Spaces Highlight: Interview in a Self-Use Media Booth

Media booth interior

Getting an interview is both exciting and nerve-wracking. While I was excited for the opportunity, I knew I would have to deal with the stressors involved with interviewing on Zoom: what to say, what to wear, and where to do the interview. I wanted a place where I could be sure I would not be interrupted, would not have to deal with loud noises, and that would look professional to the interviewers. I decided to take advantage of my workplace’s resources and try out the self-use media studios in Scholarly Commons. I made my appointment on the Scholarly Commons website

The self-use media studios are sound isolation booths with features including two Shure MV7 microphones, Insta360 4k Webcam, LED light banks, three large screens, mac studio, headphones, powered speakers, and Stream Deck. The studios are designed for video recording, podcasting, oral histories, streaming, interviews, video editing, and more. 

I checked into the booth thirty minutes before the start of my interview. The signs posted around the booth told me how to log in, control the audio, and adjust the camera to follow my movements. I experienced a small challenge, when I could not figure out how to get the camera to turn on. But, with the help of Scholarly Commons staff I was able to begin my interview on time and confident in both myself and the technology I was using. 

One of the first things the interviewers asked me was where I was zooming in from. They were extremely impressed with the set up and the professional setting helped me to stand out as a candidate. I felt comfortable speaking at a regular volume, trusting that those outside could not hear what I was saying as I could not hear anything from outside of the booth. The audio was clear on both my side and the interviewers’. 

If you are using the media studios for the first time, you might find these tips helpful: 

  1. Book in advance- the booths are first-come, first-serve and can fill up quickly
  2. Make your booking earlier than your meeting so that you have time to set up and be prepared in case of any challenges
  3. Make sure to read all the signage as they have instructions, helpful tips, and images which help make the booths easier to navigate
  4. If you are having difficulty, ask a staff member as they are happy to help

I found the self-use media studios in Scholarly Commons to be an excellent place to do my interview. If you have an interview coming up or a project that would benefit from the use of an audio booth, I would highly recommend booking one of the media studios. 

Making Infographics in Canva: a Guide and Review

Introduction

If you’ve ever had to design a poster for class, you’re probably familiar with Canva. This online and app-based graphic design tool, with free and subscription-based versions, features a large selection of templates and stock graphics that make it pretty easy to create decent-looking infographics. While it is far from perfect, the ease of use makes Canva worth trying out if you want to add a bit of color and fun to your data presentation.

Getting Started

Starting with a blank document can be intimidating, especially for someone without any graphic design experience. Luckily, Canva has a bunch of templates to help you get started.

Canva infographic templates

I recommend picking a template based on the color scheme and general aesthetic. It’s unlikely you’ll find a template that looks exactly how you want, so you can think of a template as a selection of colors, fonts, and graphics to use in your design, rather than something to just copy and paste things into. For example, see the image below – I recently used the template on the left to create the infographic on the right.

An infographic template compared to the resulting infographic

General Design Principles

Before you get started on your infographic, it’s important to remember some general design guidelines:

  1. Contrast. High levels of contrast between your background and foreground help keep everything legible.
  2. Simplicity. Too many different colors and fonts can be an eyesore. Stick to no more than two fonts at a time.
  3. Space. Leave whitespace to keep things from looking cluttered.
  4. Alignment and balance. People generally enjoy looking at things that are lined up neatly and don’t have too much visual weight on one side or another.
An exaggerated example of a design that ignores the above advice.

Adding Graphs and Graphics

Now that you have a template in hand and graphic design principles in mind, you can start actually creating your infographic. Under “Elements,” Canva includes several types of basic charts. Once you’ve added a chart to your graphic, you can edit the data associated with the chart directly in the provided spreadsheet, by uploading a csv file, or by linking to a google spreadsheet.

Canva interface for creating charts

The settings tab allows you to decide whether you want the chart to include a legend or labels. The options bar at the top allows for further customization of colors and bar or dot appearance. Finally, adding a few simple graphics from Canva’s library such as shapes and icons can make your infographic more interesting. 

