Pow! Zap! Boom! Graphic Novels in the Library

In November 2017, Boston College Libraries expanded our collection of comics and graphic novels and gave them a new home on the first floor of O’Neill Library.

If you’ve passed through the first floor of O’Neill Library recently, you may have noticed some shelves that are suddenly much more colorful. In November 2017, Boston College Libraries expanded our collection of comics and graphic novels and gave them a new home on the first floor of O’Neill Library.

a bookshelf with comics

The collection, which includes everything from superhero stories to memoirs, is primarily intended for members of the campus community—and students in particular—to read just for fun. As we add to the collection, we’re paying close attention bestsellers, award winners, timely stories, and titles from major publishers such as Marvel, DC, Image, Fantagraphics, Vertigo, and Drawn & Quarterly.

Looking for something to read in between homework and extracurriculars? A few of our recommendations are below.

A panel from Fun Home

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. This critically acclaimed national bestseller tells the story of two people who share a house but live in completely different worlds.

A cover from the comic Saga

Saga. This epic series tells the story of a husband and wife on either side of a brutal war between alien races.

A single panel from the comic Aliebn

Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book. Follow the adventures of Jomny, an alien sent to Earth to study the behavior, feelings and ideas of the planet’s creatures.

A panel from The Punisher

The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank. If you enjoyed the Netflix series, you might like the comics on which the show is based. In the 2001 series of The Punisher, Frank Castle faces the Russian, now resurrected as a cyborg by stolen S.H.I.E.L.D technology.

The grassroots effort to give new life to our comics and graphic novels collection was led by a group of librarians who are comics readers themselves:

  • Rodrigo Castro, Head of Access Services, O’Neill Library
  • Chelcie Rowell, Digital Scholarship Librarian & Bibliographer for History
  • Carli Spina, Head of Assessment & Outreach
  • Adam Williams, Senior Reference Librarian & Bibliographer for Psychology & Social Work

Anderson Boone (Evening Reference Services Assistant), Lex Olivo (Evening Reference Services Assistant), and India Pasiuk (Evening Access Services Assistant) also contributed to the development of the collection.

To choose your next read, search the library catalog, or browse the shelves on the first floor. Like other items in our popular reading collection, books can be borrowed for 4 weeks. Not finding what you’re looking for? Add suggestions to the poster next to the collection. We’re always eager to know what you would like to read, and we plan to use these suggestions to build the collection in the future.

CLIR/Mellon Grant Awarded to Boston College Libraries Will Preserve Historic Music Recordings

News on recent funding secured to make Irish and Irish-American cultural heritage available.

In late 2017, Boston College Libraries was the successful recipient of a $30,775 Recordings at Risk grant to digitally reformat a selection of its unique audio collections. Entitled Sounds of Mid-20th Century Irish America: Preserving Historic Music Field Recordings for Research Access, the project focuses on two internationally-known collections in the John J. Burns Library’s Irish Music Archives that support the study of lrish traditional music. Experts from across the BC Libraries, in particular within the Irish Music Archives, Digital Library Team, and Archives, contributed to the proposal, which exemplifies core library values to preserve and make accessible heritage and research collections for the long term.

In the initial stages of planning, the Libraries’ Irish Music Librarian, Elizabeth Sweeney, identified two key archival collections of open-reel tapes of unpublished music—the James W. Smith Irish Music Recordings and Joseph A. Lamont Irish Music Recordings—as candidates for the desired digitization monies. The 1950s/60s music performances captured on the tapes feature some of New York and Boston’s most prominent Irish musicians at the time, and the informal nature and setting of the recordings—noncommercial “jam sessions” in public and private spaces—capture uniquely the time and spirit of this evolving musical genre. The Smith collection was acquired by the Libraries in 1992 and the Lamont collection in 2005, and though scholars have been aware of them, the tapes have not yet been available for listening.

