New articles!


Smiljana and Ellysa published an article focused specifically on Humanists’ workflow needs in Digital Humanities Quarterly:

Antonijević, S., & Cahoy, E. S. (2018). Researcher as Bricoleur: Contextualizing humanists’ digital workflows. Digital Humanities Quarterly, 12(3).
Ellysa’s article, Leave the browser behind: Placing discovery within the user’s workflow is available in Liber Quarterly.

Cahoy, E. S. (2018). Leave the browser behind: Placing discovery within the user’s workflow. LIBER Quarterly, 28(1), 1–19. DOI:

Mendeley killed the library connection


Updated Friday, September 2; 10:58 am:  William Gunn, Director of Scholarly Communications at Elsevier, posted on Twitter that the institution-specific ‘Find Full Text’ connection will soon be back on individual article pages on Mendeley Papers.  Thank you, @MrGunn, for that quick assistance and positive outcome for our users.  

I’m working on a new article related to our scholarly workflow project — exploring the integration of library services within citation management software.  In the article, I review the current level of library-centered connectivity for various tools — Endnote, Zotero, ReadCube, and Mendeley.  ReadCube offers (in my opinion) the most visible integration, asking users to authenticate with their institutional login to retrieve the full text of article PDFs.  ReadCube has also automated a portion of the institutional affiliation process within the software.  They offer a list of institutions for the user to choose from; a choice will automatically populate ReadCube’s preferences with the user’s institutional OpenURL link.  It’s wonderful that ReadCube offers these optimizations; it increases the chances that users will find the full text of their article via their library.

Mendeley used to have some very nice library connectivity options as well.  Those options are now gone.  This Mendeley Blog article from 2011 details the library connection situated within Mendeley’s ‘Get Full Text’ options in the Mendeley catalog.  In a nutshell, users can view the research catalog entry for a specific article.  On the research catalog entry page, the article information was once accompanied by an option to retrieve the full-text of the article in several places, including Google Scholar and the user’s home institution.  I taught this optimization countless times to students, and I know it helped them more readily connect with research articles.  It ensured that my students did not land on unauthenticated journal web pages where they would be confronted with a price for a full text article.

Unfortunately, this option no longer exists.  Mendeley reduced the options on the individual research catalog entry page.  The only option to find full text now is this:


Get full text at journal is now the only path to an article in full text.  I think the motivation behind this change is pretty clear, and it’s terrible.  This change virtually ensures that a user will (more than likely searching from off campus and unauthenticated) land on a journal article page and see a fee as the only option to purchase a journal article.

While an excellent product, Mendeley has taken a step backwards with this new change.  Is it surprising that it happened?  No.  Selling journal articles to people who may already have access via their home institution is a shallow attempt at additional revenue.  Building lasting connections and seamless integration with libraries and librarians would add depth to their product and ensure continued future adoption by students.  Mendeley needs to do the right thing for their users and reinstate the ‘Get Full Text’ at your institution link.  




Presenting at Digital Humanities (DH) 2015, July 1, 2015, Sydney, Australia.


Organizational Practices in Digital Humanities Centers

This paper addresses organizational practices and potential future developments of digital humanities centers (DHC). The paper draws on findings of an ethnographic study carried out between 2011-2013 at eleven DHCs in the US and Europe (to leave room for the empirical findings, contextualization in relevant literature was intentionally omitted from this abstract). The analyzed centers were founded from the early 1990s to present date. All centers are affiliated with research-intensive universities, have a dedicated space, and employ between five and fifteen.

A significant difference is the bottom-up character of the early DHCs contrasted against the top-down nature of newer centers. This difference was also evident among the contemporary DHCs. In the top-down cases, university administrators often wanted to establish a hub of scholarly innovation without a clear sense of what that innovation entailed, what the center’s function would be, the range of services it should provide, and who would comprise the primary user-base. At one center, housed in the university library, new glass walls represented visually transparent boundary between the print and the electronic materials. Flexible workspaces with standing stations equipped with high-end technologies were designed to adjust to user needs. But while design, ergonomic and technical features were meticulously considered the goals for the center and thoughts about the user community were given less attention:

That’s really a big question for us, figuring out what kind of services we want to offer.We’re still trying to figure out what our outreach will have to be to scholars to get them to use this. We’re not sure what’s going to happen on the first day when we open the doors. Are people going to know what to do? Are they going to come in, sit down and check email?

