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Graduate School of Library and Information Science - University of Illinois


Sarah Yale (MS '15) takes the library on the road with the Book Bike

Thu, 25 May 2017 13:27:23 +0000

(image) As the neighborhood services librarian for the Oak Park (IL) Public Library, Sarah Yale facilitates community-focused programming and fosters engagement both inside and outside of the library with residents of all ages. From April through October, this engagement occurs through the Book Bike, a program she coordinates for the library.

"The Book Bike is a pedal-powered, mobile library on wheels that allows us the freedom and flexibility to take our library professionals, services, and resources 'to the streets,' increasing our reach and visibility in the community," said Yale.
In addition to checking out library materials, visitors to the Book Bike can also create a new library card account, sign up for the summer reading program, find answers to reference questions, and get suggestions for fiction or nonfiction titles they might enjoy based on their interests. The Bike is stocked with a unique collection of materials for each visit, with library staff pulling books, DVDs, audiobooks, and other items based on the location and audience of the neighborhoods they will be serving.

"We're always looking for new ways to break down barriers to access and provide a diverse, inclusive experience for all kinds of learners and readers. This means stocking the Bike with materials representing different themes and interests, but also diverse characters, authors, and languages," explained Yale.

It wasn't immediately evident to Yale that being a librarian was her dream job. After working as an elementary school teacher in Boston, Tanzania, and South Africa, she wasn’t convinced that a classroom setting was right for her. She then joined the AmeriCorps for a career in nonprofit-based youth development and restorative justice programming in the Chicago Public Schools. Still something was missing.

"In all of those positions, my favorite thing was matching the right resource to the right student," said Yale. "That being said, in communities both abroad and local, that favorite thing was also often my biggest challenge—finding books for my students that were not only fun and informational but culturally relevant and in their home language. Few things make me happier than seeing a young person's face light up when you've found a title that either mirrors their experience or provides that window to the outside world they've been craving."

Yale took a few evening Leep courses at the iSchool to explore whether the MS in library and information sciences was a good fit. She found a job as a part-time library assistant at the Oak Park Public Library's Maze Branch and became a part-time student in the Leep online program, from which she graduated in 2015. She has been in her current position as neighborhood services librarian for a  little over two years.
In her free time, Yale enjoys exploring. 

"Whether it's on foot or bike in local Chicago neighborhoods or by hopping on a plane, I love adventuring to new places and getting out of my comfort zone. Last year, that meant visiting historical temples and trying local cuisine in Thailand and Cambodia. This spring, it meant a road trip and hiking through some of our national parks like the Petrified Forest and Bryce Canyon in the beautiful southwest," she said. 

Follow the Book Bike online at #OPBookBike

Diesner and Underwood to present research at Cultural Analytics 2017

Wed, 24 May 2017 20:02:42 +0000

Assistant Professor Jana Diesner and Professor Ted Underwood will present at Cultural Analytics 2017, a symposium devoted to new research in the fields of computational and data-intensive cultural studies, which will be held at the University of Notre Dame on May 26-27. Diesner will give the talk, "Impact Assessment of Information Products and Data Provenance," on May 26. Her talk explores the question of how we can assess the impact of information products on people beyond relying on count metrics and by analyzing the substance of user-generated content. Diesner also addresses how limitations with the collection, quality, and provenance of large-scale social interaction data impact research outcomes and how we can measure these effects.  From the abstract: I present our work on developing new computational solutions for identifying the impact of information products on people by leveraging theories from linguistics and the social sciences as well as methods from natural language processing and machine learning. I focus on a study where we developed and evaluated a theoretically grounded categorization schema, codebook, corpus annotation, and prediction model for detecting multiple practically relevant types of impact that documentary films can have on individuals, such as change versus reaffirmation of people’s behavior, cognition, and emotions. This work uses reviews as a form of user-generated content. We use linguistic, lexical, and psychological features for supervised learning; achieving an accuracy rate of about 81%. Underwood will present "Bestsellers and Critical Favorites 1850-1949" on May 27. His talk uses a collection of 1,200 volumes to show how the divide between popularity and prestige emerged, very gradually, over the course of a century. "Today we take it for granted that the mass market wants an entirely different kind of fiction than literary critics prefer," he said. "In the nineteenth century, that divide wasn't so clear: Charles Dickens, for instance, pleased both audiences."  Abstract: An article modeling prestige in poetry 1820-1919 recently appeared in MLQ; this is the second part of that project, on fiction. Our sources for the reception of fiction are richer than for poetry, so we're able to add a new dimension to the project by contrasting different kinds of prominence. We look at a subset of texts reviewed in elite periodicals, but also a subset of bestsellers, and a subset of pulp magazines. Some aspects of change are the same in poetry and fiction: critical standards change slowly, and literature seems to move in the direction of critical judgment steadily across long timelines. But considering different kinds of prominence makes literary stratification more visible. When you look at any single measure of prominence, it’s hard to detect Huyssen's "great divide" between elite and mass culture: critical favorites are not easier to pick out in the twentieth century than they were in the nineteenth; neither are bestsellers. But we do find clues that different forms of prominence diversified, and became less tightly correlated with each other, in the early decades of the twentieth century. Diesner is an expert in network science, natural language processing, machine learning, and human-centered data science. She was a 2015-16 faculty fellow at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois and is currently a research fellow in the Dori J. Maynard Senior Research Fellows program, which is a collaboration of The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. She holds a PhD from the Computation, Organizations and Society (COS) program at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. Underwood is a professor in the iSchool and also holds an appointment with the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He is the author of two books about literary history, including most recently Why Literary Periods Mattered (Stanford, 2013). His articles have ap[...]

