Behind the Scenes: Learning to Code, Part 1

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Sample HTML, CC0 Public Domain Image

Hello everyone! Thanks again for stopping by! Sorry it’s been a couple weeks since the last post but hopefully you are still hanging on! This week I thought I would talk about an on-going project I’ve been working on…learning to code! I have worked up my skills to become pretty proficient in HTML, CSS, some JavaScript and jQuery (all web development tools) and Python (general purpose language). But, you may be asking yourself why a Librarian would want or need to learn about web development and computer programming. Are those skills transferable to my every day work? Will it make me more of an asset to my Library? Well, I would say the answer to both of those questions is an emphatic “YES!”. 

I don’t know about you, but my daily work flow involves computers. I spend 90% of my time staring into the depths of my computer screens, toggling between various programs and websites to accomplish my daily tasks. I imagine most people operate the same way, no matter what occupation or profession you are a member of. Computers (including the ones that fit into your pockets) are how we receive and interpret most information. That being said, why not try learning how the programs and websites we use daily are constructed, manipulated and customized. And if you think it’s just me, there are a plethora of “coding for beginners” programs available (which I will link to at the bottom of the page) and most are free! 

So, other than just a thirst for learning some basic coding skills, how could this help Me as a Librarian? Well as a Collection Development Associate, many of my duties include comparing our current holdings with publisher sites. Sometimes I spend up to six hours a day looking at one site and comparing the titles published to our collection. After comparing the titles I compile a list of the ones we don’t have and generally place an order through our various vendors so we can acquire those sought after titles. While that may not seem that time consuming, imagine what else I (and my supervisor) could accomplish in a day’s work if the repetitive part of this task was done for me? 

I have started to write a script that will do this very thing! First, it takes a look at a publisher’s site, reads and grabs the ISBNs associated with the books I’m interested in, jumps over to our catalog and checks our collection to see if we already have these selected titles and compiles a list. Pretty cool, right? Having this program would allow me to skip to the final stage of ordering titles. Allowing me to get more lists done in a day and free up time to work on other various projects. This type of work has been done before too. In Andromeda Yelton’s “Coding for Librarians: Learning by Example” (2015), she cites different types of short scripts other librarians have written in order for them to create more efficient work flows. One of those examples is for this exact case! 

Now, you may be asking yourself how I plan to actually do this. The best way to approach this (that I have found) is to use Regular Expressions within Python and use Beautiful Soup for the web scraping. This will parse through the text of a webpage (the publisher site) and pull out what string I want (the ISBNs) and then compare it to the ISBNs in our holdings. I have not completed this script (as I mentioned, I’m pretty new to this) but I hope to do so soon. I also plan to test it on my personal computer to work out all the kinks. While this particular piece of code would not affect the larger library website as a whole or our catalog, it is still important to ensure that I have support from my supervisor before actually running with this. Hopefully, I will get this completed and approved and make my day just a little more efficient.

While at this moment my programming skills may be behind the average programmer, having the know-how to write, run and understand code enables me to help in many aspects of my job. Many scripts can be adapted for different projects so writing one for my workflow might help someone else down the line. There are tons of applications for which simple scripts can increase productivity. While my example helps me with collection development, reading through “Coding for Librarians” can give you ideas that can help with patron services, metadata and authority control and so many others.

I hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse at my current project and as always please feel free to interact with me through comments or Twitter. I would be happy to hear suggestions or your own ideas for coding for librarians.

And as promised some great coding for beginners sites and forums to help you on your quest!

Codecademy.com: provides free learning tools for languages such as Python, JavaScript, and Ruby. It also features tutorials such as How to Build an Interactive Website that will combine skills such as HTML, CSS and jQuery. Plus community forum to discuss different topics related to programming.

Coursera.org: Lots of different MOOCs available on learning to code. Courses are taught by schools such as Johns Hopkins, University of Michigan and more.

Code4Lib.org: A forum for tech people working in/with libraries, museums and archives involved with tech “stuff”. They curate job advertisements that have to do with coding as well as provide community support.

LITA: You might also want to consider joining or keeping up with LITA (Library and Information Technology Association – part of ALA). They work to promote, develop, and aid in the implementation of library and information technology. You can also find learning opportunities through their workshops and conferences.

Pyladies.com: A forum and support network for women who already use or are learning Python (mostly for programmers).

Google also provides free documentation on various programming languages that can help you get started.

You should also check out Andromeda Yelton’s blog for more resources, great insight into libraries and technology and encouragement that we can all reap the benefits of standing and working at this intersection.

 

 

 

 

 

Pumping Iron: “Exercising Our Fair Use Muscle”

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Flexing Our Fair Use Muscle!!

“Exercising Our Fair Use Muscle” Quote by Kyle K. Courtney.

Hello again and welcome back!

As mentioned previously, I am using this blog as a way to keep track of my thoughts and ideas on library related issues. This could include my experiences at conferences/workshops I’ve attended, my current work responsibilities or current events relating to librarianship. So without further adieu, this week’s blog post!

Some background info: FSU recently held The Copyright Institute which was a full day event that hosted a slew of different panels, presentations and speakers. The symposium was also available via live stream which was fantastic (and how I kept up with the day)! Sessions included topics on Fair Use, Institutional Copyright Support in Higher Education and Using Images in Scholarship. The panels and speakers for this event ranged from FSU faculty and librarians to librarians from other universities including the University of Florida and Simmons College in Boston. The key note speaker was Kyle K. Courtney who is currently the Copyright Advisor at Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication among many other talents and areas of scholarship.

