15 December 2009

Happy Holidays!

I've lost your address!
2009 was another hectic year for me as I took a job offered to me in December 2008 at the University of Technology Sydney. That meant quickly selling my house in Canberra and moving everything to Sydney while still looking for a new home.
I found a near new unit in Camperdown and it is really handy to work, Newtown, Glebe and Annandale. I usually walk or run everywhere now and love living in Sydney so close to the city.
Work started (for me) in early March at the University Library and I’m enjoying the job and my new colleagues there. Apart from looking after the services we provide to students, researchers and staff I’m leading a project to build an underground repository for our little-used books (about 60% of our collection) and then the design of a new library for the University on Broadway that is currently scheduled for 2015.
Most of the year was spent settling into the University and life in Sydney, but in November I had the chance to travel to the US for a higher education conference and to visit several academic libraries that have done what we are planning to do. This meant seeing new places like Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Reno, Santa Clara and San José and returning to San Francisco for the first time in over 20 years. It was hectic but really interesting and enjoyable.
That’s all. I hope you are all well and happy!

26 November 2009

Lost in Space

This is just a photo essay on two lakes in Canberra. Words by Aimee Mann: Lost in Space and images taken by me while playing around with different cameras. I think you need to view it in Flickr as a slideshow to see the captions. (Select Show info once onto the slideshow.)

23 November 2009

Universities & the cloud: services, economics & impacts

On the final day of Educase09, the last working session that I attended was Cloud Computing: Services, Economics, and Impacts. I'd missed an earlier session that was very popular on the same subject due to conflicting interests and as the last session on the topic, the session was so full that it was standing room only. I didn't have enough space to pull out my laptop, so took some very rough notes on my iPhone. (Apologies if they don't provide a complete picture of the session.) I found it very enlightening and objective on the subject and the considerations surrounding this issue.
The discussion centred on a range of questions given to the panel of experts (mostly CIOs - see the link above for full details). I've tried to note their responses.
Cloud computing: definitions
Some definitions were discussed and all seemed to have an element about scale. These are useful:

A style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” using Internet technologies to multiple external customers.
(Gartner, 6/08).

. . . massive aggregation of a wide variety of IT services delivered via fast digital networks - much like power generation and the electrical grid of a public utility.
(Brad Wheeler & Shelton Waggener, EDUCAUSE review 2009)

The services themselves have long been referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS). The datacenter hardware and software is what we will call a Cloud. When a Cloud is made available in a pay-as-you-go manner to the general public, we call it a Public Cloud; the service being sold is Utility Computing.
We use the term Private Cloud to refer to internal datacenters of a business or other organization, not made available to the general public.”
Armbrust, et al., Above the Clouds)

What is different, and how is it different, when you compare cloud computing to traditional out-sourcing or software as a service?

  • Cloud computing needs integration so it looks like extension of the campus.
  • It also needs strong identity management and a federation system.
  • It differs from out sourcing as it is usually more flexible, elastic and it is more configurable to meet changed demands.
  • Also, cloud computing makes universities it think differently about running everything themselves.
  • The comfort factor is different too for off-campus services: If Google goes down people seem to understand; there is a different end-user experience in cloud.
  • Users don't care about content being hosted in a “ .edu” domain as long as it works.
  • Easy-to-use interfaces from huge investments in the cloud if the services are mass consumerised but if not, it could cause trouble.
  • One panelist saw IT as advocates for best service and therefore the cloud had to be on their radar.

What is the compelling case for cloud computing?

  • There are very obvious economic benefits from shared data centres alone. Regional computing centres are growing rapidly in California - as the cheapest available solution.
  • We need to decouple the concept of "computer labs" from the location of software and digital storage so they (i.e. users) don't need to come to the service (it comes to them).
  • We may be in a "perfect storm" for case-building right now: the GFC; carbon neutral pressure; limited expansion space; etc.
  • The total cost of ownership is less.
  • Services are provided to locations all over with limited space investment.
  • The time to market and deliver is much quicker.

There may be opportunities for scaling infrastructure. Does the collaborative nature of higher ed support cloud activities across university systems or consortia?

  • One panelist cited the example of the Fedora Commons and Dspace consortium DuraCloud as large buying agents.
  • Collaboration provides many advantages for those who don't have the necessary storage competencies.
  • Collaborative consortia may be better equipped to leverage Amazon services.
  • There is already pressure for access from researchers to use the commercial cloud and they seem less concerned with oft cited disadvantages such as re privacy, security of data, down times, etc.
  • It works when the new service is better than old way

How does cloud computing impact governance, the organization of our departments and the skills of our staff?

  • Simple innovation isn't a component of greatness - we need to focus on core (and not just try to be "trendy").
  • Cloud computing could be disruptive and it must be a strategic decision that is supported by whole management team (it isn't just a tactical initiative tactical like moving student email to Google is).
  • The decision needs entire institution buy-in.
  • It is broader than just a CIO issue.
  • Privacy issues: when dealing with offshore servers, yes there are jurisdiction issues; but Google is willing to give assurances that they will comply with national requirement as they want our business; the problem is solvable.
  • One issue is the possibility of going to the cloud and then the company who is providing the service goes bankrupt, but that can also happen with traditional IT services. A risk management plan is needed.
  • Universities may need to reset different levels of service.

How does cloud computing impact governance, the organization of our departments and the skills of our staff?

  • We cannot grow as quickly, even in regional collaboration projects as the large commercial companies can.
  • What changes needed in IT staff? More expertise in contract management.
  • Someone needs to make a sensible decision about which records to turn over.
  • Most (IT) jobs and roles are changing anyway.

What should campuses be thinking about today and including in our planning for tomorrow?

  • Changing capital $ into those devoted to the provision of services (power costs need to be considered too).
  • In general, some services seem appropriate for the cloud, some should be provided on the campus & and some should be shared.

