Posts Tagged ‘LIFE-SHARE Project’

VIDEO: Library Day in the Life

27 Jan

Library Day in the Life is a bi-annual initiative to document what library professionals really do these days, insitgated by Bobbi Newman. I’ve taken part in previous rounds with normal blog posts but frankly nobody ever really reads them – this time I wanted to do something a bit more interesting and a bit more visual.

So I’ve created a video of one day in my library life – the effort-to-end-product ratio of this is all out of sync as it took fricking ages! But anyway, here it is, I hope people like it.

In case anyone is interested, I used a Logitech webcam, my iPhone, my wife’s fairly ancient digitial camera, and BB Flashback Express screen-recording software to record it – and Windows Movie Maker to edit it all together. Music is by Mint Royale.

A couple of the best bits just would not work in Movie Maker. They play fine on their own, but they froze when I stuck them into the film. No idea why, it’s not done that to me before – so I’m afraid a screen-grab about LIFE-SHARE is gone, and a bit about #buyalib is gone too. I had waaaaaaay too much footage, too… Note to self: no need to film the entire commute. :)

- thewikiman

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Library Day in the Life 5

28 Jul

A man graffitis Library Day in the Life

Tagged: library day in the life

As with a couple of the previous rounds, I’m taking part in the Library Day in the Life Project this week. It was set up by Bobbi Newman, and you can read about it here. It’s a great thing because comparing what we do is interesting of itself, plus if anyone outside the echo-chamber reads any of these posts, it may go some way to challenging misconceptions about what people in libraries get up to these days.

It would be hypocritical of me to do all five days (I only ever read one day from each blog I subscribe to, as I can’t deal with all the extra posts at once) so here’s a couple of day’s worth in a single post.

What I do for a living

I work on a JISC-funded project known as LIFE-SHARE (this is an elaborate acronym, because we don’t have nearly enough of these in libraries) for the University of Leeds. My role is split between the Leeds parts of the project and the Sheffield parts (the other project partner is York, who have their own Project Officer for LIFE-SHARE).

The purpose of the project is, in short, to explore consortial strategies for digitisation in Higher Education, with particular reference to preservation and curation. Which is to say: our collections are falling apart, what do we do about it, do we really have a clear way forward, and can we work collectively to solve the problems and save some resources along the way? The Project lasts from last January to next March, and you can read more about it on the website  here.


LIFE-SHARE has a case-study at each institution, investigating different aspects of digitisation. For York, it’s on demand digitisation. For Leeds, it’s digitisation to support Collection Management. For Sheffield, it’s digitisation to support Special Collections – and Sheffield was where I was on Monday. We’ve just got to the stage where we’ve written up the Case Studies (they’ll be made available via the Outputs page of our website) and I was in Sheffield tying up a lot of loose-ends. Firstly the Project Manager and the other Project Officer came over and I showed them all the equipment we’d purchased for the audio-visual digitisation suite, and examples of the videos and audio I’d digitised. Then we had a long meeting to discuss the internal and external versions of our case-study reports. Then they went home and I returned to my windowless cell to finish off.

I created some metadata (Dublin Core) for the digital objects I’d not yet described and auto-generated some technical metadata using MediaInfo. I wrote a detailed list for Sheffield’s head of Special Collections as to exactly what I’d done, why I’d done it, and whereabouts it was stored – then had a brief meeting with her to explain it all in person (she was pleased, which is good!). Then I had the glamorous task of clearing up all the packaging that was strewn around the room – we’d ordered loads of equipment (cassette tape players, time-code-corrector boxes, professional monitoring headphones etc) and I’d not wanted to throw away anything until we knew it all worked. As this was my last visit to Sheffield for a while, it was also the last chance to leave their room in a presentable state…


Back in the Leeds LIFE-SHARE Office for today, and finalising procedures manuals for Sheffield. As part of the Case Study we digitised a sample of a larger multimedia archive; the idea is, their staff should be able to pick up where I left off and digitise the rest before it is packed up and sent back to its original donor. So I’ve written some detailed guides to all the stuff I’ve been doing, including photographs of leads with labels explaining what they’re for, explanations on how to use Audacity, etc etc.

I also started to internalise my case study report, and pick out the key points for external dissemination – the format of the first draft was a bit of a compromise, so we’ve decided it’s better to separate it into two distinct entities. This will be much easier, I think.

Other stuff crammed into my free time today included writing a proposal for a book chapter including a third-person bio that required an insane amount of information in 75-85 words. It wanted name, place of work, location, details of your degree and where you got it from, job title, publications, awards AND career highlights! (To give you some idea how small a space that is to fit all that in, this paragraph alone is 78 words and counting.)

In the end, I went with: “thewikiman, zomg, he is ace – srsly, trust him on this.”

