BIBFRAME: Knocking Down the Machine-Readable Language Barrier

Library catalogs are always evolving to accommodate new materials and new technologies, but we are currently in a period of particularly ambitious change. We have transitioned from indexes to classification systems, from physical catalog cards to databases capable of holding unimaginably huge stores of data—at least more than librarians transcribing information onto cards years ago would have believed possible. Currently, catalogers are moving from AACRII (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, Second Edition) to RDA (Resource Description and Access) and from MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) to  BIBFRAME (the Bibliographic Framework Initiative). That’s a lot of acronyms, I know, but bear with me—it’ll be exciting (for a given and very nerdy definition of exciting) in the long run.


MARC is a language apart from those used by programmers and app creators. BIBFRAME, when it happens (and it’s happening, sooner than you think!), will make the information stored in a library catalog interface much more easily with the syntax used by the non-library world. With that framework in place, we can knock down the language barrier between developers and catalogers and work together to create great things.

I and our Resource Description Head, Leigh McDonald, had the opportunity recently to attend a seminar hosted by the Potomac Technical Processing Librarians (PTPL) organization on the implementation of BIBFRAME. Beacher Wiggins, director of cataloging and acquisitions at the Library of Congress (LC) presented, as did four other librarians hailing from the LC, the National Library of Medicine, and the University of California, Davis. Wiggins provided an overview of the LC’s trial experience, in which they had a group of catalogers work on each record twice, once using their normal workflows, and once using the BIBFRAME toolkit. At this time, they have completed one six-month trial, with another set to commence at the beginning of 2017. Further details of this pilot program can be found on their Bibliographic Framework Initiative page, which includes comprehensive information on BIBFRAME, how it works, and downloadable file caches of their completed BIBFRAME records for reference. These records are not visible in the actual LC catalog, so this is currently the only way to see them. You can see a great side by side of a MARC record and a BIBFRAME record here (from Karen Coyle on the Web.)

It was surprising to learn just how far along LC’s program was, and that we are, in reality, growing steadily closer to the actual implementation of these concepts. I look forward to an update early next year on the success of their second trial.

“Draw Back the Curtain” Now Online

DTP began working with UR Hillel and Richmond’s Jewish Family Services a few years ago to digitize materials and build a project website in support of “Draw Back the Curtain,” a student-directed documentary.  At the request of JFS, we recently linked the award-winning film to the site and it is now openly available and free to watch.


From the project’s about page:

After more than 70 years of closed borders, the former Soviet Union allowed more than one million Jews to immigrate to America and Israel in the late 1980s. American activism under Operation Exodus had a large part in this change in policy and the Richmond Jewish community in the resettlement of 800 refugees.

Twenty-five years later, Jewish Family Services and the University of Richmond Hillel are creating a permanent collection of the experiences and memories of the families who immigrated and the community volunteers who welcomed them.

“Draw Back the Curtain,” a feature-length documentary film, is the culmination of three years of student driven research and interviewing of immigrants and resettlement volunteers. The larger project includes multiple museum exhibitions, and an upcoming digital archive.

This project is a great example of the library working with groups on and off campus to create something meaningful to the Richmond community and beyond.  Take some time to browse around the site, check out the exhibits, and watch the film.

Prepared For Disaster

Each year, the Library’s Discovery, Technology and Publishing department participates in the Information Services disaster recovery exercise. We do this in order to prove that we can provide continuity in case some unfortunate incident occurs.

Right now you are probably thinking “Unfortunate incident? Continuity? Disaster recovery? What does all that mean, and why should I care?”

The disasters, I discuss here, focus on those disasters that could threaten our network infrastructure and so, for simplicity’s sake, I call them “technology disasters.” Such a disaster could affect all systems that communicate on the UR network. Everything from email and Banner to even being able to browse UR’s website. A technology disaster can be very serious and could occur as part of a larger disaster, affecting the whole school physically (a tornado or hurricane as examples), or could be totally unnoticed by the UR community at all until, of course, they try to do something on the network.

