Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sustainability Planning for a Better Tomorrow

In March of last year I wrote about efforts of the Resource Discovery Systems and Strategies team (RDSS, previously called the Discovery Strategy Team) to map Duke University Libraries’ discovery system environment in a visual way. As part of this project we created supporting documentation for each system that appeared in a visualization, including identifying functional and technical owners as well as links to supporting documentation. Gathering this information wasn’t as straightforward as it ideally should have been, however. When attempting to identify ownership, for example, we were often asked questions like, “what IS a functional owner, anyway?”, or told “I guess I’m the owner… I don’t know who else it would be”. And for many systems, local documentation was outdated, distributed across platforms, or simply nonexistent.

As a quick glance through the Networked Discovery Systems document will evince, we work with a LOT of different systems here at DUL, supporting a great breadth of processes and workflows. And we’ve been steadily adding to the list of systems we support every year, without necessarily articulating how we will manage the ever-growing list. This has led to situations of benign neglect, confusion as to roles and responsibilities and, in a few cases, we’ve hung onto systems for too long because we hadn’t defined a plan for responsible decommission.

So, to promote the healthier management of our Networked Discovery Systems, the RDSS team developed a set of best practices for sustainability planning. Originally we framed this document as best practices for maintenance planning, but in conversations with other groups in the Libraries, we realized that this didn’t quite capture our intention. While maintenance planning is often considered from a technical standpoint, we wanted to convey that the responsible management of our systems involves stakeholders beyond just those in ITS, to include the perspective and engagement of non-technical staff. So, we landed on the term sustainability, which we hope captures the full lifecycle of a system in our suite of tools, from implementation, through maintenance, to sunsetting, when necessary.

The best practices are fairly short, intended to be a high-level guide rather than overly prescriptive, recognizing that every system has unique needs. Each section of the framework is described, and key terms are defined. Functional and technical ownership are described, including the types of activities that may attend each role, and we acknowledge that ownership responsibilities may be jointly accomplished by groups or teams of stakeholders. We lay out the following suggested framework for developing a sustainability plan, which we define as “a living document that addresses the major components of a system’s life cycle”:

  • Governance:
    • Ownership
    • Stakeholders
    • Users
  • Maintenance:
    • System Updates
    • Training
    • Documentation
  • Review:
    • Assessments
    • Enhancements
    • Sunsetting

Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, many of the conversations we had about the framework ended up focusing on the last part – sunsetting. How to responsibly decommission or sunset a system in a methodical, process-oriented way is something we haven’t really tackled yet, but we’re not alone in this, and the topic is one that is garnering some attention in project management circles.

So far, the best practices have been used to create a sustainability plan for one of our systems, Dukespace, and the feedback was positive. We hope that these guidelines will facilitate the work we do to sustain our system, and in so doing lead to better communication and understanding throughout the organization. And we didn’t forget to create a sustainability plan for the best practices themselves – the RDSS team has committed to reviewing and updating it at least annually!

Change and the Bridges’ Transition Model

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Seneca The Younger

We’ve all dealt with new beginnings. Take moving to a new city, for example. You’re excited about exploring the new city; getting to know it better, but you’re afraid at the same time. You miss your seeing your old friends. You were an expert of your old home town; you knew the quickest routes to work or the best hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It’s going to take time to be comfortable in your new city. You’ll have to rely on your navigation system to get you from place to place without getting lost. You’ll need to try a whole bunch of new restaurants before you find your new favorite. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable in your new place.

Perhaps your new beginning is a new child being added to your family. You’re overjoyed with the new addition, full of anticipation at what the future will bring, but perhaps you’re morning the loss of one-on-one date nights with your significant other or feel clueless on how to best care for your child. It will take you time to learn how to meet the needs of your new child and balance that with the needs of your significant other. Eventually, parenting will be come old-hat to you and you’ll be comfortable as a parent (as much as one can…).