The Sounds of Mid-20th Century Irish America project represents a classic case of high-value research content inaccessible without digitization and preservation. The majority of the recordings are in their original format of open reel-to-reel tapes, and are at risk of degradation and loss without digital conversion, preservation and archiving. CLIR’s highly competitive bidding process included a lengthy “independent, full scholarly and technical review that assessed scholarly value, cost effectiveness and technical competence”. Because the grant monies prioritized the long-term preservation of content, it was essential that a strong digital preservation record and commitment to standards-based metadata production be demonstrated, both areas that have been prioritized by the Libraries. The Northeast Document Conservation Center will be engaged for some digital reformatting services (cleaning, transfers, rewinding, splicing, file naming, and quality control), and staff in O’Neill and Burns Libraries will generate metadata, create finding aids, ingest files to MetaArchive for digital preservation, and ultimately, make arrangements for analog and digital storage and access.

Offering a sustained look at the same time period, the Smith and Lamont collections are distinct from earlier and later recordings of traditional music available elsewhere. When digitized, they will provide unprecedented opportunity to compare music communities in transition in two major urban hubs. The material will be of high value to musicologists, performers of Irish and folk music, and scholars of Irish-American history, cultural anthropology, and folkways of immigrant communities. When the digitized audio is available in late 2018, the Libraries’ announcements will encourage faculty, students, and the broader community to investigate and discover the research potential in these audio collections.

Libraries Contribute to Consortial Resources on Boston Public Schools Desegregation

Exhibits and newly digitized records complement teaching and research resources developed by area institutions.

“At some point, we need to have a conversation about what busing did to Boston and not be afraid of the conversation,’’ Mayor Marty Walsh remarked on the 40th anniversary of the 1974 federal court order to forcibly desegregate Boston Public Schools. “I know black people that are still angry about busing. I know white people that are still angry about busing. . … They are angry on all sides.’’[1]

Despite all the strife and struggle, evidence shows that racial imbalances persist in the Metro Boston area, and are even worsening. According to a 2013 report, Losing Ground: School Segregation in Massachusetts, over the last two decades, “the percentage of majority minority schools has more than doubled, intensely segregated schools [<10% white] have increased by more than seven times their original share, and in 2010-2011, a small share of apartheid schools [<1% white] existed that did not exist two decades earlier.”[2]

To facilitate access to documentation about Boston Public Schools integration in the 1960s and 1970s, and to offer teachers and researchers more resources for studying the effects of busing, several members of the Boston Library Consortium (BLC) launched a project in 2015 to digitize their archival holdings and make them available through the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Some also created exhibits based on their materials. The BC Libraries did both.

A graph titled Distribution of Boston Public School students by race

In October, the Libraries mounted a pair of companion exhibits, entitled Desegregating Boston’s Schools: Crisis and Community Activism, 1963–1977, that examine the controversial busing plan, while bringing to the fore the relevance and value of historical archival research in understanding current events. The parallel displays construct a story from the events around the redistricting and busing mandates, showcasing contemporary manuscripts, pamphlets, books and photographs, while providing insight into the wider context of school desegregation using historical facts and data. Original visualizations charting and mapping the demographics of residents and students over time make the causes and effects of the desegregation policy changes in Boston apparent. Some lesser-known institutional history surfaced from exhibit research. One of the curators, Sarah Melton, commented: “We had been unaware of Boston College’s role to support the new policies. There has been a lot of scholarship about the Boston busing crisis, but when our team started working on the exhibit, we didn’t know that BC partnered with area schools to help improve the curriculum and monitor the desegregation process.” In addition to Melton, Anna Kijas of the Digital Scholarship Team and Eric Weiskott of the Department of English were curators. The exhibits, one in John J. Burns Library and the other in the O’Neill Library Reading Room, close on February 2. A number of students have consulted them in conjunction with their classes, including those enrolled in the Lynch School’s “Diversity in Higher Education” course.

books are placed carefully in a display case

Online access to primary source documents was the second component of BC’s contribution to the Boston Public Schools Desegregation program. While the two exhibitions provide a glimpse of the variety of resources that can inform research into the desegregation process, it was determined that a set of archival holdings could contribute most meaningfully to the corpus of digitized materials posted online by the BLC project. Burns Library holds the records of the Citywide Coordinating Council, the independent, autonomous body created by the courts to oversee desegregation in Boston Public Schools from 1975 to 1978. The documents identified for digitization included daily school questionnaires completed by volunteer observers, school administrators, and students, as well as reports by school monitors. The monitor reports completed a series of records digitized by UMass Boston.

