Hello again, dear readers!
I don’t know about you, but I love being busy. Don’t get me wrong, vacations are nice and there’s nothing like the feeling of taking it easy after finishing a big project or writing a monster essay, but I like to always have something to work on, and I’m always willing to take on new projects and tasks to prevent lulls in my day. Because of this, Brock has been a great place for me to work because there’s always a project to work on, a program/technology to learn, or a person to contact in the hopes of collaboration. Speaking of which, collaboration was the theme of the DSL’s podcast this week (listen here if you haven’t yet!), and as I participated in the group’s conversation about working with others and taking advantage of their knowledge to better your own, I started to think about all of the collaborating I’ve done in the last few weeks and how much I’ve been able to learn and grow through collaborative work.
One of the first new projects I took on recently was learning how to use Open Journal Systems – an open access journal management and publishing system. As a (future) librarian, open access is a cause that’s very near and dear to my heart, and I know this is true for the DSL as well. As members of a public research institution, Brock students have access to all kinds of databases and programs to conduct research and complete assignments. What students often don’t realize is that these databases and programs can be very expensive to purchase and maintain, meaning people outside of Brock and other research institutions typically don’t have access to the same resources they do. This is why open access is so important – it combines the sophisticated and respected technologies, databases, and journals needed to conduct and report important research while still being accessible to everyone regardless of their academic affiliations (or lack thereof). Brock’s undergraduate history department publishes The General through OJS and whenever new student editors are hired, they need to be taught how to request revisions and approve articles for publishing – that’s where I come in!
Collaborating with these members of the undergraduate history department to teach them how to use an open access software was a great learning experience. They learned how to use a system that will allow their journal to be accessible to everyone (a very cool opportunity for undergrad students – I had to do my best to hide my envy), and I learned how to effectively break down a new and foreign system into easy, teachable steps. I think this process will definitely come in handy when I start running some DSL workshops!
Speaking of running workshops, I mentioned in my previous entry that I’ve been doing a lot of work with visualizing data in PowerBI so that I can teach a workshop on this particular program. Last week, I got my first collaborative visualization opportunity in the form of a dataset about a hockey tournament from Brock’s Centre for Sport Capacity. I won’t go into too much detail about this super-secret mission (known around the DSL as “Operation Hoops”), but I’ve really enjoyed working with the other people in this project to visualize their data in a user-friendly way through PowerBI. I’ve also been attending all of the workshops offered by the DSL and learning a lot. Since my last entry, I’ve learned the basics of the Command Line Interface, the Python programming language, and ArcGIS pro – a program that allows users to map data to help answer questions. I didn’t know a lot about programming languages going into these workshops, but I had a ton of fun learning. It all became clearer to me when I learned how to use Command Line to show how many times each of the main characters in Little Women are mentioned throughout the book. I thought this was a really cool way to show how the technology is applicable to the humanities, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the data from the Agatha Christie study I mentioned in my previous entry. These workshops have given me more insight into what digital scholarship truly is – the opportunity to “collaborate” with technology in order to make some really interesting discoveries. In just over a month at Brock, I’ve been lucky enough to explore some pretty cool technologies, and collaborate with some pretty cool people.
In my university experience, I’ve participated in more group projects than I can count. One of my grad school professors liked to encourage as much group work as possible, insisting that group projects are good practice for the real world. Now, as a (temporary) member of the real world, I can confirm that this is true. The only difference is that in the real world, they’re called working groups. There are lots of working groups here at Brock, all of them working towards various initiatives to ensure that every student has the best library experience possible. As part of my placement, I’ve been involved with a working group whose goal is to improve Brock’s institutional repository. There’s a lot of amazing research being done at Brock, and it is essential for researchers to be able to publish their findings to a reliable, user friendly platform. Meeting with the other members of this group felt a lot like a group project at school – goals and best approaches were discussed, the work load was divvied up, and roles were assigned. My role was to reach out to librarians at other schools to get a sense of how their repository platforms perform and how their users interact with it. Interviewing complete strangers over the phone was a new (and I’ll admit, slightly nerve wracking) experience for me. The last (and first ever) phone interview I did was when I interviewed for this placement four months ago. But, as with any group project, I did my part and I learned along the way. I’m officially two for two on phone interviews! Our work is far from over, but I can say that participating in this working group has been a great exercise in collaboration so far, because I’ve learned how to collaborate effectively with people both inside and outside of my workplace in order to achieve a goal.
I know that by this point you’re probably thinking, “gosh Erin, it sounds like all you do is work super hard! Don’t you have any fun at Brock?”, and to that I say of course! The work I do requires a lot of data analysis, so a big part of my job involves finding data to work with. Since my last entry, I’ve played around with data about the contestants on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (who wins, who goes home, who gets the coveted first impression rose) and The Avengers (names, aliases, how many times they’ve died and come back to life). My favourite dataset to work with though was one that kept track of every curse word and death in each of seven Quentin Tarantino films – and how long into the movie these curse words and deaths occur. His movies are a little gratuitous for my taste, but even I have to admit that there’s something very amusing about constructing a graph full of curse words. It was a learning experience as well, as I can definitively answer which of his films is the most profane (Pulp Fiction, with a whopping 469 curse words) and which was the most graphic (Kill Bill: Vol. 1, with 63 on-screen deaths). Who says data can’t be fun?
My blog series is posted bi-weekly, so be sure to check back on February 22nd for more on my internship journey!