Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Report Evaluates Tools for Improving Metadata in Aggregations

The Digital Library Federation has just released a tools inventory and evaluation that captures the state of software and services available to improve metadata for aggregations--collections that are brought together for ease in finding and using them.

Greta de Groat researched and wrote the report, which was sponsored by DLF Aquifer and funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

The report is organized according to user tasks and services, and what metadata would be needed to support those tasks and services.

From the executive summary, "Tools were evaluated for general applicability across digital library and other cultural heritage environments. The results of the research show that a handful of tools are usable as-is, but many tools need more work to be generally applicable in a variety of environments."

The report may be of interest to digital library developers and project managers as well as metadata specialists in cultural heritage organizations.

The report is now available as a PDF from the DLF website at A print version will also be available for purchase soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Service: MODS and Asset Actions Explorer

The MODS and Asset Actions Explorer is an experimental web service that allows anyone to upload MODS XML files, including modsCollection files, and verify that uploaded MODS records comply with the MODS XML Schema and also to check the uploaded records against the MODS Levels of Adoption Guidelines. In addition to MODS records, the service also allows the upload of Asset Action Packages which is another experimental format being developed by the DLF Aquifer project. An Asset Action Package is an XML file containing a defined set of actionable URIs for a digital resource that delivers named, typed actions for that resource.

Anyone is welcome to get an account and upload their MODS records for validation and checking.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Preparing for the Next Phase--Aquifer/American Social History Online "IPO"

While this may not be the ideal time to make an initial public offering, the Digital Library Federation is moving forward with a plan to find a new home for American Social History Online. Of course this is not an IPO in the strict sense of the word. DLF is a not for profit organization and the American Social History Online Web site is based on openly accessible collections and services created with open source software. Nonetheless, DLF is creating a process for incubating innovation through collaboration, as has been done with Aquifer--the initiative that produced American Social History Online. Once the bulk of the development is done, DLF would like to move a potentially sustainable, successful package to an organization that provides services as part of its core mission.

The model DLF is experimenting with is something like an IPO process. An Aquifer "prospectus" describes the active elements of the initiative and offers suggested business models for sustainability and future development. Interested parties are invited to submit responses to a survey, indicating their interest in taking on responsibility for the American Social History Online Web site, or other elements of Aquifer that fit with their organization's mission. DLF will host a community meeting and q&a for prospective new hosts, and to discover which elements of the Aquifer initiative DLF members would like to keep active within the Digital Library Federation. The community meeting will be held at DLF Fall Forum 2008 in Providence, R.I. in November.

More information about Aquifer and American Social History Online is available on the project wiki.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Harvest Enhanced MODS Metadata from DLF ASHO Portal

Enhanced metadata may now be harvested from the DLF Aquifer American Social History Online (ASHO) portal using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesteting (OAI-PMH). The baseURL for this service is In addition to oai_dc, the supported metadata formats are mods which is the enhanced metadata in the MODS format, and mods_orig which is the unenhanced metadata as originally harvested in MODS format. The enhanced metadata includes a relatedItem type host which has an xlink OAI GetRecord URL to retrieve the associated collection record from the DLF collections registry. The enhanced metadata also includes an 'asset action package' extension element that points to the associated asset action package. (This is an experimental feature and is not be entirely reliable.) In addition, there are dlf_geo_gazer, dlf_temper, and dlf_user_tagging subject elements, for our value-added geographic, temporal, and social tagging. The data are organized into OAI sets based on the collection of origin of the records.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Jenn Riley's Wordle creation for FRBR inspired me to create one from the draft of a paper I'm writing about Aquifer and American Social History Online for the Library Assessment Conference coming up next month.

Speaking of Jenn, she and several members of the metadata working group, John Chapman, Sarah Shreeves, Laura Akerman, and Bill Landis have had their article, "Promoting shareability: Metadata activities of the DLF Aquifer initiative" accepted for publication in the Journal of Library Metadata. Look for it in the next issue. Congratulations--and thanks for a job well done!

Monday, July 7, 2008

New Features! New Collections!

An updated release of American Social History Online with new features and new collections is now available. The front page offers browsing short cuts by place, time, and broad subject category. A new map view offers visualization through a Google maps mashup. Do a search, then select map view to see results displayed by geographic location.

Browse through collections to see what is new, including contributions from Columbia and Northwestern. Try a simple search on "immigration" or "railroads" to see what combining these rich collections from different libraries offers. It is not too late to submit collections to be included in the next update! Consult the "about" page on the American Social History Online Web site to find out how.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Preparing for Assessment

The Aquifer Services Working Group is organizing the assessment activities for American Social History Online. Members of the Services Working Group will use a variety of methods to gather information about how scholars use the Web site and how well it and the services associated with it works for them. The methods include a survey, focus groups, interviews and observation to compare the effectiveness of the American Social History Online Web site with a commercial search service. Zotero integration with the Web site will be studied with a group using American Social History Online over a semester in a course. Usability of the federated search that is integrated with American Social History Online as well as the Sakai integration will be assessed through observation.

Follow the assessment process as it develops at Deborah Holmes-Wong's poster session at the American Library Association meeting in Anaheim, CA, Saturday, June 28, 2008, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm and at the Library Assessment Conference in Seattle, where I will review all the elements that have gone into keeping the project focused on the user in a talk on August 5th. In the mean time, follow the assessment process as it unfolds on the Services Working Group public wiki. Comments and questions are welcome.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Aquifer and American Social History Online at DLF Spring Forum

There was a flurry of Aquifer and American Social History Online activity at DLF Forum in Minneapolis this week. The DLF Board meeting before the Forum included an open discussion about Aquifer's future. Will DLF have a continued interest in Aquifer elements that have been well received by the digital library community, such as the MODS Guidelines and asset action work? If so, what might DLF support look like? Might some of the work be picked up in other activities and initiatives such as Bamboo while other pieces transition to other organizations for ongoing maintenance? While nothing was settled, several people stated that it would be worth keeping an existing sandbox rather than starting again from scratch. We'll also be developing an open and transparent process (but lightweight!) to encourage an organization or organizations with service capacity to take over hosting for American History Online next year.

Several people twittered about asset actions during the BoF. People are beginning to see what kinds of services can be enabled if asset actions are available and were interested in asset actions as an implementation of OAI-ORE. It might be interesting to experiment with generating asset actions as a service for data providers, making them available for harvesting so they could be deployed in the local environment as well as the aggregation.

The panel on agile development sparked some comments too. People were especially enthusiastic about the Google maps mashup on the development server that will go live in a few weeks. The Technical Advisory Group that keeps us on track congratulated the team for scoping the project in a way that allowed us to develop useful and interesting services. It was a good meeting, despite the snow flurries early in the week!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ruby on Rails Upgrade Woes

We were having mysterious seg faults with some long-running Rails tasks on our server, so I thought it might time for some software updates. Nothing too radical just Ruby 1.8.5 -> 1.8.6 and Rails 1.2.3 -> 1.2.6. In the process I discovered that a new version of RubyGems was available, so I thought it might be good to upgrade it at the same time, Gem 0.9.4 -> 1.0.1. The Ruby, Gem, and Rails upgrades went fine, but ultimately the Gem upgrade proved to be a bad idea. The upgrade seemed to have lost all my installed Gems, except for the just upgraded Rails and its dependencies. Some minor dismay, but no big deal I thought, I've got a list of the Gems we needed, so I'll end up updating all the Gems at the same time too. Everything seemed to be going OK, until I discovered that the ruby-openid Gem had a dependency on a method from the older versions, namely Kernel#require_gem was removed and replaced with just Kernel#gem. As far as I can tell this was nothing but a name change which begs the question why do this when it is almost guaranteed to break a bunch of other code. Anyway, I had to revert back to a previous version of RubyGems, 0.9.5, which seems to have fixed the problem. All in all a rather nerve wracking undertaking.

As I type this, a task which was previously throwing seg faults has been running for about 30 minutes without error, so my hope is that all this trouble has at least solved that problem.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Compiling ruby-xslt on Windows

After much head bashing I've gotten the ruby-xslt gem to compile on Windows. Roughly, here are the steps I went through:
  1. Make sure libxml-ruby is working. See my previous blog post on installing it for Windows.
  2. 'gem install ruby-xslt' this downloads the gem and attempts to compile and install. It fails, but it leaves all the files in your ruby\lib\...\gems folder. I got 0.9.5 version of ruby-xslt
  3. Download the latest versions of libxml2, libxslt, and libiconv with all the binaries, includes, and libs for Windows. I copied the *.dll files into my windows\system32 folder.
  4. Now the trial and error began. I had to tweak the Makefile to get the include and lib paths correct for my system.
  5. I was using the MS Visual Studio (VS) tools NMAKE and CL. A major issue was the version of these tools. I started off with the VS 2005, but discovered that it links to a different version of the C runtime that is not compatible with the dependent DLLs, like libxml2.dll, etc. I had to install VS 6.0, and this seemed to solve the problem.
  6. Next I needed to make some modifications to the xslt_lib.c file. It seemed to be using some non-ANSI C constructs that MS C compiler didn't like. These seemed to be C99 compliant stuff like dynamically allocated arrays, but apparently VS does not support C99.
  7. Finally, got a compiled and linked version that works. Since by this time I didn't feel like messing with gem install scripts, I just manually moved all the files into their normal ruby directories.
  • => \ruby\lib\ruby\site_ruby\1.8\i386-msvcrt\xml folder
  • xslt.rb => \ruby\lib\ruby\site_ruby\1.8\xml
The changed files plus the pre-compiled DLL ( are available from the Aquifer SourceForge site.