The Bridges’ Transition Model is a diagram that shows how we move through the transition from old to new. It shows three stages of a transition; the endings, the neutral zone and the new beginnings. Let’s take a look at the above two examples in relation to the three stages

Stage 1 – Ending, Losing and Letting Go

The Endings in the examples above are leaving your friends, losing expertise in knowing how to get around your old city, feeling afraid that you won’t be successful in your new home, morning the loss of your one-on-one time with your significant other, and feeling afraid that you might do something wrong when caring for a new child. It’s important to recognize the feelings of ending, losing and letting go so that you can proceed to the Neutral Zone.

Stage 2 – The Neutral Zone

The Neutral Zone in the examples is the time where you rely on the GPS or Waze to help you get around. You may find yourself frustrated at having to try so many restaurants to find the perfect taco and margarita. You’ll try every trick in the book to find the one that works to put your child to sleep, and that may make you angry.

Stage 3 – The New Beginning

The New Beginnings are exciting. Imagine your happiness at finally finding the perfect taco. You get a diaper on the right way the first time. You get your child to use the toilet for the first time. You know “I’ve got this”, and are more than happy to celebrate.

Let’s take a look at another change and the transitions that go along with that – the new library services platform implementation – FOLIO (you knew I was going to say that, right?).

Stage 1 – Ending, Losing and Letting Go

The end is coming for all those years and work we’ve put into our current system. I don’t expect many of us will be sad, but we’ll all feel disoriented as we try to learn our new workflows.

Stage 2 – The Neutral Zone

As we become more familiar with FOLIO, we may be frustrated that a process takes longer than it used to, because we haven’t mastered the new workflow. Some of us may feel resentful as we were experts and now we’re beginners again. Morale may go down. We need to recognize that we’re all going through this transition together and respect how others are feeling. We need to give encouragement and celebrate progress.

Stage 3 – The New Beginning

In this stage, we see the end of the frustration as we become experts again. Morale goes up. We’re excited because we understand our new workflows and they’re making sense to us.

As we move through the transition to FOLIO or any other new system, we need to take time to recognize how a big change affects us. The change may affect us differently, and it’s important to honor the feelings and trust each other that we’ll work through this transition together and come out stronger by the end.

Vote!

In anticipation of next Tuesday’s midterm elections, here is a photo gallery of voting-related images from Duke Digital Collections. Click on a photo to view more images from our collections dealing with political movements, voting rights, propaganda, activism, and more!

This image is part of a series of photographs taken by James Karales on assignment for Look Magazine during the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in March 1965.
Propaganda poster of the Italian Socialist Party. It reads: “Workers, vote for socialism means voting for women’s rights and labor.”
Image is part of “Thirteen-Month Crop: One Year in the Life of a Piedmont Virginia Tobacco Farm,” which documents the Moore family farm in Pittsylvania County, Virginia.
Poster with depiction of large PCI flag with the Italian flag behind it.
Leaflet created by the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.
Socialist Party literature, explaining their views.

If you haven’t already taken advantage of early voting, we at Bitstreams encourage you to exercise your right on November 6!

Community and Collaboration at Samvera Connect 2018

One of the pleasures of working in an academic library is the opportunity it presents for engagement with communities in our field of work. One such community that Duke University Libraries has been a member for some time now is Samvera, which is an open-source community for software development that supports digital repositories. I, along with my colleagues Jim Coble, Moira Downey, and Ayse Durmaz, recently attended the Samvera Connect conference in Salt Lake City, and this post is a report on our experience there.

It was my first time attending Samvera Connect, and so it was a chance for me to put faces with names that I had come to know from discussions on Slack and elsewhere. Moira and I participated in a panel with some of our colleagues from the University of Michigan and Indiana University, and it was great to have the opportunity to meet them in person and talk about our work on digital repositories. We spoke on the theme of using the Hyrax platform for research data; you can see our slides here. Moira and I also had a poster on the same theme.

I attended the meetup of the Samvera Interest Group for Advising the Hyrax Roadmap, or SIGAHR, as it is known. There was some introspection in the group about the suitability of the acronym, though it produced no resolution one way or another. Much of the conversation in that meeting focused on support and developer resources for the Hyrax platform. It’s one of the central questions for an open source community like Samvera, and one we’re giving some consideration at Duke after returning from the meeting.

