The Printers’ File: A Study in Typewriters and Linked Data

BY DAN SPECHT, CFO AND VP SALES AND MARKETING

I make it a point to tell people that I am not a librarian.  I do this because I don’t want people to see me as an “impersonator” among the amazing and well-trained community of librarians.  Instead, I am just a guy who many times happens to be in the right place at the right time in the library world. 

This serendipity was truly the case in late January 2017 when I found myself invited to a meeting led by the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) at the Bobst Library at New York University regarding the transformation of the Printers’ File into Linked Data. 

The story of the Printers’ File begins with Avis Clarke, pictured below.  Over her 43 year career at the American Antiquarian Society, she compiled 25 drawers of cards in a card catalog that would become the Printers’ File.  As noted on the AAS website,  “Culled from biographies, reference books, and newspapers, this information details the work of printers, publishers, editors, binders, and others involved in the book trades up to 1820, and book historians and genealogists have consulted these files ever since.” (http://www.americanantiquarian.org/printers-file)

If you think of it, Avis was creating Linked Data with her typewriter, starting 90 years ago.

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

AAS estimates that the Printers' File documents approximately 10,000 people in book trades. The cards detail their occupations, the firms they worked with, and newspaper associations in addition to basic biographical information. A sample of the cards follows, showing the detail stored by Avis in her labor of love.

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Image courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

Circle forward to today and, thanks to a project led by Molly Hardy, AAS entered the card files into a database over several months.  From that point, working with the team at Zepheira, the database was transformed and reviewed via an iterative process into the Linked Data introduced at the workshop I attended in January. 

That day in New York I split off into a project group with librarians from the Bodleian, Folger, Beinecke, and Morgan Libraries (among others). Together we broke down the various listed professions identified in the Printers’ File Linked Data, focusing on the work of making paper.  I wondered how I could hide the fact that I didn’t have a clue how people made paper in the early 1800s – or today, for that matter!  However, I was sure of one thing.  The passion and commitment with which this group of librarians attacked this project were special.  And, again by fate or fortune, I was an outsider at a special event.

What is unique about this project is the commitment of not only the staff at AAS but the group of actively engaged peers from across the library and research communities that met in New York in January to review the work “completed to date.” I specifically note it as the work completed to date because even with all of the hours invested so far, there are still anomalies to be addressed and fixed over time. 

The amazing work of Avis beginning almost 90 years ago is a striking parallel to the current spirit of the transformation process. When Avis sat in front of her typewriter to create file cards, she didn’t worry about whether her work was perfect or if each record was totally complete.  What she created was an amazing data set that did its best to replicate and preserve the available information.  The partners in the transformation process today are hoping to achieve the same results.  The result of the transformed data is a richer more connected network of information.  Is it perfect in every way?  Probably not – but it is now highly structured with the ability for a wide community of users to help identify and update potential errors. 

I am not a librarian, but I greatly respect the commitment of librarians from Avis Clarke to Molly Hardy and the current AAS staff.   Thanks to this project, with a few mouse clicks I learned that James Flanagan was a Weigher of Hay – along with being a Judge, Bookseller, Lawyer and in the New York print trade from 1807-1840. 

 Which would never have happened without Avis Clarke and her typewriter.

Koalas, Kangaroos, and Sydney from 440 Feet Up: Aeon Onsite Implementation and Training at the University of Melbourne Provides an Extraordinary Experience

BY KATIE GILLESPIE, AEON IMPLEMENTATION CONSULTANT

In February 2017, I had the honor of representing Atlas Systems in Australia. It was the trip of a lifetime and I was so thrilled to visit libraries and special collections all over Australia and New Zealand. This trip had a lot of firsts for me – my first long-haul flight, first time on the other side of the equator, first time feeding a kangaroo, and first time climbing a suspension bridge.

My first stop, after nearly 36 hours of travel, was Melbourne to train and implement our inaugural Australian Aeon site. I’d been working remotely with staff at the University of Melbourne Cultural Collections Reading Room and their various collections for about 2 months. We switched up our typical implementation model and decided to set up Aeon at a very basic level, get staff trained, go live in the Reading Room, and then revisit workflows in a few months to determine what changes or adjustments needed to be made. The training went smoothly. Staff felt comfortable learning Aeon and were happy to find that we had incorporated their current workflows and practices into their instance of Aeon. On my last day, I spent some time sitting in the Reading Room to see it from a patron’s perspective and worked with staff to finalize their set up. Many thanks to the Aeon project manager, Kiah McCarthy, who worked tirelessly to ensure that systems, staff, and the Reading Room itself were ready to go live with Aeon.

University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library

University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library

The University of Melbourne Cultural Collections Reading Room serves The University of Melbourne Archives, Grainger Museum, and Special Collections (which includes Rare Books, Rare Music, and the Print Collection).

The University of Melbourne Cultural Collections Reading Room serves The University of Melbourne Archives, Grainger Museum, and Special Collections (which includes Rare Books, Rare Music, and the Print Collection).

The staff at University of Melbourne were warm and welcoming. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and train them in person after several months of communicating via conference call. The head of their Reading Room, Carl Temple, was a gracious host and ensured that I didn’t eat a meal alone for the duration of my stay in Melbourne. I was so happy to get to see the city from a local’s perspective and from them I learned a great deal about Australian history. On my last day, they invited me to join them for the opening of the library’s newest exhibition, Plotting the Island, which made use of their new gallery space to display manuscripts, maps, and artifacts related to the exploration of Australia.

At the exhibition opening with Leanne Mccredden, Carl Temple, and Kiah McCarthy

At the exhibition opening with Leanne Mccredden, Carl Temple, and Kiah McCarthy

Before I left Melbourne, I switched to my secondary duty of visiting and exploring libraries, calling on several local universities and the State Library of Victoria. My visit there began my “Australian Tour of State Libraries,” with subsequent visits to the state library in New South Wales and Queensland. The buildings were all beautifully constructed and open to the public to wander, so I was able to see several exhibits and installations, in addition to peeking into their reading rooms. 

The main reading room at the State Library of Victoria. It’s open to the public – many students use this space to study and members of the public use the available chess tables to challenge their minds. The top three levels contain stacks and exhibit space.

The main reading room at the State Library of Victoria. It’s open to the public – many students use this space to study and members of the public use the available chess tables to challenge their minds. The top three levels contain stacks and exhibit space.

After 6 days in Melbourne, I flew to Sydney. I was excited to explore such a historic and famous city and happily spent the weekend walking and taking ferries to as many parts of the city as I could. I walked the Royal Botanic Gardens, toured the Sydney Opera House, took a ferry to Manly Beach, and visited the Taronga Zoo. I toured the Art Museum of New South Wales, where I took in several exhibits of aboriginal art and a special installation of projects done by state high school students. And on my last morning, I participated in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, where I saw the harbor from 440ft above ground. The climb wasn’t very physically taxing, and is very safe, as long as you can get past the height! The tour guide shared a story about a 92-year-old woman he led on a climb who had attended the bridge opening in 1932 when she was 10 years old. She came back over 80 years later to see it from the top!

At the top of the bridge, with the Opera House behind me on the left and the Queen Mary II docked in the Harbor on the right.

At the top of the bridge, with the Opera House behind me on the left and the Queen Mary II docked in the Harbor on the right.

In Sydney, I continued my tour of Australian State Libraries where I visited the State Library of New South Wales and conducted a meeting with librarians from a local university.

The State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.

The State Library of New South Wales in Sydney.

My next stop was a quick 24 hours in Brisbane for more introductory meetings (and a visit to the State Library of Queensland, of course). I flew from Sydney early in the morning so I would have time to make it to one of my bucket list tourist destinations. I’ve always wanted to hold a koala, so after I arrived, I took a city bus to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The sanctuary bills itself as the world’s first and largest sanctuary, where they have over 130 koalas, dozens of kangaroos, and many other Australian animals. I got to hold a koala and walk through a field of kangaroos, allowing for petting and feeding (and selfies, of course). This was, by far, my favorite tourist spot and something I’ll never forget. If you are planning a trip to Queensland, Australia any time soon, I’d recommend Lone Pine as a stop on your journey!

