#12 Fin.

And that’s that. Six weeks, done.

The final numbers, at the end of my time, over the course of 200 hours and six weeks:

  • 176 series cataloged;
  • 1,403 comic book issues fully cataloged; and
  • 70 issues re-housed and skeleton-cataloged.

Along the way, I learned so much about making judgments with focuses on the users and the goals of the collection, about finding resources to use to make those decisions, and about how the resources we use get shaped for interfaces. I conducted 12 interviews, attended 15 meetings (both in large groups and in one-on-one sessions), took two tours, and talked to many, many people all around the JMU libraries.

It was hard having to say good-bye. There’s so much more I wanted to work on with the project and with that team; but I’m glad I had the chance, when I did, to do what I could to work on such an important collection with such a well-formed group of individuals.

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve gained from this internship is the knowledge that I want to work in an academic or research library or institution. The community; the mixture of work, scholarship, and service; the growth and development that I’ve seen happen in one – I’m not sure what I particularly want to do in it (I left most interviews thinking, “I want a job just like that one”), but I want to be a part of it. There’s this largeness of librarianship that you just don’t really realize in library school – but it’s not a one-size-fits-all job, there’s so many different varieties and positions and goals that make up libraries, and that’s something I saw a lot of during my time in Virginia.

I’m excited for what that means. I feel like my future got a little big bigger. That wasn’t a goal, but I’ll take it.

And that’s all. Time to go and read some comic books.

Fin.

#11 “…a power that challenges all power!”

The title above is taken from “The New Gods” #3 (National Periodical Publications, Inc., June-July 1971). The full quote, on the second page of the comic, is “I am the quarry of a power that challenges all power!” – and, come on, that’s just such a good line!

Vroom!

The project is at its final phases – at least, at its final phases with my involvement. I spent yesterday afternoon and this morning rehousing the final comics into their proper folders and adding in skeleton records for them, since I won’t have time to play with them myself; I’ve also spent a bit of time finishing up and tidying my previous records, so they’re about as good as I can make them at this point.

A fun fact I noticed as I began the rehousing project: the titles on our preservation folders don’t match, syntactically, with the titles we gave the items in our spreadsheet. A minor distinction, to be fair – the folders forego including volumes and months, and call the term “no.” “issue” instead.

So instead of A Comic Title, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 1994, the folders tend to read A Comic Title, Iss. 1, 1994. But heh, that’s something I didn’t even notice and I touched every single 1,403 of them. Luckily, it doesn’t matter; they’ll be identifiable in either case, and I’m letting the new folders match the spreadsheet – but still.

Wham!

Steven and I did a test-run of the CSV import this morning; we wanted to make sure it would work as it did, go over a few technicalities (when to click “HTML”), and to make a few judgments on the display of the record. And it worked! We didn’t do a lot, but it felt amazing to see the records appear, fleshed out and neatly aligned and all-but ready for display. It also brought up some changes we’ll want to see in the future. At this stage we can finally visualize what the records will look like online, as well as how users will access them, and a whole new slew of decisions has begun with that.

Snick!

I attended the Research and Education Services Meeting; RES is a collection of liaison librarians and subject specialists – think the people who work directly with academic college departments, and not just for projects. It was another new look at library services. JMU hosts the MREST, an information literary test given to freshmen, so we went over its results and result analysis, identifying possible steps to keep improving scores in the future. We then looked at the Instruction Materials Repository, a collection available to all librarians at JMU, in an attempt to share useful resources and worksheets to help with instruction.

Boom!

And then it was time for my own presentation to JMU Libraries about my time here. I’d been preparing for a few weeks, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to share my progress with the rest of the community. I’ll be sharing a (much) abridged version of that presentation at the IU ILS summer internship meeting.

Pfffft

And that’s that. My last post will happen after tomorrow, my last day – particularly after the exit interview, where we’ll discuss final thoughts on the internship and the process.

#10 “Inside paper is very white & inside cover is bright white”

The title above is taken from The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide (p. 952). It refers to how to identify a counterfeit copy of the first issue of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” – the counterfeit, as one might expect, holds no value. (In comparison we’ve got a first appearance of Pym as Ant Man that would go for thousands – if the cover wasn’t missing.)

My last week! It’s a mixture of finishing up pieces (I spent Monday morning filling out the historical notes that I’ve neglected, since those require a bit of research) and trying my hands at slightly new work, for the feel of it (brand-new cataloging! – before I was working off skeletal records and adding in relatively subjective values, now I’m at the baseline for processing comics into the collection).

My goals, during these final few days, are to make sure that my records are as complete as they can be at this time, to talk to my team members about the future of this project and help plan upcoming steps accordingly, and to finish my last bout of professional development with as much muster as I tried to maintain throughout my time here. It’s going to be hard to leave; something I’ve been considering – and I’ll discuss this in my last post here – is what I would change, if I had the chance to do it over again, and whether or not more time would be beneficial.

More on those reflections later, though. As I already mentioned, professional development continues, and I got several very new experiences to help conclude my time here.

Digital Collections Department Reflection (with Dean)

So as I discussed last post, JMU Libraries has its new dean as of July 1st. One of her goals, as she begins to explore her new workplace, has been (obviously) to get to know how the Libraries work. (I’ll be honest, guys, I’m not sure whether I’m treating JMU Libraries as a singular noun or a plural noun, and I think I’ve been varying it in each post, so this is my grammatical apology.) A bit ago, each “group” – department might be a more adequate word – met up to create a pseudo-SWOT analysis, focused on the strengths and weaknesses of that collective in the library. The intent is to use those papers as discussion points and springboards as Bethany officially meets with the groups. I had the fortune to be able to attend the second (I believe it was the second) one, with the Digital Collections department.

It was an incredibly enlightening experience; the Digital Collections team is small – four members – and relatively new, and I had the opportunity to see it uncovered among itself and before the dean. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the conversation itself, but something Bethany said toward the end of the meeting, after the team had discussed identity and its relationships among the organization, struck me as the first step that the department might continue along: redefining itself as leaders of digital collections frameworks, rather than maintaining its current role as a sort of technical-support position. I don’t know what taking on that enfranchising and determining role would look like; no one does, yet, that’s the excitement of it.

Interview with Grace Barth, Head of Digital Collections

My last one-on-one interview of the semester! I met with Grace Barth, whom I had seen earlier that day during the previous meeting, the Department Reflection (most of my questions proved unnecessary since they were answered at that previous meeting). It was great to unpack a bit of what Bethany and the team spoke of during the reflection, as well as to go more in-depth about the services Digital Collections offer and what some considerations are that Grace faces in her position, such as finding technologies for digital exhibits and her model for choosing the correct platform for different user needs.

Next post will be on my last few days, including my presentation to JMU Libraries about what I’ve done and learned; the last post (#12) will be a reflection of my time here and some connections back to my classes at Indiana University.

#9 “Close the body mold and switch on the power!”

Title taken from #106 of “Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane” (National Periodical Publications, Inc., Nov. 1970). In which – and here’s where it gets problematic – Lois Lane, reporter extraordinaire, decides to turn herself black for a day so she can talk “more naturally” to the African American community. Yeah. That was a comic issue. (Though it did bring up that Superman, despite being an alien, was a white male in a white-male-driven society, so there’s that bit of awareness?)

A short week right before my finale; Independence Day on a Thursday does wonders for summer festivities. Still, another week rife with progress and meetings.

Progress!

I DID IT. I FINISHED THE RECORDS FOR EVERY COMIC. (Almost. I need to add in a field. That’ll take a few hours max, though.) ALL 1,404 ISSUES.

