Tag Archives: digital libraries

My new toy, Kindle Touch

I finally bought an e-book reader last week. I had been resisting them for a variety of reasons, the most prominent of which seemed to be “I don’t need it.” Well, of course I don’t need it. Does anyone really “need” an e-book reader, when regular books have worked just fine for hundreds of years?

Well, actually — if you think about it — librarians sort of do. The reason I say that is because many of our patrons have them, and want to use them to access the downloadable media available from the library, and it would be good if the library staff knew how to help them do that. And to that end, the library where I work decided to offer an incentive to staff members to purchase of an e-book reader. Sure, they had some on hand that staff could play with, but it’s not really the same as having one that you can make your own, really get to know it (and love it).

(I should also note that if the device isn’t compatible with OverDrive, the software we use for our downloadables, then it isn’t eligible for the incentive. The whole point is to get staff to learn how to use e-book readers with OverDrive, so we can help patrons with the process.)

I decided to go for it… Why not?

So, allow me to introduce you to my new Amazon Kindle Touch ($99, plus a $40 protective case):

Lisa's Kindle Touch

Lisa's Kindle Touch

I’ve only had it for a week, but I must admit (sheepishly) that I already rather love it.

The first thing I did when I got it out of the box was put it into its case. Next, I charged the battery (via the included USB cable). I figured out how to connect the device to my Amazon account (which is how you get content on to it).

Then, I read the User Guide, which comes pre-installed on the device.  I know that might seem counter-intuitive in a way, to only give you a user guide that is on the device, but the darn thing is just so intuitive in general, that you can’t miss it. It’s right there, when you turn it on, and you just click on it and start reading. Plus, I suppose it’s probably also one of those “immersive” learning strategies; it forces you to learn by doing.

Once I had the tools I needed, I set out to get some new content on it. I looked up some classics — like Pride and Prejudice or The Odyssey — on Amazon and found that many of them are free. Yes, free. Like, zero American dollars. On the one hand, that of course makes sense because the text of those works are in the public domain. But I must admit, I was skeptical whether that would be the case or if Amazon would have found a way to justify charging a nominal fee since they took the time and effort to create the Kindle version. But apparently not, so: Yay for free content!

Speaking of free content, next on my list was to figure out how I could borrow library e-books using my new Kindle.

Now, the ability to get Kindle books through OverDrive is a rather recent development. Until a couple of months ago, it was not possible to borrow library e-books on a Kindle. But, that is no longer the case. However, that being said, there are some aspects of this new feature that many librarians are not very happy about. Sarah Houghton, of the Librarian in Black blog, sums up those concerns better than I ever could (just FYI: her video blog contains language not suitable for work). But the short version is: when patrons borrow e-books on a Kindle, the book actually comes from Amazon and so Amazon is able to keep a record of that transaction, which is counter to the privacy mandate to which public libraries generally adhere. So, as a librarian, I feel obligated to mention that. As a consumer/patron/Kindle owner, it doesn’t bother me, because I have made the (informed) decision to be okay with the fact that Amazon knows what I’m reading. (They keep a record of all the stuff I buy from them, too, and yet I keep shopping there, so I suppose I’m used to it.) But Ms. Houghton definitely makes some valid points, so check her out.

But back to my experience with my new toy. I went to the Dayton Metro Library’s Downloadable Digital Media Library and searched for a book. Once I found one that was both in the catalog, available in Kindle e-book format, and had copies available, it only took a few clicks to “get” the book. I had to “add to cart”, put in my library card number, and then click “Get for Kindle.” I did have to login to my Amazon account (which is where the privacy issues come in) so that the book could be added to my device (because the device is linked to my Amazon account). The e-book then showed up on my list of e-books (with the notation “public library” next to the title). Once I re-synched my device (by connecting to wireless internet and clicking “synch”), the book showed up on my list there, as well. The borrowed e-book works just like my other books, except that in a couple of weeks I expect that it will disappear, once the loan period expires.

I did notice something interesting when I was trying to find a book to borrow, though. I searched for a book I have had on my mental list for a while now – Under the Tuscan Sun – and found that it was not available at all in the Dayton Metro Library e-books catalog.  Out of curiosity, I decided to check nearby Greene County Public Library, whose e-book catalog is also powered by OverDrive. It also appears to be part of a consortium (since you must choose which library your card is from, when you put in your library card number). Anyway, the short version is that they did have Under the Tuscan Sun in their catalog. I found this odd. Of books that both catalogs had in common, I noticed that the GCPL catalog seemed to have more copies of each one than DML (which could be because of the consortium, I guess). Since I am not privy to the inner workings of my library’s OverDrive contract, I can’t say why all of this is. I wondered if perhaps there might be different “tiers” of OverDrive service; perhaps GCPL had subscribed to a more expensive one? By chance, as I was poking around Sarah Houghton’s site today looking for that earlier blog entry about Amazon/OverDrive, I saw that her post from today discusses this very topic: “OverDrive has Different eBook Catalogs for Different Libraries.” I’ll let Ms. Houghton tell you about her theories in her own words…interesting stuff. [*Edit* Apparently, I misunderstood Ms. Houghton’s article. The problem she discusses and the one I’ve mentioned are not necessarily the same. But do still go and read what she has to say! Thanks to “Mike” for the clarification; see comment below. *End Edit*]

As a library patron, whatever the reason, the point is that if you don’t find what you want in one library e-book catalog, you should check the catalogs for other nearby libraries. They might have a book that your library didn’t have, or they might have more copies or copies available when your library did not. (For example, I ended up downloading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians from the GCPL because GCPL’s catalog has 9 copies, and one was available — as I write this, there are currently 4 of 9 available — whereas the DML catalog only has 2 copies, both of which were checked out.

All OverDrive weirdness aside, I’ve been enjoying reading The Magicians on my Kindle — both because the book is enjoyable and because my new toy is really pretty awesome. Here are some of the things I really like about reading on my Kindle:

  • The integrated dictionary. I was always bad about actually looking up words I didn’t know, when reading. I’d try to get the gist from context and failing that, I would usually just hope it wasn’t too important, rather than trudging off to find a dictionary. While reading on my Kindle, if I see a word I don’t know, I can just “press and hold” on the word, and the dictionary pops right up. Now there’s no excuse not to learn exactly what that word means, right then and there!
  • The overall design: the fact that it’s a flat, touch screen. It’s so much easier to read while eating, lying in bed, or even on the couch. I don’t have to hold the book open. I barely need to lift one finger (literally) to advance to the next page (just press anywhere near the right side of the screen). I mean, I know reading is a pretty sedentary, motionless activity to start with…but that one-finger page-advance feature makes it even simpler. I have to say, I am loving the ability to just prop the thing up against my computer at my desk and read while eating my lunch, which leaves both hands free except when I have to turn a page — so as long as I keep mayo or pizza sauce or garlic bread crumbs off at least one finger, it’s all good!
  • The instant gratification. Especially with the library downloadables and the public domain classics, both of which are free. As long as you are somewhere with accessible wifi, you are just a few seconds away from reading a new book (or an old one). You can also buy Kindle books right from the device itself, although I am trying not to get into the bad habit of doing that…it’s so damn easy, it could get expensive quickly!
  • The e-ink. Unlike an LCD screen (e.g., flat panel monitors, iPads, or Kindle Fire), the Kindle Touch uses something called e-ink and it looks like paper. It is black letters on a white background. It doesn’t “light up” exactly so you still need a lamp to see what you’re reading, but it also doesn’t give you trouble if you’re out in the sunlight. (Okay, I have to admit, I am taking their word for it on that one right now, since it is December in Ohio, and we’re unlikely to see much sun for several months.)
  • The percent completed notification in the lower right-hand corner while you are reading. It’s nice to see that, especially since (unlike holding a physical book in your hands), you can’t actually see that the majority of the text block shift from right to left as you read. (Then again, it’s also nice to not have that change in balance affecting your ability to hold the book open with one hand, depending on how big the book is!)

(Please note that as I am not intimately familiar with any other e-book readers, I’m not suggesting that these features can only be enjoyed on a Kindle. Much of what I just said is probably true of many other e-book readers.)

Hopefully this whole blog doesn’t come off sounding like some god-awful sales pitch for Amazon Kindle. That’s not how I meant it. I just thought I’d share some thoughts on this fun new toy I got. (And I do consider it a “toy”. I still believe that nobody really “needs” an e-book reader. But damn, they sure are convenient and fun to use!)

