Scholarly ePublishing Travel Blog

Sunday, June 21, 2015 – Bath, England

Today, I went to Bath with one of my roommates and his wife. We took a train from London to Bath and saw the Roman Baths. Even though I went to Bath several years ago, it was fun to visit again with friends. The pictures below were taken with next to one of the Roman statues on the terrace level of the Bath. The second picture is of me with the Roman Baths in the background.

Monday, June 22, 2015, Day 1: Orientation

Today was the first day of my Scholarly ePublishing class in London for the next two weeks. I am staying with two other classmates in a flat 20 minutes from Kings College London (KCL) Strand Campus. This morning we met our guest professor and were given an orientation of what the next two weeks will hold. We were given a tour of the KCL campus, received our ID badges, and met the other students from Pratt University. The guest professor calls the two other students and me I am rooming within “the Hornsey Three” because of the location of our Flat. We had a short afternoon orientation session that also consisted of learning about some of the graduate students and faculty’s current research projects at KCL. After the conclusion of the afternoon presentations, I was extremely jetlagged and in need of a nap, so I went back to the flat. Later that night my two roommates and I found a pub called Metro that was just around the corner from our flat and had two for one pizza on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday so we decided to try it out. After dinner, we played Bluedo, the British version of Clue, and several rounds of Sleeping Queens.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015, Day 2: KCL

The day started at KCL Strand with a discussion on open access and lecture on the future of digital publishing for scholarly journals. One interesting idea that caught my interest was the idea that publishing is investing in an organization. In other words, everything publishers do is business-minded thus has followed business, models. Open access, however, is not a business model, and publishers continue to be involved with it. During a presentation discussing the future of digital publishing for scholarly journals the future for scholarly journals is a bright one and remains unchanged from the publishing viewpoint in that there is still money to be made. Technology, however, will change the digital publishing world by providing it with new tools for the traditional functions; in other words, for co-authored publications technology tools such as wikis and Dropbox allow for easier collaboration. In the evening, we attended a networking event, where I got the opportunity to speak with a well-respected music archivist and fellow flute player. We discussed methodology, music history, theory, and more; it was an absolute delight.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015, Day 3: The British Library & UCL

Today we got to tour the British Library! The architecture of the British Library was designed intentionally designed with a nautical theme in mind to look like a cruise ship, as seen in the pictures below. Our first stop on the tour was the receiving room. As the name implies, books are received from the stacks below ground. The British Library uses a system call an Automated Book Retrieval System (ABRS) to retrieve the books from the archives, pictured below. Unlike most collections that are ordered by subject or use the Dewey decimal system, the books at the British Library are shelved by the size of the book to conserve up to 40% more shelf space. Each book is, however, given a “shelf bar” that indicates where the book was located (i.e. building, floor, quadrant, shelf, etc.). The British Library can get away with using this kind of filing system since they are an archive and do not have a high turnover of books. Each day the British Library receives around 4,000 requests per day.

After the tour, we had the opportunity to learn about the UK’s digitization and archiving projects from Digital Curators and Research and Development. I think part of the success of the British Library is that they work collaboratively with people with different specialties. In other words, we met with the digital curator who is on a team with a web archivist, researcher, and marketer. During the lunch hour, I had the opportunity to speak to the Head of Technical Services within the Audio and Visual Department at the British Library. He discussed with me the work the British Library is doing in regards to audio and visual materials and explained one of their biggest issues is with obsolesce. The British Library is currently working to convert audio material because of a recent grant that was approved. It was reported to me that video materials are still high on the agenda, however, to meet the requirements for the subsidy the current focus must remain on audio materials. We also discussed the need for migration of materials, CD-R, and MiniDV due to the rapid amount of information that is disappearing from them. When sound recordings are digitized at the British Library, they are saved as WAV files. When visual materials are digitized they are saved in several different formats, usually 10-bit uncompressed, files, which can be viewed in QuickTime.

After lunch, we attended two more lectures at the British Library about the Web Archiving and the preservation and digitization of the Magna Carta. While the British Library curators were digitizing the Magna Carta, I found it interesting the technology they employed to understand fully every aspect of the paper or any repairs that might previously have been made. The technology used included a Multispectral Imaging Machine, which captured images of the Magna Carta using different color lights that include: ultraviolet, raking ultraviolet, infrared, red, blue, and green. Using a multispectral of lights allows things that are not visible to human eye. After the lectures, we went to tour the Magna Carta exhibit in the British Library. I was stunned at how large the display was and was not even able to make it through the entire thing before running out of time and having to leave for the next set of lectures. The next round of talks took place at the University College London (UCL). The three lectures included topics related to digital publishing and marketing. Topics covered included: how to market your collection online and ways of advertising such as Google pay-per-clicks. All of the lectures had one common strategy, which was to try numerous strategies and use the one that becomes most popular with users.[⌃TOP]

