New PALS Islandora community partner: Northwestern Health Sciences University

PALS is excited to announce that we have another new partner in our Islandora community, Northwestern Health Sciences University!

From Susan J. Vossberg, MLIS, Technical Services Librarian at Northwestern Health Sciences University:

“We look forward to joining the PALS Islandora community so that we can create and preserve historical collections and make them available to our university community, and to be able to collaborate with other institutions who are also building and maintaining digital collections.  Islandora provides the hosting and support we need to move our digital assets to a long term solution.”  

PALS will start working with Northwestern Health Sciences University in January 2018 on their photographs.  These images depict college life, events on campus, faculty, staff, students, marketing material, Athletic events, and more.   This is just one example of a photograph from the earlier years of Northwestern Health Sciences University.


We look forward to working with Northwestern Health Sciences University to make these photographs available to everyone!

If you are interested in learning more about Islandora, please contact us at




PALS staff at MLA 2017 in Rochester

PALS staff members are planning to be at the Minnesota Library Association Conference in Rochester next week!

We will have a booth (# 17), and will be looking forward to talking with you about all the DAM work that comes with starting a digital asset management initiative.  We’ll also be quite happy to just chat about anything else on your mind.


Islandora presentation_blog_post.jpg

We will be located at Booth 17, near the silent auction.

Booth location .jpg

See you there!

Webinar recap: Restricting access in Islandora

The PALS Islandora community held a webinar on restricting access in Islandora on Monday July 10th.  This was in some ways a continuation of discussion we held at the first Islandora workday in April, but it also really helped us gauge the needs of our partners when it comes to access restrictions.

It started with a brief overview of the different ways one can restrict access in Islandora:

  • Restricting access with Drupal:  This allows you to set up different “roles” with a Drupal login.  For example, a student, or a staff member.  Each role can have specific permissions.  A student might be able to view objects, search, and edit metadata, but not delete anything.  A staff member would be able to delete.  Using Drupal logins and roles essentially restricts access/functionality.
  • XACML:  This is a Fedora security feature.   Essentially this allows us to encode control policies, controlling access to Fedora collections, objects, and datastreams (derivatives)  It is possible to restrict objects at different levels.  For example, one could control access to different datastreams.  Thus a general user could see the metadata for an object, but not view the actual object itself.  Unlike Drupal logins and roles, XACML allows access.  So when setting a XACML policy, an administrator is allowing the user to view, for example, the PDF datastream (derivative).
  •  Restricting access with Embargo:  Using embargo allows you to control content and access, and has additional functionality.  You are able to control access at the collection level, to the object, or to the datastream.  One is also able to control access with keywords in the metadata.  Additional functionality includes setting a date on which an embargo expires, or to make the embargo permanent.  When a date is reached, the embargo lifts automatically. Also when one is attempting to access an embargoed item, it is possible to redirect a user to a specific URL (for example, to a photographer’s website).

The goal of the webinar was to talk with our partners and determine needs and priorities.  There are four different embargo modules that we are aware of; only one is included in the Islandora release.  Others are from Simon Fraser University, Discovery Garden, and Florida State University.  We wanted to know which one might work best, or if we needed to take parts of different ones.  The discussion in this webinar resulted in a spreadsheet that will be very useful for us to take a look at these modules and decide which one(s) to use.

We will hold our next webinar in a couple of months, after the Summer.  Depending on the topic and goals we do hope to provide a recording.


LSLS: Pushing to include everyone

Libraries: Beyond neutral and pushing to inclusiveness (by Alex Kent, Digital Initiatives Librarian, PALS)

Recently I attended the Lake Superior Libraries Symposium Conference at University of Minnesota-Duluth, to give a lightning talk announcing our Islandora project with Leech Lake Tribal College.  The Beyond Neutral theme had me slightly uncomfortable from the start.  I’ve always been one to lean more to the side of neutral and focused on providing access to materials – I have a degree in library science with an Archives Management focus.  This is my comfort zone.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this conference.  Except I knew that I really enjoyed last years – good sessions, and very well organized (with plenty of coffee everywhere!), and so I was ready to enjoy the day.

For me the conference actually started Thursday night first with a walk through Duluth to the lighthouse, where I got to watch a ship come in.  There I found a sketch of a medicine wheel at the lighthouse that seemed apt for the conference theme: Push toward beyond neutral and libraries are for everyone.  As I understand it, medicine wheels are about showing balance.  The themes of the Symposium reflect that, finding balance between traditional neutrality and the need to be inclusive and perhaps more than neutral.  Seeing it got me thinking at least.