What does technology disaster mean?

We live, and work, in a connected world and those connections occur through servers, routers, cables, cell towers, and people being available to monitor and react to issues that occur. A technology disaster threatens those connections. Anything that can unexpectedly cause any of these resources to become unavailable can potentially be disastrous, depending on the amount of time involved to recover the connections. Student records, staff and faculty compensation, and online learning are examples of systems that could be affected by a technology disaster.

These disasters can occur in many different ways but they generally have similar end results in common regardless of the type of disaster. For whatever reasons they occur (natural, accidental or man-made), time is of the essence. The examples below assume long term issues:

Loss of power – Long term power outages.
Loss or failure of equipment – Due, for example, to a water pipe bursting and flooding a server room, a UPS failure or a fire destroying cables that are necessary for data to flow across campus.
Loss of location – Due to having to abandon a server area due to smoke, water or fire.
Loss of internet connectivity – Due to losing UR’s long term connection to the internet.
Loss of personnel availability – Due to UR staff not being physically available to be on campus.

What does continuity mean?

Continuity involves determining which systems provide essential University services and making sure those systems are back online as soon as possible. This essential service determination was made by Information Services managers in close discussions with other departments on campus. The library system is included among these essential services: students must interact with Library resources for class assignments, and faculty members rely on our services for their research and teaching.

What does the Library disaster recovery exercise involve?

The Library’s part in this exercise includes building our database and web server, and developing documentation in a disaster recovery environment. Later, when the disaster is declared, we repeat this process and fine tune our documentation. This time however, since the information services disaster recovery exercise focuses on a long term disaster as a worst case scenario, we recreate the Library’s server at a secure site in a different geographic region, outside the Richmond area thus mitigating the losses in the examples above in a matter of hours instead of days.  After the exercise we store the software and documentation off campus at a secure site.  In the event of an actual disaster, that software and documentation will then be transferred to the remote location and we will have our servers up again quickly.

MakerSpace Pop-up

This past Wednesday, a beautiful spring day brought another MakerSpace Pop-up to Tyler Haynes Commons here at the University of Richmond. Although there is no official MakerSpace on the university campus, there is a MakerSpace working group made up of interested staff and faculty. At the popup, members of the working group were showing off tools, explaining processes, and teaching skills to whomever stopped by.


On display for hands on fun and experimentation were littleBits circuits, soft circuits, a drone, 3D printed prosthetics, Legos, a Raspberry Pi computer, virtual reality headsets, light-up bookmark making, book binding supplies, maker chests, and crochet!


Look for the next MakerSpace popup and stop by.




Yonder Comes The Devil

On November 18th while helping out at the Transcribathon of the ship’s journal from the Galvin Rare Book Room at the Boatwright Memorial library I registered to transcribe some pages myself. See the previous post in our blog by Angie White for a more detailed look at the Sail Away site.

I had never done anything like this before. These events and crowd sourcing of this type of work is becoming more and more common.

Transcribing the 19th century hand writing was not as straight forward as one would think. We were instructed to transcribe exactly what we saw in the image of the journal’s pages, not even correcting spelling. I looked through a number of pages before I decided to transcribe one of the last pages of the journal, page 250 which had just a few lines on it. I figured correctly that even a few lines would take me quite a while to transcribe.

The page I worked on is below. Click on the image for a larger view:


Marion Dieterich who has more experience transcribing this journal, helped me with the transcription, and here is what I found:

Lest [yom] ones see the
Devil with his little
spade and shovel
Digging up potatoes on
the turn pike woods,

That is about as close as I could get.

The phrasing and words piqued my interest and with a little help from our friend Google, I searched the phrases “Devil with his spade and shovel” in any number of combinations adding and taking away potatoes, turnpike, and turn pike as two words

What I found was that this was an old English or Gypsy traditional song. Here it was recorded by June Tabor on her 1994 CD “Against the Streams” and i found another mention in a book from 1872 about popular Romances in the West of England. And there were others too!

