A Tale of Two Holes in the Wall

This is going to end up being a post about preservation management with an epilogue on equitable access and shared collections, but it starts with some rough building trades-work and a visit to a notable internet site’s headquarters. In planning the trip, I’d asked something about energy consumption for their data center. That led someone to mention a clever system for pouring the waste heat from their servers into the building’s air plenum for free heating.

I love this kind of stuff.

On the day of the visit, I asked to see how this worked and, upon entering the server room, was delighted to be disappointed because their system for harvesting residual heat was… wait for it…. Continue reading A Tale of Two Holes in the Wall

UCLA Library Cooperative Library Services Talk

On September 18, 2015, I had the pleasure of spending the day at UCLA Library talking about the work we’re engaged in around cooperative print preservation and the ways that a shared service layers that can provide better access to research collections.

I want to thank Sharon Farb and Dawn Aveline, particularly, for putting this event together. It was a real pleasure to work with the team at UCLA Library, and I was very glad that we had librarians from SCELC involved, as well.

The handout from my talk is here, and alludes to the main themes: UCLA Library Handout (94 KB; PDF). I don’t have a full transcript of this talk, yet, but some of the key ideas are captured in a short piece I wrote on “Curatorial Libraries,” posted on Medium for comment, and archived on this site.

Throughout the day, we referred to a number of resources, listed here:

Finally, let me say a word of thanks to the librarians at Princeton and Harvard, who invited me to give earlier versions of this particular talk, and acknowledge all of my colleagues across the ReCAP partnership, whose many years of work on cooperative services is the real proof of the benefits that come from cooperative library services.

Curatorial Libraries


The Rocky Mountain Land Library is on my mind today. It’s a library-in-progress, still in an aspirational phase, but darned if I don’t hope it works. As the New York Times describes it:

Imagine a network of land-study centers stretching from the Headwaters of South Park to the metro-Denver plains. Each site will be united by the common purpose of connecting people to nature and the land, but each site will have something unique to share:

South Park’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch will offer a 32,000+ natural history library, along with residential living quarters for anyone who would like to experience the quiet and inspiration of a book-lined historic ranch, set on the banks of the South Platte River, and surrounded on all sides by a high mountain landscape, with some peaks rising to over 14,000 feet.

I admire this kind of curatorial vision, and I like to think of a point in the future of libraries when this is the core of what most librarians do. In the Land Library, it’s situating research materials about the land in a site that is proximate to or integrated with the land itself. More generally, it’s understanding a particular research and creative process, so that materials relevant to that process can be optimally arranged in space and time. This curatorial approach to libraries is not revolutionary, but developmental. It builds on the outcomes of the existing model of collection development, which collocated researchers with the largest-attainable quantity of the highest-attainable quantity of resources.

Call it the collecting library, a solution to the information scarcity problem. The curatorial library is an adaptive reuse of that architecture to provide a solution to the attention scarcity problem.

Continue reading Curatorial Libraries

Endangered Species and Dangerous Metaphors

I gave a short presentation for the ALA Midwinter 2015 Print Archive Network Forum delving into the “endangered species” question for monographs. While the talk was light on formulas and specifics, it expands on some of the work from the UCLA scarcity case study that I worked on with Dawn Aveline and Annie Peterson, and continues to argue two main ideas:

One, that we ought to base the print archive network on local/regional efforts, and not attempt to prescribe a national plan. The national work is net-work: a system to monitor for risk and optimize traffic across sub-nets and nodes. We need some national-level mechanism to alert, convene, and coordinate, but a diversity of localized business models and operational approaches in active conversation is the way to develop to good practices and sustainable programs.

Second, that we need to pace the print archiving effort so that we first address the areas of the collection that both have massive overstock and very low incidence of artifactual or para-textual value. This lets us solve the most pressing resource issues while also buying time to develop the right methods for protecting scarcely-held works and identifying specific books that have material culture value.

What follows is not a verbatim transcript and is a little more expansive than the remarks I made at PAN. The live conversation and session timing called for a few cuts and quips, day-of, but here are the slides (PowerPoint Slide Show: ALAMW2015-PAN-Nadal-Compact) and notes I spoke from:

Continue reading Endangered Species and Dangerous Metaphors

FRBR Group 1 as a Preservation Administration Framework

I gave a talk on using FRBR group 1 entities as a framework for preservation administration at the FRBR Interest Group during the ALA Annual 2014 conference [Las Vegas, NV; Friday, June 2; 10:30 am PT]. This talk proposed a way of using FRBR to coordinate preservation effort across library networks and to clarify the goals and expected outcomes of preservation and conservation efforts. Special attention was paid to two areas where frameworks for this kind of coordination are urgently needed: managing regional print archives and understanding the role of digitization in preservation management. The slides (download ppsx) and transcript (below) should give a good sense of how this works, and an article that expands on this talk is on its way to Library Resources and Technical Services for review.

The majority of this talk focuses on aligning FRBR group 1 entities with areas of preservation administration, but there are brief remarks on two other frameworks that I’m working on: evaluating scarcity in print collections and describing the focal points for preservation interventions on information carriers. (There’s some clunky language in that last clause, I know. I find these frameworks useful, but I’m still a long way from being able to convey them with any elegance.) These models support the particular use-cases I discussed  in the talk, print archives and reformatting, but they are concepts I have found useful in many other areas, and I use them both in teaching preservation and evaluating preservation strategies.

Continue reading FRBR Group 1 as a Preservation Administration Framework

Regional Print Management: Discovery to Delivery

On March 27, 2014, I spoke at an OCLC Symposium, “Regional Print Management: Right-Scaling Solutions“. The talk was recorded and can be viewed on OCLC Research YouTube Channel.  I discussed the development of ReCAP and an investigation of strategies and technologies for sharing collections that was funded by teh Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. That work is detailed in a report available from ReCAP. The project explored policies, workflows, and technologies require to reposition ReCAP from being three collections sharing a facility into a shared collection, developed and operated by three partners.

Forthcoming Chapter on Print and Digital Preservation

I have a chapter scheduled for a forthcoming book entitled Rethinking Collection Development and Management, edited by Christine Copp Avery. I’m writing on the ways that print and digital preservation intersect and while there is probably a whole monograph to be written on that topic alone, here’s the current version of the chapter for your review and comment until I get around to that. I’ll replace this with the pre-print and the final version as the work moves towards publication: Print and Digital Preservation.

Collections of Record

Some remarks related to two recent snippets from reading about the evolving landscape of shared collections:

From Rick Lugg (http://sampleandhold-r2.blogspot.com/2011/02/misspent-funds-or-strategic-reserve.html)

A strategic reserve of both print and digital scholarship seems an obvious choice. But like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, this should be coordinated at the national or regional level, and the costs should be borne by the entire community which depends upon that reserve. As a community, we have begun to move in this direction, through participation in trusted print repositories and trusted digital repositories such as Hathi Trust. Investment in these programs, through both dollars and contributed collections, will gradually assure that “misspent funds” are converted to something more lasting and cost-effective.

From Gary Frost (http://futureofthebook.com/2011/01/booknotes-74/)

From remote storage to high density storage to shared print archive, the revamp of the status of print continues. The preservation perspective is in revamp as well. At first the attractions of security and more optimal storage provided benefit. Then the dissolve of classified shelving, more sweeping relocation and disaster risk caused pause. Now systematic discard is pending.

I will add a few notes for preservation management in this context.

Continue reading Collections of Record