Thursday, July 17, 2008

RBMS Seminar: Teaching and Outreach in Special Collections

Also on Wednesday, June 25 of the RBMS (Rare Books and Manuscripts) pre-conference (see my previous entries), there were 3 seminars. I attended Seminar C, Teaching and Outreach in Special Collections: From K-12 to Undergraduates and Beyond. Speakers included:
  • Lisa Berglund, Associate Professor of English, Buffalo State College
  • Yolanda Theunissen, Curator of the Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine [see their Outreach at the Osher Library ]
  • Pablo Alvarez, Curator of Rare Books, University of Rochester [updated 2011:  now of University of Michigan]
The moderator was Jennifer MacDonald, of the University of Delaware, who stated that teaching outreach requires creative planning. The talks provided 3 examples: undergraduates, K-12 classes, and the general public. Again, these notes are my own transcriptions, and I am totally responsible for errors of meaning, therefore these notes should not be taken as a fully accurate transcript of the speakers' talks.

Lisa Berglund spoke on "Introducing Undergraduates to Rare Books and Manuscripts." A regular teacher (i.e. not a librarian!) she mentioned how she teaches book history in 2 contexts:
Small classes (like graduate seminars), and with large classes. Buffalo State College library has only 18 volumes printed before 18th century! Many students never realize there is a rare book room at the school and many faculty don't realize as well. Unfortunately many faculty are oblivious or not creative enough to figure out how to use these pre-18th century volumes.
It's important to get any student involved with rare books, especially:
  1. English literature students. Get them to see any 19th century book (at least; if not an earlier example). Remember: most of their visual and tactile experience is only from the Norton Anthologies! Similarly, let them try to experience William Blake in an authentic context.
  2. Communications students. Issues of dissemination can be interesting. [can't recall remainder]
  3. History students. Engagement with texts of the past.

4) Secondary faculty. When such people are in teacher training, their engagement with academic issues can be limited. Focus on this group, who will be flattered with the attention. They haven't had the experience of dealing with rare books. You can suggest ways to break down huge class groups. Think of digitized surrogates as a supplement.
Other concerns: rare book room hours are generally not convenient for students who study at night. If you can schedule classes earlier in the day, then they can visit the rare book room. (They can visit other destinations that supplement rare book study.) Work with faculty to get them to the rare book room, despite its hours.
You might be faced with the attitude: "I'm not here to learn, I'm here to get an education." Most students can't spend lots of time studying rare books, but the teacher or librarian can show that books are more than just texts.
You might want to think about to reaching out to other institutions' students. People at other institutions can excite and interest students. Just getting them to see what's out there can be extremely valuable. Think of community colleges that don't have rare books that will benefit from your resources.

Library tours are great but students need to TOUCH stuff. Let them touch these artifacts. If you hand out the gloves, they'll get really serious about their study. Don't be afraid to show them the fun stuff.

You can get them to recognize the difference between rare books and old books. You can teach so much from anything that's old and interesting. This is the time to use to use primary sources. Students are receptive to what happened to the book, because that kind of transition exists today (i.e. how computers and the web are transforming everything). If you put book history into the context of today's resources, they'll “get” it. They get works they've heard of. Ask questions about things which are different today (e.g lack of street addresses in old publishers' statements).

Lisa has found 3 assignments that work really well:
  1. A 400-500 word report on "what I saw, and what I learned." They can get engaged if teacher encourages student interaction. Think of the collection as a commitment to culture.
  2. Great assignment: Having each student examine a different 18th century book. It gets them looking and touching books. Then go back to library and talk about all their assignments together.
  3. Comparison assignment: Choose a text you've read, and find a first edition (it can be online, or facsimile, or similar surrogate), and write a comparison of the experience of comparing the two. One student wrote a wonderful paper about Uncle Tom's Cabin, and how one is robbed of so much meaning and significant unless you read it in its original context.
Students can gain "ownership" of original research by examining unusual rare books. These will be particularly interesting to students interested in cultural studies, and pedagogy. "Seize the moment!" to get to these students.

Yolanda Theunissen spoke on outreach to the K-12 constituency, as done in the Osher Map Library of the University of Southern Maine. (See her article Developing and Promoting Outreach Services for Elementary and Middle Schools: Case Study of a Rare Map Library at a Public University in Journal of Map and Geography Libraries 3, no. 2 [June 14, 2007]: 5-22). 25% of her time is spent on outreach, including adults, and the general public. K-12 groups are just one part of that program.
It is a challenge to interpret materials to younger children. With few staff available to her, she takes a thematic approach - a gradual, phased approach. Very pragmatic. Have you developed kits or "trunks" that you can ship to schools? Do you have routine class tours?

