about the purr-fect pets of the SHARES resource sharing community.

Guest author, Chobe

SHARES is the resource sharing arm of the OCLC Research Library Partnership, and it consists of a trusted, generous, and pet-loving network of partners that provide access to libraries’ collections. Led by RLP Senior Program Officer Dennis Massie, SHARES community members meet regularly to share knowledge and provide support. In fact, my human told me that since the beginning of the pandemic, the SHARES folks have met for over 100 virtual town halls, to discuss how to manage interlibrary loan stuff during this crazy pandemic.

I guess if you’re spending that much time together talking about how to do hard things, you get pretty close. It’s a pretty remarkable, trusting group that does new and nifty things together, like the International ILL Toolkit, which these energetic humans of SHARES created to make global resource sharing easier for libraries worldwide. They even made it free.

Nice.

But of course, the really important thing is the pets. I got to meet a lot of these pets and their humans recently when I joined the short weekly “SHARES social.” It was a BLAST!

I met Dorian and Ray, who are the furry co-workers of Lars Leon at the University of Kansas. Dorian spent most of the call on Lars’s lap while Ray slept through the call. I like to do both of those things during video calls, too!

They were super chill unlike Sarah Jane–a DOG! duh!–who is the furry co-worker of Kerry Kristine McElrone at Swarthmore College. Of course, Sarah Jane had just received a new chew toy–a stuffed, furry pink champagne flute–and she was starting happy hour early.

Sashi and Shimi, the furry friends of former RLP program officer Karen Smith-Yoshimura also made an appearance. They are apparently retired now, like their human, but I can’t see that their lives are much different than those of us still working.

Margaret Ellingson from Emory University was working from a work work office (not a home office), and we didn’t get to see Tango, who was working from home. But we did get to hear all about Tango’s new wooly cat cave. That sounds comfy! Megan Gaffney from the University of Delaware wasn’t able to attend the social, but she shared a photo of her co-worker, Macintosh. I’m puzzled that Macintosh seems to be keeping a Dell computer warm.

Many of these furry co-workers were featured in a SHARES pets calendar that the team secretly put together for Dennis, for fun and to thank him for leading the group through the pandemic.

The SHARES 2022 calendar, featuring furry co-workers like me!

Dorian is featured this month, for April! Sarah Jane is also there, along with 10 other furry co-workers, even including a horse named Gigi!

But you can’t go out and buy this calendar (too bad, right?); this close-knit team of humans did this themselves, to celebrate their furry co-workers like me. Wait, my human co-worker says it was really to celebrate Dennis and the SHARES community. She says that SHARES has really been a supportive community for people who found it easier to do hard things together than apart. That people are better together.

Whatever.

I’m going to talk to my human about that cat cave.

Thanks to my human co-worker, Senior Program Officer Rebecca Bryant, as well as Senior Manager Merrilee Proffitt for their assistance with this post.

The post SHARE-ing is caring, feline edition appeared first on Hanging Together.

Meta: Fifteen Years Of Pontification / David Rosenthal

Fifteen years ago today I posted Mass-market scholarly communication to start this blog. Five years ago today I posted A decade of blogging, and a couple of months later noticed it had exceeded one million page views. Now, the blog has accumulated:
  • 812 posts, including my personal all-time favorite, 2014's Economies of Scale in Peer-to-Peer Networks.
  • 4038 published comments.
  • Over 3.4M page views, of which 367K (~11%) were of last February's short-notice EE380 Talk. Apart from that anomaly, it is an average of about 35K/month.

Working Towards Tenure Together: Creating an Intersectional Peer Supported Cohort Model / In the Library, With the Lead Pipe

By Halle Burns, Mayra Corn, Jennifer Culley, Stephanie Fell, Sarah Jones, Christina Miskey, Ruby Nugent, Rebecca Orozco, Brittani Sterling, & Aidy Weeks1

In Brief

After observing the realities of the tenure-track process at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), a number of newly hired faculty librarians created an informal ongoing, peer-to-peer support network. This evolved to be UNLV Libraries’ informal cohort of tenure-track faculty made up of ten librarians, whose experiences represent a diverse and intersectional group of women, both personally and professionally. The safe and supportive environment that the cohort created demonstrates the value of a peer-to-peer cohort, where colleagues are able to share information and experiences, as well as collaborate on scholarly endeavors.

Introduction

Navigating the tenure-track process can be a challenging and, at times, an isolating experience. Even for faculty who have experience with achieving tenure, a new institution and job description brings a fresh set of hurdles. At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), new tenure-track librarians go through the University Libraries’ onboarding process, which includes joining the libraries’ mentorship program and the campus First Year Faculty program as an orientation to promotion and tenure. However, it was not until five tenure-track librarians attended the UNLV Libraries’ annual mid-tenure proceeding in October 2019 that these faculty members began to understand the written and unwritten standards, metrics, and factors used to evaluate a candidate’s mid-tenure progress. After observing the mid-tenure proceedings, witnessing the collegial support of the group that underwent evaluation, and speaking with colleagues about previous informal cohort efforts, the new tenure-track librarians recognized they could benefit from an additional, ongoing, informal peer-to-peer support network. 

This support network not only provided a foundation for walking through the tenure and promotion process together, but also in navigating the culture of the library/university and assisting with the retention of this group of new hires, each with their own unique identities and needs.  It helped create a professional, but social setting which allowed for each member’s questions to be addressed, provided moral support that became a cherished resource while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and eventually, offered opportunities for group scholarship efforts. 

For the purpose of this article, the authors use the framework of intersectionality coined by Kimberle Crenshaw which posits that individuals, in particular, women of color, can face discrimination/hardships based on multiple identities specifically (but not limited to) race and gender (1989). Ettarh (2014) situates intersectionality squarely within the field of librarianship, making this framing most apropos for our cohort. As a cohort of women, tenure-track librarians with varying intersectionalities, we have found that it is possible to create a microcosm of inclusion that honors allyship and the diverse lived experiences of group members. This is not to assume that such spaces would not also be possible in a group composed of multiple gender identities. It just so happened that this group of tenure track faculty became composed exclusively of women. This paper will outline how the cohort was created, what benefits have come from it, and provide more detail on the makeup of the members. Our hope is that others may use our experience to begin their own peer-support group.

UNLV Peer Cohort Creation and Background

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) is a public doctoral-granting institution founded in 1957. It supports a campus of over 31,000 total students and is one of the most diverse universities in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report (2021). As of this publication, UNLV Libraries has one executive faculty member, 58 FTE academic faculty members, 32 FTE professional staff, and 30 classified staff that support the Libraries’ mission to “foster innovation, knowledge creation and discovery, and academic achievement to enrich our UNLV and Southern Nevada communities” (UNLV University Libraries, 2020). Tenure-track academic faculty members are evaluated for progress towards tenure every year until tenure is achieved, with mid-tenure review occurring in roughly the third year of academic employment and the application for tenure and promotion occurring during the fifth year of academic employment. 

Librarian faculty are evaluated in three main areas: librarianship, scholarly research, and service. Librarianship consists of the duties outlined in each librarian’s job description. Scholarly research and/or creative activity consists of scholarship efforts such as poster presentations, panel discussions, and other professional presentations, as well as written efforts like peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Other types of scholarly activities and outputs may also be considered. Service includes committee work and professional voluntarism and is classified into four main areas: to the library, to the university, to the profession, and to the community. There is an expectation that the librarian will grow in all of these areas with each year of employment leading up to applying for tenure and promotion.

The peer-to-peer support network that first began at the October 2019 mid-tenure meeting noted above, later evolved to be UNLV Libraries’ newest informal cohort of tenure-track faculty librarians, whose experiences represented a variety of library departments across multiple campuses, liaison roles, and professional experiences including technical services, special collections and archives, collection development, social sciences, research data management, scholarly communications, sciences, and health sciences. Initially, the group’s gathering model was centered on face-to-face meetings held when members across all campuses could attend. Two of these in-person meetings took place before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a change in business as usual due to the closure of campuses and implementation of social distancing protocols.

In March 2020, a state stay-at-home mandate was issued by the University causing a shift to a remote work model. Not wanting this to impact the newly established support system, the cohort implemented a weekly virtual meeting format allowing for continued peer accountability and mentorship. The added strain of ever-evolving challenges associated with COVID-19 further demonstrated the beneficial nature of this arrangement. At the start of the pandemic, the cohort was made up of seven faculty librarians. As remote work continued and the pandemic ensued, the cohort grew and added three new tenure-track faculty members.

These virtual meetings began as a relatively unstructured, informal weekly check-in. The group discussed an array of topics ranging from personal to professional matters, including: pandemic coping mechanisms, scholarship efforts in progress, and ambiguous tenure and organizational policies, as well as clarifying workplace procedures, which resulted in shared knowledge of available resources. In July 2020, the group identified that there was an opportunity to practice distributed leadership (Goulding & Walton, 2014) in order to encourage service, collaboration, and governance. The cohort established a rotating moderator schedule where one member would lead the group for the month, paired with a backup moderator. As this leadership schedule began to take form, the cohort added recurring segments to its meetings to include: scheduling guest speakers, weekly check-ins, monthly accountability, scholarship collaborations, research agenda pairing, and planning of social events, such as virtual game nights or socially distant meet-ups. Since implementing this distributed leadership model, each moderator has added their own personality and leadership style with each meeting. The group has been able to observe and support one another’s leadership growth through this model. 

Why do we consider this cohort structure to be unique? While other programs were available to tenure-track faculty, including the UNLV Libraries Mentorship Program and the UNLV First Year Faculty Program, the peer mentorship that this cohort provided was a necessary and standalone resource for its members. Some members were the only tenure-track faculty in their department or division, and while the mentorship tenured faculty provided was invaluable, there is no substitute for tenure-track faculty members who are navigating progress toward tenure at the same time.

Literature Review

The tenure process, in general, poses difficulties on a number of levels. Between inconsistent tenure requirements across institutions, lack of support, uncertainty, gatekeeping, and the uniqueness of library faculty roles, it is no wonder that Hirschkorn (2010) muses:

Perhaps my biggest fear is that I am going to arrive at the tenure deadline and be told that I have not been publishing enough or serving on enough committees to be granted tenure – a point at which it will be too late to do anything.

Hirschkorn is not alone in those fears. In addition to explicit requirements, pre-tenure faculty deal with a significant amount of pressure. They need to be concerned with scholarship and service but also have to consider the optics and university politics surrounding tenure processes. As Hirschkorn points out, “Do we need to do what we are told and not irritate anyone who potentially could review our promotion or tenure applications” and should therefore “…avoid contentious teaching, service, and research pursuits until their academic freedom has been ensured by tenure?” Furthermore, Palmer and Jones (2019) highlight the fact that many institutions implemented tenure “processes and expectations…when men achieved academic standing and women did not pursue professions, specifically while establishing families” and that the “lack of flexibility, institutional and peer support, and perceived life balance further inhibited women from achieving promotion and tenure.” They also point out that women faculty members can especially struggle during the tenure process, often facing “isolation, losses of other personal goals (e.g. marriage or children), and lack of personal serenity (Palmer & Jones, 2019),” all of these factors thus creating a severe inequality between women and men tenured faculty members.

Librarians of color, in particular, encounter additional barriers within academia, further complicating the tenure and promotion process. This is compounded by the fact that librarianship is consistently considered to be a feminized profession, thus creating additional obstacles specific to women of color (Eva et al., 2021; Palmer & Jones, 2019). Numerous articles spanning several decades cite similar evidence regarding the many burdens faculty of color face (Turner et al., 2008). This evidence includes toxic workplace culture, forced emotional labor, lack of representation in administration and among peers, and the expectation to “represent the voice of diversity on a number of committees across the campus in order to fulfill the institutional goal of inclusion” (Riley-Reid, 2017). To further that point, Damasco and Hodges (2012) suggest:

Faculty of color more frequently find themselves burdened with teaching loads and service responsibilities that may detract from their research activity, research that may already be undervalued by their colleagues. They are usually expected to assume institutional roles (such as that of the ‘diversity specialist’) that are often ignored in terms of tenure and promotion evaluations.

