Open Education Week 2017


Open Education Week, March 27-31, is an opportunity to celebrate and raise awareness about the abundance of free and open educational resources (OER) available to teachers and learners around the world. OER are written by experts and often peer-reviewed, just like their commercial equivalents, but they are published under open copyright licenses so that they can be downloaded, distributed, and adapted for free. Many excellent examples of OER are available through online portals such as OpenStax College, the Open Textbook Library, OER Commons, BCcampus, and MERLOT.

To celebrate the growth of OER and the exciting opportunities they present, educational institutions from all over the world are coming together during Open Education Week to showcase what they are doing to make education more open, free, and available to everyone.

To mark the occasion at FSU, University Libraries and the Student Government Association are partnering to bring the #textbookbroke campaign to FSU. #Textbookbroke is a national campaign aimed at informing students about open textbooks, OER, and other low-cost alternatives to traditional textbooks. It is also aimed at empowering students to provide feedback on their course materials and encourage their instructors to explore more affordable alternatives. Stop by our event tables at Strozier Library on March 28th and Dirac Library on March 29th to share how much you spent on textbooks this term and learn about textbook affordability initiatives at FSU!


In addition, FSU Libraries will also announce the successful applicants for its Alternative Textbook Grants program, which was launched in late 2016 to support FSU instructors who are interested in adopting or remixing open textbooks and educational resources to replace commercial course materials. Based on the applications we have received thus far, participating instructors could save FSU students up to $100,000 by the spring of 2018!

For more information about the open education movement and related initiatives at FSU, see our research guide on OER, or contact Devin Soper, Scholarly Communications Librarian at FSU Libraries’ Office of Digital Research & Scholarship. And don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter! #textbookbrokeFSU

Automagical Repository Harvesting

Over the last couple of years, FSU Libraries dedicated librarians and staff to in-house development of an institutional repository platform that is open-source, flexible, and modular. I was hired as the full-time repository specialist for the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship recently and I quickly realized the strategic importance of the institutional repository concept: its purposes, benefits, and potential future impact intersects with the key issues surrounding libraries, technology, scholarly communications, and digital scholarship today.

One of my early tasks focused automating metadata harvesting from other repositories. Figuring out a time- and cost-efficient way to tackle the tracking and depositing of new publications is a key challenge in the field of scholarly communication today. Aside from the issue of how much time this takes per scholarly object, this framework lends itself to human error and, as a result for researchers, decreased scholarship discoverability, accessibility, and validity, which at times can be in tension with the overall goals and purposes of an institutional repository. Publicly accessible APIs provided by public repositories offer the chance to eliminate or greatly reduce the time it takes to process a deposit and the risk that bibliographic information will be inaccurately transferred from one system to another.

In response to this challenge, I have developed two tools to increase the efficiency of repository ingest. PMC Grabber is a PHP-based tool that uses PubMed Central’s APIs to programmatically search the PubMed Central database, pull metadata from the database, and transform the metadata for ingestion into FSU’s institutional repository. With this framework, the Libraries can run constructed searches every six or twelve months and stay on top of new publications from FSU researchers posted in PubMed without a hassle. While the tool does not fully automate the ingestion workflow from harvest to deposit, it significantly mitigates the time-intensive task of manually discovering and creating ingest records for individual articles.

PMC Grabber Workflow Diagram

PMC Grabber Workflow Diagram showing distinct steps, database table layout, and outcomes.


SQLite database management menu after using PMC Grabber.


SQLite database embargo table populated after a search using PMC Grabber.

The other tool, codenamed WOS (Web of Science) Grabber, combines a workflow using different tools and applications as well as the core concept of PMC Grabber. The goal is to capture all FSU-affiliated publications appearing in Web of Science with minimal participation necessary on the part of authors. Using a combination of Web of Science searches, Zotero, SHERPA/RoMEO API calls in Google Sheets, and OpenRefine, thousands of publications can be identified and staged for ingest. The end result of the workflow  is a set of publications that can be filtered to discover different sub-sets of articles: (1) those that can be deposited into an institutional repository as publisher versions with no author intervention; (2) those that can be deposited into an institutional repository as accepted manuscripts/final drafts; and (3) those that only allow pre-print versions to be deposited into institutional repositories. Using WOS Grabber I was able to quickly and easily identify over 2,000 articles published in 2016 affiliated with FSU. 500 of these articles (a good 25% of all Web of Science indexed scholarship from FSU!) were open access and were immediately added to our ingestion queue, and a little more than 1500 of the articles were identified as allowing final draft deposit into a repository.

