So to get back on topic a bit, I want to take a look back at what professional development goals I’ve met this year and list a few new learning goals for 2018. I’m happy to say that I’ve met a number of my learning goals I set for 2017:
The one learning goal I didn’t make much progress on was learning to code with R. I’ve done a bit of practice with creating very basic graphs using the ggplot2 package, but I’d like to complete an actual online course about using R.
So there’s my first learning goal for 2018 – complete an online course that offers an introduction to R. I’m thinking I’ll probably try to take the course Introduction to R for Data Science from edX (which is free but costs $99 for a certificate).
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Occasionally I find an article discussing what may cause the ultimate demise of libraries: the internet, search engines, e-books, etc. These article drive me crazy…though manyarticles do come to the ultimate optimistic conclusion that new technologies won’t destroy libraries, just lead to changing goals, programs, and services. The newest industry-killing culprits of the past year seem to be millennials and automation/ artificial intelligence (AI). I personally think libraries and librarianship will be able to adapt and even benefit from these mounting threats of tech-addled youngsters and robots.
I see differing statistics about how millennials are impacting libraries. Will Millennials Kill off Libraries? by Stephanie Cohen at Acculturated cites research from a few years ago: “A 2014 report by the Pew Research Center found that college-aged adults (ages 18-24), were less likely to use public libraries than many other age groups, less likely to see libraries as vital for themselves or their community, less likely to have visited a library recently, and are more likely to purchase most of the books they read than borrow them from a library.”
Griffin’s article goes on to speculate that the cause for higher millennial usage of libraries may be free public Wi-Fi or a variety of free events and classes targeting teens and young adults like “knitting and crocheting clubs, adult coloring, and even sessions for teams to play video games and board games.” Yes, the services traditionally offered by libraries may evolve based on the changing user needs of different generations, but that’s pretty par for the course for libraries.
I may honestly be a bit biased about the danger of millennials, since I am one myself. But I can say at least from my own experience: we come in peace. All we want from libraries is “somewhere to eat our avocado toast while we contemplate the houses we can’t afford to buy” (via Annoyed Librarian).
The risk of complete automation of all tasks done by librarians seems to be very small. There’s a great Tableau visualization from the McKinsey Global Institute that illustrates where machines could replace humans, and under the “Educational Services” section, the job family of “Education, training and library” lists automation potential for the following tasks which the job family seems to spend the most time doing:
Applying expertise (15% of time spent) – automation potential 14%
Managing others (10% of time spent) – Automation potential 9%
Data collection (5% of time spent) – Automation potential 40%
It seems like automation may actually help librarians, since it will free up our time from repetitive tasks like data collection to focus on more complex tasks like management. Kristin Whitehair from Public Libraries Online writes how “libraries can capitalize on the value of AI to expedite some processes, freeing up finite resources to focus on enriching the public library experience for patrons.”
The Feral Librarian blog writes a thoughtful post asking “where can AI and machine learning be leveraged in the service of better science? And how do libraries leverage our resources and skills to ensure it really works – and is infused with and informed by values we care about (inclusion, privacy, democracy, social justice, authority, etc.)?”
Librarians can embrace AI as a valuable new research tool and work to shape that tool to meet patron needs. That may require learning new skills and working more closely with computer and data scientists, but I have no doubt librarians will adapt, learn, and innovate.
Health science libraries are learning how to assist healthcare professionals, researchers, and patients with managing the “Big Data” generated through clinical trials, electronic health records, wearable technology, and a variety of other sources, to help patients get more individualized and evidence-based care, to visualize and identify health disparities by location, and many, many other applications I can’t begin to list or even imagine yet. Health science librarians aren’t the only librarians wresting with big data, though.
The Library of Congress (LOC) is busy with the creation and dissemination of enormous data sets, as I learned last Saturday at the National Book Festival when attending the presentation at the Library of Congress Town Square, LC for Robots! Mining the Library’s Digital Collections. Library of Congress Innovation Specialist Jaime Mears discussed a few examples of how the LOC is promoting the dissemination and re-use of its data sets:
MARC Open-Access: In May 2017, the LOC announced that it was “making 25 million records in its online catalog available for free bulk download.” The bibliographic records had previously only been available through individual viewing or through a paid subscription for bulk access. The records can be downloaded through the MARC Distribution Services page on the LOC website or at Data.gov.
Hack-to-Learn at the LOC: In May 2017, the Library of Congress offered a two day “hackathon” training to teach librarians how to mine digital collections. The 61 attendees at the training were taught to use “low or no-cost computational tools to explore four library collection as data sets”, including the MARC record data set.
The Library of Congress is using open-access data sets, contests to encourage creative use and mining of the data sets, and training librarians in computer and data science fundamentals to transform itself into a true 21st Century library, with innovative applications of Big Data and digital collections leading the way. I know I’m going to keep an eye on the Meetings and Events and Training calendars hosted by the Digital Preservation section of LOC, since they seem to offer interesting trainings on data science topics (like the hackathon) and meetings (like Collections as Data 2016 and 2017).
CHSI 2015 (created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) describes itself as “an interactive web application that produces health profiles for all 3,143 counties in the United States.” Select a state and county to view an “at-a-glance” summary (under the “Summary Comparison Report” section) on “how the selected county compares with peer counties” (better, moderate or worse) “on the full set of Primary Indicators” (arranged under categories Mortality, Morbidity, Healthcare Access and Quality, Health Behaviors, Social Factors, and Physical Environment).
CHSI 2015 also allows you to view county demographics data and county-level data for specific Primary Indicators. For instance, the age adjusted Alzheimer’s disease death rate for Montgomery County, MD is 13.3 per 100,000 residents, while the US median rate is 27.3.
County Health Rankings and Roadmaps (created by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and University of Wisconsin) measure “the health of nearly all counties in the nation and rank them within states” using “county-level measures from a variety of national and state data sources.” Check their Our Approach page for more information on their data sources and ranking methods.
Try searching by state from the County Health Rankings homepage, and then choose a county to view the Rankings data for the county (compared against overall state-level data and its ranking compared to other counties in the state) under categories including Health Outcomes (Length of Life and Quality of Life) and Health Factors (Health Behaviors, Clinical Care, Social and Economic Factors, and Physical Environment). Choose the “Show areas of strength” checkbox at the top of the screen to highlight public health factors where the county has a strong ranking, or choose “Show areas to explore” to highlight categories where the county has a weaker ranking.
Choose the “Compare Counties” option to create charts comparing the public health data of two or more counties (including counties in different states). For instance, the screenshot below shows a chart comparing County Health Rankings data for Calvert, MD, Fairfax, VA, and Montgomery, MD.
I also want to highlight a website specifically for my local county (Montgomery County, Maryland) called Healthy Montgomery, which allows users to create customized health dashboards for their local zip code.
From the Healthy Montgomery homepage, choose the Community Health Dashboards option under the Find Data drop-down menu. You can then choose to view county health dashboards based on a variety of health indicator measurements (like Healthy People 2020 or Maryland SHIP 2017). You can also build a custom dashboard and filter to view only specific indicators, view data for a specific location (zip codes within Montgomery County), filter by comparisons (like Healthy People 2020 or Maryland SHIP), filter by subgroups (like age, gender, or race), or filter by data source.
The dashboards include helpful icons beside measurement data to indicate if the measurement is higher or lower than county/US average, or if the measurement has an upwards or downwards trend when compared to prior values.
While the county-level health data tools like CHSI 2015 and County Health Rankings are useful for getting a general idea about public health in larger communities, I hope all counties will eventually have websites like Healthy Montgomery available to view health status (and local health disparities) at a more granular, neighborhood-based level.
Perhaps the most important lesson is the reminder that in a networked information world, preserving a single object in isolation may not actually preserve it if it consists of links to other resources which are lost.
The content of the web changes every second, and a website can be taken down at any time. If a Tweet links to a website that’s no longer available, how useful is an archived version of that Tweet? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…the Library of Congress (LOC) has been trying to figure how out to create a usable archive of Tweets since 2010.
Twitter promised to hand over all the tweets posted since the company’s launch in 2006, as well as a regular feed of new submissions. In return, the library agreed to embargo the data for six months and ensure that private and deleted tweets were not exposed.
The Library of Congress has the raw data, but it struggles with the ever-growing size and complexity of the Tweets archive. With 500 million Tweets added a day (in 2012) and the added metadata of embedded images, videos, and conversation threads, the archive of Tweets has become nearly unsearchable with current technology available to the LOC. The Atlantic article quotes an LOC blog post from 2013 that describes how “executing a single search of just the fixed 2006-2010 archive on the Library’s systems could take 24 hours.” Researchers desperately want free access to the Twitter archives, but the sheer volume, variety, and velocity of this big data makes it extremely difficult to create an easily searchable portal. Even if the LOC does create a searchable portal for the Twitter archives, how useful will those preserved Tweets really be without the context of working links?
Preserving the Internet: The Internet Archive
Twitter is just a single social media platform…how can we possibly preserve all versions of all websites ever available on the web? Many well written articles have already pondered this question:
One thread uniting these articles are mentions of the Internet Archive, which describes itself as “a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” You can search everything from copyright records to TV clips of President Trump on the Internet Archive, but the crowning achievement of the site is the Wayback Machine, which allows users to explore more than 299 billion web pages saved over the past two decades.
For example, if I want to explore all archived versions of the MedlinePlus homepage, I can just search by the URL and view 3,551 versions of the page, saved between April 7, 2000 and July 21, 2017. Some links on the archived pages will take you to similar archived versions of the linked webpages (although the captures of the linked pages may have a different time stamp). Many of the images and drop-down menus are also preserved, so you get a relatively accurate feel for what the webpage looked like during that time. The Wayback Machine is a fascinating tool for cultural and historical research, and it’s even used for more creative purposes like patent searching and improving search engine optimization (SEO).
Exhibiting the Internet: The Library of Congress
Although the Library of Congress has yet to release a usable Twitter archive, the LOC still offers plenty of smaller online content archives which provide valuable insights into web culture. The LOC recently announced the release of the Webcomics Web Archive and the Web Cultures Web Archive. The Webcomics archive focuses on “award-winning comics as well as webcomics that are significant for their longevity, reputation or subject matter”, while the Web Cultures archive includes “a representative sampling of websites documenting the creation and sharing of emergent cultural traditions on the web such as GIFs, memes and emoji.”
Each archived website includes a metadata page with a representative screenshot and bibliographic data about the website (including a summary and description of the site). The archived website page also links to a timeline of all captured versions of the site. For example, the Cute Overload! 😉 archived website page links to 122 captures of the Cute Overload homepage between October 3, 2006 to June 1, 2016.
While the Internet Archive aims for quantity and preserving as many webpage captures as possible, the Library of Congress online collections aim for a representative sample of high-quality sites. The Library of Congress collections also include helpful metadata for each archived website, so they are easily discoverable. The LOC collection can be used as an internet history museum, while the Internet Archive Wayback Machine is the closest thing we currently have to an actual archive of the internet. Hopefully we’ll eventually also have access to a full Twitter archive from LOC, but that may be years down the road.