IN 1972, CARL Sagan was preparing to send humans into space. The Pioneer missions were unmanned, sure—but NASA had asked Sagan to design a depiction of Earth’s inhabitants for the trip, just in case the spacecraft ran across some aliens. He designed two nude figures with the help of his wife, Linda Salzman Sagan, and his friend Frank Drake. Linda drew the woman to have Asian features, and the man African, according to Carl’s memoirs—though both ended up looking suspiciously European, with haircuts characteristic of the 1970s. Not unlike Sagan himself.[read more]



Posted in Classification

The Libraries That Preserve the History of Small Islands


Cunningsburgh, on Mainland, Shetland, with meadows full of “coles” of hay, photographed by J.D Ratter, c. 1920s. SHETLAND MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES

Tiny islands, great archives.


No matter how small a community or how isolated it is, most have an archive of local history. It might be in the form of public records, or a collection of photographs, or shelves of old books. On islands, these archives are particularly important. Islands are surprisingly indefinable, occasionally mobile, and, in some cases, can spontaneously grow in size. Island life is similarly diverse and unusual, and these archives help preserve their unique cultures.[read more]


A booklet from 1916, “The Fortification of Åland Islands: What Does It Mean for Sweden.” COURTESY PROVINCIAL ARCHIVES OF ÅLAND

Posted in Uncategorized

Beyond the Backlog: How the Thomas J. Watson Library Made Their Backlog Disappear


Those who were in New Orleans for the 2017 ARLIS/NA conference in New Orleans earlier this year may remember Tamara Fultz’ fascinating presentation at the last Cataloging Section meeting.  Titled “Beyond the Backlog: How the Thomas J. Watson Library Made Their Backlog Disappear”, this PowerPoint presentation is a valuable summary for any cataloger or librarian looking for solutions to a seemingly endless backlog. [read more]

Posted in Cataloging, Libraries, Museums

Digital preservationists at Yale University Library are building a shareable “emulation as a service” infrastructure to resurrect thousands of obsolete software programs and ensure that the information produced on them will be kept intact and made easily available for future access, study, and use.

Funded through a pair of $1 million grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the project will enable access to at least 3,000 applications, including operating systems, scientific software, office and email applications, design and engineering software, and software for creative pursuits like video editing or music composition. [read more]

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Posted in Preservation

Finding the Unexpected Wonder in More Than 22,000 International Standards


Enter a Almost every tiny component of a camera will have its own ISO standard.

It can be hard to find the joy in the minutiae of ISO—pages upon pages of acronyms, meeting notes, nuts-and-bolts bureaucracy about actual nuts and bolts. But without it, and the standardization it provides, the world would be a significantly more chaotic place. Understanding how the organization came to be requires a journey back through the history of modern standardization, a peek at some of the stranger—and most instrumental—standards, and a look at its political philosophy, one that stands in stark contrast to how most internationally significant decisions are made elsewhere in the world.

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Posted in Classification

Podcast Preservation

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 2.12.33 PMPodcasts have become increasingly popular in the past few yers, specifically with the younger generations. Being fairly recent born-digital entities the effects of digital decay have not yet set in, but of course is inevitable. They are not collected by any cultural institutions so the preservation is largely up to the individuals who run them. The Metropolitan New York Library Council just received grant funding for $142,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help independent podcasters to preserve their podcasts against this. The way they are doing this is actually creating a series of podcasts about the preservation of podcasts. Seems pretty appropriate!

Preserve This Podcast! A new grant-funded project will help podcasters make sure their work doesn’t disappear.

Posted by Meagan Connolly, 653-01

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Posted in Born Digital, Cataloging, Research Projects

Organizing Pictures With Words

Posted in Cataloging, Classification

Improving Descriptive Practices for Born-Digital Material in an Archival Context

Creating archival finding aids for born-digital that adequately express the quality, quantity, and usability of the material has been challenging for digital archives practitioners. This is partially due to the fact that existing national and international standards that guide archival description (DACS, ISAD(G)) are designed to be content-neutral, and don’t address the unique set of needs inherent to born-digital content. The lack of guidance in this area has resulted in finding aids that vary substantially across–and even within–organizations: different elements are used to express similar information; disparate units of measure are used to indicate size and extent; wording is frequently vague or misleading; and crucial processing information was routinely excluded from finding aids altogether.

To improve the clarity, usefulness, and consistency of finding aids across campuses, digital archivists from throughout the University of California system worked together to develop a UC-wide standard standard for born-digital archival description. In addition to establishing a required minimum baseline for archival description in finding aids, these guidelines offer a controlled vocabulary for source media, metadata crosswalks to DACS, EAD, EAD3, MARC, RDA, and ISAD(G), and examples of description for element found within a standard finding. This day-long workshop will introduce participants to the UC Guidelines for Born-Digital Archival Description and enable them to translate this standard into practice at their own institutions. Through a series of hands-on exercises, participants will develop the skill set necessary to create more accurate, transparent, and effective archival finding aids for the born-digital material that they steward.

This workshop is for anyone who is currently working or who anticipates working with born-digital material in an archival context. The workshop will ensure that practitioners leave with the skills and resources necessary to adequately express the quality, quantity, and usability of digital material in their collections. The workshop has broad applicability, and will accommodate participants who have minimal experience with processing digital material as well as those who have been working with born-digital materials for some time.

Fri, February 23, 2018

9:00 AM – 4:00 PM EST

METRO Library Council, 599 11th Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10036

Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Cataloging, Classification, Libraries

A Peek at Famous Readers’ Borrowing Records From a Private New York Library


Thanks to carefully maintained circulation info, we know when Alexander Hamilton checked out Goethe.

Posted in Archives, Cataloging, Libraries

Dealing with Deadly Documents

Plenty of texts have the capability to be “dangerous” – they might teach you how to build a bomb, say, or disseminate violent philosophies. Sometimes texts are so concerning that government officials get involved: through the Minerva Initiative, for example, the Department of Defense recently gave Arizona State University a grant to research terrorist use of social media.

But Shadows From the Walls of Death is a different kind of dangerous text – it’s a book that could, through handling, actually kill a librarian or patron.

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Captioned screenshot from Atlas Obscura


Shadows was created by a former Civil War surgeon in the 1870s to educate the public about the dangers of arsenic-laden wallpaper. It contains 86 samples of said wallpaper, plus a preface and a creepy quote from Leviticus about “plague…in the walls of the house.” Because of the literally poisonous contents, most copies of Shadows were destroyed, but Atlas Obscura recently tracked down the four that remain – at MSU, the University of Michigan, Harvard University Medical School and the National Library of Medicine – and found out how and why the librarians have dealt with cataloguing and preserving this text, much less making it accessible. The short answer is “carefully,” especially when scanning the pages for public access via NIH, but the longer, more informative exploration is available on Atlas Obscura.

— Posted by Mary Mann, 653-01

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Posted in Archives, Books, Cataloging, Libraries, Open Access

by Hugh McLeod

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