Category Archives: Uncategorized

Agile 101

Here in the DUL Information Technology Services organization, we continue to embrace Agile concepts, applied to many different types of projects, including the Integrated Library System (ILS), the development of specialized repositories, and even the exhibits hosted in the Libraries. Check out the amazing new Senses of Venice exhibit that opened last week.

I like to think of Agile as a mindset rather than a specific tool set or framework (like scrum).  The four values envisioned in the 2001 Agile Manifesto were devised in deliberate contrast to the rigor and slowness of erstwhile software development practices, and these concepts are still quite relevant today:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

Sometimes, when things develop as a backlash, the pendulum can swing too far the other way and we throw out some of the tried and true good bits.  On the other hand, we can slip back, as described in Steve Bank’s HBR piece, “When Waterfall Principles Sneak Back into Agile Workflows”.

Pendulums swing, but basically, when you face uncertainty, try something you think might work, get feedback, and adjust accordingly.

 

 

 

 

Managing impermanence – migration of the Libraries’ digital exhibits

Post contributed by Claire Cahoon, student in the master’s program at the School of Information and Library Science, UNC-Chapel Hill.

This summer I worked as a field experience student in the Software Services department migrating digital exhibits into Omeka 2, Duke’s most current platform. The ultimate goal was to start and document the process of moving exhibits from legacy platforms into Omeka 2.

The reasoning behind the project became clear as we started creating an index of all of the digital exhibits on display in the exhibits website. Out of 97 total exhibits, there were varying degrees of functionality, from the most recent and up-to-date exhibits, to sites with broken links and pages where only text would display, leaving out crucial images. Centralizing these into a single platform should make it easier to create, support, and maintain all of these exhibits.

Screenshot of the sidebar of an exhibit, showing the link to the previous version of the exhibit in the Internet Archive
Screenshot of the sidebar of an exhibit, showing the link to the previous version of the exhibit in the Internet Archive

I found exhibits in Omeka 1, Cascade, Scriptorium, JAlbum, and even found a few mystery platforms that we never identified. Since it was the largest, we decided to work on the Omeka 1 group over the summer, and this week I finished migrating all 34 exhibits – that means that after a few adjustments to make the new exhibits available, Omeka 1 can be shut off!

We worked with Meg Brown, Exhibits Coordinator for the Libraries, and the exhibits department to figure out how each exhibit needed to be represented. Since we were managing expectations from lots of different stakeholders, we landed on the idea to include a link to the archived version of each exhibit in the WayBack machine, in case the look and feel of the new exhibits is limiting for anyone used to Omeka 1.

Working with the internet archive links and sorting through broken pieces of these exhibits really put into perspective how impermanent the internet is, even for seemingly static information. Without much maintenance, these exhibits lost some of the core content when video links changed, references were lost, and even the most well-written custom code stopped working. I hope that my work this summer will help keep these exhibit materials in working order while also eliminating the need to continue supporting for Omeka 1.

While migrating, I came across a few favorite exhibits and items that combined interesting content and some updated features in Omeka 2:

Cover of “Anxious homes: cursory-cleaning for the imminent arrival of visitors or how to give the impression of a clean house in under 20 minutes” by Jackie Batey.
Cover of “Anxious homes: cursory-cleaning for the imminent arrival of visitors or how to give the impression of a clean house in under 20 minutes” by Jackie Batey. Available in the Rubenstein Library: N7433.4.B38 A59 2006

Book + Art: Artists’ books from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (and the old version of Book + Art)

John Hope Franklin: Imprint of an American Scholar (and the old version of the John Hope Franklin exhibit)

Cheap Thrills: The Highs and Lows of Paris’s Cabaret Culture (and the old version of Cheap Thrills)

Medicology, or, Home encyclopedia of health: a complete family guide... Vol. I, by Joseph Gibbons Richardson (1904).
Medicology, or, Home encyclopedia of health: a complete family guide… Vol. I, by Joseph Gibbons Richardson (1904). Available in the Rubenstein Library: RC81 .R52 1904

Animated Anatomies: The Human Body in Anatomical Texts from the 16th to 21st Centuries (and the old version of Animated Anatomies)

Omeka still has some quirks to work out, and the accessibility of the pages and the metadata display are still in the works. However, migrating these exhibits into Omeka 2 will make them much easier to support and change for improvements. Thanks to the team that worked with me and taught me so much this summer: Will Sexton, Michael Daul, and Meg Brown!