Oh and one last thing about Kindle. The $99 one does have “special offers” (ads), but they only show up in a small banner at the bottom of the Home menu (like when you are trying to decide which book to read today), or when the Kindle is in power-save mode. There are no ads on the screen when you are actually reading a book. And if you really, really want the ads gone, you can pay an extra $40 any time and get rid of them permanently. I’m glad I didn’t splurge for the ad-free Kindle to start with, because I really find the ads quite unobtrusive and not worth $40 just to be rid of them.

If you have any questions about e-books, e-book readers, or how to borrow e-books from the library, please ask your local librarian. If he/she doesn’t know much about it, maybe you can learn together. 🙂

Wright Brothers newspapers available online

I’ve been involved in Dayton, history, and Dayton’s history…for about 10 years now. So sometimes I forget that there used to be a time when I didn’t know very much at all about the Wright Brothers. Sure, I knew that they “invented the airplane” (so simplistic!).

Yes, indeed, there was a once time when I was barely aware of what actual names of the individual Wright Brothers were — Wilbur and Orville — much less which one was which (Orville’s got the mustache!) or what year they made that first flight (1903!) or that they owned a bicycle shop.

But even those who are at least vaguely aware that the Wright Brothers built bicycles before they built airplanes, might not know that even before that, they operated a printing business.

Young Orville and his friend Ed Sines started Sines & Wright printed the lone issue of The Midget in 1886. Later, Wilbur joined forces with his brother under the name Wright & Wright Printers. They built their own printing presses, and in addition to doing all kinds of job printing, they printed three publications of their own: the West Side News (1889-1891), the Evening Item (1890), and Snap-Shots at Current Events (1894-1896).

Job Press Room, Wright & Wright

Job Press Room, Wright & Wright

The Dayton Metro Library has original copies of most issues of all four of these publications — the copies that were kept by the Wright Brothers themselves in their own collection and were donated to the library after Orville’s death in 1948. These originals were microfilmed for preservation several years ago, and last year, the library had that microfilm digitized to enhance access to the newspapers, which comprise an important and interesting Wright Brothers resource.

Please visit the Wright Brothers Newspapers digital collection to browse and search the papers. Here are the specifics of what can be found in the digitized, online collection:

  • The Midget : A newspaper published by Edwin Sines and Orville Wright of the firm Sines & Wright. Only one issue was ever printed. The Midget, vol. 1, no. 1 (Apr. 1886).
  • West Side News : A weekly newspaper focused on events in West Dayton. West Side News, vol. 1, no. 1-52 (Mar. 1, 1889-Mar. 22, 1890) ; vol. 2, no. 1-2 (Mar. 29, 1890-Apr. 5,1890) ; vol. ? (May 2, 1891).
  • Evening Item : A daily newspaper that focused on world events. The Evening Item, no. 1-78 (Apr. 30, 1890-July 30, 1890).
  • Snap-Shots at Current Events : A weekly magazine aimed at cyclists in Dayton. Snap-Shots at Current Events, vol. 1, no. 1-13 (Oct. 20, 1894-Jan. 10, 1895); vol. 2, no. 1-6 (Feb. 29, 1896-Apr. 17, 1896).

The original newspapers can be found at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402, in the Local History Room, MS-001 Wright Brothers Collection.

To learn more about the Wright Brothers as printers and to see their shop and some of their equipment, I highly recommend visiting the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (corner of Third and Williams Street, Dayton). I visited there in 2008; you can see some of my pictures of the Wright Brothers print shop here. (There are several so make sure you click “next” from that first picture.)

You can also learn more about the Wright Brothers as printers at this great online exhibit from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; and The Other Career of Wilbur and Orville Wright by Charlotte & August Brunsman, online at the Centennial of Flight web site.

Large and significant collections of original Wright Brothers materials can also be found at Wright State University, Special Collections & Archives, and at the Library of Congress. And don’t forget the exhibition at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum.

And finally, if you’re looking for a comprehensive but also pleasantly readable biography of the Wright Brothers, you’ve got to check out Tom Crouch’s Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright (find at a library, or at Amazon).

More historic lantern slides now online at Dayton Remembers

A few days ago, we launched the Montgomery County Historic Lantern Slides collection on Dayton Remembers, the digital image content site for the Dayton Metro Library. A little over half (about 70) of the collection’s current 126 images depict the 1913 Flood. Of those remaining, many depict National Cash Register (NCR) Company, as well as other Dayton industries, including Davis Sewing Machine and Delco Light.

Although the digital versions of these images might not look much different from many of the other pictures on the site, including postcards and photographs, lantern slides are a unique and interesting format. Glass lantern slides, sometimes called “magic lantern” slides, were to the late 19th- and early 20th-century what those little film slides were to later generations or what PowerPoint is to us today: a way to share pictures with a group, usually during some kind of presentation or lecture.

As the name implies, they were made of glass, with the image printed as a positive (which distinguishes them from glass-plate negatives). As far as size, the particular slides in this collection are about 3.00 by 2.75 inches. For viewing, the slides were placed in a lantern slide projector of some type, which shined a light through the glass and displayed the image on a wall or screen, so the audience could see it.

For more information about the history of lantern slides, see LOC American Memory‘s page on Lantern Slides: History and Manufacture.

And if you are interested in more lantern slides depicting Montgomery County history, you might also want to check out our Miamisburg Lantern Slides collection, which was added last year in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the Miamisburg library. The Miamisburg slides mostly depict important industries in Miamisburg around the turn of the century, especially the carriage-making and tobacco industries. (As an aside: when I received the Miamisburg slides for digitizing, they were still housed in their original wooden slide box! Now, that’s history!)

Recommended Reading: Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections

Are you an archivist wondering how you could use blogs, Flickr, Twitter, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, or another “Web 2.0” technology to promote your collections and reach out to your users (or potential users)? Then have I got the book for you.

I recently finished reading Web 2.0 Tools and Strategies for Archives and Local History Collections by Kate Theimer (New York : Neil-Schuman Publishers, 2010), and I must say, it is definitely recommended reading for anyone working with historical and cultural collections : archivists, local history librarians, and perhaps also museum folk (although the book is not specifically geared towards museums, per se). Even if your organization has not given much thought to Web 2.0 interaction before, you should give this book a once-over just to see some of “what’s out there” and what you could be doing.

Theimer admits that Web 2.0 may not be for every organization, but she suggests : “If you want to project an image of being forward thinking and people centered, then Web 2.0 tools may help to shape that image” (p. 208).

Well, of course, who doesn’t want that? But some might wonder : What the heck is “Web 2.0,” and how can I use it to promote historical collections? text Theimer starts at the beginning, explaining what “Web 2.0” means and exploring it in general terms, before getting down to business with individual chapters on various Web 2.0 technologies (like blogs, Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook) and how they can be utilized by cultural institutions. She explains the basics of each technology and gives examples, including case studies and interviews with representatives from real cultural institutions that are using it.

There is also a chapter on how to evaluate the success of your project : what are your goals, and is the project “working”? Another chapter on discusses management and other issues : legal issues, preservation, workloads, and getting institutional “buy-in”.

I was particularly interested in the chapters on Flickr and on blogs. We have a Dayton Metro Library Local History Flickr account. I have managed to do some cool things with it; I’m particularly proud of my 1913 Flood geo-tagged images/map mashup [see May 9, 2011].

As for blogs, of course I have this personal blog, but we do not have a blog specifically for local history at the library. This book definitely gave me some ideas about the variety of different “types” of local history/archives blogs that could be done, though. Some of those types included : general “institutional” blogs, which could contain just about anything relevant to your institution; “processing” blogs, where archivists write about things they find while processing a collection (the Dayton Daily News Archive blog from Wright State came to my mind as I was reading about that one); and “archival content” blogs, for posting actual primary source content, such as diary entries (she uses the Orwell diaries as an example) [you could also do this with Twitter if the entries are really short]. The diary-entries one really sparked my interest. We definitely have some unique and historically significant diaries in our collection. I expect you could probably do a content blog using a series of letters back and forth between two people, as well. Oh, the possibilities!

And just in case you’re like me and years of history coursework has trained you to flip to the back of the book for the “About the Author” section (translation: why should I trust you?), Kate Theimer has credentials out the wazoo to show that she is “qualified” to advise you on this stuff. She has a Master of Information Science degree with an archives concentration, experience working at the National Archives and the Smithsonian, and she is the author of a popular archives blog called ArchivesNext (http://www.archivesnext.com/). [That’s actually where I heard about her book in the first place: see May 12, 2011.]

In short, I think every archivist should check out this book. It has tons of neat ideas. Web 2.0 might not be for every institution. And certainly, some Web 2.0 technologies will be better suited to your collections and your mission than others. But read this book; see what’s out there.

