The new book is now available: A Different Kind of Web

It’s been a long time in the works, but my new book is now available for purchase from the SAA Bookstore (SAA Member price $49.95; everyone else $69.95). I say “my book” because I conceived the idea and lined up many many smart people to contribute. Don’t believe me? Here’s the table of contents:

Continue reading “The new book is now available: A Different Kind of Web”

Ready to give some more for a good cause? Or, Terry puts more on the line than I do when he tries to raise money

Soon to be fellow SAA Council member, Terry “Let’s Hug It Out” Baxter, has upped the ante on crowdsourcing donations for scholarships. To encourage donations to the SAA Mosaic Scholarship Fund Terry is making it personal. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so if aren’t already a follower, go over to his blog, Beaver Archivist and read about the personal sacrifice he’s willing to make if people donate at least $1,000 to the fund before the SAA Annual Meeting. I’m consulting with my financial adviser to see if I can afford to donate at the $500 level, because that would be quite a prize.

Intrigued? Go and see what Terry’s willing to sacrifice for a good cause.


NARA Crowdsourcing Classification Reform

These days our friends at the National Archives don’t need any help from me in promoting their many social media efforts, but I think what’s happening at the new Transforming Classification blog is truly innovative and noteworthy, and I’d like to highlight it here and encourage all of you to participate and spread the word among other archivists and records professionals, as well as among people in the user community who have in classification issues.

Sponsored by the Public Interest Declassification Board, the blog is intended to provide a forum for discussion of key elements of the Board’s proposed “transformation” of the U.S. security classification system. The format? “Every other Wednesday over the next eight weeks, we will post either two or three ‘white paper’ synopses to the blog describing an element of our proposed transformation.” The public is encouraged to comment and participate in discussion on the proposed reforms through comments on the blog post for each topic. The conversation and postings will continue through May 4, and the responses received will be used by the Board as it finalizes its proposals for the President.

The first two “white papers” have been posted, and they truly are synopses, no longer than a typical blog post. The topics are Using Technology to Improve Classification and Declassification and Reconsidering Information Management in the Electronic Environment. So far commenting has been sparse, to say the least, and I know there are many, many people in the archives and records community who could add value to this discussion. This is exactly the kind of openness and participatory activity many have wanted NARA to adopt, so I hope to soon see some intelligent and probing questions and responses appear in the comments.


She did it! A new blog to watch, Maarja’s NixoNARA

Past and present readers of the Archives and Archivists listserv are familiar with Maarja Krusten’s long and thoughtful messages about matters relating to the National Archives and Presidential records, particularly matters relating to former President Nixon. (She has also posted thoughtful, and occasionally long, comments on this blog too.) Well, as many have been urging her for a while now, she has created her own space for considering the issues of interest to her, NixoNARA. Congratulations, Maarja, on taking this big step! I think your blog will be a wonderful addition to the archival and records blogosphere and I hope you are successful in sparking informed dialogue about these important issues. In a message to the listserv, Maarja said she welcomes “comments from everyone at A&A as well as from historians and other members of the public.” I encourage anyone with an interest in Presidential records and how they relate to history to subscribe to this blog and participate in discussions there. Good luck, Maarja!

You can help maintain ArchivesBlogs, define archival values, & transcibe Bentham

Three interesting ways for you to spend your valuable free time:

  • You can volunteer to take over managing ArchivesBlogs. The intrepid Mark Matienzo has been providing this valuable service for a long time now and I think he’s due a break. If you have the right skills, this might be an interesting project.
  • You can help transcribe the papers of Jeremy Bentham from the comfort of your own home, office, Starbuck’s, or wherever–this fabulous crowdsourced transcription project launched about a week ago. Visit the Transcription Desk to learn more or sign up to do some transcription. You can also keep your eye on the Project Progress bar at the bottom of that page (a nice feature), and I note with pride that one of our archivist colleagues is still the top contributor!
  • And last, but not by any means least, you can comment on SAA’s draft “Core Values of Archivists” statement. Comments are due by October 15 and may be made either by logging in and commenting directly on the SAA page or via email to For more information about the purpose this document, see the SAA page. I would think that this is a topic that would arouse some interesting discussion, either online or in the classroom, so feel free to add your thoughts here, but remember that this blog is NOT an official SAA vehicle so if you want your comments to count, send them to SAA. Here, to whet your appetite are the proposed core values: Continue reading “You can help maintain ArchivesBlogs, define archival values, & transcibe Bentham”

Re-use–how much is too much?

Sorry I’m light on posts lately. I’m getting ready for a day-long (!) workshop at the ACA meeting in Halifax. In preparing I was thinking about a question and thought I’d throw it out to all of you.

If your institution is using multiple social media platforms–Facebook, Twitter, blog, Flickr, for example–it’s really easy to use multiple venues to share the same information. Say, when you put up a blog post you then share a link to it on FB and Twitter. On the plus side this means that people who are following you in only one venue will know about it. On the minus side people who are following you on multiple sites will get repetitive information (which can be annoying). What do you think–both as producers and consumers? What do you think about repeating info on different venues?

Brief round up of latest responses to LOC Twitter acquisition

Tracking all the responses to the LOC’s acquisition of everyone’s (public) tweets would take more time than I have, so here are just some of the highlights:

  • First and foremost, the two new blogs at the National Archives have enabled them to respond quickly and effectively to several aspects of the Twitter story. On his AOTUS blog, David Ferreiro addresses the confusion many have about the difference between the Library of Congress and the National Archives and defends the potential research value of the Twitter collection. On the Records Express blog, Paul Wester explains why this kind of acquisition is not appropriate for the National Archives (reviewing again how they are different from the LOC) as well as stating clearly what kinds of tweets may end up in the National Archives–those that are considered Federal records. These posts are an excellent example of the kind of agility an institutional blog can give archives in getting out responses to issues that attract public attention and educating the public about the purpose of the archives.
  • Robert X. Cringely argues “Twitter Archiving Is for the Birds” in PCWorld.
  • Fred Stutzman, doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill SLIS has had several interesting posts, including “Twitter and the Library of Congress” and “Is it time to cancel your Twitter account?” That second post includes a good round-up of the latest responses, so I won’t repeat his list here.
  • Except to note, as he does, that Michael Zimmer has raised on number of posts on his blog–too many to list individually.
  • And here’s an interview with Martha Anderson from LOC in The American Prospect, which answers some questions (but by no means all).
  • OVERSIGHT: Missed a good one–Resource Shelf’s “The Twitter Archives from the Library of Congress & Google: The Facts as We Know Them.” Sorry about that.

    If you come across anything else that might be of interest, please share a link in the comments.

    Why we need to find a term to replace “citizen archivist”

    In a comment on his first blog post, Archivist of the United States (AOTUS), David Ferriero asked:

    As I read your comments, I’m reminded that we’ve just taken the first step. I’m glad to see enthusiasm for the kinds of institutional changes that will harness the power of the internet. In order to become an agency fit for the 21st century, we need to think how we can leverage the power, enthusiasm, and dedication of ‘citizen archivists.’ What does that term mean to you?

    I’m not sure if there is a specific inspiration for Ferriero’s choice of the term “citizen archivist,” but I suspect it has been applied to Carl Malamud (also sometimes referred to as a “rogue archivist”), and if you’re a regular reader of this blog you can see why this may have leapt to Ferrriero’s mind. I’ve written before about how great I think Malamud’s volunteer scanning project is, but I don’t think “citizen archivist” is the right term to use to describe people who carry out such efforts.

    First, let me point out what I think Ferriero is getting at. He says he wants to harness the public participation, support, and knowledge of what in the pre-digital days we probably would have called volunteers (or advocates, depending on the role). And, if I imagine myself in Ferriero’s place, I can see why he wants to find a term to use other than volunteer. First, the level of expertise and creativity that he wants to harness (such as that shown by Malamud and others) goes far beyond what we normally think of when we hear “volunteer.” He is looking for a more attractive term, one that implies more initiative and responsibility. In some ways, he’s really probably talking about a marketing term. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way–what’s needed is a catchy phrase that will apply to a new kind of . . . volunteer, and can be used to describe people with a wide range of skill sets and levels of participation.

    That said, I strongly object to using “citizen archivist” to describe these new kinds of volunteers. While meant as a term of respect for the volunteers, I think the term is actually disrespectful to archivists. Would you call someone who volunteers in a hospital a “citizen doctor” or a “citizen nurse”? An archivist is a trained professional, with education, expertise, and responsibility. I think the world of Carl Malamud, but he is not an archivist–rogue, citizen, or otherwise. What he does is great, but it is not the work of an archivist. The kinds of public participation that I think Ferriero is looking for will produce wonderful results and I applaud it, but I doubt much of it will be a substitute for the work for NARA’s professional archivists.*

    My creativity is failing me, and I cannot think of a term to suggest as a substitute. I’m sure if I go back and look through the literature there are terms used to describe people who are engaging with an online archives community, but I don’t recall any of them having much panache. If the point is to make the people involved feel empowered (sorry for the cliche), then an academic term may not do. So, like any good citizen of the 2.0 world, I’m appealing to the crowd–can you suggest a better term?

    * Note: That said, there does seem to be a place for using “citizen archivist” to refer to someone who takes responsibility for carrying out archival functions for records or papers that are either their own personal property or which are currently not under the custodianship of an archives or archivist. See for example Richard J. Cox (2009) “Digital Curation and the Citizen Archivist.” Digital Curation: Practice, Promises & Prospects . pp. 102-109. See also the Citizen Archivist Project (a new one for me).

    David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, has a blog

    Yup-here it is:

    AOTUS: Collector in Chief

    That stands for Archivist of the United States, by the way. I’m not crazy about the name, but with a subtitle like: “The Archivist’s Take on Transparency, Collaboration, and Participation at the National Archives,” I can hardly complain.

    Congratulations to NARA and Mr. Ferriero on this important step!

    Three things to do, and then a break

    Over the weekend, this blog celebrated its third birthday, or blogiversary, I suppose. So thank you all for your continued interest and support, and to really celebrate I’m taking a short break from all social media. Yes, people can’t believe it, but it’s true. Twitter, Facebook, the whole thing. When I announced this on Twitter someone pointed out that this Saturday is “No Tech Day,” so I’m just doing it a little bit early. I’ll be back soon but I think it’s very healthy to step away for a while. In the meantime . . .

    • The New York Public Library has launched a new blog series, “My Library,” featuring interviews with library patrons about why they value their local library. It’s a good model to consider for archives I think, don’t you?
    • Don’t forget to decide who you want to nominate for this year’s Movers and Shakers in Archives awards. The deadline is Monday April 12, but there is no penalty for early nominations, so get yours in before you start panicking about your taxes.
    • And speaking of procrastination, have you voted in the SAA elections yet? You don’t get a little sticker when you’re done, but if you help get me elected to Council, I’ll give everyone a little sticker at the annual meeting. Oh, wait, I’m probably not allowed to say that. I bet I can’t attempt to sway the SAA electorate with the offer of little stickers. Oh well, here’s a virtual little sticker for you that you can print out and wear proudly after you’ve voted for whoever you chose to vote for.
    • i_voted_sticker

      Now, I’m off to go smell some flowers and enjoy my spring break!