A Visit to Panama

By Lindsey Wharton, Extended Campus & Distance Services Librarian, & Michael Pritchard, Distance Services Library Associate

In February 2020, members of the FSU Libraries were hosted by the Florida State University – Panama campus in an effort to strengthen our partnership with the Panama students, faculty and staff. Our visit provided us the opportunity to promote library resources and services as well as learn about the teaching and learning experiences, both academic and culturally, of our students, staff, and faculty abroad. While Lindsey Wharton, the Extended Campus & Distance Services Librarian, had visited the Panama campus previously in 2014 and 2016, this was the first visit for both Michael Pritchard, Distance Library Services Specialist, and Dr. Gale Etschmaier, Dean of University Libraries. This campus visit marked an important occurrence for University Libraries and FSU Panama, as all were excited to reconnect with colleagues, work with the students, and introduce Dr. Etschmaier to the campus. 

Panama is a lush tropical country with what seems like a perpetual warm sea breeze & blooming landscape. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and it is easy to imagine just settling down into a happy and colorful life in the growing city. From Panama Viejo to Casco Viejo to the ever changing high-rise business district, the city is layered with culture and stories and histories. 

Florida State University Panama houses and educates both First Year Abroad students as well as a growing population of local Panamanian and Central & South American students who study at FSU Panama. Thanks to the 2 + 2 program offered in conjunction with Florida State University, International Programs, and Florida State University – Panama, students who are academically successful during their initial 2 years at the FSU Panama campus are able to transfer to the main campus in Tallahassee and pay in-state tuition. In addition, FSU Panama enjoys the benefits of being housed within the Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge), a shared campus of innovation and discovery housed in Panama City, Panama. The Ciudad del Saber sits across from the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal. It is quite difficult to describe this hub of creativity and wisdom; to see this culmination of planning and innovation, and watch massive barges and ships be lifted up and down is quite a magnificent experience . This prime location allows students to be able to choose to live in what are essentially on-campus dormitories, park and walk safely to class, eat at La Plaza (the local food court at the Ciudad del Saber), and — most importantly — access the FSU Panama library. 

The three of us began our visit bright and early, a necessity to avoid the scorching Central American sun and the lively Panama City traffic. We met with FSU Panama librarian Anthony Blackie at his office for a tour of the 50,000 volume library. This collection is the largest English language collection in all of Panama and contains several unique and specialized items on the history of the canal and the country’s unique relationship with the United States. We discussed the space and the collection, the changes and updates since the last visit by our library team, and ideas for growth. Some of these discussions included flexible seating and study locations, safe and secure internet access, physical resource availability and check-out processes, gender-inclusive restrooms and spaces, and the potential for space redevelopment and expansion. We were also able to speak to some of the student workers at the circulation desk and gain insight on working in our libraries abroad. Following this tour and introduction, we met with Dr. Carlos Langoni, Rector of FSU Panama, and Dr. Alexandra Anyfanti, Vice Rector for Academic affairs, to discuss the multitude of opportunities that exist for collaboration between FSU Libraries and FSU Panama and the short- and long-term goals of the campus. 

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FSU Panama Librarian, Anthony Blackie, introduces the FSU Panama Library to Dean Gale Etschmaier

The FSU Panama team had coordinated and promoted a Lunch-and-Learn session, providing Lindsey and Michael an opportunity to present a library workshop to an audience of students, faculty, and staff. During this time for research guidance, open discussion, and critical thinking, Lindsey and Michael gave an overview of the resources and support that FSU Libraries offers our students studying around the globe.. Additionally, we hosted an open Meet and Greet with faculty where we focused on the benefits of Open Educational Resources and our IP Alternative Textbook Grant Program. We were also able to provide library instruction to multiple classes, guiding students through the research process and strategies for finding information to support their assignments. Our Libraries’ team received wonderful feedback from students and faculty alike with requests for asynchronous instruction and online library engagement for when we are unable to visit in-person. 

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FSU Panama students at the Lunch & Learn session

FSU Panama differentiates itself from the other international campuses as it is our only degree-granting campus and the majority of students are local to Panama and Central America as opposed to American students studying abroad. The students are afforded an intimate university experience at one of the most elite universities in the country. They are an incredibly engaged student population, exemplified in the standing room only lunch and learn workshop. The faculty and staff were excited to discuss University Libraries and engaged with our resources and services. We were blown away by the passion of the instructors, the diligence of the students, and the overall ambition of the FSU Panama team. Anthony Blackie has run the FSU Panama Library for many years as a solo librarian, managing the building and collection, ordering and cataloging items, providing research and reference support, and providing information literacy support to the campus community. Spending time with him was invaluable as maintaining and strengthening our connections with library staff globally further extends the reach of all we have to offer through University Libraries. 

There was something that really set the tone for our visit to Panama, and that was within the very first meeting with Dr. Langoni & Dr. Anyfanti. Gale Etschmaier reflected that the most valuable resource provided by FSU Libraries isn’t our eResources, our almost 900 databases or 1,000,000 eBooks, but our people. Our library staff provides the expertise, the skills, and the creativity to support the campus community, through our collection, our spaces, but also beyond our physical libraries and our traditional services. It’s our team that is the real treasure and these visits to our international and extended campus locations not only allows us to share and promote what we do but it allows us to grow our Libraries’ team. The reality is that our campus partners, our students who engage in library instruction, our faculty who tell students to visit the Libraries – they are all part of our library team, too. The time we spent in FSU Panama was time spent growing our team, taking the mission and vision of University Libraries global. We are lucky to have these inspiring members of our team working so hard to grow the University in beautiful Panama and we look forward to what comes next. 

Lindsey and Michael receive a certificate at FSU Panama

FSU Panama Librarian, Anthony Blackie, presents a certificate to Lindsey & Michael

 

Celebrate Black History Month with Pop Lit

This year we hope you celebrate Black History Month with the Popular Literature Collection. Swing by the Pop Lit area on the first floor of Strozier near Starbucks and check out some stories of amazing Black Americans through our history and the memoirs and essays of influential individuals.
We also have a selection of novels written by black authors to check out. Below are just a few examples of what you can choose from!

Non-Fiction Stories

Fiction Stories

Love Data Week 2020

Celebrate Love Data Week, February 10 – 14, with FSU Libraries and librarians Dr. Jesse Klein and Dr. Nick Ruhs. Join us for a week of workshops and activities to raise awareness and share practice tips, resources, and stories to encourage good data practices.

This year, the event will focus on working with students to help them get to know the data specialists at their institution, the kinds of work they do, and the data and associated issues with which these data specialists engage.

Listen to the Meet Your Librarians podcast to learn more about your data librarians.

Follow us all week on Twitter and Facebook for updates all week! Post along with us using #lovedata20.

Check out the full event schedule:

Adopt a Dataset (tabling event)
Monday, February 10, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Strozier Library (near circulation desk)
About: What better way to love data than to adopt a dataset? This year, you can adopt an ICPSR dataset for your very own. Meet with FSU Libraries’ Data Librarians, Jesse and Nick, to find out how and grab some awesome swag! 

Introduction to Python
Tuesday, February 11, 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Dirac Instruction Room 
About: This workshop will introduce Python and its components. By the end of this workshop, attendees will understand basic programming concepts and terminology and will be able to write Python scripts. Attendees will know how to find and use resources available for furthering their knowledge of Python and apply these skills for practical applications. Presented by the Research Computing Center (RCC).

Finding & Using Social Science Data 
Wednesday, February 12, 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Scholars Commons Instruction Room & Zoom (https://fsulib.zoom.us/my/jrklein.fsulib)
About: This workshop will help participants become familiar with key concepts and resources for data in the social sciences. We will cover resources to expand your data vocabulary and search strategies for finding and using social science data. 

Adopt a Dataset (tabling event)
Thursday, February 13, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Dirac (near circulation desk)
About: What better way to love data than to adopt a dataset? This year, you can adopt an ICPSR dataset for your very own. Meet with FSU Libraries’ Data Librarians, Jesse and Nick, to find out how and grab some awesome swag! 

Introduction to Tableau
Friday, February 14, 1:00 – 2:30 pm
Scholars Commons Instruction Room & Zoom (https://fsulib.zoom.us/my/jrklein.fsulib)
About: Tableau is a data visualization tool used to analyze and illustrate data, emphasizing the patterns and insights behind them. This session will introduce participants to the basics of preparing, analyzing, and sharing data using Tableau Public. Prior to Workshop: Download Tableau Public (https://public.tableau.com/en-us/s/download) (Free). Note: Please bring a laptop

Searching for specific Collections in FSU Libraries

Welcome back and happy New Year!

Did you put “Reading More” on your list of 2020 Resolutions?
The Popular Literature collection is here to help you. Start by looking through the Pop Lit collection to find something fun to read!
If you follow the steps below, you can narrow your search for just one collection in the Library which will make looking for pop lit books much easier.

Go to the main library page and select “Catalog Search” in the top right corner under the Search Bar.

From there you will see a search page. Select the “Advanced Search” option.

 Under the three search bars, you’ll find a “Show Other Search Options” link. Select that to limit your search further.

Limit your search by selecting the Location drop down and select “Strozier, Popular Literature Collection”.

From here you can browse everything offered in the Pop Lit Collection – Or any other Collection offered at FSU Libraries without the noise of everything else.

Let’s make 2020 a year of easy catalog searches!

Digitizing the Past: My Time as a Digital Cultural Heritage Intern

By Grace Robbins, Office of Digital Research and Scholarship Intern, Fall 2019

 

During this semester I have been working as the Digital Cultural Heritage Intern in the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. You might be wondering, what in the world is digital cultural heritage? It seems like a fancy title, but for what? Essentially the concept of digital cultural heritage is defined as preserving anything of cultural significance in a digital medium. Anything we preserve becomes part of a “heritage” to something, whether that be to an individual person or a whole culture. I was interested in working more with the intersection of digital humanities and archaeology after volunteering on the Cosa excavation in Italy directed by FSU. Archaeology is such a material driven, hands-on discipline (and science!), and it proves to be an effective tool to understanding–and interacting with–the past. However it generates so much data. Archaeologist Ethan Watrall writes, “The sheer volume and complexity of archaeological data is often difficult to communicate to non-archaeologists.” Furthermore, many discovered artifacts and architecture remain inaccessible to most of the general public. Thus, the goals in my internship revolved around understanding how digital platforms affect accessibility to these “heritages,” specifically in the contexts of archaeology and the humanities, so that scholarship is furthered for people in academia but also, hopefully, the general public.

I did most of my work with the Digital Cosa Project, which included uploading data from the Cosa hard drive onto DigiNole, FSU’s Digital Repository. My tasks confronted some organizational and technological challenges, however, as the large amount of data to be ingested meant rethinking the best way to organize the digital collection. We ended up switching plans from organizing by excavation year to organizing by type of file (artifacts, plans, maps, stratigraphic unit sheets, etc.). I also practiced coding, which most historians or archaeologists may not be familiar with. It begs the question, should these disciplines incorporate more digital education in the future? How useful would this be?

I also wanted to experiment with visual technology, including 3D applications such as 3D modeling and 3D printing.

meshroom photo

3D model of a trench from 2019 excavation season being built in Meshroom, a free and open source photogrammetry program.

I especially enjoyed learning about 3D printing because it ran simultaneous to the FSU Archaeology Club’s “Printing the Past” exhibit in Dirac, which displays one important way digital humanities can further archaeological knowledge: hands-on learning! I couldn’t have learned about ancient Rome better than when I was unearthing ancient material on the dig and providing such artifacts in the form of 3D printing for non-archaeologists to interact with bears pedagogical significance.

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Standing with the Cosa poster for the “Printing the Past” exhibit by the FSU Archaeology Club. I helped 3D model and 3D print the 3rd object from the left, an inscription found in the 2019 excavation season.

3D scanning was not as easy of a task, as new technology always comes with a learning curve, but in the future I want to continue working with this practice.

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3D scanning the Napoleon Bonaparte death mask in Special Collections.

In my time at the internship, I have broken down my understanding of digital humanities from a broad concept to a web of applications that further humanities and archaeological knowledge. I will continue to work in the internship next semester, and I hope to continue mastering 3D modeling and printing and am looking forward to developments in the Digital Cosa project as we finalize our plans for the Cosa digital collection. Most importantly, I am eager to experiment with more creative ways these digital applications can be used in academia and the general public that will enable us to be more “in touch” with the past.

 

Open Access at FSU Libraries: A Year in Review

Open access is a global movement to freely publish research in online repositories and open publications instead of the costly subscription-based publishing models that have dominated the scholarly publishing industry for decades. Paywalled research is only available to those who can afford to pay subscription costs, leaving many researchers and institutions around the world unable to access critical findings in their fields. Open access allows research to reach a wider, global audience and leads to greater readership, citation, and innovation. Authors can publish their work openly by archiving accepted manuscripts in institutional repositories like DigiNole, publishing completed drafts on preprint servers, or submitting to open access journals.

Open Initiatives at FSU

In 2016, the FSU Faculty Senate adopted an Open Access Policy that grants the Libraries permission to archive scholarly works created by FSU faculty. The policy is intended to increase the availability of research developed at FSU to readers and scholars around the world. The Libraries use mediated deposits and automated harvesting workflows to populate DigiNole, our institutional repository. A three-year review found steady growth in repository deposits since the Open Access Policy was implemented. This trend continued in 2019 which saw over 2,000 objects added to DigiNole. Departments with 100 or more DigiNole uploads this year include the Department of Psychology, the Department of Biological Sciences, and the National High Magnetic Field Lab.

bar chart of upward trend in article deposits to DigiNole from 2011 to 2018

Scholarly Articles in DigiNole by Year

Another way the Libraries support open access includes the Open Access Fund which helps authors publish in open journals. Some open access journals require authors to pay article processing charges (APCs) to finance the technical work that goes into preparing, publishing, and preserving web publications. APCs can cost upwards of $2,000 for some publishers. To help authors mitigate this expense, the Open Access Fund provides awards of up to $1,500 for qualified proposals. In 2019, the Libraries funded 38 open access articles with funding support support from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, and the Office of the Provost.

Open access is not limited to research articles. Textbook costs have increased 82% since 2002 (nearly three times the rate of inflation), and textbook affordability for students is a growing concern nationwide.¹ Instructors are turning to open educational resources to reduce textbook costs. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 43% of students in Florida reported spending over $300 per semester on textbooks, and 64.2% of students were unable to purchase a textbook due to high costs.² Florida Virtual Campus hosted an Open Educational Resources Summit in the spring of 2018 where librarians and educators from across the state came together to discuss challenges and opportunities for implementing OER on their campuses. Mallary Rawls represented FSU Libraries at the Summit and reported on the event in a March blog post.

Instructors at FSU have been adopting open course materials and using resources from the Libraries to decrease textbook expenses for students. Dr. Vanessa Dennen in the Department of Education created an open textbook in 2018 and reported on student’s perceptions of the open materials in a recent issue of Online Learning. The Libraries published two open access textbooks this year in DigiNole to fill subject gaps in existing open materials.

Cover art for FSU Open Textbooks

Dr. Giray Ökten and Dr. Arash Fahim received Alternative Textbook Grant awards that helped transform their lecture notes into open mathematics textbooks. First Semester in Numerical Analysis with Julia and Financial Mathematics: Concepts and Computational Methods support subjects that are not well-covered by traditional textbooks in the field. The Alternative Textbook Grants have saved students $333,356 since 2016. Instructors can visit the Alternative Textbook Grants webpage for more information.

In addition to cost savings, open course materials have the added benefit of perpetual access. Unlike access codes and textbook rentals that are only available for a limited time, open materials are freely available online or through the library without access restrictions. With open online course materials, instructors can easily update textbooks with new material, and students can be assured they are accessing the most current version of the information. Open educational resources offer greater flexibility for instructors to customize their course content and increase textbook affordability for students.

Open access is critical for advancing the global knowledge commons and scientific innovation, and open educational resources promote student success by increasing the accessibility of course materials. The Libraries are proud of the progress we have made this year in furthering open access, and we look forward to continuing this important work in the future.

 

  1. US GAO. (2013). College Textbooks: Students Have Greater Access to Textbook Information. https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-368
  2. Florida Virtual Campus. (2018). 2018 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey. Web.

A Library Intern’s Maiden Voyage through Digital Publication in the Antarctic

This post was authored by Suzanne Raybuck, Intern with the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship in the Fall of 2019. Suzanne recounts her experience working with Special Collections Materials and creating a digital publication interface to display it online. The final version is not yet live, but this post contains previews of the interface.

A sturdy, metal oil lantern about a foot tall with grey metal and discolored glass protecting the wick.

A Hercules emergency oil lantern from Operation Deep Freeze.

When I originally was brought on as the Digital Publication Intern for the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship, I had virtually no concept of what I would be doing in my new internship position. But, very early on I knew that I wanted to work with the Robert E. Hancock Jr. Collection at FSU Special Collections. The Hancock Jr. Collection is a collection that “contains materials regarding military operations in the Antarctic, primarily focusing on the Operation Deep Freeze II mission.” Based on that description, it’s a safe conclusion to assume it contains lots of important and scholarly documents and artifacts. However, it also contains various memorabilia from Robert E. Hancock Jr.’s time in Antarctica (including many, many, tiny penguin figurines, a drawing of Mickey Mouse shaking a penguin’s hand, model navy destroyer ships, lumps of coal, emergency lanterns, and military rations). This wonderful collection of artifacts is endlessly fascinating because it provides a series of vignettes of life at the South Pole in the form of really fun random objects.

A highly detailed model of a navy wind-class icebreaker ship. Below the water line the ship is painted red, while above it is a steel gray. The deck is littered with various apparatus such as guns, lifeboats, radar equipment, and cranes.

A model of a wind-class ice breaker ship USCGC Southwind which participated in Operation Deep Freeze.

I found this collection while searching through Special Collections for a fun series of documents to use as guinea pigs for a new publication system we were testing. Essentially, I needed a bunch of documents in similar formats that we could transform into digital objects and then use to test out different publication tools. After spending maybe an hour with a variety of fun models and pictures, I found the Operation Deep Freeze Newsletters nestled into a box of other periodicals from Antarctica. The Newsletters were published by the army to send to the families of servicemen who were in Antarctica to let them know the news from the various bases. The Newsletters were mostly written by incredibly bored servicemen just trying to pass the time in their freezing posts. This boredom resulted in the inaugural newsletter detailing the long and involved process of how a band of grizzled soldiers tried to hatch live chicks from commercial eggs for the upcoming Easter Holiday. I had definitely found my guinea pig documents.

A very basically formatted newsletter titled OPERATION DEEP FREEZE NEWSLETTER. The text is somewhat faded and the first article details how several servicemen from Little America Station selected six eggs for incubation in a dental incubator to try to hatch live chicks.

The original front page of Volume 1 Issue 1 of the Operation Deep Freeze Newsletter.

After finding the newsletters, I was tasked by our Digital Humanities Librarian, Sarah Stanley, with first encoding these newsletters in a data-rich .xml format called the Text Encoding Initiative, or TEI, and then figuring out how to publish them online. To accomplish this, we had to take into consideration three key factors: maintaining the format of the newsletters, good display functionality (e.g. tables of contents, hyperlinks, page view/scroll view), and how easy it would be to use. With these in mind, I started trying out different publication methods such as eXist-db’s TEI Publisher, which proved to be a challenging introduction into digital publishing.

eXist-db is an XML database tool that can be used to build web applications. We used the TEI Publisher package to create a digital collection that would use our TEI data format and present it in a clean and simple interface. The process of generating an application was intricate and required lots of specialized knowledge of both TEI files and their accompanying customization files. Additionally, we had no idea how the digital edition would look before we generated an application and viewed it, so if some small part of the display of the edition was off, we would have to delete the app, minimally adjust our code and generate a new app from the very beginning. Once we did get a finalized version generated, the overall look and feel of the page was exactly what we had hoped: very clean and easy to read. However, because we were using a program to generate the app for us, we had a very limited capacity to tweak the website interface and design or add our own custom parts to the whole thing. Ultimately, the the functionality of eXist-db did not quite meet our needs, and we tried to find a solution that would let us get a bit more hands-on with our edition.

A screenshot of a webpage titled TEI Publisher with the content of the first Deep Freeze Newsletter in it. The interface has a search bar and small arrows to navigate between pages, and all the text is displayed in a old-timey typewriter font to mimic the original newsletter.

A screencap of the eXist-db interface we created, its very clean and easy to navigate but at least four iterations of apps went into getting this particular layout.

Another possible publication tool didn’t arrive until the next semester, when I was working on publishing a collection of poetry translations online. Sarah pointed me towards a Jekyll (static website generator) template for minimal editions called “ed”. After looking at the examples, the display was again very clean and easy to interact with, so we decided to give it a shot. After deploying some quick test sites, we found that it was incredibly easy to work with and consistently generated beautifully designed websites that intuitively displayed our editions. It also had a built-in search function and annotation, which we were looking for in our poetry project. The only problem was we had to translate our TEI format into markdown, which caused us to lose huge amounts of metadata and information about textual styling that would be useful to other researchers. We made a judgement call and decided to keep looking for something that would preserve our format while giving us all the functionality and display options that we found with ed.

A screenshot of a webpage titled ‘A Wilfred Owen Collection: Just testing this out’ with the text of the first Operation Deep Freeze Newsletter below the title. The interface is very simple and appealing with dark red accents and a collapsible menu bar.

A screenshot of our test site for ed. Most of the sample texts we used were poems from Wilfred Owen, hence the name. Here you can see that the layout is slightly different since ed automatically creates larger title text. Unfortunately, we had to change all our TEI files to markdown, which got rid of most of our metadata.

The final option we looked at was a JavaScript library called CETEIcean, which takes TEI files and translates it directly into HTML. With a single script added to any existing HTML page, we could take our TEI files and easily publish them. Again, we started making some test pages and playing with the code and quickly ran into a problem. Because CETEIcean is just a JavaScript library, it doesn’t automatically build websites for you like with existdb and ed. If we used CETEIcean, we would have to make every single page on our website from scratch, repeating tons of HTML and JavaScript along the way. Sarah was enthusiastic about using CETEIcean since it did arguably check all our boxes, but I wanted to find a more efficient way.

In the end, we settled on using a combination of CETEIcean and ed along with chunks of original code to create our own web application which we named Pilot: Publishing Interface for Literary Objects in TEI¹. We essentially used the quick and intuitive page generation from ed, the javascript transformation of TEI from CETEIcean and mixed it together all running on a node.js server. Because we made Pilot from scratch, we can include or add all the functionality we want such as annotation, interactivity, and variant readings of the base newsletters.

A very basic interface that has a navigation bar at the top labelled ‘Pilot’ with links to a homepage, collections page, about page and contact information. The contents of the Operation Deep Freeze newsletter are again reproduced here with very basic text styling and layout.

A screenshot of what the first draft of our Pilot interface looks like. This page was automatically generated by the server file after reading a folder of TEI files, transforming them to HTML, and finally running them through three templates to get the desired display.

Though this project was long and frustrating, it ended up teaching me one of the most important points of digital publishing: digital representation of texts adds to the work, rather than merely representing it. Digital publishing is at a unique intersection where we have to negotiate the appearance of the facsimile, the functionality the editors want, and the demands of a digital medium. With all of these competing agendas, it’s hard to remember that a digital edition is a creative opportunity. With the vast array of tools offered by the web, developers can take advantage of things like interactive elements, user input, and different types of media to create editions that can only exist in digital spaces. In a way, digital editions represent a new kind of edition that acts more like an archive; where researchers can explore a digital space to find artifacts that are curated through organization and interface.

We plan for our iteration of the Newsletters in Pilot to allow for full-text searching, public annotation, different readings, and interactive displays. With these new features, we hope that the Newsletters will be read and understood in entirely different ways than their paper counterparts, and allow readers to interact with such an engaging yet little known collection.

Notes

¹ As an homage to CETEIcean (a pun on “cetacean,” which means “of or relating to whales”), we decided to keep with the whale theme and name our project after the pilot whale.

Pop Lit Collection Adds 39 New Books Thanks to President’s 2018-2019 Diversity and Inclusion Mini-Grant

The Popular Literature Committee was honored to have received an F.S.U. President’s Diversity and Inclusion Mini-Grant for the second year in 2018-2019. We have finally received the last order of books to add to the Popular Literature collection that highlight or are written by and about people from diverse backgrounds and often underrepresented groups.  We in the Pop Lit committee hope you will enjoy these works.

Newly added titles are shown below, and can be found in the Pop Lit section next to Starbucks on the first floor of Strozier Library.

Taking the Libraries #FSUGlobal: A Visit to London & Valencia

In August 2019, FSU Libraries once again had the opportunity to visit our international study centers as we travelled to London and Valencia to promote our library services and resources and learn more about the teaching, learning, and research experiences of our students and faculty abroad. While Mike Meth, Associate Dean for Research & Learning Services at FSU Libraries, and I had visited London and Florence in the summer of 2018, this was going to my first trip back to Valencia since 2015, and Mike’s first trip since he came to FSU in 2015. This trip was not going to be like any of our previous visits because we were going to experience the full excitement and vivacity of arrivals week. If you are unfamiliar with the workings of International Programs, Arrivals Week is when all the brand new freshman who are part of the First Year Abroad/First Semester Abroad first arrive on their respective campuses. During this week they are assigned flats, see the study center and the city for the first time, and get their first taste of FSU. 

My interest in experiencing Arrivals Week in-person went beyond just wanting to see this annual on-boarding live. I wanted to integrate an introduction to University Libraries and our online services and resources into the carefully planned orientation sessions. It was an opportunity to get students thinking critically about information and about academic research right from the onset of their college career.

Street view of London

London, 2019 Image by Mike Meth

We started our visit at the FSU London study center, a polished and statuesque set of townhouses in Bloomsbury, just a block away from the British Museum, it is an area bustling with tourists and locals alike. Our meetings here included updates and discussions with the entire London staff, brainstorming support strategies with the London Director and Associate Director, presentation and meeting with the London faculty, as well as time spent with the IT/Library Manager and staff. A good amount of our conversations focused on how the Libraries could support the textbook and course material needs of the faculty and students, giving us a chance to promote our Alternative Textbook Grants for International Programs program.. We were also able to speak to the students twice: a quick introduction to all the new students about FSU Libraries and then an orientation session where we were able to provide an hour long overview of University Libraries, our services at the  study center in London, and why using the Libraries is invaluable to students in their studies. It was a whirlwind of planning, exploring, collaborating, and teaching all in truly one of the most magical cities in the world.

Mike & Lindsey in front of FSU Valencia building

Mike & Lindsey at FSU Valencia, 2019 Image by Mike Meth

We arrived in Valencia on a Thursday evening, and as soon as you step out of the airport, the warm, salty sea air transforms you. The study center is located next to one of the old city gates, and the remnants of the ancient city are everywhere, including the dorms, classrooms, and the offices of FSU Valencia. We were able to once again participate in the initial presentation meeting with the new students, and follow-up with a longer workshop for all the new freshman later in the week. Since we hadn’t visited in four years, the campus also organized a training session for the Valencia faculty in order to provide in-depth consultation on our resources and support services for teaching and learning. Mike and I also visited the libraries at the University of Valencia and the Polytechnic University of Valencia and toured the collections and facilities with the library staff. As all libraries become further interconnected and interdependent, exploring these connections and relationships abroad is an exciting new endeavor and we look forward to possible partnerships. FSU Valencia is unique to us because currently it is the only study center without a formal library space or designated library staff member. This requires thoughtful communication and outreach strategies so students and faculty are aware of the library services offered to them from FSU’s Tallahassee campus. 

Old city gate in Valencia

Old city gate in Valencia, 2019 Image by Mike Meth

Our goal was to introduce students to all that theFSU Libraries have to offer, our hundreds of databases, millions of eBooks, our 24/5 chat service, and guidance for students as they embark on this scholarly journey. There are so many resources at our fingertips to further enrich the global experience. Study abroad transforms just as Florida State University transforms. FSU Libraries provides the foundation for our students’ growth into scholars so that they can use all they have learned to transform the future. 

20190901_191120

Flamenco, 2019 Image by Mike Meth

These visits inspire me and my work as a librarian in so many ways. I am captivated by the work of the staff of the study centers – their passion, their long hours and careful planning, their care for the students, their ability to create a home away from home, while providing a taste of what Florida State University has to offer.  All this in a beautiful city. I am awed by the teaching and the faculty – how they use every aspect of the city to provide a completely unique and encompassing learning experience. And I am energized by the students – leaping out of their bubble and all the comforts of the known to embrace and open up to the unknown, growing as scholars, as learners, as people throughout their months abroad. As with any trip surrounded by these type of people, there were so many magical and unexpected moments: fiery flamenco in a small, packed bar, museums so big it makes art feel endless and unfathomable, experiencing the happenings of Brexit in real time, sailing on the perfect blue Mediterranean. But, that’s the point, isn’t it? To experience the things that transform us.

A guide to a successful undergraduate Art History practice: Florida State University

This post is a guest contribution from Stephanie Fischer, a senior in the Department of Art History and current Library Media Collections Intern in the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. As part of her internship, Stephanie produced this helpful guide for incoming undergraduates in Art History that includes both library resources and her own extensive research into graduate schools, professional training programs, and internships in the field.

This guide is for the incoming art history student curious of what lies ahead. Navigating the field of art history is something that may be very intimidating, especially as a student trying to figure out what their next step is. As a transfer student, I was kind of thrown into this program without knowing much about the expectations of a successful art history student and feel like I have done a pretty good job seeking out opportunities while taking advantage of the ones presented to me. The following outlines what I’ve learned and what I regret not knowing/doing.

Seminars

Here at Florida State, undergraduate art history students are required to take at least two upper-level seminars in order to meet graduation requirements. The way the program is currently set up is that students must complete 12-credits of lower-level art history courses in order to enroll in a seminar class. However, with permission from the professor, anyone can take a seminar, regardless of the amount of art history courses taken so far. Students should take advantage of this opportunity and get into a seminar as soon as they can. These seminars are designed for students to conduct research and make direct examinations of works of art through leading class discussions and writing a developed research paper. The quicker they get enrolled, the quicker they can learn these advanced skills and apply them to their remaining art history courses.

Another way seminars can enhance undergraduate study is by inspiring a topic of research students can use as a writing sample for later internship or graduate school applications. When applying for summer internships at big institutions, for example, it is advantageous for students to have experience in research and project development. Many of these institutions require students to provide a writing sample or personal statement, and this is an opportunity for students to showcase their research areas and skills with written communication. This may sound obvious, but it was something no one told me: when applying for internships, an application is much stronger if it demonstrates tangible experiences with developing and executing research projects. An application will benefit more to focus on academic interests (backed by concrete examples of research done in a given area), and taking a seminar early in your undergraduate experience will allow students more opportunities to pursue such projects.

Honors in the Major

Florida State offers undergraduate students with a great opportunity to complete an honors thesis throughout their junior/senior year prior to graduation. Through the Honors in the Major program, any undergraduate student can apply and propose a thesis to develop over two to three semesters alongside a faculty advisor in their department. By undertaking an Honors in the Major thesis project, art history students will be preparing themselves for graduate-level coursework which will enhance their application for graduate school by providing examples of completed, ongoing, and upper-level research. Many students derive their thesis projects from research done in seminars and further produce it alongside this professor (another reason to get a head start on seminars).

UAHA

The Department of Art History at FSU is one of the smaller departments on campus, but still provides opportunities for student involvement through the Undergraduate Art Historian Association (UAHA). UAHA on our campus serves to connect students and create a community within the department, while also inspiring curiosity in the field of art history. The club organizes bi-weekly meetings covering topics about upcoming events and socials, club merchandise, research opportunities, and provides tools for building great applications for internships, jobs, or graduate school. The club really strives to create a community within the art history department through social events to help students connect to one another.

As I am currently writing this, I serve as a co-vice president for UAHA. It is one of my goals for this school year to elevate the experiences associated with the organization, as I believe past years have lacked the social aspect and the collegial feel to the club. Our team this year is determined to reconstruct the environment of our department by urging students to do more and get everything out of the program that they can. For example, the art history department at Florida State does a wonderful job of organizing a lecture series throughout the semester. Roughly every other week, professors and graduate students present their previous or current research. This program can help undergraduates get a sense of their desired area of study and expose them to other aspects of art history. Attending these events also gives students and professors a chance to get to know each other better. Taking advantage of being apart of a student organization can aid students in giving their feedback to the program in order to make it stronger for future students.

Internships

The study of art history is often focused on research and writing, but students have the opportunity to build more hands-on skills through experiences like internships in museums, galleries, and other cultural heritage institutions. In museum and gallery spaces, students can gain experience in institutional research, art handling, curatorship, and visitor experience. Take advantage of the art community surrounding the university, find a gallery or two, and apply. Utilizing all the resources surrounding the university will impact student resumes and highlight that the student is eager to take charge, which is a great quality to have when applying for jobs or graduate school.

Over the course of the past three and a half years, I have held five internship positions in a variety of different institutions – one at a student newspaper, a national art museum, a local gallery, a public art program, and in digital archives.. Throughout these positions, I have learned skills like copy editing, research, public speaking, art handling, curatorship, administration, and digitization. While museum and gallery experiences are great, students should also consider branching out to other fields of study that can be related back to art history. Art history is not necessarily a skill based field, so I encourage students to look into technology, librarianship, archives, journalism, and even studio positions. Having a collection of diverse experiences can not only help you learn what your enjoy, but also help you become a desirable candidate when applying for jobs and graduate school.

One of my internship experiences was a hands-on, art handling and curating internship in a gallery local to Tallahassee. I held this position for an entire school year to really immerse myself in the setting of the institution. Over the course of over 500 work hours, I did what was expected – installation, deinstallation, and visitor experience. But, I also introduced projects, worked on personal research, and worked double the hours expected of me. You get what you put in. Had I just done the bare minimum, I wouldn’t have built a strong work ethic or a strong relationship with the director, who I can now use as a reference. It’s so important to stand out as best we can in everything we do, especially if we want to be successful in this limited field of study.

That position will likely prove to be one of the most valuable in the course of my career. The director of the gallery was very hands-on, giving interns guidance on learning all the different variables of running an art gallery, she made sure all interns were comfortable doing all of the various tasks. Something that this experience has taught me is how the different positions in the museum or gallery space intersect. While I had a lot of interactions with visiting artists and curators, I realized how important it is for someone who wants to pursue a curatorial career to know how to install a show. Curators should understanding the process of art handling, not just the intellectual aspects of selecting a body of work.

I have consistently tried to challenge myself throughout my academic career by seeking out different intern positions. I typically try to have an internship every year/semester depending on my class load. I have found most of these opportunities through posters or newsletters sent out or posted by an organization or the art history department. Once I come across the advertisement, I will research the organization and compile a list of what I would like to mention in a cover letter. I then finish my cover letter, edit my resume, send off my application, and wait for an email or phone call to schedule an interview. For me, the interview process is the least stressful part of the whole process, I can really showcase my personality and enthusiasm for the position. This gives the employer a sense of how I will perform in the workspace and interact with colleagues, which is just as important as having the right qualifications.

I’ve included a list of internship opportunities local to Tallahassee for the Spring 2020 semester, as of October 2019: Internship Experiences

Graduate Programs

Students should start to research potential graduate programs their Freshman and Sophomore years of college. With a wide variety of Art History-based programs nationally and internationally available to them, students should get an idea of what type of requirements their desired programs may have. For example, New York University offers a dual Masters program in Art History and Conservation. The program is four years, fully-funded, but requires students to have an academic background in both chemistry and art history to even be considered. These kinds of prerequisites are things students should be aware of as early as possible in their undergraduate experience. Knowing exactly what institutions are looking for in an applicant ahead of time will only allow students to be proactive in designing their undergraduate coursework and hopefully increase their chances of getting accepted into great graduate programs.

I have compiled a spreadsheet of current graduate programs in Museum Studies, Curatorial Studies, and Art History that I found interesting: Art History Degree Programs

Library Resources

Florida State Libraries presents students in the College of Fine Arts with a unique opportunity when it comes to research assistance and resource access. I say unique opportunity because not many other universities, apart from Art and Design schools specifically, have a subject librarian in this field. A subject librarian is designated for faculty and students in each campus department and program. While serving as a liaison to the department, the subject librarian teaches classes and individual students how to maximize their use of library resources, particularly for research. Students are able to meet with any subject librarian in order to expand their interdisciplinary studies and use the librarian as a resource. Visual & Performing Arts Librarian, Leah Sherman, says, “Not all our resources are books, but people too.” She suggests students utilize the Art History Research Guide as a starting point for research.

Our campus libraries are some of our biggest resources for young art historians and they offer us dozens of different opportunities to learn new skills to aid us in our research and academic careers. Alongside meeting and interacting with various subject librarians, students should also take advantage of different library events like the events put on by the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. The Office of Digital Research and Scholarship gives workshops on citation management, academic publishing, copyright, and more. You can RSVP to events here: Event RSVP and Information

If you are interested in meeting with Leah Sherman, you can schedule a consultation here: Consultation Request, or email her at lrsherman@fsu.edu.

Forgien Languages and other fields of study

One small, but important tip, something that will help in research throughout the thesis process and into graduate school: take advantage of the foregin language courses. At Florida State, art history students are required to take 12-credits of a foreign language, but students who continue their language study are better prepared for graduate school. Many art historical resources may need to be translated to English, and reading knowledge of a foreign language related to your course of study, would be very useful in this situation. Plus, if students begin their study early, they have the opportunity to learn more than one language throughout the course of their undergraduate study.

Many students in the art history department take advantage of double majoring or minoring in a different field to make their research and knowledge more interdisciplinary. Within the art history department, students have the opportunity to minor in Medieval Studies or Museum Studies in conjunction with an art history major. These minors are useful for students who are particularly interested in Medieval art or who want to pursue a career in the museum or gallery space. However, students should be open to the full scope of possibilities FSU makes available through its undergraduate curriculum. Some majors/minors that could be particularly interesting being paired with an art history major are Business Administration, majors in STEM (which might align with a career in art conservation), Psychology, or Studio Art, just to name a few. Exploring an additional field of study can help to refine the scope of research interests and familiarize the student with non-art historical areas of research.

There are so many opportunities at FSU that students can take advantage of to further our careers and we should utilize these resources while they are at our fingertips. I hope this guide serves you well in your career pursuit as a starting point to the many opportunities presented to you.