summertime sojourns

Well, I vowed that summer 2015 would be free and clear so that I could focus on finalizing my P&T papers, but that didn’t quite happen….

It all began with a quick jaunt up to East Lansing for HASTAC 2015, where Anita Chan and I discussed our work in digital pedagogy:


I then spent two weeks in Canada: The first week was in lovely Ottawa at Congress 2015, where I presented a research paper on my Emblematica Online user research for the inaugural CSDH/SCHN and ACH Joint Conference:

I then flew to the left coast and spent a week in Victoria at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute learning how to analyze authorial attribution and writing styles in the “Stylometry with R” workshop. (I had an unexpected thrill just a month later, when my DHSI instructors were featured in the Wall Street Journal about their analysis on Harper Lee’s writing style!)

After an obligatory couple days in San Francisco for good ole’ ALA Annual business, the culmination of my travels was a July journey Down Under to Sydney, Australia to present on the Virtual Verse in the Library research findings at the DH2015 conference:


DH2015 also saw the launch of the brand new Libraries and Digital Humanities Special Interest Group in ADHO: All interested people can sign up for the SIG at this link and keep an eye out for some exciting new initiatives from this long awaited SIG!

So while a second summer of touring world airports was nearly as wearying as last year, I also can say that I’ve again had some incredibly enriching experiences with all of the new people I’ve met, the amazing sights I’ve seen, and the thought-provoking research insights I’ve learned from colleagues.

Now my suitcases are finally back in the closet, and I’ll be spending these final weeks of summer in hermit mode to work on dossier revisions and to transform these conference presentations into legit journal articles. See everyone in September….

engaging with the profession

Last week I presented and participated in ACRL 2015, the biennial national conference of the Association for College and Research Libraries.  As always, even though I stress out for weeks about my presentations, the ACRL Conference was an incredibly stimulating experience where somehow everything comes together and I learn so much.

This time around, I gave my very first short Contributed Paper, which was about my user study for Emblematica Online:


I also presented a research poster on the Virtual Verse in the Library IMLS project I co-led with Dr. Rachel Fleming May at the University of Tennessee.

Altogether, I have to admit that ACRL conference often ends up as a “mountaintop” experience: I get excited about others’ inspired projects and initiatives, I LOVE catching up with old friends and former students, and the keynote speakers always send our spirits soaring with messages that we academic librarians are the linchpins in the world of knowledge. And then you come back home…. a bit more refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges once again.

I actually didn’t go straight home, though, but rather flew over to Michigan for the HathiTrust Research Center (HTRC) UnCamp at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  There I met a host of scholars, computer programmers, and librarians who came together to learn about the HTRC’s newest tools and services for data mining content in the HathiTrust Digital Library.  It was an interesting 2 days of discussion and exploration, all with the aim of building up a community of researchers and users around the HTRC.  Hopefully the coming months will see a sustained community around the HTRC, as well as advancements in the tools put out by the HTRC.

In any case, I’m ready to take a break from traveling for the rest of the spring, and instead focus on the final stretch of P&T. . . .

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….

Avalanche of autumn research

With the end of the semester approaching, I’ve begun to reflect on my research work and presentations I’ve focused on this fall. One of my main areas of focus has been digital pedagogy.  I gave a paper at  the Library Research Seminar VI on potential methods of assessment for student-generated digital projects:



The next month at the 2014 DLF Forum, I co-presented with Christine D’Arpa and Sarah Shreeves on our collaborative teaching of for Chris’s Public History course, as part of a larger panel on Digital Public History:  



Then a few weeks ago, I gave a presentation with Professor Anita Chan for the European Union Center at UIUC on our collaborative teaching with digital platforms for her Media and Cinema Studies courses. (I’ll update this with the embedded video when it’s posted.)

I’m now working on finishing up a book chapter for the forthcoming Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library volume that will pull much of this material together and then some into a piece on collaborative digital pedagogy between librarians and faculty, and potential assessment strategies for digital literacies.

My other focus has been continuing to build the user study with Emblematica Online.  In October, I gave a lightning talk at the DLF Forum on early analysis drawn from my summer interviews:  


And most recently, I gave another brief presentation on this work for our Library Research Showcase at UIUC:


I’ll be continuing my user study this winter with observational user testing of the newly revised Emblematica portal, and will be presenting a paper on the final results at ACRL 2015.

So it’s been a busy fall and there’s much more to come this winter, all with the aim of squeezing a few last citations on my final P & T dossier….

