22 Dec 2013

Popup Heritage

Guest post by Roy Murray (@trimroy

The thing I like about being an information professional is you get never know what you might be working on. You never know what connections are being made. I was thinking about it earlier this month as I sat in a room brainstorming with an archaeologist and an archivist about the best way to mount an exhibition on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I was also thinking about it this weekend as I watched my twitter feed on the Solstice in Newgrange. How are these things connected?

I first came across the term Popup while working in theatre. I did a lot of work with site-specific companies, so the idea of transforming spaces is something that I am familiar with. Later on, I came across the work of Nina Simon and found her ideas about community museums very refreshing. When IWTN announced that they were holding a workshop about popups to bridge the gap between enthusiasm and information I signed up. 

The keynote speaker was Pat Cooke from UCD School of Cultural Policy who spoke about the history of cultural heritage in Ireland. At the heart of it, he suggested, was our awareness that time is speeding up and we want to hold things in our gaze for a while. He used museums as an example of an institution which are designed for temporary exhibitions. While the concept of popup museums was questioned later on by Ciara Farrell from Creative Limerick, it did open up discussion about reclaiming the word heritage from the Irish Tourist Board and what Brian Crowley from the Pearse Museum calls "museumification". At the heart of Pat's talk was the idea that cultural heritage is created by communities, not institutions. This contrast ran throughout the conference. Popups tend to exhibit user generated content rather than more authoritative information. As a personal example he used his childhood memory of a man in Kilkenny who spent all his time following behind ploughing tractors with his head down. Years later, he discovered that this man was an amateur archaeologist who specialised in finding new sites for the National Museum. When it comes to information, Pat suggested, the wisdom of the community can often gives a more authentic view than that of experts. Popup exhibitions always raise issues about professional curation vs crowdsourcing that sparks debate amongst the GLAM community. On the one hand you have the likes of the Folklore Commission who generate thousands of objective interviews, while on the other you have StoryCorps who use relatives as interviewers to create emotionally charged stories. This got me thinking about the builders of Newgrange during the Solstice weekend. Were they an elite group of thought leaders with a very precise agenda or were they a happy band of communal earth-lovers following their dreams?

With the importance of physical space to exhibitions, design was always going to be an important element of this conference. Barry Sheehan from DIT explained that good design goes unnoticed, and is often heavily dependent on a man with a van. In their case, they build their own portable display units which are adaptable to spaces. Like any sort of blank canvas, layout is important and this became apparent in the previously mentioned interactive workshop created by Dominique Bouchard from the Hunt Museum. She used the analogy of chapters in a book to explain how design helps audiences to follow the flow of the exhibition. From the examples in Dominique's workshop, Popup brings a completely different tone to exhibitions. While a lot of Irish heritage is grim and often stark, popup is more playful. There were lots of questions about words (16pt, non-serif typeface and not a lot of it). All of the speakers stressed the importance of not writing for your peers, while Pat Cooke remarked upon the use of photography to capture the heart of communities. What does design tell us about Newgrange? It has no settlement features so it would qualify as a derelict space, although it is a bit early for retail. The external design is not a perfect circle because it is flattened at the entrance. Is this to allow crowds to gather? The internal layout is certainly not crowd friendly, so access is certainly an issue. Art pieces are positioned at specific points, although some of them appear to be facing the wrong way. Lighting is VERY exact and the space has been re-used. Soil samples taken from the mound indicate that the landscape here was not farmed extensively when it was built. It was a place that people passed through without staying.

One of the areas that we explored in the conference that is relative to Popup exhibitions is storytelling. Popups tend to create multiple narratives, usually around objects. Dominique spoke about the use of narrative layers to access collections. Brian Crowley had already suggested telling stories by theme, chronology or from a modular perspective. Unlike other speakers she suggested that we start with the object first, rather than design. While she argued that people do not generally like exhibitions about "stuff", she remarked that they like stories about people told through "stuff". The Tenement Experience was mentioned by quite a few speakers as a model in this regard. It had low level interpretation and different access points for different users. The core idea, according to Dominique, is to use objects to tell stories about the past and present. The strength of Popup is that it has a history of telling "other" stories that are often neglected by institutions who want to tell the grand narratives. Popup caters to niche stories such as MONA and the Museum of Queer History. This ties in with what Pat Cooke was saying about immigration in Ireland and how it adds a different layer to the story. We can sometimes have too much pride in our own heritage, he suggested. So much so that we see it through one lens. This theme was taken up by Community Development Officer, Denise Feeney who stressed community buy-in on popup projects and explained how to go about accessing resources which enabled that. What stories does Newgrange tell us? Why did they deliberately source their stones from so far away? How does the artwork reach out to other communities along the Western Seaboard?