Another campus of the same university system simultaneously launched its DHC using a different organizational strategy. The idea to establish the center came from humanities scholars rather than from the administration. This group of scholars began the planning phase with a university-wide dialogue. They included their colleagues from the humanities division, information technologists, computer scientists, librarians, and other potential stakeholders. They prioritized talking to humanities students and faculty about their visions, wishes, and potential points of resistance related to the center. These early conversations and comprehensive planning helped identify which organizational strategies and design possibilities were consistent with their goals for the center and resulted in well-defined goals and clear mission statements for the new unit.

In a number of the analyzed centers, the main goal was to support humanities scholars in their current research and to gradually introduce them to digital tools and methods. These centers target the widest spectrum of humanists rather than rely on scholars who were already well versed in, or inclined to use digital tools. These centers bridge the critical gap between technologically advanced and less advanced scholars, but with such diverse user community they sometimes struggle to profile their activities. Some centers thus adopt a more precisely defined approach when establishing goals and characterizing potential user communities.

Parallel functioning of disconnected DHCs of the same institution is a significant problem. DH units are often differentiated according to the areas of work that they support, and according to their funding sources. This organizational system can help DHCs formulate clear goals, but it can also lead to user confusion: “They don’t know which center is best for them and it may just turn them off from going anywhere.”

Considering resistance toward digital scholarship sometimes held by traditionally trained humanists, DHCs develop an outreach strategy that involves two preparatory steps: 1) making humanists aware that they already rely on digital technologies; 2) explaining that DHCs are offering digital tools and methods rather than imposing them. In their outreach activities, DHCs frequently stumble upon the users’ lack of time:

These are very busy people, and their concern is primarily what is their current research about. And very often they are ultimately making choices between do they go and pay attention to our offer of a demonstration about digital tools, or do they spend that hour and focus on their own research questions. We’re competing with natural priorities in a scholar’s life.

DHCs also rely on word of mouth to reach potential users; exchange of experiences among peers is one of their most successful outreach strategies:

If you can reach the right people out in the faculty or even grad students, that’s a much more compelling argument than anything that we can say. Even though we may have PhD’s and may use technology for our own research, we’re not in the same role as they are. So, hearing from someone who lives a life just like they do in many ways is very compelling.

User support is an important, but not always clearly anticipated part of activities in DHCs. Growing effective DHCs involves keeping regular office hours, organizing talks and workshops, answering user inquiries, but also balancing disciplines within the user community so that no single discipline dominates the center’s activities and conversations. An important element of maintaining user communities also involves shaping user expectations and clarifying the nature of partnership with users. Users often view DHCs as serving humanists’ requests rather than collaborating with them:

They see us as the programming shop that will do whatever they tell us to, and that’s not really how we’re trying to approach this. It’s more of collaboration, and we actually get something back out of it also.

DHCs often employ hybrids—traditionally trained humanists who also have good computer skills. They are seen as a necessary link between “the two cultures” who can adeptly translate epistemological and methodological concepts and approaches. “Smart organizations will have more of me,” remarked the Head of the R&D team at one of the centers who also happens to be a historian with good programming skills. The advantage of speaking both “programese” and “scholarese,” as this interviewee put it, is the capacity to help humanists grasp digital tools and methods while simultaneously helping programmers understand humanities work. DHCs have found an efficient way of employing hybrids through engaging humanities graduate students, who are usually early adopters of technology. Graduate students who participated in the study liked working in DHCs. It allowed them to advance their research skills and to build expertise through participation in important research and decision-making activities.

The reversal of instructional roles, in which students were teaching teachers, facilitated students’ understanding of some of the didactic principles motivating them to develop their own pedagogic strategies.

