Thursday, December 16, 2010

some topics for the coming year

Well finals are done. The Watzek Library holiday cards are almost in the mail. And the library's holiday party starts at 2pm today in the Pamplin room.

Here are a few topics that I'd like to post on in the coming months:
  • library budgets: is there a balance to be struck between acquisitions and operations/staffing? Are we drifting one way or another?
  • collections and space: are our collections still growing in a physical sense?
  • the return on investment on library sponsored events and programs (or how the hell do we justify that big food and drink expense line in our operations budget?)
  • the digital library center: what characterizes this kind of a service unit and how prevalent are they at selective liberal arts colleges?
  • does the library have a role as an interdisciplinary catalyst (I'm supposed to write a book chapter on this topic)?
  • why design is a typically underrated component of academic digital projects
  • ideas for partnering with bigger institutions to support academic digital projects
  • NSF data management plans at small liberal arts colleges (we need to start doing these this year)
  • strategies to promote change in scholarly communication at small colleges

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Edward Bellamy on the publishing industry

Given that the my boss and mentor, the late James J. Kopp, was a scholar of Edward Bellamy, not to mention a collector of his works (collection soon to be housed at U of Oregon), I was pleased to come across this blog post by Kathryn Tomasek at Wheaton, who saw some interesting parallels between Bellamy's system of author rewards portrayed in his utopian novel Looking Backward and current digital publication schemes.
Bellamy described book publishing and the making of art in his utopia as the place in which a market similar to the world of capitalist competition continued to operate. Authors, for example, had to furnish the funds for publication out of their own credit. “He must pay for the privilege of the public ear,” Bellamy wrote, “and if he has any message worth hearing we consider that he will be glad to do it…. The cost of an edition of an average book can be saved out of a year’s credit by the practice of economy and some sacrifices. The book, on being published, is placed on sale by the nation.” In Bellamy’s imagined future authors set their own royalties, which were added to the cost of publication to yield the price of the book. If the book was popular and sold enough copies to support the author, then the author would be excused from service in the industrial army for as long as the credit lasted. A similar process in which subscriptions substituted for the price of individual copies of books provided for the publication of newspapers and magazines (Chapter 15).

Monday, December 6, 2010

digital scholarship: explaining the concept

With our sponsored research officer, I'm putting together a short workshop in January to explain to humanities and social sciences faculty the concept of digital scholarship and how it might intersect with their work. Recent articles in the New York Times on "Humanities 2.0" may provoke some interest in this. We've seen some pretty big initiatives on this front at peer institutions like Occidental and Hamilton and are thinking about possibilities on our own campus.

I'm thinking through a good way to explain digital scholarship. It's such an amorphous concept. On the one hand, its tempting to think of our common forms of print scholarship online as digital scholarship: electronic journals and now increasingly, electronic books. Projects that involve the digitization of primary print sources also come to mind. Then there is the whole movement towards open access journals and open repositories of scholarly work.

I would say that digital scholarship happens when digital technology can enhance research methodologies and provide new, useful ways of presenting evidence as well as intellectual or artistic output. These new practices often engage students in the research process and promote collaborative research.

Here are some projects that fall along these lines.

Oren Kosansky's NEH funded Genizah project supports digital capture, encoding and analysis of a cache of documents from Jewish Communities in Morroco with help from the library and at least one student on the Morroco program; while digital technologies will enable the collaborative analysis by a global group of scholars interested in the archive, they will also stimulate some challenging ethical and legal questions.

At Wheaton College, a historian has her students doing similar types of transcription and encoding of historical documents related to the founders of that College.

Students from Furman University have contributed to the Center for Hellenic Studies Homer Multitext project by transcribing medieval manuscripts of the Illiad and Odyssey, some of which had never previously found their way into print.

Our own Environmental Studies Situated Research initiative utilizes social bookmarking technologies and concept maps to allow students to collectively build archives of research resources around geographic sites.

The History Engine, a project out of the University of Richmond is a platform on which undergraduate students perform primary research a topic in 19th century American history and compose a brief "episode" about that topic in a globally accessible database, thereby allowing students to publish their work in a widely accessible forum.

Bob Goldman and Bryan Seboks Adea project challenges students to convey some of the "big ideas" in the liberal arts via the 21st century "short form."

The New York Neighborhoods project out of Columbia University has students taking to the streets of various NYC neighborhoods to produce histories from interviews, walking tours and photographs, all organized and curated on a wiki platform that incorporates web mapping and geolocation. There are many variations on this concept of location based research projects, with Hypercities being an emerging platform.

Our own Ted Vogel's accessCeramics project curates and exposes recent work in the field of contemporary ceramics. The collection allows artists and their students visual access to the latest and best work in this global, quickly evolving area of art.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


This piece from Inside Higher Education on weeding (otherwise known as deselection, remaindering, deaccessioning, etc.) library collections provides a good librarian's perspective on the topic. One point it misses is how much electronic access as resource sharing has made it possible to get by with potentially fewer copies of the same books.

spider lab


Last spring I visited with multiple faculty across the College of Arts and Sciences about ways that the library could help them organize data better for teaching and research. One of our most receptive folks was Greta Binford of Biology. Yesterday I stopped by and visited a Biology 100 lab filled with students busily photographing spiders with microscopes, uploading them to Flickr, and then tagging them using flickr machine tags. Digital Services Coordinator Jeremy McWilliams has worked with Greta to come up with a system for classifying and geotagging these spiders, which have all been retrieved from the Lewis & Clark campus. The result will be a website that will map the "spiders of lewis & clark."

This is our first digital initiative in the sciences, and we look forward to more down the line.