The American Slavery Collection, 1820–1922 from the American Antiquarian Society
This digital edition of the American Antiquarian Society’s extraordinary holdings of slavery and abolition materials delivers more than 3,600 works published over the course of more than 100 years. Materials include books, pamphlets, graphic materials, and ephemera on topics that include the Missouri Compromise and the founding of Liberia; the first National Anti-Slavery Society Convention in 1837 and the Compromise of 1850; the Emancipation Proclamation and the establishment of “Redeemer” state governments; the birth of “Jim Crow” and the expansion of segregation through the early 1920s. For more information, contact Lawrence Busenbark, Metadata Specialist / Bibliographer.

Women and Social Movements International
This resource of primary source material focusing on women’s international activism since the mid-nineteenth century includes proceedings of women’s international conferences, books, pamphlets, articles from newspapers and journals, as well as diary entries. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Anna Lord Strauss Papers, and the Inter-American Commission on Women’s Records are some of the materials you will find. For more information, contact Leslie Homzie, Sr. Research Librarian for Communication, Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies

Thesaurus Linguae Latinae
The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae is a comprehensive Latin to Latin dictionary based on all available Latin texts (including inscriptions and other non-literary material) for the period up to 600 AD. Its primary uses are etymology and exhaustive examples of usage. Continuously published and updated in Germany since 1894. For more information, contact Chris Strauber, Sr. Research Librarian for Theology and Philosophy.

Economist Digital Archive
The Gale Cengage Economist Historical Archive provides researchers searchable online access to The Economist back to 1843. This important resource covers international news with a focus on finance, politics and business. It also includes current science and technology insight. For more information contact Barbara Mento, Economics Librarian.

Chinese Newspapers Collection
Full-text access to 22 English-language Chinese historical newspapers published between 1832 and 1953. Topics include the end of imperial rule in China, the Taiping Rebellion, the Opium Wars with Great Britain, the Boxer Rebellion and 1911 Revolution, and the subsequent founding of the Republic of China. The full-image newspapers provide searchable access to articles, advertisements, editorials, cartoons, and classified ads. For more information, contact Kimberly Kowal, Interim Liaison Librarian for History.

Let Your Digital Scholarship Skills Bloom

Spring 2019 workshops on digital tools and methods for your research and pedagogy.

The BC Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Group will be hosting a series of workshops during the Spring 2019 semester that focus on digital resources for research and pedagogy. Our series this semester covers topics like historical GIS, data visualization and analysis, podcasting, and more. These workshops are aimed at a general audience and cover digital tools and methods that can be used in research and pedagogy. Our events are free and open to the public—click on an event title to register. We hope to see you there!

Working with Historical Maps
February 12, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Have you ever wanted to work with historical maps but didn’t know where to start? This workshop will highlight sources for finding historical maps and will include a hands-on georectifying exercise. No previous knowledge is required.

Annual Transcribe-a-thon on Douglass Day
February 14, 2019, 11–2:00 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Join us on Frederick Douglass Day to transcribe historical documents from the Colored Conventions Project, Boston Public Library’s Anti-Slavery Manuscript collection, or other abolitionist-related sources.

Endangered Data Week
February 25, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Mark your calendars for a special workshop during the 2019 Endangered Data Week!

Fair Use
February 26, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Fair Use is the right to use copyrighted works for limited purposes, regardless of whether you have permission to do so. There are no bright line rules for fair use; every use is context specific. This causes a lot of anxiety for scholars and we often don’t take advantage of fair use when we could. This session will discuss the origins of Fair Use, how it works today, and how to determine if your intended use is “Fair.” We will go over examples and participants will be expected to make cases for and against fair use in sample contexts.

Caselaw Access Project
March 12, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

This session will share and demo the Caselaw Access Project API and bulk data service. The Caselaw Access Project makes 360 years of U.S. case law freely available online. Here, we’ll introduce the Caselaw Access Project API and create a space for attendees to search and query the data set. The Caselaw Access Project API was launched by the Harvard Library Innovation Lab in Fall 2018.

Introduction to Spatial Visualization & Analysis
March 14, 2019, 11–1:00 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Are you interested in making an interactive map, but don’t know where to start? In this workshop you will be introduced to the basics of GIS and spatial thinking. We will look at and discuss different map types, use cases, and visualization tools. Through hands-on exercises you will deconstruct a map project to see how it was made and think about how visualization can help you answer research questions or be used pedagogically.