While much research has been conducted on the recruitment of faculty of color, only recently has the focus shifted towards retention. Toxic work culture and low morale have been proven by Heady et al. (2020) to greatly contribute to faculty turnover. Based on a series of interviews, Heady et al. (2020) documented personal accounts that “alluded to the bystander effect, leading to feelings of betrayal and isolation” and that there was “confusion and frustration regarding who to contact to address such issues and, when they did give voice to their concerns, felt they were overlooked.” 

LGBTQ+ faculty also experience hurdles in academia that could hinder their progress towards tenure and promotion. Vaccaro’s 2012 ethnographic study of these potential barriers notes that attitudes towards LGBTQ+ faculty vary widely even within their own departments and institutions, thus affecting tenure and promotion decisions and overall climate. Some faculty in the study even noted that, despite policies against nondiscrimination, they “live in fear” due to the attitudes of their colleagues (Vaccaro, 2012). It is important to note that not all LGBTQ+ faculty are ‘out’ at their place of work and feel comfortable being so. ‘Out’ faculty may face “…loss of opportunities, exclusion from social networks and mentoring” as well as “heightened visibility and scrutiny, …tokenism, fetishization” and “career implications [that] can include lost jobs and promotions [along with] attempts to block tenure” (Beagan et al., 2020). To cope with these roadblocks, Beagan et al. (2020) suggest that “connecting with and mentoring new queer faculty” helps individuals feel less isolated.

Outside of mentoring, other support systems provide a valuable service for early-career librarians to settle into academia and the rigors of the tenure process, which librarians are generally unprepared for, even after obtaining a terminal degree in their respective fields (Goodsett & Walsh, 2015). As Miller and Benefiel (1998) point out, “many librarians…find themselves facing a ‘sink-or-swim’ mentality, wherein little help with fulfilling requirements or even assistance in interpreting the nature of the requirements is forthcoming (Wilkinson, 2012)”. This puts faculty librarians at a disadvantage.

Even in universities with thoroughly documented tenure processes, variability in tenure pathways can still remain, including within the library’s own ranks, as the demands for innovative research, publication, and professional involvement only continue to grow (Miller & Benefiel, 1998; vanDuinkerken et al., 2010). This is a well-researched issue, with multiple studies aiming to provide clarity on this matter both within academic libraries specifically and academia in general (Hirschkorn, 2010; Applegate, 2019; Wilkinson, 2012). With new faculty members spanning a variety of departments, divisions, and specialties, it is clear that what counts as “significance” (defined by vanDuinkerken et al., 2010 as the quality and importance work performed as it relates to its impact on the institution, discipline, etc.) in one area of academic librarianship does not apply to all. As Garner et al. (2009) asserts, there isn’t a clear difference between, for example, technical service and public service positions during the tenure and promotion process, thus making expectations difficult to understand for early-career library faculty. When pressing for clarity regarding tenure expectations, tenure-track professionals receive a variety of responses, similar to the situation Hirschkorn (2010) discusses:

…When I have pushed for specific details regarding tenure expectations, I get some variation of ‘depends, but do not worry about it, you seem to be doing enough’ as the response. In short, if each institution does have different expectations, and not just different perceived expectations, how do new faculty gain any sense of them?

So, the question remains, what can be done? Vilz and Poremski (2015) point out that there are some support systems vital to helping librarians in particular as they move through the tenure process. This includes feedback from senior (tenured) librarians and supervisors, time to dedicate to tenure requirements for service and scholarship, mentoring, and the availability of professional development funds (Vilz & Poremski, 2015). Palmer and Jones (2019) also discuss the importance of support systems for tenure-track faculty. 

Academic libraries have frequently implemented both formal and informal mentoring programs using a variety of approaches and with varying degrees of success. Successful “mentoring relationships include professional components (e.g., coaching of and protection for the mentee) and psychological components (e.g., counseling and friendship) (Palmer & Jones, 2019).” The most common type of mentoring program is one-on-one mentoring, where a more senior, often tenured, faculty member is paired with a new tenure-track faculty member soon after starting in their position (Vilz & Poremski, 2015). Other mentoring models include group mentoring where a few senior librarians guide several new librarians (Miller & Benefiel, 1998), resource teams where a small group of senior librarians coach one new librarian (Bosch et al., 2010), and peer-mentor support groups where tenure-track faculty members at various levels in their careers work together to support each other through the tenure and promotion process (Lieberthal, 2009; Cirasella & Smale, 2011; Level & Mach, 2004; Miller & Benefiel, 1998).

Level and Mach (2004) note that, while mentoring itself is critical to retaining highly qualified faculty long-term, “despite its overwhelming use in academic institutions, traditional, one-on-one mentoring is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution” and that exploring other mentoring models, such as peer mentoring, can be fairly successful to “maximize the different types of support available to new tenure-track librarians.” Peer mentoring and relationships provide “a high level of information sharing and additional psychosocial functions such as emotional support (Lieberthal, 2009)” that isn’t necessarily present in more traditional mentoring relationships. Cirasella and Smale (2011) point out that “mentoring among peers can be much less formal, which may be more comfortable for librarians…. Also, peer mentoring is by nature a reciprocal relationship, which may make it easier to solicit advice and assistance” throughout the tenure process. So, while traditional mentoring is hierarchical in nature and can create an unintended power imbalance, peer mentoring “lends itself well to facilitating a learning culture in which librarians of all ranks and levels of experience can learn from each other (Lieberthal, 2009).” For women faculty especially, exploring alternatives to conventional mentoring methods can have positive results. “Relationships are paramount to women in academia feeling successful… [They] want to feel connected to their mentors personally, and want the relationship to include support of their sense of self-worth (Palmer & Jones, 2019),” which isn’t necessarily available in a traditional one-on-one relationship (Level & Mach, 2004).

To combat turnover and increase retention of librarians of color, Royster et al. (2015) notes, “Many types of retention efforts have been proposed, including salary inducements for librarians of color, or cultural sensitivity training programs for library faculty and staff, but one key strategy involves mentoring of librarians new to the library environment.” These relationships provide an opportunity for new librarians of color to gain familiarity with campus culture as well as develop strategies for navigating academic job responsibilities and expectations. Damasco and Hodges (2012) indicate that “several respondents [to their survey] discussed the importance and need for more informal mentoring relationships and peer support networks as a means for alleviating feelings of isolation, particularly in environments where they found themselves a racial minority.”

The Value of a Peer Cohort 

What began as a tenure-track support system rapidly evolved and expanded after moving to a remote work environment during the pandemic. The collegial support that the cohort offers is best exemplified in three different ways. An example of the first is in the cohort’s shared scholarship efforts. Since the members are transparent and open about their professional activities and progress towards tenure, members have found collaborative partners as well as shared research interests. The group produced a poster presentation and a moderated panel discussion for two separate conferences. In preparation for these conferences, those who had a more established research agenda stepped aside to allow members who needed the experience or scholarship effort for tenure purposes to take the spotlight.

The second demonstration of value was the organic cultivation of an environment of respect and honesty which continues to allow members to speak openly about their personal and professional experiences. As the commitment to regular meeting attendance was solidified and the impact of each member’s contributions evolved, the group’s cohesion and comfort level continued to rise, allowing for trust building and an air of safety. The cohort meetings provided a platform for individuals to bravely share information about their lived experiences without wondering how that information would be received. While all members may not have shared the same experiences, the deep respect and care that grew out of weekly meetings created a trusted space for openly sharing. 

The third demonstration of value has been strength in numbers, particularly in the effort to push for clarification and expanded documentation of tenure-track policies overall, but especially those that may be out of date and/or are not written down and are documented only in the minds of tenured faculty with long-standing institutional knowledge. This is an important aspect of the cohort system, as the nature of shared governance in academia requires documentation maintenance and continuously clarifying policies and procedures that tenure-track faculty are relying on to shepherd them through the tenure process. However, committee and faculty members’ time is valuable. By gathering and summarizing questions as a group, the cohort streamlined requests to the appropriate contacts and demonstrated that there were multiple faculty members who lacked clarity about specific concepts or procedures. Areas that the cohort has requested clarification of processes or policies include: annual review requirements, definitions used in annual evaluations and the tenure-track process, expectations (written and unwritten) of faculty, and COVID-19 tenure timeline extension policies.

Equity, Inclusion, and Retention

In general, institutions of higher education can experience a “revolving door” when it comes to scholars or librarians of color (Alabi, 2018). This in part is due to the lack of an inclusive environment and an emphasis on recruitment but not retention (Alabi, 2018). However, we as a cohort have found that by prioritizing each other’s holistic personhood, it is possible to influence our personal connections and professional support of each other (see Table 3). Interwoven throughout our peer mentorship model is respect, honor, and cognition of our diverse lived experiences. We recognize the unique perspectives, intersectionalities, and intricate lenses with which each group member is experiencing the tenure-track process. 

The cohort is composed of a complex and nuanced range of identities, including different races and ethnicities (African American, Latinx, multi-ethnic, and white), as well as a variety of sexual orientations (Figure 1 & Figure 2). Over half of our cohort identifies as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), which contrasts with the professional profile of academic librarians in the United States. As of 2010 in the United States, 13.9% of credentialed librarians in higher education identify as BIPOC (ALA & Decision Demographics, 2012), while 54% of our cohort do so. Moreover, 50% of the cohort identifies as LGBTQ+. Despite the fact that there have been instances where some library associations collect sexual orientation data during membership surveys (Poinke, 2020), it appears that the American Library Association has yet to do so. Thus, we cannot compare our cohort data to the larger professional population. Finally, the cohort is made up of all women, some of whom are first generation and/or non-traditional college graduates. We hold a wide breadth of socioeconomic backgrounds and span an approximate 20 year age range. We found that embracing our diversity along with our similarities added to our sense of belonging within the cohort. 

Figure 1

figure 1, accessible equivalent linked below
Figure 1. Racial and Ethnic Identities of Cohort Members by Count
Accessible equivalent of this figure as a table.

Figure 2

figure 2, accessible equivalent linked below
Figure 2. Sexual Orientations of Cohort Members by Count
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The diversity of our cohort is also reflected in our professional experiences. Cohort members have worked in public, medical, and academic libraries. Even though we all self-identify as early or mid-career librarians, many of whom are new to the tenure-track career path, collectively we possess 133 years of experience in library and information science and 29.5 years of working in managerial positions (Figure 3, Table 1, & Table 2). We bring expertise from cataloging, acquisitions, archives, discipline-specific librarianship including social sciences, health, medicine, and science, and supervising. This combination of professional experiences provided the cohort with not only a more comprehensive understanding of the UNLV Libraries, personnel situations, and navigating tenure processes but also of the LIS field. 

Figure 3

figure 3, accessible equivalent linked below
Figure 3. Years of Experience in LIS in 5 Year Increments by Count
Accessible equivalent of this figure as a table.

Table 1 Cohort Members Tenure Experience and Career Status
Tenure Track Experience New Experienced
2 8
Career Status Early career Mid-Career
5

5

Table 2 Number of Years of Management Experience in 5 Year Increments
Management Experience None 1-5 6-10
4 4 2

The reason it is important to specifically acknowledge various aspects of identity within this cohort is because of our commitment to creating a space of care that invites open communication and vulnerability for members, not despite our differences but because of them. The cohort does not espouse a perfect formula for guaranteed success, however this commitment to care for each other allowed room for accountability and responsibility for members’ actions even in the face of challenges or topics that were sensitive in nature.

