New to the SCN: ScholCom 202X (an interactive fiction game)

This is the 5th post in a series announcing resources created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook, or SCN (see Recent Posts for other, well, recent posts). The SCN is a hub of open teaching and learning content on scholcomm topics that is both a complement to an open book-level introduction to scholarly communication librarianship and a disciplinary and course community for inclusively sharing models and practices. IMLS funded the SCN in 2019, permitting us to pay creators for their labor while building a solid initial collection. These works are the result of our first CFP last fall (round 2 CFP open right now, to June 21). 

Today we’re excited to share ScholCom 202X (ready to play html, also available in GitHub as well as Google Docs, both everything to host html as well as text-based to use offline), by Stewart Baker. Stewart gamified scholcomm work with a series of openly licensed situations we encounter regularly in our work, wherein players have to choose how to respond and try to maintain some work/life balance (if you win that one please let us know). These cases and this model hold a lot of potential for interesting instruction. Here’s Stewart introducing the game:

Interactive Fiction (IF) is essentially a text-based video game, a cross between a short story and website where the user clicks links or types in commands to move a character through the game’s plot. Although it’s an obscure medium even in the video game world, I think IF has the potential to offer librarians and educators a low-tech way to create effective, engaging learning games. I decided to put this theory to the test by creating ScholCom 202X, my contribution to the Scholarly Communication Notebook. (Okay, I’ll admit I also suggested it because I thought it would be fun!)

Learning games have a long history in education, with some classic games like Oregon Trail being so successful they are still considered iconic in popular culture today. As computer technology has improved, however, so have the technical skills required to create learning games that look and feel like what people expect from a contemporary video game. This makes it hard for small teams of OER creators and those without advanced programming skills to create effective computer-based learning games. Additionally, contemporary video games have large asset libraries, making them large files that some users may be unable or unwilling to download and making them difficult or impossible to play directly in a web browser.

IF potentially resolves both these issues. Free IF authoring tools such as Inklewriter (the program used for ScholCom 202X) are designed to lower the technical skills needed to create an effective text-based game. Additionally, almost all programs used to create IF today can output a game that is embeddable on a website using JavaScript or a related technology. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to write IF or effective text-based learning games. All the same, these benefits make IF a potentially attractive format for those interested in writing their own learning game to share as an OER.

In ScholCom 202X, the player takes on the role of a new scholarly communication librarian at a small public university in a ‘distant future’ that shares elements with our own time (Zoom jokes included). The game is structured as ten distinct scenarios covering four general areas of scholarly communication (rights, publishing, institutional repositories and dissemination, and open access). In each scenario, the player is introduced to a library patron with a scholarly communication problem or question for them to respond to.

After reading the scenario text, the player can check their ‘augment’ (a science-fictional smartphone equivalent) to see a short annotated bibliography of relevant sources and check how busy their schedule is before deciding whether they decline to help the patron, help them a little bit, or provide extensive, comprehensive assistance. Players must balance how well and thoroughly they respond to each scenario with how much time they have available.

After proceeding through a set number of scenarios selected by the player at the beginning of play, the game ends and the player is presented with a brief text ‘score’ describing how well they helped people and how overwhelmed with work they are. The idea is that players learn about not only the various aspects of scholarly communication librarianship but also project management and how to say ‘no’ to things—concepts that will benefit new and early-career librarians in particular. Presenting the OER’s educational information in a game setting also enabled me to introduce a diverse cast of characters similar to those librarians are likely to encounter in a real-life public university setting.

To make the game more accessible and adaptable, I created text-only PDF file equivalents of each scenario and a PDF file that contained just the annotated bibliography. Although these lack the interactivity of the IF version, they allow teachers to run role play sessions in a classroom environment and may also provide a more familiar, comfortable context for individual learners to think about scholarly communication and librarianship.

Whether you buy into the idea of IF and learning games as useful educational tools or would rather just use the equivalent text scenarios for roleplay, I hope you’ll find ScholCom 202X an engaging way to learn or teach about the challenges scholarly communication librarians face on the job. If you’re intrigued and would like to learn more about the process of creating an interactive OER, you can view my presentation from this year’s Online Northwest conference. I have also written about my process and the Ink programming language in particular in the Code4Lib journal (Choosing Your Own Educational Resource: Developing an Interactive OER Using the Ink Scripting Language).

About the Author

Stewart Baker is the Systems/Institutional Repository Librarian at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, OR. Stewart’s research interests include open access, learning games, and web accessibility. When he’s not working or parenting, you can usually find him writing, reading, and playing science fiction and fantasy short stories, poems, and games. You can find him at https://wou.edu/~bakersc or on Twitter at @stewartcbaker.

CFP Round 2: Contribute to the Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN)

UPDATE: deadline extended from June 21 to July 12, 2021

We are pleased to announce our second call for proposals for materials to be included in the Scholarly Communication Notebook. Successful proposals will contribute openly-licensed educational materials (OER) about scholarly communication that reflect the broad range of people, institution types, and service models in scholarly communication and specifically fill gaps of representation in the current body of materials. With generous support from IMLS, we are able to offer $2,500 financial awards in recognition of the expertise and labor required to develop these resources. You can see the full application as a Google doc, read more below, and submit here.

Note: the SCN is distinct from, but related to, an open book project that we’re also pursuing. Learn more about the relationship and distinction, if you’re interested.

Call for Proposals

The Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN) team is excited to invite proposals for the development of open educational resources (OER) that reflect and encourage diversity in scholarly communication. The SCN is an online community/repository that is explicitly intended to support and educate a diversifying workforce of LIS professionals and to extend social justice values to all participants by intentionally and thoughtfully reflecting the broad range of people, institution types, and service models in scholarly communication.

With generous support from IMLS, we are able to offer $2,500 financial awards in recognition of the expertise and labor required to develop these resources.

We are particularly interested in proposals from authors from a broad range of institutions and intersectional identities, particularly emphasizing marginalized and underrepresented perspectives.

The Materials

The OER should be a learning object or collection that is ready to be used in both a formal classroom setting and as a resource for self-guided learning. We are leaving space for a variety of approaches to design of the core resource and pedagogical apparatus. We are also committed to working with contributors to develop proposals before they are submitted and continuing to support development and refinement throughout creation.

Example Projects

Because this is a new project we invite proposals that reflect a variety of approaches to building open resources and supporting open practices. The following examples are results from our first CFP (Fall 2020):

But don’t let these examples limit your thinking! Creativity is welcome! The following hypothetical examples reflect a small set of gaps in the literature that a proposal might help fill:

  • A lesson introducing a model open education program being run at an HBCU
  • An exercise exploring strategies for supporting open and public access at a community college
  • Narratives and discussion questions that highlight unique work being done on archiving and supporting engagement with local materials at a regional college or university
  • A podcast or videos describing a tribal college’s work developing tools that support digital scholarship that engages the college’s history and the communities it serves

Selection Criteria

Proposals are open-ended but should address the following areas:

  • An overview of the topic being presented (copyright, OER, digital scholarship, etc.)
  • The need for this resource and the gaps that it fills. Why is it important? Are you building on existing openly licensed content or creating something new?
  • Your approach to presenting this material. What methods are you using? How are you addressing the need you identified above?
  • The format of the learning object? Is it a selection of readings? Video/s? A podcast?
  • What sort of pedagogical apparatus will be included? Will you include discussion questions? A structured assignment? What will you add to make this an educational resource, not just a document? If you have concerns about this area we are happy to work with you to refine these through discussion.
  • What are the learning outcomes/objectives for these materials?
  • Suggested (foundational/canonical) further reading? What are the most important readings, either necessary or optional for a learner to engage with these materials?

Submission Process

Submit a proposal at SCN CFP 2 Form. Review of proposals will begin on June 21 July 12, 2021. We hope to communicate acceptances by July 16, with work to take place through remainder of 2021 (we’ll work with accepted projects to agree on a timeline that makes sense, and remain as flexible as we can be along the way). In the first round, we accepted 10 proposals, and intend to do roughly the same in this round.

To view the entire proposal application as a Google Doc, click here. To use it as a template, click here to create your own editable template.

Please direct questions to Will Cross (wmcross@ncsu.edu), Josh Bolick (jbolick@ku.edu), or Maria Bonn (mbonn@illinois.edu).

New to the SCN: Static Web Publishing for Digital Scholarship

This is the 4th post in a series announcing resources created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook, or SCN (see Recent Posts for other, well, recent posts). The SCN is a hub of open teaching and learning content on scholcomm topics that is both a complement to an open book-level introduction to scholarly communication librarianship and a disciplinary and course community for inclusively sharing models and practices. IMLS funded the SCN in 2019, permitting us to pay creators for their labor while building a solid initial collection. These works are the result of our first CFP last fall (round 2 opening soon). 

Today, in the midst of the 2021 Library Publishing Forum, we’re excited to share Static Web Publishing for Digital Scholarship: Resources for Scholarly Communications Librarians, by Chris Diaz. Chris notes that static sites can be a powerful technology for scholcomm work, and provides a lesson plan, annotated bibliography, and tutorials. The site hosting these resources is itself a static site. In a web full of bells and whistles, sometimes simple is just right. Here’s Chris introducing his work:

Static site generators have helped me publish digital humanities projects, open textbooks, serial publications, and scholarly monographs for free. This category of open source software is not a popular “publishing platform” for scholarly communications librarians or library publishers because there are hundreds of options out there and each of them may be difficult to learn without prior experience using command line programs. My goal with the tutorials and learning resources in “Static Web Publishing for Digital Scholarship” is to help librarians get started with static site generators and reveal their potential as scholarly communications infrastructure.