Podcasting with Audacity
March 21, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

This workshop will provide an overview for getting started with making podcasts. We will go over recording how-to’s using the free, open-source audio recording and editing tool Audacity, best practices when creating a podcast of your own, and how to share your recordings with your audience.

Introduction to Tableau
March 28, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

In this workshop, participants will get an introductory, hands-on learning experience of the data visualization package 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

Building a Site with WordPress
April 2, 2019, 1–2:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Approximately 30% of all websites are built with WordPress, and the popularity of the platform within academia for maintaining personal scholarly identity profiles and class webpages is widespread. Whether you want to use WordPress for purposes like these or would like to have a better sense of the origins and functionalities of many of the websites you use, knowing WordPress basics can facilitate an array of digital activities. In this workshop participants will learn the fundamentals of creating WordPress sites, explore organizational schema for digital content and design options, and examine templates for websites with distinct purposes.

Creating Digital Exhibits with Omeka
April 11, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use the free, open-source digital curation tool 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.

Digital Scholarship Open House
May 1, 2019, 2:30–4:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Come see what the Digital Scholarship Group has been up to!

The Reference Desk and the Digital Native

Staff at the O’Neill Library reference desk are experimenting with new ways to reach out to students unfamiliar with the concept of “reference.”

Since the establishment of the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Library in 1984, the Reference Desk has been a place where library patrons can come and ask any questions they have. But why come to a reference desk at all, given the ubiquity of Google and numerous online self-help guides–created by librarians–that might seem to make human interaction unnecessary? The experience of reference staff in the O’Neill Library indicates that there is a demand for the personal: the Reference Desk fielded over 4500 queries in fall 2018.

Students and researchers, especially those who are digital natives, often are unaware of the services the Reference Desk provides. They might be surprised that they can consult with a staff member at the Reference Desk about their research with no prior appointment. Reference staff make the patron their priority, approaching the patron’s immediate information need as potentially nuanced and complex. For, underlying even a seemingly simple question might be a deeper inquiry: a class assignment; an idea for a research project; an investigation into resources in a subject area; or a need for familiarization with the library. Through direct personal contact with the patron, staff can assist and guide as deeper inquiries are uncovered. Conversations can lead to locating authoritative resources and tools; learning how resources are organized; determining subject categories; refining search strategies; and connecting with subject area experts when specialized knowledge is needed.

The value that reference staff bring to the encounter with the patron is that through dialogue and partnership, with patience and care, they can lead patrons to discover pathways to resources they might not have known existed. Interactions with patrons encompass learning to use the library catalog and databases effectively; finding periodical literature in a given subject; ferreting out the details of an incomplete journal citation; working through course assignments that require library research; and generally understanding library resources better. Reference staff certainly are prepared to meet a specific information need, but they also strive to go further, enlarging the patron’s understanding by situating the particular piece of information in the landscape of library resources.

It can be a challenge reaching a generation of students with little experience of reference. Lately, staff have been exploring innovative ways of communicating the value of reference to the Boston College community. In late fall 2018 students encountered a “pop-up” citation clinic in the O’Neill Library lobby. Librarians were available for drop-in personal consultations with students needing guidance with citation styles. Students also learned that, for 68 hours a week  staff at the Reference Desk are available to help with citations and much more. In spring 2019, the pop-up clinic will be expanded to include drop-in consultations on a variety of topics that highlight areas of staff expertise that can benefit students and researchers.

In fall 2018, the O’Neill Reference Desk had well over 2,000 instructional interactions with library patrons, but staff have the capacity for considerably more. Over and above numbers, however, are the relationships and trust that reference staff foster, by being present and available. Though library staff have created many online course and research guides (currently 330, with about 230,000 page views in fall 2018), reference staff are asked time and time again how to use the resources they list. The reply–no matter the question–is Ask us!

Throughout the coming year, reference staff will be piloting a variety of approaches to better communicate the value of one-on-one learning in the library. You might see some interesting experiments, and perhaps some long-term changes. Staff at the O’Neill reference desk look forward to seeing you and your students in person.

“Genius of Genre” Exhibit Showcases Flann O’Brien Papers in Burns Library

A new Burns Library exhibit showcases mid-century Irish author Flann O’Brien, best known for his cult classic novel, The Third Policeman, together with original Flann-inspired paintings and videos by Irish artists David and Eddie O’Kane.

Cover of book The Third PolicemanFlann the novelist. Myles the columnist. Brother Barnabas the student. Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) wrote in many genres under many guises, in both English and Irish, confounding contemporaries with his incomparable genius and satirical wit.

On February 11, John J. Burns Library will open its spring exhibit on the Irish author best known for his cult classic novel, The Third Policeman. “Genius of Genre: The Pen Names and Personas of Flann O’Brien” will remain on display through June 8.

Using original manuscripts, letters, books, and artifacts from Burns Library’s unrivaled collection of O’Nolan’s papers and personal library, the exhibit will unmask the most enigmatic and elusive literary figure to emerge from 20th-century Ireland next to James Joyce.

The exhibit will also feature new and original works by Irish artists David and Eddie O’Kane, who have been creating and exhibiting Flann-inspired drawings, paintings, and animated and live-action videos at the biennial International Flann O’Brien Society conferences and other venues. An opening reception on February 12 will include curator-led viewings of the exhibit beginning at 4:30pm and a presentation by the O’Kanes at 5:15pm, followed by opportunities for conversation and more exhibit viewing. All are welcome.

Flann O'Brien exhibit poster. Design by Kate Edrington, photo by David O'Kane.
Flann O’Brien exhibit poster. Design by Kate Edrington, photo by David O’Kane.

The exhibit will be complemented by podcast and iBook projects created by students from professor Joseph Nugent’s Fall 2018 course, “From Page to Pod: Making Literature Public.” The idea for the course and exhibit developed from a daylong symposium on Flann O’Brien and podcasting that Nugent organized and held in Burns Library in October 2017. Nugent and Burns Librarian Christian Dupont are planning additional collaborative projects and programs based on Flann and his works, including an installation and reception at the BC Ireland headquarters in Dublin in conjunction with the 2019 International Flann O’Brien Society, which will be hosted by University College Dublin in July.

Realia from Flann O'Brien Papers, photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert
Realia from Flann O’Brien Papers, photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert

The Flann O’Brien Papers in Burns Library were purchased in 1997 from his youngest brother, Micheál Ó Nualláin, a cartoonist and painter who produced the large oil portrait of Flann at his writing desk that hangs in the Burns Library Irish Room. The archival collection was reprocessed in early 2018 to improve organization and access, and to integrate more recently acquired materials, such as correspondence between O’Nolan’s widow and publishers following his death. Altogether, the collection comprises 30 boxes of material, plus a number of artifacts, several of which will be displayed in the exhibit, including a hat, briefcase, wallet, passport, and his trusty Underwood 3-14 typewriter.

Teaching & Assessment in BC Libraries

The recent ACRL Project Outcome assessment pilot taught us a lot, and is in the mix of options for how the libraries continue to assess teaching and learning.

When we opted into the ACRL “Project Outcome” assessment pilot in Fall 2018, we weren’t sure what to expect either from the survey or from the library teaching staff’s participation. Both were a surprise. The survey itself (both print and online versions) was easy for staff to administer, students filled it out with aplomb, adding many candid comments, and ACRL both provided a summary article and a data dashboard showing results across the country, and sent us a spreadsheet of the data we’d collected from 871 surveys collected from some of the 218 library instruction sessions taught last Fall.

Some of the more common open-ended responses included “do more presentations like this,” “doing a great job” and “make people more aware of services.” The most encouraging response was the 4.6 average (4 is agree, 5 is strongly agree) for “I intend to apply what I just learned.”

That response rate–and the wealth of data provided by just one semester of surveys–prompted a lot of discussion about what to do going forward, and how and whether we could integrate components of Project Outcome into the assessment initiatives we’d already gotten underway.

It isn’t quite the gimme it first appears, because our participation in Project Outcome was just the most recent episode in a longer story about teaching assessment in BC Libraries. In 2013 Margaret Cohen, Head Librarian, Educational Initiatives and Research Services, organized a group of instructional librarians to create teaching goals for the library’s First-Year Writing Seminar (FWS) to establish a set of basic research skills and knowledge other librarians could build on as students progressed in their academic careers, and a short online self-report assessment.

Those goals were revised a few years later to accord with the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy, a more concept-based major overhaul of its earlier skill-based Information Literacy Guidelines. The current FWS goals are a mix of the practical (know how to find a book on the shelf using the call number), and the conceptual (understand that successful searches are iterative). In 2016 librarians developed a student assessment survey for FWS based on those learning outcomes, and have been using that survey consistently since then. Now several years of that assessment data helps inform library instruction across all disciplines and programs, so changing our assessment questions is not something to undertake lightly.

Librarians work with outcomes-based instructional design and assessment, often called “backwards design.” Backwards design consists, in essence, of deciding first on the learning outcomes, skills or ideas you would like students to know, designing evidence and/or creating an assessment, then building the lesson, activities or curriculum . Librarians have been adopting these methods to the extent that they can in single or multiple class sessions.

All of this boils down to questions to consider: do we adopt a somewhat customizable standardized survey developed by the ACRL that provides comparison data with other colleges, or do we continue to use and develop a mix of surveys responsive to internal curricular needs? We’re engaged in ongoing lively discussions about how best to assess how we help students succeed at research. We look forward to more discussions with you. And librarians are, of course, always eager to visit classes for instruction sessions.

Artificial Intelligence and the Librarian

Libraries tacitly rely on many quasi-AI technologies. Is AI ready for more overt uses?

Let me begin with a confession. I am not an expert in artificial intelligence, and don’t play one on the internet. But I do realize that AI has become pervasive in our world, from search engine algorithms to Alexa to the internet of things, where our refrigerator “knows” when the water filter needs to be replaced, and one suddenly shows up via FedEx.

As for the Library, we tacitly rely on all sorts of technologies that are quasi-AI in our search engines, databases and basic operations. We don’t actually see the AI, as it has become inherent in all we do. Such AI is what some in the field call “artificial general intelligence,” or AGI. AGI processes information and data at a rate that far exceeds human capacity, and ostensibly does what it is programmed to do. It follows rules and serves as a highly sophisticated answer machine and problem solver. When we consider the complexities of our world, from air traffic control to geopolitical scenario planning, AGI has become both normative and beneficial.

If AGI can answer questions, why not use it in libraries? Can AGI, via an Alexa or Siri, replace librarians? Well, I guess for the casual factual question, such as, for example, “what is the major religion in Ethiopia?” an AGI interface can very quickly provide an answer. But the AGI will not probe further, or anticipate anything more meaningful in the question itself. A trained librarian however, will understand that the simplest inquiries almost always have a sub-context that requires a little more probing, and the real question is often not the question posed. Maybe the student requires a better understanding of how religion and government work together to address issues of poverty in Ethiopia? Or perhaps the context lies in a regional assessment of educational best practices for pre-elementary children and what role local religious communities play. The librarian, through a  time-honored process called the “reference interview,” instills both trust and confidence in the student that they can add value to what’s really required and serve as a partner in helping to better frame the question as well as finding and using the best content. For now, you are not getting that from Alexa or Siri.

The Boston College Libraries likes to experiment and try new things. Some of us have kicked around the idea of trying Alexa at the Reference Desk as a supplement to the added-value services of the librarians. It may happen, not sure yet. However it plays out though, one thing is clear: while Alexa might find the quickest route home after work–a highly valuable skill in Boston–it won’t be of much help in the research process and overall discernment exercises of our students. For researching complex problems and enduring questions, the first step is the easiest: Ask a librarian.

Exhibit of Student Artworks Inspired by Burns Library Collections

After visiting Burns Library to explore symbolism and communicating complex ideas through visual art, students in Professor Jane Cassidy’s Introduction to Digital Art designed their own tarot cards, which are on exhibit in the O’Neill Library Reading Room.

Boston College Libraries supports faculty teaching and student learning in a variety of ways that can go far beyond a paper assignment. In Fall 2018, Professor Jane Cassidy’s Introduction to Digital Art class was charged with designing two tarot cards: one a recognizable self portrait, and the other a design of the student’s choosing. Librarians worked with Professor Cassidy to give students the skills they needed to tackle this creative challenge.

