Tag Archives: libraries

Unit 13: IRLS 675 wrapup

How sad, we have come once again to the “final blog post” time of the semester! Since this time around, I’m going to try to make my final paper more formal, use the third person, and all that jazz, I guess this is my last opportunity to talk about what I got out of this class personally.

First of all, it was really great to try so many different kinds of applied technology. Sometimes it was a little challenging to figure out hard drive space issues with juggling around so many different VMs, but it was definitely worth it. When I think about how I was able to critically assess the different articles in the management portion of the class, my understanding of digital collections and issues of platform, customizability, and so forth was increased exponentially as the applied part of the class went on. Although 672 was a good beginning, actually getting hands-on experience with the kinds of software that digital collections managers are using and evaluating was a really empowering experience. Seeing what was similar and what was unique to each setup by actually installing and using it was a completely different experience than reading about each system’s capabilities, or even using sites that have been created using those systems.

The other thing that I want to emphasize about the applied technology portion is that its repetitive process of using similar procedures in different ways over time helped demystify things that I had done by rote before. This isn’t to say that I’ve become an expert at anything; a week or two isn’t enough time for that. But I do feel that I’m confident enough to try installing new software in a new VM — perhaps the museum collection management software mentioned in unit 14? — and know what to do with Apache to get it to work, know how to use wget or ftp to put files on the VM, etc., and actually know what those functions are doing, rather than doing them because that’s what the forum post said.

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Unit 11: general impressions

This week, we got to start playing with Omeka. It reminded me a lot of our Drupal unit. The themes and plugins seemed very similarly structured. A little searching dug up this post in which an Omeka developer commented that the code bases are structured very differently, but from an initial user perspective, it had a similar front-end feel.

I think that approachable feel is really important. For example, although we didn’t look at Joomla or WordPress in this class, making the experience easy and visually appealing is part of why those tools are so successful. One thing I’ve noticed in comparing the different platforms in this class is that things that are visually appealing and approachable on the back end tend to be so on the front end when implemented, too. Okay, that wasn’t the greatest sentence in the world, but hopefully you’ll get what I mean: something like Drupal that has a really slick, intuitive, and approachable interface just tends to power better sites than something old and clunky-feeling like DSpace.

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Unit 9: Cataloging

This week’s blog discussion is about cataloging. I admit, cataloging is not something that I find incredibly appealing. As I mentioned in this week’s discussion, there are a lot of issues inherent to judging, placing, and describing anything, as well as deciding where it fits in a larger collection, and it’s very hard for the person creating a single record to have enough perspective to make it fit into the big picture, or be the right choice in hindsight. For example, early on in this class, we read Clay Shirky’s famous essay, Ontology is Overrated. It discussed the perils of classification, and gave an example of the religious bias inherent in the Dewey’s system, in which Christianity dominates nearly the entire section, leaving a few meager subheadings for “Other religions”:

Dewey, 200: Religion

210 Natural theology
220 Bible
230 Christian theology
240 Christian moral & devotional theology
250 Christian orders & local church
260 Christian social theology
270 Christian church history
280 Christian sects & denominations
290 Other religions

Another example that a coworker gave me was of a colleague who looked up “interrracial” in the LCSH and was disturbed to find out which sections were next to it: incest and insanity.

So, bringing this post back to my collection, I have felt quite tentative and experimental in my categorization of my small collection. After trying LC for this week’s EPrints assignment, I rather wish I’d picked out LCSH terms all along, instead of using rather vague DC. On the other hand, outside the library world, LC is less meaningful, so perhaps from an interoperability standpoint, DC is better, it’s just a question of more complete and more accurate DC metadata?

 

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Unit 8: EPrints, To Be Continued…

So this post is for the first week of our two-week EPrints assignment. The install was very simple, since all we had to do was add a few lines to our Ubuntu server’s repo list after we got a new VM up and running. My only hangup was that I accidentally typed “y” instead of “Yes” at one point during the installation, as the instructions specifically said not to do (oops). I wasn’t sure if that was a big deal or not, so since it was so easy, I just started over and everything was successful the second go-round.

As far as customization, I put a silly custom logo up and changed the blurb to describe my project. Good thing I  had my classmates’ blogs to see where I was going wrong with the site logo thing (it was a .png and not a .gif, and there was a little typo in the instructions that had to be corrected). But otherwise, smooth sailing so far, and I’m looking forward to getting my little collection started!

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Unit 4: More Drupal

This week has been a bit gentler-paced, which I appreciated! I enjoyed using Drupal to enter my initial items in my digital collection. I found it to be pretty similar to what I did last week. Although one of my classmates found it too “bloggy” for her collection, I actually find my particular collection (my personal writing files) to be well-suited to a blog format. Since I had just been using a (different) WordPress blog for (some) of those files in the past, categorizing them and deciding where different items fit on the taxonomy wasn’t too hard of a task. I could see it being more difficult with multiple users, though. On the other hand, the nice thing about Drupal is that even if users disagreed on, say, where certain content should be located on the site, it is possible to just have the same information show up in multiple places at once, and there’s only one version that can get edited and updated as needed. That seems to be a big problem with large sites — too many things are in multiple places, and when something gets changed in one place, whoever’s updating that content in that place might not even know about the other place.

The only thing that was a bit tedious was, again, because there’s a lot of information that seems redundant to me since it’s just my stuff (like putting my name as author over and over again). But as we’ve been learning in the management readings, doing the bare minimum of metadata on a collection makes it less interoperable with other collections, so there is a fair amount of data entry work. Another thing I really like about Drupal is that someone without any web design background can do this work: it is very successful in divorcing the form from the content. It also has mechanisms to allow review by someone who’s in charge of content before new content goes live, gets deleted, etc., which again are a bit redundant when it’s just me working with my own stuff, but is definitely a useful feature in the real world.

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Unit 3: moving right along with Drupal and digital collections

I was kind of tempted to just post “argh!” for the response to the question re: workload this week. Yeah, I kind of brought this on myself, what with taking two other challenging classes and working full time and my volunteer project and attempting to have a life (I think it was doing a yoga class before my homework today that was my big mistake!), but it’s been a bit of a rough week. It reminds me of the “hard weeks” in 672 — and that’s just watching the videos, doing the readings, and doing the Drupal install and configuration. It’s not that it was “hard” in the sense that I couldn’t get something to work, either — it just took a decent chunk of time all week to get through everything, and I still have a few pieces left to do before Unit 3 is finished. Since 672 started out with “easy weeks,” moved into “hard weeks,” and had some “easy weeks” thrown in every so often even so, the pace for 675 is seeming a little more grueling. It feels like taking the hardest parts of 672 and adding on additional readings and discussion posts. (Yeah, there aren’t quizzes anymore, but the quizzes didn’t take much time and were pretty helpful for identifying whatever hadn’t been absorbed.)

On the other hand, the stuff we’ve been reading has been really interesting and probably will be helpful for future jobs, so I don’t want to say we should cut down on the reading. Ditto for the tech assignments and discussion. So I guess at this point, I’m feeling a little stressed out, but I’m not ready to cry uncle. I just keep looking at job postings for web developers (or “web ninjas,” as one particularly tempting posting I found this week put it) at libraries, and seeing how much of this stuff goes right into the experience they’re looking for, so I really like getting to learn it. I do wish it could slow down occasionally, but maybe it will soon.

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