LES participates in ACRL Kick Start Campaign

November 14th, 2014

Help the Literatures in English Section sponsor an LES member’s attendance at the ACRL 2015 Conference in Portland, Oregon this spring! We are participating in the ACRL member-supported Kick Start the Future Campaign in honor of ACRL’s  75th Anniversary. We seek to raise $635 to provide a scholarship to an early-career librarian to help cover the cost of conference registration and housing. We’re over two-thirds shy of our goal. If you have attended an ACRL conference, you know how valuable an experience it can be. Let’s give that experience to one of our colleagues.

If we do not meet our goal, donations will go to the general ACRL scholarship fund, and the Section will be recognized for its contribution. Likewise, if we exceed our goal, the excess goes into the general ACRL scholarship fund. More details about the campaign and scholarships can be found here.

Here’s how to donate to the Literatures in English named scholarship. Note that the deadline for donations is December 31, so please donate today! Donations are made through the Give ALA link on ala.org, but the process is somewhat shy of intuitive:

  1. Begin by selecting ALA Divisions and Offices, and then ACRL Friends Fund-Professional Development.

 

les screenshot1

 

  1. At the options on the checkout page, click on Add Tribute. It is important to enter LITERATURES IN ENGLISH SECTION as the Tribute Name. If you would like LES to be notified of your gift, you can have a card sent to LES Chair Laura Taddeo, Humanities Librarian, University at Buffalo, 522 Lockwood Library, Buffalo, NY 14260.

 

les screenshot2

 

Please see this page for step-by-step instructions to donate online, by check, or by pledging. On behalf of the ACRL Literatures in English Section Executive Committee, thank you! We hope to see many of you at ACRL this spring!

Source: Liorah Golomb, Chair, LES Membership Committee, LES-L Discussion List

ALA Panel: Career Paths of Literature Librarians

June 18th, 2014

ALA Annual 2014Please join us at the LES General Membership Meeting at ALA Annual 2014 for an exciting panel discussion about the career paths of literature librarians. As literature librarians our careers may take many different shapes. Our panelists will talk about how their careers developed, the influences that brought them to literature librarianship, the paths they took to a variety of roles including work in special collections and archives, digital humanities, management and administration and more.  If you are new to the profession or looking for ways and means to refresh your career this will be an excellent opportunity to explore career options.

 

Our panelists are:

 

Jennifer Bartlett, Head of Reference Services, University of Kentucky

Angela Courtney, Head, Arts & Humanities Department and Head, Reference Services Department, Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington

Steven Harris, Assistant Dean of Libraries, University of Nevada, Reno

Rob Melton, Subject Librarian for Literatures in English, Religion and Cultural Studies & Curator, Archive for New Poetry, University of California, San Diego

 

We will also hear from LES Chair Arianne Hartsell-Gundy and Chair-elect Laura Taddeo about recent and forthcoming LES achievements and initiatives, and Sarah Wenzel will report on our liaison activities with MLA.

The LES General Membership Meeting will take place in the Bronze 3 room at the Bally’s Las Vegas hotel on Sunday, June 29th from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Why not add this to your calendar now: http://ala14.ala.org/node/15074

Thanks to Frank Gravier and the other members of the LES Membership Committee for organizing the panel.

LES @ ALA Annual 2014

June 3rd, 2014

ALA Annual Conference

Join the Literatures in English Section (LES) of ACRL at ALA Annual in Las Vegas.  LES is composed of English, literature and humanities librarians.  Whether you are already a member, or just interested in learning more about LES, please join us!  You can easily add the LES-sponsored events to your calendar using the ALA conference scheduler.

Follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for reminders, and to keep up with what we are doing at the conference.

 

Saturday, June 28

8:30 am -10:00 am
Executive Committee Meeting 1*
Las Vegas Convention Center, N216

10:30 am — 11:30 am
MLA International Bibliography in Academic Libraries Discussion Group**
Las Vegas Convention Center, N115

1:00 pm — 2:30 pm
“Embedded” Cultural Communities in Europe and the Americas: Challenges for Librarians
(Co-sponsored by LES, SEES, and WESS)
Las Vegas Convention Center, S232

4:30 pm — 5:30 pm
New Members Discussion Group
Las Vegas Convention Center, N201

6:00 pm
LES Social
The Peppermill – Fireside Lounge
2985 Las Vegas Blvd (Map)

 

Sunday, June 29

10:30 am — 11:30 am
Reference Discussion Group
Las Vegas Convention Center, N203

1:00 pm — 2:30 pm
General Membership Forum
Bally’s Las Vegas, Bronze 3

3:00 pm — 4:00 pm
Collections Discussion Group
Las Vegas Convention Center, N202

4:30 pm — 5:30 pm
Digital Humanities Interest Group**
Las Vegas Convention Center, N263

 

Monday, June 30

8:30 am — 10:00 am
All Committees Meetings
Las Vegas Convention Center, N219

10:30 am — 11:30 am
Executive Committee Meeting II*
Las Vegas Convention Center, N216

 

* Closed meeting

** Not an official LES meeting but of broad interest to LES membership

Call for Submissions: Biblio-Notes Spring 2014

January 21st, 2014

Below is a note from Biblio-Notes editor, John Glover, as posted to the LES-L discussion list.  Biblio-Notes is the LES newsletter; you must be a member of ACRL-LES to submit contributions.

