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.

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Automated Live Captions for Virtual and In-Person Meetings

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we are starting to think about what life will look like with a return of in-person services, meetings, and events. Many of us are considering what lessons we want to keep from our time conducting these activities online to make the return to in-person as inclusive as possible.

Main library reading room

“Mainlibraryreadingroom.jpg.” C. E. Crane, licensed under a CC-BY 2.0 Attribution license.

One way to make your meetings and presentations accessible is the use of live, automated captions. Captions benefit those who are hard-of-hearing, those who prefer to read the captions while listening to help focus, people whose first language is not English, and others. Over the course of the last year, several online platforms have introduced or enhanced features that create live captions for both virtual and in-person meetings.

Live Captions for Virtual Meetings and Presentations

Most of the major virtual meeting platforms have implemented automated live captioning services.

Zoom

Zoom gives you the option using either live, automated captions or assigning someone to create manual captions. Zoom’s live transcriptions only support US English and can be affected by background noise, so they recommend using manual captioner to ensure you are meeting accessibility guidelines. You can also integrate a third-party captioning software if you prefer.

Microsoft Teams

MS Teams offers live captions in US English and includes some features that allow captions to be attributed to individual speakers. Their live captioning service automatically filters out profane language and is available on the mobile app.

Google Meet

Unlike Zoom and Teams, Google Meet offers live captions in French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish (both Latin America and Spain). This feature is also available on the Google Meet app for Android, iPhone, and iPad.

Slack

Slack currently does not offer live automated captions during meetings.

Icon of laptop open with four people in different qudrants representing an online meeting

“Meeting” by Nawicon from the Noun Project.

Live Captions for In-Person Presentations

After our meetings and presentations return to in-person, we can still incorporate live captions whenever possible to make our meetings more accessible. This works best when a single speaker is presenting to a group.

PowerPoint

PowerPoint’s live captioning feature allows your live presentation to be automatically transcribed and displayed on your presentation slides. The captions can be displayed in either the speaker’s native language or translated into other languages. Presenters can also adjust how the captions display on the screen.

Google Slides

The captioning feature in Google slides is limited to US English and works best with a single speaker. Captions can be turned on during the presentation but do now allow for the presenter to customize their appearance.

Icon of four figures around a table in front of a blamk presentation screen

“Meeting”. by IconforYou from the Noun Project.

As we return to some degree of normalcy, we can push ourselves to imagine creative ways to take the benefits of online gathering with us into the future. The inclusive practice we have adopted don’t need to just disappear, especially as technology and our ways of working continue to adapt.

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Introductions: What is GIS, anyways?

This post is part of a series where we introduce you to the various topics that we cover in the Scholarly Commons. Maybe you’re new to the field or you’re just to the point where you’re just too afraid to ask… Fear not! We are here to take it back to the basics!

So, what is GIS, anyways?

Geographic Information Systems, or GIS as it is often referred to, is a way of gathering, maintaining, and analyzing data. GIS uses geography and spatial data to create visualizations using maps. This is a very useful way to analyze your data to identify and understand trends, relationships, and patterns in your data over a geographic region. Simply put, it is a way of visualizing data geographically and the key to GIS is in spatial data. In addition to spatial data, there is attribute data which is basically any other data as it relates to the spatial data. For example, if you were looking at the University of Illinois campus, the actual location of the buildings would be spatial data, while the type of building (i.e. an academic, laboratory, recreation, etc) would be attribute data. Using these two types of data together can allow researchers to explore and answer difficult questions.

While it can get more complex than that, since this is an introductions series, we won’t go into the fine details. If you want to learn more about GIS and the projects you can do with it, you can reach out to the Scholarly Common’s GIS Specialist, Wenjie Wang.

So, who uses GIS?

Anyone can use GIS! You can use maps to visualize your data to identify problems, monitor change, set priorities, and forecast fluctuations.

There are GIS technologies and applications that assist researchers in performing GIS. The Scholarly Commons has a wide range of GIS resources, including software that you can access from your own computer and a directory of geospatial data available throughout the web and University Library resources. 

If you’re interested in learning more about GIS application and software and how to apply it to your own projects you can fill out a consultation request formattend a Savvy Researcher WorkshopLive Chat with us on Ask a Librarian, or send us an email. We are always happy to help!

 

 

References

Dempsey, C. (2019, August 16). What is GIS? GIS Lounge. https://www.gislounge.com/what-is-gis/

What is GIS? | Geographic Information System Mapping Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://www.esri.com/en-us/what-is-gis/overview

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Meet our Graduate Assistants: Ben Ostermeier

What is your background education and work experience?

I graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a Bachelor of Arts in History, with a minor in Computer Science. I was also the first SIUE student to receive an additional minor in Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. In undergrad I worked on a variety of digital humanities projects with the IRIS Center for the digital humanities, and after graduating I was hired as the technician for the IRIS Center. In that role, I was responsible for supporting the technical needs of digital humanities projects affiliated with the IRIS Center and provided guidance to professors and students starting their own digital scholarship projects.

What led you to your field?

I have been drawn to applied humanities, particularly history, since high school, and I have long enjoyed tinkering with software and making information available online. When I was young this usually manifested in reading and writing information on fan wikis. More recently, I have particularly enjoyed working on digital archives that focus on local community history, such as the SIUE Madison Historical project at madison-historical.siue.edu.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

While working for the Scholarly Commons, I have had the opportunity to work with my fellow graduate assistant Mallory Untch to publish our new podcast, It Takes a Campus, on iTunes and other popular podcast libraries. Recently, I recorded and published an episode with Dr. Ted Underwood. Mallory and I also created an interactive timeline showcasing the history of the Scholarly Commons for the unit’s tenth anniversary last fall.

What are some of your favorite underutilized Scholarly Commons resources that you would recommend?

We offer consultations to patrons looking for in-depth assistance with their digital scholarship. You can request a consultation through our online form!

When you graduate, what would your ideal job position look like?

I would love to work as a Digital Archivist in some form, responsible for ensuring the long term preservation of digital artifacts, as well as the best way to make these objects accessible to users. It is especially important to me that these digital spaces relate to and are accessible to the people and cultures represented in the items, so I hope I am able to make these sorts of community connections wherever I end up working.

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Data Feminism and Data Justice

“Data” can seem like an abstract term – What counts as data? Who decides what is counted? How is data created? What is it used for?

Outline of a figure surrounded by a pie chart, speach bubble, book, bar chart, and venn diagram to represent different types of data

“Data”. Olena Panasovska. Licensed under a CC BY license. https://thenounproject.com/search/?q=data&i=3819883

These questions are some of the ones you might ask when applying a Data Feminist framework to you research. Data Feminism goes beyond looking at the mechanics and logistics of data collection and analysis to undercover the influences of structural power and erasure in the collection, analysis, and application of data.

Data Feminism was developed by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Kline, authors of the book Data Feminism. Their ideas are grounded in the work of Kimberle Crenshaw, the legal scholar credited with developing the concept of intersectionality. Using this lens, they seek to undercover the ways data science has caused harm to marginalized communities and the ways data justice can be used to remedy those harms in partnership with the communities we aim to help.

The Seven Principles of Data Feminism include:

  • Examine power
  • Challenge power
  • Rethink binaries and hierarchies
  • Elevate emotion and embodiment
  • Embrace pluralism
  • Consider context
  • Make labor visible

Applying data feminist principles to your research might involve working with local communities to co-create consent forms, using data collection to fill gaps in available data about marginalized groups, prioritizing the use of open source, community-created tools, and properly acknowledging and compensating people involved in all stages of the research process. At the heart of this work is the questioning of whose interests drive research and how we can reorient those interests around social justice, equity, and community.

