Friday, September 15, 2017

The 1.5 Factor

FractionsWhen we place content online, either through digitization or the creation of new digital works, we have no idea how people will use it.  Yes, we know how we want them to use it, but we don't always know how people really use it. 

Do they consume the content in the order we expect?

Do they listen, watch or read the entire piece?

Do they follow the links or resources which we provide?

This summer, I recorded all of the video lectures which will be used in my class this fall.  After the lectures were created, I had to then watch them all in order to check their quality.  And I did what I frequently do when I listen to podcasts, I changed the speed to 1.5 or 2x normal.  Yes, even I am understandable if you listen to me at twice my normal speaking speed!

Everyone who creates content makes an assumption about its use.  While my assumption in recording the lectures was that students would watch them at their normal speed, I proved to myself that my assumption didn't need to be true. 

I actually don't like hour long podcasts, but what it I realized that I'm going to listen to it in half the time?  I have yet to ingrain my 1.5 reality into how I select what to listen to.  If I did, I'd recognize that those long podcasts really aren't that long and I would begin to consume a broader range of content.

What are your assumptions as you create digital content?  As a consumer of content, what are you doing which might alter your assumptions? Could altering your assumptions expand your horizons?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Article: The ‘time machine’ reconstructing ancient Venice’s social networks

Through this article in Nature, about an extensive program in Venice (Italy), we can see a wonderful use of digitization and machine learning.
[Frédéric Kaplan] has an ambition to capture well over 1,000 years of records in dynamic digital form, encompassing the glorious era of the Most Serene Republic of Venice. The project, which he calls the Venice Time Machine, will scan documents including maps, monographs, manuscripts and sheet music. It promises not only to open up reams of hidden history to scholars, but also to enable the researchers to search and cross-reference the information, thanks to advances in machine-learning technologies.
If you're not interested in reading the article, then watch this short video (2.5 minutes).


Thanks to both Chad Harper and David Vampola for sharing this article with me.  

Friday, September 01, 2017

Are you digtizing what is true?

1940 Census publicity photo
1940 Census publicity photo
We - the global we - are digitizing our history, including birth, death, marriage, census and other records for a vast number of people.  Ancestry.com looks at these records and uses OCR and algorithms to make sense of them.  However, there are problems.  Records from the late 1800s and early 1900s are handwritten, which can make them difficult to interpret.  Using the information about the age of the person at the census leads to a guess about the year that person was born, and the guess has a 50% chance of being correct.  Then there is the problem of names and if the name is correct. 100 years ago, people knew who each other were and didn't care if the name was misspelled, or if the name was just wrong.  However, now all of these potential errors are causing problems.

We cannot go through every line of data that is being digitized, compare it to other data, and then correct it.  While the data would be more accurate, the process would be too time-consuming and costly.  Ancestry.com (and I'm sure other sites) allow people to compile information and make corrections on their "copy."  This is a wonderful solution, if the person knows the data is wrong, but what if the person has no idea?

This topic came to mind because I'm researching my family tree and the data isn't always close to being accurate. Thankfully, I know enough about the family tree to be able to make intelligence decisions about the data I'm using (or so I hope).  But I cannot go in and correct what I know is blatantly wrong and that is frustrating.

If you are digitizing material today and making it available, or even archiving born digital materials:
  • How do you know that the information is accurate?  
  • What do you need to tell people about the data, which might help them understand its potential lack of accuracy?  
  • Can you build-in a feedback mechanism that would allow people to provide corrections?
Site of Steinway Hall, W. 57th (LOC)
Site of Steinway Hall, W. 57th
Yes, I know people are thinking about this.  I also know that people are creating systems that do allow for user-generated comments, descriptions, and tagging.  People are also doing this on the Internet in places like Flickr.  You see this, for example, with the historic photos that have been uploaded by the Library of Congress.  If you check the photo on the right, you'll see interesting and useful comments. Can we do more of this?



