Why use blockchain?

Blockchain’s applications are linked directly to its benefits, such as:

Security: The structure of the “chain of blocks” makes it impossible to be violated, since if an intruder decides to try to alter or erase any recorded transactions, it would need to control more than half of thousands of interfaces to allow a change by consensus. So, in order to make any changes to a record, this update would need to be verified by the whole software coded databases, making it impossible for one intruder to have access to thousands of interfaces.

Availability: The decentralized structure keeps the network running and working properly, even if some nodes are disconnected from the network. Once these nodes are reconnected to the network, they are immediately updated.

Trust: Since all the records in the blockchain can’t be altered or erased, the parties can be sure that all transactions recorded are legitimate.

Transparency: All the transactions are public, meaning all nodes have access to it. The record of the identity of the users is possible using the cryptographic mechanism, which ensures that only legitimate users are participating in that transaction, providing even more security.

  • How can it be used for verifiability?

Identity Verifiability:

Blockchain allows verifiability of legitimacy. For example, in a trade, it allows the verification that one of the parties involved is the actual seller or producer of the item in question.

Blockchain can be used as a tool to sign cryptographically for a given attribute. For example, the Government can sign that a person is a US citizen, or an academic institution can sign that a student is properly enrolled. Since this information is public, the person in question has control and access to this record and can use it as a certification.

Blockchain allows for the record of users or clients in the system, which prevents identity fraud or fake identities. This can be particularly useful in contracts, for example, when transferring a properly or finalizing an electronic contract.



Andreia do Amaral – INFO 653-02



Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Cataloging, Knowledge and Truth, Knowledge Structures, Open Access, Open Data, Preservation, Research Projects

Blockchain Case: Anti-Corruption

Land Governance – Serpro (Brazil):
Blockchain is being used in several pilot programs to fight fraud and corruption when it comes to land governance. Since the technology can be used to record and verify transactions, it is being applied to the storage of land registry entries and land titles.

In Brazil, the company Serpro (that creates businesses by connecting governmental entities – and its public information –  with society, through innovative and safe digital solutions) has launched a blockchain platform project to fight frauds that are currently happening, due to antiquated land titling systems, and to protect the endangered environment of the Amazon Forest.

The lack of a current verifiability system is resulting with the falsification of land registries entries and land titles, giving false and illegal permissions for people/companies to cut down parts of the rainforest for soy and beef farming. Brazil’s federal law protects the Amazon rainforest by only allowing a certain percentage to be cut down and explored for commercial purposes and keeping most of the rainforest intact.

Serpro believed that blockchain could be the solution to end fraud and reduce corruption, by improving the controls and records of citizens, businesses and the government. Through blockchain technology trusted records would be produced, since stored information can’t be deleted or altered, which means that any corrupt politician that tries to tamper with the records will be tracked and publicly identified.

This pilot project was intended to boost high-level corruption investigation, following a scandal involving two former Brazilian presidents, a lot of high class executives and politicians, which resulted on their imprisonment and the payment by the oil-company Petrobras of $3 billion due to the corruption lawsuit.



Andreia do Amaral – INFO 653-02



Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Knowledge and Truth, Knowledge Structures, Open Access, Open Data, Research Projects

National Film Registry Adds Historically Significant Silent Film

The Library of Congress’ National Film Registry announced on December 12th its selection of  25 new works to their archive. Among the selections is Something Good-Negro Kiss, a silent film from 1898 of great historical importance.  The University of Chicago’s website describes the film as follows: “The 29-second clip is free of stereotypes and racist caricatures, a stark contrast from the majority of black performances at the turn of the century.”

The University of Chicago’s Allyson Nadia Field played a major role in identifying the film. She is an Associate Professor in the University’s Department of Cinema and Media Studies and is an expert on African-American cinema. According to the article, “Field relied on inventory and distribution catalogs, tracing the film to Chicago.” She completed her research with the assistance of the Museum of Modern Art.


Jarek Miller LIS 653

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LC Launches Web Cultures, Webcomics Archives

Article from Library Journal

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is creating two new born-digital collections – The Web Cultures Web Archive (WCWA) and Webcomics Web Archive (WWA). WCWA will feature memes, gifs, and images from pop culture while WWA will collect comics created for online audiences. The Library of Congress is dedicated to preserving ephemera of the Internet as well as spoken word, dance, artwork, stories and mythology, and records of community life.

LC started archiving websites, mostly government and political sites, in 2000 using Internet Archive, but in 2010 it began archiving broader categories such as media, political commentary, and blogs. WCWA relies on nominations to determine what memes and gifs should be archived. While the LC has been interested in pop and internet culture for a while, it has only recently been able to archive it do to technological and space constrictions. LC uses DigiBoard, which automates and streamlines collection activities and generates metadata. After nominations are reviewed, LC must get permission from site owners to crawl their sites and display them in its collection. Currently, access to the web archives is very simple, with only item records and descriptive data in MODS format. At some point, LC is hoping to include a full text search feature and derivative datasets.

