p>Panel 17, June 1, 2011, 9:00-10:30 am
Moderator: Héctor Morey, Library of Congress
Presenters: Melissa Gasparotto, Rutgers University; Diane Napert, Yale University; Craig Schroer, University of Texas at Austin; Anton du Plessis, Texas A&M University; Alison Hicks, University of Colorado, Boulder
Rapporteur: Brenda Salem, University of Pittsburgh
The presentations on this panel described initiatives that made use of the latest information technology to provide better library service and to enhance access to information.
The first presentation, titled, “Search Engine Optimization for the Research Librarian, or How Librarians Can Beat Spammers at Their Own Game” was given by Melissa Gasparotto, a librarian at Rutgers University. Citing a project on search engine optimization she worked on, Gasparatto demonstrated how assigning appropriate high quality metadata can be placed in online academic works in order to place them higher on the results lists of search engines such as Google. She started out by explaining that Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a set of practices that modify elements of a web page in order for the page to have higher visibility among the results of particular search engine queries. All search engines have guidelines and best practices for SEO in order to make website more readable for both search engines and humans. However, SEO has gotten a bad reputation because it is something that spammers have long taken advantage of by means of inaccurate metadata and link farms to promote low quality content.
Gasparotto acknowledged doubts about whether SEO is appropriate for academia, but asserted that indeed, SEO is something that can be used to academia’s advantage, whether it’s for online journal articles, a database, an institutional repository, or an open access journal. Some of the reasons for the importance of applying good SEO practices in online academic work are the growing importance of open access and the higher probability that such work will be indexed by Google Scholar web crawlers. The practices that apply specifically to making academic works more accessible on the open web through search engines like Google Scholar is known as Academic Search Engine Optimization (ASEO), which is of particular use to librarians.
She continued by describing her project on optimizing her online bibliography of U.S. Lesbian Latina History and Culture. She mentioned that this was a particular good case study because searches for “lesbian latina” often result in links to pornographic sites, which make legitimate academic studies on lesbian Latinas hard to find. The project goals and methodology were based on an article written by Martha Kelehan about her project with two colleagues at SUNY-Binghamton on optimizing the SUNY-Binghamton website. These goals were to 1) increase the bibliography’s page rank for a targeted set of search terms, 2) increase the number of search engine referrals, and 3) increase the number of page views. She outlined the methodology of her project, which included first measuring the natural ranking of the online bibliography, then using analysis tools to select target keywords, optimizing the bibliography using those keywords, and finally measuring the page ranking after the optimization. This took her about six months, noting that SEO is a long-term process. Among the analysis tools she used were Google Trends, Google Insights Keyword Tool, Google Adwords, and Topicmarks. It turns out that the bibliography’s ranking was surprisingly high to begin with for many of the keyword searches she had chosen for the study, so no optimization was needed for half of the target keywords. To optimize the keywords, Gasparotto added some metadata to the site’s HTML code. At the end of her project, the site’s ranking improved significantly for her chosen keyword search strings. Gasparatto concluded her presentation by listing best practices for those wishing to optimize their online academic works, as well as recommended reading on SEO.
The second presentation was titled, “Digging for Treasure: Zarzuelas and Other Gems in the Historical Sound Recording Collection at Yale University” and was given by Diane Napert, a catalog librarian at Yale University. In this presentation, Napert described a grant-funded project that she participated in to catalog the large number of 78 rpm recordings that make part of Yale’s Historical Sound Recording Collection (HSCRC), focusing on their collection of zarzuela recordings. She started out by giving a short history and overview of the HSRC, which is strong in Western classical music, as well as American musical theater and spoken word recordings. She then described the project, which was funded by a $789,000 Mellon grant. The institutions that participated in this project were Yale, Stanford, New York Public Library’s Rogers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, and later Syracuse. In the end, the project contributed over 24,000 records to OCLC, which, she noted, is small compared to the number of 78 rpm recordings that remain uncataloged, but is a significant number nonetheless. In a typical cataloging record, she added access points for people and groups who contributed to the recording and was successful in connecting arias to the correct opera and excerpted songs to the correct musicals. The recordings that were cataloged came from over 360 recording labels, particularly Columbia, Edison, Decca, Gramophone, among others.
