Stanford Computer Science Class for Free Professional Development

NPR featured the consortium of top Universities that are partnering to provide some of their courses for free to anyone who wants to take them. The start-up is called Coursera and it features a wide range of courses from the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences from Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, Princeton University.

This struck me as a great opportunity for some professional development. I’ve wanted to devote some time to learning more about computer programming and to beef up my knowledge of the foundational principles of my IT colleagues as well. The Computer Science 101 course from Stanford beginning April 23 looked like a good bet.

I signed on to Coursera and completed the first week’s lectures and assignments and was impressed. The lecture video and corresponding documents were well laid out and included quizzes and exercises within to engage and test what students’ retained. I learned some basic coding and also developed a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of digital images; giving me a glimpse of how the underlying code of software like Adobe Photoshop would work.

Computer Science 101 Stanford University

I would recommend this course, Computer Science 101 by Nick Parlante to any librarian who is interested in developing their understanding of computers and how they work. If you want to be a digital librarian or become a better one, I encourage you to join me on this journey in the class itself or at the blog where I am documenting what I’ve learned –

Digitization from Good to Great

After reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great, the first question that came to mind was, “Libraries don’t measure success by their stock performance so how can this apply to my situation?”. There is clearly value in the concepts of picking the right people, thinking deeply and clearly about your situation, and applying core understanding with rigor and consistency but the underlying metric of  success in economic terms is problematic.  Fortunately, he produced a supplemental piece called Good to Great and the Social Sectors to address this problem by tweaking the measurements of greatness so they can more directly apply to non-profits such as libraries in higher education.

Particularly useful is the clarification of output measures unique to the social sector and how to assess these outcomes through fulfillment of mission either in qualitative or quantitative terms.  On page 5, Collins says,

The confusion between inputs and outputs stems from one of the primary differences between business and the social sectors. In business, money is both an input (a resource for achieving greatness) and an output (a measure of greatness). In the social sectors, money is only an output, and not a measure of greatness.

Since money is not valuable as an output metric something else must take its place. He uses the Cleveland Orchestra as an example of what to focus on when assessing things that are hard to measure.  The three foci mentioned on page 6 concern finding evidence of superior performance, distinctive impact, and lasting endurance.

How could a digital library collect this type of evidence?  Using metrics from the Web is one way but that is still too close to a traditional input.  Getting testimonials from members of the university, other schools copying the digital library program, wider use in the classroom, and good brand reputation are several ways of determining outcomes of valued use and mission fulfillment.

One action to take from reading this book is to develop a “Hedgehog Concept” by deeply examining and defining your three circles from page 19:

1. What you are deeply passionate about –

organization’s core values and mission

2. What you can be best in the world at

unique contributions

3. What drives your resource engine (as opposed to economic in business)

3 parts – time, money and brand

Digitization efforts have a vast potential and the temptation is to try and pursue all of them.  However, success and greatness take disciplined planning and action.  Current examples at the CONTENTdm Upper Midwest User Group meeting demonstrated that this is true.  Those who are presenting successful programs had a good core focus and collected things that were unique to their institutions.  One factor that remains to be determined is the longevity of those programs as most have been around less than 5 years.

This book is very helpful for anyone who is planning a digital library program or wants to improve one that already exists. It helps to refocus effort and to take a step back to see if that effort is producing excellent results.

North Carolina Digital Collections Collaboratory » User-friendly CONTENTdm interface design?

This will really help to circumvent the unattractive interface of CONTENTdm. 

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

How Can Institutional Repositories Improve and Succeed?

Current state of IR’s is poor writes Andrew Richard Albanese. Begins with Harvard’s open access mandate and details what went wrong overall with repositories. Mentions some things that IR’s need to do to be successful such as enticing faculty to contribute by providing services.

Some interesting quotes from the article followed by my comments:

“IRs have failed to catch on for a multitude of reasons, Salo explains, not the least of which is that the first generation was hopelessly passive about their collection activities.”

  • Librarians must better understand faculty motivations, including tenure and reputation, and build services around that desire. – post by kgerber

“In his opening keynote at the 2008 SPARC Digital Repositories Meeting in Baltimore, John Wilbanks, director of Science Commons, spoke about what would move IRs forward: incentives. ‘My experience is that faculty don’t like to be hit with sticks,’ Wilbanks said. ‘They prefer carrots.'”

  • What carrots can we provide? Some ideas:
  • Offer assistance in submitting to discipline-specific repositories or organizations
  • Provide personal Web space
  • Repository submissions recognized in tenure process – post by kgerber

World Digital Library released with much fanfare

Many news organizations trumpeted the release of the World Digital Library on April 21st.  John Billington, from the Library of Congress, with the help of UNESCO and other funders, succeeded in putting up an interesting interface that provides access to over 1,000 of the world’s precious documents of cultural history.  Included are items from all continents, except Antarctica, which are old, beautiful, and high quality.  You can zoom in on an ancient map or manuscript to get a good look and can experience it in seven languages.

It is an excellent example of what a digital library can do by providing access to items that some would never be able to see.  This site will not substitute for a visit to the actual holders of the items but is a wonderful opportunity for those who can’t.