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On the night of October 30, 1938, a startling message went across the airwaves of America: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have a grave announcement to make. Incredible as it may seem, both the observations of science and the evidence of our eyes lead to the inescapable assumption that those strange beings who landed in the […]
Author: Shane MacDonald
Posted: October 27, 2016, 2:00 pm
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The value of “good work”

Photo Perseverance Trail Juneau Alaska

This is a landscape view form the Perseverance Trail outside of Juneau, Alaska. By Andrew E. Russell

I wish I was more eloquent. I want to exhort and inspire and rain down wisdom from the mountaintops that hard work is noble! Being engaged in your work and intellectually curious, and sharing that enthusiasm and knowledge with the world is a noble pursuit.

Luckily, I am not alone in this and others are more eloquent than I. Shanta R. Robinson penned an essay (I like the title!) Just Do Good Work. Dr. Robinson writes of the academic job search – the angst and the advice. Her adviser’s solution, just do good work.

But I think she meant more in this seemingly simple refrain. She pushed me to engage in a topic that interested me and one that could sustain my attention for years to come.

If you are worried about the “How I Made It Stories” that others tell, and thinking it will never happen for you; or fretting over your own work situation, don’t despair. Let us all take the advice and just do good work.



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What keeps this librarian up at night!

Graphic showing reference rot (bad links - from Elsevier, arXiv and PubMed

The graphic shows links from the three STM corpora that were studied (right hand side) to the six top level domains they link to (left hand side). The colored portions shows links that are healthy, the grey portions – by far the largest – show links that are infected by reference rot.

Will humankind be able to build on knowledge of today in 400 years? Will they be able to find older references. It is already difficult. Do we really believe in “perpetual access?”

As a STM reference librarian, I have been asked to find this article – often.

Citation: Briers, J. D. (1993). Holographic, speckle and moiré techniques in optical metrology. Progress in quantum electronics, 17(3), 167-233.

Working with researchers, I get to study their habits. I notice that even the most brilliant faculty and students have trouble finding older articles in STM fields.

In days of yore, they would go to the library stacks and take down the correct dusty volume by journal title, and be able to find an item 20 years old – or older.

Today, they may have a citation from a paper and be able to find the article through searching algorithms, but cannot get to the actual article. Reasons for this lack of access are many ranging from the expense of the access, to a bad citation, or a bad link known as “link rot.”

This article describes “link decoration” – a new term to me – to address “permanent access” to knowledge.

Reference rot in web-based scholarly communication and link decoration as a path to mitigation

By Martin Klein and Herbert Van de Sompel (Please see the original article for linked access in this blockquote.)

Link decoration is a way to address these problems and to increase the chances that links will lead to meaningful content, even a long time after they were put in place. In order to maximize link robustness, the following information should be available, in a machine-actionable manner, for a link:

the URI of the snapshot, in our example
the URI of the original resource, in our example
the datetime of linking, in our example January 21 2015.
The latter two information elements can be used to automatically find snapshots in other web archives in case‘s service is interrupted, and the snapshot becomes inaccessible as a result.

Discussions with interested parties are still underway regarding the best way to convey this information on a link. Until further notice, and for demonstrations purposes, the information is conveyed using HTML5’s attribute extensibility mechanism. Using that approach, this robust link to the W3C home page looks as follows:

<a href=”“
data-versiondate=”2015-01-21?>this robust link to the W3C home page</a>

The Memento Time Travel extension for Chrome makes these link decorations accessible when right-clicking on the link. Try it with a version of the reference list of our above mentioned article in which links to web at large resource were decorated. For more information on link decoration, check out the Robust Links site.

For more on “link rot” please see a Georgetown symposium keynote by Jonathan Zittrain from Harvard Law School titled: Preserving our Digital Trail: A Call to Arms

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Libraries, conferences & perpetual learning

paper, pen & computer

To begin, this is just an aside about why it is important to write up conference experiences and why blog.

This is the heady, humanizing work that happens when you write for general readers. It’s complexity enacted through connections. From Crisis to Composition by Jessica Yood, March 11, 2016.

