Column Editor: Regina Gong (Open Educational Resources (OER) Project Manager/Head of Technical Services and Systems, Lansing Community College Library)
Column Editor’s Note: I cannot believe 2017 is almost over. It has been another banner year for me both professionally and personally. I have done a number of exciting projects this year mainly related to OER, with the biggest thing being that I am now managing a $500K budget intended for our faculty to move their courses into OER. I also travelled a lot this year with the most memorable trip being one to Jordan and Israel as part of our Holy Land pilgrimage. It was indeed a life-changing experience and one that I would like to do again in the near future.
As usual, we have a collection of good reviews from our regular book reviewers. I have a new book reviewer from Michigan State University Libraries, Robin Dean, who gladly volunteered to review the book Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries. I hope this is not her last time reviewing a book for this column. And if you want to be a book reviewer yourself, please let me know. Just send me an email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. There’s always a free book waiting for you if you do. Happy reading! — RG
Jones, Ed and Michele Seikel, editors. Linked Data for Cultural Heritage Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2016. 978083914397. 134 pages. $67.00
Reviewed by Don Todaro (Director of Reference/Research and Collections Management, Library of Michigan)
The slim volume Linked Data for Cultural Heritage, an edited collection of six short chapters, provides a diverse range of perspectives by noted experts on the current state of developments with linked data and related individual projects in LAM (Libraries, Archives and Museums). The introduction, by editor Ed Jones (National University, San Diego), eases the reader into the complex waters of linked data with a straightforward example of a search for Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. A by-now familiar “Knowledge Graph” box appears to the upper right on search results screens that pulls specially structured data, images, etc., from websites such as Wikipedia, Amazon, organization websites, etc. The curious searcher can then click on highlighted data points of interest to trigger new searches leading to fuller information about a particular aspect, e.g., clicking on Hugo’s birthplace leads to zoomable views of the town of Besançon in France, its current weather, time, places of interest, size, etc. This example segues into an explanation over the span of just a few pages of what linked data is, how it works, and how it differs from HTML, and amusingly describes a dreamt-of future “nirvana” scenario when one’s cellphone schedules medical appointments and selects the best books for one’s research needs by just entering a few simple voice commands. Jones then sketches the five-star rating system outlined by Tim Berners-Lee in 2010 for elements in achieving fully linked and open data, and offers a “very simple description of linked data” to introduce the reader to the essential concepts of RDF (Resource Description Framework) and the SPARQL query language for searching an RDF database of “triplestores.” This brief opening sets the stage for the six chapters that follow containing more in-depth discussions of projects, challenges, and possibilities of linked data and related standards, ontologies, vocabularies, etc.
The volume opens with a survey of significant linked data projects across the cultural heritage domain, such as Europeana and the Digital Public Library of America, in the chapter “Linked Open Data and the Cultural Heritage Landscape” by Hilary Thorsen (Stanford University) and M. Cristina Pattuelli (Pratt Institute). The brief summaries serve as background to an extensive overview of the Linked Jazz project, hosted at the Pratt Institute. This archive is built around transcribed interviews of jazz musicians from several sources with links to audio and video recordings, as well as biographical information. A zoomable graphical interface of known relationships among musicians is based upon these interviews and other sources. The project uses text mining techniques to infer influences of one artist upon another. The project illustrates how linked open data (LOD) can help overcome the “walled gardens approach to data management” and bring new users to related resources more seamlessly.
The second chapter, “Making MARC Agnostic,” details the migration of the venerable English Short Title Catalog (ESTC) from MARC to a linked data environment that includes a tool for librarians and scholars to participate. Chapter 3 examines the way controlled vocabularies as traditionally used in the library world are being translated to the semantic web. In chapter 4 the focus is on authority control and its reimagining for the web, with discussions of identifiers, ontologies and vocabularies to create more meaningful links and to create mappings between terms in various systems for large scale web application. The most challenging chapter of the book, and at 35 pages, almost twice the length of any other chapter, “A Division of Labor” provides an insider’s perspective on OCLC’s experimentation with Schema.org and LC’s BIBFRAME model to convert millions of MARC records to linked data. A detailed historical account of Schema and BIBFRAME is given as well as examples of current work involving monographs and the problems of AV conversion. An excellent closing chapter by Sally McCallum (LC), which may be profitably read before the other chapters, is entitled “BIBFRAME and Linked Data for Libraries.” It explains the fundamental differences between MARC and BIBFRAME in concise, easily understood language, all the while introducing various concepts and historical information on how the two standards have evolved.