Step 1: Take inventory of the resources you have. Get in the mindset: What will work with minimal effort for a K-12 class? Get something arresting that will grab their attention. (Think of a Duchamp ready-made sculpture, e.g. the bicycle wheel mounted upside down on a chair, or the toilet seat sculpture).
If you have traveling exhibits, create subsets or activities that will become a teachable activity.
Step 2: Add value. Recruit students with special interests. Some high school teachers wonder what to do with honor students (i.e. high-level students that teachers can't handle). Use them and mine their interests. If you have a publication (e.g. exhibition catalog), analyze it and do a value-added examination. How can you ensure that the books (or brochures) you create will be used? As you start thinking along these lines, it'll become second nature. Ask yourself “Is there something here that the student will respond to?”
Become acquainted with your new constituency. Make time to attend local/regional chapter meetings. Become familiar with the “teaching results” and how they get to be in compliance with the state's guidelines for learning.
Also other ideas: Team up with a teacher. Students will respect you more because they already have gained respect of the teacher. Do teacher training and learning with teachers and librarians together. Do group tours with adults. They're straightforward for high school age and above, but when you deal with below 5tth grade, there are different issues.
When you have a class enter the room, figure out how to engage students to think right away (again, think of those Duchamp ready-mades and their "shock value"). Try to relate to their experience of the objects.
The benefits: to staff, you get recognition from administration. Ultimately, if you reach students, they are the potential donors when they're older.

Pablo Alvarez. We should be teaching history of the the book to a wider audience. They are historical objects. You can't have a text without interpretation. There are an increasing number of courses on the teaching of the history of the book. This encourages greater collaboration between faculty and special collections librarians. How can students do research if they've never been introduced to Special Collection ideas?
Alvarez has been successful with his class on the history of the book at the University of Rochester. He places an emphasis on how a knowledge of bibliography can assist and help collectors. It's learning about the printed word and its evolution - an evolution that takes you from scroll to codex, to the introduction of paper. The focus of the course is on the hand-made period before movable type. Alvarez touches on other topics such as the transmission of ideas, and the reasons why book makers did what they did. For example, in their copy of Copernicus, there are irregularities on title page: What do they mean?
Topics such as “continuity with the past” and “censorship” are good for a class, because students can understand and see how these topics relate to current issues. Having a class in the library presents a unique opportunity for students to handle Special Collections items. A close examination of books can reveal personal stories that can connect to the student (for example, issues of provenance and previous owners).
Reaching out to the community can lead to greater diversity. Take advantage of developments in bibliographic studies to do outreach.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

RBMS Plenary Session 2: Permissions Limbo: Intellectual Property and Licensing Issues

Continuing my coverage of the Rare Books and Manuscript Division (RBMS of ACRL), here are my notes from the second plenary session, held on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. It was a talk given by Maureen Whalen Esq., Associate Counsel for the J. Paul Getty Trust.

I suppose this talk will be published in a future issue of RBM or perhaps a Getty publication. Nevertheless, I take full responsibility for any errors in transcripts. Unlike the first talk, there was so much that was new to me here that I didn't really get more than just notes. So this will read more like bullet points instead of logical prose. Yet I hope some of the links may be new and useful.
We're dealing here with four things:
  • rights & permissions
  • confirming the institution has rights to digitize and distribute rare books and manuscripts
  • beware the quit claim [?]
  • obtaining permission to do so when required

Question of licensing rights to 3rd parties - do you have the right to outsource digital projects?

Let's clarify the term "rare books and manuscripts": We don't not mean necessarily "old" (as in the public domain). Some institutions place restrictions on the use of digital copies of public domain works.

One of the bulwarks of acceptance in the library digital world is the decision Bridgeman Art Library vs. Corel Corporation:
"This is one of the most relevant copyright decisions for museums in years. A Federal district court in New York in November held that photographic reproductions of two-dimensional works, which themselves are in the public domain, do not have the requisite amount of originality to be protected by copyright." [from]

The Bridgeman case raises dilemmas: Should we restrict digital copies? Why? How? Is there "click-thru licensing"? Are there technical protection measures? Cease-and-desist policies?

Welcome to Permissions Limbo.

The question of thumbnail images: the law is moving in direction of considering thumbnails to be fair use. (They're not too big, not too small, but just right).

