A new blog to replace the New Jack Librarian

It has finally come to pass that that I need to shutter New Jack Librarian as I've been having a terrible time composing long posts using Blogger. Besides, the platform's days are likely numbered.

Rather than migrate the site to someplace new, I've opted to keep the New Jack Librarian as it is for the time being, and to start a brand new, self-hosted Wordpress blog. It's called Librarian of Things.

Knight News Challenge: Library Starter Deck: a 21st-century game engine and design studio for libraries

Last week, Ken Eklund and myself submitted our proposal for the 2016 Knight News Challenge which asks,  How might libraries serve 21st century information needs?

Our answer is this: The Library Starter Deck: a 21st-century game engine and design studio for libraries. We also have shared a brief on some of the inspirations behind our proposal (pdf).

Two years ago I reviewed the 680+ applications to the 2014 Knight News Challenge for Libraries entries and shared some of my favourites. It was, and it is still a very useful exercise because there are not many opportunities to read grant applications (if you are not the one handing out the grant) and this particular set offer applications from both professionals and those from the public.

You can also review the entries as an act of finding signals of the future, as the IFTF might put it. That's what I've chosen to do for this year's review. What this means is that I've chosen not to highlight here what I think are the best or most deserving to win applications (that's up to these good people) but instead, I made note of the applications that, for lack of a better word, surprised me:

I'd like to add there are many other deserving submissions that I have given a 'heart' to on the Knight News Challenge website and if you are able to, I'd encourage you to do the same.

New article in Partnership

Just a short note letting the world know that my talk at last year's Access 2015 conference has been formally written up as a contribution to the latest issue of Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research.

Thanks are extended again to those who made the Access Conference possible and much thanks also goes out to the Partnership Team who makes this valuable Open Access venue possible. Their editorial guidance and copy editing has made this work stronger.

Williams, Mita. “Library of Cards: Reconnecting the Scholar and the Library.” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 10, no. 2. https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/3571.


G H O S T    S T O R Y    1

It’s funny that I ended up as a librarian because my earliest memories of libraries were not entirely positive.

While the children’s section of the central branch library and the school bookmobile regularly brought me joy (largely in the form of Peanuts Parade volumes), I have distinct memories of being filled with dread every time I had to move through the towering shelves of the grown-up section of the library.

Yes, the main library was largely devoid of the sound and colour and the furious activity of the children’s section, but that wasn’t the entire reason why it gave me the creeps. I distinctly remember that when I was younger I associated all the books on the shelves of the library with the work of dead people. Each book represented a person who was now gone and they had left their books behind and the terrible thing was that, by and large, it looked like most of the books stayed on the shelves, unread.

Now, I didn’t actually think that the library was haunted. And over time the whole library became  comfortable to me. Eventually I became a librarian and now I think the library is and can be many, many things to many people.

Some years ago, I wrote this

What if every person who worked at a library was obligated to create and leave one book that remained in the library as long as it remained. Imagine the sense of legacy and the sense of connection that could be established by the shelves of these books. Imagine the ways that those who made these books would choose to express themselves. Would they write a history? a biography? poetry? How could these books connect the people to the place to the time of the library?
I still think of the library as a memento mori.


G H O S T    S T O R Y    2

#53 In The Desert

February 4, 2016
“You know, there’s always that fear that an unreasonable person is going to show up.”
-- Michael Saba, on his house being The Bermuda Triangle of cell phones. 

Strangers keep coming to Mike and Christina’s house looking for their stolen cell phones. Nobody knows why. We travel to Atlanta to find out what’s going on, in our thorniest Super Tech Support yet.

G H O S T    S T O R Y    3 

Art and Math and Science, Oh My!
by sailor mercury

Technology can bring art to life.

One very literal example of art bringing technology to life is the experimental theatrical show Sleep No More: an interactive modern retelling of Macbeth where you walk around 4 floors of the set to watch and interact with the actors.

For future shows, they’re working together with the MIT media lab on making the set itself more interactive with embedded programming: mirrors that write messages to you in blood or typewriters that type out cryptic messages to you if you linger too long in front of them.

G H O S T    S T O R Y     4

Summary: The world of magic is a world where inanimate objects come alive; it's as if they had computational power, sensors, awareness, and connectivity.

By saying that we'll one day be like Harry Potter, I don't mean that we'll fly around on broomsticks or play three-dimensional ballgames (though virtual reality will let enthusiasts play Quidditch matches). What I do mean is that we're about to experience a world where spirit inhabits formerly inanimate objects.

Much of the Harry Potter books' charm comes from the quirky magic objects that surround Harry and his friends. Rather than being solid and static, these objects embody initiative and activity. This is precisely the shift we'll experience as computational power moves beyond the desktop into everyday objects....

 G H O S T    S T O R Y     5 

After reading a book of German ghost stories, somebody suggested they each write their own. Byron's physician, John Polidori, came up with the idea for The Vampyre, published in 1819,1 which was the first of the "vampire-as-seducer" novels. Godwin's story came to her in a dream, during which she saw "the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together."2 Soon after that fateful summer, Godwin and Shelley married, and in 1818, Mary Shelley's horror story was published under the title, Frankenstein, Or, the Modern Prometheus.3
Frankenstein lives on in the popular imagination as a cautionary tale against technology. We use the monster as an all-purpose modifier to denote technological crimes against nature. When we fear genetically modified foods we call them "frankenfoods" and "frankenfish." It is telling that even as we warn against such hybrids, we confuse the monster with its creator. We now mostly refer to Dr. Frankenstein's monster as Frankenstein. And just as we have forgotten that Frankenstein was the man, not the monster, we have also forgotten Frankenstein's real sin.
Dr. Frankenstein's crime was not that he invented a creature through some combination of hubris and high technology, but rather that he abandoned the creature to itself. When Dr. Frankenstein meets his creation on a glacier in the Alps, the monster claims that it was not born a monster, but that it became a criminal only after being left alone by his horrified creator, who fled the laboratory once the horrible thing twitched to life. "Remember, I am thy creature," the monster protests, "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed... I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous."

Written at the dawn of the great technological revolutions that would define the 19th and 20th centuries, Frankenstein foresees that the gigantic sins that were to be committed would hide a much greater sin. It is not the case that we have failed to care for Creation, but that we have failed to care for our technological creations. We confuse the monster for its creator and blame our sins against Nature upon our creations. But our sin is not that we created technologies but that we failed to love and care for them. It is as if we decided that we were unable to follow through with the education of our children.4 - Bruno Latour

G H O S T    S T O R Y    6
[Confession: the whole point of this post is to encourage you to read this]

Our Gothic Future

The other day, after watching Crimson Peak for the first time, I woke up with a fully-fleshed idea for a Gothic horror story about experience design. And while the story would take place in the past, it would really be about the future. Why? Because the future itself is Gothic.

First, what is Gothic? Gothic (or “the Gothic” if you’re in academia) is a Romantic mode of literature and art. It’s a backlash against the Enlightenment obsession with order and taxonomy. It’s a radical imposition of mystery on an increasingly mundane landscape. It’s the anticipatory dread of irrational behaviour in a seemingly rational world. But it’s also a mode that places significant weight on secrets — which, in an era of diminished privacy and ubiquitous surveillance, resonates ever more strongly....

... Consider the disappearance of the interface. As our devices become smaller and more intuitive, our need to see how they work in order to work them goes away. Buttons have transformed into icons, and icons into gestures. Soon gestures will likely transform into thoughts, with brainwave-triggers and implants quietly automating certain functions in the background of our lives. Once upon a time, we valued big hulking chunks of technology: rockets, cars, huge brushed-steel hi-fis set in ornate wood cabinets, thrumming computers whose output could heat an office, even odd little single-purpose kitchen widgets. Now what we want is to be Beauty in the Beast’s castle: making our wishes known to the household gods, and watching as the “automagic” takes care of us. From Siri to Cortana to Alexa, we are allowing our lives and livelihoods to become haunted by ghosts without shells.

Now, I’m not at all the only person to notice this particular trend (or, more accurately, to read the trend through this particular lens). It’s central to David Rose’s book Enchanted Objects, which you all should read. This is also why FutureEverything’s Haunted Machines symposium exists....

 [you really should read the whole thing]

 G H O S T    S T O R Y    7

Why I think faculty and librarians should not host their work on Academic.edu or Researchgate.com

This is an *evergreen* tweet of mine:

When this tweet is re-found and re-tweeted, it's usually followed by people following up with questions or challenging what I said.

So I thought I'd summarize some of the reasons why I think faculty and librarians should not host their academic work on Academic.edu or Researchgate.com.

Academic.edu is not an educational institution
"Academia.edu is not a university or institution for higher learning and so under current standards would not qualify for the EDU top level domain. The domain name "Academia.edu" was registered in 1999, prior to the regulations which required .edu domain names to be held by accredited post-secondary institutions. All .edu domain names registered prior to 2001 were grandfathered in and not made subject to the regulation of being an accredited post-secondary institution" [Wikipedia, Academia.edu, November 20th].

Commercial Repositories use dark-arts user design to encourage the uploading of articles that frequently are not under license of the author

Institutional repositories admittedly have some pretty bad user interfaces. But it's understood that some of the unpleasant friction that comes with uploading your research into your university's repository is because your institution will not automatically publish uploaded material without assurances that a publisher's right is not being infringed. Commercial repositories have disclaimers that express that they are also concerned that copyright is not being infringed, but the extreme ease by which a user can re-publish articles formally published elsewhere betrays the strength of this concern.

Academia.edu continues to design services so slick that users don't realize that they have triggered them, such as their Sessions feature which they launched and then disabled in May of this year. Also, services like Academia.edu appear to be designed to cannibalize traffic from your official point of publication.

Selective enforcement from publishers keep universities from providing similar services that commercial repositories are trying to fill

We need to resist the narrative that commercial repositories are filling a market need that libraries and universities have refused to pursue. We have wanted a more social and inter-connected interface to research for some years now.

But when libraries and universities have responsibly hosted published research articles under fair user / fair dealing and have restricted use to classroom participants in Learning Management Systems (such as Blackboard) or library Course Reserve Systems we have been pursued and sued by publishers. In the Canada, we have had to deal with Access Copyright and the US, libraries have been following The Georgia State Copyright Case with much concern.

In conclusion, this is my new "evergreen tweet" about Academia.edu

What we’ve got here is failure to understand Scholarly Communication

If you follow conversations about Scholarly Communication (as I do), it is not uncommon to run into the frustrations of librarians and scholars who cannot understand why their peers continue to publish in journals that reside behind expensive paywalls. As someone who very much shares this frustration, I found this quotation particularly illuminating:

As in Latin, one dominant branch of meaning in "communication" has to do with imparting, quite apart from any notion of a dialog or interactive process. Thus communication can mean partaking, as in being a communicant (partaking in holy communication). Here "communication" suggests belonging to a social body via an expressive act that requires no response or recognition. To communicate by consuming bread and wine is to signify membership in a communion of saints both living and dead, but it is primarily a message-sending activity (except perhaps as a social ritual to please others or as a message to the self or to God). Moreover, here to "communicate" is an act of receiving, not of sending; more precisely, it is to send by receiving. A related sense is the notion of a scholarly "communication" (monograph) or a "communication" as a message or notice. Here is no sense of exchange, through some sort of audience, however vague or dispersed, is implied.

- "Speaking into the air", John Durham Peters, p.7

The City As Classroom

On Wednesday morning, I had the pleasure to the give the opening keynote to the Wisconsin Library Association Annual Conference.

My name is Mita Williams and for the last 16 years or so, I've been working at the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario. If you don't know where that is, Windsor sits just across the river from the city of Detroit as you can see from this map. Some years ago, I played a game that challenged the player to 'map their life' for points. On screen is a map of my life circa 2008.

In 2014 I had the privilege and the pleasure to have a year's sabbatical from work. During that time, I read, and wrote and volunteered and otherwise explored a variety of themes and I am grateful for this opportunity this morning to share with you some of what I've learned that year and how it might fit into a context of librarianship and more importantly, into our communities.

The title of my talk is taken from the book pictured behind me: Marshall McLuhan's City as Classroom. It was published in 1977 and was the last book of his career.

Please be aware that I am not a media ecologist. I have a degree in Geography and Environmental Science and I have never taken a single course from Communication studies. But I can say that I have read several of Marshall McLuhan’s works and have read this biography about the media theorist by Douglas Coupland of Generation X fame, and I highly recommend it if you too need help trying to understand how a frumpy Canadian professor of renaissance rhetoric turned into a media celebrity for his scholarship.

I'm interested in McLuhan's work for a number of reasons. The largest reason is that I am, like so many of us, constantly trying to make sense of what it means to be a digital citizen of the global village and it was McLuhan who warned us that electronic media would change everything around us and about us long before most.

McLuhan also briefly lived in Windsor Ontario when he taught at the precursor of the University I work at now. In fact, the photo on screen is evidently taken from McLuhan’s time at Windsor's Assumption University.

And if your eye-sight is super sharp, you might see that underneath the words, Marshall McLuhan on that magazine cover are everyone's favourite words 'The Future of the Library.’

According to the work 'McLuhan in Space: A Cultural Geography', as far back as 1957, Marshall McLuhan said he believed that because the electronic information explosion was just so massive and so powerful, most learning happens outside of the classroom. The City as Classroom follows up on this theme. It's a fascinating book and was written for an audience of high-school students.

That being said, I have to confess, every time I pick up the book, I'm actually a little disappointed because this book does not contain the answers I'm looking for. No, the book is true to its pedagogical praxis and is largely filled with questions and difficult questions, at that.

This is from the first page of the book:

Is school supposed to be a place of work? Is the work done by the students, or the staff, or both? Look up the root meaning of the word school (schola <  Greek σχολή ). When you are at school are you separated from the community? If so, are you separated physically or in other ways?

And that is a good question to ask one's self when at school. It's also a good question to ask about the work that we do.

But for my talk today, I'm not answer that question directly. Instead, I'm going to explore the territory that might lead us to the answer to that question.

During this talk, we are going to explore how we might embed the:
  1.     library / librarian in the community
  2.     collection in the community
  3.     community into space/time

So let’s begin:  How do we embed the library/librarian in the community?

For most of our existence, the obvious answer to the question, "How can a library system can increase its presence in a community?" has been the establishment of a branch library. It's important to remember while there are people who prefer the larger, grander spaces of the Central Branch and its greater choice of materials, for others, a library branch within walking distance is their ideal.

But the obvious answer of more library branches isn't so obvious anymore. In my own community, my public library is facing a budgetary shortfall and so recently the city council proposed that some library branches be closed including the branch in the poorest neighbourhood of the city. When there was an outcry about this loss of service, the city suggested that the neighbourhood be served by a bookmobile instead.  This begs the question, is the bookmobile an equivalent to a branch library?  And if it’s not, why isn’t it?

There is some urgency to this question.

Despite the evidence that libraries are very well used, many communities are cutting back on the budgets of their library systems and thus cutting back on the hours and branches of their libraries. And interestingly, while *public* library branches were scaling back or even closing,  *People*'s Libraries - such as those in the temporary autonomous zones of the many Occupy camps sprung up, as well as a variety of other civic and urban interventions such as the Branch project in Brooklyn.

And as we are all aware, Little Free Libraries have also proliferated thanks to our well-intentioned neighbours in our community. There are two such Little Free Libraries within three blocks of where I live. I sometimes peek inside if I have the time to be curious, but I never visit a Little Free Library when I want to read a new book, and I think that’s the key to the experience.  Now I don’t people who have a Little Free Library want to replace libraries. If anything, they want to celebrate books and community and reading and just want to contribute to the neighbourhood’s 'gift economy' and as such these libraries don't upset me much.

But when my non-librarian friends start sending me links to projects such as the JetBlue Book vending machine project - a project designed to distribute free books to the children the in 'book deserts' of Washington DC, well, that's when start feeling nervous about 'free book projects.'

Indeed, it is worth considering the natural extension of this particular kind of service as The Pioneer Library System in Norman, Oklahoma has done. This branch library is essentially a self-contained vending machine that features books, DVDs, audiobooks and even acts as a WiFi hotspot. And earlier this year they've added functionality for users to transfer ebook holdings from Overdrive to their personal devices.