That was Monday. Tuesday was spent filling out our Name Authority Record sheet, since it hadn’t been touched in a bit and will help create sustainable records. Wednesday saw the Name Authorities completed, historical notes continued, and several fields finalized. It also saw me, after 165 hours mostly devoted to that spreadsheet, notice a peculiarity: the column Q had been downsized (so much so that I had thought it had been an extra-thick line between P and R – never mind the fact that I, apparently, forgot for more than a month that the letter Q should have been there). Turns out the previous intern had left the Q column unnamed but partially filled, and highlighted in a nice blue. My theory is that the column was for executive editor (it’s next to the normal Editor column), which we’ve not touched for wont of the main issue editor instead.

Today also saw a return of my battle with Excel. It’s when I do something simple that it decides to stick its metaphorical tongue at me. At random points during Replace functions, it decided it would get into an infinite loop, trying to find more cells to replace. I’m not sure why, but after losing 45 minutes to its histrionics, I took to very regular saving and progress-checking until I finished the Name Authority sheet.

Professionalism!

Several meetings this week: one with Cheri Duncan, the director for scholarly resources and discovery, where we talked more about Big Deal issues at research libraries and the roles those libraries have as representatives of other communities through such things as ILL; one with Alyssa Valcourt, the science and math liaison librarian, where I finally got to ask my long-awaited question, “How do you get math kids into the library?” (answer: pizza, small groups, and expanding the use of the library from just classwork to individual research interests).

I met Monday morning with my project team to discuss the where-we-were and the where-we’re-going of the comic collection. We also began plans for what I’ll do when I finish my current tidying-up parts of my cataloging.

The highlight of the week came in the form of Bethany Nowviskie, the long-awaited new Dean of Libraries (Tuesday, when I met her, was only her second official day in her role). It was a meeting I was both awaiting and dreading – I got to take away thirty minutes of her time, when she had a million other things to do on her second day acting in her role…but it was a great conversation, at least to me. Bethany spent her last few years with the DLF and offered a plethora of information about that organization and sister ones that might interest me; she also showed me resources that looked closely and critically about diversity in libraries, a subject I’ve been working on and that I hope to continue studying (and improving on) in the future.

#8 “Once more he menaces our world!”

Title above taken from “Strange Tales” #77 (MARVEL, 1960).

Titles for different sections of this post are taken from various comic book letters-to-the-editor pages. Since I find them wonderfully creative and haven’t had a chance to showcase them yet.

Snikts and Stones (“Aliens/Predator: Deadliest of the Species”)

And week 4 is at its close. It saw some interesting comics, including the appearance of the Ku Klux Klan in Black Panther; a small infinity of Marvel crossovers in Power Pack and Rom (I’m getting very good at recognizing people; I might have cheered when I saw Alpha Flight on a cover); and the strangely endearing collection of Groo. And Peter Porker, of course; can’t forget about him.

Groo-Grams (“Sergio Arag√≥nes Groo the Wanderer”)

I was right; I should be able to finish my current cataloging endeavors by early next week. Monday, if I work at my current pace. The next step, then, won’t necessarily consist of Omeka imports – we want to discuss the site a little more and I haven’t even pretended to work on linking out to other pages on Omeka, because those URIs haven’t been minted yet – but will let me work on cataloging, from scratch, some unincorporated comics that we want to add to this collection. But we’ll see; my project team is meeting early next week to go over where we are in the project, so we’ll make more decisions at that step.

Pick of the Pack (“Power Pack”)

As one of the opportunities for professional development for this week, I attended the Libraries Leadership meeting – a group of the library directors, heads, program coordinators, and committee chairs that discusses current initiatives of JMU Libraries and works to ensure inter-group communication at a higher level. The meeting went over final steps for the annual report; discussed the results (and merits) of the LibQual(+?) report (LibQual is a service through ARL that initiates a complicated survey and then analyzes the data, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to show trends for research libraries); and made decisions about communication norms for the group, between email protocols, coverage for when a representative can’t appear for a meeting, and drafting aspirations for the future of the Leadership group.

I’ve talked a lot with different members, individually, about how parts of the library communicate – and this meeting helped clarify what those people have said and let me see common themes among the departments.