This is Hamlet. He’s 4-years-old and if the keepers hadn’t been watching, I might have tried to bring him home.

This is Hamlet. He’s 4-years-old and if the keepers hadn’t been watching, I might have tried to bring him home.

My new kangaroo friend – she ate out of my hand, let me hang out in her sun spot to pet her, and posed for this photo before I left. 

My new kangaroo friend – she ate out of my hand, let me hang out in her sun spot to pet her, and posed for this photo before I left. 

Finally, I flew from Brisbane to Auckland, New Zealand for another quick stopover and library visit. Thirty-six hours in New Zealand was not nearly enough, so I hope to be able to visit again someday. Since I didn’t have much time to sightsee (I flew in at night and was leaving at 7am the next day), I saw most of Auckland from the Sky Tower. The tower has 360 degree views from its observation deck, which has a glass floor so you can see straight down to street level. And I did manage to stop by the Auckland City Library on my way to a meeting for my final stop on my library tour.

The from the Sky Tower view looking down on Federal and Victoria Streets in Auckland

The from the Sky Tower view looking down on Federal and Victoria Streets in Auckland

I got to mix business with pleasure on this trip and I couldn’t be more grateful to my wonderful hosts at the University of Melbourne and to everyone at Atlas Systems for making this trip so memorable. Thanks for sharing my journey.

A Concierge Visit Benefits New Mexico State Library and their Member Libraries

A Concierge Visit Benefits New Mexico State Library and their Member Libraries

BY HEATHER BLACK, IMPLEMENTATION AND CONCIERGE SERVICES TEAM LEADER

 

In February 2017, I was able to drink in the clear, high-desert air of Santa Fe, New Mexico on a trip to visit our Concierge Customer, the New Mexico State Library (NMSL). NMSL is an on-going subscriber to the Concierge service and this was our second visit to their library.

The NMSL staff are fortunate to work in an open, light-filled space that captures a sense of their local geography, filled with sculptures and paintings through an art in public spaces program, including the metal and glass mobiles hanging in the atrium stairwell pictured here.

I spent two days with Laura Calderone and Christy McPherson reviewing their processing workflows and discussing improvements. While the staff is small, their service footprint reaches the entire state of New Mexico. Along with serving government employees, they provide an ILL referral service to more than a hundred small local libraries and correctional facilities and use ILLiad to make requests on their behalf.

Their greatest challenge is the referral service to these libraries who make requests through the ILLiad web pages. These requests are then processed centrally by NMSL but then delivered directly to the local library. In a previous visit, Atlas staff created a custom workflow that automatically adds the address of the referral library from the ILLiad user record into the OCLC request—no more need to select from 100+ constant data records!

As you might imagine, handling the Received and Returned updates for these referral requests can be a daunting task when items are sent to libraries all across a primarily rural state. These locations have limited staffing and deal with high turnover or may rely on the help of volunteers. Consequently, the process needs to be as simple as possible. We were able to employ custom searching and email templates to more easily communicate with libraries about when materials have been shipped, and the ILLiad overdue process allows NMSL staff to easily monitor items that may have been returned to the lending library but not updated in ILLIad.

As we do with most of our Concierge libraries, we also took time to update print template customizations and identify some ways to clean up the data in their user records. Lending volume is limited because the nature of their collection restricts the circulation of many of their materials, and yet, they are exploring the benefit of tools like the Electronic Delivery Utility which was designed primarily for higher volume shops.

The New Mexico State Library is representative of Atlas Systems’ Concierge customers who come from a broad range of size and type of library. Each benefits from the specialized service of the Concierge program in which we shape our products’ tools to the nature of their unique work. It is always a pleasure for me to meet our customers face-to-face and to be able make their work even a little bit easier. Thank you to Laura and Christy for a delightful visit.

Laura Calderone and Christy McPherson

Laura Calderone and Christy McPherson