Phx Friends of UA SIRLS

News and info about librarianship, UA SIRLS, and libraries…

Posts Tagged ‘archives’

Digital Magic Preservation for a New Era

Posted by Editor on March 13, 2012

By Matthew Kirschenbaum

You don’t get to play with a whole lot of cool tools or toys when you’re an English professor. Fountain pens and Moleskine notebooks maybe, or a book light or fancy e-reader. Bibliographers—those savants who analyze the unique physical characteristics of manuscripts and printed books—get the best stuff: illuminated magnifying glasses and book weights, white gloves and padded forceps, and more exotic assemblages, such as the original Hinman collator, a contraption the size of a refrigerator whose flashing lights were reportedly capable of inducing epileptic seizure. (Newer collators fold and collapse into a briefcase for transport to distant libraries, and while they may induce headaches, are seizure-free.)

But now that literary materials are often stored and accessible only in electronic formats—manuscript drafts written with word processors, e-mail correspondence buried in hard drives—we may be able to get our hands on some nifty techno-biblio accessories that make data retrieval easier.

One such device is the inelegantly named FC5025 floppy controller card, 1 1/4-by- 3 3/4 inches and silicon-wafer thin. If you grew up in the 1980s when I did, and if your first computer was an Apple, Commodore, Atari, or TRS “Trash” 80, the FC5025 (or one of several gizmos like it) is the link to whatever frail trellises of data may still remain magnetically etched on the surface of the antique “floppies” that went with those machines. One end of the device anchors an old-school gray ribbon cable that connects to an actual 5 1/4-inch drive, scrounged from eBay or a friend (I got mine from a supply closet). The other end holds the familiar, comforting shape of a USB terminus. Sandwiched in between, embedded in the FC5025 controller board, is the software necessary to bridge the gap between a wheezing, groaning disk drive and any modern operating system.

The FC5025 allows me to move data off my old floppy disks in the form of a so-called image file, a virtual simulacrum of the original diskette. With the disk image, I can extract individual files or run it through an “emulator” (more on this later), where I can examine individual bytes and verify that not a single one has been altered in the transition. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Thinking Long Term | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

When Data Disappears

Posted by Editor on August 9, 2011


Kari Kraus is an assistant professor in the College of Information Studies and the English department at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md.

LAST spring, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas acquired the papers of Bruce Sterling, a renowned science fiction writer and futurist. But not a single floppy disk or CD-ROM was included among his notes and manuscripts. When pressed to explain why, the prophet of high-tech said digital preservation was doomed to fail. “There are forms of media which are just inherently unstable,” he said, “and the attempt to stabilize them is like the attempt to go out and stabilize the corkboard at the laundromat.”

Mr. Sterling has a point: for all its many promises, digital storage is perishable, perhaps even more so than paper. Disks corrode, bits “rot” and hardware becomes obsolete.

But that doesn’t mean digital preservation is pointless: if we’re going to save even a fraction of the trillions of bits of data churned out every year, we can’t think of digital preservation in the same way we do paper preservation. We have to stop thinking about how to save data only after it’s no longer needed, as when an author donates her papers to an archive. Instead, we must look for ways to continuously maintain and improve it. In other words, we must stop preserving digital material and start curating it.

At first glance, digital preservation seems to promise everything: nearly unlimited storage, ease of access and virtually no cost to making copies. But the practical lessons of digital preservation contradict the notion that bits are eternal. Consider those 5 1/4-inch floppies stockpiled in your basement. When you saved that unpublished manuscript on them, you figured it would be accessible forever. But when was the last time you saw a floppy drive?

And even if you could find the right drive, there’s a good chance the disk’s magnetic properties will have decayed beyond readability. The same goes, generally speaking, for CD-ROMs, DVDs and portable drives. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Thinking Long Term | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Opportunity to tour AZ Archives, July 29, 9-11:30 am (Thanks, Linda)

Posted by Editor on July 20, 2010

From Linda Reib:

I will be hosting a tour of the Arizona State Archives, Law and Research Library and the Capitol Museum on July 29th starting at 9:00am for ADOA interns. Would any Phoenix SIRLS students be interested in attending?

Meet at the State Archives

9:00 State History & Archives Building

1 hour Tour

10:00 15 mins to walk to the Capitol Building

State Capitol Building (Historic section)

10:15     20-25 min Law & Research Library

10:40     1 hour Capitol Museum Tour

Lunch Capitol or DES Cafeteria (attendees pay for their own meal)

Please email me so that I can get an approximate head count.

Thank you,


Linda Reib
Electronic Records Archivist

History and Archives Division
Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
1901 W. Madison St.
Phoenix, AZ 85009

Posted in Educational opportunities, Gatherings | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Toward a New Alexandria–in the New Republic

Posted by Editor on April 1, 2010

by Lisbet Rausing, March 12, 2010

Imagine a new Library of Alexandria. Imagine an archive that contains all the natural and social sciences of the West—our source-critical, referenced, peer-reviewed data—as well as the cultural and literary heritage of the world’s civilizations, and many of the world’s most significant archives and specialist collections. Imagine that this library is electronic and in the public domain: sustainable, stable, linked, and searchable through universal semantic catalogue standards. Imagine that it has open source-ware, allowing legacy digital resources and new digital knowledge to be integrated in real time. Imagine that its Second Web capabilities allowed universal researches of the bibliome.

Well, why not imagine this library? Realizing such a dream is no longer a question of technology. Remarkable electronic libraries are already being assembled. Google Books aims to catalogue about 16 million books. The nonprofit Internet Archive already has some 1 million volumes. Public expectations run ahead even of these efforts. To do research, only one in a hundred American college students turn first to their university catalogue. Over 80 percent turn first to Google.

It is clear that if a new Alexandria is to be built, it needs to be built for the long term, with an unwavering commitment to archival preservation and the public good. A true public good itself, it probably needs to be largely governmentally funded. And, while a global and cooperative venture, it needs to be hosted by one organisation that is reputable, long-standing, nonprofit, and exists in a stable jurisdiction. The Library of Congress, the flagship institution of the world’s only surviving Enlightenment republic, comes to mind. There might be other possibilities, such as the New York Public Library, or the British Library, or a consortium of the world’s leading university libraries—UCLA, Harvard, Cambridge University, and so on.

In other words, the question for scholars and gatekeepers is not whether change is coming. It is whether they will be among the change-makers. And if not them, then who? Who else will ensure long-term conservation and search abilities that are compatible across the bibliome and over time? Who else will ensure equality of access? Ultimately, this is not a challenge of technology, finances, or ultimately even laws, difficult though they are. It is a challenge of will and imagination.

Answering that challenge will require some soul-searching: Do we have the generosity to collaborate? Can we build legal, organizational, and financial structures that will preserve and order—but also share and disseminate the learning of the world? Scholars have traditionally gated and protected knowledge, yet also shared and distributed it in libraries, schools, and universities. We have stood for a republic of learning that is wider than the ivory tower, and now is the time to do so again. We must stand up, as the Swedes say, for folkbildningsidealet, that profoundly democratic vision of universal learning and education….Read entire article here.

Posted in Thinking Long Term | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Digging Into the Science of That Old-Book Smell–NY Times

Posted by Editor on November 17, 2009

Published: November 16, 2009

If you have torn yourself away from the virtual library that is the Internet long enough to visit a real library, you know that the smell of old books — musty, slightly acidic, even grassy — is instantly recognizable. But is it quantifiable? And if so, might old-book odor prove useful to librarians and conservators charged with preserving collections?

Matija Strlic, a researcher with the Center for Sustainable Heritage at University College London, thinks it might. With colleagues in Slovenia and with the assistance of the National Archives of the Netherlands, he has published proof-of-concept research that shows that it is possible to understand both the composition and condition of old paper by analyzing the volatile organic compounds they emit.

Dr. Strlic said he got the idea one day at a library when he saw a conservator sniffing an old piece of paper, trying to determine what it was made of. “I thought, certainly a technique could be developed to do that more accurately,” he said. The approach is similar to breath analysis used to diagnose illness, he added.

He and his colleagues analyzed the volatiles produced by 72 samples of old paper of different types and in varying condition from the 19th and 20th centuries, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. They found that some compounds were reliable markers for paper with certain characteristics — high concentrations of lignin or rosin, for example, which make paper degrade relatively quickly. Their findings were published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Portable devices that can detect volatile compounds already exist, Dr. Strlic noted. So with further research, he said, it may be possible to develop one for use in libraries and other places. Such an electronic nose would sniff the air around old books to find those that are so fragile they should not be lent out, for example, or are otherwise in need of preservation.

See entire post here:

Posted in Good reads | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Phoenix Area Tours November 21st!

Posted by Editor on November 16, 2009

SLA has coordinated a day of tours in Phoenix, AZ at two special libraries – Arizona Historical Foundation and AZ State Braille and Talking Books Library. We hope you can join us!  We welcome all current and alum SIRLS students, friends and family throughout AZ – please RSVP by Friday morning, November 18th.  If there are a number of people from Tucson who plan on going up, we can arrange a car pool to meet and leave from SIRLS Saturday morning.

Arizona Historical Foundation (AHF) > 11am – Noon

Susan Irwin, AHF Interim Director and SIRLS Adjunct Instructor, will provide a tour of the AFH Library and Archives.  She will provide a brief background on AHF, how it has evolved, processing and description, and the issues they face today. The tour will include a tour of holdings and a viewing of a few select items for everyone to see.

