Visual Meta for the Web

Part of our redesign will be the incorporation of Visual Meta into our pages.

What is Visual Meta you might ask? It is meta-data containing authorship and citation information allowing a page to effectively identify itself to reference managers.

But unlike older systems like COINS or HTML header meta-data tags, Visual Meta is a viable part of a document that a software application or human reader can easily locate and extract. And when printed, it can be scanned in and converted back to data via ORC technology. This makes it remarkably robust and superior to the automatically generated headers footers added by most browsers when a web page is printed.

Visual Meta is an open standard that at minimum contains a self-citation block, but it and can be augmented with additional content like glossary entries, so what we can do with Visual Meta is limited only by our imagination!

The Invisible Library

The University Library Catalog is perhaps the most underutilized and underdeveloped resource at our disposal. While we can readily search for catalog entries based on their constituent fields and even browse some collections in “shelf order” with images of dust jackets, the accessible catalog is but the tip of a potentially invaluable sea of metadata and associations.

Moreover, the set of titles present in the formal catalog of the library proper does not always include non-circulating and often uncatalogued departmental holdings, nor the private collections of inividual students and faculty along with transient titles accessed online or through interlibrary loan that make up the true “working collection”. To begin to automatically assess the scope of this Invisible Library one could scan the bibliographies of student and faculty publications and compare them with the traditional catalog proper to find cited work not in the permanent collection.

If we could further enrich our analysis to capture frequency, nature, and importance of use, we could begin to isolate key titles for future acquisition; as well as identify low value unused and underused portions of the collection, whose retention serves no active function other than contributing aggregate collection size statistics.

Working in the other direction, one could begin mapping out the subject matter expertise of borrowers with an eye to soliciting collection development guidance and facilitating expertise matching to proactively suggest co-authorship opportunities.

Likewise, there is no reason not to regard each title and associated subject entry as its own chat room and discussion forum, further enriching the catalog with links to locations, people, organizations, artifacts, experiments, questions, concerns, and all manner of related entities.

In short we call for making the library catalog a true Knowledge Graph in the richest possible sense.

A Quick Project Update

We have a lot of new incoming resources that we are reading and will be adding to our Bibliographic Database in the weeks ahead. To that end, we are working on a update to our Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) that should improve its functionality and aesthetics.

We are also thinking about how best to make our OPAC operational offline in anticipation of its eventual integration into a standalone Founders’ Quadrangle Notebook application.

Open Syllabus Explorer & Dynamic Resource Clustering in Libraries of the Future

Today we’d like to call your attention to Open Syllabus Explorer, a database compilation and searchable visualization of readings assigned in 6,059,459 syllabi drawn from leading college and universities around the world.

This dataset is the perfect starting point in seeding the libraries of our University of the Future. I say libraries, because the real value of any collection lies in its ready accessibility. On far too many campuses, key volumes are buried in one or two monumental repository structures that are on the opposite side of the campus (or on a different campus entirely) from where researchers are actually working. This makes it decidedly less likely that they will be consulted with an optimal frequency.

Instead, it strikes us as more sensible to cluster “working collection” titles in quasi-departmental libraries co-located with time shared office, study, and seminar space. Titles with high relevance to more than one of these sub-libraries ought to be duplicated in each cluster.

We can then take low access titles and organize them in “shelf blocks” within a low use research collection in one or two main library/archive buildings. As topics become “hot” these shelving units can be “hot swapped” into the “working collection”.

For example, our Working Design Collection would have a core set of titles used globally for survey courses in architecture and interior design at leading universities, while the main library’s Research Design Collection might hold several shelves of obscure titles on classroom, lab, and lecture hall layout and fixtures. However, if a graduate seminar was addressing this topic, those shelving units would be transferred to the departmental library for ready access while dynamic signage in the main library would redirect other researchers to their temporary location. These local mini working libraries could be staffed by expert subject matter librarians and/or students in their respective fields to provide more nuanced reference assistance than what one might find in a general main library.

This division would reduce foot traffic in the archival stacks making it easier to re-architect those spaces as general quiet reading areas where one might lounge and read when not seeking new materials. While the working collections could be structured as more social and collaborative spaces.