Why did our journaler, Veron G. Locke who presumably wrote these words,  write down this phrase from a song in his journal in 1855? Had he just heard this song and wanted to remember the words? Was it one of his favorites? Was he the author of the song? If you find earlier references to the song, feel free to comment.

Click here for the entire Sail Away site and here for the previous post  on our Transcribathon. Contact Angie White for more information on transcribing the ship’s journal.


Transcribing our 19th Century Mystery

In the Galvin Rare Book Room, a solitary, nondescript ship’s journal continuously captures the imagination and interest of students, staff, and visitors. The journal is about 165 years old, weathered and worn, with almost every inch of space between its covers filled with log entries, drawings, or notes. Occasionally, a dried leaf or a beautiful, swooping signature appears on its faded blue pages. The journal begins with typical, mid-nineteenth century whaling log entries, but they slowly become less formulaic and turn into, what seem to be, long pieces of poetry and stories.

Inside cover and first page of 1850s ship's journal.

Inside cover and first page of 1850s ship’s journal.

The majority of our information about this journal derives from brief glances, short readings, and photographing, as the library knows very little about the origins or provenance of this particular item. We aren’t sure to whom it once belonged, how it came to be in the library’s collections, or even why it might have arrived in Richmond. After a very helpful consultation with experts at the Mariner’s Museum Library, it seems likely, based on handwriting changes, that there was more than one journalist throughout the book.

A large whale drawing, one of the most popular drawings in the journal.

A large whale drawing, one of the most popular drawings in the journal.

A potential journalist might have been a fellow by the name of Vernon Guyon Locke, whose signature appears frequently in both the margins and across entire pages. After a bit of research into this name, it was discovered that Locke, a British citizen, was an accused pirate during the Civil War. There is very little information about Locke during the 1850s, and perhaps this journal could shed light into his story.

Signatures of Vernon Locke

Signatures of Vernon Locke

In order to try and understand Locke and the other stories held within the journal’s pages, we know that transcriptions and historical expertise are essential. Our hope is that interested community members will visit our digital exhibition of the journal, where each page image is listed alongside an online transcription tool. Once registered, contributors can follow the transcription instructions on each page to add their typed translation of the handwriting.

We will be holding a Transcribathon on Wednesday, November 18th to kick off transcription. Registration is required, and can be completed online:


Even if you can’t join us for the event, you can start transcribing, researching, or exploring the journal anytime at

October Is Scary… In More Ways Than One.

Each year I look forward to October because Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love to see the decorations, people in costumes and, of course, the scary Hayrides. October, however, has taken on a new significance since President Obama designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month.

It’s great to focus attention on cybercrime because the list of recent cyberattacks against big business goes on and on:

Anthem – Hackers were able to breach a database that contained as many as 80 million records of current and former customers, as well as employees.

Target – hackers stole credit and debit card records from more than 40 million Target customers, as well as personal information like email and mailing addresses from some 70 million people.

Staples – Hackers compromised the information of about 1.16 million credit cards.

Home Depot – About 56 million payment cards were probably compromised.

JPMorgan Chase – Account information of 83 million households and small businesses were compromised.

Community Health Systems – Information including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and addresses — for 4.5 million patients had been compromised.

Doing the math, on just these few hacking instances, I count over 334 million records that have been stolen. Google says the population of the United States is 318.9 million. Do you shop at Target? If so, there is a 34% chance the hackers got you if you used plastic to pay for your purchase. If you used a Chase card to pay, that percentage increases still more.

It’s both disturbing and frustrating at the same time. How can I possibly protect myself against these unseen criminals who seem intent on stealing my personal information? It’s a good question and, thankfully, I found a lot of information online concerning becoming more security conscious.

The Department of Homeland Security maintains a website that leads the way in helping us become better educated about this issue, and it offers tips and resources targeted at specific groups. I chose to link the ones below that are most relevant to our University community. They address computer and mobile device security that we should all review from time to time:

Students K-8, 9-12, and Undergraduate
Parents and Educators
Young Professionals
Older Americans

I will include other helpful links at the end of this article that will also give you some ideas on how to better protect yourself. While companies need to become better able to manage their server security, there are a few things that we can do to keep from compromising our own security.

Here’s my top 10 list of things to do to keep from compromising yourself:

  1. Use strong passwords. Carefully choose a password in excess of 8 characters.  It helps to pick a phrase and then change a vowel or two to numbers.  For instance, I once used JustL3tM3In.  It was easy to remember because I could easily remember “Just Let Me In”.  It was secure because I included upper case, lower case, and numbers with 11 characters. Be creative and maybe even switch an ‘@’ for ‘a’ if your pass phrase has an ‘a’ in it.  Two more things about passwords, never allow your computer or mobile device to remember a password and never share your password.
  2. Keep your software up to date. This includes patches, antivirus, and security software for your mobile device as well as your computers.
  3. Time your posts. If you are into social networking, wait until you are back home to post pictures or information about your trip so that no one knows your home is unattended.
  4. Keep a close eye on your devices.  Never leave your mobile device or laptop unattended in a public place.
  5. Turn off remote connectivity. If you are not using Bluetooth, or wireless networking, turn them off on your mobile device.
  6. Always be cautious about what you receive or read online — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes the very act of opening an email or visiting a website will allow your device to become compromised. If you get an email from someone you don’t know offering you a million dollars to help them do something or an email that looks like it is replying to an email that you sent, although you cannot remember sending an email to that person, it’s a good idea to delete it without opening it to read.
  7. Ignore pop-ups because they often contain malicious software. These pop-ups trick users into doing something the hacker needs them to do in order to attack them. For instance, if you click on something the pop-up offers, like an interesting survey or some “AMAZING” product information link, you could unintentionally help the hacker. If you see something that you are really interested in, open another browser window and do a Google search to see what people say about it before you simply click the link.
  8. Only use secure websites for online shopping and banking. Always make sure there is an https in the address bar. Most of the time there will only be an http (no S). HTTPS means it is a secure website. Never enter anything that you are concerned about (social security number, birthdates, credit card numbers, etc.) without seeing the https.
  9. Don’t store your card details on websites. Err on the side of caution when asked if you want to store your credit card details for future use.
  10. Different site, different passwords. Most online users own accounts in over a dozen sites. For instance, if a hacker guesses your Facebook password and you used that same password at a site like Amazon, then the hacker has your Amazon password and perhaps even your email password.

So Happy National Cyber Security Awareness Month! Follow these tips, and the others listed at links below, and you may very well ‘trick’ the hacker instead of ‘treating’ them… ( I couldn’t help myself, I love Halloween! )


Homeland Security:

University of California Santa Cruz:

U.S News & World Report:

Mysterious Item at Boatwright

Every so often, we come across a mystery in the library. Typically, they’re the Sherlock Holmes type, but this time, we found our own puzzle in need of investigation. Just last week, a curious little postcard was found that didn’t seem to belong with any particular book or with any collection. It was old, faded, and beautifully decorated, quickly catching the imagination and interest of those who saw it. It was definitely a mystery just waiting to be solved.

The front of the decorated postcard.

The front of the decorated postcard.

Inter-Library Loan student employees found the vintage postcard on a book cart when they were shelving in the stacks. There was no indication of where it might have fallen from or how it appeared on the cart. Because the writing and postmark were so faded, it was difficult to garner any information about the card from first glance. The best solution to help reveal the possible stories behind the card seemed to be to photograph it with our macro lens, allowing for magnification of the tiny print.

The back of the postcard, with a handwritten message.

The back of the postcard, with a handwritten message.

