Digital preservation

This is one of my favorite topics. I spent a lot of time in school studying the theories and standards and then a lot of time in internships working on actual projects. I am hoping to be able to implement some new projects at my current workplace, and along those lines attended a day-long workshop on digital preservation this past week.

A lot of the workshop was rehash for me, but that wasn’t a negative in this case. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk to other people with this expertise in the boonies (I use the term with affection – there were cows loose on campus at one point last week), so I enjoyed soaking it in and brainstorming for both work and personal projects.

I’m currently working on a photo archive for my family about which I’m pretty excited. Whenever I manage to have time at work to do something similar, I will, but for the time being I have a platform on which I can play with the metadata, organization, and display. The goal is to make a professional project that much more expedient whenever we do manage to get it off the ground (and, of course, my family gets a searchable archive). I have an Omeka install running a demo site, and I think I might like it enough to stick with it.

Now I get to play with Dublin Core and develop a controlled vocabulary! I love information science.

Academic Libraries on Rural Campuses

Public libraries are well known as vital institutions of rural life and meeting information needs, but I haven’t seen a lot of commentary on what an academic library can mean to a rural college campus.

My college is very proud of its legacy of community involvement – as they should be. The college is the epicenter of learning for the whole region, and the only institution of higher education in a county that is larger than the entire state of Connecticut. There are many challenges associated with these kinds of logistics, namely:

  • People may be very far away from each other. I commute 30 miles each way to the library everyday, and I know many people who come from even greater distances.
  • Public transportation to and from the library may exist, but it is not typically very convenient, and most people must maintain the cost and condition of a private vehicle.
  • Internet connections may not be fantastic. When I first started working at the college, we had about 2 weeks with no internet whatsoever. As a cataloger, that “And other duties as needed” line on every job description became most of what I did until we were back online.
  • Many patrons and their families may be in subsistence careers like farming. Hence, there may not be a great deal of disposable income, and purchases like personal computers may be considered a luxury for some families.
  • Many areas of collection development deserve special consideration, e.g., when I order items for the nursing program, I need to be on the lookout for any new items related to rural healthcare.

I got my MSI close to a major metropolitan area in a very technologically literate town. During my classes, we were told that things would change rapidly once we left, and our education there was largely theory-based to accommodate that. When I then immediately went to a rural library, I found that instead, we were playing catch-up. That theory education ended up working retroactively so that I could help build our programs to be more current.

It would seem like an easy fix to focus on online resources to accommodate the issues with physical distance – but then, what if your patrons do not have reliable internet and a personal computer at home? And, if your patrons do not have personal computers, then doesn’t the building become that much more important for ensuring student success?

When your commute may take (what seems like) forever, then you want each trip to count. When you’ve got 2 hours in between classes, but you live 60 miles away on county roads, you need a place to spend extended periods of time.

While I have of course placed a necessary premium on online resources, we have put a lot of effort into our physical space. The library recently underwent an addition, and our head counts have gone up exponentially. What we have learned is that the building will always be important, especially in rural communities. If you put good computers, wifi, and a lot of comfortable furniture in a space, it becomes a gathering spot. We’ve found that it leads to more study groups, extracurricular activities, and better information literacy.

Rural libraries are a challenge. We typically have a limited budget and a lot of ground to cover (literally). Those who do have reliable internet access and personal computers want current, comprehensive services that do not necessitate an extended trip to town. Those who do not or cannot obtain access to those resources need the “traditional” library experience. We must be everything we can be, and then some.

Tablet computing

I was one of 5 people in a meeting last week with the college’s Distance Education department and realized that all of us owned tablets – not just iPads, but a variety of brands and models. Tablet owners in our patron base are definitely not in the majority, but it’s encouraging that tablets are appearing to become more accessible technology.

I got a Touchpad when they were discontinued a while back and have since made some adjustments to it for more optimal functioning, but it still sort of amazes me that my tablet has more computing power than my 2 year old netbook. One of the more features I’ve used the most with it has been the Kindle app – this surprised me since I’d held out on getting myself an e-reader for so long because I didn’t know if I’d like it or use it enough to warrant the purchase.

Our library has a few e-readers that circulate, but apart from that our electronic books aren’t really accessed or downloaded as often as we’d like. It’s encouraging that the growing popularity of multi-purpose tablet computers may actually help us get more use out of those collections.

Also, when more noble pursuits have exhausted themselves, they’re pretty great for doodling.