Number 83 • September/October 2011
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
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Linked data holds great promise for cultural heritage institutions as a means for crowdsourcing and enhancing the multifaceted cultural metadata that drives their enterprise. For libraries, archives, and museums, linked data holds the potential to move our collections out of their silos, to leverage the knowledge capital represented by our collections, and to enrich our information landscape. But what is “linked data,” and how is it different from “linked open data”? How can cultural heritage institutions use and publish it? How does it go from concept to practice? It becomes clear, very quickly, that linked data is a complex, interwoven concept that often confuses more than guides us in the pursuit of enhanced metadata management.
In June 2011, Stanford University hosted a group of librarians and technologists to examine issues and challenges surrounding the use of linked data for library applications. A report of the workshop, produced by Stanford University Libraries, is now available at https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub152/. The report summarizes the activities and discussions that took place during the workshop, describes what came out of the workshop, outlines next steps identified by the participants, and provides contextual and background information, including preliminary reports and biographies of workshop participants.
As background for workshop participants, CLIR commissioned Jerry Persons, technology analyst at Knowledge Motifs and Chief Information Architect emeritus at Stanford, to produce a survey of the linked-data landscape, and the projects and individuals associated with it. The survey focuses on the practical aspects of understanding and applying linked data practices and technologies to the metadata and content of libraries, museums, and archives. There are numerous links in the report and the survey that lead readers to many other sources and examples regarding the use of linked data methods.
The workshop and survey were supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, by CLIR, and by the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources.
A new report in CLIR’s Ruminations series examines how libraries can help Ph.D. students in the humanities succeed in their degree programs. “Supporting Humanities Doctoral Student Success: A Collaborative Project between Cornell University Library and Columbia University Libraries” reports on the results of an ethnographic user needs study at the two institutions. The report authors are Gabriela Castro Gessner and Kornelia Tancheva of Cornell University Libraries, Damon Jaggars of Columbia University Library, and Jennifer Rutner, formerly at Columbia University Libraries and currently at Ithaka S+R.
“It is well documented that doctoral students in the humanities take longer to complete their programs and drop out at a higher rate than do students in the sciences and social sciences,” write the authors. Noting that several large-scale projects have studied the issue, the authors sought to better understand user needs at their own institutions, and whether their libraries could do more to influence student success.
The investigators interviewed pre- and post-exam doctoral students at Cornell and Columbia. An initial round of focus groups informed the interview protocols; the study results are based on an analysis of the interviews and the results of written questionnaires.
This study revealed five broad areas of interest to doctoral students in the humanities concerning the challenges they face in completing their academic programs.
- The importance of space for individual study as well as group activities.
- The need for communities of support for promoting their academic success and emotional well-being.
- The need for access to deep research collections. Most voiced satisfaction with the information resources available to them, but their attitudes about e-books, e-readers, and the transition to e-content were mixed.
- A desire for research, information management, and teaching expertise assistance. Students expressed varied opinions about the continued utility of librarians, while also communicating their need for assistance with information management strategies and their frustration with citation management applications. They also need guidance on how to search for grant or fellowship opportunities outside their own institution.
- The need for support in developing scholarly identity. Students conveyed their concerns about project and time management, publishing and professional engagement, and their confidence in themselves as developing scholars.
The authors list opportunities in each of these areas for libraries to support doctoral students in the humanities. For example, they suggest providing dedicated spaces for doctoral students that promote academic and social community building; serving as a repository of sample collections of academic documentation and offering guidelines or best practices for preparing reading lists or prospectuses; making channels for graduate students’ purchase suggestions more visible; and taking advantage of events sponsored by academic departments and libraries as occasions for librarians to interact with graduate students and promote library services.
The study was supported by grants from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, CLIR, and funding from the two universities’ graduate school.
The Plenary Meeting for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was held October 21 in Washington, DC. Organized by the DPLA Secretariat at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and hosted by The National Archives, the meeting brought together diverse stakeholders in an open forum to present the vision for the DPLA effort, share the best ideas and models submitted to the BetaSprint, and engage public participation.
Among the BetaSprint submissions was a prototype from CLIR’s DLF Program and The Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS) at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. The prototype leverages the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Digital Collections and Content (IMLS DCC) resource and DLF Aquifer content as a core collection for the DPLA. The IMLS DCC, launched in 2003, is an aggregation of digital collections from libraries, museums, and archives, supported by IMLS and developed through a collaboration between CIRSS and the University of Illinois Library.
“The prototype leverages work done over the last 15 years,” said DLF Program Director Rachel Frick. “There was a shared sense that in building the DPLA, we can benefit from past work in infrastructure, research, and aggregations—that we have many pieces from which we can go forward.”
Going forward will be aided greatly by contributions from the Sloan Foundation and the Arcadia Fund, each of which has pledged $2.5 million to support work over the next 18 months. An additional $1 million has been pledged by private sources.
Six workstream groups are managing development work: Audience & Participation, Content & Scope, Financial/Business Models, Governance, Legal and Policy, and Technical Aspects. Two cochairs lead each group, which also includes “convenors” who represent different communities and serve as a communication bridge between their communities and members of the working group. Frick, who cochairs the Content & Scope workstream group with Amy Ryan of Boston Public Library, notes that communication across groups will be critical. “A key challenge is to ensure that we’re walking in step with other workstreams,” she said. Toward that end, each group will have representatives from other groups present at their meetings.
Workstream members met the day before the plenary to discuss priorities, strategy, and approach for their work. A next round of meetings will be held in January, and Frick expects to meet four or five times more over the next 18 months.