Two Office 365 Tips to Aid Productivity

Tip One: Access Office 365 at Home for Free

Did you know you can install Microsoft Office at home for free?  As a Duke permanent employee, you have access to a limited number of downloads of the Office package at no charge. The license works for both PC and Mac.  You may also use any browser to access the download.  Start by navigating to https://outlook.office.com/mail/inbox to access your webmail.  Log in with your NetID and password and you should see your inbox. (Side note: you can also go through Duke OIT at https://oit.duke.edu/what-we-do/applications/office-365 and click on the Access Office 365 Email).

Once inside look for the Duke logo and a series of squares (some technicians like to call it the waffle).  Click the waffle and then click the “Office 365″ link in the top right.

This should navigate you to a webpage that has an “Install Office” link.

The link will then give you the option to download the Office 365 package.  Click Office 365 apps” and the .exe (.pkg file for Mac) will download.  Click on the file for installation once it completes.

You will then see a setup wizard which will then install the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, Outlook, and OneNote.  The first app opened will require a one-time activation which will again require your NetID and password.  (Side note: Once an app is activated, all apps are activated.  No need to do this for all of the apps). If everything is done correctly, you should now be able to use Microsoft Office on your home machine.  The licenses also apply to mobile devices (phones and tablets).

 

Tip Two: Create PDF files directly from Office Apps

Many people use Adobe Acrobat to convert documents to the .pdf format. The useful format can also be used directly from Office Apps.  The pictures used will involve the use of Microsoft Word but the procedure works with all Office Apps.

When your final document is ready for conversion, find the File menu.  Click File and Save As.

Choose the “Save As” location but make sure to remember where you put it!  (I’ll use the Desktop folder for this demonstration.  Make sure to click the “Save as Type” box and then click PDF and then click Save.

No need to do anything else!  The document is now a .pdf file.  The .pdf cannot be directly edited in Microsoft Word.  You must use the Word document to make further edits and convert once you have made those edits.

Celebrating a New Duke Digital Collections Milestone with Section A

Duke Digital Collections recently passed 100,000 items!

 

Last week, it was brought to our attention that Duke Digital Collections recently passed 100,000 individual items found in the Duke Digital Repository! To celebrate, I want to highlight some of the most recent materials digitized and uploaded from our Section A project. In the past, Bitstreams has blogged about what Section A is and what it means, but it’s been a couple of years since that post, and a little refresher couldn’t hurt.

What is Section A?

In 2016, the staff of Rubenstein Research Services proposed a mass digitization project of Section A. This is the umbrella term for 175 boxes of different historic materials that users often request – manuscripts, correspondence, receipts, diaries, drawings, and more. These boxes contain around 3,900 small collections that all had their own workflows. Every box needs consultations from Rubenstein Research Services, review by Library Conservation Department staff, review by Technical Services, metadata updates, and more, all to make sure that the collections could be launched and hosted within the Duke Digital Repository. 

In the 2 years since that blog post, so much has happened! The first 2 Section A collections had gone live as a sort of proof-of-concept, and as a way to define what the digitization project would be and what it would look like. We’ve added over 500 more collections from Section A since then. This somehow barely even scratches the surface of the entire project! We’re digitizing the collections in alphabetical order, and even after all the collections that have gone online, we are currently still only on the letter “C”! 

Nonetheless, there is already plenty of materials to check out and enjoy. I was a student of history in college, so in this blog post, I want to particularly highlight some of the historic materials from the latter half of the 19th century.

Showing off some of Section A

Clara Barton’s description of the Grand Hotel de la Paix in Lyon, France.

In 1869, after her work as a nurse in the Civil War, Clara Barton traveled around Europe to Geneva, Switzerland and Corsica, France. Included in the Duke Digital Collections is her diary and calling cards from her time there. These pages detail where she visited and stayed throughout the year. She also wrote about her views on the different European countries, how Americans and Europeans compare, and more. Despite her storied career and her many travels that year, Miss Barton felt that “I have accomplished very little in a year”, and hoped that in 1870, she “may be accounted worthy once more to take my place among the workers of the world, either in my own country or in some other”.

Back in America, around 1900, the Rev. John Malachi Bowden began dictating and documenting his experiences as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War, one of many that a nurse like Miss Barton may have treated. Although Bowden says he was not necessarily a secessionist at the beginning of the Civil War, he joined the 2nd Georgia Regiment in August 1861 after Georgia had seceded. During his time in the regiment, he fought in the Battles of Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania Court House, and more. In 1864, Union forced captured and held Bowden as a prisoner at Maryland’s Point Lookout Prison, where he describes in great detail what life was like as a POW before his eventual release. He writes that he was “so indignant at being in a Federal prison” that he refused to cut his hair. His hair eventually grew to be shoulder-length, “somewhat like Buffalo Bill’s.”

Speaking of whom, Duke Digital Collections also has some material from Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody), courtesy of the Section A initiative. A showman and entertainer who performed in cowboy shows throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Buffalo Bill was enormously popular wherever he went. In this collection, he writes to a Brother Miner about how he invited seventy-five of his “old Brothers” from Bedford, VA to visit him in Roanoke. There is also a brief itinerary of future shows throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. This includes a stop here in Durham, NC a few weeks after Bill wrote this letter.

Buffalo Bill’s letter to his “Brother Miner”, dated October 17, 1916.

Around this time, Walter Clark, associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, began writing his own histories of North Carolina throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Three of Clark’s articles prepared for the University Magazine of the University of North Carolina have been digitized as part of Section A. This includes an article entitled “North Carolina in War”, where he made note of the Generals from North Carolina engaged in every war up to that point. It’s possible that John Malachi Bowden was once on the battlefield alongside some of these generals mentioned in Clark’s writings. This type of synergy in our collection is what makes Section A so exciting to dive into.

As the new Still Image Digitization Specialist at the Duke Digital Production Center, seeing projects like this take off in such a spectacular way is near and dear to my heart. Even just the four collections I’ve highlighted here have been so informative. We still have so many more Section A boxes to digitize and host online. It’s so exciting to think of what we might find and what we’ll digitize for all the world to see. Our work never stops, so remember to stay updated on Duke Digital Collections to see some of these newly digitized collections as they become available. 

Looking Ahead to MorphoSource 2.0

MorphoSource logo For the past year, developers in the Library’s Software Services department have been working to rebuild Duke’s MorphoSource repository for 3D research data. The current repository, available at www.morphosource.org, provides a place for researchers and curators to make scans of biological specimens available to other researchers and to the general public.

MorphoSource, first launched in 2013, has become the most popular website for virtual fossils in the world.  The site currently contains sixty thousand data sets representing twenty thousand specimens from seven thousand different species. In 2017, led by Doug Boyer in Duke Evolutionary Anthropology, the project received a National Science Foundation grant. Under this grant, the technical infrastructure for the repository will be moved to the Library’s management, and the user interface is being rebuilt using Hyrax, an open-source digital repository application widely implemented by libraries that manage research data.  The scope of the repository is being expanded to include data for cultural heritage objects, such as museum artifacts, architecture, and archaeological sites. Most importantly, MorphoSource is being improved with better performance, a more intuitive user experience, and expanded functionality for users to view and interact with the data within the site.

Viewing and manipulating CT scans and the derived 3D model of a platypus in the MorphoSource viewer

Management of 3D data is in itself complicated.  It becomes even more so when striving towards long-term preservation of the digital representation of a unique biological specimen. In many cases, these specimens no longer exist, and the 3D data becomes the only record of their particular morphology.  It’s necessary to collect not only the actual digital files, but extensive metadata describing both the data’s creation and the specimen that was scanned to create the data. This can make the process of contributing data daunting for researchers. To improve the user experience and assist users with entering metadata about their files, MorphoSource 2.0 will guide them through the process. Users will be asked questions about their data, what it represents, when and how it was created, and if it is a derivative of data already in MorphoSource. As they progress through making their deposit, the answers they provide will direct them through linking their deposit to records already in the repository, or help them with entering new metadata about the specimen that was scanned, the facility and equipment used to scan the specimen, and any automated processes that were run to create the files.