An example of the way members created a space of care is through consensus decision-making for group scholarship opportunities. The cohort had multiple discussions about ensuring everyone was given opportunities to present and write scholarship. During an earlier discussion regarding a conference presentation, the group decided to center the voices of BIPOC colleagues as presenters. The group asked BIPOC members if they would like to present before offering the opportunity to white colleagues. This opened up a candid discussion around when and how to center the experiences and voices of colleagues who hold BIPOC or LGBTQ+ identities. 

As part of encouraging mental wellness and personal health, the monthly moderator included a check-in at the beginning or end of meetings. This practice aided in the collective processing of the racial uprisings due to the killing of Black folks at the hands of law enforcement, racial disparities brought to the forefront of public discourse about the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we as individuals and our families were being affected by all of it. 

These two examples illustrate our commitment to care, retention, and helping each other traverse the tenure-track process as new hires. However, it was not until we conducted an internal survey to formulate research efforts in relation to the cohort as a support system that we were able to articulate our thoughts and shared experiences throughout 2020 and 2021. Below are some quotes from the survey that support the notion of an environment where diversity and equity are the rule and not the exception (Table 3):

Table 3
Quotes from the Internal Group Survey
Personal Connection
“The nature of this group…inherently makes it unique and offers professional and personal support that is different than I can get elsewhere.”
“A safe, judgment-free space…genuine friendship/caring about colleagues’ success without competition.”
“Friendship, 100% support, a complete non judgment zone.”
Professional Support
“The cohort has been a great support network in terms of providing information regarding the tenure process (both verbally and, for example, where to find information on the staff website, how to use Folio, etc.); bouncing ideas off of one another; it’s been useful to hear different interpretations of various elements of the tenure process (folks have different supervisors, are in different departments and divisions and hear different information); working on and through our FAARs together was really helpful.”
“The cohort has not only held me accountable to a group of individuals, but also allowed me to openly talk of successes and failures without fear of judgment or impact on the view of me as a professional. In addition to this, hearing the stories from my peers has helped me establish my own research, scholarship, and service goals.”
“Invaluable! I honestly can say that I would be struggling a lot more than I did transitioning to remote work almost a year ago. In addition to the professional support, an opportunity to talk about things that are happening personally and how that not only affects our ability to navigate an academic tenure track experience, but how our everyday mental wellness is important to acknowledge. The ability to express our fears and anxiety in an empathetic and sympathetic space is something I have not experienced before and may not ever again.”

The Impact of COVID-19 

Three cohort members began their faculty experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, with their initial interactions with colleagues beginning entirely virtually, including regular communication within their respective departments. This lack of physical, in-person contact with co-workers made understanding and navigating the organizational culture of their workplace challenging. Cohort members were required to continue working on their daily tasks at similar pre-pandemic levels of productivity, while also being mindful of tenure requirements. Accurately forecasting the achievement of these requirements became even more challenging when professional conferences and major events were canceled, delayed, and/or moved to a virtual environment.

It also became evident to the entire cohort that their tenure-track trajectory was going to be impacted by the pandemic and the ever-changing opportunities available for scholarship and service. To combat this, group members began to regularly highlight professional calls for proposal (CFP) during meetings and via the group email list. This type of resource sharing provided individuals a chance to make up for scholarship they may have had to forfeit due to the unforeseen circumstances created by a global pandemic, while also contributing to the profession in unique ways they may have not considered before. 

Other obstacles that arose during this remote work period were varied and complex for all involved. Outside of work, members of the cohort experienced significant personal life changes immediately before or during the pandemic. Seven moved to Nevada from out of state after being hired by UNLV, and three started their position with UNLV Libraries working from home during the pandemic. With several members of the cohort identifying as being high-risk for contracting COVID-19, and a significant percentage identifying as BIPOC and part of the LGBTQ+ community, conversations about personal physical health and safety became a regular topic. Current events around social injustice and racism became more prevalent, and taking time to support each other’s mental health in light of these events became an important area of discussion.

Coming together during such a pivotal time has created a unique personal and professional bond. As an all-female cohort, there is an added element of collegiality that may have made a difference in how we have been able to support one another in a number of capacities. The group developed a distinct connection built on trust and respect for one another. The cohort became a place to celebrate successes while also providing space to lift each other up during challenges.

Ways that We’ve Stayed Connected

As the pandemic evolved from a temporary, short-term event to an ongoing, long-term reality, the cohort began the challenge of navigating newly hybrid (virtual/in-person) communication channels and changing institutional norms. Information was disseminated by University and Library leadership via email, during staff and faculty meetings, and in departmental conversations. During this time, weekly cohort meetings dedicated time to discussing the updates around important announcements regarding budgets, the potential for furloughs, and timelines for returning to campus. Several cohort members began to return to campus just a few short months after stay-at-home mandates were implemented and experienced additional stressors and anxiety associated with being in library buildings with co-workers and students. 

UNLV uses Google Workspace for its business communication and collaboration needs, and the cohort has used various Google Workspace applications to facilitate connecting with one another. Google Meet serves as a platform for weekly virtual meetings; a shared Google Drive is used to share documents such as meeting minutes, as well as collaborative documents for scholarship opportunities. Google Rooms has been helpful for short, work-related chats and questions that do not necessitate an email. 

In addition to our work-related communication, the cohort also utilized other communication methods for more personal, non-work-related questions and support. The cohort uses group text messages to chat, and some members have had in-person socially distanced meet-ups including a park outing, outdoor lunches or coffees, and walks for those who returned to on-campus work. There have also been virtual game nights scheduled, where members played multiple cooperative games and connected over video chat.  

Making these weekly connections has buoyed the cohort and provided immeasurable strength during a time of uncertainty, stress, and social isolation. Members have families, partners, children, and pets. Some live alone. All of these factors, and more, affect lives outside of the workplace. On-going connection and collaboration facilitated by weekly meetings, group chats, emails, and some socially distanced in-person meet-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic have bolstered our support for one another in ways that simply may not have been possible under other circumstances. 

Discussion

The benefits of implementing a peer-to-peer cohort model have developed exponentially since the cohort’s establishment. The group was created to build a support system for navigating the tenure process but has evolved into much more. The cohort has become an accountability group, a mental and emotional health support system, and a guidance network of colleagues who are genuine in their investment in supporting one another’s professional journeys. The cohort also benefits and draws strength from having a myriad of women who are from a diverse range of social identities, career paths, and lived experiences. The cohort attributes its success to its members’ backgrounds, a multitude of roles, mutual respect for each other’s talents, and dedication to creating a brave support system for all its members. 

What makes this experience noteworthy? First, cohort members’ hire dates were in relatively close proximity to one another, very similar to a cluster-hire model where employees of a similar department or role are hired at the same time to encourage retention. Second, the cohort benefitted from the diversity of its members. Each member brought a unique background to the cohort including but not limited to: previous professional occupations, socioeconomic status, household status, sexual orientation, geographical diversity, and racial and ethnic identities. Each cohort member’s positionality brought a distinct variation in knowledge, skill, culture, and approach to the profession that encouraged open-mindedness, empathy, understanding, personal reflection, and growth. The heterogeneity of the cohort served to promote a variety of perspectives which later encouraged cross-disciplinary collaboration and other scholarly pursuits. Third, the catalyst for the creation of a peer-driven cohort came during a significant event in the early onset of academy indoctrination: observing the mid-tenure review process. That critical event highlighted that unwritten pressures existed in the tenure process beyond written tenure requirements. By coming together as a cohort, we were able to collectively learn about these pressures and better address them.

Shortly after forming the cohort as a means of mutual support, the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a further need for strengthening ties with members. The cohort’s connectedness and support while bearing witness to a global health crisis and worldwide inequities allowed the group to find solace during difficult times. The cohort’s efforts to come together over the course of a few years created a welcoming environment for new tenure-track colleagues; spaces for discussions, inquiries, and sounding boards; and a supportive rather than isolating experience towards achieving tenure.

As for how the cohort will stay connected post-pandemic, that remains to be seen. Some cohort members have been working on-site full time or part-time since the summer of 2020, and most have transitioned back to the office as of this writing. Inevitably the format or schedule of the meetings will change due to in-person and virtual commitments or a combination of both. Cohort members’ support needs will likely continue to change as well, as members’ work responsibilities naturally change and evolve and as the group shifts from being brand-new faculty members at UNLV to going through mid-tenure review and on towards tenure. However needs evolve, the cohort has proven itself essential for ongoing support, communication, and collaboration as members continue to navigate the tenure-track process and workplace and personal challenges, while also giving a space to celebrate successes. Whatever the future holds for how the cohort stays connected, members most assuredly will continue to work together to foster the established mutual benefits of support and retention. 

Conclusion

The path to tenure in academia can vary from institution to institution. What is common knowledge at any institution however, is that there is an arduous road ahead for new tenure-track faculty to successfully navigate the rigorous process. As noted in the literature review, the more isolating the experience, the more difficult achieving this milestone is. We recognize that this case study is unique and that certain institutional factors and person-specific characteristics made this cohort possible. We also recognize that individual case studies may not necessarily be reproducible in other academic library settings or tenure-track cohorts. Discussion of future research is beyond the scope of this case study, however, we do want to encourage further exploration and dissemination of similar peer-to-peer models within academic library settings. Finally, we want to impart key lessons learned and takeaways that may aid those who are interested in forming a peer cohort of their own:

  • Be attentive to the intersectionality and diversity of the group. Recognizing diverse identities, lived experiences and backgrounds will guide the group in practicing cultural humility, empathy, and positionality among cohort members which in turn helps to frame the practice of psychological safety within the group.
  • Decide on healthy approaches for respectful discussion, feedback, and decision-making early on in the formation of the cohort. Adhering to positive communication techniques will aid in productive conversations and knowing how to address conflicts as they arise.
  • Consider putting together a dedicated virtual space to make sure your group has quick access to annual review resources, promotion and tenure guidance, meeting documents, and relevant reading materials. This may take the form of a shared folder directory, group email, or chat platform.
  • Consider establishing weekly standing meetings with rotating moderators so cohort members can keep each other accountable and informed of important promotion and tenure updates.
  • Distribute leadership opportunities so that cohort members can gain experience in leading others. Examples include leading a scholarly work opportunity, a meeting, or other projects.
  • Affirm cohort members’ season of change. Though each cohort member may have started with the same goal in mind –to achieve tenure– as time progresses, cohort members may decide that this level of peer support is no longer necessary based on shifts in career goals, job responsibilities, etc. Affirming this truth recognizes the importance of a growth mindset that is unique to each of us while encouraging continued success in the journey towards tenure and beyond.

A cohort, whether formal or informal, can offer strength, support, and shared understanding of the strenuous yet rewarding journey ahead. As this article demonstrates, cohorts can be formed by anyone and do not require formal recognition by an institution. Forming a cohort can be enlightening, foster relationships, and make the tenure process easier to undertake. Navigating tenure together not only brings success to those in the cohort but to the institution at large.


Acknowledgements

The authors thank the following peer reviewers and editors of In the Library with a Lead Pipe for their labor and contributions to help make this manuscript publication possible. We would like to provide a sincere thank you to peer reviewers, Ikumi Crocoll and Leanna Barcelona, and also to the Publishing Editor, Ian Beilin.


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Accessible Equivalents

Figure 1 as a Table

Figure 1. Racial and Ethnic Identities of Cohort Members by Count
Identity Count
African American 1
Multicultural 2
Latinx 4
White 6

Return to Figure 1 caption.

Figure 2 as a Table

Figure 2. Sexual Orientations of Cohort Members by Count
Orientation Count
LGBTQIA+ 5
Heterosexual 5

Return to Figure 2 caption.

