• Dec 10, 2016

    Digital scholarship is about creating channels

    In the last few months, I’ve become involved in an environmental humanities project that has deeply impacted the way I see my work. At the same time, and even more so since the election, I’m aware of how deeply connected the precarity and faults that exist within our information landscape are to the precarity and faults of our civil society. As the project I’m working on has been closely tied to a particular river (the Schuylkill), I’ve been thinking a lot of the analogies between waterways and workflows (the “flow” in workflow makes it obvious that I’m not the first person to see this connection). Also, because Digital Scholarship is a very difficult term to describe, I am always in search of new analogies and metaphors to draw from when describing what a digital scholarship department in a library can do. Here, I’m testing out a new analogy that has helped me answer questions about how our department spends its time.
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  • May 12, 2016

    Tips for Learning Tools for Librarians

    Sometimes librarians ask me how they should start learning all the tools. First, I give them a long, irritating lecture about how resistant I am to the notion of learning tools. Because the nature of tools is that they are useful FOR something, and it doesn’t make sense to talk about the tools in the absence of their uses. Don’t learn a tool. Learn how to do something you want to do, and you will naturally learn to use some tools. It might turn out that the tool you’re using is perfect for your use, and terrible for another one, but tools aren’t useful to learn in the absence of goals that make use of them. But I know that’s an obnoxious answer, and I actually do have some approaches that worked for me (and others) for getting feet wet in the world of digital scholarship activities.
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  • Apr 29, 2016

    Penn Libraries Job Talk

    What follows is a lightly edited version of the talk I gave as part of my interview for the job of Assistant Director for Digital Scholarship on December 4, 2015. I had a lot of slides, most of which were screenshots, and I’ve mostly just converted them to links. Also, I had a bunch of jokes in the talk. It turns out I’m very corny. I couldn’t keep those in the written version either.
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  • Nov 1, 2015

    Infrastructure of labor: student worker/scholars

    This talk was given as part of a panel with Stewart Varner and Barbara Rockenbach at the DLF Fall Forum in Vancouver. I had already seen Stewart’s talk in Kansas, so I wrote mine very much to follow his, spending less time than I otherwise might have on the summer project we did with librarians. Here is roughly what I said. Some of the screenshots are links to pages, and some are pictures of closed sites. Where we have the faculty and student’s permission, I’ve shared the links.
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  • Nov 15, 2014

    Repository + repo = ?

    This is another not-yet-fully-formed thought. This iteration of the thought came up again through a conversation with Bret Mulligan, a classics professor I work with, who wants a way to use git with open educational resources for classics. I keep coming back to this dream of bringing together the two different systems we are referring to when we talk about repositories. There are repositories, by which we usually mean institutional repositories, which have some really wonderful features – the benefit of great metadata being one of the most notable. If not in practice, at least in theory. They also contain an ‘of record’ version of a project. Then there are “repos”, on the other hand, by which we usually mean git repositories. They have many great qualities! They have the benefit of allowing for new commits, for branching and forking and sharing in robust and powerful ways. And, they are extremely widely used and adopted, and so learning git helps you learn many other things.
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  • Nov 15, 2014

    Turning Library Records into Data: A Conversation & Workshop

    Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 1:00-4:45pm

    Library Company of Philadelphia Cassatt House, 1320 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA

    Visit www.librarycompany.org/events to register! Turning Library Records into Data: A Conversation & Workshop Tuesday, December 9, 2014, 1:00-4:45pm Library Company of Philadelphia Cassatt House, 1320 Locust Street Philadelphia, PA As more and more hackers, students, and scholars are engaging in creative projects that require “big data,”this two-part session invites librarians and archivists to think through ways to expose their collections to interpretation and analysis by digital humanities scholars, students, and local hackers, and to make those collections easily mappable.
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  • Oct 16, 2014

    Adding mappable data to non-map records (for libraries and archives)

    The question:
    I’m curious to find people who are encoding coordinates (or standardized addresses) in library records for non-map materials. I know that there are spaces within Dublin Core (http://dublincore.org/documents/dcmi-point/), MARC (255 or 034) and VRA Core for including coordinates, but I haven’t found examples of catalogers who are routinely specifying either geographic coordinates or standardized addresses for non-map materials. A few examples:\ 1) A book describing the history of a particular building or intersection\ 2) A lithograph of a 19th century street scene\ 3) A photograph of a person in front of a recognizable building\ 3) A manuscript collection related to the history of a particular place. Some context: I’ve recently worked with students and “hacktivists” on pulling data out of library systems and exploring those data through various data visualization tools. We’ve found that the geographic data in many of the records is often either not included or not standardized, so that a lot of data cleaning needs to be done in order to map the contents. However, in many cases, an addresses or other standard geographic information is included in plain text notes field. A collection of Philadelphia librarians and archives would like to learn from someone who has already established best practices for coordinate-level or address level encoding of places.
    The answers fell into a few categories
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  • Oct 16, 2014

    The content / interface abstraction

    At a recent conference, I took part in a workshop for Urban Historians entitled “Workshop: Digital Projects from the Ground Up.” The basic structure was for two halves: first,  a conversation between “experts” on digital projects (me, Mitch Fraas from Penn, and Matt Shoemaker from Temple) and a small group of historians who were starting or considering starting digital projects; second, project-based consultations on each of the specific projects. In the opening question, we were asked about sustainability– how could these historians make sure their digital projects would be sustainable. I jumped in with my standard answer — I advocated separating content from interface in thinking and planning for a project. And I do think that’s the right way to go.  By thinking about the data that your project will produce, and planning for the long term preservation of that data, you can take more risks with interface, think more about the user experience without expecting that user experience now will be the same as user experience in 10 years (it won’t). The librarian in me wants content as flexible and sharable as possible. When we work on our own projects at Haverford, I am committed to making sure we work with systems that will allow us to export content, and to keeping track of which parts of a project will be saved and for how long, and to think separately about presentation.
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  • May 26, 2014

    On Becoming Public

    Updated January 2015 This is a draft. It’s not ready. If anyone is reading this, it’s because I’ve succeeded, at least a little bit, in developing a public version of myself. It is something I have struggled with, a bit, and so I am going to begin by describing what I’ve learned by developing this public version of me. First, why am I creating a web presence for myself (after all these happy years without one)?
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