Surveys and Civility

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a good first full week of 2015. I have to say it has been hard to get back to work after a lovely holiday break, especially when it feels like going from zero to sixty without any warm-up. Today I just want to talk a bit about survey research and civility as it has been on my mind as I’ve been talking with friends and doing research. So let’s get to it.

As I’m in a faculty librarian role, I’m expected to do research. Luckily, I quite like research and sharing research results with others so I’m not here to complain about doing research, far from it. Most of my research, too, has not involved surveys, but instead interviews and archival research. However, sometimes, like many researchers, I need to use a survey to gather data for my research or to recruit potential interviewees. And that means, often, sending out a call on a listserv (or many listservs, depending) hoping that people will, out of the goodness of the hearts, take the time to complete a survey. And, happily, many often do, for which I’m grateful and I try to return the favor by completing surveys when they come over listservs and I can write to whatever topic/questions the researcher is studying with the survey. By and large, I’ve had good luck with my surveys, getting useful responses and finding many people to interview for various projects, but it has also raised a couple of questions for me.

Two questions: 1. Why does anyone feel the need to go through a survey and tell a researcher their questions are stupid? and 2. Why complete the survey if you feel that way or feel you have nothing to contribute?

I’m at a loss for the motives behind those two behaviors. All the participation calls for surveys I’ve seen on the listservs clearly state what the survey is about and who the researcher is hoping will complete the survey. No one is forcing anyone to complete the survey. Also, it is just plain rude to be nasty on someone’s survey, even if you feel the questions could have been worded better or the data collected differently. I’ve been told before that my questions are horrible and should be multiple choice, etc.. Clearly those people stating that never considered that multiple choice questions wouldn’t answer my research questions or would bias the responses or that you can only run statistical tests on data collected in specific manners to be valid.

So the need to be petty and mean on an anonymous survey absolutely baffles me.

Happily though, those encounters are few and far between and the majority of people are incredibly sweet and kind in sharing their stories, experiences, and knowledge with us researchers. And I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to anyone who has ever completed a survey I’ve sent over a listserv and/or agreed to be interviewed. You are the reason that we are able to continue adding to the research base of our profession and the reason that I continue to put my work out into the wilds of the internet and professional literature, even though I sometimes get caught off guard when reading through responses.

So all I’m really saying is try to be helpful and kind to researchers when you are taking a survey. And, if the survey doesn’t apply to you–or offends your idea of proper survey design–don’t respond. Civility is something we could all use more of in this world and something we all appreciate.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful start to your new year and I’ll be back next week with some more news. Allons-y!

A Day in the Life of an Academic Librarian

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well. It has been another busy week here on campus, but I’m excited because we are finally getting some rain and I also get to read my students’ rough drafts today so hopefully that will be fun. Today I just thought I’d write a bit about life as an academic librarian as it may be useful for LIS graduates considering academic librarianship. So here we go!

In July of this year I will have been working as an academic librarian for six years. I can hardly believe that it has been that long already and am excited for the next six years. Along the way I have learned a thing or two about being an academic librarian and as I love sharing information I thought I’d share a bit in the form of “a day in the life” that seems popular in library land. While there is no typical day in the life of an academic librarian, I’m going to share a few different types of days that I have working as an academic librarian.

But first, a bit of context. I work on a campus where librarians are faculty members and we have instructional, research/professional development, university service, and community service requirements for retention, tenure, and promotion. Many academic librarian environments are like this and many are not. So all of talk about what I do during the day is within the context of spending most of my time, thus far, as an untenured library faculty member, and spending the last year as a tenured library faculty member. Just fair warning.

So I think, if I were to divide up the main categories or types of days I have as a librarian, there would be three main types of days. First: days when I have a lot of teaching and reference duties. Second: days when I have a lot of meetings. Third: days when I have time for research and writing, along with other project work.

The first two categories, teaching/reference and meetings, take up most of my days as a library faculty member or rather meetings take up a lot of time if I’m not careful about it. I love teaching and public service, so I don’t mind days when I have a lot of classes and reference or research appointments. These days usually fly by and I might teach a course-integrated instruction session, have some hours on the reference desk or be teaching a credit-level course for information literacy. Of course, prep time for instruction takes up some more of my time as a librarian, but happily in the summer there is always time to completely revamp my classes to make them more effective for the coming year.