One of two cases displaying the students' tarot cards
One of two cases displaying the students’ tarot cards

Before this assignment, the class visited John J. Burns Library for an introduction to symbolism and a library-led exercise designed to help students recognize symbols and understand how they work; communicate complex ideas through visual art; draw on historical sources to generate and refine interpretations; and synthesize a variety of sources to construct and support artistic arguments.

Tarot cards created by Jane Cassidy's Digital Art class
Tarot cards created by Jane Cassidy’s Digital Art class

For this class session, students searched illustrated materials from Burns Library collections and identified symbols. Librarians then helped the students use reference resources—and the papers of G. William Patten, a Boston-area monument designer and artist with copious notes on symbolism—to learn more about symbols and meanings that they might include in their artworks.

Students incorporated symbols from their explorations in Burns Library in their work
Students incorporated symbols from their explorations in Burns Library in their work

After leaving Burns Library, the students used their new understanding of symbolism to create their own tarot cards. These cards are currently on display in the O’Neill Reading Room, in the exhibit “Tarot Cards: Art + Identity + Symbolism.”

Work in this exhibit was created by:

  • Basti Belmonte (2022)
  • Isabel Bulman (2022)
  • Cate Casassa (2020)
  • Mary Kate DiNorcia (2019)
  • Laura Donovan (2019)
  • Dantay Gabbidon (2022)
  • Delaney Langdon (2022)
  • Jinee Lee (2019)
  • Lisa Li (2021)
  • Andres Rivera (2020)
  • Ngan Tran (2022)
One of the tarot cards on display in the O'Neill Reading Room
One of the tarot cards on display in the O’Neill Reading Room

The Burns Library session was so successful that Prof. Cassidy’s Introduction to Digital Art class will return in the Spring 2019 Semester (be on the lookout for new tarot cards later in the semester), and Prof. Cassidy’s Digital Art: Print Based Media class will also have 2 sessions at Burns Library.

Burns Library is happy to encourage wider use of Burns Library’s unique materials for teaching and research, and will work creatively with faculty and others to develop customized classes, activities, and assignments around syllabi topics and learning objectives. Instructors interested in using special collections materials to enhance the learning outcomes of their courses and/or research assignments should contact Burns Library staff.

Encoding the Thomas D. Craven Diary

Library and archives staff are creating an encoded transcription of the Thomas D. Craven Diary.

Thomas D. Craven, 1917One hundred years after it was penned, a single diary from the Thomas D. Craven papers was digitized by Boston College Libraries. This diary was written by Thomas D. Craven during the 1917 spring semester of his senior year at Boston College when he began serving in the Army Air Corps Medical Corps during World War I. In the spring of 2018, several library and archives staff from Thomas P. O’Neill (Nancy Adams, Meg Critch, Sarah DeLorme, Anna Kijas) and John J. Burns Library (Kathleen Monahan, Annalisa Moretti) began a collaborative transcription and encoding project of the 1917 diary as a way to to make this content more widely accessible and visible, as well as to expand our expertise and understanding of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) through project-based learning.

There is a long history of using TEI in archives and libraries, especially with special collections materials. For example, TEI Text Encoding in Libraries at Indiana University has maintained guidelines for best encoding practices in libraries since the 1990s. They also have several online collections that use the TEI, including The Chymistry of Isaac Newton and the Algernon Charles Swinburne project. A project focused on encoding digitized manuscripts and also serving them up as International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) compatible files is the Shelley-Godwin Archive project, which makes visible and accessible the digitized manuscripts, side-by-side with encoded transcriptions, and raw XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Another example is the Haverford Library and Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library, who teamed up to encode digitized materials from their Quaker & Special Collections, in order to provide greater access and distribution of content that is often requested by researchers and scholars.

An example of an encoded transcript

The Thomas D. Craven diary encoding project is currently under development, but you can view a sample of encoded text from this diary (created previously) and other special collections materials found in our TEI Learning Docs project hosted in the TEI Archiving, Publishing, and Access Service (TAPAS). It is part of our ongoing effort to learn the TEI, explore research and pedagogical applications of the TEI to primary source documents, and make the process and contents visible and accessible to a wider community of students, scholars, and archives/library professionals. A more detailed publicly visible write-up about our process and the development of this project can be viewed on the Digital Scholarship Blog.