Archive for the ‘Library’ Category

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Has New Website!

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Announcing the Launch of our New Website (the chest beating announcement)

From the post:

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is pleased to unveil its all-new redesigned website, now live at Created in collaboration with renowned design firm Postlight, DPLA’s new website is more user-centered than ever before, with a focus on the tools, resources, and information that matter most to DPLA researchers and learners of all kinds. In a shift from the former site structure, content that primarily serves DPLA’s network of partners and others interested in deeper involvement with DPLA can now be found on DPLA Pro.

You can boil the post down to two links: DPLA (DPLA Resources) and DPLA Pro (helping DPLA build and spread resources). What more needs to be said?

Oh, yeah, donate to support the DPLA!


Monday, February 5th, 2018


From the webpage:

From February 5-9, 2018, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world are sharing free coloring sheets and books based on materials in their collections.

Something fun to start the week!

In addition to more than one hundred participating institutions, you can also find instructions for creating your own coloring pages.

Any of the images you find at Mardi Gras New Orleans will make great coloring pages (modulo non-commercial use and/or permissions as appropriate).

The same instructions will help you make “adult” coloring pages as well.

I wasn’t able to get attractive results for Pedro Berruguete Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-da-fe 1495 using the simple instructions but will continue to play with it.

High hopes for an Auto-da-fe coloring page. FBI leaders who violate the privacy of American citizens as the focal point. (There are honest, decent and valuable FBI agents, but like other groups, only the bad apples get the press.)

When Good Enough—Isn’t [Search Engine vs. Librarian Challenge]

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

When Good Enough—Isn’t by Patti Brennan.

From the post:

Why do we need librarians when we have Google?

What is the role of a librarian now that we can google anything?

How often have you heard that?

Let’s face it: We have all become enticed by the immediacy of the answers that search engines provide, and we’ve come to accept the good-enough answer—even when good enough isn’t.

When I ask a librarian for help, I am tapping not only into his or her expertise, but also into that of countless others behind the scenes.

From the staff who purposefully and thoughtfully develop the collection—guided by a collection development manual other librarians have carefully crafted and considered—to the team of catalogers and indexers who assign metadata to the items we acquire, to the technical staff who design the systems that make automated search possible, we’ve got a small army of librarians supporting my personal act of discovery…and yours.
… (emphasis in original)

A great read to pass along to search fans in your office!

The image of tapping into the wisdom of countless others (dare I say the “crowd?”) behind every librarian is an apt one.

With search engines, you are limited to your expertise and yours alone. No backdrop of indexers, catalogers, metadata experts, to say nothing of those contributing to all those areas.

Compared to a librarian, you are out-classed and over matched, badly.

Are you ready to take Brennan’s challenge:

Let me offer a challenge: The next time you have a substantive question, ask a librarian and then report back here about how it went.

Ping me if you take Brennan up on that challenge. We are all want to benefit from your experience.

PS: Topic maps can build a backdrop of staff wisdom for you or you can wing every decision anew. Which one do you think works better?

Law Library of Congress Chatbot

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

We are Excited to Announce the Release of the Law Library of Congress Chatbot by Robert Brammer.

From the webpage:

We are excited to announce the release of a new chatbot that can connect you to primary sources of law, Law Library research guides and our foreign law reports. The chatbot has a clickable interface that will walk you through a basic reference interview. Just click “get started,” respond “yes” or “no” to its questions, and then click on the buttons that are relevant to your needs. If you would like to return to the main menu, you can always type “start over.”

(image omitted)

The chatbot can also respond to a limited number of text commands. Just type “list of commands” to view some examples. We plan to add to the chatbot’s vocabulary based on user interaction logs, particularly whenever a question triggers the default response, which directs the user to our Ask A Librarian service. To give the chatbot a try, head over to our Facebook page and click the blue “Send Message” button.

The response to “list of commands” returns in part this content:

This page provides examples of text commands that can be used with the Law Library of Congress chat bot. The chat bot should also understand variations of these commands and its vocabulary will increase over time as we add new responses. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

(I deleted the table of contents to the following commands)

Advance Healthcare Directives
-I want to make an advanced health care directive
-I want to make a living will

– I want to find a case

Civil Rights
My voting rights were violated
– I was turned away at the polling station
– I feel I have been a victim of sexual harassment

Constitutional Law
– I want to learn about the U.S. Constitution
– I want to locate a state constitution
-I want to learn about the history of the U.S. Constitution

Employment Law
-I would like to learn more about employment law
-I was not paid overtime

Family Law
– I have been sued for a divorce
– I want to sue for child custody
– I want to sue for child support
– My former spouse is not paying child support

Federal Statutes
– I want to find a federal statute

File a Lawsuit
– I want to file a lawsuit

– My house is in foreclosure

– I am interested in researching immigration law
-I am interested in researching asylum law