Figure 3 as a Table

Figure 3. Years of Experience in LIS in 5 Year Increments by Count
Years Count
16–20 years 4
11–15 years 1
6–10 years 2
1–5 years 3

Return to Figure 3 caption.

Footnotes

  1. All authors are listed as first authors and equally contributed to this article.

Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 2022 April 19 / HangingTogether

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The Autism Society describes Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as “a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.  Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a ‘spectrum condition’ that affects people differently and to varying degrees.  While there is currently no known single cause of autism, early diagnosis helps a person receive the support and services that they need, which can lead to a quality life filled with opportunity.” The Autism Society began its campaign to promote awareness of autism in 1970.  In 1972, the society began to promote National Autistic Children’s Week.  The United States Congress officially established National Autism Week in 1985.  The now-familiar Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon was adopted in 1999, becoming the international sign of autism awareness.  The ribbon symbolizes the complexity of the autism spectrum, the diversity of people who live with autism, and the hope that comes with awareness and early intervention.  In 2008, the United Nations declared each April 2 to be World Autism Awareness Day.  On March 4, 2021, the Autism Society announced its shift from “awareness” to “Autism Acceptance Month” to foster opportunities in and support of inclusion for the autism community. The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a page devoted to news and events for Autism Awareness Month.

Library outreach in underserved communities

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) will present a webinar, “Centering Community, Building Equity: A Social Justice Approach to Outreach with Families and Children in Underserved Communities,” on May 17, 2022, at 12 noon Eastern Time. The webinar is free to ALA members and nonmembers alike. The development of authentic programs and services to meet the needs of such families and children will be the focus.

Essay: What to Read When You Feel Uprooted

Puerto Rican journalist, writer, and editor of the 2021 anthology Home in Florida: Latinx Writers and the Literature of Uprootedness, Anjanette Delgado writes “You don’t have to be an immigrant to know the fear and loneliness of uprootedness. Sometimes life, your own, kicks you out of it. What you had built with so much sweat and love, gone in seconds.” She recommends seven books in her Electric Lit essay, “What to Read When You Feel Uprooted.”

Disability history in rare ephemera

Will Hansen, Director of Reader Services and Curator of Americana at the Newberry Library in Chicago (OCLC Symbol: IBV), writes about its acquisition of the Mendicant Ephemera Collection in “Disability History in Rare Ephemera.” Consisting of “nearly 200 pamphlets, postcards, handbills, photographs, and other printed items sold by the disabled or impoverished to support themselves … they form a portrait of nearly a century of lives lived without a safety net.” Although these rare materials were created as objects for sale, Hansen notes, “the items helped to fill the deep need of their writers to share their stories, even in a society that was actively hostile to their existence.”

A library toolkit for EDI and antiracism

The Oregon Library Association Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Committee presents the first episode of its new podcast, Overdue: Weeding Out Oppression in Libraries. The episode entitled “EDI & Antiracism in Libraries: A Toolkit for Success” features Marci Ramiro-Jenkins, Reference Librarian and Latino Community Liaison at McMinnville Public Library (OCLC Symbol: OOR) in Oregon, who created the association’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Antiracism Toolkit. The toolkit “promotes freedom of speech in conjunction with strong policies that protect patrons and library staff of all gender, national origin, ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, income level, age, and all other personal, social, cultural, and economic perspectives.”

The post Advancing IDEAs: Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, 2022 April 19 appeared first on Hanging Together.

A Downside Of Privacy / David Rosenthal

Monero claims that:
Observers cannot decipher addresses trading monero, transaction amounts, address balances, or transaction histories.
This is all very well for individuals transacting with each other in the Monero ecosystem, but unless they are cryptojacking (mining using malware), miners need to pay bills for power and hardware in fiat currency. And miscreants using Monero to launder the loot need to convert Monero to fiat in order to buy the Lamborghini. So the Monero ecosystem needs exchanges, and thereby hangs a tale I pursue below the fold.

Exchanges in the Monero ecosystem support four kinds of transactions:
  1. An account holder transfers some Monero to the exchange. The exchange adds the Monero to its reserves and increments the account with the amount of Monero.
  2. An account holder transfers some non-Monero currency, fiat or cryptocurrency, to the exchange. The exchange increments its holdings of the input currency, and increments the account with the corresponding amount of Monero.
  3. The acccount holder withdraws some Monero. The exchange transfers the amount of Monero from its reserves to the account holder, decrementing both its reserves and the account.
  4. The account holder withdraws some non-Monero currency. The exchange decrements the account by the corresponding amount of Monero, and transfers the output currency from its holdings to the holder.
The interesting point is that, because this is Monero and "Observers cannot decipher ... address balances", there is no way for outsiders to know how much Monero the exchange has in its reserve. An untrustworthy exchange could be running fractional-reserve banking, owing its account holders more Monero than was in its reserves and "banking" on the idea that the holders won't cause a "bank run" by all asking for their Monero at the same time.

In Monero holders plan a bank run, Molly White reports that this idea might be wrong:
Monero is a privacycoin that attempts to address some of the privacy issues with more popular currencies (like Bitcoin or Ethereum) — namely, that anyone can see that wallet A sent a transaction of X amount to wallet B. However, privacy cuts both ways, and this feature also means that, without cooperation from the exchanges, the Monero community can't verify that exchanges actually hold the amounts of Monero they're allowing their users to buy. Some in the community have become increasingly suspicious that exchanges are selling "paper Monero": fake Monero that's not actually backed by reserves.

To try to test this theory, Monero users have scheduled what is basically a bank run: they are encouraging all users to try to move their Monero out of exchanges on April 18. Some have claimed that exchanges including Binance and Huobi have frozen withdrawals of Monero in anticipation of the mass-withdrawal, in an effort to prevent their lack of reserves from being discovered. Indeed, Huobi suspended XMR deposits and withdrawals 10 days ago and has yet to restore the functionality, which they say is due to a wallet upgrade. Binance also shows "withdrawal suspended" on its status page as of April 14.
There is a way for an exchange to expose the amount of Monero in its reserves, by sharing a "view key" but, as 'The Monerun' scheduled for April 18th, Monero's 8th birthday points out, few if any do:
This a reaction against on-going CEX shady practices involving paper Monero. Instead of providing transparency reports (share view keys), exchanges are known to suspend XMR withdrawals and misrepresent their reserves.
Suspending withdrawals is the normal reaction to a run on a fractional-reserve bank. After all, they do not have the reserves to satisfy the demand for withdrawals. In this case it is a signal that Binance, Huobi, Poloniex and possibly others are worried that they might be found to have succumbed to the temptation to make vast profits by running fractional reserve banking.

Application for the Open Data Day 2022 small grants is now open! / Open Knowledge Foundation

Open Knowledge Foundation is excited to announce the launch of the Open Data Day 2022 Small Grants Application to support organisations hosting Open Data events and activities across the world.

Depending on the types of events, the grant will support selected registered organisations with grants ranging from USD 500 to USD 1000 each. The application deadline is 13th May 2022 (extended deadline 20th May 2022) and the events supported by the grant should take place from 1st June 2022 until 31st August 2022. The grants will favour work across disciplines, targeted campaigns and advocacy efforts to support the Paris Agreement, local efforts tackling climate change, and using open data for social impact.

This year’s grant funding is OPEN for in-person events only and will support 14 events. 10 open data events and 4 special category events.

We have special grants for the “Ocean data for a thriving planet” category to support organisations hosting World Oceans Day and Data related activities anytime from 5th – 11th June 2022. For this category, the grant available is USD 1000 each and will support 4 events. More information on the special category is given below.

We are extremely grateful to our partners Microsoft, who have provided funding for this year’s small grants scheme.

To be awarded a small grant, your event must fit into one of the five categories laid out below.

What are the category?

This year’s categories are:

  • Environmental data: Use open data to illustrate the urgency of the climate emergency and spur people into action to take a stand or make changes in their lives to help the world become more environmentally sustainable.
  • Tracking public money flows: Expand budget transparency, dive into public procurement, examine tax data or raise issues around public finance management by submitting Freedom of Information requests.
  • Open mapping: Learn about the power of maps to develop better communities.
  • Data for equal development: How can open data be used by communities to highlight pressing issues on a local, national or global level? Can open data be used to track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs?
  • Ocean data for a thriving planet (special category): Use open data to create tools for ocean resilience and sustainability, help communities organise and share ocean data, or combine local and global data sources to show the connections between oceans, climate, and human well-being.
What is a small grant?

It’s a small fund ranging from USD 500 to USD 1000 to help organisations host in-person Open Data events and activities. It supports registered civil society organisation events and cannot be used to fund government events.

A registered organisation can apply once, and for just one category.

The grant payment will be transferred to the successful grantees after their event takes place and once the Open Knowledge Foundation team receives a draft blogpost about the event.

Who can apply? 

The small grant application is open to all registered organisations across the world, who are interested in hosting in-person open data events and activities in their country.

An individual cannot apply for this year’s small grant application, and the events cannot be virtual or online.

The application of special grants for the “Ocean data for a thriving planet” category is restricted to organisations and communities living in coastal nations.

How to apply? 

The Open Data Day 2022 small grants application form is available here. Please use this form to submit your application.

Direct link: https://forms.gle/zLUtY537DcwoqPYe7

More details about the special category?

This year we have “Ocean data for a thriving planet” as a special category, where we will support organisations hosting World Oceans Day and Data related activities anytime from 5th – 11th June 2022 with the grant of USD 1000. In total 4 events will be supported.

Additional to the grant:

  • We are also providing the technical support to help access relevant datasets and a lite training to teach how to play with data, using Livemark.
  • We will also provide materials to better understand the problem related to the ocean so that effective activities can be planned to use available data.

Criteria for the grant:

  • The grant application is restricted to organisations and communities living in coastal nations.
  • The event and activities have to be organised during World Ocean Week (5th – 11th June 2022).
About Open Data Day?

Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data all over the world, where we gather to reach out to new people and build new solutions to issues in our communities using open data.

Groups from around the world create local events on the day where they use open data in their communities. It is an opportunity to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business, and civil society.

The twelfth Open Data Day took place on Saturday 5th March 2022. Please join the Open Data Day Google Group to get connected with other open data communities and for more information please visit the Open Data Day website: https://opendataday.org/

Need more information?

For more information, you can reach out to the Open Knowledge Foundation team by emailing opendataday@okfn.org or on Twitter via @OKFN. You can also join the Open Data Day Google Group to ask for advice or share tips and get connected with others.

httpd / Ed Summers

This weekend I spent a couple hours seeing if I could get the original CERN httpd web server running. I guess this is tangentially related to some things I’m doing at work–maybe more about that another time.

I wasn’t hopeful. The last released version of httpd was from 1996, so this C code is 26 years old. Also while I know what C is, I wouldn’t call myself an expert C programmer by any means. C has always seemed like the Greek or Latin of programming languages to me: an important thing to know because of how it has influenced other languages, and to understand how things have come to be the way they are. But unlike Latin and (ancient) Greek, C is still actively being used today.

I started by downloading the w3c-httpd-3.0A.tar.gz and unpacking it.

Glancing at the BUILD.SH it had all kinds of options for different operating systems that were popular back then: Ultrix, AIX, Mach, HP-UX, SunOS, Irix, SCO, and of course NeXT, which is the operating system that Tim Berners-Lee originally used to build the first web browser and web server. But Linux was in the list too, so I ssh’d to my Ubuntu VPS at Linode (where I host this blog), downloaded and unpacked the tarball there, crossed my fingers, and typed make.