Properly creating and managing a digital, searchable surrogate of the documents online demanded several distinct areas of preparation. Ayoola White, a Simmons College library and information science student, scanned the nearly 700 pages of documents for one of the projects she completed as an ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellow at the BC Libraries. The reports, though in the public domain, required redaction to remove personal information before being made publicly available online. Reviewing each report to identify such and digitally “blocking” that text from the digital access images was undertaken by Gayatri Khosla of the Lynch School of Education. Post-processing of the images was handled according to established Digital Library practices, and the metadata and scanned documents were added to Boston College Libraries’ Special Collections Online. The content is also now discoverable via the Massachusetts Digital Commonwealth index and will soon be available via the DPLA, uniting it virtually with the contributions of other BLC partner institutions’ digitized archival material.

The digitization initiative and exhibits undertaken by the BC Libraries complement resources produced by other members of the Boston Library Consortium, in particular Northeastern University, which spearheaded the collaborative project, and UMass Boston.

Materials for the exhibit laying in a display case in the Burns Library

Northeastern led the development of common descriptive metadata practices to ensure that materials contributed by each of the partners can be found in the DPLA using a common set of search terms. It has also created a widget that can be added to online syllabi and other websites to launch a targeted keyword search on the DPLA corpus. Thus far, some 3,900 items are available, with more to come as DPLA continues to harvest digital objects supplied by the Boston College Libraries and other area institutions, including Suffolk University, State Library of Massachusetts, Boston City Archives, WGBH Media Library and Archives, and the National Archives and Records Administration in Boston.

In addition, Northeastern has recently announced the launch of a project website that features interactive maps and timelines of Boston public school desegregation documentation and links to online exhibits, such as UMass Boston’s Stark & Subtle Divisions: A Collaborative History of Segregation in Boston, which was produced by a graduate history seminar. The site also includes links to curricular resources on the busing crisis developed by Boston Public Schools. Making primary resources about school integration freely and publicly available for teaching and research has been a chief goal of the collaborative project, which the BC Libraries have been proud to participate in and support.

[1] Meghan E. Irons, “Talk on Busing Overdue, Walsh Says,” Boston Globe, 13 September 2014. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/09/12/mayor-walsh-report-mark-anniversary-start-school-under-federal-desegregation-order/KtmDuz1QbfYayGE21SZ50N/story.html, accessed 1/15/2018.

[2] Jennifer B. Ayscue, Alyssa Greenberg, et al., Losing Ground: School Segregation in Massachusetts (2013). Report available from The Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles, University of California Los Angeles. https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/losing-ground-school-segregation-in-massachusetts, accessed 1/15/2018.

Citation Management for a Happier (Research) Life

Citation management software lets you spend more time on research, less time worrying about styles.

The days of having to maintain your references on index cards and painstakingly craft bibliographies manually have been over for decades. But not everyone, including many of our students, have gotten the memo about that. And, those of us who have been enjoying citation management software for years may not be aware of the options currently available, and the additional features that have been added over time.  They offer the promise of less work organizing and managing your references, and more time to spend on your research and writing.  If you don’t currently use citation management software, why not give it a try in 2018?

All the major citation management software options (RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero, and Mendeley) allow you to:

  • Collect references from databases, library catalogs, Google Scholar and other sources.  There is more than one way to do this, depending on the system you choose; export directly from databases, download citations and upload into the citation management software, or download a plugin to pull citations off any web page.  You can also drag and drop PDFs directly from your computer into the citation management software, and it will harvest the citation information automatically.
  • Store your PDFs in the software. There may be a space limits in free versions.
  • Organize your citations with folders, subfolders and with tags
  • Cite in Word (and in most cases Google Docs), and create references cited lists automatically (with an additional plugin download), as well as creating standalone bibliographies
  • Share your citations with individuals and groups within BC and beyond, with varying degrees of ease. There will be limitations on sharing full text of articles due to copyright concerns; there may also be limitations on the number of groups you can share with in free versions