Biblio-Notes needs your contributions for the Spring 2014 issue! If you’d like an idea of what people have previously written, take a look through past issues: http://bit.ly/1dMxBqg. If you’re looking for ideas…

 

  • Are you at MLA right now? Has it inspired you to try something new?
  • Have you run literary events lately, whether visiting writers or sponsoring new student literary groups?
  • Does Philadelphia beckon? If you’re going to be at Midwinter in person, share some news with those of us who only attend virtually.
  • Did you mount an exhibit last semester? Tell us how it went, and share some photographs.
  • Are you involved in a major new project at your library, one that’s based in or strongly affects English?
  • Were you recently hired, promoted, published, tenured, or otherwise excellent? Your fellow LES members want to know.

 

Please send your submissions for the Spring 2014 issue in .doc, .docx, .odt, or .rtf format to jglover2@vcu.edu by Friday, April 18th. And remember — Biblio-Notes is a newsletter, not Critical Inquiry! Brief articles, activity writeups, and any news of your doings in the 250-1000 word range are perfect. If you have questions, please drop me a line.

LES Social at Midwinter

January 2nd, 2014

ALA midwinter logo

Are you attending ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia?  If so, please join your fellow LES members on Saturday, January 25 from 6-8 PM at Maggiano’s in Center City. LES will provide appetizers. Drinks and additional food can be purchased.

Date: January 25
Time:  6PM – 8PM
Location: Maggiano’s Little Italy
1201 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA

This is also a great opportunity for those interested in the LES section to meet some of our members.  Library students, recent graduates, and literature and humanities librarians are welcome to attend!

LES is also hosting virtual discussion group meetings for Midwinter that are open to all.  You can learn more about these meetings, and other relevant meetings that will be held at Midwinter at http://www.acrl.ala.org/lesblog/?p=364.

2014 Midwinter Discussion Group Meetings

December 16th, 2013

Below is information about ALA Midwinter Discussion Groups (virtual and in-person) to look forward to in January.  Mark your calendars!

 

ACRL LES Reference Discussion Group

This discussion group provides an information-sharing forum for librarians with interests in reference services and materials related to the study of literatures in English.

Date and Time: Tuesday, January 28, 1 – 2 pm CST

Location: Online

Contact: John Glover and Kristen Hogan

More information: http://connect.ala.org/node/214070

 

ACRL LES Collections Discussion Group

This discussion group serves as an open forum for presentation and discussion of any topic or issue which involves the management, preservation, or use of materials in English-language literatures.

Date and Time: Friday, January 31, 2 – 3 pm CST

Location: Online

Contacts: Judith Arnold and Hazel McClure

 

ACRL Digital Humanities Discussion Group

This discussion group focuses on the digital humanities in academic libraries. Topics include outreach, tools, projects, user support, librarian training, and much more.

Date and Time: Sunday, January 26, 4:30 – 5:30 pm

Location: Pennsylvania Convention Center – 204 A

More information: http://alamw14.ala.org/node/12377

 

MLA International Bibliography in Academic Libraries Discussion Group

Date and Time: Saturday, January 25, 10:30  – 11:30 am

Location: Pennsylvania Convention Center -115 B

Contact: David Oberhelman

More information: http://alamw14.ala.org/node/12492

 

To browse other discussion and interest group meetings scheduled for ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, visit the conference schedule online and narrow by: “Type of Library” (Academic) and “Meeting Type” (Discussion/Interest group).  To browse other virtual discussion group meetings, search in ALA Connect.  If you would like to share other Midwinter discussion group meetings of interest to LES members, post to the LES Facebook group.

 

Other LES midwinter meetings that you are free to join:

ACRL LES Virtual Participation Committee

This committee explores ways in which LES members can participate in Section meetings remotely and to advise LES committees and discussion groups with plans for virtual meetings and other emerging opportunities for distance participation.