I noticed there were a lot of warnings, which aren’t necessarily bad, but there were also some errors that stopped the compilation in its tracks like:

../../Library/Implementation/HTFTP.c:444:14: error: dereferencing pointer to incomplete type ‘str
uct tm’

So I took a look and did some googling and saw some Stack Overflow comments suggesting that the time.h header needed to be included when you see this error. So I added one to HTFTP.c and the build moved on. Then I encountered this error:


../../Library/Implementation/HTTCP.c:120:14: error: conflicting types for ‘sys_errlist’
  120 | extern char *sys_errlist[];  /* see man perror on cernvax */
      |              ^~~~~~~~~~~
In file included from /usr/include/stdio.h:781,
                 from ../../Library/Implementation/tcp.h:164,
                 from ../../Library/Implementation/HTTCP.c:19:
/usr/include/x86_64-linux-gnu/bits/sys_errlist.h:27:26: note: previous declaration of ‘sys_errlist’ was here
   27 | extern const char *const sys_errlist[];

Reading this error suggested that the variable declaration in HTTPCP.c didn’t match the system level definition so I updated the declaration in HTTCP.c to match the one found in /usr/include/x86_64-linux-gnu/bits/sys_errlist.h. Then the build moved on to another missing time.h which I added. Then I ran into a linking problem:


cc -o httpd_3.0A  HTDaemonDIR.o HTRequest.o HTRetrieve.o HTScript.o HTLoad.o HTCache.o HTCacheInfo.o HTConfig.o HTWild.o HTSInit.o HTSUtils.o HTims.o HTPasswd.o HTAuth.o HTLex.o HTGroup.o HTACL.o HTAAProt.o HTAAServ.o HTAAFile.o HTLog.o HTgc.o HTUserInit.o HTRFC931.o ../../Library/linux/libwww.a
/usr/bin/ld: ../../Library/linux/libwww.a(HTTCP.o): in function `HTErrnoString':
/home/ed/Projects/cern-httpd-orig/Library/linux/../../Library/Implementation/HTTCP.c:148: warning
: `sys_errlist' is deprecated; use `strerror' or `strerror_r' instead
/usr/bin/ld: /home/ed/Projects/cern-httpd-orig/Library/linux/../../Library/Implementation/HTTCP.c
:148: warning: `sys_nerr' is deprecated; use `strerror' or `strerror_r' instead
/usr/bin/ld: HTPasswd.o: in function `HTAA_encryptPasswd':
/home/ed/Projects/cern-httpd-orig/Daemon/linux/../../Daemon/Implementation/HTPasswd.c:104: undefined reference to `crypt

A bit more googling around led me to try adding LFLAGS = -lcrypt to the All/linux/Makefile.include file, and then the build succeeded!


httpd, htadm, htimage, cgiparse and cgiutils built successfully
and can be found in directory Daemon/linux.

Have fun! If you have any problems with this software feel free to
contact <httpd@w3.org>. Online documentation is available via
the <URL:http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Daemon/>

BUILD complete!
make[1]: Leaving directory '/home/ed/Projects/cern-httpd-orig/All/Implementation'
WWW build for  linux  done. status =  0

I started it up using the provided httpd.conf after changing the port to 9999 and the document root to my static site website and it worked.

$ Daemon/linux/httpd -r server_root/config/httpd.conf

Interestingly it didn’t work in the browser completely because my style.css was being served up using a Content-Type: text/plain and browsers won’t use it unless it is served up with text/css. CERN httpd stopped being developed the year that CSS was initially released.

Of course after all this noodling around I happened to notice that Emanuele Goldoni had already figured this all out and published his updates on GitHub, after simplifying things a bit by cleaning out unused non-Linux build configuration.

Still, getting it working was kind of a fun exercise, and I was really surprised that so little changes were required to get this 26 year old C code to run. I think this says something interesting about how interconnected C, GCC, Linux and the web are as a software ecosystem–and perhaps about the original httpd code itself. But most importantly it speaks to how the W3C has cared for its own history on the web–the fact that this code was even downloadable, and there was still documentation for it.

I guess seeing httpd serve up my recently updated static website, and for it to render in a browser, also illustrates how backwards compatible the web has been at the protocol level. This seems highly unusual for software.

I’m running httpd for a little bit at http://inkdroid.org:9999 … but will turn it off shortly 🖥 🐞 🔥


Update 2022-04-21: It might be nice to create a little Dockerfile for httpd to make it easy to run.

Ethereum Has Issues / David Rosenthal

I first wrote about the problem of bots front-running transactions a year and a half ago in The Order Flow, citing Dan Robinson and Georgios Konstantopoulos' Ethereum is a Dark Forest from August 2020 and samczsun's Escaping the Dark Forest. But I should have paid more attention. It turns out that front-running is the tip of an iceberg of fundamental problems that Ethereum and similar systems suffer. In replicating the functions of Wall Street they have replicated, and in some ways enhanced, its pathologies, Below the fold I survey these and related issues.

Daian et al

The reason I should have paid more attention was that I failed to follow Dan Robinson and Georgios Konstantopoulos' link to Philip Daian et al's Flash Boys 2.0: Frontrunning in Decentralized Exchanges, Miner Extractable Value, and Consensus Instability (also here) from 3 months earlier. This seminal paper introduced the concept of Miner Extractable Value (MEV) and the various ways it could be extracted. Their abstract reads:
Blockchains, and specifically smart contracts, have promised to create fair and transparent trading ecosystems.

Unfortunately, we show that this promise has not been met. We document and quantify the widespread and rising deployment of arbitrage bots in blockchain systems, specifically in decentralized exchanges (or “DEXes”). Like high-frequency traders on Wall Street, these bots exploit inefficiencies in DEXes, paying high transaction fees and optimizing network latency to frontrun, i.e., anticipate and exploit, ordinary users’ DEX trades.

We study the breadth of DEX arbitrage bots in a subset of transactions that yield quantifiable revenue to these bots. We also study bots’ profit-making strategies, with a focus on blockchain specific elements. We observe bots engage in what we call priority gas auctions (PGAs), competitively bidding up transaction fees in order to obtain priority ordering, i.e., early block position and execution, for their transactions. PGAs present an interesting and complex new continuous-time, partial-information, gametheoretic model that we formalize and study. We release an interactive web portal, frontrun.me, to provide the community with real-time data on PGAs.

We additionally show that high fees paid for priority transaction ordering poses a systemic risk to consensus-layer security. We explain that such fees are just one form of a general phenomenon in DEXes and beyond—what we call miner extractable value (MEV)—that poses concrete, measurable, consensus-layer security risks. We show empirically that MEV poses a realistic threat to Ethereum today.

Our work highlights the large, complex risks created by transaction-ordering dependencies in smart contracts and the ways in which traditional forms of financial-market exploitation are adapting to and penetrating blockchain economies
Their starting point was the observation that Ethereum "smart contract" execution is order-dependent within a block, unlike transaction execution in Bitcoin and similar systems:
First, they identify a concrete difference between the consensus-layer security model required for blockchain protocols securing simple payments and those securing smart contracts. In a payment system such as Bitcoin, all independent transactions in a block can be seen as executing atomically, making ordering generally unprofitable to manipulate. Our work shows that analyses of Bitcoin miner economics fail to extend to smart contract systems like Ethereum, and may even require modification once second-layer smart contract systems that depend on Bitcoin miners go live [23].
The reason that bots engage in PGAs is that they can extract value despite paying for "Order Optimization" (OO) by front-running other transactions in the block:
Second, our analysis of PGA games underscores that protocol details (such as miner selection criteria, P2P network composition, and more) can directly impact application-layer security and the fairness properties that smart contracts offer users. Smart contract security is often studied purely at the application layer, abstracting away low-level details like miner selection and P2P relayers’ behavior in order to make analysis tractable .... Our work shows that serious blind spots result. Low-level protocol behaviors pose fundamental challenges to developing robust smart contracts that protect users against exploitation by profit-maximizing miners and P2P relayers that may game contracts to subsidize attacks.
Thie led to the discovery that:
OO fees represent one case of a more general quantifiable value we call miner-extractable value (MEV). MEV refers to the total amount of Ether miners can extract from manipulation of transactions within a given timeframe, which may include multiple blocks’ worth of transactions. In systems with high MEV, the profit available from optimizing for MEV extraction can subsidize forking attacks of two different forms. The first is a previously shown undercutting attack [11] that forks a block with significant MEV. The second is a novel attack, called a time-bandit attack, that forks the blockchain retroactively based on past MEV.
Source
Their discovery was important, first because:
Undercutting attacks were previously considered a risk primarily in the distant future, when block rewards in Bitcoin are expected diminish below transaction fees. By measuring the significance and magnitude of OO fees, our work shows that undercutting attacks are a present threat.
...
Our study shows that OO fees are a form of value that sometimes dominates explicit transaction fees today. The tail of our OO fee distribution, including all of the example blocks in Figure 11 represent such opportunities. In other words, undercutting attacks represent a present threat in Ethereum, and one that will grow with the success of smart contracts that attract OO fees.
And second because:
Time-bandit attacks are also a present and even larger threat. They can leverage not just OO fees, but any forms of miner-extractable value obtained by rewinding a blockchain. Time-bandit attacks’ existence implies that DEXes and many other contracts are inherent threats to the stability of PoW blockchains, and the larger they grow, the bigger the threat.
...
Of course, a time-bandit attack relies on real-time access to massive mining resources. As noted in [5], however, "rental attacks" are feasible using cloud resources, particularly for systems such as Ethereum that rely heavily on GPUs, which are standard cloud commodities. Sites such as http://crypto51.app/ estimate the costs.
...
We posit that the OO fees alone that we have described threaten the security of today’s Ethereum network. As Figure 11 shows, blocks with high OO fees and/or arbitrage opportunities can already enable such attacks.

More generally and alarmingly, time-bandit attacks can be subsidized by a malicious miner’s ability to rewrite profitable trades retroactively, stealing profits from arbitrageurs and users while still claiming gas fees on failed transactions that attempt execution. The resulting MEV is potentially massive, suggesting a possibly serious threat in Ethereum today.
They illustrate the threat with a simplified hypothetical example:
Consider a price spike from 1 USD to 3 USD in a token that trades on an on-chain automated market maker ... A miner performing a time-bandit attack can now rewrite history such that it is on the buy side of every trade, accruing a substantial balance in such a token at below market rate—before the price spike.7

For example, if the attacker wishes to rewrite 24 hours of history, and 1M USD of volume occurred in exchanges with rewritable history in that token, then the attacker can obtain a MEV gross profit of 1 M × (3 USD - 1 USD) = 2M USD.8

At the time of writing (March 2019), http://crypto51.app/ estimates a 24-hour 51% rental-attack cost on Ethereum of about 1.78M USD, implying a net profit of around 220K USD.
This is an important paper worthy of detailed study.

Piet et al

Now it is two years later and in Extracting Godl [sic] from the Salt Mines: Ethereum Miners Extracting Value Julien Piet, Jaiden Fairoze and Nicholas Weaver reveal how the pathologies identified by Daian et al have become endemic in Ethereum's ecosystem:
In this work, we develop an algorithm to detect MEV exploitation present in previously mined blocks. We use our implementation of the detector to analyze MEV usage and profit redistribution, finding that miners make the lion's share of the profits, rather than independent users of the private relays. More specifically, (i) 73% of private transactions hide trading activity or re-distribute miner rewards, and 87.6% of MEV collection is accomplished with privately submitted transactions, (ii) our algorithm finds more than $6M worth of MEV profit in a period of 12 days, two thirds of which go directly to miners, and (iii) MEV represents 9.2% of miners' profit from transaction fees.

Furthermore, in those 12 days, we also identify four blocks that contain enough MEV profits to make time-bandit forking attacks economically viable for large miners, undermining the security and stability of Ethereum as a whole.
Both Robinson and Konstantopoulos and samczsun stress the importance of avoiding the public mempool, and so do Piet et al:
To avoid detection by bots, users can opt to send transaction data directly to miners, bypassing the public memory pool entirely. This method would also be useful for bots seeking to avoid competition with other bots. Transacting directly requires having a private communication channel with a miner, something most users do not have. Flashbots Auctions [6] pioneered such a service to enable private MEV extraction, creating a private link between a user or bot and a participating miner. The authors claim Flashbots removes the burden of MEV extraction traffic from the public memory pool and mitigates MEV’s negative externalities, allowing for fair access to MEV opportunities.
Since eliminating MEV was out of the question, Daian and colleagues attempted to mitigate the problem by setting up Flashbots:
a research and development organization working on mitigating the negative externalities of Maximal Extractable Value (MEV) extraction techniques and avoiding the existential risks MEV could cause to stateful blockchains like Ethereum. Our primary focus is to enable a permissionless, transparent, and fair ecosystem for MEV extraction. This falls under three goals: Bringing Transparency to MEV Activity, Democratizing Access to MEV Revenue and Enabling Fair Redistribution of MEV Revenue.
They developed and deployed Flashbot Auction:
a permissionless, transparent, and fair ecosystem for efficient MEV extraction and frontrunning protection which preserves the ideals of Ethereum. Flashbots Auction provides a private communication channel between Ethereum users and miners for efficiently communicating preferred transaction order within a block.
Alas, it didn't turn out quite as hoped.

Piet et al explain their methodology thus:
In order to study historical MEV extraction through private transactions, we implement a custom Ethereum node that captures transaction-related data in real-time and checks every transaction against the memory pool before tagging it as private. Previously, MEV detection used point-wise heuristics on historical data or graph methods to find arbitrages in decentralized exchanges (DEXs). We develop a generic arbitrage detection technique that, to the best of our knowledge, is the first method to identify generic MEV opportunities in historical data. By finding specific cycles in cryptocurrency transfer graphs across blocks, our algorithm can detect arbitrage, backrunning, and frontrunning, even across multiple transactions.
They summarize their findings in three areas:
  • Private transaction analysis.
    Private transaction usage is inconsistent across miners. Most private transactions are used for miner profit redistribution, and more importantly, MEV exploitation. In fact, in our data, over 85% of MEV is extracted using private transactions. Flashbots accounts for under 50% of private transactions—the rest are either owned by the miner or submitted through covert channels.
  • Miner profit analysis.
    Despite Flashbots’ claim to a fair MEV opportunity redistribution, miners dominate the market: they make up two thirds of all MEV-related profits, and most likely control many bots themselves. In our data, this represents on average 9.2% of their total transaction fee income and 22.7% of their income from decentralized finance applications. As for private transactions, MEV extraction is inconsistent among miners—the top five miners earn more from MEV than all bots combined, but 40% of miners do not partake in MEV extraction.
  • Concrete time-bandit attack opportunities.
    Previous work has warned of the risk for time-bandit attacks if MEV profits were to rise, where major miners are incentivized not to add new transactions but instead, attempt to rewrite old history to capture the present MEV for themselves. Some even found hypothetical opportunities that would have yielded enough profit to warrant an attack. Using game-theoretic models developed in [15], we found four blocks in 12 days that earned enough to warrant an attack from miners with a hash rate superior to 10%.
The 10% number is concerning. Piet et al's source is reference 35, On the Just-In-Time Discovery of Profit-Generating Transactions in DeFi Protocols by Liyi Zhou et al (also here). They cite it thus:
In fact, [35] used a Markov Decision Process to model this probability. They found that with the current stale block rate, miners with a hash rate greater than 10% of the total Ethereum hash rate had positive profit expectation if they produced more than four times the block reward. In our data, we found two miners with a hash rate greater than 10%: Ethermine at 35%, and F2Pool at 14%. Both these miners have a history of profiting from MEV opportunities. Ethermine made 190 ETH in a week in our data, representing 3.8% of its profits from gas, and F2Pool made 300 ETH, or 13.6% or its profits from gas.

We found two blocks in our 12 day span, 14,217,123 and 14,241,282, for which miner profits from MEV exceeded four times the block reward. The block reward here is the sum of the static block reward (2 ETH) and the fees from all non-MEV transactions. Forking these blocks would have simply required mining them without changing their content, since the miner fees from MEV alone exceeded four block rewards. Furthermore, we found four blocks for which the total MEV profit (not simply the part shared with the miner) exceeded four block rewards. These could have been forked as well, with the additional constraint of replacing MEV transactions with the miner’s own transactions. We did not find traces of fork attacks in our data; however, it is only a matter of time before they start happening, since there are multiple opportunities for forking every week. This represents an existential threat to the stability of Ethereum, and to the trust users hold in its potential.
Two years after it was identified, Piet et al conclude that MEV:
presents serious risks to the stability of the blockchain. On average, one block every week contains enough MEV profit in transfer fees alone to make a time-bandit attack economically viable for miners with a hash rate above 10%. The top two miners, Ethermine and F2Pool, both have a hash rate above 10% and have a history of exploiting MEV. In particular, F2Pool is the largest single entity in terms of MEV profits, making 300 ETH of profit in 12 days, which accounts for 13.6% of its total transaction profit.

Today’s MEV mitigation solutions are not sufficient to address the issue. We believe a random transaction ordering system could potentially make MEV extraction prohibitively hard, however this remains to be investigated. Without a proper solution, Ethereum remains an impractical blockchain for real-world use. Regular Ethereum users will continue to pay high gas fees because of bots, lose money to MEV schemes when trading tokens, and most importantly, face the risk of time-bandit attacks.
Source
This is in addition to the long-standing concentration of Ethereum mining power, with normally three and sometimes only two mining pools controlling over 50% of the mining power. (The screengrab shows that on 7th November 2021 the top two pools controlled 53.9%). This is not a safe basis for the vast financial bubbles that have been erected above the Ethereum blockchain. The extreme Gini coefficients of cryptocurrencies mean that Ethereum's eventual transition to Proof-of-Stake fixes none of these problems. As Piet et al point out:
Part of the reason MEV exploitation is rampant today is due to the centralization of mining power by a handful of miners: the top three mining pools hold over 50% of the hash rate. Centralization helps coordinate MEV extraction through private relays such as Flashbots. In this regard, proof-of-stake still concentrates validation powers in the hands of a few. Although it has a longer tail of validators, as of today, the top two staking pools hold over 50% of all stake, concentrating power in the hands of even fewer addresses.
There is much fascinating detail in Piet et al's paper, it will repay careful reading.

DataFinnovation

Now I turn to another aspect of the eventual Ethereum 2.0 system.

Why are transaction fees high enough to motivate all the shenanigans? In conventional systems fees are typically fixed, either flat or a percentage of transaction value. Because Ethereum transactions are programs, the halting problem means that it isn't possible to accurately predict the resources needed to execute them. This rules out flat or percentage of value fees, and requires transactions to set a limit on how much they are willing to spend on execution. The result is that when the fixed supply of transactions meets variable demand, transaction prices vary dramatically. High and variable fees have been an ongoing problem for Ethereum, leading to:
David Gerard writes:
To some extent, the Ethereum project has just given up on scaling the main blockchain. “For Ethereum to scale and keep up with demand, it has required rollups” — do the work somewhere else and send back the result. The blockchain is only usable if you work around actually using it. [ethereum.org]"
Now, David Gerard reports on a post from DataFinnovation entitled The Consequences of Scalable Blockchains which shows that there is very likely a fundamental problem with attempting to greatly increase the supply of transactions and thereby mitigate the problem of high fees.

What the DataFinnovation post shows is that implementing an Ethereum-like system whose performance in all cases is guaranteed to be faster than any single node in the network is equivalent to solving the great unsolved problem in the theory of computation, nicknamed P vs. NP:
The P versus NP problem is a major unsolved problem in computer science. It asks whether every problem whose solution can be quickly verified can also be solved quickly.

The informal term quickly, used above, means the existence of an algorithm solving the task that runs in polynomial time, such that the time to complete the task varies as a polynomial function on the size of the input to the algorithm (as opposed to, say, exponential time). The general class of questions for which some algorithm can provide an answer in polynomial time is "P" or "class P". For some questions, there is no known way to find an answer quickly, but if one is provided with information showing what the answer is, it is possible to verify the answer quickly. The class of questions for which an answer can be verified in polynomial time is NP, which stands for "nondeterministic polynomial time".

An answer to the P versus NP question would determine whether problems that can be verified in polynomial time can also be solved in polynomial time. If it turns out that P ≠ NP, which is widely believed, it would mean that there are problems in NP that are harder to compute than to verify: they could not be solved in polynomial time, but the answer could be verified in polynomial time.
Suppose P = NP, what could happen?:
An example of a field that could be upended by a solution showing P = NP is cryptography, which relies on certain problems being difficult. A constructive and efficient solution to an NP-complete problem such as 3-SAT would break most existing cryptosystems including:
  • Existing implementations of public-key cryptography, a foundation for many modern security applications such as secure financial transactions over the Internet.
  • Symmetric ciphers such as AES or 3DES, used for the encryption of communications data.
  • Cryptographic hashing, which underlies blockchain cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, and is used to authenticate software updates. For these applications, the problem of finding a pre-image that hashes to a given value must be difficult in order to be useful, and ideally should require exponential time. However, if P = NP, then finding a pre-image M can be done in polynomial time, through reduction to SAT.
The DataFinnovation post shows that the problem of implementing an Ethereum-like system whose performance in all cases is guaranteed to be faster than any single node in the network can be reduced to 3-SAT, which is a canonical problem in class NP. They write:
What we are going to do here is pretty simple:
  1. Describe some thing a scalable blockchain could do.
  2. Prove that thing is NP-Complete.
  3. Show how, if you have such a blockchain, you can right now break hash functions and public-key cryptography and constructively prove P=NP.
...
We are going to call something “scalable” when it can process more transactions per unit time than a single node on the network. If you always need to wait for some designated leader/verifier/miner/whatever to finalize transactions then you’re never going to run faster, in the worst-case, than that node.
This sounds bad, and it is, but there are some caveats:
  • We don't know that P ≠ NP, we just strongly suspect that P ≠ NP. On the other hand, if P = NP, cryptocurrencies have a much bigger problem than scaling Ethereum.
  • It might be the case that P = NP but there are no constructive, efficient algorithms based on the proof. But DataFinnovation show how a blockchain that met their criteria for scalability would be such a constructive algorithm.
  • Their criterion for scalability is strong; it requires that the blockchain be faster in the worst case. A blockchain might be faster in the normal case, but slower in a rare worst-case.
Fees spike because demand for transactions exceeds supply. The worst case might be only a small fraction of the possible cases, but blockchains run in a adversarial environment, and the worst case is likely the result of an attack. Consider, for example, the possibility of a sudden drop in the "price" of ETH which causes a spike in demand for transactions which causes a spike in fees. Now an attacker causes the worst case to occur, which results in a sudden decrease in the supply of transactions, which causes fees to increase further, which causes panic and a further increase in demand for transactions. Thus it appears that any approach to "scalability" of this kind likely contains a built-in vulnerability.

There are comments from the Ethereum community here.

Office Hours for the Levels of Digital Preservation / Digital Library Federation

The NDSA Levels Steering Team is excited to announce the introduction of bi-monthly open office hours. In these informal sessions, we will welcome all members of the digital preservation community to chat about the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation and ask questions about their use and how to move forward. The sessions will also be used to gather community input on the future direction of the Levels and “next steps”.   To begin, each session will include an open discussion and a focused topic discussion. We are also crafting a list of future topics that anyone can contribute to for future meeting discussion topics.