After my walk – stretching legs felt great after a 4 hour or so drive to Duluth from Mankato – I headed to the Blacklist Brewery for an evening of trivia with conference attendees.  For, what else do you get with a bunch of librarians at a brewery? It just kind of happens.

Trivia night.jpg

Our team ended up in tied for third, better than expected! But not good enough for one of the prizes.

It was cool near the lake Friday morning but when I got to the library at UMD-Duluth, it was bright and sunny.  The library at UMD-Duluth is an impressive building and can’t be missed.

UMD Duluth Lib.jpg

As always there is good signage at the Symposium.  Thank you, organizers!

Symposium entrance.jpg

Friday started with an inspiring talk by Dr. Loreine Roy.  She has amazing passion for this profession, and wonderful humor that got us started.  It felt like it would certainly be hard to follow her presentation! I was starting to feel more energy again, however, passion for my own profession and goals that I may have lost over the years.


This was in the back of my head as I went to the next sessions.  It started to grow as I attended more sessions, and I felt refreshed again that there was still such positive energy and goals to move forward in this profession.  It’s a bit cliche, but true – I felt I found a little bit of what I’d lost, without really knowing I’d lost it.

Some of those refreshing sessions were:

Entering the Dialog: Responding to Current and Campus Events (Carrie Kruse and Raina Bloom, College Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

For the first session, I ended up in “Entering the Dialog: Responding to Current and Campus Events.”  My original thought for attending was to perhaps learn about strategies for online responses or news stories regarding events, and perhaps applying that to my communications on the PALS Islandora community.  The presenters discussed a Black Lives Matter protest/march and die-in that occurred in their library.  The way they handled it was to just let it happen, and stay out of the way.  I thought they did a wonderful job of that. While I perhaps did not learn much that could apply to my original thoughts, it was a great example of what a library can do to just let events happen, and be inclusive to everyone.    It was interesting seeing how they handled the online interactions on Twitter, trying to get out a unified statement about the event as it happened.

A Librarian’s Place Is In the Resistance  (Katherine Elchert, Rice Lake Public Library; Virginia Roberts, Rhinelander District Library; Dawn Wacek, La Crosse Public Library; and Hollis Helmeci, Rusk County Community Library)

This was a lively discussion on how libraries can navigate pursuing such radical ideas as going fine-free, setting up story times on diversity, and how you could talk about it in your library.  There was also discussion on news and fake news, and we got a nice list of sites to check out for news:

All Sides has perspectives from the left, the center, and the right on various news stories.  It is worth exploring.

Another site to possible explore is  This does appear to be on the “left” more than not.

Lightning Talks

Adam Brisk introduces the lightning round talks, trying to wake us up after lunch:


As always lightning the talks were good, and one I enjoyed was a look at Library of Congress headings and the idea of “neutral headings”.  As the presenter went through them, it became clearer that they were in fact, not at all neutral.  She posed the question, can any labels ever be considered neutral? It is something to think about.

I survived the talk I gave announcing our project with Leech Lake Tribal College.  To my surprise I finished on time and there was time for questions.  There actually seemed to be excitement and interest about the project.  I will keep everyone informed as I can with our progress.

Possibly the most valuable aspect of this conference was hearing Dr. Roy’s talk, and connecting with her after my own lightning round.  She affirmed that our project is of importance and needed.  This was great to hear.

Finding the balance

As I drove back from Duluth, I thought about the role libraries should play.  Neutral, or beyond? I came to the conclusion – or at least initial conclusion – that libraries should work on finding the balance of pushing the neutral toward including everyone.  It goes back to this, I think.   Libraries really should be for everyone.  If this means libraries have to move beyond neutral, then I personally think this is absolutely necessary.


Thank you to the Lake Superior Libraries Symposium organizers for being bold enough to put together a great event!




Islandora Conference Debrief

PALS staff member Alex Kent had a great time at the Islandora Conference in Hamilton, ON, Canada.  It started with a Hack/Doc at McMaster University’s Mills Library.  The conference itself was located at Liuna Station.  IslandoraCon2.jpg

There were a number of informative sessions and in particular the workshops were quite valuable.