The DPLA is on the agenda for the upcoming DLF Forum, to be held October 31–November 1 in Baltimore. Keynote speaker David Weinberger, author of the forthcoming book, Too Big to Know, will talk about issues of scale in digital libraries. A panel titled “A Digital Library for Everyone: Designing for Collaboration and Innovation,” involving public and academic librarians, will follow.
As part of its work on the DPLA BetaSprint, CLIR/DLF will publish a report later this year that reviews current literature pertaining to the technical aspects of large-scale collection aggregations and federations. Compiled by Geneva Henry of Rice University, the report will review and compare the system architectures, content types, and scale of content of the DCC, Europeana, the National Science Digital Library, and other aggregations to shed light on how and why large-scale aggregation projects succeed or fail. The report will also identify potential content providers for the DPLA, and will estimate the time, effort, and other costs required to ingest these resources into the prototype.
Frick hopes that in the months ahead, DLF will serve as a place where people can learn about and discuss DPLA. “DLF is trying to help people make sense of what the DPLA initiative is, how they can participate, and how they can help enrich what is happening,” she said.
By Karen Schneider
Some 95 librarians, information specialists, and higher-education administrators gathered at “The Future of the Liberal Arts College Library,” a symposium held October 10–12 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The symposium, organized by CLIR in cooperation with the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), was made possible through support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Attendees came from as near as colleges in the Milwaukee area to as far away as Pakistan.
Victor Ferrall, author of Liberal Arts at the Brink and former president of Beloit College, gave a rousing opening keynote address at Alverno College in which he cautioned his audience that liberal arts education was under threat from forces large and small, with too much emphasis on “vocational” degrees at the expense of the more abstract but richer benefits of a liberal-arts education. Ferrall’s keynote was preceded by a tour of Alverno College and a guided conversation led by Alverno College Library Director Carol Brill.
The symposium format emphasized attendee participation. At the opening session, symposium conveners asked attendees “to explain what they most wanted to get out of the conference,” using removable reminder notes that were posted near the registration desk. These ideas were shared with session moderators and note-takers, who then blended this information into participant-focused “Ideas of the Hour”—open-ended forums in which participants generated the topics—and also included these ideas in moderated conversations on topics of high interest in higher education, such as distance education, marketing to users, working with faculty, preparing for accreditation visits, globalization, and collaborating with untraditional partners.
Making the most of limited resources was a theme that ran through many of the sessions. At the session “Marketing the Small Academic Library,” moderated by Greta Grond of Northwestern College (Minnesota), attendees shared practical tips for growing library development opportunities. Most agreed on the value of working with development offices and in building strong channels of communication with development officers. Several librarians shared the positive outcomes of ensuring a development officer was represented on their libraries’ advisory boards.
Grantwriting was also the focus of an Idea of the Hour session moderated by Gary Thompson of Siena College (New York). Amy Lucko and Christa Williford of CLIR, as well as CLIR President Charles Henry, were on hand to engage in the conversation and provide insights into the grant-seeking process. Thompson opened the discussion by encouraging libraries to tell their tales of collaboration, which ranged from early pioneering efforts with OCLC and other bibliographic utilities to initiatives such as the Center for Norbertine Studies at St. Norbert’s (Wisconsin), which offers events and lectures designed around history and heritage of the Norbertine order. Many attendees mentioned print-to-digital initiatives and digital repositories.
CLIR staff offered a number of crucial insights into the grant-seeking process, such as selecting collaboration partners carefully; including student workers in grant projects, particularly for CLIR grants; clearly identifying the educational component of grants; and talking with scholars from other institutions to get an external perspective on what you’re trying to accomplish. CLIR staff underscored the importance of contacting grant program officers early in the process, and whenever possible, submitting drafts for early input. Lucko and Williford also suggested investigating grants that are not applied for as much as others, such as preservation grants.
Henry shared his insights about the nascent Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), observing that “there is too much talent not to do it,” and adding that some of the exciting work around DPLA included developing algorithms for assessing humanities artifacts. Henry noted that there could be powerful development opportunities around DPLA-focused initiatives. Several attendees noted that there were strong similarities between the early days of OCLC and the emergence of DPLA, in that both efforts were focused on improving access through uniting small collections into major digital presences.
The closing keynote was by Jessamyn West, librarian and author of Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide. Tying together all the themes at the symposium, West called on librarians to remember the realities of income and class on library users, and to stay focused on the eternal value of libraries.
Karen Schneider is library director at Holy Names University. She also writes the blog, Free Range Librarian
The Frye Leadership Institute is now accepting applications for the 2012 session, to be held Sunday, June 3–Friday, June 8 at the Hotel Palomar in Washington, DC. Applications are due by 5:00 pm EST on Friday, December 16, 2011.
Established in 2000, the Frye Leadership Institute is the premier senior leadership development experience for chief information officers, librarians, information technology professionals, and administrators in higher education. Participants are selected competitively from among applicants who have at least seven years’ experience in the field and have demonstrated a commitment to, and talent for, leadership within the academy. Attributes of successful candidates include the willingness to explore different models and take risks, the capacity to understand the environment outside one’s immediate surroundings, and the ability to apply critical and creative thinking to problem solving. The 2012 Frye fellows will join a trusted peer network of more than 475 professionals from around the country and the world.
The Frye Leadership Institute is sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), EDUCAUSE and Emory University. For more information about the Institute, including tuition and scholarships, please visit the Institute’s website.