Location:        Arizona Historical Foundation, Room 412
Hayden Library
Arizona State University – Tempe
Tempe, Arizona 85287-1006

Parking:          FREE – Apache Blvd Garage (Apache Blvd and Normal)




We can decide as a group where we’d like to go for lunch after the AHF tour and before the Braille and Talking Books Library Tour.  This will be great opportunity for distance and Tucson students to meet and mingle!  It’s not required, but it will help to ensure most of us will arrive at the next tour around the same time.  Plus, SLA will help foot the bill!

AZ State Braille and Talking Book Library (ASBTBL) > 2 – 3pm

The ASBTBL is a division of the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records.  Christine Tuttle – ASBTBL Communities Librarian and SIRLS alum, and Jeanette Pawlowski – ASBTBL Volunteers Manager have coordinated a tour of the library.  The tour will include a tour of the recording studio with the new digital recording booths, the mailroom, machine repair, and the public services area, as well as an overview of its history, the patrons it serves, acquisition and loaning processes, current use, and more!

Location:        AZ State Braille and Talking Book Library

1030 North 32nd Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85008

Directions: Located on the southwest corner of Loop 202 (Red Mountain Freeway) and 32nd Street. Exit the freeway to the south and then take the first available right onto Diamond Street. Drivers approaching northbound on 32nd Street should turn left onto Roosevelt, right onto 31st Street and then right onto Diamond.

Parking:          FREE – parking lot in front of building (south side of Diamond Street)



Posted in Thinking Long Term | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Oct 29 Visit to the Archives Fun and Fascinating!

Posted by Editor on November 2, 2009

Linda Reib,  Electronic Records Archivist, and her colleagues graciously and enthusiastically welcomed us to their beautiful new facility, and we all enjoyed our afternoon immensely!  We learned about their wonderful and varied  collections; why they exist (to enable the people of Arizona to hold our governments accountable); how they do what they do with only 15 people (with great enthusiasm);  trends in digitization and retention (paper is the best back up!); and got a glimpse into the future of archives work. The staff is impressive and knowledgeable and we could tell they love their work.  Each has an expertise that complements the others’ skills and talents wonderfully.  We saw the huge stacks areas, organized into pods, saw all the work that is yet to be done, viewed even the loading dock with its specialized features and spaces. They welcome interns and volunteers (my work once I retire!) and the variety of tasks to be done is overwhelming!  I will see if Linda will share her PPT file-her pre-tour presentation was comprehensive and most interesting.

If you weren’t able to join the 8 of us who attended, be sure to visit the Archives websites and the facility when you can. They are at 1901 W. Madison St. and welcome visitors between 10 and 3,  Monday-Thursday.


Posted in Gatherings | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Friends Visit to the Arizona State Archives Finalized for Oct 29

Posted by Editor on October 5, 2009

ArchivesMonthPosterDate/Time:  Thursday/October 29, 2009/1:30 pm

Where: 1901 W Madison, Phoenix

Learning Objectives for the afternoon HERE: Phoenix Friends of SIRLS Archives Visit:

Describe today’s need for archives
Describe the functions, goals and holdings of the State Archives
Describe trends influencing those goals and roles
Anticipate the future of archival formats and possible methods for achieving goals

October is Archives Month, see:

Read about the building here:


Posted in Gatherings | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Phoenix Friends of SIRLS Visit to Arizona Archives-Draft Learning Objectives

Posted by Editor on September 28, 2009

Date/Time:  TBD (October, 2009)

Draft Learning Objectives

  1. Describe today’s need for archives
  2. Describe the functions, goals and holdings of the State Archives
  3. Describe trends influencing those goals and roles
  4. Anticipate the future of archival formats and possible methods for achieving goals

Please let me know if these objectives appeal to you.  I am aiming for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in October, between 1 and 5pm.  Thanks.

Posted in Gatherings | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

September Meeting Plans…Mark Your Calendars for Thursday, the 24th, and a visit to the Archives??

Posted by Editor on September 14, 2009

First, I  apologize to folks who prefer Tuesdays and promise that next meeting will be on a Tuesday, perhaps October 19 or 26th.

For September, plan to meet Thursday, September 24 at the COM-Phx.  I will work up a plan for the session and send it by the end of the week. Just wanted you to get it on your calendars!

On another note, I received a call from Linda Reib, the Electronic Records Archivist at the Arizona State Archives who reports that the Archives are now open Mon-Thursday, 9am-3pm. I am very interested in going for a tour…could you pls let me know your interest and availability? And day and time preference?  Please email me at!!!

Posted in Gatherings, Thinking Long Term | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »