*Cross-posted on the Minnesota Library Futurists blog here.*Several recent readings, discussions, and events have had me thinking about collaboration a bit more than usual – which is saying something, since I am a librarian at PALS and spend a good deal of time working with collaborative ventures. The most recent catalyst for my mental tangent was Charles Henry and Brad Wheeler’s article “The Game Has Changed” in the March/April 2012 edition of EDUCAUSE Review Magazine. In this article, Henry and Wheeler encourage academic institutions to move away from “institution as an island” mentalities and work towards interdependence. They point out that while corporations have consolidated to take advantage of the power size can bring, academic institutions have dismissed economies of scale in favor of independence. It seems as though the topic of collaboration is getting increasing library press coverage…and for good reason. The current landscape promotes and necessitates collaboration: we cannot accommodate shrinking budgets, increasing user expectations, and advancing technological needs without taking advantage of the communication infrastructure that enables us to work together at a distance at relatively low costs, when compared to travel costs and time spent away from daily work. As my work with the Minnesota Library Futures Initiative has made evident, libraries – like academic institutions – share many of the same struggles. While it is true we must balance collaborative efforts with individual needs, we all can benefit from reducing redundancies and increasing our interdependence. In a recent conversation, I mentioned that while negotiating journal licensing with vendors, we could talk to fellow librarians to gather feedback on practices that have worked for them. One of the people I was talking to noted that a good part of licensing is confidential information. I don’t think my response to this reminder was as adequate as it could have been at the time, but let me take this opportunity to say that sharing or collaborating doesn’t necessarily have to be a “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” relationship. Simply talking about experiences in general can provide valuable information to colleagues, such as which vendors are more rigid with their policies, who is hard to reach, and what kind of bribes are effective..oh, wait… In addition, sharing our experiences may help us get on the same page as a profession: what are our expectations from vendors? What can we tolerate; what is intolerable? In addition, having these conversations could eventually lead to more shared purchases, allowing us to leverage the power of an economy of scale. While Minnesota already has a great start at this shared purchasing model through Minitex and consortia like MnPALS and CLIC, further collaboration will only make these groups stronger. At a large university this sharing of knowledge and purchasing power may not be as obviously beneficial, but for librarians at smaller institutions, those newer to the profession, or those taking on new roles within the profession, collaboration is key. And even though large universities may not see as many obvious benefits, they will gain prestige, karma, and the opportunity to refine their practices. I often notice where a practice could be improved when I explain it to others and allow them opportunities to question how or why the process is the way it is. As noted by Henry and Wheeler, we need to move off our islands – or at least build bridges between them.
Thanks to PALS Director, Stephen Elfstrand, for passing along this online video: What Books Do At Night?
Do your libraries have any interesting media presentations? If so, share them below or on the PALS Facebook Page!
At the PALS Office, Fall means the return of students, a decrease in parking spaces on campus, an increase in training and support requests, and preparation for and travel to Fall Conferences and MnPALS User Group. Theses changes are both energizing and, at times, tiring – with the exception of the parking hassles, which are just tiring. Like the libraries we support, we find ourselves pulled in many directions and sometime struggle to prioritize the many demands on our schedules. On the bright side, there is no danger of becoming bored…however, things like the PALS Blog get put on the back burner. Now that the forecast has threatened snow on at least one occasion, it is time to reflect back on a busy fall season…
In late September, Stephen and I travelled to Minot for the North Dakota Library Association’s Annual Confernce. Although the drive from Mankato to Minot is LONG, it was a wonderful opportunity to visit with librarians from outside the state of Minnesota, chat with our counterparts at ODIN, and experience the dynamics of a different state’s library association. Librarians – and the people of Minot in general – were welcoming to their visiting out-of-state librarians, such as the folks from Minitex and PALS. They were ready to ask questions about libraries in Minnesota and answer our inquiries about North Dakota’s libraries.
The ODIN, Minitex, and PALS booths were collocated in the exhibit hall, allowing us the opportunity to chat at get updates about each others organizations. With the current financial situation across the nation, it makes sense for us to keep the lines of communication open between these like organizations and look for ways that we can work together to enhance library services across the state. No one organization has as much time, money, or staff power as it needs to do all of the “cool stuff” it would like to do. By sharing our existing plans and future goals, perhaps we will be able to combine our resources to accomplish common ambitions.
October sent me to Spearfish, SD for SDLA’s Annual Conference; Duluth, MN for MLA’s conference, and Moorhead, MN for the Upper Midwest Ex Libris Users Group and the MnPALS User Group. As with NDLA, all of these events offered wonderful opportunities to hear what libraries across the region are up to. Four conferences in three weeks means that my memories of what I heard or saw where are fuzzy, however three themes seem to have woven themselves through my notes: a focus on the “user experience,” doing more with less – both in terms of staff and money, and the ever-present need to stay current with technology. The Consortium of MnPALS Libraries and PALS seem poised to offer library staff in the region the opportunity to share practices related to each of these themes at User Groups, Spring Work Days, and the MnPALS mailing lists, forum, and wiki. As always, we are open to suggestions on alternative ways we can support our users: if there is something we are not currently doing that would assist the consortium, please let us know! Comment below or submit a support ticket with your ideas. And start thinking about ways you can contribute to Work Days this Spring and/or User Groups next Fall!
