Category Archives: resources

Remember The Milk and thoughts on productivity

As part of an effort to further systematize my personal and professional organization, I’ve recently started using Remember The Milk. I first started using it in 2008 and recently started using it again. I am finding the functionality (and the iPhone app) of the service impressive and quite flexible. That all said, it does have lack one feature that Google Calendar has: the ability to have multiple reminders. Since some tasks or activities are complex (e.g. require coordination with other people, require advance planning etc), I find multiple reminders helpful.

Assuming one is motivated to be organized (Seth Godin points out that lack of motivation, rather than lack of knowledge, often undermines productivity efforts), it is crucial to combine systems (Getting Things Done by David Allen is the classic here) with the right tools. I have used paper based agendas at various points, but at this stage I prefer to use digital systems. What I find great about seeking to improve one’s productivity and organization is the immediate benefits one receives. Executing a series of items on a properly organized to do list is satisfying.

Library of Congress To Acquire Twitter Archive

Library of Congress announcements that it will acquire Twitter's archive

What an interesting announcement from the Library of Congress! I wonder if the librarians in charge of organizing this archive will make any effort to organize it geographically (e.g. US and non-US) or catalogue it in some other way. In any case, this is a great example of how cultural institutions keep up with social media. I can see value in preserving the archive in its raw form, but some kind of finding aid or navigation tool would be extremely helpful especially for those that want to conduct research using the resource.

Curious to know more? You can read more about the announcement on the Library of Congress blog and also read why the US National Archives opted not to acquire the archive (short answer: they specialize in federal government records).

Innovations in geographical information: NYPL’s Map Rectifier

New York Public Library’s staff continue to do excellent work; this week, I learned about the the NYPL Map Rectifier tool. The premise of this tool is to connect historical maps of the city to modern maps. The project is still in the early stages, but I gather the long term idea is to make it possible to go back through mapping history. For example, you can see how Central Park and the surrounding area has been depicted differently in maps over time. I have done some work with historical maps and I always find it interesting how older maps sometimes follow different conventions: giving prominent attention to local businesses, for example, rather than cartographic precision. That often makes the maps more interesting for historical research, but it does raise problems when legal disputes have to be resolved using imprecise maps.

The map librarians at NYPL have also created videos to demonstrate how to use the service:

Europeana: Europe’s Digital Library

Europeana: Europe's digital library

I first read about Europeana almost a year ago and it seemed promising but not ready for prime time. In reading a fascinating and critical discussion of the project by Ricky Erway at OCLC Research in Liber Quarterly that points out the website’s shortcomings. I would have to second the concern about uneven participation; not all members of the EU are represented. That said, they are off to a strong start. As of today, there are contributions from: the UK, France, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Poland, Italy, Spain and others. Of course, I had some fun browsing around the service and running searches to see what I could find. The search results are a little confusing since you get text (which apparently includes library catalogue records but not the actual item), audio, video and images. Based on some previous experimentation, it looks like this service is best at obtaining images. The search interface is top notch when it comes to providing faceted search; you can drill down on date, country, contributor and so forth.

Online communities and a timeline browsing tool are two of Europeana’s more promising aspects but they leave something to be desired. Compared to the World Digital Library, Europeana’s timeline browsing tool is not well implemented. I also wonder about the communities idea; there are six groups with less than four hundred members in total. Would it not make more sense to make connections to establishes social networks like Facebook rather than trying to get people to participate in Europeana broad topic based communities dedicated to classical music, museums and other cultural subjects. If you are interested in European culture and libraries, this is a website to check in on periodically.

You may want to read my posts on other digital library projects:

Digital Library of the Caribbean: a review

A photo of Haiti's capital city, Port-au-Prince, from 1957

In reading news coverage about Haiti’s earthquake, I periodically came across references to the Digital Library of the Caribbean. It turns out that it is organizing efforts to help Haiti rebuild its libraries and archives; it is also providing training in digitization. Founded in 2006, the digital library has a variety of materials including maps, photos, archival materials and books documenting the history, culture and other aspects of the Caribbean. The image at the top of this post, a view of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, came from the Digital Library. Even more impressive is the fact that the interface functions in the region’s three major languages: English, French and Spanish. There is also a geographical search tool where you can either enter latitude and longitude or draw the area you’re interested in. By using the map search tool, I was able to find a 2006 photo of Haiti’s archives. As impressive as the Digital Library of the Caribbean is now, it will only get more impressive later; it looks like there are plans to add oral histories, more newspapers and other resources. Some aspects of the interface strike me as a bit difficult to use and perhaps inelegant, but there is still much value to be had from it.

The World Digital Library

Unveiled last month, the World Digital Library is a project with much interesting potential. The actual content available is rather thin on the ground at the moment, but I presume that will change with time. What I like best about it is the option to browse for collections using a map of the world and/or using a timeline that covers thousands of years. At this writing, there are 1170 digital items from collections around the world (e.g. National Library of France, Library of Congress, Yale University Library, National Library of Sweden etc).

Even though there are no Canadian institutions participating in this UNESCO project, there are 13 items about or from Canada, mainly from the Library of Congress. I had a look at one item – changing of the guard at Parliament in 1984 – and I was quite impressed by the meta-data provided (not as complete as a Library catalogue record, but certainly good for a photo). I get the sense that the Library of Congress is the main contributor of content at this stage, but that may change.