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District Dispatch: Top secret, hush, hush

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-07-07 18:15

The American Library Association touts the importance of the free flow of information and access to information especially from the government and the public sector. A lack of government transparency only leads to speculation and a distrust of the government.  ALA has a Government Documents Round Table whose members focus on effective access to government information. The ALA Washington Office regularly advocates for government transparency.  The Intellectual Freedom Office fights censorship.  Access to information is a core value of librarianship.  Obviously this access thing is a big deal for the library profession. We are heavily invested in information access and government transparency—tenets that support democracy.

Image from

So, it’s no wonder that librarians were surprised to hear at the ALA Annual conference that the U.S. Copyright Office planned to hold closed meetings to discuss revision of Section 108, the “library exception.” The process was announced in the Federal Register on June 2.  Interested parties were asked to schedule a meeting with the Copyright Office, located in Washington, DC. (Soon after the announcement the Copyright Office said that phone conversations could also be scheduled).  There will be no public record of who attends the meetings or what is discussed.  The Library Copyright Alliance has scheduled a private meeting with the Copyright Office to share our thoughts on section 108 revision – after all, libraries are the beneficiaries of the “library exception.” And we have already shared what we think about revision of the law (repeatedly), and we are against it.  But the very fact that these discussions are confidential takes a lot of nerve.  We have never heard of an instance where a government agency seeking public comment does not provide public access to the comments.  This is not a national security issue after all.  Section 108 is about interlibrary loan, preservation and replacement of library resources, and copies that libraries can make for users, not global surveillance programs.

Admittedly, the Copyright Office has been upfront about it.  They believe that Section 108 needs to be updated to better reflect the digital environment.  Indeed, they have said that Section 108 needs to be re-written altogether.  They have already drafted Section 108 legislation that we haven’t seen.  In short, they have already made a decision on what they are going to recommend to Congress, and the purpose of these closed meetings is merely a consummation.

I stopped by the Library of Congress exhibit space while at ALA Annual, talked to a representative from the Copyright Office and asked why the Office chose to have confidential meetings.  He did a fine job of talking to me for a good 10 minutes without answering my question.  I did glean that the Copyright Office was ready to move forward.  They want to wrap up this issue.  Now is not the time to solicit comments that would be publicly posted from a bunch of Internet whackos who don’t know what they’re talking about.  It will only lead to more confusion and time wasted. Let’s not wrangle with another SOPA. They know what they are doing.

The post Top secret, hush, hush appeared first on District Dispatch.

NYPL Labs: Open Audio Weekend Hackathon: Exploring Audio Accessibility for the Public Good

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-07-07 15:12

On June 25 and 26, the Library welcomed developers, designers, data scientists, audio producers, and others to a two-day hackathon designed to advance the cause of audio accessibility and explore future uses of media archives online. This event built upon and extended our work on Together We Listen, a project generously supported by a Knight Foundation prototype grant which was awarded to NYPL and our incredible partners The Moth to crowdsource corrections to computer-generated transcripts.

Kicking Off the Day

Open Audio Weekend attracted a diverse group of participants, with backgrounds in libraries, oral history, software development and more.

Image by Jemma Brown

All Open Audio Weekend participants received t-shirts designed by NYPL's Brian Foo. The design is five different representations of the spoken phrase "Open Audio Weekend" which Brian stitched together from audio clips in the NYPL Community Oral History project. The first representation is the words, the second is the phonetic transcription, the third is musical notation based on the pitches and rhythms of the speakers, the fourth is the pitch analysis based on raw frequency data of the speakers, and the last is the waveform or amplitude of the speech.

We shared an audio mashup (created by Tim Lou Ly) of Moth stories and excerpts from NYPL’s Community Oral History Project.

Open Audio Weekend Themes

Participants formed into small groups around the following prompts, designed to focus work around broad themes:

  • Discover: What new experiences can we make around discovery of audio?
  • Find: How can we make it easier to search audio?
  • Listen: What are some meaningful ways we can augment the experience of listening to audio?
  • Share: How can we make it easier to share audio?
  • Learn: What can we learn from audio? How can audio be used in an educational context?
  • Engage: How can we engage a community through audio?
  • Access: How can we make audio collections more usable for people with disabilities?
Participant-Designed Projects

The projects presented during our shareout on Sunday afternoon represented a rich array of prototypes and creative imaginings of the future of audio accessibility. The full list of projects is available on the GitHub repo for the event, and here are the highlights!


