Libraries and Learning Links of the Week

Web links about libraries and learning, every week.

LLLotW will be taking a break for a few weeks over what hopefully is “summer” in Australia.

See you with more links of the week in February!


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

Teaching AI when to care about gender

This quite technical paper from code4lib Journal outlines a really interesting tool for “de-biasing” machine learning models. Interestingly, the tool is designed for subject-matter experts to define what that bias is in a given corpus, rather than trying to make generic rules about what is and is not biased. A really intriguing tool with potential for discrete collections of the sort found in archives and library special collections.

Z-Library Was a Lifeline for Students on Shoestring Budgets

An article from Slate about “Z Library”, the domain name for which appears to have been seized by the US Government. I'm always interested when news about the iniquitous and often farcical academic publishing industry breaks through to mainstream publications. This Slate piece does a nice job of pointing out how commercial academic publishing locks researcher and students from formerly colonised countries out of the prestige markets and restricts any “legal” access to knowledge.

t.co

Ed Summers on Twitter archive downloads and ways to unshorten all the links that Twitter “helpfully” changes to t.co links.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

Requiem for a Tweet – Is there a future for the academic social capital held on the platform?

Mark Carrigan on what Twitter entering platform death means for academia. This is an interesting analysis throwing up some challenges and important questions, but for me the key section is this:

Rather than take responsibilities for an infrastructure upon which their operations depended, universities encouraged the narrow and unreflective use of these platforms in a way which entrenched the existing competitive individualism within the academy.

Why this? Because “these platforms” could apply to nearly every digital platform or software used in academia. Technological solutionism has already arrived in the Fediverse, and publishing papers via ActivityPub won't make universities democratic and diverse any more than everyone getting a Twitter handle did.

Why Meta’s latest large language model survived only three days online

Turns out large language models and “artificial intelligence” will spout garbage no matter what you feed them with, because they're not actually intelligent. Plenty of people have been pointing this out for some time, but there's plenty of money available if one chooses to ignore them.

LARPing your job

Something a little different, specifically about being a professional journalist/critic, but generally about being an “information worker” which more and more of us are:

You can LARP your job in person (holding lots of meetings, staying late and getting there early as a show of ‘presentism’) and digitally (sending lots of emails, spending a lot of time on Slack, or whatever group chat platform your organization uses).

We’re performing, in other words, largely for ourselves. Justifying to ourselves that we deserve the place that we’ve found ourselves. Justifying to ourselves that writing for the internet is a vocation that deserves steady payment. At heart, this is a manifestation of a general undervaluing of our own work: we still navigate the workplace as if getting paid to produce knowledge means we’re getting away with something, and have to do everything possible to make sure no one realizes they’ve made a massive mistake.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

‘All your data are belong to us’: the weaponisation of library usage data and what we can do about it

There have always been voices within librarianship raising the alarm about the use and misuse of data by our suppliers (ahem I'm sorry, “partners”). However as companies become increasingly public about repositioning themselves from “publishers” to “data brokers”, the rest of the profession seems to be belatedly waking up. This article is a pretty succinct overview of the issues.

At some point soon the Open Education community needs to have a conversation about where to draw the line between being able to measure use of OERs, and opening the door to the same kind of toxic metrics-driven invasion of reader autonomy.

Volume 1, No. 1 – Journal of Open Educational Resources in Higher Education

It's a collectors' edition! The very first issue of Journal of Open Educational Resources in Higher Education has been released, with an impressive collection of articles.

Online access to Archives' records removed after potential privacy breach

Archives New Zealand is not having a good week. Upon discovering that private information was leaking out of their brief public catalogue records, the entire online search system has been taken offline until the problem can be resolved. This is also not good news for Axiell, the vendor for the system that was implemented earlier this year. It will be interesting to see whether the cause of the problem and its eventual resolution become public knowledge.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

Chief Scientist plan for free research access for all

The nation’s chief scientist will this year recommend to government a radical departure from the way research is distributed in Australia, proposing a world-first model that shakes up the multi-billion-dollar publishing business so Australian readers don’t pay a cent.