Date and Time: Tuesday, January 7 from 1 – 3 pm CST

Location: Online

Contact: Amanda Rust

 

Call for Book Chapter Proposals

November 15th, 2013

Digital Humanities in the Library: Challenges and Opportunities for Subject Specialists

Proposal Submission Deadline: December 15th, 2013

Editors: Arianne Hartsell-Gundy (Miami University), Laura Braunstein (Dartmouth College), Liorah Golomb (University of Oklahoma)

Potential Publisher: Association of College & Research Libraries

 

The ACRL Literatures in English Section is working on a proposal to sponsor an ACRL publication about digital humanities and subject specialists. Our section has sponsored other ACRL publications, including Literature in English: A Guide for Librarians in the Digital Age edited by Betty H. Day and William A. Wortman and Teaching Literary Research: Challenges in a Changing Environment edited by Kathleen A. Johnson and Steven R. Harris. We are looking for approximately 10-15 chapters that examine the role of the librarian subject specialist in digital humanities.

 

Digital humanities is changing the way that humanities scholars research and teach, and libraries are in a great position to help support these efforts. Subject specialists who work with humanities faculty are in a unique position because they often have good relationships with these faculty and have a strong understanding of their needs, but many subject specialists may lack the training to provide support for digital humanities work. Some subject specialists are lucky enough to work in a library that has a digital scholarship center and has staff that are specially trained to help with metadata and digital projects, but this arrangement can still create challenges for subject specialists as they figure out how to navigate between their faculty and these specialists. This book aims to examine how subject specialists are meeting these challenges and making the most of the opportunities that come their way.

 

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to the following:

 

  • Examples of successful digital humanities projects.
  • Examples of less than successful digital humanities projects.
  • How a subject specialist trained to be a traditional bibliographer learns the skills necessary to do work in the digital humanities.
  • Examples of how subject specialists can collaborate with/support faculty, or collaborate with IT professionals, Special Collections librarians, Digital Resources librarians, etc.
  • Using digital humanities projects to answer reference questions.
  • How do librarians identify, evaluate, manage, and promote digital humanities projects?
  • How to teach undergraduates and graduate students to use and/or create digital humanities projects?
  • Thought pieces on the role of subject specialists in digital humanities. For example, should subject specialists be involved with digital humanities, or should that work be done by digital humanities librarians?

 

Submission Procedure: Proposal Submission Deadline is December 15th, 2013.

 

Academic library professionals are invited to submit their proposal of not more than 2 pages. Your proposal should include: 1) the names and contact information for all authors (identify a main contact); 2) a clear description of the topic you are proposing for a potential chapter; 3) reason why this topic would be of interest to subject specialists; 4) a brief description of your academic institution; and, 5) information about the author(s) showing his/her qualifications for writing the case study/chapter. Submissions should be in Microsoft Word. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by January 31st, 2014. If the book proposal is accepted, each chapter will be expected to be about 4,000-5,000 words.

 

Inquiries and submissions can be sent to:

 

Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Humanities Librarian

Miami University

208 King Library

151 S. Campus Ave.

Oxford, OH 45056

513-529-8494

hartsea@miamioh.edu

 

LES Authors Panel

September 20th, 2013

Guest post by Nancy M. Foasberg. Nancy is a humanities librarian at CUNY’s Queens College, and most recently published, “Student Reading Practices in Print and Electronic Media,” in the September 2014 issue of College & Research Libraries.  

The LES Authors Panel took place during the General Membership Forum at ALA Annual 2013 and featured four LES members with a history of successful publication in the field of literature librarianship.

The panelists were:

  • Faye Christenberry, University of Washington
  • Liorah Golomb, University of Oklahoma
  • Harriet Green, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Melissa Van Vuuren, Georgetown University

Jen Stevens of George Mason University moderated.

 

Getting Started with Publishing

At the beginning of the panel, the panelists discussed how they had gotten into publishing.  The need to earn tenure played a role for all the panelists.  Collaboration, connections and timing helped to provide writing opportunities.  Melissa had collaborated with a colleague, Angela Courtney, on an article for The Dictionary of Literary Biography; Angela later encouraged her to contribute to a book series. Faye is a member of the Association of Australian Literary Studies and was able to take over the bibliography for their journal, Antipodes, when the prior author could no longer continue.  Liorah saw a play in London that resonated strongly with her and wrote an article about it. Since the play had not yet opened in the United States, her article was the first and had good exposure and recognition.

 

Choosing Subject Matter

The panelists had very different methods of choosing their subject matter.  Harriet talked about how research interests should fit into the current conversations within a field, choosing subjects that will generate interest while still avoiding those that have been overexposed. Harriet’s tenure process requires her to have a research agenda to which all her publications must relate.  She chose digital humanities as her “umbrella idea” and researched the current issues that were of interest to the field at the time, ultimately choosing to focus on user experience within digital humanities and how digital humanities tools can be improved.  This research is closely related to her day to day work. Liorah, in contrast, writes about whatever is most interesting to her at the moment. She has written about Will Self, women graphic novelists, and postcolonial literatures, among other things. Liorah cites calls for papers and inspiration from colleagues as useful sources for ideas.  However, caution is necessary when accepting calls for papers.  Her book chapter on women graphic novelists was published by MacFarland, which edited it poorly and included chapters of uneven quality.  The book Literary Research and Postcolonial Literatures in English, a collaboration among Liorah, Faye, Angela and Melissa, began as a conversation over beer.  The other four authors had already written volumes in the series, so they suggested dividing up the postcolonial volume. They agreed that it had been challenging to write but very worthwhile.

