The Librarian as Digital Scholarship Therapist

New York City and The Labs – day 4: NYPL Labs

Thursday morning in New York City pleased us with sunshine and bird singing and promises of another great day in lab-land – it was time to visit The New York Public Library Labs (NYPL Labs) and you could almost here Bill Withers sing “A lovely Day” as we walked down 8th Avenue towards the great library.

After saying hello to the library lions in front of NYPL we meet with Shana Kimball inside. Shana is manager of public programs and outreach at NYPL Labs and works to engage the public in new uses of the Library’s digital collections and data sources, and to host conversations and incubate experimental projects that explore the future of public knowledge.

New York Public Library

New ways of looking at data

At The Library we were pleased with one of the coolest meeting rooms I have seen in a while – solid old wooden furniture and books books books – it was like stepping into a 18th century scene. Luckily we were also pleased with meeting a very nice crew of talented and engaged people: Besides Shana, Lab Director Ben Vershbow were there along with Deputy Drector Josh Hadro, Head of Semantic Applications and Data Research Matthew Miller and Manager of Metadata Services Shawn Averkamp.

NYPL Labs is an interdisciplinary team working to reformat and reposition the Library’s knowledge for the Internet age. Labs combines core digital library operations (digitization, metadata, permissions/reproductions, etc.) with a publicly engaged tech, design, and outreach team focused on enabling new uses of collections and data, collaborating with users on the creation of digital resources, and applying new technologies to library problem-solving.

A key thing for Labs is to make new and more active use of “the collection” of the library to serve the public. This happens by connecting the collection with the public: “We try to look at data in a whole new way and connect it to people and projects instead of just looking it as something that should be stored” Ben says.

Ben states that Labs takes the “public” in public library very seriously and that the work they do shall be meaningful to the public. Examples on projects from Labs is The Community Oral History Project and What’s on the Menu? The Community Oral History Project is an initiative that aims to document, preserve, and celebrate the rich history of NYC’s many unique neighborhoods by collecting the stories of people who have experienced it firsthand. The project is currently focusing on Greenwich Village and Harlem and the project site presents audio from interviews with people form the community along with an early prototype of a crowd-powered audio logging tool. Check out the community story of Harlem – very cool public interaction and facilitation of city history. What’s on the Menu? is connecting the largest culinary archives in the world with the people of New York. To open up the collection online, the library enlisted the public’s help in transcribing the actual contents of the menus: e.g. dishes, prices and other information of that could be of great value to researchers that, due to handwritten lettering, typography and layouts, has been difficult to extract mechanically. The result is a database that provides a powerful tool for researching the tastes, appetites and social fabric of the past.

Labs engaged with the public to build a valuable tool for the research of taste and social fabric of the past.

Two awesome projects that – along with many others – connects collections and data to the public in order to create value, metadata and new content.

Collaboration with academic institutions 

From connecting content with the public the discussion moves on to collaboration with various academic institutions of New York – among other CUNY with we visited just the day before. You could call us “the faculty for everybody” Josh says and tells how Labs supports academia with learning students to work with technology and data and Shana tells how she often find herself in a position of a digital scholarship therapist towards the work with scholars of today which outlines the importance of bridging academia and digital tools. I find this connection between the public and academic institutions very valuable for both sides and hopefully it can open up to a merge of both skills and content of these two kinds of institutions. Something to look more into between The National Library of Denmark and The Copenhagen University Library.

We ended the day with a great tour in old library and a look at current research exhibition at the library: Public Eye: 175 Years of Sharing Photography which takes a look a the history of platforms and networks for sharing photos – from a black and white poster on a wall in Brooklyn to Instagram. Photography has always been social.

Thanks for a great day good people at NYPL Labs!

The Fellowship hooking up with Labs in a very cool meeting room

The difference between Norway and Denmark can be seen by there library delegations taste in gifts: Shana with the traditional Munch-book from the Norwegian delegation and chocolate covered licorice from The Fellowship.