The refreshment of the fall

Hello 1.25 readers, I’m back with a long overdue update. . . . The year of 2014 has been quite a whirlwind of traveling, research, and teaching from Stockholm to Sandycove!  But I’m back in the C-U for the time being and ready to settle in for my favorite season of all, autumn.  Here’s an overview of some of my summer research adventures:

“Libraries and Digital Pedagogy,” given at the Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library conference, College of Charleston:


“The Role of the Librarian in Digital Humanities,” given at 2014 ALA Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada:  


“Digital Humanities and the Academic Librarian,” invited lecture to the HAB Wolfenbuettel, Wolfenbuettel, Germany:


“Enhancing User Services in the Emblematica Online Portal,” paper presented at the 2014 Society for Emblem Studies meeting, Kiel, Germany:  



“Collaborative Digital Pedagogy: Teaching Digital Humanities in the Classrooms through Faculty-Librarian Collaborations,” given at the 2014 IFLA Information Literacy Section Satellite Meeting, Limerick, Ireland:


I’m going to be in my hermit cave of writing this fall, but look forward to working with students and faculty again and exploring new avenues of research!

review of 2013

The year of 2013 ended in a manner similar to the Indy 500, as I survived a whirlwind of November and December conference presentations and papers, and skidded into Winter Break. I’m now ready and refreshed for a new term, but here’s a quick overview of what I did this past fall:

NFAIS Humanities Roundtable XII guest talk:


University of Michigan Libraries Emergent Research series guest talk (watch the video here):


DLF Forum 2013:
“Building the Archive of DH Research” paper presentation:

“Digital Libraries on International Campuses” poster presentation:


ANADP II Action Assembly poster presentation, “Virtual Verse in the Library:


CNI 2013 project briefing, “Hathi Trust Scholarly Inquiry”:


As you might guess, all of these presentations kept me quite busy! But I met tons of great people and learned a lot from others as well. Now onward to 2014 and what it may hold, and I intend to chronicle far more of the coming year on these pages!

Summer of Things Wrapped Up and Untied

Spring hurtled to a close, the summer has sped by, and unbelievably it’s now the opening of August. A couple things have finally been pushed off my plate and onto the desks of journal editors.  And thanks to the lightning-speed timeline of the Hathi Trust Research Center Workset Creation for Scholarly Analysis project I joined a few months ago, it’s been a far more hectic summer of research travel than I originally anticipated.  One highlight I did want to note was my experience at DH2013, which included this  paper presentation I gave:

I appreciated the welcome response to my paper as well asmany fascinatingly rich dialogues at DH2013. In particular, I think the atmosphere showed how our community is growing in breadth of disciplinary scope, voices, and scholarly advocacy within the “Big Tent.” The amazing closing keynote by Isabel Galina on building a truly global DH community was a much-needed call for expanding the diversity of not only the researchers in DH but the language, communication methods, and foci of our research efforts.

My education at DH2013 was compounded by the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, which I attended on the following week. There are several leading scholars who overlap between the two communities represented at DH and JCDL, including the two co-organizers of this year’s JCDL. But despite many shared research interests, the orientation still felt very different: At JCDL, while there was certainly incredible and very relevant research work showcased at it, there was open question of what the conference could do to sustain community, particularly among young scholars. DH2013, in contrast, was suffused with an abundance of possibility and energy among young and veteran scholars, and the only question was how to harness the opportunities effectively. As such, I think much could be gained from increased communications between the two communities and it very well could naturally happen quite soon.

In any case, those are just some winding-down thoughts and my focus now turns to August: the final month to “git ‘er done.”

DH librarianship in the spotlight

Last week I presented at two major conferences (or “major” for me, at least): The 2012 DLF Forum in Denver and the TEI Annual Conference and Members’ Meeting at Texas A&M University. The conferences both focused on digital scholarship, albeit from two different angles and to two different constituencies. As such, my presentations provided a highly instructive experience on the diverse perspectives I must navigate when working with digital scholarship research and services.

The DLF Forum has traditionally been attended by library IT staff, technical services librarians, and coordinators of digital library services, but in recent years, its attendance demographics have broadened to include subject specialists, reference librarians and even teaching faculty. This year in particular saw an emphasis on digital humanities and e-science: we held a THATCamp Digital Humanities and Libraries and I was part of a 5-person panel titled “The Landscape of Digital Humanities Librarianship.” For our panel, each of us talked about what we did as “digital humanities librarians”:

For me, it was a little disorienting to try summarizing what I’ve done for the past three years and then extrapolating lessons out of it: To be honest, I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants at least 75 percent of the time! I mainly cobble together  the skills and concepts I learned in library school and on my GAships, things I do for the traditional subject specialist part of my job that translate across the board, and strategies I pick up from colleagues/articles/blogs/whatever information I can grab.  And three years down the road, I’ve begun to develop something vaguely resembling digital humanities services in the library. But as my fellow panelists  from Stanford, Indiana, Brown, and Maryland described their (far more advanced) experiences and services in digital humanities librarianship, it quickly became evident that there isn’t one way to do DH librarianship–it can and should take many different forms depending on the resources and research interests of your campus. Ultimately I gained a immense amount of interesting insights at our panel and other presentations at the conference that I hope to start incorporating here.

Then two days after DLF, I flew down to College Station, Texas for the 2012 TEI Annual Members’ Meeting and Conference, where I presented a paper titled “Libraries and the TEI: Tools, Teaching, and Tutorials”:

For a paper that was admittedly not as polished as it should have been, I still received some insightful and thoughtful feedback from a decidedly different audience than DLF: The TEI crowd was much more heavily weighted toward research faculty and literary scholars who employ the TEI for intensely scholarly analysis. There certainly was a representation of librarians–libraries were among the pioneering participants in TEI–but a prominent theme of the meeting was how to make TEI an even more viable tool for scholarly discourse and analysis. I think my paper, which argued that libraries should expand their involvement in the TEI beyond applying it in their digitized collections and be involved in the teaching of TEI as a method of promoting digital literacy, addressed the concerns that cropped up in the meeting.  In fact, this issue of libraries and teaching DH tools for digital literacy is something that has unexpectedly emerged in my work lately and I’ll be talking more about that in a later post.  But in short, I see libraries do have a role in helping educate users in the digital tools used for DH research, and ultimately, I believe we can help more and more scholars revise their research methodologies to adapt to digital scholarship.

In any case, I survived that mini-marathon of conferencing and travel, and for the first time this semester, I don’t have a rapidly approaching presentation deadline looming over me! During this relative break, I’ll be working on getting an article out the door by the end of the semester and expanding my TEI paper for submission to the Journal of the TEI. The tenure clock seems to be ticking faster and faster every day, and hopefully all of this work will ultimately be fruitful toward that goal.  . . .

DPLA: DH in the public sphere

I attended the DPLA Midwest this past Friday, and it was an invigorating new perspective on issues I’m trying to explore in the digital humanities. The two-day meeting brought together librarians, academics, non-profit leaders, and other interested parties in the Midwest region to talk about the progress of the DPLA and its imminent launch in April.  It was quite exciting to hear about all the progress made thus far toward making the DPLA a reality:  the impressive support from a wide variety of funders and leaders in the library, government, and nonprofit communities; the innovative projects at the digital libraries at the University of Minnesota Libraries and University of Kentucky Library, which will be two of the six service hubs that will collate digital materials and services that feed into the DPLA; and the metadata and storage repository that will be the main platform.

For me, however, the most interesting discussions arose around the issue of access and use of the DPLA’s digital collections:  In digital humanities, it’s rather obvious what people will do with digital materials.  They data mine thousands of texts, annotate images, build databases, and/or apply geolocation to primary source material, among other endeavors.  But what will your next door neighbor do with a collection of 19th-century political pamphlets?  How will your grandfather use a selection of historic 1920s photographs?

Fortunately the DPLA doesn’t lack for answers:  All of the pilot service hubs are required to have public engagement and community outreach at the heart of their work (i.e., University of Minnesota’s focus on their collections in Native American cultures and engaging the local Native American communities); and the meeting participants contributed a number of insightful and innovative ideas on the implications of the DPLA for pedagogy and learning.  So I have no doubt that the DPLA will carve a path that connects communities to digital collections.  Nonetheless I think this is an issue that the digital humanities community also needs to consider in depth at some point:  Right now, the primary focus is evangelizing DH to our colleagues in academia, which makes sense with nature of scholarly communications, promotion and tenure, and the overall latest “crisis” that finds humanities disciplines seemingly in a precarious position on campuses nationwide.  But what does DH mean for our communities?

The crowdsourcing projects at University of Iowa Libraries and NYPL Labs suggest one way to generate connections to institutions’ digital collections; Google Ngrams captured quite a bit of interest; and the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection, among others, has enabled people to find history of their hometowns and ancestors.  But in discussions with fellow participants at DPLA, we wondered if these “hooks” would have the sustaining power on par with anthologies of poetry or public theater, or if they were simply novelties for people to explore.  And we haven’t even begun to touch upon the issues surrounding the digital divide.

I’m not sure my ideas are coming out as clear as hoped, but in short, I don’t think it’s as simple as it may seem at first glance: I see DH as having the potential on both ends of the spectrum–It could become a highly effective conduit for public humanities and translating humanities scholarship.  Or it could become a highly specialized branch or evolution of humanities scholarship that remains incomprehensible to the masses.

I, for one, am eager to see how the DPLA develops as an authoritative digital resource for the public square, and I hope that it will provide insights on how DH can forge deeper linkages to society at large.

A June of Thought

I’m sitting in John Wayne Airport at the end of yet another marathon ALA Annual meeting where I gave three presentations in four days.  The first was a tutorial  at the ACRL preconference we organized, “Digital Humanities in Theory and Practice: Tools and Methods for Librarians,” and I taught a tutorial on how to use the web-based text mining tool MONK:

I also gave a brief presentation at the reception/informational session for the Text Creation Partnership about how the EEBO-TCP and ECCO-TCP collections have been invaluable to our faculty and students at Illinois.  Then yesterday, I was a member of a panel for the ACRL Research Program on “Data Curation as a Form of Collaborative Research”:

And the presentation handout is available here.
It was an intense but invigorating weekend:  Librarians and information professionals are eager to be engaged in the digital humanities and all forms of digital scholarship, and at our inaugural ACRL Digital Humanities discussion group, we had a wide-ranging and diverse talk on the ways in which we as librarians can become involved in the digital humanities.  (Keep an eye out for our forthcoming blog. . . . )
Now I have four weeks to pack up my apartment and get a couple articles out the door before I wing my way eastward for the next journey!