Examples of charts available in Canva, with a variety of customizations.

Limitations and Frustrations

The main downsides to Canva are the number of features locked behind a paywall and the inability to see only the free options. Elements cannot be filtered by price and it seems that more and more graphics are being claimed by Canva Pro, so searching for graphics can be frustrating. Templates can be filtered, but it will still bring up results where the template itself is free, but there are paid elements within the template. So, you might choose a template based on a graphic that you really like, only to find out that you need a Canva Pro subscription to include that graphic.

The charts in Canva also have limitations. Pie charts do not allow for the selection of colors for each individual slice; you have to pick one color, and Canva will generate the rest. However, if you want to have more control over your charts, or wish to include more complicated data representations, you can upload charts to Canva, which even supports transparency.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, Canva has its downsides. However, Canva’s templates, graphics, and charts still make it a super useful tool for creating infographics that are visually appealing. Try it out the next time you need to present some data!

Drawing People: Practicing the Human Figure with Open Resources

It’s Open Access Week! Every year this international event brings the academic community together to discuss the benefits of free and immediate access to information, especially scholarly resources.

This week, I’ll be sharing open (and semi-open) resources for artists. When I’m not at the library desk, I like to draw, and I’m always on the hunt for high quality reference images. When learning how to draw people, you’ll often have to figure out a pose without the help of live models. References, however, are not always free or easy to find. Here some of the resources that I’ve found helpful over the years.

Practice and Reference

Line of Action

Provides both nude and clothed photos for study. Artists can start a drawing session by choosing the kinds of models, and the time intervals between photos. There are also posts here that give advice for improving your technique.

Bodies in Motion

This collection of motion images provides rapid sequence photographs of athletes and dancers. These images are a good way to study how the human body moves. Most of this content is only available with a subscription, but there are some free sequences. When browsing a section, click the “free” tab on the right-hand side of the page.

AdorkaStock

This stock photo collection has models with plenty of different body types. There are some fun poses in here: from fantasy to action, to sci-fi settings. All models are wearing clothing or flesh-tone bodysuits, so no need to worry about using it in a public space.

Sketch Daily

Provides a variety of photos in timed study sessions. You can choose to practice bodies, hands, feet, heads, or animals and structures. It’s a good tool for warm-up drawing with no fuss.

The Book of a Hundred Hands by George B. Bridgman

This book depicts musculature and examples of drawn hands in different positions. It can help you to focus-in on your hand drawing skills.

Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth by Andrew Loomis

Okay, so this one is from the 40’s and it shows; the majority of nude female figures are still sporting high heels. However, Loomis still offers many helpful tips. It contains an exhaustive instruction of perspective, musculature, the mechanics of motion, shading and lighting as well as exercises for practice.

Gesture Drawing

Gesture Drawing – The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Practicing with the gesture technique can help you break out of “stiff” poses and figure out how to imbue your figures with character and expression. This guide contains an overview of gesture, videos of instruction, and a list of books on gesture.

Clothing

We Wear Culture

A good fashion reference site that showcases clothing through time and around the world. The information here gives context for clothing, bios of fashion icons, overviews of fashion movements, and the history of clothing items. It’s a good tool to inspire clothing design for the people and characters you draw.

History of Costume

You’ll have to create a free account on the Internet Archive to view this one. It’s a collection of costume plates from the 19th century. There are later editions of this book available, but this edition still contains original clothing pattern drafts.

Instruction

Love, Life, Drawing

This website provides free tutorials and podcasts on drawing topics with a focus on human figures. Sign up for the free “fresh eyes” drawing challenge, a ten-day course that teaches students to identify gesture and structure of the form.

FZD School

This resource isn’t human-figure specific but these videos are great resources for learning how to draw and design. Try “EP 30: Character Silhouettes” to buff up your character illustration skills. This channel is especially good for creatives interested in comics or illustration.

Muddy Colors

Muddy Colors posts helpful tips on all kinds of art topics from over 20 practicing artists. The site hosts paid classes from their contributing artists, but there is plenty of free advice here too.

