Thoughts of a Special Collections Intern

[As told by Amanda Wentworth]: As someone who relatively recently became interested in the wonderful world of librarianship, it was not too long ago that the term “Special Collections” would’ve passed through the air over my head with no recognition and no further consideration. Mentioning it to people around me now inspires a similar reaction.

In fact, my general notions about librarianship were relatively limited. When I thought of a librarian, I thought of someone sitting at the front desk of a library to scan books out, filling shelves, answering reference questions, and so on. What I didn’t know was that this is a rich and diverse field of work that manifests itself in a wide range of career environments. Librarians are the backbone to a professional society that demands amassing and retrieving information, and its storage, organization, and cataloging. Meaning, schools and universities are not the only places you will ever find a librarian. Any place that has records or data that need tending likely has a librarian to do so, from law firms to medical research facilities; everything in our present world revolves around information, to which librarians are the custodians.

While the image of a librarian might even seem “old-school” to our tech-generation that lives and works digitally, the librarian is arguably more essential to our academic and professional society than ever. Librarianship is moving seamlessly into the digital world, and, in fact, dominates it in many instances. Here at Geneseo, our librarians are cyber-wizards; masters of online research, data retrieval, digital guides, and more. Right before the semester began, I stumbled upon this article, which highlights the importance of librarians in avoiding the largely political and social issues revolving around fake news, and inspired my pursuit of this field even more.

A section of Milne’s Special Collections

In light of this, and given my own interests, further exploring the greater domain of library science seemed natural to me. There are a few areas of study that I could have based my internship in, specifically research and instruction, and Special Collections. When considering which path I’d take initially I thought, why not start with the aspect of academic librarianship that is most unknown to me? And thus my internship with Milne’s Special Collections began.

Although I didn’t have any personal experience with the Special Collections prior to my internship, it didn’t take long for me to find out just how valuable and useful they are on our campus. Geneseo’s Special Collections include several distinct collections, many concerning unique facets of the local and college community, as well as the rare books collection known as the “X” Special Collection. During my time at this internship, I’ve seen students, professors, and alumni utilize this resource for both research and nostalgia. Thanks to the organization and accessibility of the collections, as well as the knowledge and know-how of the librarians that oversee it, most inquirers easily find what they’re looking for. This is an example of reference, which is a large part of any librarian’s job, and has been a hands-on and interesting part of my own internship experience.

Photo by Daniel Fink

My other responsibilities involve collection management, and have included sorting and taking inventory of new collections as well as additions to existing collections, and selecting items to be considered for accession to a collection. As mentioned, modern librarianship is largely focused on the digital, and how the digital world can connect others through the sharing of information. So, naturally, my internship would have to reflect this growing aspect of a librarian’s skills. I’ve had the opportunity to work with New York Heritage, a digital repository created to give easy, free access to digital collections from various libraries and other cultural organizations in New York State, to digitize a portion of a collection found in Milne’s Genesee Valley Historical Collection: a series of photographs taken by Daniel Fink collectively titled The Architecture of Livingston County. I selected the images, scanned them, and input the metadata for each into a digital management system called CONTENTdm so that it could be uploaded into the New York Heritage site, to join other collections that have been contributed by Milne Library. I have also been collaborating on an existing project that requires extensive metadata work in a CSV file for thousands of photographs in the College Archives, for import into an Omeka website.

It’s clear that librarians with digital and technical skills are currently in high demand as our society dives further and further into cyber-world, in desperate need for skilled navigators of the information landscape.

High 5

HI5Go to a library & high-five as many people as possible.

This is part of Steve Kemple’s EveryLibrary Artist-In-Residency project “We’re In This Together.”

If you love libraries, consider taking action to support them by donating, signing a petition, or signing up to support them at www.action.everylibrary.org

What are we reading? Staff recommended reads for November

NovSliderAre you looking for a good book to read?  Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year, so how does one choose? Read on for several Milne Library staff  book recommendations for the month of November.

Business & Data Librarian Justina Elmore recommends a popular novel by Dan Brown:

Inferno-coverI’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno.  Brown is best known for his novel The Da Vinci Code (2003) and his works are guilty-pleasure reading for me. It isn’t high literature, but he’s a great storyteller and you can tell he’s spent a good deal of time in a library. In this latest novel, symbolist Robert Langdon unwittingly finds himself at the center of controversy (again) and in a globe-trotting race to save the world from a bio-terrorist attack.  A task that can only be accomplished by decoding Dante’s Inferno. Dante scholars should probably avoid the agony of reading this one, but it’s a quick and entertaining read for the rest of us willing to suspend reality for a few hours.

Librarian Kate Pitcher recommends a new fantasy novel, The Bone Season, by British writer Samantha Shannon:

bone seasonThe Bone Season is the first of a projected seven book series and is generating  a lot of buzz. Paige Mahoney is a “dreamwalker”, a type of clairvoyant in London, circa 2059.  Paige’s special abilities allow her to walk in and out of others’ minds and take information without their knowledge. Paige works for  a crime syndicate in the shadowy underbelly of London, but her life is dramatically changed overnight when she is kidnapped and taken to the lost city of Oxford.  Paige is kept imprisoned by a race of beings from another world, called the Rephaim, and is assigned a keeper, called Warden.  In order to find her escape, she realizes she must get close to Warden; an uneasy and altogether dangerous subterfuge. Gripping and entertaining, The Bone Season, marks an impressive debut  in what will be an original and thrilling series of science fiction.

For fans of contemporary fiction, Business Manager Ryann Fair recommends two titles this month:

light oceansI’m currently reading The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. If you’re looking for a gripping, emotional, and morally challenging read then I would give this first time novelist a try!

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is hands down one of my all-time favorites! This novel is beautifully written and will draw you in. It’ll take you on one heck of an emotional roller coaster; making you laugh and (if your like me) cry as you discover the chilling and courageous story of Anya Whitman and her family.

Library Publishing Toolkit – a new and free e-book

LPT CoverMilne Library is pleased to announce the publication of a new book, researched and edited by Milne staff member Allison Brown and published through the IDS Project Press:

Interested in library publishing services?
Thinking about publishing a book or journal, or helping authors do so?

The Library Publishing Toolkit looks at the broad and varied landscape of library publishing through discussions, case studies, and shared resources. From supporting writers, authors, and filmmakers in the public library setting to academic libraries hosting open access journals and books, this collection examines opportunities for libraries to leverage their skills and resources to curate, create and provide access to content.

Both public and academic libraries are invested in the creation and distribution of information and digital content. They have morphed from keepers of content into content creators and curators, and seek best practices and efficient workflows with emerging publishing platforms and services.

The Library Publishing Toolkit is a project funded partially by Regional Bibliographic Databases and Interlibrary Resources Sharing Program funds which are administered and supported by the Rochester Regional Library Council. The toolkit is a united effort between Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and the Monroe County Library System to identify trends in library publishing, seek out best practices to implement and support such programs, and share the best tools and resources.

For more information and access to the book, please visit http://www.publishingtoolkit.org

SUNY Faculty and Libraries Publishing Open Textbooks

SUNY Open TextbooksNew GlowSMState University of New York libraries are collaborating with faculty to develop free online textbooks, and in doing so, are simultaneously developing a new academic-friendly publishing model.

“Open e-content for courses can help to lower textbook costs for students, provide a showcase for SUNY faculty authors and enrich partnerships with academic libraries.  This is a win for everyone,” said Mary Jo Orzech, Director of Drake Memorial Library at the College at Brockport.

“The State University of New York has over 450,000 student enrollments.  If we can create Open Textbooks that save one out of ten students $30, the total savings will be over 1.3 million dollars.” said Carey Hatch, Associate Provost for Academic Technologies and Information Service at SUNY System Administration.  “Librarians have been at the forefront of the digital revolution in higher education, and it is good to see them assuming a leadership position in this new form of content creation and distribution.”
The Open SUNY Textbook Program will produce fifteen free online textbooks this year, thanks to the support from a SUNY Innovative Instruction Technology Grant (IITG) and library funding, as well as the time, skills, and talents of librarians with consultation by SUNY Press.

This innovative publishing program includes:

  • incentives to SUNY faculty authors and peer reviewers to produce open textbooks,
  • editing and instructional design support services using a cooperative library service framework,
  • and a publishing platform using Open Monograph Press – an open source software recently released by the Public Knowledge Project.

With a mere two-week call for proposals to SUNY faculty, the program received 38 proposals for open textbooks.  The original grant funding limited the number of titles to publish to 4 textbooks, but upon realizing how many outstanding proposals they had received, the participating libraries stepped up to the plate to contribute additional funding to produce more textbooks than originally planned. The new goal is to publish fifteen excellent textbooks in disciplines across the curriculum, including:

Textbook Subject

#

Anthropology

1

Business

1

Computer Sciences

2

Education

2

English

3

Math

2

Music

1

Sciences

3

Total

15

Participating and supporting libraries include: The College at Brockport; SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry; SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Geneseo; University at Buffalo; and SUNY Upstate Medical University, and SUNY Morrisville has even offered to assist with copy editing some of the textbooks.  Libraries demonstrate they are willing to contribute time, talent, and funds to support this innovative publishing program. Publishing tasks and roles are expected to be sourced, much like at University Presses, however, librarians will be key to offering these authors a range of invaluable services such as copy editing, loading and proofing files, applying metadata, indexing, or offering support with resources and interactive content strategies.