Engagement was another area that was stressed by speakers, most notably Bairbre-Ann Hawkins from the Butler Gallery who spoke about her early experiences in a cultural space and how unmoved she was by it. This helped inform their policy on extended engagement. Jenny Siung from Chester Beatty Library explained about the importance of their new programme for teenagers. While Brian Crowley was blunt about overdosing on art exhibitions and how it drives you to the coffee shop, David Teenan from the Source Arts Festival argued that youth engagement was essential for creating programme content for them. Again, the stress here was on being niche and eclectic. As Brian remarked "We don't eat off the tourist menu when we go on holidays. Why would we expect tourists coming here to do the same with our culture?". From another perspective, Ciara from Creative Limerick spoke about the practicalities of artists engaging with business owners (who puts out the rubbish, turns out the lights, pays the bills?). Marie McMahon from South Tipp Museum shared her experience from a recent community heritage exhibition which involved the ICA and fishermen along the River Suir. A speaker from Abhainn Rí Festival in Callan spoke about their concept of using the whole village as a temporary participatory space. Similarly, Newgrange has also engaged different groups over time and been used for different purposes. Along with its astronomical function, we also find mortuary activity. There is evidence for feasting there from the Bronze Age and deposits which suggest it was a pilgrimage site after the Iron Age. Today it attracts many different groups - archaeologists, new-agers, artists, teenagers and local farmers. All of them bringing their own interpretation to it and looking at different aspects of it.

Popup clearly covers a lot of areas and borrows from many disciplines. As an information professional it is the perfect place to try out skills. They can be constrained by size (e.g. yard sales) or by time (Granby Park) and they can range from the traditional (a library art exhibition) to the more outlandish (Burning Man). One speaker referred to popup museums as "a little bit of old stuff, followed by a coffee". Yet, could they even incorporate millenia long monuments? They all ask you the same question that Brian Crowley asked - What 5 objects would represent the story of your life?

 Letting Go? : Sharing Historical authority in a user-generated world, (2011) Adair, W., Filene, B., Koloski, L., Pew Centre for Arts & Heritage
The Participatory Museum, (2010) Simon, N. Museum 2.0

Image by gpoo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gpoo/2412677150/

20 Dec 2013

Repository Network Ireland (RNI) - TeachMeet Event Summary / 25th Oct. 2013

Guest post by Sarah Kelly, Dublin Business School

The newly formed Repository Network Ireland (RNI) – created by Aoife Lawton (HSE), Máire Caffrey (Teagasc) and Stephanie Ronan (Irish Marine Institute) – was borne from the founders’ experiences with getting their repositories harvested by the national institutional repository, RIAN. They found that there was a gap in knowledge and support for smaller institutional repositories that could benefit from the creation of a new networking forum where repository managers, librarians and information professionals could meet to share information. With this in mind, RNI extended an open invitation to their first ‘TeachMeet’ in the Long Room Hub (Trinity College Dublin) on the 25th of October.

After a welcome from the Director of the Long Room Hub, Dr. Jurgen Barkhoff, and a brief introduction by Máire Caffrey, the 7-minute presentations got underway.

The DRI is an interactive national repository for contemporary, historical, social and cultural data in Ireland. It provides a central hub for data from several Irish institutions, in order to link and preserve the data and make it more accessible. The DRI can also be used as an educational resource for students and the general public, supporting Open Access (to at least the metadata). Not only can the DRI preserve data, but it can also create policies and guidelines for best policy in the field of digitisation.

A major concern for the DRI is sustainability, particularly as the organisation relies on government funding through the HEA. Currently, funding has been secured until 2019, but a contingency plan is in progress for when funding ends. The DRI built the repository from the ground up through networking and community engagement, with a series of qualitative interviews with national institutions to gauge their approaches to digitisation. Reports and publications are available here.

Partnerships have been built internationally as well as nationally, with involvement in DARIAH, Europeana, Decipher, ALLEA and many others. The DRI and INSIGHT will be hosting the third plenary of the Research Data Alliance in Dublin in March 2014, which is a major international research data event. For more information on the resources the DRI provide, please see their website.

UCC’s Institutional Repository CORA was set up by the Library to house and showcase research undertaken in UCC. Previously, theses were submitted manually in bound print format and processed by the library, with reference access only. It was decided that the online submission of e-theses through CORA would provide greater visibility, access and impact. The pilot project for online submission of theses began in 2009, and has progressed to online-only submission in September 2013.

