Reflection: Thanks for the memories!

                Our group is based around the fact that we all have an interest in archives and special collections.  The wonderful thing about archives and special collections is the variety of archives and special collections that exist.  Each member of the group has their own specific area of interest within archives and special collections, something that is somewhat reflected in our various posts.  I say somewhat because certain posts dealt with our interests but the tasks set forth in the assignments, including the final assignment, gave us the opportunity to explore beyond our interests and to perhaps gain new interests.   

                I really enjoyed working with my group and they were very easy to work with throughout the quarter and on this final assignment.  Our idea for a mobile application, Stack Tracks, will be a great tool that libraries and archives can utilize to allow users to create their own unique information experience.  Although we have not actually built the application our group has created a plan of action and conceptualized functions that might one day make this application a reality.    It was nice to come up with an idea that all group members agreed on and seemed interested in doing.  Through email communications we were able to coordinate our efforts.  For the first part of the assignment we decided what information we wanted to find for our literature review and everyone chose a category.  We also used this strategy for the final written part of our assignment.  The final written part of our assignment also involved the creation of a shared Google document that we could use to add the sections we each wrote and combine them for the final draft. 

                Overall, for a group project, this whole process was painless and enjoyable.  Group projects can quickly become a situation where a few people pull the weight for everyone else in the group.  This group did a great job in equally dispersing and doing the work.  Thank you for a great quarter-Annette, Nel, Shannon and Warren!


I’ll Second That! (Using apps to bring attention to libraries)

I have to admit that most of what our project is about has already been discussed by Nel so I will not bore you by repeating what she said.  I completely agree with Nel but I want to also add my thoughts. 

Stack Tracks is about bringing attention to libraries and archives that offer either unique collections or, like the Seattle Public Library, a unique look.  I think our app can bring together the enjoyment people find in discovering something new, viewing wonderful architecture, and travel.  When people use Stack Tracks we want them to plan trips to the library like people plan trips to the ballpark.  A few years ago there was a commercial that featured two young men (maybe it was Visa commercial?) planning a summer road trip to visit all of the Major League ballparks.  Their trip not only highlighted the joy of the game but the beauty of the ballpark.  The concept of Stack Tracks is the same but instead of traveling to the meccas of baseball a user would be traveling to the meccas of information. 

Hanson mentioned in his article that creating an app is done for three reasons; profit, functionality and exposure (2011). The most important for our app is exposure and the least important is profit.  Exposure means bringing attention to libraries and archives in a fun and portable way, through mobile devices.  We want to make our app available not only to the user but to include interaction with the mobile websites already created by the libraries that users plan to visit.  The creation of our app is not about making money although money will be required to make the app so fundraising strategies will be important.  Our application is about creating fun and excitement in cool and unique libraries and archives.

My topic for the literature review was to focus on articles that discuss application creation.  Most of the literature I found discussed the creation of mobile websites and web applications by various libraries.  These articles included things like best practices, development options and possible functionality.  Mobile websites and web applications tend to be more popular amongst libraries because they are simple to write and require less resources (Haefele, 2011).  To locate my resources I searched through various library and reference journals such as Library Technology Reports, The Reference Librarian, and Reference Services Review. To gain a more technical perspective I review technology and computer science sources available from the 2010 Ninth International Conference on Mobile Business, IEEE Software, and Pervasive Computing. The articles below represent what I feel are three essential articles for our project.


Haefele, Chad. (2010). One block at a time: Building a mobile site step by step. The Reference Librarian, 52:1-2, 117-127. Retrieved from

This article highlights the best practices for libraries that want to develop a mobile website created during the development of the mobile website for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill libraries.  Although we are not conceptually designing a mobile website, the best practices for website development highlighted in the article transfer easily to best practices that can be used in application creation and design.  The article is not the most recent article when you consider the changes in the last two years for mobile devices and development but the information is still very pertinent and covers functionality and technology that is now offered by many libraries.


