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

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Getting to Know TS Librarians: Erica Nutzman

1. Introduce yourself (name & position). 
Erica Nutzman, Head of Technical Services for the Minnesota State Law Library.

2. Does your job title actually describe what you do? Why/why not?
Yes, mostly, I do a number of things not usually considered technical services, like manage the special collection and archives, and oversee our online Briefs archive. I also oversee, and participate in, the traditional technical services, like acquisitions, cataloging, serials and general collection management. I have a team of 5 who do most of the day-to-day tasks so I spend most of my time working on projects or planning new initiatives. We are currently ramping up to start a systems migration, so I’ll be spending a lot of time working on that very soon.

3. What are you reading right now?
Personally I’m reading Winterlong, by Elizabeth Hand. I usually have multiple books going, but at the moment, just the one. Professionally, I’m reading Digital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives by Aaron D. Purcell.

4a. If you could work in any library (either a type of library or a specific one), what would it be? Why?
I love the library I’m working in now but I think it would be really interesting to work at an historical society or a library related to archaeology. My college major was anthropology/archaeology and I still follow the field. 

4b. You suddenly have a free day at work, what project would you work on?
I am working on a historical biographical research project and I’ve been busy lately and haven’t had time to work on it, so I’d like to spend some more time on that.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Negotiating with Vendors

As I begin to dive into acquisitions and vendor relations, a recent article in Online Searcher appears to be well-timed and of potential benefit to others facing negotiations with vendors (see Michael L. Gruenberg, Five Key Questions for Negotiators to Ask, Online Searcher, Nov.-Dec. 2017, 44-47). In this article, Michael L. Gruenberg discusses key questions librarians repeatedly asked while he was promoting his book Buying and Selling Information. These topics are things we should, as negotiators for our institutions, be addressing with our sales representatives and vendors.

The questions Gruenberg addresses in this article:
  1. Should you ask for, and expect, a price sheet from your sales rep?
  2. Can the vendor defend the price?
  3. Can a library request a different representative be assigned?
  4. What is the standard renewal rate?
  5. Do I really need to create a negotiation plan?

If you’ve taken a Negotiations course in college or law school, you probably already know the answer to #5…

Gruenberg has some useful insight from his background in sales that can benefit us as negotiators for our organizations.