Library Lab/The Podcast 009: What Libraries Want

Listen: 20:46

(Also in ogg)

The way we search for information on the web has antecedents in the way search works in traditional libraries and research journals. There's metadata, and there's also a sense of allowing the content that is most cited to float to the top.

So why the library of the future still being waylaid?

While research journals and paywalled sites often have an advantage when it comes to organization and quality of content, sites like Wikipedia dominate the educational web due to their openness and collaborative nature.

For Episode Nine David Weinberger spoke with Kevin Kelly—journalist and author of the book What Technology Wants—about search, openness, and the future of the library.

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Creative Commons music courtesy of Brad Sucks and photo courtesy of yellowsofa

Weekly Roundup: recent LIL happenings

Snippets of recent happenings in the Lab:

Matt Phillips:

I spent the week working on LibraryCloud News (a project that Jeff, David, and I have been batting around for a while). We hope LibraryCloud News will become the Hacker News for library dorks (instead of startup dorks). It's a place where you can submit questions or a link to the community and then engage the community through comment-style discussion. (Exactly the way Reddit and Hacker News work) LibaryCloud News is powered by the same code that powers Hacker News and is humming along in the Amazon Cloud. If you're interested, we'd love to have you help us beta test LibraryCloud News at

Paul Deschner:

I spent a good portion of the week researching and installing Hadoop (distributed data processing) and Mahout (machine-learning algorithms) on one of our servers and running test scripts, in preparation for doing large-scale textual analysis over full-text corpora and metadata.

Kim Dulin:

I recently was a member of a panel talking about DIY Libraries at the New School's Mobility Shifts conference. Fellow panelists were Deanna Lee of the New York Public Library, and Linda Johnson, Director of Brooklyn Public Library. The three of us were asked to talk about how libraries' strategies for cultural outreach, and for supporting patrons' self-education, have evolved. The New School's Shannon Mattern, moderated. We had a wonderful audience of students, librarians and others interested in how libraries are expanding their roles, especially as it relates to DIY learning. Lee gave a demonstration of Biblion, the NYPL's new ipad application for browsing its digital collections. Johnson discussed ways that the Brooklyn Public Library is reaching out to citizens in the borough to boost computer literacy. Johnson noted that over 40% of Brooklyn residents do not have any type of internet access. To counter this, the Library has been lending laptops to users in the community, as well as providing computer classes, with great success. I spoke about the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and our ShelfLife / Digital Public Library of America's Beta Sprint entry. It was a fun and inspiring event.

David Weinberger:

I participated in the Library Lab fair, where our Lab showed the two of its projects that received grants: LibraryCloud and a series of library innovation podcasts.

Jeff Goldenson:

Spent the week working on the Ruhleben library exhibition.

Annie Cain:

Was out most of the week on vacation.

DPLA Beta Sprint Finalists

For those interested in comparing the demos of the 6 DPLA Beta Sprint finalists (to be presented Oct. 21 in Washington, DC):

DPLA announcement of 6 finalists

Links to the demos:

  1. Digital Collaboration for America's National Collections

  2. DLF/DCC: DPLA Beta Sprint

  3. extraMUROS

  4. Government Publications: Enhanced Access and Discovery through Open Linked Data and Crowdsourcing

  5. Metadata Interoperability Services

  6. ShelfLife and LibraryCloud

Weekly Roundup: recent LIL happenings

Snippets of recent happenings in the Lab:

Annie Cain:

While in the middle of working on some CSS3 transition effects, I just happened to see prefixfree mentioned on Hacker News.

Instead of writing this in my stylesheet

-webkit-transition: margin .15s ;
-moz-transition: margin .15s ;
-o-transition: margin .15s ;
transition: margin .15s ;

I just wrote this

transition: margin .15 ;

Paul Deschner:

How do you find the leading legal cases cited in law review journals throughout their publishing history?  This is the goal of an exploratory project now being set up by visiting scholar Richard Leiter in collaboration with the Innovation Lab.  The hope is to compile a list of the most frequently cited cases, and, depending on what is discovered, possibly facet these results by subject, law-review clusters, etc.  Our initial approach: set up a scripted parser for the inspection of plain-text OCR from sample law journal volumes (generously made available to us by Hein Online).  On the basis of these initial results, using the most basic pattern-matching, we identify case-citation passages which in turn allow us to further refine the parser.  Checking against the associated PDF's allows us to determine the degree to which we're successfully capturing citations and to identify new patterns for inclusion in the parser refinement work.  Additional parsing will be necessary to handle initial vs. subsequent case-citation formats, in-text vs. footnoted references, article tagging and textually non-standard citation locations (such as page-spanning citations).  The lessons learned here will hopefully scale to examining general corpora of OCR texts for citation data.

Matt Phillips:

A couple of weeks ago I mashed up a, er, mashup: Find books in LibraryCloud that are related to news items coming off the New York Times Newswire.

Give it a try.

The app is about as crude as it can get. The searching for books is done by keyword-matching NYT topics (each NYT piece gets a topic) with LCSH (this crude matching is done in the crudest way). I think we can get much, much better matching with some more work: If we create links from DBPedia topics to LCSH, we can get really good, semantic, matching.

David Weinberger:

I was very pleased that Dan Brickley this week blogged about the work he's been doing with the Lab on trying to figure out how to slot Web content into established library categories: How can a system automatically figure out that, say, a TED Talk about space travel ought to be clustered with the right Library of Congress Subject Headings? This is a phenomenally difficult problem because Web content can have very little metadata. Dan, has been exploring linked open data spaces, as well as some open source semantic extraction tools, to see if it can be done. We've been working with him all summer on this—which often means watching in amazement as he does his wizardry—which has led to his reporting that he is actually making some progress on this deep problem.

Kim Dulin:

(Kim's away at the Mobility Shifts conference in NYC, showing off ShelfLife and talking about libraries, education, and other little topics.)

Jeff Goldenson:

No need for silly text, checkout this video, part of a pitch to the Harvard Library Lab fund:

Living Library from Harvard Library Innovation Lab on Vimeo.