Landlord-Tenant Law
– My landlord is violating my lease
-My landlord does not maintain my property

Legal Drafting
Type “appeal”, “motion”, or “complaint”

Lemon Laws
– I bought a car that is a lemon

Municipal Law
– My neighbor is making loud noise
-My neighbor is letting their dog out without a leash
-My neighbor is not maintaining their property
-My neighbor’s property is overgrown

Real Estate
-I’m looking for a deed
– I’m looking for a real estate form

State Statutes
I want to find state statutes

Social Security Disability
– I want to apply for disability

Wills and Probate
– I want to draft a will
– I want to probate an estate

Unlike some projects, the Law Library of Congress chat bot doesn’t learn from its users, at least not automatically. Interactions are reviewed by librarians and content changed/updated.

Have you thought about a chat bot user interface to a topic map? The user might have no idea that results are merged and otherwise processed before presentation.

When I say “user interface,” I’m thinking of the consumer of a topic map, who may or may not be interested in how the information is being processed, but is interested in a useful answer.

DMCA Complaint As Finding Aid

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Credit where credit is due, I saw this idea in How to Get Past DMCA Take-Downs in Google Search and report it here, sans the video.

The gist of the idea is that DMCA complaints, found at: Lumen, specify in the case of search engines, links that should not be displayed to users.

In a Google search result, content subject to a DMCA complaint will appear as:

In response to multiple complaints we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 2 results from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaints that caused the removals at Complaint, Complaint.

If you follow the complaint links, knowing Google is tracking your following of those links, the complaints list the URLs to be removed from search results.

You can use the listed URLs to verify the presence of illegal content, compile lists of sites with such content, etc.


PS: I’m adding their RSS feed of new notices. You should too.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Now Online (25K, Goal: ~500K)

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Now Online

From the post:

The Library of Congress has placed online nearly 25,000 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, which depict the structure and use of buildings in U.S. cities and towns. Maps will be added monthly until 2020, for a total of approximately 500,000.

The online collection now features maps published prior to 1900. The states available include Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Alaska is also online, with maps published through the early 1960s. By 2020, all the states will be online, showing maps from the late 1880s through the early 1960s.

In collaboration with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, Historical Information Gatherers digitized the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps during a 16-month period at the Library of Congress. The Library is in the process of adding metadata and placing the digitized, public-domain maps on its website.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are a valuable resource for genealogists, historians, urban planners, teachers or anyone with a personal connection to a community, street or building. The maps depict more than 12,000 American towns and cities. They show the size, shape and construction materials of dwellings, commercial buildings, factories and other structures. They indicate both the names and width of streets, and show property boundaries and how individual buildings were used. House and block numbers are identified. They also show the location of water mains, fire alarm boxes and fire hydrants.

In the 19th century, specialized maps were originally prepared for the exclusive use of fire insurance companies and underwriters. Those companies needed accurate, current and detailed information about the properties they were insuring. The Sanborn Map Company was created around 1866 in the United States in response to this need and began publishing and registering maps for copyright. The Library of Congress acquired the maps through copyright deposit, and the collection grew to 700,000 individual sheets. The insurance industry eventually phased out use of the maps and Sanborn stopped producing updates in the late 1970s.

The Sanborn Maps Collection.

From the collection page:

Fire insurance maps are distinctive because of the sophisticated set of symbols that allows complex information to be conveyed clearly. In working with insurance maps, it is important to remember that they were made for a very specific use, and that although they are now valuable for a variety of purposes, the insurance industry dictated the selection of information to be mapped and the way that information was portrayed. Knowledge of the keys and colors is essential to proper interpretation of the information found in fire insurance maps.

The collection page relates that the keys and use of the keys change over time so use of a topic map with scoping topics is highly recommended.

There aren’t many maps for Georgia but my hometown in Louisiana has good coverage through 1900. Reasoning that roughly knowing the geography, history of the area will help with map interpretation.


The Marshall Index: A Guide to Negro Periodical Literature, 1940-1948

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

The Marshall Index: A Guide to Negro Periodical Literature, 1940-1948 by Albert P. Marshall, revised edition, Danky and Newman, 2002. Posted by ProQuest as a guide to their literature collections.

From the introduction:

For researchers today, one of the rewarding aspects of Marshall’s Guide, and an important one, is the number of obscure, little-collected, and discontinued African-American serials that he includes. Who today is familiar, for example, with Pulse, Service, New Vistas, Negro Traveler, Informer, Whetstone, Sphinx. Ivy Leaf, or Oracle? Until the large and comprehensive bibliography of black periodicals collected and edited by James P. Danky and Maureen Hady of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and published by Harvard University Press is widely disseminated, few will even know the existence of many of these rare sources.

