The Ethics of Digitisation

I’ve been thinking about digitisation projects recently.

Digitisation (scanning physical texts and objects so they can be accessed online) and digital preservation (ensuring “born digital” documents can be stored and accessed into the future) are two big areas in the GLAMR sector at the moment, and they match my interest in the overlap between technology and libraries.

Trove is the most famous digitisation project in Australia: a central access point for hundreds of digital collections across the country.

Collections Victoria is a similar portal, but this time focussing on Victorian collections.

The Digital Access to Collections project is a national initiative to establish a toolkit and a national framework for digitising collections. It’s run by GLAM Peak, the peak representative bodies of the galleries, libraries, archives and museums sectors in Australia.

I don’t have much experience with digitisation, so I’ve been idly thinking of projects I might run to correct that.

One thought I had was to digitise my personal collection of zines. I did some Googling tonight, looking to see if anyone had written up similar projects that could provide me with some technical instructions.

What I found was much better than that. I found discussions about the ethics of digitising zines.

 

Why We’re Not Digitizing Zines

First: Why We’re Not Digitizing Zines by Kelly Wooten, from 2009.

Wooten is the curator of the zine collections at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture in the Duke University Libraries.

She states four reasons the Bingham Center chose not to digitise their zine collections:

  • Permission: it is often difficult to impossible to track down the creators of zines to ask their permission to digitise their creations.
  • Copyright: zines are subject to copyright like any other creative work. Reproducing them, even for research purposes, may fall outside fair use provisions.
  • Privacy: zines are often intensely personal in subject matter, and their creators may not have anticipated their intimate thoughts being shared with a vast audience.
  • Print culture: zines are created to by physical objects, and their physicality is part of what makes them so special. As Wooten writes: “The experience of handling zines in person, turning each page to reveal intimate secrets, funny comics, and poetry, can’t be duplicated on-line.”

Wooten’s point about privacy is especially interesting to me. Zine-making is something of a subculture. Zine makers make zines to share with other zine enthusiasts who share an understanding of the history and culture of zines, and will treat the maker’s content with a certain amount of respect.

It’s an example of what I call contextual privacy: where people are happy to share information in one context, but not in another. We may be happy to share health details with our doctor, for example, but not with our employer. Or we may be happy to share holiday selfies of us in our swimwear with our friends on Facebook, but would be appalled and angry if the Daily Mail reprinted those pictures.

 

digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Tara Robertson’s blog post digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should discusses the privacy implications of Reveal Media digitising issues of the late feminist porn magazine On Our Backs.

Although not strictly a zine, the contextual privacy issues are similar. Many of the models may have been happy to pose for an underground magazine with a primarily lesbian readership back in the pre-world wide web days of the late 80s and early 90s, but that does not mean that they would happy for their images to be available now, decades later, to the internet-at-large.

Robertson argues that there is a real danger of harm to the models here, and that at a minimum Reveal Media have an ethical obligation to provide a clear takedown process.

In making her argument, Robertson quotes from the final document I want to link to: the Zine Librarians Code of Ethics Zine.

Because of course there’s a zine about the ethics of zine librarianship. 🙂

 

Zine Librarians Code of Ethics Zine.

Everything in this document is 100% gold, if you’re a library nerd like me. The printable PDF is a bit hard to read on-screen. Fortunately, there’s a web-readable version too.

The authors make the same point about contextual privacy that I did:

2. Zine usage has a particular context or contexts associated with it.

In our experience, reproducing or sharing zines involves not just copyright law and practices, but also zinesters’ inherent right to decide how their work is distributed and how widely, and how it is contextualized. In sum, it is about community, about respect, and about the simple act of being a considerate person and information professional.

Zines are not mass-distributed books. They are often self-published and self-distributed, printed in very small runs, and intended for a small audience. Zinesters may feel differently about having their work openly available on the internet or in print, made available to a much wider audience.

Some zinesters also feel that context is important. This can mean the format – that it was meant to be on paper, and held in the hands – or it can mean that the zine “works” best when it is read as a whole product, rather than having one or a few pages excerpted or reprinted. These are among the considerations that the zine librarian/archivist should observe when deciding how or whether to reproduce an item for use.

There’s many more great ideas in this zine, including an order-of-preference list of ways to obtain zines, creating an inclusive and respectful space for the zines to be read in, and notes on cataloguing.

The rest of the zinelibraries.info website is worth reading too.

 

Conclusion

I set out to find some technical guidance on digitising zines. What I found was a much richer discussion that suggests the best approach may to be not digitise my zines after all.

Which I haven’t done. So: project successful!

