Learning about Emerging Technologies for Libraries

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Image source: Pixabay

I’m always interested in learning about how new technology can be used to organize, locate, and share information in creative and innovative ways (since hey, librarians need to stay one step ahead of millennials and AI looking to put us out of a job).  I recently watched a recorded webinar from the Medical Library Association (MLA) called Scanning the Horizon: Emerging Technology at Your Library and in the Classroom, where Emily Hurst, AHIP, of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences in Richmond discusses how librarians can stay on top of emerging technologies that may be used to improve library services.

Here are four free information resources I learned about during the webinar that I know I’ll be checking occasionally to keep informed about emerging technology trends:

  • Horizon Reports: The New Media Consortium (NMC) periodically publishes Horizon Reports that summarize emerging technology trends for libraries, museums, K-12, and higher education.  For instance, the 2017 Library Edition of the report identifies “Important Developments in Technology for Academic and Research Libraries” as Big Data, digital scholarship technologies, library services platforms, online identity, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.
  • Gartner Hype Cycle: Hurst began the webinar by introducing the audience to the Gartner Hype Cycle, which tracks the “hype cycle” of emerging technologies.  Gartner, Inc. posts a chart of the Gartner Hype Cycle annually, with new technologies plotted at different points along the cycle’s trend line.  The 2017 Gartner Hype Cycle lists Smart Dust at the very beginning of the cycle, deep learning at the Peak of Inflated Expectations, augmented reality in the Trough of Disillusionment, and virtual reality headed up the Slope of Enlightenment.  More articles and commentary on emerging technologies can be found under the Trends section of the Gartner website.
  • EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI): ELI offers publications related to technology trends in higher education, such as the  7 Things You Should Know About…™ series that highlights popular new technologies like video walls, augmented reality/virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and more.
  • Library of the Future Blog: This blog from the American Library Association (ALA) was recommended by one of the attendees at the webinar. I especially like the weekly round-up of headlines (titled “Read for Later…”) related to emerging technology in libraries.

I’ll be adding these sites to my rotation of information resources I check regularly for library news. Other places where I normally learn about emerging technology trends in libraries include Twitter and from MLA conferences.

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Historical Digital Collections By State

I never took an archives class in grad school, but I’ve always found historical archives, especially at the state level, fascinating.  Between classes, I was occasionally drawn to the Maryland Room at Hornbake Library, where I had my first real experience using microfiche to explore old copies of a local gazette.

These days, you often don’t need to leave your house to explore your state’s historical collections.  Many collections of archival materials have been digitized and are available online through university or museum websites.  Check the Library of Congress (LOC) web guide State Digital Resources: Memory Projects, Online Encyclopedias, Historical & Cultural Materials Collections for a list of online historical collections organized by state.

I recently got back from a wonderful Thanksgiving in Texas with my in-laws, so here’s a quick look at a few digital collections related to Texas history found through the LOC’s State Digital Resources web guide:

      • The Handbook of Texas Online – This website from the Texas State Historical Association offers articles about Texas history, organized under sections like Texas Day by Day, Texas Music, Civil War Texas, African American Texas, Tejano History, Houston, and Texas Women.
        • Example: Read a detailed entry (with some fantastic photographs) about the history of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. Did you know the Space Center Houston visitor center was designed with help from Walt Disney Imagineering?
      • The Portal to Texas History – This online portal hosted by the University of North Texas (UNT) allows visitors to explore over 500 digital collections, like the Texas Digital Newspaper Program, where you can search through full-text digitized copies of old newspapers and newsletters from across Texas dating back to about 1820.  One feature I particularly liked about the portal was the option to explore by location, so you could limit your search results to only records related to specific counties in Texas.

     

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Headlines from 100 years ago in the Abilene Daily Reporter at The Portal to Texas History.

These digital collections can be great resources for genealogical research, academic historical research, or just plain old curiosity about local history.  I know I need to dig into digital collections for Maryland as soon as I get a chance.

