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Library staff promote homegrown technology at PLA 2012

Laura Bang, Digital and Special Collections curatorial assistant, and Michael Foight, Special Collections and Digital Library coordinator, (pictured) organized Villanova University’s recent table presence at the Public Library Association (PLA) 2012 Conference held in Philadelphia, Pa. The biennial PLA Conference is the largest conference devoted to public library professionals in the United States.

The University’s table in the exhibitor’s hall promoted two open-source software projects developed at Falvey Memorial Library: VuFind, a library resource portal, and VuDL, a digital library content management system. Bang and Foight were joined by Diane Biunno, David Burke, Alexandra Edwards, Chris Hallberg, Demian Katz, David Lacy, Brian McDonald, and David Uspal. The team shared information on VuFind and VuDL, including our recent partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia, with the more than 8,700 conference attendees.

Photo by Chris Hallberg


Life Stories: Biographical Research Made Easy

Need Help?  Research Consultation Librarian Jutta Seibert is here to answer your questions.


Where can I find reputable information about the life of Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and famous Philadelphian?


The Library’s biographies topic guide is a good starting point. It lists biographical dictionaries available here at Falvey, online and in print. Read the resource descriptions carefully in order to identify the dictionaries which cover U.S. subjects from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Richard Allen, shown in a lithograph by Peter S. Duval c.1840

Both the American National Biography Online (ANBO) and the African American Studies Center (AASC) are good choices for biographical information on Allen. The excellent bibliographies of ANBO biographies cite secondary and primary sources and list relevant archives with unpublished primary source materials. ANBO has nearly six times as many total biographies as AASC, but,  regarding African American biographies, AASC is the more comprehensive resource. AASC includes the African American National Biography.

Allen is covered in both resources because of his historical importance. AASC  also includes more topical entries, such as the essay on the African Methodist Episcopal Church, than ANBO, and only AASC includes primary sources, such as the full text of two of Allen’s sermons.


How can I find book-length biographies of Richard Allen?


Both ANBO and AASC have bibliographies which cite book-length biographies. The library catalog is another good source for monographic biographies: Start with a simple keyword search, but remember that both “Richard” and “Allen” are fairly common names. Try Richard Allen Methodist. Notice that all the results are right on target.

Use the subject link in one of the relevant results to further narrow your search results if you retrieve too many irrelevant titles. The subject link for Allen is  Allen, Richard, 1760-1931.

Use WorldCat, a union catalog of libraries worldwide, to find biographies which are not available here at Villanova and request them via interlibrary loan.


How do I find books, letters or sermons written by Richard Allen?


Both ANBO and AASC biographies cite selected primary sources. The same is true for the monographic biographies available in the library’s collections. Use the author search option in the library catalog and click on the author link with Allen’s birth and death dates.

Most of Allen’s works are available in Falvey’s digital collections. The Christian Recorder, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is part of the African American Newspapers collection. The Recorder includes a number of articles contributed by Allen.

Contact me if you would like to find more of Allen’s works.


Are there any other materials on Allen which I should consider?


Yes, there is much more to discover. The library catalog lists fifty-six works about the African Methodist Episcopal Church. All of these books discuss Allen’s life to a certain degree even though Allen’s name is not part of the book’s catalog record. Remember, a catalog search is not a full text search.

Use the Google Preview links in the catalog to determine the amount of content dedicated to Allen or to link to available online editions of books.

Use America: History & Life (AHL) to locate journal articles about Allen. AHL indexes scholarly journals such as Pennsylvania History and Methodist History.

(Richard Allen lithograph from the Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From the Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass, republished in the African American Studies Center Online.)



SimplyMap Trail

Students working on projects involving siting a business, designing a marketing campaign, profiling the health status of a community or ranking congressional districts by religious conservative concentration  are likely to rejoice in our trial to Simplymap.

Simply map brings together data in an easy to use interface for mapping, ranking, and tabular report building.  The basic module includes Census data, FBI reports, National Climatic Data Center, Dun & Bradstreet company information and Bureau of Labor Statistics files whereas  premium modules include PRIZM market segmentation schemes, National Institute of Health surveys, MRI consumer surveys and Simmons consumer surveys.  Simplymap’s options for saving and sharing results works  for advanced geography researchers as well as it does for first year undeclared undergraduates; Results can be downloaded and saved as images, excel spreadsheets, PDF documents or shapefiles for further manipulation in GIS software.

To compare Simplymap to resources currently in our collection with similar data but limited functionality visit, SRDS Media Solutions Local Market Audience Analyst, MRI+ Internet Reporter and Statistical Datasets.  Check out my 2 minute video showing how to use Simplymap to compare 3 cities for theme park potential.   Don’t delay, the trial runs through April 20th.



Sarah Gross, Student Employee, Receives Accolades

By Alice Bampton

Sarah Gross is Falvey Memorial Library’s student employee of the month for February 2012.

Sarah, a junior nursing major from Rockville, Md., is executive vice president of the campus Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania (SNAP-Villanova). As part of her activities with SNAP, Sarah chaired the on-campus Dream for Eileen event. The Dream for Eileen 5k Run/Walk commemorates nursing student, Eileen Shea Lupton ’03 CON, who died before she could begin her first job after graduation. Dream for Eileen raises money for nursing student scholarships.


Phylis Wright, manager of access desk services and Sarah’s supervisor, says, “As a nursing major, Sarah’s time is precious. Her time management skills are amazing. Last month alone she covered ten additional shifts for others. No small feat considering mid-terms and the intensity of the nursing program. Sarah Gross is a sweet addition to the Access staff.”

Sarah also worked with the Andy Tally Bone Marrow Donor Drive, and coordinates SNAP-Villanova’s vision screenings at the McDaniel Elementary School in Philadelphia.

In addition to her SNAP-Villanova activities, Sarah plays the bassoon in the Villanova University Orchestra.

Last summer Sarah worked on an oncology floor at Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C., and this summer she will work there on a pediatric transplant floor.

Sarah says, “I love working at Falvey Library because I love helping people. I learn something new every day!”

(Photo by Alice Bampton)



Looking for Data? Data for Historians @ Falvey

by Matt Ainslie (Falvey Research Center Intern)

Looking for scholarly historical data sets used by others in projects past?  The solution may be a resource about which most historians  have probably not heard.  It’s a clearinghouse of quality data, some historical, called the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.  ICPSR has grown from its 1962 founding into a data archive of more than 500,000 files of research in the social sciences.  Data files can be downloaded into statistical programs such as SPSS and a growing number of data sets can also be analyzed online with ICPSR’s own Statistical Data Analysis program.

The historical data sets in ICPSR are mainly raw data from surveys, censuses and administrative records.  You can browse by subject or use ICPSR’s search engine.  For example, subject browsing for historical resources leads to data sets of tax lists from Chester County, Pa. from 1693 to 1799, tax and census records in New York City in 1790,  and data from census records that reflect the social characteristics of Mexican-American families in Los Angeles from 1844 to 1880.  The search function is also excellent.  Searching using the keyword “riots” turns up, to name one example, demographic information about those arrested for participation in the insurrection in Paris, France: Analysis of Arrests in Paris, June 1848.  Results can be narrowed by subject, geography, author, and historical time period.  You can save your search and sign up to be notified of new results using RSS.  You can download the data in different formats after you set up an account.

Remember that research article by Goldin on the wages of single women during the progressive era which you recently read?  Are you interested in taking a closer look at the data she used?  A quick author search in ICPSR will establish whether Goldin archived her data sets in ICPSR as indeed she did.  The View Related Literature link will eventually lead you to her Woman and Child Wage Earners (1907, Philadelphia and New York) data files.  The study description lists the scope of the study, its data sources and the methodology.  In order to download the data files you need to create an account and log into ICPSR.

Feel free to contact your liaison librarian with any questions or comments that you may have.


Hacking the Academy

If you have not seen this article on Inside Higher Ed already, here is gradhacker on “Your Academic Twidentity, or, More About Twitter and Academic Identity.” Yes, it is a brave no longer oh so new, but still new world you are entering into. Good hack!


Matthew Ainslie – Research Center Intern

by Alice Bampton

Matthew (Matt) Ainslie recently joined Falvey in a newly created position, Research Center intern. He reports to Jutta Seibert, coordinator for Academic Integration.

Seibert says, “Matt will work with the Academic Integration and Information & Research Assistance teams during his time here at Falvey. He will work on a variety of projects, which will give him valuable experience in research support, instructional design and collection development.”

Matt will provide additional coverage in these areas until Kristyna Carroll, coordinator of the Communication, Education, Psychology and Sociology liaison team returns at the end of the summer.

Matt grew up in nearby Swarthmore and currently lives in Philadelphia. He is enrolled in Drexel University’s Master of Library and Information Science program, which he will complete this year. Matt has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

He completed an internship at the Marple Campus library, Delaware County Community College, and was an assistant librarian at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is interested in history, antiques and reading.

Photograph by Alice Bampton


How beautiful is your data set? Incorporating graphs, maps and charts

Do you miss the days when the most important part of your book report was the cover? As a child you instinctively knew that beautifully designed illustrations enhance the audience’s appreciation. But college-level papers and reports generally do not include graphic covers. You can, however, still remain devoted to beautiful visualizations that strengthen your readers’ understanding by incorporating well designed graphs, maps and charts into your work.

Read Linda Hauck’s business blog on the power of data visualization.



Digital Library Expands Into Audio With Philadelphia Ceili Group Collection

The Digital Library has recently joined in partnership with the Philadelphia Ceili Group to digitize and make freely available the content of a unique collection. For the first time in the history of the digital library project at Falvey Memorial Library, users will be able to hear as well as view and read digital library content, as the digitized field recordings of the Ceili Society’s annual Traditional Irish Music and Dance Festival come online.

Years ago the Ceili Group elected to deposit with our special collections department their festival recordings archive: nine boxes containing 339 cassette tapes and 53 VHS tapes, encompassing 20 years of main stage performances as well as other events such as workshops and lectures. Falvey special collections already held other materials central to study of the Irish-American experience, most notably the McGarrity Collection, so the Ceili Group collection was a welcome addition.

Unfortunately, at the time the library did not own the hardware necessary to make the recordings available to our users, and so this rich collection acted as more of a deposit, preserved in storage but never accessed in the 20+ years it has been with us. Now, thanks to both the digital revolution and the extended capacity of VuDL, Falvey Library’s homegrown open source digital library software, to handle a variety of new formats, including mp3 and WAV audio files, recordings from the Philadelphia Ceili Group’s audio collection are now for the first time becoming accessible by the general public.

Analog to Digital

Converting the analog source materials to digital form is a multi-step process, requiring certain special pieces of equipment as well as attention to standards of digital audio preservation and access. The basic transfer routine we currently employ proceeds thus: the analog source (a cassette tape), is played on a Tascam 202MKV cassette deck, output to and converted to a digital signal by an M-Audio Fast Track Pro digital audio interface, and then relayed to a 2 GHz Intel Core MacBook Pro laptop, where the unaltered digital signal is captured in an Audacity project. This Audacity project is subsequently used as the basis for all of our preservation- and access-quality audio files.

There are two essential variables to consider in capturing a digital audio signal from an analog source: sample rate and bit-depth. Sample rate refers to the number of times per second the amplitude of an audio signal is measured, and bit-depth refers to the number of points measured each time a sample is taken. For example, CD-quality digital audio is captured at a sample rate of 44.1 KHz (or 44,100 samples per second) and a bit-depth of 16-bit (or 16 measurements per sample); originally established as a compromise between adequate sound quality and relatively modest file sizes, CD audio is generally considered too low a standard for archival preservation. With the aid of some guiding documents, including the Council on Library and Information Resources publication The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States, and a document from the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois entitled Guidelines For The Creation Of Digital Collections: Digitization Best Practices for Audio, we settled on a standard for this and future digital library audio preservation masters of a 96 KHz sample rate at a 24-bit depth.

