On our way to Computers in Libraries 2014!


Mary and I are off to the Computers In Libraries conference in D.C.  We will be blogging our experiences at the conference next week, so stay tuned here for all the details.

If you are attending the conference as well, please stop by and see us at our presentation on Wednesday afternoon.  We’d love to meet our readers!

C305 – Rethinking & Retooling Academic Research
3:45 PM – 4:30 PM
Crystal Renfro, Faculty Engagement Librarian, Georgia Institute of Technology
Mary Axford, Faculty Engagement Librarian, Georgia Institute of Technology

One of the issues the increasingly digital academy faces is that students are not able to successfully find relevant resources because they do not “understand the language of academic research” or are not familiar with the topic and field of their research. Renfro and Axford, authors of www.academicpkm.org, outline several new programs at the Georgia Tech Library, including the popular blog series, A Year to Improved Productivity for Librarians and Academic Researchers, which connects librarians with the academic community in new and vital ways.

Links Roundup #18

A PhotographerBlog of Interest

My Google Alert for Evernote just turned up a blog that may be of interest, called The Digital Researcher.

The Digital Researcher is a resource for writers and researchers who want to make the most of the tools now available. We bring you news, reviews and tutorials on all the latest developments, and also give you an opportunity to share your experiences with the rest of the community.

This site is maintained by me, Catherine Pope. I’m a publisher, PhD researcher, and technologist (roughly in that order).

So far there have been a number of clearly written posts on topics such as Reading and Annotating Journal Articles in Evernote, Writing Very Long Documents with Scrivener, and more.  The blog has a search engine, subscriptions by email or RSS feed, and a list of resources.  Brief list so far, but divided into the categories Brainstorming, General, Productivity and Software.

Creativity vs. Order

LifeHacker has an interesting post Why Creative Geniuses Often Keep a Messy Desk, that says that this is often true.  Given my messy desk, I like to think this is true, anyway.  ;-).  It mentions a study showing that those with messier environments tend to be more creative and more risk taking, and suggests that one can turn this to advantage by keeping a messier desk when trying to generate ideas, but when trying to be more productive, and/or act on a specific idea, it can help to clean up your environment.

Digital Portfolios

Creating digital portfolios has gotten much easier.  They allow students to gather together the digital projects they have created, so gives them something a potential employer could look at.  Take a look at this article from Free Technology for Teachers, called 5 Good Options for Creating Digital Portfolios.

Email Optimization

LifeHacker has a post Use the First-In-First-Out Rule to Keep Email Inbox in Shape (title is almost as long as the post!) which makes a valid point that by organizing your emails by oldest first it gives you more incentive to deal with those emails rather than letting them get stale.

LifeHacker, while strongly recommending that you keep your email and to-do lists separate, also has an article on an app that combines the two with GTD principles.  The app is called IQTELL.

Educational Technology

The 2014 Horizon Report from NMC (New Media Consortium) and Educause is now available:

This eleventh edition describes annual findings from the NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving campus leaders and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.

As many of you know, this is one of the most influential reports on ed tech in higher education.


Jamie Todd Rubin has another good Going Paperless column Achievement Unlocked! Using Evernote to Track Achievements.  As usual, his columns show excellent organizational ability.  I had created a notebook in Evernote for my annual profile, but have not nearly been as organized about it as he has.

14 Ways to Get More Out of Evernote, by Kevin Smith, has a good rounup of some of Evernote’s most useful features.

Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites has a page of links about Evernote.  Looks like a great list, though with the caveat that Evernote changes so fast and so often that articles get out of date very quickly.  Thanks to Crystal for the link.

Jamie Todd Rubin’s Going Paperless column has another useful Evernote tip in Append to Existing Notes in Evernote via Email.  I love this tip, because I use the email to Evernote feature quite often, and have sometimes wished to be able to append rather than create a new note.

Springpad is another notebook software that I have not used.  LifeHacker reports that it has opened a virtual store with free templates one can use for to-do lists, travel planning, and more.

Huzzah!  IFTTT now has a Microsoft OneNote channel.

CNET reports that Microsoft OneNote Arrives as Mac, Windows Freebie.  No longer are you required to buy Office to get OneNote.  Does not have all the features of the Office software, but has most, and is adding new features.  It is now in a better position to take on Evernote.

Author John David Head has written one of the best articles comparing features of OneNote and Evernote I’ve ever seen.  OneNote vs. Evernote – No, Make That OneNote AND Evernote, does an in-depth comparison of the pros and cons of each from a writer who uses each.  The article is also up-to-date with the just announced features of OneNote.


IFTTT now has a Sunlight Foundation Channel.  This is great news for me, as one of my liaison departments is Public Policy.  The channel includes suggested recipes so that one can get notifications of bills going through Congress or laws passed.  The recipes includes things like get an email when the President signs a law, text me when Congress schedules a vote on a bill, etc. Since what government does affects most of us, this could be very handy.


Many libraries have gotten involved with makerspaces.  For academic libraries, one question to consider is whether professors want such spaces or will create assignments for students using them.  So I find the ProfHacker post Lego and Making Things interesting, as an indication that professors are indeed thinking about making things as a part of scholarship.

Mind Mapping

Free Technology for Teachers has a useful article Ten Good Online Tools for Creating Mind Maps.  Discusses the features of each.

PDF Management

TabTimes seems to be having a series of the format some number Best Android and iOS apps for some productivity task.  This one is 6 Best Android and iPad Apps for Converting Files to PDFs.

Productivity Apps

These 11 Apps are the Key to Productivity is a post from Sidin Vadukut, a London-based freelance writer.  It is interesting because it mentions several apps I am not aware of and also because he gives a detailed description of his workflow.  I don’t think his workflow would be one I would follow, but might fit your style well.  Apps mentioned are GMail, Google Calendar, Trello, Evernote, Pinboard.in, Ulysses III, Daedalus Touch, Triage (which now seems to be MindCloud), Freemind (note:  it is on a Wiki, you have not been redirected to Wikipedia), Brainstormer, and IFTTT.  Note that some of these are iOS only.

Search Engines

NoodleTools has a great list of search engines categorized by the type of information being sought (I need to understand the scope of my topic, for example).  Very nicely done, although it mentions Intute several times and it hasn’t been updated since July 2011, and I don’t think that Infomine is being updated much either.  Sadly organizations who provided such wonderful services were badly hit by budget cuts during the Great Recession.

Task Management/To-do Lists

Tab Times has a useful article on 6 Best Android and iPad Apps to Keep You On Task.  The 6 apps are Todoist, SwiftKey Note, SimpleNote, Trello, WorkFlowy, and ListBook.

LifeHacker jumps in with an article Five Best To-Do List Managers.  The twist is that these were voted on by LifeHacker readers.  Apps mentioned are Google Keep, Any.do, Wunderlist, Todoist, and HabitRPG (which is structured like a video game).


ProfHacker has a useful roundup of their previous posts on Twitter –  From the Archives: Using Twitter.  Includes links to posts that introduce Twitter, how to use it in various ways for academics, including teaching and presenting at conferences.

Crystal pointed me to the Twitter feed for Evernote Teachers.  It may be primarily for K-12, but at a quick glance seems to have tweets also useful for academia.


Not saying goodbye, just taking an extended leave of absence . . . (from Elisabeth)

All the same, it’s been hard to make the decision that I can’t continue as a regular participant in the Academic PKM blog.  Other commitments have made it increasingly difficult for me to contribute on a regular basis.  While I continue to use the tools for personal knowledge management to manage my own material, and I promote the ideas and practice of PKM with students, faculty, and fellow librarians, I don’t currently have the drive to be continually searching for new methods and ways to use them.

Writing for this blog has been a great opportunity for me to put my thoughts in order and to force me to think about what I may know that is worth sharing, but it’s not sustainable for me anymore.  I hope to read every week and comment when I have something worth saying.  I look forward to following Crystal and Mary wherever they may take us.