#CILDC March 9, 2016 Computers in Libraries

There were connections aplenty at #CILDC. I know, I know –  you can learn from keynotes even if they are not inspiring or uplifting! Here are just a few things I learned:

“End users” “patron facing” “lifelong learners” “customer journey map” – what we call people who use libraries is important. There are different definitions of “open” when talking about “open” in a business environment. I think I did know that librarians spend 1/3 time within the library systems and 2/3 time spent outside library systems. I did not know the 14 definitions of library user interfaces metaphors.

Neale, D. C., & Carroll, J. M. (1997). The role of metaphors in user interface design. Handbook of human-computer interaction, 2, 441-462.

I heard this phrase way too much, “meet your patrons where your patrons are.” I do agree that we live in a land of “library silos” and that is way too hard on people who use libraries. I moved on to listening about User Experience UX.


While the idea of one box to search them all – has it’s merits. We need to remember that we all can get lost past that first search results page. When you start with a discovery tool – then screen by screen users need to adjust to new mental input.

Turn Your Web Traffic Into Foot Traffic by Trey Gordner asked the question, could we dispense with too may authentication screens to more immediate access?

Training best practices reminders: vetting session, polls & quizzes throughout, use chat box to take questions, prepare backup options, use tech wing”person” to monitor chat and troubleshoot tech. Market training, take pulse during presentations, and game plan to engage participants. Don’t forget the feedback! See: RAILS and see: Digital Literacy for Staff & Customers.

Millennials in Library: Research Insights & Case Study is a great presentation and I learned about the “sticky influence” of faculty research workflows. I will re-read How Students Research: Implications for the Library and Faculty by Michelle D’Couto , Serena H. Rosenhan, Journal of Library Administration. Vol. 55, Iss. 7, 2015 pp. 562-576.

See also: Brian Gray outlines a Case Western Reserve case study. Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship. Notable notes from this presentation include: “I was afraid to ask.” Service desk changes – holds no longer behind desk, model new public library automated service. Look up: CRM customer relationship management outsourcing software products.

Institutional Repositories

This session outlined differences in two ARL reports on IR’s from 2006 and 2015. What has changed! SPEC Kit 292: Institutional Repositories (July 2006) & SPEC Kit 346: Scholarly Output Assessment Activities (May 2015.)

Big Data

Big Data Meets Algorithmic Accountability: Understanding the New Activism

#CILDC March 10, 2016 Computers in Libraries

Keynote Libraries and Perpetual Learning by Lee Rainie, Pew Research. See also: The Internet of Things & Libraries. This keynote did inspire and coined the phrases “Serve & Learn”, “Be Not Afraid”, and our favorite #librarypixiedust.

Waiting for slides: NIH James King Fostering Collaboration in Research.

STEMex Grants through IMLS

We would like to see project teams make use of the many STEM experts that live in our communities, including academic researchers, hydrologists, dental hygienists, road engineers, art conservators, and many others. These STEM experts are underutilized in both research and programs that occur in informal settings. There is also limited research on children and families working with STEM experts as they engage in the kinds of learning noted on this slide.

My favorite phrase from the whole conference: perpetual learning!

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Passion and the library conference!

The most fun in life is to share experiences and passion! Yesterday I had a chance to twitter converse (is that a thing?) with #CILDC conference attendees about #HamiltonMusical. This was inspired by the presentation E103: Teaching Screenagers in the Land of Click, Slide, and Touchscreen by Joquetta Johnson.

How timely! I am preparing a presentation on digital scholarship and have been riffing (to myself) inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man, the genius who has brought us the Broadway musical Hamilton. I am inspired that the musical was generated by the book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The musical soundtrack is a work of high art. The annotated lyrics are available with research notes. The social media brilliance of cast and crew is evident with #Ham4Ham videos. NOW they have an educational program!

