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Figuring Out the ‘What For’ of Digital Scholarship Centers

August 8, 2019

The success of any new enterprise in a library often depends on decisive and nimble planning. But if you begin by asking the question ‘Why’ you will get either rather bland reasons such as competition or a thoroughly subjective rationale that is simply responding to a current but all too specific need. You don’t want to chuck away the opportunity to articulate a vision by simply chalking it up to broad relevance or fall victim to creating a president too hastily. Either can be disastrous.

When it comes to a cause célèbre like Digital Scholarship the agenda is often shaped solely by identifying what a library is already prepared to support, for instance: Text and data mining, Geospatial analysis, or Data visualization.

Media Wall

Media Wall outside The Lewis & Ruth Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship in Mills Memorial Library at McMaster University

The ‘What’ may very well be driven by only investigating the scholarly community of practice the library serves and evaluating resources, but perhaps “a more socially directed mode” of generous thinking, that “might enable us to make possible a greater public commitment in our work which in turn might inspire a greater public commitment to our work,” is what’s called for (Cf. The Munro Lecture: “Generous Thinking” with Kathleen Fitzpatrick).

An important preliminary will be to provide a common understanding of Digital Scholarship. It would help to decide on a coherent definition of Digital Scholarship, like the one from CU Boulder University Libraries, Center for Research Data & Digital Scholarship: “Digital Scholarship extends traditional methods of research by leveraging new technologies and digital data to advance research and enhance pedagogy. While it is most commonly associated with Digital Humanities, Computational Social Science, and Data Science, Digital Scholarship is applicable to all disciplines, and it often relies on interdisciplinary collaborations.”

Mission statements that live in a drawer and are infrequently consulted in assessing day-to-day decisions cannot be a force. That it is why it is necessary to determine the values which will be at the forefront of every conversation in answer to ‘What For?’  A good example of this are the Core Tenets of Boston College Libraries Digital Scholarship Group:

  • We aim to build experience and community
  • We are experimental
  • We are open
  • We teach, support, and collaborate

Some keys to generous thinking which Kathleen Fitzpatrick describes in her Munro Lecture that may also help are to maintain a tension between “critical audacity” and “critical humility,” and when working as a group “assume positive intent” and “own negative effects.” Thus, a spirit of generosity will enrich even further the thinking around the questions to be asked.

For descriptions of Digital Scholarship programs check out the ARL’s Digital Scholarship Profiles. You be the judge. Are they asking What For?

C&CS Presents: Library Legacies Project, August 28th at 12pm EST

July 29, 2019

Join us August 28th at 12pm EST


“The times, they are a’changing”: The Library Legacies Oral History Project

presented by Jackie Esposito


Register for the Zoom Link (online, free):  here

Library Legacies, a Penn State University Libraries oral history project, was conducted to ensure that the Libraries long-distinguished University history is captured and made accessible. By interviewing 150 present and former University Libraries administrators, faculty, and staff, this project attempted to place the rich work and experiences of these individuals in the context of the immense changes in the Library industry over the past 60 years. Their memories can infuse and negotiate the meanings of the past, amplify how their actions inform the present, and establish a path forward into a strategic future. The earliest interviewee began her Library career in 1958, the most current in 2018. This presentation will discuss trends, skill set development, strategic impacts, human resource issues and effects of technology across the Library as an industry.

Jackie Esposito is the Special Projects Librarian/Archivist at Penn State University. Jackie has been actively engaged in the management and preservation of University archival and library collections for over thirty years. She began serving Penn State in the fall of 1986 as a Project Archivist and was promoted through the ranks to her current position as Full Librarian. She currently is overseeing an extensive oral history project for the University Libraries entitled Library Legacies and assisting with reference/instruction at Penn State DuBois. She is the author of numerous articles on archives management, higher education legislation and records issues as well as co-author of The Nittany Lion: An Illustrated Tale.

This session will be presented via Zoom. You will receive a login link approximately 48 hours before the session begins. We will try to provide closed captioning to the best of our abilities during the session, and will have a moderator for questions.

Jackie Esposito

Jackie Esposito

ALA Denounces New Macmillan Library Lending Model, Urges Library Customers to Voice Objections

July 28, 2019

As I have previously mentioned in former articles, I used to serve as a textbook specialist and buyer for a community college. I held this position for nearly seven years and it was at a time when different platforms were slowly starting to emerge as alternatives to the traditional college textbook. When I started the position full-time in August 2006, textbooks were still the primary course materials required for most classes. Occasionally, an instructor would make his or her own individually crafted pamphlets or booklets to be duplicated and sold at the campus store, thereby greatly reducing the students’ cost for classroom purchases. The idea of an e-book or separate components such as access codes and loose-leaf versions of a textbook was just coming into vogue. The sales representatives would often stalk approach me and pitch me these ideas, complete with boxes of donuts or fruit baskets to soften the blows of their proposals. I would listen patiently, but all the while I knew that their cost-effective proposals and alternatives would not go over well with our students. Our students wanted to be able to have a physical textbook to sell back for cash at the end of the semester. They wanted their textbooks to be relevant for at least two years and not constantly changing editions. Loose-leaf versions of textbooks often got crinkled and ripped and many a time pages went missing, thereby deeming them undesirable for buyback. While electronic codes promised availability of an e-book version of the accompanying textbook, as well as access to the instructor’s quizzes and other assignments, these electronic codes were one-time use only. If a student ripped the tab off the electronic code to reveal it and then decided that he or she wished to drop the course, there was no way for the campus store to offer a refund on that item. (Or at least a full refund was not feasible.) When you plunk down over $200 for a textbook bundle, that is a big insult and waste of money.

It has been over six years since I left the textbook industry and I can see how publishers, like libraries, have had to evolve in order to remain relevant in an environment where technology is constantly changing the format of the once-prominent physical textbook. Last week, on July 25th, Macmillan Publishers announced its new library e-book lending model. According to Macmillan, “under the new model, a library may purchase one copy upon release of a new title in e-book format, after which the publisher will impose an eight-week embargo on additional copies of that title sold to libraries.”

“Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable. ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”  — Wanda Brown, ALA President

As an interlibrary loan librarian working to secure journal articles for students, faculty, staff, and administrators and who pushes the OER agenda, the word “embargo,” by default, makes me cringe. While personally, this decision does not affect my academic library (as we do not purchase e-books which are used for courses), I can imagine that this has a frustrating effect on many academic and public libraries. The heat on our libraries first got cranked back in July of 2018, when Macmillan Publishers, without notice, “issued a four-month embargo applying solely to titles from the company’s Tor imprint.” Now, this eight-week embargo on all of Macmillan’s titles really puts libraries at the forefront of having to explain this to students and patrons. We will be labeled as “the bad guys” before the publishers in that we are “perceived as being unresponsive to community needs,” according to newly minted ALA president, Wanda Brown. (Flashback from my days in the campus store! We were always “the bad guys!”)

Wanda Brown has called for libraries to voice their discontent with this new model by directing expressing their disapproval to Macmillan Publishers. “Macmillan Publishers’ new model for library e-book lending will make it difficult for libraries to fulfill our central mission: ensuring access to information for all. Limiting access to new titles for libraries means limiting access for patrons most dependent on libraries. Macmillan’s new policy is unacceptable,”  Brown notes. “ALA urges Macmillan to cancel the embargo.”

While Brown promises that the ALA will spend a significant amount of time trying to rectify this troubling situation, in the meantime, we can all do our part through outreach and protest. Objections can be written to:

Macmillan Publishers

Attn: Mr. John Sargent, CEO

120 Broadway Street

New York, NY 10271

Phone: 646-307-5151


Twitter: @MacmillanUSA

Additionally, Emily Wagner, the Assistant Director of Communications and the Public Policy and Advocacy Office of the ALA, asks that these communications also be sent to the ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office.

I know that the publishing companies are just trying to survive as well and I empathize (to a certain extent) with that. But my relationship with them has always been volatile at best. This is a thorn in our sides as an institute eager to assist our communities of students and patrons. I am sure, however, that it is nothing that a box of donuts and a fruit basket cannot fix!



Upcoming Free OER Summit in State College

July 8, 2019

PALCI+Picture1Academic librarians interested in learning about OER this summer should consider the OER Summit that Affordable Learning PA (part of PALCI) is hosting on August 9th at Penn State in State College, PA.

“The Summit will bring together OER advocates from across the state to discuss shared challenges and solutions under the theme “Building Community.” The day will feature keynote presentations by Amy Hofer, Coordinator, Statewide Open Education Library Services for Oregon and Anne Osterman, Director of VIVA, as well as concurrent sessions, posters, and lightning talks by your fellow PA OER practitioners.”

This summit would be a great place to gather new ideas for the upcoming academic year.  The Summit is FREE to all attendees and registration is open online at

Register soon as spaces are limited!

