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

Scholarly Smackdown: PowerPoint vs. Google Slides vs. Prezi

Everyone, at some point in their life, will be asked to give some kind of presentation to go along with a talk. For many of us, projecting a slide show along with a class report or talk has been something we’ve done since childhood. That being said, the nature of the presentation game is changing. While the PowerPoint remains the standard, new challengers are making a splash in the presentation world. In this article, I’ll go through the pros and cons of each of these platforms.

The PowerPoint logo.


Microsoft PowerPoint is so ingrained in our idea of modern presentations that giving any sort of slide show is often called “giving a PowerPoint”. But at the same time, does PowerPoint hold up to its new competitors? Let’s take a closer look.


Microsoft has shifted towards yearly subscriptions for various packages. UIUC affiliates can download the suite on their home computer for free. Otherwise, packages range between $70-$100 per year, or a one-time purchase of $150, which does not include applications such as OneDrive. For more information on options, go to the UIUC Webstore or Microsoft’s website.


Though it’s gotten better with time and my own familiarity with Microsoft Office, PowerPoint is not the most usable option of these. Part of that has to do with the sheer amount of options available in PowerPoint. That being said, the more you can customize your project, the greater the potential to misuse tools or make mistakes. Real problems arise when you want to do things that aren’t included in their preset slide layouts, and formatting images — while it has become simpler than in older versions of the software — remains, at times, an issue.

Web Capability:

Microsoft PowerPoint is first and foremost downloadable computer software. However, PowerPoint has recently come out with a competitor to online platforms called PowerPoint Online, which has most of the capabilities of PowerPoint software, but allows for you to collaborate in real-time with others. To log into PowerPoint Online one needs a Microsoft ID (UIUC affiliates can log in with their email). One cannot access or purchase access to PowerPoint Online without a Microsoft ID. PowerPoint Online is useful if you like the look of PowerPoint and want an easy-to-open and portable version, but I find that the interface is a little clunky, but it does integrate slideshows made on the desktop version easily. I think PowerPoint Online is an important addition to the Microsoft Suite because, with time, it will eliminate that awkward 15 minutes that happens during any and every presentation session where someone can’t get their jump drive to work.


When done well, a PowerPoint can look good. It isn’t going to be a beauty queen, but it will look good. However, people have a tendency to over-embellish a PowerPoint, or leave it so bare that it looks sad. There’s a happy medium when it comes to PowerPoint. Just make sure you include some images to spice up your PowerPoint and stay away from templates that include gradients — this isn’t a business convention in 2002.

The Google Slides logo.

Google Slides

Google Slides is Google’s online PowerPoint equivalent. Most notable for the ability to collaborate on presentations, it’s a simplified PowerPoint that you can access from anywhere (with Wifi).


Google Slides is free with your Google account. Your limiting factor here is memory. While the automatic Drive memory is typically more than enough for most people, you can add on extra memory or $2-$300 a month, depending on your needs.


Google Slides is the most bare bones of these three programs and the easiest to use. This is a trade-off, of course, because it also means that it has the least options of these choices. Google Slides’ controls are generally pretty similar to Google Docs and easy to learn. Even for those who aren’t familiar with other Google Drive programs, the tools are pretty intuitive — more so than PowerPoint’s.

Web Capability:

Google Slides was built for the Web. It’s the easiest to access of these programs, and the most widely-recognized Web application. That being said, it lacks a good offline mode, which can be frustrating when you need to work on a presentation without Wifi. However, its connectivity with the other online components of Google Drive are worth it.


I give Google Slides a one-up on PowerPoint for aesthetics, because while they have fewer templates, they tend to be a little more modern and aesthetically pleasing than PowerPoint’s. Further, while there are fewer overall customization options for Google Slides, the result can end up more attractive because your time and energy is focused on getting the job done, as opposed to playing around.

The Prezi logo.


Prezi is the newest presentation platform on the scene. Created as a more dynamic alternative to slideshow presentations, this web-based app uses zoomable canvases for presentations.


A basic account is free, and a basic student account (which includes privacy controls) is also free. Other individual packages range from $7 to $59.


Honestly, I find Prezi difficult to use. Part of that can be attributed to my years of experience with PowerPoint and similar platforms and my comparative inexperience with Prezi, but I do think that there’s an element that isn’t entirely my fault here. Moving through your presentation can be cumbersome, even in the edit mode. Customization options are more limited, and can easily ruin the flow of your presentation if you’re not careful. I do think that the more closely you stick to Prezi’s pre-made options, the easier it is to use. Also, the shorter your presentation is, the less cumbersome Prezi is both as a creator and consumer.

Web Capability:

Prezi is a web-based application, and offline access must be paid for.


Prezi is, undoubtedly, pretty. I find it a little ironic that animation — which PowerPoint has been criticized for — is one of the major selling points of Prezi. When I watch a Prezi, I do have the tendency to feel a little seasick, especially if it’s a presentation with a lot of points that zoom in and out. But overall, the aesthetics are the most modern of any of the platforms, the most visually-striking, and the most impressive if you are able to handle them correctly and create a good presentation.


