Perhaps nothing terrifies a college student like the research paper: finding a topic, creating an original thesis, searching and vetting sources, reading thoroughly, writing meaningfully – all difficult, time consuming tasks requiring focus and perseverance.
However, today’s technologically transformed library offers students tools that vastly simplify the research process. Sources emerge with a finger swipe, and incorporating them into a paper is simpler with an online library catalog. Compared with 30, even 20 years ago, searching and finding sources today has never been more streamlined, and academic research has benefited.
Students curious about library research methods pre-Internet – or promotional videos from the mid-‘80s – should see this quirky, parodical video, made in 1986 to feature Ekstrom Library, which had been built five years earlier. Unearthed recently by Anna Marie Johnson, UofL Libraries Head of Research Assistance and Instruction, the video is interspersed with tongue-in-cheek “ads” promoting various library resources (one features Cleopatra requesting information on asps, a large python curling nearby). It presents a pseudo-athletic event, held in Ekstrom library, in which two students compete to find information the fastest on an obscure subject (“squirrel cage motors” and “dancing mice”) using the various tools in the library.
In the video, students confront the difficult “athletic” challenge of conducting research, something intended as parody. However, compared with today’s research methods, the students’ tasks do indeed look athletic.
“Conducting research was very different from today’s methods,” says Johnson. “In fact, back then the process of finding a scholarly journal article involved several time-consuming steps in three separate locations.”
“First, you had to find the right subject index. So, if you were looking for articles in psychology, you needed to know that there was such a thing as Psychological Abstracts and that those were located in the reference section of the library. In addition, if you wanted all the articles on your topic for the last five years, it would likely involve paging through multiple volumes of the Abstracts.”
“Once you settled on some articles – which may have required you to also look up a journal abbreviation since the journal names were often abbreviated to save space – and wrote down the citations , you had to look at a printed list, which was often on a different table or shelf, of all the journals the library subscribed to in order to determine if the articles you wanted were in the library.”
“Remember, there were no cell phones handy to take pictures of your citations,” she added.
“Finally, you would take your list of citations upstairs to the journal stacks and choose the correct bound volume of the journal that you needed.”
“Contrast that with today,” Johnson goes on. “You probably are not even walking into the library, but you are accessing a database on the web that Ekstrom Library subscribes to, searching 50 years of those printed volumes, and with often one or two subsequent clicks, finding a PDF of the article you’re seeking, all without leaving your couch.”
So while we sympathize with students confronting their first college research paper, we can say this: researching a topic today is wildly more convenient than in years past, and as a result, the act of writing, research, and even thinking, can be deeper, better synthesized, and stronger.
You can see the video for yourself here.
By Anna Marie Johnson
Many of us have had this experience recently: You read something odd, exaggerated or outrageous on social media and think, “Could something this odd/exaggerated/outrageous be true?” But have you taken time to investigate? Most people don’t.
Sometimes the consequences are minor. For example, an ad appeared on social media recently for a Fisher-Price Miniature Bar Play Set, complete with tiny beer bottles and bar stools. Posts immediately disparaged and urged boycotts of the toy company Fisher-Price, which subsequently issued a press release saying the ad was fake.
Sometimes, however, the consequences can be severe. A conspiracy theory story about a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton first appeared on a white supremacists’ Twitter account and went viral, ultimately leading Edgar Welch to take a gun to a pizza parlor and attempt to shoot people (See “Pizzagate” on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzagate_conspiracy_theory).
How can you tell if something is fake or even just misleading? There is no easy formula, and we must first fight our own propensity to believe things we want to be true. However, here are three important ways to avoid spreading fake or misleading news:
- Keep a skeptical mindset about any news.
Being skeptical means being a critical thinker and examining your own thinking. When you read story that makes you think, “Wow, that’s unbelievable,” stop and examine that idea. What about the story seems unbelievable? What about your own feelings on the topic make you want to believe the story? What pieces of the story seem to lead you to see the story from the author’s perspective? Often reading beyond the headline is important because headlines are designed to memorable and catch your attention, the details of the story are often far more mundane.
- Rely on respected news sources.
Relying on respected news sources is an important piece of the puzzle. Respected news sources follow standards of practice or ethical codes of conduct. They will provide evidence for their claims. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, are all legitimate and respected sources of news. That doesn’t mean they never get anything wrong, it simply means they have a long history of accurately and fairly reporting the stories they cover. Often checking several of them is a good way to get the full perspective on a particular story.
- Refuse to share anything you haven’t checked for truth.
When news that is fake or misleading is shared on social media, the problem is compounded, because more hits mean that search engines will surface the news item more readily, more people will see it, and it will seem to attain greater legitimacy.
While there is no surefire formula for detecting fake or misleading news, help is available! The librarians in Ekstrom Library’s Research Assistance and Instruction Department are available to help you decide the quality and legitimacy of news sources. Come by and see us on the first floor in Ekstrom Library’s east wing, call us at (502) 852-0433, or use our chat service to reach us!
Ranked one of the most LGBT-friendly universities in the south, the University of Louisville provides a variety of supportive services for the LGBT community, and also training for those who serve or interact with these individuals. One such program targets future doctors, dentists, nurses and health care workers and culminates in a LGBT Health Competency certificate.
Over the 2016-2017 academic year, Kornhauser librarian Jessica Petrey availed herself of this training, and recently earned her certificate by attending seven live and one online sessions.
The coursework aims to develop awareness and compassion for LGBT patients, and includes an overview of LGBT health; medical and legal disparities affecting LGBT patients; medical implications of prolonged cross-sex hormone therapy; how to create a welcoming environment to improve health outcomes, and other classes.
We caught up with Petrey to ask a few questions about her experience:
Q. How does this training augment your work as a clinical librarian?
A. Most people attending these trainings are either current or future healthcare providers, so my benefits as a librarian were a little different than the average attendee. In addition to the health information and clinical training we all received, I was able to pay attention to the kinds of questions other attendees were asking and make note of resources we could gather and make available to our patrons. It also gave me the opportunity to network with faculty and students and promote not only the electronic resource guides I have created for them as part of Kornhauser’s LGBT initiative but also my literature searching services on LGBT reference questions.
Q. What was the most difficult part of the training?
A. Stories of disparities, stigma, and discrimination are always the hardest—but perhaps most important—part of these kinds of discussions. Even for those of us who are at least somewhat aware in the abstract of statistics regarding violence, discrimination, and barriers to care, it’s entirely different and much more real hearing the personal accounts of people who have had and continue to have these experiences. The sensitivity to those experiences is so much more important in empowering attendees in providing competent care than any information a textbook could provide.
Q. What was the most surprising aspect of these sessions?
A. I come from a very conservative area, so I was continually (and positively!) surprised at how well attended and supported each session was. It’s so great knowing that our university is working intentionally to reduce those disparities, and having buy-in from students and faculty from all four professional schools, campus offices, and the broader community is integral to that work being successful.
Q. Did you have a favorite session?
A. The variety of session structures and topics was one of the most positive aspects of the series, but my personal favorite session was the one with Dr. Koch. She is a trans woman who transitioned later in life, and was able to speak to both the technical clinical information about the transition process from a provider perspective and share her more personal experiences as a trans woman and patient. It was a privilege to listen to someone who could provide such a complete, enlightening picture of the whole process.
Q. Biggest lesson learned?
A. Probably leaving space for people to assert their own identities, rather than making assumptions. For healthcare providers with patients in particular, maybe that means introducing yourself and mentioning your own pronouns to ask for someone else’s, asking people what an identifier means to them, providing blank space on intake forms to write in orientation and gender rather than checking boxes, mirroring a person’s own language when referring to partners and identities, or some other tangible step you can take to establish a rapport of acceptance and understanding with an individual. Even though the focus of this course was to train healthcare providers, I think curating an approach of understanding and acceptance is a skill that can and should translate to our personal lives as well.