Additional Resources

Character Design References

An independent website that showcases concept art from animation, games, and comics. There’s a little bit of everything here. I’d recommend checking out their visual library. There are anatomical references, character/creature design references, vehicles, props, and lighting/color tutorials.

Met Publications

The New York Met Gallery offers 609 publications of art, photography, sculpture and more, all free for download. This is an excellent place to find inspiration.

Happy Drawing!

There’s been a Murder in SQL City!

by Libby Cave
Detective faces board with files, a map and pictures connected with red string.

If you are interested in data or relational databases, then you have heard of SQL. SQL, or Structured Query Language, is designed to handle structured data in order to assist in data query, data manipulation, data definition and data access control. It is a very user-friendly language to learn with a simple code structure and minimal use of special characters. Because of this, SQL is the industry standard for database management, and this is reflected in the job market as there is a strong demand for employees with SQL skills.  

Enter SQL Murder Mystery

In an effort to promote the learning of this valuable language, Knight Labs, a specialized subsidiary of Northwestern University, created SQL Murder Mystery. Combining the known benefits of gamification and the popularity of whodunit detective work, SQL Murder Mystery aims to help SQL beginners become familiar with the language and have some fun with a normally dry subject. Players take on the role of a gumshoe detective tasked with solving a murder. The problem is you have misplaced the crime scene report and you now must dive into the police department’s database to find the clues. For true beginners with no experience, the website provides a walkthrough to help get players started. More experienced learners can jump right in and practice their skills. 

I’m on the case!

I have no experience with SQL but I am interested in database design and information retrieval, so I knew it was high time that I learn the basics. As a fan of both games and detective stories, SQL Murder Mystery seemed like a great place to start. Since I am a true beginner, I started with the walkthrough. As promised on the website, this walkthrough did not give me a complete, exhaustive introduction to SQL as a language, but instead gave me the tools needed to get started on the case. SQL as a language, relational databases and Entity Relationship Diagrams (ERD) were briefly explained in an approachable manner. In the walk through, I was introduced to vital SQL functions like “Select:, “Where”, wildcards, and “Between”. My one issue with the game was in the joining tables section. I learned later that the reason I was having issues was due to the tables each having columns with the same title, which is apparently a foundational SQL feature. The guide did not explain that this could be an issue and I had to do some digging on my own to find out how to fix it. It seems like the walkthrough should have anticipated this issue and mentioned it. That aside, By the end of the walkthrough, I could join tables, search for partial information matches, and search within ranges. With some common sense, the database’s ERD, and the new SQL coding skills, I was able to solve the crime! If users weren’t challenged enough with that task, there is an additional challenge that suggests users find the accomplice while only using 2 queries.

User interface of SQL Murder Mystery
Example of SQL Murder Mystery user interface

The Verdict is In

I really loved this game! It served as a great introduction to a language I had never used before but still managed to be really engaging. It reminded me of those escape room mystery boxes like Hunt a Killer that has users solve puzzles to get to a larger final solution. Anyone who loves logic puzzles or mysteries will enjoy this game, even if they have no experience with or even interest in coding or databases.  If you have some free time and a desire to explore a new skill, you should absolutely give SQL Murder Mystery a try!

A Different Kind of Data Cleaning: Making Your Data Visualizations Accessible

Introduction: Why Does Accessibility Matter?

Data visualizations are a fast and effective manner for communicating information and are increasingly becoming a more popular way for researchers to share their data with a broad audience. Because of this rising importance, it is also necessary to ensure that data visualizations are accessible to everyone. Accessible data visualizations not only help an audience who may require a screen reader or other accessible tool to read a document but are also helpful to the creators of the data visualization as it brings their data to a much wider audience than through a non-accessible data visualization. This post will offer three tips on how you can make your visualization accessible!

TIP #1: Color Selection

One of the most important choices when making a data visualization are the colors used in the chart. One suggestion would be to use a color blindness simulator to check the colors in the data visualization and experiment to find the right amount of contrast between colors. Look at the example regarding the top ice cream flavors:

A data visualization about the top flavors of ice cream. Chocolate was the top flavor (40%) followed by Vanilla (30%), Strawberry (20%), and Other (10%).