Hanson, C. W. (2011). Chapter 3: Mobile Solutions for Your Library. Library Technology Reports, 47(2), 24. Retrieved from

Hanson’s article is essential to our project because he discusses mobile functionality and technology available to libraries today and possible implementations for the future.  It is important to understand what mobile technology and functions libraries use.  This understanding will allow us to focus on what technology has worked for libraries, what can be improved, and to create an application that is functionally compatible with what libraries already offer through their mobile sites.

Gavalas, D. & Economou, D. (2011). Development Platforms for Mobile Applications: Status and Trends. Software, IEEE, 28:1, 77-86. Retrieved from

Since we are conceptually designing an application that might eventually be created, I believe it is necessary that we include a more technical source in our literature review.  This article is great because it discusses what development platforms are most popular and which tools and resources are available for those development platforms.  This is article is not too technical but technical enough to give our group a better understanding of the lexicon of mobile application development.  We do not have to be computer science experts but it is important that we know what is out there and how to discuss it.

The Bothell Public Library

            The design of a space can have a large influence on the way people interact in and on the functionality of the space.  For libraries this is especially true since the functionality of the building design can affect what services can be offered and how those services are used.  For example, a library that offers a meeting room space provides a place for various patron groups to meet and it offers a space for the library to provide special programming.  Without the meeting room space the library could not offer a place for group meetings or offer programs that cannot occur in the normal library space such as a film series.  Patron and librarian interaction can also be affected by the design of a space.  If a reference desk looks foreboding a patron may be less apt to approach the desk.  If the reference desk is not centrally located the patron may have difficulty finding the desk and may give up on continuing their information query.  For this assignment I will be evaluating the functionality of the Bothell Public Library’s design, including the building in general and interior layout.  I will also discuss how the design elements may affect patrons and the services provided by the library.


            Let me start with a little background information on the library.  The Bothell Public Library is a medium sized branch library within the King County Library District.  The Bothell Library holds about 254,000 items making it larger than the Sammamish branch but considerably smaller than the main Bellevue branch.  Upon entering the library patrons are immediately welcomed by the self check-out stands and circulation to the right, shelves of staff picks and books of interest to the left and the information desk occupied by two staff members in front.  The Bothell library utilizes an online catalog that was recently changed during a remodel to a new system by Evergreen, an open source catalog software developer.   All 254,000 items within the library including videos, cds, audio books and magazines are contained within the online catalog.

            The Bothell Library appears to be a very functional library.  On the day I went in to examine the library it happened to be a rare sunny Seattle afternoon, yet the library was bustling.  The computer area was full and people instantly approached the easily spotted and centrally located reference desk.  After reading Schlipf’s article on the potentially disastrous elements of library building design, it appears that Bothell did not go to the “dark side” since it avoided most of those elements.  Bothell is a one story building so there are no fancy staircases, no skylights, and only one main entrance.  Although it does not contain any skylights, the roof of library is slanted at an angle which allows for the north facing side to have a large window area that provides a ton of light.  This sort of design while similar in function to a skylight does not cause the same problems such as the noise of falling rain and unwanted glare.  The windows are not only large enough to provide large amounts of natural light they also give the library a more open feeling.  Patrons like their space and the slanted roof creates a sense of space and comfort.  The more comfortable a patron is in a space the more likely they are to return.Image

            The layout of the library makes it an easily navigated space.  As you walk into the library it is easy to see where all items and services are located.  Immediately in front you will find the reference area.  Directly behind the reference desk is the computer area.  The layout of this area is very functional as it places probably the two most utilized services, reference assistance and internet access, in direct view of patrons as they first walk in.  The children’s area is to the left as you enter and is designed in a way that makes it more of a separated space.  I like this design because it makes it easier to provide programs such as story time in an area designed for children.  Many thankful parents may also appreciate the corralling aspect of the area since it makes it somewhat difficult for “little Billy” to wander off.   Other items or services provided by the Bothell Library include community classes, a large meeting space, private study areas and access to online resources through its website.


            According to the Niegaard article, “A library has to be tailored to the people who use it,” and I believe the Bothell library has done a good job of tailoring itself for the community it serves.  At the Bothell Library suggestions for change are welcomed and patrons are provided outlets for providing feedback.   The Bothell branch was recently remodeled structurally and its online catalog revamped, evidence that the library is willing to offer its users a better and continually improving library.  Bothell Library also provides what Schlipf describes as the simple design rules of a library; good lighting, comfort, security and safety, and flexibility. 