As did my meeting with Jennifer Keach, the coordinator of organizational learning and development. She works on organizational cohesiveness, as well, but focuses her efforts with it on more informal communication (her words) so that staff and faculty of the library can understand the library as a unit, rather than just as departments. Her work includes developing new-hire onboarding, professional and career development for library staff, and supervisor training – and, like many of the people I’ve met, she found this job by following a passion in the library community.

Power/Fistfuls (“Power Man and Iron Fist”)

A brief discussion about what makes cataloging serials, such as comics, so difficult: names. Namely (hah), names are rarely consistent. So you’ll have a series: “Power Man.” And it might be Volume 1 (most things are, unless there’s a necessity for restarting the number system over), and Issue #1. Makes sense; it’s sorta hierarchical.

Except. “Power Man” wasn’t initially “Power Man” – it was “Hero for Hire” until, at #17, it became “Luke Cage, Power Man” (on the cover; the indicia might have just read “Power Man”) and then, at #67, it continues the numbering under the title “Power Man and Iron Fist.” So, not even counting when the cover title doesn’t match with the indicia title, “Power Man” had three different names in the main run of its continuity. (That’s not including “Luke Cage Noir” or other spin-off-esque comic runs.)

So how do we, as catalogers/metadata creators, make sure that our users understand that these three different series actually coexist and complete one another? Or how do we explain that #0 might be the first comic in a series, or it could just be jammed into the middle of the run for a reason only really understood by comic book aficionados? Or how do we explain that Kitty Pryde of the X-Men changed codenames a number of times, and different versions of her might use one-off names (Cat), and that they’re the same character?

Doing this work, I’m not sure if there is a nice, neat way. I’ve been using judgments for character names (using parentheses when I think a clarification is necessary, and otherwise focusing on the most recognizable iteration of the character – and that’s very self-reflected since what I recognize first might not match someone else’s understanding of the character). For other name-change iterations, I’ve been trying to include notes (usually in the Series Only records) to discuss what’s happening. An idea might be to have a Related Comic(s) element, or a Continued from / Continued by element, which Mark referenced that MARC employs. But they’d be so infrequently used, and what about all the crossovers? Do we say that, since the X-Men appeared in Rom, in-continuity (I believe), that that’s an iteration of a Continued field in effect?

Long discussion to a simple answer: I don’t know. I don’t think an outstanding way to display this has been achieved. Nor do I think it really will; if you look at the Marvel and DC fan wikias, their systems for such ideas are individual and don’t really correlate to one another at all; in comparison, Grand Comics Database uses notes like I do with helpful links.

Incoming (“The ‘Nam”)

Next week is a short week; because of Independence Day, JMU Libraries are closed Thursday and Friday. And it’s a front-heavy week, besides; meetings on Monday and Tuesday, including a quick word with the about-to-begin new dean and my meet-up with my project team. So lots of excitement bound into three quick days. Let’s get to it!

#7 “…if only we really had super-guys in skin-tight outfits to clean things up for us.”

The title above was taken from “The ‘Nam” # 41 (Marvel Comics, Feb. 1990). Chosen because of the interesting juxtaposition; “The ‘Nam,” as the name suggests, focuses on the Vietnam War – and, for an interesting issue, the soldiers daydream about what would happen if Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man came along to help.

This has been a get-stuff-done kind of week. My “cataloger’s judgment,” as Steven is fond of saying, has developed – at least a little. That means that I’m more confident making quick decisions about whether a subject matters or if what I have is good enough, that I’m no longer second-guessing myself about how to record character names or what historical notes might be important. In a perfect world of infinite descriptive ability, and in a world in which I could know this collection impossibly well (not unlike how well Brian Flota knows it!), I’d do a lot of things different. But that’s not where I am, nor is that what I’m here to do.

I mentioned in the last few posts that I need to fix some things about what I’ve done so far. I need to fill in historical notes for past issues (I do those last, since Brian comes by a few times a week to help me and to discuss a few of the more interesting comics with me); I need to correct a few misinterpreted comics and subjects; and (the big one) I need to check over all of my name authority list.

