Alison J. Harris



Experiences with


Omeka is an open-source software platform of digital archives and collections is compliant with Dublin-core standards favored by libraries and museums.

Out of all of the open source digital library software available, Omeka is by far the one that works the best “out of the box”. Libraries can choose to use to include hosting packages along with the software for free (at only 500MB of space) or for a subscription fee.

In addition to this option, libraries can have more control and freedom by hosting their own digital collection using software. Very similar to how content management systems like function, software has an easy installation available that allows library staff to start uploading content in minutes. Also, the interface for users is very straightforward and intuitive.

My experience was very enjoyable using the software for my final Digital Library Project. With prior experience using content management systems and setting up web space, it was easy for me to become familiar with the software and quickly focus on quality content and metadata. In addition to this, the variety of plugins available made customizing my digital library very easy. I was also impressed with the showcase of digital libraries around the world, including the Florida Memory Project. Open source software has a lot of benefits for libraries, especially during times of budgetary issues. Check out the video to learn a little more about how Omeka software works.

December 10, 2014 , Comment

Quiet, Please – Serving Special Populations

From just the first few sentences, “A Home to the Homeless” resonates with me due to my experiences working in public libraries in Hillsborough County, particularly the main branch in downtown Tampa. The article really highlights a lot of the issues I’ve seen firsthand, such as trying to provide a welcoming place for the homeless while still enforcing policies that prohibit sleeping, bathing in restrooms, and offensive hygiene as well as endeavoring to provide library cards to those without a permanent address.  It is critically important to treat everyone inside the library fairly and with respect, whether there is a large homeless population in the community or not. This article does a wonderful job discussing the major challenges when serving this population and possible solutions created by other public libraries across the country.

Recently a local film student created a short video titled “Quiet, Please” about homeless in downtown Tampa that was actually filmed within the library. It was great to listen to the stories and thoughts of a community that is often not heard.

November 18, 2014 , Comment

Digital Libraries & Net Neutrality

One of the most pressing issues I’ve encountered learning about digital libraries and the dissemination of scholarly information is net neutrality. According to ALA, net neutrality is:

The concept of online non-discrimination. It is the principle that consumers/citizens should be free to get access to – or to provide – the Internet content and services they wish, and that consumer access should not be regulated based on the nature or source of that content or service.

The non-discriminatory nature of network neutrality is closely connected with the democratic nature and fundamental beliefs of libraries. Also, net neutrality dramatically affects libraries providing services to the public. Libraries are at a critical point in its long history and now more than ever have to fight for funding and justification within communities. Denying access to information and upping the cost of bandwidth will only serve to exacerbate the situation.

Unfortunately, though it will affect all types of educational institutions, from elementary schools to major universities, this is not an issue commonly focused on in the net neutrality debate. Delegating scholarly information to the internet “slow lane” in favor of commercial websites such as Netflix (which would not be what it is today without net neutrality) will only serve to damage America’s education system.

I found an interesting news article in The Washington Post discussing more on net neutrality’s impact on libraries across the country.

November 2, 2014 , Comment

Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading

Although I’ve resided in the Tampa Bay area for over a decade, this year was the first time I attended the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. The atmosphere seemed warm and inviting for members of the public and there was a large crowd present. Once I arrived, I perused some of the exhibitor booths in the Book Market area of the festival.


Books, Exhibitors, and Authors! (Oh, My)

The first exhibitor I encountered, the Bloomingdale Writers Connection, actually has a relationship with the Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System. The Bloomingdale Writers Connection meets at the Bloomingdale Regional Library in Valrico, FL to provide ten-week writing workshops for the public funded by the Bloomingdale Friends of the Library volunteer group. People of diverse nationalities, religions and backgrounds come from all over Hillsborough County for the free program based on the Guided Autobiography course created by University of Southern California’s Jim Birren. Many of the graduates of the workshop have had their work included in Bloomingdale Writers Connection’s published collection of stories titled I Have a Story to Tell …: An Anthology LISTEN Project, which was available for purchase at the booth or through I found the group to be a wonderful and singular approach for individuals in the community to share their experiences and a member informed me that everyone, sometimes even unbeknownst to themselves, has a story to tell.