One Way To Create A More Inclusive Future

July 8, 2019

Open and Equitable Scholarly Communications: Creating a More Inclusive Future was released in June, and granted it’s not beach reading, but it is surely a must for every librarian’s professional development reading list. As a friend posted on social media soon after it came out: “This is the future of libraries.”

open-232x300In the Executive Summary it states: “The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) seeks to stimulate further advances through this action-oriented research agenda, which is designed to provide practical, actionable information for academic librarians; include the perspectives of historically underrepresented communities in order to expand the profession’s understanding of research environments and scholarly communication systems; and point librarians and other scholars toward important research questions to investigate.” In short, it lays out a “Research Agenda” with 3 foci: “People,” “Content” and “Systems.” Each focus includes a discussion of “areas of progress,” “practical actions” and “next directions for research.”

The conclusion makes clear why this is important: “This research agenda is intended to encourage the scholarly communications community and all librarians and library workers to work to enact change in the scholarly communications system. The agenda suggests a range of types of inquiries, each of which will help the community create a more open, inclusive, and equitable research environment.” Perhaps an even greater benefit of getting to read this report than the fact that it includes input from more than a 1,000 “library practitioners” from a wide array of libraries is that it also distills prior research by being based on an “extensive literature review.” Something always appreciated by busy librarians.

In the first of several appendices — the appendix section is nearly three times longer than the report itself — it discusses “Social Justice and This Research Agenda.” Wherein it provides what is maybe the best place to start. “Some of the issues raised in the literature, as well as (in various ways) in our focus groups and survey, are these, listed here in alphabetical order…” (Cf. pp. 35-36).

Happy New Fiscal Year!

July 5, 2019

Every July 1st brings with it the dawn of a new fiscal year. It is a season of change, when those deciding to retire from academia often do so at this time and new positions take effect. Refrigerators are crammed with left-over cakes, sweets and punch from farewell celebrations. Outstanding invoices and requests for expense reimbursements must be submitted to the Financial Department by June 30th. The classrooms and hallways are empty, with few summer courses in session. Hours of operation are reduced throughout the campus in facilities such as the cafeteria and gym. The parking lots are empty, about which I will never complain. Offices are being cleaned up for new personnel. Faculty, administration, and staff take advantage of the holiday week and head off for vacation, furthering contributing to the ghost town atmosphere on the premises. I remain huddled at the Information Desk on the lower level of our library, where a majority of our physical collections reside, and I freeze. Industrial-strength central air conditioning forces me to never retire my winter wardrobe during these summer months, and I often wear layers to keep my arms from turning blue! (How anyone wears sandals in this building is beyond my comprehension.) And so begins yet another fiscal year!

This year, July 1st had the honor of falling on a Monday, that most joyous and celebrated day of the week. (Said sardonically, of course.) As I have only been in my recent position since October of last year, this my first time witnessing the beginning of a new fiscal year and wrapping up the former one at this particular college. It is my responsibility to prepare the statistics of our interlibrary loaning and borrowing procedures for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. I was not here for July, August, September, and half of October of last year, so it might prove somewhat challenging to dig around for some of this information. But considering I have a prototype of what the annual report should look like based on looking at previous years’ reports, as well as access to the statistics through OCLC and Access PA, I am thinking that it should not be too hard to accomplish. I am  hoping to see an increase in the number of borrowing and lending which our library has done.

We are also undergoing a change in staff and administrators as well. A newly created position of Dean of Regional and Distance Education took over our former supervisor, who is still Director of Learning Support and Educational Support Services. Our new supervisor just started this week, and as she oversees several other departments in addition to our library, I know she will have a lot on her plate. I am still waiting eagerly for the full-time position of Systems and Emerging Technologies Librarian to be filled, for which I applied back in April and was briefly interviewed last month. (To be honest, I do not think I am computer-savvy enough to be a Systems Librarian, but my fingers are crossed that I will be given the opportunity to prove myself as competent when it comes to SQL and the likes.)

So while everyone else is on vacation, I and a few other library assistants remain on faithful watch at the circulation and reference desk. It is a very quiet time of year and a good opportunity to regroup and restore one’s psyche. I am blessed to have magnificent views of the incredible rural scenery which makes up our campus. When I need to get up and walk to warmer parts of the building that have more windows (and to get more steps in on my FitBit!), I sometimes catch a glimpse of a deer nibbling in the backyard of one of our neighboring residents. It is serene for someone who lives in a far more urban setting. And so I get a few hundred steps in, warm myself up with a cardigan and some coffee, and get back to the little odds and ends of my job.

