The theme of NCTPG’s 80th Anniversary Annual Meeting was “Libraries in Motion: Managing Change and the Evolution of our Work.” Luis Herrera, City Librarian of the San Francisco Public Library; Xiaoli Li, of UC Davis; and Mark Matienzo, of the Stanford University Library, were our speakers.
From left to right: Luis Herrera, Mark Matienzo, Xiaoli Li
Mark Matienzo got the event rolling and created a solid foundation for the day by quickly overviewing changes that libraries confront on a daily basis. Mark recently located to the Bay Area to serve as Collaboration & Interoperability Architect in Digital Library Systems and Services at the Stanford University Libraries, so managing change is very much part of Mark’s current experience.
Mark Matienzo introduces the theme of change in libraries in an untitled presentation
Mark reminded us that libraries do understand change and that we are already managing it. “We got this,” Mark confirmed, yet then admitted “but… Change is (still) scary. Why?” Mark queried the audience before providing an answer: because change feels like you’ve become lost and no longer know who you are.
To counter the scariness of feeling lost when change occurs, Mark proposed we make a map, starting with where we are. Mark reviewed changes currently confronting libraries such as new discovery expectations, new types of information objects and resources, cultural and political pushback in authority control practice, the disintegration of ILS systems, the rise of open source implementations, and collections as data for computational research, among many others. “Users ask for more. Users ask machines first. Our data has to do things it never had to before now.”
After mapping Where we are, Mark suggests we next consider who are we? What are our professional values and ethics? How do we balance openness and transparency? How do we cultivate, tend to, and respect our community? Mark made a passionate plea for libraries to address systematic issues by supporting the underrepresented and disenfranchised on their own terms, by decentering colonial narratives, by providing sanctuary and resisting surveillance. Warning us that “If we get this wrong, people will die.”
Finally, Mark asks Where can we go from here? and suggests that we work towards creating a broader, more accessible, more inclusive, and more respectful body of knowledge. That we bring new people and new ways of thinking into our communities. That we create systems and standards that lower barriers to reuse and movement of data across contexts.
Mark also made the interesting point that leadership is not the same as management; it is the trust that allows you to set the direction for a project or initiative.
Xiaoli Li shared her extensive experience implementing Linked Data
Xiaoli Li, the head of content support services at UC Davis, opened by relating how she first learned about Linked Data at NCTPG’s 2012 Annual Meeting on Linked Data at UC Berkeley. Subsequently a Linked Data project come up at work, so she was able to really dig in and learn a lot about it.
Xiaoli broke down and simplified Linked Data to make it understandable and less intimidating for the audience. She explained that Linked Data is simply a set of best practices for publishing data on the web. That Linked Data 1) uses URI’s (Uniform Resource Identifiers) as names for things; 2) The URI’s use HTTP so people can look up the names on the Web; 3) When someone looks up a URI, useful information is provided using the RDF (Resource Description Framework) and SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language) standards. And 4) Links to other URIs are included so users can discover more things.
Xiaoli explained that URI and RDF are core concepts for Linked Data. She mapped out RDF Triples (the creation of metadata based on subject-predicate-object expressions) for us.
Xiaoli explained that MARC, which has been used for over 40 years, has a flat structure that doesn’t work well in a web environment. To solve this problem, in 2011 the Library of Congress started BIBFrame to replace MARC and to serve as the encoding standard for RDA and other content standards. BIBFrame leverages current web technology (semantic web/linked data) and uses RDF modeling practices.
UC Davis worked on BibFlow (BIBFRAME + workflow) a 2-year project with Zepheira funded by IMLS to create a roadmap to convert MARC-based catalog to a Linked Data environment. The project addressed questions like “What impact will adoption of BIBFRAME have on technical services workflows in an academic library?” The primary purpose of the BibFlow project was to understand the ecosystem, test solutions, and provide a roadmap of how libraries can iteratively migrate to linked data without disrupting patron or business services.
Xiaoli outlined the roadmap in two phases and explained the six steps one by one. She discussed how to make computers do more work than ourselves by using LOC’s BIBFRAME Editor. And she outlined the skills needed for the near future. She assured us that metadata practitioners already have the knowledge needed to create Linked Data using good tools (such as the BIBFRAME Editor), and they need only acquire a basic understanding of Linked Data and RDF. Metadata policy makers, on the other hand, need to understand library applications of the Linked Data technology.