Part of my project has been collecting Library of Congress name authorities for the comic book creators – the writers, pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers, cover artists, and editors. Many – most – of these individuals have authority records in place, so I’ve been inputting them into a separate spreadsheet so I can formalize the main comic metadata later. The problem: Excel and I have had a few fights (The Epic Battle Continues! The Kaiser vs. Excel-sior, Master of Spreadsheets! Who Will Win?!) and it’s managed to mix up records; I have no idea why, but I really don’t think it’s user error; I’m generally confident with my spreadsheet skills. So I get to slowly go through all of my records and make sure that I’ve labeled everyone correctly.

On a different note, I had digitization training on Monday with Mark Purington, digital content coordinator. He introduced me to our digitization lab (it’s just across the hall from my own workroom), walked me through the workflow, and let me practice using the overhead scanner to digitize Jungle Action #7 and then helped me explore Photoshop tools to fix some errors (my fingers holding the pages down), crop the scans, and merge pages together. I really enjoyed that; there’s something calming about creating digital records, and digitizing the comics would be a next-step goal for our comic book collection here.

I also met with Malia Wiley, another IU ILS alumna and a humanities liaison librarian. Our conversation focused on balance: between the needs of her different communities and between the time of year and how that brought along different projects and work requirements. We also discussed the eternal topic, committee work, and what she was doing for her service and scholarship aspects for her job.

That’s all for now; I have more meetings tomorrow before rounding out another week. I plan to finish my cataloging early next week so I can have plenty of time to work on importing items onto the Omeka site, to check my work, and to see if I accomplished what I wanted to – and if I didn’t, to see what I can do to amend that.

#6 Homo sapiens of steel

The title above was taken from #1 of “Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew” (DC Comics, March 1981). The pun’s on the stand-in for the word “man,” since in Captain Carrot, Superman briefly finds himself flung into a world full of anthropomorphic animals and his role taken by dear ol’ Captain Carrot.

Meetings this week were robust and informative. I met with the associate deans of the library: K.T. Vaughan, Andrea Adams, and Stefanie Warlick; Yasmeen Shorish, data services coordinator; the Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the libraries; and Sarah Koechlein, head of resource access. Our conversations ranged from how to project good communication and overcome (natural and unnatural) barriers in the university-library setting; the importance of data management and its job; diversity (with both Yasmeen and the Council on Diversity), why it matters in libraries and how to encourage its importance in the hiring process; and the issues concerning collection development at a university level: deciding on journal collections and licensing issues.

One of the biggest aspects of librarianship that the professional development interviews are reminding me of: Librarianship is a big word. It’s a catch-all term. Even in a single institution, an academic library, there’s such a beautiful variety of careers, and each has a role to play. It’s something that’s hard to really discuss in an ILS program, I think, because there is so much, and there’s just only so much a student can learn in two years.

A Silent Interlude – Project Updates

A fun fact about G.I. Joe: its toy began the first use of the term “action figure” (if Wikipedia is to be believed).

Over the three weeks I’ve been here, I think I’ve finally figured out how to make good speed and greater accuracy in my cataloging. It’s two-part: I now understand my materials a lot better, something which took about 500 comics to get to; and I’ve seen what things I’m doing that just take too long.

I’m going about the collection, then, in three stages. I first go and catalog the issues, drawing information that I can take from the comics themselves and from the great resource Grand Comics Database. I don’t worry about name authorities here, except to make sure that our records are accurate and to mark down any unknown names on a separate spreadsheet.

Later, I can bulk-search names on the LCNAF page and import them to a separate sheet. (I’ve decided to not update anything on my main page now and spend a few hours when I finish the project updating everything at once; that will help mitigate mistakes that I’ve noticed.

Finally, I go and I cross-reference The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide and fandom comic pages to see historical notes (Brian Flota often comes by to help with this) that will matter for our collection.

So it’s basically 1. fields I need to make decisions about; 2. name authority fields, which are easy but slow; and 3. fields that require research. It’s sped me up a lot, that simple change, and I hope I see its impact more next week (today was spent in fixing my Name spreadsheet, since I found some mistakes in its formatting that may have impacted its correctness).

