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Posts by Jennifer Howard


March 5, 2013, 03:20 PM ET

With New Leader, Digital Public Library of America Prepares for Its Debut

The long-planned Digital Public Library of America is set to make its public debut on schedule next month, with a two-day series of events, to be held April 18-19 at the Boston Public Library, and a new, high-profile leader at the helm. The DPLA announced on Tuesday that Daniel J. Cohen, a leading digital-humanities scholar, will be the project's founding executive director. Mr. Cohen comes to the project from George Mason University, where he directs the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. In the announcement, John Palfrey, president of the DPLA's Board of Directors, praised Mr. Cohen's contributions to libraries and digital scholarship. "He has led major open-source development projects, helped to digitize important works of culture, supported teachers and students in accessing fantastic digital materials, and written about the importance of libraries, archives, and... Read More

August 23, 2012, 03:08 PM ET

CSI: Rare Book School, or Computer Forensics in the Archives

Editor’s Note: Jennifer Howard spent a week in early July at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, taking a course on “Born-Digital Materials: Theory & Practice.” This is the third in a series of posts on the experience. See Part 1 and Part 2 for more. Charlottesville, Va. — Meet FRED, also known as a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. A black tower with an array of ports and drives, FRED is a forensic workstation sold by a company called Digital Intelligence, based in New Berlin, Wis. Tall and sleek if not exactly handsome, FRED has presence. "One of the attractions of digital forensics is that the toys are great," an instructor, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, told us in a session on archives and computer forensics. FRED also comes highly touted by its manufacturer. "FRED systems are optimized for stationary laboratory acquisition and analysis," the company's Web site... Read More

November 30, 2011, 12:21 PM ET

Cambridge U. Press Would Like to Rent You an Article

Will researchers pay for short-term access to journal articles? Cambridge University Press is about to find out. The publisher has just announced a rental program for articles from the more than 280 peer-reviewed journals it publishes. "For just £3.99, $5.99 or €4.49, users are now able to read single articles online for up to 24 hours, a saving of up to 86% compared with the cost of purchasing the article," the press said in an announcement. "After registration and payment, the reader is e-mailed a link, through which they can access and read the article in PDF format as often as they wish during the subsequent 24 hours." Readers may not download, print, or copy and paste the articles. That's similar to the conditions set by DeepDyve, which also offers 24-hour, no-download access to research articles, but on a monthly subscription basis. Simon Ross, the managing director of... Read More

October 6, 2010, 04:52 PM ET

One Step Closer to a National Digital Library

Can the nonprofit world create a national digital library to put America's collective intellectual wealth within everyone's reach? Robert Darnton, the historian who directs the Harvard University Library, has been one of the most public champions of the idea.

This past weekend, Mr. Darnton convened a group of 42 top-level representatives from foundations, cultural institutions, and the library and scholarly worlds to talk about how to build that library. In a short statement, the group endorsed the idea of "a Digital Public Library of America," envisioning it as "an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources" drawn from the country's libraries, archives, museums, and universities.

The Chronicle tallked with Mr. Darnton about the discussions and what will happen next. Surprisingly, the biggest obstacle to the Digital Public Library, in his view, is not money but "finding...

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September 28, 2010, 02:00 PM ET

Digitizing the Personal Library

Chronicle of Higher Education

Books take up space. That's a problem for any librarian tasked with finding room on overcrowded shelves. It's also a problem for a book-loving scholar who lives in a small New York City apartment with a toddler and more than 3,000 books. Under those conditions, something's got to give. Chances are good it won't be the toddler.

Alexander Halavais, an associate professor of communications at Quinnipiac University, found a partial solution to his city dweller's no-space-for-books dilemma: Slice and scan. A digital file takes up a lot less room than a codex book does.

In a post on his blog, A Thaumaturgical Compendium, Mr. Halavais described what he had done to some 800 of his books so far: "First I cut the boards off, and then slice the bindings. I have tried a table saw, but a cheap stack cutter works better. Then I feed [the pages] into my little page-fed scanner, OCR them (imperfectly) ...