The Feminist Data Manifest-No, authored in part by Anita Say Chan, Associate Professor in the School of Information Sciences and the College of Media, provides additional principles to commit to in data feminist research. These resources, and the scholars and communities engaged in this work, demonstrate how data and research can be used to advance justice, reject neutrality, and prioritize those who have historically experienced the greatest harm at the hands of researchers.

The Data + Feminism Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, directed by D’Ignazio, is a research organization that “uses data and computational methods to work towards gender and racial equity, particularly as they relate to space and place”. They are members of the Design Justice Network, which seeks to bring together people interested in research that centers marginalized people and aims to address the ways research and data are used to cause harm. These groups provide examples for how to engage in data feminist and data-justice inspired research and action.

Learning how to use tools like SPSS and NVivo is an important aspect of data-related research, but thinking about the seven principles of Data Feminism can inspire us to think critically about our work and engage more fully in our communities.  For more information about data feminism, check out these resources:

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Meet Michelle Reed: New Head of The Scholarly Commons

Head shot of Michelle Reed from the chest up

It is an exciting time for our unit because we finally have a new head of the Scholarly Commons, Michelle Reed! We want to give our readers a chance to learn more about Michelle and her career in this blog post.

Before joining us, Michelle worked as Associate Librarian and Director of Open Educational Resources at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. In that role Michelle led efforts to support the adoption, modification, and creation of open educational resources (OER). She oversaw the university’s financial investment in OER, managed the OER publishing activities of Mavs Open Press, and collaborated with UTA faculty to secure external grant funding for OER development, including a $582,322 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create a series of transportation resources.

Michelle Reed giving a presentation at a podium

Prior to joining UTA, Michelle supported both information literacy and scholarly communication at the University of Kansas Libraries. She also worked as a technical writer and editor for a Department of Energy waste management center and a small research and manufacturing business specializing in neurophysiological research tools.

In her new role as the head of the Scholarly Commons she hopes to build collaborative relationships with partners from within the library and across campus to support the use and exploration of digital tools, broaden access to scholarship, and enhance the university’s research output.

To learn more about Michelle, you can visit her website librariansreed.com.

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Meet Our Graduate Assistants: Sarah Appedu

In this interview series we ask our graduate assistants questions for our readers to get to know them better. Our first interview this year is with Sarah Appedu!
Headshot of Sarah Appedu from the shoulders up

What is your background education and work experience?

Before attending graduate school, I worked as the Scholarly Communications Assistant in the academic library of a small liberal arts college. My work included overseeing the institutional repository, working with undergraduate journal editors, and assisting in our efforts to address the high cost of course materials through the promotion of open educational resources. This work inspired me to get my M.S. LIS and sparked my interest in pedagogy, open access publishing, digital scholarship, and copyright. My undergraduate background is in Philosophy and Women, Gender, & Sexuality studies, and I enjoy utilizing my critical thinking skills and love of theory to inform and improve my library practice.

What led you to your field?

It was actually a complete accident! After graduating from undergrad, I found myself interviewing for a temporary Administrative Assistant position at the college library. I had never considered working in a library before, but I quickly realized that many of my skills and interests are compatible with library work. I especially enjoyed the service-oriented nature of libraries and the desire to improve communities. My interest in social justice was welcomed in my position and it wasn’t long before I realized that I may have found my career path!

What are your research interests?

I’m developing an interest in the ways in which technology impacts our ability to seek and evaluation information, particularly in the context of algorithmic bias and surveillance capitalism. I am currently involved in organizing a reading group about artificial intelligence and information seeking behavior, and it is helping expand my conception of how libraries can serve their communities. I think libraries can have an even more prevalent role in educating students and others about the ways in which platforms like Google manipulate what we see online, and I’m looking forward to continue to investigate this topic.

What are some of your favorite underutilized Scholarly Commons resources that you would recommend?