The Case of the Traveling Book

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Image source: Pixabay

While browsing InfoDocket (which is quickly becoming my favorite library news source) I came across an article about an organization Libraries Without Borders that has started a program in Detroit called Wash and Learn.  The program transforms folding stations at local laundromats into mini-libraries, with computer stations, book shelves, and even library staff onsite to lead programs.  This program is a wonderful example of bringing the library to the public, instead of making the public come to the library.  Many people may not have the time (or the transportation means) to access local public libraries, especially in locations where the closest library is miles away.  The concept of a traveling library is not new, and Wikipedia has a detailed article describing the history of traveling libraries around the world and in the US.

Here are three examples of how books (and other library materials) are traveling far and wide to find new readers:

  1. Bookmobiles: A bookmobile is a “vehicle designed for use as a library” (according to Wikipedia), and bookmobiles have been around since the 19th century.  Early bookmobiles in England and the US were horse or mule-drawn vehicles, but bookmobiles have come a long way.  Some modern bookmobiles have transformed into techmobiles, offering technology access (like Wi-Fi, computer access, technology classes, and more) to under-served communities.
  2. BookCrossing: If you’ve found a book mysteriously left in a public place with a jacket cover leading you to a website that documents where the book has journeyed, then you’ve encountered bookcrossing.  The term “bookcrossing” comes from the website bookcrossing.com, “a free online book club which was founded to encourage the practice, aiming to ‘make the whole world a library'” (via Wikipedia).  Bookcrossing movements have popped up around the world, especially on public transportation, turning trains and buses into mobile libraries.
  3. Little Free Library: Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 that promotes the creation of public book exchange hutches. The Wikipedia article on the organization reports that “there are more than 50,000 registered Little Free Libraries worldwide, in all 50 of the United States and in 70 countries.”

I love the concept of libraries traveling into the community, and even people creating their own libraries in their front yards.  Libraries are built on curiosity and creativity, and that spark can spread well beyond the brick-and-mortar buildings.

Strange Copyright Questions – Who/What Can Hold Copyright?

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Copyright law may not come across as the most exhilarating topic (although searching for old copyright registrations is more exciting than you’d think), but many copyright cases make pretty bizarre headlines. Read about the infringement claim that J.K. Rowling stole the word “muggle” or the copyright dispute over the Mike Tyson-style tattoo in The Hangover Part II, and you’ll begin to unearth some outlandish questions raised by copyright cases.

One of the copyright issues I find most interesting is the basic question of who/what can hold copyright for works they’ve created.  Of course an adult human can hold copyright, but can children hold copyright?  How does copyright law apply to works created by animals, or even art created by artificial intelligence?

Can children hold copyright?

Short answer, according to Copyright.gov: Yes in the US.

Minors may claim copyright, and the Copyright Office issues registrations to minors, but state laws may regulate the business dealings involving copyrights owned by minors. For information on relevant state laws, consult an attorney.

Kristin Keller at Noodle.com describes potential copyright issues that may arise at schools “when schools have the potential to profit from student-produced work, when schools prohibit students from profiting from their own work, or when the rights of other students may be infringed upon when student work is reproduced.”

Can animals hold copyright?

Now we start to get into weirder territory about whether non-humans can hold copyright.  The most well-known case about animal copyright ownership is probably the monkey selfie case filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) back in 2015, where “Judge William H. Orrick dismissed the claim on the grounds that the Copyright Act does not authorize vesting copyright ownership in nonhumans.”  PETA appealed the ruling but later dropped the appeal after a settlement with the human photographer who had originally posted the monkey selfie.

The Copyright Office clarified in September 2017 that it will “not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants. Likewise, the Office cannot register a work purportedly created by divine or supernatural beings, although the Office
may register a work where the application or the deposit copy(ies) state that the work was inspired by a divine spirit.”

So in short, it seems like animals can’t hold copyrights in the US.  (Neither can ghosts.)

Can artificial intelligence hold copyright?