Crowdscribe is a proof of concept for a Chrome extension that supports crowdsourced transcriptions. Users can request transcriptions of media using the extension, and users who are on the same webpage at the same time will get a notification to help transcribe media on the page. This prototype raises awareness around accessibility, allows for the crowdsourcing of transcription, and is designed with live events in mind. By targeting live events, the extension builds upon existing communities and audiences.

BPL Sampler

Have you ever wondered what an oral history would sound like overlaid on top of hip hop beats? Check out the BPL Sampler, which remixes voices excerpted from the Brooklyn Public Library Our Streets, Our Stories project.

P.I.T.C.H.Y. D.A.W.G. (Perfecting Interactive Technology for Content Heard by You Despite Awkward Word Groupings)

In addition to being an imaginatively named project, P.I.T.C.H.Y. D.A.W.G. combines the experience of listening to audio with exploring related media, with the option of 3 modalities: Audio Only, Highlights, Full Experience.


Mapping place names from oral history collections. To build this prototype, the group ran transcripts through the Stanford Named Entity Recognizer. These place names were then plotted on a map, creating a cartographic way of browsing audio and transcriptions.


InstaBurns is an experiment in auto-generating common terms and their frequency from transcripts in order to explore the relationship of terms within and across audio files. The InstaBurns platform also uses significant terms to automatically generate a slideshow of related images using the Google Image API.


A-to-V is a one-stop central database where collectors of oral histories provide searchable information about their audio files and make those files directly available to users.

Homemade History

A project modeling potential engagement and reuse activities around oral history collections. Building on NYPL's Open Transcript Editor, this model would allow for users to clip two minutes of an oral history and record their own complimentary response to the clip which would be ingested back into the larger collection.

Last but not least, the entire event was transcribed in real time by Stanley Sakai from the Open Steno Project.

Thanks to all the participants for making our weekend-long hackathon a great success. Thanks also goes to our great Together We Listen partners PopUp Archive and The Moth, as well as contributing partners Gimlet Media, Buzzfeed Audio, Fresh Air, WNYC Archives, Library of Congress, Brooklyn Public Library, PRI's The World in Words, Columbia University Master of Arts in Oral History Program and to the support of the Knight Foundation for making all of this possible.

More scenes from the event below!

Equinox Software: Another Library Joins the Evergreen Virginia Project

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-07-07 14:29


Duluth, GA–July 7, 2016

Equinox is pleased to announce that it has successfully migrated Amherst County Public Library to Evergreen within the Evergreen Virginia Project, managed by the Library of Virginia.  Equinox completed the migration in early June.  Amherst is hosted on Equinox’s Sequoia platform along with the rest of the consortium.

Amherst has two locations and circulates over 100,000 items plus electronic resources.  The two locations serve close to 16,000 patrons in Amherst County.  Rose Schoof, Evergreen Virginia Project Manager, had this to say about the migration:  “The word to describe our migration process would be “easy”.  The vast knowledge that Erica and the rest of the team possess is phenomenal.”

The addition of Amherst brings the number of libraries in the Evergreen Virginia Project to 23.  We look forward to helping the Project grow even more in the years to come.

About Equinox Software, Inc.

Equinox was founded by the original developers and designers of the Evergreen ILS. We are wholly devoted to the support and development of open source software in libraries, focusing on Evergreen, Koha, and the FulfILLment ILL system. We wrote over 80% of the Evergreen code base and continue to contribute more new features, bug fixes, and documentation than any other organization. Our team is fanatical about providing exceptional technical support. Over 98% of our support ticket responses are graded as “Excellent” by our customers. At Equinox, we are proud to be librarians. In fact, almost half of us have our ML(I)S. We understand you because we *are* you.  We are Equinox, and we’d like to be awesome for you.

For more information on Equinox, please visit

About Evergreen

Evergreen is an award-winning ILS developed with the intent of providing an open source product able to meet the diverse needs of consortia and high transaction public libraries. However, it has proven to be equally successful in smaller installations including special and academic libraries. Today, almost 1200 libraries across the US and Canada are using Evergreen including NC Cardinal, SC Lends, and B.C. Sitka.

For more information about Evergreen, including a list of all known Evergreen installations, see

About Sequoia

Sequoia is a cloud-based library solutions platform for Evergreen, Koha, FulfILLment, and more, providing the highest possible uptime, performance, and capabilities of any library automation platform available. Over 27,000,000 items within the Sequoia platform in the last year.  It was designed by Equinox engineers in order to ensure that our customers are always running the most stable, up to date version of the software they choose.  

For more information on Sequoia, please visit


Islandora: Islandora CLAW Sprint 008 - Complete!

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-07-07 12:49

The Islandora CLAW project saw its eighth all-volunteer sprint come to a close on Friday with eight completed tasks. You can check out the results here.