May curiosity sustain us all, Elisabeth

 **  Note:  Mary and I wish Elisabeth all success in her current endeavors.  Given the loss of her contributions, we have come to the decision to change this blog from weekly posts to posts biweekly.  We hope to welcome Elisabeth back as guest blogger often.

Crystal and Mary




What’s the Right Toolset for Digital Humanities?

Female Carpenter 18th centuryWe live in an age of invention, with so many people participating in the act of creation.  This creates a multiplier effect – the more tools people create, the easier it becomes to create more.

So it is in academia…where, in particular, one’s job is more dependent than most on being able to bring something new into the world, and sharing the results of human thought and ingenuity with students and the rest of the academic and/or wider world.

There are many tools available to help academics be more productive, and we have spent, now, almost two years in talking about them.  We have mostly concentrated on tools useful to any academic, or librarian.  Now, however, I would like to start a series of posts discussing the tools for specific disciplines.

Why?  While most of you in our readership are academic librarians, we do have some researchers and other kinds of librarians.  Any of you researching or helping a researcher find and use information might benefit from finding out what tools are useful in a particular discipline.  The truth is that different areas of studies differ widely in what they are trying to accomplish and so in the tools they need to get their work done.

First we are going to take a look at the digital humanities (DH).  It is an exciting field, one that has grown enormously in the last few years, although its antecedents go back to around the 1940s.  Because it is such a big field, we will look at defining the field and at identifying resources for getting started in it.  Later on we will look at notable subfields.

Digital Humanities – What is It?

Definitions of the humanities differ,  so it follows that definitions of digital humanities will also differ.  The Wikipedia definitions will serve as a starting point.  First the definition of humanities:

The humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture, using methods that are primarily critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element—as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences. The humanities include ancient and modern languages, literature, philosophy, religion, and visual and performing arts such as music and theatre. The humanities that are also sometimes regarded as social sciences include history, anthropology, area studies, communication studies, cultural studies, law and linguistics.

And next Digital Humanities (DH):

The Digital Humanities are an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from the fields of humanities computing, humanistic computing, and digital humanities praxis (dh praxis) digital humanities embrace a variety of topics, from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital humanities (often abbreviated DH) currently incorporate both digitized and born-digital materials and combine the methodologies from traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) and social sciences with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, text mining) and digital publishing.

Starting Points for the Digital Humanities

Given that the digital humanities include both literature and computing power, it isn’t then surprising that the marriage of the two has produced a voluminous number of how-to documents and articles.  One of the best is the post Getting Started in the Digital Humanities, by Lisa Spiro,  on her blog Digital Scholarship in  the Humanities.  Spiro is executive director of Digital Scholarship Services at Rice University’s Fondren Library and founding editor of the DiRT wiki, which is now Bamboo DiRT (a tool we have talked about before and will again).  The post is a great roundup of ways to get started, from deciding what interests to pursue in DH scholarship to guides, social media, DH examples, tutorials and training opportunities, and more.  Includes a variety of links to specific resources.

One that it mentions is the CUNY Digital Humanities Resource Guide, another excellent place to get an overview of DH.  It includes DH definitions, examples, readings, hot topics, online discussion forums, DH on Twitter, blogs, journals, conferences and events, training/professional development, scholarships/fellowships, funding/awards/competitions, DH centers, organizations/associations, tools and methods, data management tools, research and citation management tools, writing process tools and methods, DH programs and syllabi, Git and GitHub, jobs, tips, and other resources.

Another good introduction is aimed at librarians, and is from ACRL’s current awareness trend watching service Keeping Up With.  In Keeping Up with …Digital Humanities, it discusses definitions and controversies over what DH is, the opportunities it provides for collaborations outside the library, training and skills librarians need for DH work, and types of contributions librarians can make.  After the conclusion, it has a section of resources, including recommended reading, associations and centers, courses and continuing education, all about data, tools and tutorials, and other sites of note.