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September 23, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

Bourbon, Thoroughbreds, and Digital Curation

Chronicle of Higher Education

If you're serious about thoroughbred racing, you know the Daily Racing Form, the newspaper that has been "America's turf authority" since 1894. With the help of the library staff at the University of Kentucky, 132,000 pages of the paper—some 531,000 articles—have been digitized and posted online. The articles date from the 1890s, when the paper was founded, up through the 1990s. The selection represents each decade's racing highlights, including Triple Crown coverage and reports on the careers of Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and the other great horses of the past hundred years.

The Daily Racing Form archive is a recent addition to the Kentuckiana Digital Library, a continuing project that provides access to digital archives of material particular to the state. "Nothing says Kentucky like thoroughbred racing, unless it's bourbon," says Mary Molinaro, associate dean for library...

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September 7, 2010, 10:00 AM ET

Monographs on Handheld Devices: Good, but Could Be Better

The ACLS Humanties E-Book project wanted to know how users liked reading its books on their handheld devices. So it selected three of its titles and asked users what it was like to read them on a Kindle, a Sony Reader, or other e-reader. Of the 142 people who responded, 88 percent "expressed overall satisfaction" with how the books looked and could be used on handhelds. But half found the search function frustrating, and only a quarter "felt they would have an easy time citing and referencing these editions," according to a white paper about the survey.

Librarians made up more than 60 pecent of those who took part in the survey. Eighteen respondents identified themselves as scholars or researchers; another 18 said they were in the faculty/instructor category.

Survey participants missed some aspects of working with print books and of browsing e-books online. Individual e-books made for ...

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August 4, 2010, 04:19 PM ET

Archive Watch: Summer Doldrums Edition

The dog days of summer—it's been an especially oppressive season here in the nation's capital—have us thinking about air-conditioned museums and the sunless stacks of libraries. Here are some cool digital archives or archive-related projects we've come across lately. If you can't make it to a museum, library, or archive in real life, cool off with some virtual browsing through one of these. Consider this an overture to the Society of American Archivists's annual meeting, which will be held here in Washington next week.

—The Churchill Archives Centre, at Churchill College, Cambridge, houses the great man's papers along with more than 570 collections "of personal papers and archives documenting the history of the Churchill era and after." It's supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which makes us wonder how proposed cuts to arts-and-culture funding in Britain might affect projects...

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August 2, 2010, 04:01 PM ET

A Blended Librarian Talks Information Literacy

It will surprise very few people to learn that having grown up in a computer age does not make today's students automatically savvy consumers of electronic resources. "It’s almost like information overload—like there’s so much of it out there, they just tend to gravitate to what they’re comfortable with," Mark McBride says of the students he works with at Buffalo State College of the State University of New York. "If they find a need for it, they don’t really evaluate it, they just start using it."

Mr. McBride is a blended librarian at Buffalo State. "Blended librarian" sounds like some kind of power smoothie. It's actually a fairly new model of academic librarianship that took root about five years ago. It combines traditional reference skills with hardware and software know-how and an interest in applying them to curriculum development and teaching. (Read more about the movement's...

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July 14, 2010, 03:50 PM ET

Typing to Tagging: 50 Years of Cataloging

Helen Lucas's career in cataloging began with an IBM Executive typewriter. Fairfield University's library had just acquired the machine in 1960 when Lucas, then a new high-school graduate, landed a job there. Because most of her job involved typing call numbers, access numbers, authors' names, and book titles, Ms. Lucas and the Executive spent a lot of time together back in the day.

"I had a long relationship with that typewriter, believe me," she recalls. "It had proportionate spacing on it. Every letter took up a certain amount of space, and they were all different."

By the time Ms. Lucas retired from the university library this summer, the Executive had long since been superseded by computers. The Chronicle asked her to describe some of the other technological shifts she encountered in a half-century's worth of cataloging.

When Ms. Lucas started work at the university, in...

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