The Evolution of Embossers

Of the many changes that our library has seen over the past century, one that is easy to overlook is the way we mark our books. When we first opened, our librarians embossed each new book they added to the collection. Labels on the embossing stamps show we were still embossing books into the early 1970’s. Sometime thereafter, we began instead to mark our books using ink stamps.

We recently uncovered several of our old embossing stamps, and our librarians are going to start using them again. There are several benefits to embossing as opposed to ink stamping. Firstly, inks can negatively affect paper, making it degrade over time, whereas embossing only adds an indent or small holes to the paper and therefore does not cause as much long-term damage.

Secondly, embossed books are harder to steal than books stamped with ink, because the skilled thief can laboriously remove traces of ink, but the only way to remove traces of embossing is to remove the embossed page itself. And finally, aesthetics. Embossed books look and feel nice. There is a timeless feel to them, something that brings to mind classic libraries with beautiful old books. In addition, an embossed stamp looks the same every time, whereas ink stamps often appear messy.

For all these reasons and in deference to our history, we are going to bring our embossing stamps out of retirement. Stop by sometime to see some of our new materials, embossed as of old!

The story of these tools and the epic building will be further explored in the Cabinet of Curiosity Tour every third Thursday at 10:30AM. Go back in time in this one hour tour, up and down the catwalks and through the vault in a nooks and crannies inspired experience.  Our June tour sold out, so get your tickets early!

The oldest embosser, which creates a raised impression of our corporate seal.

The corporate seal created by the oldest embosser.

The newest embosser (really a perforating stamp), with a 1971 note instructing librarians to stamp the page after the title page of a book.

The perforated stamp.

The ink stamp currently used by librarians, which marks the date as well as the name of the library.

Ink stamps create a less aesthetically pleasing stamp than embossers or perforators.

Written by Leah Kodner, James J. Hill Business Librarian. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Bridging Digital Divides

On May 16th and 17th of 2017 the  James J. Hill Center was happy to house an important conference presented by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.  The conference was on Digital Inclusion.  It was an eye opening experience to understand the full scope of our digital world and the work that needs to be done to ensure all people have access and opportunity to grow in our continually growing digital community. We felt NDIA was an important organization for others to know about and took a few minutes to chat virtually with their Director, Angela Siefer.

What do you want people to know about NDIA and what sets it apart?
NDIA is a unified voice representing digital inclusion programs across the country. This role is unique. It is why we exist. Local digital inclusion programs are doing the incredibly hard work of  increasing home broadband access, running public broadband access labs, teaching digital skills and getting appropriate devices into the hands of the most disadvantaged among us.

NDIA does this through:

  • Developing and empowering a community of practice of digital inclusion programs in our communities.
  • Discussing the full definition of digital inclusion, related challenges and solutions with decision makers and partners.

How did your organization begin?
In the spring of 2015, representatives of local digital inclusion programs and national digital inclusion advocates launched the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). We did so because federal policy was being discussed that would impact the work of local digital inclusion programs yet the expertise of these programs (even the existence of these programs) was not part of the discussion. NDIA currently represents over 250 affiliates, most of whom are community based organizations, libraries and local government entities with digital inclusion programs.

What do you feel has been NDIA’s biggest impact so far?

  • Developing definitions of digital inclusion and digital equity that have furthered an understanding and increased awareness of programming gaps.
  • Influencing federal policymaking (including the modernization of Lifeline).
  • Influencing local policymaking, particularly through Digital Inclusion Trailblazers.
  • Strengthening programs through information sharing online and at our annual gathering Net Inclusion.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success your organization has faced?
NDIA is a bootstrap startup nonprofit program. Starting with nothing has been both a challenge and a strength.

What advice would you give to businesses and organizations regarding digital inclusion efforts?
Look for potential partners.  The most impactful programs are those that work collaboratively in their communities and have trusted relationships with the individuals they are serving.

What do you see for the future of our digital world?
Technology will keep changing and more digital divides will develop. We as a society can shrug our shoulders or we can work together to create solutions that strengthen our communities.

To read more about NDIA and their continued efforts to increase a unified voice for digital inclusion please visit their website at digitalinclusion.org.  

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The Hill Reference Round-Up

Blue Prints to Business Plans…

September at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from students to entrepreneurs researching blue prints to business plans.  It is a prefect example of the vast amount of resources our Reference Specialists have at their fingertips.

Here are some examples of who, what and why people visited us! 

  • Over 110 researchers welcomed in September.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, and a few traveled from Wisconsin.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to help them develop their business plans.
  • The majority of our visitors in September self-identify as entrepreneurs.
  • A student from the U of M studying architecture viewed historic building blueprints for a course project.
  • One researcher explored sales data and patent information related to exercise equipment.
  • We often welcome job seekers, but had one unique researcher this month, who works to support individuals with severe mental illness and conducted job searches on behalf of those individuals to locate potential workplaces near their homes to accommodate transportation limitations.