Superseded in some sense by African American newspapers and periodicals : a national bibliography by James P. Danky, but only in a sense.

The Marshall Index will always remain the first index of Black periodical literature and reflect the choices and judgments of its author.

Pass this along to your librarian friends and anyone interested in Black literature.

Getting your hands dirty with the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Getting your hands dirty with the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit by Emma Stanford. (3 March 2017 3.00pm — 5.00pm Venue: Centre for Digital Scholarship, Weston Library (Map)

From the webpage:

In this workshop offered jointly by Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services and the Centre for Digital Scholarship, you’ll learn how to make the most of the digitized resources at the Bodleian, the BnF, the Vatican Library and a host of other institutions, using software tools built around the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). After a brief introduction to the main concepts of IIIF, you’ll learn how to use Mirador and the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit to gather images from different institutions into a single viewer; rearrange, remix and enhance image sequences and add new descriptive metadata; add transcriptions and annotations to digitized images; and embed zoomable images or whole manuscripts into your own website or blog. You’ll leave with your own virtual workspace, stocked with the images you’re using.

This event is open to all. No technological or scholarly expertise is necessary. The workshop will be most useful if you already have a few digitized books or manuscripts in mind that you’d like to work with, but if you don’t, we can help you find some. In addition to manuscripts, the tools can be applied to digitized printed books, maps, paintings and ephemera.

To participate in the workshop, you will need your own laptop, with internet access via eduroam or the Bodleian Libraries network.

If you are planning on being at the Bodleian on 3 March 2017, call ahead to reserve a seat for this free event!

If not, explore Mirador and the Digital Manuscripts Toolkit on your own.

The Political Librarian (volume 2, issue 2)

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

The Political Librarian

From the webpage:

The Political Librarian is dedicated to expanding the discussion of, promoting research on, and helping to re-envision locally focused advocacy, policy, and funding issues for libraries.

We want to bring in a variety of perspectives to the journal and do not limit our contributors to just those working in the field of library and information science. We seek submissions from researchers, practitioners, community members, or others dedicated to furthering the discussion, promoting research, and helping to re-envision tax policy and public policy on the extremely local level.

Grab the entire volume 2, issue 2 (December 2016) for reading while stopped on the DC Beltway, January 20, 2017.

Libraries need your help to survive and prosper during the rapidly approaching winter of ignorance.

Humanities Digital Library [A Ray of Hope]

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Humanities Digital Library (Launch Event)

From the webpage:

17 Jan 2017, 18:00 to 17 Jan 2017, 19:00


IHR Wolfson Conference Suite, NB01/NB02, Basement, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU


6-7pm, Tuesday 17 January 2017

Wolfson Conference Suite, Institute of Historical Research

Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

About the Humanities Digital Library

The Humanities Digital Library is a new Open Access platform for peer reviewed scholarly books in the humanities.

The Library is a joint initiative of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and two of the School’s institutes—the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

From launch, the Humanities Digital Library offers scholarly titles in history, law and classics. Over time, the Library will grow to include books from other humanities disciplines studied and researched at the School of Advanced Study. Partner organisations include the Royal Historical Society whose ‘New Historical Perspectives’ series will appear in the Library, published by the Institute of Historical Research.

Each title is published as an open access PDF, with copies also available to purchase in print and EPUB formats. Scholarly titles come in several formats—including monographs, edited collections and longer and shorter form works.
(emphasis in the original)

Timely evidence that not everyone in the UK is barking mad! “Barking mad” being the only explanation I can offer for the Investigatory Powers Bill.

I won’t be attending but if you can, do and support the Humanities Digital Library after it opens.

The Joy of Collective Action: Elsevier Boycott – Germany

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Germany-wide consortium of research libraries announce boycott of Elsevier journals over open access by Cory Doctorow.

Cory writes:

Germany’s DEAL project, which includes over 60 major research institutions, has announced that all of its members are canceling their subscriptions to all of Elsevier’s academic and scientific journals, effective January 1, 2017.

The boycott is in response to Elsevier’s refusal to adopt “transparent business models” to “make publications more openly accessible.”

Just guessing but I suspect the DEAL project would welcome news of other consortia and schools taking similar action.

Over the short term, scholars can tide themselves over with Sci-Hub.

Cory ends:

No full-text access to Elsevier journals to be expected from 1 January 2017 on [Göttingen State and University Library]

How many libraries will you contact by the end of this year?

The Koch Brothers are Attacking Libraries – FYI – Funding Appeal

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

EveryLibrary has a funding appeal you need to seriously consider.

The Koch Brothers are Attacking Libraries

From the post:

We are continuing to see the Koch Brothers Super PAC, Americans for Prosperity go after libraries. This last election cycle was the fifth clear example of their involvement in the agenda to defund libraries. We need your help to fight back. When the Koch Brothers and AFP puts out an anti-tax and anti-library attack, they do it with direct mail and robocalls – and they always do it late in the campaign. We need the resources to confront these anti-tax forces before they can start in the next town. Help us stop them with a one time donation today or a $5-10 monthly donation.
… (emphasis in original)

I won’t repeat the crimes committed against libraries by the Koch Brothers and their Super PAC, Americans for Prosperity, here, they are too sickening. The EveryLibrary post has a sub-set of their offenses described.

Be sure to check out the EveryLibrary site and their journal, The Political Librarian.

From their What We Do page:

EveryLibrary is the first and only national organization dedicated to building voter support for libraries. We are chartered “to promote public, school, and college libraries, including by advocating in support of public funding for libraries and building public awareness of public funding initiatives”. Our primary work is to support local public libraries when they have a referendum or measure on the ballot. We do this in three ways: by training library staff, trustees, and volunteers to plan and run effective Information Only campaigns; by assisting local Vote Yes committees on planning and executing Get Out the Vote work for their library’s measure; and by speaking directly to the public about the value and relevance of libraries and librarians. Our focus on activating voters on Election Day is unique in the library advocacy ecosystem. This is reflected in the training and coaching we do for campaigns.

If you have ever fantasized about saving the Library at Alexandria or opposing the sack of Rome by the Vandals and the Visigoths, now is your chance to do more than fantasize.

Libraries are islands of knowledge under siege by the modern analogues of the barbarians that plunged the world into centuries of darkness.

Will you piss and moan on Facebook, Twitter, etc. about the crumbling defenses of libraries or will you take your place on the ramparts?


Every Congressional Research Service Report – 8,000+ and growing!

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

From the homepage:

We’re publishing reports by Congress’s think tank, the Congressional Research Service, which provides valuable insight and non-partisan analysis of issues of public debate. These reports are already available to the well-connected — we’re making them available to everyone for free.

From the about page:

Congressional Research Service reports are the best way for anyone to quickly get up to speed on major political issues without having to worry about spin — from the same source Congress uses.

CRS is Congress’ think tank, and its reports are relied upon by academics, businesses, judges, policy advocates, students, librarians, journalists, and policymakers for accurate and timely analysis of important policy issues. The reports are not classified and do not contain individualized advice to any specific member of Congress. (More: What is a CRS report?)

Until today, CRS reports were generally available only to the well-connected.

Now, in partnership with a Republican and Democratic member of Congress, we are making these reports available to everyone for free online.

A coalition of public interest groups, journalists, academics, students, some Members of Congress, and former CRS employees have been advocating for greater access to CRS reports for over twenty years. Two bills in Congress to make these reports widely available already have 10 sponsors (S. 2639 and H.R. 4702, 114th Congress) and we urge Congress to finish the job.

This website shows Congress one vision of how it could be done.

What does include? includes 8,255 CRS reports. The number changes regularly.

It’s every CRS report that’s available on Congress’s internal website.

We redact the phone number, email address, and names of virtually all the analysts from the reports. We add disclaimer language regarding copyright and the role CRS reports are intended to play. That’s it.

If you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at may have them.

We also show how much a report has changed over time (whenever CRS publishes an update), provide RSS feeds, and we hope to add more features in the future. Help us make that possible.

To receive an email alert for all new reports and new reports in a particular topic area, use the RSS icon next to the topic area titles and a third-party service, like IFTTT, to monitor the RSS feed for new additions.

This is major joyful news for policy wonks and researchers everywhere.

A must bookmark and contribute to support site!

My joy was alloyed by the notice:

We redact the phone number, email address, and names of virtually all the analysts from the reports. We add disclaimer language regarding copyright and the role CRS reports are intended to play. That’s it.

The privileged, who get the CRS reports anyway, have that information?

What is the value in withholding it from the public?

Support the project but let’s put the public on an even footing with the privileged shall we?

Using Search Terms and Facets on (Video) (Evaluation Help?)

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Using Search Terms and Facets on (Video)

I would love to tell you about the contents of this video!

However, not having Flash is the only effect way to defeat Flash vulnerabilities.

Adobe advises 1.3 billion people are vulnerable to Flash security issues but I am not one of them.

If you care to review this resources and submit comments, I would appreciate it.

Digital Humanities In the Library

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Digital Humanities In the Library / Of the Library: A dh+lib Special Issue

A special issue of dh + lib introduced by Sarah Potvin, Thomas Padilla and Caitlin Christian-Lamb in their essay: Digital Humanities In the Library / Of the Library, saying:

What are the points of contact between digital humanities and libraries? What is at stake, and what issues arise when the two meet? Where are we, and where might we be going? Who are “we”? By posing these questions in the CFP for a new dh+lib special issue, the editors hoped for sharp, provocative meditations on the state of the field. We are proud to present the result, ten wide-ranging contributions by twenty-two authors, collectively titled “Digital Humanities In the Library / Of the Library.”