Big thanks to our sprinters:

  • Nick Ruest (York University)
  • Jared Whiklo (University of Manitoba)
  • Bryan Brown (Florida State University)
  • Melissa Anez (Islandora Foundation)
  • Diego Pino (
  • Ben Rosner (Barnard College)

Sprint MVP this time around is shared between Jared Whiklo for stepping up as sprint leader, and Ed Fugikawa (University of Wyoming) for opening, working on, and completing an issue during the sprint when he wasn't even sprinting.

The next volunteer sprint is coming up July 18 - 29. If you're interesting in participating, the issues up for grabs are listed here (or suggest some new ones!). Non-developers might be particularly interested in documentation tickets 259 and 281, which are a great way to learn more about Islandora CLAW while creating something useful for your fellow Islandorians. Whatever your interests and skills, if you can give us some of your time, we can almost certainly find a good use for it.

Sign up to sprint here

Ed Summers: DocNow's Theoretical Bricolage

planet code4lib - Thu, 2016-07-07 04:00

Below are some remarks I made on a panel at Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI) 2016 about the Documenting the Now project.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here at AERI today. I have to apologize for not being able to present on the topic proposed by Bergis Jules a little less than a year ago. If he was able to make it Bergis was hoping to talk to you today about research that he has been doing into how African Americans’ access to traditionally privileged digital information spaces presents archivists with opportunities and challenges around collecting and preserving social media records. In many ways that particular research was eclipsed by a project he and I have been collaborating on for the last year called Documenting the Now. When deciding whether to continue the presentation Ricky suggested that I use this time to share some background information and preliminary work about the Documenting the Now project. For the purposes of this panel I thought I would also try to highlight some of theoretical perspectives that I think are guiding the project. Please bear in mind that this is largely what we might call in the software world vaporware. It is research that is still in the process of becoming.

Documenting the Now

A good friend of mine once advised me to lead presentations with the punchline: to start with the thing I want the audience to remember, in case they decide to tune out, or walk out. Perhaps that window has already closed. But just in case I thought I would start by briefly describing the goals of the Documenting the Now project.

The Documenting the Now project is a two year partnership involving Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Maryland and the University of California at Riverside that will achieve three distinct but interdependent goals:

  1. To deposit a collection of 13M tweets into an institutional respository running at Washington University in St. Louis.
  2. To develop an open source application, DocNow, that allows researchers and archivists to create their own collections of Twitter and Web content.
  3. To build a community of practice and documentation around social media archiving, with particular attention to ethical practices of collecting “public” data from Twitter.

If you remember nothing else from this presentation just remember those three things we are trying to achieve. I’m going to spend the rest of my time here telling you a bit more about each of the goals, and their theoretical context.

The Dataset

Almost two years ago, Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The killing initiated a series of ongoing protests and demonstrations in Ferguson, that were then amplified by the emerging BlackLivesMatter movement. Two days after Michael Brown was killed, the Society of American Archivists annual meeting began in Washington, DC. There was much conversation among attendees about the need to document what was going on in social media and on the Web around the protests. It makes sense that this would be the case, for as Punzalan & Caswell (2016) recently wrote:

… the cause of social justice has been a topic of discussion on various archival fronts for at least 40 years. If the birth of the modern Western archival profession occurred in 1898 with the publication of the Dutch Manual, then the field has been tackling various aspects of social justice issues for nearly half of its modern history. With this trajectory, we believe that the conversation will continue in years to come. (p. 32)

Standing on these 40 year old shoulders Bergis and I decided to do what we could to collect the conversation in Twitter that was happening in response to killing of Michael Brown. We collected 13 million tweets that mentioned the word “ferguson” in the two weeks following his death. The process highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the tools that were available to us, and ultimately raised questions about the ethics of performing this data collection that was generated by hundreds of thousands of users. Our work took a new turn in the following year as the #BlackLivesMatter movement raised awareness about the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Samuel DuBose–many of which we collected Twitter conversations for. Indeed, it continues still today as awareness was raised in Twitter about the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile just days ago.

