Planet Code4Lib

SAVE the Date for PASIG Madrid, May 19-21, 2020 / DuraSpace News

Please save the date for the next Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG) meeting in Madrid, May 19-21, 2020. The Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, Centro Cultural Conde Duque is the event host. The PASIG Steering Committee is pleased to connect with colleagues in Conde Duque, which is the most important cultural center in Madrid and home to some of the city’s main libraries and archives. Like last year, this PASIG will offer bi-lingual translation services in English and Spanish.

The Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG) is dedicated to advancing the practice of digital preservation and archiving. It brings together practitioners, industry experts and researchers to share experience on how to put preservation and archiving into practice.

The website is at Agenda drafts, sponsorship information, registration, and travel and hotel options in the coming months. The Program Committee is in its initial planning phase, but if you have a topic you want to be considered or would like to inquire about sponsorship email Courtney Mumma (<>) and the Program Committee Chairs, Gilberto Pedreira Campillo (<>) and Carlos Villarrubia Rodríguez (<>).

The Program Committee for Madrid and the PASIG Steering Committee are working closely together on this event. We would like to thank the members of both for all their effort and commitment! If you have an interest in digital preservation and want to be a part of a great community, make sure you save this date!

Co-chairs: Gilberto Pedreira Campillo (<>), Director of Digital Library Memoria de Madrid and Carlos Villarrubia Rodríguez (<>), Head of IT Technicians and Assistant in Digitalizing Area

Natalie Baur, El Colegio de México
Tom Cramer, Stanford University
Ben Fino-Radin, Small Data Industries
Neil Jefferies, University of Oxford
Thomas Ledoux, Bibliotheque Nationale de France
Sarah Mason, Artefactual Systems
Becky McGuinness, Open Preservation Foundation
David Minor, UC San Diego Library
Courtney Mumma, Texas Digital Library
Matthias Razum, FIZ Karlsruhe

Translated to Spanish:

Guarde la fecha de la próxima reunión del Preservation and Archives Special Interest Group (PASIG) en Madrid, del 19 al 21 de mayo de 2020. La Biblioteca Digital de Memoria de Madrid, Centro Cultural Conde Duque es el anfitrión del evento. El Comité Directivo de PASIG esta encantado en conectarse con sus colegas en Conde Duque, que es el centro cultural más importante de Madrid y alberga algunas de las principales bibliotecas y archivos de la ciudad. Como el año pasado, este PASIG ofrecerá servicios de traducción bilingüe en inglés y español.

Preservation and Archives Special Interest Group (PASIG) trabaja para avanzar la práctica de la preservación digital. Reúne a profesionales, expertos de la industria e investigadores para compartir experiencias sobre cómo poner en práctica la preservación digital.

El sitio web está en Programas preliminares, información de patrocinio, inscripción, así como opciones de viaje y hoteles en los próximos meses. El Comité de Programa se encuentra en su fase inicial de planificación, pero si tiene un tema que desea ser considerado o le gustaría consultar sobre patrocinio, envíeme (<>) un correo electrónico así como a los Presidentes del Comité de Programa, Gilberto Pedreira Campillo (<>) y Carlos Villarrubia Rodríguez (<>)

El Comité de Programa para Madrid y el Comité Directivo de PASIG están trabajando juntos en este evento. ¡Me gustaría agradecer a los miembros de ambos comités por todos sus esfuerzos y compromiso! Si usted tiene un interés en la preservación digital y desea ser parte de una gran comunidad, ¡asegúrese de guardar esta fecha!

The post SAVE the Date for PASIG Madrid, May 19-21, 2020 appeared first on

Algorithms / Ed Summers

This short post started as a Twitter thread but I thought I’d drop it in here for future reference.

I recently got a real kick out of reading Adam Burke’s Occluded Algorithms that got me thinking in more concrete terms about how popular uses of the term algorithm are deployed relative to their use in computer programming. It builds on some previous work of Seaver (2017) which I’ve also briefly written about here.

It has become quite common to see news stories that talk about Facebook’s news feed algorithm, or Google’s ranking algorithm, as things that shape our experience of using computational tools. On the other hand the word algorithm has been used for decades to describe discrete computer processes defined in code that take a set of input and generate a set of output. A large part of the computer science research literature consists of discussions of these algorithms, and their application in various contexts..

The connection that Burke seems to make (at least for me) is that in both cases the term algorithm works from a particular perspective outside of computation, to talk about some complexity that is inside. Algorithm internals are often complex and difficult to understand. He uses the example of Python’s list sort which makes a sort algorithm available to the user. On the one hand this empowering because it offers this algorithm to the computer programmer for them to use. But at the same time it encapsulates and hides its implementation and doesn’t require the programmer to completely understand what it is doing. The positiionality here is similar to when a user of Facebook takes the ordering of their news feed at face value.

Algorithms get packaged up in modules and libraries where they can be orchestrated together. Much of what we call software development today involves the pragmatic swapping in & out and plugging together of these units of complexity.

Open Source offers the ability to open up and inspect the inner workings of algorithms. But this often involves a huge commitment to understand the complexity within, which is simply not feasible at the level of a system. But, thus far, for many eyes, it has proven feasible. Although it’s arguable that the eyes are getting strained.

But I guess this focused little piece by Burke really got my attention because of the way it knitted together theoretical ideas like agential cut (Barad, 2007), assemblage (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987), algorithms as culture (Seaver, 2017), technical objects (Simondon, 1958), and governmentality (Foucault, Davidson, & Burchell, 2008). This last point on governmentality and its connection to algorithms is something that Burke draws from Introna (2016), which is new to me.

I’m interested in how governmentality can provide a way of understanding a wide variety of theories and approaches to archival appraisal–especially in web archives. Apart from Mackenzie (2017) I haven’t seen a whole lot written about algorithms and governmentality. Since I’m mostly focused on web archives algorithms are an important topic. So if you find other connections please let me know.


Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Duke University Press.

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Foucault, M., Davidson, A. I., & Burchell, G. (2008). The birth of biopolitics: Lectures at the collège de france, 1978-1979. Springer.

Introna, L. D. (2016). Algorithms, governance, and governmentality: On governing academic writing. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 41(1), 17–49.

Mackenzie, A. (2017). Machine learners: Archaeology of a data practice. MIT Press.

Seaver, N. (2017). Algorithms as culture: Some tactics for the ethnography of algorithmic systems. Big Data & Society, 4(2).

Simondon, G. (1958). On the mode of existence of technical objects. Aubier, Editions Montaigne. Retrieved from

Jobs in Information Technology: July 17, 2019 / LITA

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

University of California, Riverside – University Library, Metadata and Discovery Librarian, Riverside, CA

California State University, San Bernardino, University Archivist, San Bernardino, CA

Southern Methodist University, Reference and Digital Services Librarian, Dallas, TX

University of North Texas, Repository Librarian, Denton, TX

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

Summarizing Project Passage experiences in creating library linked data in Wikibase (2 of 2) / HangingTogether

Last week’s blog post summarized the goals and content of the OCLC Research linked data Wikibase prototype called “Project Passage” and the use cases described by the project participants. After the pilot concluded in September 2018, my colleague Jean Godby and I held discussions with the ten co-authors* of our upcoming report on the lessons learned and reflections about what we learned, some of which are summarized here.

Some of the lessons we learned from our Project Passage experiences:

  • The building blocks of Wikibase can create structured data with a precision exceeding current library standards.
  • The Explorer discovery layer mentioned in the previous post was critical to let librarians see the results of their effort without leaving the metadata-creation workflow.
  • Populating knowledge graphs with library metadata requires tools for importing and enhancing data created elsewhere, such as the Retriever tool the OCLC team developed.
  • The pilot underscored the need for interoperability between data sources, both for ingest and export.
  • The traditional distinction between authority and bibliographic data disappears in a Wikibase description.

Some reflections

Paradigm shift: Transitioning from human-readable records to knowledge graphs represents a paradigm shift. The intellectual work undertaken by catalogers to describe resources in the current and new workflows has many similarities, even if the outputs look different. Although some current tasks and practices will still be necessary, others will become obsolete, and some new tasks will be needed. The most important new task is changing the focus on the “item in hand” to “what entities matter to this object?”

Tasks that become obsolete cluster around creating and normalizing natural language text strings in bibliographic and authority records. Some current practices now appear trivial and pointless, such as the time spent on ISBD punctuation in MARC records. The MARC concept of language of cataloging and the requirement to provide transliterations become obsolete in an environment that is inherently multilingual.

Interpretive context, structured and narrative data, best practices, and upholding the values of authoritativeness and quality will still be needed in creating metadata in a linked data environment. The emphasis on “entification” evolves naturally from library current practice. As the community incorporates Wiki* content into its workflows, we will need to determine the appropriate context, structured and narrative data, and best practices that uphold our values.

Reinventing crowd-sourcing: Participants saw the potential of crowd-sourcing for enriching the knowledge graphs created in the Wikibase editing interface. This effort could be supported by the revision history and discussion pages that track every edit for a given Wikibase entity, each associated with a registered username and time stamp. In contrast, quality management is hampered in current resource description workflows by the fact that a MARC record can be marked only as “touched,” with no written trace of what was changed by whom. And discussion takes place outside the editing environment, typically on professional listservs, where the connection to the affected content is lost.

Pilot participants raised concerns that crowd-sourcing in the Wikibase environment could still add unvetted information from unknown sources that would dilute the integrity of curated library data. A self-selected crowd may have a range of skills and expertise that are not all suited to a given description task or use case. But some members of the crowd undoubtedly do have knowledge that complements or supplements that of library and archival staff. For example, scholars who are familiar with non-English and non-Latin script materials could enrich the metadata created by librarians and archivists who lack this expertise.

In conclusion: The Passage pilot represented an opportunity for all participants to gain hands-on experience creating structured data that could be exported as linked data. Among the outcomes were hundreds of new Wikibase item entities and new tools for creating and viewing results. The experience also produced knowledge and wisdom that could be shared, as well as a multitude of concrete ideas that are already giving shape to follow-up investigations. The results of this effort will help materialize the paradigm shift that is evoked by the name of the pilot. The shared goal is a “passage” from standards introduced in the 1960s to a 21st-century solution featuring structured semantic data that promises better connections between libraries and the world beyond.

Coming next: The publication of our report!

* Kalan Knudson Davis, Karen Detling, Christine Fernsebner Eslao, Steven Folsom, Xiaoli Li, Marc McGee, Karen Miller, Honor Moody, Craig Thomas, Holly Tomren

The post Summarizing Project Passage experiences in creating library linked data in Wikibase (2 of 2) appeared first on Hanging Together.

Transforming the UK’s data ecosystem: Open Knowledge Foundation’s thoughts on the National Data Strategy / Open Knowledge Foundation

Following an open call for evidence issued by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Open Knowledge Foundation submitted our thoughts about what the UK can do in its forthcoming National Data Strategy to “unlock the power of data across government and the wider economy, while building citizen trust in its use”. We also signed a joint letter alongside other UK think tanks, civil and learned societies calling for urgent action from government to overhaul its use of data.

Below our CEO Catherine Stihler explains why the National Data Strategy needs to be transformative to ensure that British businesses, citizens and public bodies can play a full role in the interconnected global knowledge economy of today and tomorrow:

Today’s digital revolution is driven by data.

It has opened up extraordinary access to information for everyone about how we live, what we consume, and who we are.

But large unaccountable technology companies have also monopolised the digital age, and an unsustainable concentration of wealth and power has led to stunted growth and lost opportunities.

Governments across the world must now work harder to give everyone access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; as well as making powerful institutions more accountable; and ensuring vital research information that can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change is available to all.

In short, we need a future that is fair, free and open.

The UK has a golden opportunity to lead by example, and the Westminster government is currently developing a long-anticipated National Data Strategy.

Its aim is to ensure all citizens and organisations trust the data ecosystem, are sufficiently skilled to operate effectively within it, and can get access to high-quality data when they need it.

Laudable aims, but they must come with a clear commitment to invest in better data and skills.

The Open Knowledge Foundation I am privileged to lead was launched 15 years ago to pioneer the way that we use data, working to build open knowledge in government, business and civil society – and creating the technology to make open material useful.

This week, we have joined with a group of think tanks, civil and learned societies to make a united call for sweeping reforms to the UK’s data landscape.

In order for the strategy to succeed, there needs to be transformative, not incremental, change and there must be leadership from the very top, with buy-in from the next Prime Minister, Culture Secretary and head of the civil service. All too often, piecemeal incentives across Whitehall prevent better use of data for the public benefit.

A letter signed by the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Institute for Government, Full Fact, Nesta, the Open Data Institute, mySociety, the Royal Statistical Society, the Open Contracting Partnership, 360Giving, OpenOwnership, and the Policy Institute at King’s College London makes this clear.

We have called for investment in skills to convert data into real information that can be acted upon; challenged the government to earn the public’s trust, recognising that the debate about how to use citizens’ data must be had in public, with the public; proposed a mechanism for long-term engagement between decision-makers, data users and the public on the strategy and its goals; and called for increased efforts to fix the government’s data infrastructure so organisations outside the government can benefit from it.

Separately, we have also submitted our own views to the UK Government, calling for a focus on teaching data skills to the British public.

Learning such skills can prove hugely beneficial to individuals seeking employment in a wide range of fields including the public sector, government, media and voluntary sector. 

But at present there is often a huge amount of work required to clean up data in order to make it usable before insights or stories can be gleaned from it. 

We believe that the UK government could help empower the wider workforce by instigating or backing a fundamental data literacy training programme open to local communities working in a range of fields to strengthen data demand, use and understanding. 

Without such training and knowledge, large numbers of UK workers will be ill-equipped to take on many jobs of the future where products and services are devised, built and launched to address issues highlighted by data. Empowering people to make better decisions and choices informed by data will boost productivity, but not without the necessary investment in skills.

We have also told the government that one of the most important things it can do to help businesses and non-profit organisations best share the data they hold is to promote open licencing.

Open licences are legal arrangements that grant the general public rights to reuse, distribute, combine or modify works that would otherwise be restricted under intellectual property laws.

We would also like to see the public sector pioneering new ways of producing and harnessing citizen-generated data efforts by organising citizen science projects through schools, libraries, churches and community groups. 

These local communities could help the government to collect high-quality data relating to issues such as air quality or recycling, while also leading the charge when it comes to increasing the use of central government data.

We live in a knowledge society where we face two different futures: one which is open and one which is closed.

A closed future is one where knowledge is exclusively owned and controlled leading to greater inequality and a closed society.

But an open future means knowledge is shared by all – freely available to everyone, a world where people are able to fulfil their potential and live happy and healthy lives.

The UK National Data Strategy must emphasise the importance and value of sharing more, better quality information and data openly in order to make the most of the world-class knowledge created by our institutions and citizens. 

Without this commitment at all levels of society, British businesses, citizens and public bodies will fail to play a full role in the interconnected global knowledge economy of today and tomorrow.

Islandoracon 2019 Has a Logo! / Islandora

One of the features of Islandora events is a themed t-shirt given to all attendees. Every camp has its own logo, and so does each conference. We recently held a logo design contest to award a free registration and an extra t-shirt to the Islandoracon attendee who came up with the best logo to represent our third conference. We've held this contest before, but this year saw a record number of entries, making for a very close result.

We are pleased to announce that the winner of the Islandora 2019 Logo Contest is Hillary Webb, from the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, with this design that takes the coasts as inspiration while nodding to Islandora's doe-eyed lobster mascot: 

"Lobster for the east coast and the Orca for the west coast, united by kelp and water."

Islandoracon will take place on the west cost, in Vancouver, BC, from October 7th - 11th. We hope you'll join us and proudly wear Hillary's design!

DLF Review Update / Digital Library Federation

An update on the DLF program review from consultant Joanne Kossuth:

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer—ideally some time off and nice weather! The review of the Digital Library Federation (DLF) is well underway, and I’d like to provide a progress update. Since February, I’ve been working with CLIR and DLF staff and the community in numerous ways, including:

  • conversing with the DLF working group leaders to gain a better understanding of what their groups do, where they think additional potential areas for collaboration and innovation lie, and how they’d like to see their initiatives evolve and grow over the next several years;
  • assessing and making recommendations on the program’s website, communication and collaboration platforms, and tools, based on feedback from the working groups, staff, and community members;
  • considering how to best continue expanding outreach and engaging the community in our ongoing efforts to ensure all voices are included and heard;
  • participating in the Learn@DLF and Forum program planning activities with staff and the Program Committee;
  • holding weekly virtual working sessions with the DLF team focused on the 2019 Forum in all its parts; and
  • working in partnership with CLIR and DLF staff to evaluate the program’s staffing needs.

It has been a busy time and the review work continues!

We’re looking forward to seeing many of you in Tampa this October at the Forum and Learn@DLF, and I’d welcome the opportunity to speak either one-on-one or in group conversations with you that week. DLF could not exist without its vibrant, dedicated community, and it’s vital I hear from you. The purpose of these conversations is to gather your input and hear your comments regarding DLF’s future direction.  

Based on the feedback to date from working groups and representatives from member institutions, we have developed a number of working ideas, and I’d like to hear from you on these, or any other thoughts you may have:

  • expanded year-round programming;
  • increased international focus, including stronger ties to events held by organizations with similar missions and goals;
  • more coherent integration with other CLIR initiatives, such as the Leading Change/Frye Leadership Institute, the Postdoctoral and Mellon Dissertation fellowship programs, and the Hidden Collections and Recordings at Risk projects; and
  • support for large collaborative projects under CLIR’s wider umbrella, such as the long-term sustainability of important community resources and projects beyond their initial funding phase; the risks facing collections and their caretakers in areas affected by climate change; advances in machine learning/artificial intelligence and attendant considerations; the need to thoughtfully, respectfully, and inclusively protect and ensure access to our collective cultural heritage.     

You can contact me anytime at joanne.kossuth [@], and I’m also looking forward to seeing many of you at the Forum in October. I’ll be available onsite all that week for those of you who would like to meet and talk in person; please book a meeting via this link (password Forum2019). Any discussions will be entirely confidential, unless we mutually agree otherwise, and I’m eager to converse with you about the exciting future of DLF.