Linked data has been touted for years by web gurus, along with the notion that MARC’s days were numbered, if its time had not already passed. This refreshing volume cuts through much of the hype about linked data with clear-eyed discussions of the components that make up the semantic web, and delves into several current ongoing projects and implementations. The authors acknowledge that there are many challenges and that the work is still just beginning. Though at first glance the work appears rather daunting and dense, on closer inspection it proves well-written and fascinating in its accounts of the semantic web’s components. Highly recommended for those wishing further acquaintance with linked data, as well as others who may be well-versed in the topic.
Munro, Karen. Tactical Urbanism for Librarians: Quick, Low-Cost Ways to Make Big Changes. Chicago: ALA editions, 2017. 9780838915585. 176 pages. $57.00 (ALA Members: $51.30)
Reviewed by Corey Seeman (Director, Kresge Library Services, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Right off the bat, this book sounds strange. “Tactical Urbanism?” What on earth is that? And why should librarians have any understanding or need to know? When all is said and done (or read and done), you will truly appreciate the passion not only of the author, but the creative and innovative librarians that she features in this exciting and very useful work.
At its core, the question is simple. Can librarians learn lessons not only from other librarians, but from other organizations and community groups that figure out ways to fix a problem or fill a hole in their cities and neighborhoods. Having spent the previous week at the Charleston Conference, where once again, change and change management was a very regular theme in the presentations, a different way of managing that might just be in order. This book is a great vehicle for seeing opportunities for libraries to move forward, even if the circumstances are challenging.
This wonderful book is written by Karen Munro, head of the University of Oregon Portland Library and Learning Commons. Previously, she held librarian positions at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Oregon in Eugene. Her biography also states that she has an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which is not hard to believe because it is a masterfully written book about change management.
The real value of this work is the balance between neighbor and community innovation and change that is generally known as “tactical urbanism” and how it applies to what we do in libraries. Examples of “tactical urbanism” include guerrilla gardens in vacant lots, popup-stores in empty buildings and many others. It involves local solutions for local problems and empowers community residents to take ownership of problems in their neighborhoods, rather than shrug and let them grow worse. Munro does a great job of showcasing a number of these programs, primarily from New York City. She provides some great case studies of these programs and how they were able to improve community problems, like the Astoria Scum River Bridge in Queens (New York City).
After introducing this topic, and showcasing how people have been able to improve their communities, she ventures forward to showcase how librarians are using the same tactics to improve their libraries. She showcases a large number of case studies of librarians using these tactics to improve services, fill needs, and otherwise address the unmet needs of their communities. Most importantly, she shows how these unstructured projects can move more quickly than librarians are used to operating. She provides a number of case studies of library programs that grew up with this tradition, a counter to the more methodical and deliberate way that librarians typically embrace change. Case studies showcase projects such as Librarybox (providing wireless connections in places where wifi is not currently provided), Shelflogic (a different way of shelving and arranging physical objects in a public library) and MarcEdit (a critical software that many librarians use to manage large data files of MARC Records). Each of these are followed up with an interview with the key figure associated with the effort. As in the case of MarcEdit, creator Terry Reese (now at Ohio State University) talked about how this project came to be and why it is not an open source project.
Munro also provides valuable chapters about problems that creep in when these projects simply do not work. This is not a problem because of the need to embrace the potential of failure as part of the entrepreneurial nature of these different services. She also provides a great chapter about managing or leading a group that is embracing this type of innovation.
The need for change and for innovation is great for libraries. We need to be bold in undertaking these challenges. Karen Munro, in this excellent book, has provided librarians at every level the pep talk to face the problems head on and find solutions that work for our community. Sure, it can be very “hipster” in its approach for many tastes, but there is no way you can read this book and not see your library, your services and your community a little differently. This book needs to be on your bookshelf!