But there have also been responses from libraries on the services end of the spectrum of the work we do. There are libraries and librarians taking a page out of the urban tactics playbook and going to where the people are by having a regular or a temporary presence at festivals, farmers markets and the like. And by presence I mean, specifically the presence of library staff.

And libraries such as the Cleveland Public Library have gone further with the pop-up library through their Literary Lots program, a program that "brings books to life" by transforming vacant lots in Cleveland into temporary educational spots for children. 

One of the public library programs that I've been tracking is something called the How to Festival. These festivals are sometimes small in scale while other times they are really quite ambitious like the festival pictured here: 50 things in 5 hours.

One of the reasons what particularly attracts me the "How to festival" model is that, many times, it is designed to involve many non-profit groups and even business partners and in doing so, it celebrates and shares the knowledge that is embodied in the community and found in the residents themselves.

Now, could libraries extend and embed these 'How to festivals' into the community in a more persistence model? And if you could embed single 'how to' sessions, could you then build on them to create a curriculum?  One possible model that tries to do this very thing that I've discovered and have been trying to learn more about is the Cities of Learning project. The City of Learning project - from my understanding - involves or has involved Dallas, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Columbus, Washington DC, and Chicago.

The Cities of Learning project emerged from the Chicago based City of Learning project, which itself grew out of the city’s 2013 Chicago Summer of Learning. In that particular project, more than 100 youth-serving organizations including the Chicago Public Libraries and Mozilla joined together to make single program that allowed the youth of Chicago to earn digital badges as recognition of the achievements of fulfilling creative and volunteer activities.

This project is also the result of the support of the Connected Learning Alliance, which is in turn supported by the McArthur Foundation.  I mention this because it’s important to know that the creative and activity based programming is not an accident but is at the heart of its design.
Unfortunately, I don't know much more about the Cities of Learning program. I don't know how successful the program is or whether it achieves the ambitious goals it sets for itself. I will tell you that I love the idea of connecting volunteer and creative activities in a thoughtful way that brings youth to libraries, museums, galleries, and community organizations. That being said, when I see badges sponsored by Best Buy it does give me reason to pause. And perhaps that's unfair of me as businesses and large corporations are part of all of communities.

I'm also curious is whether the youth involved are motivated by intrinsic or extrinsic motivations and how the badge structure helps in bridging the gaps between the two. I do believe that it is possible to create a structure that involves points and badges in a way that encourages participation and creativity without actually meaning anything. And that's because I've played a game that is not dissimilar to Cities of Learning. It's called SF0.

SF0 was originally designed to be a game to be played in the city of San Francisco but really the game can be played anywhere.

"SFZero is a Collaborative Production Game. Players build characters by completing tasks for their groups and increasing their Score. The goals of play include meeting new people, exploring the city, and participating in non-consumer leisure activities"

The map on my first slide of my talk was my entry for the task 'Map your life'. This is my entry for the task, 'Leave clues'.  If you complete a task, do get a certain amount of points. But if you go above and beyond mere completion of the task and you delight other players with your entry, they can assign you additional points. The points, of course, don't mean anything and there are no winners in the game and the game never ends. You just keep playing and exploring.

At this point, I'd like to move to part two: exploring how we may embed our collections into our community.

And to do so, let's continue our journey from the city as classroom to the city as playground.

This is a screen from the massively multiplayer 'augmented reality game' called Ingress. Ingress is a territory capturing game between two sides - the Enlightened and the Resistance - who battle over 'portals' which are only visible from your smart phone. In the real world, the portals are usually sculptures, landmarks, or historical monuments. The screen behind me shows the sculpture garden along the Riverside park that hugs the Detroit river, with the blue team (which is the Resistance) establishing lots of captured territory south of the river and team green (which is the Enlightened faction) dominating downtown Detroit.

I have lots of friends who love Ingress and love how it draws them outside and encourages them to explore new places in search of portals and they have even found comradery through Ingress. For me, I found none of those things and I think the game is terribly boring (Ingress fans: fight me).

Mobile devices have long passed the time of being ubiquitous and yet there are still very few games like Ingress. And that's probably for a number of reasons. For one, it's very expensive to run a game that uses the real world as its game board and that's because the real world is big and there needs to be a lot of human intervention in its game-layer construction. Ingress was possible because it was bankrolled by Google although they recently split from the company who designed the game, Niantic Labs. Also, in order to play the game in the real world, players need to not only have a smart phone, they need one with a generous data plan. Furthermore, because the phone must routinely use GPS for location, the game is a battery vampire. Its battery draw is so considerable, there is a co-branded Ingress portable battery that is for sale.

While Ingress does not thrill me, the latest game yet to be released from Niantic Labs does. It is another augmented reality game and it's funded by Nintendo and it is called Pokémon Go. According to the promotional videos, the game will allow players to capture Pokémon 'in the wild' and to battle other players. Now you have to understand where I'm coming from - I spend about 3 hours a week at the local game store so my kids can play competitive Pokémon with others in the city and I have a fondness for the game and that particular gaming community.

And so, of all the electronic wearables that we've hyped for- Apple watches, Google glass - the one that I'm probably most likely to buy is this one. This wearable means that you can be notified when you are near such a Pokémon without having to be looking at your cell phone. It's also an adorable hybrid of a Google map's location pin and a Pokeball. You gotta catch them all!

Now while my kids are obsessed with collecting Pokémon cards, my mother has an altogether different obsession. When she travels, she is likely to carry this book. It’s her bible. And she has a lifelist of all the unique birds she's seen. Yes, my mother is what the Brits would call a 'twitcher' otherwise known as a bird watcher, or as she tends to call herself, a birder.

When it comes to birding, I've seen firsthand how new services build around mobiles devices have augmented the book and I'm going to say it - has made printed field guide obsolete. Most comprehensive birding books are heavy and bulky to carry whereas, you can carry a birding app on your phone. These birding apps allow for a multitude of images for each species, as well as maps that express normal habitat and migration routes, and also feature sound recordings of bird sound which is crucial tool for bird identification. But the feature that makes making current birding apps a bird of another feather is what is known as 'ebird integration.' 

eBird is a free online program that allows birders to report and share their birding observations with their friends and their friends at the Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This capturing and sharing of time-stamped and geotagged sightings provides a multitude of new services and benefits to both scientists and birders. And it more profoundly - ebird - unlike any print book - can help you find birds recently spotted in the wild. ebird changes the way you bird.

This ability to link the real world with the digital is still unfolding around us. There's much talk about the internet of things but those explorations tend to focus on goods within our homes like thermostats, lamps and garage doors.  That being said, there are some interesting explorations that show that, just like ebird, the virtual/real connection holds a potential to completely reframe our relationship with objects and organizations the real world. In my hometown, there are a group of citizens who have advocating the city government to make public the live, GPS-driven locations of the city buses available to the public as they do in many other cities such as Detroit.  

A relationship changes fundamentally when you no longer think of where an object should be and you start thinking about where an object *is.* Just think about arriving yourself at a bus stop with no bus in sight even after five minutes the scheduled stop. Wouldn’t you like to know where your bus is?

In order to embed our collections into our communities, we need to explore how we can link the real world with the digital. QR codes for all the derision that they still attract, have not yet been replaced with anything else that does the job better. Or I should rephrase that - there are better ways of embedding information into spaces but these haven't been widely adopted yet. For example, Peter Rukavena, the hacker in residence of the University of Prince Edward Island has embedded a little digital library locally by installing a Piratebox on a street lamp in Charlottetown. The Piratebox provides historical digital objects from the university library's Islandora collection as well as some other Creative Commons licensed material.

The challenge of course, is that you have to be aware that there is a Piratebox (or Librarybox) in the neighbourhood in order for you to find and connect to it in to take advantage of the information provided. It's as if we can't escape the historical plaque as a means to provide context to the outside world

That being said there is a technological space where there is massive potential for augmenting the real world with supplemental information and that is already being expressed with the surprisingly little discussed product Google Goggles. If you have an Android phone and you install and activate this app, Google Goggles will run an image search on every picture you take and it has an uncanny ability to discern and identify objects from features in the landscape... it can also identify books from their cover, it can give you consumer information from barcodes, and can even provide language translation from non-English scripts.

