September 2008

Information about an information package making it easier to discover, retrieve, use, and manage:

While thinking about the connections between library research and service today, I came across “Digital Library Research and Digital Library Practice: How do they inform each other?” by Saracevic and Dalbello. It’s a qualitative study looking at the “visible” or expressed relationships between digital library projects and research projects. According to their research, there has been either a real disconnect between digital libraries and research or a lack of expression of the connection between these projects. The PDF is available through open access E-LIS. I noticed that E-LIS provides a handy service to users, saving their time (Ranganathan’s fourth!), by providing links to references. It looks like they either link directly to the article (like D-Lib) or to Google Scholar. A resource mentioned in the paper is D-Lib’s monthly “Featured Collections” that showcases particular digital collections and libraries.

I read Nesdill’s “Atkinson’s Control Zone: Ten Years Later” today. I see that the paper is dedicated to the memory of Ross Atkinson. I wonder if he were alive today, he might reconsider the terms he used to describe the library’s role in scholarly publishing. The connotations of the “control zone” term seem the opposite of what we are now trying to achieve. Today, we give these systems titles that imply quite the opposite like “open access” and “open archives initiative.” Maybe it would be appropriate to call these the “organized zones” or the “quality zones” as opposed to the the “untidy zones” or the “suspect zones.” She provides an nice graphic (fig. 1), though it would be interesting to see her take on unpublished, self-archived items like preprints, thesis, dissertations, course materials, learning objects, and institutional records, and how they might enter the “zone.”

Personally, I think the shift to open access is unavoidable, and it’s a change that we might embrace and foster. For another class, I’ve been reading Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science and Cleveland’s “The Twilight of Hierarchy: Speculations on the Global Information Society.” I think both of these authors make points that are applicable here. Wheatley draws on natural science to inform organizational practices and states, “However long we may drag our feet, we will be forced to accept that information- freely generated and freely exchanged- is our only hope for organization. If we fail to recognize its generative properties, we will be unable to manage in this new world.” Commenting on the implications of a global information society Cleveland writes, “information by nature cannot give rise to exchange transactions, only to sharing transactions. Things are exchanged: if I give you a flower or sell you my automobile, you have it and I don’t. But if I sell you an idea or give you a fact, we both have it.” If information is a different animal (and it appears that it is), then it will require that we treat it differently than we have treated other commodities. We may have to adapt to its intrinsic characteristics. Open access might be an adaptation to the nature of information.

I’ve yet to have a brilliant (or even a good) idea for the content of my digital collection assignment this semester. I thought I might go through a resource that I’ve used in the past to help plan a collection with predetermined content. I’m hoping that if I think through NISO’s “Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections” an idea might form. The introduction to the framework reflects a couple of points that have been made in this class and others:

1. The collection may consist of items that are born digital or it may be digital objects that represent analog items.

What this means for my assignment: I can create a collection of digital items for the content, or I need to find physical items that warrant digitization for the content.

2. The collection should be reliable and authoritative, but “also compelling and useful to a wide range of users wherever they live, work, and play.”

What this means for my assignment: I should create or find reliable content, but it may be geared toward an audience’s personal or professional interests.

I also need to keep in mind a couple of NISO’s principles at this juncture:

1. Objects Principle 6: A good object has associated metadata.

What this means for my assignment: For now, I’m thinking about descriptive metadata. I need enough information about the items in the collection to be able to describe them.

2. Collections Principle 5: A good collection respects intellectual property rights.

What this means for my assignment: I need to think about the copyright status of any potential items.

We are to propose and to potentially begin building a digital collection for class this semester. Although we can use other applications, open source Omeka has been suggested. I went to their website today, read the information there, looked at the director’s (not of the project but of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University- where the software platform was launched) blog entry on the project, viewed a video at code4lib, and attempted to play around in the sandbox a bit. I like that it uses the Dublin Core (DC) metadata structure (as I’m somewhat familiar with it) and that it incorporates 2.0 technologies like tagging and syndicating. In the video, it’s interesting to note that the two young developers see Omeka, in its current state, as more about content publishing than content management. I have seen DC criticized in the past for lacking rigor. On the other hand, it is an interoperable standard, and it meets OAI-PMH guidelines. In the sandbox, I looked at many of the wordpress-esque features like plug-ins and themes and explored the other tabs. Overall, It seems simple and user-friendly. That said, I have a hard time casting a critical eye at this juncture. I’ll be able to evaluate it more thoroughly when I really get my hands dirty.