WIPO Magazine recently published a fascinating article by Andres Guadamuz, examining how copyright law may apply to artistic works created by artificial intelligence.  Guadamuz explains:

There are two ways in which copyright law can deal with works where human interaction is minimal or non-existent. It can either deny copyright protection for works that have been generated by a computer or it can attribute authorship of such works to the creator of the program.

It seems, at least for now (until the robot uprising occurs) that artificial intelligence can’t hold copyright.

So to sum it up:

What can currently hold copyright: Human adults and children

What can’t hold copyright: animals, plants, ghosts, robots

How Libraries are Using GIS Mapping

I first learned about geographic information system (GIS) mapping on the Community Health Maps blog from the National Library of Medicine, which offers training materials to teach community organizations how to create low-cost maps related to public health. GIS mapping is used in many creative ways for public health purposes (such as identifying health disparities or visualizing the locations of dangerous environmental hazards). GIS seems like an incredibly useful method for displaying and exploring data on local, national, and international levels, so I wanted look into how academic and public libraries are involved with teaching and using GIS.

Libraries Teaching GIS

Many academic libraries offer GIS mapping services, such as GIS software access, in-person training for students and faculty, and LibGuides that explain the basics about GIS.  For example:

  • At Duke University, the Brandaleone lab for Data and Visualization Services offers access to mapping software (like ArcGIS, QGIS, Google Earth Pro, and more).  Their GIS in the Library webpage offers tips about library workshops and academic courses on GIS and where students can find additional help related to data visualization and GIS.
  • John Hopkins University offers a LibGuide on GIS and Maps, access to ArcGIS software for students/staff, and their GIS and Data Services staff also offer training and consultation on GIS.

The only public library online resource I was able to find related to GIS was the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Online Resources page from New York Public Library.  This online guide provides links to data sources, free software, lectures on GIS, and even NYC online maps.

Public Libraries using GIS for Assessment

While academic libraries seem to focus more on teaching GIS mapping to students and faculty, public libraries often use GIS mapping for assessment of services, facility use, and collection development.  The article Using GIS to Assess Public Libraries by Dilnavaz Mirza Sharma at Public Libraries Online discusses how public libraries “have embraced GIS as a tool for evaluating usage, collection development, and community impact by capturing GIS data to provide evidence of the library’s function in the community serviced.”  The article describes a case study “of how GIS maps were used to identify public library locations in Chicago that would be ideal for providing consumer health information materials to underserved populations.”

Interactive Maps as Exhibits

Some academic and public libraries also use GIS mapping to create interactive maps shared on their websites as digital exhibits or tools to explore useful data sets, such as:

  • The University of South Carolina library website offers a searchable map of locations from the 1956 Negro Travelers’ Green Book.
  • The College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland has created an interactive mapping tool that allows users to search for and view all libraries within a selected neighborhood, along with related local data on demographics, economics, education, health, and responses from local libraries from the 2013 and 2014 Digital Inclusion Survey.
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Interactive mapping tool to explore Digital Inclusion Survey data, created by the University of Maryland College of Information Studies.
  • Brooklyn Public Library offers a literary map on its website, exploring local landmarks and locations related to children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction.

There are so many potential applications for GIS mapping in both academic and public libraries, from workshops to teach students how to use GIS to interactive digital exhibits that allow users to explore data sets at a local level.  I hope in the coming year to learn more about use of GIS software, maybe using the Community Health Maps training materials.

MAC-MLA 2017 – Themes, Resources, and Opportunities

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association (MAC-MLA) 2017 Annual Meeting was held in Staunton, VA from October 21-24, and the meeting was a whirlwind of powerful, innovative ideas shared through presentations, posters, and even live-Tweeting.  Here’s a quick rundown of my key takeaways from the meeting, including important themes highlighted during the keynote presentations, interesting resources, and professional development opportunities from MLA and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM).

Themes

The overarching theme of this year’s meeting was “facing your fears” (yes, it’s close to Halloween), and each of the four keynote speakers discussed different topics related to librarian, patron, and researcher fears:

  • Impostor Syndrome – Do you ever feel like you’re an impostor in your profession?  Dr. Michael Southam-Gerow of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) discussed how anyone (but especially women and students/professionals from minority populations) can suffer from “impostor syndrome/impostor phenomenon”, where they worry about the validity of their achievements in their chosen field. Dr. Southam-Gerow also discussed techniques to overcome these “impostor” feelings.  The slides from the presentation are available here.
  • Open Science – Dr. Maryrose Franko of the Health Research Alliance (HRA) presented on addressing funders’ fears about open science.  Dr. Franko outlined common fears about open science (cost, administrative burden, and burden/uncertainty for researchers) and described how HRA, the Center for Open Science, and other partners are working to promote and strengthen open science initiatives like open access publications, data sharing, and preregistration.  Her presentation slides can be found here.
  • Health Justice and Health Literacy – Dr. Beth St. Jean of the University of Maryland, College Park gave an introduction to health justice and its relationship to health literacy, health outcomes, and information avoidance. She also discussed strategies to help information professionals improve health literacy among patrons and decrease information avoidance.  Her presentation slides can be viewed here.
  • Critical Librarianship – Derrick Jefferson of American University provided an overview of critical librarianship, which “seeks to be transformative, empowering, and a direct challenge to power and privilege.” Jefferson provided examples of critical librarianship in action and resources to learn more about the movement through Critlib.org and the #critlib on Twitter.  Jefferson’s presentation slides can be accessed here.

Resources

These are a few of the interesting new resources I learned about at the meeting:

  • NNLM RD3 – This is a fantastic website created by NNLM to help health science librarians learn the fundamentals about data science and data management.  (I also wrote about this resource in my MLA 2017 takeaways post.)
  • PubMed Labs – Use this test site from the National Library of Medicine to explore new features and tools that may be added to PubMed, and provide direct feedback to the NCBI team.
  • Open Science Framework (OSF) – OSF is a “free, open source service of the Center for Open Science“.  Researchers can collaborate and manage projects through OSF, including storage of data and files, access control, and the ability to link third party services to the platform. Users can also search through collections of pre-prints, project registrations, and posters/presentations from conferences.
  • NEJM Resident 360 – This online resource from the Massachusetts Medical Society (publishers of the New England Journal of Medicine) can be used by residents and medical students to participate in discussions, find career and study tips, and find interesting learning resources from NEJM.  The  Learning Lab, Resident Lounge, Career, and Discussions sections are free to explore, while the Rotation Prep section is only accessible through NEJM institutional or individual subscriptions.
  • Systematic Review Tools – I learned about several interesting free systematic review resources from the poster “From screaming to screening: An evaluation of free systematic review software” by Elizabeth Moreton,  Jamie Conklin, Leila Ledbetter, Rebecca Carlson McCall, and Jennifer S. Walker. Users can search for systematic review software through the Systematic Review Toolbox, and free systematic review tools that may be useful to try include Colandr and Rayyan.
  • Burnout Libguide – During the paper presentation “Burnout, Professional”[MeSH]: A Study on the Subject of Medical Librarian Burnout” by Megan N. Kellner, Associate Fellow, National Library of Medicine & Elizabeth O. Moreton, Nursing Liaison Librarian, UNC Chapel Hill, I learned about this very useful Libguide for medical librarians to test if they’re experiencing burnout and resources to prevent burnout.

Opportunities

Updates from MLA and NNLM included training opportunities for health science library professionals:

Cats and Libraries: A Symbiotic Relationship

I fall well within the stereotype of the cat-crazy librarian…I have two cats (Vlad and Chloe) who deign to live with me.

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Chloe (the dumb one) and Vlad (the aloof one).

Cats seem to be the unofficial mascots for libraries, and some cats have even managed to get steady jobs as kitty librarians (more on this later).  Cats also regularly appear in library-related memes and online image collections curated by libraries. Here are just a few examples of how cats live (both literally and figuratively) within the library collection:

I’m obviously pretty biased towards cats, but dogs also hold an important place as service and emotional support animals that are often allowed in libraries. Libraries are mainly built for humans, but that doesn’t mean our animal friends can’t occasionally visit and bring joy to patrons.