Days where I have six to eight hours of meetings can be killer. Meetings are important for dissemination of information and for checking in, but back-to-back meetings are something I do not like and always try to avoid. Also, for those contemplating academic librarianship, meetings mean that work gets piled up, especially emails, especially at the end of the term, which still have to be dealt with after meetings are over. My suggestion: become an email guru and figure out a system to get through your inbox quickly and efficiently so you aren’t drowning in emails. I personally like logging out of my email and only checking it a few times a day so I can get through a bunch of email at once.

Also, with meetings, don’t be afraid to delegate work, you are a team or committee after all. Also, if at all possible, never go to a meeting without an agenda and never end a meeting without some action items. Make your meetings efficient, too.

One of my favorite types of days are days when I’m not scheduled in any meetings and can take the morning to work on my research and writing. I love research and I love sharing my research. Having a large block of time makes it much easier to write, for me, and make good progress on manuscripts. That being said, I’ve gotten much better (as I should after six years) of fitting in quick bursts of writing and research whenever I can, but having a block of time is the best. Also, days without meetings allow time for other projects, whether that be in the archives, figuring out analytics, completing collection development projects, or writing assessment reports.

Also, remember, although days as an academic librarian can be really, really busy (especially during the main academic terms), it is really important to take time to relax, breath, and step away in order to come back to things with clear eyes. Plus, being a calm colleague will make you a valuable colleague. Also, some of the most important activities you can do, especially as a new academic librarian, is to talk with your colleagues, hear what they are working on, and figure out how you can collaborate. One of the great joys is being able to collaborate with colleagues on projects and research.

I hope that gives you a helpful overview of a few days in the life of an academic librarian. It really is a great job.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more news, notes, and thoughts. Allons-y!

Staying Current

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you’ve had a lovely week. My week has been productive, but very busy. So when I was thinking of what to write about for this post, I thought a lot about what I do to stay current with trends, technology, and news in librarianship. I think it can be very easy to get overwhelmed with all the avenues of information in the world and it is definitely easy to feel information overloaded, too. So today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite blogs and websites that I use to keep updated on things. This list is by no means comprehensive and I’d love to hear about your favorite sites in the comments. So let’s get to it.

For tech news and tips, my favorite source is (no surprise) Lifehacker. The writers post timely articles and good snippets of advice for technology and productivity. While I don’t always agree with everything posted, it is a great one-stop-shopping for tech news.

I’m also a fan of Gizmodo, but less for tech news and more for the crazy stories about technology and other random pop culture things. Definitely a must for skimming through at the end of the day for me.

Also, I adore danah boyd’s work and blog: danah boyd ǀ apophenia. Lots of interesting writing and great research. I’m looking forward to reading her new book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.

In library-focused blogs, I really enjoy INFOdocket for keeping up with what’s happening all over the world in libraries. I’m also a fan of Stephen Abram’s Stephen’s Lighthouse, mainly for the interesting infographics and graphics he shares. And it is always good to remember that really important news items and trends are blogged about by multiple blogs so you are sure to catch a piece of noteworthy news somewhere. (I remind myself of that so I don’t try to keep up with 500 blogs!)

I really do love typography, so naturally the I Love Typography blog is a favorite of mine.

For lovely, clever comics that come in handy for information literacy classes, my favorite is definitely xkcd. Always awesome when there is a new biology one I can use.

And because I love his work and his blog is a bunch of fun to, I highly recommend Neil Gaiman’s Journal.

A newer favorite thing is definitely Welcome to Night Vale. We enjoyed listening to the podcast driving down to see family this holiday season and always look forward to a new episode. I’d recommend giving it a chance, especially the summer reading program.

Finally, I love to bake and therefore love Joy the Baker’s blog. Tons of wonderful recipes to bake and to share. Our student assistants at the library are particularly fond of the chocolate bundt cake.

I leave you with 28 beautiful quotes about libraries from Stephen’s Lighthouse. Absolutely lovely.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of whatever you want it to be. I’ll be back next week. Allons-y!

More Tips for Improving Your Workday

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well and you are looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Today I have a selection of articles that I’ve enjoyed and thought might be helpful for you, too. Because, really, who doesn’t want to improve their workday a little bit? We spend a lot of time at work, so we might as well make the experience as pleasant and productive as possible.

So, while I know there aren’t only two communication styles and that everyone communicates in multiple ways, it is still useful to read up on some ideas of how to listen better when confronted by a colleague who may not use your preferred way of communicating. At the end of the day, communication is the most important thing (in my mind) for making it easy to work productively and happily. So understanding communication styles is really important for that to happen.

I have to say that I’m very lucky in that I share an office with one other faculty member and we get along really well. I don’t think I would do well in an open office environment. But if you have to endure the fad of open working environment, you’ll most likely want to check out Lifehacker’s article on how to stay productive.

Communication and productivity are both crucial for having a good experience at work as is confidence. Everyone suffers from a lack of confidence sometimes, so I think it is helpful to read up on how to build your confidence. And also check out the top 10 tricks for a healthier high energy workday.

Finally, who isn’t excited that October equals complimentary access to all Sage journals? Share with your friends.

I hope you have a lovely weekend. I’ll be back next week. Allons-y!

More Travel Tips for Summer

Hello, dear readers! As it is summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), I thought I’d share some travel tips as we are definitely in high travel season now. Use them to make your planning and traveling experiences more enjoyable.

Gizmodo has some nice tips on how to book travel online for less. I love a good travel deal and using these tips should help you find a better deal on your travel.

Lifehacker periodically has good articles on travel tips, especially for flying. For example, it is good to know you should ask for cash instead of a voucher when you’re bumped from a flight. It is also a good idea to check out your air travel rights before your next flight.

I also think their article on travel concessions that aren’t always worth it is a good read. It will help you weigh the pros and cons of various concessions, such as red-eye flights, before you book your travel.

So some things you can’t really plan for, no matter how many tips you learn. For example, I just had an unexpected wrench thrown into my summer plans when the airline told me they no longer fly out of my home airport on the day I had planned to leave and wanted to fly me in and out of two different airports. Luckily, I did some research (like a good librarian), and had some flexibility in my schedule, so I was able to arrange to come back another day in order to fly in and out of the same airport. Plus the airline customer service people were very nice and helpful. But although you can’t plan for everything, you can learn as much as possible to help you if you ever run into some unforeseen complications on your travels.

I hope you have a wonderful time traveling this summer, if you are traveling, and a wonderful time at home, if you are doing a stay-cation. I’ll be back soon with more. Allons-y!

Thoughts about Publication Requirements and Open Access Journals

Happy Friday, dear readers. I hope that you had a lovely week and that you have a lovely weekend planned. It has been a very busy quarter here, wrapping up in the next few weeks. I’m almost finished with end-of-the-year reports, grading, and the like and am looking forward to summer. Summer is a great time to catch up on writing and work on research projects. But now that I’m looking to wrap up a few research projects and begin a new one, I’m left pondering the question of where to publish and how it affects my work as an academic librarian.

At my university, librarians have faculty status and go through the retention, tenure, and promotion process. Therefore, we are expected to complete research and publish in peer-reviewed journals. I actually like this requirement as I like researching and contributing to the knowledge base in the fields. But what I do have issues with is deciding to which journal I should submit my articles. And this is an issue, not because I don’t know the aims and scopes of the journals in my field, or which journals publish research that is along the same vein as my own, or even that I’m not aware of the prestige of different journals. It’s an issue because of the conflicting interests of publishing in a “publish or perish” environment that recognizes prestige of a journal versus my own desire to support open access journals by publishing my work there.

I support the open access movement and love that more journals, such as C&RL, have gone to an open access model of publication in our field. I have been a member of the Evidence Summaries team for a number of years for the journal, Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, and love that anyone can read the journal and my work. I do think it is wrong that many publishers charge so much for journal subscriptions, both for libraries and for individual subscribers. I would love to publish all my work in open access journals.

However, I also recognize the reality that many of the top-ranked and well-regarded journals, with a large readership, in our fields of libraries, information science, and archives are not part of the open access movement. I also am aware that publishing in these journals is seen by many in academia as, if not a requirement, then a very important signal that your work is of value and at a high level of scholarship. And since my career is in academia and I am in a position to be tenured and promoted through the faculty lines, the prestige of journals is a consideration when publishing.