Thursday, June 25, 2015, Day 4: KCL, Bloomsbury Publishing, & The British Museum

The day started at King’s College London, Strand Campus with a review of what we had covered and learned the past couple of days during the lectures and tour of the British Library. The second part of the morning we heard a guest lecturer from Ingram Content Group. She discussed content distribution as it relates to book publishing. The lecturer did a fantastic job of describing the print-on-demand industry and how Ingram is using that a print-on-demand business model.
In the afternoon, we attended Bloomsbury Publishing (see pictures below), the publishers of Harry Potter! My favorite presentation from Bloomsbury introduced a database called Drama Online. Drama Online is a database that provides access to 1,300 play titles and 350 audio titles. Some of the key features included: an e-reader, visual aids for study and rehearsals, part books, and a play finders search function. We finished the day early and decided to go to the British Museum located nearby. I got to view artifacts that dated back to the time of Alexander the Great (350 B.C.). The library also had an exhibit on the Evolution of Coffins, which showed the process of mummification, the inside of tombs, and more as seen in the image below.

***UPDATE*** When I learned about DramaOnline I immediately thought of a fellow co-worker and friend who is currently a theater major at the University of Tennessee. I showed him this great database and received the enthusiastic reaction I expected. He liked it so much he showed all of his theater friends and teachers. The theater department at the University of Tennessee will have a trial of DramaOnline by the Fall 2016 semester!

Friday, June 26, 2015, Day 5: Strand Symposium at KCL

The 2015 Strand Symposium was hosted today at King College London, Strand Campus. The day had a total of eleven speakers speaking on public engagement. The two presentations that I connected with were on the Google Cultural Institute and the Digital Culture and Public Engagement in Museums. The Google Cultural Institute (GCI) both raises awareness for cultural heritage while digitally preserving it. To raise awareness, the Google Cultural Institute is teaming up with archives and museums around the world to digitize their materials and make them more accessible online. They also have a project that sends street teams around the world to video and digitally preserve world heritage sites (e.g. The White House, Taj Mahal, etc.). The Digital Culture and Public Engagement in Museums Lecture discussed the impact digitization has had on museums and the necessary digital tools and technology used in the process. By digitizing collections and making them accessible to a new generation of people, it uncovers hidden collections and helps identify the once unidentifiable.

Saturday, June 27, 2015, Day 6: Cardiff, Wales

Today I went to Cardiff in Wales and toured the Cardiff Castle and House. The best part of the house tour was the library. I then went to the castle. The castle was straight out of a storybook from the stone architecture to the moat that surrounded the castle.

Sunday, June 28, 2015, Day 7: Touring London

Today I went to see some of London’s iconic sights: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Banqueting House, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Globe Theatre, Tower of London, and the Tate Modern Art Museum. The Banqueting House was breathtaking. The ceiling of the Banqueting House is the only surviving painting by Peter Paul Rubens that is still located in its original place.

Monday, June 29, 2015, Day 8: KCL and The Victoria & Albert Museum and National Art Library

The morning started out with two insightful lectures on data repositories and data curation. Both lectures incorporated the need for more to be done on the researchers’ end to help preserve and archive data and documents for future use. The afternoon was spent touring the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum and National Art Library pictured below. We met with one of the librarians and the director of information services. The National Art Library houses 11,000 titles, collects books that either has artistic content or have artistically designed covers and is a member of the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries. I was surprised at what a magnificent collection of old and rare books they had, not to mention all but three of the original Charles Dickens manuscripts! The physical structure of the library was spectacular. The downside of having such a unique structure was its lack of air conditioning, humidity control, and controlled storage rooms or vaults for fragile manuscripts. This left precious documents out in the open exposed to fluctuating temperatures, humidity, and more. The library had no current plans to digitize their collection, nor make changes to preserve or protect one of a kind documents in their possession like the Charles Dickens manuscripts. Since patrons printing from the books caused harmful wear and tear to the book spines, the National Art Library purchased one of the first book scanners that were located in a library. The library had several high-quality book scanners directly past the entrance to the library. The director of information services discussed challenges the National Art Library was currently facing, and he planned to address those issues. He confessed to us that the library’s operation budget was practically nonexistent. However, expectations of library patrons were continually increasing and operations, such as digitization, are extremely labor intensive, require staff training and time, and additional space. When I asked the director about his sense of urgency for digitizing the library’s one-of-a-kind materials, like the Dickens manuscripts, especially given the uncontrolled environment of the library, his response was that the books would be better outside in the garden than inside the library, however with their extremely small budget, there were no plans for change in the near future. I was shocked, to say the least, at this response. When a fellow classmate asked the librarian about the library’s policies and procedures, she commented that people do not know the library is there. As we quietly finished the library tour and left the library to visit the museum, I had feelings of shock and disbelief, as if did that just happen and did I hear those speakers correctly? As I made my way through the museum, I ran into Dr. Tenopir, and another classmate were discussing this exact issue! It was like our class had just witnessed or been made aware of a horrific crime (in the library world), and now we were all accomplices of the crime. The only way to clear our names was to try to put an end to it, or at least make sense of the injustice.

