Jisc workshops in November: making your digital collections easier to discover

Jisc is offering two one-day workshops to help you increase the reach of your digital collections, optimise them for discovery and evaluate their impact.

 

Exploiting digital collections in learning, teaching and research will be held on Tuesday 15 November.

Making Google work for your digital collections will be held on Tuesday 22 November.

 

If your organisation has digital collections, or plans to develop them, our workshops will help you maximize the reach of those collections online, demonstrate the impact of their usage, and help you build for future sustainability. They will equip you with the knowledge and skills to:

• Increase the visibility of your digital collections for use in learning, teaching and research
• Encourage collaboration between curators and users of digital collections
• Strategically promote your digital collections in appropriate contexts, for a range of audiences
• Optimise your collection for discovery via Google and other search tools
• Use web analytics to track and monitor access and usage of your digital collections
• Evaluate impact and realise the benefits of investment in your digital collection

Who should attend?

Anyone working in education and research, who manages, supports and/or promotes digital collections for teaching, learning and research. Those working in similar roles in libraries, archives and museums would also benefit.

Both workshops will be held at Jisc office, Brettenham House, London and will offer a mix of discussion, practical activities and post-workshop resources to support online resource discovery activities.

For more information and to book your place please visit www.jisc.ac.uk/advice/training/making-your-digital-collections-easier-to-discover

Jisc resource discovery workshops – flyer

Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World

Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World, 2016.

Magic, Witches and Devils in the Early Modern World. John Rylands Library exhibition, 21 January – 21 August 2016.

This fascinating exhibition, housed within the gothic splendour of The John Rylands Library in Manchester, reveals how magic, diabolical witchcraft and ghostly encounters inspired fear and curiosity on an unprecedented scale between the 15th and 18th centuries. With stunning local, European and non-Western examples from Manchester collections, the exhibition offers an exceptionally wide-ranging window onto the supernatural world. Curated by historians Jennifer Spinks and Sasha Handley from the University of Manchester, the exhibition presents rare books, prints, manuscripts and objects that illuminate the roots of our obsession with supernatural powers and reveal a world where the Devil was understood as a very real and present danger in daily life.

The exhibition draws on the collections of the John Rylands Library, the Whitworth Art Gallery and Chetham’s Library which contain many rare books, prints, manuscripts and protective amulets that provide unique perspectives on how early modern people feared, engaged with, and sometimes found pleasure in the supernatural world. The years c.1400- c.1800 coincided with major changes in European society, from scientific developments to religious conflicts to a great increase in the number of printed publications. One of the most important changes was increasing contact with other lands. Although the exhibition focuses principally on Europe, it also includes examples of how some non-Western traditions represented and tapped into powers beyond the everyday.

Compendium magiae innaturalis nigrae (Compendium of Unnatural Black Magic).

Compendium magiae innaturalis nigrae (Compendium of Unnatural Black Magic).
Pseudo-Michael Scot. Franconia, Germany, late 16th century (Latin MS 105).

The Compendium was attributed to the astrologer Michael Scot, whose infamy as a supposed magician was noted even by the famous Italian poet Dante. Intriguingly, the Scot manuscript contained strange elements of Arabic artifice. What appears to be a copy of an earlier spell, transcribed into corrupted or fake Arabic, was included as a precursor to its Latin ‘translation’. This was evidently designed to lend a sense of mystery as well as credibility to the conjurations contained within the book.

Shahnama (Book of Kings).

Shahnama (Book of Kings). Abu’l Qasim Firdousi (‘Ferdowsi’) and unknown artist. Western India, mid 15th century (Persian MS 9).

The Shahnama (Book of Kings) was an epic poem that detailed Persian history from the beginning of the world to the arrival of Islam. It appeared in many manuscript editions and generated a vibrant artistic tradition. The story of Rustam’s fourth task saw the hero enter a land populated by demons and sorcerers, where he was approached by a witch in the guise of a beautiful young woman. Realising her true nature when she recoiled at hearing the name of God, Rustam ordered her to ‘speak and show thy proper favour’. Returning to her hideous, wrinkled appearance, she was quickly put to the sword.

 

 

The Art of Dying was designed to help people achieve a good death. Images of poor deathbed performances (listed as faithlessness, despair, impatience, vainglory and avarice) were contrasted with those showing how the dying person should behave (with faith, hope, patience, humility and worldly detachment). ‘The Temptation to Avarice’ scene, for example, shows a group of demons pointing to the dying man’s possessions and loved ones, reminding him of the things he will soon leave behind.

Ars moriendi (Art of Dying)


Ars moriendi (Art of Dying) Unknown author and artist. Strasbourg, France, c. 1475 (Blockbook collection 10123).

For further details and an online copy of the exhibition booklet, written by Jennifer Spinks, Sasha Handley and Postdoctoral Research Associate Stephen Gordon, see: http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/whats-on/exhibitions/magic/

Magic, Witches & Devils in the Early Modern World runs from 21 January – 21 August 2016 at The John Rylands Library, Manchester.

You can also find an interview with the curators about the process of putting the exhibition together on the University of Manchester History blog (https://uomhistory.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/magic-witches-and-devils-in-the-early-modern-world-new-exhibition/)

This exhibition has been generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

AHRC logo

AHRC logo

Julianne Simpson
Rare Books and Maps Manager, Special Collections
University of Manchester Library

All images copyright The John Rylands Library, Manchester and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Catalogues as Communities? (Some thoughts on Libraries of the Future)

At last week’s Libraries of the Future debate, Ken Chad challenged the presenters (and the audience) over the failure of libraries to aggregate and share their data.  I am very familiar with this battle-cry from Ken.  In the year+ that I’ve been managing Copac, he’s (good-naturedly) put me on the spot several times on this very issue.  Why isn’t Copac (or the UK HE/FE library community) learning from Amazon, and responding to user’s new expectations for personalisation and adaptive systems?

Of course, this is a critically important question, and one that is at the heart of the JISC TILE project, which Ken co-directs (I actually sit on the Reference Group). Ken’s  related argument is that the public sector business model (or lack thereof) is perhaps fatally flawed, and that we are probably doomed in this regard; private sector is winning already on the personalisation front, so instead of pouring public money into resource discovery ‘services’ we should instead, perhaps, let the market decide.  I am not going to address the issue of business models here – although this is a weighty issue requiring debate – but I want to come back to this issue of personalisation, 2.0, and the OPAC as a potential ‘architecture for participation.’

I fundamentally agree with the TILE project premise (borrowed from Lorcan Dempsey) that the library domain needs to be redefined as a set of processes required for people to interact with ‘stuff’.  We need to ask ourselves if the OPAC itself is a relic, an outmoded understanding of ‘public access’ or (social) interaction with digital content. As we do this, we’re creating heady visions where catalogue items or works can be enhanced with user-generated content, becoming ‘social objects’ that bring knowledge communities together.  ‘Access’ becomes less important than facilitating ‘use’ (or reuse) and the Discovery to Delivery paradigm is turned on its head.

It’s the ‘context’ of the OPAC as a site for participation that I am interested in questioning.  Can we simply ‘borrow’ from the successful models of Amazon or LibraryThing? Is the OPAC the ‘place’ or context that can best facilitate participative communities?

This might depend on how we’re defining participation, and as Owen Stephens has suggested (via Twitter chats) what the value of that participation is to the user.  In terms of Copac’s ‘My References’ live beta, we’ve implemented ‘tagging with a twist,’ where tagging is based on user search terms and saved under ‘Search History’.  The value here is fairly self-evident – this is a way for users to organise their own ‘stuff’. The tagging facility, too, can be used to self-organise, and as Tim Spalding suggested way back in 2007, this is also why tagging works for LibraryThing (and why it doesn’t work for Amazon). Tagging works well when people tag “their” stuff, but it fails when they’re asked to do it to “someone else’s” stuff. You can’t get your customers to organize your products, unless you give them a very good incentive.

But does this count as ‘community’ participation?  Right now we don’t provide the option for tags to be shared, though this is being seriously considered along the lines of a recommender function: users who saved this item, also saved which seems to be a logical next step, and potentially complimentary to Dave’s recommender work. However,  I’m much less convinced about whether HE/FE library users would want to explicitly share items through identity profiles, as at LibraryThing.  Would the LibraryThing community model translate to the models that university and college libraries might want to support the semantically dense and complex communities for learning, teaching and research?

One of the challenges for a participatory OPAC 2.0 (or any a cross-domain information discovery tool) will be the tackling of user context, and specifically the semantic context(s) in which that user is operating.  Semantic harvesting and text mining projects such as the Intute Repository Search have pinpointed the challenge of ‘ontological drift’ between disciplines and levels (terms and concepts having shifted meanings across disciplinary boundaries).  As we move into this new terrain of Library 2.0 this drift will likely become all the more evident.  Is the OPAC context too broad to facilitate the type of semantic precision to enable meaningful contribution and community-building?

Perhaps attention data, that ‘user DNA,’ will provide us with new ways to tackle the challenge.  There is risk involved, but some potential ‘quick wins’ that are of clear benefit.  Dave’s blog posts over the last week suggest that the value here might be in discovering people ‘like me’ who share the same research interests and keep borrowing books like the ones I borrow (although, if I am an academic researcher, that person might also be ‘The Competition’ — so there are degrees of risk to account for here — and this is just the tip of the ice-berg in terms of considering the cultural politics of academia and education).  Certainly the immediate value or ‘impact of serendipity’ is that it gives users new routes into content, new paths of discovery based on patterns of usage.

