Posts filed under ‘Libraries’

Flickr and Library of Congress

Kim photoI’ve only recently started putting my photos on Flickr as I’ve been using another photo sharing site. Seems the Library of Congress is the same as me: a late starter on Flickr. Whilst rummaging around on Flickr, I found the Library of Congress is making copyright-free images and photos of historical and cultural interest available so that the public can tag content. It’s a pilot project but there’s already some amazing stuff:

  • the 1930s and 1940s in colour collection
  • 1500 photos from 1900-1920 New York depicting disasters, sports events, strikes and celebrities (yep, even way back then, we were celebrity-obsessed apparently)

And what is really exciting is that a trio of photos had been incorrectly labelled by the Library of Congress as images from the administration of Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. A user was browsing through the online collection of photos and alerted the Library to the high probability that the photos were from 1865 and therefore from the Lincoln administration. The Library checked the negatives and confirmed that the podium shown in the photos was that of Lincoln and not Grant.

According to the Library of Congress blog, there are more than 14 million photos and other visual materials but the project is starting off modestly with the two collections mentioned above. The Library is hoping that key information sometimes missing from photos, such as who took the photo or where the photo was taken, will be provided by the public tagging items.

Flickr has created a new publication model for publicly held photographic collections called “The Commons”. If you want to participate, here’s the FAQ site.

I spent hours on the Library of Congress Flickr site. Here are just some of the images that caught my eye and I’m tempted to answer the question “How would you tag this photo?”:

There’s something about the power and drama of an old black and white photo that (IMHO) modern DSLRs can’t quite match. Have a browse through the collection – you’ll wonder what people’s lives were like and you’ll become caught up in the history and stories.

Source: Los Angeles Times


January 29, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Secrecy and surveillance: twin evils

Kim photoTold you this week would be all about surveillance. Two ThinkingShift readers have alerted me to articles about declining freedoms and librarians up in arms over surveillance. Firstly, Andrew M sent a link to an article from ABC News about press freedom declining. Apparently, there’s a “subtle shift” towards secrecy in Australia. I would say it’s pretty overt actually. Irene Moss, former NSW Ombudsman, has conducted an independent audit. She reviewed legislation and practices related to free speech issues affecting the media in Australia.

And guess what? The state of free speech and media freedom is “being whittled away by gradual and sometimes almost imperceptible degrees”. The report points the finger at general access to information where governments should be more open and accountable; the growing use of spin and the raising of barriers to mask information rather than reveal it – suggesting that the free flow of information is not just an issue of law, but one of a “growing culture of secrecy and mutual mistrust”. Scarily, the audit uncovered about 500 pieces of legislation that contain “secrecy” provisions or restrict the freedom of the media to publish certain information. And up to 1000 suppression orders control court matters. It seems the public’s right to know is being increasingly eroded. Go here to read about the key findings of the report. Scary.

And then Stephanie B sent me an article from The Washington Post, which reports on university and public librarians in the US fighting against pending domestic surveillance laws that could allow federal intelligence-gathering on library patrons without sufficient court oversight. Apparently, libraries are considered communications service providers (CSP) and the proposed draft House and Senate bills would allow the US Government to compel CSPs to cough up information about the activity of users who are non-US citizens (of course only foreigners hanging out in US libraries are a suspicious bunch). This surveillance can be conducted without a warrant or showing of probable cause. The proposed legislation would include being able to monitor a non-US citizen overseas participating in an online research project through a US university library (ergo US territory).

More privacy rights being violated if you ask me. Thanks to Andrew and Stephanie for the links.

November 14, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Playing games in libraries

Max & TylerHow cool! Over at Carnegie Mellon University, there are library games that centre around helping students development information literacy skills particularly in identifying and evaluating sources of digital information . Called “Library Arcade”, there are two games: Within Range and I’ll Get It.

Within Range is simple enough for me! In this game you are putting books back on the shelf in the correct Library of Congress order. It’s a race against the clock as you move to more complex levels. I’ll Get It is based on the game Diner Dash (have to confess I’m not familiar with it) and the main character is Max, who is a student helping other students answer reference questions. You search at a computer terminal, finding results from a variety of different sources, and the challenge is to answer the reference question with the appropriate resource.

