Category Archives: Events

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.

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.




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

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!

DTP in Classroom Collaborations

We (Leigh McDonald and Chris Kemp) were given the opportunity to be involved in an undergraduate class last semester: The Historian’s Workshop, taught by Dr. Nicole Sackley. The course immersed students in the worlds of archives, digital libraries, museums and public history. The students were each placed in the roles of researcher and expert while working with one of Boatwright’s largely unprocessed archival collections, the Congressional Papers of Watkins Moorman Abbitt. Each of the eleven students was assigned a box of archival materials from the collection to work with, and Lynda Kachurek (Head of Rare Books and Special Collections) instructed them on archival processing methods. The students read and examined all of the documents in “their box,” and selected representative materials to describe and display in an online exhibit.

That’s where Discovery, Technology and Publishing came in. We digitized materials and launched an Omeka site to present them. We also presented three metadata workshops to the students, which focused on how to examine a document’s contents, effectively describe it, and upload it into Omeka. Since the students were the experts on their particular materials, there would be no one better equipped to provide in-depth descriptions of each item. Leigh and Chris randomly selected a document already digitized from those chosen by the students, worked through the Dublin Core metadata fields as examples, prepped our materials and headed into the workshops feeling prepared for anything. That randomly selected document turned out to be a much better lesson for the students and for us than we had imagined.


Letter from W. E. Skelton to W. M. Abbitt

The document above is the one we chose. It seems pretty simple on the surface – a piece of correspondence between a constituent and his congressman regarding the work of the Agricultural Extension Service agents in his district – and we suggested describing it accordingly. An attached report described a rat control campaign in the Hampton Roads area and included statistics on the rat population in the U.S. Therefore, the first Library of Congress Subject Heading we suggested was, of course, “Rats”.

During the workshop, however, Professor Sackley asked the student why he chose this particular document and his response was enlightening. Because he had gained some perspective on Congressman Abbitt and his tenure from studying the documents in his box, he read the documents as a rather elegant but subtle plea for the need for African-American workers in his division, not just an informational letter about pest control. The line, “We are extremely limited in staff and cannot be ‘all things to all people,’” was the hint. Based on this, it was then possible to complete the metadata description more accurately by adding terms such as: African American agricultural extension workers and Virginia Polytechnic Institute’s Agricultural Extension Service. We would not necessarily have picked up on the full significance of the document without the student’s input, which illustrates the analytical skills the students brought to the table when selecting documents from the collection. We are sure that similar conversations could have occurred regarding many other documents in the collection.

Given the subject matter of this archival collection and the course readings, the students expected to find much on the topic of massive resistance to school integration in Virginia, but they discovered so much more. Students uncovered numerous interesting documents, including an exchange between Abbitt and then-Texas senator Lyndon Johnston, a letter from a high school senior regarding the statehood of Hawaii, and a pamphlet listing the names of supposed communists in Hollywood, California. All of these findings brought to life the people and the historical period, and gave the students a perspective on the times that would have been absent without access to the primary sources.

The work the students did last fall was impressive on many levels, but it only scratched the surface of what the Abbitt Papers contain. Abbitt was a congressman from 1948-1973, and his archival collection is made up of 285 boxes of material. Fortunately, Professor Sackley is going to teach the course once more in the fall of 2015. We in DTP are looking forward to getting back into the classroom with students once again, and learning right along with them.

See the fruits of the students’ labor at the course’s dedicated Omeka site, which is publicly available but still “in the workshop”:

Hear directly from the students at the Historian’s Workshop blog:

And read a feature news story about the course on the UR Website:

Written by Chris Kemp and Leigh McDonald

Guest Post: Reflections on AMIA 2014

Today we are featuring a guest post written by Dywana Saunders from the Media Resource Center at Boatwright Memorial Library:

I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Moving Images Archivists (AMIA) conference held in Savannah Georgia, October 8-11th. Conference presenters ran the gamut, from film archivists, museum professionals, entertainers, students, and film makers; some coming from all over the world. Session topics ranged from snippets on the newest advances with digital asset management systems (DAMs), the Public Broadcasting Metadata Dictionary Project (PBCore), and the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), to dealing with ancient and hard to repair and maintain AV equipment.

Continue reading

August 2014

towerBWThe new Academic school year of 2014-2015 has started. There is a hint of cooler weather
and the angle of the sun has changed just a bit. I always think the beginning of the school year is a good time to reflect on what we do here at the Department of Discovery, Technology and Publishing.

Since a lot of what I do is behind the scenes I always try to attend the Colloquy. This year it was at the Alice Jepson Theatre last Wednesday August 20th. The Colloquy is where the provost, the president, and others welcome new faculty members to campus. The Deans of all the schools all speak and the newly endowed chairs are announced. For someone like me who no longer has daily interactions with faculty and mostly only our student assistants, it is a good reminder of the greater university community and some of the reasons why we are here in the first place.

All staff and faculty are invited to attend the Colloquy and it remains one of the few times during the academic year that both staff and faculty can gather, meet and talk to each other. I still remember when I first started working at the university over 20 years ago and I attended my first similar gathering. These formal gatherings always made a huge impression on me, always coaxing reflections for me on my work and time here in the library. This year was no different.

Welcome to the new school year.

Now all of you get to work!

Photo of the Boatwright Tower © 2014 Angie White

Text by Tom Campagnoli

Bookbinding with Brien Beidler at the Charleston Library Society ~ Part I


The Charleston Library Society

The Charleston Library Society

When I was visiting family in the Charleston, South Carolina area last year, I came upon an article about a young man, Brien Beidler, who was hired in 2012 to be the Bindery Director at the Charleston Library Society at the age of 22! He had previously worked in the Addlestone Library when he was a student at the College of Charleston. Brien’s story stuck with me and several months ago I contacted him about the possibility of visiting with him the next time I was in the area. I had high hopes that I might learn from him in any way that I could. Brien replied almost immediately and was so enthusiastic and encouraging that I quickly realized I had contacted someone who would be a great supporter in my forays into the world of bookbinding and book arts. Brien is eager to share his own passion for books and bookbinding and he is even more enthusiastic when he recognizes someone who has the potential to share his passion for and appreciation of this almost lost art form.



Last week I had the good fortune to spend four days with Brien in his bindery at the Charleston Library Society. Brien guided me in completing my first two German 4 piece case-bound books. He was kind, encouraging, supportive, and patient as he enthusiastically shared his knowledge and experience while I tried to absorb everything that he and his doppelgänger assistant, James Davis, were able to demonstrate and teach me.

James and Brien

James and Brien

Before I address the actual book binding process and the true joy I felt in creating something so beautiful and useful from start to finish with my own two hands, I want to tell you a little bit about Brien.  Brien has achieved a level of success that few in their mid-twenties can claim. Part of Brien’s success at such a young age can be attributed to luck – being in the right place at the right time. However, more importantly, his success can be attributed to a combination of his positive attitude, his initiative, his dedication, and his determination to continue learning, along with the support he received along the way. Brien is quick to credit those who have supported, encouraged, and mentored him from the beginning. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the people who helped Brien as he started on his journey to become a bona fide Book Binder, Marie Ferrara. Marie recently retired from her position as the Head of Special Collections in the Addlestone Library at the College of Charleston and moved away from the area, but she was in town for a brief visit and Brien invited me to join them for lunch. Brien’s admiration for Marie was evident during our lunch as he eagerly showed her some of his most recent binding efforts that included two books bound in hand hewn wood with his own handmade elaborate brass clasps. Brien had recently spent time in Idaho at a medieval binding workshop with Jim Croft and was so inspired and proud of his creations and experiences that his enthusiasm was infectious. Marie exhibited an equal admiration for Brien and will clearly continue to be a positive influence in his life and work. Brien has also received tremendous support and encouragment from Anne Cleveland, the Executive Director of the Charleston Library Society, who graciously stopped in to meet me during my time in the bindery. Coincidentally, both Marie and Anne have connections to Virginia, having attended school in the Charlottesville area.

In the end, however, Brien is successful because of the time, effort, and thought that he puts into his work. He lives and breathes books and bookbinding. When he is not physically working, he is reading about books and bookbinding. He continually looks for opportunities to learn new things related to bookbinding. He also enjoys making his own bone folders and other hand tools. His work takes time and that time is often spent alone in the bindery I asked Brien if he gets lonely in his seemingly solitary work (James is a recent addition and is only around for a half day) and he said that he is always surprised by that question but that he gets it often. In fact, he isn’t at all lonely in his work – partly because, as I noticed over the four days, there is no time to be lonely. Time passes very quickly when you are focused and engrossed in the physical work of binding and creating.  Brien also has a constant companion, his two-year old Brittany spaniel, Wren. Wren has perhaps one of the sweetest temperaments of any dog I have ever met. She has clearly been lovingly well-trained and often accompanies Brien to his bindery.



Brien is also not lonely in his work because he reaches out and networks with others who are as equally excited, passionate and inspired by bookbinding, and book and paper arts. He is the co-founder, along with artist Kris Westerson, of the recently established Charleston Book Union. Thanks to Brien I was able to meet Kris and another member and artist, Jocelyn Chateauvert during the fast four days I spent in Charleston.

Perhaps one of the most important things I learned during my time with Brien, after learning that it takes a lot of time to properly bind a single book (and we were not even working with leather), is how inclusive and supportive the small but worldwide community of bookbinders and book and paper artists is. I have long lurked on the Book Arts listserv and now feel less intimidated and more inspired than ever to connect with and learn from this creative and inspiring community. I can’t thank Brien enough for being so gracious and supportive and willing to share some of his experience and knowledge with me.

Next time: What I made during my time “Bookbinding with Brien Beidler at the Charleston Library Society ~ Part II”

Workshop: Phase One Certified Professional – Cultural Heritage

As you might have seen from the posts below, we do a large amount of digitization using a couple different types of equipment here in Discovery, Technology & Publishing. My personal favorite, though, is our Phase One P65+ digital back. When the back is mounted on a DSLR-like camera body, it becomes a pretty fantastic photography tool. An argument could possibly be made that I am slightly biased because of my love of photography, but I think that the awesome quality of the images we produce would be more than enough to convince you otherwise. We use our digital camera in a controlled-light environment to photograph special and rare items when we want to provide highly detailed, focused digital representations.

Left: close-up of our medium format digital back and camera system Right: Our photography studio set-up is perfect for the majority of material that we handle, such as manuscripts, maps and rare books.

Left: close-up of our medium format digital back and camera system
Right: Our photography studio set-up is perfect for the majority of material that we handle, such as manuscripts, photographs, maps and rare books.

Despite the similarities in appearance with mainstream DSLRs, a medium format digital back and camera system have significant differences and/or issues that are unique to them. Interestingly, although they definitely qualify as high-tech equipment, medium format digital backs are still relatively new technology that are constantly being improved. That means that sometimes (especially with older versions) there might need to be a little bit more time invested in understanding the equipment in order for it to work at its most efficient level. Even though I’ve taken photography classes and am practically tied to my DSLR, there is still a lot to learn about medium format cameras and our digital back, in particular. Thus, last week, I packed my bags and headed to Dallas for a two-day workshop and certification program through Digital Transitions (the sole Phase One distributor in the US) and taught by a Phase One instructor. The fact that it was hosted by the Dallas Museum of Art only added to the great experience!

Before attending the program, I completed pre-course work and tests that laid a foundation for a general understanding of how Phase One digital backs operate. The workshop itself focused on how the digital backs (in conjunction with Capture One software) could work in a cultural heritage setting. Among the countless subjects we discussed, some of the most relevant for me were appropriate tone curves (tonality of shadows and highlights), color management, and troubleshooting. I actually felt pretty good that we hadn’t experienced a lot of the issues or errors here at DTP that we covered in class, but now I do feel more prepared to solve them if they do occur. We even spent a good deal of time discussing digital backs connected to technical cameras, which was really interesting because I hadn’t had the opportunity to really study them before.

At the end of the class, we had to take an exam in order to complete our certification. After a short (but seemingly endless) couple of days, I received word that I had passed the test and was officially a Phase One Certified Professional! I still have so much more to learn, especially because every photography studio and subject is unique, but it really was an incredibly informative session. Plus, it was great to learn the intricate details behind the equipment I work with on a daily basis.