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Numismatics for Librarians

This August, local coin expert Ron Guth has been named Numismatist of the Year by the American Numismatic Association (ANA). In this interview, Guth describes common numismatic research queries, as well as the basic resources used to answer those queries.

What kinds of questions can coins answer?

As material culture, coins can teach us about several aspects of history and economics. For example, the geography of commerce and trade routes, the strength or weakness of monetary systems, metallurgical knowledge and artisanship, highly visible political statements, and the individuals or ideals most revered by a society… including famous historical figures and obscure people we should get to know.  In some cases, coins are the only remaining remnants of a particular person or place.

What characteristics of coins do experts examine?

Metrology (weight, diameter, relation of minting dies to each other, composition and purity) is used to determine authenticity, method of manufacture, and year of issue (within a range).  For commercial reasons, experts evaluate the overall condition of coins, as well as provenance/custodial history and design, to determine their value.

What are the most common sources of information about coins?

Historically, it has been all about books, some of which are mass-market price guides, and others that are highly specialized, niche books.  Auction catalogs and sales records are consulted to estimate current value. More and more, the internet is becoming an important source of information.  Several institutional collections, which were inaccessible previously, have now been digitized.  There are also some excellent databases which are commercially operated and available via subscription.

What are the most common questions researchers ask about coins?

Authenticity first, value second.  Virtually all research inquiries are commercial in nature.

You’ve written several books on coins. What are some of the most interesting research questions you’ve asked, and how did you track down the answers?

Provenance and pedigree (i.e, chains of production and previous ownership) are important for determining historical importance and value, as well as building the census of known examples of rare coins.  In many cases, these chains have been broken, sometimes inadvertently, but sometimes intentionally.  Much of my research is devoted to rebuilding those chains to provide a continuous history.  Once an accurate census is built, the existing coins can be ranked according to condition.  This allows new discoveries to be compared against the current condition census to determine if the new finds  are of special importance.  I am constantly amazed at the number of new coins that enter the market that exceed the quality of any that are currently known or that have been recorded for decades.  A good example of this was the Saddle Ridge Hoard, a hoard of over 1,400 U.S. gold coins discovered in 2013, many of which became new “finest knowns”.

What research obstacles have you faced?

I’m actually mining a database right now ( which illustrates the need for in-depth research.  This was a donation that appeared to be accessioned improperly or incompletely in the first go-around.  The coins in this collection are assigned accession numbers starting with the year of the donation.  J.P. Morgan donated his coins in 1908, so collectors search for records beginning with that number.  However, some of the coins were missed and eventually entered using a generic 0000 number as the year.  Clearly, the wrong search will miss a large part of Morgan’s donation and skew the research. So, one must not only know what to look for, but how to look for it.

Thank you for your time, Ron, and congratulations on your award.

Ron Guth has published, co-authored, or edited over a dozen books on coins, including “Coin Collecting for Dummies” and “The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins”. He has worked as a dealer since 1976, and has conducted auctions in several countries.  Guth specializes in German coins, and lives in San Diego.


Further Resources for Librarians (LoC subclass CJ)

Most coin collections are privately held; public collections are usually owned by anthropology, art, and history museums, and university special collections.  Examples include:

The ANS collections database stores its data in XML using the schema Numismatic Description Standard (NUDS). NUDS is implemented in combination with VRA Core and the Nomisma project’s ontology of numismatic terms and concepts.

Major coin resources include:


-Tim Gladson, SLA San Diego Communications Committee

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What can GIS do for you?

Anyone who has used Google Earth or Google Maps has used a GIS.  GIS (Geographic Information Systems) allow users to manipulate and visualize spatial data in endless ways, by combining the power of maps, databases, and statistics.

At the most basic level, GIS can be used to make custom maps (cartography), with data points such as customers or sales revenue symbolized in a variety of manners.  Beyond making maps, GIS also allow users to conduct spatial analysis and geoprocessing.  Simply put, spatial analysis means visualizing datasets geographically to solve problems or identify patterns that aren’t apparent in the raw data; geoprocessing techniques allow users to manipulate and combine existing datasets in order to create new ones.

You can see several interesting applications online, such as a map of access to healthcare in the United States, the demographics of Crimea, or GIS in business. Several archives are integrating GIS into their digital libraries to help users explore their collections spatially.  Archivists at the Center for Jewish History and the University of Pennsylvania used Flickr and Viewshare to link archival photos of books stolen by the Nazis to their original libraries (see Society of American Archivists Archival Outlook, Jan/Feb 2014, p.4-5,27). Several archives have mapped photos on HistoryPin, using the service as a pre-fabricated digital library with greater visibility. Traditional libraries have also begun using GIS to map items in their physical libraries to assist patrons with retrieval.

Google Maps is the easiest way for you to get started using GIS.  Simple points can be added to a regular Google Maps layer.  Charity Water’s embedded Google Map shows water project locations; although the finished product has a professional appearance, it consists of a relatively simple collection of GPS coordinates, photos of project sights, and project metadata.  Extremely sophisticated maps can be made with Google Maps Engine and Google Maps APIs.  For local projects, over 270 San Diego datasets can be downloaded for free from SANDAG’s Regional GIS Data Warehouse.

San Diego librarians have access to several training opportunities in GIS that can help us enhance our technology skillsets.  Mesa College, Southwestern College, and UCSD Extension all offer a certificate in GIS. Members of the UCSD community have access to multiple resources and tutorials, as well as the Data & GIS Lab in the Geisel Library.  SDSU boasts one of the leading GIS programs in the nation, offering certificates to PhDs.

Knowledge of GIS is particularly valuable for strategic librarians working in data mining, competitive intelligence, and market research.  Academic librarians working in the earth sciences, government documents, data curation, digital humanities, and digital libraries should also be literate in GIS.

Explore these resources to learn more:



-Tim Gladson, SLA San Diego Communications Committee

Posted in Q1-2014Comments Off on What can GIS do for you?

Conference Report: USD Digital Initiatives Symposium

The University of San Diego hosted their first annual Digital Initiatives Symposium on April 9th.  Librarians from all over the country enjoyed 2 keynotes, 11 topical sessions, and a Digital Commons user group meeting.

In her opening remarks, Teresa Byrd (USD Dean of Libraries) identified three motivations for hosting this symposium. First, she believes that California librarians are highly segmented, both geographically and by type of library.  Second, she wanted to provide affordable and accessible professional development for librarians in California and neighboring states.  Lastly, she wanted to showcase emerging digital initiatives, which she sees as the future of libraries.

Throughout the day, speakers focused primarily on institutional repositories (IR) and open access (OA) publishing in academic libraries.  Several OA organizations were highlighted, including SHARE, SPARC, and COAPI.  Although OA is often thought of in terms of journal articles, presenters also discussed Open Educational Resources (OERs), which serve as free supplements or alternatives to traditional textbooks.  Major examples of OERs include Boundless Open Textbooks and MIT OpenCourseWare.

IRs and OA have converged within scholarly communication, as more and more academic libraries are offering OA publishing services through their IRs. Digital Commons, for example, enables in-house journal peer-review and publishing as well as conference organization and archiving. The Library Publishing Coalition provides resources for libraries interested in providing publishing services.

Digital CommonsSelectedWorks software was demonstrated as an easy way to highlight, preserve, and disseminate faculty research (as well as acknowledge the impact of grant funders’ support).  The software encourages professors to submit their own material, and outputs clean, user-friendly CVs for use on faculty and departmental websites.  To see these services in action, check out the implementations at GVSU and Caltech.

Speakers noted that IRs can be used for much more than archival digitization projects and electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs).  At least two presenters noted that administrators actively use their IRs to archive current university policies and related documents, giving the library high-level support for their efforts.  Panelists from the Atlanta University Center Woodruff Library discussed how many of their services are geared towards undergraduates. During accreditation examinations, they have pointed to their IR to demonstrate how their library supports faculty and graduate students. They also noted that digital initiatives are often cost-prohibitive for small institutions, but feasible through consortia; likewise, many grants require inter-institutional collaboration.

Multiple presenters noted that developing IRs in-house with open-source software (such as DSpace and Fedora) is often not feasible, due to the need for computer programmers. Cloud-based, TRAC compliant, hosted services may be expensive, but are cheaper and more reliable in the long-run.  Panelists also recommended using the standard installations of IR software; customization will be lost every time the software is upgraded, requiring a programmer to maintain the system.

CalPoly provided an overview of digital preservation requirements related to IRs.  Many libraries participate in LOCKSS networks to back up their data among multiple servers in multiple geographic locations.  LOCKSS (which stands for “Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe”) is an open source Stanford project which facilitates mutual, web-based backup of IR data by partner libraries, and is compatible with most IR software.  The Global LOCKSS Network was designed to preserve purchased e-resources, and has open membership at tiered pricing levels.  Alternatively, any institution can establish a Private LOCSKSS Network (PLN) for locally created content, and govern the consortium however it wishes.  CalPoly also reviewed the pros and cons of various preservation services, including Portico, Chronopolis, Amazon Glacier, Digital Commons PLN, Preservica, EVault, and MetaArchive (which was the solution they chose).  They analyzed these services in terms of cost (upfront and ongoing), how well-established the services were (both for sustainability and to avoid tech glitches), the use of digital curation best practices, and the ability to handle multiple kinds of content.

A common theme throughout the symposium was the need to generate faculty support for and participation in both IR and OA projects, lest we create “services with no market” (Debra Skinner, GSU).  Likewise, since IRs are very expensive and must have sustained, secured funding, librarians must continually reach out to stakeholders and demonstrate the value of IRs.  Fortunately, most IR services provide several options for tracking download statistics; Digital Commons even integrates IP address data to generate a world map of the IR’s usage, which tells a compelling story to faculty and administrators. Finally, to successfully engage in digital initiatives, librarians must be willing to continually learn new skills and learn from each other through conferences such as this one.

Despite the relevance of the program and the low registration fee ($35), there was relatively low attendance among San Diego librarians, and especially low attendance among junior librarians—those who will be implementing digital initiatives over the next 20 years.  Furthermore, no strategic librarians presented about digital initiatives in corporate libraries.  I strongly encourage my SLA San Diego colleagues to attend the symposium next year and submit session proposals about special libraries!

