Brave New Workplace: Text Mining

Text Mining Visualization from McGill University

Hi there, future text miners. Before we head down the coal shoot together, I’ll begin by saying this, and I hope it will reassure you- no matter your level of expertise, your experience in writing code or conducting data analysis, you can find an online tool to help you text mine.

The internet is a wild and beautiful place sometimes.

But before we go there, you may be wondering- what’s this Brave New Workplace business all about? Brave New Workplace is my monthly discussion of tech tools and skill sets which can help you adapt and know a new workplace. In our previous two installments I’ve discussed my own techniques and approaches to learning about your coworkers’ needs and common goals. Today I’m going to talk about text mining the results of your survey, but also text mining generally.

Now three months into my new position, I have found that text mining my survey results was only the first step to developing additional awareness of where I could best apply my expertise to library needs and goals. I went so far as to text mine three years of eresource Help Desk tickets and five years of meeting notes. All of it was fun, helpful, and revealing.

Text mining can assist you in information gathering in a variety of ways, but I tend to think it’s helpful to keep in mind the big three.

1. Seeing the big picture (clustering)
2. Finding answers to very specific questions (question answering)
3. Hypothesis generation (concept linkages)

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on tools for clustering your data set. As with any data project, I encourage you to categorize your inputs and vigorously review and pre-process your data. Exclude documents or texts that do not pertain to the subject of your inquiry. You want your data set to be big and deep, not big and shallow.

I will divide my tool suggestions into two categories: beginner and intermediate. For my beginners just getting started, you will not need to use any programming language, but for intermediate, you will.


word cloud
I know, you’ve seen a million word clouds.

Start yourself off easy and use This simple site will make you a pretty word cloud,  and also provide you with a comprehensive word frequencies list. Those frequencies are concept clusters, and you can begin to see trends and needs in your new coworkers and your workplace goals. This is a pretty cool, and VERY user friendly way to get started text mining.

WordClouds eliminates frequently used words, like articles, and gets you to the meat of your texts. You can copy paste text or upload text files. You can also scan a site URL for text, which is what I’ve elected to do as an example here, examining my library’s home page. The best output of WordClouds is not the word cloud. It’s the easily exportable list of frequently occurring words.

info.lib.uh word frequencies
WordCloud Frequency List

To be honest, I often use this WordClouds’ function in advance of getting into other data tools. It can be a way to better figure out categories of needs, a great first data mining step which requires almost zero effort. With your frequencies list in hand you can do some immediate (and perhaps more useful) data visualization in a simple tool of your choice, for instance Excel.


Excel Graphs for Visualization


Intermediate Tools

Depending on your preferred programming language, many options are available to you. While I have traditionally worked in SPSS for data analysis, I have recently been working in R. The good news about R versus SPSS- R is free and there’s a ton of community collaboration. If you have a question (I often do) it’s easy to find an answer.

Getting started in R with text mining is simple. You’ll need to install the packages necessary if you are text mining for the first time.

textmining packages

Then save your text files in a folder titled: “texts,” and load those in R. Once in, you’ll need to pre-process your text to remove common words and punctuation.  This guide is excellent in taking you through the steps to process your data and analyze it.

Just like our WordClouds, you can use R to discover term frequencies and visualize them. Beyond this, working in R or SPSS or Python can allow you to cluster terms further. You can find relationships between words and examine those relationships within a dendrogram or by k-means. These will allow you to see the relationships between clusters of dendrogram

Ultimately, the more you text mine, the more familiar you will become with the tools and analysis valuable in approaching a specific text dataset. Get out there and text mine, kids. It’s a great way to acculturate to a new workplace or just learn more about what’s happening in your library.

Now that we’ve text mined the results of our survey, it’s time to move onto building a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) for keeping our collaborators and projects straight. Come back for Brave New Workplace: Your Homegrown CRM on December 21st.

Jobs in Information Technology: November 24, 2015

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week:

Tenure-track – STEM Librarian, Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA

Web Services Librarian, Meridian Library District, Meridian, ID

Information Technology & Virtual Services (ITVS) Officer, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs, CO

Systems & Discovery Services Librarian, Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN

Systems Administrator, University of Wisconsin-Madison General Library System, Madison, WI

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

A Linked Data Journey: Interview with Allison Jai O’Dell

Image Courtesy of AJC under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.


This is part three of my Linked Data Series. You can find the previous posts in my author feed. I’ve decided to spice things up a bit and let you hear from some library professionals who are actually implementing and discussing Linked Data in their libraries. These interviews were conducted via email and are transcripts of the actual interviews, with very minor editorial revisions. This first interview is with Allison Jai O’Dell.


Allison Jai O’Dell is Metadata Librarian and Associate University Librarian at the University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries. She is on the editorial teams of the RBMS Controlled Vocabularies and the ARLIS/NA Artists’ Books Thesaurus – and is working to publish both as enriched, five-star linked datasets. Learn more about her from her website.

The Interview

Can you give a brief description of TemaTres?

TemaTres is a free, open-source content management system for knowledge organization systems (KOS) – such as library thesauri, taxonomies, ontologies, glossaries, and controlled vocabulary lists.

Can you list some key features of TemaTres?

TemaTres runs on a Web-server, and requires only PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS. TemaTres is quick to install, and easy to customize. (Gosh, I sound like a salesperson! But it really is simple.)

TemaTres is a cloud-based solution for multiple parties to build and access a KOS. Out-of-the-box, it provides a back-end administration and editing interface, as well as a front-end user interface for searching and browsing the KOS. Back-end users can have varying privileges to add, edit, or suggest concepts – which is great for collaborative projects.

TemaTres makes it easy to publish Linked Data. Concepts are assigned URIs, and the data is available in SKOS and JSON-LD formats (in addition to other formats, such as Dublin Core and MADS). Relationships can be established not only within a KOS (where reciprocal relationships are automatically inferred), but also to external Web resources. That is, TemaTres makes it easy to publish five-star Linked Data.

How have you used TemaTres in your institution? Can you give an example?

I have used TemaTres on several thesaurus projects to streamline collaborative workflows and publish (linked) data. For example, at the University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries, we are using TemaTres to develop, publish, access, and apply local controlled vocabularies and ontologies. I am particularly excited to collaborate with Suzan Alteri, curator of the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, to develop an ontology of paratextual features. Because our special collections are so unique, we find need to extend the concepts available in major library thesauri. With SKOS under the hood, TemaTres makes that possible.

What challenges have you faced in implementing TemaTres?

With TemaTres and SKOS, we now have the ability to create relationships between thesauri. This is a new frontier – external links have not previously been a part of thesaurus production workflows or thesaurus data. So, now we are busy linking legacy data, and revamping our processes and policies to create more interoperability. It is a lot of work, but the end result – the ability to extend major thesauri at the local or granular level – is tremendously powerful.

How do you see TemaTres and similar linked data vocabulary systems helping in the future?

The plethora of controlled vocabulary and ontology editors on the market allow us to publish not only metadata, but the organizational structures that underlie our metadata. This is powerful stuff for interoperability and knowledge-building. Why wait on the future? Get started now!

What do you think institutions can do locally to prepare for linked data?

There are two answers to this question. One is about preparing our data. Linked data relies on URIs and relationships. The more URIs and relationships we can squeeze into our data, the better it will perform as linked data. Jean Godby and Karen Smith-Yoshimura give some great advice on prepping MARC data for conversion to Linked Data. Relationships – that is, predicates in the RDF triple – can be sourced from relationship designators and field tags in MARC data. So, Jean and Karen advise us to add relationship designators and use granular field tagging.

The second answer is about preparing our staff. In the upcoming volume 34 of Advances in Library Administration and Organization (ALAO), I discuss training, recruitment, and workflow design to prepare staff for linked data. Library catalog theory (especially our tradition of authority control), metadata skillsets (to encode, transform, query, clean, publish, expose, and preserve data), and current organizational trends (towards distributed resource description and centralized metadata management) provide a solid basis for working with linked data.

Librarians tend to focus on nitty-gritty details – hey, it’s our job! But, as we prepare for linked data, and especially as we plan for training, let’s try not to lose the forest for the trees. Effective training keeps big picture concepts in sight, and relates each lesson to the overall vision. In the ALAO chapter, I discuss a strategy to teach conceptual change, inspire creativity, and enable problem-solving with linked data technologies. This is done by highlighting frustrations with MARC data and its applications, then presenting both the simplicity and rewards of the linked data concept.

Do you have any advice for those interested in linked data?

Do not simply publish linked data – consume it! Having a user’s perspective will make you a better data publisher. Try this exercise: Take a linked data set, and imagine some questions you might pose of the information. Then, try to construct SPARQL queries to answer your questions. What challenges do you face? And how would you change the dataset to ameliorate those challenges? Use these insights to publish more awesome data!


I want to thank Allison for participating in this wonderful interview. I encourage you to check out TemaTres and to think about how you can begin implementing Linked Data in your libraries. Stay tuned for the next interview!