How does one then resolve these issues? What concern trumps the other? Publish in open access journals and hope the academia moves in time to see open access as a necessary change in the publishing model and valid? Or publish in journals with prestige that are not open access because of the pressures of academia?

So I suppose I’m wondering how others have resolved this dilemma for themselves. I’d love to hear about it in comments.

Thank you, dear readers, and I’ll write again soon. Allons-y!

Thoughts about My Doctoral Experience

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a relaxing weekend planned and that your Friday is going well. Today, I just want to write a short post about some thoughts on my recently completed doctoral experience. I felt the need to write this post because I’ve been getting a steady flow of questions from students who are interested in the program that I completed and I’m hoping that this post may help anyone thinking about applying to the Gateway PhD Program.

First, I have to say that the website about the Gateway PhD Program is a wealth of information and I highly recommend combing through it if you are thinking about the program. But I know that it can be useful to talk to someone who has gone through the program so I’m going to give my personal thoughts here about the program and what I think you need to succeed.

The program was a great fit for me. I wanted to go through a doctoral program, but I needed to keep working full-time in order to support myself and right after I was hired at my current position, this program opened up literally down the road from my house. I applied, got accepted, and really never looked back. I think that there are many reasons that the program worked so well, the two main reasons being the supervisors and the cohort model.

My supervisors, both from San José and from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), were absolutely fabulous. They pushed me to be more precise, more informed, and better able to defend my research and conclusions. They made me such a better scholar and communicator than I was at the beginning of the program. They were also so supportive and helpful. The residencies, when I could meet in person with my supervisors, were energizing. The monthly online meetings were also useful in checking in and keeping in contact so I never felt on my own.

My cohort, along with the other students in the program, was and is an incredible group of people and a wonderful support group. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and friends in my cohort. We are still in touch and I’m sure will remain so. Isolation was not a problem, which I know can be a worry to some who are thinking about this mainly online program.

Another reason why I’m so thankful for my doctoral experience is that the QUT model, which is used in this collaborative program, is based on research and reading, not classes. I had no desire to sit through more classes and appreciated this model where I was expected to know my field, the literature, and start thinking deeply about my potential area of research on day one. And for those who might be wondering if the program provides breadth since there are no classes, it completely does because it behooves you to read widely on theories, methodologies, methods, and current research in order to understand and to help your fellow students with their research when they bring it to the group. I now know more about grounded theory, case studies, public funding of libraries in Canada, social networks, etc. than I ever thought I’d know. It has been wonderful and helps me so much in one of my current roles as a member of EBLIP’s Evidence Summary Team.

So what do I think you need to succeed in this program or a similar one? I think you need to be self-motivated, independent, willing to listen and learn from others, and deeply passionate about research. Since there are fewer hard deadlines for deliverables, since there are no classes, self-motivation and discipline is key to staying on track. Being independent helps in not feeling lonely when you are staring at your computer screen for 8 hours by yourself with piles of notes and books sitting around you. On the flip side, being willing and able to listen and learn from others is so important. I saved so much time on paperwork and forms by listening to the experiences of others. I learned how to avoid pitfalls in research and figure out time-saving tricks by listening. Be a sponge and soak it all in and then discern what will be useful for you. Being deeply passionate about research and your chosen subject is essential. Without this passion, the process would be unbearable. With this passion, the stumbling blocks are only temporary setbacks and there is the joy of discovery in the midst of a lot of hard work.

So that concludes my thoughts this Friday on my doctoral experience. I’m always happy to answer questions about the program for those who are interested, just contact me in comments or via email.

Also, I’ll be speaking with two of my doctoral program colleagues at the Library 2.012 Conference going on online next week. You can see the full schedule here. We’ll be speaking on October 3 at 9am PDT if anyone is interested in hearing about turning your thesis and dissertation research into conference presentations and articles. The sessions are going to be recorded so you can listen to them later, too.

Now, to leave you with something fun to get you ready for the weekend, I give you this kitty wandering out in the wide world because I hope you’ll take some time to explore this weekend, too, dear readers.

photo of kitten walking down a road by herself

“Exploring This Big World” by Piccsy via Beautiful Portals Tumblr

Have a wonderful weekend full of exploring, relaxing, and reading, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more. Allons-y!