***UPDATE*** Several days later we visited ProQuest and learned how the people that work at ProQuest go about finding new projects. After the presentations, I introduced myself and asked if they had ever looked into digitizing any of the manuscripts or at the very least the Charles Dickens manuscripts that were housed at the V&A Museum Library. The executive told me he had not but that projects such the V&A Library were right up their alley. Several weeks later after returning to the United States, I received a message from the same executive I met at ProQuest on LinkedIn further inquiring about who we met with at the V&A and their contact information. Though I know it’s only the first steps, I do feel it is moving in the right direction to digitally preserving a piece of literary history.[⌃TOP]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015, Day 9: Oxford, England

Today we went to Oxford and visited the Bodleian Library on the Oxford University Campus. The library was the first in Oxford, opening in 1488. The architecture of the library looked like something out of a storybook. In the earlier days of the library books were chained to the shelves and numbered. Then a complete list of all the books were compiled into an index organized by self and attached to each bookcase. The Oxford library teamed up with Google to digitize its collection.

We also toured New College chapel and grounds. Unlike the US universities, British students apply to colleges within the university. The college is not necessarily major specific, but it does determine your living arrangements. Students must be accepted to both the College and the University. In other words, a student must be admitted to both New College and Oxford University. In the late 1700s, the chapel choir members some of the most widely known composers and musicians still to this day. Those members included: Handel, Purcell, Byrd, and more. New College is also where clips of the Harry Potter films were shot.

After lunch, we went to the Oxford University Press to learn about their open access policies and procedures, the Oxford Scholarship Online Program and learn about how the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled. Before we left the Oxford University Press, we toured their museum with their archivist. It was incredible to see how far print has come over the years and how successful the Oxford University Press is.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015, Day 10: KCL & Elsevier

Today was the hottest day in London in the past ten years! The temperature got up to 95 degrees, and most of the buildings do not have air conditioning or fans. The morning started with presentations at KCL Strand. A speaker from a smaller publishing house located in London that offer Print-on-Demand services (POD) services, publishing of journals and books, eBooks, and has a lot of open access journal materials published. In the afternoon, we went to Elsevier Publishing. We were greeted by the CEO of Elsevier and had presentations from their Senior Vice-President for Strategy, Customer Consultant, Library Publisher, and Senior Product Manager from Mendeley. The product manager unveiled an up and coming product for open access data repositories, which in my opinion will take data and data repositories to the next level, called MendeleyData.

Thursday, July 2, 2015, Day 11: Cambridge, England

The day started as I waited for the train to Cambridge. I caught the train at the Kings Cross Train Station, which is where the “Platform 9 ¾” is located from Harry Potter. The Harry Potter fanatics could even get their pictures taken next to the 9 ¾ Platform sign wearing a scarf that they provide. When we arrived in Cambridge, we were escorted by a Proquest shuttle to their headquarters in Cambridge where we learned about their global partners, customer experience strategies, and how a product gets developed from start to finish. I had the chance to meet and discuss with the senior product manager about a museum that we had seen that did not a digitized collection or any plans to digitized its collection. After lunch, we toured Pembroke College and the Pembroke College Library at Cambridge University. The Pembroke College Library is an excellent example of a library that has done a lot with a little. The Pembroke University library’s use of space, organization, and resources is incredible.

Friday, July 3, 2015, Day 12: KCL, The Club, British Library, The Spaghetti House

Today was the final day of class in London at KCL. Our fantastic host answered several remaining questions and covered topics that were not covered in depth on throughout the week (e.g. social media, retractions, web security, policies, etc.). After class, four of us had the opportunity to go with Anthony to “The Club”. The Club was a social club that he was a member of, however, the significance of us going was because of the architecture of the building in which it was housed. The Grantham House is most famous for its appearances on the PBS television show Downton Abbey. Earl Gray, creator and founder of Earl Gray tea was a member of The Grantham House in his time. The house was built in 1849. The library and history preserved in the house are exquisite. After the brief tour of The Club, I went to the British Library to get my reader card (primarily as a souvenir). I also wanted to finish seeing the British Library’s Magna Carta exhibit, since I ran out of time earlier in the week and didn’t make it through when our class went through. The class came to a close after we all had one final meal together at The Spaghetti House.[⌃TOP]