I originally intended to give a recap of the Copyright Institute but instead decided to discuss the biggest topic from that day: Fair Use. Mr. Courtney gave an excellent keynote address on the topic of Fair Use, its history, present and future. As many of you may know, Fair Use is the legal principle that allows for unlicensed use of copyrighted works in certain situations (17 U.S. Code § 107). Section 107 of the Copyright Act establishes the principle of Fair Use and the factors that are used to determine that designation. In his talk, Mr. Courtney provided the history of Fair Use by regaling the tale of Justice Joseph Story and his ruling on Folsom v. Marsh (9 F. Cas. 342 (C.C.D. Mass. 1841)). Justice Story set the precedence back in 1841 (what?!) and it is from this ruling that we have the foundation of the factors for evaluating Fair Use.

The 4 Factors of Fair Use

  1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Read More here: 17 U.S. Code § 107

 

This precedence sits in our favor as Academics, Scholars, Researchers and Librarians. Without the establishment of Fair Use the majority of our work and research could not be accomplished. Critical analysis of scholarship could not be performed; transformations of texts, music and scientific studies to capture and discover new meanings would not exist. This is where our Fair Use muscle comes in: as Mr. Courtney stated in his speech, we need to “exercise our fair use muscle”. Fair Use is not a defense of scholarship, it is a right.

So if Fair Use is our right, why are we so afraid to use it? It can be intimidating to stick to our guns regarding Fair Use when it seems like DMCA notices are being issued habitually. It can seem even more frightening when large organizations such as Google and HathiTrust get bogged down with lawsuits over copyright and fair use. However, it is cases like these, where Fair Use is applied and upheld that should encourage us to invoke our right of Fair Use. We must be confident in our work and maybe even more importantly responsible with it. It can be tricky to navigate these waters but by having legitimate research and reasons for citing Fair Use in our work, we can continue to push forward and create progress in the Arts and Sciences.

So, let’s keep moving forward and keep exercising our Fair Use muscle!

 

Additional Notes/Readings/Citations:

  1. Courtney, Kyle K. “Fair Use: Past, Present, and Future of a Critical Legal Right.” Copyright Institute at FSU. Turnbull Conference Center, Tallahassee, FL. 26 Feb 2016. Keynote Address.
  2. Limits of Exclusive Rights: Fair Use, Pub. L. No. 102-492, 106 Stat. 3145, Codified as Amended at 17 U.S. Code § 107

If you would like to read more about Fair Use from the source, please visit Copyright.gov. There is also an index of all Fair Use cases in the U.S. that can be viewed and searched (which is awesome!).

Also, please check out Brandon Butler’s guest blog post on Harvard’s Copyright Blog from Fair Use Week 2016. In his post he talks about how to overcome the trepidation we might feel when worrying about Fair Use with this simple epigram: “Use fairly. Not too much. Have reasons.”.

 

First Blog Post – THATCamp or Bust!

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My awesome THATCamp shirt!

Since I am a newly minted blogger, I thought I would start my first post by recapping my experience at my first ever THATCamp in Orlando.

For those who don’t know, THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp) is an un-conference open to all those interested in Digital Humanities. It is open to students, librarians, professionals, faculty and anyone with just an inkling of interest (even the young tyros like me). What is so interesting about it though, is that it has no formal program. All sessions are impromptu and anything can happen! The thrill of this is that you never know what you will get to participate in!

This year, there were so many great sessions to attend! I learned about using GIS to diversify digital projects, collaborated on ideas for creating a digital project incubator at FSU’s very own Office of Digital Research and Scholarship and discussed the differences in STEM and Humanities grant funding. We covered such an array of topics that I was able to gain little bits of knowledge about all sorts of digital humanities related academia.

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stop, Collaborate and listen session (that’s me in the white!) Photo courtesy of Micah Vandegrift.

I also decided to propose and facilitate my own session. So, for my first ever THATCamp I proposed a topic called “stop, Collaborate & listen“. The object of my discussion session was to delve into how people working in the realm of digital humanities collaborate across various knowledge bases. I wanted to gain insight on how reaching across borders helped them achieve successful digital projects. I also wanted to find out if anyone had successfully incorporated collaboration into their digital pedagogy.

My session ended up being well attended and productive. The conversation revolved around reaching out and creating relationships across disciplines and departments. We discussed many Promethean ideas about how to cultivate these relationships and sustain them. We also talked about the difficulties sometimes experienced when trying to connect and facilitate these types of relationships. At the end of the session, we came to the conclusion that we will continue onward with strength and spirit, always looking for ways to work with others and share knowledge!

Overall, THATCamp Florida was a great experience! I learned from so many different scholars about countless ideas and theories related to digital humanities. I also met many wonderful people who were encouraging and inspiring and truly instilled in me a true sense of librarianship. I have so much more to learn but I think I am off to a great start!

Until next time!

 

Additional notes/readings:

If you are interested in reading some more about collaboration in digital humanities, I highly suggest reading Dr. Amanda Visconti’s research blog. She is the Digital Humanities Specialist at Purdue University Libraries. She recently added a post that featured a job talk she gave about not only the importance of collaboration in digital humanities but the fact that it is a vital element of DH research and project building. While my experience and knowledge of digital humanities is nascent, Dr. Visconti’s is advanced and I would definitely recommend taking a look at her blog for more information.