Frick Library Archiving Presentation

By hwilli13

On October 21, I went to a workshop at the Frick Library called “Save Your Scholarship: Web Archiving and Tools for Preserving Research Resources”’ The audience was composed of art historians, artists and librarians. The presenters were both archivists. Their lecture was presented by the Digital Art History Lab, which is part of the Frick Art Reference Library. The Digital Art History Lab, created in 2014 has a mission to “provide researchers with the digital tools and data necessary to explore new methodologies.” And to promote the conservation of things digital. The Frick Museum is also in a consortium with the Brooklyn Museum Library, and the MOMA Library: the NYARC. This has a complimentary mission to “facilitate collaboration that results in enhanced resources to research communities.”

                The workshop I attended was part of outreach efforts by both the DAHL and the NYARC. The initial message presented, was that today we are in a time of crisis, not unlike the climate crisis (their metaphor). How to store and retrieve born-digital materials? The presenters talked about why it was important to save born-digital materials and talked about how link rot and content shift can undermine scholarship and how quickly links disappear. After having been told how little was actually being archived, we were shown pie charts of which organizations were archiving. Universities and colleges were doing the most, at 52%, archives handle another 15%, state government 13%, the federal government a mere and scary 5%. Museums handle 1%. We then were given information about what NYARC is archiving. All three museums are archiving their own collections, their websites, and related websites. They move outside their walls to archive the websites of auction houses, catalogues raissonnes, artists’ websites, NYC gallery websites, restitution scholarship and art resources.

                Because so little is being archived, the HAHL and NYAARC are providing  many trainings and resources to organizations and individuals to promote archiving at all levels. The presenters did this by giving us a set of links to websites for online archives. We discussed the Internet Archive, the International Internet Preservation Consortium.  We then had a series of exercises: looking up URLs to see if they still existed, and then archived some links.  We were also shown how to cite links that had been found in web archives. The presenters encouraged the audience to reach out to DAHL or NYARC if , in the future they have difficulties archiving their websites.

                Some thoughts about this workshop. The overarching feel at the workshop was one of anxiety, so much to preserve, so few resources, and we are in crisis. That anxiety is certainly mirrored in Cloonan’s article “W(h)ither Away”. “ The responsibility for the preservation of cultural heritage is more complex and pressing today than at any other time in history”. And repeated in Rosenzweig’s article “Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in the Digital Era” where he notes “even traditional historians should worry about what the digital era might mean for the historical record. US government records for example are being lost on a daily basis” Therefore great anxiety, hence NYARC and DAHL reaching out to the community and individuals to encourage everyone to preserve. At the end of the day, however the bulk of archiving and preserving will be done by institutions, as has always been done in the past.

                So we are anxious about the pressing need to preserve, which will mostly be done on an institutional level and or a commercial level (the Internet Archive has a commercial aspect) and at the same time there is a growing consciousness of how biased or non neutral these institutions are in their practices of preserving “ Archives, ever since the mnemons of ancient Greece, have been about power, about maintaining power, about the power of the present to control what is, and will be known about the past, about the power of remembering over forgetting.”

Bias is unavoidable, and not surprisingly in this “crisis” time institutions are focusing first on preserving what they value. Each institution making up NYARC starts by preserving its own materials. This is not to be faulted, but just noted. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that whoever is doing the archiving is self-conscious “objectivity” has been increasingly understood in terms of “situated knowledge” or “partial perspective” (Cook) In our rush to preserve at least we can hope the preservers know they are biased.

A Community Public Library

By hwilli13

Larchmont Public Library


The Larchmont Public Library (LPL) has recently finished a major renovation. This has involved $1 million and nine months of construction. The renovations are a response to changing needs and uses of library patrons as well as addressing some structural flow problems. The library reopened for use on September 16, 2016.

I have used this library for about 15 years and am very conscious of the before and after. My observation takes into account my awareness of LPL’s past, the changes it has made, and what those changes suggest about who the target user is.

