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!