We make the in/of distinction pointedly. Like the Digital Humanities (DH), definitions of library community are typically prefigured by “inter-” and “multi-” frames, rendered as work and values that are interprofessional, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary. Ideally, these characterizations attest to diversified yet unified purpose, predicated on the application of disciplinary expertise and metaknowledge to address questions that resist resolution from a single perspective. Yet we might question how a combinatorial impulse obscures the distinct nature of our contributions and, consequently, our ability to understand and respect individual agency. Working across the similarly encompassing and amorphous contours of the Digital Humanities compels the library community to reckon with its composite nature.

All of the contributions merit your attention but I was especially taken by: When Metadata Becomes Outreach: Indexing, Describing, and Encoding For DH by Emma Annette Wilson and Mary Alexander has this gem that will resonate with topic map fans:

DH projects require high-quality metadata in order to thrive, and the bigger the project, the more important that metadata becomes to make data discoverable, navigable, and open to computational analysis. The functions of all metadata are to allow our users to identify and discover resources through records acting as surrogates of resources, and to discover similarities, distinctions, and other nuances within single texts or across a corpus. High quality metadata brings standardization to the project by recording elements’ definitions, obligations, repeatability, rules for hierarchical structure, and attributes. Input guidelines and the use of controlled vocabularies bring consistencies that promote findability for researchers and users alike.

Modulo my reservations about the data/metadata distinction depending upon a point of view and all of them being subjects in any event, its hard to think of a clearer statement of the value that a topic map could bring to a DH project.

Consistencies can peacefully co-exist with with historical or present-day inconsistencies, at least so long as you are using a topic map.

I commend the entire issue to your for reading!

Seriously, Who’s Gonna Find It?

Monday, April 25th, 2016


Graphic whimsy via Bruce Sterling,

Are your information requirements met by finding something or by finding the right thing?

Cory Doctorow on Librarians

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Just in case you missed Cory’s tweet on April 21, 2016:

Saying “Librarians are obsolete now that we have the Internet” is like saying “Doctors are obsolete now that we have the plague”

If that doesn’t make sense to you:

  1. Time yourself finding relevant information about any topic.
  2. Ask you local librarian for relevant information on the same topic.
  3. Compare the results of 1 and 2.

Do you get it now?

Making the most of The National Archives Library (webinar 29 March 2016)

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

Making the most of The National Archives Library

From the webpage:

This webinar will help you to make the most of The National Archives’ Library, with published works dating from the 16th century onwards. Among other topics, it will cover what the Library contains, why it is useful to use published sources before accessing archive records and how to access the Library catalogue.

Webinars are online only events.

The Library at The National Archives is holding a series of events to mark National Libraries Day. The National Archives’ Library is a rich resource that is accessible to all researchers.

We run an exciting range of events and exhibitions on a wide variety of topics. For more details, visit

Entrance to The National Archives is free and there is no need to book, see for more information.


Tuesday, 29 March 2016 from 16:00 to 17:00 (BST)

Assuming that 16:00 to 17:00 GMT was intended, that would be starting at 11 AM EST.

I have pinged the national archive on using BST, British Summer Time, in March. 😉

NCSU Offers Social Media Archives Toolkit for Libraries [Defeating Censors]

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

NCSU Offers Social Media Archives Toolkit for Libraries by Matt Enis.

From the post:

North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries recently debuted a free, web-based social media archives toolkit designed to help cultural heritage organizations develop social media collection strategies, gain knowledge of ways in which peer institutions are collecting similar content, understand current and potential uses of social media content by researchers, assess the legal and ethical implications of archiving this content, and develop techniques for enriching collections of social media content at minimal cost. Tools for building and enriching collections include NCSU’s Social Media Combine—which pre-assembles the open source Social Feed Manager, developed at George Washington University for Twitter data harvesting, and NCSU’s own open source Lentil program for Instagram—into a single package that can be deployed on Windows, OSX, and Linux computers.

“By harvesting social media data (such as Tweets and Instagram photos), based on tags, accounts, or locations, researchers and cultural heritage professionals are able to develop accurate historical assessments and democratize access to archival contributors, who would otherwise never be represented in the historical record,” NCSU explained in an announcement.

“A lot of activity that used to take place as paper correspondence is now taking place on social media—the establishment of academic and artistic communities, political organizing, activism, awareness raising, personal and professional interactions,” Jason Casden, interim associate head of digital library initiatives, told LJ. Historians and researchers will want to have access to this correspondence, but unlike traditional letters, this content is extremely ephemeral and can’t be collected retroactively like traditional paper-based collections.

“So we collect proactively—as these events are happening or shortly after,” Casden explained.