Top 5 of bands you missed seeing live

Waiting for the Cold War Kids to take the stage at Terminal 5 Friday night, Library Lab Fellow, Michael, and I discussed bands or artists that you for some reason really wanted to experience live but never came around seeing (bands or artists that you actually had a living chance to see). Here is my Top 5:

Tom Waits – truly unique artists with a treasure chest overfilled with brilliant songs

Pantera – big metal heroes of my teens

Nirvana – was into metal, not grunge, when they were around but they grown rapidly on me over the years

Eels – sounds like a band falling down the stairs, great stuff

Nick Cave – Mr. Talent and Mr. Cool

I’m guessing that Waits, Pantera and Nirvana (for obvious reasons) will be live experiences that I have to live without.

Eels were at the program for this years Primavera Festival in Barcelona which I’m attending but was sadly taken of the program again. Though I’m pretty confident that both Eels and Cave will rock me live anytime soon.

Which gig’s did you miss?

Changing the game – empowering students and faculty with digital tools and skills

New York City and The Labs – day 3: GC Digital Initiatives

A clear and cold morning in New York City welcomed us along with Lab Director Matt Gold from The Graduate Center Digital Initiatives at The City University of New York (CUNY) located on 5th Avenue.

At the GC we were to visit two labs working with digital tools and methods in various ways: The Digital Scholarship Lab and New Media Lab.

The GC Digital Scholarship Lab and New Media Lab is a part of the CUNY Academic Commons (here in a 3D-printed version)

Digital Scholarship Lab – empowering faculty members with digital tools

The GC Digital Scholarship Lab is a research space at CUNY which works as a project-based work center on the use of technology in research and teaching. The focus of the lab is on creation of collaboratively produced, community-based open-source software platforms for scholarly communication. Here we meet with Andy McKinney (sociology) and Michelle Johnson (Linguistics) – both engaged as Digital Fellows at GC. The GC Digital Fellows Program operates as an in-house think-and-do tank for digital projects, connecting Fellows to digital initiatives within GC and supporting a variety of digital projects like designing websites for special initiatives, arrange workshops on explore new ways for Graduate Center faculty, students, and staff to share their academic work through new technological platforms and social media tools.

What a very cool and meaningful way to empower faculty and scholarship with digital tools and skills and create better projects.

Matt is telling us that The GC Digital Initiatives tries to interact a paradigm shift in scholarship at GC toward more awareness of digital methods and tools and The Digital Fellows is a very important cornerstone in this work. Trough dialog with faculty they break down technology silos and point people to digital methods that could make sense and impact within there field.

Physical The Digital Scholarship Lab itself is basically a typical american academic meeting room with grey carpet, grey chairs and tables and some computers and a projector. But the stuff the Digital Fellows and The Lab generates at GC is simply amazing. Examples of projects The Digitial Fellows engage with is The Social Paper – a networked online writing environment where students, at any point in the writing process can publicize their work for feedback from a select group of peers – and Islamic History Commons: a networked space for scholars to connect with one another and share their work within historical Middle-East. Besides that they do workshops like Django Hack Night (Django is an open source web framework based on Python), intros to GitHub and learning faculty to map with ArcGIS StoryMaps (see other activities on blog link below).

Andy and Melissa both states that the digital skills of faculty and students are on a rise. New digital tools and methods makes a much faster impact which is good for academia and scholarship but also demands that The Digital Fellows need to keep a much faster track of the development within digital scholarship.

Also check out the very interesting blog of The Digital Fellows: Tagging the Tower

The Digital Scholarship Lab in action

New Media Lab – empowering students with digital tools

In New Media Lab we hooked up with Managing Director Andrea Ades Vasquez and Project Advisor Joe Kirchhof.

The New Media Lab (NML) works with Graduate Center and CUNY faculty and doctoral students from different academic disciplines to conceive and create new multimedia projects based on student and faculty scholarly research. The goal for NML is to integrate digital media into traditional academic practice, challenging scholars to develop questions in their respective fields using the tools of new technology.

Andrea says that The GC is starting to understand the importance of merging digital media, scholarship, and learning – “it’s not only good for student grades but it’s also valuable skills and projects that helps the get jobs after they leave The GC”. The NML is a small and cozy room with workstations and computers along the side, a editing room and a laid back meeting environment in the middle. Joe points out that a meeting environment without any tech involved in a lab is important to create a platform were students and NML-employess can step back from the technical part of a case and ask very important questions like “what is the meaning of this project” and “were do you wan’t it to go”?

