Back to the Basics in Researching

As a reference librarian, I worked with many library patrons who would ask where they could find books on specific subjects. I would show them how to find possible sources that could answer their questions.  Sometimes they would come back with a narrowed subject.  Then, we would look at other sources that could answer their more focused questions.  Other library patrons would take the sources presented to them and take the information from those sources as the only answers that they could find.  The library patrons who kept asking questions were developing their skills on how to be more effective in reading comprehension.  Unfortunately, the patrons that left with what they had, without further focusing on their subjects, would come back with questions for other subjects and keep asking me for the sources with the answers that they needed.  They did not learn from the first reference interview how to conduct basic research.  I wondered how I could help the novice researcher to be more effective in researching their questions.  I found 6 steps that could help.

Researching

Continue reading “Back to the Basics in Researching”

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Archiving Transparency and Accountability: Step 3 to Information Literacy

After the first semester that a new course is taught, I have noticed teachers asking each other for a copy of their lesson plans for that course, if they survived a semester teaching it.   This echoes the cries of the United States educational system wanting a miracle teaching method that could be used in any subject for any course for any student’s educational level.  This is the same for information professionals.  They are teachers who are using the same steps to archive, manage records, and perform reference services to help customers gain access to the information housed in various institutions and organizations throughout the world.  Everyone wants the transparency on how to find that information.  Basically, this is the transparency of how we have done are jobs to provide access to this information.

Through my series of steps to information literacy, I have found that the memory is a great place to store how we do our duties but what if others could benefit from knowing “how” we did it?  This goes back to wondering if your clients remember how to use your search tools to access the information stored at their educational institution or other type of organization.  I created a virtual assistant to review with clients the search methods that were covered face to face.  ELA, my Electronic Library Assistant, travels to the clients’ offices, homes, and classrooms, to review those searching methods with them 24/7.  So, it is like me “traveling” with them to help them “tinker” with the methods we discussed before and then “talk” about Step3other ways that they could search on their own through the Three T’s method.

ELA has been found to be very compatible with the customers’ computer skills since they could manage to always keep communications with family, fellow classmates/employees, and friends through their smart phones, tablets, and laptops.  I created a virtual teaching assistant in a blended-animated flipped classroom environment that would incorporate the technology that the customers held dear and allowed them to keep a constant flow of customer engagement inside and outside of their workplaces.  Through this virtual environment, a video archive is created that customers could go back to anytime and anywhere with lessons based upon what I had experienced with them and/or other customers (no customer names are stored).  The teaching methods are stored for continual viewing.

Any archivist, records manager, or other type of information professional, can do this for accountability and transparency of their work to be shown to their customers and departments.  If you are interested in finding out more about it, I will be giving a webinar, for Innovative Educators, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, on how to create accountability and transparency in your job through a virtual teaching assistant.  Information professionals and administrators are shown how to make a virtual teaching assistant and how to incorporate it into their presentations through GoAnimate.com, Screencast.com, and Camtasia.

Stay tuned for more adventures in information literacy.

Read more about ELA:

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.

Digital Forensics for Archivists

A few weeks ago I attended the Digital Forensics for Archivists course offered by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) at the University of Michigan. It was taught by Cal Lee and Kam Woods both of the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Overall, I thought  the class was a very informative and engaging introduction to the field of digital forensics.

The focus of this course is the application of forensic techniques to archival work. Digital forensics (or computer forensics) is “the process of identifying, preserving, analyzing, and presenting digital evidence in a manner that is legally acceptable” (Rodney McKemmish 1999). It is used to discover digital data, recover deleted, encrypted, or damaged file information, monitor live activity and detect violations of policies.

Archivists (and records managers) may be very good at dealing with paper, but may not have as much experience with processing and making available digital content that comes in the form of floppy disks, CDs, and hard drives. The field of digital forensics is very concerned with the same principles as archivists, including provenance, original order, and chain of custody, to apply to criminal and civil investigations. By applying the techniques, archivists are able to identify, extract, and document information from digital media about how it was created without altering the content. It also focuses on finding sensitive or personally identifiable information that may need to be redacted or protected from public access.

Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device with a removable hard drive on the imaging bay prior to forensic capture from Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources (SULAIR)

As a two-day event, this course was particularly helpful because we got to perform hands-on exercises of the tools discussed in the class. These included:

  • BitCurator (includes a number of free, open-source tools to be incorporated into workflows)
  • FTK Imager (creates disk images)
  • Bulk Extractor (scans and extracts information such as credit card numbers, email addresses, or keywords)
  • Fiwalk (creates an output of files in Digital Forensics XML)
  • MD5summer (generates and verifies checksums)

While we may not be seizing evidence from crime scenes, archivists do receive many types of media that require special care to process. I would highly recommend either taking this course if it’s available to you or exploring the materials available on this topic. I myself am looking forward to continuing to explore these exciting developments. I think some of the available tools could have applications in the records management sphere that we should examine and consider. For further reading, check out the BitCurator project, the Forensics Wiki, and the recently released OCLC research report Walk This Way: Detailed Steps for Transferring Born-Digital Content from Media You Can Read In-house. I would be very interested to hear about applications of digital forensics in the records management side of the house!