Posts in: November, 2019

Let’s cook up some metadata consistency

cooking_consistency

Let’s say you’re writing a cookbook and describing ingredients. For sure you’re going to want to be consistent from one recipe to the next. If you don’t want to confuse your readers, it’s good not to refer to one amount as “a pinch” in one recipe and “a dollop” or “a smidge” in another.

Then you look around and realize that other people are writing cookbooks and they have some standards. That’s not a pinch, to them; it’s a teaspoon to some or 5 milliliters to others. What you call a “chunk” everybody else calls “a quarter cup” or “32 grams.” So, you need to be consistent not just within your own cookbook, but with others’ cookbooks, regardless of the dish being prepared—roasts, stir fries, desserts, soups, etc.

Librarians and archivists in data repositories are learning to think like this as well. Because the data being deposited for reuse has much greater value to their institutions when the metadata attached to it are consistent at the study level, the data level, and the file level.

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2 miles or 10,000 miles—ILL makes us one library

40th-ill-anniversary

Recently, the interlibrary loan (ILL) staff at the Loyola Notre Dame Library (LOY) tracked the locations around the world from which they borrow and lend library materials. The exercise was prompted by a student who, after being shown ILL by staff members Kate Strain and Zach Gahs-Buccheri, asked, “What’s the farthest library that you’ve gotten an item from?”

Turns out the answer was the Dalton McCaughey Library at the University of Melbourne in Australia, which is 10,038 miles from LOY in Baltimore, Maryland, US.

What a great example of how ILL makes us one big library with endless shelves. No library can possibly have on hand every item it needs. For that we rely on the resource sharing communities we build. In fact, some libraries keep things in their collections to circulate primarily via ILL rather than locally. That’s the commitment they have to sharing resources.

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Public libraries generate social capital that can save lives

Chris Cyr, Ph.D.

social_capital

When disaster strikes, libraries are there to help. In California, where many have been forced from their homes due to forest fires and power outages, libraries like Folsom Public Library have become a refuge for people who need to charge devices, use WiFi, or just have a place to go. In March of 2011, a powerful earthquake triggered enormous tsunami waves in the Tōhoku region of Japan, killing thousands of people, driving hundreds of thousands from their homes, and leaving millions without electricity and water service. In the months after this horrific disaster, as hundreds of government services, NGOs, and private and international relief agencies struggled to help communities recover, residents also looked to public libraries for help.

Why is that? Libraries don’t provide food, water, electricity, or medical services. In many cases, libraries had suffered the same catastrophic losses as their neighbors; staff had perished or been injured, buildings completely destroyed or unusable, resources gutted. Why, then, did people so quickly turn to libraries after a disaster? Because of social capital.

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