MLA 2015 and Virtual Verse

Last week, I presented at the MLA 2015 conference for the panel hosted by the MLA Advisory Committee for the MLA International Bibliography, “What Does It Mean to Publish?: New Forms of Scholarly Communication.” My paper was on our recently completed project supported by an IMLS National Leadership Planning Grant, “Virtual Verse in the Library“:


MLA 2015 was a very receptive and stimulating environment to talk about our work, and I really enjoyed all the useful comments and feedback! And I think it highlighted how this research project, which I pursued with co-Investigator Professor Rachel Fleming-May from the University of Tennessee, reveals an area of humanities data curation that still needs significant attention: documentation and preservation of online-only literature.

Our research focused on online-only poetry because  A) we needed to scope our project to reasonable parameters, and B) poetry is among the most prolific genres published on the web today.  Rachel and I learned a great deal from the publishers, poets/creative writing faculty, and librarians we surveyed and interviewed about the role of online-only poetry in their writing practices,  the needs for digital preservation, scholarly communication networks in creative writing, and the evolution of literary publishing for not only poetry but all genres. Moreover, our research work and presentations on this project have sparked immensely enriching conversations with a host of colleagues, including journal publishers, electronic literature scholars from ELO and ELMCIP, and Columbia and Cornell libraries’ project on eJournal preservation.

So what’s next?  MLA was likely the conclusion of our conference tour (unless we get an invitation in a couple weeks to visit Down Under this summer…) and now it’s all about the writing:

In addition  to our IMLS white paper report, our forthcoming paper in JASIST will detail the impact of online literary publishing and digital literature on writers in the academy and literary publishing, and we’re finishing up another manuscript about the role of humanities librarians in new areas of scholarly activity such as online literary publishing. And we’re considering potential avenues to pursue for the next stage of the project, which would entail  building a tool–whether an index, metadata schema, or repository–to facilitate comprehensive documentation of online literature.  Our project website,, will have the latest updates and papers as they come out, so stay posted….