So how do you choose? The “feel” of each system is different, and there are some unique features available to each system.  The University has a subscription to RefWorks, so we are able to access their generally excellent technical support. RefWorks is also a good choice if you want a citation management software that does not have a large desktop component. Even better, when students graduate they can keep their accounts.  EndNote, long the gold standard for faculty, is still popular in some departments, and you may want it for sharing with other researchers.  Contact your department to see if they have licenses for it. Papers has great organization features and is low cost. Mendeley fosters discovery and sharing by opening up other users’ libraries. It also has features to read and annotate PDFs within the program. In addition, they provide tools for finding funding and job opportunities. Zotero provides excellent functionality in a free software not owned by large, for profit vendor (EndNote is owned by Clarivate, formerly Thomson Reuter; RefWorks is owned by ProQuest; Mendeley is owned by Elsevier.)  The Zotero user community is dedicated, helpful, and knowledgeable.  And if you are a dedicated LaTeX user, rather than Word user, you will probably want to use BibTeX/BibDesk.

If you teach undergraduates, your students may be expert users of one or more of the systems, or be familiar with EasyBib or NoodleBib, or they may have had no exposure at all. We would be happy to provide instruction, in your class or at the library.

For more information and assistance with citation management software, please check out our guide, or contact your subject librarian.

Some Thoughts on Print Collections and User Spaces: A Continuing Opportunity

Over the past few decades libraries have evolved from storehouses of books to vibrant user-centered spaces that embrace learning, research and collaboration.

Over the past few decades libraries have evolved from storehouses of books to vibrant user-centered spaces that embrace learning, research and collaboration. By simple historical observation of the O’Neill Library one can see that the Level One area went from a dead-end space that housed obsolete print collections and an equally under-utilized government documents department to an active area that includes a collaboration room, mixed landscape seating with natural light, selected technology and student art. The renovation also created a link between the Library and Maloney Hall. In short, by repurposing the space, the Library facilitated a better learning environment and, by extension, now better serves the formation of our students.

But repurposing spaces does come with a cost.  In the vast majority of cases, it’s the onsite book collections that are sacrificed for the new user spaces.  We continue to have discussions about what to do with the physical onsite book collections as our spaces no longer accommodate existing collections, let alone growth, which amounts to about 30,000 print volumes per year.  As we look into the near future of the BC Libraries, I anticipate that we will soon need some space not just for collections but to meet the growing need for a variety of user spaces.

Every research library is trying to figure out how to manage their print collections, and similarly, what to do with the spaces that are now occupied by books.  In most cases, books are relocated to nearby offsite locations where they are easily accessible and retrievable. The key to successful offsite collections is threefold: 1) keep collections in an environmentally safe location, 2) make the collections discoverable, and 3) have a robust, timely and reliable delivery mechanism in place.

Moving large collections will always be complex, time-consuming and potentially political. Typically, libraries begin with baseline data such as circulation statistics. For example, BC Libraries maintain about 1M volumes in O’Neill and Bapst. Of those, about 30% have not circulated in the past 5 years. However, the metric is nuanced by the fact that we already have moved many volumes and boxes of materials to a proprietary offsite facility in Danvers, and, at the same time, a significant part of our collection resides in the Kenny Cottle building on the Newton Campus. Given our experience thus far, moving an additional 250-300K offsite might be reasonable. But just to be clear, no decisions are imminent and we remain open to many potential approaches.

Deciding what to send offsite will not be easy. It is a process that will entail faculty input both by necessity and good practice. We will take into account the needs of our patrons and how we can continue to offer the highest level of service throughout the process. Physically pulling these materials off the shelves is not trivial.  Then the books that remain have to be shifted and re-shelved into the remaining spaces. Finally, before shipping them offsite, all the books have to be re-examined for accurate cataloging records to ensure reliable discovery. In high-density offsite facilities, the books are shelved according to size and are accessible by a new item-record. Put simply, moving research collections does not scale down. It’s complex, time-consuming and quite frankly, no fun.