MorphoSource page showing an alligator skull
Screenshot of a MorphoSource media page showing an alligator skull.

The new repository will also improve the experience for users exploring metadata about contributed resources and viewing the accompanying 3D files. All of the data describing technical information, acquisition and processing information, ownership and permissions, and related files will be gathered in one page, and give users the option to expand or collapse different metadata sections as their interests dictate. A file viewer will also be embedded in the page, which also allows for full-screen viewing and provides several new tools for users analyzing the media. Besides being able to move and spin the model within the viewer, users can also adjust lighting and other factors to focus on different areas of the model, and take custom measurements of different points on the specimen. Most exciting, for CT image series, users can scroll through the images along three axes, or convert the images to a 3D model. For some data, users will also be able to share models by embedding the file viewer in a webpage.

The MorphoSource team is very excited about our planned improvements, and plans to launch MorphoSource 2.0 in 2020. Stay tuned for the launch date, and in the meantime please visit the current site: www.morphosource.org.

Features and Gaps and Bees, Oh My!

Since my last post about our integrated library system (ILS), there’s been a few changes. First, my team is now the Library Systems and Integration Support Department. We’ve also added three business analysts to our team and we have a developer coming on board this summer. We continue to work on FOLIO as a replacement for our current ILS. So what work are we doing on FOLIO?

FOLIO is a community-sourced product. There are currently more than 30 institutions, over a dozen developer organizations, and vendors such as EBSCO and IndexData involved. The members of the community come together in Special Interest Groups (SIGs). The SIGs discuss what functionality and data is needed, write the user stories, and develop workflows so the library staff will be able to do their tasks. There are ten main SIGs, an Implementation Group, and Product and Technical Councils. Here at Duke, we have staff from all over the libraries involved in the SIGs. They speak up to be sure the product will work for Duke Libraries.

Features

The institutions planning to implement FOLIO in Summer 2020 spent April ranking 468 open features. They needed to choose  whether the feature was needed at the time the institution planned to go live, or if they could wait for the feature to be added (one quarter later or one year later). Duke voted for 62% of the features be available at the time we go live with FOLIO. These features include things like  default reports, user experience enhancements, and more detailed permission settings, to name a few.

Gaps

After the feature prioritization was complete, we conducted a gap analysis. The gap analysis required our business analysts to take what they’ve learned from conducting interviews with library staff across the University and compare it to what FOLIO can currently do and what is planned. The Duke Libraries’ staff who have been active on the SIGs were extremely helpful in identifying gaps. Some feature requests that came out of the gap analysis included making sure a user has an expiration date associated with it. Another was being able to re-print notices to patrons. Others had to do with workflow, for example, making sure that when a holdings record is “empty” (no items attached), that an alert is sent so a staff person can decide to delete the empty record or not.

Bees?

So where to the bees come into all of this? Well, the logo for FOLIO includes a bee!folio: future of libraries is open. Bee icon

The release names and logos are flowers. And we’re working together in a community toward a single goal – a new Library Services Platform that is community-sourced and works for the future of libraries.

Learn more about FOLIO@Duke by visiting our site: https://sites.duke.edu/folioatduke/. We’ve posted newsletters, presentations, and videos from the FOLIO project team.

hexagon badge, image of aster flower, words folio aster release Jan 2019

hexagon badge, image of bellis flower, words folio bellis release Apr  2019

hexagon badge, image of clove flower, words folio clover release May 2019

hexagon badge, image of daisy flower, words folio daisy release Oct 2019

Mythical Beasts of Audio

Gear. Kit. Hardware. Rig. Equipment.

In the audio world, we take our tools seriously, sometimes to an unhealthy and obsessive degree. We give them pet names, endow them with human qualities, and imbue them with magical powers. In this context, it’s not really strange that a manufacturer of professional audio interfaces would call themselves “Mark of the Unicorn.”

Here at the Digital Production Center, we recently upgraded our audio interface to a MOTU 896 mk3 from an ancient (in tech years) Edirol UA-101. The audio interface, which converts analog signals to digital and vice-versa, is the heart of any computer-based audio system. It controls all of the routing from the analog sources (mostly cassette and open reel tape decks in our case) to the computer workstation and the audio recording/editing software. If the audio interface isn’t seamlessly performing analog to digital conversion at archival standards, we have no hope of fulfilling our mission of creating high-quality digital surrogates of library A/V materials.