At first glance, these colors may seem acceptable to use for this kind of data. But when ran through the colorblindness simulator, one of the results creates an accessibility concern:

This is the same pie chart above, but placed under a tritanopia color blindness lens. The colors used for strawberry and vanilla now look the exact same and blend into one another because of this, making it harder to discern the amount of space they take in the pie chart.

Although the colors contrasted well enough in the normal view, the color palettes used for the strawberry and vanilla categories look the same for those with tritanopia color blindness. The result is that these sections blend into one another and make it more difficult to distinguish their values. Most color palettes incorporated in current data visualization software are already designed to ensure the colors do not contrast, but it is still a good practice to check to ensure the colors do not blend in with one another!

TIP #2: Adding Alt Text

Since most data visualizations often appear as images in either published work or reports, alt text is a crucial need for accessibility purposes. Take the visualization below. If there was no alt text provided, then the visualization is meaningless to those who rely on alt text to read a given document. Alt text should be short and summarize the key takeaways from the data (there is no need to describe each individual point, but it should provide enough information to describe the trends occurring in the data).

This is a chart showing the population size of each town in a given county. Towns are labeled A-E and continue to grow in population size as they go down the alphabet (town A has 1,000 people while town E has 100,000 people).

TIP #3: Clearly Labeling Your Data

A simple but crucial component of any visualization is having clear labels on your data. Let’s look at two examples to see what makes having labels a vital aspect of any data visualization:

This is a chart for how much money was earned/spent at a lemonade stand by month. There is no y-axis labels to describe how much money is earned/spent and no key to discern the two lines that represent the money made and the money spent.

There is nothing in this graph that provides any useful information regarding the money earned or spent at the lemonade stand. How much money was earned or spent each month? What do these two lines represent? Now, look at a more clearly labeled version of the same data:

This is a cleaned version of the previous visualization regarding how much money was earned/spent at a lemonade stand. The addition of a Y-axis and key now show that more money was spent in January/February than earned, but then changes in March peaking in July, and then continuing to fall until December where more money is spent than earned again.

In adding a labeled Y-axis, we can now quantify the difference in distance between the two lines at any point and have a better idea of the money earned/spent in any given month. Furthermore, the addition of a key at the bottom of the visualization distinguishes the lines telling the audience what each represents. By clearly labeling the data, it is now in a position where audience members can interpret and analyze it properly.

Conclusion: Can My Data Still be Visually Appealing?

While it may appear that some of these recommendations detract from the creative designs of data visualizations, this is not the case at all. Designing a visually appealing data visualization is another crucial aspect of data visualization and should be heavily considered when creating one. Accessibility concerns, however, should have priority over the visual appeal of the data visualization. That said, accessibility in many respects encourages creativity in the design, as it makes the creator carefully consider how they want to present their data in a way that is both accessible and visually appealing. Thus, accessibility makes for a more creative and transmissive data visualization and will benefit everyone!

Open Education Week 2022

Open Education Week

Open Education Week brings awareness to the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement and to the how OER transforms teaching and learning for instructors and students alike.

What is OER?

OER refers to open access, openly licensed instructional materials that are used for teaching, learning or research.

Why is OER Important?

OER provides free resources to institutions, teachers, and students. When incorporated into the classroom, OER can:

  • Lower the cost of education for students
  • Reinforce open pedagogy
    • Allow educators to update and adapt materials to fit their needs
    • Encourages students’ interaction with, and creation of, educational materials
  • Encourage open knowledge dissemination

OER Incentive Grant

The University is giving faculty an incentive to adopt, adapt, or create OER for their courses instead of using expensive materials. The OER Incentive Grants will fund faculty teaching undergraduate courses. Instructors can submit applications in three tiers:

  • Tier 1: Adopt – incorporate an existing open textbook into a course
  • Tier 2 Adapt – incorporate portions of multiple existing open textbooks, along with other freely available educational resources, modifications of existing open education materials/textbooks, or development of new open education materials
  • Tier 3: Create – write new openly licensed textbooks

The preferred deadline to submit a proposal is March 11th. If you are interested in submitting a grant but cannot make this deadline, please reach out to Sara Benson at srbenson@illinois.edu. To learn more about this program see the webpage on the Faculty OER Incentive Program.