The first open office hour will be on the 20 April (1130 EST). The focused discussion for our first session will be the topic of Documentation and the Levels. Have you ever wondered how to document that you are giving “Level 3” care to a collection, for a donor, senior manager, or other stakeholder? Do you want to demonstrate that your solution is capable of providing a certain Level of Preservation, depending on its implementation? Do you think that documentation is worthwhile – or not worthwhile – and want to discuss the “whys”? Then this open office hour is for you!  The second part of the meeting will be open questions and discussion.

Come join us!

(Meeting connection details will be shared soon in an NDSA-All email. Questions contact ndsa.digipres [at] gmail [dot] com)

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diverse stock photo collections / Tara Robertson

Most stock image collections only show a narrow slice of humanity and many of the photos don’t feel real or authentic.

Before launching this website, I staged my own photo shoot to create a photo with the same colour skin as my hands. The photo that I could clearly visualize in my head did not exist in mainstream stock photo collections.

overhead shot of my light brown hands working on my laptop. to the left there is an iphone, to the right there's a cup of tea, a notebook, a pen and airpods.
pocstock

I learned about pocstock after I’d staged and shot my photo. They describe themselves as “a global stock media platform that unapologetically focuses on people of color.” I heard COO Derrick Larane on the A Leader Like Me podcast talking about who you see when you search for “leader” or “leadership”. (Spoiler alert: it’s usually white men). 

It was a delight to chat with Derrick yesterday. His face completely lit up as he described a custom shoot for a client where every single person on the set was Black. We talked about how the process impacts the product.

Cheerful Black and Asian lesbian women sitting at table using smartphone outdoors

I love this photo from their collection. The metadata and description says they I’m not sure if these two women are lovers or very, very close friends but the way the Asian woman is covering her mouth while laughing is so authentic and a detail I don’t usually see. The Her Crown curated collection is also stunning and would be great to accompany posts about The Crown Act.

Black woman with flying locs standing against brick wall

diverse stock photo resource list

In the thread where I learned about pocstock, many people in my LinkedIn community generously shared other stock image sites that represent most of us who are not usually represented: Black and brown people, Indigenous people, people with disabilities, queer, trans, non-binary folks, plus size or fat people, and older people. I compiled all of them in all in a spreadsheet. Please use them and share them with your marketing and internal comms teams so that we make websites and presentations that look like the communities we’re from and also represent the communities that we serve.

The post diverse stock photo collections appeared first on Tara Robertson Consulting.

Traces / Ed Summers

As we know from Briet (2006) archives are always concerned with making evidence. I’ve often found myself wondering how archival and accounting practices intersect, especially from a critical, sociotechnical perspective. For example archives have been quick to pick up on accounting technology like blockchain in areas related to the data provenance (e.g. C2PA). I recently ran across Thylstrup, Archer, & Ravn (2022) which provides a really excellent critical overview of the idea of traceability which includes its history as a technology of control, and capitalism. It connects the dots between histories of accounting, and more recent scholarship on blockchain technologies. One thing that is highlighted is how traceability technologies like blockchain reinscribe existing systems of control while getting hitched to other ideas like sustainability and human rights:

Because multinationals often design blockchains according to their preferences, they also reinforce existing power imbalances. Thus, blockchain-enabled traceability initiatives for accountability seem to primarily operate in the interests of powerful corporate actors. On one hand, this makes sense: blockchains store information about people and things, and as philosophers from Bacon to Foucault have shown, those who have access to information about people and things tend to have some degree of power over them. Like any other tool or technology, blockchains are inseparable from the social context in which they are used. What is new is the extent to which an overarching concern with traceability has motivated the adoption of blockchain technologies, and the extent to which other desirable outcomes (such as accountability, but also sustainability, democracy, human rights, and so on) increasingly presuppose an embrace of technologically-mediated traceability. This is distinct from the motivation behind other forms of record keeping, such as national or imperial censuses, which were primarily motivated by a desire to collect the accurate amount of taxes from an accountable population. Even if traceability was also an aspect of censusing, which helps governments track migration both internally and externally, traceability seems to have only recently become a dominant ideation.

I left a note in the margins while reading this was that while census taking may have started for taxation purposes, in modern democracies it is also extremely important for determining how voting works (Nobles, 2000). How the census is conducted has real material impacts. So not just accounting for, but holding to account, which is a major theme in archival studies (Cox & Wallace, 2002).

This reminded me of my own research into the link between value and usability of archives (in my case web archives), and how archival traces can be used for manifold purposes. Some of these uses are explicitly designed into record creation processes, but some are latent and only realized later. Perhaps it’s another example of how technology is “neither good, nor bad, nor neutral” (Kranzberg, 1986), but really it feels more akin to the dual use nature of technology–except it’s not a dual either/or, it has many sides. In my own research, an archival technology of control (National Software Reference Library) took on other latent purposes as an archive of software, and a unique snapshot of the gaming industry, created by individuals who effectively became game curators. The ability to sift through file systems looking for unique files for legal purposes also had use in humanities research (Kirschenbaum, Ovenden, Redwine, & Donahue, 2010). I referred to this phenomena as Ketalaar’s Paradox in my dissertation, but I feel like it could use some further development as an idea. Maybe it’s just a rehashing of boundary object (Star, 2010), but what do we call it when companies that have a vested interest in existing intellectual property regimes promote a blockchain technology to combat disinformation?

At any rate, I think the idea of traceability is inherently tied to archives, because to have traceability you need traces, and to use the traces you need practices for making them, keeping them around, and accessing them.

References

Briet, S. (2006). What is documentation? : English translation of the classic french text. (R. E. Day, L. Martinet, & H. G. B. Anghelescu, Eds.). Scarecrow Press.
Cox, R. J., & Wallace, D. A. (Eds.). (2002). Archives and the public good: accountability and records in modern society. Westport, Conn: Quorum Books.
Kirschenbaum, M. G., Ovenden, R., Redwine, G., & Donahue, R. (2010). Digital forensics and born-digital content in cultural heritage collections (No. 149). Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources.
Kranzberg, M. (1986). Technology and history:” Kranzberg’s Laws”. Technology and Culture, 27(3), 544–560.
Nobles, M. (2000). History counts: a comparative analysis of racial/color categorization in US and Brazilian censuses. American Journal of Public Health, 90(11), 1738–1745. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.90.11.1738
Star, S. L. (2010). This is not a boundary object: Reflections on the origin of a concept. Science, Technology & Human Values, 35(5), 601–617.
Thylstrup, N. B., Archer, M., & Ravn, L. (2022). Traceability. Internet Policy Review, 11(1). Retrieved from https://policyreview.info/glossary/traceability

Well Known - Distributing open library data / Hugh Rundle

A few months ago I was talking with a relative[1] about my Library Map and he asked about where the data comes from and how it is automatically updated. The answer is that it isn't. It's not really plausible to even use a web scraper to periodically check for up to date information from libraries, because there are so many unique ways different public libraries communicate information about lending policies. Compiling data on library management systems is easier, because Marshall Breeding has basically done the job for me.

In February Dave Rowe wrote on the Frictionless Data blog about his work with Libraries Hacked and attempting to standardise UK public library data collection to enable it to be machine-readable (e.g. ensuring dates are published in a standardised date format). Libraries Hacked was actually one of the inspirations for my own map of Australian libraries. Dave notes the growing interest in the international library profession for open data, including about libraries, and references IFLA's Statement on Open Library Data. But IFLA's statement—like most writing I've seen on this topic—assumes that data should be collected, aggregated, and published by central government agencies, and then made "open". This increasingly seems a bit back-to-front to me.

Over the last few years I've gained more understanding of how website can "passively" provide a great deal of useful information about a service or organisation. This includes writing my own RSS feed, and implementing remote following on Bookwyrm. Both of these looked daunting at first glance, but are actually quite simple conceptually.

The second of these uses a concept that would be perfect for my Library Map project specifically, and for simple distributed data publication more generally: Well-known URIs. The first time I encountered this concept was when setting up TLS website certificates using Let's Encrypt. Let's Encrypt uses the ACME protocol to confirm the relationship between a particular server and a domain name. But it wasn't until noodling around with Fediverse applications like Mastodon and BookWyrm that I realised that https://www.example.com/.well-known/ was an official IETF proposed standard, rather than specific to Let's Encrypt. The initial "Request for Comments" was published in 2010, so this is not a hugely new concept, though the current proposed standard (RFC 8615) was published in 2018.

What RFC 8615 enables is both incredibly simple and potentially very powerful. Essentially, all it does is indicate a URI schema that every complying website follows so that regardless of the domain, you can always find particular data. To provide a more concrete example, let's say IFLA registers a standard with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority under the suffix librarydata. Then any library service with a website can provide data at https://example.org/.well-known/librarydata. IFLA could define a core data schema, and allow national bodies (e.g. ALIA, CILIP, FEBAB) to create their own additional schemas if desired. Presented as a JSON file, it might look something like this:

"name": "Central Rivers Library Service",
"ifla": {
"service_points": 3,
"with_internet_access": 3,
"staff": 8,
"volunteers": 20,
"registered_users": 15000,
"visits": {
"2019":90912,
"2020":40684,
"2021":61524,
"2022": 39895
},
"physical_collection_size": 15098
}
"alia": {
"circulation_software": "Koha ILS",
"default_fine_amount": 0.00,
"fines": {
"children": false,
"young_adults": false,
"adults": false
},
"default_loan_days": 28,
"mobile_stops": 6,
"home_delivery": {
"housebound": true,
"general": false
}
}

If every library service used these schemas, keeping a project like the Australian Library Map up to date would be a simple matter of collecting all the relevant website domains, and then periodically checking the well known library data URL for each of them. Of course, it doesn't have to be IFLA and its member Associations that set this all up. Indeed, I probably wouldn't be happy with the data sets they agree to, and the whole point of this is to decentralise data collection. But for it to work, there does need to be some kind of widespread consensus on the data set and schemas to use, and willingness to implement them.

On that last point, the example above might look like I'm suggesting somebody at each library would have to manually publish a webpage regularly. Far from it! A lot of this kind of data is already stored within library management systems. It would mostly be a case of programming those systems to publish certain data in the right format at the given URL. This would mean the data on things like loans and fines could automatically update itself in real time, and data on things like door counts could be stored within the library management system either automatically through a data feed, or manually on a daily or weekly basis.

This is just a little thought experiment for now, but I'd love to talk to people who are interested in taking something like this further - perhaps a project for VALA or ALIA 🤔.


  1. Yes Chris, it's you! ↩︎

Taking research information to the next level / HangingTogether

Towards nationally integrated research information ecosystems

A lot is happening currently in the field of research information management (RIM) at national levels. In her recent reports and blog post series, Rebecca Bryant observed that RIM practices in US research universities have taken a characteristically decentralized course, compared to countries in Europe and the Pacific Rim, where national research assessment requirements drive a more centralized approach.

In fact, several countries – including Australia, Canada, Portugal, Finland, Norway, the UK and the Netherlands – pursue a national policy to integrate their research information.

RIM integration refers to the rationalization of the creation of metadata about research activity and outcomes and the seamless and secure access to it by RIM stakeholders. In other words, it is about making RIM data more interoperable to allow for easy aggregation.

It should help promote national scientific excellence and lead to greater national and international visibility. It also has many potential practical benefits, such as:

  1. a reduction of administrative burden for researchers;
  2. better analytics and business insight for national policymakers and research funders;
  3. efficiency gains with streamlined metadata flows between all stakeholders involved.

Persistent identifiers as the underpinning infrastructure

If RIM integration is to be achieved through the adoption of a framework of authoritative, interconnected, consistent, complete, reliable, timely and openly available metadata about public-funded research, then persistent identifiers (PIDs) must be considered key components of this framework. To better understand the thinking behind the centrality of PIDs in current RIM integration efforts, it is worth expanding on the notion of the “PID Graph”.