Edirol UA-101
The Edirol enjoying its retirement with some other pieces of kit

While the Edirol served us well from the very beginning of the Library’s forays into audio digitization, it had recently begun to cause issues resulting in crashes, restarts, and lost work. Given that the Edirol is over 10 years old and has been discontinued, it is expected that it would eventually fail to keep up with continued OS and software updates. After re-assessing our needs and doing a bit of research, we settled on the MOTU 896 mk3 as its replacement. The 896 had the input, output, and sync options we needed along with plenty of other bells and whistles.

I’ve been using the MOTU for several weeks now, and here are some things that I’m liking about it:

  • Easy installation of drivers
  • Designed to fit into standard audio rack
  • Choice of USB or Firewire connection to PC workstation
  • Good visual feedback on audio levels, sample rate, etc. via LED meters on front panel
  • Clarity and definition of sound
MOTU 896mk3
The MOTU sitting atop the audio tower

I haven’t had a chance to explore all of the additional features of the MOTU yet, but so far it has lived up to expectations and improved our digitization workflow. However, in a production environment such as ours, each piece of equipment needs to be a workhorse that can perform its function day in and day out as we work our way through the vaults. Only time can tell if the Mark of the Unicorn will be elevated to the pantheon of gear that its whimsical name suggests!

News Feeds, Microfilm, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

A little over a week ago, I watched the searing and provocative TED talk by British journalist Carole Cadwalladr, “Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy.” It got me thinking about a few library things, which I thought might make for an interesting blog post. Then thinking about these library things took me down a series of rabbit holes, interconnecting and nuanced and compelling enough to chew up the entirety of the time I’d set aside for my turn in the Bitstreams blog rotation. There is no breezy, concise blog post that could pull them all together so I’m just going to do with it what I can with two of the maybe four or five rabbit holes that I fell into.

Cadwalladr took the stage at a TED conference sponsored by Facebook and Google, and spoke about her investigations into the role of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in the Brexit vote in 2016. Addressing the big tech leaders present – the “Gods of Silicon Valley: Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Jack Dorsey” – she levelled a devastating j’accuse – “[W]hat the Brexit vote demonstrates is that liberal democracy is broken. And you broke it. This is not democracy — spreading lies in darkness, paid for with illegal cash, from God knows where. It’s subversion, and you are accessories to it.”

It was a courageous act, and Cadwalladr deserves celebration and recognition for it, even if the place it leaves us is a bleak one. As she would admit later, she felt massive pressure as she spoke. I had a number of reactions to her talk, but there was a line in particular got me thinking about library things. It occurred when she explained to that audience that “this entire referendum took place in darkness, because it took place on Facebook…, because only you see your news feed, and then it vanishes, so it’s impossible to research anything.” It provoked me to think about how we use “news feeds” – in the form of newspapers themselves – in the study of history, and the role that libraries play in preserving them.

Continue reading News Feeds, Microfilm, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

The Commons Approach

Earlier this month, I was invited to give some remarks on “The Commons Approach” at the LYRASIS Leaders Forum, which was held at the Duke Gardens.  We have a great privilege and opportunity as part of the Duke University Libraries to participate in many different communities and projects, and it is one of the many reasons I love working at Duke.  The following is the talk I gave, which shares some personal and professional reflections of the Commons.


The Commons Approach is something that I have been committed to for almost the entirety of my library career, which is approaching twenty years.  When I start working in libraries at Lehigh University, I came into the community with little comprehensive about the inner workings of libraries.  I had no formal library training, and my technology education, training, and work experience had been developed through experimentation and learning by doing.  Little did I know at the time, I was benefiting from small models of the Commons, or even how to define it.

There are a number of definitions of Commons, but one definition I like best that I found in Wikipedia is “a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest”.  There are many contexts:

  • natural resources – air, water, soil
  • cultural norms and shared values
  • public lands that no one owns
  • information resources that are created collectively and shared among communities, free for re-use

The librarians and library staff around me at Lehigh brought me into their Commons, and gave me the time and space to learn about the norms, shared values, terminology, language, jargon, and collective priorities of libraries so that I could begin to apply them with my skills and experiences and be an active contributor to the Commons of Libraries.  As I began to become more unified with them in the commons approach, my diverse work experience and skill added to our community.  I recognized that I belonged, that I was now a stakeholder with an equal interest, and that I could create and share among the broader library community.