Some thoughts about Apple (the Mac variety)

As you may have noticed, I recently returned from a hectic two-week trip to the US for an education and higher education conference (Educause09) in Denver Colorado and a race through various institutions (university libraries, state archives and factories) equipped with automated storage and repository systems (ASRS).
I have to add that I travelled with an iPhone (a work phone) and a new 13" MacBook Pro (my own). Both of these Apple devices proved to be robust, efficient and very reliable for the entire trip. I had no hassles staying in touch and making new contacts by email, Twitter, web, Flickr, SMS, etc. And I found connecting to what seems to be a pretty standard offering of free (or included) wifi access in my hotel rooms no probs whatsoever. Apple devices just work without any hassles.
I also visited a few Apples stores and ended up purchasing a cool purple acrylic protective cover for my new MacBook in Denver and some noise reducing headphones in San Francisco. There is something about Apple Stores that I find irresistible (quite apart from the fact that I am kind of addicted to the design and functionality of most Apple devices). In two different stores I found excellent customer service and easily processed sales where I stood with friendly staff on their hand-held devices. I even had the option (which I took) of receiving a receipt electronically by email. When back in Sydney I was alerted to the following post about the new Apple Store that just opened in NYC by one of the people I follow on Twitter: Apple: the "New Nordstrum".
The post explains it in talking about the opening of the new store in New York:

The beauty of the stores are effective but that’s not what’s ultimately driving sales. At the end of the day, the physical store is merely the visible manifestation of the Apple customer experience.
That is where I think we need to go with the services we offer in libraries.

16 November 2009

Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center, UNR

This slide show comes from the Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center, University of Nevada, Reno. I visited on Veteran's Day and even on the national holiday a staff member (Erin Silva) was available to give me a tour, answer my questions and Carolyn Adams (the Head of Library Services) had even prepared a useful briefing paper for me. I have referred to that paper in producing this post, particularly about "MARS" (see below).

UNR's Mathewson Automated Storage and Retrieval System (“MARS”)

(My thanks again to Carolyn Adams for the information below.)

MARS has six cranes, over 25,000 bins and is three stories high. It was completed in 2008 and now has over 600,000 items locatd in about 10,000 bins (about 40% of maximum capacity). The maximum number of "picks" (retrievals) per day from MARS is 323 and the average picks per day is 77 (they are open from 8 am to midnight, so this is around five per hour), including staff and patron use.

Interestingly, they have three levels of picking stations:
  1. Used by Teaching & Learning Technologies department for (dedicated rather than random) equipment storage. Two workstations on one aisle.
  2. Used by Library Services department (the main level). Items stored include books published before 1995 that have been checked out seven of less times in the last 20 years and periodicals older than one year. High use materials are excluded. They took nine months to load 500,000 items initially. Books and periodicals are all stored randomly. A green mask is used over the external barcode label to denote MARS items. There are 11 workstations on nine aisles.
  3. Used by Special Collections and University Archives. Items have dedicated bin storage and there is a secured access point or non-circulating collections. Storage includesd manuscript boxes and framed photographs. Four workstations on two aisles.
They loaded the (empty) bins in the system first and then loaded the collection items into the bins using the picking stations (which is when the six stations on the main level were busiest). Like UNLV, they have student circulation staff who assisted with this.

They initially marked all books destined for MARS with a blue dot, but these fell off and some were missed, so since then they have used the green mask over the barcode labels to alert retrieval/circulation staff about books to be returned to MARS. Student workers were used to size books for their bins: 8, 10, 12, 14 and 18 inches. They did not report the same physical access issues with the 18 inch bins as reported by UNLV. Maybe their stations were slightly lower? I noted the hazard warning strips and the use of cushioned matting at the stations to make them more comfortable for staff loading books for long time frames. (See the images on Flickr.)

Interestingly, they do not have a sound system to alert staff to requests from MARS (like they do at Lied Library UNLV), so it is dependent on staff looking in on the system (at the rear of their staff area) to see if any bins have been brought up by MARS to the picking stations. The advertised delivery time is 10-15 mins from request, but it is usually in the immediate to 5 mins range.

Monographs in MARS are rarely requested and it seems that journals are the most often requested items. These are not stored in runs. All monographs and periodicals are stored randomly (other than by size), by the system itself. They keep the most recent journal issues on the shelves until bound (in-house), after which they are placed in MARS. They do lend journals (but not from MARS) for up to three days.

They are a recently commissioned library (2008), so did not see the need for a glass window to the system. They have a screen near the circulation desk that runs a loop of a video on the system that is also available on their website. They have now discontinued tours of MARS (which they used to run for anyone) because of safety concerns about access to the machinery itself. Unlike the Australian set up we will have to have under our legislative requirements, there are no protective cages, nor screens preventing people from coming into contact with a crane if they lent over the edge of a station.

Erin said they needed an area to store divider materials (MDF). She did not know whether the MDF stored on carts behind the picking stations was spare or replacement dividers.

Erin said that at first, they did not offer retrievals from MARS over the weekend as circulation staff on weekends were usually just students, but eventually staff were put on to supervise students and now retrievals are available whenever it is open.

Library Building space

The large open atrium was sad to be an important feature that impacts on the student experience when entering the Knowledge Center and therefore impacts on student experience and their behaviour in the library. The openness achieved in the atrium is due to the fact that 50% of the collection is stored in the ASRS, thus leaving more open spaces for library users to use for other purposes. Students can use the spaces as they like, without regulation apart from the fifth floor which is reserved as a quiet space and is glassed in accordingly (unlike the other open floors, which all have a range of group study spaces). The students monitor each others’ behaviour and noise quite well.

The lowest floor (under the ground floor entrance) is perhaps the most unconventional and interesting. Outside the learning commons “@ One” is a 160-seat auditorium with full multi-media capabilities. @ One contains no book shelves at all. It is mostly a computer commons with both PCs and Macs and some large wide screen Macs in the commons area as well as a studio of about 18 Macs in one room for the purposes of using non-text based software to create films, podcasts, etc. They also have two studios, one for sound/film recording and one for editing. They lend out multi-media equipment like video cameras as well.