Not really. Although when I was moaning on Twitter about how I couldn’t fit the info into so small a space, Andy Priestner helpfully came up with this:

“‘Ned is really nice and good at libraries. You’ll like him. Probably” Done it in 12 words.’

Thanks mate! Brevity is a gift. :)

A lot of stuff happened today with LISNPN, the New Professionals Network, as well. Having launched nearly a month ago now, we’re gradually adding more and more stuff to the Resources area (member’s only, that bit, so sign up!). Things I’m really pleased with include the fact that Phil Bradley has generously allowed us to reproduce his public speaking guide, and the editors of the two major CILIP publications (Gazette and Update), Debby Raven and Elspeth Hyams, have contributed some really useful stuff to the How to: Get published guide – so if you’ve wondered what sort of thing they’re looking for, check it out: it’s in the Resources area of the site. Anyway, today for the first time we promoted it via a couple of JISCMail lists – LIS-Profession and LIS-CDGDivisions, with emails from myself and Chris Rhodes.

The result was 50 new members in about 3 hours, and that number continued to rise, meaning we’ve broken the 300 barrier. I’m really pleased about this – for all the obvious reasons (the more people there are, within reason, the more useful it will be as a network) and because we haven’t even promoted it via LIS-LINK, Gazette or Update yet (all of which are in hand for the next fortnight or so). And I’ve not even written my long promised blog post about it! So 300 is pretty good for a network which is less than a month since launch, and not fully pushed into public consciousness yet.


Before work I decided to set up a document to record my CPD (Continuous Professional Development, I think is what that stands for). This ended up being a spreadsheet with four tabs – presentations, publications, training, and events – which just records stuff I’ve done in chronological order. I realised I’d had so much training from LIFE-SHARE that there was a danger I’d forget stuff I’d done previously, and also that I might need exact dates of publication to hand etc. The ‘events’ tab is a bit woolly but basically covers conferences/ lectures / other open day type things I’ve attended for work which can’t be classed as hands-on training.

I think this’ll come in really handy later on, because every job application / CV needs to be tailored to the role – this way, I’ll have all the stuff laid out for me to choose from, which should lead to clearer thinking and more focused applications.

At 9:30 I had a meeting with the Library’s Conservation Officer, Sharon Connell to talk about the Leeds case-study for LIFE-SHARE. We discussed the revealing and quite alarming results of the condition & usability assessment she’s undertaken of a typical library collection (if you’re interested, see this LIFE-SHARE blog post for a bit more info – turns out a lot of books are knackered!). What we’ve been trying to achieve is a workable model for establishing the costs of physical preservation. So the condition and assessment survey threw up four categories of disrepair (1 being fine, 4 being imminent book death) and we’d like to be able to say – if a given number of books are in condition X, what needs to be done and how much resources will it cost in terms of staff time and money. Obviously there’s so many variables this is impossible to fully achieve, but after all Sharon’s hard work we can certainly make decisions that are a lot more informed in future.

The next step is to determine comparable costs for digitally preserving the items, so I’m going to arrange a meeting with Jodie Double, our Digital Repositories Manager, to go through all that – we need to come up with prices for in-house digitisation, and out-sourcing. Project work often relies on many more people’s time and expertise than just those on the Project team, so I’m very grateful to all the people helping out.

Then, at lunchtime, I notice a really interesting debate going on in the comments section of out-going CILIP CEO Bob McKee’s blog, and add a big comment on it of my own, which is basically a blog post in itself (and may later turn into one). Then, I publish this!

- thewikiman

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digitisation – what’s it all about, eh?

26 Nov

I’ve just been successful in an application to become the Project Officer for the LIFE-SHARE Project, which I’m really thrilled about for a number of reasons. (Including but not limited to, it’s an area I’m really interested in; it’s a natural progression from my current job; I withdrew from another interview and didn’t apply for another job I think I could have got because I knew this one was on the horizon so having very much put all my eggs in one basket it’s a relief that the basket had protected the eggs successfully; and with the upcoming cuts in Higher Education spending, it’ll probably be the last job ever advertised in an academic library anyway! I’ve updated my own library route accordingly.) The rationale of the project is to look at the life-cycle of digital materials and look at what skills and techniques will be needed further along the line, what training there is or needs to be, and eventually provide a bunch of information and guidance on the whole issue of digitisation for the HE community as a whole. Or to quote the official version, the primary aim is of “…identifying, and firmly establishing, institutional and consortial strategies and infrastructure for the curation, creation and preservation of a variety of digital content.” Digitisation in this context refers to more than scanning from print, which is the area I’ve mainly been involved in thus far, but digitising audio, video, image and anything else too.