The project hit an unexpected delay in 2012, when the Academic Council rejected the mandate with a recommendation that an opt-out progress be incorporated. This may have been due to concerns about copyright and publication from certain disciplines in the university. In any case, building an opt-out process involved considerable customisation and the creation of two separate workflows.

For the opt-in process, the student registers with CORA – submits to supervisor – work is graded – sent to Graduate Studies Office – Approved – Sent to Library – Loaded up to CORA. The student uploads the abstract and thesis. Metadata is imported from CORA to the library catalogue. (CORA uses DSPACE as a platform, which uses Dublin Core for its metadata. The Library system uses MARC records).

In the opt-out system, only the abstract and metadata are submitted to the library, and the supervisor step is skipped.

So far, the system has been successful, and allows greater access to theses for students and researchers at UCC. Full text items on CORA are harvested by RIAN.

In this presentation, Aoife Lawton gave some helpful advice on setting up a repository in the unique form of a baking recipe!

The HSE’s repository LENUS was established to store health-related reports, research and publications in order to provide a centralised knowledge base for medical researchers and clinical practitioners. Ideally, to set up a good repository, you should have a team consisting of a repository manager, at least two qualified librarians on the project team, and a clinical champion to launch and promote the repository. Remember the SPARC method – Scholarly, Perpetual, Institutionally defined, Interoperable and Open Access. The project manager should establish a clear vision and mission statement, strategic plan and content criteria policy. The content should be organised to mimic that of RIAN’s, to make the harvesting procedure smoother. Marketing is also very important – being Web 2.0 enabled (e.g. having a Twitter account and using other social media) can help to promote the repository. Tools such as Google Analytics are very useful to measure the progress of the repository. Finally, check that the repository is serving its users well by conducting surveys or focus groups on occasion.

Joseph Greene’s presentation focussed mainly on how to join RIAN, and started with two simple statements: get your repository harvestable, then get RIAN to harvest you!

To get your repository harvestable, it is advisable to:
  1. Use a recognisable software package such as DSpace, Eprints, Fedora or Digital Commons
  2. Plan your collections – think about how they will be organised. Look at how RIAN is currently structure to get an idea of how you should organise your own repository to match up.
  3. Plan metadata fields and consistently apply them.
  4. Plan what data goes in, and how it is entered e.g. keywords
  5. Remember that RIAN only takes full text and scholarly material
  6. Create a list of RIAN fields and pair them with your own (can be literal or programmatic). Excel can be useful for this purpose. Full text instructions can be translated to programming language fairly easily.
  7. Build an OAI-PMH crosswalk called rian_dc. You can use basic Java for DSpace or Perl for EPrints.
  8. Once you have completed the crosswalk to make your fields match RIAN’s format, Enovation Services (the company hosting RIAN’s site) can create an institution page on RIAN and perform a test harvest to see if it worked. If everything is in order, a full harvest will follow.
To get RIAN to harvest you, you will need to contact the chair of the Irish University Association Librarian’s Group (currently John Cox of NUIG). Much needed help is at hand for RIAN new joiners from Joseph Greene (UCD), Sinead Keogh (UL) and Fran Callaghan (DCU). You can also consult Repositories Support Ireland on http://www.resupie.ie/moodle and join the mailing list for updates.

The Social Work department at CUH Temple Street was badly in need of a centralised, easy to access and easy to search repository to store research material and references. Unfortunately, they had no money to finance this, so the challenge was to find a way to set up a repository without any budget. Jane Burns volunteered to be the project manager, and recruited four Library and Information Studies volunteers to assist her. Work commenced on scoping and organising the material; not an easy task given the paper-based nature of the work. Classification schemes and file naming conventions were established. After some trial and error (often due to the old infrastructure of Temple Street), Zotero was identified as a suitable free resource. It had to be completely stand-alone due to privacy concerns, so there are strict limits on access to the Zotero system. Of necessity, it is limited to in-house access and sharing rather than full OA.

Despite having no budget, the team were able to create a fully functional in-house repository, with supporting documentation.

Yvonne Desmond of DIT encouraged us to ‘think outside the box’ and look at repositories as a way to engage students and faculty. The ARROW@DIT repository hosts a huge variety of material, including journals such as the Irish Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage and the Irish Journal of Academic Practice to name but two. Given that DIT has a strong culinary arts school, the Gastronomy Archive is a popular resource. DIT will be hosting the Dublin Gastronomy Symposium in 2014. Students are encouraged to publish their material on the repository as a step-up in their academic career, as well as being a means of preserving their work.

The focal point of the ARROW homepage is the Discipline Wheel – a bright and accessible icon designed to allow easy browsing of the collections on the repository. The sunwheel is intuitively designed, but is also accompanied by a YouTube tutorial to explain how to navigate it. A massive 613 disciplines are covered, divided into 10 main categories.

