Friday, September 9, 2016

2016-09-09: Summer Fellowship at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab Trip Report


Alexander Nwala standing at the main entrance of Langdell Hall
Myself standing at the main entrance of Langdell Hall
I was honored with the great opportunity of collaborating with the Harvard Library Innovation Lab (LIL) as a Fellow this Summer. Located at Langdell Hall, Harvard Law School, the Library Innovation Lab develops solutions to solve serious problems facing libraries. It consists of an eclectic group of Lawyers, Librarians, and Software Developers engaged in projects such as Perma.cc, Caselaw Access Project (CAP), The Nuremberg Project, among many others
The LIL Team
To help prevent link rot, Perma.cc creates permanent reliable links for web resources. The Caselaw Access Project is an ambitious project which strives to make all US case laws freely accessible online. The current collection to be digitized stands at over 42,000 volumes (nearly 40 million pages). The Nuremberg Project is concerned with the digitization of LIL's collection about the Nuremberg trials. 
I started work on June 6, 2016 (through August 24) as one of seven Summer Fellows, and was supervised by Adam Ziegler, LIL’s Managing Director. During the first week of the fellowship, we (Summer Fellows) were given a tour around the Harvard Law School Library and had the opportunity to share our research plans in the first Fellows hour - a session in which Fellows reported research progress, and received feedback from the LIL team as well as other Fellows. The Fellowship program was structured such that we had the flexibility to research subjects that interested us.
The 2016 LIL Summer Fellows
Harvard LIL 2016 Summer Fellows (See LIL's blog)
1. Neel Agrawal: Neel is a Law Librarian at LA Law Library Los Angeles, California. He is also a professional percussionist in various musical contexts such as Fusion, Indian and Western classical. He spent the Summer researching African drumming laws, to understand why/how colonial Government controlled, criminalized, and regulated drumming in Western/Northern Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, The Gambia, and Seychelles.
2. Jay Edwards: Jay was the lead database engineer for Obama for America in 2012 and also the ninth employee at Twitter. He spent the Summer working on the Caselaw Access Project, building a platform to enable non-programmers use Caselaw data.
3. Sara Frug: Sara is the Associate Director of the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, where she manages the engineering team which designs various tools that improve the accessibility and usability of legal text. Sara spent the Summer further researching how to improve the accessibility of legal text by developing a legal text data model.
4. Ilya KreymerIlya is the creator of Webrecorder  and oldweb.today. Webrecorder is an interactive archiving tool which helps users create high-fidelity web archives of websites by simply browsing through the tool. Ilya spent the Summer improving Webrecorder.
5. Muira McCammonMuira just concluded her M.A in Comparative Literature/Translation Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and received her B.A. in International Relations and French from Carleton College. Her M.A thesis was about the history of the Guantanamo Bay Detainee Library. She spent the Summer further expanding her GiTMO research by drafting a narrative nonfiction book on her GiTMO research, designing a tabletop wargame to model the interaction dynamics of various parties at GiTMO  and organizing a GiTMO conference.
6. Alexander Nwala: I am a computer science Ph.D student at Old Dominion University under the supervision of Dr. Michael Nelson. I worked on projects such as Carbon date, What did it look like?, and I Can Haz Memento. Carbon date helps you estimate the birth date of website, and What did it look like renders an animated GIF which shows how a website changed over time. I spent the Summer expanding my current research which is concerned with building collections for stories and events.
7. Tiffany TsengTiffany is the creator of Spin and a Ph.D graduate of the LiFELONG KiNDERGARTEN group of the MIT media Lab. Spin is a photography turnable system used for capturing animations of the evolution of design projects. Her research at MIT primarily focused on supporting designers and makers document and share their design process. Tiffany also has a comprehensive knowledge about a wide range of snacks.
Interesting things happen when you have a group comprising of scholars from different fields with different interest together. The opportunity to learn about our various research from different perspectives as offered by the Fellows and LIL team was constant. Progress was constant, as was scrum and button making.
A few buttons assembled during one of the many button making rituals at LIL
A few buttons assembled during one of the many button making rituals at LIL
The 2016 LIL Summer Fellowship concluded with a Fellows share event in which the seven Summer Fellows presented the outcome of their work during the Fellowship.


During the presentation, Neel talked about his interactive African drumming laws website.

A paid permit was required by law in order to drum in the Western Nigeria District Councils
The website provides an online education experience by tracing the creation of about 100 drumming laws between the 1950s and 1970s in District Councils throughout Western Nigeria.

88 CPU Cores processing the CAP XML data
Jay talked about the steps he took in order make the dense XML Caselaw data searchable by first validating the Caselaw XML files. Second, he converted the files to a columnar data store format (Parquet). Third, he loaded the Caselaw preprocessed data into Apache Drill in order to provide query capabilities.

Examples of different classification system of legal text: Eurovoc (Left), Library of Congress Subject Headings (Center), and Legistlative Indexing Vocabulary (Right)
Sara talked about a general data model she developed which enables developers to harness information available in different legal text classification systems, without having to understand the specific details of each system. 

Ilya demonstrated the new capabilities in the new version of Webrecorder.
Muira talked about her investigation about GiTMO and other detainee libraries. She highlighted her work with the Harvard Law School Library to create a Twitter archive for Carol Rosenberg's (Miami Herald Journalist) tweets. She also talked about her experiences in filing Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
I presented the Geo derivative of the Local Memory Project which maps zip codes to local news media outlets. I also presented a non-public prototype of the Local Memory Project Google chrome extension. The extension helps users build/archive/share collections about local events or stories collected from local news media outlets.

Tiffany's work at Hatch Makerspace: Spin setup (left), PIx documentation station (center), and PIx whiteboard for sharing projects (right)
The presentations concluded with Tiffany's talk about her collaboration with HATCH - a makerspace run by Watertown Public Library. She also talked about her work improving Spin (a turntable system she created).

I will link to the Fellows share video presentation and booklet when LIL posts them.
--Nwala

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