Friday, December 31, 2010

Keeping the Creativity Alive

I've mentioned before how much I love LIS as a field where folks are creative, active, and engaged with others. I have been so fortunate to connect with people around the country (and some around the world) who challenge and inspire me! One of the first things I tell prospective or new LIS students is what a great potential there is for trying out new ideas in a non-judgmental environment, and most importantly, having a lot of fun while thinking up new ways to look at the field or to make it better. Looking for inspiration? I've compiled a short list of folks who have been very inspirational to me and who have challenged me to try new things.

Andy Woodworth
Andy is so fun and energetic, and constantly bringing new ideas and valuable insights to the table on his blog and on Twitter. I love that he goes beyond serious (and tedious) discussions of the field to inject some fun into what we do (see People for a library-themed Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Flavor) but always with the goal of promoting libraries' visibility and advocating for their importance. His career ties in very well with my idea of the librarian as someone who is not only creative and passionate, but takes a multi-pronged approach to talking about their work and networking with others. Some good places to learn more about Andy are his blog (see this post for a great discussion on the importance of advocacy and the value of creative thinking), Twitter (@wawoodworth; also be sure to check out #andypoll, a periodic poll of librarians nationwide on a variety of issues--it's a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of our field and learn from a wide range of insights), and Facebook.
Courtney Walters
Courtney is an alumnus of my program, and I feel like she embodies all the wonderful things going on in our field. After getting her MLS, Courtney got a job at Saint Ambrose University (Davenport, IA) at the curriculum library. Why I think following her is a great idea (besides the fact that she's awesome) is that she went into a library with very little visibility and brought it into the 21st century by creating a blog and Facebook page. She has taken the blog past discussing new acquisitions, changes in hours, etc (although those topics aren't neglected) to also discuss new technologies and resources that are valuable for her patrons. More and more library blogs are leaning in this direction, but I think we can all learn a lot from Courtney by looking at her dedication to her patrons and her continued search to bring them the best information she can! Follow her on Twitter: @cleighwalters.
Micah Vandegrift
I owe Twitter a huge debt of gratitude for introducing me to Micah this past year. He is a tireless advocate for students, offers wildly intelligent discussion of LIS, and is generally an inspirational person all around. Micah is responsible for #hacklibschool (see the blog post here) a project to crowdsource a discussion about LIS education that has been a huge success. I for one would love to see #hacklibschool continue far into the future, and serve as the foundation for other crowdsourced discussions (i.e. in special interest areas or for certain learning groups), and a large reason behind why I love it so much is how a democratic and open forum seems to bring out the best in students and new professionals. I have seen so many great comments and suggestions on how to get the most out of LIS education, and even when people disagree, it sparks a constructive discussion rather than negative in-fighting. I am so lucky I know and work with someone who inspires his peers in this way, and I know a lot of other students feel the same way! Micah also uses his blog, The Infornado, as a place to discuss current trends in the field, especially those things that impact students. The posts on 'What I learned in library school' are definitely worth a read: Micah recruited a number of guest bloggers to share their thoughts on their educational process, and the results are so helpful to students feeling lost or like they want to read multiple perspectives. Micah is also on Twitter (and you must follow him): @micahvandegrift.
Lauren Dodd
I love Lauren's fun and bubbly personality, and I love that she brings her awesome optimistic mindset to discussions of important topics in librarianship. Lauren's blog (Lauren in Libraryland) is fun to read, and like Micah she uses it as a space to share ideas and resources for LIS students. Lauren is another person I owe Twitter for connecting with, and she and Micah are two of the most inspirational student bloggers I know! Lauren uses her creativity to take her discussion of LIS education beyond resources (which are useful, and which she does share) to incorporate her own experiences in volunteering, conference attendance, etc. which make for a blog (and blog author) that connects with the reader very effectively! Follow Lauren on Twitter @laurendodd
My B Sides Ladies
How can I forget some of the folks who have been pivotal in my own development as a LIS student and an academic? I've talked all of your ears off about B Sides, but I think it's worth mentioning from a creativity standpoint because the two founders, Rachel Smalter Hall and Angela Murillo, built it from the ground up as a space for students to learn and share. I would love to see more journals like B Sides pop up in other departments, because it has been such a positive experience for us as editors and for students as contributors, and it really allows us to grow and learn in surprising ways! I have learned so much from our current crew (Katie DeVries Hassman, Melody Dworak, Sam Bouwers) as well, who always have new ideas for getting students involved and excited (B Sides conference!) and are passionate about making the journal (and the SLIS experience) even better! Their blogs and Twitter names: Rachel- Banana Suit Librarian, @bananasuit. Katie: Look Lady, @hypatlikeya. Melody Dworak: The Melody Party, @funkmelodious. Angela Murillo: Homepage, @angelitamu. Sam Bouwers is on Facebook, and you can also get ahold of her through our B Sides email ( and Twitter! @uofiowabsides.

There are thousands more LIS folks out there who are making valuable contributions to the field, many of which I didn't include because I didn't want to make this post too long or I don't know about them yet! If there's someone who's inspired you, tell me about them in the comments! I would love to create a space where we can share ideas and inspiration, and applaud those who are making our field the wonderful thing that it is!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Kindle for LIS Students

A few months ago, I decided it was time to buy a 3G Kindle after hearing a few classmates rave about how useful it was for reading-heavy courses (and also because I wanted to load it up with fun books too!) I've been really impressed with it thus far, and have found it to be a big help for storing and accessing professional reading material. A number of folks have expressed frustration over Kindle's lack of page numbers, but I like this author's review because it acknowledges that these are shortcomings of e-readers in general. I'm a little bummed that I can't easily use my Kindle to store articles for my research that I need to cite page numbers for (that would make me very happy), but I can still use it to read the articles and reference the 'location' later to get a general sense for where in the article the information is (it's a little extra work, but a lot easier than hauling a ton of papers and books with me everywhere I go). The good news is that the lack of page numbers is causing discussion amongst academics, so hopefully new versions of style manuals will address this.
The Kindle, apart from being lightweight and user-friendly, has a few features that I think are especially useful to LIS students. In the 'experimental' settings users can find a browser, and with free 3G coverage for the latest generation, I can access what I need even when I'm outside of the range of wifi. I definitely recommend using Kinstant (a Kindle-friendly start page with links to social media, email, and news, with the option to add your own favorites). Even though it isn't going to provide the same surfing experience you get with a color screen (the screen does take a little longer to load, and is black and white), the browser on the Kindle is actually quite good, especially if you're only using it for short spurts.
Other features students might like: you can upload material from a variety of sources, not only from Amazon. Mine is filled with PDFs of B Sides articles and with some of my favorite class readings. You can also download items from Open Library. I referenced this book in my latest research, and was excited to see it included in Open Library for my use! You have the option of either reading online or downloading a PDF, and for Kindle users, you can have items sent directly to your Kindle (just click 'send to Kindle' next to the version you want!) For those who use Open Library, definitely consider helping out by adding to descriptions of books, adding tags, etc.
Reading class PDFs is also a breeze on the Kindle thanks to its built in dictionary (this has been a huge help with some of the obscure culinary terms I run across in my current research). The Kindle uses the Oxford dictionary (my personal favorite): just move the cursor to a word, and the definition appears at the bottom of the screen. You can click on it to see a longer definition as well. The Kindle also allows for highlighting and adding notes (another useful feature for all those PDFs we read!) It shows you how many other readers have highlighted a piece of text, which can be helpful for trying to extract important information from articles you are struggling with.
Most exciting to me is how easily I can access content that is updated frequently (online news and blogs). There are a few LIS blogs available for subscription (usually for ~$1 or $2/month) along with tech and education blogs. And blogger friends, you would be amazed how easy it is to list your blog in the Kindle store. I listed both this blog and my other blog in the Kindle store in less time than it has taken me to write this post. I'm always encouraging my fellow students to get out there and network and seize opportunities to make their work more visible, and this is definitely a way to do that! To do it, go to the Kindle Store and click on 'publish on Kindle' in the left-hand column under 'around the store.'
Lastly, if you still aren't feeling like you get all the features you need with your Kindle, poke around a bit! They might be buried in the menu, or might have been addressed by other developers (this post by Rachel Smalter Hall is a great jumping off point for those with older Kindles). Apparently the Kindle has some fun Easter eggs on it (Google maps!), but I don't know enough about fiddling with my firmware to feel comfortable getting in and messing with them. Yet.
I've really enjoyed getting to use my Kindle, and I've been amazed by the amount of free content available--I have hundreds of items, but I've only paid for a few of them. There are definitely some titles I want to buy for my Kindle in the coming months, but I really appreciate that its developers were open to allowing users to upload oodles of free content! I also really enjoy all the new goodies I keep discovering the more I use it (latest discovery is a free Kindle version of Minesweeper and other games). 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Makes an Artist's Book?

