Digital Scholarship @ The Libraries

Inspiring innovative digital scholarship at the OSU Libraries and beyond

Month: March 2013

On the resignation of the editorial board of the JLA

Chris Bourg: My short stint on the JLA Editorial Board

Over the weekend, the news came out the the entire editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration, published by Taylor and Francis, had resigned. The outgoing board didn’t make an official public statement, but blog posts and tweets by members made it clear that the mass resignation was due to their inability to come to terms with T&F over licensing and open access issues. The link above is to a post by Chris Bourg, the AUL for Public Services at Stanford University Libraries. You can read more about what happened in a Chronicle blog post by Brian Matthews, who was editing a forthcoming special issue of the journal, and in a post by Jason Griffey, who was asked to contribute an article to the special issue and declined because of the same licensing issues.

This news seemed worth a mention on Digital Scholarship because the issues involved – authors’ rights, open access, the role of editorial boards (and editors and authors and reviewers) as change agents – are ones we deal with on a daily basis. Whatever the outcome of this particular incident, it is certainly another sign of how scholarly communication is changing.

Service Learning, Digital Media, and Special Collections

In the fall of 2012, Dr. H. Lewis Ulman, Director of Digital Media Studies, met with representatives from Special Collections to discuss the idea of an English class that utilized Special Collections to engage students. Although the first course idea we discussed did not work out, the end result was English 2269, Digital Media Composing.  English 2269 is a service learning course where (from the syllabus):

students will read about and practice digital media composing, analyze examples of digital media documents, and compose digital media documents….Student teams will have the opportunity to work with curators of The Ohio State University’s Special Collections to develop digital media documents that highlight the collections.

Although the curators of the Special Collections often work with undergraduate and graduate students, this opportunity was unique. Whatever projects (photos, audio, videos and so on) the students create will be offered to Special Collections. The course is a win-win for all involved. The students have a chance to work with curators and rare materials, and Special Collections gains a wealth of digital and audio materials.

The curators of nine collections across campus agreed to participate in the class in Spring of 2013. The collections that the students had the chance to work with are  Byrd Polar ArchivesUniversity ArchivesRare Books and ManuscriptsBilly Ireland Cartoon Library and MuseumCharvat CollectionHilandar Research LibraryOhio State Congressional ArchivesTheatre Research Institute , and Historic Costume and Textile Collection 

I visited both of  Professor Ulman’s sections of the course to introduce students to all the Special Collections participating. I gave them a brief overview of the treasures different collections offered and some examples of what sort of projects were possible. After hearing the students’ preferences for certain collections, Professor Ulman separated students into groups, depending on the Special Collection they were interested in working with. I served as a conduit to introduce students to the curator they would be working with so they could set up their first meeting.

The assignments for the class (an audio essay, an audio slideshow, an interactive data vizualization, and a video essay) are small in scope. The challenge for the groups is to create appropriate projects without taking on too much information. Another important aspect of the course is learning about the importance of copyright and licenses. Professor Ulman worked with the OSUL copyright librarian to create the forms and permissions needed for the students to allow OSUL to use the material from the projects in our own promotional materials and exhibits.

A big challenge so far has been keeping communication moving between all parties involved. Dr. Ulman keeps Special Collections informed of assignments and activities in the class, but there have been problems with students missing appointments and hoping to make last minute appointments. The curators are positive about their experiences with the students and have been impressed with the enthusiasm and engagement of the students with the collections.

Although we are still considering the long-term storage and use of the projects, we are all looking forward to seeing the results of the students’ work. Dr. Ulman is planning a showcase event for the end of the semester where students and curators can watch highlights from the projects.

Defining Digital Scholarship

In the introductory post for this blog, I defined ‘digital scholarship’ as research and teaching that is made possible by digital technologies, or that takes advantage of them to ask and answer questions in new ways.

I recently came across another definition in Abby Smith Rumsey’s New-Model Scholarly Communication: Roadmap for Change:

Digital scholarship is the use of digital evidence and method, digital authoring, digital publishing, digital curation and preservation, and digital use and reuse of scholarship.

She goes on to define ‘new-model scholarly communications’ as “what results when we put those digital practices into the processes of production, publishing, curation, and use of scholarship.”