Upcoming OER Publication

In conjunction with Sara Benson, copyright librarian at UIUC, and the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN), co-authors Christy Bazan, Brandi Barnes, Ryan Santens, and Emily Verone will publish an OER textbook, titled Drug Use and Misuse: A Community Health Perspective. This book explores drug use and abuse through the lens of community health and the impact of drug use and abuse on community health. Drug Use and Misuse is the third publication in IOPN’s Windsor & Downs Press OPN Textbook series. See the video below to learn more about the process of creating this textbook.

It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Open Access Week 2021

It’s that time of year again! Open Access Week is October 25-31, and the University of Illinois Library is excited to participate. Open Access Week is an international event where the academic and research community come together to learn about Open Access and to share that knowledge with others. The theme guiding this year’s discussion of open access will be “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity.”

These discussions will build on last year’s theme of “Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion.” While last year’s theme was intended to get people thinking about the ways our current information systems marginalize and exclude, this year’s theme is focused on information equity as it relates to governance.

OA Week digital banner with theme name and date

Specifically, this year’s theme intentionally aligns with the recently released United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation on Open Science, which encompasses practices such as publishing open research, campaigning for open access, and generally making it easier to publish and communicate scientific knowledge.

Circulated in draft form following discussion by representatives of UNESCO’s 193 member countries, the recommendation powerfully articulates and centers the importance of equity in pursuing a future for scholarship that is open by default. As the first global standard-setting framework on Open Science, the UNESCO Recommendation will provide an important guide for governments around the world as they move from aspiration to the implementation of open research practices.

UNESCO Icon

While the University of Illinois is not hosting any formal events for open access, the Library encourages students, staff, and faculty to familiarize themselves with existing open access resources, including:

  • IDEALS: The Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship, collects, disseminates, and provides persistent and reliable access to the research and scholarship of faculty, staff, and students at Illinois. Once an article is deposited in IDEALS, it may be efficiently and effectively accessed by researchers around the world, free of charge.
  • Copyright: Scholarly Communication and Publishing offers workshops and consultation services on issues related to copyright. While the Library cannot offer legal advice, we can help you to identify information and issues you may want to consider in addressing your copyright question.
  • Illinois Open Publishing Network: The Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN) is a set of digital publishing initiatives that are hosted and coordinated at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library. IOPN offers a suite of publishing services to members of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community and aims to facilitate the dissemination of high-quality, open access scholarly publications. IOPN services include infrastructure and support for publishing open access journals, monographs, born-digital projects that integrate multimedia and interactive content.

IOPN logo

For more information on how to support access at the University of Illinois, please reach out to the Scholarly Commons or the Scholarly Communication and Publishing unit. For more information about International Open Access Week, please visit www.openaccessweek.org. Get the latest updates on Open Access events on twitter using the hashtag #OAWeek.

Making Your Work Accessible Online

A person uses a braille reader

Unsplash @Sigmund

What is Web Accessibility?

Web Accessibility is the ability for individuals with vision, hearing, cognitive, and mobility disabilities to access web content online via their preferred methods.

WCAG defines web content as:

  • Natural information such as text, images, and sounds
  • Code or markup that defines structure, presentation, etc.

The essential components of web accessibility include:

  • Content
  • Web browsers
  • Assistive Technology
  • Users’ Experience
  • Developers
  • Authoring Tools
  • Evaluation Tools

Why It Matters

Individuals with disabilities not only use the web but also contribute to its functions. Website accessibility focuses on the needs of people with disabilities. However, by considering how to make information more available, interactive, and easy to use, we also make content more accessible for everyone.