-Joanne Kossuth


Joanne Kossuth is the founding director of 1Mountain Road and has served as dean of the CLIR/EDUCAUSE Leading Change Institute since 2012. She is working with CLIR to review and assess the Digital Library Federation as the program approaches its 25th year; the review will conclude in early 2020.

The post DLF Review Update appeared first on DLF.

The EFF vs. DMCA Section 1201 / David Rosenthal

As the EFF's Parker Higgins wrote:
Simply put, Section 1201 means that you can be sued or even jailed if you bypass digital locks on copyrighted works—from DVDs to software in your car—even if you are doing so for an otherwise lawful reason, like security testing.;
Section 1201 is obviously a big problem for software preservation, especially when it comes to games.

Last December in Software Preservation Network I discussed both the SPN's important documents relating to the DMCA:
Below the fold, some important news about Section 1201.

The only way to avoid liability is via one of the temporary exemptions granted by the Copyright Office under the triennial review process:
The SPN, with the support of Harvard's CyberLaw Clinic, and ALA, ARL and ACRL petitioned the Copyright Office in their most recent triennial 1201 exemption process for A proposed exemption for libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions to circumvent technological protection measures on lawfully acquired software for the purposes of preserving software and software-dependent materials. Amazingly, this broad exemption was granted. In a joint effort of SPN and Harvard's CyberLaw Clinic, Kee Young Lee and Kendra Albert have written A Preservationist's Guide to the DMCA Exemption for Software Preservation:
Importantly, the defense of "fair use" is not available under Section 1201 for uses not covered by one of these exemptions.

The EFF has been fighting to allow lawful uses for "circumventing" digital protection mechanisms since before the law was passed, and were counsel in its first major test. Three years ago this month, they filed a suit arguing that, precisely because there was no "fair use" defense, Section 1201 represented a constitutionally impermissible prior restraint on speech, as detailed in Kit Walsh's Section 1201 of the DMCA Cannot Pass Constitutional Scrutiny:
After the DMCA was passed, the Supreme Court was asked to evaluate other overreaching copyright laws, and offered new guidance on the balance between copyright protections and free speech. It found that copyright rules can be consistent with the First Amendment so long as they adhere to copyright’s "traditional contours." These contours include fair use and the idea/expression dichotomy.

The dominant interpretation of Section 1201, however, can’t be squared with these First Amendment accommodations. As long as circumvention in furtherance of fair use risks civil damages or criminal penalties, Section 1201's barrier to noninfringing uses of copyrighted works oversteps the boundary set by the Supreme Court.
The plaintiffs were:
  • Security researcher Matthew Green who, the judge has now ruled:
    has sufficiently alleged that he plans to include “detailed information regarding how to circumvent security systems” in a book about his research, and he has indicated that the “detailed information” will include computer code.... (“I am now writing an academic book . . . . I would like to include examples of code capable of bypassing security measures, for readers to learn from.”)
  • The awesome bunnie Huang and his company Alphamax who, the judge has now ruled:
    have alleged that they intend to disseminate “information about how to build NeTVCR,”... which permits the reasonable inference that they will disseminate the technological know-how and computer code required to circumvent the TPMs that bar access to HDMI signals
Neither of these activities were at the time, or are now, covered by one of the triennial review process exemptions.

The suit languished in the courts for almost three years but, finally, on 27th June, the DC Circuit Court ruled that at least some of the case could proceed. Kit Walsh's First Amendment Case Against Restrictive Copyright Law Can Proceed, Says Judge details which parts can, and which parts cannot move forward:
A federal judge has ruled that litigation can go forward to determine whether Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act violates the First Amendment as applied. EFF brought this litigation on behalf of security researcher Matt Green, technologist bunnie Huang, and bunnie's company Alphamax, in order to vindicate the right to speak, learn, and innovate despite this overly-broad and harmful law.

Originally passed to combat infringement, the sweeping language of Section 1201 allowed courts to interpret its provisions to leave out critical speech protections such as the fair use doctrine. This has interfered with educational uses of copyrighted works, accessibility, security research, remix art, and even your ability to repair your own car or tractor.

The ruling is a mixed bag. While the "as-applied" First Amendment claims will go forward, the court did not agree that rulemaking by the Librarian of Congress is subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act, even when the Librarian is performing an executive branch function rather than a congressional one. The court also did not agree that the Librarian's rulemaking is subject to the First Amendment scrutiny that applies when a government official is making determinations about what speech to permit. Finally, the court saw no need to adjudicate the claims that Section 1201 is overly broad, because it concluded that determining the constitutionality of the statute as applied to the plaintiffs will turn on the same issues as with other potential targets of the law.
In Three Years Later: 1st Amendment Challenge Over DMCA's Anti-Circumvention Provisions Can Move Forward Mike Masnick analyzes the ruling:
It's a victory that the case is moving forward, but among the dismissed claims were the general challenge to the constitutionality of 1201. That's disappointing. ... nice is that the court explicitly recognizes that "code is speech." ... the case can and should focus on the direct impact on Green and Huang based on what they were trying to do -- and the claims failed (in the court's opinion) to make a clear case how the statute itself was over-broad and unconstitutional. That at least leaves open the possibility of other cases making a better argument on that front.
Lets hope that we don't have to wait another three years for further progress in the EFF's suit, and that some other case can be found to better argue that Section 1201 impermisssibly restrains speech.

Solidarity, logistics, and infrastructure on Prime Day / Mark Matienzo

July 15 and 16th are “Prime Day,” Amazon’s attempt to drive up sales and artificial demand around things we don’t need at prices they’ve convinced us that we can afford. Thanks to Mar Hicks, many of us heard that workers at a Shakopee, Minnesota fulfillment center are holding a six-hour work stoppage on one of the busiest days of the year. Alongside, many have called for a boycott on Amazon and its subsidiaries (Whole Foods, Goodreads, Twitch, etc.), and others have called for a general strike to protest Amazon’s collaboration with Palantir in aiding ICE. With all of this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on what larger scale industrial actions could look like when we look at Amazon’s simultaneous leveraging of centralization and unreliability of single resources to provide critical infrastructure for the IT sector and its own operations.

It is important to look at Amazon as an entity that has woven itself our lives - not merely as an agent of platform capitalism, but as one extending its grasp through the realm of logistics. Amazon not only owns fulfillment centers, but also has subsidiaries focused on shipping, such as Amazon Maritime, Amazon Prime Air, and Beijing Century Joyo Courier Service). Amazon Web Services as a subsidiary focuses on delivery of a cloud computing platform originally envisioned as “completely standardized [and] completely automated”. We can read infrastructure as provided by AWS itself as an effort in logistical delivery, given how they are used and made available.

The metaphor of IT infrastructure of logistics extends further. Looking at Docker and other containerization technology here is worthy of further analysis, from the use of terminology of neatly setting boundaries at the level of the container and the visual metaphor of container ships treating our applications and their components as interchangeable things packaged up in a consistent way to be shipped from place to place. However, these parallels also bring to mind the rich history of unions and labor organizing by dock workers, and how the adoption of standardized shipping containers in the mid-20th century impacted workers in the shipping industry through deskilling and the changing nature of work.1

With deskilling and worker conditions on mind, the question of solidarity and enacting serious change arises. As mentioned earlier, much of the tenor of the solidarity actions has focused on boycotts, and unions and groups like Amazon Employees for Climate Justice have both sent folks to Minnesota and statements of solidarity for those who can’t be there in person. Of course, I can’t help but wonder what a larger scale industrial action could look like - and which lessons we can take from the radical unionism of workers and organizers in the logistics industry both through history and into the future. What would a large scale action that impacts an AWS availability zone look like? How do you successfully organize a boycott that avoids as much as possible that which uses AWS for its infrastructure - meaning not just Amazon and Whole Foods, but other commercial parties like Netflix, and nonprofits like DPLA as well? What would it mean to have such a profound outage where the impact would be akin to spoilage of agricultural products? And how do we organize this both bravely and safely to positively impact all workers?

  1. For example, see Helen Sampson and Bin Wu, “Compressing Time and Constraining Space: The Contradictory Effects of ICT and Containerization on International Shipping Labour,” International Review of Social History 48 (2003). doi:10.1017/S0020859003001299 

LITA Learnings: Guiding Students through Digital Citizenship / LITA

As academic librarians, we help build our students into digital citizens. They need the tools and resources to be savvy tech users and to become information literate. We need to make sure that our students understand the permanence of their digital actions. This 90-minute webinar explores how you can collaborate with students to expand their digital citizenship skills within your campus community through academic departments, technology offices, and student engagement initiatives. You’ll learn research-based best practices that you can implement using the framework of the hero’s journey without creating an additional burden on faculty, staff, and students.

Presenter: Casey Davis, Instructional Designer (IT), Arizona State University’s University Technology Office
Wednesday, August 7, 2019, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm Central Time

View details and Register here.

Can’t attend the live event? No problem! Register and you’ll receive a link to the recording.

More LITA Continuing Education Coming Soon

Universal Parity to Resources: Rethinking Library Access
July 25, 2019, 1:00 – 2:00 pm Central Time
Presenters: Christine Elliott and Courtney McAllister

Check out our upcoming lineup and get details on our latest round of online learning to boost your skill set!

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to LITA continuing education, contact us at (312) 280-4268 or

LYRASIS Announces New Board of Trustees Members / DuraSpace News

Atlanta, GA – July 11, 2019  To help guide and steward the recent merger of LYRASIS and DuraSpace – four new Board of Trustees Members were elected by the combined memberships, and four new Board of Trustees were appointed. This brings LYRASIS’ FY 2020 Board to 13 members, seven elected and six appointed.

DuraSpace brings 175 members and 3 Community Supported Programs to LYRASIS’ 1,000 members and 7 Community Supported Programs. As of July 1st, 2019, the Board will work with the operations team on strategies to increase the value for these 10 programs along with accelerating the impact of the $1.2 million investment the Board approved for new product development and innovation.

Joe Lucia, the current LYRASIS Chair, says, “This powerful Board brings the right vision and experience to LYRASIS at a time of great opportunity. It will be an exciting year!”

Robert Miller, CEO of LYRASIS, says, “Working together with the LYRASIS and DuraSpace Board members throughout the merger discussions clearly showed the potential that this new organization can deliver to the combined memberships. We are thrilled with what FY 2020 will bring for our members.”

The newly elected Board of Trustees Members are:

Member State Library Agencies or Group Agents:

  • Kathleen Moeller-Peiffer – Deputy State Librarian for Library Support Services at the New Jersey State Library
  • Wolfram Horstmann – Director of the Göttingen State and University Library and University Librarian of the University of Göttingen (Germany)

Member Academic Library:

  • Alexia Hudson-Ward – Azariah Smith Root Director of Libraries for Oberlin College and Conservatory

Member Special Library:

  • Lee Ceperich – Director of the Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Additionally, the following are the newly Appointed Board of Trustees Members:

  • Heather Joseph – SPARC, Executive Director
  • Kaitlin Thaney – Endowment Director for Wikimedia Foundation
  • Tyler Walters – Dean of University Libraries, Virginia Tech
  • Evviva Weinraub – Vice Provost for University Libraries, University at Buffalo

Current Board of Trustees Members:

  • Joe Lucia – Board Chair, Dean of Libraries, Temple University – Paley Library
  • Gina Millsap – Vice-Chair; Chief Executive Officer, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
  • Derick Dreher, Ph.D. – Treasurer; The John C. Haas Director, Rosenbach Museum and Library; VP of Special Collections, The Free Library of Philadelphia
  • Kate Pugh – Faculty, Columbia University
  • Kevin Guthrie – President, ITHAKA

Board of Trustees Members who have served and completed their terms are:


  • Elizabeth Gail McClenney – Immediate Past Chair; Director, Roanoke College – Fintel Library
  • Rob Spindler – former Secretary; Head of Archives & Special Collections, Arizona State University Libraries
  • Tom Rosko – Institute Archivist, Head Institute Archives and Special Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
  • Gregor Trinkaus-Randall – Preservation Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
  • Cory Nimer – University Archivist, Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library
  • Julie Walker – State Librarian of Georgia, Georgia Public Library Services
  • Eric Miller – CFO, Atlanta University Center – Robert Woodruff Library


  • Tom Cramer – former Vice President; Chief Technology Strategist and Associate Director of Digital Library Systems & Services at Stanford University
  • Rob Cartolano – former Treasurer; Vice President for Technology and Preservation for Columbia University Libraries
  • Dan Cohen – Vice Provost for Information Collaboration; Dean of the Libraries; and Professor of History at Northeastern University
  • Mike Conlon – Emeritus Faculty member of the University of Florida\
  • Laura Wood – Associate University Librarian for Research and Education at Harvard Library

The post LYRASIS Announces New Board of Trustees Members appeared first on

Support Driven 2019 Day 1: Notes from Afternoon sessions / Cynthia Ng

Afternoon session notes from Day 1. Elevating the Role of Customer Support Within Your Company Bryan Elsesser (Moderator) Senior Director of Sales Development, Aircall Lawrence Lewis (Panelist) Director of Client Services, DYME Brian Levine (Speaker) Founder, Bottle Cap Technology Kristen Zuck (Speaker) Happiness Engineer Team Lead, Automattic Sarah Betts (Speaker) Customer Champion, Olark Variety of … Continue reading "Support Driven 2019 Day 1: Notes from Afternoon sessions"

Broken Links in the Discovery Layer—Pt. II: Towards an Ethnography of Broken Links / ACRL TechConnect

This post continues where my last one left off, investigating broken links in our discovery layer. Be forewarned—most of it will be a long, dry list of all the mundane horrors of librarianship. Metadata mismatches, EZproxy errors, and OpenURL resolvers, oh my!

What does it mean when we say a link is broken? The simplest definition would be: when a link that claims to lead to full text does not. But the way that many discovery layers work is by translating article metadata into a query in a separate database, which leads to some gray areas. What if the link leads to a search with only a single result, the resource in question? What if the link leads to a search with two results, a dozen, a hundred…and the resource is among them? What if the link leads to a journal index and it takes some navigation to get to the article’s full text? Where do we draw the line?

The user’s expectation is that selecting something that says “full text” leads to the source itself. I think all of the above count as broken links, though they obviously range in severity. Some mean that the article simply cannot be accessed while others mean that the user has to perform a little more work. For the purposes of this study, I am primarily concerned with the first case: when the full text is nowhere near the link’s destination. As we discuss individual cases reported by end users, it will solidify our definition.

Long List

I’m going to enumerate some types of errors I’ve seen, providing a specific example and detailing its nature as much as possible to differentiate the errors from each other.

1. The user selects a full text link but is taken to a database query that doesn’t yield the desired result. We had someone report this with an article entitled “LAND USE: U.S. Soil Erosion Rates–Myth and Reality” in Summon which was translated into a query on the article’s ISSN, publication title, and an accidentally truncated title (just “LAND USE”).1 The query fails to retrieve the article but does show 137 other results. The article is present in the database and can be retrieved by editing the query, for instance by changing the title parameter to “U.S. soil erosion rates”. Indeed, the database has the title as “U.S. soil erosion rates–myth and reality”. The article appears to be part of a recurring column and is labelled “POLICY FORUM: LAND USE” which explains the discovery layer’s representation of the title.

Fundamentally, the problem is a disagreement about the title between the discovery layer and database. As another example, I’ve seen this problem occur with book reviews where one side prefixes the title with “Review:” while the other does not. In a third instance of this, I’ve seen a query title = "Julia Brannen Peter Moss "and" Ann Mooney Working "and" Caring over the Twentieth Century Palgrave Macmillan Basingstoke Hampshire 2004 234 pp hbk £50 ISBN 1 4039 2059 1" where a lot of ancillary text spilled into the title.

2. The user is looking for a specific piece except the destination database combines this piece with similar ones into a single record with a generic title such that incoming queries fail. So, for instance, our discovery layer’s link might become a title query for Book Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay in the destination, which only has an article named “Book Reviews” in the same issue of the host publication. In my experience, this is one of the more common discovery layer problems and can be described as a granularity mismatch. The discovery layer and subscription database disagree about what the fundamental unit of the publication is. While book reviews often evince this problem, so too do letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and recurring columns.

3. An article present in one of our subscription databases is not represented in the discovery layer, despite the database being correctly selected in the knowledgebase that informs the discovery system’s index. We’re able to read the article “Kopfkino: Julia Phillips’ sculptures beyond the binary” in an EBSCO database that provides access to the journal Flash Art International but no query in Summon can retrieve it as a result. I suppose this is not technically a broken link as a non-existent link but it falls under the general umbrella of discovery layer content problems.

4. The exact inverse of the above: an article is correctly represented by the discovery layer index as being part of a database subscription that the user should have access to, but the article does not actually exist within the source database due to missing content. This occurred with an interview of Howard Willard in American Artist from 1950. While our subscription to Art & Architecture Source does indeed include the issue of American Artist in question, and one can read other articles from it, there was no record for the interview itself in EBSCOHost nor are its pages present in any of the PDF scans of the issue.

5. The user is looking for an article that is combined with another, even though the source seems to agree that they should be treated separately. For instance, one of our users was looking for the article “Musical Curiosities in Athanasius Kircher’s Antiquarian Visions” in the journal Music in Art but Summon’s link lands on a broken link resolver page in the destination EBSCO database. It turns out, upon closer inspection, that the pages for this article are appended to the PDF of the article that appears before it. All other articles for the issue have their own record. This is an interesting hybrid metadata/content problem similar to granularity mismatch: while there is no record for the article itself in the database, the article’s text is present. Yet unlike some granularity mismatches it is impossible to circumvent via search; you have to know to browse the issue and utilize page numbers to locate it.

6. The user selects a link to an article published within the past year in a journal with a year-long embargo. The discovery layer shows a “full text online” link but because the source’s link resolver doesn’t consider an embargoed article to be a valid destination, the link lands on an error page. This is an instance where Summon would, ideally, at least take to you to the article’s citation page but in any case the user won’t be able to retrieve the full text.

7. The user selects an article that is in a journal not contained within any of the library’s database subscriptions. This is usually simple knowledge base error where the journal lists for a database changed without being updated in the discovery layer index. Still, it’s quite common because not all subscription changes are published in a machine-readable manner that would allow discovery layers to automate their ingestion.

8. The user selects an article listed as being published in 2016 in the discovery layer, while the source database has 2017 so the OpenURL fails to resolve properly. Upon investigation, this date mismatch can be traced back to the journal’s publisher which lists the individual articles as being published in 2016 while the issue in which they are contained comes from 2017. The Summon support staff rightly points out to me that they can’t simply change the article dates to match one source; while it might fix some links, it will break others, and this date mismatch is a fundamentally unsolvable disagreement. This issue highlights the brittleness of real world metadata; publishers, content aggregators, and discovery products do not live in harmony.

Reviewing the list of problems, this dual organization seems to helpfully group like issues:

  • Metadata & linking problems
    • Metadata mismatch (1, 5, 8)
    • Granularity mismatch (2)
    • Link resolver error (6)
  • Index problems
    • Article not in database/journal/index (3, 4, 5, 6)
    • Journal not in database (7)

Of these three, the first category accounts for the vast majority of problems according to my anecdata. It’s notable that issues overlap and their classification is inexact. When a link to an embargoed article fails, should we say that is due to the article being “missing” or a link resolver issue? Whatever the case, it is often clear when a link is broken even if we could argue endlessly about how exactly.

There are also a host of problems that we, as librarians, cause. We might misconfigure EZproxy for a database or fail to keep our knowledge base holdings up to date. The difference with these problems is that they tend to happen once and then be resolved forever; I fix the EZproxy stanza, I remove access to the database we unsubscribed from. So the proportion of errors we account for is vanishingly low, while these other errors are eternal. No matter how many granularity mismatches or missing articles in I point out, there are always millions more waiting to cause problems for our users.


  1. This sort of incredibly poor handling of punctuation in queries is sadly quite common. Even though, in this instance, the source database and discovery layer are made by the same company the link between them still isn’t prepared to handle a colon in a text string. Consider how many academic articles have colons in their title. This is not good.

Full Programs NOW LIVE for DLF Forum, Learn@DLF, and NDSA’s Digital Preservation! / Digital Library Federation

We are thrilled to announce the release of the full program for our 2019 DLF Forum, Learn@DLF, and Digital Preservation 2019: Critical Junctures, taking place October 13-17 in Tampa, Florida. This year’s program is remarkable, and you won’t want to miss it. 


Browse the programs!


We are especially grateful to our volunteer Reviewers and Program Committee, without whom this fabulous program would not have come together. And, thank you to all who submitted proposals. This year’s field was especially competitive, and it shows in the strong program we’re sharing today.


Registration remains open for all events, but hurry, tickets for the DLF Forum are going quickly! We expect to go on the waitlist in the coming month, so secure your spot now. (Presenting at the Forum? You’re in! But please register now, since we’re holding spots for you.)


What are the DLF Forum, Learn@DLF, and Digital Preservation?


  • The DLF Forum (#DLFforum, October 14-16), our signature event, welcomes digital library practitioners and others from member institutions and the broader community, for whom it serves as a meeting place, marketplace, and congress. The event is a chance for attendees to present work, meet with other DLF working group members, and share experiences, practices and information. Learn more here:


  • Learn@DLF (#learnatdlf, October 13) is our dedicated pre-conference workshop day for digging into tools, techniques, workflows, and concepts. Through engaging, hands-on sessions, attendees will gain experience with new tools and resources, exchange ideas, and develop and share expertise with fellow community members. Learn more here: 


  • Digital Preservation (#digipres19, October 16-17), the major annual meeting of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, will help to chart future directions for both the NDSA and digital stewardship, and is a crucial venue for intellectual exchange, community-building, development of best practices, and national-level agenda-setting in the field. Learn more about this year’s event, whose theme is ‘Critical Junctures,’ here: 


As you can see, we have an exciting week planned. Don’t delay – register now to secure your spot. 

The post Full Programs NOW LIVE for DLF Forum, Learn@DLF, and NDSA’s Digital Preservation! appeared first on DLF.

Infrastructure for heritage institutions / Lukas Koster

During my vacation I saw this tweet by LIBER about topics to address, as suggested by the participants of the LIBER 2019 conference in Dublin:

LIBER2019 tweet

It shows a word cloud (yes, a word cloud) containing a large number of terms. I list the ones I can read without zooming in (so the most suggested ones, I guess), more or less grouped thematically:

Open science
Open data
Open access
Linked open data
Open education
Citizen science
Scholarly communication
Digital humanities/DH
Digital scholarship
Research assessment
Research data
New metrics
Digital preservation
Data curation
Data stewardship
Data management
Fair (probably meaning FAIR)
Digital skills
Skills training
Information literacy
Library management

Better food

The last topic (“Better food“) probably says something about the conference organisation, not about global health or climate change.

Although being on holiday I could not resist reacting on twitter with And for all that you need interoperability and a sound digital infrastructure.“. My tweet got a small number of likes, retweets and replies, mostly from the more library technology inclined. 

The reason for my tweet was that LIBER2019 was another example of a library conference focusing on global ideals and objectives without paying any attention to the means that are needed to actually achieve those. Let’s have a look at the grouped suggested topics. We see “Openness“, “Scholarship/research“, “Data/digital objects curation“, “Skills” and more general “Management” buzzwords. Ignoring “Better food” we have two acronyms left, of which “AI” (Artificial Intelligence, I presume) could be grouped with Scholarship/research. Leaving only “IIIF” as a specific technical/infrastructural topic that could serve as a means to achieve the objectives outlined in the other topic groups,

Now, it is understandable that LIBER conference participants mention these topics, because LIBER is the Association of European Research Libraries. But what to my mind is not understandable is that these Research Libraries conference participants do not talk about the practical issues involved to achieve those goals. Even more so because the first line in LIBER’s mission is “Provide an information infrastructure to enable research in LIBER Institutions to be world class“.

To be clear: by “digital infrastructure” I don’t mean the hardware layer underlying all digital communication (servers, workstations, cables, routers, etc.), but the layers on top of that (systems, databases, data and record formats, digital object formats, identifiers, communication protocols, data flows, API’s, export and import tools, etc.).

I have never attended a LIBER conference myself, so I can’t say anything about the nature of the event from personal experience, but people who have attended tell me that the conference has been mainly targeted at library management. Looking at the LIBER2019 programme however, there are a small number of presentations that look like they may have been of a more practical or technical nature.

Anyway, having been to many library and library related conferences and events over the years I think I can safely say that most “general” library conferences focus more on missions and objectives, ignoring the practical and technical conditions and requirements that are essential to achieve just those. And of course the more “technical” library conferences tend to do the opposite, ignoring organisational, social and financial conditions. We really need conferences that take into account both sides.

The fact remains however that a sound digital infrastructure, both internally within the individual institutions and externally between institutions, is essential. And I prefer going to the more practical events, because I’m a bit allergic to events where people say “We should do [fill in whatever you think we should be doing as libraries]“, “We are so great“, “We are so inspired“.

As a follow up to my original tweet, in a reply to Christina Harlow and Rurik Greenall, I said: “Let’s propose a presentation for liber2020 about teaching the librarians how infrastructure is essential for their word cloud ideas to get real.“. Christina replied “I’m on board“, to which Saskia Scheltjens, of Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, reacted “I’ll hold you all to that, you know 😉“. But someone else (Timo Borst) warned me: “LIBER is not the right place to address those challenges. It is rather a club of feelgood-librarians, reinforcing themselves in what they are doing and always have done. There are many skilled people engaged at #LIBER, but no common ground and agenda for tackling infra issues.“, confirming more or less my experiences with library conferences. 

I am not sure what will happen next year at LIBER2020, but let’s take this subject a bit further and move away from conferences to the actual institutions (libraries, archives, museums). After working in libraries for 16 years now (of which the last 13 years for the Library of the University of Amsterdam) it is my experience that “digital infrastructure” is not a topic that has been the subject of much attention from the people who decide about funding, resources and policies in libraries and other heritage institutions. 

Since I started working for the Library of the University of Amsterdam in 2006, in the Digital Services/Systems department, I have been trying to get the library focus more on the underlying infrastructure instead of only on end user services, individual dedicated systems and data formats, without success. Time and again decisions were made to either replace one proprietary system with another, solve a problem with a new system, or create a new database with metadata copied from another one, thereby increasing a huge unmanageable landscape of data formats, systems and user interfaces without possibilities to actually innovate. Even in 2018 in a meeting about establishing the new strategic policy plan for the Library one of the attending management team members said “Infrastructure is a difficult word“. 

Until recently, after my colleague Saskia Woutersen-Windhouwer (who now works for Leiden University Library) and I managed to get a memo accepted about “Open Collections”, in which we argued that the Library should adopt “FAIR principles for collections”. An adapted English version of that is available online as an article in Code4Lib Journal, Issue 40, 2018. “FAIR” stands for Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable, and the original FAIR principles are targeted at scholarly output, in particular research data sets. We adapted these original principles to apply to heritage collections, distinguishing FAIR principles for Objects, Metadata and Metadata Records.

In the official advice following the original memo we also distinguished three additional aspects of FAIR principles, making clear that infrastructure is not only technical: Licensing, Infrastructure, Data Quality (LID). Obviously there is a certain overlap between these three aspects: for instance a licence must also be entered in the data and must be machine-readable. Besides that we also stressed the need for organisational change. The way that workflows are organised is part of the infrastructure. Departments have always been focused on traditional activities that were separated, such as metadata, systems, user services. A more integrated approach is needed.

To make a longer story short, in the Library’s new Strategy Plan for 2019-2022 a “coherent and future proof digital infrastructure” is presented as an essential precondition for all other strategic objectives (Open Collections, Open Science and Education, Open Campus, Open Knowledge). And from this year on I will be coordinating the planning and projects to realise this new streamlined digital infrastructure, together with a specially assembled core team of representative library employees with required expertise from various departments.

Given my earlier remarks about heritage institutions and infrastructure, I have the impression that the challenges we are facing are not unique for our situation. Maybe other institutions can benefit from the approach described here, while at the same time I hope we can benefit from other institutions’ experiences.

In our planning we distinguish between ongoing, structural activities that can already be executed now, and short term projects that will implement clearly described goals and also lead to ongoing, structural workflows.

The currently ongoing activities are: 

  • Monitoring and advising on infrastructural aspects of new projects
  • Maintaining a structured dynamic overview of the current systems and dataflow environment
  • Communication about the principles, objectives and status of the programme

For the short term projects we determined dependencies, made a planning and assigned core project teams that can be extended with internal and external experts as needed. We also chose a defined and limited use case as core pilot to focus on and use as test bed before wider implementation of the results. This pilot consists of a set of over 300 old maps in a 19th century unique “collector’s atlas” in the possession of the Library. A set of high resolution digitised images of the maps is available, that are catalogued but not yet presented directly on a library website.

The project topics (with very brief descriptions) are:

  • Licensing
    • Establish and implement default and dedicated licenses for objects and metadata
  • Object PID’s
    • Decide on and implement PID schemes to be used for physical and digital objects
  • Controlled Vocabularies
    • Decide on and implement authority schemes using PID’s for people, subjects etc.
  • Metadata Set
    • Decide on and implement the standard minimum required metadata for various use cases, based on data quality guidelines
  • ETL Hub
    • Implement a uniform central Extract Transform Load platform for streamlining data flows and data conversions
  • Object Platform
    • Decide on and implement a platform for storing, distributing and preserving digital objects
  • Digital Objects/IIIF
    • Decide on and implement formats, types, resolution for digital objects, focusing on IIIF
  • Digitisation Workflow
    • Implement workflow for digitising physical objects
  • Access/Reuse
    • Implement methods, protocols and platforms for accessing and reusing objects and metadata
  • Data Enrichment
    • Investigate and implement methods of enriching metadata through text and data mining etc.
  • Linked Data
    • Investigate and implement methods of publishing linked data
  • Alma
    • Investigate options of Alma (which is our new main backoffice platform) as central data and object hub
  • Georef
    • Especially for digital maps: investigate and implement georeferencing options and use cases

For some of these topics individual pilots and projects are already planned or have been carried out. The idea is to connect and integrate these existing plans and projects in order to avoid redundant work and conflicting results.

There is a natural dependency scheme between the project topics. For instance licensing, PID’s, protocols, controlled vocabularies and a good metadata set are required before you can actually publish your data for access and reuse. The same applies to Linked Open Data. To publish objects for reuse you need to have the formats, platform, protocols and licensing sorted out.We can’t find out everything by ourselves, obviously. We will gladly use experiences from other institutions. We will contact you soon. And if you have any valuable advice to give, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Summarizing Project Passage experiences in creating library linked data in Wikibase (1 of 2) / HangingTogether

Last year we concluded a ten-month pilot, called “Project Passage”, using a Wikibase instance to create and edit library metadata in collaboration with 16 U.S. libraries. Our upcoming report documenting our experiences and the lessons learned will be published later this month. We were delighted that ten of the Project Passage participants* contributed to this report.

The project’s objective was to evaluate a framework for reconciling, evaluating, and managing bibliographic and authority data as linked data entities and relationships. The Project Passage participants represented a community of metadata specialists who could use the Wikibase instance as a “sandbox” where they could freely experiment with describing library and archival resources in a linked data environment. OCLC staff chose to install a local instance of Wikibase, the platform for storing and managing structured data that underlies Wikidata—the structured dataset used by Wikipedias and other Wikimedia sister projects. Wikibase offers built-in features such as auto-suggest, embedded multilingual support, a SPARQL Query Service, and application programming interfaces that allowed incorporating third-party additions.  It also generates entities described in the Resource Description Framework, or RDF, without requiring technical knowledge of linked data. As a result, the OCLC project team could focus on what the Project Passage participants needed most beyond the initial set of capabilities.

The OCLC team also developed two utilities that interoperated with the Wikibase software platform. Coming from a MARC environment, practitioners were accustomed to saying something in a single place—a bibliographic or authority record designed primarily for a human reader. But input in the Wikibase editing environment could be linked behind the scenes and repurposed. Project Passage participants needed to see the information that was connected behind the scenes. To demonstrate this potential in a discovery application, the OCLC project team developed an interface called Explorer, which created a display of related entities (such as the translations of a book) assembled by a SPARQL query across the entire Wikibase RDF dataset. The Explorer also built displays that combined structured statements and narrative text with images from DBpedia and Wikimedia Commons. Pilot participants also needed to pull in data that existed elsewhere, such as their local files, so the OCLC project team developed the Passage Retriever tool to bring data into the Wikibase instance that could serve as the basis for a new resource description. These two tools eased the task of description and made it possible to see the effects of work in progress.

The Project Passage practitioners demonstrated a variety of use cases during weekly “office hours’ where we walked through issues that arose and discussed community norms and practices that needed to be established.  The report describes these use cases in detail:

  • Two use cases of non-English descriptions
  • Four use cases of image resources
  • Two use cases of describing archival and special collections
  • A 15th-century musical work associated with an ecclesiastical event

Xiaoli Li of UC Davis and I described our experiences with Chinese descriptions and representing works and their associated translations in the 18 June 2019 Works in Progress Webinar, Case Studies from Project Passage Focusing on Wikidata’s Multilingual Support.  Our experience showed that multilingual descriptions need not be constrained by a “preferred form”, nor enter transliterations as others can add descriptions in different languages and writing systems. The concept of “language of cataloging” disappears in this environment.

Use cases described in the upcoming Project Passage report

The image resources described were for a map, a poster, a postcard, and a photograph, where the content of the resource is more image than text; three of them were related to a specific event. A historical map of Concord, Massachusetts, as described by Marc McGee of Harvard, included natural features, man-made structures, names of landowners, roads, and district boundaries. He demonstrated the complex connections between the map and the publisher, location, and date as well as requiring new “roles” such as Henry David Thoreau as a “surveyor” in this instance. The Passage editing workflow enabled the open-ended addition of many details and relationships, such as features visually represented on the map, that would be difficult or impossible to express in MARC except as free text.  

Kalan Knudsen Davis and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota described a poster for an Everly Brothers concert; Karen Detling and her colleagues at the National Library of Medicine described a postcard featuring Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony as a nurse during World War I; Holly Tomren and her colleagues at Temple University Libraries described a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and  Cecil B. Moore at a protest rally at Girard College. All three use cases were associated with an event, and the metadata specialists had to grapple with how much effort is worth investing into creating related entities to provide machine-understandable context for interpretation and when it makes sense to stop.

The Temple photograph also provided a starting place for describing archives in the Passage editing workflow, as an item in a collection within a research institution. The Passage descriptions for the archive were a by-product of the need to describe the photograph. Given the tradition of narrative and other text-based description, archives would seem to benefit most from workflows that facilitate creating structured data because so little is otherwise available. But the Passage experience revealed we need much more community discussion to produce models redrawing the line between structured and textual data and best practices for both.

Craig Thomas at Harvard described a sacred musical composition commissioned for and performed at the consecration of Florence Cathedral in 1436. The items and properties describing the musical score, the consecration event, and the interconnections between the two produced a network of relationships that exceeds the detail currently represented in corresponding MARC-based library authority files.

In sum, Project Passage allowed participants to gain valuable insight into how to build relationships in structured, machine-readable semantic data and obtain instant feedback about their work in a discovery interface. The pilot was unique in that it created an environment for practitioners to experience their first deep encounter with linked data concepts in their current jobs, allowing them to make head-to-head comparisons between current and new standards of practice, while preserving the most important values of librarianship.  The Wikibase platform supports establishing provenance, authority, and trust at the level of individual statements in a way that is far more sophisticated than corresponding library-community practices. Practitioners can declare the existence of an item as a linked data real-world object about which facts can be assembled and associated with a globally unique URI.  Additional items and properties can also be declared in the moment for a wide range of resource types, in a multiple of languages and writing systems. These descriptions can link to library-community datasets as well as vocabularies and ontologies maintained elsewhere.

The co-authors agreed that the Wikibase sandbox made it “very easy to connect theory and practice” and that the interfaces provided were better than any other linked data project that they had been involved in.

