Digital Curation Tools I Want to Learn

When I first started my job as Digital Curation Coordinator in June, I didn’t quite know what I would be doing. Then I started figuring it out.  As I’ve gotten settled, I’ve realized that I want to be more proactive in identifying tools and platforms that the researchers I’m working with are using so that I can connect with their experience more easily.

However, the truth is that I find it hard to know what tools I should focus on. What usually happens when I learn about a new tool is a cursory read through the documentation… I familiarize myself well enough to share in a few sentences what it does, but most of the time I don’t become incredibly familiar. There are just soooo many tools out there. It’s daunting.

Knowing my tendencies, I decided it would be a good challenge for me to dig deeper into three areas where I am more ignorant than I’d like to be.

Data analysis programs R, SPSS, & SAS

I don’t know a lot about data analysis but I think it will be critical in terms of how well I can understand researchers. Of the three, I’m most familiar with SPSS already and I’ll probably devote the most time to learning R (perhaps through this data science MOOC, which fellow LITA blog writer Bryan pointed out). With SAS, I’m mostly interested in learning how it differs from the others rather than delving too deep.

Metadata editors Colectica & Morpho

Why these two? It’s pretty arbitrary, I guess: I learned about them in a recent ecology data management workshop I was presenting at. As is often the case, I learned a lot from the other presenters! A big part of my job is figuring out how to help researchers manage their data – and a big barrier to that is the painstaking work of creating metadata.

Digital forensics tool BitCurator

I was lucky enough to be able to attend a two-day workshop at my institution, so I have played around with this in the past. BitCurator is an impressive suite of tools that I’m convinced I need to find a use case to explore further. This is a perfect example of a tool I know decently already – but I really want to know better, especially since I already have people bringing me obsolete media and asking what I can do about it.

What tools do you want to learn? And for anyone who helps researchers with data management in some capacity, what additional tools do you recommend I look into?

Jobs in Information Technology: November 12

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

Archivist for Collection Management, University of North Carolina -Charlotte, Charlotte,  NC

Deputy Director – Digital Services, Meridian Library District,  Meridian,  ID

Librarian – E-Learning, College of Southern Nevada,  Las Vegas, NV


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


Why Learn Unix? My Two Cents

There’s an conversation shaping up on the Code4Lib email list with the title “Why Learn Unix?”, and this is a wonderful question to ask. A lot of technical library jobs are asking for UNIX experience and as a result a lot of library schools are injecting bits and pieces of it into their courses, but without a proper understanding of the why of Unix, the how might just go in one ear and out the other. When I was learning about Unix in library school, it was in the context of an introductory course to library IT.  I needed no convincing, I fell in love almost immediately and cemented my future as a command line junkie. Others in the course were not so easily impressed, and never received a satisfactory answer to the question of “Why Learn Unix?” other than a terse “Because It’s Required”. Without a solid understanding of a technology’s use, it’s nearly impossible to maintain motivation to learn it. This is especially true of something as archaic and intimidating as the Unix command line interface that looks like something out of an early 90’s hacker movie. Those who don’t know Unix get along just fine, so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Unix is the 800 lb. gorilla of the IT world. While desktops and laptops are usually a pretty even split between Windows and Mac, the server world is almost entirely Unix (either Linux or BSD, both of which are UNIX variants). If you work in a reasonably technical position, you have probably had to log in to one of these Unix servers before to do something. If you are in library school and looking to get a tech oriented library job after graduating, this WILL happen to you, maybe even before you graduate (a good 50% of my student worker jobs were the result of knowing Unix). As libraries move away from vendor software and externally hosted systems towards Open Source software, Unix use is only going to increase because pretty much all Open Source software is designed to run on Linux (which is itself Open Source software). The road to an Open Source future for libraries is paved with LIS graduates who know their way around a command line.

So let’s assume that I’ve convinced you to learn Unix. What now? The first step on the journey is deciding how much Unix you want to learn. Unix is deep enough that one can spend a great deal of time getting lost in its complexities (not to say that this wouldn’t be time well spent). The most important initial steps of any foray into the world of Unix should start with how to log in to the system (which can vary a lot depending on whether you are using Windows or Mac, and what Unix system you are trying to log in to). Once you have that under control, learn the basic commands for navigating around the system, copying and deleting files, and checking the built-in manual (University of Illinois has a great cheat sheet).