Varnum, Kenneth J., ed. Exploring Discovery: The Front Door to Your Library’s Licensed and Digitized Content. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2016. 9780838914144. 292 pages. $95.00
Reviewed by Maurine McCourry (Technical Services Librarian, Hillsdale College, Mossey Library)
Ken Varnum, Senior Program Manager for Discovery, Delivery, and Library Analytics at the University of Michigan, has put together a collection of useful essays on the topic of discovery in libraries and other cultural repositories. The authors of the essays come primarily from the academic library world, but there are corporate and museum representatives, as well. Taken together, the volume effectively presents the complexity of providing adequate discovery tools for optimal utilization of the vast holdings of institutions in the current era.
The content of the volume is divided into four parts. The first part, “Vended Discovery Systems,” presents four case studies of institutions selecting commercial discovery tools, starting with the moves of Loyola University Chicago Libraries and the Olin Library at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida to the Ex Libris products Alma and Primo, replacing disparate systems as a single project. Staff at the F.D. Bluford Library at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University used Krug’s Persona-Based Heuristic Evaluation to identify search needs, resulting in a transition from use of multiple platforms to WorldCat Discovery, supported by a move to WorldShare Management System for its ILS, and Texas’s Rosenberg Library, the Rosenberg Library Museum, and the Galveston and Texas History Center pooled resources to make SirsiDynix’s Enterprise OPAC “one catalog to rule them all.”
In the second part of the book, “Custom Discovery Systems,” five different customized solutions for discovery are presented, all using open source resources to some degree. Stanford University personnel used interview-sourced personas to inform their development of a discovery system for geospatial data at Stanford using the open-source GeoBlacklight platform. Grinnell College Libraries used VuFind to provide discovery of multiple resources through a single search box and a “bento-box” display of results. The Blacklight open source platform was used by The University of Alberta Libraries and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to provide access to records in multiple databases and in multiple formats, and to create a “magical” request system for the Cornell University Library.
The third part of the volume, “Interfaces,” starts with an explanation by librarians from the University of North Texas regarding the utility of the “bento box” approach to displaying search results in a discovery system, including an excellent explanation of the library community’s move away from federated searching. User feedback was iteratively employed in developing a QuickSearch “bento box” approach at Wayne State University, an iOS app that later informed a responsive web design at MacEwan University, a Blacklight installation at Johns Hopkins University with customized facets, and a user-focused installation of EBSCO’s EDS.
The final part of the book, “Content and Metadata,” provides a variety of examples of collections made discoverable with new tools. New York University has made a variety of collections more accessible by using “user stories” to discern needed pathways. The Mountain West Digital Library has used participation in the Digital Public Library of America to facilitate discovery of its own collections and complementary ones. Following an article in which Ex Libris makes the case for its Primo system providing access to numerous Open Access repositories, the book closes with two articles that warn against the neglect of the metadata supporting discovery systems in the rush to improve the user interface.
As is inevitable with a book of this type, the technology described in many cases had already advanced to a new level by the book’s publication, and now, merely a year later, some have been completely replaced by other products and innovations. The experiences documented here, though, have a lasting value in the literature, providing templates for similar projects, and ideas for development and implementation of discovery tools of all types.
McNicol, Sarah, ed. Critical Literacy for Information Professionals. London: Facet Publishing, 2016. 978178330822. 172 pages. $95.00
Reviewed by Frances Krempasky (Electronic Resources Management Librarian, Lansing Community College Library)
As information professionals and librarians strive to increase community engagement, relevancy, and impact, we need to embrace new methods in our outreach and teaching. Critical literacy is one such method. Critical literacy moves beyond information literacy, as it strives to empower the reader to develop strategies to evaluate the information they encounter through the lens of their own social, cultural, and life experiences.
Critical Literacy for Information Professionals, edited by Sarah McNicol, is a good starting point for those interested in delving into critical literature theory and learning about the practical applications of its use in K-8 and academic settings, and in health and workplace environments. McNicol, a research associate at the Education and Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University UK, writes two chapters in this volume, and brings together twelve additional authors to write about critical literacy theory and its practice. According to McNicol, the two key components of critical literacy are the social and cultural contexts in which texts (or other resources) are created and read; and secondly, its focus on action and community engagement.