Niegaard, H.(2011). Library Space and Digital Challenges. Library Trends 60(1), 174-189. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from Project MUSE database.


Schlipf, F.(2011). The Dark Side of Library Architecture: The Persistence of Dysfunctional Designs. Library Trends 60(1), 227-255. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved May 10, 2012, from Project MUSE database.

Assignment 3 — The Bothell Public Library

For assignment 3 I will be evaluating the Bothell Public Library, part of the King County Library System.  The Bothell Library is very close to where I live, so easy access was a major factor in my decision to evaluate the library.  I also really enjoy visiting this library.  The library is not very big (although it is classified as “large” by the King County Library System) so when you walk into the main doors you have a somewhat panoramic view of all areas of the library and it is very easy to observe the various interactions taking place. There is definitely a strong community feeling in the library.  People come in regularly for free classes that range from ESL to small business strategies.  The Bothell Library seems to be doing a good job of providing services to its patrons despite its size limitation and the fact that it is somewhat off the beaten path.

I’ve read through the Niegaard’s article “Library Space and Digital Challenges” and Schlipf’s article “The Dark Side of Library Architecture: The Persistence of Dysfunctional Designs” and will use them to evaluate the library as a place.  The aspects I am planning to examine include the design of the building which was recently remodeled and the services offered by library.

National, Regional, and Local – Annual Meetings and Conferences Come in All Sizes


  I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a member of the Music Library Association and that I attended a national conference a few years back.  Well this past weekend I attended the annual meeting of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Music Library Association at Reed College in Portland. The meeting included members and presenters from Oregon, Washington, and Canada that hold or have held positions in various music libraries and archives, both public and academic.  The meeting started Friday and ended Saturday afternoon.   For this post I just wanted to provide a summary of the wealth of knowledge shared at the meeting.

   The first presenter was Joe Hickerson.  Joe shared wonderful stories of his 55-plus-years working in music libraries and working with sound collections.  Joe served as the Director of the Archive of Folk Song at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Joe has not only worked to preserve American Folk Music, but is an avid performer and creator of folk music in his own right.

   The next presenter was Laurel Sercombe (see my interview below), archivist at UW Ethnomusicology Sound Archive. Laurel discussed the development of the Vi Hilbert website with the resources from the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives.  The website highlights a collection of audio and video recordings where Vi discussing such topics as her personal history, language work and the stories of her people. Vi’s work and her work with others has been very important in reviving and preserving the Lushootseed (Puget Salish) language and culture.

   The final presenter on the first day was Mark Buford, Assistant Professor of Music at Reed College.  Mark presented his research on a club in Times Square called Sweet Chariot.  Sweet Chariot was a club that featured the performance of pop gospel by African American performers.  Mark discovered information on the club while doing research on Mahalia Jackson for an upcoming book.  The club was eventually closed as the fad of pop gospel died out at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

   On the second day there was one presenter, Verletta Kern, the Music Research Services Librarian at the University of Washington.  Verletta discussed creating tutorials using software such as Camtasia and Adobe Captivate to give instruction on how to use the services and items the library provides.  Verletta also discussed the creation of tutorials that teach students how to create items such as program notes for upcoming performances.  UW Libraries also has a YouTube Channel were these videos can be found and the number of viewers can be monitored. 

  Going to an annual meeting or conference gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your peers, hear about what other people are talking about and researching within your library community, and to perhaps get a jump on the unannounced position you have been searching for.  It is a great way to network and to meet the people that will someday be your colleagues.  It can also be an inspiring event as you talk to librarians that have held their positions for 20 plus years or as you discuss the issues of a new position with a peer that was a student participant, like yourself, only a couple of years ago.  So find that next meeting and make an effort to attend!