Now, this being a Google product, it is impossible to know whether Google Goggles in a crucial component of how the company envisions the future of search or whether the service will be discontinued tomorrow.

I'm going to return to Google shortly but before I do, I think it's also important to point out another contender that our users also tend to turn instinctively to in order find the context of things they don't know much about and that's Wikipedia. If you've been following the work of the organization, you know that Wikipedia has been investing in the retooling of their site so that it works well in a mobile environment. In fact, you can download the Wikipedia app now and use it to discover Wikipedia entries that are nearby (these are the ones near my house) - at least the ones that are nearby that have been appropriately geocoded with longitude and latitude coordinates.

So we have two potential services that can help us find more information about the world immediately around us: one through Google and one through Wikipedia. One is a completely closed system driven by advertising. The other is committed to being ad-free, user generated and user supported.

But use of Wikipedia as a means to express community information to the community is not entirely problem free. The largest problem is that the fact that simply being and existing is not enough for having a presence in Wikipedia - entries must past the muster of 'notability' to the editors of Wikipedia.  Even if you are Jimmy Wales and you write a stub of an article about a butcher/restaurant you've visited, you are going to have an editor questioning the presence of that entry in the site and deleting your page due to a lack of notability.

There are many struggles that are inherent within Wikipedia and the one that I find is particularly interesting is the ongoing battle between of the Inclusionist and the Deletionist factions of the editor core. The issue of notability is particularly problematic because it means that Wikipedia - if it's not mindful - can end up perpetuating systems that already tend not to extend notability to groups such as women.

Wikipedia is also biased towards media vs reality. Every single episode of any cartoon is going to be considered to be notable enough for inclusion. It's for this reason why there are so many more porn stars in Wikipedia as compared to female scientists.

It is essential that we extend this scrutiny to Google especially as Google Maps embeds so much of our understanding of the world around us. It is important to foster a mindfulness towards what is found in Google maps and more importantly, a consideration of what is missing. If you've ever traveled with small and restless children, you may have done what I have done and try to search for a nearby playground when traveling. And perhaps it is only then when you realize that public playgrounds are features that are generally not expressed in Google maps unless they are businesses.

It is not generally understood that Google maps are fundamentally different from what we generally think of as maps, which are objective representations of space. But the Google map that I see is going to be different from the map that you see depending on what google knows about my searching habits, and perhaps even my habits to where I like to go out to eat.

We tend to think of maps as representations of real and definite things and maps in general are not particular strong in presenting uncertainty. Whenever national territory is contested, Google makes it a policy to appease both sides by showing you the map that you would most likely want to see

This is a story in which a journalist discovers that a particularly affluent neighbourhood in Hollywood that was frustrated by all the tourists coming through their hood as a way to approach the famous Hollywood sign managed to weigh enough of an influence that the directions in Google Maps now tell tourists to walk an hour and a half away so you can see the sign at a distance from the Griffith Observatory, instead of using the trails in the nearby park as a means to see it up close.

It's as if you can control the map, you can control the territory

I don't have many stories like the one of the Hollywood sign but it is enough to give pause, especially as we consider that it wasn't long ago when the express mission of Google was to have all us all wearing Google Glass so that directional and location information would be served to us directly into our vision.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that we are judged not only by who we are but where we are from - this is a particularly click-baity headline but the story behind it is still an interesting one: some companies price their products depending on what demographic information your zip code betrays about you.

What happens when Google gets to decide what you call your neighbourhood? What happens when the real estate industry has a vested interest in extending the boundaries of neighbourhoods that are gentrifying at the expense of your own.

Even though we all now know that we live in the age of BIG DATA, we really don't know how high the stakes are and it might be many years before we realize how the maps of today shape the territories of tomorrow.

We must not forget that from the 1930s to the 1960s, African Americans were effectively cut out of the legitimate mortgage market due to a banking practice called red lining.  Redlining is named after the practice of outlining on a map in red where a good or service would not be extended to a neighbourhood based on the people who lived there. As you can see, the redlining maps made by banks in Detroit show a pattern that is eerily similar to the maps on the right, of present day poverty levels in the city. It makes one pause to consider what algorithms of today will have also have generational effects.

I remember one particular lecture during my undergraduate degree when my professor introduced our class to the idea that while we can occupy the same places, we - men and women of various ages and backgrounds and orientations - all experience these spaces differently and so they shouldn't be considered as equivalent.

That statement is, in one way, completely obvious and self-evident. But this observation can still be a complete revelation to people who may be less aware how others in positions of various vulnerabilities move through space in a way in order to minimize aggravation or harm to their person. Behind me on the screen is an image of the Negro Traveller's Green Book which was a travel guide for African Americans during the time of the 1930s to the 1960s to help them specifically navigate their own country.

We all navigate the world differently depending on who we are. Are we in a wheelchair? Are we vegetarian?  Do we need a private place to pray during the day? Are we a dad who needs a bathroom with a changing table? Are we frequently mistaken for another gender? Are we a mother who wants to nurse her child in a private space that’s not a bathroom? Are we homeless and in need of a place to clean up?

For all our apps on devices, every city still needs some exploration to give up its secrets or a community to let you in on them.

How can the library help our communities make their place their own?

Last section! Let's explore space/time.

There was a time - not that long ago, in which many a library reference desk would have its own set of reference sources. Sometimes these would be collections of facts captured on reference cards as pictured behind me, or sometimes they were developed into what we called The Vertical File.  Sometimes these collections were for library staff; sometimes we made them readily available for the public.  Many times, these collections were deeply local and the reason why they were maintained by libraries, was that no one was doing this work and this was work that served the community's information needs.

One of the things that I find so completely and utterly perplexing about librarianship is that we've seemed to give up this practice.

One of the projects that I wish more libraries would consider supporting is the LocalWiki project.  Like Wikipedia, the wiki is a grassroots effort to collect, share and open the world’s knowledge. But unlike Wikipedia, LocalWiki's goal to capture a place's local knowledge to anyone be able to learn about where they live — their local government, the history of their neighborhoods, the schools, the social services such as food banks— every facet of life in their community. If you are interested, please note that the Ann Arbor District Library has had some involvement in the work with the Ann Arbor Localwiki project.

There are, of course, alternatives to capturing local knowledge. Several slides back, I featured the Wheelmap website which seeks to capture and share places with wheelchair accessibility. One of the reasons why chose to showcase that particular project is that the information that is shared on Wheelmap also gets add to OpenStreetMap for other organizations to download and reuse and add to their own maps.

OpenStreetMap is a little known but frequently used project that is essentially, a Wikipedia for maps.  I understand that the notion of a map that anyone can change is fundamentally unsettling to many people, but if you use apps such as Foursquare, Pinterst, Github, you've already seen and used OSM.  If you would like to learn more about OpenStreetMap and/or Web Mapping, allow me to plug this three part webinar series from ALA by Celcily Walker and myself called Re-Drawing the Map.

I believe in everyone in librarianship should learn a little bit more about geospatial data because I believe that there is a slow – what academics would call -  spatial turn happening in the profession.

 Organizations like the New York Times frequently present their data journalism as a map because they know that the map is a visualization that allows their readers to immediately hone in on the place and context that means the most to them. Our readers and our researchers could enjoy the same benefit.

On the screen here is the map interface of a photography collection that’s been digitized from York University using the Leaflet JavaScript library

These, I believe, are some of the first steps towards a future in which we can imagine one day being finding relevant historical documents and images based on where one is standing.

There is much work to be done for such a future to come about. The amazing people of the New York Public Library are attempting to build "civic infrastructure" called the Space/Time directory. The space time directory will be a map with layers and a time slider as well as a discovery tool that turns the city itself into a library catalog.  The data produced by the data will be placed in the public domain and the project is being built so that others will have the ability to build Space/Time directories for their own city.  They write, "The NYC Space/Time Directory will make urban history accessible through the kinds of interactive, location-aware tools used to navigate modern cityscapes.

It will provide a way for scholars, students, and enthusiasts to explore New York City across time periods, and to add their own knowledge and expertise."

Perhaps this is the city as classroom we've been waiting for.

And just in case you thought it was safe not to talk about the future of libraries.... I'm so sorry.