I recently had a discussion with a friend (the wonderful Amanda Langdon) about artists' books when she was trying to describe them for a paper. Talking with her gave me the opportunity to think about how I define an artist's book (especially since the published literature and the content of library collections gives such broad, and sometimes conflicting, definitions.)

The big thing that I think separates an artist's book from a commercially-produced book is the interplay between form and content. Broadly defined they're books created primarily to be 'art' rather than to be a book in the traditional sense. They are still functional (ie you should be able to interact with them as books) but they were not created by a publishing house with the sole purpose of showcasing an author's content-they were created by an artist to showcase both their binding work and the interaction between content and form.

For those who aren't familiar with the book arts, the content of a book is just what's written in it (i.e. the text of a novel) while the form is its physical structure (is it paperback? What kind of binding does it have? How many pages? etc.) Most books focus on providing the text, with less emphasis on showcasing the book's form--the form is structured around the text, and around other considerations (i.e. marketing an inexpensive paperback versus a higher-quality hardcover). This is not to say that they don't take a great deal of effort and consideration when choosing and creating cover art (and even things you might not think about, like the font), but mass-produced book is not an artist's book simply because the creation of the book is solely to share text, and is not to see that text as art placed within another piece of art in a way that strengthens both.

Amanda and I also talked a bit about 'gray areas:' i.e. where does an artist's book cross the line to become something else? She talked about printed books, which I argue can be considered artist's books: A small press (like the UICB presses--look on their website, but I think one is called Arion Press. There have been others over the years) creates small runs of 'artists' books' that are considered such because they are created on a letterpress and then bound by book artists. Usually, the printers create special plates of images to go along with the letters, but even if they don't the fact that they are hand-placing those letters, inking the rollers, etc. in a specific way is considered an art form.

So that's probably what she means by publication--they aren't going to be mass-produced (like paperback mysteries or even any other fiction).

I think that small press books (especially letterpress, which is an art in itself) can be considered artist's books as long as the crucial element of interplay between text, images, and form is present. Other books that have text and images use the images only to illustrate the text, whereas the artists' book uses them for that purpose and for both image and text to interact with the way it's bound (and they way it's meant to be held and experienced). When that interplay is lost is when I think the book crosses the line to being a more commercial work.

For other book artists, curators, historians, and librarians, I would be interested to hear your thoughts too: what do you think of my definitions? How would you define an artist's book?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guest Post at Banana Suit Librarian!

My awesome friend and colleague, Rachel, might be known to some of you as Librarian in a Banana Suit. She's been a huge inspiration to me as someone who fights for information access and civil liberties (and was one of the founders of B Sides Journal!) I feel honored that she asked me to be the first guest blogger on her blog (which you should check out regularly, if you haven't been already). Go to the link below to check it out!
Crowdsourcing and Collaboration: 20th Century Style!

Sunday, November 28, 2010's Journal List

This article was brought to my attention today, and it discusses the creation of's list of journals. For those who've been reading my blog for a while, you probably remember my earlier post where I mention it as a great resource for new LIS students. For those who haven't read the blog for that long, is a site I love because it's a social networking site for academics: I love getting to connect with folks all over the world, and I wouldn't have found them otherwise!
The reason folks are excited about's journal list is that you can follow journals online and receive updates, but you also benefit from the social component (i.e. what are my fellow students/professors reading to stay current?) The article mentions another site (ticTocs) that allows you to search journals in a similar way, although I don't have any experience with it.
I just went through and added a smattering of journals to my list (you can view them here), and I was pretty impressed by the selection. However, there was one big discrepancy I noticed, and that was a lack of Open Access journals! I'm sure there are some OA journals in the list (although I didn't have the time to go through all of the thousands of entries to verify that), but I could not find my favorites, like First Monday, B Sides, and Library Student Journal. I love that they are open to suggestions, however, and so I hit the 'suggest a new journal' button and fired away! As OA becomes a more accepted venue for scholarly publication, I'm excited to see these journals get more recognition and more followers! If you don't have an account, I would definitely recommend getting one. Once you do, just go to   this link and start following! And make sure to suggest journals you don't see, I bet they would appreciate having an even more comprehensive list!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My World War I Research is Finished!

Tomorrow everyone on this side of the pond will be tucking in to large plates of food in celebration of Thanksgiving. That holiday came a day early for me when I (finally!) finished writing my paper on World War I-era Iowa libraries. The project evolved a lot from when I started about a year ago, and I ended up with a paper that is about 190 pages long (including tables, bibliography, etc.) I learned a lot about my writing style and about how I work best, and I think a few of those things might be good to jot down here for my fellow students (in LIS programs or otherwise) who are undertaking large writing projects:
1. It always takes longer than you think it will: I thought this project would take me 6 months. In fact, the research took 6 months, and the writing took another 6 or 8. A lot of the reason wasn't that I couldn't write more quickly, it's that I tend to have more 'on' writing days and more 'off' days. When I'm at my peak, I can assemble my ideas quickly, support them well, and use better wording. When I'm not, it's much more of a struggle just to outline a chapter, nonetheless write it. Plan ahead, and budget lots of time.
2. Everyone has their own method; learn yours and stick to it: I was at the receiving end of criticism from some folks because they felt that my writing and editing process wasn't 'right.' Mostly it boiled down to the steps I take, and the fact that I always insert my endnotes last because it gives me another chance to go over my writing and check my sources. I am much more flexible when it comes to shorter projects, but when I'm compiling an epic tome I know now exactly what I need to do in order to write, edit, and finish. Once you figure out a system that works for you, stick with it! You'll be much less stressed out.
3. You'll still be stressed out: There's really no way to get around it. Embarking on, conducting, and finishing a large project are all very stressful activities. Make sure you have your ducks in a row in other areas of your life (i.e. are you able to count it toward a thesis/independent study credit to give yourself more writing time? What activities are you able to neglect for a little while to free up your schedule?) Also, make sure you have a few good support people in place. I have my awesome boyfriend and a few good friends who've all helped with practical things (like preparing food and cleaning), to sharing down time with me, to advice on writing and research.
4. Keep your project in perspective: Yes, it is stressful. It eats up a lot of your time and you find yourself staring at the same resource five or six times hoping to get one more usable sentence out of it. Remember that you will feel amazing when you are done, and be nice to yourself while you're working! If it takes you a little longer to finish a section, you feel like your writing wasn't up to par on a certain day, or you just need a break from the thing for a day or two, that's OK! Everyone has different limits: you know yours, and you know you've worked hard. So if your hard work doesn't pan out the way you want, you did your best and that's still something to be proud of.
5. Get lots of advice: Having friends, faculty, and family that you can wrangle into offering some free reading/editing is so valuable. Another set of eyes often catches things you miss, and someone new to your work can offer a perspective on what they needed clarified, which will help you better understand the perspective of your readers (and helps you step outside only your perspective as a writer).

I am currently polishing up a book proposal in the hopes of having my writing formally published. This is very exciting, but it also makes it so I feel cautious about placing my work online lest it interfere with a future copyright held by the publishing house. That being said, I know there are a lot of folks doing exciting research on library history or other subjects who I'd love to share findings with and compare notes! So, contact me if you'd like to learn more about the project or hear a bit about what I found!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another article on Scribd

Second time this week! 
I posted my article: "Learning from the Past: Digitization and Information Loss" on Scribd where you can read it for free using this link. It was originally published in B Sides this last May, but since B Sides is awesome and lets authors keep control of rights over their work, I can distribute it as I wish! To see the article on the B Sides site, go here.  
"Learning from the Past" is an article that provides an overview of digitization issues and current solutions to information loss for those who are somewhat new to the subject. 
As always, let me know if you have any questions or noticed anything in the article that piqued your interest!