That’s this week down. My internship is halfway over, which is insane – but I think I’m getting comfortable doing what I’m doing, and I’m excited to see how much progress I can make in the coming week!

#5 “In this issue everybody dies!”

The title above was taken from the cover of Blood Syndicate, #17 (DC Comics, Aug. 1994). Chosen because the series was only halfway over at that point, despite the dire excitement the cover shouted.

Honorable mention for a title: “Sacre! That human starfish – attacking us with ze gym equipment!” (Blackhawk, # 190 (National Periodical Publications, Inc., Nov. 1963). I highly encourage looking up pictures of the great Human Starfish, because it wasn’t how I thought I’d be spending a morning.

Some interesting developments in the project:

  1. My website parser code mostly works – but I’ve determined it won’t be helpful. I could grab stuff, awkwardly, from the Grand Comics Database. And that would have been good for the previous cataloger, to collect names of people – editors and pencillers and the myriad other individuals who work on creating a comic.

    At this stage, however, most of the fields I’m inputting are more subjective (subject, genre) or more troublesome than a code would help with (choosing characters to include, or making sense of table-of-content pieces). So it was a fun experiment, but without a limited vocabulary or a standardized method of inputting results from the GCD, it’ll just be (sadly) faster to do it by hand.

  2. In other news, one of my project supervisors, Steven Holloway, contacted a colleague to submit Wakanda (Africa : Imaginary place) as a subject heading for Library of Congress, through the Africana Funnel for SACO (we had a brief discussion of how to show literary warrant from a NACO- and MARC-based submission outline) (I finished up what we own of Black Panther earlier and Wakanda is so much better than just saying the entire continent of Africa).

  3. I finished Black Panther and Captain America (it’s not necessarily easier to catalog things you know, since then you try to find really great subject headings – though I am pleased with my subjects for our ashcan issue of American Gods). Today should see me through the Fs and, finally and formidably, into the beginning of G.I. Joe (we have a lot of those) (175 issues, according to my spreadsheet).

  4. These last few days have also really begun the questions of how we’re going to be representative and not assumptive or manipulative; how we’re going to make use of subject headings and our historical note properly.

    The current goal is to include important notes when we can about our collection (i.e., “First appearance of Falcon,” or, on Batman #230, “Group patterned after the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense appears on cover only”). We want our patrons to understand the importance of what we have without telling them in as many words. We’ll have lists of important black artists and such in our collection – that’s the on-the-shelf plan as of last week – but then we want people to explore.

    This could all change still; that’s one of the great things about cataloging and description that I think a lot of non-librarians don’t understand. We have the power to change things if they need to be changed. Is it inefficient? Yes. Should it be done? Always, if something’s wrong or hurting someone unjustly.

I think the hardest thing about this is coming to trust my own judgments. I still don’t. I’m gonna need to go back sometime (this Friday, probably) and edit a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know how to fully approach – and I wouldn’t have known, until I cataloged 250 comics and saw what made them work, from a metadata standpoint. I’ll go over those changes next blog, but they’ll both be big and not too difficult, in the scheme of things.

#4 “Shortly, as the two super-teams confer…”

The title above was taken from p. 9 of “The Avengers” #272 (Marvel Comics Group, Oct. 1986). The issue guest-stars Alpha Flight, so I felt compelled to flip through it.

“But there’s a lot more where that came from!”

This second week saw meetings with five different people in the library: Steven Holloway, director of metadata strategies; Liz Chenevey, psychology librarian; Rebecca French, metadata analyst librarian; Dan Easley, innovations services equipment & space manager; and Mark Lane, my ASB supervisor and digital preservation librarian.

I’ve been working with Steven for the last few weeks – he and Brian Flota act as my project supervisors. Brian knows the comics fully and thoroughly; Steven knows metadata to the same degree. We’re going to meet later in the summer to go over linked data initiatives and how that actually looks, but this week, he walked me through some of the metadata team’s current projects: ORCID, namely, and how it can affect other pioneer-esque projects in the linked data world of librarianship. We talked about why creating profiles for university members helps them, why the library is the one making the push, and what that might mean for the future – namely, more connections and a better representation of what JMU produces.