Note: the program and session abstracts are available here, with plans to archive session PowerPoints in USD’s IR this spring.


-Tim Gladson, SLA San Diego Communications Committee

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Spring Update

Greetings SLA-SD!

Hope everyone’s 2014 is going wonderfully!

Several members stepped forward in response to our call for committee volunteers and we thank them very much: Pat Alderman and Charlotte King-Mills, who will assist Fall Seminar director Isabelle Garcia; and Tim Gladson, who is assisting Jamie Lin with blog management. In a recent post, Tim highlighted a few valuable resources on the SLA website that are available to members – if you missed it, visit here.

President-Elect Amy Jankowski would appreciate having a volunteer work with her to develop programming and help with event logistics. We had a great group in attendance at the first program of the year: the March 20 tour of the Central Library followed by an informal happy hour. Thanks Amy for organizing this fun event!

Subsequent to the February 2, 2014 board meeting, the Executive Board had a series of business items to complete and these actions have now been incorporated into the minutes (Thanks Kathy Elliot!). The minutes are now posted for your perusal on the blog.

As one of these tasks, the Executive Board approved the 2014 budget via electronic vote. We are happy to share that with SLA-San Diego members, but decided against posting it to the open web. Contact me or Treasurer Jennifer Silverman for a copy. In recognition of the healthy state of chapter finances, including reserves, we allowed some budget to help offset having to change member fees for regular programming. We also have money in the budget this year that is to be utilized specifically for member social events, based on a vote of the 2013 board. These funds are largely available as a result of the efforts of the 2013 Convention Planning committee, led by Kathy Quinn, and especially to Bobbi Weaver’s work in raising donations for the raffle baskets – thanks again to Kathy and all those who participated!

We’ve also made a few modifications to the Chapter Practices Manual, and Past President Talitha Matlin has finalled these changes and updated a few links in the manual.  It is posted to the website here. Thanks Talitha! The manual is an excellent resource for understanding how the chapter functions and what the roles and responsibilities are for chapter leaders. Please do peruse  and consider in particular if there are leadership areas, either executive or advisory board, that may be of interest to you.

As a reminder, I also encourage everyone to register on the blog to receive email notices and/or RSS updates when new items are posted to the blog. You can sign up for either tool by clicking on the relevant links under “Keep in Touch” on the right-hand side of the home page .

Feel free to send comments and suggestions anytime! I look forward to seeing you at the next SLA-San Diego event!!

Jill Blaemers, SLA-SD President 2014

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SLA Online Resources

Looking for information about special libraries? SLA has several online resources that can help you get started.


Enjoy 29 free, archived SLA webinars on introductory topics.  Webinars are categorized under Careers, Copyright, Information Services, Search and Research, Skills, and Social Media.  Specific topics range from “Moving into Management and Team Leadership Roles”, to “Salary Negotiation”, to “What Is a Special Library?”.  Please note that these resources may take several minutes to download.

 Resource Guides:

SLA’s Resource Guides provide citations to articles, websites, and books on 7 topics: Career Planning and Competencies, Copyright and Licensing, Disaster Planning and Recovery, Embedded Information Services, Information Ethics, Information and Knowledge Audits, and Knowledge Management.  Although these citations are neither exhaustive nor current, they are excellent places to start your research.

 Calendar of Events:

SLA puts on numerous webinars and programs every month of the year.  Although the Click University courses have registration fees, many chapter and division webinars are free.  Stay current and get in touch with colleagues who share your interests! Upcoming free events include WordPress (March 11), “The Accidental Learner: 40 sources (or more!) in 60 minutes” (March 12), Curriculum Media Centers (March 14), Business War Games (April 3), and Competitive Intelligence (April 17).


-Tim Gladson, SLA San Diego Communications Committee

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Fall 2012 Newsletter is here!

The SLA-SD Fall 2012 Newsletter is now available!  Read a message from our president, get all the details if you missed the fall seminar, and view information on our upcoming annual meeting.

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Fall 2012 Newsletter is here!

The SLA-SD Fall 2012 Newsletter is now available!  Read SLA Conference chatter; meet one of our chapter members; and read about the keynote speaker at our upcoming Fall Seminar.

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SLA-SD Spring Newsletter!

The SLA-SD Spring 2012 Newsletter is now available!  Features include a message from our president, Carla Hernandez, a write up on the recent Qualcomm Library tour, and some great content from our chapter members.

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Winter 2012 SLA-SD Newsletter is here!

Hear ye, hear ye! The Winter 2012 newsletter is here. Get a word from our new SLA-SD President Carla Hernandez, see a recap of recent SLA events, meet SLA-SD member Amy Jankowski and more!

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SLA-SD Fall/Winter 2011 Newsletter

The end of the year has arrived, and with it comes the final SLA-SD newsletter of 2011. Reflect on the past year, meet SLA-SD member Carol Bodas, get pro tips from your peers, and more in this edition of the SLA-SD Newsletter.

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