Islandora CLAW Hack/Doc and Workshop

Of particular importance was the chance to learn more about Islandora CLAW.  CLAW is the name of the project for moving Islandora from Drupal 7 to 8 and from Fedora 3 to Fedora 4.  At the start of the Islandora Conference the first MVP (minimum viable product) was released in time for the Hack/Doc.  It was fun being among the first to see the CLAW MVP demonstrated at the Hack/Doc.

Here is the Google Doc that the group was able to finish

I was also able to attend another session on the CLAW, and have more of an idea of what the CLAW means for Islandora.   Essentially, everything will be done through Drupal.  In theory CLAW opens up a lot more to a non-technical user in that a lot more can be done through the Drupal interface.

One major impact of the CLAW for administrative users of Islandora is that the XML Form Builder will no longer be needed.  This functionality will be handled using Drupal forms builder.  One should be able to do a lot more as well, including handling styles and theming of metadata displays.

Another important feature is that in CLAW one can do an export before making an update.  To my understanding, this export would be in the form of a CSV zip file.  This could be very useful when making changes to a form and you want to create a backup before doing so.

Before these sessions I did not know much about CLAW, but I am now more comfortable with where it is headed and the plans for it.

Move to Islandora Kit

On Friday I attended a workshop on the MIK, or “Move to Islandora Kit.”  This workshop was meant for developers, and I am not one.  However I was still able to learn a lot about what the MIK can do.  It seems like a very powerful tool, or group of tools.  For details on the workshop, see GitHub here.

It is a framework that is designed to be extended, and depends highly on configuration.  It is a command line application that essentially creates Islandora import packages which can then use standard import functionality within Islandora.

Developers behind the MIK are hoping to automate the process completely, so that it can be run, for example, overnight.

The MIK is definitely worth exploring if you need to migrate content into Islandora.

Conference sessions and workshops

There was some great content this year in the sessions.  Digital Enchida had one on XACML and permissions that was really quite interesting.  They are working on using the “Organic Groups” Drupal module to allow users to organize content and users into groups, which can then have their own permissions and roles.  Users can request access to these groups as well.   For more information on their project, click here.


One thing that was really interesting and encouraging to see was that Lyrasis is working on combining ArchivesSpace and Islandora.   In fact, they already have a working prototype, and demonstrated this at the conference.  It looks promising and we will be following their work.  For more on their project, follow these links:

Islandora as an IR

Another good workshop was Bryan Brown’s on Islandora as an institutional repository.  It really helped clarify the functionality Islandora has available.  Collectively these functions are a group of modules known as “Islandora Scholar.”  They consist of (and this is directly from Bryan’s presentation):

  • Citation and thesis content models
  • Embargos (supress objects/datastreams by date)
  • Google Scholar integration (HTML meta tags and search)
  • Dynamic citations
  • Import objects via DOI/PMID/RIS/EndNoteXML
  • Export citation collections as RIS/RTF/PDF
  • Check Sherpa/Romeo status via ISSN

In his presentation Bryan also talked about the Institutional Repositories Interest Group’s plans to take a close look at the current IR functionality in Islandora, and how it will be impacted by Islandora CLAW.   This is a process that will require a lot of effort and volunteers.   If you are using Islandora’s institutional repository functionality, please seriously think about helping the institutional repository’s interest group’s efforts.

Infrastructure and Performance 

One workshop that was quite valuable (even to a non-developer like me) was one by Gavin Morris and Luke Taylor.  Here is a link to their slides.   The workshop format (90 minutes) was perfect for this presentation, as it allowed them to give detailed information on their server setups.  They are definitely worth contacting if you have questions about infrastructure, DevOps, and performance in Islandora.  Gavin Morris leads the Islandora DevOps interest group if you want to get more involved.

Networking, and workflow management

As always the most valuable aspect of the conference is meeting new people, and reconnecting with friends.  It’s always fun to hear about what people are doing and their plans.

We also had a great dinner on Thursday evening, discussing workflow and various challenges that come about.   Mark Jordan had some very good thoughts, and is a great person to contact about workflow in general.   None of us took notes (it wasn’t the right venue or time), but there was a strong interest in continuing the conversation beyond the conference.

If you are interested in talking more about workflows we should use the Google Group for now, and see where the discussion heads.   Perhaps we need a place where everyone can share documentation on workflows.   If you have any ideas on this, please don’t hesitate to post in the Google Group.

Final musings

I really enjoyed the second annual Islandora conference.  Getting a chance to meet people in person is invaluable.   There were a number of sessions with great content, and the 90 minute workshops in particular were useful.   I wish I could have contributed more during the Hack/Doc, but it was still a useful way to learn more about Islandora CLAW.

