Our new library website!

UAH’s new library web site is live!


We’re also blogging!


This is the culmination of many months of work, and I’m quite happy with the results. I should mention that we’d still be slogging away if it weren’t for Daniel, our amazing student worker from the communication arts (graphic design) department. But a lot of people had input, it was a real team effort.

The site didn’t get a complete overhaul – our link structure is probably 99% the same as it was. Secondary pages on the site are untouched except for a nice new banner at the top which will let us highlight upcoming events, and will be redone more completely as time goes on. But our new front page design, in addition to looking more modern, is flexible in both design and content. Our old design was functional, but adding or removing anything from the page tended to make the design explode. Very hard and frustrating to work with. And with the addition of dropdown menus, we’ve been able to bring a lot of deeper pages’ links to the surface without destroying the menu items people are familiar with from the old design.

Airport Security Misinformation

With today’s announcement of new travel restrictions, there has understandably been a lot of confusion.

This morning on the Today show I heard a brief mention that all electronics are now banned from carryon items. This information persisted throughout the day, and the local NBC station here even did an extensive piece on this fact during the evening news.

According to the TSA’s own FAQ about the new restrictions, this is not true.

I’ve also seen news coverage repeatedly state that travelers will be expected to taste the few liquids still allowed (baby bottles, for example) in front of security screeners. Again, the TSA’s FAQ says this isn’t true.

I’m inclined to cut the morning news some slack, as the information was new and everyone was still processing it. But by the evening, some basic fact checking really should have been accomplished.

Preservation isn’t just for books

CNN has an article about the US Space & Rocket Center’s efforts to restore and preserve a Skylab trainer.
I drive by the USSRC every day on my way to work, and can see the Skylab module among a field of other discarded relics. While it saddens me that the restoration effort has to be solely a volunteer effort, I’m also glad that interested and capable volunteers exist.

I’m a bit of a space program nut, so I follow this kind of thing. But it makes me wonder – what other historical artifacts are rotting away in a field somewhere? Will anyone even know before they disappear entirely?

Accidental digital collaboration

I can’t make everything digital. I have a hard time coming to terms with that fact, being such a technophile.

We have a few very old books (1600s and earlier) in our archives at work. Today while touring the US Space & Rocket Center’s archives, I saw a number of equally old astronomy volumes. They can be very gingerly paged through, but would never stand up to widespread public browsing. So how to make them available? My natural instinct is to say “scan it”. But with the somewhat limited scanning equipment available to us, that might do more harm than good to the original.

It’s the age old conflict of desires vs. means, I suppose. But it isn’t the end of the world – there’s still many, many other unique documents we can spend our time safely digitizing.

(And my romantic side likes that there’ll always be hidden unique treasures in an archive somewhere, locked in an eternal battle. The item decays further while technology races to develop a means of preservation.)

I think my point is this: Sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles in preservation. There are plenty of less challenging yet equally vital preservation tasks we can undertake. Computerized records constantly need to be migrated to new storage formats. A pencil sketch from 60 years ago may soon fade past readability. Focus on those, on the difference you can make. One nice plus about digitization is that it only need be done once for each unique work. Even if I can’t scan that 17th century book, maybe someone else with another copy will. Instead of wasting my efforts, I can instead concentrate on something within my means which nobody else has.

Accidental collaboration, you might call it.