I saw this too late today to install but I’m sure I will be posting about it later this week!

Do you see the potential of such tooling for defeating would-be censors of Twitter and other social media?

More on that later this week as well.

New York Public Library – 180K Hi-Res Images/Metadata

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

NYPL Releases Hi-Res Images, Metadata for 180,000 Public Domain Items in its Digital Collections

from the post:

JANUARY 6, 2016 — The New York Public Library has expanded access to more than 180,000 items with no known U.S. copyright restrictions in its Digital Collections database, releasing hi-res images, metadata, and tools facilitating digital creation and reuse. The release represents both a simplification and an enhancement of digital access to a trove of unique and rare materials: a removal of administration fees and processes from public domain content, and also improvements to interfaces — popular and technical — to the digital assets themselves. Online users of the NYPL Digital Collections website will find more prominent download links and filters highlighting restriction-free content; while more technically inclined users will also benefit from updates to the Library’s collections API enabling bulk use and analysis, as well as data exports and utilities posted to NYPL’s GitHub account. These changes are intended to facilitate sharing, research and reuse by scholars, artists, educators, technologists, publishers, and Internet users of all kinds. All subsequently digitized public domain collections will be made available in the same way, joining a growing repository of open materials.

“The New York Public Library is committed to giving our users access to information and resources however possible,” said Tony Marx, president of the Library. “Today, we are going beyond providing our users with digital facsimiles that give only an impression of something we have in our physical collection. By making our highest-quality assets freely available, we are truly giving our users the greatest access possible to our collections in the digital environment.”

To encourage novel uses of its digital resources, NYPL is also now accepting applications for a new Remix Residency program. Administered by the Library’s digitization and innovation team, NYPL Labs, the residency is intended for artists, information designers, software developers, data scientists, journalists, digital researchers, and others to make transformative and creative uses of digital collections and data,and the public domain assets in particular. Two projects will be selected, receiving financial and consultative support from Library curators and technologists.

To provide further inspiration for reuse, the NYPL Labs team has also released several demonstration projects delving into specific collections, as well as a visual browsing tool allowing users to explore the public domain collections at scale. These projects — which include a then-and-now comparison of New York’s Fifth Avenue, juxtaposing 1911 wide angle photographs with Google Street View, and a “trip planner” using locations extracted from mid-20th century motor guides that listed hotels, restaurants, bars, and other destinations where black travelers would be welcome — suggest just a few of the myriad investigations made possible by fully opening these collections.

The public domain release spans the breadth and depth of NYPL’s holdings, from the Library’s rich New York City collection, historic maps, botanical illustrations, unique manuscripts, photographs, ancient religious texts, and more. Materials include:

Visit for information about the materials related to the public domain update and links to all of the projects demonstrating creative reuse of public domain materials.

The New York Public Library’s Rights and Information Policy team has carefully reviewed Items and collections to determine their copyright status under U.S. law. As a U.S.-based library, NYPL limits its determinations to U.S. law and does not analyze the copyright status of an item in every country. However, when speaking more generally, the Library uses terms such as “public domain” and “unrestricted materials,” which are used to describe the aggregate collection of items it can offer to the public without any restrictions on subsequent use.

If you are looking for content for a topic map or inspiration to pass onto other institutions about opening up their collections, take a look at the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections.

Content designed for re-use. Imagine that, re-use of content.

The exact time/place of the appearance of seamless re-use of content will be debated by future historians but for now, this is a very welcome step in that direction.

Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Volume 15, Richard II

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Volume 15, Richard II by By M. C. B. Dawes, A. C. Wood and D. H. Gifford. (Covers the years 1 to 7 in the reign of Richard II.).

From the homepage for the series:

An inquisition post mortem is a local enquiry into the lands held by a deceased individual, in order to discover any income and rights due to the crown. Such inquisitions were only held when people were thought or known to have held lands of the crown. The records in this series relate to the City of London for the periods 1485-1561 and 1577-1603.

I admit that some of my posts have broader audiences than others but only British History Online could send this tweet:

BHO at the IHR ‏@bho_history 2h hours ago
One final new publication to keep you busy over the holiday: Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem vol 15. Enjoy! …
0 retweets 0 likes

Be sure to explore the British History Online (BHO). With a goal of creating access to printed primary and secondary sources from 1300 to 1800, the BHO site promises to be a rich source of historical data.

Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides by Jason Puckett.

From the Amazon description:

Whether you call them research guides, subject guides or pathfinders, web-based guides are a great way to create customized support tools for a specific audience: a class, a group, or anyone engaging in research. Studies show that library guides are often difficult, confusing, or overwhelming, causing users to give up and just fall back on search engines such as Google. How can librarians create more effective, less confusing, and simply better research guides?

In Modern Pathfinders: Creating Better Research Guides, author Jason Puckett takes proven ideas from instructional design and user experience web design and combines them into easy-to-understand principles for making your research guides better teaching tools. It doesn’t matter what software your library uses; the advice and techniques in this book will help you create guides that are easier for your users to understand and more effective to use.

This may be a very good book.

I say “may be” because at $42.00 for 157 pages in paperback and/or Kindle, I’m very unlikely to find out.

The American Library Association (publisher of this work) is doing its members, authors and the reading public a disservice by maintaining a pinched audience for its publications.

Works by librarians and on pathfinders in particular would be help, albeit belated help, for technologists who have tried to recreate the labor of librarians. Poorly.

If and when this work appears at a more reasonable price, I hope to offer a review for your consideration.

55 Articles Every Librarian Should Read (Updated)

Friday, October 16th, 2015

55 Articles Every Librarian Should Read (Updated) by Christina Magnifico.

The articles cover a wide range of subjects but you remember the line:

People become librarians because they know too much.”

A good starting place if you are looking for sparks for new ideas.


Now over 1,000,000 Items to Search on [Cause to Celebrate?]

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

Now over 1,000,000 Items to Search on Communications and More Added by Andrew Weber.

From the post:

This has been a great year as we continue our push to develop and refine  There were email alerts added in February, treaties and better default text in March, the Federalist Papers and more browse options in May, and accessibility and user requested features in July.  With this October update, Senate Executive Communications from THOMAS have migrated to  There is an About Executive Communications page that provides more detail about the scope of coverage, searching, viewing, and obtaining copies.

Not to mention a new video “help” series, Legislative Subject Terms and Popular and Short Titles.

All good and from one of the few government institutions that merits respect, the Library of Congress.

Why the “Cause to Celebrate?”

This is an excellent start and certainly has shown itself to be far more responsive to user requests than vendors are to reports of software vulnerabilities.

But we are still at the higher level of data, legislation, regulations, etc.

Where needs to follow is a dive downward to identify who obtains the benefits of legislation/regulations? Who obtains permits, for what and at what market value? Who obtains benefits, credits, allowances? Who wins contracts and where does that money go as it tracks down the prime contractor -> sub-prime contractor -> etc. pipeline?

It is ironic that when candidates for president talk about tax reform they tend to focus on the tax tables. Which are two (2) pages out of the current 6,455 pages of the IRC (in pdf,

Knowing who benefits and by how much for the rest of the pages of the IRC isn’t going to make government any cleaner.

But, when paired with campaign contributions, it will give everyone an even footing on buying favors from the government.

Not unlike public disclosure enables a relatively fair stock exchange, in the case of government it will enable relative fairness in corruption.

Stand by your Library!

Friday, September 11th, 2015

First Library to Support Anonymous Internet Browsing Effort Stops After DHS Email by Julia Angwin.

From the post:

In July, the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was the first library in the country to become part of the anonymous Web surfing service Tor. The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users’ locations.

Soon after state authorities received an email about it from an agent at the Department of Homeland Security.

“The Department of Homeland Security got in touch with our Police Department,” said Sean Fleming, the library director of the Lebanon Public Libraries.

After a meeting at which local police and city officials discussed how Tor could be exploited by criminals, the library pulled the plug on the project.

“Right now we’re on pause,” said Fleming. “We really weren’t anticipating that there would be any controversy at all.”

He said that the library board of trustees will vote on whether to turn the service back on at its meeting on Sept. 15.

See Julia’s post for the details but this was just the first library in what was planned to be a series of public libraries across the United States offering Tor. An article about that plan in ArsTechnica tipped off law enforcement before nationwide Tor services could be established.

The public statements by law enforcement sound reasonable, need all the issues on the table, etc., but make no mistake, this is an effort to cripple making the Tor service far more effective than it is today.

There isn’t any middle ground where citizens can have privacy and yet criminals can be prevented from having privacy. After all, unless and until you are convicted in a court of law, you are a citizen, not a criminal.

There is a certain cost to the presumption of innocence and that cost has been present since the Constiution was adopted. Guilty people may go free or perhaps not even be caught because of your rights under the U.S. Constitution.

If you are in Lebanon, New Hampshire, attend the library supervisor’s meeting and voice support for Tor!

If you can’t make the meeting, ask your library for Tor. (See the ArsTechnica post for more details on the project.)

Asleep at the Wheel

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Asleep at the Wheel by Bob Berring.

From the post:

In 1987, those roseate times before social media and Google searches, Dr. James Billington was appointed the United States’ Librarian of Congress. The appointment did not bode well. My voice was part of the outcry over the fact that at a crucial juncture for the role of libraries in the world, a person was taking the helm who was neither a librarian nor an information professional. The New York Times, which I had always viewed as the sage voice of national reason, opined that the job was too big for a librarian. It called for a scholar like Dr. Billington. So it goes.