In either 1976 or 1978, a year before or after the City as Classroom, Marshall McLuhan paired up with Robert K Logan, a physics professor from the University of Toronto, to write a book on the future of libraries (because as we know from so many think pieces as of late, the one thing you never do to when you want to know about the future of libraries is to actually talk to a librarian).  That work was never published and the only excerpts I've seen of it online are from an Australian art magazine called Island. Of that excerpt, less than 500 words were excerpted online. From that, I’m going to end my talk of three sections with three quotations or ‘McLuanisms’

This is a strong counter idea to the literal law that we’ve taught that which is that the library is a growing organism.  We might have to find new forms to thrive in our evolving niche.

Libraries need to have better control over the flow and storage of our information we provide for our communities if we want to see that information become embedded within our communities. We need to have systems that allow us to add geospatial data to allow for spatial discovery. We may also want to create the civic infrastructure that would allow our community to learn from and share with each other through us.

I included this quotation not to cast shade on those who are involved in management or who use data to make better decisions but because it brings me relief to know, that for all the foresight that Marshall McLuhan had about electronic information was going to change everything, he was still very confident that the library would remain as an important part of human culture.

And what I love about this particular quotation, is that he reminds us that the libraries mission is to service inspiration and creativity, which is something I know you have all done and will share during the next three days of the WLA conference.

Libraries are for use. And by use, I mean copying.

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure to speak to the good people of ILEAD USA. The words below are the notes that I brought to the stage with me. If you want to hear what I actually said, during my talk you can watch the talk via YouTube.

My name is Mita Williams but because it's October I've changed my name on Twitter to something Hallowe'en related but you can still find me there and in many other online places as copystar.

I am going to start with a statement of disclosure. I use copystar as my IRC nick and Twitter handle because years ago I learned there was a Japanese photocopier company called mita copystar. And so, even though today I am going to be talking about copying and the library, I am not a financial benefactor of the photocopier industry.

And I'm not going to be talking about the legalities of photocopying in the library. Instead I'm going to be exploring this particular idea: the use of copying as a means of collection development.

Now I think it's safe to say that as librarians, we don’t tend to think about collection development in this way --  we buy materials or subscribe to them -- which I think is interesting because arguably the most famous library in the world was built from copies.And piracy. Literally piracy.

The Great Library of Alexandria became great because it was meant to be great and it was funded enough to be so. Copies of scrolls from far and wide were acquired by purchase but were also acquired using more dubious practices.  Of note, ships entering the harbour of Alexandria would be searched for scrolls and these would be seized, brought to the Great Library where a copy would be made, and the Great Library of Alexandria would keep the original.

I would like to ask you why, in this world in which we can hit Control A, Control C and Control V ( otherwise known as Select text, Copy text, and Paste text) and copy a book in just three keystrokes, why don't we have a Great Library of Alexandria of ebooks now? Why do we still look backward in time, instead of forward, when we think of a collection of the all the most important written works that the world has ever seen?

Depending on your level of fluency when it comes to the legal framework of ebooks, you may or may not know these are the bad guys that are standing in the way of digital preservation and our future library of Alexandria : DRM and DMCA

In order to better express what I believe might be happening in our day and age, I made this flow chart. On this slide I'm trying to describe the circle of life of print books: an author writes, a publisher prints and sells, a library buys and shares, a reader reads, a reader writes...  it is a thing of beauty (the process, not my chart).

Now, as I'm Canadian, I'm not as familiar with US law as my own. For example, we make sue of Fair Dealing whereas you guys speak of Fair Use.  So I have to rely on sources such as the good people of ALA to let me know that the reason why libraries are allowed to lend print books in the first place is because of something known as the First Sale Doctrine. The gist of which is this: if you buy a print book, you can re-sell, rent, or lend the book to someone else without having to acquire permission from the copyright holder. 

But as librarians we all know that the rules around ebooks are fundamentally different. The parameters of what you can do with an ebook are not governed by the First Sale Doctrine and instead, set by a license agreement between the you and the publisher.  Again, this text is from the ALA's "Libraries Transforms" site:

The usual e-book license with a publisher or distributor often constrains or altogether prohibits libraries from archiving and preserving content, making accommodations for people with disabilities, ensuring patron privacy, receiving donations of e-books, or selling e-books that libraries do not wish to retain.

So as I mentioned before, in Canada, we have something that called Fair Dealing which has established that you can copy and use some of an ebook for the purposes of research, private study and teaching.

This is great if you are an instructor at a university and you would like to provide your students with a copy of an essay from an anthology.  It's great, that is, unless your library has signed a license that trumps Fair Dealing and instead establishes that the contents of the ebooks in question cannot be copied and shared as such and can only be linked to in a course reserve system or learning management system.

And copying a link from the ebook platform is somehow, perhaps coincidentally, absurdly difficult to do. Now the library is the position that it needs to communicate to faculty how to find a permanent link to books at a chapter level and how to add an ezproxy prefix to said link if that link is to be added to the Learning Management System and ... and at this point, no one can't even.

The most egregious example that I know of this is the Harvard Business Review, who a couple years ago, took the top 500 articles and said that if you want to do anything else than read the article - including the ability to directly link to said articles - colleges and universities would have to pay an additional fee - which has been said to be the five figures for at least one institution.

Many institutions have refused to pay the ransom for these 500 articles and have to opted to keep their print subscriptions. Clearly, we need more than read-only access to library materials, but it's unclear where that line gets drawn from library to library. How much should the ability to print an item cost? How much is the right to save a personal copy? Why are these questions even acceptable?

Even material that's in the public domain can be effectively be taken out of it as soon as its been placed in a wrapper of what's known as Digital Rights Management or DRM.  In this somewhat well-known example, Adobe once suggested that one could not read aloud its ebook version of Alice in Wonderland.

And so the population who could arguably benefit the most from the ascendance of ebooks - the visually impaired - are by and large restricted from using text to voice software lest that ability should cannibalize on the publisher's market of audiobooks.

And there are other shortcomings with DRM. For one, many DRM systems require some form of authentication with a server online. If this server is down, you may not be able to get access to the game, movie, or ebook that you have already locally downloaded.  People who have tried to do the right thing and bought music from an online retailer such as MSN Music, Yahoo Music Store, or Puretracks (like me) can no longer access their licensed music because the servers that handled the DRM authentication have long been taken down.

One way to think of DRM is as a lock. But as digital locks go, DRM isn't actually particularly difficult to break. But it's particularly illegal to break DRM because of the DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it very illegal to even try to bypass DRM.

The terms of the agreement that are enshrined in DRM are ideally formed from a negotiated  agreement that balances the needs and desires of the publisher and the reader. However, as we have seen with the example of Harvard Business Review, publishers are largely in the position of power because they can always opt to cut libraries completely out of ebook circulation.

This webpage I found captures almost everything wrong with the state of ebooks and libraries today. And we are at this point - as I think we all know - because libraries have largely outsourced the management of ebooks to Overdrive...

... and the management of the DRM which is largely performed by Adobe, who does not have the same commitment to reader privacy as libraries.

It should give us pause that DRM is so effective at locking out third parties from a producer's relationship with their customer, that companies such as John Deere are telling farmers that's now illegal for them to repair their own farm equipment because the electronics of the tractor are now encased in the DRM and legally safeguarded by DMCA.

So now what? Are we screwed?

I know of librarians who refuse to buy ebooks with DRM for their own use but I only know of two libraries that have made the same pledge (other than the library where Barbara Fister works).

That being said, I know of many librarians who know how to bypass DRM but will not suggest that they can do to the public because of the illegality of it all. If you are interested in exploring a "what if" scenario of librarians transgressing DRM, you might be interested in this talk by Justin Unrau.

Now I'm sorry to starting this talk off on such a dark note but my purpose was to get the bad news out of the way. I also wanted to talk about DRM and the DMCA because I have a feeling that many of us in the profession aren't aware that the capacity to make exceptions to the DMCA and break DRM is - in theory - in our wheelhouse.  Every three years, the Librarian of Congress is able to make exception to the DMCA. It is one of these exceptions that has made it possible to unlock a phone that is provided by a carrier.

This means that the possibility for libraries to unlock DRM for the purposes of accessibility and preservation *is* possible.

But this doesn't mean libraries get to wait until that day that happens. Libraries are already embarking on a variety of strategies to thrive in a world where text is no longer a scarce resource

Now I suspect you are at ILEAD are here to discover and share your own strategies which just might include...