Coming next: Lessons learned and reflections

* Kalan Knudson Davis, Karen Detling, Christine Fernsebner Eslao, Steven Folsom, Xiaoli Li, Marc McGee, Karen Miller, Honor Moody, Craig Thomas, Holly Tomren

The post Summarizing Project Passage experiences in creating library linked data in Wikibase (1 of 2) appeared first on Hanging Together.

Browse the Bookshelf of U.S. Case Law: Announcing the CAP Case Browser / Harvard Library Innovation Lab

Today we’re announcing the CAP case browser! Browse published U.S. case law from 1658 to 2018—all 40 million pages of it.

The CAP case browser is one way to browse and cite cases made available via the Caselaw Access Project API. The Caselaw Access Project shares cases digitized from the collections of the Harvard Law School Library.

Let’s take a quick tour. Starting the CAP Case Browser at

Jobs in Information Technology: July 10, 2019 / LITA

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week

University of Miami, Head of Library Technology, Coral Gables, FL

Wabash College, Research and Instruction Librarian, Crawfordsville, IN

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

RA21 doesn't address the yet-another-WAYF problem. Radical inclusiveness would. / Eric Hellman

The fundamental problem with standards is captured by XKCD 927.
Single sign-on systems have the same problem. The only way for a single sign-on system to deliver a seamless user experience is to be backed by a federated identity system that encompasses all use cases. For RA-21 to be the single button that works for everyone, it must be radically inclusive. It must accommodate a wide variety of communities and use cases.

Unfortunately, the draft recommended practice betrays no self-awareness about this problem. Mostly, it assumes that there will be a single "access through your institution" button. While it is certainly true that end-users have more success when presented with a primary access method, it's not addressed how  RA-21 might reach that state.

Articulating a radical inclusiveness principle would put the goal of single-button access within reach. Radical inclusiveness means bringing IP-based authentication, anonymous access, and access for walk-ins into the RA-21 tent. Meanwhile the usability and adoption of of SAML-based systems would be improved; service providers who require "end-to-end traceability" could achieve this in the context of their customer agreements; it needn't be a requirement for the system as a whole.

Radical inclusiveness would also broaden the user base and thus financial support for the system as a whole. We can't expect a 100,000 student university library in China to have the same requirements or capabilities as a small hospital in New Jersey or a multinational pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, even though all three might need access to the same research article.

This is my fourth comment on the RA-21 draft "Recommended Practices for Improved Access toInstitutionally-Provided Information Resources". The official comment period ends Friday. This comment, 57 others, and the add-comment form can be read here. My comments so far are about secure communication channelspotential phishing attacks, and the incompatibility of the recommended technical approach with privacy-enhancing browser features. I'm posting the comments here so you can easily comment. I'll have one more comment, and then a general summary.

Update July 10, 2019:

RA21's official response to this comment is:
RA21 envisages supporting the anonymous and walk-in use cases via federated authentication. It is anticpated that federated authentication and IP authentication will exist side-by-side during a transition phase. The specifics of the User Experience during the transition phase will need to be determined during implementation; however it is likely that the RA21 button will simply not need to be displayed to users who are IP authenticated.
I suppose self-awareness was a big ask. The revised recommendation includes some "envisaging" of use cases that was glaring by omission in the draft recommendation. The added section 2.1.1., Employ appropriate authentication mechanisms for specific use cases, is an improvement on the draft; but the revised recommendation has not retreated from its end-to-end traceability "guiding principle".

RA21 used the same response for a comment by Ohio State's, Jennifer Vinopal:
I want to reiterate a point that a number of commenters have already mentioned: there is no discussion of how public or walk-in (or other unauthenticated/unauthenticating) users will get access to resources through RA21. Public libraries, as well as many college and research libraries, negotiate our e-resource licenses to provide access to walk-in users who aren?t represented in our IdM systems.
Don't forget, EZProxy was supposed to be a transition phase!

Everybody’s Library Questions: Copyright and advertisements / John Mark Ockerbloom

My previous post answered a reader question about how to determine whether a newspaper (or other serial issue) was under copyright or not.  (More details about the process can be found in our guide “Determining copyright status of serial issues”.)  Some people still wonder about the ads, though.  Here are some questions about those from Nena Ceg of Project Mindshare.  (Steve Jones also asked similar questions):

“Where can I find copyright information about illustrations from magazine ads (pre-1964)? Are illustrations in those ads in the public domain? They required a copyright notice from the illustrator, or the illustrator´s signature was enough?”

The short answer: Yes, ads, and the illustrations in them, can have their own copyrights, just like issue contributions and illustrations can have their own copyright.  But very few pre-1964 US ads still have active copyright; and research and library digitization projects often don’t have to worry about them.  Those wanting to use magazine ads commercially might need to take more care, not just for copyright reasons but also for trademark reasons.  For reliable legal guidance, you should talk to your lawyer (and I’m not one).

Here’s a longer answer with more details:

Finding ad-related copyrights

Copyrights for ads that appear in serials might be registered and renewed in one of three categories: in Contributions to Periodicals (which is where stories and articles in serials would also be registered and renewed); in Artwork (for advertising illustrations); or possibly in Commercial Prints and Labels.  The Catalog of Copyright Entries (which runs up to 1978, covering renewals for publications through 1950) published different sections for each category, and the sections can be examined and searched online.  (The link above goes to a page with more details.) All categories in the Copyright Office’s online database (which runs from 1978 onward, covering renewals for publications from 1950 and later) can be searched at once.  (Note that copyrights from 1964 and later either automatically renewed or didn’t have to be renewed, which is why we’re discussing pre-1964 ads here.)

There are a few ads renewed as contributions to periodicals, but not many that I’ve found so far.  In our copyright information page for the New York Post, where we’ve filled in details for early renewed contributions, you’ll see some ads for Schenley Distillers among the renewals. (The first one is dated May 15, 1936.)  Some  ads featuring the electric utility mascot Reddy Kilowatt were also renewed as periodical contributions– the earliest ones I’ve found ran in the Philadelphia Public Ledger in 1934.  I have a hard time recalling any other ad series before 1950 that had significant numbers of renewals.  Since we list the first contribution renewals for serials in our copyright inventory, though, if an ad was renewed as a contribution to a periodical appearing in that inventory, the periodical should be shown with a first-renewal date for contributions on or before the date of the ad.  (And in some cases, as with the New York Post, we also list contribution renewals after the first one, so you can look for a renewal for the ad in that list if it says it includes all active renewals up to the ad’s date.)

It’s also possible that images in the ads (or of the ads) may have renewed copyrights.  But, as with other images in periodicals, that’s pretty rare, and in our decision guide, we consider it highly unlikely unless they have a copyright notice of their own (as some did). We describe in Appendix C of our copyright determination guide how to search for copyrights of images.  You will find a few ad-related images in the sources listed there, including the original cartoon image of Reddy Kilowatt, copyrighted in 1926 and renewed in 1954.  Search for “Reddy” in Project Gutenberg’s transcription of artwork renewals from 1951 to 1959, and he comes right up.

Some other well-known cartoon characters that made their debut after 1923 also may have active copyrights, either from artwork renewals or from copyright renewals of the publications or films in which they first appeared.  (Many of the best-known characters, franchises, and syndicates with active copyrights are mentioned in Appendix D of our guide.)  But beyond Reddy Kilowatt, active renewed copyrights in characters specifically created for advertising appear to be rare, at least in the renewals I’ve looked at (primarily for publications up to 1950).

Advertising matter also could get copyrighted in the “Commercial Prints and Labels” category.  Unlike with contributions and artwork, no one that I know of has yet produced searchable files or databases for commercial prints renewals in the Catalog of Copyright Entries.  (They are in the Copyright Office’s searchable registered works database when that picks up in 1978.)  But there aren’t that many commercial prints renewals, so it could be convenient and not too hard to produce searchable files for the early active ones, like Project Gutenberg has done for other artwork renewals.  You can still look through them online through the Catalog of Copyright Entries scans, but for now you’ll have to look at the page images of the scans.  I’ve looked over many of the Commercial Prints renewals pages, and have found a number of labels and what appear to be standalone posters, but have had a hard time finding anything in this category that appears to be a magazine or newspaper ad.  (If you find any, though, let me know.)

Copyright, fair use, and trademark

I’m inclined myself not to worry about searching for ad copyright renewals unless I find a copyright notice for the ad.  (An artist signature by itself is not a copyright notice, though it can provide a useful name to search on if you’re inclined to do so.)  I’m not particularly worried both because copyright renewals for ads are rare in my experience (as noted above), and also because even if there are active copyrights in some of the advertising matter, a good case for fair use can be made for the sort of uses we tend to make of them in libraries and universities.  Our digitization is noncommercial; it’s typically for purposes of study, research, or commentary; the ads are generally not the primary focus of interest for the content we’re digitizing; and there is usually little or no market now for the ads themselves (as opposed to the products the ads were designed to sell).  Appendix E of our copyright determination guide has more notes on the use of materials that might still be under copyright.

If I were contemplating more commercial use of an ad, though, such as selling prints or T-shirts, or including them in promotions, I’d want to be more careful both to check the copyrights, and also to ensure that I wasn’t using trademarks improperly.  Although copyrights expire after a set time period, trademarks (including brand names, slogans, logos, and other distinctive imagery associated with a brand) can last indefinitely as long as their owner keeps them in use, with some still going strong after more than a century.

It’s not against the law to simply reproduce a trademark, but it can be illegal to present it in a manner that creates confusion or misleads a consumer.  For instance, if I reproduced a public domain ad for Coca-Cola in a newspaper that I scanned and put online, readers would not normally think that my scan was sponsored by Coca-Cola, or indeed had any direct connection with the company.  But if I placed that same ad prominently on a vending machine that dispensed bottles of Pepsi, thirsty customers might think they were buying a soda different from the one they actually got.  That could lead to legal troubles that I wouldn’t have from simply reproducing the newspaper.

Similar problems could result if I sold T-shirts or posters with a company logo or other trademark that customers thought was created or endorsed by that company.  For this reason, Disney may retain control over clothing featuring Disney characters even after copyrights for the older characters start expiring a few years from now. They can’t use their character trademarks to stop all reproductions or creative uses of copyright-expired characters, but since they’ve registered trademarks for the use of many of those characters in branded clothing, and continue to sell character-themed clothes, they’d have good arguments that, say, many unlicensed Mickey Mouse-themed hats or T-shirts would be confused for approved Disney products.

The long and short of it

In summary, then, I believe serial digitization projects can clear copyrights for ads in periodicals pretty much the same way that they clear copyrights for other material in periodicals.  The instructions we have in our copyright determination guide should work for them, as far as I’m aware.  Remember, though, that I am not a lawyer, and certainly not your lawyer, and you’re best off consulting one if you want more assurance about the legal soundness of your reproducing or otherwise using other people’s ads.  I also have not had as much experience myself with digitization of serials as others have.  Comments are open below (for now), and I’d be very happy to hear from people with more expertise or relevant experience.


All carrots, no sticks: Relational practice and library instruction coordination / In the Library, With the Lead Pipe

In Brief:

This article explores the relational practices that comprise the feminized work of instruction coordinators in academic libraries. It is a continuation of research originally presented at the 2017 Association of College and Research Libraries Conference. Through the lens of relational-cultural theory and social constructions of work, this expanded research analysis names the specific relational practices instruction coordinators adopt in the workplace, examines their relationship to supervision and authority, and investigates their impact on the well-being of instruction coordinators. This article makes recommendations not only for improving the structure of this specific job role, but as a first step towards reimagining library work in a way that values relational activity and practice as highly skilled work.


The skills and labor involved in library instruction coordinator work–developing pedagogical training, coordinating information literacy (IL) curricular integration and assessment, and training teaching librarians–includes an intense investment in the quality of relationships with others (Association of College and Research Libraries, 2011). Maintaining these relationships takes tremendous effort, largely invisible in our organizations yet crucial to our programs, and these efforts exact a real toll. As library instruction coordinators ourselves, we started this project due to a sense of incompatibility regarding the work we were doing and the way library instruction coordinator positions are described and understood. In January 2017 we conducted an exploratory study into the emotional and affective labor involved in the mentoring, supporting, and collaboration work that are central to building and sustaining a library instruction program. Through this qualitative research we learned that this type of work was relational in nature, coded as feminine in a gendered workplace, and therefore undervalued (Arellano Douglas and Gadsby, 2017).

After this initial study, we wanted to further explore the relational practices that comprised the feminized work of instruction coordinators in academic libraries. Our initial analysis identified evidence of relational belief systems within this position: Instruction coordinators engaged in activities that centered relationships as the means for getting work done.  But was this done intentionally, or was it a consequence of the role’s lack of supervisory authority ( i.e. instruction coordinators supervise programs, not people), greater structural issues, or some combination of both?

We continued this research through additional interviews with instruction coordinators in the United States and a secondary analysis of previous interview transcripts. With this expansion of our study we seek to name the specific relational practices instruction coordinators adopt in the workplace, investigate the impact of supervisory positions on the role ambiguity felt by coordinators, and determine whether relational practice at work impacts the well-being of instruction coordinators. We will use this evidence to not only make recommendations for improving the structure of this specific job role, but as a first step towards reimagining library work in a way that values relational activity and practice as highly skilled work.

Theoretical Context

Relational Cultural-Theory

Our study of instruction coordinator work and relational practice exists within the framework of relational-cultural theory. Relational theory, first described in the 1970s by feminist psychologists at the Stone Center at Wellesley College, reconceptualized the psychology of women as one rooted in the primacy of relationships, and posited that growth and development will occur best in a context of connection (JBMTI, 2019). This framework later evolved into relational-cultural theory in order to move beyond the dominant narratives of white, heterosexual, middle-class, able-bodied women and to acknowledge the context of oppressive systems and the impact of social values. Relational-cultural theory allows us to give voice and priority to stereotypically feminine attributes that prioritize the connection and relationships between people, such as mutuality, empathy, and sensitivity to emotional contexts (JBMTI, 2019). To be relationally competent means creating and fostering connection with others, moving others toward growth, empowering others, and valuing service to the community (Jordan, 2004).

Gender and culture at work

The workplace is not exempt from gendered and cultural expectations and stereotypes, and our organizations are shaped by the inequalities that accompany such (Risman, 2004; Brody, Rubin, & Maume, 2014; Anantachai & Chesley, 2018). These social constructions of work take their cues from constructions of gender and race/ethnicity. The gendered dichotomy of the public and private sphere splits the world into public or work life, which is associated with men and idealized masculinity, and domestic or private life, which is associated with women and idealized femininity (Fletcher, 2004). The main tenets of relational theory prioritize the characteristics more common to the private sphere, such as interdependence and collectivity, and move away from those associated with the public sphere, such as individuation and autonomy (Jordan, Kaplan, Miller, et al, 1991). These stereotypes not only allow the workplace to assign different levels of value and rewards to behaviors coded as masculine, such as rationality, and feminine, such as displaying emotional or nurturing behaviors, but decides the level of appropriateness for the behaviors in work and home life. In addition, workplace structures that devalue the attributes designated as feminine or private also hamper our ability to enact a feminist organizational culture. Silencing the feminine has not allowed us to fully examine what could be possible, what could be theorized (Fletcher, 2004).

Yet it is not possible to talk about gender at work without talking about race, ethnicity, and culture, and the ways in which these identities intersect and complicate the workplace experience. The patriarchal systems that impact gender expectations and performance at work are white patriarchal systems, which make them exponentially harmful for women of color. As hooks states, “sexist norms…[can] be mediated by racial bonding,” which can make white women complicit in upholding gendered constructions of work that are harmful to women of color and themselves (hooks, 1994, p. 95). Additionally, conversations around workplace cultural fit “play a huge role in keeping many industries homogenous and preventing people who do not match the dominant culture from climbing the career ladder” and in libraries, the dominant culture is white (Farkas, 2019, para. 2; Bourg, 2014). This creates a workplace rooted in white masculine norms, where women of color are forced to either “shrink” themselves at work to fit in, or “cope” with actively pushing against these expectations (Brown & Leung, 2018, p. 340). Relational-cultural theory seeks to call out the differences in experience for women of color, create space for conversations and growthful conflict about race and racism through relational practice, and ultimately allow individuals to fully represent their authentic selves (Walker, 2004, p. 91-99).

Defining Relational Practice at Work

Our definition of relational practice at work comes from the research of Joyce Fletcher, whose four-year long study of women at work at a technology company in the Northeastern United States created a framework for identifying relational behavior characteristics, assumptions, beliefs, and values in an organizational setting (Fletcher, 1998, p. 168). By drawing on relational-cultural theory (at the time of her writing, it was only relational theory), social constructions of work, and a poststructural feminist analysis of the gendered nature of work, Fletcher identified four categories of relational practice:

  1. Preserving: Actions that “preserve the life and well-being of the project;” typically task oriented (Fletcher, 2004, p. 272).
  2. Mutual Empowering: Activities that “enable and empower others” to contribute to the project (Fletcher, 1998, p. 169).
  3. Achieving: Self-initiated actions that use “relational skills to increase one’s own effectiveness and professional growth” (Fletcher, 2004, p. 272).
  4. Creating Team: “Activities associated with building a collective” that create a sense of team where work can flourish (Fletcher, 1998, p. 169).

Fletcher argues that these practices stem from a fundamentally “different belief system about what leads to growth and effectiveness” in life and at work (Fletcher, 2004, p. 270). This belief system centers connection and relationships over independent heroics and lone efforts, and is typically associated with women or feminine ways of being. By naming these practices, Fletcher sought to detail the intricate, intentional, relational work women carried out in the workplace (Fletcher, 2004).

Examining Relational Practice in Instruction Coordination Work

Research Questions

Building on Fletcher’s work, we wanted to extend the examination of relational practice from a masculinized workplace–a technology company–to a typically feminized one: the academic library. Within the academic librarianship, teaching, or as it is more commonly referred to, instruction librarianship, is a highly feminized subfield within our already female-intensive and feminine-coded profession (Fox & Olson, 2013). With that in mind, and with our previous analysis of instruction coordinator interviews revealing coordinator work was indeed relational, our continuation of this research project focused on four main questions:

  1. What specific relational practices do instruction coordinators adopt in the workplace?
  2. Do instruction coordinators who supervise other librarians still adopt these practices or does their managerial status prevent the need for this kind of behavior?
  3. How does relational practice impact the well-being of instruction coordinators at work?
  4. What structural/organizational changes would help improve the working conditions of instruction coordinators?