Now I just need to find a way to add this to my resume…

 

Advertisements
Posted in ideas worth stealing, library nerding | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Labyrinth in the Library

We started the Dewey Decimal Cataloguing system last night.

I have written an (unpublished) YA fantasy novel set in vast library. The library in the book takes the form of a fractal bookcase: a bookcase made up of bookcases made up of bookcases.

The-Ruined-Library-floorplan

The structure was inspired by the Dewey Decimal system: if you look closely, you can just see that each Shelf corresponds to a main Class in DDC. The Rows are Divisions, and the Towers are Sections.

It was a cute concept, even if my diagram doesn’t quite do it justice.

What I discovered last night though, as we dutifully clicked our way through WebDewey to practice our cataloguing skills, was that Dewey is less of a bookcase and more of a maze.

Which is to say: when you are at your destination and have the Dewey Decimal number for a work in front of you, it’s easy to work backwards and understand the rightness of why the work sits there.

But working from the outside in–starting with a text, and then trying to navigate through the Classes and Divisions and Sections to find the correct number–is an exercise in dead-ends and doubling back.

Consider, for example, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. What number do we assign to this movie?

The main class is clearly 700 – Arts & Recreation.

The division also seems clear: 770 – Photography, computer art, film, video. But which section should we move into?

  • 700 – Arts & Recreation
    • 770 – Photography, computer art, film, video
      • 770 – Photography, computer art, cinematography, videography
      • 771 – *Techniques, procedures, apparatus, equipment, materials
      • 772-774 – Special photographic processes
      • [775] – [Unassigned]
      • 776 – Computer art (Digital art)
      • 777 – Cinematography and videography
      • 778 – Specific fields and special kinds of photography
      • 779 – Photographic images

Presumably 770, right?

  • 700 – Arts & Recreation
    • 770 -Photography, computer art, cinematography, videography
      • 770.1 – Philosophy and theory
      • 770.2 – Miscellany
      • 770.5 – Photography–serials
      • 770.74 – Photography–museums
      • 770.9 – History, geographical treatment, biography

And there it is: that feeling of being lost, of wandering into a dark dead end, where the wind howls and there may be wolves.

labyrinth_worm

Backtrack. Try again. Explore other corridors, other paths. I didn’t spend my teens playing Dungeons & Dragons for nothing.

Or I can just google it.

This post on 025.431: The Dewey blog says the correct number is 791.43. Playing around with WebDewey, the right path through the Dewey maze is:

  • 700 – Arts & recreation
    • 790 – Sports, games & entertainment
      • 791 – Public performances
        • 791.4 – Motion pictures, radio, television
          • 791.43 – Motion pictures

It makes sense looking backwards, right? You can understand how Motion pictures fits under Motion pictures, radio, television, which fits under Public performances, which fits under Sports, games & entertainment, and so on.

There’s no way in hell I would have made the connection going the other way though. I would have hesitated at Sports, games & entertainment, and would have turned back at Public performances.

So this is my first impression of the Dewey Decimal Cataloguing system: a maze that can only be solved by walking it backwards.

Borges would be delighted.

 

Posted in library nerding, studying information management | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Confusion in the Library

I went to RMIT’s Swanston Library today. It confused and annoyed me.

To be fair, the library is undergoing major renovations. But still…

I tried to visit the library two weeks ago. The signs pointing me to the entrance lead me on a path through the back-alleys of RMIT, up staircases and down gangplanks, until the signs stopped in a dead-end of construction work.

I gave up and went to the State Library of Victoria instead.

Today I tried a different entrance. I followed the signs up a staircase, across a large room, and up another escalator. I walked through the anti-theft scanners. And…

…And I still wasn’t sure I was in the right place.

What I saw was a large room with desks in it, and lots of students studying. To one side was a darkened room full of students on computers, with a floor sign saying “Quiet Study Area”. Ahead of me was a scrolling LED sign above a circular desk that said “Ask a Librarian”.

 

There were no maps. There were no books. There were no other signs.

There are three questions I ask myself whenever I enter a new library:

  1. How do I tell where to go?
  2. Who can help me if I need help?
  3. Where are the loos?

I had no idea where to go. There was a middle-aged woman at the “Ask a Librarian” desk who might have been a librarian, but she wasn’t wearing a uniform and I couldn’t see a staff lanyard. And I had no idea even if there were loos there.

Entering a new library is intimidating. We don’t know where to find things. We don’t know what the rules are. We look around us for clues.

This library gave me nothing.

I know: I should have talked to the librarian. But by this stage I was feeling stupid and embarrassed. I’m an Information Management student, for heaven’s sake. Surely I should be able to find my way around a library?

Maybe if I had a specific goal in mind, I would have asked. But I was really only visiting to have a look around.