The old LPL was two buildings put together. The main building was two floors with a basement. The main entry opened into a large room with two wings. Each wing had periodical shelves along the walls, sofas and soft chairs. There was one catalogue computer terminal in one of the wings on a pedestal table. A narrow hall which housed the circulation desk, led to a large back room with the reference desk, and long tables with straight chairs and about 10 computer terminals. On the second and basement floors were the main collection of books, and one or two small rooms for tutoring.  The attached building (the children’s collection) was two floors, and could be entered only through a staircase or elevator in the basement of the main building or through an outside door in the back of the attached building. The walls of the hall from the outside door into the children’s room were used for changing art shows of local artists.

The LPL did not invite in a consultant to do a needs assessment (based on conversation with Mark Hagarty, LPL Webmaster and cataloguer). They were pretty clear on what they wanted to change but they did consult with several architects and structural engineers to discuss what was physically possible and practical. I would note that the knowledge of the library staff for what were their users’ needs and the transformation of that vision into changes in the library environment, are a very clear example of the analog usefulness of people in this process. The changes made did not come from an algorithm, but from human interaction. They were a human evaluation of among other things, use of technology. I am reminded of Downey’s article that stresses the almost always necessary, though sometimes hidden input of human work, in navigating technology changes or uses.

Today the LPL is very different. When you walk in the front door, you still have a reading area to the left and right. The one to the left has soft chairs and small tables, all of which have outlets for laptops. The whole building has wifi. The room to the right is now a closed quiet room, with glass walls into the main lobby. It also has small tables with outlets. The circulation desk is still in the middle, but now includes the reference staff. The area behind the circulation desk, which used to be reference is a reading room with long tables, multiple computers, multiple outlets around the room and two glass walled room where groups can study together.

You can now get to the children’s room from the main lobby. Bathrooms were put in on the first floor.

On the second floor, more rooms with glass walls have been built for groups to meet for academic or social reasons. All of the “study” rooms have tables with chairs. On the surfaces of the tables are outlets for laptops.

LPL has a Face book page, a twitter feed and a website. It has programs for all ages all the time. Various events repeat i.e. there is a mahjong group that meets every Thurs at 11. There is an SAT prep group that meets on Thurs at 5. There is a children’s story hour every Tues at 9. There is a Sat afternoon movie, and a Sun afternoon “meet the author”. There are also monthly events on any and every topic; money management, parenting for special needs children, learning how to play bridge, and on and on.

The LPL seems to be doing a rather good job at being what Lewis calls a “third place” or “third space”, that is a place that is not home or work. Lewis writes about academic libraries, but there are parallels with this community library. The library “wants to provide a variety of spaces that match the variety of ways” community members” do their work- quietly and privately, in groups, with their own technology, and with technology supplied by the library.” ( Lewis, p.93) The LPL is doing this. The technology access is there, and the various spaces to study with others, or study or read by yourself  But a third space is more than just rooms and access to technology. Lewis draws on the works of Oldenburg to elaborate. The third place is the place that is not home or work, where you feel comfortable, an “informal public space”. It is a “neutral place”, where you” can freely come and go”, you can go there and” find acquaintances”, you can become a “regular”, it’s a place that isn’t fancy but comfortable. The third place roots “people in a space where they can feel belonging, ease and warmth” (Oldenburg, p. 26)

And yet, how welcoming is this “third space”. If you do not live in the Larchmont zip code, how welcome are you? You might have a library cards from another Westchester town, but not a LPL card and so you will not be able to use the internet (use is linked to library card number). Larchmont has no low income or medium income housing (and has been sued by the state for this). This is a library for its community and it excludes others. This is seen in many ways. LPL expects its users to come in with laptops or be computer facile and does not have resources if patrons are not (it expects “information literacy” and laptop ownership). Notice the reference desk, which used to help with computer searches, has now gotten much smaller. This plays into the dynamic that Pawley notices “policies to promote “literacy” have systematically worked to render some groups of people-indeed the majority-less capable of active information use and knowledge construction than an educated elite”(Pawley, p.425) This library seems to be upholding the isolation of the educated elite (which is its community). The person who uses this library is supposed to be tech knowledgeable, is expected to be interested in programs on “money management”, and is expected to appreciate  the “Staff monthly book picks”. The library in this instance is reinforcing the elite power dynamic, which is its community, to keep out those who are not of this community. There will be no “information diffusion” there is not even an attempt at this, by the elite, downward to “everyone else” (Pawley, p.434). The knowledge stays inside the library, which stays inside the community, and the other is not welcome.