Bergis and I wrote about this data collection work on Medium in the On Archivy publication, which tapped into an existing wellspring of interest in the role of archives in social justice, and the emerging BlackLivesMatter movement. The analysis of Jackson & Foucault Welles (2015) as well as Freelon, Mcilwain, & Clark (2016) has since confirmed the pivotal role that Twitter played in incubating and building awareness about the killing of Michael Brown. They write:

Without focusing on the first week of the Ferguson network and further unpacking the network by day, we would not have been able to see the important influence of key crowdsourced elites and members of American counterpublics. In particular, our data spotlight the discursive labor of initiators and other influential everyday citizens, most of whom were young and/or African- American, who pushed the larger public sphere to address what happened to Michael Brown and offered ideological interpretations of Brown’s death and resulting events firmly situated in minority experiences with state oppression. (Jackson & Foucault Welles, 2015, pp. 412–413)

This Ferguson dataset is what we are planning to deposit in some form into the Fedora based institutional repository at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Application

We performed data collection using a utility I had previously created called twarc. I think it’s fair to say that twarc is a user unfriendly tool. It runs (assuming you can install it in the first place) from the command line, which isn’t really accessible to a large number of users. There are a variety of other tools available, but none that would allow us to easily search tweets that had already been sent, and save the richly structured data available from the Twitter API. Realistically, twarc was also ready-to-hand since I was already familiar with it, and time was of the essence.

Time was of the essence because of some peculiarities related to the Twitter API. Only tweets from the past seven days are available via the Twitter search API. In addition you can only request 100 tweets at a time, and those requests can only be issued 180 times every 15 minutes. So these quotas or rate limits control how many tweets can be requested in a day: 1,728,000. If you do not observe these limits your requests for data will be denied, and your application can potentially be blocked by Twitter. So we were working against the clock to collect the tweets before they fell out of the 7 day window.

While it is by no means a secret, understanding social media platforms, and how to work with them as they change and evolve over time is not knowledge that is widely held by archivists and researchers. Bergis and I became convinced that there was an opportunity to build an application that would empower users to create these collections for themselves. In addition to collecting the Twitter conversation we also wanted to build on the work of Rollason-Cass & Reed (2015) at the Internet Archive in using the Twitter conversation as an appraisal tool in archives of Web content.

In his recent critical analysis of Web 2.0 technologies Proferes (2016) offers an interpretation of social media platforms using Braman (2006)’s concept of information power, where power is realized through an individual’s or collective’s ability to make choices about how information about them is collected and shared.

What is important is that access to information about how this part of the platform works creates the possibility for the individual to make a choice. Choice creates the possibility for the expression of informational power. These possibilities are closed off when users do not have the basis of informational power from which to enter these fields of action.

I think Proferes’ application of information power is a useful critical lens to view our application development through. We know in this post-Snowden environment that powerful entities already have the ability collect and analyze large amounts of social media content. We want the DocNow application to inform and empower archivists, researchers and content creators in the building of social media archives.

The Community

Finally, and most perhaps most importantly, we want to build a community of practice around the ethical collection of content like the Ferguson dataset from Twitter and the Web. This work began in small part at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities where we hosted a series of four BlackLivesMatter Teach Ins around the Ferguson dataset. We also sought out a partnership with Washington University in St. Louis since their work on the Documenting Ferguson project complements the work we were doing in social media.

As the Documenting the Now project took shape, and we put our proposal to the Mellon Foundation together, Bergis assembled an advisory board of 20 individuals coming from a variety of backgrounds: sociologists, political scientists, archivists, software developers, and journalists. We will be meeting for the first time in St. Louis on August 21-23 in order to explore together what shape the DocNow application could take using a prototype we have been working on for the past few months. We will also be joined by a group of activists who used social media during the Ferguson protests. The involvement of activists and our advisory board in the design of DocNow is central to our work, and is informed by two strands of theory.

Value Sensitive Design where the ethical values of direct and indirect stakeholders are factored into the design. In particular Shilton (2012)’s work on value levers is an important conceptual tool for opening and sustaining conversations about values while allowing those conversations to inform the design.

The second is the application of a feminist ethics of care recently outlined by Caswell & Cifor (2016) where relations between the archivist, record creators, subjects, users and communities are marked by an attention to the contingencies of mutual responsibility. As they say:

We cannot ethically continue to conceive of our primary users as academic scholars; survivors of human rights abuse and victims’ families use records, community members use records. We need to build policies, procedures, and services with these users in mind, but even more so, we need to shift our affective orientations in service to these users.

We see engaging the activist community who generated content in social media as key participants in the design of DocNow. Hopefully a year from now we will have more to report about how this fusion of theoretical ideas plays out in the form of the DocNow application and community. If any of this is of interest we welcome your feedback in our Slack channel which currently has over 100 members. Don’t worry, not all of them are active at the same time. Also, please join us for the livestream portions of our St. Louis meeting in August. We will be sending out information about that via our newsletter. I’ll be around here at AERI till Tuesday so please find me if you want to learn anything more about the project.


Braman, S. (2006). Change of state: Information, policy and power. MIT Press.

Caswell, M., & Cifor, M. (2016). From human rights to feminist ethics: Radical empathy in the archives. Archivaria, 82, 23–43.

