#4 “Shortly, as the two super-teams confer…”

The title above was taken from p. 9 of “The Avengers” #272 (Marvel Comics Group, Oct. 1986). The issue guest-stars Alpha Flight, so I felt compelled to flip through it.

“But there’s a lot more where that came from!”

This second week saw meetings with five different people in the library: Steven Holloway, director of metadata strategies; Liz Chenevey, psychology librarian; Rebecca French, metadata analyst librarian; Dan Easley, innovations services equipment & space manager; and Mark Lane, my ASB supervisor and digital preservation librarian.

I’ve been working with Steven for the last few weeks – he and Brian Flota act as my project supervisors. Brian knows the comics fully and thoroughly; Steven knows metadata to the same degree. We’re going to meet later in the summer to go over linked data initiatives and how that actually looks, but this week, he walked me through some of the metadata team’s current projects: ORCID, namely, and how it can affect other pioneer-esque projects in the linked data world of librarianship. We talked about why creating profiles for university members helps them, why the library is the one making the push, and what that might mean for the future – namely, more connections and a better representation of what JMU produces.

Liz introduced me more formally to the role of a liaison, or subject, librarian. We focused on her own goals at the library – how she got her position, her current projects (she just finished weeding in Carrier Library), her interactions with the students and faculty in her departments, her own professional development and committee work. And collection development, something which terrifies me about subject librarianship (there’s just so much out there, and it’d take ages to become a master of a collection left for you from someone else). She assuaged my fears on that with a great conversation about the interconnection between collection development, a regular process, and weeding, which happens much less frequently since academic books see a low turnover rate. Liz, from my albeit limited experience, seems to know what she wants to accomplish and how she can get there; and I hope I can emulate that mindset in whatever position I take down the road.

I changed topics with Rebecca (an IU ILS alum) to discuss batch metadata and the mechanization of metadata processes in research libraries. Rebecca’s job, simply put, focuses on developing tools to help achieve faster results with less manpower. So, coding and scripting. She gave a good example: say you want to change a field for a few thousand E-books (a publisher changes, or something of that nature). You could do it by hand, but that’s such a time commitment, and a project like that can easily be waylaid due to budgetary constraints (good descriptions aren’t cheap in an academic setting, when librarians go through so many materials each day). So she finds clever ways to make the computer do the work. To be honest, this is something I’m very interested in; traditional cataloging takes so much time and technology has advanced so much, it should be able to help us in our roles. That actually encouraged me in a current goal, which I’ll discuss in the project section of this post.

Yesterday, I went to Rose Library again, this time to tour its Makery, a – you guessed it – makerspace. Let me set the scene: this open space at the back-right of the main floor of the library, separated on one side from a computer-lab area with half-sized empty bookshelves and on the other with these industrial-looking workbenches. Inside the space, you’re immediately bombarded by the…the conspicuousness of creation. 3-D printers, vinyl cutters, computer stations next to most of them; sewing machines; more workbenches with circuitry; cabinets just waiting to be open. At one station there’s a press to stamp paper; at another, there’s a collection of paints and colors. There’s even knitting and crocheting tools, which excited me on a personal level.

Dan showed me around the space, including the separate room set up for VR. This led along the discussion: Why are libraries the right place for makerspaces? The answer, Dan believes, is two-part (my own interpretation of our conversation; Dan could discuss this a lot more thoroughly and clearly than I can, and it’s obvious he’s thought about this question a lot): 1. in their empowerment; and 2. in the way they break down normalized barriers.

  1. Empowerment: Everyone, he said, can use a sewing machine; you just need to learn how. Libraries, traditionally, are spaces where the community comes to gain something. To find a safe space, to find the right book, to find the answer to a question. Now, then, the community comes to gain new skills. It’s the same thing, really.
  2. Breaking barriers: Academic institutions have (necessary or unnecessary) imposed divisions. Students and professors are rarely treated as equal in the classroom; and that means that it’s difficult to get them to interact as equals outside of the classroom. Libraries, then, provide spaces where a professor, someone who might be a master in a field, can come and be a complete novice; where a student can get support without feeling a societal pressure from an academic department to just understand. There’s also the socio-economic barriers that libraries help to level; most people can’t afford an expensive VR set and a gaming computer that can run it efficiently – so having one in an open space supports both opportunity empowerment and barrier manipulation.

And, as Dan said, there’s no underestimating the entertainment of popsicle sticks, no matter one’s age.

And, finally, I had my weekly meeting with Mark, which turned into a fascinating discussion about digital repositories, DOI minting, and the different resource access points that JMU hosts. We also walked through the organizational chart of the libraries, which prompted an array of curiosities that I plan to get answers for next week when I meet with the associate deans.

Meanwhile, below…

My project is plodding along. I’ve gotten faster at filling fields and making decisions (the As are done, thank whatever god of the Marvel universe exists), and I hope to continue that trend next week. Brian stopped by a few times to look over what I’ve done and to discuss what metadata would be useful and the best way to take advantage of the Historical Note element.

But I’m starting something new on my own time – I’m trying to create a website scraper script to help automatize the process a little. (I got inspired by my conversation with Rebecca.) My Python is rusty, and no APIs exist on comics.org to help me (I need to look at the one on Comic Vine to see if that might be more useful for what I’m trying to grab), but, using BeautifulSoup, I’ve managed to create a method to scrape a page and I’ve started creating a function to return only what I need.

The goal: to create a script that can grab, at the very least, the characters and the story summary from the GCD pages. That’s one of my biggest time problems right now, and if I can get those all in one place and normalize the data, I could easily create a controlled vocabulary and import my results into my other spreadsheet.

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