Each of these have their merits and flaws, but I will be, personally, sticking with PowerPoint. Especially given the new online component of PowerPoint, it is a tried and true partner that may not produce the most striking results, but can accompany my work just fine. That being said, I’ll also look further into Prezi, maybe sign up for our Savvy Researcher workshop on it, and see if it does live up to its incredible reputation.

An Introduction to Traditional Knowledge Labels and Licenses

NOTE: While we are discussing matters relating to the law, this post is not meant as legal advice.


Fans of Mukurtu CMS, a digital archeology platform, as well as intellectual property nerds may already be familiar with Traditional Knowledge labels and licenses, but for everyone else here’s a quick introduction. Traditional Knowledge labels and licenses, were specifically created for researchers and artists working with or thinking of digitizing materials created by indigenous groups. Although created more educational, rather than legal value, these labels aim to allow indigenous groups to take back some control over their cultural heritage and to educate users about how to incorporate these digital heritage items in a more just and culturally sensitive way. The content that TK licenses and labels cover extends beyond digitized visual arts and design to recorded and written and oral histories and stories. TK licenses and labels are also a standard to consider when working with any cultural heritage created by marginalized communities. They also provide an interesting way to recognize ownership and the proper use of work that is in the public domain. These labels and licenses are administered by Local Contexts, an organization directed by Jane Anderson, a professor at New York University and Kim Christen, a professor at Washington State University. Local Contexts is dedicated to helping Native Americans and other indigenous groups gain recognition for, and control over, the way their intellectual property is used. This organization has received funding from sources including the National Endowment for Humanities, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Traditional knowledge, or TK, labels and licenses are a way to incorporate protocols for cultural practices into your humanities data management and presentation strategies. This is especially relevant because indigenous cultural heritage items are traditionally viewed by Western intellectual property laws as part of the public domain. And, of course, there is a long and troubling history of dehumanizing treatment of Native Americans by American institutions, as well as a lack of formal recognition of their cultural practices, which is only starting to be addressed. Things have been slowly improving; for example, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act of 1990 was a law specifically created to address institutions, such as museums, which owned and displayed people’s relative’s remains and related funerary art without their permission or the permission of their surviving relatives (McManamon, 2000). The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) has began to address and open up conversations about these issues in hopes of coming up with a more consistent legal framework for countries to work with; though, confusingly, most of what Traditional Knowledge labels and licenses apply to are considered “Traditional Cultural Expressions” by WIPO (“Frequently Asked Questions,” n.d.).

To see these labels and licenses in action, take a look at how how these are used is the Mira Canning Stock Route Project Archive from Australia (“Mira Canning Stock Route Project Archive,” n.d.).

The main difference between TK labels and licenses is that TK labels are an educational tool for suggested use with indigenous materials, whether or not they are legally owned by an indigenous community, while TK licenses are similar to Creative Commons licenses — though less recognized — and serve as a customizable supplement to traditional copyright law for materials owned by indigenous communities (“Does labeling change anything legally?,” n.d.).

The default types of TK licenses are: TK Education, TK Commercial, TK Attribution, TK Noncommercial.

Four proposed TK licenses

TK Licenses so far (“TK Licenses,” n.d.)

Each license and label, as well as a detailed description can be found on the Local Contexts site and information about each label is available in English, French, and Spanish.

The types of TK labels are: TK Family, TK Seasonal, TK Outreach, TK Verified, TK Attribution, TK Community Use Only, TK Secret/Sacred, TK Women General, TK Women Restricted, TK Men General, TK Men Restricted, TK Noncommercial, TK Commercial, TK Community Voice, TK Culturally Sensitive (“Traditional Knowledge (TK) Labels,” n.d.).


TK Women Restricted (TK WR) Label

A TK Women Restricted Label.

“This material has specific gender restrictions on access. It is regarded as important secret and/or ceremonial material that has community-based laws in relation to who can access it. Given its nature it is only to be accessed and used by authorized [and initiated] women in the community. If you are an external third party user and you have accessed this material, you are requested to not download, copy, remix or otherwise circulate this material to others. This material is not freely available within the community and it therefore should not be considered freely available outside the community. This label asks you to think about whether you should be using this material and to respect different cultural values and expectations about circulation and use.” (“TK Women Restricted (TK WR),” n.d.)

Wait, so is this a case where a publicly-funded institution is allowed to restrict content from certain users by gender and other protected categories?

The short answer is that this is not what these labels and licenses are used for. Local Contexts, Mukurtu, and many of the projects and universities associated with the Traditional Knowledge labels and licensing movement are publicly funded. From what I’ve seen, the restrictions are optional, especially for those outside the community (“Does labeling change anything legally?,” n.d.). It’s more a way to point out when something is meant only for members of a certain gender, or to be viewed during a time of year, than to actually restrict something only to members of a certain gender. In other words, the gender-based labels for example are meant for the type of self-censorship of viewing materials that is often found in archival spaces. That being said, some universities have what is called a Memorandum of Understanding between a university and an indigenous community, which involve universities agreeing to respect the Native American culture. The extent to which this goes for digitized cultural heritage held in university archives, for example, is unclear, though most Memorandum of Understanding are not legally binding (“What is a Memorandum of Understanding or Memorandum of Agreement?,” n.d.) . Overall, this raises lots of interesting questions about balancing conflicting views of intellectual property and access and public domain.