They have a suite just for data analysis use and a useful and well-used computer instruction lab with tiered and sloped desking.

Probably the most interesting and certainly the most popular feature is their print/production centre, the only such facility on campus. This can produce large posters, art/graphic prints and photographic prints and is very well used by students for all kinds of purposes. They are just charged a cost for the materials (inks, paper, board, etc.) and this works out to be 1/5 of the commercial cost for such services.


15 November 2009

J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah

Here is the slide show from my visit to the "U of U" in Salt Lake City. Yet another impressive academic library with an ASRS by HK Systems (called "ARC" Automated Retrievals Centre), who also showed me around their manufacturing plant and the Utah State Archives ASRS.

I must also thank the helpful staff of the U of U Library who were very generous with their time and in answering all of my questions.


Some pretty rough notes from my visit:
Trays/bins from the ARC are delivered straight up by the cranes. They have four cranes delivering about 2 million items in bins 6”, 9”, 12” & 18”. These bins are typical HK mini-load bins (or totes) and can cope with up to 750 lb loads. This is more than tightly packed paper (of any density) would weigh and they are tested for maximum load carrying capacity in the HK plant, also in Salt Lake City.

They have CD/DVDs in the lower 6” bins and are beginning to also include microform.

The trays only tilt about 5 degrees for the pickers as they are near the top of the system. It is 45 foot high crane.

They do not keep all serials in their runs and have not found this to be an issue.

They do not have spines facing up (none of the systems I saw in the US did), but the computer screens tell the pickers which zone o sector the item is in and then they must identify it themselves. Their zones are pretty full and they have to readjust the load of the zone before fitting some books in, or check it out again and note that the tray is full and re-store it elsewhere.

The Marriot Library did a “huge” library re-organisation to cope with the new library wing and the ARC. It has freed up much space and allowed for collection expansion. The ARC is attended by their Security, Circulation and Access Team. The ARC staff member who took us around the system said he had three days initially training and he had since learned more through daily use. Reference and loans staff estimate that only 5% of books used come from the ASRS. (I will email for through-put figures.)

They do not have RFID and are moving to ExLibris Primo as heir discovery and delivery system.

They undertook a 12 month intensive weeding program (completed in six months) before loading the arc totes and the library was continually kept open over the four year building and ARC-implementation program.

Reference Services staff say that a glass window so that (particularly new) students could understand the system would be useful. There are glass doors and walls, but they think students should be able to see the size/extent and working of the system including robotic retrievals in progress. A video camera showing the path of a requested book is desirable.

When walking around the Library I saw some excellent (& very popular) “Knoll” lounge chairs. See image on the Flickr set (above).

Lied Library, UNLV

This slide show is from the Lied Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The post comes to you from the One World Lounge at LAX, so it may need some further adjustments after a couple of glasses of champagne. Really I should have put up the slide show of the U of Utah at Salt Lake City first, but I just got all confused in Flickr, so here it is, out of order.


09 November 2009

Salt Lake City Public Library slide show from Flickr

Wow! Even those of you who are hard to impress will be amazed by this library.

Salt Lake City has a very impressive public library design by Moshe Safdie. It is a good looking and striking building, but the internal spaces are what makes it function so well. It was a real pleasure to visit and so easy to explore. I found myself constantly surprised by what else it had to offer.
Nothing is over the top or just for show and all features seem to have a genuine purpose.
It cleverly makes the best of the sweeping views of the ranges that the position has to offer. I enjoyed: the small "boutiques" on ground level, the lifts and the stairs that take you out into the atrium, the roof top garden, the furnishings, the study "galleries" looking over the atrium, the water feature outside, the amphitheatre and the sweeping semi-circular stairway leading down from the roof-top. Fantastic!

07 November 2009

MCA Denver slideshow from Flickr

accessCeramics: digital image collection using Flickr

Mark Dahl's and Jeremy McWilliams' presentation on accessCeramics was probably the most inspirational session that I attended at Educause09. I am an unashamed fan of Flickr and its possibilities and Mark and Jeremy explained just how they used it to its full potential. Many of us should be following their brilliant example as it shows just how an institution can use a Web 2.0 service to facilitate a collaborative project. You can see all 53 slides for yourself in the presentation link above. These cover: the history of the project, how they did it, who was involved, cataloguing issues, enhancements, lessons learned, gains, costs and future plans. And they are now using Twitter (@accessCeramics) as their news feed: another great idea.

Having been involved in a more traditional (i.e. expensive, never ending, painful and frustratingly complex) DAM program in a large museum recently that used commercially sourced software, I found slide #48 particularly illuminating. Yes, they had hurdles too, but nowhere near the issues endemic in the traditional models.

Recently, we've started discussions about a community-based project to develop a special collection as part of the UTS Library. We will certainly be looking very closely at accessCeramics.

05 November 2009

Disrespectful and Time-Wasting, or Engaged and Transformative? The Mile-High Twitter Debate

This post is "loosely based" (as they say in films) on a series of my tweets (@malbooth) from the Twitter Debate session at Educause09. I've cleaned up and explained a few tweets in the interests of your sanity.