Napert gave an overview and history of the zarzuela, which is a lyric-dramatic genre that comes from Spain and originated in the mid to late 1600s. When cataloging zarzuelas, Napert used The Zarzuela Companion, written by Christopher Webber. Napert went on to play several samples of 78 rpm zarzuela recordings. The samples included: 1) a 1906 recording of “Vals del Caballero de Gracia” from La Gran Vía, written by Federico Chueca and sung by baritone Luigi Baldassare, 2) a 1924 recording of “Al Pensar en el Dueño de mis Amores” from Las Hijas del Zebedo, written by Ruperto Chapí and sung by soprano Elvira de Hidalgo, 3) a 1906 recording of “Ven Rodolfo” from El Anillo de Hierro, written by Pedro Miguel Marqués and sung by soprano Carmen Fernández de Lara and 4) a 1905 recording of “Granadinas” from Emigrantes, written by Tomás Barrera. One of the success stories of the project was that the great-granddaughter of famous soprano Paquita Correa was able to hear recordings of her great-grandmother for the first time. The great-granddaughter had been unable to find her recordings in Spain but was made aware of the collection at Yale. Napert played a sample of one of Correa’s recordings, which was “Brindis” from Apolinar Brull y Ayerra’s Ángel Caído.
Napert ended her presentation by mentioning the fairly new Library of Congress’ National Jukebox website (http://www.loc.gov/jukebox), which provides access to many American recordings made between 1901 and 1925. She also showed a screenshot of the HSCR project website, and mentioned that there are some non-zarzuela recordings on the site. She thanked Richard Warren, the curator of the HSRC and Nicole Rodriguez, who is a Library Services assistant at HSRC. She concluded by mentioning other types of Latin American recordings that are part of the HSRC and might be of interest to SALALM members.
The following presentation, titled “Primeros Libros: A Working Model of Institutional Collaboration” was given by Craig Schroer, an electronic resources librarian for the Benson Collection at the University of Texas, Austin and Anton du Plessis, a curator for the Mexican Colonial Collection at Texas A&M University. In the presentation, they described the “Primeros Libros” project, which is a collaboration between their institutions and certain Mexican institutions to digitize the earliest publications in colonial Mexico. Schroer started out by giving an overview of the “Primeros Libros” collection, which is an online digital collection of books printed in Mexico between 1539 and 1601, also known as Mexican incunabula. Representative of the earliest output of the printing press in the New World, these books include doctrinas and vocabularios, as well as mathematical and scientific works. The goal of the project is to acquire at least one copy of the 115 titles of early Mexican publications that are still believed to exist today. Ideally they would like to acquire more than one copy because of the variations found in individual copies, such as marginalia and other owner-specific marks. Currently, they have 41 distinct titles and 65 total copies, but hope to have 84 distinct titles and 174 total copies after completing phase 2 of the project. This is a substantial number considering the relatively small number of items still in existence.
Schroer then gave a brief history of the project, which was begun by Texas A&M University and the University of Texas, Austin. Their website was launched in August 2010 and is maintained by UT Austin. There are various institutions in Mexico, Spain, and the United States that are partners in the project. Schroer stated that the purpose of their presentation was to promote the project and encouraged anyone at an institution that held similar material to consider contributing. Another purpose of the presentation was to give an example of an international and intercultural collaboration between institutions. Technological issues in digitizing, storing, and making available large amounts of data can often be a barrier for many institutions, so Schroer considers this collaboration a sharing of strengths and weaknesses, and a look at how the different partner institutions can contribute. They have addressed the issues of lack of technology and infrastructure in creative ways, such as lending out portable, preservation-quality scanners or having an institution with high-quality scanning capacity digitize another institution’s books. Establishing contacts with institutions also raises awareness of holdings that may not appear on OCLC or any listing at all. Digitizing these books promotes these institutions and raises awareness of the scholarly value of the books themselves. Also, in checking the condition of the books before scanning, curators are alerted to the need for repair of some of these books. Collaboration with certain institutions has helped them to understand the Mexican rare book trade, as well as the political structure among institutions and individuals in Mexico. This has helped them find opportunities and establish connections that would otherwise not have been possible.