Section 108 has serves more as guidelines on preservation rather than other uses. More work needs to be done on it. Similarly the issue of outsourcing is unclear.

Concerning pending legislation considering orphan works (and for future copyright issues), we need to document efforts to reach or contact unknown rights holders. We need to do much better job of getting rights info in order to show that we're tracing rights holders with "due diligence." We need to capture knowledge of public and scholars on how to obtain info on holders of rights. It's everybody's job.

The more pro-active you can be with lawyers, the better.

Keep track of all your permissions info. The more organized your notes, the better off you'll be.

Concerning the use of web 2.0 at the Getty Center: We consider it the individual staff member's responsibility, not of the lawyers. Don't forget to read the fine print.

Important question to ask yourself on digital projects: Is the project sustainable?

If you outsource digital projects you must understand: What rights does the vendor want, what rights can the institution grant, and what rights does the institution retain?

See report prepared by intelligent tv for RLG projects. [Probably this: ]

Is access granted by the vendor, and if so, what are the service level agreements? What are the enforcement procedures? Also: Where does digitization take place? Concerning the metadata and catalog records: Who creates them and who owns them?

Who owns the digital materials? What rights does vendor want and for how long? How much investment by vendor? What is vendor saying about its needs for return on investment? And ask: are these statements reasonable?

If you take advantage of web 2.0 opportunities- read the small print and make sure you understand it. (Some people had problems with a chat program, not realizing that originally, the software corporation claimed ownership of all conversations.)

Whoever you work with, make sure that all rights to digital files and subscriber lists revert to the institution. Everything should come back to you.

Q. (from Peter Hirtle): What should Special Collection librarians learn from Google Books?
A. Google Books has helped sharpen our thinking about searching. Charles W. Bailley Jr. put together a bibliography of Google Book search which is worth looking at.

Criticisms of the Google Book project abound: its legality, confidentiality, image quality, metadata (how does Google link?), and proprietary nature.

Proprietary nature. Vaidhyanathan - critical of Google books. Is "privitizing" a public good?

Brewster Kahle says that the idea that only one company can control access to a digital copy is ridiculous.

Google licenses "ask" that users use material for personal non-commercial use only.

(See the Boing Boing website). Just because you can scan a public domain book does not mean it belongs to you.

What is our professional standard? see LRTS (Library Resources Technical Services) 38 (Jan. 1994) article on Guidelines for microreproduction. There is no mention of perpetual public access at that time!

Library practices, and not Google, should be the focus of the critics of Google. Are we making available material for all time?
Why it matters: 1. expense - proprietary means more expensive

($400,000 for historical newspapers - is it worth it for a public domain source?)

Stewart Brand: information wants to be free, but also information also wants to be expensive.

The changing nature of how information can be used. data mining, mashups.

The Bamboo project - any faculty members can reuse content for them. content must be freely available and open.

What about Microsoft's Photosynth - (demo) creating a (3-dimensional) image from multiple images (e.g. Flickr collection) - what are the rights issues?

Another example: Harvard University Library's Open Collections Project.

SCOAP - Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in particle physics.
Their purpose: redirect subscription funds to open access; so that "funding bodies and libraries contribute to the consortium, which pays centrally for the peer-review service. Articles are free to read for everyone." This is a form of open access publoishing in high energy physics.

Cornell: Cornell's program [? Perhaps their Open Access program]. Their attitude is: we can't control content but can think of ways of giving better services. Also the agreement between NARA and After 5 years NARA gets files back and can do whatever they want with them (hopefully they'll make them available for free).

Good Terms: Improving Commercial-Noncommercial Paternships for Mass Digitization: A Report Prepared by Intelligent Television for RLG Programs, OCLC Programs and Research by Peter B. Kaufman and Jeff Ubois.

Their recommendations: more open access, less restricted distribution, limited duration and survivability.

You must decide where you want to be when approached by a vendor - do you want to work with other libraries, or work with vendors?

Q. Few newspapers were copyrighted before 1960 (The NY Times is one of the few exceptions).

While at the University of Virginia, Christian Dupont was able to get them to drop the fee. Should we be making money from public domain materials? Does a library have legal right to charge licensing fee for public domain materials? (Open ended question)

(Although there is a rational for charging a licensing fee. The commercial should take some participation in preservation.)

Peter Hirtle: With a public domain image, you can charge whatever you want (depending what people will pay). Where you get into problems is in putting additional terms on the item (since you won't be able to enforce them). Whether that is legal is a question.

Maureen: The issue of charging is an institutional one. but restrictions on use of image are of questionable legality. I get upset when people put a copyright notice on public domain material. Even a credit notice, yet. The lawyer Simon Frankel of San Francisco talks about such fraudulent licenses.

The Library of Congress doesn't charge, since it's funded by taxpayer money.

What are the "standards" for republication of an artifact?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

RBMS Plenary Session 1: The Big Picture

I had the good fortune to attend the RBMS (Rare Books and Manuscripts) pre-conference in Los Angeles, followed by the ALA (American Library Association) conference in Anaheim, California. I was able to take notes for some sessions, which I'll publish here in a series of blog posts, along with my impressions. Please note: These are my notes, and I take full responsibility for misconstruing of any statements made by the various speakers. I suspect some of these talks will eventually be published, either in RBM or other journals.

RBMS Plenary Session 1 (Wednesday morning, June 25, 2008): The Big Picture

Opening remarks by Christian Dupont, Aeon Program Director at Atlas Systems, Inc.

Special Collections sections of libraries have entered the digital age. New issues are facing rare books and special collections. We are learning to work and adapt together to a new and rapidly changing environment.

Let's consider how things have changed in last 50 years (since RBMS is now 50 years old). Let's celebrate the vitality of the organization. Let's witness its impact and how the section (of ACRL) has grown. We are currently seeking ways to accommodate the growth and interest in special collections. One way to achieve this is through our scholarship program. We know that scholarship recipients may remain members and become active on committees. Today, there are 22 scholarship attendees. These new attendees feed the interests of the organization.

Next year there will be even more scholarships. In honor of the section's 50th meeting, the location will be Charlottesville, VA - the location of first conference.

There is fundraising at RBMS and it is a part of what goes on. There is ABAA; the Booksellers' showcase (which looks more like a book fair). This year there are 24 booksellers in LA, the most we've had in recent years, and perhaps we'll have as many or more in Charlottesville, VA next year. Let these sponsors know they have your support and appreciation.

Remarks by Kris Kieseling, Director of Archives Special Collections at the University of Minnesota.
This year, the RBMS pre-conference took only 4 weeks to sell out, a good sign of the demand/vitality of the field. There are many angles with which to approach digitization in special collections. Alice Prohaska will outline big picture in her talk.

This years there will be no paper forms, but totally online evaluations for the preconference -- expect it in your email after the pre-conference.

Commercial plug: The sponsor of the morning plenary is the Bibliographic Society of America. It is a society which encourages study and research. Their members are librarians, dealers, collectors, students, etc. Please visit their homepage.

Alice Prochaska, University Library at Yale University.
(Her remarks are based in part on her observation of Yale's digitization of special collections.)

I'm concerned about generalities: How can one present the big picture of digitization? So I'll talk as one library director with just one perspective. This is a good time to be talking about special collections in the digital environment.

Special Collections librarians have a problem: there is a morass of unknowns. Some libraries have been digitizing, others have been evangelizing. Alice thought she used to have a clear picture of the world of special collections. So she asked some pertinent questions on her slide show:
  • What are special collections?
  • What will we mean by special collections in the future?
  • In considering the environment in which digitization operates, the current range and scope of digitization in research libraries: where do special collections fit?
  • The future: are we going to predict it, or invent it?
The future is about collaboration and discussing what we want and what is our future. But there's always been complications due to bureaucracy of many parties. Ownership in the digitial environment is no easier than in non-digital environment.

What ARE Special collections?

The words we use in addressing access to our collections are: discover, expose, disclose, unlock (etc.) -- as if each word holds the key to explaining what we do.
Preliminary record, collection level record, item level record, catalog, etc.
unit, group, class, piece, box, bundle

("It's easy to misunderstand words" and quotes Obama, and mentions Miss Malaprop.)

There is an ARL Working Group on Special Collections set up in 2007, pursuing the "hidden collections" agenda (of finding ways of bringing these collections to greater attention). Their report is due in October 2008.

Their Priorities:
1. encourage concerted action for collecting and exposing 19th and 20th century materials
2. identify criteria and strategies for collecting digital and other new media that currently lack a recognized and responsible structure for stewardship.

"These issues are closely linked. An enormous amount of valuable material in all formats remains uncollected and risks being permanently lost."

