Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Using the Google Translate App to Assist in Cataloging: A Brief Case Study

As Technical Services staff sizes have shrunk over the past several years, so has in-house expertise with foreign languages. While our library collects materials mainly in English, with some Spanish, we do still get the occasional item in a language no one in the library speaks or reads.

This happened recently when we were given a gift copy of a book from a Japanese publisher. An accompanying letter, written in English, said that the book contained a reprint of an article by one of our faculty members. The letter mentioned the name of the faculty member but did not indicate which chapter was his. The book itself was completely in Japanese, so our cataloger had no way of knowing which chapter in the book was the reprint. We needed to know so that we could include that information in our catalog record for the book as well as update our internal database of faculty publications.

We were able to find a bib record for the book in OCLC with an ISBN search but it didn't contain a content note. After searching in vain in various places for a record that had a detailed content note, I remembered the Google Translate app on my phone.  After opening the app and telling it I need to translate from Japanese to English, I took a picture of the chapter titles.

The app scanned the photo, looking for Japanese text. I was then given the option to select the text to translate or translate the entire page. Since I was looking for chapter titles and authors, I just selected those.

A preview of the translation was displayed at the top of the screen. I could tap through to see the full translation. When I saw the faculty member's name, I knew that I had found his chapter.

While the translation was not 100% perfect (the word "the" was missing from the title and the faculty member's name was misspelled) it was more than enough for us to recognize that we had located the reprint. 

Google Translate allows for the downloading of translation files in all its supported languages. With downloaded translation files, the user can perform translations while offline. It also enables instant translation that show the translated text in situ, in real time. 

In my experience, even though the instant translation is super cool to look at, it's not as accurate, especially when translating languages that don't use the Roman alphabet. As shown above, the title is not as accurate, nor is the author's name. However, instant translation will cycle through various possible translations.
The Google Translate app, while not completely perfect, can at least point catalogers in the right direction when they are tasked with cataloging materials in languages they don't know. It also has many other features that we have not begun to explore, such as text to speech, verbal translation, and the option to hand write text on the screen to translate. 

Our cataloger is eager to try the app on a few Russian language books that have been sitting on her desk for a while. The app is certainly faster than tracking down a speaker of the language or trying to enter text in Google's web-based translation service. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

RA21 - Resource Access for the 21st Century

A recent series of posts in The Scholarly Kitchen discussed the pros and cons of RA 21: Resource Access for the 21st Century. What is RA 21, and how does it relate to more familiar means of authentication?

The current norm for authentication used by academic institutions is IP authentication. If a researcher originates within the IP range associated with an institution, s/he is presumed to be associated with that institution and entitled to resources provided by that institution. For a non-technical explanation of how IP (and other authentication methods) work see Understanding federated identity, RA21 and other authentication methods.

RA21 is a joint NISO/STM initiative "aimed at optimizing protocols across key stakeholder groups, with a goal of facilitating a seamless user experience for consumers of scientific communication." ( The basic assumption of this initiative is that IP range based authentication no longer works for users of scholarly information. In place of IP authentication and proxy servers, use of a federated authentication model is proposed.

Hinchliffe and Schonfeld express concerns about patron privacy, which may be ameliorated by  requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) scheduled for enforcement beginning in May 2018. Given some publisher's attempts to cover all aspects of scholarly work flow, would they be inclined to mine and monetize the information about a scholar's research patterns federated identity could generate? Additionally, access for walk-in users may also be an issue.

RA21 is hardly a done deal, but it certainly bears monitoring.

Hinchliffe, Lisa Janicke What will you do when they come for your proxy server?

Schonfeld, Roger C. Identity is everything

Carpenter, Todd A. Myth busting: five commonly held misconceptions about RA21 (and one rumor confirmed)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Artificial intelligence laboratories in libraries?

Libraries have often been the incubators of novel ideas and new technology. In an effort to share AI development to a wider array of students and the public, the University of Rhode Island is opening an AI lab in their university library. 

The University of Rhode Island is taking a very different approach with its new AI lab, which may be the first in the U.S. to be located in a university library. For URI, the library location is key, as officials hope that by putting the lab in a shared central place, they can bring awareness of AI to a wider swath of the university's faculty and student body.

The Dean of Libraries, Karim Boughida specifically mentions the lack of diversity of AI and its resulting issues of a biased algorithm as the reason to put an AI lab in the library, a place that values inclusivity. "Without explicit countermeasures, machine learning and AI could magnify existing patterns of inequality in our society", says Boughida.

