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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Posted in Libraries

Video Games and Archives

Seeing as all media that is inherently integral to the culture and time that it was created is deserving of being preserved, the notion of finding a way to preserve games is not far fetched. Although you don’t hear as many people vying to keep a catalogue of all video games for future generations to see. There are even accounts of the exact opposite, games being dumped en mass, ie the E.T game  being dumped in landfills. There are archives that house some influential games of past, the Library of Congress, of course. But what is not being put into high priority is the access of such material. While film screenings and reprints of impressive works can be accessed by the public, there is not really a huge “lets play” mentality when it comes to archived games. Archiving games also comes with a whole host of problems that aren’t seen with other mediums. The fact that patches come out to fix bugs and make the game run better, it is hard to keep an ongoing list of video games in their “Final Form”. Games are integral to a culture and being able to trace its backroots is important, hopefully a more precise form of archival is on the horizon.

Cameron Aguilar Info 653-02

Posted in Archives, Born Digital, Preservation, Uncategorized

Film Archives

Film archives and collections were specialized, and served a utilitarian purpose.(Educational, military, legal, religious) Ongoing efforts by multiple sources to rescue decaying film stocks and preserve the images they contain. Film preservation dates as far back as the 1930’s, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that UNESCO(United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) recognized moving images as an integral part of the worlds cultural heritage. Due to lack of insight into posterity, 90% of all American silent films made before 1929 are regarded as lost films. Along with 50% of American sounds films made before 1950.

The reason for such a huge margin of loss, was because of the volatile nature of the film itself. Nitrate film was highly flammable, fast decaying, expensive to store correctly. As a result of the last point studio’s would intentionally clear out warehouses of film by burning them, Silent Films had no commercial values as the invention of sound film overtook them. So they were destroyed in order to make more storage space for new incoming pictures. This is again when film wasn’t seen as an art form, but rather as a form of entertainment thats purpose was depleted if their was no commercial value to be gained from screenings.

Another huge problem is that with each shift in media comes a shift in technology. So not only does the collector of a specific film stock have to be able to preserve and collect the films themselves, but also has to have a way to procure the equipment necessary to play them.

Their is an attempt to try and copy the film without any loss and without tampering with the look of the film. With the act of preservation, comes the sometimes unwanted act of revisionism. Distorting a film from its release cut by adding, subtracting, and or arranging differently the film is a form of revisionism that is highly destructive. Collectors who transfer media from one state to another (film to video to dvd etc.) has a duty to make sure the copied version is as close to the original as it can possibly get. That means leaving in blemishes of the film stock and not trying to revitalize the image to make it look newer or of its time.

The main reason preservation of film is necessary is to create a window into which we can look through time. But, one of the biggest hurdles faced when talking about preserving film, at least in the early days, is the accessibility of openly sharing the collections with the public. Early on in the archiving of films hoarding by private collectors was a problem. When an institution would come across a collection the main concern was keeping it well preserved, not necessarily having it screened, or readily available for public consumption. If there are no viewings and no one can readily have available the material, then why preserve it all? Digitization of film and other dying media, is one way to combat this issue. Having everything available through an online source could mitigate the handling of delicate film stocks and other precious materials.

The Federation of Film Archives, is a network of film archivists from around the world who share and distribute films with each other. They started off in 1938 as four nations that wanted the preservation of film to be looked at as culturally significant. It was the first time that films were treated as pieces of art meant to be preserved and shared to future generations. The need for film preservation is well known, and the technology that is being used to copy, preserve, and create film has taken huge leap forward. Still the need for more efficient and longer lasting solution is yet to be established.

What is it that makes film a medium to consider when talking about preservation?

Why do some things garner more respect and validity when talking about preservation?

Cameron Aguilar Info 653-02

Posted in Archives, Classification, Libraries, Museums, Uncategorized

Saturday Evening Post Puts Its Nearly 200-Year Archive Online

“What started more than three decades ago as an effort to preserve over 300 Norman Rockwell covers, the Saturday Evening Posthas finally unveiled its new digital archive, consisting of thousands of magazines that date back to its founding in 1821.