The focus of the ARL group is not meant to demean earlier items. It's just a pragmatic attempt to give the group a manageable task. There are already international efforts to digitize newspapers and books. A strong attempt has been made to encourage these items. Techniques include collections analysis, identification of gaps, make accessible otherwise hidden collections.

Discovery of material can occur in response to new scholarship. For example, the attention to e.g. printed ephemera is a relatively new exploration. Libraries used to eschew collecting this material. Just hobbyists would collect it and insist on its importance. There is still a hierarchy of materials: Materials relating to books and book arts will be more highly regarded, whereas playbills, posters, etc. will not be. But even philatelic collections pose research value. No two people will define ephemera in same way - we all have our own collections that require greater attention. The task of selection and preservation doesn't disappear in digital world, it just changes. Think of the issues with borne-digital items: digitized slides, or email correspondence -- what about legal implications of email? We need a concerted effort to find out about this material.

In speaking of digitization, we're mostly talking about taking analog materials and digitizing them. The activity of digitization frequently linked to the preservation of items.

The environment of digitization:
  • collect carefully
  • advocate against restrictions on access
  • transparency over provenance and source of aquisition
  • good practices in records management
  • ensure discoverability and access
  • address the hidden collections problem
  • meet the digital challenge
For the digital environment, RBMS and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) are unique organizations for advice in these issues. As librarians, we can be effective only with the support of the community comprised of these and similar organizations.

Preservation issues form part of context; staff skills matter. Large institutions can handle big projects, but small institutions can't, so that means greater collaboration is necessary.

There are areas of growth in the need for Special Collections:
  • The growth in teaching with primary sources and undergraduate research;
  • local and family historical research. (don't underestimate needs of local communities)
But there are obstacles:
  • political pressures to ends access to unique assets
  • increased visibility and scrutiny
  • nightmare digital challenge:
  • intellectual property,
  • increased visibility brings greater scrutiny,
  • contested interpretations,
  • packaging material to make it comprehensible out of context
Don't underestimate cultural patrimony issues which receives higher notice in the digital world. Greater exposure requires greater sensitivity to cultural issues.

Current range and scope of digital projects.
Local initiatives exists to support teaching, and collaboratie digitization programs in museums, galleries, and archives. For example:

See: Documents of the American South -- it's a good example of how digitization in a deliberate manner can be unusually beneficial.
There is mass digitization (e.g. the Google project) - whose impact is enormous. Formerly Google had contracts with just 6 libraries; now they use 40 libraries.
(See current issue of the Journal of Library Administration.)

Finally Google and mass digitization is beginning to move into the area of Special Collections. Quality of output is a concern: Google books is not always well presented and the metadata is inconsistent.

Even with copyrighted materials presenting only small snippet of a work is a concern about the presentation of books. To what extent does Google books skew our notion of a book? Their contracts prevent the library community from discussing the Google project among participants. But Google's influence is large.

Other examples of mass digitization: The Open Content Alliance - it's not as rich as Google, but still provides good products, since it has metadata which is better than Google. THe now-defunct Microsoft Live Book Search leaves a legacy of expectations. Yale had valued closer cooperation with Microsoft. Maybe soon we (not just Yale) can move into the regular scanning of Special Collections items in a mechanized fashion, with robotic machines (that won't harm the materials).

Scholars have increased appetites for digitized material and desire greater ability to search across collections. This impacts libraries' directions. Pay more attention to collection development issues. People will be more interested in unique holdings.

Issues for the future:
  • translating a traditional mission into a digital environment
  • there is no digitization without metadata - (this is part of the "hidden collections" agenda)
  • access begets access (more staff should be devoted to digital work)
  • more collection analysis
  • more sharing among institutions
What is the future for born-digital items and collections?
  • need for digital curation
  • there are new relationships to users - how to connect to them
  • new ways of working with users
  • mirroring traditional fucntions in online(?) models
  • coping with increasing volume
  • identify digitization partners
  • librarians should be prepared to wait for new technologies to help achieve more
Conclusion: Bringing Special Collections to the public will never cease to be a work in progress

That was the end of Alice Prochaska's speech, followed by questions, among them:

Q. Special Collections have been strong advocates for preservation of materials. What about preservation of born-digital items?
A. There is an ACRL working group concerning with this issue. Watch for upcoming report.

Q. What should we do with born-digital materials that are constantly changing (such as wikis or blogs)?
A. The recommendations of the working group (mentioned in the first question above) will be generic. They will point to need of development of expertise. Regarding the constantly changing nature of born-digital materials, yes, this is an area that is hugely challenging.