coding

if ( you want to see our SAA poster ) { you = “can in this blog post”; }

Poster Presentation SAA 2016 - Vertical

Click here for a high(er)-quality PDF.

Some NDSR-NY alum (Dinah Handel, Morgan McKeehan and myself) presented a poster at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Conference in Atlanta.  The poster was meant to present three “real-life” scenarios where archivists with a range of experience in programming/scripting (from beginning to moderate) implemented their new coding skills into their NDSR projects.  We wanted to demonstrate that yes, you can be a beginner coder and implement some pretty cool/impactful things, but it does require some time and effort, especially if you’re starting from scratch.

Here are three of my most memorable questions/discussions I discussed with some of our poster’s visitors:

  • If I have never programmed before, how do I even begin to learn?
  • Even if I’ve learned some programming, how do I begin to apply what I have learned practically to a project/workflow at my institution/organization?
  • It seems like most job positions in archives would benefit from a little bit of programming know-how, yet my MLS/archives program did not offer programming courses.

Here are some entry points that I found useful learning programming fundamentals:

  • Foundations of Programming with Simon Allardice (Lynda.com course) – This is a great course that starts off assuming you have no understand of what programming is (which is where I was at the beginning of NDSR), building your knowledge from the ground up. At the end, you will have written a JavaScript application, illustrating how programming can be practically applied to something we are all familiar with (a webpage).  Lynda is not free; however, some major library systems like the NYPL offer free subscriptions to their patrons.  Lynda has tons of other programming courses available, so it’s probably worth checking out if your local library system grants free access to it.
  • Code Academy – A free suite of online courses teaching beginning to intermediate programming.  There are courses in things like the basics of the command line to how to run SQL queries.  The interface is easy for new users, since the commands/scripts you run do not require that you set up a server on your end: instead, you can run your code off their server and they will correct your syntax as you go.

If you have found any useful resources beginning your path towards learning programming, let me know!

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ARSC 50th Anniversary Conference in Bloomington

Hello readers,

This year, I was one of four recipients of an Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) conference travel grant, supplied by the Morton J. and Lila Savada family, which enabled me to spend a week in Bloomington, IN for a week of hands-on training and panels.  ARSC is an association whose membership consists mainly of private collectors and professionals in the field of librarianship, archiving and sound engineering.  I was happy to be there representing both NDSR and NYPR, and ended up meeting a lot of great people doing some amazing work and research.  This blog post will mainly feature photos and comments about the 2-day pre-conference workshops.

Bloomington is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in my life!  It is an idyllic college town with rolling hills, lots of trees, and a super convenient bike path I used to zip to and from the conference and my Airbnb house.  The first day there I spent walking around the Indiana University’s (IU) lush campus filled with meandering paths, streams, bunny rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and jurassic-sized tulip poplars, like this one I found here:

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The following day, I attended the first day of the pre-conference workshops at IU’s Innovation Center, home of the Media Digitization & Preservation Initiative (MDPI) and Memnon-Sony, who are working as partners to digitize the entire IU a/v legacy.  From what I gathered, the MDPI takes care of more selective projects, while Memnon-Sony takes care of more large-scale digitization projects, outputting nearly 9TB worth of material every single day, which is staggering.

First, we got a tour of both the MDPI and Memnon-Sony arms of the building, whose reps showed us how items are processed from the moment they are received in the truck docking bay, to their initial barcode assignment/scan into the system, and through various quality control stations.  Below is a photograph of their extensive a/v transfer decks and monitors.

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After our tours, we split off into various workshops.  My goal was to attend as many hands-on workshops as possible.  First, I attended a workshop to learn about MDPI’s a/v digitization workflow, where I offered myself up as a guinea pig to plug/patch in a video signal from an NTSC tape and take the steps that a transfer expert would all the way to when a series of ffmpeg commands associate metadata from IU’s library catalog with the final digitized file and access copy.

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A/V transfers are assessed using a digital color scope, like the one you see here.

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The video I digitized! And no, this is not anti-aliasing gone wrong: it’s 1990s motion graphics!

Next, I attended a cable soldering workshop! I kid you not.  I was super excited about this one, because I have absolutely no experience using soldering equipment, or have any real background in electronics.  First, we learned the basics of the composition of a cable wire (basically, cables have a negative wire, a positive wire and a grounding wire surrounded by a layer of mesh and then a plastic outer sleeve) and then used wire strippers to take a practice cable apart.  We then learned how to “tin” the tip of our solder: basically, this means adding a little bit of solder to get the heat flowing.  Then, we learned how to de-solder contact points (here I learned that you apply solder to remove solder!) and finished off by applying brand new solder and attaching each of the three wires to contact points.  It was an incredible experience to have in under 2 hours, and I am no longer afraid of 400 degree Fahrenheit tips!

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After lunch, I attended a workshop where I learned how to use a reference tone reel in order to properly adjust the azimuth on a Studer reel-to-reel playback machine.  The azimuth basically refers to the angle of the playback/recording head.  If the azimuth was “off” during a particular recording (which is so often the case), the transfer specialist has to adjust the azimuth of the playback machine to reflect its original angle in order to get as much as the signal read back during a digital transfer.

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As you can see here, if the azimuth is off, over time, the tape can actually erode the recording head’s surface!

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The machine whose azimuth I adjusted with a teeny tiny screwdriver.

So, a couple more highlights.  Later on in the week, the Women in Recorded Sound group (@WomenRecSound) got together at a bar.  I was super excited for this, as it allowed me to come face-to-face with women working as engineers, archivists, librarians, or just have a general interest in working with and sharing ideas with women in the largely male-dominated field of sound collecting/archiving.  I can’t wait to see what they do next. If you are a woman in recorded sound, get involved! They have a very active Twitter account and Facebook page.  I hope to contribute to Women in Recorded Sound by bringing their goals and mission locally to New York City, and hope to provide an update about that very soon.

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My second highlight was getting a personal tour of the Hoagy Carmichael Archive housed in IU’s Archives for Traditional Music (ATM), arranged by Susie Cummings (@cususie), former NPR intern and fellow ARSC travel grant recipient, who brought along Andrew Weaver (@Private_Zero) who coincidentally happens to be a recently chosen NDSR fellow at CUNY-Television!  The archive is centered around a beautifully decorated period-room with all sorts of interesting ephemera.  Hoagy is famous for writing standards like “Stardust” and “Heart and Soul”.  I especially enjoyed photographing this beautiful, hand-embroidered chair made by Hoagy’s mother:

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That is all for my highlights.  A Storify of the conference in Tweets can be found here, in case you missed our social media surge during the conference.  My time in Bloomington was a very fulfilling trip, and the perfect way to spend the last few weeks as NDSR (sniffle).  Next: an update of where I am off to next, and some other projects I have become involved with these past few months (namely, becoming a member of the XFR Collective).  Thanks for reading!

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Conferences, Back-to-Back and All Up The East Coast

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A beautiful witch hazel tree I found blooming at the Church of Saint Lucas’ public garden on Hudson Street during a walk.

Happy Spring, everyone!

These past few weeks have been such a blur.  I spent 1 week each in Washington DC and Philadelphia for two very major, inspiring conferences here on the East Coast within a span of 3 weeks.  Going to conferences is a requirement of the residency, and have been in some ways one of my greatest professional challenges to date.

Conferences are a very new experience for me.  During my time as a MLS student, I was also working full-time at JSTOR and interning nights/weekends.  Needless to say, I did not have much of an opportunity (opportunity = time + money) to travel and network.  However, I have found that talking to strangers about NDSR is pretty easy because I’m excited about what I am doing: in some ways my project has become the ultimate ice breaker.  I even made some new friends from faraway places! Although, I do have to schedule in some downtime to practice self-care and get much-needed rest. Conferences require an almost superhuman amount of strength for introverts like me to get through, so I try to be mindful of making sure I get some quiet time each day I’m away from home.

In February, I attended the Radio Preservation Task Force conference, which took place in both Washington DC at the Library of Congress and at the University of Maryland at their College Park Campus. The conference was one of the first of its kind to bring together broadcast and media historians with a focus on preservation and archiving an otherwise overlooked aspect of our recorded history.

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View from the steps of my Airbnb: The Supreme Court building, right around the corner from the Library of Congress, where the first day of the RPTF conference took place.

To kick things off, I arrived in DC a day earlier and took advantage of tours the RPTF set up for early comers. We had a choice to visit the Library of Congress Packard Campus (where the LOC does the bulk of their audio/visual restoration work) or National Public Radio (NPR).  Because of my work specifically at a radio station archive, I opted to take the NPR tour, which was a fantastic and enlightening experience.  Their operations are housed in a state-of-the-art environmentally sound/energy efficient building, which includes a green roof planted with local grasses and a beehive.

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NPR’s green roof, which sports local flora and their broadcast satellite dishes.

We made our way to their news floor (unfortunately, pictures were not allowed in this area) where we got to see NPR staff in action.  We then made our way to their Master Control room and a live recording studio.

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At the end, we got to check out their server room, which is, as you can see below, huge, cavernous and organized.  I must say it was very, very satisfying to see the cables laid out flat and grouped by color.

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The first official day of the conference started off with a keynote speech by Paddy Scannell, which will apparently air on C-SPAN (!!!) on March 19 here.

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Beautifully designed RPTF conference pamphlet.

After the keynote were a variety of panels: one in particular that I enjoyed was the “Public Radio’s Local Heritage” panel, with speakers representing NPR, WGBH and Linfield College in Oregon.

Afterwards, my mentor at NYPR, John, asked if I wanted to step out and pay a visit Smithosonian’s African American Film Archive.  In other words, we played hooky from the conference! But for a pretty good reason: I got to see this beautiful machine:

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And these reels of The Body Guard:

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Day 2 of the conference, we made our way to College Park on a chartered bus, which started with a plenary session that included the one and only Andy Lanset, Head of the NYPR archives (and my other mentor).  Later, I spoke on the Metadata and Digital Archiving Committee, giving the audience (and respondents) an update on my NDSR project.

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View from the Metadata Committee trenches.

Some interesting topics were brought up, ranging from linked data (and how it will save us), the limitations of cataloging categories and PBCore and the need to web archive podcasts. In other words, we could have used more than the allotted 90 minutes to cover all the topics: it felt like a miniature conference in one afternoon.

This is a very quick wrap-up of the RPTF conference.  It was a wonderful coming-together of mainly media and broadcast scholars, archivists, librarians and conservators.  I came back to New York and my project feeling refreshed.

In case you missed the live Tweets, check on the RPTF Storify here.

Next time I write, I will say more on the code4lib conference I attended exactly a week later in Philadelphia.

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