Documents gone wild!

A very clever blog reader, while sending in his nominations for the Best Archives on the Web awards (deadline Friday) suggested that next year we add a category for web sites that feature innovative uses of documents in non-archival settings. His examples:

I won’t attempt to describe them–go find out for yourself, if you haven’t already experienced these sites.

I think he’s got a point. Amidst all the serious work we need to do promoting the archival profession, we need to remember that some documents–inside and outside of our collections–have lives that are more wild, or maybe just plain odd, than the majority of the stuff we spend our days processing.

Or maybe it’s just in the way you look at them, as these two sites sponsored by archives and special collections suggest:

Any more sites to share that allow people to connect to documents in unusual ways?

News from other blogs

I’m a fan of the Free Government Information blog, and here are two examples of why:

  • 50-State Agency Database Registry Launches Historical Materials, including a page for official records databases.
      “These pages just launched, so they are a little light on content. The Registry volunteers will be adding to these pages in the next few weeks.If you are registered with the ALA GODORT wiki and would like to help the effort along, please browse the state pages or search for words from the historical categories and copy and paste databases from the state pages to the appropriate subject page.”
  • Fed shredding on the increase since 2000, “Radar Magazine has analyzed federal spending on paper shredding contracts since 2000 (see chart at left) and shown that there has been a 600% increase on these contracts since George W. Bush took office.”

Courtesy of a post on Director’s Corner (written by the director of the Smith College libraries), here’s a link to a potentially interesting podcast:

A Discussion on Disconnects Between Library Culture and Millennial Generation User Values.”

A 50-minute podcast recorded during the EDUCAUSE 2007 Annual Conference . . . The panel continues the discussion addressed in a 2006 EDUCAUSE Quarterly article by McDonald and Thomas on the disconnects between library culture and millennial generation values. Panelists will cover three broad areas of demographics, design, and social outreach as related to the needs of the millennial library researcher.”

Although there appears to have been no discussion of it in the world of archives (except for two comments on my post), the library community has had quite a bit to say about the LOC’s Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control report. If you have some time (maybe even you, David at The DIGITAL ARCHIVE), I’d suggest you take a look at some of their comments to get an idea what’s being proposed. They’ve even saved you time by tagging their posts with a groovy tag, “WoGroFuBiCo” – take a look here.

Also of possible interest to archivists is an announcement of an alliance between the Zotero project at the Center for History and New Media and the Internet Archive. Of the five “key elements of the project” is:

1. Exposing and Sharing the “Hidden Archive”

The Zotero-IA alliance will create a “Zotero Commons” into which scholarly materials can be added simply via the Zotero client. Almost every scholar and researcher has documents that they have scanned (some of which are in the public domain), finding aids they have created, or bibliographies on topics of interest. Currently there is no easy way to share these; giving them a central home at the Internet Archive will archive them permanently (before they are lost on personal hard drives) and make them broadly available to others.

We understand that not everyone will be willing to share everything (some may not be willing to share anything, even though almost every university commencement reminds graduates that they are joining a “community of scholars”), but we believe that the Commons will provide a good place for shareable materials to reside. The architectural historian with hundreds of photographs of buildings, the researcher who has scanned in old newspapers, and scholars who wish to publish materials in an open access environment will find this a helpful addition to Zotero and the Internet Archive. Some researchers may of course deposit materials only after finishing, say, a book project; what I have called “secondary scholarly materials” (e.g., bibliographies) will perhaps be more readily shared.

But we hope the second part of the project will further entice scholars to contribute important research materials to the Commons.

And references to this site are making the rounds, but I’m stealing this from The Shifted Librarian:

Play a Game to Feed Some People

Please go play FreeRice right now. It’s a great example of using gaming for some serious good.

  • Click on the answer that best defines the word.
  • If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word.
  • For each word you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

FreeRice has a custom database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are thousands of words for students, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people–everyone!

FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level of vocabulary. It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.

I’ve tried this site–be careful–it’s addictive! But all for a good cause.

Archivists and Facebook

I joined Facebook about a month ago specifically to gather information about its potential value for archives. I’m ready to report. I don’t think it has much value for archives. I think it has a lot of potential value for archivists. Let me explain.

I agree with what I think is the common opinion: that Facebook will not prove to be a useful tool for spreading information about individual archival collections or for reaching out to potential users about what we do and what we have. Or as Joy Palmer wrote on the Archives Hub Blog:

I am not convinced, however, that librarians or archivists should be “going where their market is” into facebook and other social networking applications. For one thing, I don’t think we’re wanted there–not as service providers, at least. Similarly, students are voicing distinct disgruntlement over well intentioned lecturers invading their online networking spaces in the interest of “collaborative e-pedagogy.” I am doubtful that Facebook is a space where learning and knowledge communities will meaningfully come together.

I’m not saying that an archives can’t have a successful Facebook page (although I only found two pages for archives) or that we can’t find a way to build a Facebook application that wouldn’t be really cool. That’s possible, but I think there are probably better investments of your institutional time.