Once we photographed both sides of the card, we were able to see, in fine detail, important features like the postmark, partial address, and the script on the back. When the postmark was magnified and rotated, we could read that the date was most likely printed as “17-11-59,” or November 17th, 1959, with a specific time of 9:45 AM. We also saw some letters inside the outer ring of the postmark that began with “MEKLIG…” The rest of the letters were faded enough that, even with the magnification, we couldn’t decipher them. Since the postage stamp was labeled “India,” though, we did a quick Google search for locations in India beginning with the six letters on the postmark and found one possibility: Mekliganj – a city in the Indian state of West Bengal.

The postmark, with time, date, and location information.

The postmark, with time, date, and location information.

So, from photographing the card, we were able to discover two important pieces of information – the date and probable location from where the postcard was sent.

Our curiosity didn’t stop there, though! With the help and interest of various staff members, we discovered that the script on the back of the card is likely Hindi, and that the partial address on the front reads “Mills Agency.” Furthermore, some basic Googling informed us that this type of card is not super unique and, in fact, there are quite a few of these cards from the early decades of the 20th century floating around. Several descriptions of the cards online suggested that they were mailed among grain merchants to provide updates on pricing. We don’t know if that is true or not for our mysterious postcard, but it is an interesting theory and could possibly explain why the postcards were easily used for artwork later.

Address line of the postcard, that we believe reads "Mills Agency."

Address line of the postcard, that we believe reads “Mills Agency.”

We would love to know more about the postcard – such as where it came from, what it says, why it was painted on, where it might belong, etc. If you think you might have any information on this – please leave a comment below or contact us – we would be happy to hear from you! We will keep searching, as well, and will provide any updates that we find on this mystery item.

Digital Toolbox: Omeka

You know that go-to tool in your toolbox that you just can’t go without? The one you always seem to use no matter what job you start? The one you preach to your friends about? The one you seem to use in unorthodox ways? The tool which, if absent, dooms a project to failure? (That’s a stretch – there’s always a way!)

In the digital collections/humanities/content world at Boatwright, Omeka has become that tool. It’s an open source web publishing platform that is to creating content-rich cultural heritage online experiences as WordPress is to building blogs. Built using open and widely-adopted frameworks, Omeka’s flexibility, large user and developer communities, and host of add-ons make it a low-barrier joy to work with. We in the library have used it for student- and faculty-driven projects, external partnerships, and for building our own thematic sites.

Our work with Omeka started some years ago with a small exhibit focused on the history of football at the University of Richmond. The launch of UR Football Comes Home was synced with the opening of the new Robins Stadium on campus.

UR Football Comes Home

UR Football Comes Home

BML’s For the Centuries site, released as a celebration of UR’s first century at its suburban campus, is one of our larger projects and made use of several plugins for the first time (for us at least), namely Neatline and Exhibit Builder.

For the Centuries

For the Centuries

The Fight for Knowledge captures content produced through an ongoing series of undergraduate courses taught by Dr. Laura Browder and Dr. Patricia Herrera. The site incorporates student multimedia projects alongside archival content.

The Fight For Knowledge

The Fight For Knowledge

The Historian’s Workshop, another ongoing project, is a collaborative faculty/student/staff project which focuses on the Congressional Papers of Watkins Moorman Abbitt, which is housed in Boatwright Library’s Special Collections. Read more about our work with Dr. Nicole Sackley and the course which launched the site on our blog here.

The Historian's Workshop

The Historian’s Workshop

Discovery, Technology and Publishing supports several Omeka sites while not maintaining responsibility for the content. Dr. Jeannine Keefer’s Urban Campus site, which features Neatline exhibits, is among these.

Urban Campus

Urban Campus

Draw Back the Curtain, a collaborative project with Richmond’s Jewish Family Services, features images digitized by Discovery, Technology and Publishing.

Draw Back the Curtain

Draw Back the Curtain

A Pilgrims Progress is the first complete catalog of Windsor McCay’s early 20th century comic of the same name. It’s content is maintained by Kirsten McKinney (GC ’15) while DTP maintains the site. Read more about McKinney and her work on our blog here.

