Digital Library Digest: March 7, 2013

Posted by Vicky Zeamer on March 7, 2013 in Digital Library Digest.

With books only taking up 1/9th of library space, the new North Carolina State University library prioritizes collaborative space

The James B. Hunt Library at North Carolina State University is a revolution in information storage.

“At the Hunt, robots fetch the books. Two million volumes are folded into one ninth of the space they would have taken up in a conventional library because room for humans to walk through the aisles is unnecessary.

“I think in the last two decades we’ve realized how important space is, and in the last decade it has been the issue of collaborative space – space where people across disciplines can work together…in much more non-traditional ways” said Susan Nutter.

“She is credited as the key visionary behind the James B. Hunt Library. Nutter works as the vice provost and director of libraries at N.C. State. Under her leadership, N.C. State’s libraries climbed from 101 in the nation to 27, according to the Association of Research Libraries.

“Librarians, architects and educators everywhere are taking notice of the new state-of-the-art space. So much so that Hunt Library has had to create a new position – the visitor experience librarian – to handle the massive number of guests.

“Clymer Cease, the managing principal at the architecture firm Pearce, Brinkley, Cease, and Lee, said that in many university libraries, most of the books don’t get checked out more often than once every few decades.

“By putting the books in the vault, we’re storing them in a dry, very quiet secure place, so that once every 30 years when somebody wants to look at that book, it’s there and it’s in great shape,” he said.

Barbara Moran, the Louis Round Wilson Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, said that technology has completely changed libraries and the ways we use them.

“Going up to the stacks and looking at books and serendipitously finding new material is a lot of fun,” she said. “But it’s so very convenient to look it up in an online catalogue and sometimes even have the librarian to fetch the book for you.”

“Now, at N.C. State’s Hunt Library, students can cut out the middleman and just have a robot do the job for them.”

From an article written by Frank Stasio, Shawn Wen and Christina Blyde for North Carolina Public Radio, What is a Library in Today’s Tech Age?

As librarians see coding as an opportunity and necessity, a variety of projects and groups aim to make breaking the code easier

“For newcomers, computer source code can look quite alien. Librarians might be reminded of the first time they saw a MARC record—a mishmash of recognizable words and bits of information embedded in funky punctuation.

“Even people who expressed an early interest in computers as children can initially find themselves discouraged from learning more as adults. Andromeda Yelton, for example, recently reflected on her experience taking a required computer science class as part of her bachelor’s degree program in mathematics at California’s Harvey Mudd College, telling LJ that “I just felt like I was so far behind that there was no point in even trying.”

“But later, as an MLIS student, Yelton says she began to view coding knowledge as more of an opportunity and a necessity. “The parts of the field where there’s a lot of change and innovation happening tend to be very technology oriented,” she says. Comparing her programming proficiency to software engineers wasn’t helpful, she realized. She had a much stronger foundation in programming than most librarians and wanted to build on that.

“Yelton has since gone on to become a founding member and web developer for Gluejar Inc., the entity behind the much-watched crowdfunding project that encourages authors and publishers to release ebooks under Creative Commons licenses if specific pledge thresholds are met under a timed deadline. She has also become a leading advocate for improving coding knowledge within the library field.

“Code Year: In January 2012, she and Carli Spina, emerging technologies and research librarian at Harvard Law School Library, worked on behalf of ALA’s Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) to launch the Library Code Year Interest Group at the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, along with librarians Shana McDanold and Jen Young from ALA’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS). The group encourages librarians to start learning JavaScript using online tutorials from online start-up Codecademy.”

From Matt Enis’s article for School Library Journal, Cracking the Code: Librarians Acquiring Essential Coding Skills

Video: Amateur Excels at Digitizing Newspapers from a Gazebo behind his house

“One computer expert working alone has built a historic newspaper site ( that’s orders of magnitude bigger and more popular than one created by a federal bureaucracy with millions of dollars to spend. Armed only with a few PCs and a cheap microfilm scanner, Tom Tryniski has played David to the Library of Congress’ Goliath.

“Tryniski’s site, which he created in his living room in upstate New York, has grown into one of the largest historic newspaper databases in the world, with 22 million newspaper pages. By contrast, the Library of Congress’ historic newspaper site, Chronicling America, has 5 million newspaper pages on its site while costing taxpayers about $3 per page. In January, visitors to accessed just over 6 million pages while Chronicling America pulled fewer than 3 million views.