This got me thinking about digitisation, and something my Dad (he has all my best ideas…) said about the way in which we use it. His point was that for thousands of years, music existed as an oral tradition. Nothing was recorded or written down; it was disseminated purely by people passing music on (verbally and vocally) to one another and to future generations. Around a thousand years ago (give or take 150 years) monks started to write their plainchant down with musical notation, and a proper written tradition began. What is pertinent here is that the oral tradition continued alongside the written one (despite the latter in theory rendering the former superfluous) for several hundred years before finally dying out; people could write music down, but were not necessarily sure what to do with this new found ability. Similarly, it was a good while after Edison invented the Phonograph that people really knew what they wanted from recorded sound. [I’m going to quote thewikidad directly at this point: “…having sort of invented recording but not really knowing what to do with it he went off and spent ten years inventing the light bulb. During which time hundreds of people that might have been recorded (had we known that that's what recording would turn out to be for…) died. I imagine there are parallels with digitisation here too.” He’s right, there is a parallel: while we’ve been using digitisation primarily to increase access – an excellent use of it, certainly – many fragile digital objects may have become so degraded as to not be able to bear digitising now, or have been digitised insufficiently well and cannot be refreshed, so the digital object itself will eventually degrade past usability.]

It is around 50 years since the first scan as we understand the term today. Digitisation is, in technological terms, a relatively new development; we’ve only recently started to digitise stuff in earnest. Like many new technologies, there is initially a somewhat scattergun approach before people focus on what they really want out of digitisation – only now are we taking a step back, and looking at what digitisation is for and what it means in the long term. As mentioned above, it’s only fairly recently that preservation has been seen as an important and valid use of the technology, for example.

Digital Preservation is, I bet you a fiver, a much more interesting field than you think it is… For a start, it will effect everyone – even if you don’t work with digital materials now, if you work in an information environment that has any at all then eventually, indirectly or directly, the lifecycle of a digital asset will become relevant. This is because, as the previous LIFE Project discovered, taking everything into account to do with acquiring and storage, an e-journal will for example cost a library £206. This compares with only £19 for a hand-held serial (ie your basic journal). However, ten years down the line, LIFE estimated the total lifecycle cost for an e-journal will have been £3,000! (As opposed to only £14 per issue for a hand-held serial). Multiply that by the number of e-journals most academic libraries subscribe to and the figures become staggering. These are just projections, and will be investigated further, but what is clear is that long-term storage of digital materials is actually going to be a lot more expensive than anybody realised, and that’ll eventually have a knock-on effect to the budget of all the other departments in a library.    

There are all kinds of issues with preservation – if you digitise an old piece of papyrus to preserve its contents, you may only be able to do once. There’s no refreshing it or doing it again if the file corrupts, as the papyrus won’t be able to withstand repeated scanning. If you’re digitising a sound-recording, how do you know who to get permission to do this from? Who owns the rights of some obscure recording of a speech in 1940? Then you’ve got lossy file-formats gradually eroding the integrity of your digitised objects, the challenge of future-proofing something so that it is of a high enough standard for future generations (image resolution is a good example of this – what is considered ‘exceptional’ quality changes basically by the year) while still being small enough in file size to store in a repository today.

In short, you have in many cases just one shot at taking something precious, and somehow ensuring that not just in 5 or 10 years but in 200 years time and beyond, people are still going to be able to use it and find it of sufficient standard and integrity. There are various ways of achieving this, including the main threads of preservation such as emulation, migration, and technology preservation.

Technology preservation is literally preserving the means to play / view / access the object you wish to preserve. So for example, you can preserve reel-to-reel tapes by ensuring you have a number of reel-to-reel players in good working order. Migration (or refreshing) is the process of transferring something from one format to another (print to PDF, or reel-to-reel to .wav, or whatever). This ensures that even after the original format becomes obsolete, you are still able to make use of your digital object. Emulation is perhaps the most intriguing method, as this involves recreating or appropriating lost or obsolete technology in order to utilise the object in its current state – so the reel-to-reel example would perhaps involve making a new piece of kit which allowed you to play reel-to-reel tapes on a computer.

Anyway, on a related note, what this means is I can now focus on the Digitisation in HE Best Practice Wiki again – yay! You may have noticed this has faded into the background somewhat (you may not even know that this was what the blog was originally intended to document..) but that was because I’ve had a major deadline to get through, and because I knew this job was coming up and wanted to incorporate elements of each into the other if I got the role. I want to expand the Digitisation wiki to include all sorts and kinds of digitisation, rather than just scanning from print, and perhaps to disseminate the knowledge we gain as part of the LIFE-SHARE Project via this medium as well. Thank you to those of you have expressed an interest in being part of the informal (and strictly email-based) Working Group to sort out how to populate the wiki – I’ll sort this out properly now (and any more volunteers please contact me…). Expect more wiki-news soon.

-  thewikiman

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