“I am very impressed with the mutual interest and responsiveness of SUNY faculty authors and reviewers, and librarians to produce high quality open textbooks.,” said Cyril Oberlander, Milne Library’s Director at SUNY Geneeo. “The librarians are developing new editorial workflows and services, incorporating instructional designers, and significantly contributing to open education.  Producing innovative open textbooks can help reduce the cost of higher education to students, and it can also reduce the cost to libraries and institutions.”

The Open SUNY Textbook Program hopes to further expand both the number of textbooks produced and number of participating libraries next year. It will also focus on the developing of interactive books that provide learning assessments.

For inquiries about this exciting new program, please contact:

Cyril Oberlander
Milne Library Director
(585) 245-5528
[email protected]

Meet Joe Easterly

Joe Easterly

Joe Easterly, Milne’s Electronic Resources and Digital Scholarship Librarian

With Library service expanding deeper into the realm of digital scholarship – the new Digital Media Lab, open-source publishing, Digital Thoreau, etc. — could a matching librarian be far behind? Of course not, and he has arrived in the person of Joe Easterly, who became Milne’s first Electronic Resources and Digital Scholarship Librarian on October 24.

Joe is here to act as the primary human resource for faculty and students working on (or hoping to begin) scholarly projects with a digital focus. It’s what he’s been doing, more or less, at the University of Buffalo for the last four years where he was a media specialist and coordinator of the Media Resource Center, serving as the Visual Resources librarian to the university’s visual arts faculty. The skills he’s acquired through his coursework (he earned his master’s degree in library science in 2007, with an emphasis in digital media information systems and retrieval) and professional experience will serve him – or, more accurately, the Geneseo campus community – very well.

Among the projects Joe has been involved in is UBdigit, the University of Buffalo’s digital library collection. He managed and directed the Visual Resources Collection portion of that resource, from scanning the images to creating the metadata, working closely with faculty and supervising a team of student assistants. Joe is used to collaborating with faculty, having conducted workshops, developed image digitization standards, facilitated licensing and consignment of digital images, and helped write grants. He also has experience digitizing images for exhibitions and scholarly publication, and he’s done digital preservation consulting for UB Galleries and museum curators in the Buffalo-Niagara region. He was a charter member of UB’s Digital Humanities Initiative. Safe to say, Joe knows his way around the digital scholarship landscape and is prepared to lead others through it.

One of the first projects Joe has joined here at Geneseo is the Digital Thoreau Project, headed by English professor Paul Schacht and other faculty from the English department and Milne Library. Digital Thoreau aims to bring the works of Henry David Thoreau – beginning with a TEI-encoded scholarly edition of Walden – to scholars, students and general readers around the world.

Joe’s ease and expertise with digital technology and his commitment to librarianship are built on a solid humanities foundation. He received a BA in linguistics, has studied French extensively and is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in social anthropology. He is also a classically trained pianist. Lately, he says, he’s “really into” wine and photography, and when the weather’s fine he likes to go sailing.

The folks at Milne are very glad that Joe decided to join the faculty, and the feeling is mutual, he says. “I was really impressed by how committed and talented the library faculty and staff are … it was a big motivation for me to join.” Aesthetics played a (small) part, too, in his decision to come to Geneseo. “I was expecting the dreary early-70s late modernist architecture you sometimes see at [SUNY] campuses,” he says. “I had no idea how beautiful the town is, or the campus, until I came to visit.” Joe is not the only one who is optimistic about his future here at Geneseo, and about the future of digital scholarship.

Some libraries reject Google’s offer to digitize book collections

On October 22, The New York Times ran a front page article about several large research libraries’ rejection of Google’s offer to scan and digitize large portions of their collections. The Boston Public Library, University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts are among several of New England’s largest libraries to refuse the offer.

Instead, many of these libraries are working with an organization called Open Content Alliance to make “…the material available to any search service…”, and not just limited to Google, who forbids libraries to make their collections available to other commercial search services when Google scans the materials.

Is this a mistake? Does it matter who is providing the service as long as patrons (aka students, faculty, staff) get the material they need? Or, as the refusing libraries counter, does this provide an alternative to Google and ensure that material is openly available and access is unhindered by corporate restrictions set by one search service?

Give us your thoughts and post a comment.