A website that uses best practices for accessibility provides equitable access and opportunities to all its users, creates a great user experience, increases website interaction (multi-modal interaction), and enhances the overall usability of the site.

Introducing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The WCAG developed out of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (WC3) mission of developing international standards for the continued development of the web and the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI) mission to gather people from varying organizations to create guidelines and resources for people with disabilities.

The WCAG create “a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments” worldwide.

The WCAG has four accessibility principles, which forms the acronym, POUR:

  • Principle 1: Perceivable
    • The information and methods of interacting with hardware and software must be presented in ways that users can perceive. Examples include having text alternatives and using captioning in videos.
  • Principle 2: Operable
    • The hardware and software elements and navigation must be practical for users. Examples include ensuring keyboard accessibility and allowing users enough time to read and understand content.
  • Principle 3: Understandable
    • The information and the operation of hardware and software must be readable and understandable for users. Examples include ensuring that the text is easy to read and retaining the same style of program selections on different pages.
  • Principle 4: Robust
    • The content must have high compatibility so it can be interpreted by a variety of software used to access the web, including assistive technologies. Examples include parsing, that is, ensuring that html elements have start and end tags and screen readers.

Tips: Validate the accessibility of your website using these tools: Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List

What has the University of Illinois Done to Meet these Standards?

University of Illinois web developers adhere to these web accessibility standards:

  • The Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA)
  • Section 508 of the Reauthorized Rehabilitation Act of 1998
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Main Library provides technological assistance via:

  • Hardware
    • Large Screen Monitors and Adjustable Tables
    • Clearview+ Magnification System
    • Braille Display
    • Tranquility Kits
  • Software
    • JAWS (Job Access With Speech)
    • Kurzweil 3000
    • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader
    • OpenBook
    • Dolphin EasyReader
    • OpenDyslexie

Please see Accessibility and Assistive Technology LibGuide for more information.

If you are interested in learning more about web accessibility and the WCAG, visit the WCAG website: https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/

What Are the Digital Humanities?

Introduction

As new technology has revolutionized the ways all fields gather information, scholars have integrated the use of digital software to enhance traditional models of research. While digital software may seem only relevant in scientific research, digital projects play a crucial role in disciplines not traditionally associated with computer science. One of the biggest digital initiatives actually takes place in fields such as English, History, Philosophy, and more in what is known as the digital humanities. The digital humanities are an innovative way to incorporate digital data and computer science within the confines of humanities-based research. Although some aspects of the digital humanities are exclusive to specific fields, most digital humanities projects are interdisciplinary in nature. Below are three general impacts that projects within the digital humanities have enhanced the approaches to humanities research for scholars in these fields.

Digital Access to Resources

Digital access is a way of taking items necessary for humanities research and creating a system where users can easily access these resources. This work involves digitizing physical items and formatting them to store them on a database that permits access to its contents. Since some of these databases may hold thousands or millions of items, digital humanists also work to find ways so that users may locate these specific items quickly and easily. Thus, digital access requires both the digitization of physical items and their storage on a database as well as creating a path for scholars to find them for research purposes.

Providing Tools to Enhance Interpretation of Data and Sources

The digital humanities can also change how we can interpret sources and other items used in the digital humanities. Data Visualization software, for example, helps simplify large, complex datasets and presents this data in ways more visually appealing. Likewise, text mining software uncovers trends through analyzing text that potentially saves hours or even days for digital humanists had they analyzed the text through analog methods. Finally, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software allows for users working on humanities projects to create special types of maps that can both assist in visualizing and analyzing data. These software programs and more have dramatically transformed the ways digital humanists interpret and visualize their research.

Digital Publishing

The digital humanities have opened new opportunities for scholars to publish their work. In some cases, digital publishing is simply digitizing an article or item in print to expand the reach of a given publication to readers who may not have direct access to the physical version. Other times, some digital publishing initiatives publish research that is only accessible in a digital format. One benefit to digital publishing is that it opens more opportunities for scholars to publish their research and expands the audience for their research than just publishing in print. As a result, the digital humanities provide scholars more opportunities to publish their research while also expanding the reach of their publications.

