Number 77 • September/October 2010
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
CLIR Issues Now Paperless
Since the January-February 2010 issue, CLIR Issues has been produced in electronic format only. To receive the newsletter electronically, please sign up at https://www.clir.org//pubs/issues/signup.html.
Register Now for DLF Fall Forum
Registration is now open for the DLF Fall Forum, to be held November 1-3, 2010, in Palo Alto, CA. Starting with this fall’s Forum, participation is open beyond the Federation to all who are interested in contributing to and playing an active part in the successful future of digital libraries, museums and archives services, and collections. The Forum will feature presentations and panels, workshops, reading discussions, working sessions, and a tools showcase. The schedule will provide many opportunities to actively engage and network.
Registration and hotel information and a preliminary schedule are available at https://www.diglib.org/dlf-events/fall2010/. Registrations will be accepted in the order in which they are received. Attendees are responsible for making their own hotel reservations. CLIR has reserved a block of rooms at the Crowne Plaza Cabaña; register by October 1 to receive the special group rate.
New Study Shows Dire State of Sound Recording Preservation and Access
The Library of Congress (LC) National Recording Preservation Board and CLIR have just published a major study of sound recording preservation in the United States. Titled The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age, the report is the first comprehensive, national-level study of the challenges to the survival and availability of U.S. recorded sound produced since the nineteenth century. The volume includes a foreword by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.
Authors Rob Bamberger and Sam Brylawski assess the current state of sound recording archiving, preservation, and restoration activities. They provide an overview of the technical landscape, address the impact of copyright law on access and preservation, and propose the development of degree programs for recorded sound preservation and management.
The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States, commissioned for and sponsored by LC’s National Recording Preservation Board, lays the groundwork for the National Recording Preservation Plan that was mandated under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 and will be subsequently published by the Library of Congress. The National Recording Preservation Plan will make recommendations for addressing the problems revealed by the study.
A summary of findings is provided in the introduction to the study, available at https://www.clir.org//pubs/abstract/pub148abst.html.
Former Zipf Fellow Discusses Research as Google Grantee
Miles Efron is assistant professor of library and information science at the University of Illinois. A 2002 recipient of CLIR’s A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management, he recently received two Google grants: a Digital Humanities Research Award for his project, “Meeting the Challenge of Language Change in Text Retrieval with Machine Translation Techniques,” and a Research Award for “Defining and Solving Key Challenges in Microblog Search.” CLIR Special Projects Associate Alice Bishop spoke with Efron about his research and the challenges of information retrieval (IR).
CI: What is the nature of your two projects, and how do they relate to issues of information retrieval?
These projects seem very different, but they are related. One deals with long-term language change in English and access to digitized books, while the other concerns microblog search. In general, my recent work focuses on the way temporal issues bear on information access, particularly with regard to IR. In the past, we have relied primarily on topical relevance, which worked well when IR systems were operating on formal academic literature. But when the Web came along, search engines like Google recognized we needed to consider quality in addition to topical relevance. What I’m interested in is another component that is present in any retrieval setting—time. Temporal issues have been present in IR since the beginning, but they haven’t been fully exploited. So with the Google Books project, I’m interested in the question of how we can account for temporal changes in English. For example, how can we allow for a query in twentieth-century English to retrieve passages from books in earlier centuries, like the sixteenth, when the English language was very different? English is a constantly changing language, and this change has a strong bearing on retrieval.
With the microblog grant, the issue of time is pertinent in a different way. If you go to the Twitter search engine, the main ranking criterion is temporal. The newest tweets are shown first. Time clearly plays a role in microblog searching, but what role should that be? For example, you might be searching for information about a past conference. In that case, you might want to see only tweets posted during the conference itself and not the most recent ones. It is pretty easy to match query words in a tweet, but we need to think of how we can aggregate the information to make individual units more compelling. For example, if you take conversations on a particular topic, argument, or opinion, you have to identify those conversations based on how individual posts come in over time. My project seeks to take advantage of the temporal nature of microblogs to construct useful units of data.
CI: Studies routinely show that students put the most stock in the order of query results, not necessarily in the information or its veracity. How will your research address this issue?