An interview with Doug Litts (MS '97), executive director of libraries and archives at the Art Institute of Chicago

Wed, 24 May 2017 13:12:56 +0000

Interviewed by Robert McCamant, from The Caxtonian (February 2017) Doug Litts always knew he wanted to be an art historian. Though born in New Jersey, his family moved to Florida when he was nine, so when it was time for college, the University of Florida (in Gainesville) was the logical place to study it. But what can you do with a BA in art history?   So he went to get a master's degree in the Big Apple, NYU in particular. But what can you do with an MA in art history? Especially back in 1992, which was not a time when universities were staffing up? The answer: you wait on tables.   A few years of that led him to consider library science. Perhaps it would be easier to find a job as an art history librarian than teaching art history. He landed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which he greatly enjoyed. He also discovered he liked the Midwest, and Chicago especially. He graduated in August 1997, so he waited tables in Chicago and did cataloging at Abbott Labs until he found his first art library job the following April at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. "It was a great first job," he says. "My title was assistant librarian/online catalog system administrator, and I was the direct assistant to the head librarian. I supervised a full- and part-time assistant and 20 volunteers!" Perhaps it also did not hurt, given the year, that the word "online" was in his title. In 2004 he moved to Washington, DC, which was to be his home through 2015. There he was employed first at the Corcoran, as library director for both the gallery and college. (Mind you, this was when the Corcoran was in its heyday, not the poor stepchild it became after its school was merged into George Washington University and its artworks given to the National Gallery.) At the Corcoran he was the library director, in charge of everything from collection development to supervising student workers. In 2008, the Smithsonian called, and he answered. He became the senior reference librarian for the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. By 2010 his capabilities were recognized and he was named head librarian, again for both. "It was an excellent job," he says, "but the odd structure of the Smithsonian led to some challenges. The Smithsonian Libraries is separate from but serves all the Smithsonian museums. It is literally a tenant in each of them where it has a facility. If the Hirshhorn, say, wanted to start using what has been library space for something else, the library had to adapt." As a result, when he heard that the executive director of libraries and archives position at the Art Institute of Chicago was soon to be available, he applied. "And I got it! I'm thrilled to be back in the town where I waited tables looking for my first job as a librarian." He considers it about the best job there is in the field: the Met and the Getty have their advantages, but he'd much rather be in Chicago than on either of the coasts. I asked him how many jobs there are in his field. "Nobody really knows. ARLIS/NA membership is over a thousand." (ARLIS/NA is the art libraries society, and it comes up on the first page of a Google search for Litts. He does his professional duty as an editor on its Reviews.) "Many more are in the art library field but chose not to professionally engage in ARLIS/NA, so it's hard to get a defined number." We got to talking about changes in the library world, about the many situations where electronic books are replacing paper books. It's moving more slowly in the art area, he says. "Electronic databases are wonderful for research for the way they can replace laborious looking at dozens of volumes with a few minutes of typing. But for electronic books, especially with contemporary art, it is a challenge. If we are having a show of a living or recent artist, it is easier to negotiate to print a paper book showing the artist's work. But the artist or his agent often don't consider electronic versions, because of the risk of the art work being app[...]

Turk recognized by NCSA for outstanding mentorship

Tue, 23 May 2017 17:05:02 +0000

Assistant Professor Matthew Turk has been recognized by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) as an outstanding 2016-2017 SPIN mentor. The SPIN (Students Pushing Innovation) internship at NCSA provides undergraduates at Illinois with the opportunity to apply their skills to real challenges in areas such as high-performance computing, data analysis and visualization, and cybersecurity. Turk was nominated for the honor by his SPIN intern, Charles Rozhon, who recently graduated with his BS in computer science. Rozhon's project was to develop interactive visualization tools for volume rendering simulation datasets. 
"Chuck built from scratch an OpenGL volume renderer that could handle a particularly persnickety data format called adaptive mesh refinement, and then he put that upstream (ultimate source of his project) into an open source project," Turk said. "I'm delighted that Chuck will be continuing in his studies toward a PhD, but we'll miss him at Illinois. He is an engaged, outstanding collaborator, and it was a true pleasure and honor to be able to work with him on this project."

Rozhon is grateful for Turk’s mentorship and support.