Jeffrey McClurken, of the University of Mary Washington, put together a 20 page Google document Digital Liberal Arts Workshop Links and Resources, which was updated in January 2014.  It includes links to definitions of DH and digital liberal arts, links to projects.  Categories of tools are digital publishing tools, research/bibliographic tools, collaborative writing tools, geography and geospatial visualization tools, data visualization and analysis tools, video/audio resources for class, multimedia editing tools, social media tools, and other tools/concepts.  Then it discusses Google Docs for classroom use, integrating technology into teaching, digital literacy, and making the case to others.

The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a journalistic view of DH in its article How the Humanities Compute, which examines how some professors are using the topic and how they got involved in it.  Lists a few good resources at the end, including the CUNY guide already mentioned and UCLA’s Introduction to Digital Humanities Coursebook.  The description of the coursebook is:

Based on the Introduction to Digital Humanities (DH101) course at UCLA, taught by Johanna Drucker (with David Kim) in 2011 and 2012, this online coursebook (and related collection of resources) is meant to provide introductory materials to digital approaches relevant to a wide range of disciplines. The lessons and tutorials assume no prior knowledge or experience and are meant to introduce fundamental skills and critical issues in digital humanities.

The four sections are (1) Concepts and readings; (2) Tutorials; (3) Student projects, and (4) Advanced Topics.

Finally, there are a couple of resources about tools that should be mentioned.  The first is Bamboo DiRT (Directory of Research Tools), which we have mentioned before because it is the best directory of such tools we know of.  Its intended audience is digital humanists, despite the fact that it also serves the needs of researchers in many disciplines.

ProfHacker has a fascinating post ‘Ready to Eat’ Academic Computing Infrastructure.  It describes AMIs (Amazon Machine Images) designed by James Smithies of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  It is a way of setting up a DH web server that includes a number of ready-to-use programs such as Omeka and Omeka plugins, Open Journal Systems, GeoServer, Drupal, and Ushahidi.  This ready to eat server is designed for the new-to-DH academic to use as a sandbox to learn how to use these tools.

The digital humanities is an exciting field that is producing many new ways at looking at human culture, and creating new tools and new concepts about that topic.  Researchers interested in adding to this rich field, and librarians who support them, need starting points for getting involved, and the items mentioned above are examples of good ways to explore DH.  In the next posts on digital humanities I plan to explore the subfields of digital literature and then digital history.

Works Cited

Adams, J. and Gunn, K. (2013).  Keeping Up With…Digital HumanitiesACRL Keeping Up With … online current awareness column.

Edwards, C. and Gold, M. (nd).  CUNY Digital Humanities Resource GuideCUNY Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI).

Lawson, K.  (2014).  ‘Ready to Eat’ Academic Computing InfrastructureProfHacker blog, Chronicle of Higher Education.

McClurken, J. (2014)  Digital Liberal Arts Workshop Links and Resources.    Google Docs.

Parry, M. (2014). How the Humanities Compute in the Classroom. Chronicle Of Higher Education, 60(17), A28-A30.

Spiro, L. (2011).  Getting Started in the Digital HumanitiesDigital Scholarship in the Humanities (blog).

Content Curation: Beyond the Institutional Repository and Library Archives

If you are an academic librarian, you have been hearing about Data Curation, Content Curation, Information Curation or Digital Curation for years. And the terms can be applied in several different ways. There are the curation activities surrounding purchased library materials and the curation of faculty and student items (like theses and dissertations for example). Archivists have been intimately involved with all sorts of curation activities since archives existed, and were early adopters of digital curation and finding aids for the items they maintained. Most recently, Data Curation has been in the forefront of librarian discussions in response to government mandates to make research information widely available; first with the medical field, and more recently with the National Science Foundation requirements for data curation plans in all NSF grants.

The Digital Curation Centre defines the concept for us: “Digital curation involves maintaining, preserving and adding value to digital research data throughout its lifecycle.” Their goal is to actively manage research data in order to “reduce threats to their long-term research value and mitigate the risk of digital obsolescence.” The site has a great Digital Life Cycle Infographic which graphically illustrates the cyclical process.

There are numerous questions, policies, issues and opportunities in all the various curation activities in libraries today, but I would like to turn our attention to the topic of Content Curation beyond the repository and archive doors. The buzz about Content Curation has become popularized throughout the digital world as a result of the explosion of users who today create content as well as ingest it. Blog writing became more widespread when simple blogging tools like Blogger and WordPress became freely available. Facebook and YouTube “likes” gave us the social media push, allowing even more people to express opinions on the work of others. Amazon, and review sites like Kudzu, Yelp, Angie’s List and Healthgrades encouraged everyone to submit their opinions and the average person was suddenly creating content on the web (even though they might not have seen it as such!)

Tools like Evernote and OneNote gave us platforms for saving information that we found on the internet, and bookmarking sites like Delicious and Diigo added the social aspects of making our bookmarks public so that everyone could search for resources that others had found worth marking. While the tagging on bookmarking sites allowed for a rudimentary level of organization, information on why a particular link was included by the bookmarker was not captured. More recently, social networks on various platforms such as Google + and Twitter provided new sources for individuals with a shared interest to exchange information that they had found in their research with others. Information was everywhere and the average person was struggling under the load of its rapid pace.

Clay Shirky (www.shirky.com) suggests that “[the problem] is not information overload. It’s filter failure.” How can we create better filters? Enter Digital Content Curation as a way to create new value from the current influx of lists of links to existing resources on a topic. Beth Kanter, a prolific and well respected blog author for non-profit marketers, defines content curation as “the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme.”  A good content curator is invaluable in this age of information because, Kanter says, “finding that information (and making sense of it) requires more and more time, attention, and focus.” And who among us has time, attention or focus to spare?

So, we’ve determined that curated content, when done well, offers great benefit to the reader. We have also acknowledged that it takes time, effort and focus to create this type of content. Other than accolades from a readership, what is in it for the curator? There are a number of benefits to the digital curator (Good, Robin):

  • One of the best ways to learn new topics or skills is by being able to teach it to someone else.
  • The process of digital curation makes you examine and evaluate the material in a “new and multi-dimensional way”
  • Curating helps clarify for both the author and the reader the relationships and links between groups of information
  • Helps develop critical thinking and writing skills
  • The overwhelming plethora of information today has learners seeking reliable and trusted guide to sources for well-organized and high quality information. (a new delivery point for a service librarians have provided for generations) (Metzger, Miriam)

Librarians are in an advantageous position to add this new area of expertise to the tool box that we offer in outreach to our academic faculty. Next month I will begin an exploration of some of the content curation tools popular today.


Good, Robin. Content Curation for Education and Learning, presented at Emerge 2012 http://www.mindmeister.com/63257746/types-of-curation

Kanter, Beth. Content Curation 101. http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/

Metzger, M. J. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the Web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13),2078–2091.

Links Roundup #17

A PhotographerBack up Cloud Data

PC Mag has a useful article on ways to back up your data in the cloud – Back Up Your Cloud: How to Download All Your Data.  It covers Facebook, Twitter, various Google Services, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Evernote.  I can see that this may well be of use to libraries with a social media presence.

Classroom Apps

ProfHacker has a roundup of posts on iPad apps for the classroom.  This was followed a couple of weeks later with the post Android Apps for the Classroom.  Both will be worth checking back on occasionally as people add their favorite apps in the comments.  The Android article also mentions the site Android for Academics, which has five free apps as well as tips and a blog (not recently updated).

Design for Non-Designers

The LibraryTechTalk blog has a post on Canva, which is for those who haven’t mastered programs like Photoshop or Illustrator but want to create attractive flyers, posters, etc.  Canva is a free site.

Dictation App

Turn Your Android Device into a Dictation Tool discusses Dictadroid, its features and how to install and use it.  I am sure that for some people dictation is an important part of their productivity, and this seems to be the most powerful on the Android market.  Anyone suggest a comparable iOS app?

Evernote/OneNote/Note-Taking Apps

Evernote has teamed up with Swiftkey to produce a simplified note-taking app.  It is iOS only at the moment, but since Swiftkey is one of the most popular Android keyboards, I imagine it will be available for Android at some point.  I use Swiftkey on my Android phone and tablet and much prefer it to the stock keyboard. Evernote for Windows Desktop Gets an Update, Adds Improved Scan Management – I like that you can scan business cards and integrate that information with the person’s LinkedIn profile. Evernote Rolls Out New, More Customizable iPhone and iPad Apps… the article discusses Evernote’s updates in general and the company’s strategies for adding new features and fixing bugs.  Also see this brief note on Using Siri with Evernote. And also the Android beta, which I hope will be released soon, is adding the ability to write notes by hand.  Also mentions one little thing that I really want – adding a horizontal rule in the Android note editor (yes, small details do matter!). How I Do a Daily Review in Evernote by Jamie Todd Rubin is an excellent post.  Rubin created a saved search that finds the notes he created or updated in the latest day, and reviews that at night, adding any additional organization needed.  Nice modification of Getting Things Done (GTD). Evernote for Beginners: The Basics of The Most Popular Notebook App – Nice and recent introductory tutorial for Evernote and the Evernote Web Clipper from Tuts+, a site for “Tutorials, inspiration and videos to help you learn. Updated daily.”  This post links to the more advanced and also useful Taming the Elephant: Awesome Evernote Tips and Tricks, which discusses integrating Evernote with your email and IFTTT, advanced search syntax, and creating templates for notes.

Pomodoro Technique

Measuring Your Workday in Pomodoros is a GradHacker post that explains what the technique is and how to use it effectively to be more productive and more easily get work done that requires concentrated attention and focus.

Productivity Apps

10 Best Productivity Apps for Android – no big surprises here, but a useful collection particularly for a new Android user.  Apps included are Evernote, Dropbox, Wunderlist, Pocket, OneNote, Google Drive, QuickOffice, Any.do, Pomodoro Tasks, and Swiftkey.  Most of these, of course, are available on iOS as well.

Reference Management Software

Docear (pronounced Dogear) is a free academic management suite of software that grew out of Sciplore.  One of its advantages is that it offers mind mapping as a part of managing a research project.  Here is how they describe their advantages:

Docear is different than any other literature or reference manager (‘different’ as in ‘better’). It offers a single-section user-interface with all the information in a single place (see screenshot below). This approach offers three massive advantages. First, you can see annotations (comments, bookmarks, highlighted text) of different documents at the same time. Second, you can move annotations to exactly the category they belong to even if the corresponding document remains in a different category. Third, you can create categories within a PDF and sort annotations within that PDF.

Visit the site to see the explanation in more depth and with screen shots, the visualization helps one see the organization better.  Anyway, in January they came out with an in-depth article comparing Zotero, Mendeley, and Docear.  It covers far more features than most of this sort of post.

Stress/Anxiety Management

One particularly nice thing about GradHacker is that it has had a number of posts on staying mentally and physically fit through grad school, and that the posts tend to have useful tips and links.  An example is the recent post Traumatic Stress in Grad School, which has a list of useful apps and links about anxiety and coping mechanisms which are useful for anyone, not just grad students.  A similar post is Cultivating Happiness in Grad School.  These posts arise from a sincere belief that graduate school is hard to do well and that one’s physical and mental health is vital to achieving that goal.

Stylus for Handwriting on Touch Screens

Adonit Jot Script Stylus Review – the Adonit stylus is only for iOS, but the reviewer mentions that the Samsung S pen is similar.  Both have a much narrower tip, allowing an experience much more similar to handwriting.

Windows Phone Apps

25 Best Windows Phone Apps – good roundup of the current state of Windows Phone apps.  Good news is that the app store now has over 175,000 apps, including lots of the most-used apps.

Writing Tips

From Predator to Pet: Three Techniques for Taming Your Writing Project is an excellent post by Joli Jensen.  I really like the ventilation file idea, and the fifteen minutes a day is similar to Pomodoro.