I’m looking forward to the next conference!





Managing workflows with burgers and happy hour

This meet up is for those attending the Islandora Conference who want to discuss workflows and enjoy happy hour at the The Works Burger Bistro (next to the Sheraton Hamilton).  This is a change from the previous location.

Please sign up with this Google Doc, so we have an idea who might be coming  We will meet at the Works at 5:30.


Project Launch: Minnesota Water Research Digital Library

Project launch: Minnesota Water Research Digital Library 

This week PALS staff met with staff of the Minnesota Water Research Digital Library (MNWRL), which is located in St. Paul, MN.  PALS is particularly excited to begin this project.   MNWRL’s digital objects are PDFs documents.  MNWRL is unique in that they will provide PALS with a chance to use Islandora’s citation functionality, and show its value in a new area.

Minnesota Water Research Library “is a user-friendly, searchable inventory of water research relevant to Minnesota, with emphasis on publications from 2000 forward. The Library provides one-stop access to all types of water research, enabling water managers, researchers, engaged citizens and others to easily find, share, and coordinate research to support their efforts to protect, conserve, manage and restore water in Minnesota.”

For more about MNWRL, click here.

A goal of the Minnesota Water Research Library is to become a model for other state agencies looking for a digital asset management solution.   If interested, please feel free to contact PALS here and we can put you in touch with staff at the Minnesota Water Research Library.

Steve Roos and Bob Patton stand in next to the current user interface for the Minnesota Water Research Digital Library:


Everyone is really excited to roll up sleeves and dig in to provide a new digital repository solution!



Thinking digital thoughts: Islandora Conference 2017

Islandora lobster

PALS staff will be attending and presenting at the 2017 Islandora Conference in Hamilton, ON next week.  Through discussions with our partners these are some of the bigger issues PALS hopes to discuss more with the international community:

  • Records management/workflows – What are other sites doing? What could you share?
  • Djatoka performance – Anyone using freelib djatoka? How do you get optimum performance from djatoka?
  • Embargo/restrictions – how do you handle embargo/restrictions?

PALS staff are looking forward to gaining further knowledge into these issues and sharing any insights gained with the community.

See you at the conference!


First PALS Islandora Community Workday

First annual workday: Empowering our community 

The PALS Islandora community held our first annual workday at Minnesota State University-Mankato on Thursday 4/27/2017.   A few of our partners were not able to make it, but we had a great turnout.

Everyone had a lot of energy and eagerness to discuss a number of issues from workflow to records management and how to manage access to objects in Islandora.   We also had a great tour of MSU-Mankato’s ARCHives.

Islandora workday tour.jpg

Pictured left to right: Pam Gladis (Southwest Minnesota State University), Hayley Jackson (Luther College), Jolie Graybill (Minitex), Alyssa Inniger (Bethany-Lutheran College), Ryan Gerde (Luther College), Steve Roos (Minnesota Water Research Digital Library), Michael Collins (MSU-Mankato), Heidi Southworth (MSU-Mankato), Kendall Larson (Winona State University), Anne Stenzel (MSU-Mankato)

Workflow management

Anne Stenzel from MSU-Mankato led a great discussion on workflow.  Her slides are available here.

MSU-Mankato probably has the most developed and tested workflow from our group.   They lean heavily on student workers and we recommend taking a look at their slides if you are considering or able to use student help.

Training students/engaging students: Tips from MSU-Mankato 

MSU leans on their student help a lot.  Often they will have specialized cleanup projects for student workers.

MSU likes to start by showing their students what they are working on.  On the first day they get to simply explore Arch and see what the end product is of the work they will be doing.

They also start small with training, and do “chunks” to get students started.  They recommend that students start with just 10 objects (photographs, or negatives).  A lot of 1-1 time is recommended.  MSU-Mankato focuses a lot of training on teaching students the description of a photograph, answering the question “What is this photo?”

In their ingest forms MSU-Mankato has a lot of links out to further documentation and helpful resources.

A big bonus is that MSU-Mankato is able to tell by logins which students are entering which objects.  This is especially useful in catching errors and keeping track of students’ progress.

MSU-Mankato also lets the student decide what to start with – something easy or hard? They also hold fun contests throughout to encourage, and make it fun.  In this space it’s OK to chat and laugh.  MSU-Mankato believes that the more engaged you are with the students, the more you will get back from them.