Across the country, a substantial number of academic musical archives are dedicated to folk, world, country, bluegrass, classical and other musical genres, while other popular forms – namely punk, hardcore, indie and rock – are left out of the mix.
Aiming to correct this imbalance, UofL’s Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) was established in 2013 to preserve recordings, photographs, videos, ‘zines, set lists, fan mail, and other artifacts of the Louisville underground music scene from the late 1970s until the present.
Not only does LUMA not consider these musical genres to be chopped liver, it recently pursued and was given a grant of $1,800 by the Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC), allowing LUMA to add oral histories – interviews with individuals from the era – to its collection.
“These oral histories will be an excellent way to round out our collection” said Heather Fox, co-director of the Oral History Center and archivist for manuscript collections with Archives and Special Collections. Eighteen-hundred dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it makes it possible for us to do this work,” said Fox, who will oversee the project.
Matched by funds from the ASC’s oral history budget, the project will be built with $3,600, most of which will go toward paying local journalist and former punk rocker Chip Nold to conduct interviews with musicians from the era.
Nold is not only an experienced journalist and interviewer, with a degree in history from Princeton, but was also the lead singer for Babylon Dance Band (aka “the Babs”), one of the first punk groups in Louisville, thus “the perfect candidate for the project,” Fox said.
“Chip had experience interviewing people for feature stories, but we made sure to train him on oral history methodology, and then sent him out with a trusty Marantz PMD 660 [a portable compact flash recorder] to get started.”
“The oral history project fills in the gaps of our collection,” she continued. “It lets us discover what it was like to be playing music during that era, and what it felt like to be there then. This is something oral history is great at fleshing out.”
Among the first interview subjects was a local music critic, with other musicians from the scene also on tap.
“LUMA is an effort to document part of Louisville’s culture that might not be documented otherwise. Music has played an important role in cultural life of Louisville and still does, and LUMA is filling in that gap.”
“When we’re collecting artifacts around a music scene, we’re less interested in the published material, because there are multiple copies of that. We’re more interested in finding unique items, like fan mail.”
As an example, LUMA has a collection of fan mail sent to Louisville hardcore band Endpoint. Mail addressed to the band came from fans in Louisville, around the U.S., and even Germany.
“Fan mail demonstrates the impact this music had on this community and in other parts of the country and world. . . .It documents the ways in which people communicated before the internet, which is really neat,” Fox said.
“There is fan mail from Louisville fans just across town to the guys in the band. I doubt that ever happens now. People are on Facebook or other social media and have immediate contact.”
Once completed, Fox will upload them to the digital collections where visitors will be able to search for specific passages within the recordings. Archives and Special Collections will be “integrating a new software that will allow us to index digital oral histories and then provide online access that will include a search box, to make the recording key-word searchable. It’s also time-coded, so you can go to the exact place in the audio to find that passage.”
“Ideally what we want is a full transcription of an interview; that’s the most time consuming thing of the process,” she continued.
Fox has eight years of experience with all aspects of oral history, including recording, transcribing and conducting such interviews. She also provided access to oral histories through her work at the Kentucky Historical Society on the Pass the Word website and at the University of Louisville’s CONTENTdm instance which provides online transcripts and streaming audio.
The LUMA advisory board is comprised of local musicians like Nathan Salsburg, musician and curator of the Alan Lomax Archive; musician and actor Will Oldham; Diane Pecknold, professor of popular culture who has written and edited books about country music (who is married to a member of the Louisville band Squirrel Bait); and other members of the community like John Timmons, owner of celebrated ear X-tacy, an erstwhile record store that employed many active participants in the scene, developed a list of active and well-known musicians in the scene during the early to mid-1980s.
Please browse the LUMA collection and find out more about Archives and Special Collections.
You may have noticed some changes happening on the University of Louisville Libraries website. Last summer we introduced new sites for the Bridwell Art Library and the Dwight Anderson Memorial Music Library along with improved scheduling apps for room reservations and research appointments.