They have backup copies of the digitized books stored at institutions such as the Texas Digital Library, the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, and Fresnet. They currently have about 2 TB of information. They are constantly learning new things and finding new applications for the project. Du Plessis then described an unfortunate situation in which a package of CDs of digitized books arrived damaged from Spain, with some of the CDs missing. Schroer concluded the presentation by urging anyone at an institution with material to contribute to contact him or du Plessis.
The final presentation was given by Alison Hicks and was titled “QR Codes en Español: Point of Need Mobile Library Services.” In her presentation, Hicks, who is a Romance Languages librarian at the University of Colorado, Boulder (UCB), described how she has used QR codes to better serve and reach out to students. She started out by stating that she feels that mobile technology is the next big thing in information access. She then asked how many people use a mobile device to connect to the Internet, how many people know what a QR code is, and how many people have actually scanned a QR code. Hicks explained that there is a growing number of people using mobile devices with access to the Internet. Librarians need be aware that these devices are used in different ways than laptops. Two things that need to be kept in mind are that these devices are ubiquitous and that they’re constantly connected to the Internet. Hicks feels that this ubiquity and connectivity allows librarians to provide “point of need” library services and to connect the physical and the virtual. Ultimately, the result would be a larger return on investment. Hicks then showed a clip from the television show CSI that explains QR (quick response) codes, which can be scanned by a mobile phone, which then opens up a specific web page. In order for the mobile phone to convert the code to a web address, a QR code reader application needs to be installed on the phone. There are also many programs for creating QR codes. The codes can link either to a URL, to text, to a digital business card, or they can connect you by phone to a specific phone number.
In the Fall of 2010, QR codes were introduced at UCB’s Norlin Library and in the Spring of 2011, they were introduced at the language departments that Hicks serves. Microsoft Tag was used to create the codes because of its interface, its good statistical functionality, and because other places at the UCB campus used it. Posters with QR codes that linked to maps of the library, tutorials, the catalog, and other help options were placed all around the Norlin Library and dormitories. In the language departments and library stacks, she placed QR codes that linked to her business card so students could contact her for research help. She felt that the results at the library (500 total scans) were successful enough to continue with the initiative. However, the statistics for the language departments weren’t so good (only 8 scans). Among the lessons learned from this project were the importance of educating users on QR codes and having other ways of accessing library information besides QR codes, since not everyone uses them. She concluded by giving tips and advice on implementing QR codes to those who would want to do so at their own institutions.
Questions & Comments:
Gasparotto asked Hicks if there had been any vandalism of QR codes. Hicks replied that there had been no vandalism.
Peter Stern (University of Massachusetts) asked why the QR codes Hicks used were in color. Hicks replied that it was the style of the proprietary Microsoft Tag QR code.
Peter Johnson (Princeton University) asked Schroer and du Plessis how their “Primeros Libros” project differed from a similar endeavor taken by the Gale Cengage company (a digitized collection based on Sabin’s bibliography). Du Plessis responded that “Primeros Libros” is a scholarly project and that participants get to keep the digital files of their holdings. Also, PDF files of the books can be freely downloaded. However, he hadn’t heard of the Sabin project and didn’t know how many of the books in their project are already in the Sabin project. Schroer emphasized that one of the advantages of “Primeros Libros” is that it’s open access and not commercial.
Lawrence Woodward (Government Printing Office) asked Napert what preservation efforts have been made for the 78 rpm records and whether there had been efforts to digitize the recordings. Napert replied that they were placed in acid-free boxes and kept in an appropriate environment. The reason they have not been digitized is that Yale wants to take an inventory of the recordings and determine which are the rarest, and therefore highest, on the priority list to digitize, but has not yet done so. Woodward then suggested to Schroer and DuPlessis that they visit the Rosenberg Library where they have on exhibit copies of some of the earliest books printed in the Western Hemisphere.
Napert asked Hicks to clarify what “QR” stands for.
Peter S. Bushnell (University of Florida) stated, regarding digitizing the 78 rpm recordings, that there may be difficulties regarding copyright and public domain. He also asked Napert how she was able to determine the dates of the recordings. Napert replied that she used certain books and discographies as references and acknowledged that there are difficulties in navigating around copyright.
The panel concluded with the moderator thanking the rapporteur and the presenters.