Monday, November 15, 2010

ALA Talk available online

Hello readers!
I had initially planned to publish my talk from the Library History Round Table symposium at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in a peer-reviewed journal, but it occurred to me that my other talk (from Library History Seminar XII) is going to be on the same research, and most likely in the same journal. So, I added my conference talk to my Scribd account to share with everyone! While you're there, you can follow me with your account too. Sometimes they get picky about downloading things if you haven't uploaded your own work, so I can also e-mail the PDF of the talk to anyone who is interested. Otherwise, go here to read the document in full online.
The talk discusses three of the six libraries I researched (Burlington, Davenport, and Mt. Pleasant) more in-depth, whereas my talk from September discussed al 6 libraries, but with somewhat less detailed attention paid to each in order to keep within time constraints. The published version of that talk will be about 25 pages, so that will give me a chance to pay a little more attention to each of them.
If you have any questions or comments, let me know!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Library of Tomorrow...Yesterday!

I ran across this rather lengthy quote while adding to my chapter on libraries from 1914-1916, and was so pleased by it I couldn’t wait to share it with you! It’s from the 1914 annual report, written by Iowa City Public Library’s librarian, Helen McRaith. Unfortunately my Internet was down yesterday (and most of today), so I had to contain my excitement until now:

“The modern idea of the function of a library is this—to study the literary needs of its own community and then to endeavor to meet these needs to the fullest extent, even if tradition must be violated in so doing.
The old-fashioned library was a cloistral place appealing only to the scholar, who moved silently among dust-covered tomes. The modern library possesses a different atmosphere and one more akin to that of a business office; most of the readers have the appearance of seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.
There is a similar change in the appearance and attitude of the librarians. Formerly they seemed to look on the library as an end in itself and as a collection of interesting curiosities, they were willing to let it remain a stagnant literary pool. Now they must be alert specialists, keen to keep a stream of vital, useful knowledge flowing from the library to all parts of the community.” (Iowa City Public Library 1914 annual report, pg 1).

This reminds me so much of some of the current discussion circulating around the changing field of librarianship, even though it was written almost 100 years ago. Her writing has the same tone of excitement that I feel in my own blog and in reading the posts of other LIS bloggers, about the library as a place of expanding opportunities and of librarians as being people who are redefining the field rather than just participating in it.
There are a couple places in particular where her writing sounds like it could have been lifted out of a modern blog (and then had the language antiquated a bit, of course): there is so much concern right now about justifying the value of libraries, and a lot of that justification comes through pointing out that the library is used for practical purposes, as McRaith says, “…seeking information which will be of assistance in their daily problems rather than abstract knowledge.”
I especially love her last sentence: what a great comparison to the expansion of library science to include (or create) so many information studies-related specialties! Today, the public library is seen as a place where all community members can come in and access information, but there is also a view that access should be protected and increased. The Library Bill of Rights was not adopted until the 1930s, and prior to that there was more of a focus on encouraging ‘good books’ than allowing access to any materials the patron wanted. While her statement could just as easily be talking about guiding the stream of reading through promoting ‘good reading,’ it also sounds a lot like our current discussions of keeping on top of trends, promoting access, and even our discussions of the Internet and libraries (as an Open Access fanatic, it also reminds me of some of the justification we use for OA publication!)
Interesting how history repeats itself! 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Circular Texts, both Digital and Tangible

If you remember my post on readers and new media from a couple weeks ago, I mentioned this article on an author (Jurgen Neffe) who took advantage of the e-reader format to create circular texts, or ones without a beginning or end. A quick internet search on the author revealed this article entitled "The disembodied book," which is a pretty thorough discussion of the author's views on the future of the book and authorship, and the future of reading. He is optimistic about the possibility of more authors being recognized and readers interacting with texts in new ways, although he frames this within the downfall of the print book. I'm one of those folks that feels like we don't have to choose: I have a Kindle e-reader but still read paper texts as well. However, he doesn't associate the reduction of print books to their complete elimination, which is an argument I feel has been made far too many times (insert frantic 'print is dying! We will never read printed books again!' comments here).
The book is not going anywhere, and I think Jurgen has a valid point by reminding us of that, but also reminding us that game changing technologies do indeed have far-reaching effects. People will read more e-books, and multimedia books will allow people to interact with texts in far more ways than before (you can even publish your own multimedia books). My friends who are bookstore owners can attest to the fact that their shops are struggling (which is why I will use this moment to remind you to buy your books from locally owned bookshops--they really are so much better than the big sellers both in terms of unique selection and service), but I just can't imagine that their shops are all going to disappear under a tidal wave of digital books. People still like print books, but also see the opportunities extant in the digital format (I, for example, plan on self-publishing my library research to the Kindle store, for e-readers, and to Lulu, for tangible books).
With this books/no books argument swirling in my head, I decided to take my assignment from my calligraphy instructor for last week (which was to create and calligraph a book) and play around with Jurgen's notions of a circular text in book format. I found a blog with a number of circular poems, although most of them weren't suitable to my book because I didn't feel they were 'circular' enough for my needs. The idea behind such a poem is, like a circular book, that you can begin from anywhere within the poem because it lacks a clear beginning and end.
For this first book I used 'Where are the Extravagant Spectacles of Yesterday?' because I could not resist the name, but also because it seems very circular. I folded some thick watercolor paper for pages, using only one folio (or piece of paper, for non-binders) per signature (set of page(s), usually a book with have multiple signatures bound together). Using three jewelry findings (in this case little silver loops), I created a series of chain stitched pamphlet bindings, and move them through the loops as I progressed. I'm pleased my little experiment worked, and resulted in a book that can lay flat, but that can stand up and turn into a 'circular text' by distributing the pages around the loops in such a way that it's actually a bit hard to figure out where the book starts and ends.

I'm making another circular book for class this week, using the poem 'Upon the Winds of Time' from that same site. I'll post photos after it's finished!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Some Exciting History-Themed Resources

While the purpose of this blog is primarily to focus on librarianship, the joys of being an LIS student, and my own research, I feel like there is so much of an overlap between my own work and other fields that sometimes I want to be a little more interdisciplinary! Lately, I've been shown a lot of really exciting online resources that might technically fall under 'history resources,' but that creative minds could apply to an LIS classroom (and of course, to history classes as well.) So, for both students and instructors, I present a brief list to you:
BBC Dimensions
I really like this site, and I've spent more time on it than I care to admit after being informed of its existence via Twitter. Basically, the site takes the dimensions of any number of things (natural disasters, historic cities, industrial areas, etc) and allows you to superimpose an outline of the event/place over your own postal code. It's a great way to help conceptualize the actual size, and is a great jumping off point for talking about how everyone thought about the size of the event/place in question prior to seeing the map.
Getting back to library history more specifically, I humbly present the Library History Buff Blog. I'm sure I've talked about this blog before, but it's worth mentioning here because of the scope of Larry Nix's work. I love this blog because he talks about such a wide range of library history-related topics, from pieces of ephemera (see the World War I ALA bookmark) to people, events, and organizations that have shaped library history in one way or another. This blog will be of particular interest to those who study postal history as well, as Nix finds inspiration from letters and other postal artifacts.
Larry Nix also created a helpful website that showcases artifacts related to the ALA in World War I. I love the postcards he's found, and they help put imagery to the different ALA War Service activities I've looked at!
This is a link to a class website for a course taught by Dr. Karen Roggenkamp. There are plenty of links that discuss late 19th/early 20th century history, and these can help to introduce students to a topic without overwhelming them.
Harvard's Reading page is a very helpful resource I've used a number of times, because it provides a good deal of information on the history of readers and reading. There are so many interesting studies done on reading (those by Janice Radway and Christine Pawley, for example), and this site is a great place for students to gain an introduction to the study of reading history and use it as a jumping off point for discussing why the study of reading habits is important (i.e. is how we read a text a vital component to how we understand it?)