Gary Cullen represented the newly formed Connacht-Ulster Alliance, a strategic alliance between the Institutes of Technology in Letterkenny, Galway/Mayo and Sligo. Their ultimate goal is to be re-designated as a Technological University. A central repository will be part of this alliance, and Gary was hoping that the RNI TeachMeet would give him an opportunity to ask questions and seek advice on how to set up a repository from scratch.

St. Patrick’s College mainly concentrates on Education and the Humanities, so the material on the repository will consist mainly of publications and theses, and specialised projects in Art, Music, and the Irish Language (one example being a collection of photos of children’s school projects). In the initial stages of planning, a working group was set up with members of the Library, IT and Research. This group reports to a management committee within St. Patrick’s College. A staff survey was conducted to explore opinions on IRs. As was the case in UCC, staff voiced concerns about copyright and the impact on publication. There was a view that publishing on the repository could negatively impact small or societal publications. Quality control was also flagged as a potential issue. The survey highlighted varying levels of engagement and knowledge on the subject of repositories and OA.

After much consideration, St. Patrick’s College have opted for Discovery Garden, created by the University of Prince Edward Island's Robertson Library specifically for hosting institutional repositories. It’s an Islandora system, modelled on Fedora, Drupal front-ended, open-source and cloud-based.

When the repository is up and running, St. Patrick’s College are hoping to build in an e-submission policy for theses. To build the collection, there will be a retrospective call for staff publications. Existing staff publications must be collated and publishers contacted. This in itself is a time-consuming and difficult task, especially given the fact that not all Irish publications are on SHERPA/ROMEO and can be difficult to track down.

Niamh Brennan (TCD) spoke about how the material on your Institutional Repository can become visible not just nationally, but internationally. Institutions should make themselves aware of European collaborations such as OpenAIRE, which holds EU funded papers. No Irish institutions are on it as yet, but this will change soon. There is a procedure for making works OpenAIRE compliant – contact Niamh for more information. Another example of a European collaboration is PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research). Trinity College’s TARA is a partner repository. Major academic publishing companies such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor Francis etc. have provided content. Interestingly, they found that it didn’t detract from their business but rather added to it.

Web analytics such as Google Analytics can be very useful to monitor traffic, and the results can be surprising. (the example given was the variety of countries accessing the book “Sin, Sheep and Scotsmen” by WE Vaughan!) It can be a powerful marketing tool to show lecturers how their work is reaching new and varied audiences. The impact of a repository can be far reaching, and it can have societal, economic and cultural influences.

Stephanie Ronan of the IMI offered some handy advice on joining RIAN based on recent experience.
- Team up with others with similar interests and goals : a buddy system provides much needed help and support
- Factor in a considerable amount of time to organise a meeting with the RIAN Steering Group
- Prepare for lots of tests and checks, particularly if developers are inexperienced
- Accumulate a budget for RIAN and OpenAIRE
- Run in-house if possible
- Note that the subject line isn’t mandatory in DSpace but is for RIAN. Take note of other mandatory fields on RIAN.

The TeachMeet finished with an open discussion in groups to talk about the aims and goals of the RNI.

- To combine expertise and support each other
- Build contacts
- Feed into National Policy
- Share information
- Create best practice
- Develop technical skills
- Provide practical support
- Increase marketing of IRs

In terms of technical skills, it might be useful to set up workshops or webinars on topics such as:
- Copyright
- Open Access Publishing
- Web Analytics / Google Analytics
- Ensuring repository fields match up to those on RIAN : Crosswalks.

The groups also discussed which type of forum might be suitable for the RNI – it would need to be private, but also allow conversations. Possibilities include the wiki, a LinkedIn group or maybe a Wordpress discussion forum. As regards the formality of the group, it was agreed that it should be formal enough to have assigned roles but not so formal as to be a society etc. Further meetings will take place in 2014, and not necessarily in Dublin, given the range of institutions present.

[Presentation slides available on RNI wiki]

16 Dec 2013

Essential reading for academic librarians: How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College

That's this report (not my blog post! :)). Last week saw the release of another excellent Project Information Literacy report: "Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College,", which provides insight into how first year college students manage the transition to a complex and unfamiliar information environment. Although based on interviews and survey data from the US, many of the findings will likely be relevant across many academic settings.

Some of the challenges highlighted in the report which can contribute to a difficult transition for new students include:

The difference in scale between high school and college libraries (which may be up to a factor of twenty depending on the type of resource). From an Irish perspective, where there are in fact very few second level school libraries, I imagine this difference is even more pronounced. Indeed in some cases, students' only knowledge of a library prior to entering university may be from their experience using public libraries (if even this) .

The most difficult research tasks related to online searching, with three quarters of the sample reporting difficulties selecting keywords, and over half finding themselves overburdened with large volumes of irrelevant information. Identifying and selecting potential sources was the third most frequent difficulty experienced by students. Devising effective search strategies for databases that are comprehensive but reasonably specific is not easy. Ask anyone who has ever undertaken a systematic review. But we need to remember that first year undergraduates are not writing a systematic review, they are finding their way around the landscape and learning as they go. They don't need every single paper, they need a few important and relevant ones, which (most importantly) they can evaluate, analyse, critique, synthesise and use with their own ideas and arguments.

It is not just finding information that is a problem however, with over 40% expressing difficulty in making sense of, and using, the information they had found. If we target our instruction solely at retrieving and extracting information, we may be showing our users where the door is, but still not giving them the key. After reading the report, I believe it points to a need to simplify a lot of what we offer to users. I think well-designed discovery tools and Google Scholar can work extremely well for transitioning undergraduates. They simplify the process of retrieval for students (and yes, they oversimplify it as well) in a way that looks and feels familiar, freeing up significant time for developing skills for evaluating, using and managing information. I know some librarians feel that encouraging students to use these tools somehow 'lessens' the value of library databases like JSTOR or Web of Science, but in reality it is simply exposing our subscription content in a new way.

For many undergraduates, the alternative to using discovery platforms and Google Scholar is not embracing half a dozen specialist databases and boolean logic, but rather switching off from library resources altogether.
Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 | Categories:

13 Dec 2013

Some thoughts on Academia.edu, Elsevier and TDNs

It's difficult not to post something about the recent Elsevier/Academic.edu take-down notice situation, even if it has already been heavily blogged about and discussed. It has now emerged that it is not just Academic.edu in Elsevier's field of vision, but also personal websites, such as wordpress blogs. For those looking for an overview of some of the issues I would recommend Scholarly Kitchen's discussion, and there is a good round up of blog posts and news article on ScienceBlogs.

Image: Sony Records
As much as I don't like saying it, I think Elsevier are correct in what they are doing. If an author signs a copyright agreement that prohibits uploading a publisher's final version, he or she should uphold it in my opinion. The real problem is that copyright agreements are typically very unfair on authors in the first instance, and it is this that needs to be changed. From my experience there can be a lot of confusion over what level of sharing is allowed by authors, with some believing they are free to share 'their' articles where they like, as it is 'their' work. This, however, does not make breaching such legal agreements and contracts 'right'.  Hopefully, the biggest effect of the Elsevier TDNs is that authors will now understand how restrictive publishing contracts are and the rights they are giving up, and henceforth renegotiate as far as possible and maximise what they can do to disseminate their research through legal means, such as institutional repositories.

In truth, I believe the Academic.edu TDN situation is a good great news story for IRs, and ultimately, sustainable open access. Whilst sites like ResearchGate and Academia.edu may provide a platform for authors to share their work and their simplicity may be appealing, there is no guarantee that these platforms will exist in a year's time, nevermind five or ten years' time. More importantly, open access is not the raison d'etre of these research networks, but merely a convenient by-product which has garnered them good-will from users. Researchers also need to remember that by using such sites they are willingly providing their data and analytics to a for-profit third party site to resell. In reality, these sites may actually be holding back open access by reducing green repository deposits and providing a sticking-plaster solution as regards accessibility, that has just about stopped the issue from boiling over. Until now.

8 Dec 2013

Google/OpenRefine for metadata cleanup and linked data

Last Friday, I attended a half-day workshop at the RIA, which provided a birds-eye view introduction to GoogleRefine. The morning session kicked off with a 45-minute recap on the history/complexity/limitations of databases. The rest of the time was spent playing with OpenRefine.

GoogleRefine (now OpenRefine) is a standalone open source desktop for data cleanup and transformation. It displays itself as a flat table but behaves like a relational database. It’s a hugely powerful tool and requires some legwork and practice to fully exploit its potential.

An immediate and very practical use of the software includes the ability to clean up messy metadata effectively. Say you have an export of a text file with some semi-structured data; you can edit it using transformations, facets and clustering to re-structure the data.

Screenshot of “categories” for sample data-set

GoogleRefine can also be used to convert data values to other formats and extending it with web services, for example for geocoding addresses to geographic coordinates.

Check out http://collection.cooperhewitt.org/people/18060335/ as a good example for linked metadata (person search).

OpenRefine (Project homepage)
Getting started with OpenRefine
Using OpenRefine: a manual