Works Cited:

Does labeling change anything legally? (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
Frequently Asked Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
McManamon, F. P. (2000). NPS Archeology Program: The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). In L. Ellis (Ed.), Archaeological Method and Theory: An Encyclopedia. New York and London: Garland Publishing Co. Retrieved from
Mira Canning Stock Route Project Archive. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
TK Licenses. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
TK Women Restricted (TK WR). (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
What is a Memorandum of Understanding or Memorandum of Agreement? (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from

Further Reading:

Christen, K., Merrill, A., & Wynne, M. (2017). A Community of Relations: Mukurtu Hubs and Spokes. D-Lib Magazine, 23(5/6).
Educational Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from
Lord, P. (n.d.). Unrepatriatable: Native American Intellectual Property and Museum Digital Publication. Retrieved from
Project Description. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from


Thank you to the Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Melissa Salrin in the iSchool for helping me with my questions about indigenous and religious materials in archives and special collections at public institutions, you are the best!

If Creative Commons Licenses Were Cookies

A plate of cookies (not licenses). This image, however, is licensed under CC-0, and is part of the public domain.

NOTE: This post is not meant as legal advice, but as a humorous piece.

Creative Commons is a licensing scheme set up to supplement copyright and help creators allow others to use their work, and to have more control over the ways that the work is used. These licenses have become increasingly recognized in courts around the world and yes, people have gotten sued for not following the terms of CC licenses. Cookies, known to the rest of the English speaking world as biscuits, are delicious sugary circular wonderfulness. But what could they have in common? More than you may think.

CC-0 Public Domain:

A brigadeiro is technically a cookie because it’s round and sweet; however, it is more of a part of the greater category of desserts, much like saying something is public domain is less of a licensing statement than a revocation of the rights guaranteed under copyright law.


When your content is under a CC-BY license you can build whatever you want out of it, much like gingerbread. This could include men, houses, reindeer, or whatever, but you still recognize your creation as gingerbread.


Anzac Day cookies are a defining dessert in Australian cuisine and are used to celebrate either Anzac Day or Australian heritage, but you can add your own local twist on this favorite like frosting, much like using a CC-BY SA license, so your new creations have to be licensed the same way like how you wouldn’t make “Anzac Day” cookies for the Fourth of July.


Like the famous or perhaps infamous Berger Cookies of Baltimore MD, this license will let you make your own content and even sell it, but the creator wants the content the same no matter what. Some people say trans fats are dangerous, but Berger Cookies says they are absolutely necessary and will fight you if you say they should change their recipe.


Similar to Speculoos, which are traditional and standardized cookies in regard to shape and flavor, but spawned a popular American cookie spread also called Speculoos, CC-BY-NC content can’t be commercial but the derivatives can be different and licensed differently from the original as long as they stay noncommercial.


Girl Scout Cookies have been around for exactly 100 years. The most restrictive type of CC license can, of course, be compared to the most restrictive type of cookie. The Girl Scouts retain a lot of control over their cookies: who can make them, who can sell them, what time of year they are sold, to the point where the recipes remain hidden, though they are presumably not made with real Girl Scouts.

Don’t forget to check out the CC licensing documentation to learn more and see examples that won’t make you hungry!

More Resources:

What are your thoughts on Creative Commons?  What are some other cookies that remind you of Creative Commons licenses? Are brigadeiros cookies? Let us know in the comments!

Works Cited:

100 Years of Cookie History – Girl Scouts. (2017). Retrieved June 16, 2017, from

Chase, D. (2017, January 25). Research & Subject Guides: Copyright, Fair Use & the Creative Commons: Home. Retrieved June 16, 2017, from

Glyn Moody. (2016, July 13). Festival uses CC-licensed pic without attribution, pays the price. Retrieved June 16, 2017, from

Gorelick, R. (2013, November 22). FDA trans-fat ban threatens Berger cookies. The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved from

Licenses and Examples. (n.d.). Retrieved June 16, 2017, from

Lynne Olver. (2015, March 18). Food Timeline: food history research service. Retrieved June 16, 2017, from

Bad Web Design with e-Portfolio Software

E-portfolios (sometimes spelled ePortfolio) and digital portfolios are websites where you can display your academic achievements and works for the world to see. These professional websites are often created with a specific career goal in mind and display examples that demonstrate how you meet the competencies of your career goal. Digital portfolios can be used to supplement a LinkedIn profile, and some graduate programs even require the creation of an e-portfolio in lieu of writing a master’s thesis or even as a graduation requirement.

Should I make an e-portfolio with e-portfolio software?

A lot of online portfolio software creation tools aimed at educators make sites that tend to look very formatted. Essentially, what you end up working with is close in appearance to a Google Sites page. Oftentimes, individuals pay for their own site, if funds are not provided by your university. As far as I know, the University of Illinois does not support any e-portfolio sites for personal use. Default templates for e-portfolios tend to be… ugly. You may consider using these if your school subscribes to them, or if you want a free portfolio site for your fifth graders. Otherwise, probably not.

Issues to consider when choosing an e-portfolio software: digital preservation, usability, aesthetics, and cost. You also want to consider the most important question here: Am I better off using Google Sites?


Mahara is a New Zealand-based open source e-portfolio software. You need your own server to use Mahara, but you can customize the software to your liking if you know how or have a very supportive IT department. For all of my server-free readers, FolioSpaces is a web application based on Mahara, but feels a lot more like a social network for third graders. Users are unable to customize the background of their sites unless you pay up to $9.95 a year. On FolioSpaces you create “portfolios” that are actually sections where you can store different aspects of your work. FolioSpaces is an odd public space where you are likely to see posts from high school students from Michigan who really could benefit from spell check. Still, this could be a good free option for folks looking for a portfolio creation tool for their students’ classwork. However, you will probably save a lot of time and trouble, as well as have more control over privacy settings, by just using Google Sites, especially if you have Google for Education (and if you are a student at Illinois, you do).


Digication is an e-portfolio alternative, but a costly one. Student accounts on Digication are $20 a year while Teacher accounts are $34.95 a year. Personally, I tried to set up an account from the University of Illinois on their individual account option and it said I couldn’t and would have to contact them.

It appears the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has Digication, but only for Grand Challenge Learning courses, and not for people using it to make professional portfolios. This makes creating an e-portfolio on Digication relevant to teachers interested in adding a portfolio component to your classes because it has some support from the University.

From what I’ve found, there is no way to set up a free trial or a free account to see how Digication works. From browsing at e-portfolios created with Digication it is clear that it is easy to create a monstrosity of web design with Digication or something that kind of looks like a default Omeka site or a Google Site if you put a lot of time and effort into it.

Portfolio Gen

Portfolio Gen provides free pages, as well as paid options that have more space and no “Powered by Portfolio Gen” widget on the page. Frankly, most of the themes on Portfolio Gen seem very childish, and seem to cater to an audience of younger students creating (tacky) portfolios. They are, however, the easiest to use e-portfolio software, and it would be nice if they could expand their theme options to have some better-suited for adults.

My default portfolio and landing page took about five minutes to make and looked like this:

Portfolio homepage with default settings


In my opinion, this is probably the most promising e-portfolio builder that is specifically built for this purpose. Pathbrite is free for individual users but costs money for institutions. You can create a free, simple site with a Google account and incorporate documents like a resume/CV and a writing sample directly from your Google Drive from the side bar “Add Work” tab and/or by dragging and dropping the icon of the type of work you want to add to your portfolio site. Although this looks similar to the Weebly drag and drop, it will give you options to upload from all sorts of places. You can arrange uploaded items by dragging and dropping them around on your page. A particularly nice feature is that you can also incorporate screenshots and links to websites you have created by simply clicking “Web link” and including the link to the website you want to share so you don’t have to screenshot it yourself.

add items mode in pathbrite

That being said, on the “Style and Settings” tab on the side bar you have a very limited amount of control over the way that the different items are arranged on your site. You can choose between light and dark and resume views and a couple of different ways to arrange the layout of how your work will appear, but that’s about it.

Pathbrite Style and Setting Editor

My default portfolio and page took about 15 minutes to make and this is how it turned out:

demo pathbrite portfolio

So not every e-portfolio software is terrible, though I am curious, did I just happen to stumble upon some of the worst of the worst or are there free or affordable e-portfolio creators aimed at educators and researchers? Bonus points if it’s not a plugin for a popular content management system.

To summarize this entire blog post, I checked again, while Pathbrite looks promising, yes you are almost always better off creating a professional website in a regular CMS like WordPress, Weebly or even the most basic of basic site creation tools, Google Sites. If you are an artist, photographer, or some other kind of all around creative genius there are web site builders and e-portfolio designs that specifically cater to you that look nice; however, this post is focusing on researcher/educator e-portfolios that aren’t as image heavy.

And if you’re a UIUC faculty member you’re in luck, because soon you will be able to create an e-portfolio through an Illinois Experts where you can showcase your research and accomplishments.

More resources:

And make sure to check out our two fabulous LibGuides on online scholarly presence:

DIY Data Science

Data science is a special blend of statistics and programming with a focus on making complex statistical analyses more understandable and usable to users, typically through visualization. In 2012, the Harvard Business Review published the article, “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” (Davenport, 2012), showing society’s perception of data science. While some of the excitement of 2012 has died down, data science continues on, with data scientists earning a median base salary over $100,000 (Noyes, 2016).

Here at the Scholarly Commons, we believe that having a better understanding of statistics means you are less likely to get fooled when they are deployed improperly, and will help you have a better understanding of the inner workings of data visualization and digital humanities software applications and techniques. We might not be able to make you a data scientist (though certainly please let us know if inspired by this post and you enroll in formal coursework) but we can share some resources to let you try before you buy and incorporate methods from this growing field in your own research.

As we have discussed again and again on this blog, whether you want to improve your coding, statistics, or data visualization skills, our collection has some great reads to get you started.

