Minnesota Books and Authors

I’ve been at MPR about two months now (where has the time gone) and I’m growing ever more comfortable with it, and with my role here. I’m excited to see how it changes me.

You may recall from my last post that I spent my first week or so highlighting stories about Minnesota’s Native Writers as a way to honor the passing of author Jim Northrup. That project is related to an ongoing project here at MPR, made possible by a generous grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The goal of the Minnesota Books and Authors project is to digitize as many stories as possible that reflect the rich literary culture in Minnesota, from farmer poets to children’s authors to environmental writing. It’s an exciting two year grant project with two positions funded, digitizing related stories in our collection. Pushing some of the digitized content to the archive portal served as an interesting case study as I continue to survey metadata practices.

A few of my favorite stories include an interview with Justine Kerfoot, a reading of a Diane Glancy excerpt, and a look at authors in the southwest corner of the state.

Next week, the AAPB NDSR cohort will be reunited in Washington DC for the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) annual conference, so much of my time the past few days has been preparing for our panel! Wish us luck!

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Attend AAPB NDSR Immersion Week

AAPB NDSR Immersion Week took place July 25-28 — we’re not suggesting you travel in time, but now you can virtually attend seven lectures through WGBH Forum Network. Catch Jake Nadal on ‘Thinking Like a Computer,’ Stephanie Sapienza on project management, Snowden Becker on professional development, and more!

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NDSA, data wrangling, and KBOO treasures

My first month at KBOO was about learning about the environment: the people, institutional knowledge, working styles and interaction, informational resources, and technology support. KBOO’s specific environment is being taken into consideration so that a digital preservation project may thrive. KBOO’s current digital storage and archiving practices were evaluated in accordance to the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation. The NDSA’s mission is in part to advance the capacity to preserve our nation’s digital resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The five general categories of the NDSA Levels (Storage and Geographic Location, File Fixity and Data Integrity, Information Security, Metadata and File Formats) were identified as broad conceptual areas of focus for thinking through technical and immediate threats to digital preservation. My evaluation allows KBOO to understand how they are doing in terms of mitigating risk of loss, and identifies concrete next steps they can take to progress their operations to the next level.

Below: From the 2013 Digital Preservation and Cloud Services report

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The NDSA Levels are a great guide for evaluating digital storage options. KBOO’s digital holdings are small compared to larger television broadcast studios that typically rely on LTO or optical disk archive technology for backup of multiple, large audiovisual digital files. Cloud storage is part of KBOO’s artillery of digital preservation tools. Both AVPreserve’s Cloud Storage Vendor Profiles and the third-­party report Digital Preservation and Cloud Services (Public) assess a vendor’s tool in meeting a digital archive’s requirements. While cloud storage provides some necessary features for digital preservation, it is not a digital preservation system in and of itself. Whatever functions an individual service is not meeting should be covered in institutional workflows and a combination of tools.

I’ve also been reviewing some database tools to determine which ones will meet KBOO’s needs. This past week I realized that we had a lot of database requirements (we want it all!!). Although a collection management system is the goal, I’m going back to the data to aid the prioritization of institutional needs. The descriptive metadata of KBOO’s audio materials is stored in a flat Excel spreadsheet. That descriptive metadata will to become more consistent before being imported, managed, or retrieved from any system. Currently, I am uncovering institutional memory shorthand (i.e. “AR” can mean any number of things but we mean the radio series Alternative Radio), and building structure for the audio items’ metadata. Very few items in the analog archives have clearly documented episode names or program names. However, this expected relationship is integral to keeping related parts together. A database tool will also be used to manage the parts of a whole, associating master copies with its actualities, edited copies, other dubs, and preservation digital files. An archive of 7,500 items can be browsed with facets if helpful categorizations and groupings are implemented, not to mention the delicious detail of knowing that a particular 10.5″ open reel was recorded at 7.5 ips, mono. AAPB’s pbcore spreadsheet template and the knowledge from Kara Van Malssen’s metadata webinar have been helpful in allowing me to work with flat data while documenting future structure.

Some treasures I’ve encountered so far…

  • Coverage of the 1987 Conference in the Spirit of Ben Linder, organized by the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee.
  • Ken Kesey reading from several books at Powell’s Books on several occasions in the 1990s.
  • An address by Captain Jacques Cousteau, prepared for the Cousteau Society’s Seattle Involvement Day, October 29, 1977
  • Five of the six e. e. cummings nonlectures (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
  • The year after 9-11 special programming


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AAPB NDSR Webinars

Every two weeks through the end of November, we’re hosting a webinar event for the AAPB NDSR community on an area that’s relevant to the current projects. (After November, the residents get to start hosting webinars themselves!)

Our first webinar, held August 12th, featured Kara van Malssen, Partner & Senior Consultant at AVPreserve, discussing “Metadata: Storage, Modeling and Quality.” Kara’s presentation can be viewed here, as well as her handouts on data modeling and data quality.

In our second webinar, held August 25th, WGBH Digital Archive Manager/Production Archival Compliance Manager Leah Weisse discussed archival engagement with public media production workflows. The full 80-minute webinar can be viewed here, and Leah’s slides are available here.

We’re also linking to all of our webinar content through the NDSR GitHub Account; track the aapbndsr_webinars repository to get updates whenever we post new content!

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Metadata Practices at Minnesota Public Radio

Training in Boston was an exciting, fun, heady experience, but I felt a little overwhelmed by the end. How would I approach a new job coming off such a high, from a week of training?

The answer, of course, is just fine, thanks. I have the distinction of being the only resident who didn’t have to move for this project (thus the weekend after training was spent sleeping, not driving across any number of states). I grew up listening to Minnesota Public Radio, usually the classical station in my mom’s car. As an adult, I rely on MPR news, and I listen to the Current. When I’m out of state, I sometimes say I have a Wobegon accent. And when I read that they were one of the hosts for the AAPB NDSR program, I was excited; when I learned it was metadata based, I was stoked. I couldn’t have asked for a better project for the next phase of my career.

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Welcome to MPR!

Minnesota Public Radio is a huge part of the culture in this state. It began in Collegeville, Minnesota as a classical music station in 1967, gradually adding in news as it grew. Now based in downtown St. Paul, MPR has grown into a well respected news organization, reaching over 900,000 with its three regional radio stations, MPR news, Classical MPR, and The Current.

My project is a little different than most of the other projects in this cohort. So far, I’ve been digging around in the metadata of the internal database Eddy, trying to work out how things are organized, with the goal of documentation, and with the hope of figuring out a way to normalize it going forward.

My first week I was given a project as a means of exploring, and MPR being a news organization, it was a timely one. On August 1st, 2016 (and my first day at MPR), Ojibwe author Jim Northrup passed away. Northrup was a veteran of the Vietnam War and wrote very powerfully about his experiences, and he spoke candidly about his life and his goals of using the Ojibwe language and preserving his culture, his PTSD, and of course, his writing.

I spent a good part of each day my first week digging through broadcasts featuring him, and other Native writers in Minnesota. Some of these names are familiar to me, some of these books I have read, most I haven’t. I’m always interested in what voices are heard, what stories are told. It’s nice to hear from these storytellers in their own words. I hope this is a literary tradition that will grow and become more visible.

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The Gary Comer Audio Archive

Week two began with a deeper dive into the metadata, as well as continuing to manually transfer metadata from Eddy to the Archive portal. Yes, that’s a slow process, but it’s also been a useful training exercise, evaluating what can and cannot go on the portal, and cleaning up and normalizing the collection. Many different stakeholders feed into the Eddy database, and as a result, the metadata sometimes doesn’t all match up. Individual shows and producers have all described their productions differently, and as we talk about moving away from the current portal, we have a lot to consider about how we organize the records we share. There’s a very real human element that is constantly driving the conversation, as it’s not just the archive team creating the metadata.

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Archival Storage – the cold never bothered me anyway.

In addition to transferring things to the portal, I was also tasked with creating new records in Eddy. Margaret Bresnahan, archivist and my primary mentor, led me down to the cold storage (I love cold storage) and introduced me to the masters and copies of the first two Star Wars audio plays. For those of you who don’t know, Star Wars (A New Hope), Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were all dramatized into radio plays. MPR had a huge hand in the production of the first two, Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back (and if I may say so, those are the best two of the audio plays, sorry RotJ). Cataloging them meant doing a fair bit of research, and it was such a pleasure to spend a little time revisiting the plays. MPR does not own the rights, so they won’t be digitized, at least, not right now. But just knowing the masters are in the archive fills me with such delight. It also raised a few more metadata questions that we now have to get to the bottom of, mostly concerning how titles work in Eddy, and how something might look clean for a user, but on the backend, it’s difficult to explain to a database that the three or four title fields (“Star Wars”, “Empire Strikes Back”, “Empire Strikes Back Episode 1”, Freedom’s Winter”) are all relevant.

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It’s a good thing I listened to these last summer. I tried not to scare anyone, but be warned, there’s a new movie in December.

Right now we’re exploring making certain fields and some audio (depending on rights) available directly to the web without transferring the information to the Archive Portal. It’s been a lot of conceptual planning, throwing ideas around, trying to bring in the folks who are actually responsible for building the website.

Meanwhile, I serve on the board of my childhood library, and we’ve been planning an extensive remodel of the building. It’s been interesting to compare the process of building our ideas for Eddy to the process of working with an architect on a physical building. Weirdly, this goes hand in hand with NPR’s proposal to the AAPB, talking about metadata and digital collections in terms of physical construction. Like Eddy, with its different metadata authors, the building was constructed in 1922 and was remodeled in the 1970s. Access and design are the same issues we’re talking about with Eddy. It’s all a bit nebulous in my head right now, but I’m excited to see where this goes!

If you would like to follow my day to day ramblings, my twitter account is @libkatem. See you soon!

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Digital Stewardship at KBOO Community Radio

Two weeks have passed since the start of the 2016 American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) NDSR fellowship program, and I am so glad that I applied and received a spot as one of the seven fortunate residents!

Kate McManus, Tressa Graves, Adam Lott, Eddy Colloton, Andrew Weaver, Selena Chau, Lorena Ramirez-Lopez. Stay updated via Twitter: @amarchivepub

Immersion week provided a chance for residents and host site mentors to meet in person for the first time, with WGBH as our host all week for day-long sessions. Immersion week offered workshops, training sessions, and tours of workplaces responsible for digital preservation of audiovisual archival materials (and more). Sessions were led by Jacob Nadal of ReCAP, UCLA Moving Image Archive Studies’s Snowden Becker (also my NDSR Advisory Board mentor), the WGBH’s Karen CarianiCasey Davis, and Rebecca Fraimow, Carnegie Hall Digital Asset Manager Kathryn Gronsbell, AAPB Metadata Specialist Sadie Roosa, Library of Congress Digital Conversion Specialist Rachel Curtis, Stephanie Sapienza of the Maryland Institute for Technology, and Joey Heinen at Northeastern University. A tour to the MIT Libraries allowed us to meet the current SAA Vice President/President Elect Nancy McGovern and Kari Smith for a session on digital preservation workflow.

We had some fun too, exploring the Boston area.

On my first day at KBOO Community Radio in Portland, Oregon, I toured the studio, met staff and volunteers, and attended a few meetings. One of the prominent points at a programming meeting covered the important FCC regulation on obscenity, indecency, and profanity. Because of the hefty fines associated with violating the strict regulation (even accidentally), KBOO suspends shows from the air and continuously tries measures to prevent hosts from letting any profanity slip. Amusingly, this was my first meeting using and talking about many, many expletives. At the end of the day, I joined the development director and program director for a meeting with representatives from Radio Survivor and Freeform Portland, one of the local low-power FM stations. The mission and goals of local, community radio stations overlap so it was nice to be introduced to collaborative Portland radio work.