Berring mentions The Enemies of Books (1880) as a history of the struggles of libraries for centuries.

Let’s hope that Billington’s replacement is a militant librarian who recognizes the need to preserve our existing cultural legacy while embracing what will be the future’s cultural legacy now.

I can’t repeat the one story I know of the dealings of the Library of Congress and an institution in another country but suffice it to say the Library of Congress was more concerned with its status than with finding a way to obtain access to fairly rare biblical materials. To be fair, so were the people I was working for.

I had mistakenly thought that furthering access to rare materials would be a goal of anyone who wanted to “foster biblical scholarship.”

Being assured by each other that they were in fact fostering biblical scholarship was more important than any actual deeds to foster biblical scholarship. As Nietzsche once said, they “told the correct time and made a modest noise while doing so.”

Self-Censorship and Terrorism (Hosting Taliban material)

Monday, August 31st, 2015

British Library declines Taliban archive over terror law fears

From the BBC:

The British Library has declined to store a large collection of Taliban-related documents because of concerns regarding terrorism laws.

The collection, related to the Afghan Taliban, includes official newspapers, maps and radio broadcasts.

Academics have criticised the decision saying it would be a valuable resource to understand the ongoing insurgency in Afghanistan.

The library said it feared it could be in breach of counter-terrorism laws.

It said it had been legally advised not to make the material accessible.

The Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 make it an offence to “collect material which could be used by a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism” and criminalise the “circulation of terrorist publications”.

The Home Office declined to comment saying it was a matter for library.

Of course the Home Office has no comment. The more it can bully people and institutions into self-censorship the better.

A number of academics have pointed out the absurdity of the decision. But there is some risk and most institutions are “risk adverse,” which also explains why governments tremble at the thought “terrorist publications.”

While governments and some libraries try to outdo each other in terms of timidity, the rest of us should be willing to take that risk. Take that risk for freedom of inquiry and the sharing of knowledge. Putting a finger in the eye of timid governments and institutions strikes me as a good reason as well.

No promises but perhaps individuals offering to and hosting parts of the Taliban collection will shame timid institutions into hosting it and similar collections (like the alleged torrents of pro-Islamic State tweets).

I am willing to host some material from the Taliban archive. It doesn’t have to be the interesting parts (which everyone will want).

Are you?

PS: No, I’m not a Taliban sympathizer, at least in so far as I understand what the Taliban represents. I am deeply committed to enabling others to reach their own conclusions based on evidence about the Taliban and others. We might agree and we might not. That is one of the exciting (government drones read “dangerous”) aspects of intellectual freedom.

Digital Bodleian

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

I know very little of what there is to be known about the Bodleian Library but as soon as I saw Digital Bodleian, I had to follow the link.

As of today, there are 115,179 images and more are on their way. Check the collections frequently and for new collections as well.

One example that is near and dear to me:

Exploring Egypt in the 19th Century

The popup reads:

A complete facsimile of publications from the early-nineteeth-century expeditions to Egypt by Champollion and Rosellini.

The growth of “big data” isn’t just from the production of new data but from the digitization of existing collections as well.

Now the issue is how to collate copies of inscriptions by Champollion in these works with much later materials. So that a scholar finding one such resource will be automatically made aware of the others.

That may not sound like a difficult task but given the amount of material published every year, it remains a daunting one.

Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports (Law Library of Congress)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports (Law Library of Congress)

From the announcement that came via email:

In an effort to highlight the legal reports produced by the Law Library of Congress, we have revamped our display of the reports on our website.

The new Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports will house all reports available on our website. This will also be the exclusive location to find reports written before 2011.

The reports listed on the Comprehensive Index page are divided into specific topics designed to point you to the reports of greatest interest and relevance. Each report listed is under only one topic and several topics are not yet filled (“forthcoming”). We plan to add many reports from our archives to this page over the next few months, filling in all of the topics.

The Current Legal Topics page ( will now only contain the most current reports. The list of reports by topic also includes a short description explaining what you will find in each report.

No links will be harmed in this change, so any links you have created to individual reports will continue to work. Just remember to add as a place to find research, especially of a historical nature, and to find recently written reports.

There are US entities that rival the British Library and the British Museum. The Library of Congress is one of those, as is the Law Library of Congress (the law library is a part of the Library of Congress but merits separate mention).

Every greedy, I would like to see something similar for the Congressional Research Service.

From the webpage:

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for more than a century.

CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.

Imagine US voters being given “…analysis that is authoritative, …, objective and nonpartisan,” analysis that they are paying for today and have for more than the last century.

I leave it to your imagination why Congress would prefer to have “confidential” reports that aren’t available to ordinary citizens. Do you prefer incompetence or malice?