How to learn Unix as opposed to why is a completely separate conversation with just as many strong opinions, but I will say that learning Unix requires more courage than intelligence. The reason most people actively avoid using Unix is because it is so different from the point-and-click world they are used to, but once you get the basics under your belt you may find that you prefer it. There are a lot of things that are much easier to do via command line (once you know how), and if you get really good at it you can even chain commands together into a script that can automatically perform complex actions that might take hours (or days, or weeks, or years) to do by hand. This scriptability is where Unix systems really shine, but by no means do you have to dive in this deep to find value in learning Unix. If you take the time to learn the basics, there will come a time when that knowledge pays off. Who knows, it might even change the direction of your career path.

Do you have any questions or opinions about the need for librarians to learn Unix? Are you struggling with learning Unix and want to air your grievances? Are you a wizard who wants to point out the inaccurate parts of my post? Let me know in the comments!

IA & UX Meet Library Technology

The class I enjoy the most this semester at Indiana University is Information Architecture. It is a class where theory and practical application are blended so that we can create something tangible, but also understand the approaches – my favorite kind!

As defines it, Information Architecture (IA) “focuses on organizing, structuring, and labeling content in an effective and sustainable way.” While the class doesn’t necessarily focus on Library Science since it is offered through the Information Science courses, this concept may sound a bit familiar to those working in a library.

In the class, we have chosen a small website we believe could benefit from restructuring. Some students chose public library websites, and others websites from the private sector. Regardless of each website’s purpose, the process of restructuring is the same. The emphasis is placed on usability and user experience (UX), which the ALA Reference and User Services Association defines as “employing user research and user-centered design methods to holistically craft the structure, context, modes of interaction, and aesthetic and emotional aspects of an experience in order to facilitate satisfaction and ease of use.”

Basically, it means structuring content so that a user can use it to a high level of satisfaction.

Peter Morville and Co. developed this honeycomb to represent User Experience Design.

Peter Morville and Co. developed this honeycomb to represent the multiple facets of User Experience. Check out his explanation here.

Keeping usability and UX at the forefront, much of our semester has been focused on user demographics. We developed personas of specific users by highlighting the tasks they need to carry out and the kind of behaviors they bring to the computer. For example, one of my personas is a working mother who wants to find the best dance studio for her daughter, but doesn’t have a lot of time to spend looking up information and gets frustrated easily with technology (may or may not have been influenced by my own mother).

We also developed a project brief to keep the main benefits of restructuring in mind, and we analyzed parts of the current websites that work for users, and parts that could be improved. We did not (and could not) begin proposing our restructured website until we had a solid understanding of the users and their needs.

While learning about usability, I thought back to my graduate school application essay. I discussed focusing on digital libraries and archives in order to improve accession of materials, which is my goal throughout my career. As I’m learning, I realize that accession doesn’t mean digitizing to digitize, it means digitizing then presenting the materials in an accessible way. Even though the material may be released on the web, that doesn’t always imply that a user will find it and be able to use it.

As technology increasingly evolves, keeping the goals of the library in sync with the skills and needs of the user is crucial. This is where information architecture and user experience meet library technology.

How do you integrate usability and user experience with library technology in your institution? If you are an information architect or usability researcher, what advice do you have for others wishing to integrate these tools?

Game Night at LITA Forum

Are you attending the 2014 LITA Forum in Albuquerque? Like board games? If so, come to the LITA Game Night!

Thursday, November 6, 2014
8:00 – 11:00 pm
Hotel Albuquerque, Room Alvarado C

Games that people are bringing:

  • King of Tokyo
  • Cheaty Mages
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  • Star Fluxx
  • Love Letter
  • Seven Dragons
  • Pandemic
  • Coup
  • Avalon
  • Bang!: The Dice Game
  • Carcassonne
  • Uno
  • Gloom
  • Monty Python Fluxx
  • and probably more…

Hope you can come!

Jobs in Information Technology: November 5

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

Assistant University Archivist for Technical Services, Princeton University Library, Princeton, NJ

Dean of University Libraries, Oakland University, Rochester, MI

Digital Production Services Programmer – IT Expert, University of Florida, George A Smathers Libraries, Gainesville, FL

IT Expert – Programmer, University of Florida, George A Smathers Libraries, Gainesville, FL

Physician Directory Specialist, Froedtert Health, Menomonee Falls, WI 

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

Come Map with Us! LITA Education Webinar Series

Maps images

Join LITA Education and instructors Mita Williams and Cecily Walker in “Re-drawing the Map”–a webinar series! Register for a single webinar or all three at a discounted rate! Can’t make all the dates but still want to join in? Registered participants will have access to the recorded webinars.

