Meet Dan Tracy, Information Sciences and Digital Humanities Librarian

This latest installment of our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Dan Tracy, Information Sciences and Digital Humanities Librarian.


What is your background and work experience?

I originally come from a humanities background and completed a PhD in literature specializing in 20th century American literature, followed by teaching as a lecturer for two years. I had worked a lot with librarians during that time with my research and teaching. When you’re a PhD student in English, you teach a lot of rhetoric, and I also taught some literature classes. As a rhetoric instructor I worked closely with the Undergraduate Library’s instruction services, which exposed me to the work librarians do with instruction.

Then I did a Master’s in Library and Information Science here, knowing that I was interested in being an academic librarian, probably something in the area of being a subject librarian in the humanities. And then I began this job about five years ago. So I’ve been here about five years now in this role. And just began doing Digital Humanities over the summer. I had previously done some liaison work related to digital humanities, especially related to digital publishing, and I had been doing some research related to user experience and digital publishing as related to DH publishing tools.

What led you to this field?

A number of things. One was having known quite a number of people who went into librarianship who really liked it and talked about their work. Another was my experience working with librarians in terms of their instruction capacity. I was interested in working in an academic environment and I was interested in academic librarianship and teaching. And also, especially as things evolved, after I went back for the degree in library and information science, I also found a lot of other things to be interested in as well, including things like digital humanities and data issues.

What is your research agenda?

My research looks at user experience in digital publishing. Primarily in the context of both ebook formats and newer experimental forms of publication such as web and multi-modal publishing with tools like Scalar, especially from the reader side, but also from the creator side of these platforms.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

As I mentioned before, instruction was an initial draw to librarianship. I like anytime I can teach and work with students, or faculty for that matter, and help them learn new things. That would probably be a top thing. And I think increasingly the chances I get to work with digital collections issues as well. I think there’s a lot of exciting work to do there in terms of delivering our digital collections to scholars to complete both traditional and new forms of research projects.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I think there’s a lot. I think researchers are already aware of digital primary sources in general, but I do think there’s a lot more for people to explore in terms of collections we’ve digitized and things we can do with those through our digital library, and through other digital library platforms, like DPLA (Digital Public Library of America).

I think that a lot of our digital image collections are especially underutilized. I think people are more aware that we have digitized text sources, but not aware of our digitized primary sources that are images that have value of research objects, including analyzed computational analysis. We also have more and more access to the text data behind our various vendor platforms, which is a resource various researchers on campus increasingly need but don’t always know is available.

If you could recommend one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

If you’re just getting started, I think a good place to look is at the Debates in the Digital Humanities books, which are collections of essays that touch on a variety of critical issues in digital humanities research and teaching. This is a good place to start if you want to get a taste of the ongoing debates and issues. There are open access copies of them available online, so they are easy to get to.

Dan Tracy can be reached at dtracy@illinois.edu.

Meet Helenmary Sheridan, Repository Services Coordinator

Picture of Helenmary Sheridan

This latest installment of our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Helenmary Sheridan, the Repository Services Coordinator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. Helenmary manages the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS), a digital archive of scholarship produced by researchers, students, and staff at Illinois. She also conducts outreach with scholars interested in using Illinois’ other public repository, the Illinois Data Bank.


What is your background and work experience?

I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the iSchool at Illinois in 2015. I earned my degree through the LEEP program and worked at Northwestern University as a metadata and digital curation assistant while I was in school, which was a wonderful experience. Before that, I worked in visual resources, primarily with the digital collections at Northwestern and prior to that at the University of Chicago where I did my undergrad. At U Chicago, I majored in art history and took significant coursework in geophysics, which was originally my major.

What led you to this field?

I came into this role primarily from a strong interest in metadata. I was creating metadata for digital objects at Northwestern. I had been working with an art historian, and the role developed into project management, working with software developers to build a repository. So I got into working with software developers, and my interest in metadata led me to being a sort of translator between librarians and developers. This led to my being interested in technical infrastructure, without being a programmer myself. But I do have some programming experience, which allows me to communicate more easily about what I’m doing.