(in progress…imagine the spellchecker going bonkers) Are you an age of #HamiltonMusical digital scholar? Do you drop knowledge? Can you connect artifact, manuscript, monograph, article, multimedia, and social media to spark creative revolution and revelation. Are you a computer-coded, digitized, mobilized information professional? Are your ideas footnoted, dissertated, essayed, prosed, conversated, posterated, blogviated and oral presentated? Do you tell truth to power through music, dance, arts or labs? Talk less, smile more. Do you have what it takes to be a #HamiltonMusical digital scholar?

Can we get back to the conference, please! Computers in Libraries 2016 Day 1 is from my desk. Library staffing is an issue these days. Lucky for us, this conference streamed the Day 1 keynote address by Dave Snowden. Excellent! Worth the watch! Innovation and the Knowledge Ecosystem by Dave Snowden, Founder and CSO, Cognitive Edge.

Thanks to Jill Hurst-Wahl for her useful notes from sessions I wish I attended. Digitization 101: CILDC : Advanced Twitter: Research Tips for Power Users and CILDC : Super Searcher Tools and Tips and CILDC : Advanced Twitter: Research Tips for Power Users. 

I will go back to 30 Mobile Apps in 40 Minutes by Gary Price.

Best find of the day:

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#hamilton and education

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Snow days of reading

Oh, how I shovelled (see spelling rules here) and worried during the great #blizzard2016; #snowzilla (as branded by the Washington Post!)

I had hours of blissful reading, too!

I was in the middle of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, inspired by #Hamilton the musical which I can’t stop listening. I had lovely novels just whispering to me to open, and I succumbed. Take a break – I promise I will get back to you, Alexander.



Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian is a skeezy story, suburban Dad with wife and daughter caught up with Eastern European sex trade and murder in his front room. This book is saved by the author with good writing and the humanity of all characters.

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee is set in Hong Kong. It tells the stories of women, as the OED cites a usage of the term in 1918 “Patriots and expatriates are alike the children of circumstances.” Beautifully written. I want to re-read this one.

River Road by Carol Goodman is a story set in update New York of small town and college collisions – literally. The snowy landscape fit the mood; the academic interactions rang true; and story of death and grief in many forms is saved by good writing and plot twists.

One Thousand Things Worth Knowing: Poems by Paul Muldoon. Snow and time to think call for some poetry. This is a new author (to me) and the poems are intricate and interwoven – constructed over short stanzas to tell deep stories.

One Thousand Things Worth Knowing confirms Nick Laird’s assessment, in The New York Review of Books, that Muldoon is “the most formally ambitious and technically innovative of modern poets,” an experimenter and craftsman who “writes poems like no one else.” GoodReads review

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg may take another snowstorm to do it justice. I have only begun reading this title. Good to know I am not alone in looking up Latin references  and words:

Sentence after sentence is dressed up with flourishes of diction and description, often with word choices that require research. On page 12, a character is abandoned by his boyfriend on Christmas. “But Solitas radix malorum est, Mercer would think later, looking back. . . . There was something eschatological about the weak afternoon light, made weaker by the tree, and the layer of soot that coated the window, and about the chill blown through the crack he’d left open.” If you don’t have to look up the Latin, you may have to refresh your memory as to how light and chill might be eschatological. Marian Winick 

Yet, I’m pulled right back in by p. 14:

It was if the universe was trying to teach him some lesson. The challenge, he guessed, was to refuse to learn.

I’m in love with Charlie by p. 19. This one will take me longer to read than my usual four pages a night reading while working! Here is the NY Times review.

Thanks #snowzilla. I love to read.

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A day with OCLC!

It is always good to get away from the desk, see a bigger library perspective and have time to reflect on library practices. It is even better when there is information shared and discussions with colleagues from many different libraries. OCLC began Member Forums last year to “contribute to the library cooperative.” This year in Washington DC, hosted by the Library of Congress, the member forum began with an evocative keynote by Lynn Connaway, “Transitioning the Library into the Users’ Environment.”

215506_Research-Report-Cover-Library-Life-User-1The keynote was developed from OCLC research and lucky for attendees we did get our own copy of the October 2015 report The Library in the Life of the User: Engaging with people Where They Live and Learn.

Research done in 2001 by Mark Perensky Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants details technology users (and the impact of their technology use on libraries) by generations. The 2015 OCLC research invites us to think more broadly. It asks us to think of all of our library users on a spectrum as visitors (those who use/think of the Internet as a tool) through residents (those who use/think of the Internet as a place.) Much of this research is shared on a JISC web site (see V&R videos.) More articles detailing the idea of library users as visitors or residents are available on the OCLC research site Digital Visitors and Residents: What Motivates Engagement with the Digital Information Environment?

Things I knew that Ms. Connaway reported users said – email is an old person’s means of communication (how else should we be communicating with our users?) Convenience trumps all. Facebook is a “time vortex.” Wikipedia is the 6th most used web site in the United States. And our undergraduate students often say “I always use Google or ask my [insert parent here] (HINT: father gives you information/mother wants to teach you how to do it.)”

Recommended: If you haven’t seen this one (and who knew OCLC had a YouTube channel?)- Millennials in Transition

 Take aways from keynote: Establish a relationship, recognize need for convenience, concentrate on graduate students, and take what OCLC has learned and use it locally.

Ideas during first break out session included shared collection development ideas, the growth of collaborative technical services, and the merging of circulation and reference services.

Virtual reference, a discussion we are having at our library, was mentioned often during the day. Lynn Connaway recommended thinking of triggered chat sessions. See this article : Jan H. Kemp, Carolyn L. Ellis, Krisellen Maloney, Standing By to Help: Transforming Online Reference with a Proactive Chat System, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 41, Issue 6, November 2015, Pages 764-770, ISSN 0099-1333, See this example of some best practices in virtual reference from UTSA Libraries.

Best practices in Virtual Reference as detailed in the above article:

1) provide help at the time it is needed placing the chat widget on multiple pages and prompting users to ask questions

2) use an “active” method to promote chat, including a positive slogan such as “we want to help you”

3) use a relatively large image for the chat widget along with text to attract attention

4) use a pop up widget to offer help proactively

5) label the chat widget so users know a real librarian (trained professional) will be answering the questions

What’s new, what’s changed with OCLC?

A short history lesson reminded us that OCLC began in 1967, the first catalog card was produced in 1971 and the last catalog card was produced in October 2015. WorldShare is being built to combine all OCLC services on one platform. Eventually all OCLC functions will move to this platform for Resource Sharing, ILL, Cataloguing and Discovery (tools like Connexion and First Search will be phased out eventually.) Priorities for the next year include an investment in technology infrastructure globally and efforts in Linked Data. (See Linked Data for Libraries.) Shared Collection resources like Sustainable Collections Services is something WRLC is invested in early!

New to me: A Bluebook Guide for Law Students; triggered chat popups for proactive virtual reference;  request access to WorldShare Discovery for when FirstSearch is finished by Fall 2016.

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IMAG0874I’ve always know I was born in the wrong place and the wrong time. My lovely trip to Ireland this summer reminded me there are homes of the heart. IMAG0757

From the streets of Dublin, to New Grange, to Killary Bay, to the Cliffs of Mohr I was enthralled and had brilliant conversations with museum curators, cabbies, B&B owners, music store proprietors and young wait staff all over Ireland.

IMAG0701The history was all around me, the stories and research I have done all my life …Red Hugh O’Donnell imprisoned in Dublin Castle…the Hill of Tara1916.

IMG_0814 IMG_0815

IMAG0680(1)Perhaps I could find a new calling growing barley for Guinness on the west coast of Ireland.



But, I’d have to hire a driver!IMG_0839


I am now back to work.