However, identifying and finally relocating collections is feasible and is worthwhile if it allows us to make better use of our spaces. We in the Library are prepared to get this work done in a thoughtful and collaborative way. Decisions about how to use the freed-up space must precede the decision to move collections, because knowing the intention of the space will help in determining how many books might need to be moved.  Given the BC Libraries’ track record in responding to and anticipating user needs, I’m confident we can enhance the academic and formative experiences of the entire BC community if given the latitude to design these newly available spaces collaboratively.  That said, in our case we would not move more than absolutely necessary, and most people would probably not even notice that selected books are offsite (but still readily available). What would be apparent, however, would be enhanced library spaces for students and faculty. That’s the opportunity.

We in the BC Libraries have tried to stay ahead of this complex dynamic. There is no set timetable, and in fact we’ve been moving items offsite for some time. Looking ahead, we continue to believe that sending some items offsite can be a win-win situation for Boston College because we can continue to create new and interesting user spaces for learning, research, collaboration and formation without giving up our commitment to accessing and delivering content in both print and digital forms. We will continue to keep you abreast of these discussions and developments, but we steadfastly remain committed to providing the best spaces, content, experiences and services for the entire BC community.

Visualizing Our Data With Tableau

The Boston College Libraries are using Tableau to visualize our data and better understand our users’ needs.

The Boston College Libraries are committed to using data to better understand how members of the BC community use the libraries’ services, spaces, and collections and to make informed decisions. While we have long collected data, more recently we have started to use this data to create interactive dashboards that visualize this information in new ways and allow users to explore our data. These dashboards allow library staff to better understand the data that we have collected, but they also given patrons an insight into the work that we do. To this end, we have made several dashboards publicly available on our new Tableau Public profile.

Currently, these visualizations cover library instruction data, information about questions at our reference desks, and visualizations on how spaces are used at both O’Neill Library and the Social Work Library.

A series of data visualization graphs regarding Library usage

A series of data visualization graphs regarding Library usage

We plan to update these as data is collected and add additional dashboards and visualizations to our profile in the future, so check back later to see what we are up to! We’ll also be displaying some of the visualizations on the screens in O’Neill Library, so be sure to take a look next time you stop by.

If you are interested in learning how to create data visualizations with Tableau yourself or would like to integrate Tableau into an assignment for one of your courses, please feel free to contact Data and Visualization Librarian Allison Xu (yaqing.xu@bc.edu) or attend one of our upcoming Tableau trainings:

An Introduction to Visualizing Data with Tableau
February 21, 2018, 3-4:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

In this workshop, participants will get an introductory, hands-on learning experience of Tableau. The workshop will be focused on Tableau key functions, including:

  • How to connect to data sources
  • How to create visuals and assemble them into a dashboard
  • How to publish the dashboard to the Tableau Public server

This event is free and open to the public, but we kindly request that you register.

Mapping with Tableau
February 27, 2018, 3-4:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Mapping data is one of the many ways Tableau helps people see the information in relevant, insightful ways to make better decisions. In this workshop, participants will learn how to analyze their data geographically, how to plot the data on a map in Tableau, and what types of maps can be created in Tableau.

This event is free and open to the public, but we kindly request that you register.

Why is There a Dog in the Library?!

Ever seen a dog walking through O’Neill Library and wondered why? Here are all the details about our therapy dog visits!

In the past, dogs and libraries haven’t mixed all that much. Whenever a patron with a dog was spotted on one of the floors of O’Neill Library, a conversation would quickly ensue among staff about what the dog was doing there, why the owner thought it was OK to bring a dog into the library, and whether we needed a “No Dogs Allowed” sign on the door.

Recently, all of that began changing. Word got around that other universities had puppy rooms or petting zoos during stressful times in the academic year.  Since we like to be innovative in all ways (except for the current library sleeping pod trend-we draw the line there!) we looked into the possibility of having dogs visit our libraries.

students gathered around a dog, petting it
This is Campbell, a young Bernese Mountain Dog. He is the dog most requested by the students, including numerous requests on the Answer Wall.

Our program began as a small joint effort three years ago between the Social Work Library and O’Neill Library and has grown tremendously since then.

This past semester during study days and finals we had 11 dogs visit. Over 1100 people (mostly students but a few staff) came to de-stress with them. This was our most ambitious end-of-semester schedule so far and it was driven by student request.