  • Lewis, David. Reimagining the Academic Library. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016
  • Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars,  Hangouts and How They Get You Through The Day. New York: Paragon House, 1989


Can Our Stance Toward Facebook Be Critical Enough

By hwilli13


“Information, knowledge and culture are central to human freedom. How they are produced and exchanged in our society critically affects the way we see the state of the world.” (1). In our electronic world, a huge amount of our information comes from the Internet, and the production of that information is a complex thing, which requires, from the consumer a critical approach. Benkler is very optimistic about the way we use the public Internet space to inform our reading of this information.  This shared public space allows for many different voices to be heard, and Benkler claims that because so much information is available, there emerges ” a more critical and self-reflective culture (Benkler, pg 15) Whether this optimism is justified or not is another matter.

Recent issues with Facebook over trending topics and the its algorithms that monitor site content both support and challenge the idea of the user’s critical view of information from Facebook. How important is Facebook’s influence.  The NY times says Facebook has 1.71 billion members worldwide, and half of American adults get their news from Facebook.(2) This is a new narrowing of a news source. Certainly no single newspaper or single TV news show is relied upon by half the adult population for news. That many people relying on Facebook as their single source for information means everything that Facebook does matters.

Kincheloe talks about electronic media as providing us with a “secondhand culture, filtered and preformed in the marketplace and constantly communicated via cultural and mass media.(3) This is what Facebook is doing in a very concentrated way, feeding us our culture and information, “filtered” as it chooses. Giving us a filtered monoculture.

In May 2016, The Wall Street Journal wrote about bias in trending topics posted by Facebook. They claimed that conservative news is down played, and liberal news stories are chosen and emphasized. Facebook replied that these stories are chosen through algorithms, and so are neutral, and that guidelines are “in place to support consistency and neutrality. (4)

While Facebook claimed neutrality, nonetheless it responded to accusations of bias by changing its in house training program. In June 2016, Facebook included political bias in its standard training sessions, beyond racial, gender, etc bias.(5)

In September Facebook removed a 1972 Vietnam War photograph (that had a depiction of a naked child) from its site. However member response, (thousands of people reposted the picture) was such that Facebook reinstated the picture on its site. In both these instances Facebook responded to user concerns.

What we see here is a constant back and forth between members and Facebook, in a fight over the control of the content.  Members are not passive recipients of filtered information. They do question what they are seeing and reading. This supports Benkler’s idea that “individuals are less susceptible to manipulation by a legally defined class of others- the owners of communications infrastructure and media” (Benkler pg 9) and that there is not control that is gained once, but “hegemonic consent is always in flux.” (Kincheloe, pg. 93.)

However, these two examples, of member push back, what do they really mean? We have two examples of Facebook changing its content because of outside input. Are these two examples exceptions, instances where the members are critical and aware that they are being manipulated?  Is the norm the opposite? Is it true that most of the time Facebook’s readers are not critical?  The bias in trending topics was reported by a former employee (a whistle blower) not by a user. Only once that it was exposed did members push back. Would even the most critical of readers have noticed a bias? Or would the members be more likely to think that just because it was on Facebook it was authoritative?  To draw a parallel, “The information encapsulated in an article stands alone, authoritative by virtue only of its presence in the volume. Legitimacy is conferred by its place on the Library shelf, (6), or to paraphrase, news on Facebook is legitimized by being there. How many users will be able to take the critical stance described by Kincheloe: “critical hermeneutics traces the ways the cultural dynamics (of popular media) position audiences politically in ways that not only shape their political beliefs, but formulate their identities.” pg 103.? How able are we to “trace” the way Facebook “positions” us? Do we have the knowledge to do so. It does not seem that the open common space of the internet, as described by Benkler, is routinely able to give us a “more critical and self-reflective culture.” Perhaps we can only hope that whistle blowers (Snowden) will continue to come along, as we, users might not be able to maintain a critical stance that is educated and robust enough to unearth these manipulations.


(1), p.1




(3) Rethinking_Critical_Theory_and_Qualitative_Research






(6)” pg 435




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