(#edTwitter is the hash tag for the Twitter debate at #educause09)
  • RT @jeremyindenver Standing room only at the Mile High Twitter debate (yes, the room was packed and people were standing up lining all walls)
  • Mostly academic theatre so far.
  • Noise, safety, security, content, distractions, spam, reality?
  • Or passion, diversity, helpful, connections, real time?
  • Check this video out -- The Twitter Experiment - UT Dallas http://bit.ly/YlBZt
  • CIOs as orange cones over potholes?
  • A reference to Harvard now. The school that gave us those that gave us the GFC [sorry, that was unfair: I put it onto the jet lag]
  • Is it about experimentation, innovation, making mistakes, exploring?
  • "Messy creativity that leads to engagement" (I liked that)
  • Do ground rules inhibit exploration & experimentation?
  • Google on innovation. Comes when reflecting, not on schedule in a divisional structure. Self-organise in shared-value culture.
  • Clay Shirky now: changing the world via social networks (from his recent talk at US State Dept)
  • How to make best use of the media even though it means changing our ways (Shirky)
  • Who cares what a CIO thinks about Twitter anyway?
  • [I then noticed that:] #educause09 [was] now a trending topic - imagine what we could achieve if we really collaborated
  • Twitter offers transparency, but [there are] some costs - uni reputation needs to be considered. Voices or consistency?
  • Dialogue is important. can practices be integrated? Is it a distraction?
  • Has tweeting become competitive in this debate? [This tweet attracted a response: "@kaiyen @malbooth no, unless you tweet faster than I do"]
  • [I think it is] too early for best practice & benchmarking: read some blogs, but not [the] usual suspects: see practitioners
  • Immersion is important! Follow @RWW, @mashable
  • [The someone mentioned:] FRBR (groans) [actually I heard FRBR being a librarian, but maybe they said FERPA?]
  • "Twitter is a basic information literacy skill" & [it is not] not in a walled garden
  • "What better evidence of your engagement in learning than results when your name is Googled": be a citizen of open web
  • "Please don't tell us what we can't do: help us, guide us"
  • Someone raised the importance of the back-channel as a toll for LISTENING!
  • Back-channel can be transformative, scary, invaluable and great guidance
  • Does or should twitter emulate real life communications? Trust users to do what is right with it as a tool
  • Can lead to moments of authentic connection!
  • We will all make mistakes and need to be tolerant of each other
  • Many different ways to use it appropriately - make a judgment
  • Important to be able to use all forms of media for communications!
  • Thanks for this session - it made me think
This was a very lively, active and well-presented session. My thanks to the two presenters: W. Gardner Campbell, Director of the Academy of Teaching and Learning and an Associate Professor of Literature and Media from Baylor University (who played the radical academic) & Bruce Maas who played (and is) the CIO of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (all universities should be so lucky).

Visit to Denver University

Before Educause09 started a generous man called Joe Schuch (from Thorburn Associates Inc.) organised a campus tour of some new learning spaces for those of us who were interested at the University of Denver (DU). I took a lot of photos as the tour was really interesting and useful. Here are some quick observations that I noted on my iPhone. The images can all be found on this Flickr set. Educause09 is way too busy for me to clean this up any further (and my brain is still suffering from jet lag).
  • Reconfigure of classrooms may be possible but it won't happen without ease of use (wheels).
  • Webcasting is possible in most classes at DU.
  • Hubs can be found in most floors for data/power (see images of a variety of types).
  • Wireless access is still problematic so they usually provide cable data too.
  • The importance of mobile technology is growing as is BYO computing.
  • "Idea paint" is used on some walls to allow writing space (see an image).
  • It can be hard for buildings to keep up with technology, so they must be designed to be flexible and adaptable as needs change. It is critical to allow for flexible movable furniture and non-defined learning spaces. Non-traditional models of teaching are being facilitated at DU. They find that they still need to allow for some managed restoration of spaces unless you have mature, responsible students.
  • Security devices are used on projectors to prevent theft.
  • Technology (& software) that you don't need to teach people about is their aim: the users can just figure it out.
  • The space with high projectors is an experiment with a (previously) poorly used space that is mow well used, for many different purposes. DU staff said it was best if faculties can see and play with something first before deciding what they want!
  • Ports are provided in floors that can be walked over & wheeled over (see image).
  • DU Library is digitizing teaching materials for faculty but there are some rights issues.
  • Permaculture gardens are being put in around the DU campus as it is a dry environment. This is a long term plan.
  • They have a professor teaching students all over world on International Futures and have set up a special teaching space for him to hookup real time with students on campus and remotely (overseas) using a large-screen web cam system. His program needed a single port of access for all while waiting for a full web solution (see image).
  • Construction projects are being used to leverage the steps of technological progress. Idea paint is used on some walls in big classroom (see the image with the cool desks).
  • The Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL) program is in the university library. Julanna V. Gilbert is the Director of CTL and she accompanied us for our entire tour along with Jane Loefgren from the office of the University Architect. Julanna also gave us a presentation on their web-based tools that support learning at DU.
  • CTL have their own developers for Cold Fusion and developed the DU Portfolio Community (before Facebook was developed). It supports many communities, but content is not exportable to other platforms or systems. It is now a huge system that has evolved over eight years. 400 communities are using it and some departments use it as internal space as it has configurable privacy settings. It is written in Java uses an Oracle database (with the DBAs coming from the central university technology support department). It is not a course management program. It offers academic program assessment (not course assessment) as well as the community side. It is capable of collecting all forms of media that can be uploaded. It seems to be more popular with faculty, staff and communities but some students use it too. They can take their portfolio with them after graduating by keeping the space and they can add to it. The system started before online spaces were developed. A lot of research communities use it. It is much easier to use than blackboard and there is no need to teach people how to use it. (Blackboard is used at DU for course support.)
  • DU CTL also built DU CourseMedia - a media management system for multimedia including video, sound, images, etc. It was designed to be "no harder than buying a book at Amazon". Anyone who wants to use these applications can use the system (but not the DU content). The DU Library helps with digitizing media, negotiating the ownership landmine and by adding (consistent, standard, necessary) metadata as "they know all that stuff". The library thought that they should offer that service. They even hired an art historian at first when digitising images and then moved into film. The Library felt a need to provide content. (This is not part of the Colorado Digitisation Project.)
  • Lecture capture at DU is done through client via laptops, mostly to Blackboard. I think their system can encode up to six simultaneous streams. It is mostly used by the Business faculty academics. They went for an economical solution.
I am really grateful for the time and generosity of the staff and students of the University of Denver for providing us with this tour of their learning spaces. My images and words probably do not do them the credit they deserve.