“For complete text and links, go to:

“Approximately 5 minutes.”

Video by Jim Epstein, Amateur Beats Gov’t at Digitizing Newspapers: Tom Tryniski’s Weird, Wonderful Website

Realizing the Scope of Digital Change: why it is important to not cast off ebooks as “just another format”

“Sometimes you just have to stop and marvel at the incredible pace of technological change. It helps if you are sitting down, because when the scope of the change finally hits you, things might go all wobbly for a second or two. Luckily I was sitting when I had that experience this weekend.

“Scanning through my RSS feeds, I happened upon a story about the new adaptors from Apple that go from the iPad’s Lightning connector to VGA or DVI. Nothing too shocking there … except that the March 2 Engadget headline said the cables are packing an ARMprocessor. The cable? The little dongle that goes from an iPad to a VGA cable is a computerwith a processor?

“Not only are the new dongles actually computers, but they have 256MB of RAM in them. That was the same amount of RAM Apple proudly advertised about its iBook G4 in 2004, according to the Washington Post’s 2004 Laptop Guide. Let that sink in for just a second here. The same computing power that was featured in an almost $1,200 laptop from less than a decade ago is now found in a $49 accessory cable.

“All of these discussions about digital content, all the concerns being raised about the restrictive contracts and lack of access for libraries are so important because of this incredible rate of change. With 10-year-old laptops becoming today’s video dongles, it becomes apparent how unbelievably dangerous it is to think of ebooks as just another format. Ebooks are not just an incremental change like adding graphic novels to your collection, or switching from VHS to DVDs for checkouts. The move from print to digital content—and the accompanying change from the protections of copyright law and the first sale doctrine to the open chaos of contract law—is a truly revolutionary change.

“Realizing that your video-out cable has more processing power and memory than a laptop from 10 years ago is a bit jaw-dropping. However, talking about what is happening with digital content right now as a paradigm shift is entirely appropriate.”

From Christopher Harris’s post for American Libraries Magazine, Realizing the Scope of Digital Change

Teaching patrons technology: Digital Tools, Trends and Debates

“Roy Tennant’s recent series on assimilating new technology (start here to read it) spurs me to talk about helping library school students do that. My workhorse course, the one I first developed and taught in 2007, that I’ve been teaching ever since, is an introduction to computer-based technologies in libraries called “Digital Tools, Trends, and Debates.” You are all welcome to browse its most recent syllabus.

“Most students who take this course are at the office-suite-jockey level of computer savvy, though they range from rather less than that (brave souls!) all the way through computer-science majors and professional network administrators. Building a course that’s useful to that entire gamut taxes my ingenuity every time I sit down to revise the syllabus.

“My fifteen-week course can’t turn office-suite jockeys into programmers and sysadmins; frankly, I’m not convinced an entire LIS program can. Real programmers and sysadmins have entire CS and MIS training programs, after all, never mind all the alphabet-soup certifications! Nor can I focus solely on honing the skills of the few programmers and sysadmins who take the course, enjoyable though that would be; they’re the tiny cherry atop a much larger confection.

“What the course must do, I decided early on, is turn all my students, at every level of existing knowledge, into confident, self-directed applied learners of technology-related skills. They must know they’ll have to assimilate and use new technology and work through its societal implications throughout their careers, and crucially, they must know they can do that. If they don’t leave with that scaffolding, the course fails, no matter what else they learn from it.

“Learned helplessness is the chief barrier to self-driven learning I’ve seen among my students, not at all aided by the well-known technology gender gap. My best weapon against learned helplessness is recoverable failure, oddly enough. I tell them openly (since many of them don’t know) that tech experts are made, not born: made by falling down, making messes, and seeking help. Classroom tech snafus become teachable moments, object lessons in troubleshooting and graceful recovery. Next year, I’m planning to add more hands-on metatechnology exercises: writing a useful bug report (and navigating online bug trackers), troubleshooting opaque error messages, hunting for API specifications, looking for and at source code, diagnosing spear-phishing attempts, and so on.”

From Dorothea Salo’s article for Library Journal, How I Teach Technology | Peer to Peer Review

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