In March we released the new site for Archives & Special Collections.
In the upcoming months we’ll be bringing you new sites for the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, Ekstrom Library, and the University of Louisville Libraries. Tentative dates for these releases are July 1 for the Kornhauser site and August 1 for the Ekstrom and UofL Libraries sites.
Better Mobile Experience
A driving reason for these changes is the increasing use of mobile devices for accessing all parts of the site. In the previous version of our site the homepages for each library provided limited options in the mobile view. The new version will have the complete content of the site in the mobile version as well as in desktop views.
Currently, our website is split between two systems; when the project is complete the entire site will be located on one system. URLs for the pages on the old system will change. For example, when the Music Library site moved its URL changed from louisville.edu/library/music to library.louisville.edu/music/home.
The content management system (CMS) we are moving to is designed specifically for libraries and provides tools to help us keep links and other content fresh.
By Matt Goldberg, Head, Access and User Services
Have you ever stopped at a desk in Ekstrom Library to ask a question, such as: Do you have any copies of Dan Brown’s new book? Where’s the bathroom? What time does the library close? If you have, our desk staff have carefully recorded the question and answer so that we can determine trends in patron needs and service requests in an effort to improve how our library operates.
Using a program called Gimlet, the Access and User Services Department (AUS) records every question and answer asked at the west, east, and technology desks, and this data is reviewed weekly by departmental staff. Beyond looking to make sure our staff is giving correct information, we do significant work to refine, manipulate, and extrapolate the hundreds of questions asked per week.
The collection of these questions is quite labor-intensive, thanks to the frequency of questions asked by patrons. From June 2015 to May 2016, there were nearly 32,000 questions asked at the desks, an average of more than 2,600 per month, or about 90 per day. Each question is tagged by the desk staff to group them into easily sortable categories (internal directions, policy, technology, research, etc.) so that we can go back and look for data trends.
You might wonder how we use these trends to make decisions. For instance, in early 2015, we noticed that there were an abnormally high number of printing and copying questions being handled by desk staff at the east and west desks. To alleviate this we opened the technology desk in the computer commons to give students more direct technology help. In another instance, high levels of directional questions have led to improved signage across the building to help patrons find what they are looking for with more visual cues.
We routinely examine trends in the data to examine our own processes and policies. Last semester we opened the east side of the building until 2 a.m., a move that was fueled by a combination of student suggestions, gate count data, and Gimlet numbers that showed students in the building later in the evening than usual. We periodically run visualization reports of the data to see how users are asking their questions, producing word clouds like the one above.
So the next time you ask a question in Ekstrom, just know, we are listening and always looking to be of better assistance!
2017 is the second year that UofL’s Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library hosted community members to learn about how to edit Wikipedia. Over a dozen people attended this event to combat gender disparity in the art world.
Artist Elizabeth Catlett wrote “No other field is closed to those who are not white and male as is the visual arts. After I decided to be an artist, the first thing I had to believe was that I, a black woman, could penetrate the art scene, and that, further, I could do so without sacrificing one iota of my blackness or my femaleness or my humanity.”1
Not only is the field of contemporary art difficult for women and non-binary people to break into, but the highly-masculine culture of Wikipedia is also a barrier to gender equality. For example, articles about topics typically associated with females (Polly Pocket) are typically shorter and link to fewer references, while those associated with males (Nerf) are longer, and include more references.
In a 2011 survey, Wikimedia found that less than 13% of its contributors were female.
Art+Feminism is a global, grassroots campaign to end gender disparity within Wikipedia, not only in terms of the number or articles about women in the visual arts, but more importantly the number of female editors. Attendees gathered to attend a training about how to edit Wikipedia articles before beginning to make edits of their own. In Louisville, attendees included UofL students, professors, and local St. Francis School high school students. New editors corrected facts, added citations to existing article, and ultimately created two new articles.
- Farris, Phoebe. Women Artists of Color: A Bio-critical Sourcebook to 20th Century Artists in the Americas. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.