Meet our Graduate Assistants: Michael Steffen

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND EDUCATION AND WORK EXPERIENCE?

I graduated from the University of Iowa in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and two minors in Informatics and Museum Studies. As an undergraduate, I had several student jobs related to the LIS field, including an Exhibit Preparation Assistant, a Digital Library Aide, and I worked in the university’s Special Collections Department. Across those positions, my work included assisting patrons at the service desk, updating metadata for the library’s catalog and finding aids, and contributed to the development of workflows related to the digital preservation of collections. I’ve also had several internships with various federal agencies, including the National Archives and Records Administration, Library of Congress, and Department of Transportation. 

WHAT LED YOU TO YOUR FIELD?

As a History major, I’ve always been interested in the maintenance and organization of archives, libraries, and other information repositories. During my sophomore year, I developed my own research project with the University of Iowa Archives in which I examined the archive’s LGBTQ+ special collections. From this investigation, I learned about the different skills and tools it takes to build, maintain, preserve, and digitize archival collections. Over the next few years, I worked with the University Archivist to collect more records for the archives, establish relationships with LGBTQ+ student organizations, and increase community engagement with the collections. By the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to have a career in the LIS field and work in a profession that, at its best, emphasizes accessibility, collaboration, and innovation. 

WHAT ARE YOUR RESEARCH INTERESTS?

My research interests are pretty broad. Right now, I am writing a first-year graduate paper about the development of LGBTQ+ community archives in the United States. While I anticipate this project to mainly revolve around community engagement and collection development policies, a large portion of the paper is dedicated to challenges in cataloging, metadata creation, and digital accessibility. As I delve further into my studies, these are all areas that I hope to do more research in. Additionally, I have a strong interest in the digital humanities field. Digital humanities is a fairly broad category, but I think the more work LIS professionals do to bridge the gap between technology, digital preservation, digital publication, and the humanities, the more accessible and interdisciplinary research becomes. 

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE UNDERUTILIZED SCHOLARLY COMMONS RESOURCES THAT YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?

I think our Library Guides are a great tool for patrons who are unfamiliar with the Scholarly Commons and want to learn more about what we do. Our resource guides talk about everything from digital humanities to geocoding to how to make a research poster, to how to manage your scholarly presence online. If you’re a student or scholar doing research in the digital age, our LibGuides are a great entry point for several important tools. 

WHEN YOU GRADUATE, WHAT WOULD YOUR IDEAL JOB POSITION LOOK LIKE?

When I graduate, I hope to have a career in federal librarianship. Information accessibility and community engagement are the cornerstones of the LIS profession. To me, being able to promote those ideals at the federal level means connecting citizens with invaluable information about how the government operates and how narratives within our national history are formed. Federal information repositories comprise some of the world’s most comprehensive records of human creativity and knowledge. By connecting those records with the general public, and by working with the general public to insert a more diverse range of knowledge and experiences into the collections, it makes our histories richer, more complex, and more interesting to study and preserve.

Save The Date: 10th Anniversary!

Text: Celebrate a decade with the Scholarly Commons. Background: fireworks and party banner.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Scholarly Commons! To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Scholarly Commons is presenting a digital exhibition commemorating our history. This digital exhibition will highlight the projects, partnerships, and people that supported the unit over the past ten years. The exhibition will include:

An Interactive Timeline of the Scholarly Commons History

The Scholarly Commons has celebrated many milestones over the course of the past decade. From creating the Savvy Researcher Workshops to hosting symposiums and competitions to inviting guest scholars to the UIUC campus to share their ideas and projects with our community. The Scholarly Commons has created long-lasting initiatives that enrich the academic life of the UIUC. 

To commemorate some of our biggest achievements, the Scholarly Commons has created a timeline featuring the projects, partnerships, and people who have built the Scholarly Commons through the years. To read these highlights and learn about the future of the Scholarly Commons, you can view the timeline here.

A GIS Mapping Project Highlighting Former Scholarly Commons Graduate Assistants

Graduate Assistants play a valuable role in keeping the Scholarly Commons functional and efficient. They provide consultation services for patrons, develop instructional materials for technologies and tools in the Scholarly Commons, facilitate in-person and virtual workshops, and perform a wide variety of other tasks. By the time they graduate and leave the Scholarly Commons, our hope is that our Graduate Assistants gain new technical skills, form long-lasting relationships, and develop a profound sense of professionalism and responsibility that they will carry with them throughout their careers.

To recognize the achievements of our former GAs, the Scholarly Commons has created an interactive map showcasing where they are now and how their time with the Scholarly Commons impacted their careers. To see the global influence of the Scholarly Commons for yourself, you can view the map here.  

A Talk by Guest Speaker Thomas Padilla

Thomas Padilla in a study space at the University of Nevada Libraries

Thomas Padilla at the University of Nevada Libraries

On Tuesday October 20, 2020 from 3:30-4:30pm, former Scholarly Commons Graduate Assistant and current Interim Head of Knowledge Production at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Libraries Thomas Padilla will lead a discussion around the importance of responsible operations in libraries. 

Drawing on his experience leading development of the research agenda Responsible Operations: Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI in Libraries, Padilla will discuss how cultural heritage practitioners and their partners can improve collection description and discovery, develop machine actionable collections, and create space for members of their organizations to expand skills and deepen cross-functional community partnerships using data science, machine learning, and AI technology. To attend this lecture, use this Zoom Webinar Link

To stay updated on all these events and more, please visit our 10th anniversary webpage on the Scholarly Commons website. Thank you all for celebrating 10 years with us!

New Register of Copyrights

On September 21, the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden announced her appointment of  Shira Perlmutter as the next U.S. Register of Copyrights. While the Register of Copyrights (the Register) role may not be the most publicly visible position in the Library of Congress, the Register plays a significant role in influencing and upholding copyright laws.

Picture of Shira Perlmutter speaking at a podium

Shira Perlmutter, Register of Copyrights

To help you gain a better understanding of what the Register of Copyrights does and how they may impact your life as a researcher and/or consumer of public information, we created a list of  important information you should know about the U.S. Copyright Office and the Register of Copyrights.

What is the Register of Copyrights?

The Register of Copyrights is the director of the U.S. Copyright Office, the principal federal agency that administers the U.S. Copyright Act. The Register is responsible for administering the provisions of copyright and related laws set out in Title 17 of the United States Code. The law directs the Register to advise Congress on national and international issues related to copyright laws, provide information and assistance on copyright matters to other federal agencies and the judiciary, conduct studies and programs regarding copyright, and participate in meetings of international intergovernmental organizations and meetings with foreign government officials.

Additionally, the Register is responsible for allocating financial and other resources to ensure that the Copyright Office’s programmatic mission and objectives are met. The Register oversees Copyright Office employee functions such as registration, recordation, statutory licensing, law and policy, public information and education, operations, and modernization program activities.

Who is Shira Perlmutter?

Shira Perlmutter is one of the nation’s most preeminent copyright experts. Prior to her appointment as the 14th U.S. Register of Copyrights, Shira Perlmutter served as the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs.

All together, Perlmutter has more than 20 years of experience working on copyright and other intellectual property issues, in a variety of public and private sector positions. During her tenure at the USPTO, she led the work of the Office of Policy and International Affairs in contributing to domestic and international IP policy development, represented the United States in negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization, oversaw the USPTO’s economic research, international education and IP attaché programs, and managed the USPTO’s work with the United States Trade Representative on matters involving IP and trade.

Coming into the position, Perlmutter has also been vocal about her advocacy of fair copyright laws. Prior to her appointment Perlmutter has given public lectures on copyright, stating that Americans desire copyright laws that make sense and that reflect the technologies currently in use. Furthermore, she has expressed desires for laws that keep pace with modern technology.

Implications of Perlmutter’s Appointment

With her new appointment as the Register of Copyrights, she is now in a position to potentially make some of those updates. Assuredly, one of the policy areas in copyright law that demands a new approach is technology.

For example, new technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence have been plagued by racial and gender bias, and Internet platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have amplified hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. Additionally, as digital streaming continues to establish its dominance in the music industry, it raises the question of how the federal government should modernize copyright laws for music and audio recordings.

Unlike her predecessors, Perlmutter will have to learn to provide guidance on copyright laws and privacy issues while dealing with big tech corporations with trillion dollar market caps and major lobbying influence. Depending on how she wields her influence, Perlmutter’s decisions as the new Register could have long-lasting implications in the fields of copyright, privacy, and intellectual property.

To learn more about the U.S. Copyright Office and Register Perlmutter, visit the Copyright Office’s website.

Resources Consulted:

Keyes, J. (2019, November 14). The Katy Perry Verdict Proves Our Music Copyright Laws Need a Tune Up. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/08/29/katy-perry-verdict-proves-music-copyright-laws-need-tune/id=112644/.

U.S. Copyright Office. Leadership and Offices. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.copyright.gov/about/leadership/.

United States Patent and Trademark Office. (2020, September 21). Shira Perlmutter, USPTO Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs, appointed Register of Copyrights. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/shira-perlmutter-uspto-chief-policy-officer-and-director-international.