Full details

 Web Mapping: moving from maps on the web to maps of the web
Tuesday Nov. 18, 2014
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Mita Williams
Register for this webinar

Get an introduction to web mapping tools and learn about the stories they can help you to tell!

OpenStreetMaps: Trust the map that anyone can change
Tuesday December 9, 2014,
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Mita Williams
Register for this webinar

Ever had a map send you the wrong way and wished you could change it?  Learn how to add your local knowledge to the “Wikipedia of Maps.”

Coding maps with Leaflet.js
Tuesday January 6, 2015,
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Central Time
Instructor: Cecily Walker
Register for this webinar

Ready to make your own maps and go beyond a directory of locations? Add photos and text to your maps with Cecily as you learn to use the Leaflet JavaScript library.


Single Webinar:
  • LITA Member: $39
  • Non-Member: $99
  • Group: $190

All three webinars:

  • LITA Member: $99
  • Non-Member: $279
  • Group: $499

Registration Information: 

Register Online page arranged by session date (login required)


Mail or fax form to ALA Registration
OR call 1-800-545-2433 and press 5
OR email

Questions or Comments?
For all other questions or comments related to the course, contact LITA at (312) 280-4269 or Mark Beatty,


LITA Online Meeting – Monday, November 3, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. Central.

The LITA Board invites you to join this meeting online on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. Central.

Join the meeting by clicking the following link:

View the meeting agenda:

If you have any questions, recommendations, or wish to discuss any of this, please leave a comment or contact the LITA office at 312/280-4269

Free Web Tools for Top-Notch Presentations

One does not simply (Boromir meme)Visually appealing and energizing slideshows are the lifeblood of conference presentations. But using animated PowerPoints or zooming Prezis to dizzy audiences delivers little more appeal than packing slides with text on a low-contrast background. Key to winning hearts and minds are visual flair AND minimalism, humor, and innovative use of technology.


Delightfully whimsical, memes  are a fantastic ice-breaker and laugh-inducer. My last two library conference presentations used variants of the crowdpleasing “One does not simply…” Boromir meme above, which never fails to generate laughter and praise. offers great selections, is free of annoying popup ads, and is less likely than other meme generators to be blocked by your workplace’s Internet filters for being “tasteless.” (Yes, I speak from personal experience…)

Keep Calm and Ask a LibrarianKeep Calm-o-matic 

Do you want your audience to chuckle and identify with you? Everyone who’s ever panicked or worked under a deadline will appreciate the Keep Calm-o-matic. As with memes, variations are almost infinite.

Recite This

Planning to include quotations on some of your slides? Simply copy and paste your text into Recite This, then select an aesthetically pleasing template in which the quote will appear. Save time, add value.


This free web tool enables you to paste text or a URL to generate a groovy word cloud. Vary sizes, fonts, and color schemes too. Note that Wordle’s Java applet refuses to function smoothly in Chrome. There are other word cloud generators, but Wordle is still gold.


This is the rare dictation tool that doesn’t garble what you say, at least not excessively. It’s free, online, and available as a Chrome app. Often when preparing presentations, I simply start talking and then read over what I said. This is a valuable exercise in prewriting and a way to generate zingers and lead-ins to substantive content.

Poll Everywhere

Conduct live polls of your audience using texting and Twitter! Ask open-ended or multiple-choice questions and then watch the live results appear on your PowerPoint slide or web browser.  Poll Everywhere and equivalents such as EverySlide engage audiences and heighten interest more than a mere show of hands, especially for larger audiences in which many members otherwise would not be able to contribute to the discussion. Use whenever appropriate.


This online presentation software offers incredible visual appeal and versatility without inducing either vertigo or snoozes. Create your slides in the browser, customize a range of attractive templates, and access from any device with an Internet connection (major caveat, that). You must pay to go premium to download slideshows, but this reservation aside, the free version is an outstanding product.


Ever attempted to show a website containing misinformation or hate speech as part of an information literacy session but didn’t want to drive traffic to the site? DoNotLink is your friend! Visit or link to shady sites without increasing their search engine ranking.


Simply paste some text, and this serendipity search tool will draw on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), Flickr, Europeana, and other open digital repositories to produce related photographs, art, and documents that are visually displayed. Serendip-o-matic reveals unexpected connections between diverse materials and offers good, nerdy fun to boot. “Let your sources surprise you!”

So . . . what free web tools do you use to jazz up your presentations?