Freelon, D., Mcilwain, C. D., & Clark, M. D. (2016). Beyond the hashtags: #Ferguson, #blackLivesMatter, and the struggle for online justice. Center for Social Media; Impact. Retrieved from

Jackson, S. J., & Foucault Welles, B. (2015). #Ferguson is everywhere: Initiators in emerging counterpublic networks. Information, Communication & Society, 1–22.

Proferes, N. (2016). Web 2.0 user knowledge and the limits of individual and collective power. First Monday, 21(6). Retrieved from

Punzalan, R. L., & Caswell, M. (2016). Critical directions for archival approaches to social justice. Library Quarterly, 86(1), 25–42.

Rollason-Cass, S., & Reed, S. (2015). Living movements, living archives: Selecting and archiving web content during times of social unrest. New Review of Information Networking, 20(1-2), 241–247.

Shilton, K. (2012). Values levers: Building ethics into design. Science, Technology & Human Values, 0162243912436985.

SearchHub: Lucidworks View 1.2 Ready for Download

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-07-06 21:22

A new version of our UX framework Lucidworks View is ready for download!

View is an extensible search interface designed to work with Fusion, allowing for the deployment of an enterprise-ready search front end with minimal effort. View has been designed to use the power of Fusion query pipelines and signals, and provides essential search capabilities including faceted navigation, typeahead suggestions, and landing page redirects.

New Features

  • Now support range facet type
  • Add multi select faceting, meaning you can facet on multiple items within a single query
  • Add ‘clear all’ button to facet lists, clearing all selected facets
  • Improved signals now pass in more information including position, language, and platform
  • Enhanced signals service, adding additional functionality
  • Improved field display in templates by setting set max-length
  • And several bug fixes including fixing typeahead of a query profile or pipeline, and proper truncation for fixed field values

Lucidworks View 1.2 is available for immediate download at

Read the release notes or documentation, learn more on the Lucidworks View product page, or browse the source on GitHub.

The post Lucidworks View 1.2 Ready for Download appeared first on

District Dispatch: 3D printing and educational equity at ALA Annual

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-07-06 19:22

Guest Blogger Rebeccah Baker served as the Student-to-Staff Program participant for the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference. Rebeccah completed her M.L.S. at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies in May 2016.

Model of a DNA double helix. Image from the Benetech Diagram Center.

“3D printing is the latest wave of the digital revolution,” as stated by OITP’s senior information policy analyst Charlie Wapner during the session “3D Accessibility Synergy: Anchor Institutions ‘Make’ Opportunities for Diverse Learners” at the 2016 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference held in Orlando, Florida. This OITP session focused on the forward-thinking partnership between libraries, museums, schools and the Silicon Valley-based social advocacy organization Benetech. Dr. Lisa Wadors Verne, program manager of Education, Research, and Partnerships for Benetech discussed the organization’s aspiration to level the playing field for learners with disabilities. Imagine 3D printing a model of DNA at your library and having the opportunity to witness learners, regardless of their level of ability, better understand the model through multimodal learning.

Benetech’s Diagram Center, which is primarily funded by the Office of Special Education Programming in the U.S. Department of Education, is leading the effort to create learning tools and strategies that help individuals with print and other disabilities more easily grasp complex science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics. The center focuses on taking the images and information within books and bringing that information directly into the hands of the learners through tactile representations. Tactile representations are traditionally expensive learning tools, but 3D printed alternatives provide the benefits of being both customizable and low-cost. The organization is actively working with publishers to make books that are born-accessible. Examples of these tactile representations include:

  • Haptic feedback technology used for charts
  • Sonification for bell curve illustrations
  • 3D printed models

Benetech has created a Repository of Accessible 3D Objects that is actively expanding as well as a Quick Start Guide to 3D Printing and Accessible Education  which is designed for institutions with new makerspace programs and is constantly updated to remain relevant.

OITP wants library staff to feel confident with the knowledge and skills needed to develop their makerspace. Wapner has developed a tip sheet, “Progress in the Making: An Introduction to 3D Printing and Public Policy”, white paper, “Progress in the Making: 3D Printing Policy Considerations through the Library Lens”, and the report “Toward a More Printed Union.” Libraries possess three unique characteristics that provide the optimal environment for people to explore 3D printing:

  • Non-judgmental work spaces
  • Ubiquitous with libraries in communities across the country
  • Informal-learning labs that promote experimentation and creativity

The number of public libraries that provide access to 3D printing has rapidly increased in the United States, which OITP is very involved in advocating for since this topic involves copyright, patent, trademark, product reliability, and intellectual freedom issues. “3D printing represents the present, not just the future,” said Wapner. 3D printed tactile representations offer a means for disabled learners to face struggles with self-confidence through creating accessible models of complex STEM topics, making this technology an invaluable asset to any library.

