*Micah’s Note: This is a guest post from Matt Hunter, who interned with me this past academic year. Matt’s enthusiasm and knowledge were an incredible asset to DRS this year, as we established our office, hosted events, and kicked off our program of digital humanities support. His time and efforts provided great momentum, and we’ll be the lesser without him. Good luck Matt!
Over the past academic year, my last in the MLIS program at FSU’s iSchool, I worked as an intern in the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS). I joined the DRS in the summer of 2015 after connecting with classmate Camille Thomas, who worked under Micah at the time. Camille spoke of some cool vaguely-digital projects underway down in the Stygian depths of Strozier Library’s basement, and I asked if I couldn’t join in on the fun.
My introduction to digital work in libraries was a weekly “R&D” group meeting where some nascent DRS staff brainstormed media-rich mapping projects to build a portfolio of a tools and services to support. Although the project ended up falling through a couple weeks later, it was still cool to play around with HistoryPin and the library’s digital collections. Looking back now, that brainstorm session couldn’t have been more ideal; we covered a variety of digital scholarship topics in one meeting – content development, tool analysis and selection, copyright considerations, to name just a few – and even had to deal with what happens when a project fails! After two semesters working on projects, reviewing tools, writing proposals, and learning more about modern librarianship than I could imagine, I still think back to that first discussion as a distinct turning point in my library career.
As a new office in a new area of librarianship, DRS is somewhat unique and unfettered by tradition and long-established departmental rules or guidelines. This freedom allowed me to blaze my own path in projects, and be part of a creative support network spreading across campus. I jumped onto as many projects as I feasibly could, and covered a pretty wide spread. Over the year, I worked on things ranging from metadata entry to drafting a digital humanities strategic plan for FSU Libraries, to digital publishing. Here’s some of the highlights.
Internship, Fall 2015:
This semester was dedicated to learning how librarians worked in the research process of universities, and understanding the state of digital scholarship as a discipline.
- Il Secolo metadata – The very first week working for Micah and DRS, I was assigned some “proper intern work” – cleaning up metadata records for a 19th-Century Italian newspaper housed in the FSU Digital Library. This was my first introduction to digital library systems, and despite Micah’s efforts to relegate me to Data Entry Intern, I used the experience to explore the guts of Islandora.
- Digital Bibliography project – This started out as a simple faculty request for the management and display of a bibliography online. After researching possibilities, I developed a (semi-)functional prototype, which can be viewed here. The faculty member liked it enough to pitch it to DRS’s upcoming Project Enhancement Network and Incubator (PEN and Inc.) program for full development support!
- Digital Scholarship Symposium!
- I learned the ropes of Voyant, a text-analysis tool, and assisted Abby Scheel, Humanities Librarian, with her workshop. We played with different visualizations from the North American Slave Narratives
- I was also introduced to Tableau and CartoDB, providing cool entry points into mapping that I now have in my quiver of tools.
- I took the initiative to develop a Digital Humanities Strategic Plan, outlining how FSU Libraries might develop services and support infrastructure to support non-STEM researchers doing digital scholarship. After interviewing a handful of faculty who were already heavily involved with digital humanities research at FSU on what they would like to see, I drafted and presented this plan, which is under consideration and has been (I’m told) used as the framework for future support plans! This was a huge experience for me.
- Acronym/abbreviation research: I had briefly heard of some of the alphabet-soup of topics DRS worked with on a daily-basis, but to go from recognizing to being able to knowledgeably talk about OA, TEI, DataViz, GIS, CC, Digischol, DH, TaDiRah, DiRT, R, and all the names of tools and processes that are thrown around took a goodly chunk of the first few months of my time. There is a serious reliance on jargon in the office, and it took a while to really be able to keep up! Micah also likes to coin business-y sounding new buzzwords for fun, which is weird – “coordinize”? “re:mergence”? I fought him on this a few times. It was a good time.
- Scalar, Zotero, Slack – Among the dozens of other tools I was exposed to I spent the most with these three. Scalar and Zotero because of the bibliography project I was working on, but Slack was a great way to communicate with the team outside of my in-person hours and really helped with feeling like I was connected to and a part of the office. Being able to send emoji in “work” correspondence was also pretty cool.
- Signed on for Internship Part 2! As December rapidly approached, I realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be with the completion of some of the projects I had spearheaded, and I asked the team if they wouldn’t mind if I stuck around for just a little bit longer so I could wrap things up as best I could. This set the stage for Internship, Part Deux.
Internship, Part 2: The Internship Strikes Back
- Percolator – When Sarah Stanley joined the team in November, she brought a ton of cool ideas to the table, one of which was having an open space and time for anyone to come discuss digital projects. I loved the idea because it put the library center stage as a valuable part of the scholarship process (something that I’ve come to feel very strongly about being a Good Thing To Do). We started hosting the Percolator every Wednesday 3p-5p, and this is where I spent most of my intern time. These meetings were absolutely amazing introductions to new ideas and tools. For example, I:
- learned how to use TEI to encode a 19th Century cookbook with elements that could be referenced and queried in corpus searches;
- looked at ArcGIS projects to see socio-economical divides in food availability between greengrocers and fast-food shops
- Publish or Perish: Conversations on Academic Publishing and the Institute on Copyright in Higher Education – in February, I took a few days off from my real job to attend these fantastic events hosted by the library on the topics of publishing and copyright. I can’t say nearly enough about how amazing the speakers were or how much I learned from taking part in the conversations that happened those two days, but I am incredibly grateful I got the chance to attend and learn so much.
- Proposed and presented at THATCamp Florida! – This was one of the cooler experiences I had in my internship year, for a bunch of different reasons. The biggest is that this “un-conference” was really the first time I felt like I knew enough about digital scholarship stuff to talk knowledgeably about it and not feel like I was faking it. My proposed session there was supposed to be a conversation about funding and research and libraries, but it ended up with me just talking about how things work at FSU (as I understand them). This was fine and well and good, and still a fantastic experience, but my main takeaways from this conference came from outside my own session.
- Proposed (and was accepted to present) a paper at the 2016 Keystone Digital Humanities conference with Sarah! – Because my traditional academic background (Classics/Latin) values papers and conferences so highly, I feel like this acceptance (and the super awesome paper we’re going to present) is the encapsulation of my accomplishments in the internship. Talking about funding and digital humanities at a conference with notable and highly-respected players in the digital humanities fields is beyond anything I could have expected when I joined the team last summer, and I think it’s rather fitting that it’ll be a year after my original R&D meeting. I am beyond excited about this opportunity, and I can’t wait until June!
For the life of me, I can’t imagine a better way to be immersed in the culture and community of digital scholarship than my time at FSU’s Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. My official association with them may be coming to a close, but I plan to stay in touch with Micah, Sarah, Devin and the rest of the DRS team as I continue in my library career. The guys and gals down in that sequestered little basement cubby were absolutely wonderful to work with, and I want to thank them immensely for the opportunities they afforded me. I doubt I’ll ever really be separated from DRS for as long as I’m at FSU, and I’m going to make sure the social and professional connections I’ve made there will survive even longer.