The chapters in this volume are broken into two parts. Part one is comprised of seven chapters in which contributors present and discuss critical literacy theories. Part two showcases critical literacy in practice. The chapters on critical literacy theory are overly academic at times. However, when the theory is successfully woven into the case studies, the reader is given the opportunity to understand the value of critical literacy applications.
As a community college librarian, I found many chapters to be significant, especially for library instruction. For example, in Chapter 1, McNichol discusses a critical literacy approach to reading fiction that is reader response theory. By using a critical literacy approach with fiction, readers will understand that there is no “correct” way to read or interpret fiction. The reader can understand how their own life experiences, as well as those of the author play a major part in shaping the text. Another outcome of using this theory with reading groups may be a way to reach marginalized persons and furthermore to address social justice concerns.
Jessica Critten, in Chapter 2, discusses the “death of the authority.” In bibliographic instruction sessions, the main focus is about establishing the intent of the author and determining the expertise of the author. Critical literacy, on the other hand, tries to develop a relationship between the text and the reader. This relationship can be established through the reader’s experiences and values, shining a new light on how students are actually “authoring” the work through their own life experiences.
Libraries are presenting more instruction sessions to the growing numbers of international students on campus. In chapter 4, Allison Hicks discusses the “New Literacy Studies” approach that places emphasis on the contextual and subjective aspects of literacy. Her studies explore misconceptions about international students’ information practices as related to instruction sessions. For example, it is important to question why an international student’s differences represent a learning deficiency, and are not seen as an asset. Is it because we are assessing international students against Western models of literacy? If so, we are overlooking cultural and social practices that international students bring.
This book explores a variety of critical literacy models and theory, including how new literacies can challenge existing attitudes about library access for the disabled, as J. J. Pionke writes in Chapter 5, to show how critical literacy can find a place in adult learning in the form of library instruction and reference services. Specifically, librarians can be advocates for discussion-based classes and give students time to reflect on their own experiences to reach their own conclusions (Chapter 7, Lau-Bon).
This volume contains an index as well as a “Further Information” section for topics covered in the text, including critical pedagogy and literacy, libraries and critical literacy, and teaching resources among others.
Given the current cultural and political climates, learning about critical literacy theory and its various applications becomes even more relevant and important. One can see how critical literacy theory should be in the forefront of instruction today. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about this topic, especially instruction librarians interested in finding ways to teach critical literacy concepts. The application examples will inspire them to action. McNicol’s book will also resonate with librarians well versed in information literacy theory and wanting to learn more about critical literacy pedagogies and new literacy studies.
Spiteri, Louise F. editor. Managing Metadata in Web-Scale Discovery Systems. London, UK: Facet Publishing, 2016. 9781783300693. 197 pages. $85.00
Reviewed by Margaret M. Kain (Reference Librarian for Education, University of Alabama at Birmingham Libraries)
Managing Metadata in Web-Scale Discovery Systems (Managing Metadata) edited by Louise Spiteri, provides much needed research on the ways libraries are changing the delivery of information and access to users. Librarians are faced with the challenge of providing information in a rapidly moving digital environment, without the luxury of downtime to explore these new methods. A significant part of this changing library environment is the development of new systems, such as web-scale discovery systems. In addition to herself, Spiteri has gathered eight prominent librarians with a variety of experience to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these systems, as well as address the concerns related to these systems by practicing librarians.
Split into seven chapters, Managing Metadata walks readers through the world of web-scale discovery systems and the impact on resource access, mapping and metadata. Spiteri begins this timely conversation by providing librarians with an introductory overview of web-scale discovery systems. She gives some historical information to ensure the reader has a basic understanding of how the traditional library catalogs have rapidly morphed into discovery systems. While the need for these web-scale discovery systems has grown dramatically in recent years, only a few providers have developed these systems. Noting that some providers who have developed discovery systems have not always played well with content providers; making it all the more challenging as librarians strive to successfully provide users access to resources.