Laurel Sercombe, archivist- University of Washington Ethnomusicology Sound Archive

     I chose to interview Laurel Sercombe, the current archivist at the University of Washington’s Ethnomusicology Sound Archive, for this assignment.  Laurel has been with the archive since the early 1980s.  I have an immense respect for Laurel and the work she has done in the Ethnomusicology Sound Archive.  She has led the sound archive through the vast changes in sound formats over the last 30 years and has maintained its commit to access and preservation.  Laurel is a one woman show (officially she is the single employee of the archive although student aids are hired when grants allow).  I believe Laurel’s experience and knowledge qualify her as a leader in the field.   The work that Laurel has continued to do day in and day out for three decades and her commitment to the archive are inspirational. The Ethnomusicology Sound Archive itself is a great resource but Laurel may be its greatest especially when it comes to learning what it takes to be an outstanding archival professional.                                             

1. Tell me a little about your background—education and interest in archives/libraries before becoming an archivist?

  I was a violinist but knew that I would never make a living as a violinist.  I entered library school at the University of Washington in the late 1970’s.  Before that I had worked as a library clerk/page for the Seattle Public Library for a year.  After graduation I worked for one year in the public library, yes, I think it was exactly 365 days.  It was sort of a library boot camp, very quick paced but I could have never stayed.  I did not realize that being a librarian meant that you had to also clean up vomit and wipe sticky stuff from library materials.  Don’t get me wrong there were some aspects of the job that I did enjoy, running the story hour and working in the young adult section. 

  I then took a position cataloguing in the music library and I was there for 3 years.  During that time the position at the Ethnomusicology archive opened.  Some members of the ethnomusicology faculty suggested that I apply and I was flattered so I did.   I later found out that they had been under the impression that I had an ethnomusicology degree.  The people that had run the archives previously were strictly ethno-minded and not very organized.  They also tended to be very technical and into the technical aspects of sound recording but did not know how to organize.  They really wanted someone to organize and turn the archive into a real sound archive. 

  So by 1982 I had a job in the sound archive –the perfect job for me.  I am still here 30 years later!!!  In 2000 I received my PhD in Ethnomusicology and I was lucky enough to be able to work in the area and research local Native American music.  I have been very lucky and loved being able to work with the archival materials as well as living human consultants such as my work with Vi Hilbert

I might retire in 4 years but I have so much to do here.  Students and colleagues continue to inspire me.

 2.       You have worked in the same archive for a number of years how do you stay current and what motivates you?

  I have many colleagues that keep me informed and I involved with the Society of Ethnomusicology and ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections).  There is also a lot of professional literature out there to follow what is happening.  The Sound Archive is isolated from UW’s major library system so it tends to be difficult to keep current with metadata issues and preservation formats.  It is difficult to change and keep up with the formats.  You have to work within your constraints and accept the challenge of reaching out.  It would be easy to ignore everything and play around with the collection.  We continue to add great music to the archive because of the guests (world music artists program) we have through the ethnomusicology program.

3.       There have been a lot of changes in the information field in the last 10 years.  How has that change impacted you and the ethno-archives? 

  I entered in the ethno-archives during the analog period.  During the first ten years we went for a preservation grant.  Back then you did preservation on analog so we copied tons of items to analog reel to reel tape.  A few years later all that work and the format was totally irrelevant.  We had to re-write the grant to digitize the collection.  It’s all about access and preservation.  The 1990s saw the establishment of audio digitization standards.  It was nice to finally know what everyone else was doing.  It really helped in pushing things forward.  The real horror in the last ten years has been video preservation.  We have rooms of VHS and other pre-digital formats.  Even with funds we do not know which format to use and no standards have been established.  We are on a holding pattern with video.

4.       Do you find that information professionals tend to have long careers in one institution like yourself or is it more typical to move around?

  It is desirable for people to have a couple of jobs for 5-6 years then find something compatible or that you want to long term.  A lot of people are retiring in a few years. Jobs are seen differently now.  My peers would not quit their current positions because at their age they would not find another job.  The sound archive is my third job.  The first year is fast, paced; “thrown into the trenches” atmosphere.  My second job cataloging in the music library was totally different.  This job (sound archive) is a little bit of everything (hidden treasure trove).  I’ve worn jeans to work for 30 years!

