What I’m Reading This Summer: Alix Keener

Note: As the dh+lib Review editors work behind the scenes this summer, we have invited a few members of our community to step in as guest editors and share with us what they are reading and why the dh+lib audience might want to read it too. This week, we hear from Alix Keener,Ā Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Michigan Library.

My current reading list reflects the diverse range of projects Iā€™m involved with this summer, to which Iā€™m sure many dh+lib readers can relate! My projects range from collaborating on a Scalar site for mapping Jewish diasporic culture, to a digital exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit uprising,Ā to qualitative research on digital scholarship pedagogy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Iā€™ve found myself drawn to readings on project management for digital scholarship, as well as deeper dives into the Software, Data, and Library Carpentry communities, profiles of varied library digital scholarship centers, and last but not least, readings on social justice and critical librarianship.

Project Management & Collaboration Beyond the Library

Burress, T.Ā  & Rowell, C. J. (2017) “Project management for digital projects with collaborators beyond the library.” College & Undergraduate Libraries. DOI: 10.1080/10691316.2017.1336954

Project management is one of those things that I always want to think more about, but ironically, haven’t made the time or effort to implement in my daily work. When it comes to projects I collaborate on with faculty and students, however, talking about project management at the outset is essential. In this article, Theresa Burress and Chelcie Juliet Rowell urge us to more thoughtfully consider formally integrating PM frameworks into our digital scholarship projectsā€”especially in connection with the conversation around digital scholarship “service” and “support” in libraries and the role of librarians and staff who perform those services. I especially appreciated their insight that “project management principles can be deployed to diplomatically navigate fraught perceptions of hierarchy and establish appropriate credit, acknowledging the diverse expertise of collaborators and articulating the essential role each person plays in the project.”

Libraries as Structuring Machines

Drabinski, E. (2017) “Standard practice: Libraries as structuring machines.”Parameters. http://parameters.ssrc.org/2017/07/standard-practice-libraries-as-structuring-machines/

In this post, Emily Drabinski reminds us that traditional library cataloging and classification structures have followed us into the world of digital knowledge work, that our digital information systems are constructed, too. She makes connections between classification systems like the Dewey Decimal System and the code behind online information systems, noting that the latter is also difficult for the average user to parse and understand. Furthermore, the algorithms that construct much of our experiences online are even more concealed from the user. As I work with faculty and graduate students on a Scalar project tracing Jewish diasporic culture, Drabinski’s piece serves as an important reminder of the role of metadata in digital projects and our responsibility in exposing our decisionsā€”about names versus pseudonyms, place names, image metadataā€”to our users.

Library Carpentry

Baker, J., Moore, C., Priego, E., Alegre, R., Cope, J., Price, L., and Wilson, G. (2016). “Library Carpentry: software skills training for library professionals.” LIBER Quarterly, 26(3). https://doi.org/10.18352/lq.10176

Library CarpentryĀ is the newest member of the Carpentries community, focusing on building coding and data skills for people who work in libraries. The lessons teach tools like OpenRefine and R, as well as foundational principles on data cleaning and management. Started by James Baker and Belinda Weaver, there has been growing enthusiasm in the past year for the Library Carpentry curriculum in the States, with several workshops and instructor training sessions for U.S. librarians. In this article, Baker et al. trace the rise of open access, research data, and digital scholarship supportĀ services in libraries, while also noting thatĀ “the integration of software skills into the work of library and information professionals has remained uneven.” Enter Library Carpentry.

I have also found myself thinking frequently about the different models for re-skilling and professional development for librarians new to digital scholarship. With my colleague Jake Carlson, we launched a Data Study Group at our library for interested folks to set aside one hour every three weeks to go through tutorials togetherā€”our current tutorial is one on Python from Library Carpentry, and it has been working very nicely as a self-paced tutorial as well as a lesson meant to be taught in person.

Digital Scholarship Support Profiles

Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Digital Scholarship Support Profiles

ARL has been publishing an excellent series of profiles on digital scholarship (DS) support in libraries for over a year now. The profiles detail the sort of logistical information about DS services we all wonder about, including number of full-time employees, university partnerships, and funding. ARL profiles a variety of types of institutions and DS centers. For myself, as I prepare to plan DS services more strategically this year, these profiles have helped immensely in thinking through what the roles of individual librarians or library units should play, as well as the types of projects and opportunities for students that come out of these centers.



Alix Keener

Alix Keener is the Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Michigan Library. She collaborates with and provides research support for students and faculty in all disciplines who are engaged with or curious about digital scholarship.