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: 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: 25 years of C-Span

Browning, Robert. “Creating an Online Television Archive, 1987-2013.” International Journal of Digital Curation, no. 9.1 (2014). Accessed November 10, 2014. doi:10.2218/ijdc.v9i1.288

“By utilizing technology at the beginning, we kept pace and never fell behind in the collection, organization, and management of the information we recorded.” (p.10)

Browning’s recent article in IJDC provides insight into the successful development of a C-Span video archive over the past 25 years. It’s interesting to discover how an archive kept pace over a period (1987-2013) that saw such significant evolution in computing technology. Browning discusses the archive’s process for capturing video, selecting file formats, preserving and duplicating files, indexing and providing access. It strikes me that two key factors are at play in the success of this project—continuous collaboration with IT staff and steady funding/support of the archive. Browning doesn’t discuss either of these factors in depth, but the amount of indexing done for all content and the overall adaptability to change is truly impressive. The current access system for the C-Span Video Library is also really nice with cool features to help users save and share videos. I would really love to read more accounts like this of other successful (or not so successful) digital archiving projects that cover a wider range of file types and subject matter.

As of writing this post, the C-Span archive has captured 207,468.0700 hours of programming!

From the C-Span Video Library- Betsy Wade Oral History Video. Wade was the first woman copy reader at The New York Times and eventually a chief copy editor and columnist—and as an added bonus she begins the interview by sharing how important the public library was to her as a teen.

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: what exactly are we trying to capture?

Davis, Corey. “Archiving the Web: A Case Study from the University of Victoria.” Code4Lib Journal, no. 26 (2014). Accessed November 4, 2014.

 ‘It’s not your grandfather’s web anymore.’

-Negulescu and Rosenthal qtd. in Davis

I found this article to be a great starting point for my exploration of web archiving. Davis provides excellent background on web archiving as well as the areas of interest in developing a web archiving program. In particular, I appreciated Davis’ explanation of why dynamic websites are so difficult to capture well. In light of this difficulty, Davis wonders if we might be able to encourage website creators to build sites that are “optimized for web archiving.” Overall, that kind of task seems daunting. However, it might be possible to work with local website creators (at one’s institution) regarding needs for web archiving.

Davis also briefly discusses the nature of web documents and websites as objects to collect – are they archival objects with original order or discrete objects? This is a key question to grapple with when collaborating with colleagues (from library land and archive land) on development of web archiving initiatives.

Things for future consideration:

Description and arrangement: What kind of metadata fully captures the context of the site overtime? How would web archives of a university domain fit into existing institutional records? Would it need to? How should web archives be represented in archival description? Are most web archives at this point just stand-alone topical collections?

Use cases for web archives: Do you need to have expressed need for web archives before investing in the efforts? If you build it, will they come?  I think it’s important to look at existing collecting strengths and policy – and archive the web accordingly. Maybe the really big question is – how should frequency of crawls be determined?

The big question raised: Davis asks: “what exactly are we trying to capture? … This database—which represents the majority of the project’s human effort—arguably has more value than the website itself.”

I’m just going to keep thinking about that for now…

Today’s coffee: New England Coffee        

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!

Introduction: Deliberate Reading

On a chilly May day earlier this year, I graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Information ready to enter the exciting world of libraries and archives and prepared to wrangle information in digital formats for preservation and access.

As I searched for a full-time position, I continued working as a digital processing assistant at a U-M archive. Over the summer, I developed valuable skills with digital curation tools and policy development. I spent a lot of time skimming blog posts and skipping around listserv emails with special attention to all things digital curation related. This was very useful to my work, but without course syllabi and assigned readings I often felt a lack of connection to larger conversations about the role of archives and archivists in society.

I decided I needed to step-up my professional reading game. Less skimming. More structure. And coffee. Thus, I decided to create a “coffee hour” schedule of reading on a weekly basis. During this hour, I would commit to reading one article, report or blog post–in it’s entirety. Followed up by a quick recap or thoughtful response as appropriate in a journal.

I happily put this plan on hold when I discovered I would be joining the MIT Institute Archive and Special Collections team as the Fellow for Digital Archives this fall. Now that I’m somewhat settled in to life in New England and my new professional role, I want to take up the deliberate reading charge once more.

This blog will be host to my coffee hour reading responses as well as occasional posts about my experience as a new professional and a MIT Libraries Fellow.


Today’s Coffee: Peet’s brew from Bosworth’s Cafe