As a recent M.L.S. graduate, first time ALA conference attendee, and soon to be Federal employee, attending OITP’s conference sessions as the University of Maryland’s Student-to-Staff  representative was an overwhelmingly pleasant learning experience. OITP’s sessions gave me the opportunity to learn about how policy leaders are addressing real world challenges in education, the digital disconnect, and entrepreneurship with innovative solutions and collaborative partnerships with libraries. These sessions reminded me of the importance of our profession and why I chose to pursue a career in this field.

The post 3D printing and educational equity at ALA Annual appeared first on District Dispatch.

DPLA: DPLA Workshop: DPLA for Genealogy and Family History, July 26, 2016 at 3:00pm EST

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-07-06 15:00

Following the recent announcement of our partnership with FamilySearch, we are pleased to invite our extended community to attend a free DPLA workshop webinar — DPLA for Genealogy and Family History, taking place on July 26, 2016 at 3:00pm EST.

In this hour-long workshop webinar, DPLA Community Reps and experienced genealogists Tamika Maddox Strong and Amy Johnson Crow will introduce DPLA as a resource for family historians, genealogists, and anyone interested in learning about new research skills and cool collections in DPLA.  You will leave this workshop with new tips for searching for family names in DPLA and exploring resources in your family’s hometown or region.  We’ll also take a peek at some of the collections that may prove invaluable for your family research: yearbooks, letters, newspapers, military records, family Bibles and more!  With content from 2,000 libraries, archives, and museums across the country, DPLA also offers a unique opportunity to dig deeper and add context to the lives of our ancestors. The workshop is free and open to all so whether you are new to DPLA, new to genealogy, or highly experienced, the workshop will have something for you.  

Click here to register

DPLA Workshops are online learning opportunities highlighting subjects central to our community, such as education, metadata, technology, copyright, and more. These events are open to the public (registration required).  To hear about all upcoming workshop announcements, sign up for our mailing list.

Banner image: “Family Tree” ca. 1580-1651 from the collections of The New York Public Library.

David Rosenthal: Talk at JISC/CNI Workshop

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-07-06 15:00
I was invited to give a talk at a workshop convened by JISC and CNI in Oxford. Below the fold, an edited text with links to the sources.

Thanks to funding from the Mellon Foundation I spent last summer on behalf of the Mellon and Sloan Foundations, and IMLS researching and writing a report entitled Emulation & Virtualization as Preservation Strategies. Time allows only a taste of what is in the report and subsequent developments, which you can find on my blog linked from the text of this talk.

Migration and emulation were the two techniques identified in Jeff Rothenberg's seminal 1995 Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Documents. He came down strongly in favor of emulation. Despite this, migration has been overwhelmingly favored. The emulators were never a problem, they have been part of the mainstream since the early days of IBM computers. But emulation was thought to be restricted to hackers such as Nick Lee, who put MacOS on his Apple Watch, and Hacking Jules, who put Nintendo64 on his Android Wear. What has changed is that emulation frameworks have been developed that present emulations as a normal part of the Web. You don't even need to know you're seeing an emulation.
Theresa Duncan CD-ROMsFrom 1995 to 1997 Theresa Duncan produced three seminal feminist CD-ROM games, Chop Suey, Smarty and Zero Zero. Rhizome, a project hosted by the New Museum in New York, has put emulations of them on the Web. You can visit, click any of the "Play" buttons and have an experience very close to that of playing the CD on MacOS 7.5 . This has proved popular. For several days after their initial release they were being invoked on average every 3 minutes.

These demos were pre-recorded using Kazam and a Chromium browser on my Acer C720 Chromebook running Ubuntu 14.04.
What Happened?What happened when I clicked Smarty's Play button?
  • The browser connects to a session manager in Amazon's cloud, which notices that this is a new session.
  • Normally it would authenticate the user, but because this CD-ROM emulation is open access it doesn't need to.
  • It assigns one of its pool of running Amazon instances to run the session's emulator.
  • Each instance can run a limited number of emulators. If no instance is available when the request comes in it can take up to 90 seconds to start another.
  • It starts the emulation on the assigned instance, supplying metadata telling the emulator what to run.
  • The emulator starts.
  • After a short delay the user sees the Mac boot sequence, and then the CD-ROM starts running.
  • At intervals, the emulator sends the session manager a keep-alive signal. Emulators that haven't sent one in 30 seconds are presumed dead, and their resources are reclaimed to avoid paying the cloud provider for unused resources.
bwFLARhizome, and others such as Yale, the DNB and ZKM Karlsruhe use technology from the bwFLA team at the University of Freiburg to provide Emulation As A Service (EAAS). Their GPLv3 licensed framework runs in "the cloud" to provide comprehensive management and access facilities wrapped around a number of emulators. It can also run as a bootable USB image or via Docker. bwFLA encapsulates each emulator so that the framework sees three standard interfaces:
  • Data I/O, connecting the emulator to data sources such as disk images, user files, an emulated network containing other emulators, and the Internet.
  • Interactive Access, connecting the emulator to the user using standard HTML5 facilities.
  • Control, providing a Web Services interface that bwFLA's resource management can use to control the emulator.
The communication between the emulator and the user takes place via standard HTTP on port 80; there is no need for a user to install software, or browser plugins, and no need to use ports other than 80. Both of these are important for systems targeted at use by the general public.
VisiCalcIn 1979 Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston launched VisiCalc for the Apple ][, the world's first spreadsheet. You can run it on an emulated Apple ][ by visiting and clicking the power button. Some of the key-bindings are strange to users conditioned by decades of Excel, but once you've found the original VisiCalc reference card, it is perfectly usable.

What Happened?The Apple ][ emulator isn't running in the cloud, as bwFLA's does. Instead, it is running inside my browser. The emulators have been compiled into JavaScript, using emscripten. When I clicked on the link to the emulation, metadata describing the emulation including the emulator to use was downloaded into my browser, which then downloaded the JavaScript for the emulator and the system image for the Apple ][ with VisiCalc installed.
EmularityThis is Emularity, the framework underlying the Internet Archive's software library, which currently holds nearly 36,000 items, including more than 7,300 for MS-DOS, 3,600 for Apple, 2,900 console games and 600 arcade games. Some can be downloaded, but most can only be streamed.

The oldest is an emulation of a PDP-1 with a DEC 30 display running the Space War game from 1962, more than half a century ago. As I can testify having played this and similar games on Cambridge University's PDP-7 with a DEC 340 display seven years later, this emulation works well.

The quality of the others is mixed. Resources for QA and fixing problems are limited; with a collection this size problems are to be expected. Jason Scott crowd-sources most of the QA; his method is to see if the software boots up and if so, put it up and wait to see whether visitors who remember it post comments identifying problems, or whether the copyright owner objects. The most common problem is the sound.

It might be thought that the performance of running the emulator locally by adding another layer of emulation (the JavaScript virtual machine) would be inadequate, but this is not the case for two reasons. First, the user's computer is vastly more powerful than an Apple ][ and, second, the performance of the JavaScript engine in a browser is critical to its success, so large resources are expended on optimizing it.
The Internet is for CatsThe Internet is for cats. Well, no, the Internet is for porn. But after porn, it is for cats. Among the earliest cats to colonize the Internet were Nijinski and Pavlova, who were in charge of Mark Weiser and Vicky Reich. On 11 Jan 1995 Mark put up their Web page, and here it is from the Wayback Machine. The text and images are all there and the links work. Pretty good preservation.
The Internet was for CatsBut when Mark put it up, it looked different.

Here is the same page from the Wayback Machine viewed with NCSA Mosaic 2.7, a nearly contemporary browser on a nearly contemporary Linux system, courtesy of Ilya Kreymer's The background and the fonts are quite different. In some cases this can be important, so this is even better preservation.
oldweb.todayHere is the BBC News front page from 1999 in Internet Explorer 4.01 on Windows. uses Docker to assemble an appropriate OS and browser combination, emulate them, and uses Memento (RFC7089) to aggregate the contents of now about 15 Web archives, for each resource in the page choosing to retrieve it from the archive which has the version collected closest to the requested time.
Use casesI've shown you three different emulation frameworks with three different use cases, implemented in three different ways:
  • Old CD-ROMs, emulated via a Web service framework.
  • Historically important software, emulated in your browser using JavaScript.
  • Preserved Web content, emulated using Docker container technology.
I'm sure many of you will have other use cases. For us, the use case we're looking at arrived late last year, when the feed the CLOCKSS archive ingests from one of the major publishers suddenly got much bigger. We looked into it, and discovered that among the supplementary material attached to some papers were now virtual machines. If that content is ever triggered, we need to be able to run those VMs under emulation.

If you care about reproducibility of in silico science, it isn't enough to archive the data, or even the data plus the source code of the analysis software. The results depend on the entire stack of software, all the libraries and the operating system.