Find this book at a library near you, through WorldCat. (I can tell you that the Dayton Metro Library has a circulating copy; I’ll be returning it soon!) Or, buy a copy from the SAA Bookstore or Amazon.

FYI: I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. Nobody asked me to do it. I just found an awesome book and thought I’d share…

Crowdsourcing for Document Transcription

It’s a fast-paced, electronic world out there, and so much stuff is immediately available “online” now that library patrons are coming to expect it as “a given”. So libraries, archives, and other cultural organizations are putting more and more information online every day, particularly through digital imaging of photographs and documents.

As many of you reading this blog probably already know, creating quality, useful digital images is a big job. It’s really not as simple as just scanning something and slapping it up onto the Internet. There’s only so much you can do, both time- and money-wise, and so it requires prioritizing, making sure you’ve done it right the first time, actually digitizing it (in whatever way necessary/appropriate), and then creating the metadata. The metadata (descriptive information about the image: title, description, subjects, file format, dates, etc.) is key to making the image findable, because let’s face it, neither Google nor anyone else has perfected the ability to search for an image without using words. To put it bluntly, if you have a picture of a cat, somewhere attached to that image needs to be a text record with the word “cat” in it, or else it won’t come up in the search results when someone searches for “cat”. (Sometimes, people searching for “cat” still won’t find it, depending on where/how they are searching or how your metadata is done, but all the possible reasons for that are subject for another time.)

Bottom line is: metadata is pretty darn important! And if you thought scanning took a long time, just wait until you start messing with your metadata. Depending on whether you are doing it from scratch right then or if you have pre-existing metadata that you can use, even simple metadata can take longer per image than the scan did.

But God help you if you are digitizing documents that need to be transcribed and are handwrittten, thus eliminating ability to use OCR (optical character recognition – where a computer transcribes for you, with varying degrees of accuracy). It’s not always necessary to transcribe documents; sometimes the simple metadata is enough to get the documents into the proverbial “hands” of the people that need them.

But what if you do want to transcribe? It might be every word on the page, such as letters or diaries, or maybe it is just the names, such as with birth, death, marriage, or other records where name is the most important access point. I have participated in a number of such projects, and it can definitely get time-consuming.

So, where do you find the time, the resources, the manpower?

One solution is “crowdsourcing,” which is defined by Wikipedia as “the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community (a “crowd”), through an open call” (“Crowdsourcing,” Wikipedia). Crowdsourcing is an awesome way of getting things accomplished, because for one thing, it’s FREE. And you’d be surprised how many people are happy to do projects for free, particularly if they can do the work online, at their leisure.

A rather well-known example of crowdsourcing is the FamilySearch Indexing Project, which invites volunteers to transcribe names and other information from records useful to genealogists. I have participated in this one, and I can tell you that they have a nifty client program for downloading records in batches, entering metadata into forms, and then submitting your work. Each record is transcribed by multiple people (2 or 3), and a computer compares the submitted entries, looking for discrepancies. If there are differences, another (more seasoned) transcriber reviews the records again to determine the correct entries.

FamilySearch is a large-scale operation with a sophisticated software system going on. It’s great, but it’s a little intimidating. I work in a small department; I’m the only archivist. I look at FamilySearch, and I don’t exactly think to myself, “Oh yeah, we could totally do that.”

But today, I saw a project that made me think, “Well…yeah…maybe we could.” It’s not as elaborate, but it looks like it gets the job done.

I’m talking about the Civil War Diaries Transcription Project at the University of Iowa Libraries. A friend of mine at the Clark County (OH) Historical Society posted about this project on the society’s Facebook page (you should “like” them, by the way), and I was just so excited to see a library doing this!

But what is the big deal?  Lots of libraries, past and present, have done transcription projects. Most libraries have volunteers. Most libraries have web pages, most of which contain some kind of web submission form. Many libraries have digital image collections, a lot of them including historic items. Ah, but when you combine all of these things together, that’s where you get the genius and awesomeness that is the University of Iowa’s project. They’ve brought all those elements together: Images are served up using CONTENTdm digital collection management software, and a simple web form displayed next to the image allows volunteers to enter and submit the transcription.

University of Iowa Libraries has taken a project that they want to get done, and created an easy, convenient way for anyone who wants to help, to actually be able to help.

Volunteers for the University of Iowa Civil War Transcription Project don’t need to come to the library, which eliminates the need to come during open hours, find a parking space (which can be tough on a university campus), or even live near the library geographically. Their volunteers don’t need to wear gloves or only use pencil or have any special knowledge about handling. Their volunteers don’t need to be registered as a volunteer or even give their name (although it is optional). The work can be completed from anywhere, anytime, by anyone with Internet access. (All submissions are reviewed prior to being posted.)

The University of Iowa project is especially exciting to me because we also use CONTENTdm for our digital collections at the library where I work. It makes me curious how exactly they implemented this. I might just email them and ask. It can’t hurt to ask!

Update: I now see that the U. Iowa project was featured on the AHA’s blog today…maybe that’s where my friend saw it. 🙂

My new WorldCat free account

For those of you who may not be familiar with WorldCat, it is basically your “one-stop shop” to search the holdings of more than 100 libraries, worldwide, all at once.

I can remember, back in my undergrad days, the librarians trying to get us excited about WorldCat (among other available resources), but at the time, I honestly wasn’t sure what the big deal was. What do I care that there are books on such-and-such subject at Library X hundreds (or even thousands) of miles from here? How is that supposed to help me write my 5-page “research paper” that is due in a few weeks? Honestly, if the assignment is a short paper that basically amounts to rearranging and regurgitating facts on a well-documented topic, then yeah, WorldCat is probably not really necessary.

But when I got into real historical research, such as when I began researching the 1937 Flood for what turned into a lengthy honors research project, that’s when the awesomeness that is WorldCat finally clicked. Aha! This is why I need to know that Library X has Book Y or Collection Z : because they might be the only ones that do! Now, actually traveling there to see it; that’s another story…

Back in “those days” (this was 5+ years ago), you could only search the WorldCat databases through another library that had a subscription to it. But now, anyone can search the database for free at www.worldcat.org.

I noticed recently that they have added social features to the entries and the ability for individuals to sign up for free accounts, in order to use and contribute to these social features.

WorldCat free account users can add tags, write reviews, create public or private “lists” (for any purpose you want) and add items to those lists (bookmarking, basically), create saved searches, and give items a “star” rating. These are similar functions to what you could do at a web site like LibraryThing or Amazon. However, those two sites are more limited in their holdings. WorldCat has everything cataloged by its included libraries – meaning that the WorldCat site includes (and makes available for tagging/reviewing/rating/listing/saving) such things as one-of-a-kind archival materials that have been cataloged.

My initial thought when signing up for the WorldCat account was that I might add tags to some of the manuscripts and special materials available at the Dayton Metro Library (where I work). I understand that cataloging rules place limitations on what subject headings are “appropriate” for a given item or collection. However, many times, there are a number of individual subjects that are covered in the work but are not appropriate to list in the official Library of Congress Subject Headings for an item.

Anyway, I was hoping that perhaps I could add a few tags here and there, to help with discoverability. For instance, would anyone know that our Lutzenberger photograph collection includes photos from the 1913 Flood? Or that the Miamisburg Lantern Slides show many pictures of tobacco industry and the carriage industry? Probably not, because these specifics are not included in the catalog record — as they probably shouldn’t be! But tags…ah, tags. Tags could be the answer. Obviously I wasn’t planning to go through every item and make every possible tag, but just a few here and there: the “big” things that subject entries ending in “Pictorial Works” just didn’t do justice to.

But before I went to any trouble, I wanted to make sure that tags would be searchable. Failing to find the answer to my question in the online Help, I contacted OCLC directly.

Unfortunately, OCLC Support burst my bubble by informing me that no, tags are not searchable. Apparently they are only good for individual use only. Drat! I was really hoping WorldCat had taken a leaf out of Flickr‘s book, where pretty much all user-added metadata is searchable.

Oh well. There are still other useful, interesting things I can do. So far, I have made a few Lists:

  • Things I have written – my 1937 flood paper, as well as finding aids and indexes I created that happen to have been cataloged. (This list is kind of short and sad, actually, but hopefully someday, it won’t be. I will be linking this on my “digital CV.”)
  • Collections I have processed – this list is not exhaustive since some collections I processed have never been added to the library’s catalog (most of these are at other institutions – I am working on getting catalog entries for all processed manuscript/special collections at Dayton Metro). (Another good “digital CV” item!)
  • Manuscript & special collections at the Dayton Metro Library – most of these were processed before I got here, but I thought this list might be helpful to those wondering what we have; it’s not exhaustive either and collections that are unprocessed or otherwise not yet ready for use do not have catalog entries and so thus are not on WorldCat.

You can make your lists public or private. All three of mine are public. If an item is included on a public list, that information is listed at the very bottom of the page. For instance, take a look at the WorldCat record for the Bickham Collection of archival materials. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see that the item is included on 2 lists (both mine): Collections Processed by Lisa Pasquinelli Rickey (that’s me!) and Dayton Metro Library Manuscripts and Special Collections. Next to the title, it lists the number of items on each list, and you can click on the hyperlinked title to view the complete list.

Although I am disappointed about the non-searchable Tags, I am excited about these lists. I might explore writing a few Reviews, too. I have read journal articles that complained about how un-useful a “reviews” feature is for one-of-a-kind collections because so few people have seen the items, let alone bother to review them. Ah, but if someone familiar with these collections did bother to review them, wouldn’t that be a great help for other potential researchers? Something to think about.

LIS Exercise: Text Transcription

This week, my LIS 7850 Digital Libraries class participated in a project designed to “introduce you to the issues surrounding access to text-based materials through free-text entries.”

The exercise involved transcribing poems from the Detroit City Poets Project, in order to make the text accessible for searching, since the original digital objects are images. If an image contains text, that text needs to be recreated as actual text in a searchable metadata field, to allow for full-text searching of the content of that image.

Each class member was assigned approximately 4 images of poems (ID numbers provided) and asked to transcribe the text from the JPEG images into a *.txt file. The two poems I was assigned (each in two parts, for a total of four files) were: “Factories along the river” and “Chant on US-80.”

This exercise was much easier and less time-consuming that Exercise 1. Whereas Exercise 1 (creating description metadata for images) took at least 2 hours to describe about 11 images, I finished Exercise 2 in less than 30 minutes. The poems were short, and the text was clear. It was quite easy to transcribe the text and finish the assignment quickly.

Actually, I was a little confused about why these poems are being manually transcribed at all. (I’m not complaining: I’m always up for an easy assignment!)

First, why are these poems being digitized as image files at all? Perhaps they are scans from a book or publication. We did not receive a lot of background information about this particular project, and I was unable to find it online.

Second, I would think that such clear, crisp, machine-typed text would have made a good job for optical character recognition (OCR) software. Maybe this type of software was unavailable to the project managers. Or maybe they are OCR’ing most of it, but we students needed a project. 🙂

Most text transcription projects are not this simple, however. I have participated in several digitization projects (most of them directed towards genealogists) in which the original documents contained text but were digitized as scanned images, thus needing transcription metadata to make the text accessible. However, in most of these cases, the original text was not typed but handwritten—and not always neatly!

When I worked at the Greene County Room (Xenia, Ohio), I participated in a project to digitize early (1869-1909) county death records. These death records were recorded in old-fashioned ledger books, with a single record per line. My role was as one of the transcribers of the names, so that users could search for a particular name in the metadata and be directed to any/all images containing that name. That was a sizeable project, and some of those court clerks had some pretty bad handwriting!

Bad handwriting on handwritten records is not limited to Greene County, Ohio, of course. I have also recently participated in transcription projects through Family Search (LDS Church) Indexing. Family Search has a wide variety of free genealogical records available online, which are made more accessible thanks to the work of thousands of volunteer indexers. If you are interested in indexing and transcription, this is a good way to get some free practice (while helping to provide a free service). There are a variety of projects to choose from, at any level of experience, and in many languages. You can do as much or as little as you want; there’s no pressure.

And finally, another project I’m working on that involves text transcription and indexing is the 1875 Montgomery County (OH) Atlas. I digitized this atlas last year, and it is perfectly useable in its current state—which is why it is already publicly available on our web site. However, the atlas includes plat maps for every township—plat maps that show property lines and property owners. The names are handwritten (of course) and in are written in many directions (some are practically up side down). I would like to transcribe the names on each map, so that users when users search our site (yes, the entire site) for a certain name, they will find plat maps listing property owners with that name (if, of course, there are any). I did manage to finish a similar project with a 1938 Montgomery County Plat Map book. But the 1875 is much bigger, and it also includes several pages of straight text (biographical sketches, county history, etc.), which I hope to OCR rather than transcribing. Although, with all the errors I noticed in a test page that I OCR’d, it might be just as fast to simply sit down and transcribe them by hand!