Readers are given the opportunity in chapter four to explore how libraries may need to redefine library catalog resources for use with discovery systems. Beginning with MARC records, other tools such as user-contributed information are touched-on. Authors examine how these tools may enhance library records, providing granularity that make relevant resources discoverable. Rather than pure MARC records, it is recommended that for these web-scale systems, merging multiple record formats is key to discovery. Next, authors discuss the growing number of resources that web-scale discovery systems return in users’ results lists. Readers are asked to consider whether or not providing access to everything may be detrimental. It is possible, librarians may want to at some point, limit or rethink providing unlimited information in web-scale discovery systems.
Web-scale discovery tools require librarians to rethink the way metadata is obtained; for many libraries purchasing MARC records, it has become a viable alternative to in-house creation. Chapter six examines the impact on discoverability when the creation of metadata is no longer restricted to the library. It explores the widespread impact on related functions, including addressing the quality of the metadata and whether new sources will detrimentally skew relevancy rankings. Authors round out the discussion by touching on user-generated metadata and the impact on web-scale discovery systems. The last chapter in this librarians’ reference resource completes the discussion by providing useful detailed information on user-generated metadata through social media, exploring the impact on discoverability when social media tools are used to create metadata. Authors provide an interesting discussion on how social features of metadata may actually enhance discovery. Librarians are working quickly with web-scale discovery systems to update user access and discoverability by providing accurate metadata. Managing Metadata contains a wealth of valuable information and tools for librarians on web-scale discovery systems and metadata. Touching on the varied forms of metadata creation, it explores how these new web-scale discovery systems will impact the way libraries provide access to resources in the future. It is recommended reading for librarians in all types of library environments.
Hoffman, Starr, ed. Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries. London: Facet Publishing. 9781783300495. 154 pages. $75.00
Reviewed by Robin Dean (Digital Projects Librarian, Michigan State University Libraries)
This compilation provides inspiring case studies for supporting digital scholarship in academic libraries. The libraries represented include institutions from several countries and a range of sizes. This book will appeal to academic librarians who share editor Starr Hoffman’s broad vision of research support as supporting curiosity and collaborative knowledge creation. The case studies will be useful to practitioners and those in leadership or management roles, as many chapters include insights on change management, project management, and professional development.
Hoffman’s introductions to the book and each of the three sections provide an overview of the philosophy behind dynamic research support. This work is team-driven and interdisciplinary, focused on continuous learning and iterative improvement, and frequently assessed and re-prioritized. This way of working will be familiar to those who use agile project management techniques. For more traditionally organized libraries, these methods require substantial organizational change, which several of the case studies address.
The first section of the book, “Training and Infrastructure,” contains case studies about the need for space, equipment, and skilled employees to support digital scholarship. Chapter 1 describes how a university library in Mexico City simultaneously renovated its physical space and its services. This chapter is an excellent introduction to working iteratively to identify community needs, formulate a strategy for meeting those needs, and act on that strategy. Chapter 2 is a detailed case study of digitizing a rare book collection from a researcher’s viewpoint, which may be helpful for librarians wondering how faculty view them as partners in research. Chapter 3 provides a model for a librarian peer-learning group developing new digital scholarship skills, and includes valuable project management lessons such as a description of project chartering and a list of reasons why projects “go wrong.”
The second section of the book, “Data Services and Data Literacy,” demonstrates the importance of data expertise in the library. Chapter 4 discusses a pilot project to include data literacy and data management plans in information literacy instruction. This chapter discusses success, but also includes a refreshing assessment of difficulties and opportunities for improvement. Chapter 5 describes a “nose to tail” approach to offering data services for the research lifecycle. Notable in this chapter is advice for knowing when a librarian is crossing the line between “supporting research” and “doing research,” which can be difficult to navigate when librarians have specific data analysis skills that researchers need. Chapter 6 offers a GIS-specific example of data services, and highlights how the library is increasingly a source of “individuals with valuable expertise” in addition to space and collections.
