Hack Your First Professional Conference

03/02/2014 § 9 Comments

I have never met a conference I did not like. In the last four years, I have attended twelve academic conferences ranging in size from under 150 to over 5,000 participants. I have presented papers, sat on panels, moderated debate, lead workshops, and worked logistics.

In my experience, all conferences share some common challenges: the pace is frenetic, restroom lines are long, snacks are mediocre, and at least two sessions you really want to attend will be happening at the same time. The rooms are almost always too cold or too hot. You may not know anyone.

Obstacles aside, every conference experience has been invaluable to me. They have so much to offer an emerging professional: a chance to make new friends and meet professional contacts, exposure to new ideas and best practices in your field, and the possibility of new opportunities. At a conference, you can challenge your expectations and even meet your professional heroes.

Last August, I participated in the Society of American Archivists 2013 Annual Meeting, my first professional conference as a graduate student. Although I came equipped with a diverse kit of conference tools, the SAA Annual Meeting challenged me to adapt in new ways. Professional conferences are especially intense in terms of pace. There is so much to do and see that it is to feel overextended. If you are an introvert like me, it can feel overwhelming to interact with so many people, especially when you suddenly realize you’re talking with someone “famous” in the field.

But don’t feel intimidated! Here are some steps you can take to help make your first professional conference a success.

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Discussion Starter: Codes of Conduct

03/02/2014 § 1 Comment

I used to love the first day of school! One of the things I remember about those “first days” was going over the class rules. As my classmates and I got older, and then headed off the college, the wording of the rules changed, but the message stayed pretty much the same: respect others, come to class, do the work (and make sure it’s your own work!).

Now we have guidelines on how to interact at ALA conferences and meetings. A few weeks before last month’s ALA Midwinter Meeting ‘14 in Philadelphia, the American Library Association presented a Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences. This Statement, from the ALA website, is below:


The American Library Association holds professional conferences and meetings to enable its members to receive continuing education, build professional networks, and discover new products and services for professional use. To provide all participants – members and other attendees, speakers, exhibitors, staff and volunteers – the opportunity to benefit from the event, the American Library Association is committed to providing a harassment-free environment for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, physical appearance, ethnicity, religion or other group identity.

As an association, ALA is strongly committed to diversity, equity and the free expression of ideas. These values have  been repeatedly delineated in ALA policy (for instance: Policy A.1.4 – Core Organizational Values; Policy B.1.1 – Core Values of Librarianship; Policy B.1.2 – Code of Professional Ethics). Taken cumulatively, the values and beliefs delineated within ALA policy describe conduct based on a firm belief in the value of civil discourse and the free exploration of competing ideas and concepts – with a fundamental respect for the rights, dignity and value of all persons.

Within the context of ALA policy and the professional practices of librarianship, critical examination of beliefs and viewpoints does not, by itself, constitute hostile conduct or harassment.  Similarly, use of sexual imagery or language in the context of a professional discussion might not constitute hostile conduct or harassment.

ALA seeks to provide a conference environment in which diverse participants may learn, network and enjoy the company of colleagues in an environment of mutual human respect. We recognize a shared
responsibility to create and hold that environment for the benefit of all.
 Some behaviors are, therefore, specifically prohibited:

  • Harassment or intimidation based on race, religion, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, appearance,  or other group status.
  • Sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact.
  • Yelling at or threatening speakers (verbally or physically).

Speakers are asked to frame discussions as openly and inclusively as possible and to be aware of how language or images may be perceived by others. Participants may – and do – exercise their option to leave a session or a conversation. Exhibitors must follow all ALA Exhibits rules and regulations and ALA policies.

All participants are expected to observe these rules and behaviors in all conference venues, including online venues, and conference social events. Participants asked to stop a hostile or harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Conference participants seek to learn, network and have fun. Please do so responsibly and with respect for the right of others to do likewise.

Please contact Conference Services staff in the ALA Office at conference if you believe you have been harassed or that a harassment problem exists. All such reports will be directed immediately to the Director of Conference Services, who will determine and carry out the appropriate course of action, and who may consult with and engage other ALA staff, leaders and legal counsel as appropriate. Event security and/or local law enforcement may be involved, as appropriate based on the specific circumstances. A follow-up report will be made to individuals who report being harassed.


My first introduction to the Statement of Appropriate Conduct was through Andromeda Yelton’s post, “Why ALA Needs a Code of Conduct,” on Library Journal’s website. My first thought when I read the title was, “Hmmm, we still need rules?” I read on, though, and was surprised, sad, and embarrassed to learn that although I hadn’t been a victim, or knew of anyone who had been the recipient of unsavory behavior at ALA conferences, it had happened to others.