If we start with the foundation that libraries are naturally driven towards a Commons approach within their own campus or organization, we can examine the variety of models of projects and communities that extend the Commons Approach.

  • Open Source Software Projects (Apache Model)
    • earned trust through contributions over time
    • primarily a complete volunteering of time and effort
    • peer accountability, limited risk of power struggles
    • tends to choose the most open license possible
  • Community Source Projects (Kuali OLE, Fedora)
    • “those who bring the gold set the rules”
    • The more commitment you make in resources, the more privilege and opportunity you receive
    • Dependent on defined governance around both rank of commitment and representation
    • Tends to choose open licensing that offers most protection and control
  • Membership initiatives (OLE [before and after Kuali], APTrust, DPN, SPN)
    • Typically tiered, proportional model focused primarily on financial contributions
    • Convergence around a strategic initiative, project, or outcome
    • Pooled financial resources to develop and sustain a solution
  • Consortial Partnerships (Informal, Formal, Mixed)
    • Location- or context-based partnership to collaborate
    • Defined governance structure
    • Informal or formal
  • National Initiatives (Code4Lib, DPLA, DLF)
    • Annual conferences or meetings
    • Distributed communications commons (listserv, Slack, website)
    • Coordinated around large ideas or contexts and sharing local ideas / projects to build grass roots change
    • Focused on democratizing opportunity for sharing and collaboration
  • Community Projects with Corporate Sponsors (for-profit, not-for-profit)
    • Hybrid or mixed models of community source or membership initiatives
    • Corporate services support to implementers
    • Challenges in governance of priorities between sponsor and community

NOTE: There are more models and nuances to these models.

Benefits and Challenges

Each of these models has benefits and challenges.  One of the issues that I have become particularly interested in, and consistently advocate for, is creating an environment that promotes diversity of participants.  The Community Source model of privileging those who bring the gold, for example, tends to bias larger organizations that have financial and human resource flexibility and requires clear proportional investment tiers that recognize varied sizes of organizations wanting to join the community.  But while contribution levels can be defined at varied tiers, costs are constant and usually fixed, especially staffing costs, which will put pressure on the community to sustain. A smaller, startup community thus needs larger investments to incubate the project no matter how equal they intend to share the ownership across all of the stakeholders. Thus:

  • How do we develop our communities to fully embrace a Commons Approach that gives each stakeholder equal opportunity that also embraces differences of the organizations within the community?
  • How do we setup our communities that empower smaller organizations not only to join but to lead?
  • How we do setup our communities to encourage well-resourced organizations to contribute without automatically assuming leadership or control?

Open Source

My first opportunity to experience the Commons Approach outside of my own library was as a member of the VuFind project.  While Villanova University led and sponsored the project, Andrew Nagy, the founding developer, contributed his hard work to the whole community and invited others to co-develop.  As you gained the trust of the lead developers in what you contributed, you earned more responsibility and opportunity to work on the core code.  If you chose to focus on specific contributions, you became the lead developers of that part of the code.  It was all voluntary and all contributing to a common purpose: to develop an open source faceted discovery platform.  As leaders transitioned to new jobs or new organizations, some stayed on the project, and some were replaced with other community members who had earned their opportunity.

Community Source

While I was working at Lehigh and participating in the Open Library Environment as a membership model, it was simpler for me to feel like I belonged because each member had a single member on the governance group.  I was an equal member, and Lehigh had an equal stake.  We held in Common priorities for our community, for the project, and for the outcome.  We held in Common that each of us represented libraries from different contexts: private, public, large, small, US-based, and International.  We held in Common the priority to grow and attract other libraries of various sizes, contexts, and geographic locations.  It felt idealistic.

The ideal shattered when OLE joined the Kuali Foundation and the model changed from membership to Community Source.  The rules of that model were different, and thus the foundation of their Commons was also different.  While tiers of financial contribution were still in place, it was clear that the more resources your organization brought, the more influence your organization would have.  Vendors were also members of the community, and they put in a different level and category of resources.

