Online Continuing Education Class Sequence in XML and RDF

October 22, 2013

If I had a) time and b) money, I would certainly be considering taking the classes for the Certificate in XML and RDF-Based Systems at Library Juice Academy.  It starts next February, and comprises 6 4-week sessions at $175 a pop. It’s taught by Robert Chavez, who has a PhD in Classical Studies and worked at Perseus for 8 years. Course descriptions for each session are available at the link, and they seem pretty hands-on – like you might actually build stuff, not just talk about it. Library Juice does continuing education classes, all online and asynchronous, for library professionals.

Note I have no personal experience with Library Juice and don’t know Robert Chavez, but boy those classes look just right for someone who’s interested in LAWDI and Linked Open Data and is not a great self-starter in terms of teaching oneself technical stuff (i.e., me). If only I had a) time and b) professional development money.


Information Fluency Workshop: Center for Hellenic Studies

August 30, 2013

(I wanted to title this post “What I did on my summer vacation,” but I figured that would not be very helpful for the search engines out there.)

In July I had the privilege of spending 10 days teaching a workshop on information fluency in classical studies at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington DC.  It was an incredible luxury to explore a topic in such depth, when in the past I have had at most an hour and a half to reach a group of students! I am very grateful to Kenny Morrell, who invited me to teach this class; Lanah Koelle, our program coordinator/librarian who contributed her expertise at every stage; Allie Marby, CHS’s summer interns, and librarians Temple Wright and Erika Bainbridge, who attended sessions and supported us at CHS, especially in the library; and most especially the workshop students, who gracefully accepted their role as guinea pigs and taught me a great deal.  The students were a mixture on American undergraduates and Greek professionals in education and information fields; each brought an inquisitive spirit and their collective hard work and openness to sharing and new ideas was a major factor in the success of the workshop. Thank you!

As a group we assembled some resources that others who are interested in this topic may find useful.  The first is a Zotero group library with folders that list the session topics. Each folder’s contents include citations for assigned readings for the session (usually fairly short, web-based readings) and citations for information resources we discussed during the session.

The students were asked to complete two assignments.  The first, the development of an annotated bibliography, is available as a Google document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cXaPqTDdOUIzI6E26SZiOFjb7a7BMzczWOfh8qXVSJc/. The second, a WordPress Research Guide, is also described in a Google document (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1O3Rm8yXGlhIRPJh3PrDiMgiAgH0LiHhC44mSvq_9QNk/) and the guide itself is available via the CHS’s website.  The guide should be viewed as a work in progress; we began a project that we hope to flesh out with the participants of future workshops in years to come.

Librarians and scholars interested in libraries and archives in Greece will be delighted by Maria Konstantopoulou’s entry on this topic; Latin teachers can find many fun texts to use with beginning students in George Trapalis’ entry; Matina Goga has assembled a list of valuable links for the study of Greek society and culture; Brittany Profitt has done the same for Roman society and culture; teachers of Greek might want to think about using Tyler Verity’s entry on precisely defining words for a classroom exercise; Ashton Murphy’s entry on reading for research addresses study skills faculty may assume undergraduates possess when they arrive at college; and Vanessa Felso’s entry on latin dictionary resources is a model of clarity, useful for any undergraduate. Use them, and share them!


Classics Lives at the Public Library

August 8, 2013

This is just a short note to mention that I started working at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County as the Grants Resource Librarian, a part of the Information and Reference Department, in mid-April.  I’ve learned all sorts of new things working in a large urban public library, but one thing that I’ve been surprised by is how regularly patrons ask for information about classical topics!  In the less than four months I’ve worked here my classics-related contacts have included:

  • a patron interested in Greek grammars; we discussed how the Dewey call number system treats ancient Greek language materials in some detail
  • a patron interested in teaching himself Aramaic
  • a patron, aged 13, looking for an ancient Greek dictionary
  • two 7th graders looking for works on specific buildings in Rome (Cincinnati’s magnet high school, Walnut Hills High School, has a very well-regarded mandatory latin program; I turned out to know their teacher)
  • a high school student looking for research on the Trojan war
  • a patron who wanted latin learning materials (apparently for self-teaching) and a text to work with (I was only passing by on this one, but I think we set him up with a Loeb of Caesar’s Gallic Wars)
  • a patron wanting text-book style overviews of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilization (who was reading for pleasure and self-education and mentioned that decades ago she had read the entirety of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall!)

Pretty impressive, right?  Despite crotchety commentary in the press and online about how public libraries are only interested in serving entertainment and pablum to the public, I can attest that we are also promoting classical studies!



Places to Publish Open-Access in Classics and Related Areas

March 14, 2013

The following was begun during an informal morning coffee with a group of Hellenic Studies librarians. Special thanks go to Elli Mylonas and Colin McCaffrey, who were seated on either side of me, but others contributed, and of course I am responsible for any errors in what follows. If there are omissions, please comment or email me at phoebe.acheson at gmail.com so I can add to the lists that follow!

Need a Refresher on What Open Access Is?

Fairly Traditional Monographs

The following are publishing monographs and making digital access of some kind available for free to all; in many cases print books may also be purchased and/or printed on demand.

Journal Articles

  • Directory of Open Access Journals This site allows browsing for open-access titles that use peer review by discipline (look under Arts and Architecture, Languages and Literatures, History and Archaeology, or other headings depending on your subfield).
  • Ancient World Online: List of Open-Access Journals in Ancient Studies This list is extremely comprehensive and includes many items not in the DOAJ, above, but many are not peer-reviewed and others are titles that have put back issues online open-access but are not publishing current issues in that format. With these caveats, a journal on this list might be the right one for your publishing needs.
  • ISAW Papers I am highlighting this specific project (title? series?) because it is at the forefront of technology for publishing born-digital articles (highly linked, linked open data friendly, etc.)

Pre-Prints, Working Papers, and Self-Archiving

In many fields, pre-prints or “working” versions of papers that have not yet been formally published are routinely circulated and deposited online in open access repositories. This is not yet common in Classics, but certainly could become more so.

Self-Archiving is the process of  making ones own published work available open-access online. It can be done in a variety of ways and places:

  • An Institutional Repository (sometimes called a Digital Library or Repository; example: DukeSpace) at your institution (ask your liaison librarian!)
  • Scribd as above
  • Academia.edu (which now requires readers to have a free account to access your papers)
  • Your own personal or departmental web site or blog
  • In archaeology, Propylaeum-DOK from the University of Heidelberg Library is a subject-specific repository accepting papers from scholars all over the world.

The big issue with self-archiving is making sure you have the right to do so under the contract you signed with the original publisher of your work.  These contracts can be negotiated.  Here’s an account by librarian Micah Vandegrift detailing his recent negotiation about self-archiving. If your library has a Scholarly Communications office (example: Duke Scholarly Communications), they may also be able to give you advice on this process.

I welcome your comments with further thoughts about specific venues to publish open-access or other ways in which to freely disseminate scholarly information online.


November Project: AcWriMo

October 31, 2012

Following the lead of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) some enterprising folks came up with AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month). The idea is that you commit to a certain academic writing goal, and resolve to work steadily at it for the entire month of November. As with all goal-setting projects, the key is to pick something laudatory yet achievable.  Having comrades working on similar projects helps with motivation and communal support.  There’s a spreadsheet that will allow you to see what others are trying to achieve, and where everyone can post the day’s triumphs (or minor disasters, as the case may be.)  Several people in the fields of classics or ancient studies who are on twitter have set themselves AcWriMo challenges, and I’ve tried to collect a list of them, if you want to know whom to cheer on (or add yourself). To follow everyone from every discpline, use the #acwrimo hashtag.

I am going to do AcWriMo myself, with the goal of making over my doctoral dissertation, left unfinished at about the turn of 2001-2002, into an article that can be submitted for publication.  My topic was surface and subsurface archaeological methodology at Archaia Nemea Tsoungiza, a prehistoric Greek site excavated by a Bryn Mawr College team in the 1980s.  Three chapters of the dissertation will form the basis of my article.  Two of them were written and polished, and need only to be edited both for length and context and to take into consideration new scholarship published in the past decade.  (There is this 9-pound, 1200-page book by Dan Pullen that is relevant…). The third chapter was about 3/4 finished, but not polished. There, I need to re-examine my data set and write up my conclusions for the last chronological period, then edit the heck out of the entire chapter.

In preparation, I have downloaded and installed a free 60-day trial of ArcGIS. (First task accomplished!) Next I need to get my 10 year old shapefiles in there and hope there is no serious data corruption, and see what I remember about using a GIS.  My plan is to work simultaneously at getting back up to speed with the GIS analysis while editing the already-polished chapters.  I’m setting the goal of working for two hours a day – mostly 10am-12pm – weekdays during November. While I am not employed right now, and in theory have about 6 hours a day that could be spent productively, I know my work habits are better in short, focused bursts. Give me a goal of six hours working a day and I guarantee I will spend it all faffing about on the internet. Another big challenge is that my November looks like this: traveling to a conference, then chairing the Scholastic Book Fair at my kids’ school, then Thanksgiving, then my husband goes to China for 10 days.  But there’s actually a great freedom in this project for me – I already “failed” at it, by never finishing my dissertation, so hopefully everything from here on out is kind of a bonus.


TOCS-IN at Zotero: A Project That Didn’t Work

September 20, 2012

So, blogging a project that didn’t work – good idea or not?  Let’s see…

The project was to get the content of the TOCS-IN citation database into the free, open-access bibliographic software Zotero (which David Pettegrew discusses today; his post kicked me over my hesitation about blogging this project). I wanted to do this for two reasons: to draw increased attention to TOCS-IN, which is an excellent, open-access bibliographic resource for Classicists, and make it especially accessible to Zotero users; and to make the TOCS-IN content potentially available as Linked Open Data, because Zotero can export files in BIBO, a linked open data format for bibliographic citations.

My steps were:

1. Get permission from P.M.W. Matheson of the University of Toronto, the manager of the volunteer-driven TOCS-IN project, to use the available data files for this purpose.  She was helpful and supportive – thank you!

2. Write a Python script to convert the data file formatting from a custom SGML markup to RIS format, a common format for bibliographic citations (used by Zotero as well as EndNote, which created it.) I am not a programmer, but happily my husband is; this piece would not have been possible without his help, although I did big chunks of it All By Myself.

3. Add the RIS-formatted citations to a Zotero Group library. This turned out to be the problem.  In theory, there is no limit to the number of bibliographic citations that can be stored by a Zotero user.  In practice, once I got about 40,000 (of the ca. 80,000) citations uploaded my Zotero standalone software began freezing every time I attempted to do anything (like stubbornly add another several thousand citations), and refusing to sync with the online Group Library.  A question posted in the Zotero forums got the swift and helpful confirmation that the sync process simply cannot handle such large datasets well, and that I alone would not be affected; any users who tried to use this large group library would start crashing their Zotero instances as well.

What now?

It’s possible that Zotero, which is actively under development, will make it possible to create very large citation libraries. Zotero used to not be able to handle a couple of thousand citations in one library, and now it can do that with ease (as, for example, the ASCSA Group Library of 2553 items demonstrates). But it may not be a priority for Zotero’s developers to move in that direction; most people use Zotero for personal citation libraries, not as de facto mirror sites for large bibliographic indices.

I have looked at BibSoup/BibServer, related projects that allow the open-access presentation of bibliographic data online, deal with a wide variety of formats (bibtex, MARC, RIS, BibJSON, RDF), and are relevant to the Linked Open Data goal of this project (full RESTful API).  I really liked Zotero simply because it is already very popular with humanities-oriented users and likely to become more so (it seems especially popular among graduate students). BibSoup is geared toward STEM academics, and currently only has about 17,000 citations total (and I’m a little hesitant about breaking things after my Zotero experience!); BibServer requires a server and IT chops which I lack. I do think these applications have a lot of potential, but I don’t think they will work for my project right now.  I’d welcome an argument on this point, or any other suggestions.

Finally, I’d like to add a quick recap and appreciation of what TOCS-IN is and comprises.  TOCS-IN is a bibliographic database  that is fully open-access (searchable at Toronto and at Louvain) and entirely crowd-sourced – that is to say, made possible by the contributions of volunteers who transcribe or copy and paste journal tables of contents and format them for inclusion in the database.  A list of volunteers is available at the site, as is a list of journals currently needing a volunteer.  Do consider joining us; I am currently covering three journals, and the time burden is minimal, especially if the journal publishes its table of contents online (much less typing!)

The basic portion of TOCS-IN is about 80,000 citations, comprising the tables of contents of about 180 journals, all among those indexed by the subscription database L’Annee Philologique. The project began in 1992, so chronological coverage mostly starts there.  A comprehensive list of titles, volumes, and issue numbers is available at the Toronto site. TOCS-IN at Toronto and Louvain currently also searches an additional ca. 56,000 citations, including tables of contents of some TOCS-IN journals dating before 1992 (listed at Louvain), and edited volumes, festschrifts, etc. (listed at Toronto).