Category Archives: SIRLS 675

These are posts related to the course Advanced Digital Collections

Unit 12: pre-installed VM versus DIY

I think the question here is really: what skills are really needed in a librarian working in digital collections? That is not easy to answer, because libraries vary so much in terms of staff size, budget, and training. I certainly feel much more confident about installing and configuring virtual machines (VMs) as a result of this course; but I wonder if it was the best use of class assignment time, especially since it could be so time-consuming. But if I was the sole librarian in a small non-profit or museum, with no technical staff, and I wanted to create and host a digital collection, the ability to create a VM from scratch would be important. I guess the question is, how common is this scenario, and how common will it be in the future? And what sorts of librarianship does the DigIN program want to support?

I don’t know if a middle ground might have worked better; maybe install only 3 VMS and spend more time on metadata and actually working with collections. I think DSpace and Eprints were sort of repetitive; maybe we could have been given a choice to install one or the other as our example of digital repository software. I think it was good to see Drupal because it is so ubiquitous, and to get an idea of the more technical end of the spectrum in digital collections management. And I think Omeka seems to represent the other end, the simple end of digital repository management.



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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, digital repository, Drupal, dSPace, ePrints, Library science, Omeka, SIRLS 675

Unit 11: Repository Software Homepages – an assessment

A repository software package’s homepage ought to be attractive, clear, and inspire the users’ confidence.  Some of these homepages do that better than others; but they are also geared toward very different audiences. In general I think each site is geared toward the user that could best benefit from it.

  • Eprints ( clearly states what it is, the interface is clean, and provides a live demo as well as links to documentation, downloads, and a description of the principles of open access.
  • Omeka ( again, the homepage is well-designed, attractive, and provides clear links to all the information a user could want. It seems geared especially to draw in the new or uninitiated user (i.e. me). The user could be an individual rather than an institution.
  • DSpace ( There is a lot of white space on this page. For some reason I find that intimidating. There is a very clear statement about what it is–if you know what an “institutional repository application” is. The logo at the top identifies it as a “scholar space” – This is definitely geared toward an institutional user/IT professional that already knows what an institutional repository is. This might be more confidence-building if you are an institutional administrator looking to find a turnkey application.
  • Drupal ( This is a very busy page. But the tag line: “Come for the Software, Stay for the Community” is catchy. The page goes out of its way to show you how world-wide its scope is; you can tell that the software is geared for IT professionals and developers; they even have announcements about DrupalCons (a very geeky term for conventions). This is definitely a geek community and that means that I am not the sort of user they are targeting.
  • PKP (Public Knowledge Project This site also has a lot of projects besides the harvester software. It takes a while exploring and reading to figure out what this site is and what it contains. It’s not for the casual user, and it seems to already assume that the user is committed to open source and open access projects.
  • JHove ( This is a site full of technical jargon, definitely targeting the technical user, not the casual user or the repository administrator.

I guess each site has its advantages for the type of user it is seeking. As a librarian or a non-profit or museum curator, I find the first 3 more attractive and accessible.

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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, digital repository, Drupal, dSPace, ePrints, Omeka, SIRLS 675

Unit 10 – Open Archives Service Providers

Like many others in class, I had difficulty finding working links on the list of open archives service providers we were given. Most service providers seemed to collect scientific database metadata, and many sites were in foreign languages, which is great but not useful to me. There were only a few that provided harvests from humanities archives; these were almost exclusively the same sites that I found with my harvester. I also found many dead links; or sites that would not load.

I looked at the DL-Harvest site from the University of Arizona; its description states that “It brings together full-text, scholarly materials in the Information Sciences from many different OAI-PMH compliant repositories.” The site seemed true to its description, well organized, and I was able to search it easily. It would be very useful if I were looking for articles in library science or information management.

I looked at the OIAster site, which is the huge federated site that supports WorldCat. That site is truly amazing, and the search is faceted in very useful ways, mainly by type of resource, which works for me most of the time. I think this service is very very useful; there have been many times I have used WorldCat to find things I could not find in other ways. In particular, when I am searching for archival material it is invaluable. I think it is especially helpful when one is searching for unique items, or a set of items that is small in number. A general search would return too many hits. But again, being able to select archival material usually returns a manageable set.  Sometimes the links don’t click through, or it can’t resolve a particular record to a particular library or collection; but that is pretty rare in my experience.

The Perseus site was really interesting. It collects metatdata from sites containing Greek and Latin texts, as well as Arabic and Old Norse. It was very easy to use and search; it also included a dictionary for each language. I liked the interface; when I searched for “shame” in the general search bar, I got hits that actually showed me the hits in context. It is very useful for the subject matter it covers.

It seems that services work best that have a very specific focus; or a very, very broad one with the faceted ability to cull the search results. The descriptions need to specify the language used by the federated site. Thet also need to indicate the last time the federated archive was updated.



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Unit 7 – Experimenting with Fedora Commons

We will not be covering Fedora Commons as a digital repository, so I wanted to experiment with it a little. I am interested in creating more of a semantic web than a traditional digital repository, and Fedora is designed to enable this data model.  According to their website under the section “Fedora Basics,”

“While Fedora can easily be used to model digital collections of surrogates of traditional, catalog-based collections, it has been designed to be able to support durable web-like information architectures. Because each object completely contains all of the content, metadata and attributes of a unit of content, and can assert any number of relationships to any other object, it is easy to support schemes in which objects have multiple contexts with no dependencies upon each other.”

Fedora supports an RDF-like data model, where

“Relationships are asserted from the perspective of one object to another object as in the following general pattern:

<subjectFedoraObject> <relationshipProperty> <targetFedoraObject>

The first Fedora object is considered the “subject” of the relationship assertion. The relationship, itself, is considered a property of the subject. The target Fedora object is the related object. Thus, a valid relationship assertion as an English-language sentence might be:

<MyCatVideo> <is a member of the collection> <GreatCatVideos>”

They have an online sandbox environment that you can test. I will post more when I get the chance to play around.

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Filed under Digital Collections, Library science, semantic web, SIRLS 675

Unit 8 – Eprints install and branding

I found Eprints to be more difficult to install than either DSpace or Drupal. I had problems creating repositories, and had to try four times before I got my repository irls675  installed and configured correctly. I still don’t know what went wrong. I eventually fixed the problems I was having by restoring a snapshot of my VM taken right after I installed Eprints but before I configured any repositories, and then going from that point. Once I got the repository irls675 configured and once I could access it via Firefox, things went more smoothly.

Not perfectly smoothly, however. Changing the description of the repository went as described. When I tried changing the logo, I had problems.  I tried both methods mentioned in the instructions Bruce gave us. The first method did not work, but the second one did, which involved editing the file to reference the new file name for the logo, and then restarting the apache server and rebuilding the repository.  Then we were offered the choice whether to change the theme. I elected not to install the “glass” theme, since others indicated that it did not look very different. I also chose to go with the LOC subject classifications rather than build my own taxonomy.

I found adding records to be easy, although I would like the ability to customize the fields. I had to put some information in the abstract field that I would have liked to create some special fields for.  I found the LOC classifications to be limiting.

At first, searches would not return any of my records, even though I could browse and see them. BUT after I re-indexed the repository, then I could search all the fields, including the full-text of the attached files. Success!!

I installed two programs from the ePrints Bazaar: the “Batch-edit eprints via Excel Export/Import – version 1.0.0″ package, and the comments and notes package.  To my delight, I can now add comments and notes to my records. I can’t figure out how to use the other package (the batch edit).

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Filed under Digital Collections, digital repository, ePrints, SIRLS 675

Unit 7 – Digital Humanities Centers and libraries as “Third Spaces.”

I found this 2008 report, A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States, on the Council of Library and Information Resources website. It is a massive document, describing the survey’s goals, methods, and findings, as well as identifying trends, issues, and placing DHCs in the broader context of other models, including the sciences. I can only pick out a few ideas to talk about here, but I recommend the report for anyone interested in the state of the digital humanities in the U.S.

The foreword to the report identifies DHCs –and libraries– as examples of

“interdisciplinary ‘third places’—a term sociologist Ray Oldenburg has used to identify a social space, distinct from home and workplace. Third places foster important ties and are critical to community life. Familiar examples are barbershops, beauty salons, and coffee shops where, in the age of wireless, we see tables of students hunched over laptops, textbooks, and notepads. The academic library plays a role similar to that of a third place, providing resources, seminar rooms, and collaborative work spaces. It probably should not surprise us that both centers and libraries are frequently cited as elements in the emerging cyberinfrastructure to support advanced research in the sciences, technology, and humanities.”

Such third spaces are an important part of the “emerging cyberinfrastructure” precisely because of the issues we have been identifying in class: the insular nature of traditional humanities research and reward structures, and institutional inertia or resistance. Thus “the centers, whether virtual or physical, effectively become safe places, hospitable to innovation and experimentation.” Such shared infrastructure “requires compromise, negotiation, and, ultimately, trust” since they are “cooperative social systems.” I think the idea of “trust” goes back to the way the humanities (and academic institutions in general) create cultural capital: and a new model is needed, one that values cooperative research, as in the sciences. The third space approach may be the beginning, as third spaces provide “safe” places outside disciplinary and institutional boundaries to forge new alliances and to foster trust, to forge new structures of cultural and academic value.

However, humanities funding and research structures/sources in the U.S. tend to work against the idea of a third space. DHCs are almost exclusively associated with universities in the U.S. The executive summary identifies the tendency for DHCs in the U.S. to be “silos” that, because they “favor individual projects that address specialized research interests,” do not “effectively leverage resources community-wide.” This silo effect is an “inefficient use of the scarce resources available to the humanities community,” and leaves these projects at risk for “being orphaned over time.” The executive summary concludes that “new models are needed for large-scale cyberinfrastructure projects” and suggests that “the sciences offer a useful framework. Large-scale collaborations in the sciences have been the subject of research that examines the organizational structures and behaviors of these entities and identifies the criteria needed to ensure their success. The humanities should look to this work in planning its own strategies for regional or national models of collaboration.”

Section 6.3 of the report suggests that regional and national centers will be a necessary future development for the digital humanities, since “the form of collaboration that takes place in today’s centers is also inadequate for future scholarship. The differences between the small-scale, narrowly focused collaborations common among DHCs, and the more coordinated, large-scale organizational collaborations characteristic of regional and national centers are more than just differences in size and degree. They involve wholly new processes of management, communication, and interaction.” Thus suggests that this  third space will become itself standardized and institutionalized (much like the internet itself as a third space) and require the development of a fourth space (as some researchers are now developing alternate internets). But I digress…..

The executive summary does not address where the funding for such regional and national models is to come from. In section 4.5.2 of the report, centers could often not account for all of their funding sources, which were a hodgepodge of grants, funding lines, and other sources. “It is, however, certain that universities, followed by grants and foundations, are the most frequently cited funding sources for centers.” So long as funding comes from such heterogeneous sources, and especially from universities whose narrow interests will dictate which projects get funded, it seems that a larger model will not be feasible. But getting funding on the state or national level will be difficult, given the current financial/fiscal crisis in this country. It seems that the European Union is ahead of the U.S. with their Europeana initiative (which is an immensely-scaled cyberinfrastructure project funded by the EU). Of course, if the EU goes broke bailing out its weaker members, perhaps all bets are off. But I think even the effort will have been worthwhile because of the way it has intensified the development of protocols and standards, and raised international awareness.

The report addresses the issue of motivation: many DHCs did not see the need for large-scale collaboration or regional/national centers. Section 6.4 asks, “As digital humanities computing becomes an integrative, multi-team endeavor, the motivations, support structures, and reward systems that make for successful collaboration become critically important. What aspects of collaboration may be critical to the success of regional or national centers?” (emphasis mine). The report suggests several aspects:

  • Compelling, Community-Wide Research Needs – examples such as digital preservation issues, developing repositories for digital collections, and the creation of large datasets
  • No Center Left Behind – clarification of the role of individual DHCs in the context of regional and national centers, so that current investment is not lost.
  • Trust as the Tie that Binds –  The ability to trust the level of prestige/cultutal capital associated with a center: Academic tenure-and-review committees have long been accused of failing to give credence to digital scholarship. Michael Shanks, codirector of the Stanford Humanities Lab, believes the reason for their hesitation is rooted in trust. These committees want to know if an individual on a team has done the work, or if he or she is simply riding on someone else’s coattails.The report suggests regional and national centers will confer more prestige and thus, more trust.
  • Individual Motivations – suggests that web 2.0 technologies to give feedback and confer prestige to contributors will help, since “reward systems that enhance the personal reputation of contributors are important.The report also suggests that structural motivations/requirements such as exist in the sciences will help (i.e., requiring the sharing of deposits of data in repositories as a prerequisite for publication and/or funding).
  • The Nature of the Work – “successful large-scale collaborations occur most frequently when the work is easily divided into components.”

So the report assesses where we currently are and suggests a needed direction; but it doesn’t really have much in the way of concrete suggestions except to look to the sciences for institutional and structural models. This is probably because it appears that the digital humanities are still building consensus that such regional and national centers are needed, and that such institutional and disciplinary changes are requisite.

Where does the library fit in?  The report refers to libraries as other examples of such “third spaces,” and  it seems that libraries as a whole are much more aware of and committed to developing such regional and national structures/centers. It seems that libraries can thus take the lead in developing such centers; which would put them squarely in the center of the developing cyberinfrastructure in the U.S. But the study’s author is not a librarian per se, but a museum specialist; according to the website, the report’s author, Diane M. Zorich, “is a cultural heritage consultant specializing in planning and managing the delivery of cultural information. Her clients include the J. Paul Getty Trust, the American Association of Museums, the Smithsonian Institution, RLG Programs/OCLC, and many other cultural organizations and institutions . . . . [She] has graduate degrees in anthropology and museum studies.”  So libraries need to really work on developing such resources and connections with cultural organizations in order to make this work.

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Filed under Digital Humanities, Library science, SIRLS 675