5.        Did you feel like your education prepared you for your current occupation?

  Nothing I did in library school had anything to do with archiving sound or paper materials. Library school courses are very interesting but most of the time you have no idea what you are going to do.  You basically learn everything on the job.  I knew the acronyms but could not catalog my way out of a paper bag until I had training. There is no way to avoid not knowing, just adapt quickly.  Either you learn or you don’t.

 6.       What is your opinion on library/archive education today since you regularly interact with LIS students?

  I feel ignorant around LIS students.  They should require me to take professional training (continuing education) to keep me up with technology.  A refresher course.  There still is no program or place to train sound archivist.  It’s on the job training only.

  LIS students know a lot of technical things coming out of library school but I will never think like an IT person.  Librarians should not have to be IT specialist.  There should be room for media people and non-IT people.  Media people are subject experts.  There is value to media people and if we are good at our jobs we should have access to IT people to help us with the IT part.

7.       What do you see as the most important qualities that an information professional must have? 

  People should have the ability to see the big picture and extreme detail at the same time.  Most people are good at one or the other.  A sense of humor is important as well as knowledge with a sense of perspective.  Scott Cline is the archivist for the city of Seattle and he always talks about achieving the best possible.  He mentioned one time that we cannot all achieve the best practices all the time.  Sometimes we have to live with what is good enough for now but then we must strive to get better.  Flexibility with working with what you have.   If a best practice does not work for your archive then it may not be the best practice for you.

8.       What advice would you give an aspiring archivist?

  Don’t give up on what you want to do. Find out what skills those people have that have the job you want.  Fill in the gaps as you can.  Be likable!!  People still tend to make selections on subjective grounds.  You can’t get to the initial interview unless you have the minimal tech skills.


My Favorite Digital Archive

     I decided to put up a random post this week and highlight one of my favorite digital archives.  It is somewhat related to the reading that covered the conference discussion by Seamus Ross.  While reading through his discussion about the preservation of digital objects and the need for information professionals to move forward in solving the problems faced by curators of digital objects, I thought of the digital archives of the New York Philharmonic.  The ever-growing digital collections of academic and public archives and libraries as well as organizational archives need problems of preservation to be solved.  It’s great to see an organization such as the New York Philharmonic preserving its own history and finding solutions to preservation will only add to the ability of other organizations to do their part in preserving their history.

     Anyway, here is an introduction to the digital archives of the NY Philharmonic.

     The digital archive is a recent addition to the New York Philharmonic’s main website (, a website that mainly serves a commercial purpose by providing concert, performance and ticket purchasing information.  Links to the digital archive can be found in each section of the website with the main link provided under the “About Us” section of the website.  The NY Philharmonic digital archive was created through a grant by the Leon Levy Foundation, a foundation that assists arts and humanities organizations with projects to preserve the historical and cultural heritage their organizations.   The New York Philharmonic is one of the oldest orchestras in the United States, celebrating its 169th season this year.  


  While there is a definite feel of scholarly pursuit and usage to the holdings in the NY Philharmonics digital archives there is no requirement for special permission or a login to access any of the online documents through the archives website.  The digital archives “open” access allows for anyone from the most serious research scholar to the everyday music lover to explore its holdings.  The website clearly explains what is available through the digital archives and even provides an explanation as to why only certain documents are currently available. The digital archives highlights and provides access to items from 1943-1970, what they have deemed the “International Era.”  The International Era was chosen because it was during this period that the world, along with the orchestra experienced the most rapid and significant change.  Technology greatly improved with the invention of the long playing record and television, one of America’s greatest composers and conductors, Leonard Bernstein, served as the music director and women finally joined the ranks as full members of the orchestra.   Another valuable component of this period of the orchestra’s history is that this period created the greatest amount and variety of items to preserve.  Along with the capturing of the paper history through a variety of documents, the history of the NY Philharmonic during this period was captured through photographs and sound and film recordings.  The NY Philharmonics digital archives is still a work in progress but the brilliant strategy of providing access to a smaller sample of items by highlighting one of the most rich historical periods of the orchestra creates a glimpse into the exciting possibilities for this digital resource.