Carolyn Dellinger 653-02

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Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Libraries, Preservation

‘Dragonfly’ follow-up

I read about Google’s ‘Dragonfly’ project back in September and decided to follow-up on this news story.

‘Dragonfly’ is the codename for a censored search engine produced by Google for China. It has all the ethical violations you’re wondering, which essentially means providing a tool to perpetuate dictatorial censorship in the Communist country.

The most recent news was a letter posted on a Medium account, Google Employees Against Dragonfly (interesting choice for communication), addressing Google (again) and the need to cease the project. There have been outcries from human rights organizations, government officials, Google employees, and the general public, however Google has not reported any efforts to relinquish the project. In fact, Alphabet (parent company of Google) chair John Hennessey has said that doing business in China requires compromising “core values” (cited in Salinas & D’Onfro, 2018). What’s the point of having core values then?

Here’s a fun video recapping news around the project:


Foglia, L [BEME News]. (2018, November 5). Google, China, and the fate of the open internet [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AizjY2aJnRo

Salinas, S. & D’Onfro, J. (2018, November 27). Read Google employees’ open letter protesting Project Dragonfly. Retrieved December 7, 2018, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/27/read-google-employees-open-letter-protesting-project-dragonfly.html
Nicole Tominaga | INFO-653-02
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Posted in Uncategorized, Knowledge and Truth, Open Access

How Do You Catalog A Book Made Of Cheese?

American Cheese book by Ben Denzer

Image: Ben Denzer

As part of the Whitney’s Andy Warhol exhibit, the gift shop is filled with items Warhol probably would have found pretty amusing: a $400 Brillo Box pouf, a DIY time capsule (which, much like his, is basically just a cardboard box), and, displayed under glass, a beautiful little book inspired by his piece “192 One Dollar Bills.” Made by artist Ben Denzer in an edition of 192, each book is a bound volume of 192 real one dollar bills, priced at $384.

Clearly Denzer is a genius, so I looked into what else he’s done. All of his work is delightful (look at these tape sculptures! the books of fortune cookie fortunes and napkins and artificial sweeteners!), but one piece that stands out is his book that binds together 20 wrapped slices of American cheese — particularly because there are a few libraries that own copies.

Jamie Lausch Vander Broek, the lactose-intolerant Librarian for Art & Design at the University of Michigan, described how and why she acquired a copy of the cheese book in a piece for Saveur, noting that it wasn’t exactly a popular choice:

“Some people—especially librarians, particularly book catalogers at other institutions—were mad when I bought the cheese book. This surprised me. I thought that people would laugh, or crinkle up their faces in bewilderment. Their anger reminded me of reactions to color field paintings; people seemed divided between ‘I could do that,’ and ‘that’s an insult to books!'”

So how was it cataloged? The record at the University of Michigan lists it under these Library of Congress Subject Headings: “Artists’ books — New York (State) — New York — 21st century,” “Food in art,” and, the best, “Cheese — Specimens.” Because the book’s cover doesn’t list the creator, and because there’s no title page on the first slice, there’s a note about where the Main Author entry came from: “Artist information from publisher website.” I particularly like the Physical Description field: “20 unnumbered leaves.”

The book’s WorldCat listing also shows it in the collection at Tufts (where it’s listed as “Not Loanable”) and the artist’s site also notes that Baylor University holds one of the 10 created copies (where it’s apparently being processed — but, isn’t the cheese already quite processed?).

It seems unlikely, but I am hopeful there’s an interlibrary loan possibility for this book. I should have a bit of time to find out, since, as the head of  conservation at U of M told the librarian there, “American singles are basically shelf stable.”

–Mary Bakija, INFO-653-01

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Meet Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the original Mickey Mouse


A legal dispute in the late 1920s forced Walt Disney to abandon his early signature character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  Disney rebounded from this setback by morphing many of Oswald’s key features into Mickey Mouse, the iconic figure of his cartoon empire.  In 2017 a Disney animator by the name of David Bossert released a book on the subject titled Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons. The book was read by a Japanese researcher and animation collector who realized he had been in possession of a rare Oswald print for 70 years, one which had been unaccounted for in the historical record.  The film print is now being housed at the Kobe Planet Film Archive in Japan, and archivists are optimistic that more of the missing prints will surface in light of the publicity.  To read more:

Jarek Miller LIS 653-02

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Posted in Archives, Preservation, Uncategorized

“The World Turned Upside Down”

I just wanted to share this article in The American Archivist about the role of the archivist and their relationship with genealogists (which has historically been a frosty one). Maybe grad school is turning me into a huge nerd, or I just have a really odd sense of humour, but I was laughing out loud (in public) reading this paper. I’m still not sure if it’s meant to be ironic or serious, but an entertaining (and informative) read nonetheless. .. find it at this link.