Overall, my involvement with this projects has been positive and signals a promising future for repository managers looking to leverage emerging technologies and centralized repositories. My experiences suggest that through the use of new tools and technologies, what is still being described as an unmanageable goal is quickly becoming a feasible solution for institutional repositories. Libraries with sufficient resources (in terms of skilled personnel and funding) should continue to push the envelope in this area and discover different ways to improve repository workflow efficiency and, ultimately, user access to scholarship. If my experiences are any indication, an investment in and a focus on this kind of work will have great returns for everyone involved.



Fall 2016: A Digital Scholarship Internship in Review


This past June I went to my first ALA conference seeking inspiration on what to do next. I had just put in my two weeks notice at a paraprofessional library job to focus on which final classes to pursue for my Master’s in Information. In between linked data and zine panels I met up with a classmate, Camille Thomas, who opened my mind to the idea of an internship with FSU’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. She spoke positively about her graduate assistantship experience and how I could apply myself in this new field. Right before the semester began, I met the DRS team for the internship interview via Hangouts, since I’m based in central Florida. Apparently Camille also recruited an intern for them the year before, and I’ve since joked that she should consider asking the office for referral bonuses because I signed up right away.


Invisible Work, Fungible Labor

With the approaching Symposium on Invisible Work in the Digital Humanities, I’ve been thinking increasingly about my transition from graduate work in a “traditional academic department” to working in a library. As a graduate student, I was aware of the fact that my work was rendered invisible by the fact that it was often not treated as work. Indeed, until very recently, graduate assistantships at private universities were not treated as real employees. And often graduate students are ineligible to become PIs on grants, or receive other opportunities that would allow them to advance in the field. Central to the idea that graduate students don’t “do real work” is the idea that their labor and research is somehow secondary or derivative of “real work” done by faculty. Even in the digital humanities, graduate labor is figured as research assistantships, project management positions, and coordination.

The issue of “centrality” in a research project (especially a funded research project in which there are “principal investigators”) is a problem for DH researchers in libraries as well as for graduate students. As a recent article in Digital Humanities Quarterly entitled “Student Labour and Training” points out, graduate student research outputs often come in the form of less academically viable formats (like blog posts and social media). The authors note that students’ “lack of involvement in the dissemination of project outcomes […] prevents both students and the academic field as a whole from seeing student research as tantamount to faculty research.” Arguably, the traditional outputs of conference papers and single- or co-authored publications allow students more room to diverge from the PI’s stated goals for the project. The idea that students could be writing and generating scholarly products that expand upon, rather than simply feed into, a faculty members’ stated goals is somewhat jarring in an academic landscape. To many, graduate students are apprentices rather than budding practitioners in their own right.

As I moved into the realm of practitioner (in the sense that I was considered a valid employee by FLSA and NLRA), I began to realize that, while some issues of labor disappeared, the issue of centrality to research remained. I have had the good fortune to work in a library that is open to exploring digital scholarship, and has indeed encouraged my efforts in the digital humanities. Yet, there is a still-persistent underlying question about the utility of some of the work I have done: “How are you serving the existing needs of the scholarly community?” Often, especially when new initiatives have been posed, the immediate question has been “Have you done a climate survey?” or “What are the preexisting needs of the campus community?” My reaction to this sentiment has been similar to that of Dot Porter’s to the OCLC report “Does Every Research Library Need a Digital Humanities Center”:

It is galling for these professionals to be told, as they are in the OCLC report, that “the best decision is to observe what the DH academics are already doing and then set out to address gaps,” and “What are the DH research practices at your institution, and what is an appropriate role for the library? What are the needs and desires of scholars, and which might your library address?” and especially “DH researchers don’t expect librarians to know everything about DH, and librarians should not presume to know best [my italics].” What if the librarians are the DH researchers? What if we do, in fact, know best? Not because we are brilliant, and not because we are presumptuous, but because we have been digital humanists for a while ourselves so we know what it entails?

I understand the impulse from librarians to take their cues from researchers in more “traditional” academic departments, especially considering the fact that library and information science is considered a social science, where climate surveys, environmental scans, and other such methodologies are common. However, the fact is that in the context of digital humanities, librarianship and information science as disciplines have greatly influenced the types of intellectual work that is being done in the field. To artificially remove this influence from the equation is a disservice both to librarians and to potential collaborators.