30 October 2009

Visit to Thinkspace (Powerhouse Museum)

These are some images of a recent visit that I made with some colleagues from the UTS Library to the Powerhouse Museum's Thinkspace. The super staff there, Joy Suliman and Peter Mahony, gave us a great workshop to introduce us to some of the possibilities for collaborative digital learning and creativity in such a space. We played around with Garage Band, Google Earth, Inspiration (a mind-mapping tool, see below) and some other programs.

Peter and a blurry Joy answering some of our questions.

The two shots above show the results of some quick mind-mapping about technology and social spaces in libraries.

I'd been to this space for a quick tour once before but I wanted to go back and take our entire management team along with a few younger colleagues to help us out. We're probably going to experiment with a similar space in our library very soon.
Peter and Joy said their space had three key features: it could be personalized (made relevant to me); it was connected (to the web and therefore elsewhere); and it could be situated (made even more relevant with maps, GPS, etc.). It also had durable and flexible furnishings as you can see above. Their room contained four workstations and it works well that way. I think at one stage Peter said something like collaboration in such a space is "augmented by technology that is configurable to different levels". The whole environment seems very conducive to creativity.
For us I think it could assist in facilitating collaboration and even cross faculty interaction. The technology does has a shelf life, but as it is already in many NSW schools our future students will be expecting access to it when they get to university too.
Thanks again to Joy and Peter for a great workshop!
Watch this space . . .

20 October 2009

Peter Murray-Rust's 12 point action plan for libraries

Peter Murray-Rust Keynote at ILI 2009 from Jaap van de Geer on Vimeo.

Peter is seeing no fire in our collective bellies and not enough passion coming from librarians about our own future. He puts forward an interesting action plan calling for librarians to be less passive and far more proactive on issues such as Copyright in academic publishing, open everything (publishing & data), community collaboration and action, and taking more steps to make the library a growing and addictive organism.

In this talk he delivers a pretty good 12 point action plan that most of us working in academic libraries should at least consider very seriously. The whole video is well worth watching, but I know most people won't bother so here again is my summary of the key points along with a few of my own comments thrown in for good measure.

Before introducing his action plan he mentions a few other interesting ideas:

  • He grounds his presentation by referring to Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science, although he dislikes the term "user" preferring "reader".
  • Copyright as we know it must be destroyed for the sake of academic publishing and in order to facilitate the sharing of knowledge (as distinct from the business of making money from restricting the sharing of knowledge). He claims by example that Copyright is currently preventing the sharing of knowledge that could help to save the planet and that we as librarians should be agitating, displaying our "raw anger" and protesting for legislative change.
  • He laments the situation in academic publishing where academics create works for free, but are expected to pay in order to see the work of their colleagues. It is a situation that must be changed.
The 12 Point Plan (in no particular order):
1. We should act as citizen librarians towards a common or shared goal. (See some examples below of communities collaborating towards shared goals.)
2. Post all academic output publicly: ignore Copyright. For this, we need to display our passion and one of probably has to volunteer to go to gaol. I like this one, but I can't be the one going to gaol. Sorry. (Beth & Belinda: step forward please. Don't worry, I'll look after the shop.)
3. Text mine everything. Currently this isn't allowed by the publishers who own nearly everything. It stops researchers trying to find stuff. As he says: "when violating a publisher's terms of use, you are guilty until proven innocent".
4. Put 2nd year students in charge of developing educational technology resources. They use it all the time and will know whether to go mobile or to use Xbox or Play Station. There is some truth in this.
5. Actively participate in obtaining science grants. Because scientists find it all too repetitious and cumbersome. They need our help.
6. Actively participate in the scientific publishing process. Again, they need our help. Maybe we can help them to publish their work more openly and also to facilitate better management of their IP.
7. Close the science library and move it all to the departments. He says this is a no-brainer. (We don't have a science library at UTS.)
8. Handover all purchasing to national Rottweiler publishing officers. Apparently they deal with the publishers centrally in Brazil. We could not do it in Australia. Getting any form of agreement with so many egos and so much self-interest in the room would prove far too complicated. Besides, we have less important issues to worry about. It is actually something we should at least try to do, very seriously. It may well be one of the big issues on this list, along with taking action on Copyright and open access publishing where we really could have a very beneficial effect and demonstrate our worth.
9. Set up a new type of university press. The traditional presses have all been failures. We have been handed an opportunity with the Internet, but our presses have been less innovative than other publishers. I think we are taking steps in this direction now and UTSePress is a good example, publishing journals, books and conference proceedings online.
10. We should develop our own metrics system. Publishers manipulate the metrics system in order to get us to buy what they think we want.
11. We should publicly campaign for openness. He gave a few examples like the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Rights Group. We should be actively involved.
12. We should make the library an addictive "game". He used the example of building "reputation points" through involvement and participation in something like stackoverflow.com After a while it becomes a bit addictive, like ebay.
We should be asking ourselves "what can we do to change the world and keep the library a growing organism"? His list seems like a decent start, even if it is a tad biased towards science.
He wound up his presentation with a few examples of the contributions made by online communities, including: Galaxy Zoo where 150,000 members world-wide have assisted professional astronomers to classify over one million galaxies; and OpenStreetMap, a free editable map of the world that is up-to-date within minutes thanks to the contributions made by over 250,000 members.
One of the most important pleas he makes is for the democratisation of knowledge. This should be possible on the web. For it to happen, democratisation must win over commoditisation for commercial purposes (i.e. the protection of business empires).
I am surprised that there has not been more debate about his address.

19 October 2009

Miscellaneous connections

I gave this presentation late last week to the ANZ Society of Indexers for their annual conference. It was meant to stimulate some thought about recent developments on the web and also within institutions. Maybe the following guide will help to interpret some of these slides.

SLIDES 2 & 3 (Connection)

I used these slides to draw a connection between myself and Hazel Bell, the other plenary speaker (by video from the UK). She indexed the first publication of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1992 text) when it was first published by Jeremy Wilson in 1997. That text is over 80,000 words longer than the 1926 text that most people would be more familiar with and the index was invaluable to me when I curated a museum exhibition on Lawrence in 2006-08.