Liz introduced me more formally to the role of a liaison, or subject, librarian. We focused on her own goals at the library – how she got her position, her current projects (she just finished weeding in Carrier Library), her interactions with the students and faculty in her departments, her own professional development and committee work. And collection development, something which terrifies me about subject librarianship (there’s just so much out there, and it’d take ages to become a master of a collection left for you from someone else). She assuaged my fears on that with a great conversation about the interconnection between collection development, a regular process, and weeding, which happens much less frequently since academic books see a low turnover rate. Liz, from my albeit limited experience, seems to know what she wants to accomplish and how she can get there; and I hope I can emulate that mindset in whatever position I take down the road.

I changed topics with Rebecca (an IU ILS alum) to discuss batch metadata and the mechanization of metadata processes in research libraries. Rebecca’s job, simply put, focuses on developing tools to help achieve faster results with less manpower. So, coding and scripting. She gave a good example: say you want to change a field for a few thousand E-books (a publisher changes, or something of that nature). You could do it by hand, but that’s such a time commitment, and a project like that can easily be waylaid due to budgetary constraints (good descriptions aren’t cheap in an academic setting, when librarians go through so many materials each day). So she finds clever ways to make the computer do the work. To be honest, this is something I’m very interested in; traditional cataloging takes so much time and technology has advanced so much, it should be able to help us in our roles. That actually encouraged me in a current goal, which I’ll discuss in the project section of this post.

Yesterday, I went to Rose Library again, this time to tour its Makery, a – you guessed it – makerspace. Let me set the scene: this open space at the back-right of the main floor of the library, separated on one side from a computer-lab area with half-sized empty bookshelves and on the other with these industrial-looking workbenches. Inside the space, you’re immediately bombarded by the…the conspicuousness of creation. 3-D printers, vinyl cutters, computer stations next to most of them; sewing machines; more workbenches with circuitry; cabinets just waiting to be open. At one station there’s a press to stamp paper; at another, there’s a collection of paints and colors. There’s even knitting and crocheting tools, which excited me on a personal level.

Dan showed me around the space, including the separate room set up for VR. This led along the discussion: Why are libraries the right place for makerspaces? The answer, Dan believes, is two-part (my own interpretation of our conversation; Dan could discuss this a lot more thoroughly and clearly than I can, and it’s obvious he’s thought about this question a lot): 1. in their empowerment; and 2. in the way they break down normalized barriers.

  1. Empowerment: Everyone, he said, can use a sewing machine; you just need to learn how. Libraries, traditionally, are spaces where the community comes to gain something. To find a safe space, to find the right book, to find the answer to a question. Now, then, the community comes to gain new skills. It’s the same thing, really.
  2. Breaking barriers: Academic institutions have (necessary or unnecessary) imposed divisions. Students and professors are rarely treated as equal in the classroom; and that means that it’s difficult to get them to interact as equals outside of the classroom. Libraries, then, provide spaces where a professor, someone who might be a master in a field, can come and be a complete novice; where a student can get support without feeling a societal pressure from an academic department to just understand. There’s also the socio-economic barriers that libraries help to level; most people can’t afford an expensive VR set and a gaming computer that can run it efficiently – so having one in an open space supports both opportunity empowerment and barrier manipulation.

And, as Dan said, there’s no underestimating the entertainment of popsicle sticks, no matter one’s age.

And, finally, I had my weekly meeting with Mark, which turned into a fascinating discussion about digital repositories, DOI minting, and the different resource access points that JMU hosts. We also walked through the organizational chart of the libraries, which prompted an array of curiosities that I plan to get answers for next week when I meet with the associate deans.

Meanwhile, below…

My project is plodding along. I’ve gotten faster at filling fields and making decisions (the As are done, thank whatever god of the Marvel universe exists), and I hope to continue that trend next week. Brian stopped by a few times to look over what I’ve done and to discuss what metadata would be useful and the best way to take advantage of the Historical Note element.

But I’m starting something new on my own time – I’m trying to create a website scraper script to help automatize the process a little. (I got inspired by my conversation with Rebecca.) My Python is rusty, and no APIs exist on comics.org to help me (I need to look at the one on Comic Vine to see if that might be more useful for what I’m trying to grab), but, using BeautifulSoup, I’ve managed to create a method to scrape a page and I’ve started creating a function to return only what I need.

The goal: to create a script that can grab, at the very least, the characters and the story summary from the GCD pages. That’s one of my biggest time problems right now, and if I can get those all in one place and normalize the data, I could easily create a controlled vocabulary and import my results into my other spreadsheet.

#3 “Why is there women?”

The title above was taken from the Snikts and Stones (the letters to the editor) section of issue #2 in the “Aliens / Predator: The Deadliest of the Species” (Black Horse Comics, Inc., Sept. 1993).

Wham! Professional Development Developments:

I had a great meeting last Friday with Kelly Miller-Martin, the head of facilities operations for libraries here. Another long title that means that she thinks, very creatively and objectively, about how the users use the libraries’ spaces. Is there a nook that has five table but only really accommodates one student at a time? Can students find quiet spaces to study, loud spaces to do group work? Is there enough of each? Fundamentally, she looks at how the library itself, not the materials, is used. (It kinda falls under Ranganathan’s purview – Libraries are for use, library space is for use.) Maintaining that budgetary constraints exist, how librarians ensure optimization for space tells a lot about what they value. Kelly and her team do an amazing job at the Rose Library, from selecting moveable furniture to re-using bookshelves as other furniture, to playing with nooks to see what the community needs.

Pow! Project News!

My project continues. I finished cataloging our collection of Aliens comics (including Aliens vs. Predator and the many Aliens/Predator subseries). Today started and saw me halfway through the Alpha Flight run. It also saw my first major snag, after I got my head wrapped firmly into LCSH and clever ways to find subjects (and clever ways to reuse them): characters. One of our elements, for the purposes of this collection, is Characters. Sounds simple; but when you’re not particularly an expert in the Alpha Flight regiment, trying to identify what to call each character and who even matters in each issue has become a sore point.

For example: if I want to follow LCSH standards, I could say Parker, Peter “Spiderman” or Parker, Peter (Spiderman).

Except LC already has a Spider-Man (Fictitious character) subject. Which includes, in its variants, Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Spidey…so is that useful? Yes, but I’d still need to specify, somewhere, that I’m talking about Peter, rather than Miles.

So that’s the current hill I’m trying to crest. We’ll see how that goes. I’m going to think on it tonight and go back to try to amend the empty values I’ve left dreadfully hanging in an otherwise-complete metadata collection.

To change topics drastically, the title of this post represents the discussion that my metadata project will address, inately. “Why is there women?” was a question given in a letter to the editor in an Aliens/Predator series that featured, you guessed it, a female protagonist and a good number of female characters – including a female Predator. (I might have read most of the letters-to-the-editor section in that run; it was an amusing, if frustrating, experience.) There was a nice mixture of don’t-politicize-comics (as though the inclusion of women is a political agenda rather than a rule of the world) and more appreciative posts that were amused by the question. The editor didn’t try to deign a response, and she didn’t change the other comics to reflect the mixture of characters.

That’s rather what this is all about – inclusivity in comics without marginalizing the focused community or creating an otherness. I’m focusing on race rather than gender, of course, but the point stands: Comics have long been a white male medium, both in creators and in characters. This project aims to contest and draw attention to that implicit generalization.

(A great article my supervisor, Steven Holloway, shared with me that really drives home the gender inequality in superheroes: Analyzing the Gender Representation of 34,476 Comic Book Characters .)

Why is (are) there women?

The editor, one Diana Schutz, let other readers answer the question. My favorite response: “Why is there men?”