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Archive for 2007

  • Processing MARC into HTML

  • Web 2.0, Disaster, and Archives

    Many of Web 2.0's detractors argue about it's real value, but given the wildfires in Southern California, I was happy to see it really put to good use. KPBS, a San Diego radio station, has been using Flickr and, even more shocking (at least for some), Twitter as ways to disseminate information and news quickly. The use of Twitter is particularly interesting as it can send out SMS messages. You might recall a few years ago when protesters in the Philippines used SMS to organize political rallies and warn of police retaliation. The California State Library Blog also has provided information from the California State Archivist about archives affected by the fires. In addition, information about disaster recovery for libraries and archives is available both on a regional level by the San Diego/Imperial County Libraries Disaster Response Network and on the state level by the California Preservation Program. Please hold those affected by the fires in your thoughts, and if you can, contact SILDRN or the CPP to help.
  • ArchivesBlogs Upgrades & Related Weirdness

    I've updated ArchivesBlogs to the latest version of WordPress, as well as the latest versions of the plugins that do the heavy lifting (FeedWordPress and Auto Delete Posts). In so doing, I found that the database structure of WordPress 2.3 is radically different, causing some of my elegant work to break (namely, the use of the Auto Delete Posts plugin, for which I wrote a patch). You may have seen duplicate posts, no new posts on specific feeds (language and blog type), and possibly other unpredicted outcomes. Everything seems to be working properly now, so if you see anything strange or that doesn't work, let me know.
  • Dust in the Wind(y City)

    SAA2007 came and went. Everyone knows that I'm no good at liveblogging or semi-liveblogging, so don't expect an exhaustive report - potentially better sources include ArchivesNext and Spellbound Blog. Here are my personal highlights, which is just about the best that this here boy archivist can pull off. The pre-conference SAA Research Forum. While I only got to see the second half of the day, this is where the meat was according to those who were there for the whole thing. The Description Section steering committee meeting. This was probably the most instructive for me as I'm the incoming chair. Hacking away on my remarks most of the week and successfully pulling off our session. Jennifer Schaffner from OCLC/RLG Programs substituted for Merrilee Proffitt and did a swell job. She's a great person to discuss all these crazy ideas with for two reasons - she's established in the profession and new to OCLC! I eagerly await her posts at One of these days soon I'll put up my slides and notes, and some of my remarks I owe to the brainwork of dchud (naturally, I give him credit).
  • Rethinking Access And Descriptive Practice

  • Hey Chicago

    I'm in the Windy City for SAA2007. I'll be pretty busy the first few days in town, but remember, if you want to find me, just look for the glasses. Also, make sure you come to the Description Section meeting and Session 503 on Friday!
  • Happy Birthday ArchivesBlogs!

    It was one year ago today that I made ArchivesBlogs available to the public. Time sure seems to fly by fast! Since then there have been a lot of changes - layout, platform, and hosting - but still, I remain involved for the long haul. Thanks to all who provided suggestions, submitted blogs to be syndicated, and any other guidance along the way. ArchivesBlogs now syndicates nearly 100 blogs in 9 languages!
  • When Life Hands You MARC, make pymarc

    It's a bad pun, but what can you expect from someone who neglects his blogs as much as I do? I've been busy, somewhat, and one of my latest forays has been getting a grip on Python, an absolutely wonderful programming language. I actually enjoy writing code again, which is more than a bit scary. I was sick of the mangled scripts and workflows I came up with at MPOW to handle converting MARC data to HTML and other such nonsense. Writing Perl made me feel unclean. After playing around with Ed Summers' pymarc module, I began hacking about and putting my own hooks into the code here and there. I longed for MARC8 to Unicode conversion, which is a necessary evil. Digging around, I came across Aaron Lav's PyZ3950 module, which had its own little MARC code. After bugging Ed via #code4lib, and hassling Aaron in the process, Ed began incorporating the code and I started some testing. Just a short while later, the conversion code worked.
  • Archives Camp: Talking About Archives 2.0

    ArchivesNext recently discussed the possibility of having some "Archives 2.0"-themed events this summer, and I think it's a great idea. Now, we may not be able to throw something together in time for SAA, but it seems like the idea of at least meeting up informally is percolating. There's a wealth of opportunities available for archives and archivists to improve access to their holdings through social software and the like. My vision, as I said in a comment on the post, would be to end up with an unconference along the lines of a Library Camp (or more generally, a BarCamp), maybe with lightning talks if enough of us have something to show off or talk about. Like Library Camp, I'd like to see a "bridging the gap" session where we learn and share ways about how to talk to IT staff and other stakeholders essential to our ideas taking off. I facilitated a such a session at Library Camp East, and although trying at times, it was really instructive.
  • NARA Frees Their Data, Somewhat

    I'm a bit surprised that this hasn't come across anyone's radar, because it seems awfully damn significant to me. According to this post on the A&A listserv by Michael Ravnitzky, the National Archives and Records Administration released an exhaustive database of box holdings of all the Federal Records Centers. He doesn't really say how he obtained this database, but my guess is he just asked based upon his background and interest in public access to government information - I've come across his name on material relating to FOIA before. The file he received from NARA is a 155 MB Microsoft Access database, and soon after he posted about it to the listserv, Jordan Hayes and Phil Lapsley took the opportunity to host the database, converted it to MySQL, and wrote a few simple query forms for the database in PHP. Hayes also provided some basic documentation on how to use the forms since MySQL query syntax is probably not familiar to most people on the A&A list.
  • Sticking My Neck Out

    It's been some time since I've had a substantive post, and I don't really intend to write one now. I figured I should mention, however, that I've been featured lately in print and in the blogosphere. Jessamyn West of interviewed me for an article ("Saving Digital History") in Library Journal netConnect. In addition, I was tapped by the wonderful folks at Booktruck for the latest installment in their "Ask a Male Librarian" series. I swear someday soon I'll write something much more interesting and less self-promotional.
  • Ask a [REDACTED] Librarian, Deux

  • Promoting Drexel University Through Its Archives

  • Upgrading Kubuntu to Feisty Beta Breaks Privoxy

    While I fully intend to go over my full experience upgrading to the latest development release of Kubuntu, one of the things that I first noticed was that Privoxy didn't seem to work or to be speaking with Tor, preventing me from that lovely "anonymous" browsing experience. I noticed that in the upgrade the ever important "forward-socks4a / localhost:9050 ." line in /etc/privoxy/config wasn't in the upgraded version (actually, it shouldn't be). Apparently during the upgrade, I told it to clobber my config file with the one distributed, saving my old version (luckily) to /etc/privoxy/config.dpkg-old. Once that I added that line back, I'm now able to surf a bit more safely.
  • Saving Digital History

  • Protection From Human Pests

    A few months ago (while I was at NACO training) I got a reader's card at the Library of Congress. For a while I pretty actively went and requested books on Saturday afternoons. In particular, I was interested in archival manuals from outside the United States. One of the most interesting books I found was S. M. Jaffar's Problems of an Archivist, a manual written in Pakistan in 1948. I was struck by the following passage ("Protection From Human Pests"), taken from pp. 28-29: "Human pests" and "White Huns" are the common epithets applied to human species acting as enemies of archives. History has recorded many such instances of vandalism as the wholesale destruction of priceless treasures of art and literature, the burning of big and beautiful libraries, the transport of camel-loads of books to distant countries and the sale of valuable manuscripts at ridiculously low prices. The transfer of artistic and literary treasures of subjugated countries by the conquerors to their homelands to adorn their own museums and libraries has depleted those countries of that wealth.
  • Five Non-Library Blogs I Read

    I won't bother waiting to be tagged to do this, because all the cool kids already are. I read too many blogs already, so here we go. Mary Eats is, as one would easily assume, a blog about food. Mary started the blog while she and her husband were living in Korea, and thus there's an overwhelming emphasis on Korean food and restaurants. She moved to Seattle relatively recently and began culinary school, too. My two favorite parts of this blog are when she makes videos and when she makes comics, like this one about konbu. Language Log is a blog written by linguistics faculty from around the world, wherein they tackle important and not-so-important issues like linguistic prescriptivism, 419 scammers, the Pirahà language, and cheese steak rolls served at Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia, all with a good sense of humor. Information Aesthetics covers all sorts of stuff related to information visualization. Essentially, it's just one massive blog full of data porn, from treemaps to Youtube videos using Isotype symbols.
  • Two Work-Safe Tidbits about Archives and Erotica

    First, via my associates at, I came across a review of the comic book Demonslayer v. 2.2, by a certain Marat Mychaels, et al. at Comics Should Be Good. While the fact that the reviewers pan the comic book seems only marginally of interest to those of us wading in archivy, I should draw your attention to a specific part of this issue. Apparently one of the characters goes to visit the Director of Archives at the New York Museum of Natural History, who has chosen to decorate his office in the style of some seemingly life-sized works by (fellow Peruvian) Boris Vallejo. Secondly, everyone knows how much of a pain digital preservation is, particularly in terms of born-digital cultural materials. So, who should archivists and curators look to for guidance? Kurt Bollacker, digital research manager at the Long Now Foundation (and formerly of the Internet Archive), holds up the pornography industry as a potential leader of the pack. He states that he guarantees "
  • Possible ArchivesBlogs Downtime: Software Upgrade

    I finally noticed that FeedWordPress, the plugin I use to maintain ArchivesBlogs, has been updated within the last month to work with WordPress 2.1 and higher. I hope to get this working pretty soon, but I apologize in advance if it ends up going down for a few days.
  • Throwing Out the Baby, the Bathwater, and the Bathtub: The Sad State of the Archives and Archivists Listserv

    Today, Nancy Beaumont, Executive Director of the Society of American Archivists, made an announcement on the Archives & Archivists listserv that SAA would no longer retain the first thirteen years of posts from the listserv. During this time the listserv was hosted by Miami University of Ohio, and last September, the list was moved to an SAA server. This stems from a decision made by SAA Council that they not retain the archives for three reasons: 1) an appraisal decision informed by the SAA's archives at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 2) a consideration of administrative issues, and 3) a consideration of cost. While the appraisal decision is well-informed by the claim that the list archives do not have evidential value as SAA records, the belief that these records have little informational value does not sit well with me. The list archives document the development of archives becoming a stronger profession in the face of technology and the creation of a tight-knit social network.
  • Braindump

    I'm really behind on posting, and I apologize. There are a few action items that I should mention before I clear my brain to allow me to start posting things with actual content. ArchivesBlogs moved, but mail to was not working for a while. A few people mentioned this to me, but I didn't get this resolved until just last week. After who knows how many attempts trying to get something posted on Boing Boing, I finally made it when I had more information about the hottest chili peppers in the world. I now have a food blog, so if you're interested, check it out. It's called Feeding the Hungry Ghost. Now that that stuff is out of the way, I can start posting about "important" things again, like my trip to Georgia for code4lib 2007.
  • Planning for Disaster: How To Create Unmaintainable Indexing Workflow

  • Tomato "Foam"?

    I know, I know - you're probably thinking "foams are so over," regardless which side of the molecular gastronomy fence you sit on. If you're a fan of the strange powders and physical state changes of food, you might be saying "C'mon, everybody knows that espuma is the new foam!" Yeah, right - and aire is the new espuma. They're all pretty much the same thing, and you've got to be bullshitting yourself if you think that Adrià and his ilk don't know this already. If you're convinced that all this stuff is mumbo jumbo designed to take away from traditional technique, then fine. I don't particularly care either way. I made a foam that wasn't really a foam ... or was it? I was bored tonight when I was about to make supper for myself. Yesterday I got a whole bunch of free samples from National Starch, but I haven't really been able to do anything with them since I've left them sitting in my office.
  • Eatin' Fresh and (Mostly) Raw

    I left work early yesterday for a doctor's appointment, which left little time for lunch. On the way there, I snacked on some almonds and raisins to tide me over. By the time I finally got done with the tests and consultation my stomach was making unholy groans that sounded like ghosts were plaguing my GI tract. Since there were a few things I wanted to pick up anyhow, I headed to Whole Foods and stopped by the deli first to get a sandwich. For what it's worth, I got the "tuna niçoise" sandwich, which wasn't all that niçoise (it tasted alright, though). Despite warnings of the possibility of olive pits listed on the wrapper, I couldn't find a single piece of olive anywhere close to it except in another area of the deli case. The sandwich was much larger than the amount of food I've become used to eating in one sitting, so I roamed the aisles stuffed to the gills with tuna, bread, green beans, and hardboiled eggs.
  • Adventures in Fermentation: Yogurt For Beginners

    I decided somewhat spontaneously to make my own yogurt after casually reading about the process and realizing how incredibly simple it is. After consulting a wide variety of sources - both print and electronic, like any good information professional would - I set to the task at hand. Mise en place A large stainless steel or aluminum saucepan A large stainless steel, aluminum, unglazed ceramic, or heat-resistant glass bowl A large wooden or stainless steel spoon A kitchen thermometer A heating pad Towels A ladle Containers for storing the finished yogurt Ingredients 1 quart of high-quality, organic milk 1 pint of organic heavy cream (if so desired) 1/4 to 1/2 cup organic yogurt with live cultures (see below) Some, but not all, of the directions that I read suggested that you sterilize all equipment before you begin making the yogurt by immersing it in boiling water. If you decide to do so, I would strongly suggest that you avoid using plastic containers to store the yogurt.
  • Memory Practices in the Sciences by Geoffrey C. Bowker, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006

  • ArchivesBlogs On The Move

    Thanks to the wonderful people at ibiblio, ArchivesBlogs will be changing hosts! If you're not familiar with ibiblio, it's one of the largest and oldest public digital library collections on the Internet. In addition to the upcoming hosting of ArchivesBlogs, ibiblio also hosts and Library Web. Pardon any interruptions in access given the impending move; everything should be settled within a few days. Also, a few changes I've made to the backend should fix most of the continuing issues with certain feeds not aggregating. Let me know if there are any problems that still occur.
  • ArchivesBlogs Revamped

    After many late nights toiling away, I'm done with the latest version of ArchivesBlogs. I've changed things quite a bit - most notably, I've switched platforms from Plagger to Wordpress using the FeedWordpress plugin to do the heavy lifting of syndication. I've decided to do away with the old OPML structure as well since the taxonomy wasn't as refined as I would have liked. Instead, FeedWordpress can categorize posts as they come in, which has allowed me to create a brand new taxonomy for ArchivesBlogs based on language. Each language can also have its own feed now. The one thing missing that I'm really itching to put back in place are the social bookmarking links; none of the plugins I've come across so far seem to like my theme, so I may just end up writing my own plugin. Anyhow, please give me feedback - I'm itching to do more.