Jobs in Information Technology: November 18, 2015

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week:

Programmer, University of Colorado Denver- Auraria Library, Denver, CO

Head of Digital Library Services, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Discovery Services Librarian, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

Agile Development: Building an Agile Culture


Over the last few months I have described various components of Agile development. This time around I want to talk about building an Agile culture. Agile is more than just a codified process; it is a development approach, a philosophy, one that stresses flexibility and communication. In order for a development team to successfully implement Agile the organization must embrace and practice the appropriate culture. In this post will to briefly discuss several tips that will help develop Agile development.

The Right People

It all starts here: as with pretty much any undertaking, you need the right people in place, which is not necessarily the same as saying the best people. Agile development necessitates a specific set of skills that are not intrinsically related to coding mastery: flexibility, teamwork, and ability to take responsibility for a project’s ultimate success are all extremely important. Once the team is formed, management should work to bring team members closer together and create the right environment for information sharing and investment.

Encourage Open Communication

Because of Agile’s quick pace and flexibility, and the lack of overarching structures and processes, open communication is crucial. A team must develop communication pathways and support structures so that all team members are aware of where the project stands at any one moment (the daily scrum is a great example of this). More important, however, is to convince the team to open up and conscientiously share progress individual progress, key roadblocks, and concerns about the path of development. Likewise, management must be proactive about sharing project goals and business objectives with the team. An Agile team is always looking for the most efficient way to deliver results, and the more information they receive about the motivation and goals that lie behind a project the better. Agile managers must actively encourage a culture that says “we’re all in this together, and together we will find the solution to the problem.” Silos are Agile’s kryptonite.

Empower the Team

Agile only works when everyone on the team feels responsible for the success of the project, and management must do its part by encouraging team members to take ownership of the results of their work, and trusting them to do so. Make sure everyone on the team understands the ultimate organizational need, assign specific roles to each team member, and then allow team members to find their own ways to meet the stated goals. Too often in development there is a basic disconnect between the people who understand the business needs and those who have the technical know-how to make them happen. Everyone on the team needs to understand what makes for a successful project, so that wasted effort is minimized.

Reward the Right Behaviors

Too often in development organizations, management metrics are out of alignment with process goals. Hours worked are a popular metric teams use to evaluate members, although often proxies like hours spent at the office, or time spent logged into the system, are used. With Agile, the focus should be on results. As long as a team meets the stated goals of a project, the less time spent working on the solution, the better. Remember, the key is efficiency, and developing software that solves the problem at hand with as few bells and whistles as possible. If a team is consistently beating it’s time estimates by a significant margin, it can recalibrate their estimation procedures. Spending all night at the office working on a piece of code is not a badge of honor, but a failure of the planning process.

Be Patient

Full adoption of Agile takes time. You cannot expect a team to change it’s fundamental philosophy overnight. The key is to keep working at it, taking small steps towards the right environment and rewarding progress. Above all, management needs to be transparent about why it considers this change important. A full transition can take years of incremental improvement. Above all, be conscious that the steady state for your team will likely not look exactly like the theoretical ideal. Agile is adaptable and each organization should create the process that works best for its own needs.

If you want to learn more about building an Agile culture, check out the following resources:

In your experience, how long does it take for a team to fully convert to the Agile way? What is the biggest roadblock to adoption? How is the process initiated and who monitors and controls progress?

“Scrum process” image By Lakeworks (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jobs in Information Technology: November 11, 2015

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week:

Head of Processing, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Information Services Team Lead/Librarian (NASA), Cadence Group, Greenbelt, MD

Head of Collection Management, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Head of Graduate and Undergraduate Services, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.

I’m Jenny Levine, and This Is How I Work

(Format shamelessly stolen from LifeHacker)

Jenny Levine
Jenny Levine

Location: Chicago, IL
One word that best describes how you work: Collaboratively
Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy S6 (I love customizing the heck out of my phone so that it works really well for me) .
Current computer: At work, I have a standard HP desktop PC, but at home I use an Asus Zenbook.

What apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?
I’m constantly trying new tools and cobbling together new routines for optimal productivity, but right now my goto apps are LastPass for password management across all of my devices, PushBullet for sharing links and files across devices, and Zite for helping me find a wide selection of links to read.

Picture of my workspace
My workspace

What’s your workplace setup like?
At work, I love my adjustable standing desk. I wanted to paint my office walls with whiteboard paint, but that hasn’t worked out well for other ALA units so I’m looking forward to getting an 8’ x 4’ whiteboard. I like organizing my thoughts visually on big spaces. At home, I pretty much sit on the couch with my laptop.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Work-life balance is really important. You can’t be your best at home or work if you’re not getting what you need from both. Life really is too short to spend your time doing things you don’t want to do (some clichés are clichés for a reason).

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I’m constantly tinkering with new tools to find the ideal workflow, but I haven’t hit on the perfect one yet. Earlier this year I read “Work Simply” by Carson Tate, which explains the four productivity styles she’s identified. She then makes recommendations about workflows and tools based on your productivity style. Unfortunately, I came out equally across all four styles, which I think explains why some of the standard routines like Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero don’t work for me. Traditionally I’ve been a Post-It Notes type of person, but I’ve been trying to save trees by moving that workflow into Trello. It’s working well for me tracking projects long-term, but I just can’t seem to escape the paper Post-It Note with my “must do today” list, and now I’m learning to accept that thanks to Tate’s book. I’m also experimenting with WorkLife to manage meeting agendas.

Ella, the world’s greatest dog

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
I couldn’t do without my wireless headphones, because I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m walking the world’s best dog, Ella. I also don’t feel right if I’m not wearing my Fitbit. Gotta get my 11,000 steps in each day.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
At a macro level, I’m good at identifying trends and connecting them to libraries. At a more granular level, I’m really good at making connections between things and people so that they’re able to do, learn, share, and implement more together. These are things I’m really looking forward to doing for LITA. I want to meet all of our members so that I can connect them, learn from them, and help them do great things together.

What do you listen to while you work?
Almost anything. I subscribe to Rdio in part because you can easily see every single new album they add each week. I tend to browse that list and just listen to whichever ones have interesting cover art or names. When I really need to concentrate on something, I tend to go for classical music. I’m intrigued by Coffitivity.

What are you currently reading?
I recently finished a series of mind-blowing science fiction, “Blindsight” by Peter Watts followed by “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson. I loved them both (although I wish “Seveneves” had a proper ending), as well as the first two books of Cixin Liu’s Three-Body trilogy (I’m anxiously awaiting the translation of the third book). I also just finished “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande, which I recommend everyone read.

After reading all of these, though, I’m ready to curl up in the corner now and wait for the end of humanity. I may need to read a Little Golden book next, but I just started “Ancillary Mercy” by Ann Leckie.

How do you recharge?
In general, walking the dog is my zen time, but I’m also prone to watching tv. I don’t have email notifications set up on my computers, phones, or tablet, and I’m very deliberate about how I use technology so that I feel a sense of control over it. I’ve also learned that at least once a year I have to go on vacation and completely unplug to restore some of that balance. I love technology, but I also love doing without it sometimes.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When I graduated from my college, I didn’t want to go into the field I’d majored in (broadcast news), so I was trying to figure out what to do with my life instead. I had a little money from one of my grandmothers, so I decided to open a bookstore because I had loved working in one in high school. My Mom sat me down and told me about this place called “Border’s Bookstore” that was opening down the street and why I wouldn’t be opening my own bookstore. Instead, she suggested I go to library school. Best advice ever.

I’m passionate about….
Accessibility, collaboration, inclusivity, diversity, efficiency, transparency, communication. Everything can be improved, and we can build new things – how do we do that together? If we could build a 21st century organization from scratch, how would it be different? These are all areas I want to work on within LITA.

The future’s so bright…
I’m excited to be the new Executive Director of LITA, especially this week because it’s LITA Forum time (sing that to yourself in your best MC Hammer voice). I can’t believe it, but this will be my first ever LITA Forum, so in addition to being really happy I’m also kind of nervous. If you see me at Forum, please wave, say hi, or even better tell me what your vision is for LITA.

If you won’t be at Forum, I’d still love to hear from you. I went for the Director job because I believe that LITA has a bright future ahead and a lot of important work to do. We need to get going on changing the world, so share your thoughts and join in. There are a lot of places you can find LITA, but you can also contact me pretty much anywhere: email (jlevine at ala dot org), Facebook, Hangouts (shiftedlibrarian), Snapchat (shiftedlib), and Twitter for starters.

“Settling for a Job” and “Upward Mobility”: Today’s Career Paths for Librarians

The Jeffersons, 1975.
The Jeffersons, 1975.

I very recently shifted positions from a large academic research library to a small art school library, and during my transition the phrases “settling for a job” and “upward mobility” were said to me quite a bit. Both of these phrases set me personally on edge, and it got me thinking about today’s career paths for librarians and how they view their own trajectory.