The other exhibitors included local authors and publishers as well as non-profit organizations in the area. One local author, Tim McGee, was promoting his first novel Worthy McGuire at the festival. The novel recounts a harrowing tale of a WWII vet working to fulfill a promise made during the D-day invasion. McGee left the corporate world after 25 years to pursue a career in writing in 2011 and now lives in Saint Petersburg, FL.


R. L. Stine & Fear Street

Arguably the most impressive part of the festival is the schedule of author talks throughout the day. A variety of novelists, from local authors to New York Times Bestsellers, presented hour-long book talks and subsequent book signings from 10am to 4pm. I recognized many of the authors from my experiences working in a public library, including Debbie Macomber, Carl Hiassen, Lisa Unger, Tim Dorsey, Sara Pennypacker, and Ace Atkins.

However, the most recognizable author through both my work and personal experience was the ever-popular R. L. Stine. I read dozens of his books as a child and it was wonderful to hear him talk about his experiences writing to an audience of both children and adult fans. Being so close to Halloween, he told a short ghost story for the younger kids in the audience during the talk and gave information about the newest book in the Fear Street series after almost two decades titled Party Games. Remarkably, I discovered that the reappearance of the teen horror series Fear Street was actually initiated through a Twitter campaign of loyal fans that enjoyed the series growing up. It will be fascinating to see how audiences will receive the book with such an overabundance of teen paranormal/fantasy novels available.

Overall, I feel that the Festival of Reading is great event for the Tampa Bay community. It gives many different local groups the opportunity to celebrate the importance of reading and offers experiences that many individuals don’t often get the chance to have. It was amazing to see the amount of people gathered together for the event, especially for the author talks, which had well over a hundred attendees. If I had any recommendations, it would be to produce the event on a larger scale in years to come. Also, I was disappointed at the lack of public library involvement in the festival. With the exception of the Bloomingdale Writers Connection, I did not encounter any exhibitors from the Pinellas or Hillsborough County Public Library System. I feel this was a missed opportunity for public libraries to share information about available services both physically or digitally.

October 28, 2014 , Comment

Open Access in Digital Librarianship

Reading about and discussing digital scholarship in my Digital Libraries course, I’ve learned a lot about the concept of open access. According to the JISC Committee for Support of Research, open access research literature is:

composed of free, online copies of peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers as well as technical reports, theses and working papers

Typically, there are no licensing restrictions on their use and can therefore be utilized freely, including downloading, copying, and distribution, for research, teaching and other purposes as long as accessing the material online is possible.

Though scholars can trace its beginnings to the 1960s, the open access movement did not gain momentum until the late 1990s. The motivations behind the open access movement can be found in the need for scientific research to progress, high publishing costs, and author visibility. The two methods to achieve open access are expressed in the Budapest Open Access Initiative: the “Gold Road” of a new generation of publications that do not require subscription or access fees and the “Green Road” of self-archiving and/or deposit into a website that is publicly accessible such as a repository.

Open access is spreading rapidly. A huge number of scientific articles are now available free either through institutional repositories, public websites, or even publisher websites. In the “Gold Road” of open access, publisher journals that provide will often ask authors for a fee. Open access journals that ask for an author fee account for 7 percent of all research and are growing annually. Also, other government mandates are stimulating an increase in open access, though publishers still present opposition. For instance, the National Library of Medicine requires all articles based on its funding to be deposited into PubMed Central within a one-year delay.


Crisis in Digital Scholarship

There are several issues with access to scholarly information digitally revolving around the rights of authors, libraries, universities, and publishers. Access to scholarly information is crucial to the research process. Scholars desire to disseminate the results of their work as well as certify the originality of their research. Unfortunately, the data and analysis from research studies are largely reported through journal articles owned by subscription-based, for-profit publishers who currently have a monopoly over scholarly publishing.

These publishers charge authors, readers, and organizations alike for the publication of their works, advertising, and online access fees, while still possessing copyright of the content they publish. Consequently, important scholarly information is not open and freely accessible.

The increasing expense of journal access has forced many to terminate their subscriptions, preventing large groups of the scholarly community from communicating and collaborating on research, particularly in the developing countries.


How Open Access Can Help

This crisis in scholarship can be resolved in the open access movement. Open access technology provides authors and institutions the ability to publish research to the public at a much low cost while still maintaining copyright of their work. The future of digital scholarship is inevitably intertwined with the open access movement and librarians must work to encourage and support its progress.

October 10, 2014 , Comment