Not everyone has embraced the Code of Conduct with open arms, though. Dissenters have brought up issues like freedom of speech, intellectual freedom, and Big Brother. To learn more about the discussion, check out Lisa Rabey’s “roundup of responses to ALA’s code of conduct.” A sampling of blog posts on her list is below. To catch the active discussion on Twitter, search “ALA Code of Conduct,” or the hashtag #ALACoC.

ALA’s Code of Conduct, the Supreme Court, and Those Guys from Duck Dynasty

Conduct Unbecoming

Conduct Unbecoming (a Library Conference)

So, what do you think? Is the ALA Code of Conduct a necessary thing, or is it unneeded or flawed?

Creating and Curating Your Digital Professional Learning Network

29/01/2014 § 7 Comments

Hello, hackers! Do you have a digital PLN?

If not, this post will explain the concept and share some tips for success. I discovered the concept of the digital PLN (a web-based personal or professional learning network) through an information literacy instruction class I took in Fall 2013. One of the major class projects was to select and curate digital resources to facilitate our lifelong learning as librarians, according to our career goals.

What is a PLN?

PLN infographic

A traditional PLN consists of actual people with whom you have collaborated or shared ideas. A digital PLN is more open-ended. Digital PLNs are collections of web-based human, technological, and other resources selected judiciously, classified, and accessed using curation tools of your choice. Whereas e-portfolios showcase your own aptitudes, e-PLNs curate resources from other people that have helped you—or will help you—to enrich your LIS skills. You can organize resources into categories, create RSS feeds to monitor changing content, and demonstrate your professional engagement by sharing your PLN publically or collaborating with other librarians to build one. Teacher-librarians are likely to have PLNs because schools encourage them to do so, but anyone can create one.

Why should I have a PLN?

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ALA Midwinter Meetup!

24/01/2014 § 1 Comment

Hello hackers!

Coming to ALA? Join a few of the HLS writers for lunch on Sunday! Here are the details:

What: The HLS Midwinter Meetup!

When: Sunday, 26 January 2014, at 11:30am (until about 1pm).

Where: Meet at the Networking Uncommons–we have ideas for lunch venues, and will head out around 11:40am.

Looking forward to seeing you there!







What You Should Know About HASTAC

24/01/2014 § 1 Comment

By Brianna Marshall and Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet

HASTAC, or the Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, was founded in 2002 to serve as a community of “humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning for the 21st century.” It’s an incredible online portal that manages to encompass all the odds and ends related to digital scholarship and alt-ac careers. As two current HLS writers who have been involved with HASTAC, today we wanted to share our experiences with the community and tips for getting involved!


I was lucky enough to be selected as a HASTAC Scholar during the 2012-2013 school year. The HASTAC Scholars program focuses on bringing together undergraduate and graduate students working with digital scholarship projects across all disciplines. Scholars must be sponsored by their home institution, which will provide a small honorarium to the Scholar.

I first heard about the program through my boss, who had received an email through a digital humanities group on campus. He forwarded it to me and I applied to a group on campus who sponsored Scholars. Soon I found I wasn’t accepted, but the professor who had agreed to recommend me offered to see if my LIS program would sponsor me. They agreed, and in this roundabout way I became a Scholar.

As a Scholar you are encouraged to be active on the HASTAC website: to contribute content and give feedback to others. I found that I didn’t do this as much as I could have, though there is a lot to benefit from on the site:

The main way I ended up participating as a Scholar was through the 2013 conference held in Toronto, Ontario. When the conference was initially advertised, I decided to brainstorm possible proposals. I ended up submitting a panel proposal with two other LIS types as well as a panel focusing on digital publishing with a group of non-LIS Scholars.

As it turned out, both proposals were accepted and I went on to present at HASTAC 2013. You can read a bit more about my experience here. It was unlike any conference I’ve been to before, bringing together people of all disciplines, interests, and levels of experience. This conference more than any other helped me recognize how important it is to break free from the library silo to find innovative ideas and perspectives. The 2014 conference is in Peru, with the 2015 conference slated to return to the US (to my knowledge).

I hope you’ll consider exploring HASTAC. I came to library school preparing to be a librarian and aiming to work in an academic library, but over half the jobs I have applied for don’t have librarian in the title; instead it’s coordinator or curator or specialist, with a lot of the requirements being skills I would never would have even heard mentioned in a classroom. HASTAC is valuable because of the multitude of perspectives it draws together and for the welcoming, open arms toward all of us who aren’t quite sure where we fit. Library students can use it to grow a much-needed non-traditional skill set befitting the needs of modern librarianship – and any of the other alt ac careers we may find ourselves in.