There are so many more history resources out there, but I've tried to stick with ones that are both recent and, to my mind at least, have something unique to offer. I've also tried to focus on resources that are more interdisciplinary, rather than those that would only be applicable in, say, an ancient history survey course. If you know of any more great resources, put them in the comments! The longer the list, the better!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Map of Censorship in Iowa Libraries during 1918

I know I've mentioned this before, but there is a wonderful Google map that shows all the book bans and challenges in the U.S. over the last 3 years.  When I ran across this map a while back, it gave me the idea to do a similar thing with the Herbert Metcalf letters that inspired my WWI Iowa libraries project. (Metcalf was the man to whom librarians around the state sent letters indicating that they had removed items from their shelves in response to his request).
I made the map and used it for a class presentation, and just recently dug it back up while I was poking around Google. For those who are interested in Iowa or World War I history, this might be of interest to you. You can find my map at this link.
There are a couple things I should point out about this map:
A cursory examination suggests that censorship activities were clustered in the Eastern half of the state. While I have no evidence to the contrary, this is not an assumption I can get behind 100 percent. Part of the reason is that we may not have all the letters written to Metcalf: some might have been destroyed or misplaced, as often happens with office paperwork.
Also, I do know for a fact that the Metcalf letters do not represent all the censorship activity taking place in Iowa that year: For example, Cedar Rapids' library removed books, but there is no letter in the Metcalf paperwork from anyone on their staff. On the contrary, there is a letter from Burlington Public Library, but no record of their removing materials anywhere in the library's records. So, while it does seem that a lot of this censorship took place in Eastern Iowa, we will never know for sure unless someone goes through the records of every Iowa public library.
Another thing to point out for those using this as a tool to study World War I-era history is that it is only for one year: and to be precise, only for the first few months of that year (1918). 1918 was the year when it seems censorship efforts really kicked into high gear (although censorship was taking place earlier than this--see Wayne Wiegand's book, An Active Instrument for Propaganda, for a national look). I point this out to avoid misleading people into thinking it covers the entire wartime period. It occurs to me that it might be helpful to go back into the map and add dates to each entry that match the dates on the letters, and hopefully I will have time to do that soon.
Lastly, these letters raise (and in some cases answer) questions about what libraries did with these books after they removed them. Most simply indicate that books were 'removed from shelves' or 'removed from circulation,' but if you look at Forest City and Villisca, you'll notice that their librarians both burnt the items they felt were 'pro-German.' Most libraries, however, do not indicate what they did with books once they were removed. The meeting minutes from Davenport Public Library indicate that theirs were held by the library board, so it is possible other libraries retained their books in storage. Also, look at Des Moines Public Library--the librarian removed a lot of items! For those who are curious, that is the same Forrest Spaulding who later drafted the Library Bill of Rights. I should point out that I don't think these libraries were intentionally throwing their patrons under the bus to get behind the war effort: I suspect they removed books because the staff and library boards felt it was in the best interest of the patrons. While I would love to know, I have yet to find out any information about whether the removed books were restored to the shelves after the war.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moving Between Genres: The Challenges and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Blogging

In my last post, I talked a bit about my other blog, and the final project of which it is a part. Since I am building steam on writing for that blog, I wanted to write this post about what I have learned so far blogging both as a historian and as a LIS student. I would love to hear what experience other writers have in working between disciplines, so please add your thoughts to the comments!

The first difference I've noticed is my tone when writing. On this blog, I have developed my own 'voice' as it were, and feel like I can write somewhat more casually. The other blog doesn't use a very formal tone for the actual blog posts, but I feel like I need to write more in the way I would write for a peer-reviewed journal when writing the sections on historical background.I also use many more citations in the other blog, because it is based primarily on historical research.
On this blog, I do draw from other sources, but I don't find myself using parenthetical citations and a bibliography, because I am doing as much sharing of my own thoughts as I am pulling from other sources. That difference in approach is also reflected in the content: on this blog I feel much more comfortable sitting down and writing a post about some aspect of my professional life that I find interesting or particularly relevant, whereas when I post on the other blog I feel like I need to sit down and plan out what I will post about and how that fits into the scope of a larger project. Basically its the difference between creating a space for more formal research versus a place to share new ideas and offer my opinion on a subject.
The biggest challenges for me with this type of writing come from trying to switch not only between voices, but between ways of approaching a post. The Markham blog requires that at least some of my posts be approached as tightly-formed arguments on an aspect of a historical document (his cookery manual, in this instance). This blog requires me to write clearly for an audience across multiple disciplines, and discuss the world as it exists now. The greatest reward is that these two styles complement each other very well: by forcing myself to write academically on one blog, I can ensure that I am forming coherent arguments on this one. By writing in a way that (I hope) is interesting and accessible on this blog, I prevent my other writing from becoming too dry.
Because the blogs are updated frequently and are a more dynamic entity than an article, I feel this difference much more acutely than when I am writing papers on several different subjects. It probably helps that peer reviewed journals tend to adhere to some similar expectations in terms of building and defending an argument, and even in the scholarly language used in the paper.
I'm sure I will notice many more differences between the way I write for different projects as I go on, but one advantage I feel like I am giving myself here is exposure to a wider variety of writing styles--by both blogging and writing for more traditional publications across a number of disciplines, I am (slowly) familiarizing myself with the tenets of 'good writing' for these fields, a skill which I hope will be useful as I continue to work in a field as interdisciplinary as LIS.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Multiple Projects, Multiple Blogs

While some readers are aware of my other blog (and accompanying project), I have not given it the discussion on this blog that it deserves! The blog can be found at this link, and is a part of a larger project called "Modernizing Markham." Gervase Markham was a 17th century English writer, who published books about cookery, horse care, orchards, and sport. I ran across his book, The English Housewife, in the University of Iowa's Szathmary Collection--an awesome collection of cookbooks, manuscripts, and even kitchen appliance manuals. I wrote a paper about it for a class, but I wanted to do more. I decided to focus on Markham for my Center for the Book final project.
Basically, I am taking recipes from the book and using modern equipment and ingredients to recreate them. I am going through his 'banquetting stuffs' menu, so that I'll have a historically-accurate meal by the end of it. On the blog, I talk about the experience of recreating the recipes, but I also place those recipes in their historical context by talking about culinary history and book history. The project is still in its early stages, but there are two posts for recipes up already (one worked great, the other failed miserably but made a great pie filling). In the Spring, I plan to make a calligraphed, pamphlet-bound book with the modern recipes and with my own illustrations. This book will be combined with the contextual information from the blog and with some extracts from Markham's text, and sold as a print-on-demand book. All the information is available for free on the blog, of course, but that is a good option for people who like tangible recipe books. I'm also hoping to prepare some of the food for my friends at the Center for the Book, depending on how much time I have!
I'm really excited about this project because it lets me combine my interests in a really fun way--I get to cook (which I love!), but I also get to pair my interests in history and book arts with my interests in new media and digital humanities. Talking about the historical aspects of the project on a blog allows me to share my ideas with a larger number of people (and hopefully get some good comments and discussion going too!) It's a great way to make these recipes relevant again as well, 400 years after they were written.
Feel free to ask me any questions about the project, and if you have a Twitter account, stay updated on my progress by following @ModernMarkham (or following my own username, @BookishJulia). You can also subscribe to both my blogs on Kindle.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What New Media Means for Me as a Reader

I am about to make the most obvious statement ever: there is a lot of cool stuff happening on the internet.
Not a groundbreaking observation by any means, but I am ceaselessly amazed by the sheer number of new ways to participate in the world as a reader of texts. I mean this both in the literal sense (e-texts versus paper texts), and also in how we interpret those texts (and how technology influences that).

Take, for example, this article on 'circular reading.' This author has found a way to exploit the e-reader technology in a way that gives us stories with a circular narrative (no beginning or end). As readers of these stories, how does this sort of narrative change our interpretation of the text, and how does it change our interaction with that text? There are many books that challenge us to think of narrative form differently than a 'beginning-to-end' reading experience (I was fond of the 'choose your own adventure' book when I was a kid), and this book takes that to a new level by using a technology that isn't bounded by a structure with a clear beginning and end.
The e-reader is especially interesting to me after I purchased a Kindle (which arrived in the mail today!) and began exploring the different texts I could fill it up with. There is a dizzying array of public domain material available for free in the Kindle Store, and right now that's what I'm experimenting with. I've downloaded one free comic book, and a number of books (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) so I can get a sense for how the different texts 'read' on this device. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could read the comic fine (it just shows each page as a 'page' on the Kindle, like you would expect), but as a comics reader I wonder what happens when you take comics that include elements of color or 'splash pages' (where the narrative and imagery spans two pages). I haven't found answers to these questions yet, but I might just download Watchmen on there to see how it changes my reading experience (and my understanding of the text).
I'm also curious about subscription services. I love having a 3G device that will automatically update my blogs and allow me to read them while on layovers at bus stops (which is when I get to read at work--can't do it while driving!) or while at the doctor's office without hauling my MacBook Pro along for the ride. I looked at some newspaper subscriptions, although I just can't commit: I'm someone that reads snippets throughout the day from various sources and listens to NPR, so sitting down 'with the paper' isn't a model I'll probably adopt. Blogs, however, are a different story. I have a 'to read' list that's probably about 100 posts long at any given point, so I'll take all the help I can get!
The Kindle is interesting because you pay for a blog subscription at a price that is comparable to that of newspapers, which shows our increasing acceptance of the blog as a source for reputable information (or at least, with the potential to be such a source). Tonight, I've listed this blog on the Kindle Store, and it should be available for purchase in about 48 hours (I'll share a link when it is). I'll also be listing my other blog that I'm using for my Center for the Book final project (more on that later--but suffice to say there's some exciting stuff in the works!)
This model of publishing is similar to someplace like it's free to sign up and to upload your material to be published, and you get a decent hunk of the royalties when it is. With the Kindle subscription, I was surprised by the fact that I wasn't given the option to choose the price (although it's possible that I will be able to do so after it's 'approved). I want to make my blog accessible to as many people as possible, so I would like to list it for free! While the jury's still out on this, I definitely think that taking that agency away from the author has some very interesting implications. For example, how does it compare to traditional publishing models' valuing of work? What does it say for access--if is choosing the price of my blog, what will that do to people who want to access the work but can't? This is less of an issue for people who own Kindles (I assume that most people who buy them are prepared to spend 99 cents on a blog subscription), but it does raise questions for me about e-publishing at large.

Well, it's the next day, and both blogs have been published for the Kindle. You can find this blog here, and my other blog here. I'm excited to have them on the Kindle because I want to be able to share them with as many people as possible. As I suspected, I didn't get to choose the price: they're each $1.99. I am actually not super happy about that price, because I wanted to give them away for free (or at least for less than $1). However, I am happy to have another way to share my work with others, and I would love to hear from Kindle users about their experiences reading my blog(s) in that format!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Guest Post at The Infornado!

Hello readers!
I thought you all might be interested to know about my guest post on Micah Vandegrift's blog, The Infornado. He's been doing a great series where LIS students contribute their thoughts on the topic 'what I learned in library school.' These posts are such a wonderful resource for new students (or not-so-new ones too!) as they help provide a variety of perspectives from a group of writers with diverse backgrounds, and give great information on how others have found their niche in their programs. Micah's other posts are great too--he has some wonderful insights on current trends in LIS, and also created this post, which is a wonderful comparison of all the different blogging platforms that are big right now (I learned a lot from it!)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Copyright Criminals

Last night a group of SLIS students went to see Copyright Criminals, which was absolutely amazing, followed by a Q&A with Kembrew McLeod, an event that was part of the Iowa City Public Library's Intellectual Freedom Festival. I am so excited about this film that I wanted to write a bit here. First of all, I highly recommend that folks should look at the website and watch the film. It's very well done, and it calls into question our current copyright laws by looking at the history of sampling in music.
A couple great questions were raised in the Q&A that got me thinking about licensing. Liz Holdsworth asked if RJD2's sampling was illegal at a live show, and the answer is 'no,' because music venues have to pay ASCAP & BMI licensing fees in order to host performances. What I didn't know though (and this was another question that was asked) was that anywhere music is played (i.e. plugging your iPod in to an ice cream store's stereo system) should technically be paying those fees. I started looking at the FAQ's on the ASCAP site, and apparently they can charge for just about anything, including using hold music on your business telephone! I don't want to suggest that artists not receive credit and/or money for their work, but this seems so restrictive and even somewhat invasive (Dr. McLeod mentioned that ASCAP and BMI have employees who will go in to businesses at random to see if they're in violation.) There must be a better way to go about this, but since I'm not a copyright expert I'm not sure what that better way is!
Also, as a hip-hop fan, I was really excited to see interviews with a lot of wonderful, innovative artists. I have friends who create hip-hop or other types of music using sampling, and it was really interesting to me to learn more about it (for example, the fact that it's legally easier to cover a whole song than to sample 2 bars from it.) I was definitely surprised by examples of artists who were very, err, insistent that their work only be used in a certain way. I guess it's just a mindset different from my own, where I see my work as something I am sharing with the world and others can take it and do what they would like as long as I'm credited (and as long as no large company yoinks my work out from under me and makes a bunch of money off of it, which is highly unlikely). All this talk about sampling and licensing and copyright got me thinking about libraries (as I am wont to do), and I would love to hear back from other LIS students and professionals about this. Do libraries have to pay licensing fees in order to let patrons check out DVDs and CDs? What are some ways libraries can promote sharing without running afoul of the law? Obviously we are sharing materials with others free of charge, but I'm curious what other ways libraries can get involved.
And finally! I love Creative Commons, and it is mentioned in the film, but I have a few Creative Commons questions. Because I am one of the editors of B Sides, I know about the different types of licenses and have a pretty good sense of what they entail for the author. What I'm less clear about is their implications later on. The Share-Alike feature is for those wishing their work to only be used with compatible licenses. However, what if someone is sampling (or quoting in a paper) from sources with incompatible licenses? I've also heard of CC licenses being argued against because they hold rights into perpetuity, unlike copyrighted materials which pass into the public domain after the author's death + 70 years (I think it's 70!) I wonder when (and if) CC licenses become public domain, or if it's something the author manually has to go in and do.
It occurred to me also that I don't have a CC license on this site, so as of today, I shall!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speak Loudly

For my regular blog readers, I apologize in advance as this post is a bit off topic in that it isn't directly related to LIS education or to my own (current) research. However, it is related to my previous life as a researcher in loss and trauma, and my work at a rape crisis team. It is also, of course, related to my dislike of censorship. I encourage constructive comments at the end, and I also encourage you to check out the other blogs below as many folks are saying a lot of very powerful stuff in response to this week's book challenge.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Highlights from Library History Seminar XII

I just got back from an awesome conference experience at Library History Seminar XII in Madison this weekend. All of the panels were incredible, and the people there were so supportive and welcoming of me (especially as a new researcher!) I feel so excited about the whole thing that I wanted to jot down some thoughts I had about the topics, and some questions the presentations raised for me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

LIS Classroom Resources on Censorship

In honor of ALA's Qu'ran reading in protest of the book burning that's scheduled for September 11, I thought I would post a couple things to spark discussion about censorship in the U.S.
The ALA announcement for the reading can be found here. It gives you an insight into why the ALA decided upon the reading, and why ALA members think it's important.

I love this map because it provides a visual aid for understanding the distribution (and the rather large number!) of books bans and challenges in the U.S. from 2007-2009. It's a Google Map, so you can click on each of the incidents for more information.

The OIF Blog (from the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom) has quite a few posts related to censorship. These are a good jumping-off point for learning about and discussing censorship because you get to read the views of multiple people from the office.

Recently, my classmate Billie Cotterman passed this news report along to me that talks about declining internet freedom around the world. It's based on the Google Transparency Report, which is an interactive map of government requests to remove information, and is a great tool for learning about and discussing censorship internationally.

Does anyone else know of any other sites that either educate readers about censorship or that would be useful in a classroom discussion? I would love to see them!

That's all I have time for right now--I'm on my way out the door to talk at (and enjoy!) the Libraries and Print Culture conference in Madison this weekend. I'll post about my thoughts when I return.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Free Resources for Students and Researchers

There are a ton of great free resources out there both for students and for researchers, and I wanted to share some that I've found before the semester kicks into high gear. I know I've mentioned some of these resources before, but I've come across so many more that it's good to keep the list updated. If you know of anything that I missed, please include it--I'd love to make as complete a list as possible!

Open Access Journals
Open Access is something I'm very passionate about, because it lets scholars publish their work in a way that reduces or eliminates overhead and thus allows our work to be available to more people. Two that are near and dear to my heart are B Sides, and Library Student Journal. You already know that I'm an editor for B Sides, but I was just offered a position at LSJ as a member of the Editorial Review Board too, and I'm really excited about doing even more with OA student publishing!
Common Place is a great source for scholarly research from many disciplines that address life in early America. A lot of exciting Internet research is published in First Monday, an OA journal that was recommended to me in my first semester at SLIS. There are so many great journals out there that it would be hard to name them all (and this post would be ridiculously long!) To find hundreds more, spend some time browsing on the Directory of Open Access Journals to see openly accessible journals covering a wide range of disciplines (a hint to LIS students: this is a great place to go when comparing journals for publishing your work!)

Online Collections
More and more institutions are placing their collections (or rather, parts of them) online, and while some are still password-protected, many are available to everyone free of charge. This post from the blog, mary and mac design, is a really outstanding collection entitled "100 Extensive University Libraries from Around the World that Anyone Can Access." It's organized by subject, so you can look at everything from law and religious libraries to general collections. I ran across it on Twitter this morning, and it immediately was added to my Delicious bookmarks!
The University of Iowa has the Iowa Digital Library, which not only has a wealth of information related to Iowa history, but also highlights some of their great collections of women's history materials, illuminated manuscripts, and maps.
I think I've mentioned the World Digital Library before, but it's definitely worth a check out. The interface is great and easy-to-use, and makes it simple to constrain your search to certain time periods or geographic areas.
There a a few collections on British history that I think are a lot of fun. The Word on the Street is a collection of broadsides from the National Library of Scotland. Not only is it a useful collection, but it's presented in a fun way that would be accessible to undergraduate and high school students. The British Library's Evanion Catalogue is a great resource for ephemera and other goodies relating to life in the Victorian period. The Bodleian Library is another good resource for ephemera, with their Broadside Ballads collection. 

Reading/Book History
The LUCILE Project is also associated with the UI Libraries by way of the head of Special Collections, Sid Huttner. He has put together this really awesome project for those interested in publishing history, in that the whole site is devoted to uncovering the publishing history of one book (Lucile by Owen Meredith). It's a great way to get an in-depth look at how one title moved through the publishing industry.
The Reading Experience Database seeks to compile instances of reading experiences in the UK from 1450-1945. It's a great first place to look when trying to learn a bit more about how reading operated in a certain time period. Harvard has put together a great site entitled "Open Collections Program: Reading-Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History," which allows you to learn about many different types of reading and many different types of reading materials.
The Index Translationum is a searchable record of books that have been translated and published in UNESCO member states since 1979.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Resources for new LIS Students

After going to meet the new cohort at orientation on Friday, I've been thinking a lot about good resources for new students. I thought up a couple that I e-mailed to a friend who is in LISSO (Library and Information Science Student Organization, our department's student group), then it occurred to me that other students might find them useful too!

The Infornado
This is a blog by someone who's new to the field, and has a lot of great information. Last night in an e-mail chat I learned that he's coordinated a project where he invites LIS students to share what they've learned so far in their programs (about the field and more generally). I read some this morning and really enjoyed it--so many times I found myself saying 'yes! I've had that experience!' I also gained some really valuable perspective about what other students are getting out of library school, along with some new ideas for avenues to pursue in my own experience (Micah's other posts are worth a read too!)

Lauren in Libraryland
Lauren is currently a student in Alabama, and her blog is a fun and accessible way to learn more about her experiences in school and her thoughts on the field. I've always found her posts to be both thought-provoking and enjoyable to read, and its a great way to get another perspective on LIS education.

SAU Curriculum Library
This blog is written by Courtney Walters, an alumnus from our program who graduated in 2009. I love it because she provides a lot of useful information for educators about current trends and techniques, especially for those seeking to incorporate paperless teaching into their curricula. For LIS students, this blog is a great way to see how someone new in the field is using blogging professionally, and to get inspired for your own professional blog.

The Wikiman: LISNPN
This blog is a great resource, and this post in particular is one that would be great for new students. It discusses the LIS New Professional Network, which was created for those who've joined the field in the last 10ish years. This is a great place for students to network and to hear first-hand about the transition from work to school from others who've recently been there.

Stephen's Lighthouse
This is a blog that has a pretty wide readership, and Stephen updates it very frequently. This is one of my go-to sources for learning about emerging trends in the field. It's written in a way that's accessible to those with or without experience with the different technologies/areas of library service/etc that he might talk about in a given day, but he's great at staying on top of what's new and letting his readers know!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

WWI & WWII-era Color Photos as Teaching Resources

In recent months, I have been directed toward three websites that display color photos from the first two decades of the 20th century. While my knowledge of photographic methods is limited at best, it seems that the color is imparted using different methods that were just being developed. I was so excited to find these, because the color photos make the lives of people about 100 years ago seem much more real. I thought I would share them to those who might find them useful as teaching aids or for research.
Autochromes de la Guerre
This site is in French, and shows photos using a method developed in 1903. These are pictures of soldiers from World War I, taken by war photographers. Even if you don't read French (mine is very rusty) you can still poke around on the site: there's a thumbnail on the right-hand margin that will pull up a little 10-photo slideshow.

The Great War in Color
This site is a great introduction to some very stunning photos and descriptions of different photographic processes. The definitions are easy to understand, and several important people in the development of color photographic methods are introduced. Several collections of color and black-and-white photos from World War I appear along the left-hand side ("Kid Soldiers of the Great War" is especially haunting), and some historical information as well (see "Adolf Hitler and Remarque in No Man's Land").

Russia in Color, A Century Ago
This site shows photos taken around Russia in 1909 and 1910. The color in the pictures is crisp and spectacular, and it looks like they could have been taken with a modern camera. What is especially useful for teachers (or even just interested viewers) is the Google maps below some of the images that allow you to visually reference the location where the picture was taken.

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943
These pictures come from a bit later on, but I've included the link because they show pictures of everyday life in the U.S. I was especially struck by the images of rural America, and it was powerful to see color images of the sometimes cramped living quarters, but also to see street scenes and social activities.

Prezi and My Research

I've been a little late to jump on the Prezi bandwagon, but after just having made my first one, I'm very impressed with the result. For those who haven't used it, Prezi is a way to create presentations that is more dynamic than using a PowerPoint slideshow. I found it much easier to use, and because it zooms in and moves around, it would be more likely to keep an audience's attention.
I was pondering using a Prezi for the Libraries and Print Culture conference that I've mentioned before, although I may hold off. Being new to the field and not having interacted with the researchers who will be at the conference, I am not sure if they would really love a presentation that flies around and zooms in, or if it would give them a headache.
My Prezi is more of an introduction into my research than an in-depth look at the subject from the perspective of someone who is knowledgeable about it. I am hoping that it is accessible enough to be used in a classroom presentation (say, in a high school or undergrad History course) but still interesting enough to be enjoyable to those farther along in their careers. I would love to know what others think about the presentation, and on the off chance that someone wants to use it in a classroom or share it with others, please feel free.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Roots and Routes: How I Came to Library & Information Science

Today was orientation for the new cohort in our department, and it was absolutely a blast. The students are passionate and ready to work, and I felt fortunate to spend the day getting to know some of them. One of the presentations by LISSO (Library and Information Student Organization) included mention of The Library Routes Project. I'm glad I was there to learn about the project and to then go home and look at some of the posts, especially after spending a day with new students and with professionals who were discussing how they came to the field. I had read about it previously on Lauren in Libraryland, and was excited about the project. However, as happens so often, I got bogged down under other tasks and eventually slipped to the back of my mind.
On Library Routes, one can write about their own journey in a blog, and add that post to the large list of others. It's a great exercise for thinking critically about yourself as a professional, and is a great help to students looking to learn from the stories of those who have already started their careers. I'm still a student, but I wanted to add my voice, and so here's my story.