"Over the past several years, Professor Turk has greatly encouraged my professional development as both a researcher and a student," he said. "He has been an invaluable teacher, who helped me conceptualize a research problem that felt challenging and fulfilling."

Alumna Sara Tompson receives SLA Fellowship

Thu, 18 May 2017 15:00:47 +0000

(image) Sara Tompson (MS '87) has been named a 2017 Special Libraries Association (SLA) Fellow. Fellowship in SLA is granted annually to no more than five mid-career SLA members for their service to the association and the information profession. Fellows advise the association’s Board of Directors, prepare necessary documentation, and alert the membership to issues and trends warranting action.

Tompson has been a member of SLA since 1991, when she worked at what was then called the Hazardous Waste Research & Information Center, a state agency on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

For the past four years, she has served as the section manager for library, archives, and records at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. The laboratory, which is run by Caltech under a contract with NASA, explores the solar system with robotic spacecraft and telescopes. 

"I'm especially thrilled when I see Mars in the sky and know that we have two active Rovers on that planet, Opportunity and Curiosity," Tompson said.

In her free time, Tompson, an instrument-rated private pilot, likes to fly around southern California with her husband and friends.

Her advice to current students is to "learn as much as you can, take a range of courses, and stay flexible—be willing and able to work at any type of library."

Explore Public Genomics Datasets with Dr. Ben Busby of the National Center for Biotechnology Information

Mon, 15 May 2017 13:42:05 +0000

1:00 p.m. - Seminar: The Many Possible Futures of Genomics

2:30 p.m. - Workshop 1: Using Gene, RefSeq and Variation Resources for BioMedical Research (hands-on)

3:45 p.m. - Workshop 2: New NCBI Resources for Computational Biologists

(image) Ben Busby is the genomics outreach coordinator for NCBI, and the chair of the Bioinformatics Department at the Foundation for the Advanced Education in the Sciences. He is very interested in the integration of large genomic datasets, specifically in the metadata harmonization and statistical normalization necessary to do so.

 Busby will describe how NCBI has enhanced several of its genomics resources in the last few years and how some of its public databases can be queried for computational biology and clinical questions. NCBI has also improved access to the underlying genomic data in several ways, including making it possible to BLAST into our large genomic databases. For less computationally sophisticated users, NCBI has introduced variation viewer and variation reporter; powerful tools for researchers and clinicians to investigate disease causing variants found in several populations reported in the ClinVar, dbVar and dbSNP databases.

RSVP to cjfields [at] (Christopher Fields), High Performance Biological Computing (HPCBio) associate director


Room 607, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology
1206 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL



The Carver Biotechnology Group, HPCBio, and the iSchool

Event Date: 

Thu, 05/18/2017 -
1:00pm to 5:00pm

MS student McCarthy enhances campus accessibility through new web app

Fri, 12 May 2017 11:58:19 +0000

(image) The University of Illinois has long been a leader in accessibility for persons with disabilities. This tradition continues with a new web app called "Access Illinois" created by MS student Mark McCarthy and his team members Matt Arensdorf (undergraduate student, computer science) and Emily Chen (PhD student, computational linguistics). The app earned the team first place in HackCulture, a humanities-focused hackathon held at the University Library from April 8-23. 

While the University provides accessibility maps, these maps require additional steps for successful use when a person is operating with one hand, such as when using wheelchair or cane. Access Illinois integrates existing accessibility maps with Google Maps, allowing individuals to discover walking directions to a destination and the locations of accessible entrances, classrooms, and restrooms.

The app has a personal connection for team members McCarthy and Arensdorf.

"Matt and I, having physical disabilities requiring the use of a wheelchair, use the accessibility maps often," McCarthy said. "There is currently not a way to get walking directions at the same time as looking at those maps, and for those who have even less mobility than us, it can be a challenge to navigate between the two tabs on the phone or desktop."

McCarthy, an iSchool information management student who is studying information architecture, was the lead web designer and debugger for the team. He also took care of the accessible programming. Arensdorf served as lead web developer, inputting GPS coordinates for the images by hand for each of the accessibility map overlays. Chen created the tour and pin functionality of the maps and led the research and testing.

At the moment, only the first floor of buildings appear in Access Illinois, due to programming constraints. Future versions of the web app will address the issue of multiple floors and include accommodations for a wider range of disability types, such as those requiring the use of screen readers.

"Once we have the first floor maps sorted, our aim is to give the tool to Disability Resources & Educational Services on campus to utilize for new and current students. We are also in talks to integrate it with the University Library's resource guides," said McCarthy. "Our hope is to quickly overcome the constraints in the beta version that are preventing us from providing multiple floor plans and to give students and visitors a well-rounded and full experience."

In addition to HackCulture, McCarthy participated in VariABILITY 2017, the first Social Hack on campus, on March 31-April 1. His team's idea was to build an "E-text Manual" to help people who have recently encountered some form of visual disability make a smoother transition back into their professional lives.