I'm a Doctor, now what?

Well, not that kind of doctor. But I did receive notice that my PhD was conferred last week and I can now officially use the title of Doctor (at least in academic circles). It’s exciting and I’m relieved to be finished, but it does leave the question: now what?

Working on my doctoral research has consumed the last few years of my life. While some were able to go home and relax or catch up on the latest best sellers, I went home and read articles for my literature review or revised a chapter (again) based on supervisor feedback. My research has been the project that has kept my blogging to a minimum, my pop culture knowledge virtually non-existent for the last few years, and my weekends full of work. However, it has also been the reason for new friendships through the doctoral program, lots of contact with new ideas, and much intellectual growth. It’s been almost all-consuming and a process that I’m very glad I did, even now when I’m too tired to think about having a celebration. This has been my life that now, at the end of it, I have to figure out what it actually means and where I want to go (in all senses).

Since people have found out that I have gotten my degree, I’ve been asked numerous times what I am going to do next. My usual answer is “sleep” because I’m a bit tired (understatement) and need to get over the last bit of stress that accompanied trying to get all the last minute stuff finished. And since Hobbiton doesn’t seem in need of an archivist right now, I’m left to try to figure out what I actually want to do. And you know what? That’s okay.

It’s okay that I don’t know exactly what the next steps are going to be. It’s okay just to be. I love my work with the students and my colleagues here on campus. I’m super-excited about some upcoming collaborations with our amazing Theatre & Dance Department through my archives work and suddenly being “Dr. D” as some of my colleagues have dubbed me doesn’t mean I’ve completely changed. I’ve just grown some. More than anything, I need time to think and reflect about what I want to still accomplish professionally and personally before I undertake any radical changes. Why, after spending years working towards a goal, would I jump into another thing without seriously contemplating where it will take me? As J. R. R. Tolkien wrote,

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

I’d like to be in a little bit of control of where I’m swept off to next and I’ll keep you up to date on my journey, dear readers.

Now that we’re done with the update, a few other items. First, one thing I do know that I want to do is get back to blogging more regularly and start processing some of the ideas that I’ve had rattling around in my head for the last few months. So, expect to see more frequent posts here at The Waki Librarian. Also, for all my dear readers who are introverts, I can’t recommend Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking enough. I received a copy for my birthday and devoured it. Cain blends thorough research with an engaging writing style that will have you wanting to read it cover to cover in one go. It will make you feel good about being an introvert, if you are one, and understand introverts more if you aren’t one. Until you are able to get a copy of the book, check out Susan Cain’s TED Talk:

Have a wonderful day, dear readers, and I’ll be back soon with some technology and library talk. Allons-y!

SCA Session: Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives

Next up: Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives. Allons-y!

Talks by David Zeidberg (Huntington Library), Tom Hyry (UCLA) and Mary Morganti (California Historical Society)

Overview of Survey Results (You can check out the report here: PDF of report.

  • Collections size is growing
  • Use is increasing
  • Backlogs continue to grow
  • Staffing is stable
  • 75% of library have had budget cuts

275 Libraries surveyed, 61% response rate
Wanted diversity of special collections and archives represented, but academic archives were most heavily represented in respondents.

ARL collection growth since 1998: Archives/manuscripts: 50% growth (average)
Special collections in remote storage: 67% of respondents use remote storage

Use of archival materials is increasing, which is cool. Many archives provide access to uncataloged/unprocessed materials (we do or we wouldn’t be able to let people see anything!). In 87% of the special collections reading rooms, you can use digital cameras.

So access is increasing and archivists and special collections librarians are getting better about being flexible for giving access to collections.