 

Melissa and Faye focused on the audience for their work. It is important to Melissa that her work and scholarly interests are closely related, so she wants her writing to get out to the user groups that she serves.  Her first book, Literary Research and the Victorian and Edwardian Ages, 1830-1910: Strategies and Sources, was a way to bridge across all her education in a venue not limited to the librarian community.  Another article came from a workshop with faculty in which they designed assignments to help undergraduates understand reference works.  Articles on collaborative efforts such as this can help faculty understand what goes on in the library.  Faye, too, has worked on projects that have appeal outside of librarianship. She was delighted to find that her book had been on a preliminary exam list for a school in England. Because her area of interest is Australian literature, it can often be difficult to access these materials she covers in the US.  She is interested in using her skills to bridge the gap between people doing research in that area.

 

All four panelists agreed that they were happy that they felt passionate about the ideas they pursued.  Melissa pointed out that she always tells students to switch their topics if they are working on something that they hate, because this doesn’t do anyone any favors. Why spend time and effort on something you don’t care about?

 

Logistics of Collaboration

Jen asked about the logistics of collaboration, especially over long distances.  One way to do this is to divide the work into sections.  Harriet and Angela are taking this approach in an article they are writing together, with Harriet merging it into a coherent whole.  When Melissa and Angela wrote the DLB article, Melissa did the biography and Angela wrote the summaries.  The postcolonial book was divided chapter by chapter, an approach facilitated by the consistent structure of books in this series. Each of the chapters in the book stands alone, so having different voices for different chapters was not a problem.  It was still important, though, to look through all the chapters and make sure that they were appropriately cross-referenced and spoke to each other. This is one potential problem with co-authorship.  The other approach to co-authoring is to write together. Liorah described collaborating with Aline Soules on an article which compared the MLAIB across platforms.  Because they were geographically distant, they did most of the research separately, but they wrote the article together in two weeks during which Liorah visited Aline in California.  This article needs to be updated, due to database interfaces and the rise of discovery services, so they will likely write two more articles on the subject together.

 

Timing

Time for writing is a crucial consideration. Harriet has one research day a week, which she is allowed to take off campus.  For those who can’t negotiate this time, she recommends carving out time in the morning and evenings.  Her institution sponsors productivity seminars and invited faculty development expert Kerry Ann Rockquemore to speak to them about techniques for carving out time to write.  Liorah did not have the same release time, but writing was a priority for pre-tenure faculty, who weren’t required to do a lot of service at her institution.  Writing is less urgent now that she has tenure, but she still gives herself deadlines.   Melissa took research leave to work on Literary Research and the Victorian and Edwardian Ages, 1830-1920, and also negotiated for some Fridays off campus. This worked well because it provided a big chunk of time for writing.  Now that she is not on the tenure track, she can still do research and even request some time, but there is less time available and less support generally.  Faye also prefers big chunks of time in which to write. At her institution, librarians are not faculty but can apply for research leave of up to a year, although they only get three months of pay for this.  She used her weekends to work on the book, because she couldn’t get the big chunks of time she needed during the day.  Harriet’s tip from Kerry Ann Rockquemore is to plan well and make the writing as important as everything else you have to do.  If you want writing to be part of your career, you have to give yourself accountability to make sure you spend time on it.

 

Suggestions for New Librarians 

Finally, Jen asked for suggestions for librarians who want to publish. Harriet suggested co-authoring, finding a topic in which you are really interested, and starting small.  Book reviews, BiblioNotes, and guest columns are good places to start.  Liorah has written critical reviews for RUSA and little book reviews like the ones in Library Journal Express.  At her institution, this is considered service rather than publishing, but it is disciplined writing, so it makes good practice.  She recommended caution when choosing partners for collaboration, describing one project which did not happen because her potential writing partner is having difficulty writing and publishing. Melissa recommends joining a writing group or research circle, in order to bounce ideas off of colleagues and talk about the difficult parts of writing.  This can be helpful when trying to get past a roadblock, and hearing other people’s questions can also help shape things. Don’t be afraid to let people read your writing. Harriet has participated in the Library Research Round Table, which pairs authors with each other.  Writing groups including faculty from other fields are also useful, because they provide a different perspective.  Faye mentioned the new ACRL handbook on academic writing for librarians, which looks like a useful volume and includes chapters on many of these topics.