Also, this past year we started a program called Dog Day Afternoons which featured well-attended monthly dog visits “just because”.  Students are now asking for weekly dog visits and are also saying “We should just have a library dog.”

At our Brain Break event, held on the night of November 29th, the dogs had 250 visitors.

A dog resting on a student's lap
Jackson ended up just as relaxed as the students did.

The libraries arrange for dog visits through Therapy Dogs International (TDI) which was founded in 1976. Dogs certified by TDI have met their rigorous standards of behavior and are insured. They are not, as some people have asked, campus employees’ pets.

The dog visits are beloved by our students for two main reasons. First, many of them have dogs at home and miss them a great deal. A common sentiment is that they miss their dogs more than their parents because dogs aren’t good Skypers or texters.

The second reason is that our TDI dogs are natural stress relievers. To be good therapy dogs they have to be naturally calm, friendly, and able to share empathy with humans. Joe, one of our visitors, loves lying on the floor while several individuals pet him, but he also just naturally gets up whenever a new person arrives and looks them in the eyes so they know they’re welcome. This kind of skill can’t be taught. Another of our dog visitors, Tex, can pick out the most stressed individuals in the crowd. He then goes over to them and “hugs” them with his front paws. Students love watching the dogs obey commands and do tricks but they most value just sitting on the floor and touching them.

A dog being pet and the dog is pleased
The ever-attentive Joe.

This coming year just happens to be the Lunar Year of the Dog so naturally, we will be taking advantage of it and hosting many dog visits. We advertise our dog events via social media and on the library website. We will also have printed schedules of the Year of the Dog events at the circulation desk in February.

Please try to stop by and interact with one of the therapy dogs this coming semester. When you see the students’ faces, you will have the answer to the question, “Why is there a dog in the library?!”

Digital Scholarship Incubator and Training Opportunities

Reflections on the 2017 Digital Scholarship Incubator and Upcoming Events.

In Fall 2017, Boston College Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Group (DSG) held its first Digital Scholarship Incubator, an opportunity to develop a digital research or pedagogy project within a cohort of digital scholarship practitioners. The DSG received applications from students, faculty, and staff and Boston College, Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University, the University of New Hampshire, and Wellesley College. We selected fourteen participants for the seven-week program.

Each week had a thematic focus, ranging from humanities and social science data wrangling to geospatial visualizations to textual analysis. The Incubator also included a project planning component; participants revised a project proposal over the course of the sessions. The curriculum can be found on the Digital Scholarship GitHub repository, and the DSG has created a Zotero library for recommended reading.

Participants worked on a variety of projects. Some, like Harvard’s L. Kelly Fitzpatrick, were interested in using particular tools to build digital prototypes and projects. Others, like BC’s Kathleen Lyons, wanted to learn how to better incorporate digital media into their pedagogy. Incubator participants wrote initial and closing reflections that can be found on the Digital Scholarship blog.

The DSG anticipates offering an Incubator program in Fall 2018, but there are plenty of opportunities to learn more about digital scholarship throughout the semester. Our Spring 2018 events are free and open to the public, though we do request that participants register. All workshops take place in the Digital Studio, room 205 in the O’Neill Library. Below is a list of our currently scheduled events:

January 18, 2018, January 24, 2018, and January 31, 2018, 11-12:30 pm: #1Lib1Ref Edit-a-Thon

#1Lib#1Ref (One Librarian, One Reference) Wikipedia campaign is an international event during which librarians are encouraged to add at least one reference to a Wikipedia article. Join us in this effort! We welcome all open knowledge enthusiasts, whether you are a librarian or not. We will introduce you to the basics of editing Wikipedia and walk you through adding citations before moving to an open editing session. You can find more information or join us virtually at the BC Libraries #1Lib#1Ref meetup site. You’re welcome to attend one or multiple sessions.

February 8, 2018 and April 18, 2018, 11-12:30 pm: Creating Digital Exhibits with Omeka

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use Omeka.net to create digital exhibits. Together we will look at examples of successful digital exhibits. Then facilitators will demonstrate the basics of describing, organizing, and displaying your content. Bring your own image files, or use the sample images provided in the workshop. You are welcome to attend either session.