I had always been interested in books and the study of them, as well as a hodgepodge of other interests including art, social sciences, and history. I never allowed myself to pursue my interests fully until recently, after convincing myself that I would be unable to earn a living without a 'practical' degree. As an undergraduate, I began as an art major but a series of frustrations led me to believe that art education from my school lacked the quality I desired, so I switched to Psychology. A B.A. in Psychology is hardly worth the paper its printed on when it comes to jobs, but at the time I had hoped to work at a non-profit that dealt with violence against women.
Even though I never used my degree for anything, I learned a lot from the experience of getting it. First off, I had two assistantships that began to introduce me to the world of psychology research/teaching and all the behind-the-scenes grunt work that had to go into a lot of studies. It also introduced me to Dr. John Harvey, who taught "Loss and Trauma." Dr. Harvey is very well-known and respected in the field, but he still took time out to pay attention to me and to assure me of my potential. It was very empowering to have an instructor who cared about my work, and who was willing to write me letters of recommendation and to offer me a place as an undergrad T.A. in his class.
Prior to enrolling in Loss and Trauma, I had applied to about a dozen PhD programs in Psychology, after deciding that research into violence against women would be more to my liking than non-profit work. I applied to some very highly competitive programs and did not get in to a single one. I was so frustrated at the time, but looking back on it I was unwittingly saved from making a career choice that would have left me unfulfilled.
I graduated the following semester, and without any career in sight I left my student job driving buses and went to work as an assistant manager at a coffeehouse/bakery. I also was married, but only briefly (don't worry, we're still friends!) My then-husband was the one who coaxed me toward LIS, after having dated someone who was enrolled in the program I am currently in. He said she enjoyed the program, and you could do a lot with the degree. I enjoyed libraries and liked the idea of working in them, so I applied to the program. I remember the night I got the acceptance letter: it was after my husband and I had separated, and I came home after having drinks with friends. I pulled the letter from the mailbox and went upstairs, and as I opened the door I said to my cats, "well, here's my 13th rejection letter." I was so surprised and happy when it was an acceptance letter that I remember crying and calling my friends (and my poor ex-husband, who was sleeping).

I had started volunteering at the State Historical Society of Iowa prior to beginning the program, in the hopes of gaining some experience in the field. The staff were wonderful, and allowed me to participate in such a range of library activities (including preservation, special collections work, and some very light MARC cataloging) that I got a real sense for how broad our field is. I spent the most time in special collections, first as a volunteer and later as an employee, working with document collections to create or re-do finding aids. I left last year after finding myself so cramped for time that I was unable to work both at SHSI and drive buses (and unfortunately bus driving pays more, so I can't quit!) I was so grateful that I was able to work there though, because I met so many great people, gained special collections experience, and was exposed to some really wonderful collections that I miss a lot.
The head of the Special Collections Department, Mary Bennett, also guided me toward my thesis topic. After mentioning to her that I wanted to research library censorship in World War II, she suggested that I look at World War I since there is a collection of letters from libraries regarding censorship during this time (these are the Metcalf letters that are frequently referred to in my other posts). Her passion, and that of the other staff, for the historical society and the materials it houses reminds me why I love libraries: even though we have the same disagreements as any other workplace, at the end of the day everyone is so passionate about what they do that it overshadows everything else.
My time in SLIS has been marked by a number of setbacks (health issues, personal/financial stress, etc.), but I've found that faculty are supportive and flexible, and the other students provide a great support network. Even when I've been very ill or under a lot of stress, I feel like there are people there who are helpful and understanding without being judgmental.
It was Autumn last year that I really started to find my niche as a student and as a researcher, and felt comfortable enough with my abilities to respond to calls for papers for upcoming conferences. I also began eyeing PhD programs again, but this time in LIS. I just can't bear to leave a field made up of such a diverse group of people with such varying interests and skills, and who love their work more than any other professional group I have encountered. This year I've spoken at the LHRT research symposium at ALA Annual, which was great fun and gave me a great deal more trust in my abilities after I rocked the Q&A, and will speak at Libraries and Print Culture next month. I also defend my thesis in December, the same time as many of those PhD applications are due. I am hoping I will get to continue on to improve my skills and continue working with the people and researching the collections I love.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Liberty Cabbage, Materials Access, and a Visit to Wisconsin

I've been working on my thesis, but my time lately has been overwhelmed with moving and with polishing my talk for Libraries in the History of Print Culture. Since I haven't had time to visit any new libraries in the last month, I've enjoyed getting to review what I've already learned and refine my assumptions and methods.
After my last talk (at ALA) I got really positive feedback and also some great questions from the Q&A. Some of the most helpful was from Wayne Wiegand (who has written the book on WWI US libraries), who encouraged me to reconsider my approach slightly. I was talking about censorship as an official act, while the organization that was encouraging censorship (the Iowa Council of National Defense) was actually a volunteer organization. I'm not sure how I missed that, but I'm glad to have people interested enough in my research who also have the knowledge to provide constructive criticism!
The nice thing about re-thinking your approach with historical research is that you can think critically about  how your choices in representing the past can alter how people view that past (especially if those views wouldn't be entirely accurate). My premise remains the same: that a lot of these libraries got swept up in the sentiment of the time, but that there were others in which records suggest some hesitation. Even though those libraries, too, participated in the same war work in the end there is a tone in the records left behind that these activities were done begrudgingly.
Spending time with Burlington Public Libraries' records shows a number of instances where the library was asked for money (mostly by ALA for soldiers' libraries) and where the discussions are "not favorable" to making the requested donations. Although it never says whether they did pay the money, Burlington's staff gave out the same information on everything from liberty cabbage (sauerkraut) to Liberty Bonds. This might explain why, when asked to remove "pro-German" books by Herbert Metcalf (the Secretary for the aforementioned Iowa Council of National Defense), there is no record in their minutes books of other documents of the removal. The other 6 libraries I have looked at were more clear in their own revelation of censorship to their library boards, and it's possible that the library went along with this request begrudgingly as well.
When talking about official (i.e. government) versus unofficial (i.e. citizen groups) requests, I have actually had somewhat of a breakthrough in the present research: Cedar Rapids' library received a request from the Chief of Police, saying that the War Department had requested that the library remove all books on explosives (from their March 1918 meeting minutes). The minutes say that the materials were removed and placed with the pro-German books. Even though Metcalf's records don't tell us that Cedar Rapids responded to the request, this suggests that they did. More importantly, it tells us that at least one Iowa library was receiving 'official' requests in addition to those from volunteer organizations (the libraries, by the way, were much less receptive to later citizen censorship requests, all refusing to remove books denounced by Temperance groups).
I'm almost done with (writing) the conference talk, and it's been great preparation for hammering out my thesis document. Even though I'm talking about a lot of the same information as my previous talk, I'm hoping that I can use a different enough approach that those who attend both won't be bored to tears! For ALA, I did a more in-depth comparison of three of the libraries. For Madison, I am doing a comparison between 6 libraries, which means I will not talk as deeply about each but can hopefully reveal general trends. For both, I'm borrowing Wiegand's approach of dividing library activity into neutrality (the period during the war when the U.S. was not yet involved), and wartime. I also want to put these in the context of pre-war and postwar library activities.
After another run-through of editing this morning I'm hoping to send the conference paper off to a journal (because if I've already written it, getting another publication under my belt wouldn't be a bad thing!) and start on some visuals. I'm speaking on the last panel, and the last day, of the conference; this means that most listeners will probably be tired and antsy and eager to leave. While I know I like to have visuals to help keep me focused when I'm in that place, for those readers who have experience in conference attendance it would be so helpful to get feedback from you so I can cater to my listeners! Do you like handouts? Slideshow presentations? Google Maps? Are there approaches you like more than others?
As for the journal, I'm still deciding where to submit this. I submitted my last talk to Libraries and the Cultural Record, so I am hoping to find a journal (OA or print) that is similar but also is currently asking for materials similar to what I do so it can be published soon! If anyone has any leads, I would love to hear them!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tales from the PhD Hunt

I am currently feeling a tad overwhelmed. Engaging myself in the search for the perfect PhD program is simultaneously frustrating and rewarding, especially when I have altered my list of schools and my expectations so drastically in the course of my search.
I started out looking both at LIS and History departments, and while I still think there are some exciting and wonderful History programs out there, I feel like I would be restricting myself too much to solely focus on that. I love my history research and plan on continuing it, but I love how LIS embraces new technologies and is open to new ideas. I feel like in History, I would find myself having to justify why I'm so passionate about our open access journal or why I feel like resources and information should be shared, not privileged. Of course every History department isn't going to be like that, but I have yet to find a discipline that is as broad and interesting as LIS! Everywhere I am applying has faculty members who do research across many disciplines, and I would get a chance to explore new fields and ideas while honing the skills and interests I already have.
I am saving myself a lot of stress right now by keeping my options open and not picking a 'top school' (or even doing much in the way of ranking my choices). In some people's cases, there's a program that fits perfectly with all of their interests and desires and if so, great! You have a top choice. I have a wide range of interests, and want to work with the faculty at all of these schools, so I have the luxury of knowing that I will be happy and productive wherever I end up--the last time I applied to PhD programs was for Psychology in 2006, it was so stressful, especially because I focused more on figuring out which schools were 'better' and lost sight of looking at how my interests and experiences could mesh with a program (or not).
I'm sure I'll keep refining my goals and interests throughout the process (that's part of the fun!) but I feel like LIS has already taught me so much, and it has so much more to teach me. My colleagues are passionate and engaged, and I can't wait to spend time learning the ropes in a new department!