Otherwise, there were several interesting presentations that I attended and would highlight. First, the team from the WGBH Media Library did a presentation titled “Building on Hyrax and Avalon for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting” that I enjoyed a lot. That team has great energy and has developed some interesting solutions for a complex and compelling project.

I also learned much at the workshop titled “Managing Samvera-based Projects & Services,” which was conducted by Hannah Frost, Nabeela Jaffer, and Steve Van Tuyl. Thinking in terms of an extended community requires a different mindset from they way we work locally and on our campuses.

Finally, one of the most interesting presentations came from Hannah Frost and Christina Harlow from Stanford Libraries, outlining the new architecture they have developed for the next iteration of the Stanford Digital Library. It was titled “Making TACOs for Hydras,” and the slides are not available, but much of what they covered is included in the github documentation here.

I’ll conclude there, and share the following sections were authored by two of my colleagues at Duke.

Valkyrie and Hyrax (contributed by Jim Coble)

A focus of attention at this year’s Samvera Connect was Valkyrie, a project which enables the use of multiple backends for storing files and metadata in Samvera applications.  Historically, Hydra/Samvera applications have had only one option for file and metadata storage; namely, a Fedora repository. Recent versions of Fedora have experienced performance problems in certain circumstances, leading the community to look for different options for storing files and metadata where performance is a key requirement.  Valkyrie allows a project to pick and choose among multiple backends depending on the needs of the project. Projects can still use a Fedora repository for storage if that is desired but also have the option of using a Postgres database or Solr for metadata storage and/or a disk filesystem for file storage. Other metadata and file storage adapters are under development to provide Valkyrie with even more options.

Discussions at the conference favored moving forward to convert Hyrax (a key Samvera project) to use Valkyrie and we’ll likely see work happening on that soon.  Our Research Data Repository is based on Hyrax, so the eventual Valkyrization of Hyrax would provide us with additional storage options for the files and metadata in that repository (which currently uses Fedora 4).  Valkyrie may also be a component in a future migration of the legacy Duke Digital Repository, enabling us to move it off the no-longer-supported Fedora 3 version.

Discoverability of Research Data (contributed by Moira Downey)

In addition to the back-end infrastructure, another growing area of interest around our Hyrax-based Research Data Repository has been increased visibility and discoverability of the content that we publish and preserve through our software applications. New services like Google’s Dataset Search are making it easier for scholars and researchers to find the data they need to support their scholarly endeavors. As institutions responsible for the publication of these data, we want to ensure that the scholarship our repositories are hosting is indexed by these services, heightening its visibility, and hopefully, its usability. Over a lunchtime breakout session, the Repository Management Interest Group compiled a list of services similar to Google Dataset Search in nature (Google Scholar, Unpaywall.org, Crossref, Datacite, and SHARE, among others) that we intend to investigate further, with a particular eye toward how our existing repositories are integrated with these services and where we might improve. The group also intends to consider what local practices we might implement to optimize the discoverability of our content, and what changes to the code base should be advocate for in order to connect our content to the web at large.

 

SMTL @ DUL

In my first six weeks at DUL (Duke University Libraries), I’m deciphering acronyms, even beyond those I absorbed at IBM, Toshiba, and LexisNexis, which is to say, a whole new lexicon.

Within the DST (Digital Strategies and Technology) organization, my ITS (Information Technology Services) team consists of three departments, located in the PBR complex (Perkins Bostock Rubenstein, not Pabst Blue Ribbon).

  • Core Services supports > 100 tools and platforms, deploys and maintains > 600 systems and workstations, and sets up all the specialized equipment you see throughout the libraries
  • Software Services develops state of the art applications such as the RDR (Research Data Repository)
  • LSIS (Library Systems & Integration Support) is preparing for the evolution to a new LSP (Library Services Platform) called FOLIO in collaboration with OLF (Open Library Foundation), Index Data, and EBSCO (Elton B. Stephens Co.)

We work in conjunction with Duke’s OIT (Office of Information Technology), and with many external organizations, such as SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), OLE (Open Library Environment), OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), ABCDEFG (no, I’m getting carried away…).