February 21, 2018, 3-4:30 pm: An Introduction to Visualizing Data with Tableau

In this workshop, participants will get an introductory, hands-on learning experience of Tableau. The workshop will be focused on Tableau key functions, including:

  • How to connect to data sources
  • How to create visuals and assemble them into a dashboard
  • How to publish the dashboard to the Tableau Public server

February 27, 2018, 3-4:30 pm: Mapping with Tableau

Mapping data is one of the many ways Tableau helps people see the information in relevant, insightful ways to make better decisions. In this workshop, participants will learn how to analyze their data geographically, how to plot the data on a map in Tableau, and what types of maps can be created in Tableau.

February 28, 2018, 11-12:30 pm: Collect & Prep Your Data for Visualization and Analysis

Are you planning a research project? Just want to learn more about how to manage data? This workshop will provide an introduction to tools and methods for gathering and cleaning data, with an eye towards preparing data for analysis and/or visualization.

This workshop may be especially useful to humanities and social science researchers, librarians, and students.

March 13 2018, 11-12:30 pm: Copyright for Digital Scholarship Practitioners

In this workshop we will discuss copyright concepts that are common in the course of Digital Scholarship projects, from the first identification of materials for use in the project to the final release of your project. Participants will develop an understanding copyright issues that they may encounter in the course of their work and will learn about specific examples from the field.

March 13 2018, 1-4:00 pm: Transcribe-a-Thon

Want to help transcribe historical documents for public use? Join us for a Transcribe-a-Thon of Boston Public Library’s Anti-Slavery Manuscript collection.

March 29, 2018, 11-12:30 pm: Editing Images for the Web Using Photoshop

Learn how to prepare images for the web using Photoshop.

From Religious Texts to Literary Luncheons: Digitizing Burns Library’s Past Exhibits

The Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship funded work to create digital versions of previous Burns Library physical exhibits. Betsy Pingree, a PhD candidate in history, reflects on creating more accessible scholarship.

As the 2016–2017 Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship recipient from Boston College, I was tasked with creating digital versions of previous Burns Library exhibits. When I began, I was excited, if not a little nervous, about learning new digital skills for presenting history. However, I quickly learned that the project would teach me how to bridge skills I previously developed as a graduate student in history with new ones, such as metadata creation and Omeka, to create accessible digital exhibits. We were able to do this for four exhibits: Are You Being Served, Around the World in 80 Books, Common Boston, and Recusant Books. While all four exhibits required slightly different approaches to representing them digitally, I used both analytical and creative thinking for each of them.

I used my analytical, historical perspective to help me think about how these exhibits should be organized for their digital versions. In some cases, it was easy to take what had been previously written and just copy/paste it to the digital exhibit. But, in most cases, many images and corresponding text were like puzzle pieces that I had to reassemble into a digital whole, rather than in the reality of an exhibit case. For example, the Are You Being Served exhibit had many eclectic pieces, and I was able to think about how best to tell this story for a broader audience. My first goal was to replicate what had already been created whenever possible, but, in the cases where it was difficult to tell, I had to think about what would best showcase the objects, while retaining the story of the exhibit. I found this required the kind of storytelling I’ve been taught to do as a historian, like considering whether to present the story thematically or chronologically, and what order the different sections of the exhibit should be in.

When creating the exhibit Around the World in 80 Books, because the focus on the original exhibit was about the beauty of the bindings, I wanted to make sure that emphasis came through digitally as well. Because I came to the project with more historical skills than digital, it took some trial-and-error to find the best way to present this content. I knew that being able to see the diversity and complexity of each book was important, so I settled on an exhibit style that showcased each book on one page, rather than making the user click through 80 pages. The uniformity of book shapes allowed this to have a clean and organized appearance—one that wouldn’t have necessarily worked with other exhibits. Similarly, the Recusant Books exhibit highlights the books on a single page, but because each book has more corresponding text, the style is somewhat different.

