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.

New to the SCN: Copyright, Disability, and Accessibility

We’re excited to be developing the Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN), 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 (coming along) and a disciplinary and course community for inclusively sharing models and practices. We’re currently working with ISKME to establish the SCN as an OER Commons Hub, coming soon. With generous support from IMLS, we’re pleased to be able to financially support the development of model resources for the SCN. Last fall we issued a CFP (the first of three) for projects to support the initial population of the SCN, and we’re starting to see those projects come to fruition. Last week, we shared the first of a series of posts about those projects. Here, we’re excited to share the next one, by Associate Professor and the Head of Research & Instructional Services at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Carli Spina. Carli has created a rich set of resources to support instruction at the intersection of copyright, disability, and accessibility (currently in a Google folder while the SCN itself is in development). This is an important topic that’s seeing increased visibility, and that we’re proud to  support. Look for additional posts over the coming months, along with the second of three calls for proposals soon. Here’s Carli introducing her project:

Understanding how to make materials accessible to patrons is a vital topic for libraries, given that approximately 15% of the world’s population, or an estimated one billion people, is disabled. Beyond that, it is vital as we work to make access to information more equitable. While an important aspect of this work is understanding the technological aspect of making content accessible, I believe copyright is also central to this work. For that reason, it is important that librarians and others in the education field understand the copyright provisions in both U.S. and international law that apply to making copyrighted materials accessible for disabled individuals. With this knowledge, libraries can help to expand access to information to those who have been blocked from these resources in the past.

Because of this, I am grateful for Scholarly Communication Notebook’s support in creating open educational resources on the intersection of disability, accessibility, and copyright with a particular focus on U.S. law. I designed the materials to be used both in graduate courses related to copyright or accessibility and by practitioners interested in learning more on the topic. Topics covered include the Chafee Amendment and how it has changed post-Marrakesh Treaty, the role of accessibility in the Authors Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust decision, the importance of the Marrakesh Treaty for international efforts to make materials accessible across borders, and how licensing provisions can impact these various rights. The resources include videos explaining the key points of each topic, along with editable slide decks for those who wish to build on the existing materials, activities and options for assignments, recommended pre-class readings, discussion prompts, and related resources for those who want to learn more on the topics introduced in this OER module. There are also teaching notes for those interested in using the module in a class they are teaching.

It is my hope that these materials will help to introduce these topics at the intersection of disability, accessibility, and copyright to interested learners in a variety of settings. I hope that they are of use and that interested instructors will be able to adapt and even expand these materials to fit their courses. And, I hope that they might even spark an interest in accessibility for those who do not have much familiarity with the topic.

About the Author

Carli Spina is an Associate Professor and the Head of Research & Instructional Services at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Formerly, Carli was the Head Librarian for Assessment & Outreach at the Boston College Libraries. She’s on Twitter at @CarliSpina.

New to the SCN: Bibliodiversity and OER, A Student Perspective

We’re excited to be developing the  Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN), 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 (coming along) and a disciplinary and course community for inclusively sharing models and practices. We’re currently working with ISKME to establish the SCN as an OER Commons Hub, coming soon. With generous support from IMLS, we’re pleased to be able to financially support the development of model resources for the SCN. Last fall we issued a CFP (the first of three) for projects to support the initial population of the SCN, and we’re starting to see those projects come to fruition. Here, we’re excited to share the first of a series of posts about those projects. This one, by MLIS student Allison Kittinger, is about a great bibliodiversity project that she and Jennifer Solomon (UNC Chapel Hill) created in Pressbooks: Introduction to Bibliodiversity in Scholarly Communications. It’s fantastic to see a collaborative project like this between a student with an interest in SC and an instructor/practitioner like Jennifer; it’s a great example of the sort of thing we’re hoping to see more of in the future! Kudos to both of them! Look for additional posts over the coming months, along with the second of three calls for proposals soon. Here’s Allison introducing their project:

Although I worked in academic publishing for two years, I first learned about the concept of bibliodiversity in Jennifer Solomon’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Open Access class as a library science master’s student at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of our assigned readings was Shearer et al.’s “Fostering Bibliodiversity in Scholarly Communications: A Call for Action!” (2020), which describes bibliodiversity as “Diversity in services and platforms, funding mechanisms, and evaluation measures” allowing “the  scholarly communication system to accommodate the  different workflows, languages, publication outputs, and research topics that support the needs and epistemic pluralism of different research communities.” The course opened my eyes to the importance of critical perspectives on open access, and I started seeing the concept of bibliodiversity crop up more and more, both explicitly and implicitly, in conversations around open access and scholarly communications. I decided I wanted to be a part of that conversation, to lend a student voice and advance bibliodiversity in my own work.

I began this work at North Carolina State University’s Copyright and Digital Scholarship Center, where I have worked as a graduate student assistant. I co-researched and -wrote a sort of white paper entitled “A Response to the Call for Bibliodiversity: Language, Translation, and Communicated Scholarship” (2020) with my supervisor, Micah Vandegrift. After finishing the paper, I knew I wanted to continue down this path. I feel as though not enough library science students – even students interested in scholarly communications – know the foundations of this important concept. As an early-career scholarly communications professional myself, I want to effect positive change towards more inclusive scholarly publishing systems, and I think bibliodiversity is a crucial part of that work.

I was looking for the next opportunity when I came across the Scholarly Communication Notebook call for proposals for open educational resources. Creating an open educational resource about bibliodiversity for library students like me and early-career librarians appealed to me because I feel strongly that bibliodiversity should be a topic in all scholarly communications classes, and I want to facilitate that. In addition, I had some experience creating an OER already, so I felt prepared to take on this level of work and commitment.

Of course, I immediately thought of Jennifer as a potential collaborator when I read the Scholarly Communication Notebook application. She agreed to work with me, and we drafted the application and the resource together. Having her perspective and experience to inform the resource was invaluable.

Going through this OER development process taught me quite a bit. In incorporating material into the OER, I learned about various bibliodiversity strategies that I hadn’t before considered. I also thought a lot about OER development and the types of conversations I wanted the OER to spark, as well as the perspective of people learning about this concept for the first time. I thought about my own learning journey and wove that perspective into the OER alongside Jennifer’s pedagogical and professional expertise.

Overall, Jennifer and I had a blast creating this OER. Working together on something we are both passionate about was enjoyable and even felt hopeful. My own hope is that this resource can provide an accessible entry point into conversations around bibliodiversity and multilingualism in scholarly communications for students and early-career scholarly communications professionals like me.

About the Author

Allison Kittinger is a Master of Science in Library Science student at UNC-Chapel Hill. She co-developed the OER Introduction to Bibliodiversity in Scholarly Communications with Jennifer Solomon for the Scholarly Communication Notebook.

CFP: Contributions to the Scholarly Communication Notebook

We are pleased to announce a 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.

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 of objects that is ready to be used in both a formal classroom setting and as a resource for self-guided learning. For the first of three rounds, we are leaving space for a variety of approaches to the 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. These 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? A video? 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

Review of proposals will begin on October 20, 2020 and continue throughout the fall until awarded proposals are selected. Work on selected proposals will be conducted in the late fall and early winter, with specific deliverable due dates determined among SCN leads and awarded proposal authors according to needs of project.

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

Note: this CFP is also available as a Google Doc with comments enabled. Feedback on the CFP itself (including suggestions for improving it) is welcome and appreciated.