Hybrids as a type of scholarly workforce are linked to the concept of alternative academic careers. The interviewees described alternative academic paths as intentional career choices scholars make. Although this choice allows scholars to continue working in their preferred field, the transition is nonetheless perceived as difficult and consequential:

“You can’t just yank somebody out of the faculty and out of years or decades of training without some accounting for how they conceive of themselves as a scholar.”

The respondents argue that from an administrative point of view, thinking about people’s time and labor might be the most important issue DHCs will need to engage with, because the internal inherited systems of classifying employees are not well suited to DH practices.

Traditional organizational systems for classifying scholars are not only inefficient for addressing contemporary issues of academic labor and knowledge production; they are also potentially detrimental to the future of scholarly work:

If we can’t get this generation of graduate students comfortable with alternate modes of work, not feeling like they are failures if they don’t get a tenure-track position, and seeing good career paths for themselves within the DH, we’re going to lose that generation of scholars.

Among the respondents, two related but disparate theories of the future of digital humanities and DHCs emerged. One line of thought suggests that digital tools and methods will progressively become a standard part of humanities research. DH should thus be marked as a transitional moment in the humanities disciplines rather than as a distinct field. The distinction between digital and mainstream humanities will diminish over time, even though certain methodological differences might remain. Another group held that DH already ranks as a distinct field. The field will retain its autonomy because the need for innovative work and thinking with technology in the humanities will never cease. Although the use of digital tools and methods will become increasingly mainstream, there will always be a need for research groups on the frontier of innovation.

The far-reaching presumably rhetorical question of whether digital scholarship in the humanities will be designated as DH or “just” humanities will have important implications for the future. Both scholars and administrators are musing about whether DHCs will be needed in the future, or digital scholarship will blend into the existing disciplinary and departmental structures. Overall, the respondents agreed that we will see a wave of interest in DHCs, some of which will persist, while others will peak quickly only to fade away.

Presenting at HASTAC conference, June 26, 2015, East Lansing, Michigan


Tracing the Workflow of a Digital Scholar

This paper presents findings of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded project conducted at Penn State University from April 2012-June 2013. It also outlines preliminary results of Phase II of the same project, currently underway at Penn State and George Mason University.

Phase I explored scholarly workflow of the Penn State faculty across the sciences,humanities, and social sciences, focusing on the integration of digital technologies at all stages of a research life cycle—from collecting and analyzing data, over managing and storing, to writing up and sharing research findings. This paper harvests a comparative multidisciplinary perspective of our study to explore specificities of humanists’ digital workflow, enabling development of a service architecture that supports those practices.

Phase I was comprised of a web-based survey (n=196) and a set of ethnographic interviews (n=23). The results showed that across disciplines digital tools were most actively used for finding, storing, and archiving research materials, although disciplinary differences could be traced. For instance, while the respondents overwhelmingly (92%) store research materials, humanists reported the highest percentage of lost and inaccessible files, predominantly because of failing to migrate materials from obsolete to contemporary formats.

Concerning data collecting and analysis, the use of digital technologies significantly differs across disciplines. Respondents in the science commonly noted that their work would be impossible without digital technologies, and scholars in the social sciences indicated digital tools and methods becoming ‘a new normal’ in their practice. In contrast, humanists implied the lack of digital technology use in those segments of their research process. They nonetheless indicated awareness of digital tools and methods that could facilitate their analytical practice, suggesting the lack of training and time as key impediments to developing needed skills.

Disciplinary differences were also evident in data sharing activities. Two thirds (63%) of scholars in the sciences indicated that they actively share their data; a nearly identical percentage of the humanists (69%) indicated opposite practice. Academic standing also influenced data sharing practices, with tenure-track faculty being more protective of their data than tenured scholars.

Annotating and reflecting emerged as research activities where the use of digital technologies is most idiosyncratic, based on scholars’ personal preferences rather than the level of technical skills or availability of digital tools. The use of citation management programs was higher in the sciences (55 % vs. 30 %), but the overall level of use was lower than in other segments of the workflow.

Phase II of our study is devoted to developing a digital research tool for humanities scholarship using Zotero as a test platform. Based on the results of Phase I, we focus on unifying several segments of the workflow, and facilitating elements such as better integration of archiving into the scholar’s online path. Since the loss of information among the humanists is significant, there is a need to build into the research workflow easy strategies for users to self-archive their work. Optimizations to connect the institutional repository within Zotero, as well as expose references and metadata within uploaded PDFs will be explored.

Presenting at the Personal Digital Archiving conference, April 26, 2015, New York, NY


Integrating Self-Archiving and Discovery into the User’s Workflow: The Zotero / ScholarSphere Project

This poster / demo centers on an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant of $440,000 to the Penn State University Libraries.  We will detail the planned trajectory of the 2014-2016 project, designed in collaboration with George Mason University and Zotero, which builds upon prior Penn State Mellon-funded research studying how faculty managed and archived their scholarly information collections. During 2014-16, the research team will direct software development centered on Zotero, an open source citation manager. The new software will enhance Zotero’s archiving capabilities by linking to ScholarSphere, Penn State’s Hydra-based institutional repository service. This will allow Penn State users to claim and deposit self-authored works securely into ScholarSphere via Zotero. The software developed in this project will allow other colleges and universities with similar Hydra-based institutional repositories to implement a Zotero deposit connection. The poster / demo will showcase the current enhancements to Zotero, and will also provide information for conference participants interested in making these optimizations available to their local Zotero / Hydra-based institutional repository users.


Forthcoming work: Amongst Digital Humanists: An ethnographic study of digital knowledge production


Our project anthropologist, Smiljana Antonijević, has a new book in press: Amongst Digital Humanists: An ethnographic study of digital knowledge production.  This work is scheduled to be published by Palgrave Macmillan this summer (2015), and includes research findings from three different studies (including our Penn State project) focused on Humanities scholars’ digital workflow.  Additional information on the book is available on Smiljana’s website:

ITHAKA 2012 Faculty Survey–Research Dissemination Findings


The ITHAKA S&R Faculty Survey 2012 is out, and with it are some interesting findings relevant to our study of scholarly workflow and personal archiving.

In the survey, faculty from institutions across the US were asked about their opinions and practices, with regard to the following areas:  Materials used for research and teaching; Discovery; Provisioning Materials to faculty members:  formats and sources; Research topics and practices; Undergraduate education; Research dissemination; The role of the library and The role of the scholarly society.  Of particular relevance to our study were some of the findings focused on the research dissemination and research topics and practices.

Participating faculty were asked, “In the course of your research, you may build collections of scientific, qualitative, quantitative, or primary source research data.  If these collections of research data are preserved following the conclusion of the projects, what methods are used to preserve them?  Faculty indicated that overwhelmingly (80% in the Sciences; and nearly 80% in the Humanities and Social Sciences) they preserve the materials themselves, using commercially or freely available software or services.    Less frequent was the use of an institutional or other type of repository (highest in the Humanities–just over 20%), not preserving the materials at all (less than 20% in general), or preserved by publisher or university (less than 10% in general).

This articulated prevalence of self-preservation, while working well in the short-term, is worrisome as a long-term preservation strategy.  A majority of faculty note that their data is worth preserving, yet the data itself is only preserved in a manner entirely dependent on the individual researcher to care for and migrate the data as software, services, or technologies retire.  This highly distributed practice of individualized preservation will likely result in significant data loss in the long term.  The ITHAKA report notes of these findings, “If long-term data preservation is to become an important priority for the scholarly community, new solutions–or greater uptake of existing solutions– will be required to ensure that materials are preserved responsibly.” (p. 63)

Related to this issue, faculty were asked, “How valuable do you find support from your college or university library, scholarly society, university press, or another service provider for the following aspects of the publication process (or how valuable would you find it if this support was offered to you?”  The following options were offered:

  1. Managing a public webpage for me that lists links to my recent scholarly outputs, provides information on my areas of research and teaching, and provides contact information for me. (Highest positive response in the Humanities—just over 40%, with the Social Sciences and Sciences in the 30-35% positive range).
  2. Helping me to assess the impact of my work following its publication (Highest positive response in the Social Sciences (nearly 40%); less so in the Humanities (just over 30%) or the Sciences (just over 20%).
  3. Helping me determine where to publish a given work to maximize its impact. (30% or less across the disciplines favorable response–less than 20% favorable in the Sciences)
  4. Making a version of my research outputs freely available online in addition to the formally published version. (Around 30% favorable across the disciplines)
  5. Helping me understand and negotiate favorable publishing contracts. (Highest positive response in the Humanities (just over 30%).

If you put these two questions together–who is preserving your research, and how can we provide research support, there is a path illuminated for libraries in these responses.  While the overall responses for types of research support were generally lukewarm, most popular was the automatic creation of a faculty web page for research and contact information.  This reminds me of the UR (Rochester) Research IR, but perhaps something that did this sort of automatic population and archiving, while also connected to the scholar’s existing workflow, would be more heavily used.  I am thinking of a service that ties together (and auto creates) Google’s My Citations page with a service like Mendeley or Zotero (and the whole package is also linked into the IR).

In my next post (because this one is long enough already!) I’ll share some of the findings relevant to workflow and learning new digital research activities and methodologies.

Historians and personal digital archiving


Note:  This post was contributed by Eric Novotny, Acting Head of the Penn State’s Arts & Humanities Library, and History Librarian.  Eric is one of the subject librarians participating in this project.

As the library liaison to Penn State’s history department I was eager to examine historians’ responses to our Personal Scholarly Archiving Survey.  With the invaluable aid of Alan Shay we isolated responses from forty scholars with historical research interests.  Comparing these self-identified historians (who may or may not be in a history department) to the larger set of responses revealed some interesting findings.

Not surprisingly, and like scholars in other disciplines, nearly all historians reported storing relevant research materials.

Survey Question 7: Are you storing (on a computer or online) materials relevant to your research and work?

Novotny 1

The historians in our survey were less likely to use Cloud Storage (Dropbox, Google Drive), and also less likely to use citation software such as Zotero or Endnote.

Survey Question 10: Do you use citation management software (Endnote, Mendeley, Refworks, Zotero, etc.) to create bibliographies and/or organize references?

Novotny 2

Survey Question 12: Do you use any software/online services for sharing your research articles/data with others?

Novotny 3

These findings present libraries with an opportunity.  A significant percentage of respondents expressed a desire for training in the areas of citation management, personal archiving, and asset management.  There is a role for librarians to play in highlighting the available productivity tools.

Novotny 4

There is also an advocacy role for libraries and librarians in spurring the creation of universal integrated solutions. Historians want tools that accommodate their unique needs, including support for citing unpublished primary sources. They want a seamless transition from source gathering to note-taking and writing[i].   The project team is planning to conduct focus group interviews this summer to further identify the needs of historians and will share our additional findings.

[i] For a good discussion of historian’s citation management needs see: “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians,”

Karla Schmit: Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian


Karla Schmit

Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian and Assistant Director of Pennsylvania Center for the Book

Karla is a Core Faculty member for this grant project, and she hopes to do further study on the data that is gathered. She is interested in how technology can play a role in instruction. She also would like to learn more about how faculty archive and collect their information, as well as how librarians can assist them in that process.

Now and Later: Digital Archiving 

Karla argues that digital archiving is important because it tells a history of research and work for a faculty member and also tells a history of time. She views digital archiving as allowing us to have an historical record, which is helpful because if you know what happened in your past, it will help you in your future. Karla cannot begin to fathom what digital archiving will be like in the future, but she predicts that the way we work will continue to change, most likely growing more efficient but consisting of even less face-to-face interactions.

Survivor: Technology We Can’t Live Without

Karla’s computer plays a central role in her workflow, particularly in terms of writing papers and articles, as well as crafting longer responses to emails. However, she has begun to use her iPhone more for her job, such as answering reference questions, because she likes the instantaneousness of it.