Why is PALS looking at Islandora?
There is growing concern among institutions of all types about the preservation of information – in both digital and physical forms. Paper becomes unreadable; photos fade; digital, audio, and video content are inaccessible because devices become obsolete (i.e. cassette tapes and floppy disks); information is located on a faculty member’s hard drive where it is not accessible and may be at risk of being lost. In addition, with users expecting easy access to information of all types, there is a desire to make more information readily available. This includes institutional archives, research data, historical information, and local publications. Another area that is rapidly changing is that of publishing. In the near future, researchers will be looking for a tool to assist with collaboration and open publishing.
Some institutions are in the early stages of creating digital archives using software such as ContentDM or DSpace. Some researchers have IT support or a graduate student to help them manage their data. But many don’t have the tools to manage these types of projects. There is a real need for assistance in this area, and it seems like a service that would fit the PALS mission.
We are very early in the investigation, but Islandora looks promising. We have a test server up and running and can load objects into a demo repository. One thing I learned at camp is that, depending on how we use it, Fedora can have a big learning curve. Luckily, there are experts at the University of Prince Edward Island and Discovery Garden to help us out.
If you find yourself with a project that requires a digital asset management system, we may be looking for guinea pigs, I mean, volunteers, to help us explore the possibilities that Islandora may have.
There are currently more than 100 implementations of Islandora. They range in size from very small to as large as millions of objects requiring terabytes of storage. Common implementations include institutional repositories, digital humanities projects, and research data.
Several current implementations are used by consortia. They use the Drupal multisite functionality to run multiple sites with one Drupal instance and one Fedora repository. This allows each site to customize the content, look and feel, permissions, and functionality of the system for their users.
Below are links to some Islandora implementations:
Island Archives at the University of Prince Edward Island – includes Island Lives, Island Newspapers, Island Voices, and more.
AgEcon Search at the University of Minnesota – repository of full-text scholarly literature in agricultural and applied economics.
Digital Humanities Initiative at Hamilton College in New York – includes projects such as a Japanese film archive, which consists of silent movies with narration and Japanese and English transcription.
Esdora at NASA – used to store, manage, and access scientific data.
Alliance Digital Repository of the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries – consortium repository in the process of moving to Islandora.
Islandora is an open source application based on other open source tools. These include the Drupal content management system, Fedora repository software, and SOLR search tool. The heart of the system is Fedora, which can store any digital asset, can support various metadata schemes, and is not dependent on any reading device. Fedora can store data in any digital format including videos, text, audio, and images. In addition, the data doesn’t have to be in Fedora in order for Fedora to manage it.
Drupal is used by many organizations to power their web sites. It is very powerful and can manage many types of content. Having Drupal as the front end makes it easy to integrate Islandora with your web site, and possibly other data sources, to present a uniform interface to your users.
The SOLR search engine is very fast, and provides features such as full-text searching and faceted search. It is used by VuFind and MnPALS Plus.
Islandora is a Drupal module that harnesses the functionality of these other tools to provide a robust application for managing digital assets. Recent enhancements to the software include the ability to do bulk ingests of digital objects, new viewers, functionality to handle research data, and a new form builder. Among the planned features are a mobile app and migration tools from other digital asset management systems. Solution packs, or Sprouts, are packages of specialized modules, applications, and workflows to serve particular content and user needs. Existing and planned solution packs include institutional repository, audio, video, maps, images, digital books, digital newspapers, digital magazines, document management, numeric data, genetics/proteomics, specimen collection, and epidemiology.
What do you do if you are applying for a NSF grant that requires a data plan and you don’t have one? Where do you turn if your president asks you to create an institutional archive and you don’t know where to begin? Who will you go to when your library board decides the library will be responsible for digitizing, storing and making accessible local history information? An open source application called Islandora might be the answer.
I had the opportunity to gather with others from libraries and universities on beautiful Prince Edward Island in July for the second annual Islandora Camp. What is Islandora? From their web site, islandora.ca, “Islandora uniquely combines the Drupal and Fedora open software applications to create a robust digital asset management system that can be fitted to meet the short and long term collaborative requirements of digital data stewardship.” Islandora can be used to manage a digital repository for projects such as those mentioned at the top of this blog. Most commonly, it is used for institutional repositories, digital humanities projects, and research data.
Islandora is open source software developed by the University of Prince Edward Island’s Robertson Library. Newly launched, Discovery Garden, Inc., is the spin-off company providing commercial Islandora services. Developers and librarians in both organizations work together to further develop Islandora and all enhancements are contributed to the open source community. For a snapshot of the Islandora project and community, check out this poster.
In following posts, I will describe how Islandora works, who is using it, and why PALS is looking at it.
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