We pursued a qualitative method of study, the semi-structured interview, to answer these questions and capture the thoughts, feelings, and lived experiences of librarians in instruction coordinator roles. For our first round of interviews, we identified an opportunity network of 19 potential participants at 17 different higher education institutions in Maryland. Each of those potential participants performed the work of instruction coordination even if their titles did not explicitly reflect this role. From this opportunity network, 8 instruction coordinators were interviewed via Skype. After this initial round of interviews, additional instruction coordinators outside Maryland were solicited for interviews using the Instruction Coordinator Slack Channel, an online community created for and by instruction coordinators in academic libraries. An additional 7 instruction coordinators were interviewed via Zoom for a total of 15 coordinator interviews to analyze. Of these 15 interviews, 13 were recorded and transcribed. The recording mechanism failed during 2 of the interviews, so interviewer notes were used in our analysis of those conversations. Through the course of interviewing one participant, we discovered that this individual was not actually doing to the work of an instruction coordinator. This interview was eliminated from our set, leaving us with a total of 12 interviews and 2 interviewer notes to analyse for our study. Two of these participants were librarians of color (one woman, one man), and 12 participants were women. This representation is a very typical slice of librarian demographics (overwhelmingly white women). We pulled participants from two existing groups (our Maryland professional network and Instruction Coordinator Slack Channel), rather than being more intentional about a diverse group of participants, which is an unfortunate limitation of our study.

Each participant was asked about their official and unofficial job titles, duties, and responsibilities; day-to-day work; challenges and opportunities in their job role; perceptions of teaching within their library and larger academic institution; attitudes towards teaching librarians on the part of librarian colleagues and faculty; perceived value to their colleagues and organization; and suggestions for improving the working conditions of library instruction coordinators. Although we followed a script of questions, we allowed room for follow-up questions and related conversations as a means of capturing the whole experiences of instruction coordinators and the information they wanted to share with us. Interviews ranged in time from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

As we reflected on our methods during our analysis, we realized that we did not ask specific questions about the impact of participants’ identities (race, culture, sexual orientation, etc.) on their work. Because of the context of relational-cultural theory in which we are working, we should have intentionally incorporated this into our interviews and created space for this kind of discussion. This is, again, a limitation of our study.

Coding Practice

Transcripts and interview notes were first coded using a modified version of Fletcher’s categories of relational practice, which were adapted to the library workplace based on our previous study:

  • Preserving: This describes the practice of taking on administrative tasks, doing the library housework (Arellano Douglas & Gadsby, 2017, p. 270), and picking up slack in project work. This work is done for the good of the instruction program overall.
  • Mutual Empowering – This describes emotional support of fellow teaching librarians and library school students or interns (if applicable). This practice helps colleagues feel good about themselves for the good of the work, because the instruction coordinator recognizes that individual efforts and motivation contribute to the instruction program’s effectiveness.
  • Emotional Strategizing – This was adapted from the “Achieving” behavior described by Fletcher. These actions include building and sustaining relationships so that the coordinator can do their job effectively. This involves being relationally aware and on high alert to other’s emotions and actions to “keep the peace” and maintain connections needed for the health of the library’s instruction program.
  • Creating Team – These are actions that creating an open door policy and safe space for teaching librarians, library school students, and/or interns, where their feelings are validated. Through these behaviors, instruction coordinators cultivate a sense of team in tone and feeling.

Because Fletcher’s site of inquiry was a technology company, much of the language used in her descriptions of relational practice focuses on the project team as a central organizational unit. We recognize that not all libraries operate on a team-based structure, however, we still see value in Fletcher’s characterizations of relational practice as they apply to organizations like libraries that also operate within gendered constructions of work (Sloniowski, 2016). In addition, our first study of instruction coordinators revealed that a team-based structure is very much present in instruction work in libraries, where teaching librarians are often a subset of the library’s overall workforce (Arellano Douglas & Gadsby, 2017).

Transcripts and interview notes were then coded a second time using elaborative coding, or codes generated from our first study through initial coding (Saldana, 2016, p. 256). These codes included:

  • Workload: Mentions of overwhelming, heavy, or unsustainable amount of work in their role as instruction coordinator.
  • Role Ambiguity: A lack of clear, consistent information regarding rights, duties, and responsibilities of the instruction coordinator’s position.
  • Staffing Challenges: Mentions of understaffing in the library or expression of the need for more teaching staff.
  • Negative Power Dynamics: Instances of power negotiations between coordinator and librarians or coordinator and faculty that emphasize the ambiguity and inequality of these relationships and produce negative feelings.
  • Dismissiveness: Instances of colleagues both in and out of the library demonstrating a lack of understanding of the instruction coordinator’s work, its value, and the amount of effort that goes into that work.

In addition to two rounds of coding, all transcripts and interview notes were assigned descriptors that indicated whether or not the interview participant was an instruction program manager, subject liaison, and/or supervisor; as well as a descriptor that characterized each participant’s teaching load as low, medium, or high.

Findings & Discussion

Relational Practice Everywhere

As expected based on our previous study, evidence of relational practice appears in every participant interview. Emotional strategizing was an integral component of all instruction coordinator’s practice in the workplace. All but one participant described enacting mutual empowerment practices in their day-to-day job, 85% engaged in preserving activities (n=12), and 78% exhibited behaviors associated with creating team (n=11). Yet how these activities appear in practice and how frequently they are enacted differs based on the coordinator’s supervisory status (or lack thereof), relationships with colleagues in the library, perception of librarians and teaching outside the library, and structure of the library’s teaching program. We’ll take some time to examine each practice and their relationship to these factors.

Emotional Strategizing

Emotional Strategizing, whereby instruction coordinators maintain relational awareness to build and sustain connections advantageous to advancing the instruction program, was the most frequently applied code to all participant interviews. Instruction coordinators exhibit a heightened sense of interpersonal dynamics, maintaining an awareness of not only their relationships to colleagues in and out of the library, but of their colleagues relationships to one another and their work. One participant described facilitating frequent instruction-related discussions among teaching librarian colleagues to “discern how…colleagues, librarians, feel about how we are viewed” by faculty in an effort to develop interpersonal interventions to solve instruction-related problems. This participant recognized the importance of feelings in relationships and how they contribute to the ability to carry out the collaborative work of teaching librarianship. Instruction coordinators wanted to figure out “how to connect with one another through conversation or facilitation” in order to set goals and direction for the library’s teaching program.

This particular relational practice was the behavior of choice for instruction coordinators who did not hold supervisory positions. Instances of emotional strategizing appeared more frequently in their descriptions of work practices, in large part, because, as one participant noted, “I don’t supervise anyone, so I have to get buy-in. I have to do things thoroughly and sort of persuasively in a way that those who are going to see it through to conclusion [are brought] on board.” The intralibrary politics of instruction coordination without supervisory authority are tricky, and variations on “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes” were noted throughout the interviews of non-supervising instruction coordinators. Of particular difficulty was the task of effecting change in the teaching practices of people whom the instruction coordinator did not supervise. One participant discussed facilitating a training series after being tasked to create an instruction program:

 “One of the things people have felt very harassed about is being told you’re not doing enough, or you’re not good enough, or your teaching isn’t good enough…[which leads to] this very defensive posture…So I’m framing it as…opportunities to talk more about your teaching.”

On the surface it seems simple enough–rename “training” to “conversations,”–but what this action emphasizes is the coordinator’s a) awareness of their colleagues feelings and attitudes; b) intentional practice of emotional strategizing; and c) conscious effort to improve the instruction program. This kind of strategic, intentional thought process and action was seen again and again in descriptions of work by non-supervising coordinators. At least two participants described cultivating a strong, positive working relationship with their supervisor and how that relationship was leveraged to influence teaching colleagues. Those in non-supervisory coordinator roles were keenly aware of the lack of traditional power at their disposal–one participant described it as “baked goods and goodwill,” another as “all carrots, no sticks”–so they relied on the connections and relationships at hand to make programmatic improvements and positive change. Not surprisingly, instances of this relational practice most frequently co-occurred with descriptions of role ambiguity. When instruction coordinators felt unsure of their authority and place within the organization, they frequently relied on emotional strategizing to do their work.

For coordinators in supervisory roles, emotional strategizing was more about facilitating connections (between librarians, between librarians and faculty) and then delegating the work associated with those connections. One supervising coordinator noted, “I see myself as starting those relationships and then figuring out well, who fits where for those relationships.” There was a noticeable lack of negotiation in their emotional strategizing activities. Although all coordinators viewed relationships and interpersonal connections as essential to doing good work, those who supervised were in a better position to effect change among teaching librarians and within the program itself without engaging in what many instruction coordinators described as “deals,” i.e. If you teach these two classes I’ll take 5 next week.


In our original study, we characterized much of instruction coordinators’ administrative tasks as “doing the library ‘housework,’” (Arellano Douglas & Gadsby, 2017, p. 270), drawing from the literature on women’s tendency to take on the responsibilities of administrative assistants in workplace situations, regardless of their actual job role (Grant & Sandberg, 2015; Kark & Waismel-Manor, 2005; Williams, 2014), which also impacts women of color in the workplace more frequently (Williams & Multhaup, 2018). Preserving behaviors are an extension of this idea, in that they also involve taking on additional work and responsibilities for the good of a project, or in our case, the good of the library’s instruction program overall. Like emotional strategizing, preserving behavior was more often enacted by instruction coordinators who did not supervise the people in their programs.

“I think a good and bad thing is that I’m often known for getting things done, and so, a lot of my job is making sure things get done,” stated one participant. What exactly does “getting things done” look like? How is preserving expressed by instruction coordinators? In describing their responsibilities and actions, participants all described day-to-day tasks like scheduling classes, which include numerous emails between faculty and librarians; mediating library instruction requests that come in via online forms; compiling instruction statistics; scheduling and facilitating teaching team meetings; and maintaining classroom spaces. This is the kind of work that, as one participant put it, “creates an infrastructure for the rest of the stuff to happen,” and it’s the kind of work that can take a toll on the instruction coordinator.

“I feel like I haven’t done anything. I’ll look up at the clock and realize that it’s 11:00am and I’ve been here since 8:30am, and I haven’t done anything except email people and build out numbers on a spreadsheet. Even though I know it’s important and I’ve been working non-stop, I feel like I haven’t done anything.”

Beyond these administrative tasks, preserving also takes shape in instruction coordinators taking on the work that no one else wants to do. As one participant stated, “There’s this expectation that if random, wild professor so and so can’t be ‘tamed’ by any other librarian, the coordinator will take that on.” There was an unwritten expectation that instruction coordinators who did not supervise were there to either a) do the lion’s share of the teaching; b) teach the classes no one else wanted to teach, which were frequently lower-division or first-year level courses; or c) do the hard work of lesson planning and assessment for not with their colleagues. In fact, almost all of the coordinators with “high” instruction loads were those who did not supervise other librarians.

In addition to taking on greater teaching responsibilities, several participants described the extra burden of thinking about teaching for others. “I feel like many of my colleagues expect me to come up with lesson plans or activities for them to just drop into their own instruction,” lamented one coordinator. Other participants described how colleagues deemed them “experts” in the same breath that they then asked for the coordinators to do their assessments for them. These were prime examples of dismissiveness on the part of the coordinators’ librarian colleagues, who didn’t seem to understand the amount of work needed to create teaching materials–lesson plans, activities, and assessments–from scratch. Or, in the words of one participant, “In some ways, if you’re a good coordinator, then your work should be invisible..It’s only when things go wrong that you’re noticed.” This echoes Roxanne Shirazi’s concept of “shadow labor,” whereby librarians reproduce the academy without acknowledgement for their work (2014) as well as the idea of “frictionless service” introduced by Mirza and Seale (2017). Instruction coordinators, through preserving behaviors, facilitate the work of others but are often dismissed, ignored, or, in the case of one participant, characterized as “nagging.”

Mutual Empowering

Actions encompassed by the idea of mutual empowering depend heavily on the concept of mutuality introduced in relational-cultural theory. “Mutuality involves profound mutual respect and mutual openness to change and responsiveness” (Jordan, Hartling, & Walker, 2004, p. 3). In providing emotional and professional support of their fellow teaching librarians, or students, or interns, instruction coordinators are able to improve their program’s effectiveness. This practice differs from simple mentoring, in that it assumes reciprocity; by helping others feel good about themselves one will also feel good. Everyone will gain a better sense of connection to each other and the work and feel validated. Mutual empowering is intentional and strategic, and in our interviews we saw it used by both supervising and non-supervising coordinators alike.

Supervising coordinators were slightly more likely to engage in these behaviors, particularly when working with early career teaching librarians or graduate students. One coordinator expressed how they were “trying to build expertise and confidence” in their colleagues so that they could “position [themselves] as teachers.” For many participants, this took shape as not only creating professional development and learning opportunities, but spending significant amount of  time in conversation with those they supervised. In their job descriptions, coordinators will often see words like, “mentor” or “facilitate professional development,” but as one supervising coordinator put it:

“‘Will mentor grad students’ is a bullet point but in real life, it’s a lot.  it’s hard to quantify those things when you’re writing an annual review. I spend a million hours talking to grad students about their feelings.”

Again, this work is done for the health and well-being of others, but also for the good of the supervising coordinator who is also responsible for the health and well-being of the instruction program.

Coordinators who didn’t supervise also engaged in mutual empowering out of both concern for colleagues and the program. One participant stated, “I’m careful about what I’m asking everyone to do because…I’m obsessed with not burning us out…I want this to be a socially just program, internally. Externally, too.” Instruction coordinators are intimately familiar with the demands of teaching, and recognize the need to “build up” colleagues so that the program can flourish in a sustainable way. This is achieved by, as one participant described their work, “being a cheerleader for a lot of ideas that other people have,” spending hours in observation of others teaching and being observed teaching, and creating opportunities to improve as instructors,  Again, this is not purely selfless, altruistic behavior. Mutual empowering, like all relational practice at work, is an intentional behavior rooted in the belief that “growth, development, and achievement occur in the context of connection” (Fletcher, 2004, p. 277). As one non-supervising coordinator put it,

“Now that I’m a coordinator, it’s not just individual relationships that matter. It’s the relationship between me and my team of librarians, both individually and as a program, to other programs and other teachers on campus.”

But what happens when the expectation of mutuality breaks down? This tends to be expressed in terms of negative power dynamics, where instead of respect and appreciation, coordinators’ attempts at mutual empowerment are met with dismissal or hostility. One coordinator describes serving on a campus-wide curriculum-related committee to help further the university’s educational mission and the work of the teaching librarians, only to be introduced at the first committee meeting as “one of the library girls.” “That offhand remark is demeaning and disrespectful in such a complex, concise way. It highlights the coordinator’s femininity, equates it with the library, and dismisses her work…as unimportant and not real work” (Arellano Douglas, 2019). It moves beyond interpersonal negative power dynamics into one that takes on the trappings of sexism, gendering the work and disappearing it, and ageism, reducing the coordinator’s experience and expertise. For women of color, this kind of marginalization is easily compounded by racism (subtle or otherwise), lending an even more toxic slant to potential negative power dynamics.

Other participants shared stories of being asked to help colleagues improve their teaching practice, only to be met with resistance or outright hostility. One participant was told “I don’t want any feedback on learning outcomes, any advice. What I’m doing has worked for so long…so I don’t want anyone to observe me in my class.” There is no possibility for mutual empowerment in situations such as these, which were shared by multiple respondents. Without an openness to change or expressions of respect, mutuality cannot occur, leaving the instruction coordinator unable to do their job effectively. Yes, they will often revert to emotional strategizing to circumvent this kind of negative power dynamic, but this results in even greater emotional labor on the part of the instruction coordinator.

Creating Team

Many instruction coordinators are tasked with creating instruction teams where none previously existed. For several of our participants, their positions were created to meet the needs of increasing library instructional efforts that required coordination. In order to cultivate a sense of team tone and feeling, instruction coordinators encouraged sharing and information exchange. “I have so many emails of people sharing, ‘Oh! I just read this interesting article,’ or ‘Oh! I just tried this new assignment!’ I think that’s really good,” stated one participant whose team thrived on this kind of back-and-forth. Other instruction coordinators devoted regular meeting time to discussing instructional efforts, issues, and plans but also recognized that their colleagues often needed one-on-one conversations as well. “I have an open door policy,” shared one participant, “So they come and sit in my office and we talk about whatever.” Collaboration was the goal for the instruction coordinators we interviewed, who all wanted to create a team that would not only share ideas but create new teaching materials and initiate new teaching efforts together.

Supervising coordinators were concerned with how to “make it easier on all of [their] staff to work collaboratively.” Their expressions of creating team involved creating a strategic vision, handling the day-to-day work of managing people, and setting a unified direction for their team to pursue. Non-supervisory coordinators recognized the need to create team in order to elicit buy-in for their instructional program goals and also to facilitate the work of the instruction within their library. One coordinator honestly stated, “The kind of coordinator work I’m doing, I need my faculty librarians to do with me. And I don’t want to supervise them. I want them to be colleagues who are on the team and are happy to do it.” Building that kind of dynamic takes time, a high degree of relational awareness, and a keen understanding of group dynamics. A dysfunctional team is difficult to ignore, but one that works well together doesn’t demand as much attention or intervention. Thus the instruction coordinator’s work at creating team is often taken for granted or ignored, as is much of the relational work already mentioned.

Workload & Staffing Challenges

When work is not characterized as work, as is the case with relational practice, instruction coordinators are left in a precarious position. All but one of the instruction coordinators we interviewed expressed concern over their workload, which was often exacerbated by challenges in staffing (librarians leaving, positions not being refilled, not enough people available/able to teach). All of the coordinators we interviewed were managers of instruction programs, and in addition to that work, 75% reported a moderate to high teaching load, 64% maintained liaison responsibilities, and 57% continued to do reference work at their libraries. One coordinator expressed feelings of burnout after doing half of all of their library’s teaching in one semester, and 3 others stated that they were liaisons to departments with high teaching loads. The work of liaising with faculty, teaching, and reference is the work of an instruction librarian, but many of the instruction coordinators we interviewed did that work as well as the work of building and sustaining both an instruction team and an instruction program. One participant described their job as being three jobs in one: “the instruction part is one, the assessment part is one…and now supervising,” while another expressed a desire to “cut back on my liaison assignment so that I have time to do this other stuff.”