But what many of us find so compelling about the circulation data work is that it surfaces latent networks not just of books, but of people.  These are potential knowledge communities or what Wenger might call Communities of Practice (CoP).  Whether the OPAC can help nurture and strengthen those CoPs is another matter. Crowds, even wise ones, are not necessarily Communities of Practice.

The reimagining the library means reimagining (or discarding) the concept of the catalogue.  This might also mean rethinking the  OPAC as a context for community interaction.

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[Related ‘watch this space’ footnote: We’ve already garnered some great feedback on the ‘My References’ beta we currently have up — over 80 user-surveys completed (and a good proportion of those from non-librarian users).  This feedback has been invaluable.  Of course, before we embark on too many more 2.0 developments, Copac needs to be fit-for-purpose.  In the next year we are re-engineering Copac, moving to new hardware, restructuring the database,  improving the speed and search precision, and developing additional (much-needed) de-duplication algorithms.  We’re also going to be undertaking a complete  overhaul of the interface (and I’m pleased to say that Dave Pattern is going to be assisting us in this aspect). In addition, as Mimas is collaborating on the TILE project through Copac, we’re going to look at how we can exploit what Dave’s done with the Huddersfield circulation data (and hopefully help bring other libraries on board).]

Supporting researchers

I have recently attended two of the NoWAL/SCONUL Working Group on Information Literacy Workshops:  one thing about writing for publication, a workshop for library staff supporting researchers, led by Moira Bent and Pat Gannon-Leary; and developments in scholarly communication, led by Bill Hubbard.

At first glance, these workshops may not seem to have much to do with Copac:  after all, the first one even specifies that it is a ‘workshop for library staff’ and, as you may know, Copac isn’t based in a library.  (We’re based in a lovely office, with the Archives Hub team, and daffodils outside the window to distract us.)  However, Copac is all about supporting researchers, with our roots as the OPAC for the Consortium of Research Libraries (CURL), now Research Libraries UK (RLUK).  One of RLUK’s values, as set out on their website, is to ‘work with the research community to promote excellence in support of current research and anticipate future needs’.  This is what we aim to do at Copac, and I got some good ideas for how to do it from these workshops.

Moira and Pat led an interesting discussion about ‘what is research?’, before introducing us to their model of the ‘seven ages of research’ (see slides 8-11).  This was particularly interesting for me, as we’ve recently been conducting some stakeholder analysis, and while we ended up with 5 divisions of librarians with different needs/priorities, we only had one for researchers.  If we are to fully consider and meet the needs of all our users, and ensure that we are communicating with them effectively, then we need to consider the differences highlighted by this model.

Bill Hubbard’s workshop on ‘developments in scholarly communication’ concentrated mainly (and unsurprisingly, given Bill’s role as manager of SHERPA) on Open Access and repositories.  A very timely workshop, following the publication of the much-talked about Houghton report, and one that you might think would be better attended by one of my colleagues from Jorum or Intute repository search.  But it is important that Copac interacts with the OA landscape as well.  Bill returned to the theme of differences between researchers.  This time, it was differences of research methodologies between disciplines:  to crudely condense Bill’s example, economists love pre-prints and working papers, biomedical scientists won’t touch them with the proverbial bargepole.  This, of course, has implications for the types of material that will be appearing in repositories.  It also has implications for how Copac can best serve the needs of these researchers.

So, from our stakeholder analysis which had undergrads, postgrads, and academic researchers all in one nice little box, it now appears that we have to look at not only the career stage of the researcher, but their discipline as well.  Can we do this?  Well, we’re getting closer…  The new Copac Beta (open to members of UK Access Management Federation institutions) is our first step towards a personalised Copac – and the more personalisation we enable, the better able we are to meet the needs of a wide range of users.  It’s still early days, but we’re asking for feedback to find out what you think of the new features, and suggestions for further developments or improvements.

Educating our systems

JIBS workshop 13/11/08

I attended the JIBS workshop in London on ‘How to compete with Google: simple resource discovery systems for librarians’ with two agendas: one of a Copac team member, interested to see what libraries are doing that could be relevant to Copac; and the other of having recently completed some research on federated search engines, and being anxious to keep up-to-date with the developments.

The day consisted of seven presentations, and concluded with the panel taking discussion questions. Four of the presentations focussed on specific implementations: of Primo at UEA; of Encore at the University of Glasgow; of ELIN at the universities of Portsmouth and Bath; and of Aquabrowser at the University of Edinburgh. Some interesting themes ran through all of these presentations. One was that of increased web 2.0 functionality – library users expect the same level of functionality from library resource discovery systems as they find elsewhere on the internet. With this in mind, libraries have been choosing systems that allow personalisation in various forms. Some systems allow users to save results and favourite resources, and to choose whether to make these public or keep them private.

