The following is a guest post by Melody Condron, resource management coordinator at the University of Houston Libraries. Condron will teach Personal Digital Archiving for Librarians as an online course beginning October 6.
Chances are, you have many digital items: family photographs, bank statements, recipes, or work reports. You may also have a digital life that includes your contacts’ information, emails, texts, and social media. Thirty years ago, most documents and correspondence were on paper. Those items were vulnerable to time, but could be protected by organization and proper storage. The same is true of digital documents, although we tend to create digital items faster and store them more haphazardly. Few of us have a plan for them even though they are at risk. Computers can fail or get stolen; a neglected online account might be shut down; or you may lose the photograph you need simply because you never gave it a title to differentiate it from the other 10,000 photos you created last summer. Learning the basics of personal digital archiving can help digital citizens become better managers of their own lives, and librarians have the organization and preservation training to help people move in the right direction.
At its core, personal digital archiving is the conscious maintenance and storage of your digital documents. The topic is complex because everyone has different needs. A film student, for example, might have multiple digital videos that require much more storage space than a normal computer user. Some people may want to preserve their social media accounts or text messages, while others find that to be too much work. Each individual must assess their own needs. Identifying what you want to keep (and get rid of) only takes you so far: you still have to figure out how to store it, protect it, and share it. Luckily, with an increase in cloud storage solutions and a decrease in the price of external drives and computer storage, options for protecting your data are becoming easier.
Sharing is a larger part of personal digital archiving than many people would assume. In fact, legacy planning is much of the impetus for some personal archivists. It can be exceedingly difficult to gain access to a loved one’s financial and legal documents in case of an emergency if they are all stored digitally behind passwords, or in accounts family members don’t know about. Photographs are also at a high risk of loss if they are not backed up and shared so that families have access.
With an increased interest in personal digital archiving, many libraries offer services to assist people. The Library of Congress has been a leader in this area and offers many resources. At the University of Houston Libraries, personal digital archiving is not a core focus – we don’t spend our days archiving text messages and Twitter. However, we do spend time working on best practices for file naming, metadata, preservation, data management, and organization.
This October, I will be teaching a class on Personal Digital Archiving for Librarians as a “train-the-trainer” opportunity. My goal is to translate that librarian-specific work to a broader audience. Seeing an increased interest in personal archiving is encouraging. As we move forward in a digital world, those best practices, born in libraries, can help people become better stewards of their own digital lives.
Joshua Been, social science data librarian at the University of Houston Libraries, will discuss geographic information systems (GIS) and data visualization in the classroom on October 9, as part of the UH Emerging Trends in Education Technology series.
Data visualizations serve as both a tool to explore data as well as a means to tell the stories inherent within data. Attendees will learn about available visualization and mapping tools, explore interactive data visualizations, and discover support services available at UH. Examples discussed will include GIS, interactive visualizations, and digital humanities.
On Wednesday, October 14, the University of Houston Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Program will present Collaboration: Women Re-Making American Political Culture, a one-day women’s history symposium, in partnership with the UH Libraries Special Collections Carey C. Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection and the UH department of History.
The symposium events will be held in the MD Anderson Library Rockwell Pavilion and the Student Center at the University of Houston. In addition to panel discussions, the symposium will feature a keynote with National Public Radio White House correspondent Tamara Keith.
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University of Houston Libraries invites faculty and staff, students, researchers, and anyone interested in discovering rare and unique maps to attend a brown bag presentation on Friday, October 9 in the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion at the MD Anderson Library.
Social sciences data librarian Josh Been and library specialist Kristine Greive will present “Historic Maps” housed in UH Special Collections.
The October 9 talk is part of Unique Holdings, a new series that highlights the rare archival items held by Special Collections and available for use by faculty, students and researchers.
Future Unique Holdings talks will feature liaison librarians discussing other books and manuscripts of Special Collections that can inform and shape scholarly endeavors in any discipline.
Bring your lunch and enjoy an enlightening discussion!
What: “Historic Maps” brown bag presentation
When: Friday, October 9 at noon
Where: Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion, MD Anderson Library
Librarians and staff of the University of Houston Libraries are exploring wellness at work through Walk Across Texas.
The UH Libraries Walk and Learn for Wellness microgrant team invited employees of the Libraries to participate in the eight-week walking challenge, a program designed to motivate people to engage in regular exercise and activity.
An event held in the MD Anderson Library kicked off the program. Participants received a pedometer to track their progress over the course of the eight weeks, and new resources, including half-mile and one-mile walking route maps around the University, as well as a treadmill desk that participants can use while they work, were established for Libraries staff.
The year of health and wellness at the Libraries culminates with a lunch-and-learn series in the spring semester.
Rachel Vacek, head of Web Services at the University of Houston Libraries, joins a distinguished group of 20 experts from library organizations across the US who were invited to serve on the 2015-2016 Library Academy Advisory Board.
The Board was assembled as part of a grant awarded to the New Media Consortium (NMC), partnering with the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI). The Collaborative Planning Grant, given by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), under the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, will allow the NMC to develop a needs assessment for online professional development for academic and research library staff, and subsequently, a project plan based on those needs.
Josh Been, social science data librarian, and Irene Ke, social work librarian, connected with researchers at the Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) on the exploration and evaluation of innovative tools to enhance teaching effectiveness using data visualization.
The research team was awarded a Teaching Innovation Program (TIP) grant to develop and implement a plan for new approaches to teaching. Been is featured in this video on the project, highlighting the role of the Libraries’ geospatial information services.
For the first time in over 30 years, a new head of Special Collections has joined the University of Houston Libraries.
Christian Kelleher, former archivist and assistant head librarian at the University of Texas at Austin Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, began his appointment at UH this summer. As head of the thriving Special Collections, Kelleher envisions his role as providing direction and prioritization to the innumerable collecting opportunities, and as a supporter of the talented group of librarians and archivists working with unique and rare materials. He will continue to build upon the department’s robust collecting areas, and develop programs that bring the collections to more people.
One of Kelleher’s priorities is to broaden digital collections to support scholarship on a grand scale. In today’s environment of increased access and new forms of data, Special Collections is expanding its ability to bring more primary sources to more scholars in a number of fields, not the least of which includes digital humanities projects.
While the paradigm of the reading room is a mainstay of access to archival materials, Kelleher strives to supplement this practice by bringing more primary resources online and into the classroom. “We have wonderful collection materials that are being developed in such a way that they can support scholarship in the new scholarly environment,” Kelleher said. “Visitors do come into the reading room and use materials there, but it’s not always that way.”
Additionally, an outreach and exhibition program allows more students and faculty to interact with archival materials. Kelleher seeks to expand the reach of exhibits not only inside the Libraries, but also by contributing Special Collections’ archives to exhibits at museums or libraries worldwide. It’s about getting more materials out from behind the walls of the reading room of the archives, and facilitating interaction between the archives and members of the community.
Kelleher aims to develop more partnerships with students in order to bring their historical materials to the University audience, and provide a venue for them to tell their unique story. In this way, student engagement with archives in Special Collections presents great opportunities to have a positive impact on academic success and scholarship.
“One of the reasons I was so attracted to this position at the University of Houston Libraries is that the university and the city are both extremely diverse,” Kelleher said. Leveraging archives “is a great way to demonstrate to students that their experiences and cultures are important and valuable, and can inform the scholarship being produced at the University and beyond.” Oral histories, personal papers, and organizational records that reflect the diverse population of students signifies their importance in the cultural and historical narrative of the University.
Kelleher’s perspectives are influenced by the concept of post-custodial archives, which posits that custody of physical materials is no longer as important as it once was for archivists and librarians to do their work. The role of the archivist becomes that of a connector and facilitator. “Custody and preservation of primary resources, and the connecting of scholars with those materials, doesn’t have to happen only in the library and only with materials in our custody” he said.
Moreover, Kelleher sees new opportunities to partner with local businesses and foundations that hold records of scholarly interest reflecting the history of the community. “Special Collections can work with external organizations to provide access to material, to catalog and provide metadata, so that students and scholars can use that material for their goals,” Kelleher said. “That’s a really exciting development within libraries and archives.”
Kelleher recently earned a second master’s degree in journalism research and theory from the University of Texas at Austin. While working on his thesis, he became immersed in quantitative analysis, and became interested in applying this principle to work in archives. While efforts have long been taken to measure the impact of archives, including simple counts of materials accessed and the like, Kelleher notes that the relative numbers can offer deeper insights that show how archives are used and how research is conducted, informing future strategic appraisal decisions.
Kelleher is further inspired by the unique energy of the University of Houston campus. “The diversity that I’d heard about became really evident to me on the first day of class,” he said. “The amount of activity that happens in the library, the diversity of interests and experience that are represented in the students, is really exciting. I’ve met some great faculty who are equally excited about the students and the resources that we have in the library. And of course Chancellor Khator is a force to be reckoned with. She really inspires students, faculty and librarians. It’s a great thing to see.”
University of Houston students have a new resource for building study skills and achieving academic success.
UH Libraries, in partnership with Learning Support Services, has curated a collection of books focused on helping students get ahead in academics. The growing collection, including titles promoting smart study skills and time management such as Orientation to College Learning, also has resources that are tailored for particular student populations, including first-generation, nontraditional and international students. Selections also include books on understanding specific academic disciplines.
This collection is accessible on the first floor of the MD Anderson Library, and available for check-out.
More information on this student success initiative can be found in the September/October 2015 issue of American Libraries Magazine (open PDF). The article, Improving Retention: Leveraging collections for student success, was authored by psychology and social work librarian Irene Ke, library specialist for liaison services Kristine Greive, and biology and biochemistry librarian Porcia Vaughn.
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15, the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections honors and celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans with the exhibit, Reflexiones: Reflections of Houston’s Hispanic Heritage.
The exhibit reflects the immeasurable contributions of Latinos to the Houston community and greater Texas. Included books and archival material elaborate on landmarks in Latinos’ history, scholarship, social activism, and self-expression.
Of particular note are documents from the University of Houston University Archives and Hispanic Collections, which provide a lens for viewing the evolution of Hispanic organizations and leadership on the UH campus. The impact of this important work and leadership resonate throughout the landscape of the campus to this day.
Materials will be on view starting September 15 through October 15 in the MD Anderson Library. Questions and inquiries can be sent to archivist and curator, Lisa Cruces.
Director of Communications