Here is the incredibly strange introduction:

“Two hundred years ago this October, the British army under Lord Cornwallis marched dejectedly from the breached defenses of Yorktown, Virginia, to surrender to victorious Americans and their French allies. The vanquished British marched out to an old tune called ‘The World Turned Upside Down’. Just as the name of this tune succinctly symbolizes that defeat of the British, so state archives and other record repositories throughout this country have in recent years come under seige by a determined and persistent legion known collectively as family historians, or genealogists.”

…oh? And a few other highlights:

“The archivist of a large religious institution, whom I know well, says that genealogists are the most selfish of all people and that some of his fellow religious are morally opposed to aiding any of them. The same attitude, expressed in secular and occasionally outright vulgar terms, is shared by most archivists in public archives.”

“Denigrating genealogists has been a cherished avocation of archivists ever since we began scratching our way up the ladder toward professional status.”

“Genealogists were given no special encouragement or assistance, and younger members of archives staffs were warned: ‘Do not spoon-feed genealogists’.”

“The typical historian in our archives, rather than deserving special attention from us, is at least as self-centered as the average genealogist; and today most topics investigated by historians are so narrowly defined and so obtuse as to be of liuttle of no value to anyone.”


– Nathalie Delean (653-01)

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Remembering the Howard University Librarian Who Decolonized the Way Books Were Catalogued


Librarian Dorothy Porter collected and preserved black experience objects, while making the cataloging system more inclusive at the same time. The Eurocentrism of the Dewey Decimal System is easy for catalogers to see. It is also not all that surprising considering the cataloging system was made by a successful white man more than a century ago. Porter was a groundbreaking librarian for her time, making the collection of Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center one of the largest holders of black history and culture material.

Porter acquired books by developing a network between her friends and generous publishers in the U.S. and abroad in Brazil, England, France and Mexico. She looked beyond books to the Africana cultural influencers she invited to campus, in order to show the students that African heritage was important and that they should be proud of the color of their skin and who they are. After Howard University was given the private library of Arthur B. Spingarn in 1946, Porter turned to the Library of Congress to appraise the collection. However, the appraiser told Porter that he didn’t know anything about black literature and asked her to write a report, not knowing that she herself was black. It was clear that “no American library had a suitable classification scheme for Black materials.” Four women, who worked at Howard University Library, prioritized the works done by marginalized black authors. Porter followed in their footsteps by creating an entirely new classification system.

Porter explained every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.” Instead she classified works by genre and author, with complete disregard to the white Eurocentric tendencies of the Dewey system. This new system was very much in keeping with the influence of the Harlem Renaissance and the black perspective. For Porter, it was also important to focus on the histories and languages of black people around the world, so as to recover their past. It is important that we, as the next generation of librarians, remember Porter’s work on desegregating, decolonizing and repatriating the records in Howard University’s collections and recognize that it is possible to promote further change in the current cataloging and classification systems.

Posted in Books, Cataloging, Classification, Library

Controlled Digital Lending Concept Gains Ground


Photo from Library Journal

As described in this article from Library Journal, copyright experts have started to build a framework for Controlled Digital Lending (CDL). For a library setting, the concept of using CDL is fairly simple. If the library owns a physical copy of a book, the copy is digitized. Patrons may then choose to borrow the book in either print or digital format. When one of the format copies is loaned out, the other copy will not be in circulation until the borrowed copy is returned. This is so that the library can properly uphold an “owned to loan” ratio. 

Why is CDL so useful? Not only would it provide digital access to out-of-print books and otherwise inaccessible shelf copies, but it helps to break down barriers to access for those who are unable to physically visit a library that houses the book they need. 

“[CDL has the potential to] revolutionalize how library users access and conduct research with these valuable materials. The UC Berkeley Library is better positioned to help democratize access to knowledge and allow it to be used in ways that promote global progress.” – Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, Berkeley’s university librarian

As it continues to garner interest among both academic and public library institutions, there are several potential problem areas to explore as well. This includes the need to utilize digital rights management software in order to prevent borrowers from creating and distributing additional copies, as well as issues related to how copyright law would be applied to digital copies when it hasn’t been previously established. 

As someone who regularly borrows ebooks from my local library, I think the potential benefits of CDL can have a big impact on researchers, students, and the general public. Although the article specifically mentions that CDL is “not meant to be a competitor to OverDrive”, nor a “replacement for licensing ebooks”, allowing patrons to borrow difficult to access print books via digital means could open the possibilities for disseminating valuable knowledge and information. I am also very interested to see how this technology will statistically affect lending patterns and library usage. 

–Tami Chen (INFO 653-01)

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information