Part of this problem comes back to the issue of “centrality” I mentioned with graduate work. Acting as if the library’s (or a librarian’s) goals should be derived from the goals of faculty limits the potential impact of scholarship from librarians, either through limiting the media or venue through which it can be disseminated or limiting the findings it is allowed to make. And it’s not just the idea that librarians should be in service to faculty; it’s the idea that libraries (as organizations) generate priorities based on faculty priorities, which then filter seamlessly down to the librarians doing on-the-ground work. When talking about the complexities of librarians’ work (or service), Trevor Muñoz points out the significance of the venue of publication for the first major special issue on digital humanities librarianship: “Attending critically to this context means noting that this very welcome special issue on digital humanities and libraries was published in journal devoted to library administration” (emphasis in original). However, I would like to point out the significance of framing digital humanities as, primarily, a discussion for library administrators. It is, of course. However, it also contributes to the idea of DH in libraries as being a top-down issue, rather than one that is done in exploratory ways by librarians that feeds up into wider library (and, yes, university) goals.  

Even the promotional materials for the Invisible Work Symposium betrays some of the underlying sentiment about the role that libraries play in the wider university community. From the announcement:

Imagine, for example, a typical project between a professor of history and a university digital scholarship center. Is the digital scholarship center simply providing a service, or are they considered an equal partner in the work? […] Similarly, the digital scholarship center might be thinking about recycling the resulting code for use in other projects, contributing to broader digital scholarly efforts, and so on.

In this scenario, the labor of the “digital scholarship center” is always collectivized and always working with the intention of feeding into broader efforts. The assumption that there is always one mission for a group of library staff and that this mission is univalent and universally agreed-upon. I think that this view reduces the impact that individual librarians actually play in research projects. Which is not to say that libraries don’t have unified (and often stated) goals. Libraries frequently use strategic initiatives to promote specific areas, focus collection development and digitization around specific subjects, and play to the strengths of their employees and the wider university community. However, I’d like to posit that this is no different than how departments look for candidates in key areas or conduct cluster hires for faculty positions.

I think the main problem is that flattening the various perspectives and individual research interests of librarians exacerbates perceptions of library staff as “in service.” By acting as if librarians prioritize research solely upon the basis of administrative-level or department-wide mandates, we are basically saying that the work of librarians is fungible: “Anyone who can do this prescribed work in a procedural manner is qualified to do this job.” In treating the laborers who build and sustain infrastructure, design metadata schemas, and preserve and provide access to research as essentially fungible we are treating library spaces as neutral and failing to acknowledge the rhetorical and political impact of universities as sites of knowledge production. Pushing back against this notion is especially critical in a time when administrators see libraries as primarily empty student space, and when outsiders ask “Why do you need libraries/librarians when you have Google?

Since so many of the methods from the digital humanities are the intellectual descendents of research done in library and information science, it makes sense that librarians would own their intellectual contributions to DH work. In order to give librarians the institutional power to assert their ownership of their research, it is essential for us to acknowledge that library employees’ research agendas are not simply derivative of wider library goals (generated in some sort of nondescript aether of environmental scans). Rather the opposite is the case: the research interests of individual employees are essential to shaping the type of work that is done at an institutional level.

Open Access Week 2016

There is a serious, systemic problem in scholarly publishing that disadvantages academic authors, their institutions, the global research community, and the general public. The problem stems from the subscription-based model of scholarly publishing, whereby publishers place academic journal articles behind paywalls so that anyone can’t pay can’t read them.

Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue,  used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Open Access (OA) is a movement based on the principle that this situation is fundamentally unjust, and that the fruits of academic endeavor should be freely available to everyone. OA archiving and publishing are the two main strategies for accomplishing this goal, and they promise to benefit both the global research community and individual authors, moving published research into the open and thereby broadening its readership and generating more citations. OA is also fast becoming a requirement for recipients of research funding, as many public and private funding agencies are enacting public access policies to make the results of funded research accessible to all.

Open Access Week, Oct. 24-30, is an opportunity for the global research community to learn more about this important movement and the many ongoing efforts to make it the new norm in research and scholarship. To celebrate the occasion, FSU Libraries is hosting a number of workshops related to OA publishing, and we hope you’ll join us to learn more about OA and how it can benefit you as a student, teacher, or researcher. In addition, we’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight some important milestones in efforts to advance OA at FSU over the past year:

So, what can you do to advance the cause of OA and start taking advantages of the benefits it can bring to you as a scholar?