I think this definition, in addition to being much less vague than my original one, provides some useful context for thinking about the role of digital scholarship in an organization as large and diverse as the OSU Libraries. It easily encompasses activities in research services, collection development, special collections, scholarly communications, and more. Perhaps it can help us think of the larger context of the work we do, day-to-day, and the ways in which that work is helping to shape the future of scholarship.

Scholarly Communication and Alternative Metrics

Jason Priem spoke at The Ohio State University Libraries on March 5th, 2013. His talk focused around three areas. A link to the complete presentation is located at the end of the post.

Setting up the System

He gave a quick rundown of the history of publishing and noted that when scholars shared data/information it was done through the letter.  It made the best of available technology.  However, in 1665 there was a revolution with the scholarly journal and with this change new standards were created.  Articles developed structures.

With the web, it’s now time for a second revolution.  Publication is nearly free and we’re no longer using the web to its full potential. We are still using the best technology of 1665. His contention is that science of the future will be in the analysis NOT in the collection of data.  Open data allows researchers to replicate results exactly OR do a mashup of data and add your own analysis.

There are a couple of data repositories where data can be deposited for future analysis by any number of research groups. These include Dryad and FigShare.

Another interesting change in the realm of scholarly publishing relates to the conversation around research.  In building from the invisible college, researchers are able to share answers and, more importantly, share questions. Math Overflow is an example, similar to Stack Exchange, where tough questions can be examined, debated, and solved by experts or novices. These type of resources, like Wikipedia, allow for experts to emerge based on their area of expertise, not on their institutional affiliation.  The crowd will self-patrol and promote resources of high value.

Currently people are confusing form with purpose. Publishing used to mean “the act of making public.” Therefore a tweet, a blog post, a journal article, would all be forms of making information available publically. Information can be made public very quickly. Then it is imperative to set up good filtering systems.   Today academics spend about the same amount of time reading as they did in the 1970s; however, more is being read because more is being published.  Jason argues that if you do the same thing only faster and more of it that the system is broken. His solution? Set up your own personal journal.  If the article can be decoupled from the journal, you are able to filter to only get the information that is relevant to you and your research interests. One way is to set up a Tweetdeck. This will allow for great peer review of articles of interest. You’re also able to target your own research for feedback to an audience that is extremely interested in your output.

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Why We Digitize

The answer to the question about why we digitize materials from the collections of the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program (BPRCAP) is actually quite simple – and that is, to let people know what we have.    In case you are unaware, the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program was created officially in 1990, after acquiring the Papers of Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Sir George Hubert Wilkins in the mid- 1980s.  The first year that the Byrd and Wilkins collections were open to the public was 1994/95 – reference requests totaled 41 for the year.  In 1999, the Polar Archives launched its first website, and the reference stats went to 198 for the year 1999/2000.  We have seen a steady rise in reference activity every year since, with a leveling off at around 350-400 requests annually.  In this time, we have continually added more and more information to our website.


Admiral Byrd’s dog, Igloo

All of this digitization has been well received by our patrons, though admittedly confusing to them at times.  For example, “I found your finding aid online to the Byrd papers, but when I clicked on it, nothing happened.”  And, that’s when we have to have a discussion about choices.  The Byrd Papers alone are more than 500 boxes of materials; we will never digitize it all.  But many times people do indeed find what they are seeking on our website – such as various museums who borrow artifacts to enhance their own exhibitions.  They really love that they can see the artifacts online, rather than simply look at a list of what we have.  I’ve also had family members tell me how excited they were to see documentation of their relative on our website, whether it be an oral history, or an image collection, or a reference to their family member in a finding aid.  Just this week, we were contacted by an author who found us online, and will be coming for an extended visit to research our collection for a book she is writing.  And the History Teaching Institutes uses one of our lesson plans on an ongoing basis in their hands-on workshop where they teach teachers how to incorporate primary resources in the classroom.  The list goes on.  Digitization does not in fact decrease the use of our collections – it increases it.  After all, they can’t use it if they can’t find it.  And isn’t that the whole point?

With each various project, we have used whatever tools were available to us at that given time.  I like to say that the Polar Archives has stuff stored in every digital orifice on campus!  But not to worry – we will help you find what you are seeking!  Here is a rundown of a few of our many digitization projects, where they live, and in some cases,  why they live where they do.

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