You can’t ask a librarian if you don’t have a question.

I pushed forward, through a doorway into the next room. More desks, more students. Still no books. The next room had Darth Vader-inspired pods for collaboration. The next room was yet more desks. Side rooms had a building numbers on the doors, but it was a different building than the one I’d entered through. Was I still in the library?

Angular staircases ran up and down, with no hint where they led to. With no clues to guide me, choices became meaningless.

I found an empty seat at a desk. I sat down and did some work.

Afterwards, I tried exploring again. The building still didn’t make sense. The rooms were all completely different styles and colours. The Quiet Study Area was still plunged into darkness except for the glow of computer screens. I did finally glimpse some books: they were in a sealed-off area with a note in front of it explaining that it would open soon.

I left feeling confused and annoyed.

I get that the Swanston Library is being renovated. But there’s still things they could do to help patrons orientate themselves.

Maps not only tell us where to go, they reassure us we’re in the right place to begin with.

Signage helps us find our way around, and answer basic questions: what’s down those stairs? What’s this room for? They had a floor sign for the quiet study area. Why didn’t they have them for the staircases and each room?

And toilets. Clearly mark your toilets. If I’m going to sit down and study for hours without a break, I need to go to the loo first.

On a happier note, here’s an article about Transforming Norwegian Public Libraries. I particularly like the idea of dividing libraries into four spaces:

  • the inspiration space
  • the learning space
  • the meeting space
  • the performance space

 

Posted in ideas worth stealing, library nerding | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Information Organisation

INFORMATION ORGANISATION

I’m back at uni. Two subjects this semester: Information Organisation and Information Provision.

A friend recently asked if she could borrow my lecture notes. And I realised I didn’t really have any. I’ve got the slides from the class, but no personal notes.

So I thought I’d start blogging some.

Last night’s class was Information Organisation. And we got thrown into the deep end, working with AACR2 and RDA and MARC 21. It was lots of fiddly detail and unfamiliar standards, made more confusing because I didn’t have a conceptual model of how these standards fit together.

So this is less my notes on the lecture than me trying to sort out the underlying concepts.

WHY ORGANISE YOUR INFORMATION?

So people can find and use the information they need.

S. R. Ranganathan’s Fourth Law of Library Science: Save the time of the reader.

 

HOW DO WE ORGANISE INFORMATION?

Physically, books and other items are stored in an order. The order is determined by a CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM – the two most common ones in use are the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress system.

Browsing physical storage is slow and inefficient. To speed up searches, we create a CATALOGUE – a guide to the items in the collection.

Each item gets a RECORD. In the old days, this would be a physical card in the card catalogue. Each record contains FIELDS, and each field contains a VALUE.

(I may be imposing my Computer Science terminology on cataloguing here.)

In order to keep records consistent, there are CATALOGUING RULES (i.e. standards). These specify which fields to include and what format the values should be recorded in. This format is sometimes called the “punctuation”, as special punctuation is used to separate sub-fields.

With the move from card catalogues to computers, there was a need to create TRANSMISSION STANDARDS that make cataloguing standards machine-readable.

Diagram of the Cataloguing model

The Cataloguing Conceptual Model

(EDIT: The arrows here can be thought of a meaning “creates a need for…”. This is a conceptual relationship. The actual workflow for creating a record is:

ITEM > CATALOGUING STANDARD > TRANSMISSION > RECORD > ITEM)

CATALOGUING STANDARDS: AACR2, RDA, MARC 21

AACR2 – Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd edition

An international standard for many years. Superseded by RDA, because AACR2 doesn’t handle the new type of electronic resources well. But still in wide-spread use, because old standards never die.

http://www.aacr2.org/

RDA – Resource Description and Access

A new standard developed in 1997, and adopted in 2013.

Based on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR), the set of takss that a record should support.

RDA uses a hierarchical model of a resource:

  • Work: the distinct intellectual or artistic creation
    • Expression: the intellectual or artistic realisation of a work
      • Manifestation: the physical embodiment of a work (the version)
        • Item: a single, specific instance of the manifestation.

http://www.rdatoolkit.org/

MARC 21

In the 1960s, there was a push to move cataloguing from cards to computers. As part of that, new cataloguing standards were created that were computer-friendly. These standards were called MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloguing).

There have been lots of different MARC standards, but we’ve settled on MARC 21.

MARC 21 is a TRANSMISSION STANDARD, since it’s a way of encoding the data from other standards into a machine-readable format.

A MARC 21 record is a series of lines, where each line contains the format:

  • TAG: a three digit number identifying the field
  • INDICATOR: two character code that contain field-specific special instructions
  • SUBFIELDS: multiple values that might be within a field
  • DELIMITERS: a special character that marks the start of a sub-field (usually | or $), followed by a single letter identifying the sub-field

http://www.marc21.ca/index-e.html

 

THE GOLDEN RULE: LOOK ‘EM UP

Don’t try to remember all these values or formats. Look them up. Double-check.

“The needs of the user must come before the ease of the cataloguer.”- Sandford Berman, Radical Cataloguing (2000)

 

 

Posted in library nerding | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Onwards

I finished my job at the Student Union yesterday. That’s an 18 year chapter of my life closed.

It’s a strange feeling, packing up such a long period of your life. But that’s what I’ve spent the last 8 months doing. The University made the strategic decision to centralise all corporate services, which included the IT department of which I was, until yesterday, the manager.

It was big task. The University originally scheduled three months to shut us down, based on the fact the the Student Union only had around 150 staff. I pointed out how many different departments we supported, and how many different computer systems. The university panicked slightly, and extended the project by another six months.

One of the proudest moments I’ve had lately was when the project manager described our IT environment as “more complex than the Medical faculty.”

My other proudest moment isn’t a moment: it’s been the entire 8 month period whenever I reflect on the performance of my team. After you’ve been told to pack up your job and walk out the door, it would be very easy to disengage, to do the bare minimum. Or to do nothing at all. But my team have worked diligently until the very end.

(Literally the very end: my sysadmin got a phone call asking question as we were walking down to our farewell drinks.)

They did an excellent job. They were widely thanked, and they got to walk out of there with their heads held high.

I’ve been thinking about farewells a lot this past month. What does it mean to say good bye and move on? What does it look like?

And this is where my nerdiness shows through again. Because my answer, my personal answer, is that it looks a lot like Doctor Who.

We’ve had twelve different actors play the Doctor now, thirteen if you count dear John Hurt. All execpt Capaldi have said their goodbyes, one way or another. I’m a big fan of Christopher Ecclestone’s parting lines: “Rose… before I go, I just wanna tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!”

Great lines. A bit final, though.

The parting word I kept coming back to were Sylvester McCoy’s, delivered at the end of the “classic” series.

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning. And the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke, and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger. Somewhere there’s injustice.  And somewhere else, the tea’s getting cold. Come on, Ace — we’ve got work to do!”

Yes. Exactly.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Smaller, cheaper fan conventions

I haven’t blogged here for ages because I’ve been at Reading Matters, then Continuum, then down to Hobart for Dark Mofo.

Continuum is a fan convention – a convention organised and paid for by fans. Memberships cost $200 for a three day convention held in a functions venue in the centre of town. That’s half the price of Reading Matters, but it’s still steep, especially once fans include food and accommodation.

The always excellent No Award blog has a post up about the con-runners confab that was held at Continuum, in which convention organisers explored different ideas for conventions, and different venues, as a way of getting the price down.

Australian cons, Emilly argues, are based on a Northern Hemisphere model that just doesn’t work for us: hiring conference space in a hotel, in a city, over a long weekend. This is viable in the US and UK, because they have larger small cities, and larger numbers of people can travel shorter geographic distances. Whereas, in Australia, our smaller cities like Newcastle and Geelong are sort of out of the way, people will have to travel further to get there, and it’s a harder sell — so we’re constantly holding events in capital cities at peak tourism times. Accordingly, ticket prices are higher and there’s a much greater barrier to attending.

This is something that Continuum has grappled with for a few years, and we were very excited to be able to offer needs-based memberships in 2017, but Emilly is considering a different model all together: smaller single-day events held in library meeting rooms and similar spaces.

(Some libraries have better facilities than others, of course — Melbourne’s Library at the Dock wouldn’t suit, but Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton is almost designed for this purpose.)

With shorter time commitments and lower costs, mini-cons like this would be more accessible to the people currently excluded from big cons like Continuum — teenagers, students, the unwaged.

I’ve had similar idle thoughts, that you could run a half-day or one day conference in library spaces. The NSW Writers Centre runs a one day Speculative Fiction Festival, for example.

I’d love to run a Readers Festival like this, where of the four panellists in any session, one is a writer and the other three are readers talking about the pleasures of reading.

Posted in ideas worth stealing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reading Matters: some quick thoughts

I spent the last two days at the Reading Matters conference.

It’s a professional conference about YA aimed at teachers and librarians. As a student librarian, and an aspiring YA author, that’s the intersection of my two interests.

I’ll write a proper report later. But I was up early this morning, and I tweeted some thoughts. They might as well go here on the blog too.

The graph comes from Deakin University’s pilot study Teen Reading in the Digital Era.

Posted in ideas worth stealing, library nerding | Leave a comment