What is your research agenda?

In general I’m interested in service management. I’m presenting at DLF (Digital Library Federation) in a couple of months on what it means to be a service manager in a library, museum, or archive setting when a lot of management systems are built for an IT environment. We often have people coming into service manager roles from something else, and I’m interested in seeing how this gets done practically.

I’m also interested in interfaces and how designers of technical systems conceptualize our users and how, through technology, it’s really easy to abuse users.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

I do! I love communicating with people and patrons outside of the university. At many academic libraries, you think of your patrons as being just part of the university. Running IDEALS, I communicate with lots of people all over the world, which is really satisfying. That is, both helping people here, and communicating with all sorts of people to spread Illinois scholarship worldwide.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

I think that a lot of people don’t look outside of their disciplines, which makes a lot of sense. As a researcher, you develop your most efficient ways to find information. But as a student, it can be really productive to go to sources outside of your own discipline. When I was an art history major as an undergrad, I wrote my thesis on scientific illustration and scientific representation through art. Can you trust an artist who has no scientific knowledge to represent what they see? I was consulting lots of scientific work and lots of technology studies stuff, as well as lots of art image databases.

The way these resources are organized is totally different. It broadened my horizons to see what a wealth of resources is out there. Stuff that isn’t necessarily in the libguide for art history, or science and technology studies.

That’s another satisfying part of my work. A diversity of stuff comes into IDEALS, so when I can’t help a patron directly, I can help them find a related resource that might be useful to them.

If you could recommend one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

Something I was thinking about the other day is Clifford Lynch’s 2003-2004 papers and talks on institutional repositories, about how they are going to help solve the crisis of scholarly communication. He suggested that they would become tools to provide researchers with alternative sources for dissemination of their work, or even a platform for new forms of scholarly communication, and he imagines this future where there’s a robust system of interconnected repositories that can all communicate with one another.

Contrast those with his 2016 updates, in which he addresses a trend of saying that the institutional repository has failed. He thinks it’s true that institutional repositories and the places that run them haven’t fulfilled all of these promises and that it might not be worth an institution’s time to develop a repository. But you can use repositories in different ways, and different ways of using them have emerged. He rejects the claim that IRs have proven to be a failure. So instead of seeing institutional repositories and other repositories as a solution that failed to solve a problem, Lynch’s work helped me think of them as solutions to problems that weren’t foreseen.

For instance, you’ll have family members who are looking up their great aunt’s thesis to have something to remember her by. This problem falls outside the traditional scope of academia, but institutional repositories prove very beneficial for people in these sorts of ways. This helps me think about digital libraries in general. We’re not just trying to solve a problem, but to help people. We should be user focused, rather than problem focused.

Helenmary Sheridan can be reached at hsherid2@illinois.edu.

Unpaywall Supports Discovery of Open Access Articles

Open access (OA) works are, by definition, freely available on the internet. But in order for these works to be useful, we need an effective way to discover them. Library-based discovery systems generally gather information about a work’s “version of record,” that is, the article as published in a scholarly journal. And as most researchers know, most journals are subscription-based, which can serve as a barrier to access.

The University of Illinois Libraries’ house one of the largest library collections in the United States, but from time to time scholars may still come across electronic resources to which the Library does not have direct access. Colloquially, this is sometimes referred to as “hitting a paywall.” While the Library’s Interlibrary Loan service provides an excellent resource for obtaining access to materials outside of the Library’s collection, many “paywalled” articles are also available in OA versions.The problem is that discovery systems typically aren’t designed to get a user from a paywalled version of an article to an OA version.

A new browser plug-in from Impactstory called Unpaywall aims to address this issue by pointing users to OA versions of paywalled articles, when available. When a user arrives at a webpage for an article, Unpaywall attempts to find an OA version of the article by searching through open repositories. If the plug-in succeeds in finding an open version, this is indicated with an opened lock icon on the side of the screen. Clicking on this icon takes you to a copy of the article.

The circled green icon indicates that an open access version of the paper is available. In this case clicking the icon takes the user to a pre-print version of the paper that was deposited in arXiv.

Unpaywall can also distinguish between articles that are Gold OA (articles available from the publisher under an OA license) and Green OA (articles on a preprint server or an institutional repository, like IDEALS). This information is indicated by the color of the opened lock icon (Note that this is an option that is not turned on by default).

Unpaywall indicates that this article is Gold OA with a gold opened lock icon.

Unpaywall claims that they succeed in locating open access versions of 65-85% of articles (When an open version is not found, this is indicated with a grey closed lock icon), though librarian blogger liddylib reports a 53% success rate when trying it out on Almetric’s Top 100 Articles of 2016. Nevertheless, Unpaywall seems dedicated to improving their software, as Jason Priem, one of the program’s developers, responded to liddylib’s blog post, reporting that they had improved the product to locate some Gold OA articles that had originally been missed. Unpaywall also encourages users to report bugs.

As mentioned above, Unpaywall locates full text OA articles by using data from oaDOI, another ImpactStory project. oaDOI indexes upwards of 90 million articles. relying on data sources like the Directory of Open Access Journals, CrossRef, DataCite, and BASE. It is important to note that the OA articles to which Unpaywall directs users have all been legally made available. This distinguishes Unpaywall from projects like Sci-Hub, which provide PDFs that are often made available through less credible means.

Unpaywall is a brand new product, and so it is to be expected that some hiccups will occur. Nevertheless, it seems like a promising tool for helping more people get access to research by making open access resources more discoverable.

Topic Modeling and the Future of Ebooks

Ebook by Daniel Sancho CC BY 2.0

This semester I’ve had the pleasure of taking a course on Issues in Scholarly Communication with Dr. Maria Bonn at the University of Illinois iSchool. While we’ve touched on a number of fascinating issues in this course, I’ve been particularly interested in JSTOR Labs’ Reimagining the Monograph Project.

This project was inspired by the observation that, while scholarly journal articles have been available in digital form for some time now, scholarly books are now just beginning to become available in this format. Nevertheless, the nature of long form arguments, that is, the kinds of arguments you find in books, differs in some important ways from the sorts of materials you’ll find in journal articles. Moreover, the ways that scholars and researchers engage with books are often different from the ways in which they interact with papers. In light of this, JSTOR Labs has spearheaded an effort to better understand the different ways that scholarly books are used, with an eye towards developing digital monographs that better suit these uses.

Topicgraph logo

In pursuit of this project, the JSTOR Labs team created Topicgraph, a tool that allows researchers to see, at a glance, what topics are covered within a monograph. Users can also navigate directly to pages that cover the topics in which they are interested. While Topicgraph is presented as a beta level tool, it provides us with a clear example of the untapped potential of digital books.

A topic graph for Suburban Urbanites

Topicgraph uses a method called topic modeling, which is used in natural language processing. Topic modeling will examine text, and then create different topics that are discussed in that text based on the terms being used. Terms that are used in proximity to one another at a frequent rate are thought to serve as an indicator that various topics are being discussed.

Users can explore Topicgraph by using JSTOR Labs’ small collection of open access scholarly books that span a number of different disciplines, or by by uploading their own PDFs for Topicgraph to analyze.

If you would like to learn how to incorporate topic modeling or other forms of text analysis into your research, contact the Scholarly Commons or visit us in the Main Library, room 306.

JMP Pro Pilot Run at the Scholarly Commons Through March 14

Library patrons have the opportunity to use JMP Pro predictive analytics software through March 14 at the Scholarly Commons. JMP Pro is a sophisticated statistical discover tool from SAS designed for advanced data science. Two Scholarly Commons computers are currently equipped with version 12. To learn more about the software, visit the JMP Pro website or the Webstore’s product page.

During this trial period, we are hoping to get a sense of whether this software would provide a useful tool for our patrons. We encourage anyone who is interested in this opportunity to visit the Scholarly Commons to take JMP Pro for a test drive and share your thoughts about the software with us. If you’re an experienced JMP Pro user, we’d also love to hear about your impressions of the package. You can contact us by email, or leave a message in the comments below.

 

 

Meet Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian

Picture of Harriett Green

This latest installment in our series of interviews with Scholarly Commons experts and affiliates features Harriett Green, the Library’s English and Digital Humanities Librarian.


What is your background education and work experience?

I have a bachelor of arts in History and Literature, a master’s degree in humanities/creative writing, and I earned my MSLIS from Illinois.  My position here at Illinois as English and Digital Humanities Librarian is my first library position, and before that, I worked in scholarly publishing.

What led you to this field?

I saw libraries as an opportunity to remain engaged with academia, scholarly research, and intriguing discoveries, but from the opposite end of publishing: I saw how the cake was made, and now I get to sell delectable treats to others!  And when I learned more about digital humanities and digital libraries, I became really interested in how libraries are at the intersection of technology and society, and the impact we can have in helping people navigate the digital culture we live in today.

What is your research agenda?

My research focuses on several areas related to digital humanities: In one thread, I’m interested in the information behaviors and research practices of humanities scholars, and how they use digital tools increasingly in their work. I also examine digital humanities in the classroom, and have written on digital pedagogy and how librarians can collaborate with faculty in courses. I am also interested in exploring humanities data curation, and the nature of humanities data, and the unique digital curation needs for humanities research.

Do you have any favorite work-related duties?

I enjoy working with students in the classroom and on their research: there’s nothing like seeing a student make a new connection thanks to finding that one resource!

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

The Karlsruhe catalog is the not-so-known World Cat: The portal connects you to a global network of library catalogs and digs up the stuff you can’t find elsewhere!

If you could recommend only one book to beginning researchers in your field, what would you recommend?

It would be Parker Palmer’s The Courage To Teach because the book is more than simply a guidebook on teaching, but a thoughtful discussion on what it means to bring our true, “authentic” selves into our work.


Need assistance with a Digital Humanities project? E-mail Harriett Green or the Scholarly Commons.

Introducing Mark Zulauf, Coordinator for Researcher Information Systems, University Library Office of Research

Picture of Mark Zulauf

This post is the second in our series profiling the expertise housed in the Scholarly Commons and our affiliate units in the University Library. Today we are featuring Mark Zulauf, Coordinator for Researcher Information Systems. Mark joined the library in August.


What is your background education and work experience?

I got my bachelor’s degree in German from Illinois College and a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Illinois. After earning my M.A., I left campus for a few years to work in publishing. I started as an editor with Human Kinetics and then came back to campus as a technical editor for the Illinois State Geological Survey. Most recently, prior to joining the Library, I worked for over 8 years at the Graduate College, where I managed the daily operations of the Thesis Office and the Postdoctoral Affairs Office.

What is your role here at the Library? What led you into this field?

I’m the coordinator for researcher information systems, which is part of the Office of Research. I’m currently working on building out the faculty and researcher profile system Illinois Experts (which, until recently, was called Illinois Research Connections).

Having worked at the Graduate College with graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty, this project interested me because I enjoy working with researchers to help them find ways to get the word out about the exciting and important projects they’re working on. That’s what Illinois Experts is all about–it’s an easily accessible portal into the University to show the depth and breadth of research going on here on campus. It’s intended to foster connections between faculty, students, postdocs and other researchers on campus and elsewhere and to showcase the importance of our work to government, industry, and the public.

What projects are you currently focusing on?

We launched the beta phase of Illinois Experts this past spring, and we’re continuing to build the project out. We’ve currently got about 1,800 faculty profiles for STEM and social sciences faculty, as well as for researchers within the institutes under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. What we don’t currently have publicly visible are profiles for faculty in the arts and humanities. This is because a lot of the publications information in our system comes from the Elsevier Scopus citation and abstract database, which doesn’t provide much representation for arts and humanities researchers. We want to make sure those faculty members’ profiles are representative of what they do. So we want to flesh those out before making them public. We’re also working to expand the number of profiles in the system to include non-tenure line researchers—specialized and emeritus faculty, as well as academic professional researchers.

What are your favorite work-related duties?

As I mentioned, I enjoy working with researchers and sharing in their sense of excitement about the projects they’re working on. I also enjoy the technical side of my job—getting into the administrative interface of the system, seeing what it has to offer, and leveraging the different bells and whistles to provide a thorough showcase of research taking place on campus.

What are some of your favorite underutilized resources that you would recommend to researchers?

Illinois Experts! Beyond that, I like to highlight Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty. It’s a wonderful resource produced by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and, though it was written with biomedical investigators in mind, it covers a number of topics that are useful to all researchers. Things like negotiating a faculty position, mentoring, time management strategies, collaborating with other researchers and so on. There’s also a Chinese translation available.

For what sorts of research or questions should library users contact you for assistance?

Faculty and departments can contact me for assistance in interacting with their profiles and adding information to them. We’re happy to help them with that. Individuals can add portraits to their profiles, research statements, and other information to make them more discoverable. They can also add links to individual or lab web pages.

And anyone can contact us to ask how they can leverage Illinois Experts to find other researchers or current research. For example, graduate students can use the system to discover potential dissertation committee members, postdocs can use it find possible faculty mentors, researchers can use it to find reviewers, and so on.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Keep your eyes on Illinois Experts! We’re still building the system out and adding features. Just today we’re going through a system upgrade. In addition to the other information currently included in our researcher profiles, we’re now able to add media coverage that features Illinois researchers and the impact of their work. This is done via a connection to a service called Newsflo, which tracks media coverage for mentions of researchers and their findings.


To learn more about Illinois Experts visit their website at experts.illinois.edu. You can also learn about the system at the Savvy Researcher Workshop on November 15 at 3 pm.   Have any questions? Email Mark Zulaf or contact The Scholarly Commons.

Running low on Zotero storage? Sync your files through a cloud storage service

I’ve recently returned to using Zotero for collecting, organizing, and citing references after not having used the software for a couple of years. While I was a bit rusty, it only took a couple of days for me to get up and running at my previous level of Zotero expertise (which really wasn’t that high to begin with). But despite feeling comfortable with the program, it wasn’t long before I found myself running out of storage space.

Zotero’s sync feature allows you to keep your citation data up to date across as many devices as you’d like. And while this is a great feature, I’ve found that it isn’t of much use without also being able to access my PDFs on all these devices as well.

The good news is that Zotero allows you to attach PDFs to items (i.e. citations) in your library. The bad news is that it only gives you 300 MB of free storage (with an option to pay for more). While PDF files generally aren’t that big, 300 MB can get eaten up pretty quickly if you have a lot of documents.

In the past I generally didn’t store my PDFs within Zotero, but I quickly fell in love with this feature upon my recent return to the software. And since I’ve yet to be willing to pay for cloud storage, I was afraid I’d have to resign myself to storing PDF files in one of the many free cloud storage services I use, rather than having them attached to my Zotero data. But, I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to both store my PDFs via a third party cloud storage service, and have these PDFs linked up to Zotero? Well it turns out there is!

In order to accomplish this feat, you’ll use something called WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning). While I still don’t completely understand what this is, for our purposes a WebDAV service is the third party cloud storage service that you can use to store your Zotero PDFs and other attached files. Zotero provides a list of services that offer free plans and that are known to work with Zotero (I use Box).

Once you’ve decided on a WebDAV service, setting up Zotero to work with it is fairly simple. First open your preferences by clicking the icon that looks like a gear.

zotero2

In the File Syncing section of the preferences menu, select WebDAV in the dropdown menu next to “Sync attachment files in My Library using.”

zotero4

Next, enter the URL for the WebDAV service that you’ve decided to use, along with your user name and password associated with that service.

zotero5

If you’ve chosen one of the services on Zotero’s list, you can find the URL there. Note that the menu pictured above already includes the “https”, “://” and “/zoter/”, so make sure you don’t enter this into the field as well. After entering your information, click on “Verify Server” underneath the password field. If everything has worked correctly, you should get a message that says file sync has been setup!

You can continue attaching PDFs and other files to items in your Zotero library as before. The only difference is that now these files will be stored through your WebDAV rather than through Zotero’s own storage system.

For more information you can consult Zotero’s syncing documentation. If you would like more general information about Zotero, you can consult the Library’s Zotero Libguide or attend a Savvy Researcher Workshop. And as always, send us an email if you have any questions.

Have your own tip for getting the most out of Zotero? Let us know in the comments below!

Note that WebDAV only works with personal, not group, libraries.

Bowker discusses “The Data Citizen: New Ways of Being in the World”

On Tuesday, September 20th, Geoffrey C. Bowker, professor at the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, delivered the second lecture in the Design Dialogues Speakers Series at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Bowker’s talk, titled, “The Data Citizen: New Ways of Being in the World,” discussed the ways in which Big Data is affecting not only our lives, but is reshaping what it means to be human.

Image Credit: KamiPhuc CC BY 2.0

Image Credit: KamiPhuc CC BY 2.0

Bowker discussed many examples of ways in which Big Data impacts modern life. These included:

Despite expressing some concerns about the ways in which Big Data are used, Bowker appeared by and large optimistic about the possibilities that Big Data and design education can bring into reality. Moreover, Bowker suggested that humanists and social scientists, as well as members of the STEM fields have much to offer as we improve our understanding and use of data and design.

To learn more about design at Illinois, visit the webpage for the planned Illinois Design Center, a central component of a campus wide multidisciplinary initiative. The page includes details about the center, information about related events, and opportunities to provide your own feedback.

You can also browse the reference collection in the Scholarly Commons, which includes books on design, Big Data, and many other topics.

-post co-authored with Jasmine Kirby

Explore coding and other technical skills with free online resources

Computer programming and other technical skills are increasingly in demand, both in academia and the private sector. Fortunately, as these skills have become more central to all sectors and industries, a wide variety of resources for learning these skills have emerged. In this post, we’d like to highlight just a few resources for getting started with programming

Codecademy is one of the better known online resources for learning programming languages and other technical skills. When you explore the site, you’ll see that it has courses divided into different categories, including web developer skills, languages, and simple projects (for instance, how to create an animation of your name). Each course is divided into several units, which are further divided into lessons that are built in a step-by-step manner. Lessons often begin by introducing the basics of a concept, and then having you apply the concept by walking through a simple procedure. For instance, the JavaScript course introduces functions, and then has you create a simple “rock, paper, scissors” game that is built out of functions.

One downside to Codeacademy is that, due to its step by step design, you may feel that you aren’t acquiring an understanding of the relevant concepts at the level you desire. So depending on your learning style, you might want to consider supplementing Codecademy with other resources.

One option would Lynda.com. Lynda offers video tutorials on a wide variety of topics and skills, with a focus on software and technical skills. For many topics, beginner level tutorials are offered. These provide a general overview of the subject matter, along with accessible explanations of key concepts. Lessons of this sort may serve as a nice complement to a more hands on, step by step, setup, such as that offered in Codecademy. University of Illinois students, faculty, and staff have free access to Lynda’s resources. To log in with your Illinois credentials, visit go.illinois.edu/lynda.

If you’re simply interested in familiarizing yourself with common programming terms and concepts, check out MIT’s Scratch. Scratch is a programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations. Scratch is, admittedly, designed with children in mind (in fact, it’s a project of the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group). Nevertheless, it can serve as a wonderful resource, especially for those completely new to coding (and I can report from first-hand experience that it is used in at least one class at the iSchool at Illinois). It can also be a lot of fun!

An image of a simple (and very clunky!) maze game I made for one of my classes using Scratch.

A simple (and very clunky!) game I made for one of my classes using Scratch. Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. See http://scratch.mit.edu.

If you would like some one-on-one assistance with programming projects, you can drop by the Scholarly Commons for Data Help Open Hours, a joint service of the Scholarly Commons and the Research Data Service. In addition to getting help with Python coding, you can get help with R, SQL, and XML. If you’re ready to go more in-depth, check out our reference collection which contains books on Python, Java, R, and many more topics.

Do you know of any other good resources for learning to program? Let us know in the comments below!