Unlike the commercial sector, we’re intent on collaboration rather than competition. I’m excited to be a part of TRLN (Triangle Research Library Network), and the Ivy Plus Libraries partnership of 13 leading academic libraries who sponsor the BorrowDirect initiative.

This is such a fun place to work! We have a staff yoga class given by Lindsey Crawford of Global Breath Studio, and I figured out how to use the meescan app , to check out an actual book, from which I learned from Smitten Kitchen that chaat masala is great on popcorn. Last night I was thrilled to attend the Durham Literacy Center’s event sponsored by DUL, with author Therese Anne Fowler.

Now if I could catch the PR1; bus which traverses the full mile between my office and parking….

SMTL (So Much To Learn)!

Laura Cappelletti
New Director – ITS @ DUL

Shiny New Chrome!

Chrome bumper and grill

In 2008, Google released their free web browser, Chrome.  It’s improved speed and features led to quick adoption by users, and by the middle of 2012, Chrome had become the world’s most popular browser. Recent data puts it at over 55% market share [StatCounter].

As smartphones and tablets took off, Google decided to build an “operating system free” computer based around the Chrome browser – the first official Chromebook launched in mid-2011.  The idea was that since everyone is doing their work on the web anyway (assuming your work==Google Docs), then there wasn’t a need for most users to have a “full” operating system – especially since full operating systems require maintenance patches and security updates.  Their price-point didn’t hurt either – while some models now top-out over $1000, many Chromebooks come in under $300.Acer Chromebook

We purchased one of the cheaper models recently to do some testing and see if it might work for any DUL use-cases.  The specific model was an Acer Chromebook 14, priced at $250.  It has a 14” screen at full HD resolution, a metal body to protect against bumps and bruises, and it promises up to 12 hours of battery life.  Where we’d usually look at CPU and memory specs, these tend to be less important on a Chromebook — you’re basically just surfing the web, so you shouldn’t need a high-end (pricey) CPU nor a lot of memory.  At least that’s the theory.

But what can it do?

Basic websurfing, check!  Google Docs, check!  Mail.duke.edu for work-email, check!  Duke.box.com, check!  LibGuides, LibCal, Basecamp, Jira, Slack, Evernote … check!

LastPass even works to hold all the highly-complex, fully secure passwords that you use on all those sites (you do you complex passwords, don’t you?).

Not surprisingly, if you do a lot of your day-to-day work inside a browser, then a Chromebook can easily handle that.  For a lot of office workers, a Chromebook may very well get the job done – sitting in a meeting, typing notes into Evernote; checking email while you’re waiting for a meeting; popping into Slack to send someone a quick note.  All those work perfectly fine.

What about the non-web stuff I do?

Microsoft Word and Excel, well, kinda sorta.  You can upload them to Google Docs and then access them through the usual Google Docs web interface.  Of course, you can then share them as Google Docs with other people, but to get them back into “real” Microsoft Word requires an extra step.

Aleph, umm, no.  SAP for your budgets, umm, no. Those apps simply won’t run on the ChromeOS.  At least not directly.

Acer ChromebookBut just as many of you currently “remote” into your work computer from home, e.g., you _can_ use a Chromebook to “remote” into other machines, including “virtual” machines that we can set up to run standard Windows applications.  There’s an extra step or two in the process to reserve a remote system and connect to it.  But if you’re in a job where just a small amount of your work needs “real” Windows applications, there still might be some opportunity to leverage Chromebooks as a cheaper alternative to a laptop.

Final Thoughts:

I’m curious to see where (or not) Chromebooks might fit into the DUL technology landscape.  Their price is certainly budget-friendly, and since Google automatically updates and patches them, they could reduce IT staff effort.  But there are clearly issues we need to investigate.  Some of them seem solvable, at least technically.  But it’s not clear that the solution will be usable in day-to-day work.Google Chrome logo

If you’re interested in trying one out, please contact me!

 

“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that; reverse it.”