A Pilgrim's Progress

A Pilgrim’s Progress

We’re building some skills and experience in working under Omeka’s hood, too. Focusing primarily on making theme-based customizations, we’ve identified new areas to build skills (primarily PHP coding, but also revision control – a most useful way to keep track of code changes – and to recover from the inevitable failures). Our team has also streamlined the process of launching a new site on Amazon Web Services, and is investigating the ability to bring up a site in a fully-automated fashion.

In the end, though, Omeka is just a tool, even if it is extremely flexible and easy to use. You need to have the skills, vision and resilience – not to mention the content – to make it suit your needs. Our team here has those traits, and we’ll be releasing more Omeka-based projects in the near future – keep watch on the library’s website and this blog for announcements!

Note: several staff members from Boatwright will be presenting on their Omeka projects at this week’s Virginia Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries (VLACRL) spring meeting. Titled Omeka and More: Web Publishing, Digital Collections, and Online Exhibits, Jeannine Keefer will present on her Urban Campus site, and Crista LaPrade and Angie White will discuss our recent For the Centuries project. Many thanks to all three for representing UR and BML at the meeting!

DTP’s Amy Shick Wins First Place at Computer Science Conference

Just like the majority of today’s workers, those of us in Discovery, Technology, & Publishing (DTP) work with technology every single day. We frequently find ourselves implementing newly released applications, troubleshooting those that we already have, and excitedly hypothesizing about those to come. Because of these daily occurrences, we know just how important it is to encourage our students, and students of all of ages, to take an active interest in technology since it has become such a pillar of today’s world. So, when we found out DTP student employee Amy Shick (WC ’16) won a scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, we couldn’t help but want to tell the whole world!

Amy presenting her poster.

Amy presenting her poster at the Capital Region Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.

Amy, a double major in Computer Science and Accounting with a Mathematics minor, started working with DTP at the beginning of her sophomore year. Shortly after her first few days, she began working with another highly skilled student employee, Michael (RC ’13), on a hometown map for our digital exhibit celebrating the anniversary of the Westhampton Campus. Amy didn’t stop there – she continued to join the team in all of the implementing, troubleshooting, and hypothesizing previously mentioned, helping us accomplish a remarkable amount with our digital projects. She customized code and edited images for the interactive Westhampton Scrapbook and established a workflow for mass image-to-PDF conversion, saving her fellow student employees a lot of time!

Amy’s enthusiasm and passion for the computer science field has shown in every project that she has worked on for DTP, so it came as no surprise to us when she received first place for undergraduate poster presentations at the recent Capital Region Celebration of Women in Computing conference, thereby earning her scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Conference. Her poster presentation detailed an educational computer science game that she created as part of the National Science Foundation grant aimed at increasing female involvement and achievement in STEM. The goal of the game is to help teach introductory computer science concepts and increase interest in the field. Entitled “Ice Maze”, the game is played by the user swimming around as a penguin in an ice maze searching for buckets of fish. Each bucket of fish corresponds to a different “game station” that offers a mini game or quiz with a specific introductory computer science topic. The topics tested include searching, sorting, the binary number system, working with arrays, evaluating loop conditions, and identifying variable and expression types. The game was actually part of a study conducted across seven universities to examine the efficacy of an intervention designed to encourage a growth mindset (the belief that computer science ability can be developed) and it has been released to over 400 students.

Here are several screenshots of the game:


Of course, in addition to game development and interactive flipbooks, Amy also takes a full load of coursework and is a member of a variety of organizations and societies, such as Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity (of which she was recently elected President!!), Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society, and Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honor Society, just to name a few!

Despite all of these engagements, Amy still finds time to happily join us every week in DTP to work diligently on new challenges. We are so glad that she is a part of our team and are very proud that she is representing UR at the Grace Hopper Conference, encouraging women everywhere to jump into the study of computer science!