Digital Scholarship @ The Libraries

Inspiring innovative digital scholarship at the OSU Libraries and beyond

Month: July 2013

Library acquisitions and ETDs

It’s been an interesting week in digital scholarship. The American Historical Society’s “Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations” kicked off a firestorm of comment and criticism. Public discussion has taken place on Twitter and any number of blogs, and has encompassed everything from the role of the AHA to the selection policies of university presses and the plight of junior scholars in the humanities. A very timely recent article in C&RL (“Do Open Access Electronic Theses and Dissertations Diminish Publishing Opportunities in the Social Sciences and Humanities? Findings From a 2011 Survey of Academic Publishers”) provided some useful backdrop for the discussion, as have personal statements by history scholars (Jennifer Guiliano’s was particularly interesting) and thoughtful commentary by librarians and others (Kevin Smith at Duke University is, as always, worth a read).

One voice that has been largely missing, however, has been that of library acquisitions. What libraries will and will not buy would seem to be the linchpin of the whole discussion: Scholars are afraid to make their dissertations openly available because presses won’t publish them. Presses won’t publish them because libraries won’t buy them. Or will they? The policies and motivations of acquisitions librarians seem to be the least well-explored aspect of the whole situation, so I asked Dracine Hodges, the Head of the Acquisitions Department at the OSU Libraries, to respond to a few questions. I think her answers shed some light on what goes into an academic library’s decision to buy a book – or not, as the case may be.

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Conservation and Digital Imaging–Part 2

My previous post showed some of the ways in which Conservation specialists repair and restore items, making digital imaging more successful. This time, I’ll talk about items that are taken apart in order to ensure the best image capture.

Disbinding of books is a somewhat controversial subject. In part, this is because of the practice, sometimes used in mass digitization projects, of completely chopping off the book’s binding and stitching. It is a very efficient method, and results in a stack of loose pages which can be scanned much more quickly than a bound book. However, it is not the method used when the goal is to both digitize the book and preserve the original.

Before going on, I should point out that for some books, no type of disbinding, or even loosening of the binding, is acceptable. Rare books, artists’ books, and other books whose physical characteristics are significant must be digitized exactly as they are, without altering their condition in any way. Their stitching, binding, and covers are as important as their textual and illustrative content.

Other books, however, are of interest solely for the text and images printed on their pages. For example, many serials were sent to commercial binderies during the 1950s and 60s. These publications were bound together for the sake of convenient shelving and browsing. Their covers are the standard buckram and boards used in high-capacity industrial binderies. In some cases, they are bound so tightly, the text near the inner margins is difficult to read. Altering or removing these bindings provides better access to the printed content of the books.

For materials like these, we employ non-destructive disbinding: careful techniques are used to loosen up the bindings and spread out the pages; as much as possible of the book’s original structure is kept in place. Here are two examples of projects done in the Preservation & Reformatting Department.

Loosening pages
When the Libraries took on the project of digitizing 100+ years of the student newspaper, the bound volumes presented a problem.  The stiff spines were reinforced with cardboard, making it impossible to open the pages flat.  The pages curved toward the center, and in some cases the text was extremely close to the binding.  Successful digitization requires getting as flat a page image as possible.


The stiff binding and carboard spine liner prevent the pages from lying flat.

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New positions to support Digital Scholarship @ OSU Libraries

The Libraries at OSU are recruiting for a cohort of library faculty focused on digital scholarship as the Universities build on initiatives for interdisciplinary research. Among the cohort of six positions are the Digital Humanities Librarian, the Geospatial Information Library, and the Data Management Services Librarian. Each position carries unique responsibilities for addressing a particular facet of digital scholarship or data support in assisting scholars, but the collaborative possibilities among them and other experts in the Libraries focused on research services are rare opportunities to make a difference at a time of growing support for digital scholarship throughout the University.

The Digital Humanities Librarian will work with digital humanities scholars in a variety of disciplines to advance projects in the digital arts and humanities, through connecting scholars and encouraging interdisciplinary research, facilitating collaboration among subject librarians and special collections curators in the digital humanities, and enabling the effective use of digital methodologies and tools among faculty.

The Geospatial Information Librarian/Head of Geology Library is a forward-focused individual who will establish and grow the Libraries’ GIS services program. This is an area of expressed need across several disciplines to support research related to GIS and Geospatial Information. This position will interact with emerging areas on campus relating to visualization of data across disciplines and provide expertise with data visualization tools and techniques.

The Data Management Services Librarian will lead the Libraries in assisting researchers with managing the lifecycle of research data. The Libraries are exploring ways to support researchers in the management of and access to research data and providing guidance to emerging and evolving techniques related to data management services. Given recent granting mandates, data management services are of growing interest on many university campuses.

The excitement surrounding this cohort is that these individuals will be able to shape the programs related to emerging areas for research support. This group will also be providing services in a new space, a Research Commons, where the Libraries will partner with several key research support areas around campus including: the Office of Research, the Copyright Resources Center, the Undergraduate Research Office, the Digital Union- an arm of the Office of Distance Education and e-Learning, the Digital Humanities Working Group, and offices providing GIS support. This cohort will be building an evolving service model that will provide programming related to digital scholarship at Ohio State University.

Selecting Content for Reformatting from Analog to Digital

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Nena Couch and Wes Boomgaarden.

The Ohio State University Libraries’ Strategic Plan clearly articulates the intent of the Libraries to “increase the scale and scope of distinctive and digital collections and enhance access to and usage of these materials to support research and anytime, anywhere learning.” [Strategic Focus Area 4] It accomplishes this through its supporting initiative (4.3) to “build OSU programs and projects that digitize and make accessible high value high impact works in library collections.”

OSU faculty meeting minutes from 1875, from the OSU Archives

OSU faculty meeting minutes from 1875, from the OSU Archives

The focus and initiative are administratively located in the Libraries primarily within the purview of the Associate Director for Collections, Technical Services and Scholarly Communication.   In that structure, the Collections Reformatting Review Sub-Committee (CRRS-C) of the Collection Development and Management Committee is charged “to review and set priorities for the generation of digital content in the Libraries where analog content is being digitized.”   The CRRS-C develops and maintains a regularized process for calling for and reviewing proposals within the Libraries.   As project proposals are vetted and approved, the many tasks involved with digitization and delivery of content are handed to the Digital Reformatting Working Group (DRWG) for implementation.

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