NECode4Lib 2016

This was my second time at the Hampshire College campus this fall. The first was for the New England Archivists fall meeting at the Yiddish Book Center. The NECode4Lib regional meeting was held at a different venue – the red barn on campus. It was a wintry day with snow falling most of the morning, making the drive just as scenic as it was in October when I got to see the fall foliage.

This blog post will give some key points and takeaways from a selection of presentations, as well as some Twitter highlights, and some images from the library tour I took during lunch.

Two themes that struck me as important / reaffirmed my own biases –

1. Users want access to the stuff – not info about the stuff

2. Visuals help engage users – both digitally (click on image / browse by image) and physically (add images / visual interest to library space)

Here is a breakdown of the schedule:


Keynote – Smith (Rob O’Connell and Barbara Polowy) – Bento Box

  • Will launch new website Jan 2017
  • EBSCO discover system (EDS) – multi-format materials in one dump – confusing for patrons
  • Using EBSCO’s framework, not open source
  • Linking in other content w/ API’s – DPLA
  • Patrons don’t want to dig down, they just want the resource / content [This was reiterated later in the death to finding aids talk – good to know it exists for libraries as much as for archives.]
New ways of searching at Smith using Bento Box; arranges results by type – Books, Articles, Video; includes DPLA, scholarly blogs
  • StackMap built in – giving location of where item is in the library [yes! It is always confusing trying to find your way around a library!]
  • There is a feedback button so people can leave feedback [yes! I want to see more ways for people to give feedback!]
  • Let’s patrons know up front if PDF available
  • EBSCO research on millennials – use mobile devices (laptops more than phones) for research; skim, scan, seek efficiency; find one good citation and use it to find more. Interactions w/ interfaces: discouraged by large result sets; “chunking” content by format easier to digest; 71% basic searches; Library-ese (jargon) problem; “progressive disclosure” of metadata is helpful in avoiding overloading patrons w/ data
  • Usability testing – 4 rounds, 20 tests (16 undergrads, 2 faculty); staff sandbox; beta release w/ feedback. Asked them to speak out loud their thought process, answer questions, asked them about citations – how much they need, what they need.
  • Testing findings – discovery AND ACCESS w/in Bento important; limit citations to essentials; limit to “available at Smith” important
  • Continuing to test and refine

5 Uses for old iPads, Smith, Brendan O’Connell


Goal: infuse physical space w/ digital info (little kiosks near physical things – $70-$100, includes charging)

  • Instructional videos at point of need (microfilm reader?) video using iVideo (or whatever)
  • Show what isn’t on the shelf (Safari, Visual Browse)
  • Manage use of open/reservable space (app: Google Calendar) – want’s to use LibCal in future (Duke does this, SpringShare blog has implementation tips)
  • Digital exhibits of student work, DH stuff, other stuff (App: Scalar, Twine, Timeline JS etc)
  • No screen burn out yet

Open Data to Open Knowledge Project, Simmons student, Kayla Hammond Larkin

  • Knight Foundation project, Dept. of innovation + tech and BPL
  • Open data becomes open knowledge when it is usable, useful, and used


  • Want to bring open data to libraries around Boston
  • Open data catalog
  • Open data platform (website)
  • Open data curriculum (for librarians)

A Look into the Aggregator Food Chain, BPL, Steven Carl Anderson

  • Digital Commonwealth vs. DPLA service hub
  • Tracking views and click throughs – BPL and DPLA
  • Some get viewed on DPLA and some on BPL – why? Title is one thing; power of thumbnail; geographic effect; subject effect
  • DPLA def. Getting more use, but BPL had more click throughs

Yiddish Book Center Website, Amber Clooney & Tristan Chambers

I was impressed by the YBC’s website when I first saw it in October. The fact that they are using a lot of visual images, big font, plenty of white space, and are really pushing their content is inspiring.

  • Website brings content to forefront
  • Uses Internet Archive BookReader to embed content into the website
  • Future – a way for users to edit and comment
  • Built on Drupal
Yiddish Book Center screen capture of Leonard Nimoy oral history
  • Design focused on usability and access
  • Through studies found that users were previously searching for the same thing over and over and not finding it – because Internet Archive API required a 1 to 1 match in searches, diacritic marks also led to non-matches – ended up using Apache Solar for searches

Count Dem Heads: a Fail4Lib story, Ian Walls, UMass Amherst

The best part of this presentation were the hand drawn slides. And that it was told in fantasy story mode. And that it was about a project that didn’t quite work.

Ian Walls presenting with slide of drawn UMass DuBois library

He created a digital tool for head counting (not something that comes up much in archives), but it wasn’t very efficient.

WikiData, Yale, Kat Thornton

  • Another pathway to collection
  • Linked open data free to reuse
  • Crosswalk between authorities
  • Public SPARQL endpoint for queries
    • Can display results in multiple ways
  • Can leverage it “to answer complex questions about our collections”
  • Talk to her about becoming editor of wikidata
  • Quickstatements – allows batch upload

No More Finding Aids, Albany, Gregory Wiedeman

  • Archives are esoteric – not intuitive – we aren’t helping ourselves
  • FA are the problem – since they are front end to content
  • FA itself is jargon – broad and general w/ multiple interpretations
  • FA pre-digital information system
  • Replace FA w/ web discovery and delivery systems – NYPL system example
  • FA shouldn’t be end project – we need a new way of talking about it
  • Make limitations readily apparent – some material is online, some isn’t
  • Move to on demand digitization
  • University of Albany new site out in Jan – Drupal – whole site is access to collections – “digital selections”
  • Serendipity when you refresh the screen new image appears, and 3 random collections at bottom of screen (if they scroll there)
  • Browse through collections – static html pages – wants to implement ASpace soon
  • Request stuff on page of collection – even unprocessed collections
  • “People have hard time discerning part from the whole.”
  • LUNA for images
  • Not quite at killing the finding aid yet
  • Description more important than the finding aid

Folio: Open Source Platform, Andrew Nagy, EBSCO

  • I’m supposed to know who Marshall Breeding is – he is tracking the less and less choices for libraries
  • Platform – something people build on top on, an open source development platform
  • Open source project – collaborative effort
  • 1st library up and running summer 2018 – probably not enough for ARL right away

Habitica, Brendan McCarthy, Troy Public Library

Brendan spoke about using Habitica at work and he has found it to be motivating and engaging. SO I’ve been trying it out at work, but am probably using it wrong. I think you need to check a lot off your list in order to accomplish much, but I’ve got some kind of dragon, and a sword and stuff. The most useful thing about it is that it’s easy to add a to-do and it’s nice to look at when I’m trying to decide what to do next or what needs to be done soon. I guess I’m just using it like a digital to-do list, which is nice.

Habitica screenshot

Library Code Club, Bethany Seeger & Sarah Walden, Amherst College

I liked this idea a lot – a bi-monthly meeting of librarians interested in learning about code.

  • Topics covered – Python, HTML, XML, xPATH
  • Met every other week and planned on the off week
  • Tips: survey participants to see what people want to do; create few simple goals; create/find project that builds up skill level; need 2 or more people planning and working on this; ‘mini-series’ instead of long term club (give people map of what you’ll cover ahead of time, not everyone may need/want to go to every session)
  • Counted as form of professional development
  • Future ideas: take apart a computer; WordPress; Github; look at command line interface
  • Here is link to Google Docs with files about the meetings.

A Lightning Talk on Lightning Talks as Staff Information Sharing, Helen Bailey & Jeremy Prevost, MIT

Lightning talk title slide

I always like the opportunity to find out what my co-workers in different departments in the library are up to. This one was about lighting talks done within a specific department. Seemed like a good way to share ideas, increase confidence in presenting, and build morale.

Using Twine for Library Instruction, Manda Wise Pizzollo, Amherst College

There was a Twine project at Smith College at last years NECode4Lib and this use of Twine was inspired by that. I have looked at Twine and like the idea of it a lot, but I haven’t actually used it, so hearing about more ideas for use was great.

  • plagiarism guide
  • tour of facility
  • anytime you want to tell a story
  • workflow decision tree

Implementation of Unicode in the Yale Catalog, Charles Riley, Yale University Library

This presentation was about some interesting cataloging work going on at Yale in reference to African scripts. It was a bit above my head, as archives have much more basic cataloging needs, but understanding Unicode and how it works is something I should have a better handle on, so this reminded me of issues we’ve been having transferring to ASpace and seeing how certain texts are rendering. This also made me think about work we do with materials in languages other than English and how we can improve our documentation around that.


There was a very nice and informative tour of the library during lunch. Here are some pics I took. Highlights included a seed library (!), a game collection, a special collection in the middle of the stacks with lots of custom cabinets, shelves, and seating (that was the best!), a media lab section in the basement, and an art gallery for student work (also the best!).





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