This isn't my first time applying for grad schools, so I've definitely gleaned some practical advice from the process (I might update this depending on how well it all goes!):
1. Complete any and all applications within 5 years of taking the GRE. Remember how horrible that test was? Don't re-take it if it can be avoided.
2. Start applications early. Everyone says it, and it's true! You probably *can* get away with applying at the last minute, but you have more of a chance to polish your applications and to control your stress levels. Here's my current strategy (which may or may not be ideal):
-This spring/early summer I talked to my recommenders to make sure they would be willing to write letters for me. Currently, I'm making 'packets' for each of them that include instructions for each school along with any forms/etc. and stamped envelopes (most schools do online letters now, but some offer the option of mailing them in, which your recommenders might prefer).
-Come September, when the applications officially 'open,' I will go ahead and cough up the sizable sum for transcripts/GRE scores/etc. Just because I don't want to think about them!
-September 12 is my next conference talk, after which I can focus on writing statements of purpose and such. I'm hoping that I can recycle the same one, more or less, for each school.
-I make a point of adding to my CV as publications are accepted/conference talks approved/etc. so that all I have to do before submitting it with my applications is to give it a quick look over (to take a look, go here and click on 'CV').
For those who have already gone through this process and are pursuing the PhD, I would love to hear your thoughts/advice! If you have anything to share either about the application process, or about the PhD experience once you've arrived in the department, let me know!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crowd-Sourcing Peer Reviews

While procrastinating and staring blankly at my Twitter feed a moment ago, I noticed this post by ACRL (ALA's Association of College and Research Libraries):

@ALA_ACRL: RT @chronicle: Open, crowd-sourced peer review works for one humanities journal:

As an OA journal editor, I was intrigued. When you click the link above, you're lead to a Chronicle article about Shakespeare Quarterly's new approach to the review process. Basically, a draft of the publication is placed online, and is open for comment by a pool of reviewers with varying specialties. The process is not an anonymous review, so those comments that are made about a submission are attached to the reviewer's name. 
I was pleasantly surprised for a number of reasons. First because SQ is a well-recognized and respected humanities publication, so the fact that they are taking the lead on re-thinking their methods is a good sign that others might follow. Second, I was happy to see positive responses from the authors: Michael Whitmore mentioned getting citations and helpful feedback from 6 people who actively involved themselves in reviewing his work (think of how much more help that would be than the usual 2-3 'experts!') I was also glad that the reviewers included both junior and senior scholars. 

One critique I have is the focus on expertise. I agree, we want people who are knowledgeable in the area in which they review, otherwise it is much harder to create rigorous scholarly publications. However, if we look for expertise alone, we lose sight of the passion of someone who might be less experienced, but who is dedicated to their field and eager to learn and share what they know. I wonder how we can balance these: perhaps through putting out a call for reviewers in addition to inviting those we know we want to work with? For some reason I keep thinking of publicly-created metadata in relation to this, and I think the underlying argument is the same: how much control do we want to give 'just folks' in determining what information is considered 'quality' or how that information is classified? Is an article's intrinsic value lessened if someone outside of the literary field (or someone outside of academia entirely) comments on it? 

This definitely gives me some food for thought to mull over with the other folks involved with B Sides-we've just set ourselves up (and are about to enter our 2nd semester) as a student journal, and part of our purpose is educational (i.e. to teach students and alumni about the publication process). Since, by and large, most journals still do the "submit research>peer review>revisions>publication" thing, I would be really hesitant to let go of peer review for B Sides when we are using it as a tool to help our fellow LIS students!
However, I think that crowd-sourced peer review is an AWESOME idea, because it lets us engage with both the author and other reviewers, provides more feedback (and more varied feedback) from a larger number of people, and allows authors the chance to gauge the reaction of those who would actually be reading their work after it was published (i.e. people in the field but not necessarily people who have been selected as reviewers). 
This sort of reviewing is also an excellent opportunity for us graduate students: I can't speak for every grad student, but I definitely think that the more opportunities we have to get involved with the review and publication process, get our voices heard, and gain expertise the better! It makes me wonder how to construct a place within our department (or even independently, if anyone is interested in working on this with me!) to create a similar model for graduate student publication, or even just to put our work out there for feedback in a less formal setting--fellow students, educators, researchers, what are your thoughts?  I am hoping this model becomes more and more accepted and widely used!

Tips and Tricks from Library School

Lauren Dodd recently posted The Dos and Don'ts of Library School on her blog, and it got me to thinking what advice I would give to people entering a Master's program. I would definitely recommend reading her post: it has some great suggestions, all of which I agree with! I thought of a couple other things that I would suggest as well, and so I am adding them here.

#1: Social networking is your friend
I shied away from becoming an active user of social networks and Twitter because I didn't see any benefit to spending my time tweeting/updating my status/etc. The last year has taught me that social networks as a professional development tool take very little time and can give you big returns. Here are the things I've found to be most helpful:
-Twitter: actively seek out other people in the field and follow them. It doesn't matter if they work in the same kind of library or have the exact same interests as you (they can even be in a different field altogether)--following a broad range of people lets you keep your finger on the pulse of the field in a much more holistic sense, and can help you refine (or redefine) what your interests are.
I've also found that it's a great way to generate a response to my own work: I always tweet when I post on this blog, or publish an article for B Sides, or speak at a conference. When you look at your 'mentions' (in my case it's @BookishJulia) you'll find that people who are reading your posts are likely to respond with helpful information about what you're working on, or even with encouragement before a conference talk.
Did someone post a link to an interesting article, or some tidbit that you find timely/useful/whatever? Re-tweet it so your followers can see it too! I learn so much from what others are reading, and can stay on top of goings-on without having to spend the whole day trying to track down articles, etc.
Use hashtags (#subject) and use them often. Same goes for mentioning people (@username). Hashtags are a way of grouping your messages with others by subject: for example, all people tweeting from ALA's annual conference this year used the hashtag #ala10 so that other conference-goers could find their tweets. This keeps your tweets from getting lost in cyberspace! If you aren't sure if a subject has a hashtag, then be the first to use it! Mentioning folks is not only a great way to have a conversation via tweets, but also allows your followers to become aware of that other person (and potentially start following them). The most useful way to do this: #FF (which is 'Follow Friday'). For example, if I want people to follow my fellow editor at B Sides, I would tweet "#FF @hypatlikeya" tomorrow (which is Friday) and my followers could follow her if they so desired. I hadn't even heard of this site 12 months ago, but if you have an e-mail with a .edu extension (which, as a student, hopefully you do!) this really is the most wonderful networking tool, especially for researchers. What's great about it is that it tracks when Google searches are done on your name, and tells you the time, date, and country in which the search was conducted--I've learned that there are more folks in the U.K. that are looking up my research than I thought. It also lets you upload papers/links to papers, abstracts, conference presentations, your CV, etc. so people can learn more about who you are and what you do, and then hopefully can follow your work! Another great option is, which has many of the same features (except the Google search thing. Also, you have to add people to your network--like adding a friend on Facebook--rather than following, which does not have to be reciprocal).