Thursday, August 24, 2017

Personal: "Long Days Held Close to the Heart" & What's next for Jill

Three MSLIS students and Jill Hurst-Wahl
After five years, I have stepped down from being director of the MSLIS program at Syracuse University.  If you work in academia, then you'll recognize this as being quite normal.  If you're not in academia, let me tell you this is quite normal!  No one stays the director of a program forever. At some point, that person returns to being "just faculty."  I am making that transition joyfully!  In celebration of the change, I wrote an article for the iSchool blog and print publication entitled "Long Days Held Close to the Heart."  If you want to know more about what I've been doing, that will give you a peek. You might also read this post, which I wrote after my first semester as director.

So what's next for me, besides fewer emails and fewer meetings? 
  • My teaching load is lighter this year, in order to give me time and space to dig into my areas of interest.  However, teaching-wise I've been developing a graduate class title "Collection Development and Access", which I will teach in October and then April.  (This class had been irregularly taught in the past and will now be taught twice per year online in 11-week quarters.)  I've developed this class from scratch and have put more work into it then you can imagine!  
  • I have scheduled webinars and workshops beginning in December on a variety of topics including copyright, advocacy, providing services outside of the physical library, and training failures.  I am especially looking forward to the events on copyright, because I'll be speaking to library staff, who really need that knowledge.
  • I'll spend time doing things in the community, which I've not been able to do.  Last week, it was working a Multicultural Fair for children. This Sunday, it will be working the NYS Library Booth at the New York State Fair.  After that, who knows!
If you have been wanting to talk with me about a project idea or a workshop idea, and haven't done it, now is the time! Visit my web site and use any of those methods to contact me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Upping Your Library Intelligence: Vacuum and Use

Thinking statues
Thinking
In this final post in this series, I think it is important to talk about two things: vacuum and use.

This series has given you ways of increasing your library intelligence.  Wherever you are in the library and information science field, you need to continue to increase your knowledge of the field. You also need to increase your knowledge of what is happening in other areas.

If your library is expected to react to the world around it, then knowing what is happening around you is important.  You cannot live in a vacuum.  You cannot make the library your fortress against outside forces. You cannot ignore what is happening out in the community.  You must be aware of what is happening and take time to learn about non-LIS things.

Take time to understand what is happening in your larger community - whatever that community might be.  What are its issues, concerns, or joys?  What is changing or needs to be changed?  What's happening with the budget, land use, etc.?  What are people protesting and why?  Learn this so that when you need the information or a point of reference, you have it.  Learn this so if something occurs that requires the library to act, you can do so quickly.

You can learn what's happening outside of the library through interacting with your community and your larger organization. You should also be paying attention to the news sources, which are relevant for your community.  While you may be unable to read, listen, or watch everything that is relevant, you can read headlines and table of contents, and then read any articles that seems particularly useful.  You might want to attend relevant meetings or information sessions in your community, as a way of learning more about what your community is discussing.  Of course, don't forget that social media can help you stay on top of what your community is discussing. Just be sure that you're hearing from multiple sides on an issue.

As for use, this new knowledge which you have garnered is only effective if you utilize it.  Be willing to be part of library conversations, whether that is with LIS students, LIS professionals, or members of your larger community.  Share what you know about libraries but remember:
  • Do not use library jargon.  Please don't use library jargon with members of your larger community, because if you use words that they do not understand, they will just stop listening to you.  Limit your use of library jargon with other members of the LIS profession, because the breadth of the profession means that we all don't actually understand each other's jargon.
  • Listen.  The saying is that you have two ears and only one mouth, so you'll listen twice as long as you speak.  When you listen, you will actually have a better idea of what you should be talking about.  If you're unclear about what you should be saying, ask open ended questions.  By the way, some members of our community are rarely listened to.  Being willing to listen actively and openly is a wonderful gift.
  • Acknowledge that you don't know everything.  There will always be topics that you don't understand.  If it is a topic that you really do need to know more about, use your library skills to learn about it.
When I started this series, my main focus was on LIS students, but it quickly broadened to other members of the LIS profession.  In addition, the topics in this series grew more than I anticipated.  I'm sure there is more to say, but I will stop here.  If you have comments, questions, concerns, or ideas, I hope that you will post them as a comment.  If you have found this series useful, please comment and tell me why.  (I enjoy good news!)  And if you know someone who should read this series, please pass it along to them.

Previous posts in this series:

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