Coordinators were in agreement that “to think long term, and strategically, and really build a program, I have to have uninterrupted blocks of time, and that’s not something I really have.” They felt pulled in various directions–teaching, liaising, doing reference work–and unable to devote the time and care necessary to do the work on instruction coordination well. This is further complicated for instruction coordinators in faculty positions, who must also find time to engage in the scholarship needed for promotion. In short, the work of the average instruction coordinator without supervisory responsibilities is the work of 2-3 people.

Conclusion & Recommendations

Library instruction coordinators spend a tremendous amount of time engaged in intentional relational practice, specifically categorized here as emotional strategizing, preserving, mutual empowerment, and creating team. What does this mean for their work, and for their organizations, particularly when these practices are not named or recognized for the intense labor they require? Miller (1976) described the ways that many women are carrying the burden of holding up and maintaining their organizations through invisible relational work, making it look as though this work is not actually needed. We find this is true of much of the work library instruction coordinators are doing, making the program appear seamless (Higgins, 2017; Mirza and Seale, 2017), which creates a need for further emotional labor on their part.Much of this work is not only unrecognized or undervalued, but is often also exploited or misunderstood. Relational ways of working can be mischaracterized as a person’s individual attributes, like being “nice” or “helpful”, rather than intentional competencies designed to enable, empathize with, and empower others (Fletcher, 1999). These behaviors line up with gendered expectations of the private sphere, which reflects idealized femininity, and therefore are expected of women without reward or recognition. Despite the likelihood that the application of a relational belief system would be actively discouraged by an organization, and disappeared by traditional evaluation and metrics, this way of working can provide alternatives for moving beyond the hierarchical, masculine workplace (Fletcher, 2004).

The power of naming this work

Relational work, related to mutual growth and connection and often coded as feminine labor, receives less attention and is actively devalued or suppressed in organizational definitions of work (Fletcher, 1998). These practices are neither intuitive nor easy to learn; it involves highly skilled work, and should be named specifically as desired qualifications in job descriptions, and described fully as evidence of a well-managed program in annual and promotional reviews. Fletcher (1999) describes ways to name relational practice by using a “language of competence” as well as the intended outcomes. In order to claim the power and intended effectiveness in the relational activity inherent to library instruction coordinator work, we should describe the work of collaboration and relationship maintenance on a regular, ongoing basis. By doing this, we move beyond the idea that this work is related to personal attributes, and ascribe it to cultivated competencies.

We hope that by naming and describing these strategies as necessary for the job, we can push for practical rewards such as additional compensation, relief of additional duties, and career advancement. Many library instruction coordinators take on these responsibilities in addition to the work they are already doing without a raise in pay, falling into a coordinator trap that is responsible to multiple stakeholders, but has little to no authority, budget, nor infrastructure (Gavia Libraria, 2011). As our analysis showed, even those who are hired into this position still do the work of two to three people by maintaining instruction, reference, assessment, and collection development duties as well as the coordination work.

Doing invisible work impacts career progression negatively (Fletcher, 2004; Neigel, 2015), and while relational skills would be especially valuable for administrative and supervisory work,  instruction coordinators rarely advance into this kind of role. While supervisory status doesn’t negate the need for relational practice, we did observe less of a need for emotional strategizing and negotiating if the coordinator supervises librarians on their team. Adding in the authority of a supervisory position doesn’t resolve all of the issues coordinators face, but it does help to delineate clearer job responsibilities. The problem of role ambiguity permeates coordinator work, causing emotional exhaustion and burnout. In university libraries where people can’t supervise due to flat structures or rules in the faculty contract, then the role of the coordinator needs to be explicitly spelled out by library administration. Many of the participants in our study indicated that they didn’t necessarily want to supervise, but they wanted their roles to be made more clear within their organization.

Changing the structures

The structures and behaviors in a white masculine workplace, which many of our libraries and universities embody, are incompatible with the idea of forming growth and connection. They prioritize independence and autonomy, uphold stratified systems, and prevent open conversation and growthful conflict (Fletcher, 2004; Walker, 2004). When library instruction coordinators are purposefully engaged in behaviors that reflect a relational belief system, they are actively subverting racist, patriarchal power structures. They are engaging in what Fletcher calls “an active although unobtrusive exercise of power” (1998, p. 164). During Baharak Yousefi’s keynote at CAPAL 2019, she discussed how a trauma-informed approach can help us shift away from a narrow focus on efficiency and accountability to our employers, and toward intentional slowness, and collective responsibility toward one another and our communities. Changing workplace structures to highlight, value, and reward relational practice at work is a slow, but necessary process, and one that could eventually shift our accountability to ourselves, our colleagues, and our patrons instead of institutions that are hostile to this work. Individuals need to experience mutuality in order to successfully work relationally, and they cannot do this without a supporting structure. Relational leadership ascribes value to those who foster connection, which needs to occur at all levels of an organization for change to happen. This would mean a big change in organizational norms, which can be started in small groups and built outward in a collective manner. Instead of focusing on the big, attention-getting projects that are more easily quantified and submitted in a report, we start to build our power by and through connection and reciprocal relationships.

Moving toward authentic connections and reciprocal relationships requires increased vulnerability and mutual empathy. However, without recognition of pervasive systems of oppression, such as institutional and individual racism, these connections will fail and growthful relationships will not thrive. If people at work are to experience connection that leads to mutual empowerment, they must first acknowledge the discrimination that stands in the way of successful empathy and mutuality (Tatum, 1993). Our collective histories impede the process of moving beyond the power differential without acknowledging and ultimately working through it. We need to be intentional about facilitating relational practice and recognize that it is an ongoing process requiring commitment, persistence, and supportive organizational and interpersonal structures (Coll, 1993).

With this research we hope to bring further attention to relational practice as performed by library instruction coordinators in order to show its inherent value as an alternative way of working within librarianship. Like Fletcher, we are not merely interested in highlighting feminine or relational values in the existing hierarchical structure of the library and the university, but in challenging the structure itself to reassess what it values. Organizations like universities and libraries are often eager to discuss adopting change for the future, but they actively disappear behaviors that are involved in making this change happen (Fletcher, 1999). To create change in our organizations we need to actively prioritize and reward actions that create supportive structures in our work. Relational practice is the force that moves individuals and institutions forward. Good work is rooted in good relationships at work, and to make this happen, we need organizations where individuals are emboldened to focus on relational awareness, mutual empowerment, and meaningful connection.


We would like to thank everyone who agreed to be interviewed for this project. We appreciate your trust, openness, and vulnerability in sharing your experiences with us. We’d also like to thank Shana Higgins and Sofia Leung for their thoughtful feedback and encouragement, and Annie Pho for overseeing our publication process and understanding when things didn’t go quite as we planned.


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Finn Brunton's "Digital Cash" / David Rosenthal

I attended the book launch event for Finn Brunton's Digital Cash at the Internet Archive, and purchased a copy. It is a historian's review of the backstory leading up to Satoshi Nakamoto's Bitcoin. To motivate you to read it, below the fold I summarize its impressive breadth.

Brunton starts with a chapter discussing the nature of money and how it necessarily relates to the future. He notes how, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, science fiction authors such as H.G. Wells used invented monies as a tools by which their future societies might be realized. The chapter concludes:
The people this book studies organize themselves and their speculative monies in terms of powerful fantasies of the future. These are ... technological and science-fictional imaginaries by which society might be irretrievably and utterly disrupted, with money as the mechanism of transformation and the escape route out of the present into the future.
The next chapter surveys the history leading up to today's paper money, ending by using "the ugliest t-shirt in the world" from William Gibson's Zero History as an analogy for the Constellation, the patterns embedded in banknotes that cause high-quality photocopiers to refuse to copy them.

Chapter 3 recounts the development of public-key cryptography and how it underlies the digital signatures needed to verify cryptocurrency transactions.

Chapter 4 starts the discussion of electronic money, and uses Paul Armer's 1975 Congressional testimony Computer Technology and Surveillance to establish that systems such as debit and credit cards are, as Armer wrote, "the best surveillance system we could imagine within the constraint that it not be obtrusive". Discussing the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, Brunton writes:
Electronic money could serve as a control apparatus for making the market into a rapid response system for the police, a location log, and a Skinner box for rewarding and denying citizens into doing what corporations or governments wanted.
David Chaum shared these concerns and, in response, published his e-cash paper in 1983. With subsequent enhancements it provided truly:
anoymous digital cash secured against surveillance, forgery and counterfeiting ... It met many of the challenges in his model of privacy's future crises, and without building infrastructure for potential malefactors.
Chaum predicted that:
"If we don't get the national currencies in electronic form properly then the market will route around them and make other currencies"
Chaum's DigiCash company eventually failed and, as Brunton comments "It was prediction whose consequences we are now living out".

Chapter 5 starts with Jude Milhon and Tim May at the birth of the mailing list, and the idea that, unlike Chaum's, the goal was not to cooperate with the existing financial infrastructure but to supplant  it, and thereby supplant government itself. It continues with the story of Philip Salin's American Information Exchange (AMIX), a nascent market for digital information, and its relation to Ted Nelson's Xanadu project. Esther Dyson objected that:
The law of supply and demand can't work for a product, such as information, that can be replicated at almost no cost.
Salin's answer was:
digital information is valuable because people will pay for it.
which turned out not to be true enough to keep AMIX going after Salin's death and "cryonic suspension". Cryonics is a theme of this story, both because like cryptocurrencies it is based on a naive faith in technology, and because enthusiasts for cryonics need a way to transfer their wealth securely and without being eroded by inflation into the far future in order to reward those who revive them.

Chapter 6 starts with Vernor Vinge's True Names and Tim May's BlackNet concept, which was a precursor of the Dark Web:
It prefigured parts of the model of Julian Assange's plan for WikiLeaks in his paper "Conspiracy as Governance": to create a cryptographic framework for anonymous leaking that discloses information to the public while making organizations dysfunctional by turning every employee into a potential leaker,
It leads on to John Perry Barlow's Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the developing demands for access to forbidden information of one kind and another.

Chapter 7 starts with Adam Back's "RSA in Perl" t-shirt/munition (I still have mine) and his 1997 "hashcash" proposal for suppressing spam via Proof of Work. But, unlike Back's subsequent papers, Brunton fails to observe that it was a version of Cynthia Dwork and Moni Naor's Pricing via Processing or Combatting Junk Mail from 1992. Dwork and Naor's abstract reads:
We present a computational technique for combatting junk mail in particular and controlling access to a shared resource in general. The main idea is to require a user to compute a moderately hard, but not intractable, function in order to gain access to the resource, thus preventing frivolous use. To this end we suggest several pricing functions, based on, respectively, extracting square roots modulo a prime, the Fiat-Shamir signature scheme, and the Ong-Schnorr-Shamir (cracked) signature scheme.
As Arvind Narayanan and Jeremy Clark write in Bitcoin's Academic Pedigree:
Hashcash is much simpler than Dwork and Naor's idea: it has no trapdoor and no central authority, and it uses only hash functions instead of digital signatures.
It is a striking example of the misogyny of the cryptocurrency world that one of the few female contributors to its foundations is omitted.

The chapter continues to explain the importance of high-quality randomness, and then explains the work of Hal Finney and Nick Szabo leading to Szabo's "bit gold" and Wei Dai's b-money, which introduced decentralization. Narayanan and Clark point out the missing piece:
These proposals offer timestamping services that sign off on the creation (through proof of work) of money, and once money is created, they sign off on transfers. If disagreement about the ledger occurs among the servers or nodes, however, there isn't a clear way to resolve it. Letting the majority decide seems to be implicit in both authors' writings, but because of the Sybil problem, these mechanisms aren't very secure
The Sybil problem is the reason why the consensus mechanism of permissionless networks, ones that anyone can join, has to make participating in the consensus process expensive. If it is cheap, an attacker can cheaply create enough fake participants, or Sybils, to control the consensus.

Chapter 8 focuses on the Extropians and their embrace of Austrian economics, while Chapter 9 follows their path to cryonics, so that they could be revived once the utopia they envisaged had been created.

Chapter 10 describes the impact of Satoshi Nakamoto's announcement of Bitcoin, coming as it did at the peak of the global financial crisis. It describes the Bitcoin blockchain data structure without noting that it was published (and patented) by Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta in 1991. A company using their technique has been providing a centralized service of securely time-stamping documents for nearly a quarter of a century.

Brunton explains why the "anonymity" (really pseudonymity) of Bitcoin is so fragile:
As subsequent events would reveal, accidentally associating a Bitcoin address with something that can be connected with your real identity, like an email address, a forum posting, a postal address, or an attempt to sell bitcoin for other currencies or goods would reveal not just your identity but - throught the transaction history in the ledger - a time-stamped log of your activities and the network of your colleagues.
Andrea O'Sullivan reports that Paul Armer was right, and the Hong Kong Protests Show Dangers of a Cashless Society:
In Hong Kong, most people use a contactless smart card called an "Octopus card" to pay for everything from transit, to parking, and even retail purchases. ... But no one used their Octopus card to get around Hong Kong during the protests. The risk was that a government could view the central database of Octopus transactions to unmask these democratic ne'er-do-wells. ... So the savvy subversives turned to cash instead. Normally, the lines for the single-ticket machines that accept cash are populated only by a few confused tourists, while locals whiz through the turnstiles with their fintech wizardry.

But on protest days, the queues teemed with young activists clutching old school paper notes. As one protestor told Quartz: "We're afraid of having our data tracked."

Using cash to purchase single tickets meant that governments couldn't connect activists' activities with their Octopus accounts. It was instant anonymity. Sure, it was less convenient. And one-off physical tickets cost a little more than the Octopus equivalent. But the trade-off of avoiding persecution and jail time was well worth it.
Alas, she also writes (my emphasis):
The answer is that there is simply no substitute for the privacy that cash, including digitized versions like cryptocurrencies, provide.
Doing crimes on an immutable public ledger just isn't a good idea. There are currencies that provide greater privacy, such as Monero (14th biggest) and Zcash, (23rd biggest) but they are typically harder to convert into fiat currency so as to actually buy stuff. Trading them for less privacy-preserving cryptocurrencies raises the risk of de-anonymization, and the trade itself acts as a red flag.

Bitcoin isn't "digital cash". Paper cash offers real anonymity, and instant finality. Bitcoin transactions aren't normally regarded as final until six block times (one hour) have passed. Scammers steal £113,000 from Bitcoin ATMs by double spending before transactions can be cleared reveals that Bitcoin ATMs are either unusable or vulnerable because:
it’s inconvenient to have customers standing around for 10-30 minutes (or longer) for a transaction to go through.
How long would you stand at an ATM waiting for money to come out and blocking everyone else's access to it?

Chapter 11 traces some of the history of "libertarian speculative currencies" and their ties to gold bullion such as the Liberty Dollar and E-gold which, as Brunton writes, became:
a high-volume venue for specialists in credit-card fraud, Ponzi schemes, and money laundering.
This history, and the writings of Ayn Rand and her disciples, provided the background for the early Bitcoin adopters, who might perhaps have paid more attention to what its libertarian predecessors became. The chapter ends with the farcical story of HavenCo and its failed attempt to set up on the "independent nation" of Sealand, an abandoned fort off the coast of Essex and remnant of the "pirate radio" I listened to as a teenager.

Chapter 12 essentially asks "what is it about Bitcoin that makes it money?" Brunton's answers are that it is verifiable:
you could, in the words of one minter, "trust in yourself" to verify what you held. Cryptocurrencies in circulation are nothing more or less than records of creation, ownership, and transaction in the blockchain ledger: their existence is constituted by the user-visible records of their existence. ... The whole apparatus of Bitcoin enables verification of the currency, both in particular and in general: you can't exchange "bitcoins" outside the network or have them circulate freely - and therefore be obliged to test whether a given bitcoin is the real thing - since there are no bitcoins, only the rights to trade within the closed ledger."
And that it is artificially scarce, which:
produces a monetary system that enormously rewards its earliest users ... and encourages the use of the money as reserve and collateral or, seen differently, for hoarding and speculation. ... This is a particularly seductive notion for people already prepared for the collapse of the current monetary order. ... You can't lose your bitcoins in a bank run or have them seized from your safe-deposit box. The right to trade them remains assigned on the ledger. All you have to do is wait.
Operating together, this:
provides the certitude that no one else has the right to trade any particular bitcoin, that no copies are being produced, and that the overall number is fixed and will remain so, becoming steadily harder to create. It puts this scarce object into an infrastructure of ownership: the distributed irrefutable ledger of the blockchain - the blockchain that turned out to have so many more interesting and potentially valuable applications, from establishing the ownership of digital artworks to enabling property sharing and access schemes.
It is understandable that, in a book whose central theme is the Utopian dreams that drove the development of cryptocurrencies, the author recounts what the enthusiasts wanted their system to do. But I find it regrettable that Brunton doesn't go on to detail the myriad ways in which, like all Utopian dreams, the outcome in the real world was dystopian.

Like the "libertarian speculative currencies" Bitcoin became:
a high-volume venue for specialists in credit-card fraud, Ponzi schemes, and money laundering.
Not to mention ransomware and securities fraud. Because Bitcoin can't in practice be used to buy legal products or services, it isn't trustless because users have to trust exchanges to convert their hodl-ings into fiat currency. The price at which they can do so is completely manipulated. And even when exchanges aren't complete scams, like Quadriga CX, they routinely have the cryptocurrency they hold on behalf of users stolen. Individual users cannot in practice mine currency, they have to trust mining pools. The Bitcoin blockchain isn't decentralized, it is centralized around a few huge pools. Nor can individual users in practice verify the blockchain, its too big. Nor can they safely keep their wallet in specialized hardware, which typically has buggy firmware with easily exploitable vulnerabilities, or on their computer. As Nicholas Weaver writes:
If Bitcoin is the "Internet of money," what does it say that it cannot be safely stored on an Internet connected computer?
Merely being known as someone who owns cryptocurrency makes you a target for phishing and SIM-swap attacks, and your computers targets for malware. And, finally, no-one has found the "so many more interesting and potentially valuable applications" of blockchain technology.

As far as it goes, Brunton's book is good, with an impressive breadth of sources, and a strong thread connecting them. I only found two significant omissions. But it would have been much stronger had he connected the dystopian failures of past Utopian schemes to today's cryptocurrency world, rather than stopping the story before the full measure of its failure to live up to the developers' goals became clear.

Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan reviews Brunton's book for the Financial Times here.

LITA Learnings: Universal Parity to Resources / LITA

This 60-minute webinar examines the topic of innovative technologies and collections through the lens of access and stewardship. Parity goes beyond making books and information accessible to all; it means making all library services accessible, including open resources, makerspace services, and others.

Presenters: Christine Elliott, Learning Services & Assessment Librarian, Juniata College; and Courtney McAllister, Electronic Resources Librarian, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale University
Thursday, July 25, 2019, 1:00 – 2:00 pm Central Time

View details and Register here.

Can’t attend the live event? No problem! Register and you’ll receive a link to the recording.

More LITA Continuing Education Coming Soon

Guiding Students through Digital Citizenship
August 7, 2019, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm Central Time
Presenter: Casey Davis

Check out our new spring lineup and get details on our latest round of online learning to boost your skill set!

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to LITA continuing education, contact us at (312) 280-4268 or

Factors affecting candidate recruitment and employee satisfaction, public draft v1 / Casey Bisson

Employees in tech fields can often choose among a number of potential employers, so it is incumbent on those employers to understand the reasons an employee may choose one company over another and create environments optimized to attract the staff to meet their needs.1 Most people might prefer to skip ahead to the section on emotional and intellectual fulfillment, and the value of a shared sense of mission and individual autonomy to meet goals.

LYRASIS and DuraSpace Complete Merger–Members and Community Benefit / DuraSpace News

CONTACT Meg McCroskey Blum, Director of Marketing & Communications, meg.blum@lyrasis.org800.999.8558 x2951, Skype: meg.lyrasis

LYRASIS and DuraSpace are pleased to announce the merger of their two leading 501 C3 not-for-profits was completed on July 1, 2019, Members will participate in developing new scalable technologies, shared innovation opportunities, and high value – fairly priced services across the global landscape of academic and public libraries, scholarly research, archives, museums, and galleries. 

LYRASIS will remain the parent organization and legal entity. It’s governance model will continue to be a Board that is 50% member elected 50% appointed. The merger will accelerate collaboration, development and implementation of platforms that will benefit our 1,700+ members.

Robert Miller, CEO of LYRASIS, says of the merger, “Our Boards, our memberships, and our teams are thrilled with this merger. In addition to the existing programs and services LYRASIS has for its members, this merger brings 3 respected community supported projects to the 7 programs that LYRASIS is organizationally invested in. We firmly believe that by having 10 such programs under one roof, the combined 1,700+ members and 5,000+ institutional users will see the benefits of scale, experience lower risk, see higher returns on innovation, and see an acceleration of implemented ideas. As part of this, LYRASIS is putting $1.2M of development monies into 5 key areas to support related to the merger.”

Joe Lucia, LYRASIS Board Chair says, “LYRASIS and DuraSpace are enterprises that each embody a rare combination of idealism and pragmatism for the ways they engage their professional communities in collaboration to support the scientific and cultural memory commitments of archives, libraries, and museums. This merger will establish LYRASIS as a clear leader in convening those communities around shared open source solutions to address their common challenges.” 

The DuraSpace brand, staff of DSpace, Fedora, and VIVO have transitioned to the new DuraSpace Community Supported Programs (DCSP) Division of LYRASIS. DuraSpace hosted services (DuraCloud, DSpaceDirect, and ArchivesDirect) will now be part of the LYRASIS Digital Technologies Division.


LYRASIS (, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization whose mission is to support enduring access to the world’s shared academic, scientific and cultural heritage through leadership in open technologies, content services, digital solutions and collaboration with archives, libraries, museums and knowledge communities worldwide. LYRASIS organizational and staff values are: communication, respect, collaboration, impact, and service. 

The post LYRASIS and DuraSpace Complete Merger–Members and Community Benefit appeared first on

Missed opportunities in the EU’s revised open data and re-use of public sector information directive / Open Knowledge Foundation

Published by the European Union on June 26th, the revised directive on open data and the re-use of public sector information – or PSI Directive – set out an updated set of rules relating to public sector documents, publicly funded research data and “high-value” datasets which should be made available for free via application programming interfaces or APIs.

EU member states have until July 2021 to incorporate the directive into law. 

While Open Knowledge Foundation is encouraged to see some of the new provisions, we have concerns – many of which we laid out in a 2018 blogpost – about missed opportunities for further progress towards a fair, free and open future across the EU.

Open data stickers

Lack of public input

Firstly, the revised directive gives responsibility for choosing which high-value datasets to publish over to member states but there are no established mechanisms for the public to provide input into the decisions. 

Broad thematic categories – geospatial; earth observation and environment; meteorological; statistics; companies and company ownership; and mobility – are set out for these datasets but the specifics will be determined over the next two years via a series of further implementing acts.

Datasets eventually deemed to be high-value shall be made “available free of charge … machine readable, provided via APIs and provided as a bulk download, where relevant”.

Despite drawing on our Global Open Data Index to generate a preliminary list of high-value datasets, this decision flies in the face of years of findings from the Index showing how important it is for governments to engage with the public as much and as early as possible to generate awareness and increase levels of reuse of open data.

We fear that this could lead to a further loss of public trust by opening the door for special interests, lobbyists and companies to make private arguments against the release of valuable datasets like spending records or beneficial ownership data which is often highly disaggregated and allows monetary transactions to be linked to individuals.

Partial definition of high-value data

Secondly, defining the value of data is also not straightforward. Papers from Oxford University, to Open Data Watch and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data demonstrate disagreement about what data’s “value” is. What counts as high-value data should not only be based on quantitative indicators such as potential income generation, breadth of business applications or numbers of beneficiaries – as the revised directive sets out – but also use qualitative assessments and expert judgment from multiple disciplines.

Currently less than a quarter of the data with the biggest potential for social impact is available as truly open data even from countries seen as open data leaders, according to the latest Open Data Barometer report from our colleagues at the World Wide Web Foundation. Why? Because “governments are not engaging enough with groups beyond the open data and open government communities”.

Lack of clarity on recommended licenses

Thirdly, in line with the directive’s stated principle of being “open by design and by default”, we hope to see countries avoiding future interoperability problems by abiding by the requirement to use open standard licences when publishing these high-value datasets.

It’s good to see that the EU Commission itself has recently adopted Creative Commons licences when publishing its own documents and data. 

But we feel – in line with our friends at Communia – that the Commission should have made clear exactly which open licences they endorsed under the updated directive, by explicitly recommending the adoption of Open Definition compliant licences from Creative Commons or Open Data Commons to member states.

The directive also missed the opportunity to give preference to public domain dedication and attribution licences in accordance with the EU’s own LAPSI 2.0 licensing guidelines, as we recommended.

The European Data Portal indicates that there could be up to 90 different licences currently used by national, regional, or municipal governments. Their quality assurance report also shows that they can’t automatically detect the licences used to publish the vast majority of datasets published by open data portals from EU countries.

If they can’t work this out, the public definitely won’t be able to: meaning that any and all efforts to use newly-released data will be restrained by unnecessarily onerous reuse conditions. The more complicated or bespoke the licensing, the more likely data will end up unused in silos, our research has shown.

27 of the 28 EU member states may now have national open data policies and portals but, once discovered, it is currently likely that – in addition to confusing licencing – national datasets lack interoperability. For while the EU has substantial programmes of work on interoperability under the European Interoperability Framework, they are not yet having a major impact on the interoperability of open datasets.

Open Knowledge Foundation research report: Avoiding data use silos

More FAIR data

Finally, we welcome the provisions in the directive obliging member states to “[make] publicly funded research data openly available following the principle of open by default and compatible with FAIR principles.” We know there is much work to be done but hope to see wide adoption of these rules and that the provisions for not releasing publicly-funded data due to “confidentiality” or “legitimate commercial interests” will not be abused.

The next two years will be a crucial period to engage with these debates across Europe and to make sure that EU countries embrace the directive’s principle of openness by default to release more, better information and datasets to help citizens strive towards a fair, free and open future.

Teaching Data Science for Lawyers with Caselaw Access Project Data / Harvard Library Innovation Lab

In the Spring of 2019, at the University of Iowa, I taught an experimental course called Introduction to Quantitative & Computational Legal Reasoning. The idea of the class was beginning "data science" in the legal context. The course is taught in Python, and focuses on introductory coding and statistics, with focused applications in the law (such as statistical evidence of discrimination).

Of course, for students with no prior technical background, it's unrealistic to expect a law school course to produce "data scientists" in the sense used in industry. But my observations of the growth in student skills by the end of the course suggest that it is realistic to produce young lawyers with the skills to solve simple problems with coding, understand data, avoid getting led astray by dubious scientific claims (especially with probability and statistics in litigation), and learn about potential pathways for further learning and career development in legal technology and analytics.

The Library Innovation Lab's Caselaw Access Project (CAP) is particularly well-suited for assignments and projects in such a course. I believe that much of the low-hanging fruit in legal technology is in wrangling the vast amounts of unstructured text that lawyers and courts produce—as is evidenced by the numerous commercial efforts focusing around document production in discovery, contract assembly and interpretation, and similar textual problems faced by millions of lawyers daily. CAP offers a sizable trove of legal text accessible through a relatively simple and well-documented API (unlike other legal data APIs currently available). Moreover, the texts available through CAP are obviously familiar to every law student after their first semester, and their comfort with the format and style of such texts enables students to handle assignments that require them to combine their understanding of how law works with their developing technology skills.

To leverage these advantages, I included a CAP-based assignment in the first problem set for the course, due at the end of the programming intensive that occupies the initial few weeks of the semester. The problem, which is reproduced at the end of this post along with a simple example of code to successfully complete it, requires students to write a function that can call into the CAP API, retrieve an Illinois Supreme Court case (selected due to the lack of access restrictions) by citation, and return a sorted list of each unique case in the U.S. Reporter cited in the case they have retreived.

While the task is superficially simple, students found it fairly complex, for it requires the use of a number of programming concepts, such as functions and control flow, that they had only recently learned. It also exposes students to common beginner's mistakes in Python programming, such as missing the difference between sorting a list in place with list.sort() and returning a new list with sorted(list). In my observation, the results of the problem set accurately distinguished those students who were taking to programming quickly and easily, and those who required more focused assistance.

In addition to such standard programming skills, this assignment requires students to practice slightly more advanced skills such as:

  • Reading and understanding API documentation;
  • Making network requests;
  • Processing text with regular expressions;
  • Using third-party libraries;
  • Parsing JSON data; and
  • Handling empty responses from external data sources.

With luck, this problem can encourage broader thinking about legal text as something that can be treated as data, and the structure inherent in legal forms. With even more luck, some students may begin to think about more intellectual questions prompted by the exercise, such as: can we learn anything about the different citation practices in majority versus dissent opinions, or across different justices?

I plan to teach the class again in Spring 2020; one recurrent theme in student feedback for the first iteration was the need for more practice in basic programming. As such, I expect that the next version of the course will include more assignments using CAP data. Projects that I'm considering include:

  • Write wrapper functions in Python for the CAP API (which the class as a whole could work on releasing as a library as an advanced project);
  • Come to some conclusions about the workload of courts over time or of judges within a court by applying data analysis skills to metadata produced by the API; or
  • Discover citation networks and identify influential cases and/or judges.

Appendix: A CAP-Based Law Student Programming Assignment

Write a function, named cite_finder, that takes one parameter, case, a string with a citation to an Illinois Supreme Court case, and returns the following:

A. None, if the citation does not correspond to an actual case.

B. An empty list, if the citation corresponds to an actual case, but the text of that case does not include any citations to the U.S. Supreme Court.

C. A Python list of unique U.S. Supreme Court citations that appear in the text of the case, if the citation corresponds to an actual case and the case contains any U.S. Supreme Court citation.

Rules and definitions for this problem:

  • "Unique" means a citation to a specific case from a specific reporter.

  • "Citation to an Illinois Supreme Court case" means a string reflecting a citation to the official reporter of the Illinois Supreme Court, in the form 12 Ill. 345 or 12 Ill.2d 345.

  • "U.S. Supreme Court citation" means any full citation (not supra, id, etc.) from the official U.S. Supreme Court reporter as abbreviated U.S.. Party names, years, and page numbers need not be included. Archaic citations (like to Cranch), S.Ct., and L.Ed. Citations should not be included. Subsequent cites/pin cites to a case of the form 123 U.S. at 456 should not be included.

  • "Text" of a case includes all opinions (majority, concurrence, dissent, etc.) but does not include syllabus or any other content.

  • Your function must use the Caselaw Access Project ( API.

  • The list must be sorted using Python’s built-in list sorting functionality with default options.

  • Each citation must appear only once.

Example correct input and output:

  • cite_finder("231 Ill.2d 474") should return ['387 U.S. 136', '419 U.S. 102', '424 U.S. 1', '429 U.S. 252', '508 U.S. 520', '509 U.S. 43']

  • cite_finder("231 Ill.2d 475") should return None

  • cite_finder("215 Ill.2d 219") should return ['339 U.S. 594', '387 U.S. 136', '467 U.S. 837', '538 U.S. 803']

Sample Code to Complete Assignment

import requests, re
endpoint = ""
pattern = r"\d+ U\.S\. \d+"
# no warranties are made as to the correctness of this somewhat lazy regex

def get_opinion_texts(api_response):
        ops = api_response["results"][0]["casebody"]["data"]["opinions"]
        return None
    return [x["text"] for x in ops]

def cite_finder(cite):
    resp = requests.get(endpoint, params={"cite": cite, "full_case": "true"}).json()
    opinions = get_opinion_texts(resp)
    if opinions:
        allcites = []
        for opinion in opinions:
            opcites = re.findall(pattern, opinion)
        filtered = list(set(allcites))
        return filtered
    return None

Use Search Metrics to Boost Sales / Lucidworks

What should retailers measure to increase conversions and improve the customer experience through search? An ecommerce consultant and Foot Locker engineering leader offer their perspectives. Are visitors using search on your ecommerce site more likely than others to complete a

The post Use Search Metrics to Boost Sales appeared first on Lucidworks.

OCLC Research mini-symposium on the discovery and use of open (digitized) collections / HangingTogether

Annapaola Ginammi and Antoine Isaac presenting at the OCLC Research mini-symposium

On June 19th we held the third OCLC Research mini-symposium in Leiden. This time the topic was: “The discovery and use of open (digitized) collections.” The event attracted both library professionals from the Netherlands and OCLC staff members from across Europe.

The format was an intensive three hour session with speakers addressing key aspects of the theme: 1) access to content in digital libraries (image interoperability: IIIF), 2) discovery of this content (the GDDN project) and 3) use – with a real world example of a digital scholarship workflow for philosophers (the CatVis project).

Introducing the theme

I introduced the theme by presenting findings from the OCLC Open Content survey through the lens of the “collective collection” perspective – which looks at digitized materials as part of the collective collection held by libraries around the world, and the trend towards system-wide attention and collaboration for the management of this global resource.

Access to content in digital libraries

Shane Huddleston, Product Manager for OCLC’s cloud-based digital repository CONTENTdm, talked about OCLC’s ongoing investment in the IIIF standard. The research and product team made good progress in co-developing experimental APIs that improve the online presentation, retrieval, and enrichment of images across repositories without heavy file transfers. Shane also described efforts to derive and reconcile linked data from the text-based Dublin Core metadata.

Antoine Isaac, R&D Manager for Europeana, explained in a bit more detail how the IIIF community works and how IIIF is being implemented within the Europeana network of content providers. He demonstrated how this allows contributors to control the way their content can be viewed with the example of a 6.5 meter long parchment scroll from Switzerland. He explained how Europeana is looking beyond OAI-PMH, to adopt IIIF and linked data ( as a way forward.

Discovery of digitized collections

Paul Gooding, lecturer in Information Studies at Glasgow, described the GGDN’s goal to investigate the utility and feasibility of a global registry (or dataset) of digitized texts for digital scholarship. The intended dataset would consist of metadata only. Paul expanded on the possible usefulness of such an instrument for academics. One use case, which is currently being tested, is the matching of similar full-texts of the same work (different copies/versions/editions). He also mentioned interest in use cases to support library workflows, such as digitization and preservation management.

Use of digitized collections

The CatVis team described the challenges and possibilities of digital text-based research in Philosophy. First, scanned books are gathered for corpus-building and then the corpus is cleaned and pre-processed. Then, during the analysis stage, semantic similarity clustering and data-visualization tools are applied on the corpus. Rob Koopman, architect at OCLC, shared his eye-opening experience with bulk-downloads from content providers, revealing how little accessible open digitized content can be. Annapaola Ginammi, researcher at the Faculty of Humanities in Amsterdam, reminded us how demanding scholarly disciplines are when it comes to using OCRed content.

Need for ongoing investment

During the Q&A session, participants wondered about the need for ongoing investment in the area of discovery and use of digitized collections. The speakers stressed that concerted efforts and innovative technologies are necessary to maximize the value and use of digitized materials and their related metadata.

You can find the slides and the recording of the session here:

Stay updated on future Research events in Leiden

Register your interest here: or contact Titia van der Werf.

The post OCLC Research mini-symposium on the discovery and use of open (digitized) collections appeared first on Hanging Together.

June 2019 ITAL Issue Now Available / LITA

The June 2019 issue of Information Technology and Libraries (ITAL) is available now. Our regular content includes Bohyun Kim’s final LITA President’s Message as her term concludes, “Moving Forward with LITA,” summarizing the work that has gone into the planned division merger that would combine LITA, ALCTS, and LLAMA. Editorial Board member Cinthya Ippoliti discusses the role of libraries in fostering digital pedagogy in her Editorial Board Thoughts column, “Digital Faculty Development.” And, in the second of our new Public Libraries Leading the Way series, Jeffrey Davis discusses the technologies and advantages of digital pass systems in “Online Ticketed-Passes: A Mid-Tech Leap in What Libraries Are For.

In this issue:

No Need to Ask: Creating Permissionless Blockchains of Metadata Records
Dejah Rubel

This article describes how permissionless metadata blockchains could be created to overcome two significant limitations in current cataloging practices: centralization and a lack of traceability. The process would start by creating public and private keys, which could be managed using digital wallet software. After creating a genesis block, nodes would submit either a new record or modifications to a single record for validation. Validation would rely on a Federated Byzantine Agreement consensus algorithm because it offers the most flexibility for institutions to select authoritative peers. Only the top tier nodes would be required to store a copy of the entire blockchain thereby allowing other institutions to decide whether they prefer to use the abridged version or the full version.

50 years of ITAL/JLA: A Bibliometric Study of Its Major Influences, Themes, and Interdisplinarity
Brady Lund

Over five decades, Information Technology and Libraries (and its predecessor, the Journal of Library Automation) has influenced research and practice in the library and information science technology. From its inception on, the journal has been consistently ranked as one of the superior publications in the profession and a trendsetter for all types of librarians and researchers. This research examines ITAL using a citation analysis of all 878 peer-reviewed feature articles published over the journal’s 51 volumes. Impactful authors, articles, publications, and themes from the journal’s history are identified. The findings of this study provide insight into the history of ITAL and potential topics of interest to ITAL authors and readership.

Weathering the Twitter Storm: Early Uses of Social Media as a Disaster Response Tool for Public Libraries During Hurricane Sandy
Sharon Han
This article is the 2019 LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award-winning paper.

After a disaster, news reports and online platforms often document the swift response of public libraries supporting their communities. Despite current scholarship focused on social media in disasters, early uses of social media as an extension of library services require further scrutiny. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognized Hurricane Sandy as one of the earliest U.S. disasters in which first responders used social media. This study specifically examines early uses of Twitter by selected public libraries as an information tool during Sandy’s aftermath. Results can inform uses of social media in library response to future disasters.

”Good Night, Good Day, Good Luck”: Applying Topic Modeling to Chat Reference Transcripts
Megan Ozeran and Piper Martin

This article presents the results of a pilot project that tested the application of algorithmic topic modeling to chat reference conversations. The outcomes for this project included determining if this method could be used to identify the most common chat topics in a semester and whether these topics could inform library services beyond chat reference training. After reviewing the literature, four topic modeling algorithms were successfully implemented using Python code: (1) LDA, (2) phrase-LDA, (3) DMM, and (4) NMF. Analysis of the top ten topics from each algorithm indicated that LDA, phrase-LDA, and NMF show the most promise for future analysis on larger sets of data (from three or more semesters) and for examining different facets of the data (fall versus spring semester, different time of day, just the patron side of the conversation).

Information Security in Libraries: Examining the Effects of Knowledge Transfer
Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca and Richard J Burkhard

Libraries in the United States handle sensitive patron information, including personally identifiable information and circulation records. With libraries providing services to millions of patrons across the U.S., it is important that they understand the importance of patron privacy and how to protect it. This study investigates how knowledge transferred within an online cybersecurity education affects library employee information security practices. The results of this study suggest that knowledge transfer does have a positive effect on library employee information security and risk management practices.

Wikidata: From “an” Identifier to “the” Identifier
Theo van Veen

Library catalogues may be connected to the linked data cloud through various types of thesauri. For name authority thesauri in particular I would like to suggest a fundamental break with the current distributed linked data paradigm: to make a transition from a multitude of different identifiers to using a single, universal identifier for all relevant named entities, in the form of the Wikidata identifier. Wikidata ( seems to be evolving into a major authority hub that is lowering barriers to access the web of data for everyone. Using the Wikidata identifier of notable entities as a common identifier for connecting resources has significant benefits compared to traversing the ever-growing linked data cloud. When the use of Wikidata reaches a critical mass, for some institutions, Wikidata could even serve as an authority control mechanism.

Editorial Content

Submit Your Ideas

Contact ITAL Editor Ken Varnum at with your proposal. Current formats are generally:

  • Articles – original research or comprehensive and in-depth analyses, in the 3000-5000 word range.
  • Communications – brief research reports, technical findings, and case studies, in the 1000-3000 word range.

Questions or Comments?

For all other questions or comments related to LITA publications, contact us at (312) 280-4268 or

RA21's recommended technical approach is broken by emerging browser privacy features / Eric Hellman

This is my third comment about the recently published NISO draft "Recommended Practice" (RP) on "Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources" a. k. a. "Resource Access in the 21st Century" (RA21). Official comments can be submitted until May 17th.  My first comment concerned the use of secure communication channels. The second looked at potential phishing attacks on the proposed system. I'm posting the comments here so you can easily comment.

RA21's recommended technical approach is broken by emerging browser privacy features

Third party cookies are widely on the web used as trackers, or "web bugs", by advertising networks wishing to target users with advertising on the web. The impact of these trackers on privacy has been widely reported and decried. Browser local storage deployed using 3rd-party iframes is similarly employed for user tracking by ad networks. Browser vendors, led by Apple, have fought back against user tracking by providing user options to limit third party information sharing. Apple's "Intelligent Tracking Protection"  has progressively increased the barriers to cross-site information storage, for example, by partitioning the local storage according to third-party context.

Unfortunately for RA21, the draft recommended practice (RP) has endorsed a technical approach which mirrors the tactics used for user tracking by the advertising industry. For this reason, users of Safari who choose to enable the "prevent cross-site tracking" option may not benefit from the "seamless" access promised by RA21 if implemented with the endorsed technical approach.

Wikimedia commons
The optimistically acronymed "P3W" pilot used a javascript library called "Krakenjs/zoid" (According to the Norse sagas, the kraken is a squidlike monster that terrorizes voyagers) to exchange data between cross-domain contexts. The limitations on krakenjs in Safari are acknowledged by the library's developer.  It works by having the host webpage create an iframe loaded from a P3W website. With privacy controls off, the web page posts to the iframe, which answers with a reference to the user's identity provider. The service provider website uses that information to help the user authenticate without having to search through a huge list of identity providers. With Safari privacy features turned on, the search process must be repeated for each and every service provider domain.

Other browser vendors have moved towards restricting tracking behaviour. Firefox has announced that it will phase in "enhanced tracking protection"
Even Google's Chrome browser is moving towards restrictions on tracking technologies.

The bottom line is that if RA21 is implemented with the recommended technical approach, library users will probably be required to turn off privacy enhancing features of their browser software to use resources in their library. As a result, RA21 will have difficulty moving forward with community consensus on this technical approach.

Browser software is much more tolerant of cross-domain communication when the information "hub" is a first-party context (i.e. a window of its own, not an embedded iframe), as is done in more established authentication schemes such as OpenID Connect and SAML flow. RA21 should refocus its development effort on these technical approaches.

Update July 5, 2019:

RA21's official response to this comment is:
Future work includes storage policy notification. Also, we are not actually using third party cookies even though this term is often used to describe several cross-domain access patterns; instead, RA21 recommends using web storage (aka, browser local storage) together with HTML5 post-message for cross-domain access. This is the same mechanism (and indeed the same implementation) that PayPal uses, thus demonstrating broad browser support. A description of web storage has been added to the Terminology section. We are aware that by turning off "third party cookies" it is possible for the user to partly or completely disable the call to action button but in those cases the user experience degrades gracefully to a classical SAML/OpenIDC discovery flow.
Essentially the same response was made to three other submitted comments. Two of them, from Duke's Tim McGeary, called out two sections of the recommended practice and noted:
Word of caution: this login specifically cannot happen in an iFrame to meet SSO security protocol
The third, from Cornell University Library, submitted by Adam Chandler, amplified on McGeary:
Comment from Cornell University Library Privacy as a Service Working Group. Our group includes membership drawn from Library IT, Library Licensing, Library Public Services, Cornell IT Security, and Cornell Privacy Office.

Under 2.4.: We agree with Tim McGreary's comment (#862 or #863 - seems that he double-posted it) that the SSO login shouldn't be inside a frame on another page. There are security issues with that kind of approach. The users can't see the login page URL to verify that the page is a page before entering their passwords, so it makes it easier to spoof the login page. Generally, login pages use "framebusting" to prevent this kind of possibility.
RA21's response on this issue is alarming, and suggests that the whole project is in danger of failure. RA21 seems to be unaware that using HTML5 web storage is worse than 3rd party cookies in many respects - particularly privacy and security. Currently, only Safari defaults to "a classical SAML/OpenIDC discovery flow", but that still means that if they want to be accurate, they'll have to rename the implementing organization "The Coalition for Seamless Access but Not on iOS" or "The Coalition for Problematic Access".

I hope that the beta implementation will be executed by a team with the experience and competence to override or at least effectively mitigate RA21's technical blunder.

Meet our 2019 Frictionless Data Tool Fund grantees / Open Knowledge Foundation

In order to facilitate reproducible data workflows in research contexts, we recently launched the Frictionless Data Tool Fund. This one-time $5,000 grant attracted over 90 applications from researchers, developers, and data managers from all over the world. We are very excited to announce the four grantees for this round of funding, and have included a short description of each grantee and their project in this announcement. For a more in depth profile of each grantee and their Tool Fund projects, as well as information about how the community can help contribute to their work, follow the links in each profile to learn more. We look forward to sharing their work on developing open source tooling for reproducible research built using the Frictionless Data specifications and software. 


Stephan Max

Stephan Max is a computer scientist based in Cologne, Germany, that is passionate about making the web a fair, open, and safe place for everybody. Outside of work, Stephan has contributed to the German OKF branch as a mentor for the teenage hackathon weekends project “Jugend Hackt” (Youth Hacks). Stephan’s Tool Fund project will be to create a Data Package import/export add-on to Google Sheets.

“How can we feed spreadsheets back into a Reproducible Research pipeline? I think Data Packages is a brilliant format to model and preserve exactly that information.”

Read more about Stephan and the Google Sheets Data Package add-on here.


Carlos Ribas and João Peschanski

João Alexandre Peschanski and Carlos Eduardo Ribas work with the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center for Neuromathematics (RIDC NeuroMat), from the São Paulo Research Foundation. They are focused on developing open-source computational tools to advance open knowledge, open science, and scientific dissemination. They will be using the Tool Fund to work on the Neuroscience Experiments System (NES), which is an open-source tool that aims to assist neuroscience research laboratories in routine procedures for data collection.

“The advantages of the Frictionless Data approach for us is fundamentally to be able to standardize data opening and sharing within the scientific community.”

Read more about Carlos, João, and NES here.


André Heughebaert

André Heughebaert is an IT Software Engineer at the Belgian Biodiversity Platform and is the Belgian GBIF Node manager. As an Open Data advocate, André works with GBIF and the Darwin Core standards and related Biodiversity tools to support publication and re-use of Open Data. André’s Tool Fund project will automatically convert Darwin Core Archive into Frictionless Data Packages. 

“I do hope Frictionless and GBIF communities will help me with issuing/tracking and solving incompatibilities, and also to build up new synergies.”

Read more about André and the Darwin Core Data Package project here.


Greg Bloom and Shelby Switzer

Shelby Switzer and Greg Bloom work with Open Referral, which develops data standards and open source tools for health, human, and social services. Shelby is a long-time civic tech contributor, and Greg is the founder of the Open Referral Initiative. For the Tool Fund, they will be building out Data Package support for all their interfaces, from the open source tools that transform and validate human services data to the Human Services API Specification.

“With the Frictionless Data approach, we can more readily work with data from different sources, with varying complexity, in a simple CSV format, while preserving the ability to easily manage transformation and loading.”

Read more about Greg, Shelby, and their Tool Fund project here.


More About Frictionless Data

The Tool Fund is part of the Frictionless Data for Reproducible Research project at Open Knowledge Foundation. This project, funded by the Sloan Foundation, applies our work in Frictionless Data to data-driven research disciplines. Frictionless Data is a set of specifications for data and metadata interoperability, accompanied by a collection of software libraries that implement these specifications, and a range of best practices for data management. The Tool Fund projects will be running through the end of 2019, and we will post updates to the projects as they progress.

RA21 Draft RP session timeout recommendation considered harmful / Eric Hellman

Hey everybody, I implemented RA21 for access to the blog!

Well, that was fun.

I'm contributing comments about the recently published NISO draft "Recommended Practice" (RP) on "Improved Access to Institutionally-Provided Information Resources" a. k. a. "Resource Access in the 21st Century" (RA21). Official comments can be submitted until May 17th. The draft has much to recommend it, but it appears to have flaws that could impair the success of the effort. My first comment concerned the use of secure communication channels. I expect to write two more. I'm posting the comments here so you can easily comment.

RA21 Draft RP session timeout recommendation considered harmful

RA21 hopes to implement a user authentication environment which allows seamless single sign-on to a large number of service provider websites. Essential to RA21's vision is to replace a hodge-podge of implementations with a uniform, easily recognizable user interface.

While a uniform sign-in flow will be a huge benefit to end users, it introduces an increased vulnerability to an increasingly common type of compromise, credential phishing.  A credential phishing attack exploits learned user behavior by presenting the user with a fraudulent interface cloned from a legitimate service. The unsuspecting user enters credentials into the fraudulent website without ever being aware of the credential theft. RA21 greatly reduces the difficulty of a phishing attack in three ways:
  1. Users will learn and use the same sign-in flow for many, perhaps hundreds, of websites. Most users will occasionally encounter the RA21 login on websites they have never used before.
  2. The uniform visual appearance of the sign-in button and identity provider selection step will be trivial to copy. Similarly, a user's previously selected identity provider will often be easy for an attacker to guess, based on the user's IP address.
  3. If successful, RA21 may be used by millions of authorized users, making it difficult to detect unauthorized use of stolen credentials.
If users are trained to enter password credentials even once per day, they are unlikely to notice when they are asked for identity provider credentials by a website crafted to mimic a real identity provider.

For this very reason, websites commonly used for third party logins, such as Google and Facebook, use timeouts much longer than the 24 hour timeouts recommended by the RA21 draft RP. To combat credential theft, they add tools such as multi-factor authentication and insert identity challenges based on factors such as user behavior and the number of devices used by an account.

Identity providers participating in RA21 need to be encouraged to adopt these and other anti-phishing security measures; the RA21 draft's recommended identity provider session timeout (section 2.7) is not in alignment with these measures and is thus counterproductive. Instead, the RP should encourage long identity provider session timeouts, advanced authentication methods, and should clearly note the hazard of phishing attacks on the system. Long-lived sessions will result in better user experience and promote systemic security. While the RP cites default values used in Shibboleth, there is no published evidence that these parameters have suppressed credential theft; the need for RA21 suggests that the resulting user experience has been far from "seamless".

Update July 3, 2019:

RA21's official response to this comment is:
We disagree with premise that consumer websites adopt long sign-in timeouts as a Phishing protection measure. That said, IdPs should follow best practices such as HTTPS so users can verify that they are on a valid sign in page. Length of validity of sign-in is also by necessity context dependent.
Well, yeah. I wasn't expecting them to actually consult real people who battle identity theft on consumer websites. I was mostly amazed that sign-in timeouts would be considered in-scope for RA21 while HTTPS, which will be essential to RA21's success or failure, was not. But the RA21 recommendation will have no effect whatsoever on what identity providers do, unless perhaps existing identity providers are making timeouts ridiculously short. Identity providers know their context much better than any committee and they will do what they want to do. And they should!

Interestingly, a section (2.8. Establish Security Incident Reporting Frameworks) has been added to the revised recommendation that acknowledges credential phishing as a motivation for RA21! So, yay RA21!

New Evergreen releases: 3.3.2, 3.2.7, and 3.1.13 / Evergreen ILS

June saw the release of three new Evergreen releases.  Coming on the heels of a successful bug squashing week and feedback fest, Evergreen 3.3.2, 3.2.7, and 3.1.13 include bug fixes related to circulation, cataloging, the public catalog, reports, system administration, accessibility, general usability, and quality assurance. Evergreen 3.3.2 also includes a number of improvements to the new Angular staff client, including enhancements to the experimental staff catalog interface.  You can download these new releases at the Evergreen Downloads Page.

You can find information about the improvements included in these releases — and the almost 30 people who made them happen — in the 3.3.2 release notes, 3.2.7 release notes, and 3.1.13 release notes.

Looking Back at Islandora Camp Switzerand / Islandora

Islandora Camp went to Switzerland for the first time this summer, with a three-day camp hosted by Lib4RI - Library for the Research Institutes within the ETH domain: Eawag, Empa, PSI & WSL, and located at Eawag. You can see the full schedule (and as many set of presentation slides as we could gather) here, but the highlights came on the third day, with:

  • an overview of the services our host provides to their internal users, including workflows and tools that make adding new material as quick and simple as possible for researchers,
  • a look at the migration taken by the Max Plank Insitutuute for Pschyolinguistics to move their data into Islandora, including a solution pack with a viewer for 3D images like this,
  • the amazing collections of the Fundación Juan March, and the way they integrate Islandora into a complex web of services.

The location itself was also a highlight, as we toured the peaceful, naturally landscaped campus of Eawag and hopped stepping-stones across the reclaimed river that runs through it:

Sessions were held in a low-energy building that deploys a myriad of clever tricks to provide a comfortable, modern, multi-storey office space while using no more electricity than a couple of single-family homes. It's also quite something to look at:

This Islandora Camp was the very first held since the release of Islandora 8, and our campers we eager to explore the new stack, with a half-day dedicated to site building Islandora 8 in the Admin Track, and the entire Developer Track spent (by audience request) on the new release.

If you want to experience your own immersion in all things Islandora, you can join us in October for our every-other-year full-week conference, Islandoracon, taking place from the 7th to the 11th in Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Jobs in Information Technology: July 3, 2019 / LITA

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

University Of Massachusetts Boston, Discovery and Systems Development Librarian, Boston, MA

Swarthmore College, Digital Audio Visual Archivist, Swarthmore, PA

Whirl-i-Gig, Software Application Developer, Brooklyn, NY

Fayetteville Public Library, Youth Services Librarian I, Fayetteville, AR

New This Week

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.