To save the humanities, we need to get out and bust some moves pal.

— Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities) December 10, 2013

Like many other parody Twitter accounts and bots, the Save the Humanities bot occasionally drops some serious truth bombs.

As our social horizons expand and our economic horizons contract, reinvigorating the academy, traditional scholarly disciplines — and indeed the library and information professions — is going to require busting a big move. Plenty of ink has already been spilled arguing that we (insert academics/ librarians/ humanists/ alt-acs here) are important for society. What we need now are strong, persuasive examples of exactly how we are deploying digital tools to change scholarship, and the world around us, for the better.

Luckily, there are communities of support for incubating and showcasing this kind of work — and HASTAC is a premier example. Like Brianna, I’ve found that the blogs and communities are an extremely important aspect of HASTAC for me, and these are things you can benefit from even if you aren’t a Scholar! The HASTAC website functions almost as a “world-brain”, with the collective knowledge of scores of bright people who are thinking and working around the scholarly use of digital tools. While the site is not easily searchable and the floods of content can be overwhelming, I subscribe to several groups and receive blog posts and comments in digest form. This helps me keep my finger on the pulse of emerging trends, vocabulary, and projects without feeling the need to constantly comb through the whole site. I probably miss a lot of great stuff that way, but this approach keeps it manageable. I haven’t been a very active commenter, but I am writing a book review for the Digital History group and have been interacting with fellow HASTAC scholars quite a bit on Twitter (follow the current HASTAC Scholar Twitter list here!)

One important aspect of the HASTAC community that’s a special perk of being a Scholar is the formation of interdisciplinary Working Groups, or “research nodes”. For example, I am a member of the Archives and Art History working groups; other working groups run the gamut from Critical Code Studies to Post-Colonialism to 19th-c English Literature. Each working group completes a collaborative digital project, which can include an online exhibition, a digital edition, an app, a robot, or anything else the group members can devise! The 2013-2014 Working Groups are just getting started, so I don’t have much to report yet, but I am really looking forward to this opportunity to work with other scholars across the country and develop a different type of project than I might otherwise create for an LIS course or internship.

In his introduction to the outstanding collection Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), Thomas Bartscherer writes that “[t]o understand how digital technology is transforming thought and practice in the humanities and the arts, it is necessary to cultivate cross-cultural communication, to establish points of reference, and to develop a shared vocabulary. Given the globalized and decentralized nature of digital culture, this cannot be mandated from the top down, as it were, but must be cobbled together from the bottom up and on the fly.” At HASTAC, this kind of cross-communication is the name of the game. Sooner or later, what we now call “Digital Scholarship” will simply be the way we do scholarship, and the conversations that will get us there are happening right now among academics, programmers, poets, and students — with or without us. I firmly believe that library and archives professionals have an important role in shaping this critically engaged future, and I would love to see more LISers get involved. If you want to bust a move and save the humanities, pal, consider joining HASTAC, start participating in the site now, and apply to be a Scholar around August-September of 2014!

Are you involved with HASTAC or another DH-related group? What has your experience been?

DH and Open Access

23/01/2014 § Leave a comment


Image courtesy of the J. Murrey Atkins Library at UNC Charlotte

Open access refers to free and unrestricted online access to publishing, especially scholarly research. Examples range from articles, theses, and dissertations to conference presentations. In some cases, open access work is free of copyright or licensing restrictions, meaning researchers can copy, use, and distribute the work as long as the author is properly credited. Sometimes open access is delayed and journals will provide access to articles after an established embargo period, usually six months to a year. Open access intersects with digital humanities where research in the humanities is concerned.

Open access began as a response and solution to expensive journals and databases. The ever-increasing costs of these subscriptions limit the ability of many universities and libraries to provide access to information and knowledge. Even scholars at institutions that do have large budgets may experience difficulty accessing information. Items may only be available via interlibrary loan from select institutions, which can take time to receive, especially if they are already being used by other researchers. Though it does offer a solution to the information gap, open access can be a controversial subject. Some scholars are hesitant about open access, as they fear having work copied or stolen. Others worry that open access limits the effects of peer review or results in scholars having less control over their work. Those in favor of open access have rebuttals to these concerns. Since open access scholarship is available to anyone, anywhere, for no cost, scholars have the opportunity to have their research read by a much wider and more diverse audience, broadening the scope of academic conversation and debate. The more a work is accessed, the greater the potential for recognizing (and thus, limiting) plagiarism, especially since more readers equals more citations.