We look forward to seeing you at the Hill.  Contact a Reference Specialist today!

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Vinyl is Back, Baby!

Well, maybe not all the way back.

But there was a nice little article in the Star Tribune yesterday, that commented on the 2012 Nielsen Soundscan results, and highlighted the fact that vinyl record sales have now increased for five years in a row. In 2012 vinyl sales hit 4.6 million, rising 17% over 2011.

However, vinyl was still only 2.3% of all physical album sales.

Nielsen is, of course, a familiar name in audience surveys and measurement. Nielsen Soundscan measures U.S. point-of-sale purchases of music product, while Nielsen BDS tracks U.S. radio airplay and music streams, and the Nielsen / Billboard 2012 Music Industry Report provides all sorts of great data on the music industry. Not only are music purchases at an all time high, up 3.1% from the previous record high (2011), but country music showed the greatest gains as a genre, up almost 38% in digital album sales.

You can take a look at more music data at http://tinyurl.com/aogwgqn. 

Thanks Nielsen!

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ReferenceUSA Part II – Consumers/Lifestyle

The ReferenceUSA database provides us with two useful tools: the Company Database, which I briefly reviewed in my last post, and the Consumer/Lifestyles Database, which I will look at today.

While the ReferenceUSA Company Database contains over 14 million company records, their Consumer Database claims 262,625,721 records of individuals within the U.S. (The current U.S. population is 315 million so I guess a few people – perhaps the privately held? – are flying under the radar.)

The first thing everyone does in the Consumers / Lifestyles database is look to see if they are listed. That being accomplished, the most obvious use for the Consumer / Lifestyles database is to create a list of consumers that meet your search criteria, and in this database you can search by  a person’s name, phone number, area code, or a variety of geographic terms, such as county, neighborhood, or a map-based polygon. If your prospective consumers would be part of the shrinking middle class, you could narrow your search by estimated home value or household income, and if you have some lifestyle criteria you would like to add into the search there is a list of 19 broad classes, each with more detailed subclasses.
It should be noted that not all people have their lifestyle interests identified. For example, looking at my own record, it’s a clean slate. I apparently have no interests. Thus, because I have no recorded interests, my record will not turn up on any lifestyle searches. (Which is just the way I like it.) So the results of a lifestyle search will probably be smaller than would be an accurate count. In addition, for those people that ReferenceUSA does have information on, they rate lifestyle interests for individuals on a 0-9 scale, but when you search on a lifestyle, you only get back people that scored six or better.

Because the lifestyle search returns a limited result, you would probably want to use it on a large geographic area. For example, a search on the Fulton neighborhood of Minneapolis, (5,591 records), with an estimated household income of $30,000 to $79,999, and found 376 records. Adding the lifestyle option of “sports – baseball”, gave back just 2 records. Marking all sports options came back with just 20 results, which seems pretty small in a neighborhood of 5,591 records. But when I change the geographic criteria from the Fulton neighborhood to the Minneapolis St. Paul Metro area, my results jump up to 85,000.

It might be good to keep in mind that these lifestyle search criteria are linked together with an “or”. For example, if, under purchase behavior, you select “senior-oriented products” and also “Internet Purchaser” you are getting combined results, and not a list of people who purchase senior products on the net. However, when you download this list, you can download all the ratings for the fields, so you could, in a spreadsheet, filter for those high in both categories.

The Hill Library also subscribes to the “Consumer Snapshot” portion of the database, which is a nice tool for visualizing data.  For this, let’s say we are looking for individuals who purchase senior orient products in the 651 area code. Those two factors result in 10578 hits.

Using the “Consumer Snapshot” feature, you can add a number of other, more personal, criteria into the mix, such as age, sex, marital status, or type of occupation. Because this data is a bit more sensitive than other criteria, the database does not provide you with a list of people that meet those criteria, but it does allow you to display a chart or a table illustrating those records, and I find this very useful when paired with some geographic criteria. In this example, for people in the 651 area code who purchase senior products, I wanted to look at where these people in the 50 – 65 year old range lived – thinking that they might be purchasing products for aged parents, and I had this data displayed by five digit zip code. The resulting table then clearly displays the zip codes that are highest in the different age ranges selected, the zip codes I might want to focus on. Mousing over the chart gives you a display of the zip code and the count. This information can also be downloaded in a spreadsheet, for those who like to crunch the numbers.
The ReferenceUSA database provides us with access to some great information on companies along with some useful new ways of constructing our searches. On top of that, we now have access to a great new database of consumer information. The search interfaces are very userfriendly – stop in some time and try it!


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We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve patrons with accessibility needs.

Please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit our brand new elevator!