Both grants address the idea that what constitutes a query is really up for
grabs. Students are used to typing a few words into a small search box and
glancing down the first 10 results. In new search systems, such as those
that might evolve for book repositories or microblogs, I hope that we’ll be
able to articulate a more highly contextualized understanding of information
needs than standard key word queries offer.
CI: If you were designing a microblog system today, how would it differ from Twitter?
First, I would keep the posts that people create in the index as long as possible. Right now I presume that the volume and financial constraints prohibit tweets from being kept visible for more than several weeks. Because Twitter predicates searches on the most recent material of most interest, it makes sense that they would economize by taking older tweets out of their index. But that means a lot of valuable historical information is being lost. For example, if we did a query for “CLIR” and examined all the posts that have been generated over time, we could learn quite a lot. I was very glad when the Library of Congress decided to acquire the Twitter archive as a way of keeping historical data.
The second thing I would change is the mode of following people and having people follow you because it’s too restrictive. I might be interested in only some of the tweets for person X; someone else might feel just the opposite. I would like to follow this person but only with respect to topics that are relevant to me. So I would allow people to follow others’ streams “partially” and based on shared interests. Why should these relationships be binary?
The third and final thing I would implement is an effective way to recommend people you might want to follow. Twitter rolled out a version of this recently, but a better friend-recommender system would be useful.
All these ideas are feasible. The matter of storing tweets is daunting in one sense. But then you think of a company like Google, which keeps cached versions of billions of Web pages on hand, and you realize that it’s a simply a matter of allocating resources and having the will. There is every likelihood that a more sophisticated recommender system for people will be created.
One thing that’s interesting and accounts for Twitter’s success is that they have been very open with data. People interact with Twitter with a variety of clients, TweetDeck, for example, so the recommender system might be implemented by someone outside. We can write our own software based on Twitter’s API to provide new ways to interact with Twitter data. So one way or another, whether Twitter or a third party does it, the three features I mentioned are likely to show up within the next several years.
CI: What have we learned over the past five years about users’ ability to retrieve information, and what lessons are there for libraries and schools of information?
There is evidence that people are willing to pose longer, more detailed queries in some emerging environments. Queries in Web searching are usually one, two, or three words long, but as search engines become more sophisticated and as people interact in different situations (spoken queries over phones, for example), they are posing much richer queries. So there is considerable interest now in researching longer queries in the Web search domain.
In academic libraries, we’ve seen advances in federated searches over the last few years. In some sense, libraries have become victims of their own success in that their services have become almost transparent: when people find journal articles online, they don’t realize that service is provided by their library. It’s easy to take searches for granted. Students are using library resources without knowing that the library is funding and managing those resources.
CI: What role should academic libraries play in enhancing users’ ability to retrieve information?
I’d love to see libraries act as innovators in IR research. We rely a lot on off-the-shelf search software for obvious reasons, but this imposes a ceiling on what our retrieval systems can do. I see interesting shifts toward more experimental modes of access, especially in the realm of institutional repositories. There are some novel modes of access in this area, but I’d like to see more, and certainly more public, published research from libraries.
Here’s an example: an active area in IR research is “expert finding,” or locating a person who has expertise on a given topic. In other words, the unit of retrieval is not a document, such as a book or article, but a person.
People in academic libraries could offer real innovations in the domain of expert finding. Academic libraries serve unique user needs that frame the problem; they also tend to have large amounts of data. By engaging in IR research, libraries could extend their impact in many ways. In so doing, they would not only help define what IR should be but, more importantly, they would become more active in extending the palette of services they offer to their constituencies.
CLIR and CIC Present Workshop on Work Restructuring in the Library
By Lori Miller
On July 7-8, 2010, CLIR and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) sponsored a workshop on work restructuring in the library as part of the “Leadership through New Communities of Knowledge” program. This workshop was among the first opportunities offered through an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)-funded grant, which provides professional development opportunities for library staff from small-to-midsize private colleges and universities. Nineteen library directors hailing from institutions across the country met in Indianapolis under the guidance of Maureen Sullivan, founder of Maureen Sullivan Associates, a noted expert in library work redesign, and 2010 American Council of Learned Societies Academic Research Librarian of the Year.