The Olive project at CMU has the data and source code for CHASTE 3.1, a simulation package for biology and physiology from 2013. But the system can only run on a specific version, 12.04, of the Ubuntu version of Linux. Even recent scientific software has complex dependencies that require archiving the binaries and emulating them.
How do you use emulation?How do you go about creating a Web page containing an emulation like the ones I've shown you? At a high level, the stages are:
  • Create a bootable disk image in the format your emulation framework needs, which is typically QEMU's "qcow2". It should contain the binaries you want to run installed in the operating system they need.
  • Configure suitable hardware to boot the image by specifiying the CPU type, the amount of memory, the periherals and their contents, such as CD-ROM .iso images. Express this configuration in the metadata format used by your emulation framework.
  • Add the disk image and the configuration metadata to a Web server.
  • Embed the necessary links to connect them into a "landing page" for the emulation such as the ones I've shown you.
Technical IssuesThis sequence sounds pretty simple, and it soon should be. But right now there are some technical issues:
  • You need tools to create disk images, and they aren't currently that easy to use.
  • You need tools to create the configuration metadata. The bwFLA team and the DNB have had considerable success automating the process for CD-ROMs, but for other use cases the tools need a lot of work.
  • The way each framework embeds its emulations in a Web page is different and incompatible. The links are to specific emulation instances. Over time emulation technology will improve, and these links will break, rendering the landing pages useless. We need a standard way to embed emulations that leaves the browser to figure out how best to do the emulation, an emulation mime-type and an "emul.js" by analogy with "pdf.js".
Following on from my report, efforts are under way to address these and some other technical issues such as the very tricky issues that crop up when you connect an emulation of old software to the Internet.
Legal IssuesThe big barrier to widespread adoption of emulation for preservation is legal. Open source software is not a problem, but proprietary software is protected in two overlapping ways, by copyright and by the End User License Agreement. In theory copyright eventually expires, but the EULA never does. Copyright controls whether you can make and keep copies, such as those in disk images. EULAs vary, but probably control not merely copying but also running the software. And, since the software stack consists of multiple layers each with its own copyright and EULA, you are restricted to the intersection of them all.

There are a few rays of hope. Microsoft academic site licenses these days allow old Microsoft software to be copied for preservation and to be run for internal use. UNESCO's PERSIST is trying to engage major software vendors in a discussion of these legalities. The Internet Archive's massive software collection operates similarly to the DMCA's "safe harbor" provision, in that if the copyright owner objects the emulation is taken down. Objections have been rare, but this is really old software and mostly games. In theory, companies do not lose money because someone preserves and lets people run really old software. In practice, there are two reasons why their lawyers are reluctant to agree to this, the "not one inch" copyright maximalist ethos, and the risk for individual lawyers of making a career-limiting move.
ConclusionEspecially as container technology takes over the mainstream of IT, it is likely that over the next few years it will become evident that migration-based preservation strategies are obsolete.

David Rosenthal: The Major Threat is Economic

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 15:00
I've frequently said that the major threat to digital preservation is economic; back in 2013 I posted The Major Threat is Economic. We are reminded of this by the announcement last March that:
The future of the Trove online database is in doubt due to funding cuts to the National Library of Australia.Trove is the National Library's system:
In 2014, the database's fifth year, an estimated 70,000 people were using the website each day.

Australia Library and Information Association chief executive Sue McKarracher said Trove was a visionary move by the library and had turned into a world-class resource.
"If you look at things like the digital public libraries in the United States, really a lot of that came from looking at our Trove and seeing what a nation could do investing in a platform that would hold museum, gallery and library archives collections and make them accessible to the world."

FOSS4Lib Recent Releases: VuFind - 3.0.2

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 14:37
Package: VuFindRelease Date: Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Last updated July 5, 2016. Created by Demian Katz on July 5, 2016.
Log in to edit this page.

Minor bug fix release.

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): Designing for the Library Website

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 00:00

This post is a brief overview of the process in designing for large web-based systems. This includes understanding what makes up an interface and how to start fresh to create a good foundation that won't be regrettable later.

DuraSpace News: VIVO Updates for July 8–Welcome RSP Thomson Reuters, Summertime Meetings/Events

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-07-05 00:00

From Mike Conlon, VIVO project director

Thomson Reuters is a VIVO Registered Service Provider!  Need help with your VIVO implementation?  Thomson Reuters is now a VIVO Registered Service Provider.  Thomson Reuters can help you plan and implement VIVO at your institution.  For more information about Thomson Reuters services, please contact Ann Beynon at Thomson Reuters.

Thomson Reuters joins Symplectic and Gunter Media Group as VIVO Registered Service Providers.


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