Developing workflows

Luther College is developing workflow for ingesting their newspaper, the College Chips.  Currently they are uploading the master to OwnCloud for a backup, converting original PDFs to TIFFs, and then saving the TIFFs at the optimal resolution and clarity for loading into Islandora.  This is a bit tedious, but easy, and will give the best clarity in Islandora and also provides the best setting for OCR which is needed for the full text searching.  See this document for our recommend settings.  Luther College has not yet done in-house digitization.

Bethany Lutheran College does not have a workflow for born-digital objects.   For physical material, they have an intern cut up yearbooks for scanning, which are then saved to that computer, and then exported to Dropbox as a backup to Islandora.  They would like to have additional backup as well (perhaps just external hard drives).

One takeaway is that workflow is always changing, but there is a lot more focus on developing it now than before our partners started using Islandora.  They have more support and do not have to focus as much on the day-to-day work freeing up their time for other work.

Scanning equipment examples 

What scanning equipment you use can impact workflow in different ways.  It will often depend on the software you use and what steps you need to take to save a format, what formats you can save, and how you can export them/store the digital files until you are ready to ingest them into Islandora.

MSU-Mankato has lots of equipment and formats.

Their scanners are:

  • Microfilm: ST Imaging STI 3
  • Images: Epson Perfection V850 Pro
  • Books: Fujitsu fi-7160
  • Oversize: Epson Expression 10000XL


  • Microfilm: S-T ViewScan Premium
  • Images and Oversized: VueScan 9 x 64 (9.5 74)
  • Books: PaperStream Capture 1.0.8

A note: An equipment replacement schedule can be helpful, to ensure that computers get upgraded.  This is essential because with older machines, the ports may no longer work.

Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN has the largest scanner in our community.

Bethany Lutheran College uses Fujitsu for their scanner, and 1 overhead scanner, which can do up to 600 dpi.   PALS recommends using either 300 dpi or 600 dpi depending on the material.  600 dpi will end up with a clearer image online, but will take more storage space.  300 dpi is not as clear but takes up a little less space.

Important to backup

PALS supports and encourages a consensus reached during the discussion:  That in addition to the strong preservation tools Islandora brings, it is important and good practice to have preservation copies elsewhere as well.  One never knows what might happen and backing up is encouraged practice.

Another consensus reached is that server space is highly valuable, and that it would be a good idea to integrate records management into your digitization workflows.  This can really help identify priorities for backup and help ensure that space is not wasted on unnecessary material.

Building support for records management

Building support and obtaining buy-in for records management policies can be difficult! One approach is to remind people that “We are here to help you…follow the rules…”  What records management can really do is help people figure out how to organize and save their digital records.  There are so many different ways to do so and so many different formats available it can easily get overwhelming.  Records management can help alleviate the stress of worry about which records to save or how to store them.

Try to get embedded into IT practices.  Early collaboration between IT and the Library can really help build support for records management.

Another way to build support is to talk with administration assistants (they often know a lot about the digital files and how they are stored and what should be kept) as well as Department Heads.

Our community also recommends starting with Departments already using records management.  This will help you move forward, and continue conversations.  Other Departments can become aware through these conversations.  When people start to run out of physical or virtual storage space, they will hopefully be aware of the records management policy from these earlier conversations.  Or they may contact you only when it becomes an immediate problem.

One way to raise awareness of records management is to have a space on campus and hold mini seminars/webinars on the topic.  This can work really well to help educate faculty, staff, and others.

A good records management policy and digital asset management solution can really help ease problems with messy storage practices.   These initiatives can lead to cleaning up a lot of data that doesn’t need to be saved, clearing up precious storage space.


Everyone was excited to get the chance to meet in person and talk.  Webinars and online meetings do work, but there is something about being in the same space together that really allows conversation and ideas to spark.

As a group the community decided that they would like to hold an annual workday each year, at different locations throughout the state, to allow everyone the chance to attend.

PALS will hold topic-focused webinars about every two months.   The next one may continue the topic of records management, or workflow.

The community also decided that PALS will continue to act as its representative to the larger international Islandora community, though some did express interest in perhaps attending an Islandora Camp or Conference.

PALS staff will also write a quarterly newsletter regarding the Islandora community and news from our own partners.

Our goal is to move everyone forward into becoming a true collaborative, innovative community that will help ensure that Islandora remains a strong viable solution.