The librarians in attendance confirmed that work restructuring is becoming a crucial issue for their institutions. As higher education reacts to the recession, some libraries are being forced to eliminate staff positions, either through retirement-driven attrition or outright layoffs. The latter may be difficult to implement for institutions that offer tenure to librarians. In addition, the trend in the library profession toward rethinking the traditional division between public and technical services has not bypassed smaller college libraries. When contemplating work redesign, such libraries may be just as likely as their larger counterparts to have to reassess that dichotomy. Moreover, smaller college libraries, like employers in the public and private sectors, are beginning to confront baby boomer retirements; in the words of one workshop participant, issues of “succession planning” are beginning to loom large. Finally, some libraries at small colleges employ so few people—in the case of one workshop participant, a grand total of three—that any contemplation of reassigning work duties raises serious logistical problems.
Against this backdrop, Sullivan provided an introduction to the general principles of work redesign and their applicability to smaller academic libraries. Key steps in a work-restructuring effort, according to Sullivan, are (1) clarifying the library’s purpose; (2) analyzing customer service; (3) analyzing inputs and suppliers; (4) identifying key work activities and processes; and (5) analyzing work. She led exercises designed to help participants formulate goals in order to prepare their libraries for work restructuring. Throughout the two-day workshop, participants worked in small groups to compare their evolving goals.
Heather Ricciuti, Bethany College, and Andrew Whitis, Defiance College, discuss
their libraries’ missions at the CLIR-CIC workshop.
One of Sullivan’s fundamental principles is that “the best approach is one that assumes a systems-thinking perspective—all work is under review.” Although it may be difficult to discard the idea that some work processes are sacrosanct, success in work redesign is hard to achieve without reassessing each key work process currently undertaken in one’s library. If one is able to “distinguish between the essential work and the expendable work,” then paths to successful work restructuring will become clearer, she said. Opinions among library staff about what is “essential” and what is “expendable” may differ widely, but abstract discussions about that distinction will go more smoothly if one uses the imperative to “design the work processes and flow . . . before you address the human resource issues and needs” as a touchstone, Sullivan maintained.
Sullivan suggested process mapping in consultation with a group of staff as one means to evaluate key library work activities. In process mapping, each person works individually and silently to list steps in a key work activity. In this workshop, participants used sticky notes to list each step as they envisioned it. Then, in small groups, they reviewed and organized the notes to decide how the work could be best organized and performed.
Participants in the workshop on restructuring in the
library devise a process map for teaching information literacy and use.
Because Sullivan’s guidelines include customer-service analysis, she asked workshop participants to reflect on who their “customers” are now and who their future customers will be. Members generally agreed that students were the primary focus and faculty a secondary focus. While discussing trends in student learning styles, Sullivan cited the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013, which highlights generational differences in students’ frames of reference. For instance, first-year college students who were born after 1991, she noted, have probably never used a card catalog to find a book.
A virtual follow-up session for workshop participants will take place this fall. Information about future opportunities available through the Leadership through New Communities of Knowledge program can be found on CLIR’s Web site at https://www.clir.org//activities/leadershipCLIRCIC/index.html.
No Brief Candle Overview Available in Arabic
An overview of No Brief Candle: Reconceiving Research Libraries for the 21st Century, a 2008 CLIR publication, is now available in Arabic on CLIR’s Web site. The translation comprises Part I of the report, including the introduction, context and topic threads, summary of challenges and constraints, and recommendations for higher education leadership. CLIR will post a Chinese version of the same text in September.
These are the first in a series of translations of selected works that CLIR will publish in the coming year. In making the translations available, CLIR hopes to facilitate broader international discussion of trends and topics that have global importance.
“The new posting in Arabic of selections drawn from No Brief Candle—soon to be followed by a Chinese version—marks a milestone in CLIR’s and DLF’s international mission,” said CLIR President Chuck Henry. “As noted in many of our studies, the challenges facing libraries and higher education are global in context and cannot be resolved by the efforts of a single nation. Our knowledge environment is inextricably linked and interconnected, and must be understood as a complex commons with shared responsibility,” he added.
“Many non-English-speaking communities are making remarkable efforts to redefine libraries and universities for the 21st century. I hope that CLIR’s translated works will serve as an invitation for these communities to work with us to better address the transformational changes we face and to build an exciting future that transcends terrestrial demarcations,” said Henry.
To view the translation, go to https://www.clir.org//pubs/abstract/pub142abst.html.