2020 College & Research Division Candidates

July 1, 2019

CRD members, later this month you’ll receive ballots from PaLA to vote for the Vice Chair/Chair Elect and Professional Development Funds Manager for 2020. You can learn more about the candidates below.

Professional Development Funds Manager

Carrie Bishop


I have thoroughly enjoyed serving on the CRD Board as a member-at-large and especially providing Pennsylvania librarians with an opportunity through the Virtual Journal Club to engage with and learn from their peers in a no-cost, virtual format.  As Professional Development Funds Manager, I will be committed to my role of facilitating the LSTA Grant process to further the professional development of librarians throughout Pennsylvania. I recognize the importance of these funds in the production of workshops and other professional development opportunities that allow librarians to gain new skills, share their ideas and expertise, and build community.  I will do my part to see that CRD continues to provide these opportunities for librarians.


Carrie Bishop is the Distance Learning Librarian at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  In this role, she promotes and supports the inclusion of library resources and services in online and distance courses.  She regularly serves as an embedded librarian in online liberal studies English courses and creates digital learning objects to teach information literacy and library research skills.  Carrie joined the CRD Board as a Member-at-Large in 2018 and worked with a team to develop and pilot the CRD Virtual Journal Club. She has also been an active member of the PaLA Teaching, Learning & Technology Roundtable planning committee and served as the Chair in 2017.  Carrie holds an M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, an MLS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in English and Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Vice Chair/Chair Elect

Bryan McGeary


It is both an exciting and yet challenging time to be an academic librarian, as many of us are taking on new roles to meet changing demands or reinventing our approaches to the services that we have traditionally offered at our institutions. We are also finding new ways to engage with our patrons and extend our reach to those who have been underserved. The PaLA College and Research Division provides valuable programming and professional development opportunities to help librarians with achieving their goals and navigating the changes happening in our profession. Serving as the CRD Professional Development Funds Manager since 2016 has allowed me to witness the impact that the CRD has on furthering the professional development of librarians throughout Pennsylvania by providing and supporting relevant, timely programming. I would be honored to serve the CRD as Vice Chair/Chair Elect, providing leadership and support to an organization that has fostered my professional growth. I believe my experience as the CRD Professional Development Funds Manager will prove useful in navigating the budget and grant management responsibilities that come with this leadership position. 


Bryan McGeary is an Information Literacy Librarian at Dickinson College, where his duties focus on instruction, reference, and subject liaison responsibilities. He previously served as the Subject Librarian for the Humanities at Ohio University from 2016-2018 and as a Library Specialist at the University of Pittsburgh from 2013-2016. In addition to serving on the CRD board as the Professional Development Funds Manager since 2016, he is the chair of the ALA Film and Media Round Table’s Notable Films Committee, chair of the ACRL European Studies Section’s Research & Planning Committee and a member of the section’s Publications Committee, as well as News Editor and Layout Editor for Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice. He is also a graduate of the ACRL Immersion and ILEAD USA programs and currently a member of the inaugural cohort of the Open Textbook Network’s Certificate in OER Librarianship program. He serves as Dickinson College’s Campus Partner to the Affordable Learning PA program and was recently selected as one of the members of ALPa’s second cohort of OER Specialists.

Bryan earned a Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University, an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh, an M.S. in Journalism from Ohio University, and a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. 

Vice Chair/Chair Elect

Emily Mross


As an early career professional, the Pennsylvania Library Association and the College & Research Division have been essential in helping me grow as a librarian and develop within the outstanding academic library community in our Commonwealth. As the Vice Chair/Chair-Elect, I will promote the services and resources that are benefits of membership within our association to increase our impact with Pennsylvania colleagues. I plan to increase dialog between library types and to encourage more academic libraries to receive recognition for the stellar work they already do to support the essential literacies of their campus communities through the PA Forward Star Library program. CRD provides a wealth of support and professional development opportunities for academic library staff. It is my ultimate mission to amplify the work of our division and increase participation in and recognition of the hard work that we all do.


Emily Mross is the Business Librarian and Library Outreach Coordinator at Penn State Harrisburg Library. She previously served as the Library Manager at Northampton Community College – Monroe Campus from 2014-2016. Emily is active within the Pennsylvania Library Association. She is a PALS 2018 graduate, currently serves as the CRD publicity coordinator, and is a member of the Public Relations and Marketing Committee and the PA Forward Working Group. Emily holds a BA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, an M. Ed. from East Stroudsburg University, and an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.