NML consult mapping tools, tect mining, data visualization, presentations like helping people make a blog for there projects. Students can just walk in at NML to use the facilities or to see if there is anybody available but Andrea and Joe recommends them to make an appointment and send info on what they are working on in advance – very similar to our approach on information specialist guidance at The Copenhagen University Library.

The current projects that is going on NML varies from “Visualizing the Victorian Sportswoman” (!) to “Mapping New York City’s Sailortown“. The project portfolio is a very cool way to both communicate the stuff students are working on, to inspire other students and to show that NML can be used for.

The Lab also function as a interdisciplinary platform were students are pointed to other students working in the same area so they can help each other out. I find this facilitating approach great and along with the NML people knowing whom works on what the project portfolio also supports this.

Besides Andrea, Joe and a few other NML staff members The NML got a pretty impressive amount of Graduate Student Researchers who do workshops, teaching and consulting in the lab. A great way to engage students and make let there skills and knowledge be a benefit for other students.


The empowering and interdisciplinary lab

What I really took with my from this visit is the whole idea and framework around empowering the students and faculty members with digital tools and methods. On faculty level this was done by The Digital Fellowship Program who seems to be a very powerful platform in this work. I do not believe that we – at The Copenhagen University Library – could facilitate such a program but it is an idea I will take home to faculty and university.

The interdisciplinary function of New Media Lab is another great thing I take with me home. Actually it’s kind of a obvious library task: The academic library has always been the shared center for all levels of faculty and students in can function as a great place for people to meet with shared interests, problems and projects. I’m pretty sure The Digital Social Science Lab back home will build up an online project portfolio for student projects carried out in the lab – a great way to inspire other students, connect them with each other and show what is going on in the lab.

Thanks GC Digital Initiatives!

Sowing the seeds of collaboration – The Library Lab as digital Incubator

New York City and The Labs – day 2: The NYC Media Lab, The MAGNET and Urban Future Lab

Written by Library Lab Fellow Michael Svendsen – project head of The Digital Social Science Lab (#DSSLucph) at Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library

As we found our ways to Downtown Brooklyn at day 2 of our NYC Lab Tour we were quite excited to pay a visit to Lab facilities outside the traditional Library Sector. This part of NYC houses the MetroTech Center which is the largest science and technology park of the United States. Our Danish Fellowship of Digital Labs group were so fortunate to get the chance to visit three labs and initiatives:

that today are hot spots of entrepreneural and innovative thinking all situated closely to each other in a very campus-like hub of creativity.

Our point of contact Amy Chen, seed project manager at NYC Media Lab welcomed our group and had very surprisingly hooked us with the a Danish conncetion, Tone Søndergaard, working at the Urban Future Lab for the Confederation of Danish Industry that runs a Cleantech Hub physical base here called House of Green.

Let’s make NYC the media Capital of the World – The NYC Media Lab

The NYC Media Lab was founded in 2010 as a collaboration between NYC Universities and digital media and tech industry and operates as a partnership initiative launched by the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The main goal of the lab is to drive innovation and talent development of students from New York Universities with seed money for short term digital projects to foster collaboration across a range of disciplines core to the future of digital media.


I think this is a very fruitful outreach model of organizing and incubating the bright digital talents of the future that also would be very useful to dig into and discuss at a both strategical and operational level in the Danish Academic Libraries. At the moment we strive to engage liaisons for outreach to Faculty and find new ways of collaborating as tasks move more and more to web services and participation in digital projects. Maybe it’s about time to involve partnerships at the other side of Academia as well!? At least the idea of facilitating and seeding digital research projects with competent staff and some minimal funding and at the same time educate students in fellowship programs and also match-making to potential jobs in the private and public sector seems very appealing.

MAGNET – the Media and Games Network

Our walking around in the cool study environment of MAGNET was really something different compared to yesterdays Day 1 visit at Columbia University. Here we found table games on the shelves instead of books and I think I counted close to one hundred projectors spread across the 7th floor of the building insisting on dynamic wall presentations and group work around the corridors. MAGNET works as a kind of learning commons and shared space for faculty staff and students across NYU with an interest in the intersection of culture and technology merging into nouvelle areas of digitalism.

At MAGNET the study of social science, game design, computer science and engineering becomes a beautiful melting pot of creativity and nouvelle experimental digital design.