The idea of everyone having to log in to MyGov to read academic papers fills me with horror, and I don't love the Gold model for open access, but this is huge news that if implemented would turn every academic library upside down amongst many other sweeping consequences.

Libraries and open publishing case studies

CAUL's Libraries and Open Publishing Case Studies guide presents a series of case studies of university libraries’ open publishing initiatives and accompanying researcher case studies that demonstrate the value of these initiatives. The case studies were designed for use within and beyond the library sector to support advocacy work in relation to open access publishing and provide examples of open publishing practice from which others can learn.

Baserow: Open source no-code database and Airtable alternative

This looks extremely cool. I'm including it in LLLotW because I know some libraries use Airtable for analysing complex datasets when they lack either the cooperation of IT departments to use more direct database solutions, the IT resources to do this in the first place, or the need to use a fully fledged relational database like MySQL for a small project.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

Mapping the social worlds/Arena of open education

A talk by Tanya Elias at the ALT conference in April 2022. Elias talks about research she has done on the various “arenas” of open education and how they intersect and interact. Interesting stuff and not too long to wach.

Getting Real Close: What a Diary Study Can Do for Your Library

This is a really interesting piece in Weave journal about how Berlin State Library used a diary study as part of a building refurbishment project. This is a UX research technique I've not really considered before, but it sounds like it was perfect for their use case, and certainly could be useful in a range of library contexts.

When life gives you lemons, write better error messages

This is from Jenni Nadler of Wix. I've tried to use Wix before and found it maddening, but this article provides some really excellent advice that I've already used to improve an error page at my work. The formula provided for a good error message:

  • Say what happened
  • Say why it happened
  • Provide reassurance
  • Help them fix it
  • Give them a way out

Great stuff.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

Open Access Week 2022

It's Thursday night so I'm a little late to the party, but in case you didn't know it's Open Access Week this week. Open Access Australasia have been running some fantastic events, and there's still a few more to come tomorrow.

cloudStor will be no more after 2023

Late last week AARNet announced that their cloudStor service will be decommissioned at the end of 2023. This may sound like a lot of notice, but many institutions are likely to be thinking 13 months notice to replace critical national research infrastructure will be a close run thing. At least we're not all in the middle of ERA data collection right now.

Are we walking the talk? A snapshot of how academic LIS journals are (or aren’t) enacting disciplinary values

A really interesting deep dive into LIS journals (specifically focussed on Academic Libraries and for a US American audience) and to what extent the way their editorial boards enact the profession's stated values. This is a clear-eyed analysis and whilst the conclusion is the inevitable “try harder”, they're not wrong. I also can't walk past a conclusion beginning with “Capitalism is bullshit (Chan, 2019; McMillan Cottom, 2020; Horgan, 2019)”.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

GLAM Digital Survey – Call for Participants

A current research project in the Centre for Digital Humanities Research by Senior Lecturer Dr Katrina Grant and Sean Minney, a recent graduate from the Masters Advanced of Digital Humanities and Public Culture is looking for participants in a short survey (30 questions) on how people employed in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector are using digital tools and software in their work.

Actually Autistic: An Exhibition

Actually Autistic: An Exhibition invites the people of Melbourne to join in on celebrating, nurturing and empowering autistic creativity.

Actually Autistic: An Exhibition is a collection of works aimed at cultivating understanding, celebration and representation in regards to autism. Encouraging members of the public to directly connect with and support autistic artists.

The Fallacy of AI Functionality

A short and snappy evisceration of “Artificial Intelligence” and its governance, presented by Deb Raji and Lizzie Kumar at the ACM FAccT conference. Given the recent interest in machine learning and “AI” for use in library work, and the need to understand more about it from a digital literacy point of view, this is a useful snapshot of where we're at. Spoiler: it's bad.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

Digital access for all

A nice to-the-point article from CMM about the need for universities to, well, try harder when it comes to making learning experiences and technology accessible to all users:

the big question [about ICT in universities] is: for all the ICT products and services we buy now and in the future are all students and staff able to use them? There are pressing questions about how educational technologies – selected, tested and integrated within the student experience – are chosen and whether a student-centred critical approach is utilised.