Our Ask a Librarian chat service! The Scholarly Commons is on chat from 10am-2pm Monday-Friday every week and we are available to answer your questions. Feel free to write us about data analysis support, GIS needs, copyright, software, and more!

When you graduate, what would your ideal job position look like?

I’m starting to see the position of Student Success Librarian pop up, and I love the idea of having a job like that. Everything I do in the library always seems to come back to my interest in teaching students and working to make sure all students have the opportunity to succeed, particularly students who traditionally have been excluded from library support and services.

 

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Introductions: What is Digital Scholarship, anyways?

This is the beginning of a new series where we introduce you to the various topics that we cover in the Scholarly Commons. Maybe you’re new to the field or you’re just to the point where you’re just too afraid to ask… Fear not! We are here to take it back to the basics!

What is digital scholarship, anyways?

Digital scholarship is an all-encompassing term and it can be used very broadly. Digital scholarship refers to the use of digital tools, methods, evidence, or any other digital materials to complete a scholarly project. So, if you are using digital means to construct, analyze, or present your research, you’re doing digital scholarship!

It seems really basic to say that digital scholarship is any project that uses digital means because nowadays, isn’t that every project? Yes and No. We use the term digital quite liberally…If you used Microsoft Word to just write your essay about a lab you did during class – that is not digital scholarship however if you used specialized software to analyze the results from a survey you used to gather data then you wrote about it in an essay that you then typed in Microsoft Word, then that is digital scholarship! If you then wanted to get this essay published and hosted in an online repository so that other researchers can find your essay, then that is digital scholarship too!

Many higher education institutions have digital scholarship centers at their campus that focus on providing specialized support for these types of projects. The Scholarly Commons is a digital scholarship space in the University Main Library! Digital scholarship centers are often pushing for new and innovative means of discovery. They have access to specialized software and hardware and provide a space for collaboration and consultations with subject experts that can help you achieve your project goals.

At the Scholarly Commons, we support a wide array of topics that support digital and data-driven scholarship that this series will cover in the future. We have established partners throughout the library and across the wider University campus to support students, staff, and faculty in their digital scholarship endeavors.

Here is a list of the digital scholarship service points we support:

You can find a list of all the software the Scholarly Commons has to support digital scholarship here and a list of the Scholarly Commons hardware here. If you’re interested in learning more about the foundations of digital scholarship follow along to our Introductions series as we got back to the basics.

As always, if you’re interested in learning more about digital scholarship and how to  support your own projects you can fill out a consultation request form, attend a Savvy Researcher Workshop, Live Chat with us on Ask a Librarian, or send us an email. We are always happy to help!

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Simple NetInt: A New Data Visualization Tool from Illinois Assistant Professor, Juan Salamanca

Juan Salamanca Ph.D, Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign recently created a new data visualization tool called Simple NetInt. Though developed from a tool he created a few years ago, this tool brings entirely new opportunities to digital scholarship! This week we had the chance to talk to Juan about this new tool in data visualization. Here’s what he said…

Simple NetInt is a JavaScript version of NetInt, a Java-based node-link visualization prototype designed to support the visual discovery of patterns across large dataset by displaying disjoint clusters of vertices that could be filtered, zoomed in or drilled down interactively. The visualization strategy used in Simple NetInt is to place clustered nodes in independent 3D spaces and draw links between nodes across multiple spaces. The result is a simple graphic user interface that enables visual depth as an intuitive dimension for data exploration.

Simple NetInt InterfaceCheck out the Simple NetInt tool here!

In collaboration with Professor Eric Benson, Salamanca tested a prototype of Simple NetInt with a dataset about academic publications, episodes, and story locations of the Sci-Fi TV series Firefly. The tool shows a network of research relationships between these three sets of entities similar to a citation map but on a timeline following the episodes chronology.

What inspired you to create this new tool?

This tool is an extension of a prototype I built five years ago for the visualization of financial transactions between bank clients. It is a software to visualize networks based on the representation of entities and their relationships and nodes and edges. This new version is used for the visualization of a totally different dataset:  scholarly work published in papers, episodes of a TV Series, and the narrative of the series itself. So, the network representation portrays relationships between journal articles, episode scripts, and fictional characters. I am also using it to design a large mural for the Siebel Center for Design.

What are your hopes for the future use of this project?

The final goal of this project is to develop an augmented reality visualization of networks to be used in the field of digital humanities. This proof of concept shows that scholars in the humanities come across datasets with different dimensional systems that might not be compatible across them. For instance, a timeline of scholarly publications may encompass 10 or 15 years, but the content of what is been discussed in that body of work may encompass centuries of history. Therefore, these two different temporal dimensions need to be represented in such a way that helps scholars in their interpretations. I believe that an immersive visualization may drive new questions for researchers or convey new findings to the public.

What were the major challenges that came with creating this tool?

The major challenge was to find a way to represent three different systems of coordinates in the same space. The tool has a universal space that contains relative subspaces for each dataset loaded. So, the nodes instantiated from each dataset are positioned in their own coordinate system, which could be a timeline, a position relative to a map, or just clusters by proximities. But the edges that connect nodes jump from one coordinate system to the other. This creates the idea of a system of nested spaces that works well with few subspaces, but I am still figuring out what is the most intuitive way to navigate larger multidimensional spaces.

What are your own research interests and how does this project support those?

My research focuses on understanding how designed artifacts affect the viscosity of social action. What I do is to investigate how the design of artifacts facilitates or hinders the cooperation of collaboration between people. I use visual analytics methods to conduct my research so the analysis of networks is an essential tool. I have built several custom-made tools for the observation of the interaction between people and things, and this is one of them.

If you would like to learn more about Simple NetInt you can find contact information for Professor Juan Salamanca here and more information on his research!

If you’re interested in learning more about data visualizations for your own projects, check out our guide on visualizing your data, attend a Savvy Researcher Workshop, Live Chat with us on Ask a Librarian, or send us an email. We are always happy to help!

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Happy Open Education Week 2021!

Every March, librarians around the world celebrate Open Education Week, a time to raise awareness of the need for and use of Open Educational Resources on our campuses. Many libraries are engaged in promoting these resources to faculty and administrators in order to help reduce the cost of course materials for students.

OEWeek 2021 Logo

“Open Education Week Logo.” OEWeek. https://www.openeducationweek.org/page/materials. Licensed under a CC-BY 4.0 license.

Open Educational Resources are learning materials that are published without copyright restrictions, meaning they can be freely distributed, reused, and modified. Faculty who assign Open Educational Resources in their classes help eliminate the barriers to academic success students can face when they cannot afford their course materials. The Florida Virtual Campus survey has demonstrated over several iterations of their survey how these costs negatively impact students – whether it’s dropping or failing a course, changing major, or struggling academically.

OpenStax is one of the most well-known publishers of OER and is often used by librarians as an example of high-quality, low-cost textbooks. While librarians often work as OER advocates on their campus, we are not always the ones publishing our own, original OER. This makes the publishing of Instruction in Libraries and Information Centers: An Introduction in July 2020 a unique and exciting accomplishment that will benefit Library and Information Science students for years to come.

Front cover of Instruction in Libraries by Saunder and Wong

This textbook, authored by Laura Saunders, Associate Professor of Library and Information Science at Simmons College and Melissa Wong, Adjunct Lecturer of Library and Information Sciences at UIUC, is freely available for students to read online, download, and print. The book is the first open access textbook to be published by Windsor and Downs press through IOPN, the University Library’s publishing unit. Other open access books available through the press include Sara Benson’s The Sweet Public Domain: Celebrating Copyright Expiration with the Honey Bunch Series.

Interested in the ways libraries are celebrating these accomplishments and bringing attention to the need to continue our advocacy? Check out the Twitter hashtag #OEWeek to join the conversation.

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