Open Textbooks Playlist

For those of you who saw Tara Robertson‘s presentation on open textbooks at Access 2015, “Can I actually use it?” Testing open textbooks for accessibility, that I provided a Creative Commons licensed musical augmentation for, and you want the full playlist — HERE YOU GO!

  1. Willbe, “Introduced Beats”
  2. Jared C. Blaogh, “Proven Groove”
  3. Wake, “Glytch Funk”
  4. Podington Bear, “Trundle”
  5. Charlie Salas-Humara, “Sequence”
  6. C. Scott, “Enjoyable to Know”
  7. Niak, “Melody Maker”
  8. Cory Gray, “Someone Kill JT”
  9. Chapelle 59, “Funky Beat”
  10. Bix Beiderbecker, “Black Bottom Stomp”
  11. Smiling Cynic, “Do Robots Have A God?”
  12. Springtide, “Little Pink Guitar”
  13. Black Ant, “Government Funded Weed”
  14. Kosta T, “Train 007” (Questions)


SLA: Speak up, I can’t hear you.

flickr photo shared by Ape Lad under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Update: On 21 May, 2015 SLA signed on to the COAR statement. Way to go, SLA!

This morning an announcement hit my inbox from ARL about a number of library groups denouncing Elsevier’s new sharing and hosting policy.  (I wrote about it recently, so I won’t really address the issue again now.) I looked at the list of signatories to COAR’s statement hoping to see my library association of choice (SLA), but wasn’t really surprised when I saw they were absent.  It reminded me of FASTR and how they were slow to speak out against it, though after some prodding they did. This situation is different because this isn’t directly about legislation or regulation, but about a major publisher’s policies (that kind of relate to regulation).

The realist in me understands why SLA hasn’t yet (and likely won’t) comment on the change in Elsevier’s policy. This has been a somewhat tumultuous year for the association as we collectively figure out what SLA means and what the way ahead will be. If you’re a member of SLA, please go read the SLA Recommendations Report and comment on it! These sorts of advocacy issues may be relatively straightforward and require little effort, but they are not really a priority for SLA right now. We have bigger issues. There’s also the fact that it’s difficult to speak against a large “vendor partner”, especially when SLA needs to strengthen its relationship with vendor partners for survival reasons.

At the same time, I want to belong to a professional association that speaks up about these kinds of issues. I want them to advocate for access to information. It’s in the interest of many of SLA’s members and our library users. Not only would making these statements support members who are working on these issues, it would also position SLA alongside many other library associations like ALA. It’s a form of publicity or marketing, showing that we are interested in access to research that impacts everybody. If you’re a member and want SLA to do something on the issue, I recommend contacting the Board of Directors. I wrote them this morning.

And this is where it gets difficult for me to see how I fit in with SLA if they don’t speak up on these kinds of issues. After reading the recommendations, I felt somewhat out of place within the association structure, but I am used to that. I’m also used to SLA being conservative when it comes to policy positions, but I’m tired of it. I think this constant inward focus and reluctance to push back against policies that negatively impact the core mission of library and information centers needs to stop, but I also don’t think SLA is in a place right now to do it. That makes me sad. Many SLA members look to the association for professional development opportunities. Advocacy, for the profession and our services, is one of these opportunities we’ve been neglecting. It would be great if members could cultivate the skills to speak up when issues directly affect our professional interests, and learn to communicate respectfully with our vendors partners to establish mutually beneficial relationships.

I’ve seen many energetic and enthusiastic SLA members drop their membership in recent years because the association wasn’t for them. I understand there will always be churn, but it shouldn’t be from Rising Stars and Fellows. When the people who were heavily involved with making the association strong and viable for the future fade out because they feel their energy would be better spent elsewhere, it’s worrying. Everybody has reasons – money, time, other commitments, but the disagreement on direction is I think the most troublesome because it’s the easiest to do something about. Unfortunately, this might be the thing that makes me fade away. I hope not because I truly do value my membership with SLA and have benefitted greatly from my involvement with the association, but if it continues to go in directions that go against my values I will probably go elsewhere.

Need a reality check? On peer-review and domain knowledge

Entering the Subway by rosemarie_mckeon
Entering the Subway, a photo by rosemarie_mckeon on Flickr.

Last week I attended IDCC14 in San Francisco, where I was immersed in digital curation. Naturally, things like peer-review and domain knowledge/expertise were on my mind, as things to consider with research (data) publishing. Then I saw this story about a Twitter data scientist “hacking” BART. I immediately retweeted it with a remark about not understanding how BART works (which is true). Right now, particularly in the Bay Area, there are a lot of “hacks” to solve problems that aren’t actually problems. It’s just that the people who perceive the problems don’t have the full picture and “hack” the solution for them, which in the case of public transit is only a small segment of the users. Joe Eskenazi wrote a good column about this in SF Weekly that looks at both sides. (Disclosure: We play futsal together, or did until I broke my finger in a game. Miss you Kamikaze!)

Reading Haque’s paper on arXiv, it’s clear to me he’s got the math and science stuff down – it’s the transportation that he’s lacking. A common issue with data scientists is that they often have the analytic and technological skills, but lack the domain expertise. So they have to work with experts or learn enough to become an expert (which takes time). Even if he just ran some of these ideas past a transportation engineering or planning masters student, they could have helped him refine the “problem”. Haque seemingly wrote this in a vacuum, so when it saw the light of the internet the transportation folk just picked it apart based on the faulty assumptions of how commuter rail fares work. (Note: Everybody thinks they’re an expert on transportation because they use it. Sorry, you’re most likely not.)

This is where peer-review could have been a good thing. I looked at the paper on arXiv to see if it was published elsewhere, such as a journal or conference. arXiv is often used as an open access repository for pre-publication manuscripts. Haque’s paper was not (as of yet) published or submitted elsewhere, which means there’s been no obvious peer-review which explains a lot.

Peer-review would have pointed out the flaws in Haque’s methodology (assuming the reviewers had the expertise). Instead, he got the open peer-review of Twitter and lots of transportation professionals and advocates, many of whom are tired of tech workers “hacking” transportation in a way that doesn’t really help. (Seriously, fare evasion with the help of an app and surge pricing on transit? BART isn’t Uber!)

There is a lot broken with peer review, but this is one case where it could have helped. I really hope Haque can hook into the very passionate and knowledgeable transportation community here in the Bay Area and start “hacking” some real problems. Let’s do it!

Records, mp3s, and preservation (and copyright)

records by Jack Emerson Garland
records, a photo by Jack Emerson Garland on Flickr.

This weekend, while organizing my records and putting them into Discogs, I had an epiphany — “Digital piracy can be a form of preservation. The ultimate LOCKSS.” The distribution isn’t organized, but it definitely helps preserve the “long tail”. Once something is on the internet, it’s very difficult to lose it.

This morning I stumbled across this piece about vinyl records, mp3s, and preservation questions. Basically, from an archivist’s perspective, vinyl and other analog musical formats aren’t great for long term preservation, especially compared to digital formats. Again, piracy saves the day!

Then something else happened this weekend… I watched this Beatles live performance from 1966 and remembered that they’re alright. No, I still don’t think they’re the best thing ever or deserve all of the praise, adulation, and obsession they’ve received, but they’re good and significant. Then I remembered the bootlegs they released last year on iTunes (of course it’s iTunes!) as a response to changes in EU copyright. (One cynical Guardian reader summed it up: “Another income source for McCartney, lovely.”) So the Beatles, such as they are now, get to retain copyright on those recordings another 20 year but had to publish/sunlight them in the process. Well, they’re out now. And thanks to certain torrenting sites, they’re not going away anytime soon. Preservation to the masses!

When a college takes the music library of a college radio station.

Music Library. by Pitseleh Pitseleh
Music Library., a photo by Pitseleh Pitseleh on Flickr.

Earlier this week @LibrarySherpa sent me this article about UT Austin accepting and processing the KUT music library.

Thanks to its purchase of the entire physical library of the university’s public-radio station, KUT, the university’s Fine Arts Library has 60,000 CDs and 4,000 LPs to process and store—400 boxes’ worth. The archive comprises music of all genres, including albums by little-known bands that were at one time or another part of Austin’s long-thriving music scene.

My initial thoughts were:
1 – That’s a small collection.
2 – How will the DJs use it if it’s circulating with the whole campus?

Then I finished reading the whole article. KUT is now a news and talk station, so the collection is fairly useless to them. As for the logistics, in a normal year the UT library processes donations of 800 CDs and 4,000 LPs. This makes the KUT collection a bit of a stretch. Will be interesting to see how it pans out despite my concerns about the future of college radio.

This isn’t the first time something like this happened in Texas. In 2010 Rice University sold the license for KTRU to University of Houston, which turned it into a classical radio station, effectively killing KTRU. Thankfully (?) their music library is now part of the Rice archives.

Closer to home, the University of San Francisco sold its FCC license for KUSF to USC so that now in the Bay Area 90.3 FM is also a classical music station. KUSF lives on via online streaming and the library is intact.

This all interests and concerns me as I’m co-director of the KALX music library. We have a collection of about 100,000 pieces of music — 45% LPs, 45% CDs, 10% 7″s. We’ve been collecting records since we started in 1962 and throw nothing out. If a KALX DJ says we should keep it, we do. The value of the collection is not only the size and the breadth, but also the reviews and comments scrawled on almost every record and CD. This is the history of KALX. Our copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind has a dialog about “selling out”, the grunge explosion, and the role of college radio. For some reason the original Star Wars soundtrack was also contentious. While it would be interesting to open this up to the public, it’s a working collection for the DJs, and the primary value is it being at the DJs’ ready at all times. KALX has a culture that really appreciates this, almost revering the library as a sacred collection, which is why theft is so low. KALX is an atypical college radio station in many respects, but the library is one of the better ones. If by a cruel twist of fate we become a classical station, I would hope the main library would take the collection, but I really hope that day never comes.