At my last job, I was a small cog in a very well-oiled machine. It was not a librarian position and because I was in such a big institution I did not have a large variety of responsibilities. Librarian positions there were traditionally tenure-track, though it was clear that Technical Services was already on the path to eliminating Librarian titled positions and removing MLIS/MLS degrees from the required qualifications of position descriptions. A recent post from In the Library With the Lead Pipe addressed the realities of professional impact on the career trajectory of academic librarians today:

While good advice is readily available for most librarians looking to advance “primary” responsibilities like teaching, collection development, and support for access services, advice on the subject of scholarship—a key requirement of many academic librarian positions—remains relatively neglected by LIS programs across the country. Newly hired librarians are therefore often surprised by the realities of their long term performance expectations, and can especially struggle to find evidence of their “impact” on the larger LIS profession or field of research over time. These professional realizations prompt librarians to ask what it means to be impactful in the larger world of libraries. Is a poster at a national conference more or less impactful than a presentation at a regional one? Where can one find guidance on how to focus one’s efforts for greatest impact? Finally, who decides what impact is for librarians, and how does one go about becoming a decision-maker?

Though my last job taught me a great deal about management and scholarly publication, I accepted my current position at a small art school library because of my desire to take on a role that required me to wear a lot of different hats taking care of cataloging, helping with circulation and reference, and dabbling in student library programming. While this appeals to me greatly because of how multi-faceted my job can be, I often received negative opinions from colleagues at my last institution prior to my transition. It couldn’t be a very good position if I was doing cataloging and reference, they’d say. The unsolicited advice I was given was “don’t settle for a job. Really think about your career trajectory so that your resume makes sense to future employers.”

This sentiment really made me uncomfortable. The fact that someone would imply that the job I was taking was inferior to my institution at the time and that the only reasonable explanation was that I was “settling” was offensive. Isn’t a career trajectory something that should really only concern the individual accepting those positions? Librarianship is such a multi-faceted and diverse field, is there really such a thing as a career trajectory that “makes sense?” Is there one clear path for everyone that is meant to lead to “upward mobility?”

Should we all be viewing professional impact in librarianship the same way? My last professional environment heavily stressed implementing new (but inexpensive) technologies that would enhance library discovery and bibliographic control. My current environment is much more holistic in that it encapsulates information literacy, high-quality reference, and really just making the library a more welcoming place for students to be in.

So how do we determine the altmetrics of our career trajectory? Is there a right and a wrong way, and does this change from early-career to mid-career librarianship? In a DIY age where a lot of us are teaching ourselves skills we know to be highly desired on the fly, how do these factors contribute to our view of the impact we have on the field?

Follow Up Post to: Is Technology Bringing in More Skillful Male Librarians?

My main motive for my recent post was to generate discussion on the topic of stereotypes of male librarians, technology, and our profession.  It can get lonely as a writer when you do not have exchange with readers.  It was not meant to be an opinion piece.  I wanted to move away from posting on a technology review or share something I tried at my library.  I wanted to present information I found while reading.  These negative views of our profession are alive and well in our society – to not write about it is to sweep it under the rug.

It may be an exploration of my own experience.  I live it every day.  I am a 40 year old male librarian who fits the stereotype and all these stereotypical elements point to someone who is less than.  When I tell someone that I am a librarian, I get the “you must read a lot” comment which insinuates that my job is not that important if I am leisurely reading passively. Or that librarianship is a “women’s profession” and not worthy of respect.  Or I could not make it in a more stressful, rigorous career environment, cell_phone_spyingso librarianship became my default.  Being a librarian was my first choice and I continue to love this profession.  Only recently have I seen a shift in reactions, since I work at a College of Medicine.  Since medicine has a higher reputation, I get some more respect and aww.   I am a father and married to my lovely wife, and I hold the opinion that our sexuality is fluid and not a box you can check off.  I do not follow or play sports.  I am not a manly man.  I love to read and consider myself scholarly.  I wear thick plastic glasses on purpose and did before the fad and will continue after the fad fades.  I am categorized as brown or colored in some parts of the nation.  All these elements make me less than in society’s eyes.

These are elements that affect the way we are perceived, affecting our salaries, seat at tables, and, most importantly, the level of respect our profession receives from the outside world.


I do recommend reading this month’s ALA article in  American Libraries magazine, The Stereotype Stereotype: Our Obsession with Librarian Representation,  that goes into the topic further at 

Jobs in Information Technology: November 4, 2015

New vacancy listings are posted weekly on Wednesday at approximately 12 noon Central Time. They appear under New This Week and under the appropriate regional listing. Postings remain on the LITA Job Site for a minimum of four weeks.

New This Week:

Serials Librarian, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

Head, Technology Systems and Support Services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Vice President for Libraries & Information Technology Services, CUNY Queens College, Flushing, NY

Visit the LITA Job Site for more available jobs and for information on submitting a job posting.