For more information, see our research guide on Open Access, or contact Devin Soper, Scholarly Communications Librarian at FSU Libraries’ Office of Digital Research & Scholarship. And don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter! #OAweekFSU

books and bytes

Discover DH: An Introduction to Digital Humanities Theories and Methods

For budding digital humanists, it can often be difficult to know what you need to learn. On top of writing for courses, exams, presentations, and learning the traditional work of your field, you now need to learn a series of unfamiliar methods and terms (many of them opaque acronyms: RDF, TEI, JSON). Even knowing where to ask for help is a challenge, since DH resources are frequently scattered across campus.

FSU digital humanists

A sample of the FSU DH network.

If you’re attuned to channels of communication in the digital humanities, you’ve probably seen a lot of learning opportunities this summer: DHSI in Victoria, HILT in Indiana, the DH conference (in Kraków this year). All of these are excellent places to immerse yourself in the field of digital humanities and to learn about the great work current scholars in the field are doing. There’s only one problem: these conferences and training events are prohibitively expensive. Even with scholarships and waived tuition, it can be very difficult to get yourself across the country (or the globe!) to learn about DH, especially if you’re in school.

This is why the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship is offering a 10-week workshop series on topics in the digital humanities. These classes are designed with busy students and scholars in mind. We will be offering two sessions per each weekly course, with one session in Strozier library and another in a different building on campus. The workshops are divided into “hack” and “yack”: sessions that are discussion-based and sessions focusing on learning a new tool or DH skill, respectively.

We’ll be offering sessions on the following topics:

  • Getting Started in the Digital Humanities
  • Markdown and GitHub
  • Managing Digital Projects
  • Text Analysis and Visualization
  • Copyright and Digital Projects
  • Introduction to Text Encoding
  • Digital Tools in the Classroom
  • Network Visualization
  • Mapping
  • Publishing in the Digital Humanities

More details about the individual sessions and scheduling are at the Digital Research and Scholarship website. You can also register for individual workshops on our calendar.

Come join us in exploring this exciting new area!

Wikipedia Edit-a-thon: Using maps to fill in gaps

Maps have long served as a tool for colonialism, by promoting conquest, dividing up land, and asserting ownership. This 16th century Europa Regina map exemplifies this, by positioning Europe as a world ruler, and sequestering other continents off to the sidelines. Indeed, maps often distort the size and shape of the world, so that European powers seem the most prominent and powerful within the image.


Map of Europe as a queen, printed by Sebastian Munster in Basel in 1570.

The advent of many new digital tools has given us means to push back against the dominant narratives that maps tell us about our world. Tools like this map puzzle allow us to see how projections distort the sizes of certain countries. Mapping projects like those at Radical Cartography give us a window into how we can represent geospatial information differently and critically.

Digital platforms like Wikipedia also give us the opportunity to present new and different information about the world that could not necessarily be contained in paper resources. In that spirit, the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship is hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, in collaboration with the Department of Art History and the Caribes project. The focus of the edit-a-thon will be topics related to the Caribbean. We will edit and correct existing pages to add more resources, citations, and information. We will also create new pages about important topics that have not been entered into Wikipedia yet.


A map of all the the Caribbean buildings that have stub articles in Wikipedia. Generated for FSU Libraries’ Caribbean Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 4/16/2016.

For the occasion, I decided to create a map of the Wikipedia stubs related to the Caribbean. I focused on the Caribbean buildings and structures stub list, since this project is a collaboration with an Caribbean architecture project (Caribes). I found the geographical coordinates for all of the entries that were categorized as stubs. This allows us to visualize the areas of the Caribbean that have less complete information in Wikipedia.

Mapping could be used to visualize many other gaps in Wikipedia’s information base, and this is certainly not the only area in which Wikipedia is lacking. However, digital tools and resources like digital maps and Wikipedia could allow us to shift the focus towards important but underrepresented figures, events, and movements in the world’s history. However, we can only accomplish this if we put time into building out those information sources.

Join us this Thursday April 14th, from 10a-2p in the Art and Design Library (2020 WJB) for the Caribbean Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Bring a laptop if you can, and we’ll provide the training, treats, and text resources.