Category Archives: Libraries


Digital Public Library of America Celebrates Its Birthday


Like most youngsters, the Digital Public Library of America has been growing fast. Officially a year old, it now encompasses more than seven million items, three times what it started with 12 months ago.

Designed to be a gateway to information rather than a final destination, the DPLA doesn’t actually ingest digitized books, manuscripts, photos, moving pictures, recordings, or other materials. Instead, it works with a nationwide network of institutions to aggregate the metadata that describes …


Libraries Test a Model for Setting Monographs Free

Librarians love to get free books into the hands of scholars and students who need them. Publishers love it when their books find readers—but they also need to cover the costs of turning an idea into a finished monograph. Now a nonprofit group called Knowledge Unlatched is trying out a new open-access model designed to make both librarians and publishers happy.

Here’s how the “unlatching” works: Participating libraries pick a list of scholarly books they want to make open access. They pool money…


New Syllabus Archive Opens the ‘Curricular Black Box’

Course syllabi are a potentially valuable source of information for teaching and scholarship. Their contents could shed light on the evolution of fields (How has Foucault’s popularity changed over time?) or help professors develop new courses (What are best practices for teaching digital humanities?). But gathering and sharing syllabi can be a messy business. Privacy concerns, legal uncertainty, fragmented and inconsistent sharing practices—all present challenges.

A group of scholars is taking a…


This Guy Drew a Cat. You Won’t Believe What Happened 4 Centuries Later.

Franz Helm’s illustrated manual on pyrotechnic weapons was around for more than four centuries before it went viral.

When the German artillery expert wrote the manual, in the mid-1500s, he unwittingly created a piece of media ideally suited to the tastes of 21st-century Internet culture: Cats that appeared to be wearing jet packs.

Helm appears to have been describing a creative siege tactic. In order “to set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise,” he advised in the manuscript…


What Matters to Academic-Library Directors? Information Literacy

Whether they work at a big research university, a small four-year college, or something in between, academic-library directors share a “resounding dedication” to teaching information literacy to undergraduates. Beyond that, the priorities they set for their libraries depend on the size and nature of their institutions and how many (or few) resources they have to work with.

Those findings come out of a 2013 survey of American library directors, released on Tuesday by Ithaka S+R US. That’s the con…


New Repository Offers a Home for Data That Aren’t Numbers

After spending months or years collecting data from focus groups, surveys, and other sources, what are scholars doing with the mountains of information that may or may not have made it into their published research?

In the quantitative-research world, where data come as numbers that can be collected and stored in an organized way, the answer has been to share the data. But for qualitative and multi-method researchers, whose data might come in the form of lengthy interview transcripts, fiel…


Radio Station’s Music Collection Brings Big Challenges to U. of Texas at Austin

The Fine Arts Library struggles to process the 60,000 unorganized CDs that will be available to the public. (Photo courtesy of U. of Texas Libraries)

The U. of Texas at Austin’s Fine Arts Library has 60,000 CDs to process and store before they can be made available to the public. (U. of Texas Libraries photo)

Some of us remember the days when CD organizers were a thing. Whether you had CD towers in your living room or binders with plastic sleeves for the discs, it always seemed as if there never was enough space.

For most of us, those days are history—albums nowadays are easily stored in our computers, phones, or tablets. But the University…


U. of Texas Library Buys 64,000 CDs and LPs From Campus Radio Station

Paying about $3,000 for 400 boxes full of classic records and CDs seems like an incredible bargain, right? Well, the University of Texas at Austin’s Fine Arts Library was the lucky buyer in December, when it purchased more than 60,000 CDs and 4,000 LPs from the university’s public-radio station, KUT.

The radio station’s entire physical music collection—more than 50 years’ worth of accumulation—is now part of the Fine Arts Library’s Historical Music Recordings Collection. The library’s collection, which already had some 200,000 items in all formats, is one of the largest in the nation.

The rare transaction came after KUTX, KUT’s music outlet, digitized its music holdings. The digitizing project began more than a year ago in preparation for the station’s move from quarters on the campus to a brand-new building nearby. (KUTX is heard on local FM airwaves at 98.9, as well as online; KUT, an NPR-affiliated news outlet, is heard at 90.5 or on the Internet.)

“When we designed the new building, it was pretty apparent that we weren’t going to have room for a library the size of the one we had in the old building,” said Jeff McCord, music director at KUTX.

Mr. McCord said the process was “pretty chaotic.” With the help of “an army of students,” KUT ripped about 150,000 songs, or about half a million minutes of music.

The staff kept only a shelf of LPs in the new studio and some album covers, in part because of the information they provide. “Even though we are not playing CDs anymore, there is a wealth of information that came with the albums that is now lost in digital format,” Mr. McCord said.

The Fine Arts Library hopes to make the CD collection available for the public as soon as the music gets processed and stored. The 4,000 LPs will join 100,000 more that are stored in the Collections Deposit Library, which holds fragile materials that are available only by special request.


QuickWire: Yale U. Libraries Add Google Glass to Offerings

Yale University’s library system is asking students and faculty members to propose fall-semester research and teaching projects that would use Google Glass, the high-tech eyeglasses with built-in computing power. The announcement said the offering followed on the library system’s other successful technology-lending programs, such as one allowing entire classes to borrow iPads.

So far, though, the Yale student who has attracted the most attention using Google Glass has been Henry Furman, a senio…


Mold Outbreak Threatens 600,000 Books at U. of Missouri Library Facility

Mold has invaded a remote-storage facility used by the University of Missouri Libraries, putting hundreds of thousands of volumes at risk, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.

All the books in the facility are affected, according to a university spokesman. “We have learned that the entire collection of approximately 600,000 printed volumes in the storage facility is contaminated and must either be treated to eradicate the mold or be disposed to ensure that contamination cannot spread to other co…