Stew of the Month: September 2014

Welcome to a new issue of Stew of the Month, a monthly blog from Digital Systems and Stewardship (DSS) at the University of Maryland Libraries. This blog provides news and updates from the DSS Division. We welcome comments, feedback and ideas for improving our products and services.

New Technologies

Born-Digital Workflows

Graduate Assistant Alice Prael (Digital Programs and Initiatives) began work with fellow graduate assistant Amy Wickner (Special Collections and University Archives) to formalize and finalize born-digital workflows and processes using the forensic workstation (FRED) in Hornbake Library and a suite of tools that include Bit Curator.

Coding Workshop

Josh Westgard and Bria Parker (Metadata Librarian, Technical Services) began planning to relaunch the UMD Libraries’ Coding Workshop. The first meeting will be in October.

ESRI Geoportal Sandbox

Paul Hammer worked with Jennie Knies and Mary Kate Cannistra (Public Services) to install and configure a sandbox version of a tool called “ESRI Geoportal.” Esri Geoportal Server is a free, open source product that enables discovery and use of geospatial resources including datasets, rasters, and Web services. It helps organizations manage and publish metadata for their geospatial resources to let users discover and connect to those resources. The Geoportal Server supports standards-based clearinghouse and metadata discovery applications. The trial will run through January 2015.

Journal Survey Tool

DSS Staff (Jennie Knies, Mark Hemhauser, Paul Hammer, Uche Enwesi) worked with staff in Collections Services and Strategies to put the finishing touches on the Journal Survey Tool, a web-based application that will be used this fall to solicit input from faculty, staff, and graduate students about priorities for serials.  The main work on this project was completed this past spring, with extensive assistance from Josh Westgard.

One Button Studio Presentation Cart

Public Services and DivIT created a presentation room on the 2nd Floor of Mckeldin in the Terrapin Learning Commons (TLC) area a few years ago. The room was intended to be used so students could record presentations to analyze before presenting in class. At the time, the room contained a wide-screen TV, Blu-Ray player, Dell computer, and a hi-def mounted camera in the back of the room. However, the room’s setup wasn’t as user-friendly as hoped. Also, curious students that were using the room for group study would always seem to break something that involved calling a vendor to fix.

USS reexamined the situation and envisioned other ideas that could be used to accomplish the intended goal. A technician in USS discovered the “One Button Studio.” The software provided a very simple user interface to record video to a USB flash drive. After more investigation and testing, USS acquired a Mac minicomputer, display monitor, digital camera, shot gun microphone, small audio mixer, HDMI adapter, and a rolling cart to begin building the One Button Studio environment. The mac mini, audio mixer, HDMI adapter and cables are all hidden inside the rolling cart’s cabinet. The system is on a rolling cart so that it is mobile and can be used in multiple locations. Using the One Button Studio cart is very simple. Once the power for the cart is plugged in, the hidden mac mini automatically turns on and load the One Button Studio software. The student only needs to power on the digital camera. Once the software loads, the student can plug a USB flash drive into the USB connector. Once an image appears on the screen, the student presses the One Button device that will start the recording process. When the student is finished recording, they press the One Button device again. The application then converts the video to a file and saves it on the flash drive for the student to watch later.

The cart is currently behind the TLC desk so it is loaned out like any other device from the desk. This way we can have accountability when things get missing or break. The process from acquiring the One Button technology to finally providing a finish product to TLC took the effort of multiple staff in USS. This was truly a collaborative effort.

Tanner Wray from Montgomery College visited Mckeldin Library with some other colleagues in order to see the One Touch Button cart. Tanner was truly amazed. Many schools have rooms dedicated for recording. But, this was the first time he seen someone design a portable system for recording.



Picture of the cart full length



This just show the cart with the Camera, Monitor Mic, USB reader and button to start the recording.









Publications from the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) are currently being deposited in DRUM (  ALEI ( is a new collaboration between the University of Maryland College Park College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences committed to providing Maryland farmers with the information they need to prosper while complying with the complex network of laws and policies protecting the integrity of the state’s food system and environment.

Presentations from the spring 2014 MARAC (Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference), held in Rochester NY this past April, have recently been deposited in DRUM (  “Film, Freedom, and Feminism” was the theme for the spring meeting.

Prange Children’s Book Collection, cleanup and wrapup

Paul Hammer, working with Jennie Knies and Prange Collection staff continued the process of quality control on the Prange Digital Children’s Book Collection.  At the time of writing, all 8,059 books have been successfully imported into Digital Collections.

Research Data

Karl Nilsen and Robin Dasler made substantial progress on deploying a local copy the Extragalactic Distance Database (EDD). Steps included configuring the Apache HTTP server, securing the MySQL database and user accounts, loading data into the database, initializing a Git repository for the application code and creating a development branch.
Karl Nilsen and colleagues in Research Data Services drafted a collection policy for data, software code, and other research products that were generated, produced, or collected by UMD researchers and their collaborators at other institutions. The policy will help guide the Libraries’ data curation and digital scholarship activities.

Digitization Activities

Robin Pike worked with Joanne Archer (SCUA), Yelena Luckert (Research Services), Vin Novara (SCPA), Bria Parker (MSD), and Linda Sarigol (LMS) to coordinate a schedule to ship materials to digitization vendors over the next fiscal year.

Since Robin and Eric Cartier finalized the digitization setup, Eric began training digitization assistants Audrey Lengel, Alison Skaggs, and Abby Yee at the Performing Arts Audio Digitization Studio (PAADS). This studio will serve as the location to digitize audio requests and future projects from the Performing Arts Library, Special Collections in Performing Arts, and International Piano Archives at Maryland. It will be staffed by trained DCMR digitization assistants who will split their time between the Hornbake Digitization Center and PAADS, as needed.

After students digitized selected audiocassettes from the Katherine Anne Porter papers and the Paul Porter papers, Eric determined that the cassettes had substandard audio quality and performed basic audio restoration using specialized software on ten selected recordings with the worst audio quality. Special Collections personnel will determine if this level of audio restoration is sufficient, or if we will use a vendor to perform this work. This process goes beyond DCMR’s normal operations but is merited by the research importance of these prominent collections.

In celebration of Banned Books Week (September 21-27), SCUA had DCMR digitize numerous book covers and spines for the online exhibit on Flickr.

DCMR staff provided digitized images and retrieved digital video files from the Football Films collection to Athletics Archivist Amanda Hawk for the Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony, which will occur on October 3.

Software Development

Shian Chang and Cindy Zhao, working closely with Laura Cleary in Special Collections, completed building the web framework for Special Collections exhibits in Hippo CMS.  The first exhibit released is Beyond the Battle: Bladensburg Rediscovered which uses the Unify responsive website template.  Once fully implemented we will be able to cut new exhibit sites from a template on-demand, without any need for custom programming.

Peter Eichman dusted the cobwebs off the AlephRx homegrown ticket tracking system used to track consortial requests/problems for Aleph.  He has moved the code base into GitHub and modernized the development environment using Vagrant and along the way made some improvements to the interface and fixed some bugs.

Mohamed Abdul Rasheed has continued progress on migrating the Jim Henson Works to a Solr based search as well as adding a new database search for Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA) scores database.  Completion of both projects is expected in October.

Digital Scholarship and Publishing

In September, the Libraries officially approved the launch of a formal Digital Scholarship and Publishing Program.  The program builds on current offerings and introduces a new suite of services that are flexible, extensible, and vital to the needs of our faculty.  This includes providing platforms
to publish electronic journals and other types of digital publications and a limited menu of consulting services related to publishing, such as training on author identity.

After a banner inaugural year, the UMD Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund is up and running again for 2014-2015.  Submission information and selection criteria are available at

USMAI (University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions Consortium)

Kuali OLE (Open Library Environment) implementation: The Consortial Library Applications Support (CLAS) team has been meeting with Ben Wallberg (DSS) to develop further an existing plan for testing OLE. The plan will later be executed to conduct the tests of the system. David Steelman, the developer working with the CLAS team, using an open source tool called “Vagrant”, has constructed a reproducible environment in which Kuali OLE development can be done.

Aleph system support: Hans Breitenlohner investigated the recent pc_server performance issues, which were generating user reports of Aleph slowness on a nearly daily basis in recent weeks. Hans found that the problem stemmed from the way WorldCat Local (WCL), the Aleph z39.50 server, and the Aleph pc_server interact. The slowdowns in Aleph performance were occurring whenever a user searching WCL retrieved (or tried to retrieve) a title with a large number of items—and many titles in Aleph have well over 1200 items.

WCL requests records in online public catalog (OPAC) format, which includes item and circulation data. The z39 server retrieves item information from the pc_server, 50 items at a time, collects it, and returns it to WCL in a single response. This operation soon overloads the server capacity when there are large numbers of items. For example, a single hit on the New York Times (which has over 7,000 item holdings) in WCL would keep two of our CPUs (one quarter of our system) busy for about 17 minutes. Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that there were times when the requested work greatly exceeded the capacity of our system. To get around this, Hans added an additional check to the z39 server, which looks at the total number of items and modifies the response when the title has more than 1000 items. Hans’s fix seems to have alleviated the performance issues seen recently.