“It was a culmination of decisions that started even before there were digitization possibilities,” says the CEO of the Saturday Evening Post, Joan SerVaas, who starting in the mid-80s, while in charge of licensing and intellectual property for the Rockwell art, began the process of preservation by making transparencies for the over 3,500 magazine covers in the archive. This then led to the color-copy stage in the mid-90s, and eventually gave way to the technology of the early 2000s which allowed the 197-year-old publication to go digital.”

Folio Mag, link to full article

Alvina Lai
Fall 2018
LIS 653-002


Posted in Uncategorized

New Zealand’s First Wikipedian-At-Large


photo via NYT

With a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation, Mike Dickison is traveling New Zealand to recruit volunteer editors for Wikipedia. The country has been sorely underrepresented on the site, and Dickison holds the honor as New Zealand’s first official Wikipedian-at-Large.

Mike Dickison was always a collector of items and information; and had his own “museum” as a child. He translated this proclivity for collecting into his career as a natural history curator, editing Wikipedia after work every day. Gradually, he began to feel that the work he was doing after hours was having more of an impact than his day job. And when an earthquake destroyed much of his childhood hometown, Christchurch, he was reminded of the power and persistence of digital preservation.

Dickison holds training sessions for burgeoning Wikipedia editors and hopes to use his work to “entice reticent public and private institutions to crack open their vaults of knowledge and expertise.”

Full article:


-Kari Belsheim, INFO 653-01

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Posted in Knowledge and Truth, Preservation, Research Projects

NYT Using Google AI to Digitize its “Morgue”


The New York Times is using AI technology to digitize its collection of over 5 million photos, dating back to the 1870s. The photographs have been sitting in a sea of file cabinets that the NYT refers to as its “morgue.” In addition to facial-recognition, AI technology uses text recognition to collect hand-written or printed information from the photographs, giving them further historical context. Cloud technology will then allow for journalists to search through the historical trove more easily. The photos will not be public, thought NYT plans to add a feature highlighting these photos over time.



full articles:

photos via


-Kari Belsheim, INFO 653-01

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Posted in Archives, Preservation

A New Database Will Feature Works by Overlooked Female Artists from the 15th to 19th Centuries

sor juana

A group of researchers at the Indiana University Bloomington in collaboration with the Advancing Women Artists foundation (AWA) are working to create an illustrated online database dedicated to documenting more than 600 women artists working in the United States and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. The project, as reported by Hyperallergic, will join similar projects such as ClaraAWARE and the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative in an effort to compile both historical and visual information about women artists into a central online place that is easily accessible.

The database called A Space of Their Own (a name that alludes to Virgina Woolf’s well-known phrase ‘a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’), will include a large repository of images and illustrations to accompany information on female painters, pastellists, printmakers, and sculptors – an important resource to advance knowledge and access on art history. According to the article, the database began in 2017 and is set to launch by the fall of 2019.

Link to full article: A New Illustrated Database

posted by Diana X. Cadavid

Fall 2018, INFO 653-01

Posted in Archives, Preservation, Research Projects, Uncategorized

Writer Haruki Murakami plans archive at Japanese university

“TOKYO — Haruki Murakami is planning an archive at his Japanese alma mater that will include drafts of his best-selling novels, his translation work and his massive collection of music, a personal passion that has been a key part of his stories.

“I’m more than happy if those materials can contribute in any way for those who want to study my works,” the Japanese writer said at a news conference with officials at Waseda University, where the library and archive will be housed.

“I hope it would be a place for cultural exchanges with positive and open atmosphere,” Murakami said.”


Alvina Lai

Fall 2018

LIS 653-002

Posted in Archives, Uncategorized

The Free Music Archive is closing down this month

The WFMU project hosted music that was meant to be freely shared

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Free Music Archive was founded in 2009, the same year Barack Obama was inaugurated as this country’s first black president. As a project directed by the legendary Jersey City radio station WFMU, it was to be a “library of high-quality, legal audio downloads,” a place where artists could share their music and listeners could enjoy it for free. Now, following a funding shortage, the FMA plans to close sometime this month.

Read more ›

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Posted in Archives, Libraries, Open Access, Uncategorized

by Hugh McLeod

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