50% of archival materials are available via online catalogs
Backlog is decreasing with implementation of “More product, less process”
Need cataloging and metadata processes that are scalable

Archival management
40% of archival finding aids are online
34% of respondents are using Archivists’ Toolkit

One of the great challenges for archives-we can never do enough.
52% of an active program of digitization
38% have completed large-scale digitization of special collections (systematic reproduction of entire collections using streamlined production methods that account for special needs)

Born-digital Materials
Undercollected, undercounted, undermanaged, unpreserved, and inaccessible.
Need to do more with the born-digital materials; most people need more training
Funding named as biggest challenge of managing born-digital materials

Mary Morganti (CHS)
Small staff and lots of different materials (museum materials and archival materials)
Can solve everything with creativity, time and money! (very true)
Space is a huge issue for many organizations. Talking about lack of space for storing collections (also environmentally controlled storage)
CHS are looking at “right sizing” the collection storage in the correct boxes. (We’re doing this with our collections, too! It’s amazing the kind of shelf space you can regain)
Uses Archivists’ Toolkit (very cool) and contributes to the OAC (Online Archive of California)
Her concerns: metadata discovery, access, decreasing backlogs, funding

David Zeidberg (Huntington Library)
Thinking about the issues philosophically. We all continue to collect faster than we can catalog. Collection development and access to collections (decreasing the backlogs) should be the top priorities (they are at the Huntington). Two schools of thought of collection development: take everything lest it be lost; take only those collections that can be processed in a reasonable period of time to put in hands of researchers. Need to remember ethical responsibility to donor to process the collection. Take material that can be used= need to be more selective in acquisition. Need to do field appraisal before saying you will take the collection.

Reaction to low level of formalized collection development reported in OCLC survey: haven’t seemed to work or be sustainable. Practical alternative: update and share collection development policies with one another. Then we can see who is collecting in particular areas. Need to behave ethically, always.

Tom Hyry (UCLA Special Collections)
Despair over increasing A/V materials, ’cause we weren’t that good at these before, backlogs are growing, and budgets have been cut.
Hope over using streamlined processes and getting more materials online.
At UCLC, reading room is too small as usage has gone up. UCLA is collecting aggressively.

Trends in research libraries: selection is changing, budgets have shrunken, approval processes for purchasing, cataloging departments have changed, and how to support emerging fields (e.g. digital humanities).

Growth areas in research libraries: digital libraries; teaching and outreach; growth of special collections and prominence of special collections. Opportunities for special collections to capitalize on interest in special collections: example, using catalogers with language skills and training them in archival cataloging.

See born-digital materials as an opportunity as they be able to serve our users better. Can serve the materials over networks (don’t have to digitize them). Argues that appraisal is more important now than ever.

Take Home Message
Interesting data and results. Tip for presenters: if you are going to go over a lot of statistics, either go slower so people can take notes and process the information (and give less of it) or make sure to tell people (up front) where you will make your slides available online. Acquisitions and backlogs are important issues facing the profession. Always behave ethically= motto to archive by and if you remember this point, you’ll do well in your archival work.

User Studies and User Behavior

Next up: User studies: careful observation of archival practices reveal some surprising things about user behavior. To the session notes: Allons-y!

CTRL-S is Poor Archival Practice
Devin Becker (University of Idaho) Collier Nogues (University of California, Irvine)

Did a study of writers via online, open ended survey, about 100 people responded. Writers serve as a sort of focusing agent for the field: increased value assigned to digital files by writers themselves and by archival community. 75% of the respondents were poets, 77% had published one or more books.

Why is this an important issue? Because people don’t save earlier drafts of their works. So you can’t see earlier drafts/versions like you can in, say, the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the JFK Library.

53% claimed to save over their files primarily, but only about 20% always did this. 35% saved drafts all in one file. 9% only saved drafts as printouts and have only one digital file.

Only 8% work exclusively digitally; most work in both paper and digital formats. Many have very strong views about what points of their workflow they use digital versus physical to do their work. “There is really no feeling of management whatsoever when it comes down to it.” People save things everywhere (not surprising to archivists).

Only 7% admitted to never backing up their files. Over 70% said they backup at least monthly. However, this backup is not always done really well. Most backup on external hard drives.

Benign neglect does seem to be these writers’ basic curatorial mode. People have a fear that electronic files all look alike unlike manuscript drafts. Anxiety about confusing files because they look the same. Writers are more anxious about the management of their files than they are about losing their files.