At KBOO, I will aid in the design and development of a process for the digitization, preservation, and cataloging of 7,500 historic KBOO programs dating from the late 1960s. KBOO Community Radio went on the air in June of 1968 and according to current metadata Excel sheets, archival holdings include 5, 7 and 10″ reels from the late 1940s.

KBOO has 13 staff members, a few regular contractors, and couple hundred volunteers. There is such lively energy to get this radio station to run 24 hours a day without automation. KBOO offers audio production, podcasting, and digital editing training to volunteers who create its programming. Some volunteers I’ve met in my first week have been working at KBOO for over 10 years. Some staff also started as volunteers, and Board of Directors similarly are committed to the work it takes to keep KBOO on the air. I felt the collaborative, welcoming, respectful environment in meetings and interactions with people at the station.

Types of audio at KBOO include 5, 7, 10″ 0pen reel, CDs, cassettes, DATs, minidiscs, LP, and born digital audio files. Physical audio archival materials are stored in a designated archives room. Cassettes, DATs, and minidiscs have been digitized in-house, while open reels have been sent out to BAVC for digitization in the past. Corresponding digital files may be in dispersed locations on the networked shared drive. For current broadcast audio, the website acts as repository for radio programs. A script auto-archives the audio files so that listeners can find past programs with an online search. KBOO would like to have an online, integrated search of current radio programs and digitized archival audio materials. Providing a system to document the condition and digitization history of original assets would allow greater preservation management of archival audio.

An review of KBOO’s technology infrastructure is key to determine how their volunteer-driven organization can sustain new tools and technology. Additional meetings are set for the upcoming weeks to learn more. KBOO’s specific needs will be kept in mind with discussions of the pros and cons of open source solutions. How will archival work be integrated into KBOO’s existing volunteer-run model? What will be outsourced, what will be administered in-house, and how will digital preservation be funded long-term? The week of training in Boston provided me with knowledge that I will utilize for this project, including project management, designing workflow, standards in digital preservation and audiovisual archiving, computing and processing, and metadata management.

The station manager and program director were both receptive to the idea of me providing archival and digital preservation literacy workshops. This will allow me to share why audiovisual archiving is important and go further in-depth into what it takes to achieve digital preservation of KBOO’s culturally valuable collection.

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Kicking off the AAPB NDSR

The 2016-2017 AAPB NDSR residencies have now officially kicked off, starting with our AAPB NDSR Immersion Week. From July 25-29, hosts, residents and mentors gathered at WGBH to learn, discuss, and review information about digital preservation and archiving audiovisual materials.

Immersion Week presentations covered a wide array of topics, including the history of public media and the AAPB, an overview of physical and digital audiovisual materials, an introduction to audiovisual metadata, and instructional seminars on digital preservation workflows, project management, and professional development.  Each of our host mentors also delivered a presentation on the history of their station and their goals for the course of the residency.

On the more technical end of digital preservation, attendees participated a full-day session on “Thinking Like a Computer” and a hands-on command line workshop.

Immersion Week also included visits to MIT’s Digital Sustainability Lab and Northeastern University’s video digitization center, as well as a thorough tour of the WGBH archives, production facilities, and the Media Access Group.

All slides from Immersion Week can be found through the NDSR GitHub account, and several full filmed presentations will be available soon through WGBH Forum Network.

Around the edges of the planned instructional programming, residents still had the energy to check out some of Boston’s famous sites, like the JFK Presidential Library, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Fanueil Hall.

The hosts and residents have now dispersed to begin their public media preservation projects. Watch this space for updates from the residents as they document their work throughout the residency, and follow along on the #ndsr hashtag on Twitter!

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