In particular, take a look at:

The Human Face of Big Data created by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt

  • This is a great coffee table book of data visualizations and a great flip through if you are here in the space. You will learn a little bit more about the world around you and will be inspired with creative ways to communicate your ideas in your next project.

Data Points: Visualization That Means Something by Nathan Yau

  • Nathan Yau is best known for being the man behind Flowing Data, an extensive blog of data visualizations that also offers tutorials on how to create visualizations. In this book he explains the basics of statistics and visualization.

Storytelling with Data by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic

LibGuides to Get You Started:

And more!

There are also a lot of resources on the web to help you:

The Open Source Data Science Masters

  • This is not an accredited masters program but rather a curated collection of suggested free and low-cost print and online resources for learning the various skills needed to become a data scientist. This list was created and is maintained by Clare Corthell of Luminant Data Science Consulting
  • This list does suggest many MOOCS from universities across the country, some even available for free


  • This is a project-based data science course created by Vik Paruchuri, a former Foreign Service Officer turned data scientist
  • It mostly consists of a beginner Python tutorial, though it is only one of many that are out there
  • Twenty-two quests and portfolio projects are available for free, though the two premium versions offer unlimited quests, more feedback, a Slack community, and opportunities for one-on-one tutoring

David Venturi’s Data Science Masters

  • A DIY data science course, which includes a resource list, and, perhaps most importantly, includes links to reviews of data science online courses with up to date information. If you are interested in taking an online course or participating in a MOOC this is a great place to get started

Mitch Crowe Learn Data Science the Hard Way

  • Another curated list of data science learning resources, this time based on Zed Shaw’s Learn Code the Hard Way series. This list comes from Mitch Crowe, a Canadian data science

So, is data science still sexy? Let us know what you think and what resources you have used to learn data science skills in the comments!

Works Cited:

Davenport, T. H., & Patil, D. J. (2012, October 1). Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
Noyes, K. (2016, January 21). Why “data scientist” is this year’s hottest job. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from

Review: Practical Copyright for Library and Information Professionals by Paul Pedley

Here at the Scholarly Commons, we have resources to learn about copyright. For starters, you can check out our author’s rights and copyright page. You can also contact Copyright Librarian Sara Benson with further questions. Today, I’ll be reviewing Practical Copyright for Library and Information Professionals by Paul Pedley.

This book looked like a practical read, (after all, it even has the word “Practical” in the title) and turned out to be one of the more unique finds on the Scholarly Commons shelf. This is a guide to British copyright, pre-Brexit, written by Paul “not a lawyer” Pedley of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, which is the equivalent of the American Library Association, but across the pond.  It is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in an overview of British copyright law, or learning more about librarianship around the world.

British Copyright Basics:

“Copyright is automatic. As soon as a work is created and meets the requirements for protection (that it is original, that it is fixed in a material form, that it is by a British citizen or was first published in the UK, and that it fits into the protected categories or species) the work will automatically be protected by UK copyright law”

-(Pedley 2015, 3).


“Copyright protects works that can be categorized as being one of the following: literary works, dramatic works, musical works, artistic works, sound recordings, films, broadcasts”

-(Pedley 2015, 2-3).

#FeeltheBerne or an attempt to standardize copyright law around the world.

Unlike a patent, which has no global standard (though the EU is trying to make unified patent application and court system called the Unitary Patent), copyrights are automatically protected by the Berne Convention and “Each of the Berne Union’s 168 member countries is required to protect works from other countries to the same level of works originating in its own country” (Pedley 2015, 4). Nevertheless, although there is a Berne Convention, which originates from the 1880s, (an international treaty that the United States did not sign until nearly a hundred years later), there are still differences in copyright law and what you can do with it in different countries, though a lot of aspects remain the same around the world.

What is important to understand about British copyright law?

According to the back cover, “The UK’s copyright legislation has been referred to as the longest, most confusing and hardest to navigate in the world.” I agree with Pedley. The reason why British copyright law is so overwhelming is in part to do with with efforts to smooth out the variety of different legal systems that the UK has to juggle. To start, the UK is a common law country while the rest of the EU tends to be civil law. There are also differing conceptions of copyright within the EU. For example, some EU countries consider certain works as more than just property (the closest thing we have here are the special rights for the creators of paintings and other visual art work under the Visual Rights Act of 1990, which you might have heard about from the ongoing Fearless Girl controversy). All of this smoothing of legal system differences was done in order to have a Single Market, which started with the European Communities and then moved to the European Union. Under British law,  the order of which decisions to listen to on legal matters such as copyright is EU case law, then British case law, and then finally British law. Therefore this book is chock full of lots of interesting cases from the EU, UK and even from the Commonwealth!

Comparing UK and US Copyright Law: some similarities and differences

  • American and British copyright law are both based around common law, which can be complex, and confusing
  • Software is considered to be a literary work
  • Librarians, along with archivists and museum curators, have special rights in their role in preserving cultural heritage and making it accessible all for the greater good of society
  • The UK has “Fair dealing” as opposed to the United States’ “Fair Use”; though, they are applied in different ways (“Fair Dealing vs Fair Use, n.d.).
  • In the UK there are more types of licensing agreements, including those for government created works, while in the US government created works are usually in the public domain
  • From my understanding, maps are considered art in the UK, with the rights that come with that — I imagine a map library is a different experience in the UK!

To learn more take a look at this book!

Disclaimer: This is a blog post and is not legal advice. Neither the author of this post nor the author of the book being reviewed are lawyers. 

Works Cited:

European Patent Office. (2017, April 10). Unitary Patent & Unified Patent Court. Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
Fair Dealing vs Fair Use. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2017, from
Kaplan, I. (2017, April 13). Fearless Girl Face-off Poses a New Question: Does the Law Protect an Artist’s Message? Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
LibGuides: Brexit. (n.d.) Retrieved June 1, 2017, from
Pedley, P. (2015). Practical copyright for library and information professionals. London : Facet Publishing.
WIPO-Administered Treaties. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2017, from /treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp

Twine Review

Twine is a tool for digital storytelling platform originally created by Baltimore-based programmer Chris Klimas back in 2009. It’s also a very straightforward turn-based game creation engine typically used for interactive fiction.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “I’m a serious researcher who don’t got no time for games.” Well, games are increasingly being recognized as an important part of digital pedagogy in libraries, at least according to this awesome digital pedagogy LibGuide from University of Toronto. Plus, if you’re a researcher interested in presenting your story in a nonlinear way, letting readers explore the subject at their own pace and based on what they are interested in, this could be the digital scholarship platform for you! Twine is a very easy-to-use tool, and allows you to incorporate links to videos and diagrams as well. You can also create interactive workflows and tutorials for different subjects. It’s also a lot of fun, something I don’t often say about the tools I review for this blog.

Twine is open source and free. Currently, there are three versions of Twine maintained by different repositories.There is already a lot of documentation and tutorials available for Twine so I will not be reinventing the wheel, but rather showing some of Twine’s features and clarifying things that I found confusing. Twine 1 still exists and there are certain functions that are only possible there; however, we are going to be focusing on Twine 2, which is newer and updated.

Twine 2

An example of a story on Twine

What simple Twine games look like. You would click on a linked blue or purple text to go to the next page of the story.

The Desktop version is identical to the online version; however, stories are a lot less likely to be inadvertently deleted on the desktop version. If you want to work on stories offline, or often forget to archive, you may prefer this option.

Desktop version of Twine


Story editor in Twine 2, Desktop edition with all your options for each passage. Yes I named the story Desktop Version of Twine.

You start with an Untitled passage, which you can change the title and content of. Depending on the version of Twine you have set up, you write in a  text-based coding language, and connect the passages of your story using links written between brackets like [[link]] that automatically generate a new passage. There are ways to hide the destination. More advanced users can add logic-based elements such as “if” statements in order to create games.

You cannot install the desktop version on the computers in Scholarly Commons, so let’s look at the browser version. Twine will give you reminders, but it’s always important to know that if you clear your browser files while working on a Twine project, you will lose your story. However, you can archive your file as an HTML document to ensure that you can continue to access it. We recommend that you archive your files often.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to archive your stories. Step 1: Click the “Home” icon.

Twine editor with link to home menu circled


Click “Archive”

Arrow pointing at archive in main Twine menu

This is also where you can start or import stories.

Save Your File

Save archive file in Twine for browser

Note: You should probably  move the file from Downloads and paste it somewhere more stable, such as a flashdrive or the Cloud.

When you are ready to start writing again you can import your story file, which will have been saved as an HTML document. Also, keep in mind if you’re using a public or shared computer, Twine is based on the browser, so it will be accessible to whoever is using the browser.

And if you’re interested in interactive fiction or text-based games, there are a lot of platforms you might want to explore in addition to Twine such as: and  and 

Let us know in the comments your thoughts on Twine and similar platforms as well as the role of games and interactive fiction in research!

The Georgia State University Copyright Case

Georgia State University logo.

This article was written by Scholarly Communication and Publishing Graduate Assistant Treasa Bane and Copyright Librarian Sara Benson.


The ruling in the Georgia State University copyright case will have ramifications for rights holders and library users across the United States. If libraries have the most gain, libraries will have more guidance in making fair use decisions—at least with respect to online course reserves. But, if publishers have the most gain, they will gain more control, and annual academic licenses from the CCC will become more important and costly. However, making any sort of correlation or conclusion has proven to be difficult in this case, which has been alive for nine years strong.

History of the Case

In April 2008, Cambridge University Press, SAGE Publications, and Oxford University Press filed suit against Georgia State University (GSU) for “pervasive, flagrant and ongoing unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials” through the library’s e-reserve system (Smith 2014, 73). When a drafted federal court complaint letter regarding uncontrolled digital copying was sent to about a dozen institutions indicating the complaint would be filed unless they contacted lawyers representing the Association of American Publishers, several institutions complied by adopting policies at the faculty senate level, but GSU did not (73). GSU said the excerpts were short and were not substitutes for textbooks; this practice was fair use. Publishers had a problem with this, saying large numbers of readings reproduced in a systematic way was not fair use.

On May 11, 2012, Judge Evans at the District Court found copyright violations in only 5 of 99 excerpts, finding that the university’s policy was a good faith interpretation of fair use (Smith 2014, 80). Judge Evans rejected the 1976 guidelines for classroom copyright; she introduced an amount of work that is “decidedly small” (79). And then on August 10, 2012, Evans rejected the plaintiffs/publishers’ severe injunction, requiring them to pay GSU’s attorney fees, which were over 2.9 million (81). The publishers were not pleased. They appealed the District Court of Northern Georgia’s ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and on October 17, 2014, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the District Court’s decision in favor of the publishers (81).

On March 31, 2016, the Judge Evans reanalyzed the allegedly infringing works according to the directions of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and found 4 cases of infringement among 48 works, designating Georgia State the prevailing party (Smith 2014, 89). The publishers filed again in order to collect evidence about GSU’s practices because they need to know the most current conduct at GSU when dealing with the four infringements. This time, Evans estimated the weights of the four factors. Factor one, the purpose and character of the use: 25%. Factor two, the nature of the copyrighted work: 5%. Factor three, the amount or substantiality of the portion used: 30%. Factor four, the effect of the use on the potential market: 40% (2016). Evans pointed out that there was no case for copyright infringement because the publishers could not show they held the copyright, and there was no evidence that any students had used the excerpts. Another finding was that GSU’s e-reserve service was a fair use of copyrighted material purchased by its library; it was modeled on a broad consensus of best practices among academic libraries.

But the fight continued! On August 26, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a Notice of Appeal, which has been granted. Because of this, the Court of Appeals must to return to the fair use analysis for the 48 infringement claims. John Challice, Oxford University Press and Vice President and Publisher for Higher Education was quoted in “Georgia State is Going Head to Head with the Country’s Top Publishers” and summarized the desires of publishers:

We want Georgia State University (and any university that seeks to emulate Georgia State University) to change their checklist to something reasonable and legal. … We want to make it really clear to our marketplace, which are academic institutions in the US in this case, that there is no difference between copyrighted content made available in digital format or that made available printed on paper when it comes to licensing it.

More recent analysis has given factor four additional weight and factor two less weight. In instances where permissions were available and not paid, factor four strongly disfavored fair use. In cases when factors one and two favored GSU and three and four favored the publishers, a tie was created, and the court then considered the evidence of damage to the market. As a result, an overwhelming number of the cases found factor two to be neutral or in disfavor of fair use. Factor three and four were also disfavored several times. At least 4 excerpts did not favor fair use overall; however, at least 19 did favor fair use, the majority of which favored factor one, then factor four, and then factor three (2016).

Critical Points and Predictions

In order to stay relevant and maintain the same monetary expectations they had with print materials, publishers are damaging their relationship with libraries. This leaves librarians no choice but to seek other alternatives, such as open educational resources and library publishing. But more importantly, as long as librarians practice fair use, they will not lose it. Fair use is a right.

This case, which is now referred to as Cambridge University Press et al. v. Patton and Cambridge University Press et al. v. Becker (individual academics rather than GSU as a whole), will hold oral arguments through the 11th Circuit Court on July 27. As this date approaches, we should consider whether the demand for excerpts was so limited that repetitive unpaid copying would have been unlikely even if unpaid copying was a widespread practice. Additionally, we should consider whether the portion of the market captured by unpaid use was so small that it would not have had an effect on the author or publisher’s decision to produce work. Proving these will result in a stronger pull for fair use factor four and would therefore favor GSU’s academics and librarians, which would be a win for all educational institutions.


Cambridge University Press et al. v. Becker, Civil Action No. 1:08-CV-1425-ODE (U.S. Dist., March 2016).

“Georgia State is Going Head to Head with the Country’s Top Publishers.” The Signal. September 7, 2016.

National Association of College and University Attorneys. Cambridge University Press w. Georgia State University: The 11th Circuit Ruling. Kevin L. Smith. October 2014: 87-91. Redacted from the Scholarly Communications @ Duke Blog.

National Association of College and University Attorneys. Georgia State University Copyright Lawsuit. Kevin L. Smith, J.D., MLS. 73-85.

Finding Digital Humanities Tools in 2017

Here at the Scholarly Commons we want to make sure our patrons know what options are out there for conducting and presenting their research. The digital humanities are becoming increasingly accepted and expected. In fact, you can even play an online game about creating a digital humanities center at a university. After a year of exploring a variety of digital humanities tools, one theme has emerged throughout: taking advantage of the capabilities of new technology to truly revolutionize scholarly communications is actually a really hard thing to do.  Please don’t lose sight of this.

Finding digital humanities tools can be quite challenging. To start, many of your options will be open source tools that you need a server and IT skills to run ($500+ per machine or a cloud with slightly less or comparable cost on the long term). Even when they aren’t expensive be prepared to find yourself in the command line or having to write code, even when a tool is advertised as beginner-friendly.

Mukurtu Help Page Screen Shot

I think this has been taken down because even they aren’t kidding themselves anymore.

There is also the issue of maintenance. While free and open source projects are where young computer nerds go to make a name for themselves, not every project is going to have the paid staff or organized and dedicated community to keep the project maintained over the years. What’s more, many digital humanities tool-building projects are often initiatives from humanists who don’t know what’s possible or what they are doing, with wildly vacillating amounts of grant money available at any given time. This is exacerbated by rapid technological changes, or the fact that many projects were created without sustainability or digital preservation in mind from the get-go. And finally, for digital humanists, failure is not considered a rite of passage to the extent it is in Silicon Valley, which is part of why sometimes you find projects that no longer work still listed as viable resources.

Finding Digital Humanities Tools Part 1: DiRT and TAPoR

Yes, we have talked about DiRT here on Commons Knowledge. Although the Digital Research Tools directory is an extensive resource full of useful reviews, over time it has increasingly become a graveyard of failed digital humanities projects (and sometimes randomly switches to Spanish). DiRT directory itself  comes from Project Bamboo, “… a  humanities cyber- infrastructure  initiative  funded  by  the  Andrew  W.  Mellon Foundation between 2008 and 2012, in order to enhance arts and humanities research through the development of infrastructure and support for shared technology services” (Dombrowski, 2014).  If you are confused about what that means, it’s okay, a lot of people were too, which led to many problems.

TAPoR 3, Text Analysis Portal for Research is DiRT’s Canadian counterpart, which also contains reviews of a variety of digital humanities tools, despite keeping text analysis in the name. Like DiRT, outdated sources are listed.

Part 2: Data Journalism, digital versions of your favorite disciplines, digital pedagogy, and other related fields.

A lot of data journalism tools crossover with digital humanities; in fact, there are even joint Digital Humanities and Data Journalism conferences! You may have even noticed how The Knight Foundation is to data journalism what the Mellon Foundation is to digital humanities. However, Journalism Tools and the list version on Medium from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the Resources page from Data Driven Journalism, an initiative from the European Journalism Centre and partially funded by the Dutch government, are both good places to look for resources. As with DiRT and TAPoR, there are similar issues with staying up-to-date. Also data journalism resources tend to list more proprietary tools.

Also, be sure to check out resources for “digital” + [insert humanities/social science discipline], such as digital archeology and digital history.  And of course, another subset of digital humanities is digital pedagogy, which focuses on using technology to augment educational experiences of both  K-12 and university students. A lot of tools and techniques developed for digital pedagogy can also be used outside the classroom for research and presentation purposes. However, even digital science resources can have a lot of useful tools if you are willing to scroll past an occasional plasmid sharing platform. Just remember to be creative and try to think of other disciplines tackling similar issues to what you are trying to do in their research!

Part 3: There is a lot of out-of-date advice out there.

There are librarians who write overviews of digital humanities tools and don’t bother test to see if they still work or are still updated. I am very aware of how hard things are to use and how quickly things change, and I’m not at all talking about the people who couldn’t keep their websites and curated lists updated. Rather, I’m talking about, how the “Top Tools for Digital Humanities Research” in the January/February 2017  issue of “Computers in Libraries” mentions Sophie, an interactive eBook creator  (Herther, 2017). However, Sophie has not updated since 2011 and the link for the fully open source version goes to “Watch King Kong 2 for Free”.

Screenshot of announcement for 2010 Sophie workshop at Scholarly Commons

Looks like we all missed the Scholarly Commons Sophie workshop by only 7 years.

The fact that no one caught that error either shows either how slowly magazines edit, or that no one else bothered check. If no one seems to have created any projects with the software in the past three years it’s probably best to assume it’s no longer happening; though, the best route is to always check for yourself.

Long term solutions:

Save your work in other formats for long term storage. Take your data management and digital preservation seriously. We have resources that can help you find the best options for saving your research.

If you are serious about digital humanities you should really consider learning to code. We have a lot of resources for teaching yourself these skills here at the Scholarly Commons, as well as a wide range of workshops during the school year. As far as coding languages, HTML/CSS, Javascript, Python are probably the most widely-used tools in the digital humanities, and the most helpful. Depending on how much time you put into this, learning to code can help you troubleshoot and customize your tools, as well as allow you contribute to and help maintain the open source projects that you care about.

Works Cited:

100 tools for investigative journalists. (2016). Retrieved May 18, 2017, from

Center for Digital Scholarship Portal Mukurtu CMS.  (2017). Support. Retrieved May 11, 2017 from

DiRT Directory. (2015). Retrieved May 18, 2017 from

Digital tools for researchers. (2012, November 18). Retrieved May 31, 2017, from

Dombrowski, Q. (2014). What Ever Happened to Project Bamboo? Literary and Linguistic Computing.

Herther, N.K. (2017). Top Tools for Digital Humanities Research. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from–Top-Tools-for-Digital-Humanities-Research.shtml

Journalism Tools. (2016). Retrieved May 18, 2017 from

Lord, G., Nieves, A.D., and Simons, J. (2015). dhQuest.

Resources Data Driven Journalism. (2017). Retrieved May 18, 2017, from
TAPoR 3. (2015). Retrieved May 18, 2017 from

Visel, D. (2010). Upcoming Sophie Workshops. Retrieved May 18, 2017, from