Another popular feature is tag clouds. These give users a visual method of exploring subjects, and expanding or refining their search. Some systems (such as Encore) allow the adding of ‘community’ tags. This allows users to tag resources as they please, and not rely on cataloguer-added tags. While expanding the resource-discovery possibilities, and adding some good web 2.0 user interaction, concerns have been raised about the quality of the tags. While Glasgow are putting a system in place to filter the most common swearwords, and hopefully ward off deliberate vandalism, there is a worry that user-added tags might not achieve the critical mass needed to become a significant asset in resource discovery. As we at Copac are looking into the possibility of adding tags to Copac records, we will be interested in seeing how this resolves.

The addition of book covers and tables-of-contents to records seems to be a desirable feature for many libraries – and it is nice that Copac is ahead of the pack in this regard! Informal comments throughout the day showed that people are very enthusiastic about the recent developments at Copac, and enjoy the new look.

It was also very interesting to see that some libraries are introducing (limited) FRBRisation for the handling and display of results. UEA, for instance, are grouping multiple editions of the same work together on their Primo interface. This means that a search for ‘Middlemarch’ returns 31 results, the first of which contains 19 versions of the same item. These include 18 different editions of Middlemarch in book form, and one video. While the system is not yet perfect (‘Middlemarch: a study of provincial life’ is not yet recognised as the same work), it is very encouraging to see FRBRised results working in practical situations. Introducing RDA and the principles of FRBR and FRAD at Copac is going to be an interesting challenge, as we will be receiving records produced to both RDA and AACR2 standards for a while. Copac, with its de-duplication system, already performs some aspects of FRBR, as the same work at multiple libraries is grouped as one record.

There were also two presentations dealing with information-seeking behaviour, by Maggie Fieldhouse from UCL and Mark Hepworth from Loughborough. Mark highlighted the need – echoed in later presentations – for users to be given the choice about how much control they had over their search. This was part of ‘training the system’ rather than ‘training the user’. Copac tries to be an ‘educated system’: we provide a variety of search options (from simple to very advanced) through a variety of different interfaces (including browser plug-ins and a Facebook widget), and we hope that this contributes to our users’ search successes. As part off this, we are going to be undertaking some usability studies, which we hope will make Copac even more well-trained.

A very enjoyable and informative day which has given me plenty to think about – and nice new library catalogues to play with!

All the presentations from the JIBS event are available for download:
http://www.jibs.ac.uk/events/workshops/simplerds/

Bookmarking Copac records

In a previous post, “Persistent identifiers for Copac records“, I said that we would soon be adding links from our Full record pages to bookmarking sites such as Delicious. Well, we have now added the links to Delicious!

We hope you find this functionality useful. Let us know if you think there are other such sites you think we should be linking to.

Search Solutions 2008

On Tuesday last I attended “Search Solutions 2008” organised the BCS-IRSG and to quote from event programme, “Search Solutions is a special one-day event dedicated to the latest innovations in information search and retrieval.” The format of the day was a series of short talks, 11 in all, each about 20 minutes in length with the chance for questions from the audience after each talk.

One of the themes through the day was the linguistic analysis of texts such as blog posts and web pages. Or in other words, deducing the correct meaning of a word like Georgia; is it referring to someone called Georgia, the country that used to be part of the USSR, or the USA State. As all the speakers were from commercial companies no-one was giving their secrets away, but approaches mentioned ranged from Bayesian analysis to a team of 50 linguistic experts.

Another theme was how social networking can help users find what they’re looking for. User recommendations and tagging were both cited frequently in this regard. Elias Pampalk from last.fm gave a very interesting talk on how tagging is being used on last.fm. They have made it very easy for users to tag. Adding a tag usually involves no typing — just a couple of mouse clicks to select either a tag you’ve used before or a tag someone else has used for that item. There is also incentive for people to tag at last.fm as it can help you discover new music and connect you to people with similar tastes. They seem to have gotten it right as they are collecting over 2.5 million tags per month.

At the end of his talk, Elias mentioned that last.fm had an open API, which I had never realised before. This got me wondering if we could provide links from Copac to last.fm. This perhaps isn’t as strange an idea as it may first seem. Copac doesn’t hold records for just books, we have many records in the database for CD and sheet music. It might be kind of neat to provide a link from those records to last.fm’s page about the artist or album and perhaps pull in images as well? Something to think about when we can find a bit of spare time.

Overall it was a very interesting day with many thought provoking talks and I’d happily attend a similar day next year.