The PID Graph – a concept implemented by the EU-funded FREYA project with PID data from DataCite, Crossref, ORCID, and the Registry of Research Data Repositories (re3data) – is an underpinning infrastructure that establishes connections between the entities that matter within the research landscape: researchers, universities, outputs, funders, grants, and more. As the authors of the article “Connected Research: The Potential of the PID Graph” explain, this approach takes PIDs (for example ORCID iDs and DOIs) as the basic nodes that are linked together, instead of the entities they represent (for example researchers, articles). It constructs a graph based on the relations available in the PID-metadata.

Because it relies on PIDs only, the PID-Graph requires that all relevant entities have their own distinct PIDs and having multiple PIDs refer to the same entity is undesirable. Furthermore, these PIDs should carry authoritative and sufficiently rich metadata to represent the relationships of interest.

It also “requires standard ways for exposing and discovering these connections as well as infrastructure that makes it possible to contribute and/or consume connections”.

In contrast, knowledge graphs – such as Google’s KG or Wikidata – typically start with domain entities and construct a graph of the relations that are assembled from numerous sources (including but not limited to PID-metadata) or built by domain communities. This approach requires extensive knowledge extraction, codification and validation efforts. Growing and improving a knowledge graph over time requires effective methods for disambiguation, enrichment, quality assessment, and refinement.

Current national RIM integration efforts are geared towards optimizing the use and value of PIDs within their research ecosystems and lean towards the more pre-coordinated PID Graph approach. It requires substantial initial investment in PID metadata and PID-centric workflows. But, the potential for significant cost-savings, put forward by the UK PID Consortium Cost-Benefit Analysis report in June 2021, provides a compelling argument for doing so.

Engaging in national concerted action

The adoption of persistent identifiers is thus actively promoted and coordinated in several countries as part of their national research information policies. In most cases, stakeholder groups have been established – such as the PID Forum Finland, the UK national PID Consortium, and the Dutch PID-working group – to develop a national PID strategy and roadmap.

In some cases, a PID board or committee, with representatives from across the national higher education and research community (policymakers, funders, infrastructure providers, research libraries, research data repositories, etc.) steer this work. The recently installed Research Identifier National Coordinating Committee (RINCC) is an example: it ensures alignment between policy and practice across the research community nationally, and liaises with partners and stakeholders internationally. These national PID coordination efforts are usually linked to broader, national open science programs and open research infrastructure initiatives.

We also see global PID stakeholders, such as ORCID and DataCite, form national consortia to promote and engage in concerted action on national PID use. The Research Data Alliance (RDA) likewise has its national nodes involved in national PID strategies, promoting alignment – as they did during the Birds of a Feather session in April of last year.

The national consortia involved in the RIM integration efforts work hard to promote the systematic adoption and support of “priority PIDs” (DOIs, ORCID iDs, ROR IDs, RAiDs ) in the many different systems across campus (identity and access management, HR, Finance, RIM, institutional repository, library systems, research portal) and the wider scholarly communication supply chain: both upstream (national funders and publishers) and downstream (metadata aggregators and harvesting sources, indexing and discovery systems).

Towards a holistic and connected approach

At OCLC Research we follow developments in both fields of RIM and PIDs and the recent open consultation regarding the development of a national PID roadmap by the Dutch PID working group triggered some thoughts and questions, which I am sharing here.

Beyond STEM

The challenges with, and gaps in PID use for monographs and book chapters in the humanities are often underexposed in national PID roadmaps. As several stakeholders have made clear – among others OAPEN and the Crossref Books Group – PID adoption in scholarly book workflows has lagged behind the practices in STEM journal publishing. This, combined with the often complex data exchange flows between incompatible publishing systems, RIM systems, and metadata aggregators and indexers, means that humanities and social science content is disproportionally impacted.

The December 2021 guest post “Scholarly Book Publishing Workflows and Implications for RIM Systems” in the Scholarly Kitchen blog, co-authored by my colleague Rebecca Bryant, is a call to action offering recommendations for different key players in the scholarly book supply chain. The recommendation most relevant in the context of a national PID roadmap is addressed to research libraries and their ability to promote the use and integration of PIDs across campus.

Beyond RIM

How will the RIM metadata layer and the discovery metadata layer interconnect, using PIDs?

OCLC’s Shared Entity Management Infrastructure Project (SEMI) begins to build the needed infrastructure with reliable and persistent identifiers and metadata for the critical entities that libraries manage. SEMI’s long-term guiding principles are to support unique identifiers of all types and to allow for a heterogeneity of standards, practices, and metadata structures.

Interoperability of national RIM infrastructures with global library infrastructures that store same or similar PIDs is a topic for further discussion.

The role of PIDs as interoperability keys – pointing to other PIDs which identify the same entity but, in another context – is crucial when different domains and their infrastructures need to interconnect.

Beyond the academic sector

The ecosystem of PIDs is still developing and will keep evolving, and no single PID will ever be the only one or the perfect one. It will be important to support different PIDs with overlapping functions and coverage, keep systems and roadmaps adaptable and extendable, and link to and between different PIDs. ORCID iDs and ISNIs are a case in point. ORCID iDs are designed for active researchers; ISNIs, for authors and creators, alive or dead, fictive, or real. Fostering the links between the two PID systems transcends current research information interests and addresses the long-term interests of the scholarly record. The same approach is recommendable for other areas of PID usage.

Academic institutions will be using PIDs in multiple domains, not only for RIM functions.

Cooperation between academic and cultural institutions in connecting cultural heritage collections plays an increasingly important role and requires the use of a combination of sometimes domain specific PIDs. Alignment between both academic and heritage sectors with regards to PIDs is already in the works. In the UK, the Heritage PIDs Project looked at PIDs to create a unified national collection of the UK’s museums, libraries, galleries, and archives, in the context of digital humanities and arts research. Similarly, in the Netherlands, academic libraries are seeking to interconnect their special collections,  according to linked open data principles and by use of persistent identifiers – as promoted by the Dutch Digital Heritage Network.

The global library perspective

At OCLC, we see the burgeoning research information ecosystem through a library lens.  Libraries are central hubs in the global information network. Through their concerted efforts, librarians help communities around the world discover and access academic knowledge, and they help researchers discover non-academic resources relevant to their enquiries. They make this happen by integrating their collections in larger, global aggregations – such as WorldCat – for a more comprehensive discovery experience.

And as librarians engage with WorldCat entities in the new linked data environment, discovery will happen because of the interoperability power of PIDs and their ubiquity in the library domain.

Closing remarks

As research information ecosystems are built, it is imperative to seek partnerships with all stakeholders serving the same community, so that they work together productively. The authors of national PID recommendations are seeking input to the many PID roadmap initiatives from a range of contributors. At OCLC Research, we would happily respond to such a call.

Thanks to the many OCLC colleagues who have contributed to this post.

The post Taking research information to the next level appeared first on Hanging Together.

Agile / Ed Summers

I’ve been practicing lower case agile on a few different teams for the better part of my professional career. However I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in Agile by any means. I’ve had to do agile because it is basically everywhere in software development land. I’ve latched on to some of its practices that have been useful in grounding my work.

I use practice here intentionally because that’s exactly what it has been for me: a small set of techniques I’ve learned from other practitioners, that help me manage the complexity of developing software, mostly while working in small groups. More often than not I’ve seen test driven, iterative development, and the pragmatics of YAGNI help make healthy work environments. Ideally these practices have been shared by other people that I’m working with, but sometimes I’ve just practiced them solo, especially in open source projects that have been about developing for other developers.

Honestly I don’t really like the word “agile” much because it implies a degree of speed and nimbleness which I really don’t have (or aspire to) as a software developer. Sometimes things come quickly to me, but most of the time I work in fits and starts, and often quite slowly. I try to tell myself that’s because I’m trying to take my time to get things right, but really it’s just because I’m plain slow.

But even when I’m working slowly I find it useful to think in terms of iterations, and continuously releasing improvements–and (most importantly) delivering value to people that use the software (more on this last point in a moment). I think software developers find it easiest to deliver that value to themselves (making their software development easier) but that’s not really what it’s all about.

Given all this I read Miriam Posner’s recent Agile and the Long Crisis of Software with interest (I’m a fan of her other work). In this piece she provides useful cultural and historical context for the document that is the Agile Manifesto, why it was written, how it was received, and most importantly what its attendant shortcomings (and abuses) have been. I won’t attempt to summarize all of her points here–really, go read it–but chief among the takeaways for me is that there were some real side effects as Agile shifted the focus away from managers and long term plans, towards developers who need to be empowered to make iterative improvements to The Project. In the repetition of sprints and work cycles, releases, and the accumulation of “user stories”, code and other artifacts, software developers can lose perspective on why they are doing what they are doing: why The Project exists and for who. In focusing on the various well scoped iterative tasks, agilists lose the ability to critically reflect on what they are doing, and to reshape what it is.

I have definitely seen this happen, especially on larger projects. If you are heads down crafting a specific piece of business logic, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. It takes discipline and practice to keep the forest in view. This is hard enough to do on your own, but once you are doing it in a group it gets harder to even see the same forest.

One thing that I think is often missing from discussions about what is (and is not) Agile, is the significance of points 1 and 3 in the Manifesto. People tend to focus on the parts that say that they don’t have to have a plan or documentation. Here are 1 and 3:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Admittedly, these have a very managementy ring to them, especially the terms “customer” and “contracts”. In some ways I guess they had to, because the Manifesto was written to convince management to unshackle professionals (not just developers) from various kinds of waterfall style death marches that were commonplace in software development. But a radical reading of these two points, and something I’ve seen working with people who’ve had exposure to Agile’s precursor Extreme Programming, is that they mean actually working with the users of software to design what it does. The users of the system are brought directly into the software development process.

I think very often in Agile this collaboration gets distilled into the Product Owner role, who represents the users of the software, and communicates these values to the software development team through various types of decisions that need to be made (scope, priorities, releases, etc). The best Product Owners that I’ve worked with have also been expert users of the software. They aren’t merely representing the abstract interests of others, with their SCRUM certification hanging on the wall, they are a user–they have a real interest in seeing the software improved, because it makes their life easier, or better in some way. They understand other users needs because they are one of them. Unfortunately I think Product Owners can be, as Posner says, “pulled in two directions: what’s best for the developers on the one hand, and what they’ve promised to deliver to management on the other”. Without some guard rails in place they can become alienated from what delivers true value to the users of the software, and get burned out in the process.

In hindsight, after going back to school for a bit, and reflecting on some of my professional experience (I’m old) I think the best of Agile for me has always been about the philosophy of Participatory Design. As Karlheinz Kautz has noted, not enough has been made of the connection between participatory design and agile practices (Kautz, 2010). In Participatory Design employees, customers, citizens (aka users) are directly involved in the design of systems. The work has an explicit political dimension that requires practices that structure participation in decision making around design, and what gets built, and what does not get built. Maybe I’m just looking for a silver lining here, and that this meaning of Agile has long since been diluted. But I still find meaning in those two points from the manifesto. Several of the “middle-aged white guys, dressed in khakis and dad jeans” who wrote the manifesto had previously worked for years developing software design patterns to help developers share and reuse solutions for particular recurring problems. They drew inspiration from the architect Christopher Alexander whose idea of Pattern Languages helped practitioners describe and share design solutions to particular everyday problems. These patterns were oriented around improving spaces for living. Maybe that value got lost along the way too. But it’s still important to me.

RIP Christopher Alexander (1936-2022)

References

Kautz, K. (2010). Participatory Design Activities and Agile Software Development (Vol. AICT–318, p. 303). Presented at the IFIP WG 8.2/8.6 InternationalWorking Conference on Human Benefit through the Diffusion of Information Systems Design Science Research, Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-12113-5_18