... lending out objects that aren't easily copyable such as musical instruments, scientific equipment, or household tools

... building environments where objects can be made...

... exchanging co-working space for community mentoring or teaching...

... hosting pop-ups or running events such as How to Festivals in your community...

... or just being there for community when your community needs you most.

But despite DRM and DMCA, still want you, my dear colleagues - to consider the role of copying in collection development.

And I want you to consider this because culture itself, depends on copying...


All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . .

—John Donne

The same might be said of all art. I realized this forcefully when one day I went looking for the John Donne passage quoted above. I know the lines, I confess, not from a college course but from the movie version of 84, Charing Cross Road with Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft. I checked out 84, Charing Cross Road from the library in the hope of finding the Donne passage, but it wasn’t in the book. It’s alluded to in the play that was adapted from the book, but it isn’t reprinted. So I rented the movie again, and there was the passage, read in voice-over by Anthony Hopkins but without attribution. Unfortunately, the line was also abridged so that, when I finally turned to the Web, I found myself searching for the line “all mankind is of one volume” instead of “all mankind is of one author, and is one volume.”

My Internet search was initially no more successful than my library search. I had thought that summoning books from the vasty deep was a matter of a few keystrokes, but when I visited the website of the Yale library, I found that most of its books don’t yet exist as computer text. As a last-ditch effort I searched the seemingly more obscure phrase “every chapter must be so translated.” The passage I wanted finally came to me, as it turns out, not as part of a scholarly library collection but simply because someone who loves Donne had posted it on his homepage. The lines I sought were from Meditation 17 in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, which happens to be the most famous thing Donne ever wrote, containing as it does the line “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” My search had led me from a movie to a book to a play to a website and back to a book. Then again, those words may be as famous as they are only because Hemingway lifted them for his book title.

Literature has been in a plundered, fragmentary state for a long time.

If you have the chance, I would highly recommend you read the rest of Letham's The Ecstasy of Influence and you have to read to all the way to the end -- I'm not going to spoil it for you!

And it’s not only literature that has been a plundered state of some time. One can argue that one learns the art of many a particular creative field by the act of copying, transforming, and combining elements.

The wallpaper from the previous slide is from The EveryThing Is a Remix Project which makes the case that much of culture contain copied elements of works of the past, that are transformed and recombined and remixed. The first part is dedicated to music, the second on movies, the third on invention, the fourth on system failures of intellectual property

So please let me be clear. I am personally not anti-copyright, I do think of the artists who struggle to make a living while pursing a creative career, and I'm certainly not giving any personal license to plagiarize. But as this graphic from Steal Like An Artist suggests, it should not diminish art or artists to recognize that creative work does not come from thin air.

Anyways, if this topic interests you at all, I recommend these reads - although - I ain't gonna lie - my favorite is Reality Hunger, which changed the way that I look at the novel.

When the personal copying of intellectual property is outlawed, only outlaws and artists can copy. For example, I'm pretty sure that Mick Jones of the Clash does not own the copyright of most of the 10,000 items in his collection and therefore, isn't in a legal position to invite and allow users to make and take home scanned copies of the items in his collection for themselves. While Jones has named his collection "The Rock and Roll Public Library" it's really more like a moving curated art exhibition.

Some years ago, C Magazine, which is a Canadian magazine dedicated to the visual arts, dedicated an entire issue on libraries. A former colleague of mine Adam Lauder, wrote an article within it called Performing the Library.

And that's where about I heard of Jeff Khonsary's The Copy Room. The project involved a room in Vancouver where there were photocopiers for people off the street could use for free on the condition that they leave a copy in the room. The copies build a reading room of material that reflected the community that use the copiers. It is sort of like the harbour of Alexandria, without the coercion.

So, let's take a scroll from the Copy Room and the Library of Alexandria Playbook and consider how we could also build collections using copies despite DRM and DMCA

Let's consider copying through the act of publishing. Or in other words, in digitization.

There are other libraries that have done this, but the first library that I have heard using this strategy is the Winnipeg Public Library who encouraged local bands to bring in their own music memorabilia such as posters for their gigs and gigs past and the library would scan the work, keep a copy and give the work and the high-end scan back to the user.

The Edmonton Public provides a similar collection and has recently offered to host 100 albums from local bands music for distribution to the library-card holding public. 

My own public library, the Windsor Public Library as one of the most successful self-publishing programs that I know of, with over 10,000 books published in 3 years using the Espresso Book Machine. One could only imagine if the library also ran a book distribution service for the books it published just as other self-publishers do such as Amazon and Lulu publishing.

That's admittedly a large ask, when, as we know, most libraries don't even host the ebooks that they already have. But there are exceptions - like the Evoke system of the Douglas County Libraries of Colorado who, as they say in their manifesto, they hope will become an ebook service without unnecessary constraints on access by the public.

I also think we should remember that are contexts in which we can only make copies before an item is published.

And that context is the University -- where we should not forget that copying plays and has played a role in the scholarship since the middle ages.  In times of old, there were scribes that would make copies for students and faculty and I think we all of know of that little copy shop that's not quite on campus, but really close and don't blink an eye when someone comes in with a textbook.

 But the scenario I want to bring to mind is the present day. I've been in Academic Librarianship for over sixteen years and that's a long to be in the midst of ever present Serial Crisis. And this crisis persists because faculty give their copyright away to the most prestigious journals who resell the scholarship back to libraries with obscene profit margins.


One of the strategies employed by institutions is to create a safe harbour for scholarship called an institutional repository, where faculty of an institution are encouraged - either compelled by good will or mandate to place a copy of their scholarship. In some ways, its not dissimilar to the idea of legal deposit that some National Libraries require of publishers in their country.

You know that this idea is a powerful one because until recently, the publishing behemoth Elsevier decreed that the only way it was going to allow its authors to deposit in their home institution's repository if there was no mandate in place [image]. 

Speaking of legal deposit...

... the British Library has extended its traditional requirements of books to be placed in its collection and have extended its mandate to collect web sites of the nation.

Academic libraries are also beginning to start investigating and pursuing similar web archiving. But I don't think mine is at the moment, (at least not that I know of) and that makes me worry a bit. I am reminded by experiences of the University of Virginia Libraries who had already some experience with web archiving when one of the largest crises to hit their campussuddenly erupted and they were there and ready to capture the history as it unfolded.

There are options if you think it’s important to preserve a website for the future even if your library doesn't have the infrastructure in place. One option is the Save Page Now option that's provided by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

It's important to be aware that there is a very simple defense mechanism that can be used to prevent websites from being added to the Internet Archive and that's a simple request is what is known as the robots.txt file - a file that designates whether the owner doesn't want their page indexed in search engines.

Unfortunately, there are terrible side effects from such a simple mechanism. A site might be archived and accessible by the Internet Archive's Wayback machine, but if the domain ever expires and is then bought out by someone else who then adds a robot text file, then the archive of same address will be lost forever.

Which all goes say this: relying on a single copy is a dangerous way to preserve our culture. That's why there's the strategy called LOCKSS - lots of copies keep stuff safe.

Social media has its own challenges in terms of archiving.

If you want to collect, for example, all the tweets related to the police shooting of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, you have to use Twitter's API in order to maximize what you can capture and Twitter's API only goes back the last nine days, so you need to act in the moment.

Alternatively, you can pay Twitter for the tweets after the fact. The present is free but the past has a cost.

Of course the conditions of how much you can access Twitter's archives or the conditions of Twitter's API is subject to change at their discretion. Recently, Twitter shut down the access of 31 accounts that captured the deleted tweets of politicians from around the world.

That's not to say that the mass collection of tweets and other social media sites is without issues related to personal privacy and the right to be forgotten.

And for my last consideration of copying as collection development, I would like to suggest that libraries provide things for their readers to copy

The Prelinger Library and The Reanimation Library are both examples of carefully selected of books and ephemera from variety of sources, including weeded collections of discarded published material from libraries, to create a collection of visually interesting material for the inspiration for artists and writers.

While libraries have done a very good job experimenting with makerspaces and I think these libraries would be remiss not to also read these two books and to consider how their library can also be thought of as inspiration and raw material for the various creative arts.

