Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kramerius Cracked

I have finally succeeded in getting usable access to the digitized periodicals in the Kramerius system. It has not been easy. In fact, it still isn't all that easy.
Initially, I was using the computers in the library's service hall, which are, after all, perfectly good for searching the catalog or for reading full-text articles. They were not good at all for looking at or getting copies of anything on Kramerius. When I went to Datart to buy some floppies to use in these machines, there were none to be had.
I then had the bright idea of trying the Reference Center instead. The Reference Center has newer computers. It took me awhile to find the USB ports on the computer I was assigned, because Dell had cleverly hidden the ports behind a door. Once that was taken care of, the Kramerius system began to act up.
Every time before that I had attempted to access the system, it was up and running and my only problems related to getting at the material. I now spent a week or so going to the Reference Center and finding that the system was down.
I persevered, however, and developed a system of putting my things in the main reading room, using my laptop to check if the system was up, and if it was, running over to the Reference Center with my flash drive before surrendering my library card in exchange for books.
I wouldn't say the system is all that easy to use even now. The user saves up to 20 pages at a time to a PDF file, a process which takes an astonishing amount of time. (Why is it so slow to make a 20-page PDF file from DJVU pages?) The result can be over 10MB, and my flash drive only holds 128MB (but it takes half an hour or so to fill up the flash drive, so the boredom factor becomes strong).
If the user really only cares about getting one article from, for instance, Kritický měsíčník, it's pretty straightforward. So long as you know the page numbers, the article is soon acquired and can be read at leisure. Similarly, if one only wants one article, or one issue, from Přítomnost, life is not too difficult as Přítomnost is organized by issue number and the issues are only 16 pages each.
It's when you want to be able to examine the entire volume that life gets hard. Disk, which is pretty hard to find outside of archives, fortunately doesn't have too many pages. More than 20, but not hundreds. Something like Volné směry or Tvorba, however... well, we're looking at a significant amount of time just to get a PDF file that can be looked through more comfortably in portrait view on the tablet-convertible laptop. It's worthwhile, but clearly not what the designers of the system had in mind. What, scholars might want to look at an entire volume of a periodical? They might want to be able to analyze the content as a unified whole? They might want to see if there's something of interest in there that no one has cited before? Well, perish the thought!
Fortunately, I'm patient. Not patient enough to use Kramerius for everything I might like from it. I'll have to continue using my grubby fingers and the digital camera on most things.

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