SLIDE 4 (Collaborators)

I am really grateful to those named on that slide as they raised my awareness and gave me new perspectives on a number of issues. We mostly used Google Docs to share comments and observations.

SLIDES 6-8 ("Indexing" the web)

Here you can see the influence of David Weinberger (Everything is Miscellaneous) and Cory Doctorow regarding the application of non-web protocols, classifications and restrictions to the web. We cannot attempt to index or classify the web in the same way we would for a book or a collection of physical objects. It isn't going to work and it isn't necessary.

SLIDES 9-11 (Connect, share & collaborate!)

Yes, connect and integrate our existing taxonomies and indexes with those available on the web. I'm not suggesting that we throw the baby out with the bath water. Folksonomies work best with taxonomies. We need to realise that what works best in web systems like iTunes, Flickr, LibraryThing and Delicious is their ease of use. You are not forced to spend days laboriously adding metadata to fields that you don't even understand. LibraryThing and iTunes draw or harvest open metadata for us from other sources. We can then add our own tags, and in some cases even comments, links and reviews.

SLIDES 12-15 (The power of sharing)

Social media allows us to share everything quickly and easily. Gary Hayes' Social Media Count brilliantly displays the amazing dynamics of social media as you watch. In 2008 I was able to share images from a world championships being run in Hawaii to the world while the race was still being conducted. Our collection management systems in cultural institutions are not that adept. So maybe we use them in conjunction with image sharing platforms like Flickr or Picasa, or maybe we just chuck out these cottage industry systems and start again, realising the importance and scope of digital media, and going with systems that are intuitive, easy to use and much less cumbersome? Even software is now being shared and users are collaborating with each other to improve it. People are also still busy having their say in blogs and using clever RSS readers to help them to read what they choose to read and not what newspaper editors think they should read or what TV news rooms want to sell them.

SLIDE 16 (Authenticity)

The web is often criticised for being unreliable. But just because something is published in a magazine, a newspaper or in a book does not make it always reliable or authentic. Even peer review is not completely reliable. So we've come up with new ways to measure how much to trust each other and judge authenticity online. eBay and craigslist are great examples of this and they've been so popular that they've effectively robbed newspapers of much of their classifieds revenue.

SLIDES 17-25 (Institutions & sharing)

Cultural institutions are realising that they need to get out there and connect with their users on the web. They cannot wait for people to come to them. The clever institutions are making their web data easily findable and easily used. Mashups are growing. These are just a few examples.

SLIDES 26-27 (UTS Library - now)

Open everything seems to be the way of the future, so with UTSeScholarship we are heading in that direction. We are also using social media to connect with our clients where they might begin their searches and to engage with them.

SLIDES 28-35 (UTS Library of the Future)

These slides present a quick tour of some of the plans we have for our future Library. We are going to put approximately 66% of our physical collection in an underground Automated Storage & Retrieval System adjacent to our new Library building and that will allow us to do much more with our physical spaces in the Library itself. (The rough dates are only indicative.) Some of the elements we are looking at will be stimulated by developments well outside traditional library and academic environments.


@shitmydadsays is one of the most followed twitters and not just because most of his tweets are profane. Oddly enough, there is some wisdom in many of his sayings. This one relates rather nicely to the issue of library fines.

07 October 2009

A quick presentation on using Twitter

I gave this quick presentation on using Twitter to my university's Teach & Learning Committee yesterday. Our Deputy Vice Chancellor (for Teaching, Learning and Equity), Shirley Alexander thought it was worth giving Twitter a try as a way of extending our reach and exposing the work of the committee. So here it is on SlideShare, below.
Oh, and one tool I used yesterday that isn't linked in the presentation is TwitBlock - a great help in ridding your followers of spammers.

Of course hyperlinks still don't upload that well on SlideShare, so here they are, slide-by-slide:

SLIDE #1 https://twitter.com/signup http://delicious.com/malbooth/twitter www.slideshare.net/malbooth

SLIDE #3 http://twitter.com/ http://twitter.com/stephenfry http://search.twitter.com/

SLIDE #4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number

SLIDE #5 http://tweetdeck.com/beta/download/ http://echofon.com/ http://www.atebits.com/tweetie-iphone/ http://bit.ly/ http://cotweet.com/

SLIDE #7 http://twitter.com/KevinRuddPM http://twitter.com/BarackObama http://twitter.com/SAlexander_UTS http://twitter.com/AnneBB http://twitter.com/search/users?q=UTS&category=people&source=find_on_twitter http://twitter.com/Twitter_Tips http://twitter.com/timoreilly

Cory Doctorow on Copyright & Open Access

I just watched a great presentation by Cory Doctorow from Access 2009 (Canada's Premier Library Technology Conference). Cory gives a bit of a history of the web to date as a massive copying machine and then criticises various attempts to regulate it. Towards the end there are some really important statements and answers to questions about Copyright and open access publication. These ideas struck a chord with me:
  • allowing free trade of electronic editions sells more print editions
  • librarians under-appreciate the extent to which they are unimpeachable sources of moral authority on liberal info access
  • creative people, such as authors and artists, are not the most astute people on (rights) policy questions (he doesn't agree that we librarians are the moral equivalent of car thieves!)
  • authors who give up copyright to publishers lose negotiating power
  • authors' relationships with publishers are best described as Stockholm Syndrome
  • the difference between purchasing a book and buying the right to read one on Amazon's Kindle
  • libraries should spend [part of their] research subscriptions budgets on peer review fees for an open access journal
  • citation is a function of access and you get cited more in open access journals
  • there is a duty to release publicly funded research to the public

You can watch all 57 mins of his address below. More slides and videos of other presentations are available on the UPEI presentation portal.

22 September 2009

Breathing new life into collections

George Oates is at it again. This presentation covers her brilliant work at Flickr Commons and her recent work on openlibrary.org. The themes that run through this presentation are: increasing access to collections; exploiting the power of (larger) networks; and institutional knowledge as substrate (through deconstruction, opening up and sharing).
Flickr Commons now boasts the shared collections of about 30 participating institutions, greatly increasing access to the shared photos (through the power and reach of Flickr) and perhaps more importantly, allowing the active participation of the viewing audience in adding to the institutional descriptions of those images. Now George has a similar vision for openlibrary.org.
She recognises that the catalogue records of libraries often do not make much sense to many intelligent people and in many cases they can actually be improved if we release our authoritative control over them and share them amongst our readers. A retired friend of mine has a massive personal library of well over 20,000 books. A while back we encouraged him to start cataloguing his books on Library Thing and he has already made a major contribution to the improvement of the descriptive records of those books in his collection, many of which he says were poorly catalogued by many great libraries or Amazon. His cataloguing is also less about the strictures of institutional taxonomies and more about the emotional and intellectual discoveries he has made through reading those books. Surely that helps if we think that our catalogues are primarily to be read by people and not machines?

Oh, you can follow her latest project on Twitter too @openlibrary

21 September 2009

What The F**k Is Social Media

Check out this SlideShare Presentation, especially the last three wise rules: listen, engage & measure.
(Thanks to Penny Hagen for the pointer on her SlideShare page:
http://www.slideshare.net/pennyhagen )

18 September 2009

IMA's Dashboard

I have to say how much I like the concept of this dashboard of museum effectiveness by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I was lucky enough to hear Maxwell L. Anderson speak about a new range of metrics for museums at the Museum Computer Network conference in Minneapolis in 2004 (I think) and he has now made at least some of that theory reality as their Director and CEO .

You can read more about his ideas for museum metrics in this Getty Compleat Leader download and also on this Art Museum Network website. It seems a lot more useful to me than a dull, readerless annual report.

It is great to see a sustainability measure right in the heart of the dashboard.

16 September 2009

Gratuitous advice for job applicants

In various roles I’ve been employing people for the last 20 years. This has mostly been via some really dull public service processes that are designed to do the following:

  • frighten the life out of prospective job applicants (or bore them to death);

  • waste as much time and paper as possible;

  • encourage the hopeless to apply and even protest decisions in the interests of fairness; and

  • generate unproductive work for people with nothing better to do.

In most cases applicants need to be assessed in terms of a too-long list of badly written selection criteria. I know that everyone is going to say that this is really my own fault, but usually it is easier and quicker to just leave what is already there alone because the process of re-writing them adds another year to a very long process depending on what language is currently in vogue with the HR crowd. But really, in my experience the selection criteria don't matter anyway. There are several things that do matter and they are the things that make you want to hire someone if you are lucky enough to get someone who has all or most of these traits applying. So, for what they are worth, here they are:

  • A decent tertiary or other relevant qualification (which in most cases just indicates an ability to learn)

  • An ability to communicate in various ways – writing, online and in person

  • A real or genuine and engaging personality

  • An obvious enthusiasm or passion for whatever field it is you want to work in

  • Some original ideas and a creative spirit

  • Some evidence of the application of your skills

Regardless of the long lists of selection criteria we all have to deal with in interviews, in my experience, those are the real things I’ve looked for when hiring people and when you find someone with all of those traits, you throw the selection criteria out of the window.

15 September 2009

An old but still relevant rant from Bruce Sterling

Recently, I found the text for an internally circulated article that I sent to some colleagues in the museum I was working in. It dates from March 2007, but some of the statements are still relevant today, so with a small amount of updating, I'm re-posting it here as maybe some of those new to this environment missed what Bruce had to say.

I remember being impressed by the amount of live web coverage coming from SXSW 2007 including a website full of content, papers online, podcasts, blogs, flickr sites and online videos.

Furthermore, I thought about what this means for us down here in Oz where we are soooo far away from all these hip conferences about new stuff. The web is finally making these far-away conferences and even some courses more accessible to us and it seems to still be mostly free. Those who truly understand what it is about also understand that to get the message out there, you don’t lock it away on pay-per-view sites or member only networks. You share it for free and maybe include some ads that hardly anyone ever clicks or views. At least that’s the way I see it and the whole new web culture of sharing, i.e. sharing valuable, new knowledge and even some wisdom, still amazes me.

So, later that day, in need of some inspiration, I listened to a keynote rant from a guy called Bruce Sterling who was then a Visionary in Residence at wired.com. The podcast was already available on the SXSW website and while not all of it is directly relevant to the work of a cultural institution, some of it was and still is in a conceptual sense if we are to understand the world we are now part of (particularly given the large investment already in most museum websites). I knew that not many of my then colleagues would ever listen to the whole podcast (an hour long), so I jotted down these notes from it as I listened:

Bruce mentions RFID in the SXSW participant wrist bands, but doesn’t ever allude to what they really used RFID for apart from the obvious. (RFID tagging of items like conference delegates, triathletes and baggage at airports has moved on a lot since then, but that is a whole other story, so lets not go there now.) He then refers to “2007 – the year of video”. Sterling calls it a stoopid medium, especially in TV which really is a wasteland. And the vested interests from TV-land are trying to step on the net, but he says it isn’t going to happen.

New trend drivers are emerging.

Three in particular are worth discussing (Prof) Henry Jenkins and convergence culture; Yochai Benkler who wrote The Wealth of Networks; and Lev Manovich and his Soft Cinema – hybrid media. These blokes have cultural, legal and media studies backgrounds, but they talk the same language. They talk in an analytical policy vocabulary – about a new method or approach to increase peoples’ wealth.

On the web information is free and it wants to be free. You are charged nothing and don’t have to click the ads. It is available to anybody and it is incredibly powerful and growing right there in front of you. The first world is the global market – capitalism and the market world as we know it. The second world is all forms of government. The new third world is common-space peer production – not communism, not the state and not the market. It is really growing fast and having profound effects. We use ‘Google’ as a verb now. It is also about ‘Not-For-Profit’ stuff. The fourth world is disorder and where they don’t have any of this.

The new third world is more powerful than we give it credit for, but not necessarily a good thing yet. It is a new thing. Benkler’s and Jenkin’s arguments are fearsome, but the new networks may not be as fragile as they think – they are pretty resilient. Take for example Craigslist – he isn’t a business mogul, he is mild and low key guy from San Francisco and not really interested in business. He just wanted 200 million friends. But he has gutted the revenue streams of major newspapers (i.e. classifieds)! He has no business. (My comment: Some of these networks and start-ups are now being acquired by bigger predators though and will someone like Murdoch or Yahoo eventually acquire craigslist?)

Peer2Peer networks are turned on and they out-shift anything else ever built without a dime changing hands.’ This world is still vulnerable to charlatans and rip-off merchants. And there are down-sides to too much ‘fan involvement’ in art.

Mashups – of video & sound.
Are they really a tremendous source of creativity? They won’t last 10 years. They are novel (now) and have no staying power as music. They are not tremendously creative works. It is new and has an audience, but it isn’t a cultural advance.

Lev Manovich talks about soft cinema – digital tools are melting all media down into a kind of slum. It is all merging and distinctions go with powerful compositing tools. Effects are becoming the means of production. All pieces are sent to a compositor, like in Hollywood films. Different flavours come out of the same mixing machine. There are different windows to the same media. Does everything need to go through this ‘media blender’? It is a new capacity, but isn’t necessarily any better. Electronic art stinks. It is interesting, not great. Ease of production? E.g. deviantART. Sure it is folk culture, but it is for hicks! We need a new form of media criticism. Film media, literature, music are all just going away and there are new realities, but they are not that good.

Now there are some 55 million blogs and some are good? Well, no actually. He would be quite surprised if any exist in 10 years. (And if it is true that blogs are that ephemeral, some cultural institutions like libraries and archives better start archiving those relevant to their collecting guidelines sometime soon!) They may be best as platforms for the development of something. ‘They are like watching yourself get beaten to death with croutons’ – and they’re not that potent a media. They’re also not fine art. The usual discourse is like three paras, an embedded video, some hyperlinks, flickr sets, Digg and social book-marking links, etc. Is it done well or badly? Is there any web design critique that could be applied to it to say whether it is done well or not? Sterling (a blogger himself) says it is an unstable media not aspiring to greatness. A word-of-mouth kind of culture.

Is it good to turn on the ‘information factory’ and leave the room? It is machine expression and needs to be understood as that. ‘Semiotic pollution’. The worst is spam. Gibberish. Imagine if that happened on TV or in a movie theatre!

Reed Hundt – a US intellectual and lawyer, who is very weary looking. Disenchanted by Federal Government, he is now in private practice. He was involved in auctioning spectrum (just like we are doing here in Oz). And he has a mad scheme to steal broadband and sell it (as gifts) to police, public safety authorities, etc. He wants to take it from broadband TV. Broadband TV is for shut-ins. Broadcast TV is a lower end evil medium. It was bad before American Idol, but now there is no budget to put on decent stuff. It is junk. He wants to put the net over TV as b-band Internet. It would reduce distinctions between the different media forms. There is no technical reason to not do it. It would change major stuff. It needed a ground swell of support and Hundt was trying to do it with public-safety and security services – cops, firemen, etc. The US would then leapfrog to the top of the national broadband rankings. He has a rather dull website and he used to run a blog.

Yochai Benkler – social networking and what it takes to build a third kind of production system that harnesses productivity, creativity. They need thoughtful engineering and some care. He puts forward a method for socially motivated common-space peer production:
  • divide up the work – there is a lot to do, suck helpers in

  • the work must be granular, modular (projects) and ‘integrate-able’ (all adds up to turn into one thing that really achieves something) – not seen much in other lines of work, not business, even government

  • be self-selective – people chose to join in (people come out of the wood-work)

  • have an in or out mechanism (like a two-way membrane)

  • have a communication platform to talk to each other, fast & efficient

  • humanisation??? (not further discussed)

  • include trust construction – has to be built, confidence building (very important)

  • someone has to think about what is normal, acceptable behaviour and create that

  • transparency – so motives are not questioned

  • monitoring (a police force of sorts to prevent someone attacking the system – hackers, thieves, etc. because the Internet is a savage world)

  • peer review (who is good at stuff?) – a motivator

  • discipline (an Achilles heel of all Internet efforts)

  • fairness (will ‘the intelligentsia exploit the helpless proletariat?’!) – Wikipedia and Digg don’t pay people! Things that were formerly professions are now falling apart on the net and are no longer business, they are melting like the Arctic

  • institutional sustainability – who knows how long it will last (e.g. Slashdot) – what is the legacy plan, what is needed? The hardware is radically unstable!

Benkler doesn’t talk about some unpleasant extremist forms which might appear to have all of this licked! We can all think of extremist organisations who might be doing much of the above, but perhaps without the transparency and with a different take on humanisation and fairness? Maybe they are proof of the potency of this form of organisation?

In order to make this work, Benkler says that we need to understand that computers are platforms for self-expression rather than well-behaved appliances. Computers really stink as appliances. They are painful to use, always in beta, etc. Well-behaved appliances kill self-expression and common space peer production. Something that barely works can become a common space peer production factory!

Benkler distributed his book (all 500+ pp!) in pdf format and then he opened a wiki for everyone to help him explore this issue, but there was nobody there. It isn’t easy to be as smart as he is! It was just a vast echo chamber. You can open stuff like that, but it doesn’t mean they come in and if they do it doesn’t mean they’ll be useful. Sterling says he could not help him. It is an interesting issue.

Sterling closed his rant with a poem about serenity and a sense of fulfilment. Perhaps it was about life not on the web? It was a bit of a stretch for me . . .