This is an example from the blog Handmade Librarian from which the previous book, Bibliocraft came from. This activity shown involves making fancy bookmarks featuring ornamental stitching

That stitching was based on the braid alphabet found from the Etching and Engraving Picture file, a collection that the San Francisco library clearly marks as copyright-free images. Creating similar such collections is an endeavour is something I wish all libraries would undertake.

Penultimate section!

Please don't be disappointed if a participant in your library's National Novel Writing Group decides to write Fan Fiction.  Remember how people learn to be creative.

I like to think that there's a growing understanding for those who create of 'transformative works' and a better appreciation for these writers who are both writing out of love and writing within a community of readers who can provide support and guidance.

When we can, we should consider placing work in the creative commons so others may transform and adapt our work for their own use. Creative Commons Licenses are incredibly important and powerful tools. Everything on my blog that's my own work is designated as CC-BY.

But let's not forgot the larger picture.

Copying is an act of love. Copying is how we as readers and writers demonstrate such love. As Cory Doctorow and many others have also noted, the greatest threat to artists is not piracy but obscurity.

Last set of slides!

Remember way back when I showed you this circle of life of printed material?

( BTW, as these slides are my own work they are available for you to reuse and remix as you see fit.)

Then DRM came along ...

But now we know that this is not the whole picture. Libraries can bring their communities to the world by facilitating works that are in the creative commons and/or open access.

The title of my talk, as you probably have figured out, was a riff on probably the only thing from our collective library education that we can collectively all remember. The first of Rangathan's laws is that books are for use.

A couple of years ago, librarian and author, Barbara Fister re-wrote the 5 laws in the most the cynical language of our days.

But then she re-wrote the same laws this way. I can't possibly improve on how we she captured many of the ideas that I was hoping to share with you today and so with that I would like to say...

Thank you.

Library of Cards


On Thursday, September 10th, I had the honor and the pleasure to present at Access 2015. I've been to many Access Conferences over the years and each one has been a joyful experience. Thank you so much to those organizing Access YYZ for all of us.

Have you ever listened to the podcast 99% Invisible?

99% Invisible is a weekly podcast dedicated to design and architecture and the 99% percent of the invisible activity that shapes our experiences in the world.

They’ve done episodes on the design of city flags, barbed wire, lawn enforcement, baseball mascot costumes, and it’s already influenced my life in pretty odd ways.

If I was able to pitch a library-related design to host, Roman Mars for an episode, I would suggest the history of the humble 3 x 5 index card.

That being said, for this presentation, I am not going to present to you the history of the humble 3 x 5 index card.

That’s what this book is for, Markus Krajewski’s 2011 Paper Machines published by MIT Press.

Now, before I had read his book, I had believed that the index card was invented by Melvil Dewey and commercialized by his company, The Library Bureau. But Krajewski makes the case that the origin of the index card should be considered to go as far back as 1548 with Konrad Gessner who described a new method of processing data: to cut up a sheet of handwritten notes into slips of paper, with one fact or topic per slip, and arrange as desired.

According to Krajewski, when this technique goes from provisional to permanent – when the slips that describe the contents of a library are fixed in a book, an unintended and yet consequential turn takes place: it gives rise to the first card catalog in library history in Vienna around 1780.

Most histories of the card catalog begin just slightly later in time -- in 1789 to be precise -- during the French Revolution. The situation at hand was that the French revolutionary government had just claimed ownership of all Church property, including its substantial library holdings. It order to better understand what it now owned, the French revolutionaries started to inventory all of these newly acquired books. The instructions for how this inventory would conducted is known as the French Cataloging Code of 1791.

The code instructed that first, all the books were to be numbered. Next, the number of each book as well as the bibliographic information of each work were to be written on the back of two playing cards - and this was possible because at that time the backs of playing cards were blank. The two sets of cards are then put into alphabetical order and fastened together. One set of cards were to be sent to Paris, while a copy remains in each library.

On the screen behind me, you can see two records for the same book.

Again, my talk isn’t about bibliographic history, but I want to return back to the 16th century to Gessner for some important context. The reason why Gessner was making all those slips in the first place was to construct this, the Bibliotheca Universalis which consists of a bibliography of around 3,000 authors in alphabetical order, describing over 10,000 texts in terms of content and form, and offering textual excerpts. As such, Gessner is considered the first modern bibliographer.

And you can find his work on the Internet Archive.

Gessner’s Biblioteca Universalis wasn’t just a bibliography. According to Krajewski, the book provides instructions to scholars how to properly organize their studies through the keeping excerpted material in useful order. Gessner was describing an already established practice. Scholars kept slips or cards in boxes, and when they had the need to write or give a lecture or sermon, they would take the cards that fit their theme, and would arrange those thoughts and would temporarily fix them in order using devices such as the one pictured. This hybrid book has guiding threads that stretch over the page so that two rows of paper slips can be inserted and supported by paper rails.

Until the Romantics came around and made everyone feel embarrassed about taking inspiration from other people, it was common for scholars to use Scholar’s Boxes. Gottfried Leibniz actively used what was known as an excerpt cabinet to store and organize quotations and references.

Leibniz's method of the scholar's box combines a classification system with a permanent storage facility, the cabinet. So in a way this is similar to the use of Zotero or other citation management systems, but instead uses loose sheets of paper on hooks. The strips are hung on poles or placed into hybrid books

And that’s the reason why I wanted to start my talk with a brief history lesson. To remind us that there is a common ancestor to the library catalog and the scholar’s bibliography, and that is the index card.

So as we’ve learned, from as far back as Gessner’s 16th Century, writers have been using cards and slips of paper to rearrange ideas and quotations into texts, citations into bibliographies, and bibliographic descriptions into card catalogues.

You can still buy index cards and card boxes at my local campus bookstore. That’s because there are still authors today, who still use index cards to piece together and re-sort parts of their paper or novel, or they use and rearrange digital cards inside of such writing software tools such as Scrviner to generate new works.

Now, I don’t write this way myself. But I do use Zotero as one of the tools that I use to keep track of citations, book marks,  saved quotations, and excerpts of text that I have used or might use in my own work as a writer and academic librarian.

Zotero acts as an extension of your web reading experience and it operates best as an add-on to the Firefox browser. If you use Zotero, you can usually easily capture citations that one finds on a page either because someone who supports Zotero has already developed a custom text scraper (called a translator) for the database or website that you are looking at or that citation has been marked up with text that’s invisible to the human eye but can be found in the span HTML tags that surround the citation using a microformat called COinS.

Zotero also allows scholars to backup their citations to their server and in doing so, share their citations by making one’s library public on Zotero.org.  Alternatively, scholars can share  bibliographies on theirown website using the Zotero API which is so simple and powerful you can embed a bibliography styled with APA with a single line of code. 

One of my favourite features of Zotero is not widely known. Zotero out of the box allows the scholar to generate ‘cards’ which are called ‘reports’ from your bibliography.  When I have a stack of books that I need to locate in my library, I sometimes find it’s easier for me to select and generate a report of cards from my Zotero collection rather than to search, select and print the items using my library’s expensive ILS system.

There is a terrible irony to this situation. As I learned from the Library Journal column of Dorothea Salo, the design problem given to Henriette Avram’s, the inventor of the MARC records was to have “computers print catalog cards.”

As Salo says in her piece, “Avram was not asked to design a computer-optimized data structure for information about library materials, so, naturally enough, that is not what MARC is at heart. Avram was asked solely to make computers print a record intended purely for human consumption according to the best card-construction practices of the 1960s.”

Let’s recall that one of the reasons why Zotero is able to import citations easily is because of the invisible text of COinS and translators. 

The metadata that comes into Zotero is captured as strings of text. Which is great - a name is now tagged with the code AU to designate that the text should go in the Author field. But this functionality is not enough if you want to produce linked data.

Dan Scott has kindly shared the code to RIS2WEB that allows you to run it on an export of a bibliography from Zotero in doing so create and serve a citation database that also generates of linked data using Schema. Afterwards, you can add available URIs.

You can see the results of this work at http://labourstudies.ca

When I showed this to a co-worker of mine, she couldn’t understand why I was so impressed by this. I had to hit Control-U on a citation to show her that this citation database contained identifiers such as from VIAF: The Virtual International Authority File. I explained to her that by using these numeric identifiers computers will be able not only find matching text in the author field, they will be better able to find that one particular author.

So can we call Zotero a Scholar’s Box or Paper Machine for the digital age?

I think we can, but that being said, I think we need to recognize that the citations that we have are still stuck in a box, in still so many ways.

We can’t grab citations from library database and drop them into a word processor without using bibliographic manager like Zotero as an intermediary to the capture structured data that might be useful to my computer when I need format a bibliography. Likewise, I can’t easy grab linked data from sites like the Labour Studies bibliography page.

And we still really don’t share citations in emails or social media.

Instead, we share the URL web addresses that point to the publisher or third party server that host said paper.  Or we share PDFs that should contain all the elements needed to construct a citation and yet somehow still requires the manual re-keying and control c-ing and v-ing of data into fields when we want to do such necessary things as add an article to an Institutional Repository.

Common Web tools and techniques cannot easily manipulate library resources. While photo sharing, link logging, and Web logging sites make it easy to use and reuse content, barriers still exist that limit the reuse of library resources within new Web services. To support the reuse of library information in Web 2.0-style services, we need to allow many types of applications to connect with our information resources more easily. One such connection is a universal method to copy any resource of interest. Because the copy-and-paste paradigm resonates with both users and Web developers, it makes sense that users should be able to copy items they see online and paste them into desktop applications or other Web applications. Recent developments proposed in weblogs and discussed at technical conferences suggest exactly this: extending the 'clipboard' copy-and-paste paradigm onto the Web. To fit this new, extended paradigm, we need to provide a uniform, simple method for copying rich digital objects out of any Web application.

Now, those aren’t my words. That’s from this paper Introducing unAPI written by Daniel Chudnov, Peter Binkley, Jeremy Frumkin, Michael J. Giarlo, Mike Rylander, Ross Singer and Ed Summers.

This paper, I should stress, was written in 2006.

Within the paper, the authors outline the many reasons why cutting and pasting data is so infuriatingly difficult in our sphere of tools and data.

But what if there was another paradigm we could try?

In order to see how we might be possibly break out of the scholar’s box, I’m going to talk about a very speculative possibility. And in order to set us up for this possibility, I first need to talk about how cards are already used on the web and on our tablets and smart phones.


If you look around the most popular websites and pay particular attention to the design patterns used, you will quickly notice that many of the sites that we visit every day (Twitter, Facebook, Trello, Instagram, Pinterest) they all use cards as a user interface design pattern.

The use of cards as a design pattern rose up along with the use of mobile devices largely because a single card fits nicely on a mobile screen...

...while on larger surfaces, such as tablets and desktops, cards can be arranged in a vertical feed, like in Facebook or Twitter, or arranged as a board like Pinterest, or like a like a stack, such as Google Now or Trello.

This slide is from a slidedeck of designer and technologist, Chris Tse. The rest of this section is largely an exploration of Chris’ work and ideas about cards.

Case in point, Chris Tse states, the most important quality of ‘cards’ is that of movement. But by movement, he isn’t referring to the design’s apparent affordances that makes swiping or scrolling intuitive.

The movement of cards that’s really important is how they feed into content creation and content sharing and how cards feed into discussions and workflow.

(How cards fit into kaban boards and shared workflow software like Trello, is a whooooole other presentation)

Social media is collectively made up of individuals sharing objects - objects of text, of photos, of video, of slideshows - and they share these objects with friends and to a larger public. Each of these objects are framed - by and large - within cards.

It’s important to realize that the cards on the web are fundamentally more than just a just a design hack.  If you are familiar with Twitter, you may have started to see cards that don’t just feature 140 characters - you see playable music (such as from Soundcloud), Google Slideshows that you can read through without leaving Twitter, and you can even download 3rd party apps from Twitter advertising cards. When the business press say that Twitter is a platform, it’s not just marketing hype.

As Chris Tse says, cards are more than just glorified widgets.  “When done right”, he says, “a card looks like responsive web content, works like a focused mobile app, and feels like a saved file that you can share and reuse". As “cards” become more interactive, he believe they will go from being just concentrated bits of content and turn into mini-apps that can be embedded, can capture and manipulate data, or even process transactions.
But why isn’t this more obvious to people? I think the reason why is that cards don’t really feel this way is that most cards can only move within their own self-contained apps or websites.

For example, Google Now cards work with your Google applications – such as your calendar - but don’t interact with anything about your life in Facebook.

That being said, Google and Apple are working on ways into integrate more services into their services. In Google Now, I’m regularly offered news story based on my recent searches as well as stories that are popular to other readers who read similar stories using the Feedly RSS reader.

And this is a problem because it’s Google who is deciding whose services I can choose from for such card notifications.

The apps on your smart phone live in a walled garden where things are more beautiful and more cultivated, but it is a place that is cut off from the open web.

The fall of the open web and the rise of the walled garden is not a trivial problem. We should not forget that if you want your app to be available on an iPhone it must be in the Apple Store and the content of your app will be subject to the Apple Review process and Apple will take a 30% cut of what your app sells for.  Content within apps curtail various forms of free and freedoms.

To bridge this split of the open web and the walled app garden, Chris Tse founded Cardstack.io. The mission of Cardstack is to “To build a card ecosystem based on open web technologies and open source ethos that fights back against lock-in.”

CardStack wraps single-page JavaScript applications as a reusable ‘card’ that can be embedded in native apps and other web apps. According to Chris, Cardstack.io HTML5 cards will be able to move between apps, between devices, between users and between services.
CardStack itself is comprised of other JavaScript libraries, most notably Conductor.js and Oasis.js and I cannot speak anything more to this other than to repeat the claim that these combined libraries create a solution that is more secure than the embeded content than the iFrames of widgets past.

But notice the ‘Coming Soon’ statement in the top left hand corner? CardStack is still in beta with SDKs still being developed for iOS and Android systems.

Despite this, when I first stumbled upon Chris Tse’s presentations about Cardstack, I was really excited by his vision. But the crushing reality of the situation settled mere moments later.

Yes, a new system of cards to allow movement between siloed systems that could work in mobile or desktop environments, that would be wonderful - but wasn’t it all too late?

And what does it mean if we all collectively decide, that it is all just too late?

One of the challenges of promoting a new sort of container is that you can really show it off until you have some content to contain. You need a proof of concept.

When I checked in later to see what Chris was doing as I was drafting this presentation, I learned that he was now the CTO of a new platform - that he confirmed for me is built using Cardstack as a component.

This new platform has its origin from the art world’s Rhizome’s Seven on Seven conference. The Seven on Seven conference pairs seven visual artists with seven technologists for a 24 hour hackjam and in 2014, artist Kevin McCoy was paired up with technologist Anil Dash.

McCoy and Dash were both interested in improving the situation of digital artists whose work can be easily be copied. With copying, the provenance of a digital work can be lost and as well as the understanding of what was original and what has been modified.

They talked and worked on a proof of concept of a new service that would allow visual artists to register ownership of their digital work and transfer that ownership using blockchain technology.

Over a year later, this idea has grown into a real platform that is private beta and is set to be released to the public this month.

I think two things are particularly awesome about this project. First the platform also allows for artists to decide for themselves whether the license for their work in the creative commons or requires a royalty and whether derivatives of their work is allowed.

The other thing I love about this project is its name. If you look at the top left hand of this screen you will find that the name of the platform is spelled m-o n-e-g-r-a-p-h. The platform is called MONOGRAPH.

And as we now know, you build a monegraph with cards

We need to remember that the library and the bibliography are connected by the card. There is the text and then there is the record of the text. The texts that we make available in our libraries are themselves, frequently pieced together by ideas and quotations, captured, sorted, and from smaller pieces, sometimes on cards.

As we continue to invest in crucial new endeavors in the digital realm, I think it's essential that librarians,  find new ways to surface our resources and allow them to be shared socially, and to find the means by which scholars can save and sorting and re-use these resources that they find from our collections.

We are part of a generative process. Cards of single ideas that are arranged and stacked build theses, which in turn, build papers, books which, in turn, form bibliographies which fill libraries.

I would like libraries to find a way to back to Gessner’s Bibliotheca Universalis, a place where the library and the scholar were both connected.

After all...