SciHub and Library Genesis

SciHub has been in the news recently — a scholarly journal pirate website running out of Russia by a student in Kzyrgistan. Now it seems there is a sister site run by the same or similar software, Library Genesis, that serves up scholarly e-books.

As a librarian, I know that costs are  high and it doesn’t seem fair to restrict access to knowledge – but on the other hand, publishing journals and books is a costly endeavor. It’s also integral to the tenure process for faculty. It’s a complicated subject that isn’t easily untangled.


Workflow resources

Get organized: Document  Your Workflow / Jill Duffy. PC Magazine. May 13, 2013.,2817,2418808,00.asp


The Existential Struggle of E-Resource Workflows

It’s Spring Break here, the bound periodicals outside my office are being prepped for a permanent move to storage (entirely new for us), and I’m thinking about the big picture. Returning to something that I’ve been wrestling with and unable to really conquer. Writing this out is helping me parse through some of the issues.

Is anyone else out there struggling with making concrete e-resource workflows? Not just for e-journals but for the e-books as well.  I’m betting at least some of you are finding your jobs bleeding over into the e-book realm. And how do you carve out the time when you’re constantly putting out fires: external things out of your control that interrupt, like say Springer moving to HTTPS with no warning, or the IT campus firewall suddenly blocked your hosted library server.

I guess what I’m asking is, does anybody know of resources I can turn to for creating concrete workflows instead of flying by the seat of my pants every time something comes up. I find it impossible to train others on what I’m doing with my hodgepodge organic way of doing things. Just how do you cut through the chaos? Or are we looking at philosophical changes in the nature of our work?

For example our Cataloging folks have begun to complain that the MARC record loads for each vendor are completely different – the steps to load, what you load (since we have consortial deals that are often not 100% of a vendor’s offerings), how it goes through MarcEdit, and that sort of thing. We acquired an e-book package recently that forced us to open an OCLC Worldshare account, and it turned into quite a can of worms.

Similarly when I’m dealing with journal packages, each vendor has different things going on, and then there is the perpetual struggle of trying to reconcile entitlement lists, what’s on the license, what’s in the link resolver and what the platform actually tells you in real time. When does each list update. Trying to normalize data between different systems and from different vendors. Title changes, journal transfers, the feeling of never being done, like trying to weed the dandelions out of your lawn or Persephone at her loom, weaving and unweaving but never finishing.

I’m wondering too if we’re in a new era where concrete workflows don’t work at all and it *is* all about flying by the seat of one’s pants. But you have to know background info on the deals or have access to that info. Cataloging staff and other hourly folks feel that this level of work is beyond their pay grade (I’m putting it too strongly but that’s essentially the feeling) and moreover, it’s impossible to train new people on. Meanwhile I’m grubbing through journal title lists and unable to delegate much of what I do. I use a combination of Excel, Python and MS Access and it’s unrealistic to expect others to pick up Python or Access … so do I write programs for others to use, and how do I set aside the time for that when I’m constantly putting out fires?

Consider this a plea for help. If anyone wants to share their insight, best practices, helpful articles/books or actual workflows I would love to hear about it. I mean top level stuff like – how do you actually make a workflow out of chaos? Is it preferable to always load a new set of data (for example MARC records or loading link resolver data into the catalog)? Or, what is the threshold for making manual updates? What percentage of inaccuracy in the data is acceptable? And there’s a sea change right there – with the amount of data it can never be 100% correct, in the catalog, the link resolver, or our other systems. We need to be comfortable with this. How do you train people on muddly stuff?

Copyright MOOC on Coursera

Check this out: a self-paced online course on copyright. copyright_beware

Copyright for Educators & Librarians on Coursera

By Kevin Smith (Duke), Lisa Macklin (Emory), and Anne Gilliland (UNC Chapel Hill).

Coursera update

Well I finished Introduction to HTML5 in the Web Design for Everybody specialization on Coursera. I felt like I learned some new tricks and more formally learned some old ones. The instructor, Colleen Van Lent, is great. Looking forward to the next installment, Introduction to CSS3.

The one issue with HTML5 was the Autograder. Basically, the final assignment is coding a web page and then submitting the HTML to a program that checks the code. It’s easy to make the web page look just like the screenshot of the one the instructor provided; but it’s hard to get it to pass with the back end HTML code. The only way I made it through was by reading the posts by other students on the class forums, on how they solved the various technicalities. (Remove extraneous white space, etc.)

MOOC: Web Design for Everybody (Coursera)

Well, I decided to take the plunge and “invest in myself” by signing up for, and paying for, the Web Design for Everybody Specialization from Coursera. This is a series of courses from University of Michigan beginning September 15, 2015.

I did take a web design class in library school, but that was 10 years ago. Technology changes, and HTML and CSS have advanced since the 2000s. Hopefully I get something for my $400+, besides a certificate for LinkedIn. You can pay for the courses in installments but you get 10% off for paying for the whole thing at once, and I thought this would be an incentive to finish the series. (I’ve attempted MOOCs before but didn’t finish them; one I got through almost all the way but was distracted by a wild fire ravaging the city).

The course refers to a free e-text book from SUNY, The Missing Link: An Introduction to Web Development and Programming. I’ve downloaded it and will check it out soon. You can certainly make use of this without paying for the course!

I’ll check back in with a review to let others know if this is worth it or not. I suspect it would look good on a librarian’s resume or LinkedIn profile. I don’t know how it would look for another type of professional.

Great summary of design principles

Many librarians haven’t had any formal classes or other training in design, but are called upon to work on web design and promotional materials. I’ve created flyers to advertise new electronic resources but find myself wondering how well I’m doing.

Just found this web page and I think it’s a great guide to some basic design principles. Although this is targeted at web businesses I think it could be helpful to anybody faced with web or print design issues.

8 Effective Web Design Principles You Should Know by Peep Laja on ConversionXL

Monograph Weeding Criteria

At CC we’re having a big weeding extravaganza, of books and periodicals. I had never weeded books before and I developed a set of criteria which others may agree or disagree with. It’s very much a judgment call though, this is more of an art than a science.

Cataloging staff and some other library staff are pulling carts of books in call number sequences, per reports run in Millennium based on circulation criteria. Thus far I’ve worked on Sociology, general Social Sciences at the end of the H range, Anthropology, and now I’m working on Africa.

I take each book off the cart and flip through it from back to front, looking for a date due slip and any possible paraphernalia. (otherwise I would’ve missed gems like a Jethro Tull ticket stub).

I will consider withdrawing a book if:

  • It’s obviously a textbook, reader or anthology
  • Inappropriate for our library, such as being a pop book of little merit or a vanity-type publication
  • Is not of interest to faculty currently at the college and not a special interest area for the college generally. For example we collect on our
  • Seems too specialized and author isn’t noteworthy

I strongly consider retaining a book if:

  • I know that current or retired faculty are highly interested in the subject and/or author
  • Students have asked about the subject in the past during reference interviews
  • It’s part of a multi-volume set and one or more volumes have circulated — I would rather keep the set intact than break it up.
  • It’s the only copy in our regional lending group Prospector*
  • The topic is relevant to current news and ongoing controversies
  • The author is noteworthy in her/his field, or the book is considered a classic

* Since another institution has offered to take our unique books in Prospector, I’ve been sending them the foreign-language titles that have never checked out.

Therapy dogs take 2

Our newest librarian Shelley Harper did some research and found a therapy dog group that came into the library for a number of sessions, at no charge to us. Students and staff alike enjoyed it.

Go Team Therapy Dogs: Sit Means Sit

The dogs all wore vests and were well-trained, and most of them knew each other. So there was very little conflict, even among dogs of greatly different sizes. Only problem was between a German shepherd whose reserved personality seemed ill-suited to the task, and a young, over-energetic golden-doodle that the GS wanted nothing to do with. But there were no accidents, no worries, maybe one bark. The golden retrievers were eagerly rolling on their backs and demanding belly rubs.

Shelley also got the college photographer to come over and take some snaps, one of which was posted on the college front page photo spread. Yay Shelley for stress busting and good library PR!

Will C#, .NET and MS Visual Studio save the day?

Problem: take a file from one source in UTF16 encoding, perform some string operations, and write the new file in UTF8 encoding for use in a different system. Real problem: diacritics that turn into garbage in the 2nd system, repeatedly. Prior to UTF16 encoded files, this was not an issue.


How one might feel when fighting with character encoding

As I struggle with trying to convert a UTF16 file to UTF8 encoding, I find that Python, even Python 3 with its supposed improved Unicode support, is not working for me. The Linux tricks for converting file encoding doesn’t work either. HexEdit only allows me to see if a BOM (Byte Order Marker) is present at the beginning of the file.

I have been informed that the answer to my problems is C# (C Sharp), as part of the .NET (“dot net”) framework. Microsoft Visual Studio is a tool for programming in various languages for .NET. Microsoft, as in MS Excel, uses UTF16 encoding natively, which is whence my original problem likely comes from. Python uses UTF8.

The Community Edition 2013 is available for free, and so is Microsoft Virtual Academy. MVA is, so far, a lot like a MOOC with no time limits. I’ve printed “Hello World” to the console and done some if-else statements. Not at the point where I can do anything useful yet; I’ll keep plugging along. One advantage of using MVS is that you can create Windows apps that are usable by layfolks, rather than the gritty hobby feel of Linux and Python. Which is not to say that I’ll abandon Linux and Python, but this is another weapon in the warchest against Unicode hasselry.