reading notes: diversity, inclusion, social justice

I’m part of the newly established MIT Libraries’ Collections Directorate Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice task force*. The group was assembled by Greg Eow, MIT Libraries’ AD for Collections. The charge of the group is to: explore and identify specific projects, programs and initiatives that will provide opportunities for Collections Directorate staff to promote our values of diversity, inclusion, and social justice. I’m fortunate enough to be working with some fantastic folks – Ann Marie Willer (chair), Michelle Miller, Rhonda Kauffman, Dana Hamlin, Julia Lanigan, Czeslaw Jankowski, and Michelle Baildon. We have representation from each of the departments in the directorate.

The group is currently busy defining our scope and preparing to compile a report . I hope that we will be able to share more about the report and our recommendations this fall. To kick things off we have, of course, focused on a lot of information gathering and reading. The following list shows some of things I’ve been reading lately.

The Big Picture

  • From MIT Libraries’ director, Chris Bourg:
    • Beyond Measure: Valuing Libraries – post here
    • The Neoliberal Library: Resistance is not futile – post here
  • Professional Code of Ethics/Values
    • Zine Librarians – here
    • Society of American Archivists – here 
    • American Library Association – here

Focusing in on Collections Work – description, collection development, publishing/open access, etc.

  • Charlotte Roh’s article on “Library Publishing and Diversity Values..” – in the ACRL publication College and Research Libraries’ News, here.
  • Jarrett Drake’s conference talk, “RadTech Meets RadArch: Towards A New Principle for Archives and Archival Description” – available via On Archivy, here.
  • Mudd Manuscript Library at Princeton’s work with the Archiving Student Activism at Princeton (ASAP) initiative – blog post here and update on progress here.
  • 2015 LITA Forum keynote from Mx. A. Matienzo “To Hell With Good Intentions: Linked Data, Community and the Power to Name.” – find it here.
  • Kate Theimer, “Gaps in the Past and Gaps in the Future: Archival Silences and Social Media” – a presentation talk available on her website – here.


  • Stacie Williams on the “Implications of Archival Labor” – find it On Archivy.


  • Heidi Abbey Moyer explores green practices in libraries, archives and museums in “The Green Archivist” – jstore link.
  • Project ARCC (archivists responding to climate change) is a group of archivists (and librarians) interested in how the profession can affect climate change. The mission is to elevate, reduce, protect, and preserve. Check out the website for more and the Climate Change Syllabus for a wide range of readings and resources.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of readings related to DISJ topics in libraries and archives. The other MIT Libraries’ Collections Directorate DISJ members are busy reading other things we’ve identified and I’m sure there’s plenty more out there we haven’t even found yet.  I have a feeling that one output from our work might be a bibliography. Please feel free to suggest other readings for me or for the group!

*note, you may know that the MIT Libraries has a staff committee for the Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion (CPDI). The task force I’m part of is separate in that we are a temporary group, focused specifically on the collections directorate. CPDI has been around for several years and functions across directorates. CPDI has been a helpful sounding board for the DISJ task force so far.


reading notes: student organizations

As part of a project to re-energize efforts to collect records from student organizations, my colleague, Greta, and I decided a good first step was exploration of case studies and model programs.

The first step was reading the articles noted on this handy Zotero list. The project will also involve exploring our existing student related collections, understanding more about the various (like 500!) student orgs on campus, considering how websites can help us document student orgs and movements, trying different outreach methods, and more.

I’m really excited to be working on this and looking forward to learning more about what kind of digital archiving related advice students might want as well as workflows we might need on our end to work with them on transferring records. For now, I’ll share my reading notes for the three articles I’ve read so far. I hope to share more on the progress of this work over the next several months.

From Classroom to Commons…” by John Straw (1994). This article provides a look into the origins of the University of Illinois Archives of student life and culture. Straw also provides reasons for collecting student records and ideas of outreach. Variations on the reasons and outreach ideas can be found throughout the other articles I’ve read so far. In particular, Straw emphasizes the benefits of working with alums, alumni offices, and student life centers. One unique idea presented was to collect surveys from alumni as an alternative to more intensive oral history creation. This article also points to the internet as a means of identifying and appraising student organizations and other student subcultures. Straw writes:

“At the University of Illinois, the local Gopher system is a means of accessing information on student organizations and events, including the student newspaper index. We also are exploring options for monitoring a group “Chat Line” that is open to students…” (p. 23).

