How Libraries can support Digital Humanities: reflections on #GaleDHDay

By Antony Groves (Learning and Teaching Librarian at the University of Sussex) @AntonyGroves

At the beginning of May, Gale organised their first Digital Humanities Day at the British Library. The event brought together a diverse range of speakers from around the world who spoke about different aspects of Digital Humanities (DH) scholarship; from infrastructure through to research and teaching. This post will draw out three themes from the day in an effort to better understand how we can support this growing area of work:

  1. Collaboration in DH research is key and libraries can play a role within these collaborations. 
  2. There are many different datasets, techniques and tools being used yet a common approach we can take to developing training.
  3. We should work on our own data projects if we wish to really understand what is needed to support the academic community.

Collaboration in DH research is key and libraries can play a role within these collaborations.

In the afternoon session, Dr Sarah Ketchley stressed that “Digital Humanities projects are inherently a collaborative undertaking” and the earlier presentations of Professors Mark Algee-Hewitt and Joris Van Eijnatten highlighted this. The work done by Prof Algee-Hewitt and others at the Stanford Literary Lab has involved a number of ‘distant reading’ projects where participants have used a variety of computational techniques to analyse large collections of digital texts. Looking at grammar and language respectively, Prof Algee-Hewitt’s research involved digital novels whereas Prof Van Eijnatten focused on newspapers using The Times Digital Archive; both resources that libraries can provide.

Throughout the day, flags such as these indicated potential roles for libraries in DH collaborations. For example, Dr Julianne Nyhan reflected on infrastructure and the challenges to researchers of obtaining data in a format that can be ‘mined’ – in one case having to obtain a hard drive from a provider. This is somewhere librarians can help and Lisa Mcintosh, Director of Access Services at the University of Sydney Library, shared an impressive list of services offered by their library in support of digital research:

  • Provide content for text and data mining
  • License permission and copyright support
  • Recommending tools and TDM (Text and Data Mining) resources
  • Integrating text mining into Information Literacy classes in the Humanities
  • Assisting humanities teaching staff to integrate text mining in the classroom
  • Getting started with data visualisation training • Data analysis and visualisation guide

There are many different datasets, techniques and tools being used yet a common approach we can take to developing training.

For those wondering which students this area of scholarship might appeal to; the answer is all of them. In an inspiring talk about introducing DH in the Undergraduate Classroom, Dr Sarah Ketchley showed that her 2018 ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’ module was full, with 35 students from 21 different departments across campus. Not only is this type of scholarship appealing to students but it is also invaluable to them. For one reason, as explained by Dr Melodee Beals, “evidence is merely data with a direction”. If we want students to critically engage with evidence-based research, helping them to analyse the underlying data is of great importance.

The tools that students use in Dr Ketchley’s class have included OpenRefine, Voyant Tools and more recently the Gale Digital Scholar Lab – a cloud based platform containing a range of software that can be used with Gale databases to which the institution subscribes. This cloud based approach avoided issues encountered by previous cohorts where a whole lesson had to be dedicated to downloading and installing the required programs. Dr. Tomoji Tabata also introduced an open source tool called Stylo to be used for ‘rolling stylometry’, a technique to detect stylistic changes in passages of text.

Throughout the day, reference was made to many different techniques (e.g. topic modelling, named entity recognition, sentiment analysis); tools (e.g. Gephi, Google Fusion Tables, MALLET); and data sources (e.g. TROVE, Hathitrust, Gale Historical Newspapers). With so much out there, it can be hard to know how best to start providing support. Thankfully, Associate Professor Ryan Cordell brought clarity to this undertaking by proposing four steps to teaching humanities data analysis:

  • Start with creativity 
  • Teach using domain specific data 
  • Foreground corpus over method
  • Foreground mind-set over method (‘programmatic’ thinking more important that programming’)

We take a similar approach to developing our Information Literacy training sessions and find that it works well. In the short amount of time that we often get to see students in workshop, making the content of the session as relevant to a given cohort as possible increases engagement. In addition, focusing on how to approach searching (as opposed to how to use a particular tool) means that they can apply this learning to a range of tools that they may encounter not just the one or two included in the session.

“Work on your own data projects to understand what is really needed to support your academic community”.

This is a direct quote from the final presentation by Lisa Mcintosh, which was the perfect way to finish the day. While listening to the research presented throughout the day was fascinating and certainly highlighted areas where we can support this scholarship, managing our own data projects and facing the same barriers that our researchers encounter is what will really help us to understand the support that is most needed.

This may sound daunting but hopefully this post has shared at least a few resources that can be explored further, and take encouragement from Prof Van Eijnatten who asserted that “if I can write a few lines of code anyone can”.

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MmIT bursary for Cilip Conference 2019 #CilipConf19

 

The CILIP Conference takes place in Manchester from 3-4 July. It’s the annual flagship event for CILIP, the library and information association and one of the biggest events in the calendar for UK library and information professionals. The conference brings together delegates from across the sector to meet, learn and share knowledge. It’s a great chance to catch up with colleagues and make new connections. The conference aims to leave you feeling inspired and passionate about the work that we do as professionals.

MmIT are delighted to be able to offer a bursary place. If you haven’t attended the CILIP conference before, this is a great opportunity to listen to the excellent key note speakers and to network. To apply, please email treasurer.mmit@cilip.org.uk by end of day Friday 19th April 2019. Please tell us who you are, where you work/study, and provide us with a draft blog post about your favourite technology (between 400-1,000 words). We will confirm who the bursary will be awarded to by end of day Friday 3rd May 2019, and subsequently publish the winning blog post (we appreciate that the application time is limited so we will give the winner the opportunity to edit the final version of their blog post during the month of May).

Travel expenses are not provided with the bursary place but accommodation is included. This bursary place includes access to both days of the conference, lunch, refreshments and all sessions. We would expect the bursary winner to proactively promote both the conference and MmIT before, during and after the conference using social media.

To keep up to date on conference developments, follow @CILIPConf19 and #CILIPConf19 and visit the website cilipconference.org.uk.

You can also register for the conference. Don’t worry – if you receive a bursary place, CILIP will refund you. You can still book delegate places at the Early Bird discount until 17th May 2019.

Art library problems, tech solutions

We are delighted to introduce another guest post, this time from one of the MmIT committee. Rowan Williamson is Learning Resources Manager at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

I have worked in Art libraries for many years and I always think nothing else our students do will surprise me…and then it does.

That’s what makes it so interesting. ‘Studio’ and workshop activities often creep into the library, and whilst they are often fascinating and are being done hand in hand with more traditional research, they can present a whole range of challenges in terms of health and safety, mess and damage to furniture and environment. Some are a straightforward headache to keep up with the cleaning but it struck me recently that as art librarians we have to be just as creative as our creative students in dealing with the after effects of these activities.

Some Universities are introducing full blown ‘maker spaces’ but that’s not always an option, so if you are stuck with a library moonlighting as an art studio think about the following tips:

  1. Dress makers dolls in the library, bit of stitching and sewing? Unusual but Mannequin, desks and shares in a pop-up maker space in a librarywhere’s the harm? It’s in the dropped tin of pins that are strewn across half the floor. Top tip for an efficient clear up? Get your magnetic DVD unlockers and wave them over to suck them all up!
  2. Hot glue spilt on your tables? You need an iron. Every library should have one! Just add a tea towel and you have a dried glue removal kit.
  3. Spray booths. Spray painting in the library is not what you want because of the toxicity, and it’s fairly likely the smell will alert staff to what’s going on so you can prevent it. However some sprays are only problematic because of the mess, and you may only find out they are being used when you find spray mount all over your tables (yes, glue again!) So a cheap solution you might want to consider, is buying a spray booth. They don’t take up much space (a table top) and can be placed somewhere visible for monitoring, and they might just discourage those secret sprayers from hiding in the back destroying your carpets!
  4. Light tables – Light boxes and tables are very popular with students. Some use it for drawing and tracing as you would expect but I have seen a whole load of activities on there, building models, stringing beads, painting and even using scalpels. Use acetates and clear plastic coatings to prevent the worst. Failing that, take the bulbs out and ‘issue; them to their library account for accountability! (Note; not always that easy depending on the make, your staff time and expertise!
  5. Flip top tables. A simple, flexible space saving solution you would think. But potentially a major health hazard in an art library where I found our fashion students parading up and down on them doing ‘catwalk’ practice! Avoid trouble, don’t buy them. If you need flexible space go for the study chairs with flip side tables, or keep unattached table tops to lay on the floor for them to spread out work!
  6. Are your massive Art books damaging the photocopiers? Are they suffering broken spines from being crammed down on to the glass multiple times daily? Try investing in a professional book scanner that scans from above. Zetech offer a range. They are not cheap but you might save the difference in binding costs!
  7. It may seem obvious but a really powerful little hand held hoover is a must Scraps of paper scattered around a photocopier with the paper drawers openif you have regular wood shavings on your floor. No wood shavings? Bet you have bits of cut up paper. Look out for powerful suction, wall mounted and rechargeable with different nozzles for those art materials you never even heard of before that are littering your floors and getting inside the printers!
  8. Shelfmark challenges. Got someone good with tech/programming/apps? How about you try an Augmented Reality App to create a virtual map of your library shelf locations. Art students browse, and many struggle with classification systems. Dyslexia rates are higher in art school populations, and many students are visual learners. Ditch the classmarks and create an app that pops up images of the subject areas as you point them at the shelves. For a lower tech solution you can use QR codes.
  9. Buy a good camera and get on Instagram. It’s the perennial problem for librarians, which social media platform are the students on, and will they still be there by the time we catch up? Well maybe will always be behind the curve but we prioritise Instagram and a well-chosen image over the pithy 140 characters!
  10. Have a good supply of noise cancelling headphones. And earplugs! Artists are digital too.

Got any more tips? Share them in the comments below!

