Homeworking

homeworking

The end of the day for this digital humanist is distinctly non-digital. I’m at home, working on my Semantics midterm. I tell people, “By night, I’m a Computational Linguistics student!” And I literally mean by night. There’s actually a candle burning just outside the frame of the above photo. I’ll be burning that midnight oil aromatherapeutic wax.

I’m studying Computational Linguistics because I’m interested in NLP, and the humanist in me would like to one day use linguistics to ask large-scale literary questions and/or build Roald Dahl’s Great Automatic Grammatizator.

Semantics is one of the optionally required courses for my Comp Ling MA degree. I’m required to take either that or Phonetics, and I have a lot of interest in text and very little interest in sound, so Semantics it is. I must confess, it’s much harder than I’d originally thought. Object-oriented programming did not prepare me for formal logical proofs. To really dig into the material, I find it much more mentally effective  to use paper & pencil, rather than LaTeX or any text editing software.

You DHers can roll your eyes at my privileging of certain writing technologies or wonder if it’s the smell of the paper that really gets me going or whatever. But I’ve got a take-home midterm to finish up!

Cheers, #DayofDH. High-fives all around!

 

The setup

I find it helpful to know what other people use to get stuff done. Yes, I did finagle myself onto the actual The Setup blog in 2012, but things look and sound much prettier in text. Here’s what my setup really looks like.

the setup in robin's officeYou may realize that my captions make me sound like a “stand while you work” nutcase, which in point of fact I am.

Also when nobody is walking past my office window, I’m usually doing a little dance to whatever’s on my Rdio.

Programs currently open on my computer:

  • Chrome
  • Photoshop
  • InDesign
  • Excel
  • Word
  • Evernote
  • TextExpander
  • Dropbox
  • Idle
  • TextWrangler
  • Preview
  • Jumpcut

Tabs currently open in my browser:

  • A lot

 

Book exhibit

handout 2One of my colleagues, Tania, and I are collaborating on an exhibit about wonder women fighting for justice!! Or our less awesome but agreed-upon title, From Policewomen to Female Police Officers: A Brief History from 1845 to the 1970s. Tania picked out the books and wrote the essay, and I designed the exhibit (which will be in a glass case downstairs) and the handout. The exhibit will also be featured online as a blog post with links to resources.

Two cool little things about this cool little project:

  • I used DP.LA for real for the first time to find a resource! (Rather than to demonstrate the awesome power of linked open data)
  • I also found more things to illustrate the history of women police right from our own collection. Those three older ladies in foofy dresses down below? Badass police officers in 1956.

handout1

We periodically do these exhibits to highlight items from our collection. Yeah, my title is Emerging Technologies Librarian, but I also like getting involved in “traditional” librarian stuff too, like setting up these exhibits and so on.

Plus, my InDesign skills impress everybody at this college.

Some things on my screen

A small selection.

Chart from my monthly Reference Desk Log report. Quite a fluctuation.

Chart from my monthly Reference Desk Log report that I just sent out. Quite a fluctuation between months & semesters. I make a Narrative Science-style stats report every month (explanatory blurbs not pictured), except instead of algorithms making the narrative, it’s me & my piddly Excel skills. It’s great to snuggle up close to data that means something and will tell us how to do our jobs better, but it can be time-consuming.

From the John Jay College Archives — a student uses an old OPAC in the library. I had to date this photo ~1985 based on the computer model & textbook title.

From the John Jay College Archives — a student uses an old OPAC in the library. I had to date this photo ~1985 based on the computer model & textbook title. Sooo many things in the materials we digitized for the Special Collections were undated. We became detectives, using old yearbooks to figure out student group names/dates and coercing older faculty members into identifying former colleagues. I’m noting a few more CollectiveAccess theme bugs we have to straighten out with our webmaster tomorrow. (Yes, we still have someone with that title in the library.)

All the tweets. Yesterday, I chatted with one of the college social media specialists whose job is to boost enrollment through smart media practices. She gave me good tips on scheduling social media posts.

All the tweets. Yesterday, I chatted with one of the college social media specialists whose job is to boost enrollment through smart media practices. She gave me good tips on scheduling social media posts. I’ve got to work out our Throwback Thursday post schedule for the next few months, since we decided (after an inevitable mishap) that the posts I pick should be vetted and appended by our Special Collections librarian. I’m not a social media librarian, but I have the most enthusiasm for it, so many of our posts come from me in a minute or two between other things on my plate.

I'm on a committee planning a pretty big 50th Anniversary exhibit to be unveiled IRL and online in the fall. This is a mock of the physical exhibit. We made it collaboratively with me at the helm of Photoshop, layers projected onto a big screen, which I have found to be a great way to do visual work as a group.

I’m on a committee planning a pretty big 50th Anniversary exhibit to be unveiled IRL and online in the fall. This is a mock of the physical exhibit; almost all the things on the walls are from our Archives! The committee  made this mockup collaboratively with me at the helm of Photoshop, layers projected onto a big screen, which I have found to be a great way to do visual work as a group. We’re meeting later today to refine the mock before presenting it to other colleagues.

Planning the Digital Collections

Every Tuesday morning, I meet with the Associate Systems Librarian, Bonnie, and the Systems Manager, Geng, to go over our 20+ ongoing tech projects. This week, as for the past few months, my project of focus is the Digital Collections site, which I keep telling people is coming “soon.” It’s already live at a not-so-secret, but it’s buggy and we haven’t announced anything. There’s no hard/fast deadline, but I’d rather it launches before final exams. Otherwise we’d have to wait to announce it until the fall semester.

Special Collections booksFor the site, I’m also running a quick ‘n’ dirty Python script to collect all files associated with the 130+ items we’ve sent to the Internet Archive to be digitized, which are all books from our Special Collections. (While IA digitizes them, they don’t give us the files. It makes sense not to, since IA will be around for ages and we sent them the items specifically so they could digitize and store the digitized files on their servers — but it’s still nice to have our own copies, too.)

Reference deskThis is my current view. Not gorgeous, but important. I’m staffing the Reference Desk for an hour as students study for their midterms. I won’t get many reference requests at this hour of the day, but I can use the time to pursue other projects, like updating my Day of DH blog! And also compiling Reference Desk Log stats for my colleagues. (Pro tip: if you make your coworkers collect stats every time they do something, you better give them the pleasure of seeing aggregate stats presented in a beautiful narrative format.)

trial transcriptAlso, those cabinets you see on the left in the photo above? Full of microfilm. Mostly trial transcripts (left), some news reports, some books. Some of the microfilm we have has been digitized (amazing historical items = amazing time suck), but the vast majority of it is sitting in those green cabinets, maybe consulted once every few years by researchers. Which is not to say they’re not valuable — they are! I’m a firm believer in libraries keeping low-use, niche items that provide long-tail value to libraries, especially ours, which specializes in criminal justice materials.

Our task for the summer is to migrate those digitized trial transcripts to the Digital Collections site to provide a great browsing experience and consolidate our digital stuff in one place. We discussed in our morning meeting whether it makes more sense to spend money hiring a CS student to write a single-use migration script from our old custom system to a new and complex one over the course of a few weeks, or  to coerce my colleagues to simply copy/paste metadata into new fields over the course of half an afternoon. Tedious and prone to error? A little. Time-efficient and easy? For sure. Sexy and brag-about-able? Not at all.

Welcome to the Library!

 

John Jay College (10th Ave.)
John Jay College (10th Ave.)

Stay tuned — I’ll be updating from my office in the Lloyd Sealy Library in New York City. Tomorrow will be all about our digital collections, designing an exhibit, telling stories with numbers, and librarianing.

Day of DH 2014

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