How Can I Learn More About the Digital Humanities?

There are many ways to get involved both at the University of Illinois as well as around the globe. Here is just a list of a few examples that can help you get started on your own digital humanities project:

  • HathiTrust is a partnership through the Big Ten Academic Alliance that holds over 17 million items in its collection.
  • Internet Archive is a public, multimedia database that allows for open access to a wide range of materials.
  • The Scholarly Commons page on the digital humanities offers many of the tools used for data visualization, text mining, GIS software, and other resources that enhance analysis within a humanities project. There are also a couple of upcoming Savvy Researcher workshops that will go over how to use software used in the digital humanities
  • Sourcelab is an initiative through the History Department that works to publish and preserve digital history projects. Many other humanities fields have equivalents to Sourcelab that serves the specific needs of a given discipline.

Big Ten Academic Alliance Open Access Developments

Last month, the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) made a series of announcements regarding its support of Open Access (OA) initiatives across its member libraries. Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use those articles fully in the digital environment. Put plainly, Open Access ensures that anyone, anywhere, can access and use information. By supporting these developments in OA, the BTAA aims to make information more accessible to the university community, to benefit scholars by eliminating paywalls to research, and to help researchers to publish their own work.

Big ten academic alliance logo

On July 19, the BTAA announced the finalization of a three-year collective agreement with the Open Library of Humanities (OLH), a charitable organization dedicated to publishing open access scholarship with no author-facing article processing charges. OLH publishes academic journals from across the humanities disciplines, as well as hosting its own multidisciplinary journal. This move was made possible thanks to the OLH Open Consortial Offer, an initiative that offers consortia, societies, networks and scholarly projects the opportunity to join the Open Library of Humanities Library Partnership Subsidy system as a bloc, enabling each institution to benefit from a discount. Through this agreement, the BTAA hopes to expand scholarly publishing opportunities available to its member libraries, including the University of Illinois.

Following the finalization of the OLH agreement, the BTAA announced on July 21 the finalization of a three-year collective action agreement with MIT Press that provides Direct to Open (D2O) access for all fifteen BTAA member libraries. Developed over two years with the support of the Arcadia Fund, D2O gives institutions the opportunity to harness collective action to support access to knowledge. As participating libraries, the Big Ten members will help open access to all new MIT Press scholarly monographs and edited collections from 2022. As a BTAA member, the University of Illinois will support the shifting publication of new MIT Press titles to open access. The agreement also gives the University of Illinois community access to MIT Press eBook backfiles that were not previously published open access.

By entering into these agreements, the BTAA aims to promote open access publishing across its member libraries. On how these initiatives will impact the University of Illinois scholarly community, Head of Scholarly Communication & Publishing Librarian Dan Tracy said:

“The Library’s support of OLH and MIT Press is a crucial investment in open access publishing infrastructure. The expansion of open access publishing is a great opportunity to increase the reach and impact of faculty research, but common models of funding open access through article processing charges makes it challenging for authors in the humanities and social sciences particularly to publish open access. The work of OLH to publish open access journals, and MIT Press to publish open access books, without any author fees while also providing high quality, peer reviewed scholarly publishing opportunities provides greater equity across disciplines.”

Since these announcements, the BTAA has continued to support open access initiatives among its member libraries. Most recently, the BTAA and the University of Michigan Press signed a three-year agreement on August 5 that provides multi-year support for the University of Michigan Press’ new open access model Fund to Mission. Based on principles of equity, justice, inclusion, and accessibility, Fund to Mission aims to transition upwards of 75% of the press’ monograph publications into open access resources by the end of 2023. This initiative demonstrates a move toward a more open, sustainable infrastructure for the humanities and social sciences, and is one of several programs that university presses are developing to expand the reach of their specialist publications. As part of this agreement, select BTAA members, University of Illinois included, will have greater access to significant portions of the University of Michigan’s backlist content.

The full release and more information about recent BTAA announcements can be found on the BTAA website. To learn more about Open Access efforts at the University of Illinois, visit our OA Guide.