Digital Scholarship @ The Libraries

Inspiring innovative digital scholarship at the OSU Libraries and beyond

Month: December 2013

Data Curation as Publishing for the Digital Humanities (link)

Data Curation as Publishing for the Digital Humanities (Journal of Digital Humanities)

The article linked above is an expansion of a talk given by Trevor Muñoz at the CIC Center for Library Initiatives Annual Conference last May. The theme of the conference was publishing, and in his talk Trevor argued for data curation as a form of publishing that draws on traditional librarian skill sets and aligns with library missions. The talk itself was thought-provoking, and I would recommend the Journal of Digital Humanities article to anyone looking to practice, or support, or understand data curation and/or publishing in libraries. The article takes the original argument a step further, however, in challenging librarians to transform all of our work to better utilize our unique skill sets and align with our mission as a profession. It comes in the context of advocating for the use of collection budgets to support curation/publishing activities. My favorite part:

The current situation in which libraries purchase subscriptions to large databases of, for example, journal articles, represents not only an unsustainable economic situation but also an unsustainable professional one in which libraries outsource the expertise and experience of collecting, normalizing, organizing, and making available scholarly information. Librarians should spend more time on creating metadata, building catalogs, developing and refining indexes, and building, organizing, and maintaining collections than on negotiating publisher contracts or teaching the details of interfaces created by vendors. Extending library, archive, and information science practices for data may include aggregating data sets, cleaning and normalizing values, and annotating data with controlled vocabularies and ontologies. The issues of description, organization, and access for data are still largely unsolved and libraries should demonstrate their expertise in solving these challenges through developing and sustaining data curation-as-publishing programs.

Read the full article. 

Wikipedian-in-Residence visit


Last Friday, the Libraries was treated to a visit by Michael Barera, the University of Michigan School of Information student who served as the Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library last winter. Michael gave a public presentation and met with a number of individuals and groups here at the Libraries to talk about his experience. He gave a great overview of the work he did at the Ford, and of how Wikipedia works behind-the-scenes. I attended the presentation and a small group meeting, and left with some interesting takeaways that I wanted to share. These were by no means the focus of his talk, or of the majority of the conversation, but they are the bits that jumped out at me.

Wikipedia v. Flickr

Michael is a prolific photographer, and he posts his images to a gallery on Wikimedia Commons. Following Commons policy, he releases his photographs under a Creative Commons license (his choice is CC BY-SA). In the Q&A period after his talk, someone asked Michael why he chooses to share his images on Commons, rather than Flickr. His answer should provide food for thought for libraries who share their images on third-party sites. He gave two main reasons. 1. He prefers that his images support a non-profit entity such as Wikimedia, rather than a commercial outfit like Yahoo! (owner of Flickr). 2. While there are fewer images on Wikimedia Commons (and partly because there are fewer images), the description and categorization functions are far superior to Flickr’s. He described some interesting uses of his work that were made possible by open licensing and discoverability. Both of these are legitimate considerations for libraries, and his answer inspired me to put Commons on my mental list of options for increasing access to digitized library collections.

Getting started with Wikipedia

Michael was asked a number of times how we could ‘grow our own’ Wikipedians. His answers invariably stressed that it is easier to incorporate an existing Wikipedian into the library than to turn a librarian into a Wikipedian. He gave as reasons the patience and persistence required to become an editor, and the need to develop the trust of the editing community – neither of which is a trivial undertaking. When pressed, however, he gave a great piece of advice on how to get started editing Wikipedia. First, create an account on the site. Second, sign into it whenever you visit Wikipedia. Third, if you find a typo while you’re reading, correct it. Fixing typos is not glamorous work, but it will build your confidence and start to develop a solid editing record that is visible to the community through your user page. Guess what’s on my to-do list for this week?

Teaching Wikipedia

Before meeting Michael, I was unaware of the extent to which the Wikipedia community supports using its various sites as teaching tools. In fact, there is an entire Wikipedia Education Program. There’s also a lot of great information on the Outreach Wiki about other education-related initiatives, including Wikipedia student clubs, and the GLAM project. Michael also shared with us this video on a project by a Michigan chemistry professor to improve student writing by having them edit Wikipedia.

Looking ahead…

I believe we are still exploring the possibility of having our own Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Libraries, and I hope we find a way to make it happen. It would be a challenging assignment at a place this size, but last Friday’s event convinced me that the opportunities are definitely worth it.

Why do academics blog? (Link)

Why do academics blog? It’s not for public outreach, research shows (The Guardian Higher Education Network)

The link above is to an article on a fascinating, small-scale study on academic blogging. The authors, Pat Thomson and Inger Mewburn, analyzed 100 academic blogs to get a feel for the landscape and to determine the bloggers’ motivations. The entire article is worth a read, as it touches on a variety of issues around academic blogging – including ways in which it is (mis)perceived by institutions of higher education. The best part, though, is the authors’ description of the academic blog-o-sphere in two distinct ways: as a common room for academics and as a variation of open access publishing. An excerpt:

After conducting this small study we have come to think about academic blogging in two ways. Firstly, many bloggers are talking together in a kind of giant, global virtual common room. Over at one table there is a lively, even angry, conversation about working conditions in academia in different parts of the world. In a different corner another group are discussing their latest research projects and finding common themes.

Another table houses a group of senior and early career academics discussing how to land a book contract and write a good CV. There is also a meeting going on about public policy, and this involves a number of public and third sector people, as well as academics, who work in the area.

In our sample of blogs, this common room was, by and large, a friendly and safe space. There was a generosity of spirit that marked many of the blogs we read: information and assistance were freely provided and the usual barriers of disciplines, seniority and higher education ranking effects did not seem to apply, at least in obvious ways.

Secondly, we have come to see blogging as a variation of open access publishing. Academics can get to print early, share ideas which are still being cooked and stake a claim in part of a conversation without waiting to appear in print. On blogs we can offer commentary on the work of others in a more relaxed – or opinionated – way than we might do in conventional journals, where we will be subjected to the normalising gaze of peer reviewers.