Posts Tagged ‘scholars’


Are You A Bibliography Nut?

April 15, 2011

Michael E. Smith posted on his blog that he has 18,000 bibliographic references in his EndNote database! Which got me wondering, how do others stack up?  Anyone got him beat? Have you actually read everything in your bibliographic file, or do you, like Smith, add things you “are likely to use”?

I have an interest in the technicalities of scholarly workflow, so I love to read blog posts like this that track the technological changes that have shaped a scholar’s workflow over decades:

It all started early in graduate school, when Clark Erickson showed me his library card catalog drawers full of references written on 3×5 index cards. How cool was that! I immediately started my own program of price supports for the index card manufacturers. Clark and I would make cards for each other when we came across appropriate references. I think I had between 15,000 and 20,000 cards in all. In the 1980s I got up to 1,000 or so citations into the Minark database. What a klunker! OK for very early PC days, I guess, but I soon switched to a bibliography program (I forget which one).

I think I had a Filemaker Pro database for citations on my Mac laptop in the late 1990s, and I definitely remember when my classmate pioneered an early version of EndNote in the department (I think this was about 1999).  I currently use EndNote, RefWorks, and Zotero, though none of them heavily.  But plenty of scholars – from undergraduates to faculty members – still use pieces of paper or Word documents to keep lists of citations. How does a citation management program affect the way scholars work? If you have 18,000 references in a database, are you more or less likely to turn up the right article for the project at hand? I don’t know that anyone’s studied this, and I can’t really conceive how one would do so quantitatively, but I find it as interesting as the transition (or not) from print to digital texts for scholarly work.


THATCamp SE 4: Making Digital Collections Work for the Scholar

March 10, 2011

THATCamp SE got started in earnest on Saturday.  We all met in a lecture room in the Emory Library (which is a wonderful space in general, and had guest wireless that made me incredibly jealous – it remembered me when I came back the 2nd day, and automatically gave me access! On my own campus, I get kicked off the wireless network repeatedly even when I’m sitting in the same place for an hour.)

THATCamps are “unconferences” – that is, there is no set agenda and no pre-planned papers.  The conference attendees post at the conference web site about what issues they want to discuss, and start to generate interest, and then the morning of the first day they write their sessions on a huge whiteboard and others make tickmarks if they plan to attend.

that camp session white board

This is actually from a THATCamp in Australia. Hence the appearance of "speedos."


The tickmarks allow the organizers to assign sessions to appropriate sized rooms. We had a brief rundown of the THATCamp groundrules (below) and we were off.

  1. THATCamp is FUN – That means no reading papers, no powerpoint presentations, no extended project demos, and especially no grandstanding.
  2. THATCamp is PRODUCTIVE – Following from the no papers rule, we’re not here to listen and be listened to. We’re here to work, to participate actively. It is our sincere hope that you use today to solve a problem, start a new project, reinvigorate an old one, write some code, write a blog post, cure your writer’s block, forge a new collaboration, or whatever else stands for real results by your definition. We [are] here to get stuff done.
  3. Most of all, THATCamp is COLLEGIAL – Everyone should feel equally free to participate and everyone should let everyone else feel equally free to participate. You are not students and professors, management and staff here at THATCamp. At most conferences, the game we play is one in which I, the speaker, try desperately to prove to you how smart I am, and you, the audience member, tries desperately in the question and answer period to show how stupid I am by comparison. Not here. At THATCamp we’re here to be supportive of one another as we all struggle with the challenges and opportunities of incorporating technology in our work, departments, disciplines, and humanist missions. So no nitpicking, no tweckling, no petty BS.

The first session I attended was proposed by Andy Carter (@cartera) of the Digital Library of Georgia, and described by him as “Big digital piles and the classroom.” As an archivist, he wants to know how scholars use digital collections in both teaching and research, and how the collections he manages can make these tasks easier for them.  Shawn Averkamp, who attended, had also asked a similar question.  We had more librarians than faculty in the room (this was to become a theme…) but the faculty talked about technological hurdles (real and/or perceived) and needing a guide to resources.  My main takeaway was articulated by Paul Fyfe (@pfyfe):

digital libraries/archives session theme of missed connections: who is mediating between resources and researchers/teachers?

For me, this was a stand-up moment: I am.  In my work as a Reference librarian, I am doing this for students who walk up to the desk or ask me a question via chat reference.  In my work as a subject liaison, I want to make it my goal to do this, not just for the faculty at my institution, but for the discipline of classics as a whole, at this blog.  I’ve struggled with understanding digital humanities projects so I can explain to the average classicist – what is this, and how might it be relevant to your research or teaching?  Is there an undergraduate assignment lurking in this project?

Some practical ideas for digital collections or dh projects that we discussed were educator guides, sample assignments, or digital “sandboxes” for playing with content, all hosted at the project sites.  These can come from the librarian or project head, but project hosts would  also welcome feedback from scholars who use their collections: email the project letting them know your students used the materials, and what the assignment looked like, or noting access hurdles and making suggestions to overcome them.  For faculty, the takeaway should be that digital collection and project hosts want the materials to be used, and need your help to see how that can be accomplished most profitably.

Previous posts on THATCamp SE: