Why Blog?

Our cross-training, hands-on initiative is moving at the speed of light.  Since we started in mid-November, we have completed our third seminar and lab-based workshop, one of which included a session on social media with a focus on tweeting with Twitter and blogging with WordPress as we explore alternate additional forms of scholarly communication.

We haven’t had much time (because of that “speed of light” thing) to discuss in great detail why we will blog as part of our cross-training initiative.  While it is important to have this discussion the next time we come together – especially before entering the surely engrossing stage of processing our “History of the IU Libraries” archival collection (spoiler: too late, see photos below) – I thought we could explore some of the issues in the blogsphere in the meantime.  You can extend the discussion by commenting on this blog post or by composing one in response to this one.

Project team sorts the History of the IU Libraries collection.
Series identified for the History of the IU Libraries collection; teams formed. Let the sorting begin!

 

The History of the IU Libraries collection: Before and After photo of the sorting process
On left, the contents, before sorting, from Lou Malcomb’s (featured) collection, and on right, the contents sorted into 8 thematic and format-based series! Next step: inventorying, re-sorting and transfer to archival housing. Then selection, digitization and metadata capture. Hot do

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, why blog?

I have highlighted three important goals for blogging as part of our social media seminar that merit elaboration. I look forward to your additions to this list.  For this post, I will focus on the following objectives:

  1. Communicating our learning experience
  2. Exposure to WordPress as a scholarly publishing platform
  3. Exploring additional forms of scholarly communication

Communicating Our Learning Experience

As academic libraries broaden their public services to include digital scholarship services, either by establishing a research commons much like our own Scholars’ Commons or Digital Scholarship / Digital Humanities units, library professionals in this transitional space and place are either embarking on their own training initiatives that may take many forms, from informational sessions to hands-on learning projects like ours, or need to achieve this level of professional development and are looking for models.  Concerns and strategies for professional development began to solidify back in November 2012 as part of the DH & Libraries THATCamp.  I highlighted the main themes that emerged from the 2012 THATCamp in which cross-training featured significantly in a blog post for dh+lib, and several of us also responded to a blog post from CLIR around the same time.

Since November 2012, Angela Courtney and I have been confabbing regularly with colleagues from several institutions – Columbia University, Duke University, New York University, Texas A & M, Kansas, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, College Park and others – as we determine the best way to proceed in this arena.  As you may recall, after six months of topical info-sessions, we decided as a group that project-based learning would be the most effective for us as we collectively transition as first-year, front-line Scholars’ Commons staff.  Our colleagues at the Columbia University Libraries are pioneers in extending the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab Praxis Program, aimed at graduate students, to cultivate an engaging and immersive library staff professional development program.  We are closely following Columbia’s model, Breaking the Code: The Developing Librarian Project, which was more publicly unveiled as part of another dh+lib blog post.  By blogging our learning experiences and exposing our protocols for learning (via our wiki) we are not only helping ourselves as we reflect and move forward, but our colleagues as well.

 Exposure to WordPress as a Scholarly Publishing Platform

WordPress is a free, open-source blogging and content management system that offers both hosted and locally-installed versions like the one we are using.  We will be discussing WordPress plumbing later next year as we enter the web design and development portion of our cross-training program (see our schedule).

WordPress is ubiquitous (well, maybe not quite, but it is increasingly so in academic arenas).  According to Wikipedia, as of August 2013, nearly 20% of the top 10 million sites use WordPress.  It is being increasingly used for open-access scholarly publishing as evidenced by numerous journals like Journal of Digital Humanities, scholarly blogs like ACRL’s dh+lib, digital humanities scholarship aggregators like Digital Humanities Now, countless research sites and blogs like the project blog of the Mary Russell Mitford Digital Archive, and digital archives and informational web sites for cultural heritage artifacts and organizations.  It is no wonder that academic libraries are increasingly using and supporting WordPress for scholarly publishing.  There’s even a Comparative Guide to WordPress in Libraries  published by ALA TechSource dedicated to this phenomenon, but if you don’t feel like reading the book, check out this excerpt instead, Done in WordPress: Scholarly Publishing @ MIT Libraries.

We will encounter graduate students and faculty members who:

  • are curious about WordPress
  • already use WordPress, but would like help extending its capabilities
  • know nothing of WordPress, but they are looking for a lightweight, open solution for publishing

The word on the streets is that scholars turn to their campus libraries for guidance on digital publishing.  And if an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education isn’t persuasive enough, our own UITS has gauged enough WordPress use on our own campus that you’ll find several Knowledge Base entries and installation instructions for hosting WordPress on a UITS Webserve account.  WordPress usage is alive and thriving on our campus.

Exploring Additional Forms of Scholarly Communication

As researchers and advocates for our research faculty, we should explore and uphold additional forms of scholarly communication such as scholarly blogging and micro-blogging with Twitter.  As you may have noticed in the section above, lots of scholarly publishing happening with WordPress.  As we begin to recognize the “Virtues of Blogging,” and take into account “Scholarly Reflections on Blogging,” some or all of us will begin sharing our research pursuits through social media outlets like blogs or Twitter.  As active participants in this scholarly, virtual space, we will be better positioned to:

  • effectively and convincingly communicate why, both, the digital research projects published using open platforms, and these open platforms themselves are indeed worthy and influential scholarly outputs
  • shape open-access policies on our campus
  • influence the promotion and tenure guidelines (starting with our own) to hold digital projects such as these to the same level as the published monograph or the suite of articles published in X double-blind, peer reviewed print journal

and related to all the above points:

So, why not blog?