Hidden Collections Project Finds Valuable Arabic Manuscript
A graduate student working on a project supported by CLIR’s Hidden Collections program has found an autograph volume by the Egyptian writer al-Maqrizi in the University of Michigan collection of Islamic manuscripts.
Noah Gardiner, a third-year graduate student in Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan, is a member of a team that is recataloging and digitizing the university’s Islamic manuscripts.
The following account of the discovery was published in the University of Michigan’s most recent Department of Near Eastern Studies Newsletter:
In early April, Noah set to work on a manuscript of Volume 3 of al-Mawa’iz wal-i’tibar fi dhikr al-khitat wal-athar (or al-Khitat), a well-known work on the topography of Cairo and the history of Egypt. The author of the work is the famous and prolific Egyptian writer al-Maqrizi (1364-1442). This particular manuscript belongs to the A. S. Yahuda Collection and has been in our Library for decades. However, like most of these manuscripts, it was incompletely and sparsely catalogued and described. Noah soon noticed a discrepancy: while the paper seemed right for the late Mamluk era (when Maqrizi lived), the handwriting did not. Then Noah noticed a blank space left for a date on folio 4a, a number of sewn-in inserts with additional bits of text in the manuscript’s primary hand, and quite a few blank spaces and pages. Noah recalled having read articles on
“Maqriziana” by Frédéric Bauden of the University of Liège. By referring
to these articles, Noah and the Project Cataloger Evyn Kropf were able to
compare the manuscript with known examples of al-Maqrizi’s own
handwriting—which turns out to have been distinctive and unusual. On this
basis, Noah and Evyn established a perfect match. In other words, this
manuscript turns out to be a Maqrizi holograph, a copy of the work written in
the author’s own hand. It does contain additions and repairs written in later
hands, but the original text can be ascribed to Maqrizi, acting here as both
author and scribe.
The full newsletter article is available at http://www.umich.edu/~neareast/newsletter2008-2010.pdf. A full description of the manuscript is available at http://mirlyn-classic.lib.umich.edu/F/?func=direct&doc_number=006805510&local_base=AA_PUB
Now Accepting Applications for . . .
• Frye Leadership Institute
The Frye Leadership Institute is now accepting applications for the 2011 session. The 2011 session will be held June 5-10 in Atlanta, GA. Applications are due by 5:00 pm EST November 12, 2010.
The Frye Leadership Institute provides continuing education for individuals who hold positions that make them responsible for transforming the management of scholarly information in institutions of higher education. The program seeks to address challenges in higher education through examination of a variety of topics, and to empower librarians and information technologists to initiate conversations and act on issues of importance not only to their own institutions but also to the entire higher education community. For more information, visit http://www.fryeinstitute.org.
• Mellon Fellowships for Dissertation Research in Original Sources
This year, CLIR will award about 15 fellowships to support dissertation research in original source material. Each fellowship lasts between 9 to 12 months and carries a stipend of up to $25,000. Applicants must be enrolled in a doctoral program in a graduate school in the United States. They must have completed all doctoral requirements except their dissertation research and be ready to start that research between June 1 and September 1, 2011. Their dissertation proposals must have been accepted by April 1, 2011.
Complete applications must be submitted using CLIR’s online application form by 5:00 pm EST November 15, 2010.
Fellowship awards will be announced on April 1, 2011.
More information on eligibility and application forms are available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/mellon/.
• Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship
The Rovelstad Scholarship is awarded annually to a student of library and information science to attend the World Library and Information Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The 2011 IFLA annual meeting will take place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 13-18.
Applicants must have an interest in international library work, be enrolled in an accredited school of library and information sciences at the time of the 2011 IFLA meeting, and be citizens or permanent residents of the United States.
Additional information about the fellowship and links to the application form are available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/rovelstad/. The application deadline is January 21, 2011. Recipients will be notified by April 8, 2011.
• A. R. Zipf Fellowship
The $10,000 A. R. Zipf Fellowship is awarded annually to a student who is enrolled in graduate school, is in the early stages of study, and who shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management. Applicants must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Additional information about the fellowship and links to the application form are available at https://www.clir.org//fellowships/zipf/zipf.html.
The application deadline is March 31, 2011. The award recipient will be notified by May 27, 2011.