Finally, the Common Boston exhibit was probably the most fun for me because the period is in my wheelhouse—late 19th century America. The original exhibit had a beautiful range of objects that I wanted to ensure were represented well in its digital rendering. From police records, to books about the 1872 Boston Fire, to playbills from the era’s theatre productions, Common Boston was one of the most vibrant exhibits for me to work on.

Although digital projects can seem out of the comfort zone for those who stick to more traditional ways of presenting their research, the learning curve is not as steep as it might initially seem. In the end, I relied on many of the same skills I already possess as a historian. Finally, making exhibits digital creates the possibility to also make them more accessible—one of the most important things we as researchers do.

In 2018, the Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship recipient will continue this work to make more exhibits available online. Interested undergraduates and graduate students can apply for the scholarship by February 1, 2018. Additionally, the Digital Scholarship Group will be holding multiple workshops this semester on creating digital exhibits using Omeka.

Developing the Instruction Program at John J. Burns Library

Are you curious about Burns Library holdings and if/how they can enhance your courses? Burns Library staff encourages faculty interested in using special collections materials to enhance the learning outcomes of their courses to contact us for more information. Burns Library staff encourages faculty to contact us to develop sessions using special collections materials and/or help design activities and assignments that require students to apply and demonstrate what they have learned.

The librarians and archivists at Burns Library have been actively working to strengthen teaching support with special collections. From greater participation in instruction training, to purchasing modular tables, to implementing a flipped classroom strategy, Burns Library has invested time and resources in developing an instructional program that supports the needs of BC faculty. Burns staff members reach out to faculty to create new sessions (or improve returning classes) to encourage wider use of Burns materials for teaching and research.

Recent classes at Burns have included undergraduate and graduate students, ranged from 3 to 30 students, and hosted 3 Out of Classroom Experiences. After initial consults with faculty, Burns staff spend significant time customizing classes and selecting topic appropriate materials. To maximize class time, we have developed pre-class presentations to direct students to the Burns classrooms and set expectations about working with rare materials.

In Fall 2017, Burns Library has added content to support Maia McAleavey’s literature courses; combed the holdings to help Steven Pieragastini’s upper-level students studying China become familiar with the usefulness of Western-language sources; introduced Irish Literary revival materials that could be used for a later assignment for Marjorie Howes; demonstrated how documents, letters, and photographs can enhance Senior Seminar research projects assigned by Rob Savage; and selected materials related to witches, vampires, and werewolves to help Jason Cavallari’s  first year students learn how to interpret sources for themselves.

Faculty interested in using special collections materials to enhance the learning outcomes of their courses should inquire as early as possible. While there are limitations—capacity, space, and available hours—we are willing to creatively work with faculty to develop sessions and help design activities and assignments that require students to apply and demonstrate what they have learned.

As we move away from the perception of Burns as a museum toward a greater understanding of the research potential available in our special collections, we have experimented with several active learning designs. Successful sessions have included peer learning with primary sources; approaching the book as an artifact; learning the primary source research process in 50 minutes; pairing primary sources with potential research topics; reading visual images in context; and building analytical skills through context and juxtaposition. We look forward to incorporating other active approaches, such as teaching archival literacy through finding aids, demonstrating special collections discovery tools, evaluating digitized primary sources, and more.

Student feedback has indicated that many do not know about Burns Library or that they are welcome to use the collections:

  • [I learned] All about the amazing resources available through Burns! I didn’t know that any of this was here.
  • Burns doesn’t exist to protect rare texts, but to share them and provide resources for all the students.

Once they are exposed to the materials through interactive instructional sessions, students start to connect the dots:

  • I enjoyed the hands-on activity of being able to look at different artifacts in the collections and thinking of what kinds of research it could support.
  • It was lovely to look at primary sources pertaining to the period we’re studying as it gives some valuable context.

And then some are converted and want everyone to have the experience:

  • How come they do not make us use this more often for projects/papers?
  • Maybe you could work with professors … that have more underclassmen so they can benefit from the resources here.

 If you are curious about Burns Library holdings and if/how they can enhance your courses, please contact Katherine Fox, Head of Public Services, at katherine.fox@bc.edu or 2-3136. We are already booking and planning Spring 2017 classes and beyond, and look forward to working with you.