Go check the games out here at Carnegie Mellon University’s Library Arcade. Screen shots from the games are shown below:

Source: Research Quest

October 7, 2007 at 3:00 am 1 comment

The beauty of libraries

Sansovino’s Library, Rome ItalyMaybe only librarians can appreciate today’s post. Or maybe only people who appreciate grand design and history. On my travels, I’ve wandered into many a dusty old library in search of that awe-inspiring experience. As a librarian (first career), I’ve always been on the prowl for a library straight out of the medieval era – sweeping, arched ceilings covered with colourful Biblical scenes or portraits of Greek philosophers; rich oak-panelled shelves scaling up the walls, groaning with the weight of priceless manuscripts or woodcuts; shards of light piercing through stained glass windows and softly illuminating a bookstand in the middle of the library, displaying one of Gutenberg’s Bibles. I came across such a library in Portugal in 2004 – Biblioteca do Palacio e Convento de Mafra – with marble floors and elaborately carved mezzanine balconies. Very grand. Very Portuguese.

I was looking for a photo of this library the other day (duh, didn’t have my camera with me on that 2004 trip). And I stumbled onto a curious blog with an array of stunning photos of libraries around the world. The curious blog? It’s called Curious Expeditions: Travelling and Exhuming the Extraordinary Past. A welcome addition to my RSS feeds.

But check out some of the breathtaking photos of libraries – click on them to see fuller detail. Here’s the elegant Portuguese library I mentioned:
Portuguese library

And here’s a stunner – the Abbey Library St.Gallen, Switzerland: Abbey Library Switzerland

Not to mention the simply glorious Melk Monastery Library, Melk, Austria – gleaming with gold!

Melk Monastery Library

Go here to see all the wonderful photos on the Curious Expeditions blog – I’ve never seen so many beautiful spaces. It’s enough to make me consider going on a Grand Tour of Libraries in 2008!

Update: ThinkingShift good friend, Patrick Lambe, over at Green Chameleon has reflected on the Library of the Abbey of St Gallen image and posted a thoughtful piece on the sustainability of our digital knowledge world. Indeed, the image of this library (above) almost contains two worlds – the figures seem to be rushing through the library, fleeting, blurred images in the moment; the books are solid, static, preserved in time.


September 17, 2007 at 3:00 am 2 comments

Dewey’s being dumped!

StephaneNot too sure how good old Melvil Dewey would feel about this – the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is being kicked out of some libraries. Maybe Dewey’s had his day – a classification system should reflect how users think about and search for information. This is why folksonomies are so popular.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that a library in Arizona has abandoned the DDC in favour of book spines that carry simple, plain English labels such as “History” and “True Crime”. They refer to these categories as “neighborhoods”. Now, those of us who hang out a lot in libraries would know that the DDC arranges human knowledge into 10 classes, 100 divisions and 1000 sections – so it’s numerical and hierarchical. But now that we have Google and Yahoo!, users are pretty used to finding stuff with their own keywords and subject headings (let’s leave aside the probability that a lot of it is useless stuff and let’s leave aside that they’re searching the world according to Google or Yahoo!). And librarians well know that the DDC has its flaws – the 600s (technology) has no topic area for computers, which have to be classified in the 004-006 section.

But I’m of two minds about this: as someone who also spends a lot of time in bookstores wasting time trying to work out how they classify books, I wonder how a simple label like “History” really helps patrons find things. But it does raise the issue of how libraries and librarians are being asked to become more “relevant” in an age in which Google is perhaps a patron’s preferred information seeking method.

Apparently, the Arizona library used to check-out 100-150 books a day; now that it’s de-Deweyfied (is this a term??) around 900 items a day breeze out the library doors – so there’s some argument in saying that the way this library is choosing to present subject headings to its users is more relevant than the DDC. And apparently the library spoke to its users before the decision was made to dump Dewey and 80% of patrons said they go to the library to browse rather than search for a specific item. So it’s the browsing versus searching debate. So I guess even libraries are now being Googlefied (is this a term too??).

But I’d like to know how many books this library (the Perry Branch in Gilbert, Arizona) actually handles. I don’t know how a large library with say 200,000 books as opposed to say 20,000 would be able to cope with classifying things according to ‘neighorhoods’. But full marks to them for an innovative approach and I wonder how many other libraries will follow?

And on another note: news from Libraries Interact (blog central for Oz libraries). Mark September 10, 2007 in your diaries. Librarians around the world will ‘invade’ various Answer sites (eg Yahoo! Answers, Amazon’s Askville, Wikipedia Reference Desk). It will be a day-long Answerfest, with librarians “marketing their services to an audience that has gone elsewhere”. Great stuff!

August 21, 2007 at 3:00 am 1 comment

Librarians on the red carpet

photo taken by Kim in NamibiaFor the librarians amongst us: the world premiere of the first full-length film to focus on the work and lives of librarians will take place at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference June 21-27 2007. Written and directed by Ann Seidl, the documentary has lots of interviews with real-life librarians interwoven with movie clips of cinematic librarians. Films such as Sophie’s Choice, Philadelphia and It’s a Wonderful Life show librarians as negative stereotypes. The librarians in Lorenzo’s Oil, Desk Set and The Shawshank Redemption, on the other hand, are competent and professional.

Themes covered are censorship, intellectual freedom, pay equity, funding issues and the value of reading. Seidl has an MLIS from the University of Denver and says she is a librarian, not a filmmaker. She adds that the film is a step toward librarians redefining themselves as a cultural imperative, not some dusty old stereotype. Yeah!

For Star Trek fans like me, Ray Bradbury is featured – nothing to do with Star Trek but due to his ongoing support of libraries.

The film is called The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film and you can watch a trailer of the film on YouTube. And the film’s website is here.


June 4, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

ThinkingShift useful resources

photo taken by Kim in NamibiaI’m always on the hunt for useful resources to use in my work or University teaching and I’ve recently come across quite a bit of great stuff. First up, is an Educause ebook entitled Educating the Net Generation. Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. The Net Generation has grown up with the Internet being a natural background of their lives and their learning style revolves around collaborative social and learning spaces, which allow them to learn by doing. Download the ebook here. Educause also has a great resource centre for Libraries and Technology.

Next up, I found Shambles, a site that is designed to support international school communities in 17 countries in South East Asia. The Web 2.0 area is a great central spot categorised into resources and links on social bookmarking and social networks, as well as stuff on mind and concept mapping and virtual learning environments. There’s also links to blogs in Asia; blogs by librarians; Web 2.0 Weird Stuff (ie fun links); and an online validator where you can find out if a site is really Web 2.0.

Over at Seed Wiki, I came across Teaching with Blogs. Really great to see the uptake of blogs in education by students and teachers. Check out the The Fischbowl, which is a blog for high school teachers focusing on 21st Century learning strategies; and here’s an example of a blog for high school journalism students.

Back in the Jurassic Park days of my career (1980s), I was a high school teacher – so seeing how social software is contributing to building networks of teachers and students makes me wish I was back teaching in high school!

Then I stumbled onto Worldprocessor, a multi-coloured microcosmos created by Ingo Gunther. Worldprocessor is a gallery of globes that depict our Earth visually in a socio and geo-political sense starting from 1988. Go here to check out some of the many visually stunning globes that depict current problems or invisible processes like refugee flows. Have a look at the globe showing the dark spread of pollution over our planet; the globe in the 17th Century; or where nuclear explosions have taken place since 1945 (scary). These visual globes are hauntingly beautiful, yet remind us that we occupy multiple worlds that constantly shift and change.

And finally, I came across the Global Ideas Bank, which aims to promote and disseminate good creative ideas to improve society and it encourages the public to generate these ideas and to participate in the problem-solving process. The Bank refers to ideas as social inventions: non-technological, non-product, non-gadget ideas for social change. So basically it’s an ideas network and democratic think-tank. And here’s an interesting idea: the problem is accessiblity of environmental businesses and information; and the social invention is the UK’s Green Search, but the rest of the world require green search engines. There’s also a Global Ideas blog.

Lots of great ideas and resources to keep us all going for awhile.

April 23, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

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