The space design at MAGNET is wonderfully mobile, dynamic and is even co-designed by students of the participating schools which makes it ideal for learning and collaboration the way students actually work on their daily basis. That is the kind of ethnographic and collaborative approach that is ideal for the way we want to design the Library Lab and redesign the empty library space that is left behind by the decreasing acquisition of physical books and the storage hereof.

Urban Future Lab – Incubation, StartUP & Sustainablity

The last visit of the day literally took us up in the air to the top floor of 15 Metrotech in the Brooklyn Tech Triangle and gave a stunning perspective of why and how NYC works with urban sustainability and clean tech incubation in the LAB to become the leading state of green economy and innovation in the US.

Analyst and Outreach officer Tone Søndergaard employed by the Confederation of Danish Industry presented the Urban Future Lab as a happy marriage of the NY City’s premiere clean and resilient tech incubator and a physical hub offering the clean tech leaders of tomorrow a lab facility to thrive- The lab also hosts a Danish state-of-the-art exhibition on green infrastructure initiatives  with a particular focus on energy, sustainable urban infrastructure, water, transportation, recycling of waste and solutions for providing better air quality.

These subjects are of course a bit outside of our library business, but the way the Lab fosters and offers support for research and entrepreneurial ideas are certainly relevant to the Library Labs. Every square meter of the Urban Future Lab is utilized to it’s maximum with gear, offices, devices and tech products and there is a feeling of caotic, though wonderfully harmonic sense of hard work labor as we saw small, often only 2-men companys work side-by-side with their clean tech inventions.

Lab with a view: NYC skyline view from The Urban Future Lab

Maybe the Danish Library Labs should book their next events here and come and present their results next year get valuable feed-back from engaged startUP audiences and the decision-makers of tomorrow. Who knows maybe the crown prince will drop by again for the official opening as was the case last year here in the Urban Future Lab of Downtown Brooklyn Triangle of Tech.

Thanks for a great Lab-day in Brooklyn!

The Fellowship of Data Labs and Tone Søndergaard at Urban Future Lab 

The sound of New York City – top5 songs about the big apple

Just arrived in New York after a nice flight over the Atlantic. Air time was used on Seinfield shows and some boogie to this Spotify playlist I put together just before I left: New York City and Data Labs – The Soundtrack. A collection of 70 songs about New York. Flying somewhere over the south of Greenland I thought about which songs was the best songs on this great city and here is my top5 picks:

LCD Soundsystem: New York I love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Beastie Boys: Open Letter To New York City

Interpol: NYC

Bill Withers: Harlem

Ryan Adams: My Blue Manhattan

I’m pretty sure I feel differently about it tomorrow – so many awesome songs about an awesome city.


Air time over Greenland

New York City and The Labs

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page
Augustine of Hippo

Leaving for New York City tomorrow for a week of university libraries, data labs, innovation and supporting of research, education and studies through digital tools and technology.

I’ve been to New York two times before and I’m super excited about going there again. The program for the week is really great and we are gonna hook up with some awesome people and then NYC is simply one of the most great cities of the world.

Our program look like this:

Monday the 16th:

Columbia University Library. Hooking up with the great data librarian Ashley Jester and visiting Digital Social Science Center, Digital Humanities Center and Digital Science Center.

Tuesday the 18th:

NYC Media Lab – driving innovation and ultimately job growth in media and technology by facilitating collaboration between the City’s universities and its companies. Doing loads of cool seeds projects. Great with a non-library point of view.

Wednesday the 19th:

GC Digital Initiatives – loads of great labs and research spaces

Thursday the 20th:

New York Library Labs – the NYPL Labs combines core digital library operations (digitization, metadata, permissions/reproductions, etc.) with a publicly engaged tech, design, and outreach team focused on enabling new uses of collections and data, collaborating with users on the creation of digital resources. Among other we will be meeting with Shana Kimball.

Friday the 21th:

New York University Data Services – some great core data services. I visited them back in 2013 and they know that they are doing.

In between this there will also be time for jogging in central park, coffee at Starbucks, drinks n’ jazz bars and a gig with Cold War Kids.

The Library Lab will be blogging all week, co-written by fellow-traveler and data aficionado, Michael Svendsen. You can also tag along by following the hasgtag #DSSLucph on Twitter.

Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island and Queens – see you soon!