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?

A FASTR Open Access

22/02/2013 § 6 Comments

Last week Nicole discussed getting political, and the very next day an opportunity came. On February 14, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House and Senate. As a library school student who is passionate about open access and interested in scholarly communications, this bill is exciting!

This bi-partisan bill has the potential to have a great impact for access. No matter what type of librarianship you pursue, this bill could significantly help your future patrons. Maybe it will be an adult patron wanting to read a study, a high schooler doing his first research paper, or a university student working on her honors thesis—all needing articles from a journal that your library cannot afford to subscribe to. Sometimes when I think of open access I hear Oprah’s voice shouting, “You get articles! And you get articles! Everybody gets articles!” All right, maybe that is a bit weird… but for librarians, information becoming more accessible is kind of like a dream come true.

Original image CC BY-SA Mack Male

Original image CC BY-SA Mack Male

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Scholarly Journals in Library and Information Science

17/09/2012 § 12 Comments

Photo from Creative Commons

Being more than a month into my second year at Pratt SILS, I’m trying not to drown in the load of reading that comes with the classes. A majority of my readings are from scholarly journals, and I’d like to give a run down of some of the journals that are prevalent in my library school syllabi, but most importantly make note of the journals that are Open Access and FREE for you to browse and access.  If you are a current student in library school, I urge you to take advantage of the databases of your school library. Aside from various blogs that exist on the web, this is where you can find the latest news  in the profession that’s sure to keep you aware and prepared for future job interviews. They are:

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Data Sharing: Panacea or Can of Worms?

24/02/2012 § 16 Comments

Author’s note: My interests within the LIS field are data curation and e-science librarianship. This is a hot topic that is growing every day, and skilled e-science librarians are needed to fill the gap. If you’re interested in learning more about data curation librarianship as a future career, leave a comment here, and I’ll follow up with more information.

Back in the Fall, Micah wrote a post about Open Access Week. In it he discussed open journals, open data, and the ALA Code of Ethics. Open data is what today’s post is about. An important ongoing question in the world of data curation today is how to get scientists to share their data by placing it in a data repository. There are many scientists who are unaware of the fact that their data has value to anyone but them and their research team. On the other hand, there are scientists who are very possessive of their data and don’t want to release it for fear that they will lose control of it and not be credited for its creation. There are also those who want to suck every drop of publishing potential out of a data set before releasing it to anyone else.

Last November, there were two requests for information (here and here) put out by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. One asked if peer-reviewed journal articles resulting from federally funded research should be accessible to the public. The other asked if data from federally funded research should be accessible to the public. OSTP has released the comments from that RFI here. I have not read all the responses, but the ones I have read seem to indicate that the support of open-access is high among those not affiliated with a publisher and cautious, at best, from those affiliated with a publisher. The questions, concerns, and issues I see raised generally deal with how journals can remain profitable for the value they add and how researchers can receive due credit for their efforts.

But let’s set aside the questions of whether scientists and researchers should be required to share their data and articles or even if it’s a good idea that they do it.  I think an even larger issue here is whether or not our current crop of scientists and researchers has the data management skills necessary to make the research data usable to anyone but themselves and their immediate research group. Data management practices of researchers are not exactly stellar. Infrequent or nonexistent backups, inadequate metadata on variables and research background, and loose standards all contribute to a set of data that is basically useless to anyone not involved with the project from the beginning.

Do you think that the data generators know how to manage their data properly? What can be done to improve the situation? How can librarians help?

Tool Hack: Using Viewshare to Visualize Digital Collections

22/11/2011 § 3 Comments

Gloria Gonzalez is currently mixing her interests in informatics with an archives specialization at the UCLA Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She works for the Center for Primary Research and Training at the Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections and enjoys researching philosophy of information, information ethics, and issues in digital preservation. Gloria’s favorite online pastimes are playing Tetris Arena and tweeting at @InformaticMonad.

I have what I call “recollectionitis.” It’s an infection that I contracted last summer while working as an intern for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) at the Library of Congress. Recollectionitis gives people the overwhelming desire to create online interactive views for all kinds of information—anything from the collection you digitized last semester and that list of every craft brew you’ve ever tasted.

What’s great about recollectionitis is how easy it is to cure with a dose of Viewshare.

Viewshare is an online platform provided by the Library of Congress that’s used for generating interfaces like timelines, maps, and charts. Simply put, Viewshare works in three steps: import, build, and share. Upon first glance, Viewshare may seem intimidating; but trust me—it’s super easy to use. Anyone can request a free Viewshare account and get started using the provided tutorials.

If you’re a novice like me, upload your data in excel spreadsheets. However if you’re more experienced, XML MODS records or even Dublin Core data via OAI-PMH can be imported. After uploading, the data can be augmented for categories like date and location for timeline and map views. Then you choose from several view formats. Next, the view can be customized with different navigation facets, including tag clouds, lists, free text, and a search box. The final step is sharing your interface, which Viewshare makes very simple. You can make your view public and share the link, or embed the view into any website.

For LIS students, learning how to use Viewshare provides more than just another thing to list under the “skills” section of your resume. The underlying aims of Viewshare are rooted in access to digital collections and information, a core issue faced by our profession. By providing the technology needed to aggregate and share collections with the capacity for collaboration, Viewshare takes a huge step towards the online environment that libraries, archives, and museums need to increase access to their digital assets. While becoming familiar with the platform, students can gain practical experience with concepts we learn about in class.

The concept of openness is reoccurring in library school, e.g., open educational resources, open access, open data and open source. Viewshare is an instance of Recollection, an open-source software that NDIIPP created in partner with Zepheira (hence, recollectionitis). Recollection works through combining linked data technology (RDF) with several different open-source components (like Simile Exibit and Akara). Which means anyone can download the Recollection code and create a new instance of the software to fit their personal needs. When it comes to the benefits of openness, a central theme is that it allows for increased creativity and productivity; the openness of Viewshare allows for both.

I’m sure most of you have noticed that collaboration is another key concept in library school. Working together allows us to create dialog that supplies helpful feedback and assistance. Viewshare provides a unique collaborative space online. Each Viewshare user has a profile that lists their public views and datasets. This means you can make your own views using other people’s public data and vice versa. You can also customize your profile with personal details and make “connections” with other users. I’ve found this to be a neat aspect of Viewshare because you can see who else is using the tool, and how they are putting it to use (here’s an example of what I’ve done).

If you’re interested in learning more about Viewshare you can visit Viewshare.org or read about it on The Signal, the Library of Congress’ digital preservation blog.

Viewshare was created for digital collections. However, it can be used for a lot more than that. Once you try it out you’ll discover the many possible applications, but I must give you fair warning… you might catch a case of recollectionitis.

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