Next to consider are the file formats used for both preserving the audio documents and for providing users with convenient access to them. The high-quality digital audio signals captured in Audacity are exported as-is to WAV files, the “lossless” (retaining both the original sample rate and bit-depth) format chosen for our preservation-quality digital documents. These files are unedited segments, each an entire cassette side in length. After the preservation level WAV file is created and stored, a copy is made of the original Audacity file and used as a template to edit the content into individual song-unit tracks. These tracks are then exported both as lossless WAV files and as compressed mp3 files. In the interest of conserving precious disk space for the entire digital library, we’ve been mounting and making publicly available only the access-quality mp3 files–not an accurate enough reproduction of the original source material to suffice as a preservation format, but more than adequate for a pleasurable and informative listening experience.

The Collection

And what’s available so far? The first phase of the Philadelphia Ceili Group digitization project currently consists of five sets of music from the group’s annual music and dance festival from 1996. Although just a tiny subset of the entire archive (our current holdings of which cover every festival from 1977 to 1996; the Ceili Group also has the recordings from 1996 to the present at the ready), even these few sets are rich in excellent selections spanning a wide range of tones, performers, instruments and styles. Check out an original tune by renowned balladeer Andy Irvine entiled “Brackagh Hill”, the centuries-old lament “Farewell to Music” performed by harpist Ellen Tepper, and this set of jigs by the band Craobh Rua. The individual tunes are edited such that any relevant stage announcements are included in the track, in most cases making it possible for the listener to learn a little about the history of what they’re hearing (as well as making it quite a bit easier to gather metadata for inclusion in digital library records!); also available within each set is an mp3 file of the set in its entirety, allowing listeners to experience the sequence of tracks from start to finish without having to click on each individual song.

The Villanova Digital Library’s partnership with the Philadelphia Ceili Group is a fantastic boon for Irish Studies scholars and Irish music enthusiasts alike. Piloting the inclusion of audio collections in the digital library with these unique resources makes perfect sense for a special collections department already so rich in Irish Studies materials, and Falvey Library and the Irish Studies Program on campus will be celebrating this milestone together on March 22nd at 5pm in the Speakers’ Corner area of the library with a festive commemoration ceremony featuring live music and dancing, poetry and song, lectures, refreshments, and general gaiety. All are welcome to come by and celebrate with us!


Nova Fèis – Celebrate Irish Studies

By Alice Bampton

Irish Studies at Villanova and the upcoming “Nova Fèis” is now featured in a display as you enter the library. A fèis is a Gaelic festival, especially an Irish dance competition.

This display, designed and mounted by Joanne Quinn, library design specialist, provides both a feast for the eyes (dance costume, photographs, traditional Celtic interlace designs, musical instruments), QR codes so that viewers can sample Irish music, and full information about the University’s Irish Studies program, one of the University’s first interdisciplinary offerings.

The display is mounted in connection with the  Nova Fèis event on Thursday, Mar. 22, at 4:00 p.m.  in Speakers’ Corner. The event will feature music by the Philadelphia Ceili Group, dancing by the Villanova Irish Step Dancers and poetry readings and songs by Villanova University faculty.

The most eye-catching object in the window is a bright orange and blue Irish dance costume belonging to Meghan Connolly, a University student, who wore it in Irish dance competitions. See the placard, “The Lowdown on Irish Dancing Competitions by Meghan Connolly.” Several of her trophies are also on exhibit.

Irish musical instruments – a fiddle, a bodhrán (a type of drum) and a wooden flute – are only a part of the musical aspects of the exhibit. If you have a smart phone, the presentation’s QR codes will connect you to songs that represent the range of Irish music.

Stephen Spatz, assistant outreach librarian, researched and scanned the music from the Digital Library’s collection of the Philadelphia Ceili Group. A placard in the lower left window provides information about this group and its connection with the Digital Library.

There is full information about the Irish Studies program including an overview; a course list; facts about the Charles A. Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies; the partnership with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, Ireland; and the Semester in Ireland and Summer in Ireland programs, which include snapshots taken by their participants.

Joseph Lennon, PhD, serves as director of Irish Studies.


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Last Modified: March 16, 2012