December 12, 2014

Turning Data into Information by Using Context

Posted in Content Management, Databases, Digital Libraries tagged at 5:16 pm by mknight1130

How can you search data from multiple databases when the terminology may be different? For example, you may type in “Python” in Google. Are you a techie who is interested in the programming language python or a parent who would like to find out when the python exhibit opens in the local zoo? How can a computer tell the difference between the two contexts? You will find, below, how this issue is being addressed.

A community called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been trying to come up with standards, mainly for web sites.  The W3C has generated a Data Activity ( group to develop standards and vocabularies, in part to improve interoperability between data base terms. Since the W3C Data Activity group addresses how to connect terms from different sources, I think this will also apply to your issue.

A couple of frameworks allow for interchange between many different databases by describing concepts and the relationship of the concepts. I think also these schemas allow for defining contextual constraints. The frameworks consist of RDF and RDF Schemas, SKOS, OWL, RIF.

While standard vocabulary is a starting place, of course, development tools are needed to allow for different database terminologies to work together. A list of development languages that would be helpful can be searched from the W3 Tools- Semantic Web Standards site ( There are over 300 tools. A tool that has had some positive press and was introduced at an O’ Reilly conference, is SPARQL( .

Let us say that you don’t have the time or resources to look at connecting databases by scratch. I recommend that you look at DSpace or . The MIT libraries have developed a digital archive of materials. In part, the institute has come up with a way of connecting search vocabularies and contexts, easier. You could also find services available to help you get going. Dura-Space is an open technology project to provide guidance in using D-Space. However you need to foster research and be open source, DuraSpace.Org ( may be an option. I think these folks offer free consulting in using DSpace.

For the average user who wants to make searching the web easier, you may wish to try Context Miner ( Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, Context Miner automatically crawls some specific websites and gets contextual data. You use context miner to set the context and the terms through a campaign. Context Miner uses these parameters to get you the relevant information and looks beyond the literal.

As you can see from the text above, you can find several tools to make your searching and database-integration easier. These put the context in data. Also stay tuned. You will find an exciting future making data more meaningful and searching more integrated.

February 14, 2012

Remote Reference, Research and Resources

Posted in Digital Libraries, Remote Reference, Virtual Librarian tagged , , , at 4:52 am by mknight1130

Last Tuesday, Brad at Concordia University and I spoke. We talk about reference librarians that work remotely by email. We talk about supporting distance learning. We talked about requirements, from the NIH, for researchers to make their findings available to the public, remotely. We talk about  several universities and colleges in the northwest, pooling their resources by consolidating cataloging through Orbis Cascade Alliance: . As we talk, I think about when and where librarianship can be done remotely. I look for more information about distance librarianship and providing remote reference services.

The Virtual Librarian Handbook provide information for those who wish to get started providing virtual reference services as well as some tips and tricks. A review of  The Virtual Reference Librarian’s Handbook can be found here The reviewer, Lynn Kasner Morgan highlights how the book can help librarian plan policies, software purchases, and service using this workbook.  Amazon provides the book for purchase and an additional review at, .

Jessamyn West also provides a good resource to understanding virtual librarianship and is a good example herself. She writes a blog called “The Shifted Librarian”,  talking about a new kind of librarian, that can provide services remotely. She has an excellent reading list: . Also she has an introduction as to what is a virtual librarian . Her posts are very matter of fact and easy to understand.  Jessamyn provides an example of a remote library service, Mass Answers and her response to asking a virtual librarian .  Through her experience  with Mass Answers was not as positive as she would have liked, Jessamyn’s writings provide a critical eye and examination of what makes a good virtual reference services.

We are just scratching the surface of virtual librarianship and I am continuing to learn. Where I may not shell out for the Virtual Librarian’s Handbook, I will keep it in mind for the next time I get a bonus or a special gift certificate to Amazon. Reading Jessamyn’s blog has opened up my eyes to virtual librarianship. I am looking forward to learning more about how reference, research and resources can be provided remotely.

February 6, 2012

Open Source Options for Operating Digital Libraries

Posted in Digital Libraries tagged , , , , at 5:22 am by mknight1130

On Friday, I travel to Salem to speak with Bill, at Willamette University . We talk about the technical tools that are used to create and manage a digital library. To track and catalog artifacts and images, Bill recommends ContentDM. To archive thesis and papers, suggests DSpace.  DSpace is an open source application, meaning it is free for distribution and can be modified, since the source code is readily available. Open source applications, such as D-space, are an attractive option, as it can cost less to use than proprietary software. This got me thinking. What other open source software are available to assist managing digital collections.

Bill LeFurgy, of the Library of Congress, recommends several open source tools in his blog post “Supporting Open Source Tools for Digital Preservation and Access“, at His blog links to 31 open source programs geared towards digital preservation, including those assisting metadata creation (labeling digital objects for easier retrieval), managing submissions to digital repository, and facilitating storage. Bill also lists several tools contributed by the Library of Congress and refers to several ongoing initiatives. This is a meaty blog post.

Naresh Sarwan reviews 15 open source software used to manage digital assets, in the blog post “Review of Available Open Source DAM Software” , at  The reviewer concentrates on web-based and OSI approved options. The options towards the end, under the heading “Preservation” may be of most interest to librarians.  The blog describes who developed, the strengths of, and the framework of the applications. In addition, the blog provides links to download the open source applications and the licensing requirements. This post provides a good overview as to what Digital Archive Management options are out there and a realistic appraisal of them.

Open Source solutions for digital collections look very promising. It is an exciting time to learn and play with these tools.

February 3, 2012

Digging into a Data Management Plan and Recent Grant Requirements

Posted in Digital Libraries at 12:42 am by mknight1130

I visited Portland State University library, yesterday. I leave the classical, wood-encased, reception area and step into Tom’s office, filled with diverse posters and gadgets. I find the transition foretelling of a different perspective on digital collections. We talk about a  potential new need for academic librarians, to assist researchers write a data management plan, a recent requirement of the National Science Foundation to secure grant funding. To get paid for research, scholars need to not only create, conduct, and summarize their studies; they need to provide a plan to make that information available, a strategy to make it searchable, and to secure sensitive data. Here is where a librarian can come in and make recommendations. This type of librarian may be a data curator, the care-keeper of  digital collections  This data curator type of librarian is a lynch-pin in securing new grant funding and ensuring compliance with the data management plan. Our conversation left me wanting to learn more. Tom recommended some good resources to learn more, listed below.

First,  the Center for Digital Scholarship and Services of the OSU (Oregon State University) Libraries has put together a page on resources available to create and follow a data management plan: DATA MANAGEMENT PLANS| Get Help , . This site provides the nuts and bolts on data management plans as well as resources to commonly asked questions,  data sharing requirements from the NIH, elements to consider as well as tools and resources. Whether you are a researcher starting out and  sending your first grant, a grant writer, or a librarian, this site will provide the guts to secure grant funding and standing in the relevant community.

The Coalition for Networked Information (CNI),, provides a second resource to understanding Data Management . The CNI was created to  “broaden the community’s thinking beyond issues of network connectivity and bandwidth to encompass digital content and advanced applications to create, share, disseminate, and analyze such content in the service of research and education”. It combines the work between IT and Libraries. The CNI provides an entire page of references on Digital Curation including recent podcasts, videos, notes from CNI Meetings  and Recent publications.  Recent information on data management strategies , from December 2011, is available for review.

CNI and OSU provide windows into a new kind of librarianship, needed to secure grant funding. This melds IT and library resources and foreshadows an emerging digital landscape. I am excited about my discussion with Tom and look forward to actively participating in digital collections and management, in the near future.

January 20, 2012

Can Academic Libraries Out-do Google?

Posted in Digital Libraries tagged at 1:05 am by mknight1130

I walk into a back office at Lewis and Clark College to talk with Jeremy, Digital Services Coordinator. Among other tasks, he coordinates 7 digital collections and projects, spanning art, to poetry, to documents collected by the Waztek library. I put Jeremy to the test. Why should students go to a digital collections instead of using Google? He thinks for a moment. The digital archives provide portals to common interests but Google provides information instantaneously. Some student wonder why have an academic library at all when so much is available online.

Experts have pondered the value of academic libraries and  how they can cater to digital library seekers.  Can they out do Google. Several articles about this topic are listed by Candy Schwartz at This includes , giving suggestions on how libraries can meet their digital needs. As a former student of Candy Schwartz, I find her very knowledgeable about digital libraries.

Fast Company, takes a different perspective in the article  Google’s Digital Library Failed–Can Academics Succeed . The article talks about how most of academia, as non-for profit, could succeed in building a digital public library for America. The article ends with lots of questions.

I took a different tack in my conversation with Jeremy. What if academic libraries provided digital collections that are customizable?  Perhaps a collection where students and faculty could decide what information they wished to stay current, similar to an RSS feed. Perhaps the digital library collections could integrate with social media, such as Facebook and Delicious API’s . Promise abounds for academic libraries and their digital collections.