We are an ambitious organization, and that is a wonderful trait which directs our motivations and intentions towards good service to our users and community.  But what happens when we realize that we have so much to accomplish in a short period of time?  It can either cripple us or make us excited and frantic, like Willa Wonka’s reaction when he reveals to Charlie that he has won the contest.   Within the Libraries, there are so many great ideas and valuable projects worth doing that it creates competition for the time and people available.

Image for multitasking

In the summer and early fall of 2017, the ITS leadership team developed a roadmap document for valuable projects we believed were established priorities for the Libraries requiring ITS resources.  The visualization was intended to be an indication of just how much was in the queue rather than a timeline of scheduling and completing projects.  Moreover, the visualization indicates how much operations and maintenance consume the capacity to do new projects, eventually and completely overwhelming opportunity for new projects.  It served its purpose of showing how even a subset of projects can look daunting, but it also only reveals a glimpse of the preparation, effort, and actual work it takes to manage multiple projects in a portfolio.  It also lacks information about the projects that are not in the roadmap or what the process should be to shift priorities when a new initiative is created, how to react to unexpected opportunities for funding, or a when a grant proposal is awarded.  Most importantly, it lacks the detail about the people involved in the projects, the most important part of project management.

ITS major projects 3+ year roadmap
ITS major projects 3+ year roadmap

The realignment of the Libraries announced this spring gave me the opportunity to reconsider staff strengths and roles in the face of the priorities already documented, and specifically I wanted to consider a new way of managing the streams of projects within the portfolio being created.  Project management, regardless of the methodology, creates a culture, and, at its best, creates an inclusive, open, collaborative, and cooperative culture.  My ultimate goal for the new Digital Strategies and Technology division is to create opportunity for that culture to develop throughout the Libraries, led by the example of DST.

Digital Strategies and Technology organizational chart
Digital Strategies and Technology organizational chart

At its foundation, it is important to establish that no one department owns any project completely.  Leadership may come from one department, while project staff will come from another, and stakeholders may come from one or more other departments throughout the Libraries.  Starting off with three streams of project leadership, Library Systems (Karen Newbery), Web Experience (Tom Crichlow), and Application Development (Cory Lown), provides the Libraries new pathways to envisage how ideas can become successful and completed projects.  We hope creating these three streams will ease the engagement for stakeholders with project leaders, as well as create a reasonable pipeline and queue for evaluating and prioritizing prospective projects and ideas.

image for team work

Project leadership requires executive support and broad awareness of the strategic priorities across the Libraries.  The new position of Director of ITS will oversee the portfolio of projects from ensuring that project timelines are properly defined, ITS staff are assigned to the right projects based on their strengths and capacity, expectation management with project stakeholders, as well as advocating for resources, changes to priority, and on going and consistent communication.  Because the project leaders do not have their own teams, ITS and DUL staff will have the opportunity to work with different leaders for various projects.  Balancing a limited number of project team staff across three (or more) parallel projects will require detailed planning, agility, and effective communication that we are searching for in the new Director of ITS.

Beyond the organizational changes, the Digital Strategies and Technology Leadership Team has begun to develop definitions and guidelines to help new projects start off strong.  Over the next couple of months, we will publish a wiki that documents what we believe are critical elements for the strong foundation of projects.  There will be definitions of projects roles, setting expectations from the start of roles and responsibilities, a template for a project charter that the project sponsor, project leader, stakeholders, and team can use to set the initial agreement for the project, and a guide for setting timelines and sprint planning so that project team members can manage their time within the project and with respect to other projects or priorities.

We look forward to sharing these ideas soon and continuing the conversations about the best ways to fulfill our ambitions and strategic directions together.

The Art of Revolution

 

Model for Monument to the Third International, Vladimir Tatlin

Russia has been back in the news of late for a variety of reasons, some, perhaps, more interesting than others. Last year marked the centennial of the 1917 Russian Revolution, arguably one of the foundational events of the 20th century. The 1917 Revolution was the beginning of enormous upheaval that touched all parts of Russian life. While much of this tumult was undeniably and grotesquely violent, some real beauty and lasting works of art emerged from the maelstrom. New forms of visual art and architecture, rooted in a utopian vision for the new, modern society, briefly flourished. One of the most visible of these movements, begun in the years immediately preceding the onset of revolution, was Constructivism.

 

As first articulated by Vladimir Tatlin, Constructivism as a philosophy held that art should be ‘constructed’; that is to say, art shouldn’t be created as an expression of beauty, but rather to represent the world and should be used for a social purpose. Artists like Tatlin, El Lissitzky, Naum Gabo, and Alexander Rodchenko worked in conversation with the output of the Cubists and Futurists (along with their Russian Suprematist compatriots, like Kazimir Malevich), distilling everyday objects to their most basic forms and materials.

Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge, El Lissitzky, 1919

As the Revolution proceeded, artists of all kinds were rapidly brought on board to help create art that would propagate the Bolshevik cause. Perhaps one of El Lissitzky’s most well-known works, “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge”, is illustrative of this phenomenon. It uses the new, abstract, constructed forms to convey the image of the Red Army (the Bolsheviks) penetrating and defeating the White Army (the anti-Bolsheviks). Alexander Rodchenko’s similarly well-known “Books” poster, an advertisement for the Lengiz Publishing House, is another informative example, blending the use of geometric forms and bright colors with advertising for a  publishing house that produced materials important to the Soviet cause.

 

Lengiz, Alexander Rodchenko, 1924

Constructivism (and its close kin, Suprematism) would go on to have an enormous impact on Russian and Soviet propaganda and other political materials throughout the existence of the Soviet Union. The Duke Digital Repository has an impressive collection of Russian political posters, spanning almost the entire history of the Soviet Union, from the 1917 Revolution on through to the Perestroika of the 1980s. The collection contains posters and placards emphasizing the benefits of Communism, the achievements of the Soviet Union under Communism, and finally the potential dangers inherent in the reconstruction and openness that characterized the period under Mikhail Gorbachev.  I wanted to use this blog post to highlight a few of my favorites below, some of which bear evidence of this broader art historical legacy.

 

Literacy, the road to Communism, 1920
Easter. Contrast of joyous Easter of Long Ago with Serious Workers of Com.[mmunist] Russia, 1930
Member of a Religious Sect Is Fooling the People, 1925
Young Leninists are the children of Il’ich, 1924
Female workers and peasants, make your way to the voting booth! Under the red banner, in the same ranks as the men, we inspire fear in the bourgeoisie!, 1925

 

Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future

This Friday and Saturday, March 23 – 24, veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, contemporary activists from the Movement for Black Lives, scholars, librarians, educators, and students are gathering in Durham for the culminating events of the SNCC Digital Gateway Project. We hope you can be there too.

The SNCC Legacy Project, the Center for Documentary Studies, and Duke University Libraries joined forces over four years ago to create the SNCC Digital Gateway, where those who made the history are central to telling the story. Now as the project nears completion, we’re reflecting on the collaboration and celebrating the good work.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)—the only youth-led national civil rights group—organized a grassroots movement in the 1960s that empowered Black communities and transformed the nation. Veteran SNCC activists have been collaborating with Duke University to build the SNCC Digital Gateway, a website told from the perspective of the activists themselves that documents SNCC’s work building democracy from the ground up and makes those experiences, thinking, and strategies accessible for the generations to come.

Over 20 SNCC veterans, members of the Durham chapter of BYP100, phillip agnew of Dream Defenders, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, co-director of Highlander Center for Research and Education, local activists, educators, students, and more are coming together this weekend to reflect on the creation of the SNCC Digital Gateway and to explore how grassroots organizing work of the past can inform today’s struggles for justice and democracy.

Events on Friday, March 23, taking place in the Richard White Lecture Hall at Duke University, will focus on the partnership between SNCC veterans and the academy and the nuts and bolts of doing collaborative digital humanities work. Then on Saturday, March 24, participants will gather at the Walker Complex at North Carolina Central University to explore how SNCC’s organizing can inform today’s struggles and strategize about electoral politics and power, grassroots organizing, controlling the public narrative, coalition building, and more.

You can find more information about closing events here. Don’t miss this chance to learn from and interact with those who were organizing in the sixties and those who are organizing today. Bring yourselves. Bring others. It’s free, and you’re invited.