Image courtesy of the Australian Open Access Support Group

I’ve had the good fortune to work directly with open access on a project archiving the MFA in Studio Art theses and MAEd in Art Education applied projects at the university where I’m employed, which is one example of the benefit of open access to digital humanities. Our goal is to make the final work of the graduate students publically accessible via the institutional repository (IR). Previously, only print copies of the theses and applied projects were kept in the department. The department will still keep print copies, but the electronic versions allow for instant access on campus and beyond. The benefits of including graduate student work in the IR are huge for students, faculty, and the institution. Graduate student work doesn’t often have the chance to be widely read or referenced beyond committees and peers, but the IR makes student work accessible to a worldwide audience. Archiving scholarly research in the institutional repository increases the visibility of the university’s faculty and and student work. The IR is indexed by Google so it’s easily accessible to researchers outside the institution. Each work in the IR gets a permanent URL that students can put on their website or CV. This helps immensely on the academic job market. A benefit especially useful for art and humanities students is the ability to use different media, such as images and video, which is ideal considering the merging of art, humanities, and technology. Prints are not always able to showcase the vivid color, texture, and depth of images, plus they are not easily available to the public. Digital images can be manipulated at 360 degrees to allow viewers to see entire installations, archaeological sites, and more. The possibilities are endless.

The IR is run by digital archivists who are kept up to date on the latest archival standards for the digital preservation of documents. The electronic theses and dissertations have a much better chance of survival than their print counterparts. The IR itself is searchable by issue dates, authors, titles, subjects, or keyword. Students are expected to add their work to the IR, but are given the chance to embargo the work for six months before it’s available online. The institution does not make any claims over the work; it simply makes the work easily accessible. When the project to archive and make available online art graduate student work was first proposed, we had a favorable response from faculty, but I’ve heard getting approval to make theses and dissertations publicly available can be a real challenge. This is an issue those hoping to work in academic libraries or digital archives will have to face.


ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit
Open Access by Peter Suber
What is Open Access – SHERPA/RoMEO
What is Open Access?
Open Access Overview
Right to Research
Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook (OASIS)
Open Access Week

What are your thoughts on open access and its relation to digital humanities?


22/01/2014 § 5 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Dana Bublitz.

So, you’re interested in digital humanities as a library science student, but your LIS program (and maybe your whole university) doesn’t even have the slightest idea what you mean when you talk about “DH”–or maybe they just give you a funny look, but either way it becomes pretty obvious that there might not be much in the way of coursework focus on digital humanities methods and tools. What do you do then? How do you make a program without offerings in your area of focus work for your interests and gain the necessary experience along the way? It sounds like a daunting task, but a DIY DH+LIS path is a lot less terrifying than it might seem if you can put in the effort for some creative workarounds and take the initiative to do some investigating outside of normal coursework.

I came to digital humanities through my interests in technology and the humanities, as many people working in the field will share. As a teenager, I had built computers with my dad as a hobby and eventually began building my own websites. But in college I decided on a liberal arts degree and eventually went on to pursue a master’s degree in medieval studies. After finishing my first master’s, I decided that an MLIS was the next step. I relocated to Seattle and applied to the University of Washington’s iSchool, though I wasn’t totally sure what I would need to continue my interests in digital humanities work. When I began classes, it became clear to me that digital humanities was not quite yet “a thing” at the university. There were a few digital projects in the works, and a small–but passionate–grassroots community of faculty and graduates students, but there were few course offerings in digital scholarship or even digital libraries with my LIS program.

At first, it was a bit of a shock: here is this field I really want to work in, but my program offers little-to-no direct coursework! How am I supposed to make this work for me? However, I’ve come to realize that not having a larger, more active DH community has been a positive thing: I had to become very proactive in my search for relevant coursework and hands-on experience, and I’ve had to network across campus on my own initiative, meeting a lot of great people that I probably otherwise would not have met. (My colleague, Paige Morgan, gave a great talk on “DH microclimates” earlier this fall, and I highly recommend giving it a quick read!)

Not every LIS program has course offerings in digital scholarship–or specifically digital humanities. But the skills and knowledge to do work in both librarianship and digital scholarship are so similar–especially as librarians begin to gain more skills in working with technology–that I hope more LIS students begin to think of this as a field for which they are skilled. But as a LIS student in a program without a focus on digital topics, you need to be pretty proactive in finding coursework and opportunities that will give you the experience necessary to work with digital humanities projects.

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