Moreover, there were joint governance committees overseeing projects that multiple projects were using at the same time.  Which project’s priorities would be addressed first depended on which project was paying more into that project.  I quickly realized that OLE, which was not paying as much as others, would not be getting its needs addressed.  To be fair, this structure worked for some of the Kuali projects and worked well.  But it not a Commons approach that the Open Library Environment had been committed to, and it was not the best model for that community to be successful.

Consortial Partnerships

Consortial partnerships are critical for local, regional, and national collaboration, and these partnerships are centered on a variety of common strategies, from buying or licensing collections to resource sharing to digital projects.  There are formal and informal consortia, some that are decades old and some that are very new.  As libraries continue to face constrained resources, banding together through these common constraints will be more and more critical to providing our users the level of service we expect to provide – another common thread: excellence.

National Initiatives

National initiatives have been getting a lot of press this year, mostly for difficult reasons.  There are also a variety of contexts for national initiatives, but most of the ones we likely consider are joined by a shared commitment to a topic, theme, or challenge.  Code4Lib began in 2003 as a listserv of library programmers hoping to find community with others in the library, museum, and archives community.  Code4Lib started meeting annually when it became clear it would be beneficial to share projects and ideas in person, hack and design things together, and find new ways to collaborate out in the open.

The Digital Library Federation is a community of practitioners who advance research, learning, social justice, and the public good through the creative design and wise application of digital library technologies.  The Digital Public Library of America was founded to maximize public access to the collections of historical and cultural organizations across the country.

The methods each of these national initiatives are quite different from each other, but they have focus on a Commons Approach that recognizes their collective effort is greater than the sum of their individual results.

Community Projects with Corporate Sponsors

The newest model of the Commons Approach is the hybrid open-source or community-source projects that include corporate sponsorship, hosting, or services. There are example of both for-profit and not-for-profit sponsorships, as well as a not-for-profit who tends to act at times like a for-profit, and the library community is continuing to have mixed reactions.  Some libraries embrace this interest by corporate partners, while others outright reject the notion as a type of Trojan horse.  Some are skeptical of specific corporations, while some have biases towards or against specific partners.  This new paradigm challenges our notion of openness, but it also offers an opportunity to explore different means to the Commons Approach.  The same elements apply – what are norms, values, terminology, language, jargon, and collective priorities that we share together?  What benefits can each stakeholder bring to the community?  Is there a diversity of participation, leadership, and contribution that creates inclusion?  Are there new aspects to having corporate sponsors join that the library community cannot do on its own?

Economies of scale

One of these new aspects is developing new means of economies of scale, which is a good step to sustaining a Commons Approach.  Economies of scale allows greater opportunity for libraries of different sizes and financial resources to work together. Open and community source projects in particular need solid financial planning, but great ideas and leadership are not limited to libraries with larger budgets or staff size.  Continuing to increase the opportunity for diversity of the community will be a great outcome and encourage a broader adoption of the Commons Approach.

Yet project staffing and resources are usually fixed costs that are not kind to the attempts to enable libraries to make variable contributions.  It requires a balance of large and small contributions from the community, and the entry of corporate sponsors has enable some new financial and infrastructure security missing in many projects and initiatives.  Yet, as a community focused on common values, norms, and priorities, it is not disingenuous to use due diligence to ensure all members of the community, library and sponsor alike, are committed to the Commons Approach and not in it for a free ride or an ulterior motive.

New Paradigm as a Disruptive Force

And it is accurate to call this new paradigm a disruptive force to open- and community-source projects.  It is up to the community to decide for itself what the best is for their future: embrace the disruption and adapt for the positive gains; hold true to their origins and continue on their path; or be torn apart by change, ignoring or forgetting their Common Approach foundation in the wake of the disruptive force.

Each of the models above have had some manner of corporate sponsorship examples, so we know there is success to be found regardless of the model.  And there are still many examples that remain strong in their original framework.  What I find encouraging, even in the difficult situations of the past year for many organizations, is that we are challenging our notions of how to develop these communities so that we can develop greater sustainability, greater participation from a more diverse and representative community, and achieve broader success of the Commons together – for our users, the most important connecting element of all.