The article quotes a figure of 7.44% of students having a disability, which sound like an underestimate to me but it likely is a question of definition and classification (isn't everything?!). This gets to the heart of it, though:

Products should meet the needs of intended audiences across a broad range of human variance including vision, hearing, speech, dexterity, neurological triggers, neurodiversity and cognition. In addition, there are considerations around affordability, connectivity, digital literacy, compliance and privacy.

It's a long list, but that's why you get to call yourself a professional if you're the one making decisions about technology procurement, right? I notice that “used by organisations you consider your peers” is not on the list.

AI, accessibility and digital collections

Speaking of accessibility, here's a really interesting paper Justin Kelly presented at VALA 2022. Kelly received a Digital Fellowship from the State Library of Victoria and used it to develop a system based on cloud machine learning services to significantly enrich the descriptive metadata for SLV's digital image collection. The tool he built is really exciting, but what I really liked about this paper is that Kelly addresses some of both the ethical questions presented by using machine learning for descriptive metadata, and the practical limits of using algorithms trained on commmercial data sets for describing cultural collections. Worth a read (or watch).

Introducing Discovery Systems

One of my favourite librarians in the whole world, Ruth Kitchin-Tillman has generously shared text from a presentation she was invited to give to information studies students about what library discovery systems are and how they work – with a time limit of ten minutes! It's really impressive stuff, gesturing at how complicated this can all get without getting too into the weeds.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

AI Data Laundering: How Academic and Nonprofit Researchers Shield Tech Companies from Accountability

This is a really interesting article about the shady ethical behaviour of ...well, basically every machine learning company that exists. The crux of the argument is that commercial “AI” companies are abusing academic research arrangements in order to “datawash” inputs that are otherwise unavailable for commercial use.

This academic-to-commercial pipeline abstracts away ownership of data models from their practical applications, a kind of data laundering where vast amounts of information are ingested, manipulated, and frequently relicensed under an open-source license for commercial use.

And more personally for the author:

I was happy to let people remix and reuse my photos for non-commercial use with attribution, but that’s not how they were used. Instead, academic researchers took the work of millions of people, stripped it of attribution against its license terms, and redistributed it to thousands of groups, including corporations, military agencies, and law enforcement.

open/ed Review project

Last week I linked to the DOERS3 Open Education in Tenure and Promotion Case Studies. This page from the open/ed group assists with another common problem for open education advocates: a widespread belief amongst educators that “you get what you pay for” and therefore OERs cannot possibly be high quality.

A recent nationally representative survey of 2,144 faculty members in the United States found that “most faculty remain unaware of OER” (Babson Survey, 2014 )...This same survey found that college professors rate “proven efficacy” and “trusted quality” as the two most important criteria for selecting teaching resources. Thus we believe that for OER to gain traction it is important to gather empirical research demonstrating its efficacy and quality...To this end, we have gathered articles that focus on the efficacy of OER or teacher/student perceptions of such resources in actual practice.

Shared Vocabularies Create Oceans of Opportunities

From plant taxonomy to disease classification, science depends on precise language and referencing. Finding evidence-based solutions to the grand societal challenges of this century requires that scientists use shared scientific concepts to pool their work. This enables them to aggregate vast amounts of data from multiple sources, often from multiple disciplines and domains, and from countries where differing languages are spoken. Clearly, unless a data collection is tagged using globally agreed terms, it cannot be part of the global web of information systems necessary for tackling challenges such as climate change.

An interesting piece from the ARDC. Read this and then reflect on why “shared” vocabularies aren't always more desirable than localised knowledge systems.


Libraries and Learning Links of the Week is published every Thursday by Hugh Rundle. If you like email newsletters you might also like Marginalia, a monthly commentary on things I've read and listened to more broadly.

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