I wonder if they succeeded in capturing anything from their Gopher network!

  • Take-aways: Build relationships with the alumni office and the student life staff. Use the internet to your advantage in understanding student life.

College Student as Archives’ Consultant?…” by Ellen D. Swain (2005). If you’re looking for great ideas for outreach and learning about the landscape of current student organizations, then read this article. The info about student record keeping practices and perceptions of the archives is interesting though a limited sample. What interested me most was the idea of having a student advisory board for the archives. I really love this idea! This probably won’t be part of the first phase here at IASC, but maybe down the line this could be an option. I wonder if Swain and her colleagues still work with a student advisory group. Swain also points out that a two-pronged approach to outreach and collection development can be helpful. She suggests targeted and global approaches – meaning communicate directly with groups already represented in the archives (targeted) and for other groups start by capturing websites (global).

  • Take-aways: Building a program for student life documentation means getting to know students and being open to feedback from students!

Filling in the Gaps…” by Lea’l Hughes-Watkins (2014). This is a great case study for retroactively building or enhancing collections about student organizations and student life. In order to understand how to increase representation of the black campus movement at Kent State, the archivists’ began a layered process to develop the project and outreach efforts. This involved an assessment of current records to identify gaps and strengths. I’m sure this was a time consuming process, but seems worthwhile. Here at IASC, we’re using existing reference guides to help us understand existing student life collections. Next the archivists at Kent State, wrote a documentation plan and evaluated the language of their collection policy. The policy was changed to directly state a commitment to diversity:

“In order to more fully reflect the diversity of people and communities that make up Kent State University history, University Archives seeks to acquire collections that document historically underrepresented groups. …” (pg. 35)

A mission statement was also prepared to provide all potential donors and stakeholders with an understanding of the project’s goals. I think this is really important, especially when it comes to soliciting materials from alumni. The student newspaper was used a resource to identify individuals who might wish to participate and donate materials. With a list of names, the archivists worked with the alumni office to find contact information.

  • Take-aways: assessment of current collections for gaps is important in creating a documentation plan and purposeful outreach activities. Look at collection policy language and consider if a more direct statement could be made about including diverse perspectives and records.

If you know of other resource or programs at other archives, please comment or contact me. I’d appreciate any other suggestions.

reading notes: the tough stuff

This month I chose three readings that are rather different, yet each takes a look at some of the tough stuff that comes up in the information profession — collaboration, digital preservation and web archives, and e-waste and ethical consumerism.

1… The first is a report from OCLC by Jackie Dooley addressing management of born-digital library material. When it comes to navigating born-digital content, digitized materials, digitally published and delivered content, and open web based content — the best course for acquisition, access, and preservation actions is not always clear or simple.

Continue reading

reading notes: march reading group

This is a guest post from Greta Suiter, Collections Archivist, MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections and member of the informal Archives and Digital Curation Reading Group at MIT Libraries.

Collaboration in Access and Preservation of Digital Content

Collaboration in Access and Preservation of Digital Content


The primary readings for the month of March were both originally presentations turned into articles. The first was “Your Code Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum” by Becky Yoose, originally presented at Code4Lib held in Portland, OR in January 2015. The second reading was “We are what we keep; We keep what we are: archival appraisal past, present and future,” by Terry Cook. To accompany these texts we also looked at the SAA code of ethics, websites created with indigenous people’s needs in mind – such as the Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, and community archives, in particular some RRCHNM created websites that serve as an “archive” for material, often related to a tragic event (Hurricanes, 9/11, Boston Marathon bombing).

Continue reading

reading notes: ADC reading group introduction!

It turns out that several of my colleagues are also interested in making time for professional development reading! The result has been the development of the Archives and Digital Curation (ADC) reading group. I’m the primary organizer for the group at this point. So far, this has involved providing a list of possible readings and facilitating a vote for selecting readings, scheduling a discussion time and room, prepping discussion questions, and providing a recap of discussion notes. Whew! It is a lot of work, but valuable. I’m sure the process will change over the next few meetings. Finding a sustainable and productive way to facilitate the meetings is key — I hope to post about the process of developing the group in the future.

Read on for a recap of our discussion!

Continue reading

reading notes: podcast edition

Now that I’ve officially left 2008 behind and upgraded to a smart phone (and apparently contributed to bonkers Apple profits), I’ve been on the hunt for archive and library related podcasts. An obvious first choice is the More Podcast, Less Process podcast from the Keeping Collections project (a METRO project). So far there are ten episodes and I elected to start listening with episode seven because I’m a rebel!

The episode from early 2014, Humans.txt.mp3-The Web Archivists are Present, is focused on web archiving pursuits and challenges. All the usual suspects are discussed: staffing needs and skills, difficulty of crawling dynamic sites, challenges with getting full captures, deciding what to capture and how to scope crawls, topical vs. institutional web collections, facilitating searching and access, permissions and robots.txt decisions.

Even better the discussion places these topics in two specific institutional contexts – Columbia University Library web archives (established program) and the New York Art Resources Consortium (new program). Both institutions are Archive-It partners, so web collecting is discussed within the Archive-It model. At the very end, the group raised a couple questions I found particularly worthy of consideration: Are website collections really archival collections? Can web archives ever be organic collections or are they always artificial collections created by the web archivist?  …Which, for me, begs the question, how much does it really matter either way? Another possible way to approach this specific discussion might be considering the merits, similarities and differences between web archiving as collection development and web archiving as records management.

I don’t have much else in the way of critique or further discussion, but I always enjoy learning about how other professionals are developing web archive programs (because it’s no simple task!). Go listen! Other web archiving things I’ve viewed, read or scanned recently:

Do you know of any other archive-library related podcasts? This is what I’ve found so far:

Today’s coffee: Starbucks Veranda

The reading notes posts found on this blog are intentionally question-filled and causal. Each notes post serves as a sort of open journal record of my professional development reading as the MIT Libraries Fellow for Digital Archives. See the introduction post for more on this series. I welcome suggestions for future readings—current or archival!

reading notes: visualizing robotics history

Milojević, Staša, and Selma Šabanović. 2013. “Conceptual Foundations for Representing Robotics History in a Non‐linear Digital Archive.” Library Hi Tech 31 (2). Emerald Group Publishing Limited: 341–54. doi:10.1108/07378831311329095.

“Current online oral history archives are often forced into flat linear structure. … We want to take advantage of full capabilities of current technology to allow for non-linear presentations of narratives and data that do not conform to rigid timelines nor are forced into presenting a single aspect of the phenomenon.” p. 351

The project that this article describes aims to capture oral history accounts of the development of robotics and then use the resulting data alongside bibliometric data to create visualizations that position the history of robotics within a “knowledge ecology.” Thinking of the field of robotics — or any field, really — as a knowledge ecology allows one to consider the “interrelationships within and between the institutional, social, cognitive, historical, and material factors” that affected the development of a discipline. This moves the emphasis from a strictly linear timeline (based on publications alone) to a more context based, non-linear exploration (p.343).

The resulting collection, in the case of this project, allows a user to learn about the “local and personal understandings of robotics” as well as the “broader systemic picture” (p. 343). Meaning that the non-linear oral history accounts are placed within the context of the more linear timeline derived from bibliometric data (publications, patents, conferences).  Continue reading

reading notes: dynamic modes of recordkeeping

Anderson, Kimberly. 2013. “The Footprint and the Stepping Foot: Archival Records, Evidence, and Time.” Archival Science, 13:4, p. 349-371. DOI: 10.1007/s10502-012-9193-2

If archivists can learn to recognize records in all their forms, perhaps archivists can stop trying to acquire or create records that can be separated from their community of origin. If we move towards the citizen or community archivist model, the archives becomes a clearinghouse of sorts in which seekers are referred to the community for access, rather than capturing or translating records for use in the archives. P. 361

Article Overview

There is so much going on in this article! I recommend taking some time to read the full article if it’s of interest to you. Here goes my attempt at summarizing the article as well as my take-aways:

This article proposes a redefinition of what constitutes an archival record. By bringing into focus non-Western modes of thinking on concepts of time, record keeping, and relationships between creator/expert and record, Anderson questions the inclusiveness of archival collections (in the United States) and calls for archivists to acknowledge the need to begin identifying records without imposing Western concepts of ‘recordness’ on dynamic practices of recordkeeping. An example of a dynamic practice of recordkeeping would be dance or ritual (Anderson refers to this as kinetic or oral records, see p. 364). Continue reading