Rowan Williamson

Reports on technology trends in higher education and in HE libraries

Two significant reports on technology trends in higher education have been published recently:

  • The 2018 NMC Horizon Report has been published by EDUCAUSE.  The Report identifies and describes the higher education trends, challenges, and developments in educational technology which are likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry.  The 2018 expert panel identified six important developments in technology for higher education (and the likely timescales to adoption): analytics technologies; makerspaces; adaptive learning technologies; artificial intelligence; mixed reality and robotics.
  • Technology and Tomorrow’s Students: how new tools will transform the undergraduate experience is published by The Chronicle.  The focus of this report is on exploring higher education’s use of technology and implications for the future in the key areas of managing data; student enrollment; enriching student advising; and improving career services.

In addition, in June the ACRL Research Planning and Review Committee published their biennial review of the trends and issues affecting academic libraries in higher education: 2018 top trends in academic libraries.  These are: the publisher and vendor landscape; fake news and information literacy; project management approaches in libraries; textbook affordability and OER; learning analytics, data collection, and ethical concerns; research datasets acquisition, text mining, and data science; collection management; acquisition model developments; open access collection development policies and funding schemes; and legacy print collections.

Libraries and free technology – Bargains to be found if you look around and avoid the pitfalls

This post was originally written by Andy Tattersall ahead of his and fellow MmIT committee member Christina Harbour’s participation in the next #uklibchat

cropped-uklibchatskysegoe
https://uklibchat.wordpress.com/

There is the line that you can never have too much of good thing and these days there are so many good things that librarians and information professionals can employ in their working environment. The great thing is that since we emerged from the world of Web 1.0 to 2.0 that a lot of these newer tools are free and actually quite useful. The flipside is that a lot aren’t that good or just can’t be applied in a library setting, regardless of how hard you try and knock a square peg into a round hole, it won’t go (unless the square peg is smaller of course).

Libraries are no different from any kind of organisation, they have to use formally licensed software for the day to day running of their service. Even though this does not always mean the leanest or most dynamic of packages serving your library, but it does mean you will get a good level of service support and that is essential. The smaller, more niche tools have a part to play in this technology ecosystem – just like the microbes and bugs on Planet Earth – if we remove them the whole system would collapse. The larger technology companies often need the smaller companies to keep the environment from becoming stale and predictable. They also can eat them up from time to time, just like our bugs and other real world creatures. Take for example how – at the time independent company – Mendeley changed reference management dramatically for the better. The smaller technology companies are less likely to get bogged down by bloated platforms run by large companies who focus first on foremost in delivering a stable product for their users. Like I say, the stability of large platforms is essential, the flexibility and dynamic nature of smaller technologies is often where the real action is at.

The last ten years has seen a tremendous growth in new technologies that can be applied in a library setting. The financial cost of these tools, such as Canva, Twitter, Adobe Spark and Eventbrite can be free. Yet with freedom can come a cost as problems can start to float to the surface, although not all of these problems are that worrisome. The old adage ‘If you are not paying for the product – you are the product’ certainly rings true with how some technologies will give you a free ride if you give them your data in return. There are also issues around what do you do when you become hooked into a useful platform, but want more from the premium add ons and the person holding the purse strings says no. How do you know whether the tool you are using will be here tomorrow – remember PageFlakes, Storify, Readability, Google Reader and Silk anyone?

Another question for the typical library or information professional is which tools are best and how can they be applied and which will work on their system – take for example a librarian in an NHS setting. The final and most crucial issue is around the investment of time used to master new tools and that can be problematic depending on the learning curve, but if you know how to use Microsoft Word you’ll probably master most lightweight tools in very little time. The sheer number of tools that can be used in the library sector is overwhelming, regardless of whether you are a public, NHS, business or academic librarian. One tool may solve a host of problems for one librarian but be as useful as a chocolate teapot for another. It is all about application and one of the greatest things to see in technology uptake in the library is how one person can use a tool and then another take that same tool and apply it in a totally unexpected way just as successfully. This is the wonderful thing about these technologies, whether it is Menitmeter for polling, Pocket for curating or Piktochart for posters, you you use it may be totally different from how someone else does.

 

What should a single digital presence for UK public libraries be like?

The British Library is leading a scoping project establishing the demand and possible shape of a single digital presence for UK public libraries. Consultation workshops for the project are taking place in London (2 July) and Bath (10 July) for interested parties.

Do get in touch with the organisers if you and your organisation would like to take part. Responses should be sent to singledigitalpresence @ bl.uk indicating which session you would like to attend.

[Info taken from the CILIP Weekly Email 20 June 2018]

Talks and tweets from #mmitcrowds

On Monday 19 March MmIT members and friends explored The wisdom of the crowd? Crowdsourcing for information professionals The afternoon seminar included a case study from the British Library, two ways information professionals can contribute to the accuracy of Wikipedia, and a mini-workshop to identify ways that delegates might utilise crowdsourcing in their own workplace.

A Storify of tweets using the #mmitcrowds hashtag  https://storify.com/AlisonMcNab/mmitcrowdsIMG_1867: