May 22

Congratulations to the new ULS officers!

The following University Libraries Section members have been elected to the ULS Executive Committee:

Vice-Chair/Chair Elect: Jason Martin

Members-at-large: Amanda Peters + Drew Smith

And thanks to everyone who ran for office!

Full ACRL election results are available on the ALA website.

May 19

Digital Humanities and Its Implications for Libraries and their Patrons: Part 1

An Interview with Harriett Green, English and Digital Humanities Librarian and Assistant Professor of Library Administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Matt Conner, Librarian at the University of California, Davis, and author of a newly released book, The New Library: Four Case Studies (ALA)

Editor’s Note: This interview is the first in a three-part series of interviews with Harriett Green, conducted by Matt Conner, about digital humanities.

Part 1: History and Culture of Digital Humanities

Matt: So, I’m very interested in the digital humanities, and the context I’m operating from is an impression that the sciences are much more active in new library developments and communications technology because apparently they initiated some of this after WWII. This is from my reading of library history where there was so much technology with the war that the sciences caught on. There were computers and automation. It was natural for the sciences to get involved, and today they are at the forefront with ebooks, for example. And physicists use their tool arXiv to publish directly online. My impression is that the humanities are really lagging and they’re very traditional.

Harriett: It’s a mix of factors. There are a number of people doing work in digital humanities that’s right on par with what people are doing in e-science and e-social science in terms of text mining, data mining, and mining their archive.

There’s a disciplinary orientation: With the sciences and the social sciences, the way they use their data, the way they process their data, the way they share their data and share research lends itself much more easily to automation, to publishing things online, to pushing out huge data sets. Whereas the way the humanities works, from literature to the performing arts, is that you have texts—you have performance—things that aren’t so reducible to data. So, the way that the humanities do research, and the way they delve into the text or the art or the image requires more visceral elements that you can’t reduce down to data.

And so with digital humanities, the challenge has been putting the materials that they use for research in a digital archive that is usable. You can scan texts, but how high is the quality of the scan? With images: can you get it in a high enough resolution to see all the aspects to be able to interpret the image? So, I think part of the challenge is getting the research archive into a form that they can use online and then producing tools to analyze the archive.

Again, I think for science and social science with the way they interpret, analyze and use their research, the tools that are out there lend themselves much more to that kind of work. The humanists, on the other hand, are trying to do close readings of the text, trying to find trends, or extract some new way that the author is looking at the text or the history.

What Is Digital Humanities?

Matt: So, when I was finishing up a degree in English in the late 90s, the big contribution of the new technology was to mount manuscripts so that medievalists and Early Modernists would no longer have to travel to examine them in person. They could see them online. They could get all the marginalia and the illustrations, as well as the actual text. That was a connection that was really clear to me. So are you in the business of scanning things to get them into databases now?

Harriett: Not as much: Google and commercial publishers are doing increasingly more digitization, and libraries are still digitizing their collections–we have our Digital Content Creation unit at Illinois that digitizes a lot of our holdings. But if you actually look at grants for the NEH or even IMLS, they won’t fund solely digitization. Perhaps when you were in school that was a research endeavor, where now it’s more like processing in the sense of cataloging. I work with faculty after all that work is done, who are doing actual research. So getting the OCR, the optical character recognition, scanning the text behind the text, and then analyzing it through text-mining or doing network analysis of the different people who are mentioned in the text or something like that.

The Products of Digital Humanities

Harriet: This has been going on for decades. In the early twentieth century you can find scholars who were doing word counting and word frequency by hand and then there was the application of tools since the 60s and 70s and just in the last 20 years, it’s really ramped up.

Matt: So, these tools need some online text to be applied. And you find these texts through Google?

Harriett: Yes or you can use a plain text file from your own library archive. There are also free text archives like Documenting the American South out of the University of North Carolina Libraries. So, there’s some open text archives as well. That’s part of the digital humanities as well: Not only taking collections and texts and digitizing them but also putting them into a form that people can actually use. With a text, you can highlight passages then copy and paste it into Voyant and do all sorts of analysis.

Matt: So, you’ve got word frequency. You’ve got various kinds of visual outputs. Are there other kinds of analysis? Or are those pretty much the methods that people use.

Harriett: That’s one method. So with the Center for New History and New Media [], they have a number of tools as well: Omeka is a visual archive that allows you to build exhibitions. TEI, the Textual Encoding Initiative? With metadata, you mark up information about an object, but with TEI you actually mark up the words and say this is a noun, this is a name, this is a place, that kind of thing. And so then people can datamine texts and say okay what are all the places in this text and then they’ll pull it out based on what’s marked up. Abbot is a tool out of Nebraska that automates the mark up of text into a standardized TEI schema.

Matt: So, people can decide what they want to mark-up based on their project.

Harriett: And you can mark-up manuscripts. The Text Encoding Initiative itself is a big part of the digital humanities, especially for literature and the marking-up of texts. For example, Civil War Washington has a database where you can find people that are in documents from the Civil War era in Washington, D.C. and you can look at maps. Another big part of digital humanities is maps: GIS, geo-location, layering maps with different information which they’ve done as well.

Matt: This text mark-up feature sounds metadata like, but it’s not. It’s built into the tool.

Harriett: With metadata you just apply it, whereas textual mark-up is actually much more of a research intensive process because you’re reading the text and deciding whether this is a quote or this is a person that I want to make sure comes out in the text. So, it’s almost a close reading of a sort when you do text encoding. And there are articles out there on this by leading scholars like Julia Flanders and Sid Bauman.

May 13

Save the Date: ULS ALA Annual Current Topics Discussion

The ACRL University Libraries Section Current Topics Discussion Group invites you to join us at ALA for a program on “Values Driven Services: What Are Your Library’s Core Values?” Saturday, June 28 1-2:30pm in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Room N115.

The library world is based upon the important value of freedom of information which drives access, collection development, circulation services, and more.

But, few academic libraries have identified and promote their library’s core values among their faculty, staff, and campus communities. This session will guide participants through a values clarification exercise and discussion resulting in a set of common core values that impact organizational culture and guide employee behavior and attitudes, decision making, and library services.

Led by Vivian Linderman, Citrus College/California State University, Dominguez Hills.

For more information contact Amanda Peters

Apr 21

Summary of ULS online discussion: Surveys in Libraries

Author: Jennifer Lee, University of Calgary, on behalf of the ULS Membership Committee

On December 2, 2013, ULS held its first members-only online discussion on surveys in libraries.

ULS hopes to hold these discussions in the fall and spring to highlight ULS member work, to extend conversations beyond ALA Annual and Midwinter, and as a benefit to ULS members. ULS also hopes to briefly summarize these as an added member benefit; this is the first summary.
In this session four members of the Evidence-based Practice Discussion Group gave tips on surveys and discussed survey creation and implementation. Participants used the chat window to interact with speakers and each other.

Wendy Begay urged us to gather data that would be actionable. That is, we should ask questions that give us information that we can act on. She also suggested that we report our results back to survey participants; student groups can be useful here. More importantly, we should tell participants what we changed as a result of the information they gave us. A good tip that Wendy gave was to not base big changes on one survey, but instead to consult with other (possibly existing) data first.

Jason Martin talked about survey design and different question types. A theoretical framework or model, such as the information literacy standards, or aspects of a service, keep surveys focused and on topic. For example, choose 2-3 information literacy standards, and then design your questions based on those. This also avoids too many questions addressing one area, and too few in another. Jason then gave tips on designing questions such as: avoiding the overuse of open-ended questions, avoiding the use of negatives in questions (which can be confusing), and avoiding jumping around from question type to question type (which can place a cognitive strain on those surveyed.)

Rick Stoddart talked about Counting Opinions’ LibSat tool for measuring user satisfaction (note he is not necessarily endorsing it). Compared to a homegrown survey, LibSat has more analysis and reporting functions and validity, but less flexibility and control of the survey questions. Compared to LibQual, LibSat provides continuous data, rather than a snapshot; unlike LibQual, LibSat results cannot be used in peer comparisons.

Lisa Horowitz presented her experiences of adding a question to a university-wide survey. She worked with a team that included library administration as well as someone from the local Office of Institutional Research (OIR) to design the question. The OIR staff member added it to the next five years of enrolled student, senior and alumni surveys. Issues included balancing the needs of other areas on campus who also wanted to add questions, justifying the need for an additional library question if the survey already includes one, and being able to compare responses across different surveys.

More information on the speakers can be found at

The next members-only discussion will be on Academic Library Outreach, on Wednesday, April 23 from noon-1 pm EDT. To register, go to:
A recording will be sent to all who register, so sign up even if you can’t participate!

Interested in university libraries? Join your colleagues at ACRL ULS, where you can find opportunities to participate in continuous learning activities like our lively and engaging online discussions, to volunteer on professional committees, to make connections with a great network of university librarians, and more! For more information on ULS, including an archive of past events and discussion forums, see also our blog ( and Section website ( To become a member, simply update your ACRL division memberships at and select the University Libraries Section under ACRL. Membership is free is you are not already enrolled in more than 2 sections and only an additional $5.00 if you are. We look forward to welcoming you as a member!

“See” you at the next discussion!


Archived Recording

Archived Slides

Apr 10

SXSW 2014 Round-up Overview

Author: Sara O’Donnell, University of Northern Colorado, on behalf of the ULS Technology in University Libraries Committee

On March 26, 2014 the ACRL ULS Technology in University Libraries Committee hosted the SXSW 2014 Round-Up, a webinar featuring five speakers who presented overviews of their favorite sessions and themes from SXSW Interactive 2014. The free online event afforded those who were unable to attend SXSW in-person a glimpse into one of the most cutting-edge technology conferences in the country. In 10-minute lightning-round style presentations, each speaker offered her unique take on the conference, highlighting ideas and innovations of interest to academic librarians.

The panel of speakers (in order of appearance) included:

• Lisa Martin, Business/Economics/Hospitality Librarian, University of Houston Libraries
• Emily Hurst, Technology Coordinator, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library
• Bonnie Cain-Wood, Senior Communications Specialist, Oklahoma State University
• Emily Rimland, Kalin Librarian for Learning Innovations, Penn State University
• Carolyn Cunningham, Librarian for Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

Speakers introduced the nearly 80 webinar participants to practical tips and tricks – from how to speak and write better to how to snap great pictures on your smart phone – as well as emerging trends that will transform the way librarians assess and distribute information. Social media, big data, and wearable technology (think Fitbit) were identified as recurring themes at SXSW that could have a big impact on how we offer library service and engage with users.

If you weren’t able to join us for the webinar, you can still catch the full recording here:

Or view the slides here:

The ACRL ULS Technology in University Libraries Committee plans to continue bringing conference overviews straight to your computer screen, so keep an eye out for future round-ups on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Apr 03

ULS Members-Only Online Discussion: April 23

Members-Only Online Discussion: Academic Library Outreach
brought to you by the ACRL-ULS Academic Outreach Committee

The ULS Membership Committee is pleased to provide a free online discussion for ULS members on Wednesday, April 23 from 12-1 pm EDT. To register, go to:

Academic Library Outreach: The Intentional, the Desperate, and the Serendipitous

Academic librarians Matt Upson and Lizz Zitron tell their tales of implementing successful, serendipitous outreach at their libraries. Matt, co-creator of the Library of the Living Dead comic, shares his story of how he turned desperation and by-the-seat-of-his-pants outreach into a community-building national phenomenon. Lizz, editor of, offers guidance and practical examples for those already implementing intentional outreach or looking to start. No matter your budget, staffing, or patron needs, Matt and Lizz are sure to inspire you through their stories and experiences.


Lizz Zitron, former Outreach Librarian at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, is now Instruction Librarian at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. At Carthage, Lizz worked with both the college community and the greater community at-large. She writes about engaging myriad communities and the importance of connecting academic libraries to the local community.

Matt Upson is Director of Library Instruction at Emporia State University and will join Oklahoma State University as Director of Library Undergraduate Services in April. He enjoys providing (or at least attempting to provide) practical, humorous instruction and promoting meaningful interactions with community members. He recently shaved his beard and is not feeling as confident as he did around mid-February.

Mar 28

Technology & Libraries Committee SXSW 2014 Round-Up

Earlier this week the ACRL-ULS Technology & Libraries Committee presented a webinar that recapped many of the sessions attended by members at SXSW 2014.

If  you were unable to attend you can watch the webinar or view the slides at your leisure. And if you watch the webinar, be sure to complete the evaluation.

Mar 26

Academic & Research Libraries IFLA Applications Due May 1

ULS needs to  nominate an IFLA ACRL representative for the 2015-2019 session of an IFLA Standing Committees. For ULS we fall in this category:  Academic and Research Libraries along with CJCLS, and CLS.

We are soliciting applications from eligible members who would like to represent ALA at IFLA. This is just NOMINATION and those names submitted will be reviewed and chosen by ACRL in June.

Summary of the highlights from guidelines:

  • Members are nominated and officially endorsed for a four-year term to every IFLA section standing committee at each IFLA election. The new appointments will be for the 2015 – 2019 term. Individuals can only serve on one IFLA committee at a time, and a maximum of two consecutive terms. Any ALA/ACRL member may be suggested for nomination to one of the six IFLA standing committees above. Individual applications for nomination are also acceptable. Current incumbents who are eligible for a second term may apply for continuation.
  • Nominees should be experts in the field covered by the section and have a working knowledge of at least one working language of IFLA (English is an IFLA working language), and should have reasonable expectation of attending meetings of the standing committee without cost to IFLA or to ACRL.
  • ALA representatives on IFLA section standing committees are required to report to their constituencies on appropriate developments and information originating from their respective committees; these communications may be published in ALA journals or newsletters, or as special reports to ALA members; and transmit a copy of the report(s) to the ALA International Relations Committee.

Candidate applications/nomination suggestions should include & SENT TO BETH ( BY May 1:

  1. Completed application form (attached)
  2. A resume reflecting expertise in field of the section applied for
  3. Affirmation that the person can fulfill the working language and travel requirements


Author: Beth Filar Williams, ULS Chair 2013/14

Mar 03

The ACRL-ULS Current Topics Discussion Group Wants You!

Are you passionate about academic libraries? If so, the ULS Current Topics Discussion group wants you! Check out their call for discussion group leaders/presenters for the 2014 ALA Annual Conference meeting.

Jan 23

An ACRL-ULS Emerging Leader Looks Back

Author: Tarida Anantachai, Resident Librarian, Syracuse University Libraries

With ALA Midwinter fast approaching, ACRL-ULS will be busy with plenty of meetings and discussion groups (for more information, check out this list of ULS Activities at ALA Midwinter 2014). Midwinter also kicks off another cycle of the Emerging Leaders (EL) Program, bringing together early career professionals from all walks of librarianship as they embark on a series of leadership trainings and a six-month group project, the latter of which is presented at a poster session at the following ALA Annual Conference.

Last year, I was honored be sponsored by ACRL-ULS to take part in the Program, and am still extremely grateful for the amazing experiences and connections that that came as a direct result of it. ALA Midwinter marks the official start of the program, during which ELs engage in interactive workshop discussions on topics related to leadership and collaborative work, and meet their project teammates to initiate the next six months’ worth of work. I was grouped with three incredible academic librarians to collaborate on an ACRL-sponsored project, which (as with a few other EL projects) was actually a continuation of a previous EL team’s work. For this iteration, our specific goals were centered on orienting new and potential ACRL members to their first ALA Annual Conference, as well as to ACRL as an organization. In addition to our eventual poster presentation, my teammates and I led two live pre-conference webinars via Adobe Connect in order to do so. As such, over the course of the next six months we engaged in activities including evaluating the previous EL teams’ contributions, conducting surveys and interviews with our target audience, implementing a communication plan, and, ultimately, producing and assessing our webinars in conjunction with ACRL representatives. My teammates and I worked extremely well together over the course of the six months, staying in close contact with each other and utilizing various virtual platforms to organize our documents and ideas, including e-mail, Google Docs, and even conferencing within Adobe Connect itself. At the same time, we also received incredible support from our team mentor and the ACRL officers involved. It really was a dynamic and collaborative process, and when it finally came time for us to take the stage, I think we all had a lot of fun!

Overall, I think our finished product(s)—not just the poster, webinars, and other deliverables, but also our collective growth throughout the process—was successful. And while most of our EL experience was amongst each other, it is worth mentioning that additional virtual trainings were also provided to the whole EL cohort between the two conferences, further supplementing our continuing education within the Program. Reuniting at ALA Annual after many months of work was rewarding yet bittersweet, as it marked the end of our formal teamwork. Yet as with any collaboration, the connections we made with each other and the other participants were just as valuable and have since been sustained; in fact, we have continued to stay in touch and even discussed working together in other future capacities. Since then, I have also been fortunate to work on some ALA committees, including those within ACRL-ULS; in many ways, I credit the Program for opening doors towards such committee involvement, and in general, for introducing me to so many inspiring and talented colleagues along the way.

I genuinely enjoyed being an EL, and am so excited for the next cohort as they begin their own EL journeys. I was similarly delighted to discover that ACRL-ULS would be generously supporting another participant this year: Nataly Blas, current Diversity Resident Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, MLIS graduate of Florida State University, Spectrum Scholar, and all-around fantastic librarian. But for more about her, stay tuned for her forthcoming blog post! ‘Til then, best of luck to her and the rest of the Class of 2014, and we look forward to seeing the amazing things to come as you begin your own “Emergence!”

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