Unlike a typical AI lab focused on research, the URI AI Lab will offer students and instructors the chance to learn new computing skills, and also encourage them to deepen their understanding of AI and how it might affect their lives, through a series of talks and workshops. The 600-square-foot AI lab will be located on the library’s first floor and will offer beginner- to advanced-level tutorials in areas such as robotics, natural language processing, smart cities, smart homes, the internet of things, and big data.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Archiving the Web in 2017

Throughout 2017 there was a renewed sense of urgency across organizations to document websites of state and government offices. In a recent update on partner program activities in the fall and winter of 2017, Archive-it explored highlights from the 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC), partnerships in the Community Webs Program for public libraries, and the second Documenting the Now symposium, Digital Blackness in the Archives

These efforts exemplify current trends in government and community web archiving. The MARAC conference panel, “Web Archiving Democracy,” was well-represented by panelists who discussed the current trajectory of web-archiving practices. Comprehensive documentation of a democracy requires transparency from the government and includes the voice of the people. Both areas present ongoing challenges for archiving the vast array of rapidly changing or disappearing web content.

On the one hand, discussions centered on evolving organizational perspectives on the nature of websites as documents and supplements to traditional government records. This includes filling in negative space by documenting peripheral websites that have been politically influential, such as grassroots and “fake news” sites. On the other hand, we also see efforts shift to a focus on people as the audience of web content, as researchers, and as community web archiving partners. These current trends in web archiving initiatives underscore the need for collaboration and partnerships, perhaps more than with any other information media.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Getting to Know TS Librarians: Annie Mellott

1. Introduce yourself (name & position). 
Hello! My name is Annie Mellott and I am the Cataloging and Metadata Assistant at the Hugh & Hazel Darling Law Library at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law. 

2. Does your job title actually describe what you do? Why/why not?
I'd say yes. I am tasked with carrying out our copy cataloging, some original cataloging, and assisting with metadata management for our database, Sierra. I place orders and handle our electronic resources records, too. I also work closely with student assistants and love getting to know them and teaching them about how a library functions. I work closely with our Collection Management Librarian, Rachel Decker, and the Serials and Acquisitions Assistant, Natalie Koziar, to make up the technical services department of our library staff. We collaborate on a lot of our projects including our biggest endeavor right now: a MASSIVE collection shift. We’ve moved almost all of the items in our stacks to prepare for a first floor redesign. I’m excited to see how it all turns out in the end. 

3. What are you reading right now?
I just finished a book by Dr. Michael Greger, How Not to Die, which I found really interesting. It has changed my perspective on food. I’m a vegan, so it was interesting to read about how veganism doesn’t always mean making healthy choices. I love to cook, bake, and eat and this book has shown me different ways to incorporate more healthy foods into my diet. It’s a good read with helpful tips about how to decide what is good and not good for your body.  As part of a recently formed staff book club, I just started The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. So far, it’s good. I’m interested to see how it will go.   

4. If you could work in any library (either a type of library or a specific one), what would it be? Why? 
I really enjoy working at a law library. I find the cataloging needs to be challenging and fun given the range of materials we encounter. I previously worked at the library at Claremont School of Theology and loved cataloging while there. My undergraduate and first master’s degrees are in religious studies and I have a deep love for the subject. I’m interested in the intersection of religion and law, so perhaps the The Robbins Collection at Berkeley Law is my dream work environment. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

eBooks in the Law Library - Part 3

LLRX recently completed its look at the status of eBooks in law libraries. The first half of this final installment is a case study of how the New York Law Institute added eBooks to their collection. It details how their original model had to evolve in response to changes driven both by publishers and by patrons.

The second half of the article is a brief survey of how other law libraries are incorporating eBooks into the collections. The main revelation of this overview is that no single approach may be appropriate for any one library. Many libraries are approaching eBooks in multiple ways, creating a custom process that is right for their users while also fitting within the budget.

If you're dealing with adding eBooks to your own collection, this three-part series on LLRX is a great place to orient yourself.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Librarians to play increasing role in OER

A survey of more than 2700 faculty members shows that there is an increase of instructors using OER over traditional textbooks. An article in Inside Higher Ed reports on the survey findings:

The "Opening the Textbook" survey, published by the Babson Survey Research Group today, reports that the number of faculty members at two- and four-year institutions using OER as textbooks has nearly doubled in the last year -- from 5 percent in 2015-16 to 9 percent in 2016-17.Awareness of OER -- openly licensed and freely accessible teaching and learning materials -- has also increased. Twenty-nine percent of faculty described themselves as "aware" or "very aware" of OER this year, up from 25 percent last year and 20 percent the year before. The proportion that reported they had never heard of OER fell from 66 percent in 2014-15 to 56 percent this year.
However as Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group, mentioned in the article, awareness of OER is still low and there are additional barriers such as finding and evaluating currency of materials.

Raising awareness, finding resources, and updating materials are all very familiar responsibilities for librarians. That is whNicole Allen, the director of open education for SPARC, a coalition that supports open policies and practices in education and research, predicts that librarians will "play an increasingly important role in helping faculty members find and evaluate OER content."

The comments following the article further press this point. Librarians are natural resource experts to faculty. One librarian mentions LibGuides as a tool to educate on open sources. Another librarian mentions that "incentivizing for faculty is key."

The full article is available at