Security patching: On September 26, Ex Libris notified its customers of vulnerability to the ‘shellshock’ exploit in all Unix/Linux systems that use the Bash shell (a popular command-line shell), posing a threat to all Ex Libris systems/products running on Unix/Linux. DSS systems administrators were already aware of the issue, and promptly applied the necessary patches to all affected servers.

Acquisitions/serials support for USMAI: Mark Hemhauser has been working with Towson and Yankee Book Peddler (YBP) on setting up a loader for shelf ready firm orders. Mark also ran a fresh license report of USMAI licenses for College Park, and budget reports for Salisbury and the University of Baltimore.

Circulation support for USMAI: David Wilt ran 10 ad hoc reports run for Bowie, College Park, Morgan, Saint Mary’s, UM Law, UB Law, and Frostburg. David also updated, changed, or created new circulation rules/parameters and/or item statuses for UM Law, Shady Grove, and the University of Baltimore.

Aleph user interface support: The CLAS team noticed that we were receiving more problem report emails sent from the Aleph OPAC ( by folks who are affiliated with the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Because there was no specific option for “Montgomery County Public Schools” in the dropdown of choices for “campus affiliation” on the problem form, MCPS folks were forced to choose “Other”. The form sends the messages with “other” affiliation directly to the CLAS team, who would triage them and forward them to the appropriate staff. To streamline the process for MCPS patrons, Heidi Hanson modified the “problems/comments” form add an option to select “Montgomery County Public Schools” in the dropdown of choices for “campus affiliation”. Now problem report email messages from MCPS-affiliated users are routed directly to the usg_mcps email group monitored by Priddy Library staff, who serve as MCPS liaisons.


Josh Westgard joined Digital Programs and Initiatives on September 22, as Systems Librarian.

Alice Prael joined DSS in September as the graduate assistant, Digital Programs and Initiatives. Alice is currently in her second year at the iSchool, in the Digital Curation concentration.

The Historic Maryland Newspapers Project welcomed a new Student Assistant in September. Jordan Lee is in her second year of the MLS program and is a GA in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Advising Office. Welcome, Jordan!

David Steelman joined SSDR as a System Analyst and will be providing software development and applicant support for USMAI, working along with the Consortial Library Applications Support (CLAS) team in DSS. David received his Bachelor of Science, Comprehensive, from Villanova University and his Master of Science, Computer Science, from the University of Maryland, College Park.  He is coming to us from Raytheon Solipsys Corporation where he worked as a Senior Software Engineer, working on projects such as the Tactical Display Framework (TDF), a Java-based object-oriented Command and Control Battle Management package.

It has rained and poured this month for SSDR in that we also welcomed three new Graduate Assistant software developers, each in the second year of their programs.  Sakshi Jain is in the Masters of Information Management program while Rohit Arora and Vivian Thayil are in the Masters of Telecommunications Engineering program.


As part of the Future of the Research Library Speaker Series, Martin Sandler, Director of the Center for Library Initiatives for the CIC, will be speaking on Thursday, 4 December from 10:00 am to 11:30 am in the Special Events Room.  Details are available at

Conferences, Workshops and Professional Activities

Jennie Levine Knies, Doug McElrath, and Liz Caringola attended the annual meeting of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) from September 16-18 in Washington, DC.  Liz Caringola presented on the results of our Wikipedia project this summer. Liz also represented Maryland at a pre-conference meeting called Beyond NDNP, which discussed issues of project sustainability after NDNP funding ends, shared infrastructure, and standards and best practices for newspaper digitization.

Josh Westgard was notified that his poster, “The Bot Will Serve You Now: Automating Access to Archival Materials,” was accepted by the IEEE Conference on Big Data, which will be held October 27-30, in Bethesda, Maryland.

Jennie Knies joined the BitCurator Consortium Start-Up Committee.  The Start-up Committee is the decision-making group until the Executive Council is elected in spring 2015.

2 thoughts on “Stew of the Month: September 2014

  1. timhackman October 30, 2014 / 9:29 am

    Very impressive — great work all around! I’m especially excited about that One-Button Studio. Hope we’ll be able to promote it and we’ll get so much demand from students that we need to buy another one!

  2. Eric October 31, 2014 / 3:14 pm

    This newsletter is very nicely done and I agree with Tim that DSS accomplishments are impressive.


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