 

Liorah mentioned one more unexpected thing about research. When she surveyed the listserv about poetry collections, she had to undergo an IRB process. Harriet said that at her institution, there is a shorter exemption form and she can use that one because the IRB knows that librarians are just asking questions.

 

During the audience questions, the panelists were asked about their advice for librarians who are not in tenure track positions, especially if people at their institution discourage them from writing.  Melissa recommends framing writing as service because it benefits the profession.  Faye feels that writing helps her to better understand what her faculty go through when they write books.  Harriet recommends collaborating with a faculty member, which makes writing part of the job.  Melissa also suggested writing outside of work hours and mentioned that even with the support that she had, she ended up doing a lot of the work outside of business hours. Most of the articles in the literature are written by librarians on the tenure track, which narrows down who we get to hear from in the profession.

 

There was also a question about editorial feedback.  Liorah talked about the lack of editorial feedback when she worked on the MacFarland book.  This creates problems because revision suggestions are what show that a publication is peer reviewed.  Melissa finds that editorial feedback can vary wildly. With journals, it depends on what the editor tells the reviewers.  As a guest reviewer, she wrote a lot of feedback, because she finds it very helpful. Too often, commentary focuses on things that would get worked out in copyediting, but it’s really more useful to know about the problems with the argument.

I for one found the discussion very helpful.  Thanks to the panelists for participating!

Programming Idea: Mad Libs Poetry

June 10th, 2013

Photo of Julie JudkinsJulie Judkins is a digital curator at the University of Michigan and a poetry advocate. She leads a young adult writing workshop at 826michigan and has taught workshops on erasure poetry and visual storytelling. Visit her blog to view her recent National Poetry Month series, as well as her series on the 2012 Ann Arbor District Library’s Summer Game. Julie is the 2013 ACRL LES & Arts Emerging Leader. She’d love to hear from you. Write to Julie at julieju [at] umich [dot] edu or find her on Twitter @thatklickitat.

I recently facilitated a poetry workshop hosted by the Wayne State University Press (in conjunction with the Made in Michigan Writers Series’ May 2013 Bus Tour) and the Ann Arbor District Library. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to incorporate poetry into your library’s programming, holding a Mad Libs Poetry night is a good option. Even participants who don’t consider themselves “poetic” will walk away inspired. Thank you to Gabe Gloden and the WSU Press team for generously sharing their materials with me.

 

Materials Needed:

Handouts: transcripts of original poems, directions

Paper easel pad(s), prepped (see exercise descriptions for directions)

Markers (for easel pad)

Pens (for workshop participants)

Tables and chairs

Scratch paper

 

The Mad Libs Poetry session I attended was held May 18th, 2013, from 11:15 AM – 1:00 PM in the Ann Arbor District Library’s Multi-Purpose Room. The workshop was free to the public and designed for adults and children ages 10 and older. Workshop partners 826michigan and The Historical Society of Michigan set up informational tables outside the Multi-Purpose Room and a local bookstore sold books from the Made in Michigan Writers Series.

 

Following a brief reading by an 826michigan student, the attendees broke into four small groups of eight to ten people. Poets Chris Dombrowski, francine j. harris, M.L. Liebler, and Keith Taylor each led a group of attendees through two Mad Libs exercises: “Mad Libs” and “Reverse Mad Libs.” Each exercise began with a partially finished work and incorporated random words at suggested points to complete the piece. At the end of each exercise, groups shared their poems with the other participants. The workshop concluded with Dombrowski, harris, Liebler, and Taylor reading their original work.

 

Exercise #1: Traditional Mad Lib

 

After workshop participants split into groups, each poet/workshop leader directed their group’s attention to a paper easel pad.

 

This exercise uses two sheets of paper on the easel pad. The top sheet contains the prompts (e.g. name an adjective, name a place) written underneath rectangular cut outs that reveal the page underneath. This allows the scribe to write the chosen Mad Lib word(s) directly into the Mad Lib version, hidden below on the second page. When all of the prompts are completed, the workshop leader flips up the first page, revealing the completed new Mad Lib version on the second page.

 

To prep the paper easel for this exercise:

1) Flip to the second page on a paper easel pad. Write out the Mad Lib version of a poem you’ve selected, in a large font that will be legible from a few feet away. Just leave a blank space where a prompt occurs. You’ll cue participants in the next step so there’s no need to signal what each blank signifies just yet.

 

For example, here is a Mad Lib version of Tennyson’s “The Eagle”:

 

The [Animal]

By [Group Name]

 

He [Verb ending in “s”] the crag with crooked [Body Part];

Close to the sun in [Adjective] [Place],

[Verb — Past tense] with the [Color] world, he [Verb ending in “s”].

 

The [Adjective] sea beneath him [Verb ending in “s”];

He [Verb ending in “s”] from his mountain [Noun — Plural],

And like a [Noun] he [Verb ending in “s”].

 

2) When you’ve finished writing out the Mad Lib, flip back to the first page and carefully cut out a rectangle that corresponds with where each Mad Lib prompt falls. (Flip back and forth between the pages to get the placement right.) Underneath each rectangle, write the cue (e.g. “Noun – Plural”).

3) Have a copy of the original poem on hand so you can read it to participants as a comparison.

 

You’re ready to Mad Lib!

 

Exercise #2: Reverse Mad Libs

 

After the completion of the first exercise, each participant at the workshop I attended received a handout with these instructions:

 

“Now who’s ready for Reverse Mad Libs!?

Now you’re ready for a bigger challenge.  For Reverse Mad Libs, we’ve given you only a handful of the words from a poem, giving you the freedom to fill in the rest of the poem as you see fit.

  • Working as a team, you have fifteen minutes to create a completely original poem using the space provided on your worksheets.
  • The first line of the poem is given… then you fill in the rest, making sure you incorporate the random elements along the way.
  • There is NO word limit, but you must use the given punctuation.
  • Take time to digest the given elements of the poem and let them inspire you.  Do any themes present themselves?  Consider the random elements a creative gift, rather than a burden… and most importantly… don’t worry if your poem makes sense!  It’s a Mad Lib!  The meaning will come out of the absurdity.
  • Your author will be available for questions and inspiration, but they want to hear what you can come up with too!
  • At the end of fifteen minutes, your author will enter your team poem onto the board and you’ll give it a name.
  • When all teams are done, a representative from each team will read their poem aloud.
  • Then we’ll reveal the original poem!”

A second handout was given to the participants at this time. It contained the prompt for a reverse Mad Lib. This example is a version of workshop leader Chris Dombrowski’s “Small Fire in Snow.” Participants completed the poem individually by hand before coming together to re-write the same poem as a group.

However arrogant I had to be

to say ___________, ______ poem __, ____

__________________ branch end

_____________ stabbed ___ hot dogs _____

_____________ ketchup.

___________?  __________ not enough

_______ cook _______, wrapped ____

______ flames, ___________, charring–

__________________ meal,

______, taking ____, ________ bite, ____

_________, _________ hungry.

 

Here is my individual version, to give you an idea of what a completed poem might look like:

 

However arrogant I had to be

to say Molly, who cares how this poem ends, I

am but the branch end

that is stabbed with hot dogs roasted

over a campfire and served with ketchup.

Sounds tasty, right? I think not enough

people cook outdoors, wrapped up in the

flicker of flames, watching their food, charring–

a La Brea meal,

oozing, taking new form, with every bite, cold

then blistering, to answer your hungry.

 

To prep the paper easel:

 

1)   Transcribe Reverse Mad Lib from handout onto a page of the easel. Make sure you’re writing in a legible font that can be read from several feet away.

2)   On another page, write the original version of the poem, to be revealed after the Mad Lib is completed, for comparison.

 

Other ideas:

  • Instead of established poets, invite students enrolled in poetry courses at your University to submit their work to be turned into Mad Libs. Ask the students to participate in a short reading, before or after the Mad Libs event.
  • Instead of poetry, turn a short story or pieces of flash fiction into Mad Libs. If working with a longer piece, split workshop attendees into small groups, with each group in charge of one of the story’s sections. Ask volunteers from each group (or the author, if applicable) to read the story aloud at the end.

 

Additional “Traditional Mad Lib examples” examples:

 

“How doth the little crocodile…” by Lewis Carroll

How doth the little [Animal]

by [Your Name]

 

How doth the [Adjective] [Same Animal]

[Verb] his shining tail,
And [Verb ending in “s”] the waters of the [Body of Water]
On every [Color] scale!

How [Adverb] he seems to [Verb]
How [Adverb] spreads his [Plural Noun],
And welcomes [Adjective] [Animal — Plural] in,
With [Adverb] smiling jaws!

 

“Song of the Witches” by William Shakespeare

 

Song of the [Group of People]

by [Group Name]

 

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire [Verb] and [Container] bubble.

Fillet of a [Adjective] snake,

In the [Same Container] [Verb] and bake;

[Body Part] of [Animal] and [Body Part] of frog,

[Body part] of bat and [Body Part] of dog,

[Animal]‘s fork and [Animal]‘s sting,

[Member of Group]‘s leg and [Member of Group]‘s wing,

For a [Noun] of [Adjective] trouble,

Like a [Noun] boil and bubble.

 

“Dandelion” by Hilda Conkling

 [Plant]

By [Group Name]

 

O little [Occupation] with the golden [Tool of that Occupation],

What are you [Verb ending in —ing] on my lawn?

You with your [Color] [Tool of that Occupation]

And your [Adjective] [Body Part],

Why do you [Verb] so [Adjective]?

There is only the grass to [Verb]!

 

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REBLOG: “Leaves of Graph” by Pete Coco

August 23rd, 2012

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

Originally posted ato ACRLog (http://acrlog.org/2012/08/23/leaves-of-graph/) by Pete Coco. Pete is the Humanities Librarian at Wheaton College in Norton, MA and Managing Editor at Each Moment a Mountain: Archivally Inspired Art and Inquiry.

Note: This post makes heavy use of web content from Google Search and Knowledge Graph. Because this content can vary by user and is subject to change at anytime, this essay uses screenshots instead of linking to live web pages in certain cases. As of the completion of this post, these images continue to match their live counterparts for a user from Providence, RI not logged in to Google services.

This That, Not That That

Early this July, Google unveiled its Knowledge Graph, a semantic reference tool nestled into the top right corner of its search results pages. Google’s video announcing the product makes no risk of understating Knowledge Graph’s potential, but there is a very real innovation behind this tool and it is twofold. For one, Knowledge Graph can distinguish between homonyms and connect related topics. For a clear illustration of this function, consider the distinction one might make between bear and bearsThough the search results page for either query include content related to both grizzlies andquarterbacks, Knowledge Graph knows the difference.

Second, Knowledge Graph purports to contain over 500 million articles. This puts it solidly ahead of Wikipedia, which reports having about 400 million, and lightyears ahead of professionally produced reference tools like Encyclopaedia Brittanica Online, which comprises an apparently piddling 120,000 articles. Combine that almost incomprehensible scope with integration into Google Search, and without much fanfare suddenly the world has its broadest and most prominently placed reference tool.

For years, Google’s search algorithm has been making countless, under-examined choices on behalf of its users about the types of results they should be served. But at its essence, Knowledge Graph presents a big symbolic shift away from (mostly) matching it to web content – content that, per extrinsic indicators, the search algorithm serves up and ranks for relevance – toward the act of openly interpreting the meaning of a search query and making decisions based in that interpretation. Google’s past deviations from the relevance model, when made public, have generally been motivated by legal requirements (such as those surrounding hate speech in Europe or dissent in China) and, more recently, the dictates of profit. Each of these moves has met with controversy.

And yet in the two months since its launch, Knowledge Graph has not been a subject of much commentary at all. This is despite the fact that the shift it represents has big implications that users must account for in their thinking, and can be understood as part of larger shifts the information giant has been making to leverage the reputation earned with Search toward other products.

Librarians and others teaching about internet media have a duty to articulate and problematize these developments. Being in many ways a traditional reference tool, Knowledge Graph presents a unique pedagogic opportunity. Just as it is critical to understand the decisions Google makes on our behalf when we use it to search the web, we must be critically aware of the claim to a newly authoritative, editorial role Google is quietly staking with Knowledge Graph – whether it means to be claiming that role or not.

Perhaps especially if it does not mean to. With interpretation comes great responsibility.

Some Questions

The value of the Knowledge Graph is in its ability to authoritatively parse semantics in a way that provides the user with “knowledge.” Users will use it assuming its ability to do this reliably, or they will not use it at all.

Does Knowledge Graph authoritatively parse semantics?

What is Knowledge Graph’s editorial standard for reliability? What constitutes “knowledge” by this tool’s standard? “Authority”?

What are the consequences for users if the answer to these questions is unclear, unsatisfactory, or both?

What is Google’s responsibility in such a scenario?

He Sings the Body Electric

Consider an example: Walt Whitman. As of this writing, the poet’s entry in Knowledge Graph looks like this (click the image to enlarge):

You might notice the most unlikely claim that Whitman recorded an album called This is the Day. Follow the link and you are brought to a straight, vanilla Google search for this supposed album’s title. The first link in that result list will bring you to a music video on Youtube:

Parsing this mistake might bring one to a second search: “This is the Day Walt Whitman.” The results list generated by that search yield another Youtube video at the top, resolving the confusion: a second, comparably flamboyant Walt Whitman, a choir director from Chicago, has recorded a song by that title.

 

Note the perfect storm of semantic confusion. The string “Walt Whitman” can refer to either a canonical poet or a contemporary gospel choir director while, at the same time, “This is the Day” can refer either to a song by The The or that second, lesser-known Walt Whitman.

Further, “This is the Day” is in both cases a song, not an album.

Knowledge Graph, designed to clarify exactly this sort of semantic confusion, here manages to create and potentially entrench three such confusions at once about a prominent public figure.

Could there be a better band than one called The The to play a role in this story?

Well Yeah

This particular mistake was first noted in mid-July. More than a month later, it still stands.

At this new scale for reference information, we have no way of knowing how many mistakes like this one are contained within Knowledge Graph. Of course it’s fair to assume this is an unusual case, and to Google’s credit, they address this sort of error in the only feasible way they could, with a feedback mechanism that allows users to suggest corrections. (No doubt bringing this mistake the attention of ACRLog’s readers means Walt Whitman’s days as a time-traveling new wave act are numbered.)

Is Knowledge Graph’s mechanism for correcting mistakes adequate? Appropriate?

How many mistakes like this do there need to be to make a critical understanding of Knowledge Graph’s gaps and limitations crucial to even casual use?

Interpreting the Gaps

Many Google searches sampled for this piece do not yield a Knowledge Graph result. Consider an instructive example: “Obama birth certificate.” Surely, there would be no intellectually serious challenge to a Knowledge Graph stub reflecting the evidence-based consensus on this matter. Then again, there might be a very loud one.

Similarly not available in Knowledge Graph are stubs on “evolution,” or “homosexuality.” In each case, it should be noted that Google’s top ranked search results are reliably “reality-based.” Each is happy to defer to Wikipedia.

In other instances, the stub for topics that seem to reach some threshold of complexity and/or controversy defers to “related” stubs in favor of making nuanced editorial decisions. Consider the entries for “climate change” and the “Vietnam war,” here presented in their entirety.

In moments such as these, is it unreasonable to assume that Knowledge Graph is shying away from controversy and nuance? More charitably, we might say that this tool is simply unequipped to deal with controversy and nuance. But given the controversial, nuanced nature of “knowledge,” is this second framing really so charitable?

What responsibility does a reference tool have to engage, explicate or resolve political controversy?

What can a user infer when such a tool refuses to engage with controversy?

What of the users who will not think to make such an inference?

To what extent is ethical editorial judgment reconcilable with the interests of a singularly massive, publicly traded corporation with wide-ranging interests cutting across daily life?

One might answer some version of the above questions with the suggestion that Knowledge Graph avoids controversy because it is programmed only to feature information that meets some high standard of machine-readable verification and/or cross-referencing. The limitation is perhaps logistical, baked into the cake of Knowledge Graph’s methodology, and it doesn’t necessarily limit the tool’s usefulness for certain purposes so long as the user is aware of the boundaries of that usefulness. Perhaps in that way this could be framed as a very familiar sort of challenge, not so different from the one we face with other media, whether it’s cable news or pop-science journalism.

This is all true, so far as it goes. Still, consider an example like the stub for HIV:

There are countless reasons to be uncomfortable with a definition of HIV implicitly bounded by Ryan White on one end and Magic Johnson on the other. So many important aspects of the virus are omitted here – the science of it, for one, but even if Knowledge Graph is primarily focused on biography, there are still important female, queer or non-American experiences of HIV that merit inclusion in any presentation of this topic. This is the sort of stub in Knowledge Graph that probably deserves to be controversial.

What portion of useful knowledge cannot – and never will – bend to a machine-readable standard or methodology?

Ironically, it is Wikipedia that, for all the controversy it has generated over the years, provides a rigorous, deeply satisfactory answer to the same problem: a transparent governance structure guided in specific instances by ethical principle and human judgment. This has more or less been the traditional mechanism for reference tools, and it works pretty well (at least up to a certain scale). Even more fundamental, length constraints on Wikipedia are forgiving, and articles regularly plumb nuance and controversy. Similarly, a semantic engine like Wolfram Alpha successfully negotiates this problem by focusing on the sorts of quantitative information that isn’t likely to generate so much political controversy. The demographics of its user-base probably help too.

Of course, Google’s problem here is that it searches everything for every purpose. People use it everyday to arbitrate contested facts. Many users assume that Google is programmatically neutral on questions of content itself, intervening only to organize results for their relevance to our questions; Google, then, has no responsibility for the content itself. This assumption is itself complicated and, in many ways, was problematic even before the debut of Knowledge Graph. All the same, it is a “brand” that Knowledge Graph will no doubt leverage in a new direction. Many users will intuitively trust this tool and the boundaries of “knowledge” enforced by its limitations and the prerogatives of Google and its corporate actors.

So:

Consider the college freshman faced with all these ambiguities. Let’s assume that she knows not to trust everything she reads on the internet. She has perhaps even learned this lesson too well, forfeiting contextual, critical judgment of individual sources in favor of a general avoidance of internet sources. Understandably, she might be stubbornly loyal to the internet sources that she does trust.

Trading on the reputation and cultural primacy of Google search, Knowledge Graph could quickly become a trusted source for this student and others like her. We must use our classrooms to provide this student with the critical engagement of her professors, librarians and peers on tools like this one and the ways in which we can use them to critically examine the gaps so common in conventional wisdom. Of course Knowledge Graph has a tremendous amount of potential value, much of which can only proceed from a critical understanding of its limitations.

How would this student answer any of the above questions?

Without pedagogical intervention, would she even think to ask them?