For you as an individual archivist, on the other hand, I think it might be worth it for social networking. When I joined, I knew for sure that one of my archivist friends was on it. I now have 17 “friends” who are archivists. Based on the membership of the various groups and looking around at other archivists’ friends, I know of at least fifty or so more archivists who are there, but I’ve tried not to be too pushy about sending friend requests to people I don’t really know. I should add that I really don’t know most of my 17 archivist “friends” very well, but I know most of them a lot better now than I used to. Sure, some of this knowledge is trivial stuff about music and movies, but you do kind of get a sense of what people are like. This is the social aspect–being on Facebook is a bit like hanging out together chatting about what’s new. If you’re an archivist working by yourself and you don’t have many opportunities for networking, you might like this aspect.

If being social with other archivists doesn’t interest you, there are the actual “groups” formed around archives. I’m a member of six of these–they range in size from 338 to 28. The three larger ones have a large percentage of members from outside the US; the smaller three are mostly, but not exclusively, Americans. A search this morning turned up seven other groups:

  • MAC (the Midwest Archives Conference) (25 members),
  • Canadian Archivists (96 members),
  • Aberystwyth-Bred Archivists (33 members),
  • Moving Image Archivists (209 members),
  • College and University Archivists (4 members),

the last two, I’m happy to say, none of my friends are in:

  • Archivists Past Caring (25 members, open by invitation only), and
  • Self-Loathing Librarians and Archivists (65 members).

The six archives groups that I joined are not terribly active. Most have a couple of topics posted for discussion and a couple of wall posts, but not what I’d call active conversations. There has been some discussion about archives and 2.0 topics in the “Archivists on Facebook” group–in fact I’ve added some new sites to the “Archives & New Technology” page here based on suggestions from an archivist in Denmark. (See new section “Cool things that are not in English!” at the end.)

A friend asked me which of the archives groups she should join. I’m not sure. I’d like to focus in on one and try to make it grow and be more active. I see potential in the concept of the groups for communication with our international colleagues and with archivists who are just entering the profession (since more of them are likely to be on Facebook). There’s a knowledge-sharing or informal mentoring opportunity there. I can see the possibility for having exchanges on current books or articles (maybe an Archives Book Club?) I think MAC is smart to have a group, and I think MARAC should have one too. It’s an easy way to have ongoing discussions around multiple topics.

Well, those are my initial impressions–what experiences have you had? Any fans of other social networking sites out there? Any groups that I missed? Do you see more potential for archival institutions than I do? Is Facebook just one more thing on the web for you to check everyday (like the blogs), but not one that you see as having value?

Why Mid-Atlantic archivists should go to ALA in June

The ALA Annual Conference is in DC this year–Saturday June 23- Monday June 25–downtown at the Convention Center. Today is the last day to pre-register; after that it’s on-site registration only. As you know from reading this blog, I’m very interested in seeing what we can learn from the librarians. In this post I will list some of the sessions that I think make this meeting worth going to if you have a place to stay in the DC area (don’t even think about trying to get a hotel room downtown for that weekend. I’ve been looking and it’s a nightmare.) You can see the full program here.

I’ve got programs listed after the jump in the areas of

  • technology,
  • organizational and managerial issues (including organizational change, recruiting, disaster-planning, salary and benefits issues, communication, leadership, mentorship, etc.),
  • more traditional archival topics,
  • political and legal issues,
  • and some miscellaneous sessions to give you idea what other kinds of possibilities are available.

I think there are some great ideas here for future SAA sessions, and I’ll be interested to see how a massive conference like this works, to compare it to SAA and even our (by comparison) tiny little MARAC meetings.

And, just for fun, this is a very funny video about ALA called “March of Librarians”–a spoof of “March of the Penguins.”

Hope to see you there–somewhere in the crowd!

Continue reading “Why Mid-Atlantic archivists should go to ALA in June”

Short follow-up and another fun online tool

On the EPA libraries issue, yesterday ALA gave this update:

On Friday, May 4, at the request of Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided a briefing to members of several House Committees, as well as representatives from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The purpose of the meeting was to get information on what the EPA was doing in regard to its library system, especially in light of recently released internal procedure documents that seem to indicate the renewed dispersal of materials.

ALA is planning to call on EPA to meet with stakeholders, to get assurances that the EPA has not re-engaged the dismantling of its libraries and dispersing of materials prior to developing a plan that includes input from the stakeholders, as well as where they are with the digitization plan and how they are meeting users needs in this interim period.

Fellow fans of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central will be familiar with Stephen’s “On Notice” board. Using this cool online tool, you can have Stephen put anyone or anything you want on notice! See this example, created by a waggish archivist and posted by Anarchivst (not Geof) on his Flickr account.

Poor Allen Weinstein! It’s the price of fame, I think. Back to serious subjects tomorrow. Or if you want to get serious today, please look at the new comment by Thomas on the “The Discussion Continues” post and add your opinion.

On a lighter note: Archivist trading cards–collect them all!

Well, apparently people aren’t up for gloomy introspection and self-analysis–or perhaps everyone was busying watching baseball, or soccer, or hockey, or tending their gardens now that the weather has turned pleasant (in the Eastern United States).

So, to pander to our sports-loving archivist readers (while getting in a plug for a 2.0 site), take a look at the archivist trading cards on Flickr. You can make your own here – here’s a sample to get you started:


(p.s. No, as far as I know, his nickname isn’t “Skipper.” It just seemed to kind of work for him.)