Still trying to do good work- more on the value of blogging

That’s regrettable, because the value of blogging goes beyond the way it can help us build a professional reputation or clear personal brand: it’s also a tremendous tool for personal expression, and for the kind of exploratory writing and thinking that can help people discover new interests, new relationships and even new careers. From Have LinkedIn and Medium Killed the Old-Fashioned Blog? by Alexandra Samuel 6.30.2015

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Computers in Libraries 2015

I am not a “sketcher”

I virtually attended the first day of Computers in Library 2015 Presentations (CiL2015) in Washington, DC as I manned the reference desk. I did this by watching the twitter stream #cildc hashtag. I had a chance to look over presentations of sessions I missed. Librarians are very good at sharing their knowledge, and never more so than when gathered for a library conference. I salute them! I had to finish a blog post before the end of the day and saw that David Lee King’s presentation on Writing for the Modern Web posted a new (to me) tool to help with writing for the modern web. I’ll run this post through it when I am ready to edit.  I used Mary Ellen Bates slides from her Super Searcher Tips & Tools to learn how to search twitter. [Try it on Google “sketching” #cildc ] Lots of people were sharing their sketchnotes of the sessions during the day. I tried to “sketchnote” without an app on Day 2 – in person – and found I am not a sketcher! I don’t have enough “fonts” in my physical pen or my imagination.

Speaking of conference notes, some of mine were done on the laptop, some were done by hand with pen and notebook and some “notes” hit the twitter stream. I am in awe of people who have shared their notes of every session on Google Docs. I found that I paid better attention and was more “in the moment” with the presenters when I was writing by hand and holding a phone or tablet to tweet.

The importance of keynotes presentations

As the keynote goes, so goes the day is my conference experience. Thank you David Ferriero and John Palfrey for the just-in-time-to-save-this-librarian keynote. I needed your potent awesome informing engaging delightful public democracy and serious library world view. I could listen to John Palfrey speak for ages. His turn of phrase and use of language made my neurons light up.

He reminded us that as we reduce the physical objects in our libraries, empty space is not the answer; think about creating knowledge. How do we design for physical and digital space? This needs more creativity to combine information architecture and physical architecture (space planning) to create future magical spaces that speak to the public good of libraries. John Palfrey alluded to a nice test – as he exhorted us that we are not in this line of business for ourselves but for others. I have pre-purchased his new book BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. I am dusting off my fife and drum to join his library revolution. Sign me up!


I am always a little wary of vendor presentations at these conferences. I did attend two of these. In Big Data Driving Innovation, I was intrigued to see the global aggregate of research. [A205 and hoping the slides get up soon.] #SpringyTalia (Talia Roberts of Springshare) gave an excellent presentation on 8 tips for great customer service. This was a well-timed session for me. We are in the last weeks of the semester and are working with less library staff BUT it isn’t about us or these circumstances. It is about:

  • High HQ
  • Going the extra mile
  • Being empathetic
  • Participating in the dialogue
  • Being on the offense – offense as a positive
  • Building communities
  • Using the power of humor, or just a smile
  • Being a good human

Thank you for the statement – Don’t say NO – be creative.

 Technology & Tools

There were “computers” in my computers in libraries experience this year. I am going to reacquaint myself with Zotero and pair that with IFTTT to work on researcher publications and bibliometrics. Following the Big Data track for most of the day on Tuesday, I appreciated H. Frank Cervone’s (A201) introduction to the Adobe Hadoop Ecosystem (as a series of tools and workflows) – he mentioned it was  a complicated ecosystem! Amy Affelt was sublime as she preached that it’s just data and librarians have always dealt with data. I have already purchased multiple copies of her book The Accidental Data Scientist for myself and others. It is very well done. Value is where data meets storytelling. See this link for her presentation for the cool big data apps.

Libraries Make Our Communities Smarter

Wednesday at CiL2015 was all about combining the technology and libraries to build better library experiences. Mary Agusta Thomas from the Smithsonian Libraries told us that technology used well to understand, participate, develop, and embed knowledge in museums, libraries and archives is imperative. The combination of librarians asking “what is it you really want to know?” and the technology that can digitize and include character recognition quickly will be the future treasure house of knowledge.

Liz McGettigan gave us a broader perspective on reimaging library spaces and services. Her emphasis was on access to new technology for all – if not the library, then where?

Change or Die

How do we all keep up the technology, and the new spaces and the new services that 21st century libraries need? Well, conferences like this one are important. Thanks to all the presenters for their perspective and generously sharing their knowledge.

Tools & sites to check out



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