The final section, “Research as a conversation,” covers support for the broader context of sharing and discovering research. Chapter 7 discusses a UK university’s efforts to increase deposit of faculty works in an open access repository. The author notes the importance of communicating a clear benefit to new practices even if there are existing mandates or requirements. Chapter 8 dives into a team’s experience developing an information literacy MOOC, which includes tips on project management, planning, and assembling a team that can work successfully together. Chapter 9 outlines a linked data name authority project that aims to bring consistency and reusability to names found in an institutional repository and other local sources.
This collection is highly recommended for academic librarians who are wondering how to support emerging methods of research. The case studies offer motivational and practical examples of how libraries can take incremental steps to dramatically transform and improve their digital scholarship and research support services.
Smith, A. Arro. Capturing our Stories: An Oral History of Librarianship in Translation. Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman, 2017. 9780838914618. 224 pages. $45.00
Reviewed by Ashley Fast Bailey (Director, Collection Development and Workflow Solutions, Midwestern and Southeastern US, GOBI Library Solutions)
- Arro Smith gathers professional histories of retired librarians in Capturing our Stories: An Oral History of Librarianship in Translation. Over the last few decades the field of librarianship has seen great change and transformation. The librarians that were part of ushering in the changes that the 20th century brought have a rich social memory to share. Smith, Technical Services Manager at the San Marcos Public Library, collects the stories and memories of thirty-five experienced librarians. He drew on his doctoral dissertation for this work, and his advisor, Dr. Loriene Roy, is the featured foreword writer. Not only does this work include the stories and history of past librarians, it includes advice for conducting one’s own oral history project.
Smith divides this work into two parts. Part one includes the stories and history of past librarians and part two goes into detail on his methodology and ways that one can go about conducting an oral history project. He begins this work by sharing the stories of many great experienced librarians in the field. Before diving into the common thread all librarians share, he finds out how each happened or chose to be in the field. Before the common thread of each story, which is that of library school, he finds out how each person ended up in the field. Aside from the minority who knew they wanted to be a librarian from a young age, Smith found many stories of “accidental” librarians. It was almost as if the field choose them. Despite most of the interviewees not setting out to become librarians, no one would have changed their career path.
Whether a school librarian, technical services librarian, or a reference librarian, all the interviewees had a shared memory of library school. If you’re reading this, you might have just smiled a little thinking back on your time in library school. We all took many of the same basic courses and then choose various areas within the field to dive in or specialize in. This part of the librarian journey imprints on each of us. On the road to becoming a librarian, a very interesting thread in Smith’s interviews appeared. That is cataloging classes. Whether remembered fondly or with hardship, it came up over and over in the oral history interviews.
After Smith talks about the road to deciding to be a librarian and the collective memory of library school, he goes on to explore the clichés and stereotypes in the field. Both within and outside of the profession there are clichés and stereotypes. From a shushing librarian, to personality traits across the profession, to wearing one’s hair in a bun with reading glasses, each person he talked to had comments and stories.
These experienced librarians also ushered in a new era in the library world. Most started their careers in a very paper-based and hand-written system. In fact, there were terms in the work I had never heard before. While reading I received an education in library hand and some of the precursors to the OPAC. Each librarian had a fascinating history to tell of the technology changes they experienced throughout their career. It is hard to imagine some of these changes were even just 25 years ago. These oral histories are priceless firsthand accounts of changes in our field.
Part I of Capturing our Stories concludes with a section on regrets. All the librarians that gave an oral history would not have changed their choice to enter the field of librarianship for anything, but there are a few regrets some had looking back. The book starts with the nostalgia of choosing to enter the field and library school then wraps up with reflections after retirement, and includes many fun stories of the in between. A common theme among all those interviewed was their desire to help people and to contribute positively to society. There were repetitive elements and surprises along the way. Smith wrote with an ease that made reading the stories of these experienced librarians a very entertaining experience.
Capturing our Stories: An Oral History of Librarianship in Translation concludes with a practical guide to capture the stories of oral history. Smith writes about his methodology for his dissertation project and examines the theories he used from the emerging field of memory studies. To wrap up, he provides advice and tips for conducting one’s own oral history project and a meditation on oral history work. I found this read very informative and enjoyable.