Recommendations for Archivists
Don’t meddle too much with writers’ files
Meddle a little: 80% would be interested in receiving information about recommended digital archiving practices
Propose: Writers’ Digital Preservation Awareness Week (Why don’t writers just participate in ALA’s Preservation Week? It’s coming up–April 24-30)

File Folders on Computers in Personal Digital Archiving
Hong Zhang (University of Illinois)

Talking about filing systems people use on their computers, can be seen as organic archives created by people. More hard drives coming to archives with lots of digital files. How do we decipher these files?

Methodology: multiple case studies with 12 participants, two rounds of interviews,m disk scan, re-finding tasks observations (part of Zhang’s dissertation work)

How do people archive their files?
Explicitly indicate archives folders via folder names, for example: “archive”
Implicitly indicate archives folders via dating folders, for example
Keeping the original structure when archiving because used to the structure and no motivation to change it when archiving because won’t be using the information again

Relationships among files may be complicated and important or almost non-existent. This is an important idea to remember when trying to appraisal, process, and archive personal digital collections.

Gmail is a Storyworld
Jason Zalinger (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

We are all digital storytellers, historians, curators, etc. of our own lives. We are very good at capturing personal data, but we are not good at helping people make sense of it all. We are not good at encouraging people to explore their archives for self-reflection. When Gmail changes the interface, it changes your storyworld. Thousands of clues to our life stories are sitting in our archives.

User study: conducted six interviews, 3 male, 3 female, highly educated, ages 27-39, 3 via audio recording, 3 via IM, asked about their archives and about stories.

Findings and Design Recommendations

  • A Label Named “Forget”: everything a person wants to forget, but wants to archive. Design Recommendation: Forget & Remember labels built into Gmail. Pop-up message years later to read message and see if want to delete
  • Digital Regret: send emails that you regret later. Design Recommendation: Gmail has the “Undo” send button already. Gmail’s Mail Goggles makes you solve math problems in order to send emails (aka friends don’t let friends email drunk). Wants “Sleep On It”: sends email to your archive and then pop-up lets you re-read your email before sending it the next morning.
  • Characters: Conversation View (email threaded conversations). Design Recommendations: Storyfox would format your conversation thread to a Google Doc formatted to look like a screenplay or as a comic strip (Geomic)
  • How do you know what is meaningful? Design Recommendation: Gmail Meaning Labeler (crowdsourcing)
  • Design Recommendation from Interviewees: word clouds for email

Note: design recommendations are at the conceptual stage and Zalinger hasn’t created them.

Cognitively Motivated Lifelog Software
Aiden Doherty, Cathal Gurrin, Alan F. Smeaton (CLARITY: Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, Dublin City University)

People have talked about personal life archives for years. People have taken this further and created weird technologies to capture their life. However, the researchers use wearable sensors: SenseCam is a Microsoft Research Prototype, now the Vicon Revue: contains a camera and various sensors, GPS, Bluetooth and takes about 5,500 photos per day. Researchers have their own smartphone App: integrates all sensors, can connect to external capture devices, and uploads to a server in real-time.

What is an e-memory archive?
“We use sensors to capture and understand life activities.” Lots of information via the information captured by the sensors. (That’s a lot of data to mine) Don’t record audio because people stopped talking to the researchers. 4.5 years= around 7 million photos.

In one year: 12,500 events or moments, 20 million accelerometer and temperature and compass readings, 2.3 million GPS points, 25,000 unique Bluetooth encounters (wow!)

Want to build search engines for these e-memory archives because visuals are powerful memory clues. Great for remembering different parts of one’s life. Make search engines based on cognitive science. Biomimicry of how human mind stores and organizes memory to model for the search engines. (wow, again) Can determine unique events and moments out of the mundane and then finally display in the browser.

Applying 12 years of video/image search experiences showed many different axes of retrieval for information. Designed initial browser 4 years ago, larger images are more important, and some search functionalities. Then designed a new browser with more flexible search options. Newer browser is much better at finding events, but still at 2 minutes for retrieval. Need to think of new ways to tackle challenge of efficient and fast searching.

Take away: Users are idiosyncratic in their use and creation of digital files. This is not surprising, but kind of sad, for archivists–it means a lot of work to decipher the information when it comes to the archives. (Yay for job security, though.) Lots of data being created and need ways to search and display it visually. Very interesting session, especially the information about lifelog search engines.