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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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!

An interview with Billy Tringali on JAMS and Open Access

This week I had the opportunity to talk to Billy Tringali. If you don’t know Billy he worked in the Scholarly Commons as a graduate assistant from 2016-2018 and now works as a Law Librarian for Outreach at Emory University. Our conversation this week was about a passion project that he started during his time here at Illinois. Billy is the founding editor-in-chief of a brand new open access journal, The Journal of Anime and Manga Studies (JAMS). The first volume of JAMS came out recently so be sure to go take a look!

"JAMS" with orange book icon and a dark gray background

How does JAMS fit into a broader scholarly conversation? What gaps in scholarship are you addressing with this journal?

JAMS is currently the only open-access journal solely dedicated to publishing scholarly articles on anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms. While there are other journals which publish works about anime, like the incredible Mechademia, they are not open-access. Anime and manga studies is such a diverse field, and there is a lot out there being published. The goal of the Journal of Anime and Manga Studies is to provide a space for academics, students, and independent researchers examining the field of anime, manga, cosplay, and fandom studies to access high-quality research about these topics and share their research with others.

Tell us about your experience working with the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN). What advice do you have for scholars interested in using this resource?
Working with IOPN has been a dream. Such a qualified, helpful, and truly brilliant staff. If you want to use this resource (and why wouldn’t you?!) come prepared to work! JAMS went through a one-year long notes process before being accepted into IOPN, and they don’t publish low-quality work.
Did you always envision the journal as open access? Why or why not?
There was no point in time in which JAMS wasn’t going to be open-access. While I was attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I had more than 14 million items at my fingertips. It was amazing. So much knowledge just a click away. In my coursework I learned how imperative information access is to scholarship, and I could only imagine how difficult it must be for scholars at smaller universities and outside the academe to find peer-reviewed research on this subject. JAMS aims to be part of that solution by publishing work that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.
What unique challenges do you encounter as a new open access journal that you were not expecting?
The truly worst (and also funniest, looking back) was the professor who doubled-over in laughter when I told them I was trying to start up an open-access journal about anime and manga. But for every person that scoffed at JAMS, there was another who was so interested and excited to see this project succeed. A wonderful lesson to learn as a young scholar was to persevere!
What are the advantages for scholars who publish their work under a creative commons license?
Publishing under a Creative Commons license allows your work to be seen by everyone. It’s as simple as that. Do you want people to see what you’ve made? Then a Creative Commons license is a great choice!
I know Anime and Manga studies is a small area for academic research in the United States. How has this impacted the peer review process? 
It’s actually not all that small! There are a wide variety of researchers doing work on anime and manga studies, they just all happen to be spread out among a number of fields! We have peer reviewers from a diverse set of backgrounds – from education, to information science, to fandom studies – who are all so passionate about anime and manga studies. Our peer reviewers do an incredible job strengthening the papers submitted to JAMS, and I am incredibly grateful for their willingness to dedicate time to this journal.
What are your hopes for the future of this publication? 
(Combining this the question that was above)
I mention this in my “Welcome from the Editor-in-Chief”, and I think I said it best there:
“I hope the Journal of Anime and Manga Studiescan exist as a space that publishes high-quality scholarship about anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms. I hope that JAMS can bring visibility to the deeper meanings, understandings, and cultural significance of anime, manga, cosplay, and their fandoms. I hope that, in making JAMS open-access scholarship about anime and manga can be accessible to everyone, regardless of university affiliation. As Aramata Hiroshi and the Kyoto International Museum of Manga imbued a burning desire in me, I hope that the papers you will read in this journal imbue the same sense in you to do all you can for this fantastic art form.”

Our Graduate Assistants: Abigail Sewall

This interview is part of a continued series introducing our graduate assistants to our online community. These are some of the people you will see when you visit our space, who will greet you with a smile and a willingness to help! Say hello to Abigail Sewall!

What is your background education and work experience?

Before coming to graduate school, I was working as an administrator in standardized testing for a few years. I am a fountain of useless knowledge on most national standardized tests such as the GRE, SAT, and LSAT. The aspect of my job that I liked the most was talking to people and guiding them through what was inevitably one of the most stressful days of their life. I feel like the unique customer service environment of that job oddly enough prepared me well for working at a reference desk, especially during those stressful times of the semester where people are in panic mode. Before I worked in standardized testing I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder in Spanish Literature and Political Science. I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis in comparative politics on trust in the police in Latin American countries. Through this process I had to learn to do large scale data analysis using a large public opinion survey database. It was a challenging project but I got a lot of help from the library.

What led you to your field?

My love of libraries developed as an undergraduate. I loved working on research projects because it gave me an opportunity to talk to one of the librarians, explore the collections, and discover the seemingly endless resources available in the library. The library really enriched my academic experience in such a profound way I wanted to be able to share that experience with others and help make the magic happen. Librarianship is a great intersection of my interests because it is both an intellectually challenging field and performs a valuable service to the community.

What are your research interests?

Where to begin? I am currently really interested in Twitter data literacy. I use Twitter every day and I find it to be a rich source of political and social discourse. I like to see how text data extracted from the popular micro blogging platform is used to address a variety of research questions. I’ve done some research on institutional archiving of Twitter data, which allowed me to consider some of the ethical and cultural implications of collecting and storing social media data. I am now working on learning how to scrape data from Twitter using Python. Experimenting with Python has been interesting because I don’t come from a technical background but I am finding I make slow but sure progress with it. I am excited to see where it takes me and I may even try building my own Twitter database.

What are your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

One of my favorite projects I’ve worked on as a Scholarly Commons GA was developing resources for using US Census data for students and researchers. In the process of making our LibGuide on the Census I learned a lot about the census questionnaire and how researchers use census data. It was also a lot of fun to help my supervisor with the US Census workshop because I love instruction and it was a great opportunity to show my expertise.

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

Our LibGuides! We have dozens of guides on a variety of subjects such as software tutorials, data discovery, digital humanities, and more. Each guide has been thoughtfully assembled by one of our librarians or GAs and contain links to resources, advice, and information to suit all of your research technology needs. I taught myself how to use SPSS using our SPSS tutorial LibGuide and would highly recommend it to anyone! Check out all of our guides on our webpage!

What is the one thing you would want people to know about your field?

I think it is important for people to recognize that libraries are always a reflection of the community they serve. All the services we offer at the Scholarly Commons address a specific need of the scholars and students at our university. We provide a space for collaborative work, software and technology available no where else on campus, and instruction to supplement the resources in our unit. I hope in my career that I will be able to continue to serve the needs of my community, whatever they may be.

 

It Takes a Campus – Episode Two with Harriett Green

Image has the text supporting digital scholarship, it takes a campus with icons of microphone and broadcast symbol

 

 

Resources mentioned:

SPEC Kit No. 357

University of Illinois Library Copyright Guide

 

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