Luis Herrera, City Librarian of the San Francisco Public Library, provided an overview of library technology over the years and highlighted ways SFPL is understanding the current and future needs of their users. Luis informed us that SFPL has entered the “Age of Analytics and Data-Influenced Decision Making” and is harnessing as many tools as possible to know who their users are and what they expect from library collections.
SFPL is using GIS tools to accurately map the communities around San Francisco’s branch libraries. Combining the tools with actual walking tours of selected neighborhoods, SFPL has a created a clear picture of branch library usage patterns, which enables them to better distribute holdings and provide targeted programming. Additionally, SFPL uses the Baker and Taylor product ESP (Evidence-Based Selection Planning) to provide detailed circulation reports and predict branch preferences for new titles ordered.
According to Luis, SFPL strives to be a premier urban library and wants the public to continue seeing it as relevant to their lives and community. To this end, Luis has convened a Future of the Library forum, an ad hoc group of influencers within the library who gather to share ideas.
They’ve partnered with recent MBA graduates from the Harvard Business Association of Northern California to identify five areas of focus to prepare for change. 1) User focus: SFPL is making sure it meets the needs of specific user groups, including children, immigrant communities, job seekers, homeless people, and millennials.
Luis highlighted SFPL’s “All Are Welcome” campaign, workforce development and literacy services at the Bridge at Main, and Digital Inclusion Week (8-12 May 2017). 2) Invest in the community of the future: SFPL engages with the community to ensure innovation and adaptation, including going on listening tours and digitizing local culture and history. 3) Partner with other organizations: Their partnership with the San Francisco Department of Public Health has become famous for placing a social worker onsite and addressing drug use and housing issues. SFPL also hosts a monthly pop-up village that provides haircuts, showers, and clothing. 4) Collect and analyze data: Herrera stresses that every staff member should be involved in this effort to understand users. They will be forming an analytics unit soon. 5) Align staff around goals.
For all organizations, Herrera emphasized four elements of change: understanding the theory of change, especially a change’s impact and how to be intentional; gauging the user experience; aiming for optimum public service; and expecting continuous learning.
Panel Discussion Q &A
Q: Can MARC records implement Linked Data practice with open source or proprietary ILS?
A: (Xiaoli Li) Both will be available, although open source has been more responsive.
Q: Regarding SFPL statistics reporting ebook usage increasing 21% as of March 2017 while print circulation has gone down since its peak in 2012: Isn’t part of the popularity of digital sources stemming from them being forced on patrons by decreasing print book availability?
A: (Luis Herrera) SFPL’s user statistics show that different groups of people are using ebooks and that users are still able to obtain the resources in print they desire.
Q: How can we integrate research data into library catalogs?
A: (Mark Matienzo) Good question. Get researchers interested in metadata? There is currently a lack of incentive so it behooves librarians to develop relationships with researchers.
Q: What advice do you have for smaller institutions that might find open source daunting?
A: (Mark Matienzo) Open source should be daunting to ALL institutions. In the famous analogy, open source is free like free kittens, not like free beer. It takes time and staffing for configuration, migration, and maintenance. It’s important to do research, determine the level of support an institution expects and needs, and optimize that against outlays. Also, although open source is not proprietary software, many vendors are now offering open source solutions.
Q: What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to implement a new tool or project but may not have the full resources or authority to make it happen in their workplace?
A: (Luis Herrera) Foster an environment of innovation and create a forum for ideas. For example, at a staff meeting, ask what people want to achieve without focusing on technology right away. Keep communication coming from the bottom up.
Q: How do you all think we can best open ourselves to find out what our users are asking for?
A: (Mark Matienzo) Watch users verbalize as they complete a task. Don’t make assumptions. Balance data and observation and beware data gathering that becomes surveillance. User terms should be very clear about retention guidelines and use of data.
Q: How can we apply the user-and-community-driven data gathering and decision making to digital library projects and technology developments?
A: (Luis Herrera) Follow the basic guideline that if something is not digitized, it is not accessible. SFPL sends its mobile scanning equipment to the branches so that community members can digitize their own memory objects. Analyze rights statements to see how they can be more clear and consistent. Partner with the Digital Public Library of America.
Q: What will UC Davis use to present Linked Data records to users?
A: (Xiaoli Li) The Linked Data For Libraries (LD4L) project is looking at how to serve data for public use. Casalini in Italy is gathering records from the United States and transforming them for display as an experiment.
An example of what a discovery using Linked data/BIBFRAME data looks like: