Tag Archives: webinar

Library as Laboratory Recap: Analyzing Biodiversity Literature at Scale

At a recent webinar hosted by the Internet Archive, leaders from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) shared how its massive open access digital collection documenting life on the planet is an invaluable resource of use to scientists and ordinary citizens.

“The BHL is a global consortium of the  leading natural history museums, botanical gardens, and research institutions — big and small— from all over the world. Working together and in partnership with the Internet Archive, these libraries have digitized more than 60 million pages of scientific literature available to the public”, said Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries and moderator of the event.

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Established in 2006 with a commitment to inspiring discovery through free access to biodiversity knowledge, BHL has 19 members and 22 affiliates, plus 100 worldwide partners contributing data. The BHL has content dating back nearly 600 years alongside current literature that, when liberated from the print page, holds immense promise for advancing science and solving today’s pressing problems of climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Martin Kalfatovic, BHL program director and associate director of the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, noted in his presentation that Charles Darwin and colleagues famously said “the cultivation of natural science cannot be efficiently carried on without reference to an extensive library.”

“Today, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is creating this global, accessible open library of literature that will  help scientists, taxonomists, environmentalists—a host of people working with our planet—to actually have ready access to these collections,” Kalfatovic said. BHL’s mission is to improve research methodology by working with its partner libraries and the broader biodiversity and bioinformatics community. Each month, BHL draws about 142,000 visitors and 12 million users overall.

“The outlook for the planet is challenging. By unlocking this historic data [in the Biodiversity Heritage Library], we can find out where we’ve been over time to find out more about where we need to be in the future.”

Martin Kalfatovic, program director, Biodiversity Heritage Library

Most of the BHL’s materials are from collections in the global north, primarily in large, well-funded institutions. Digitizing these collections helps level the playing field, providing researchers in all parts of the world equal access to vital content.

The vast collection includes species descriptions, distribution records, climate records, history of scientific discovery, information on extinct species, and records of scientific distributions of where species live. To date, BHL has made over 176,000 titles and 281,000 volumes available. Through a partnership with the Global Names Architecture project, more than 243 million instances of taxonomic (Latin) names have been found in BHL content.

Kalfatovic underscored the value of BHL content in understanding the environment in the wake of recent troubling news from the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) published by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the impact of the earth’s warming. 

Biodiversity Heritage Library by the numbers.

“The outlook for the planet is challenging,” he said. “By unlocking this historic data, we can find out where we’ve been over time to find out more about where we need to be in the future.”

JJ Dearborn, BHL data manager, discussed how digitization transforms physical books into digital objects that can be shared with “anyone, at any time, anywhere.” She describes the Wikimedia ecosystem as “fertile ground for open access experimentation,” crediting the organization with giving BHL the ability to reach new audiences and transform its data into 5-star linked open data. “Dark data” that is locked up in legacy formats, JP2s, and OCR text are sources of valuable checklist, species occurrence, and event sampling data that the larger biodiversity community can use to improve humanity’s collective ability to monitor biodiversity loss and the destructive impacts of climate change, at scale.  

The majority of the world’s data today is siloed, unstructured, and unused, Dearborn explained. This “dark data” “represents an untapped resource that could really transform human understanding if it could be truly utilized,” she said. “It might represent a gestalt leap for humanity.” 

The event was the fifth in a series of six sessions highlighting how researchers in the humanities use the Internet Archive. The final session of the Library as Laboratory series will be a series of lightning talks on May 11 at 11am PT / 2pm ET—register now!

Library as Laboratory Recap: Curating the African Folktales in the Internet Archive’s Collection

Laura Gibbs and Helen Nde share a passion for African folktales. They are both active researchers and bloggers on the subject who rely on the Internet Archive’s extensive collection in their work.

In the third of a series of webinars highlighting how researchers in the humanities use the Internet Archive, Gibbs and Nde spoke on March 30 about how they use the online library and contribute to its resources.

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Gibbs was teaching at the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 2020 when the campus library shut down due to the pandemic. “That’s when I learned about controlled digital lending at the Internet Archive and that changed everything for me. I hadn’t realized how extensive the materials were,” said Gibbs, who was trained as a folklorist. She retired last May and began a project of cross-referencing her bookshelves of African and African-American folktales to see how many were available at the Internet Archive. Being able to check out one digital title at a time through controlled digital lending (CDL) opened up new possibilities for her research. 

“It was just mind boggling to me and so exciting,” she said of discovering the online library. “I want to be a provocation to get other people to go read, do their own writing and thinking from books that we can all access. That’s what the Internet Archive has miraculously done.”

A Reader’s Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive by Laura Gibbs. Now available.

Gibbs said it has been very helpful to use the search function using the title of a book, name of an illustrator or some other kind of detail. With an account, the user can see the search results and borrow the digital book through CDL. “It’s all super easy to do. And if you’re like me and weren’t aware of the amazing resources available through controlled digital lending, now is the time to create your account at the Internet Archive,” Gibbs said. 

Every day, Gibbs blogs about a different book and rewrites a 100-word “tiny-tale” synopsis. In less than a year, she compiled A Reader’s Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive, a curated bibliography of hundreds of folktale books that she has shared with the public through the Internet Archive. Some are in the public domain, but many are later works and only available for lending one copy at a time through CDL. 

In her work, Nde explores mythological folklore from the African continent and is dedicated to preserving the storyteller traditions of African peoples, which is largely oral culture. Nde maintains the Mythological Africans website where she hosts storytelling sessions, modern lectures, and posts essays.

“[The Internet Archive] is an amazing resource of information online, which is readily available, and really goes to dispel the notion that there is no uniformity of folklore from the African continent,” Nde said. “Through Mythological Africans, I am able to share these stories and make these cultures come alive as much as possible.”

As an immigrant in the United States from Cameroon, Nde began to research the topic of African folklore because she was curious about exploring her background and identity. She said she found a community and a creative outlet for examining storytelling, poetry, dance and folktales. Nde said examining Gibb’s works gave her an opportunity to reconnect with some of the favorite books from her childhood. She’s also discovered reference books through the Internet Archive collection that have been helpful. Nde is active on social media (Twitter.com/mythicafricans) and has a YouTube channel on African mythology. She recently collaborated on a project with PBS highlighting the folklore behind an evil entity called the Adze, which can take the form of a firefly. 

The presenters said when citing material from the Internet Archive, not only can they link to a source, a blog or an academic article, they can link to the specific page number in that source. This gives credit to the author and also access to that story for anybody who wants to read it for themselves.

The next webinar in the series, Television as Data: Opening TV News for Deep Analysis and New Forms of Interactive Search, on April 13 will feature Roger MacDonald, Founder of the TV News Archive and Kalev Leetaru, Data Scientist at GDELT. Register now.

Join us April 5 for WHOLE EARTH: A Conversation with John Markoff

Join us on Tuesday, April 5 at 11am PT / 2pm ET for a book talk with John Markoff in conversation with journalist Steven Levy (Facebook: The Inside Story), on the occasion of Markoff’s new biography, WHOLE EARTH: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand.

Watch the session recording now:

For decades Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter John Markoff has chronicled how technology has shaped our society. In his latest book, WHOLE EARTH: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand (on-sale now), Markoff delivers the definitive biography of one of the most influential visionaries to inspire the technological, environmental, and cultural revolutions of the last six decades.

Purchase your copy today

Today Stewart Brand is largely known as the creator of The Whole Earth Catalog, a compendium of tools, books, and other intriguing ephemera that became a counterculture bible for a generation of young Americans during the 1960s. He was labeled a “techno-utopian” and a “hippie prince”, but Markoff’s WHOLE EARTH shows that Brand’s life’s work is far more. In 1966, Brand asked a simple question—why we had not yet seen a photograph of the whole earth? The whole earth image became an optimistic symbol for environmentalists and replaced the 1950s’ mushroom cloud with the ideal of a unified planetary consciousness. But after the catalog, Brand went on to greatly influence the ‘70s environmental movement and the computing world of the ‘80s. Steve Jobs adopted Brand’s famous mantra, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” as his code to live by, and to this day Brand epitomizes what Markoff calls “that California state of mind.”

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Brand has always had an “eerie knack for showing up first at the onset of some social movement or technological inflection point,” Markoff writes, “and then moving on just when everyone else catches up.” Brand’s uncanny ahead-of-the-curveness is what makes John Markoff his ideal biographer. Markoff has covered Silicon Valley since 1977, and his reporting has always been at the cutting edge of tech revolutions—he wrote the first account of the World Wide Web in 1993 and broke the story of Google’s self-driving car in 2010. Stewart Brand gave Markoff carte blanche access in interviews for the book, so Markoff gets a clearer story than has ever been set down before, ranging across Brand’s time with the Merry Pranksters and his generation-defining Whole Earth Catalog, to his fostering of the marriage of environmental consciousness with hacker capitalism and the rise of a new planetary culture.

Above all, John Markoff’s WHOLE EARTH reminds us how today, amid the growing backlash against Big Tech, Stewart Brand’s original technological optimism might offer a roadmap for Silicon Valley to find its way back to its early, most promising vision.

Purchase your copy of WHOLE EARTH: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand via the Booksmith, our local bookstore.

EVENT DETAILS
WHOLE EARTH: A conversation with John Markoff
April 5 @ 11am PT / 2pm ET
Watch the event recording

In an Ever-Expanding Library, Using Decentralized Storage to Keep Your Materials Safe

Memory institutions know the headaches of storing their ever-expanding physical collections: fire, flood, access & space over the long-term. But storing digital assets presents even more diverse challenges: attacks by hackers, deep fakes, censorship, and the unforeseeable cost of storing bits for centuries. Could a new approach—decentralized storage—offer some solutions? That was the focus of an Internet Archive webinar on February 24. 

The online event was second in a series of six workshops entitled, “Imagining a Better Online World: Exploring the Decentralized Web,” co-sponsored by DWeb and Library Futures, and presented by the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).

In the utopian version of decentralized storage, there would be collaborative, authenticated, co-hosted collections. Wendy Hanamura, Director of Partnerships at the Internet Archive, said this would make information less prone to censorship and less vulnerable to a security breach. “Taken together, resiliency, persistence, self-certification and interoperability — that is the promise of decentralized storage,” she said.

Librarians and archivists are a key part of creating a solution that is networked, said Jonathan Dotan, Founder of the Starling Lab, the first major research lab devoted to Web 3.0 technologies. 

“As a community, if we can all come together to guarantee the integrity of information, we’re in a unique position to create a new foundation of digital trust,” Dotan said. “When we think about decentralization, it’s not a single destination. It’s an unfolding process in which we continually strive to bring more and more diverse nodes into our system. And the more diverse those notes are, the more that they’re going to be able to store and verify information.”

Other speakers at the webinar included Arkadiy Kukarkin, Decentralized Web Lead Engineer for the Internet Archive, and Dominick Marino, Senior Solutions Architect and Ecosystem lead at STORJ.

The series kicked off on January 27 with an introductory session establishing some common vocabulary for this new approach to digital infrastructure.

Download the Session 2 Resource Guide 

Register for the next session:
Keeping Your Personal Data Personal: How Decentralized Identity Drives Data Privacy
March 31 @ 1pm PT / 4pm ET
Register here