Static site generators are open source, command line programs that build a static website on your computer that can be uploaded to any web server. Static websites are flat HTML files that render without the need of a database backend. Static websites have many benefits to librarians who support digital scholarship and scholarly publications:

  • They are cheap (sometimes free) to host, secure, and maintain because they do not require server-side application software in order to function
  • They are built from human-readable plain-text files that can be opened on any operating system using any text editor, which is good for preservation
  • The files are portable and self-contained, giving you the freedom to store and access the files on any machine, laptop, server, phone, or hard drive
  • HTML files are easier to design for accessibility than PDF files; however, static websites can serve PDFs alongside HTML

There are hundreds of open source options out there, but most use very similar workflows and organizational concepts so that knowledge of one can translate to quick familiarity with another. I use Jekyll, Hugo, Bookdown, and Pandoc regularly, depending on the needs and use cases of the project in front of me. I consider static websites (and the minimal IT infrastructure needed to deploy them) a strong example of a next generation library publishing tool. The strategy behind using them for digital publishing is informed by a few recent developments in scholarly publishing and academic libraries, mostly:

Content management systems are great for most websites, but scholarly publications are not like most websites. Scholarship is rarely updated after it is published and it needs to be maintained in perpetuity. Technical maintenance comes at a cost, which makes it more difficult to allocate resources to “legacy” content when the costs get high. Static websites eliminate “the library server” problem, which Alex Gil defines as the “often unseen indirect cost of database-driven infrastructure on the technical support systems and personnel within libraries. Database systems require maintenance and security in a way that flat HTML files do not.”

My experience building static websites for journals, monographs, and open textbooks has made me a more valuable collaborator on a variety of library technology and academic research projects. This knowledge is useful even when static websites are not the best platform for a project. I wish I had learned about these when I took an introduction to web design class in library school because they demonstrate important skills for librarians, such as accessibility, web standards, project management, document organization, markup languages, and basic IT infrastructure. Given the growing interest in static site generators from the scientific, digital humanities, cultural heritage, and library communities, now is a great time to learn and explore new potentials.

About the Author

Chris Diaz is the Digital Publishing Librarian at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He maintains his own static web presence at https://chrisdaaz.github.io/ and is on Twitter at @chrisdaaz.

New to the SCN: Accessibility Case Studies for SC Librarians and Practitioners

In the last couple of weeks we’ve started sharing works created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN, ISKME OER Commons Hub coming soon), a hub of open teaching and learning content on scholcomm topics that is both a complement to an open book-level introduction to scholarly communication librarianship and a disciplinary and course community for inclusively sharing models and practices. IMLS provided funding for this project so that we can build a solid initial collection, and pay creators for their labor. These works are the result of our first CFP last fall (round 2 opening soon; see also Recent Posts). Today we’re sharing Accessibility Case Studies for Scholarly Communication Librarians and Practitioners by Talea Anderson, Scholarly Communication Librarian at Washington State University. This is great and valuable work that helps all of us better serve all of our constituents and we’re proud and happy that we can support it! We’ll continue sharing projects and announcements (like the next CFP) on the News page of our project site. Here’s Talea introducing her book:

As a scholarly communication librarian, I think all the time about making resources accessible but I’ll confess that I didn’t consider the needs of people with disabilities until more recently. This is an ironic confession because I was actually born blind and, following surgeries, grew up with low vision. However, I don’t use assistive devices apart from text magnification so I’ve been able to use the Internet largely barrier-free. Only when I read Raizel Liebler and Gregory Cunningham’s article about accessibility issues in institutional repositories did I really begin to think about how my profession contributes to a system that excludes certain people on the basis of ability.

When I initially started this project, I knew I wanted to collect a variety of case studies that show how library publishers, scholarly communication librarians, and similar professions are handling accessibility in their work. I chose this format because I find that accessibility training materials sometimes tend toward the technical how-to checklist and I wanted to do more storytelling that connects publishing practices to the lived experience of people with disabilities. Rather than sketching out the technical details of a perfectly accessible document or publication, I wanted to show a variety of people and organizations thinking through what accessibility means in their work.

Of course, it’s not just libraries that are engaging with accessibility. Many other groups and organizations are doing this work, and I tried to include some of these examples in my case studies. For instance, in 2020, I was able to attend the National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention and listen as people grappled with the intersections between racism and ableism. These conversations partially informed a chapter I wrote about inclusive alt text descriptions and I’m sure many other case studies could have been included as well. I hope that we in libraries can continue to look outside of our own organizations to learn about inclusive practices from the communities that we aim to serve.

Thank you to the Scholarly Communication Notebook for supporting this project and to the many people who kindly shared their experiences, perspectives, and resources via the case studies. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me personally and I hope this resource proves useful to others as well.

About the Author

Talea Anderson is the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. She has participated in two excellent fellowship programs: the OER Research Fellowship with the Open Education Group in 2017/18, and the SPARC OE Leadership Program, Class of 2018. Talea is on Twitter at @anderstales.