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VuStuff II: A Travelogue

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011 I had the opportunity to attend and present at the second annual VuStuff meeting held at Falvey Library, Villanova University (Philadelphia). This posting documents my experience there, but in a nutshell, this small and intimate meeting provided a venue for interesting discussion on the topic of modern librarianship.

liberty bell
Liberty Bell
cheese steak sandwich
cheese steak sandwich

Joe Lucia (Villanova University) initialized the meeting and set the stage by recommending a book called The Googlization of Everything. It advocates the creation of an open knowledge commons similar to the ones at the root of the fledgling Digital Public Library of America. To paraphrase his remarks, "Everything we do in our shop here embrases the open knowledge commons concept... Libraries are not just purveyors of content, but also creators of content -- The New Resource Sharing. We [librarians] can become agents of information creation."

The first presentation was given by Amy Baker Williams (University of Pittsburgh), and she described her process for conserving the maps of local coal mines. In the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) area there are many coal mines dating back as far as 1750. Some of the oldest maps of the mines date from 1850. A few years ago some miners were trapped in a mine, and if maps of the mines had been easily accessible, then rescue efforts would have been simplified. Since then concerted efforts have been made to preserve, digitize, and make accessible as many of these coal mining maps as possible in order to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future. I found the process used to flatten the maps to be the most interesting. Basically they are re-hydrated and unrolled. Moving the maps from the conservation lab to the scanning location was also interesting because, ironically, the maps are rolled up again for transportation as well as long-term storage. For more detail, see the website.

My presentation was next, and I shared with the audience how the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) is using VuFind to implement the "Catholic Portal". I first described the mission and history of the CRRA. I then outlined the Portal's technical architecture as well as the process I used to index EAD files. Finally, I described how text mining functions have been integrated into the Portal's interface emphasizing the possibilities for libraries in general.

Falvey Library

During lunch we broke up into groups, and I sat with the folks interested in the digital humanities. For the most part we went around the table sharing common war stories. Most of our initiatives where fledgling, but there was plenty of enthusiasm.

After lunch a sort of "unconference" session was facilitated by David Upsal (Villanova University). The discussion topic that made itself apparent was the challenge of the profession to serve both traditional librarianship as well as librarianship in the current environment. If my memory serves me correctly, some of the suggested solutions included more resources (people and money), permission to "play" with new technology, a redefinition of library purpose, and greater collaboration between different types of libraries (public, academic, etc.)

The next presentation was given by Eric Zino (LYRASIS) who described how LYRASIS has been working with the Sloan Foundation and the Internet Archive to facilitate the digitization of 20,000,000 pages of library content. Approximately 160 libraries have been participating in the project with LYRASIS. Subsidized by the Foundation, partipants package up their content and ship it to the Internet Archive. The content gets digitized, returned to the owning library, and the digital versions are made accessible at the Archive. From my perspective, this is exactly how any other library works with the Archive, except in this case LYRASIS does a bit of hand-holding during the process. Not all media is digitized by the Archive though. Some things, such as microfilm, are scanned by a different vendor -- Creekside Digital.

The last presentation of the day was given by Bob Behary (Duquesne University), and he shared with the audience how Duquesne is digitizing a newspaper called the Pittsburgh Catholic. The project was initiated by a Catholic order called the Spiritans (the founding order of Duquesne University) with evangelism at its root. At first digitized versions of the newspaper were put on CDs and distributed. This has evolved over time, and now the content is housed in a ContentDM system. The collection has proven useful in a number of ways, including: local & regional church histories, literature allusions (such as Emily Dickinson), and United States history. Behary listed a number of key considerations for any digitization effort: 1) get administrative support, 2) make sure the project fits within the mission of the institution, 3) make sure to use sustainable technology, and 4) ensure knowledgable research advocates are a part of the process.

Vuee award
Vuee Award
Art Museum staircase

I believe the meeting was attended by fifty to seventy-five people. Most were from the immediate area, and it offered a easy opportunity for professional development. Kudos to the folks at Villanova for hosting the event. Just before the meeting concluded I was awarded the second annual "Vuee" for best presentation. It is a small shoebox-sized container in the shape of a book. I was very flattered. "Thank you very much!"

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