Author Archives: Sarah Melton

Raised map showing a bridge in Charleston

GIS Contest Winners

It is with great pleasure that the Boston College Libraries announce the winners of the 11th Annual Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping Contest at Boston College. This year we added a new category for digital maps in addition to the traditional poster category.  A special thanks to the students who completed and submitted their work during this time of global crisis!

In the category for Poster by a graduate student:
-First place award of a $100 Amazon Gift Card to: Xinyi Zeng, Geology, for “Anthropogenic Drivers for Actively Expanding Pearl River Delta from 1990 to 2019.”
-Second place award of a $50 Amazon Gift Card to: Ashley Parry, Sociology, for “Racial and Class Disparities in Access to Child Care: A Case Study of Boston.”

In the category for Digital Map by a graduate student:
First place award of a $100 Amazon Gift Card to: Megan Kopp, Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, for “Surficial geologic map and cross-section of the Ellisburg and Sandy Creek, New York quadrangles”

In the category for Digital Map by an undergraduate student:
-First place award of a $100 Amazon Gift Card to:
Mary Su, International Studies/MCAS, for “Paying for Livelihood.”

Awards were based on map quality, use of GIS as a research tool and originality.  Special consideration was given to topics exploring diversity and inclusion.

White zeros and ones on a black background with a red heart in the middle.

We’re hiring!

We’re excited to announce that Boston College Libraries are hiring for two Digital Scholarship Librarian positions, each with a focus on either instruction or project management and execution. Applicants should indicate their primary area of interest.

The successful candidate will manage digital scholarship projects, lead instruction and consultation sessions on digital research, and provide design and technical support on project work. This role requires exceptional project management skills, strong technology skills, creativity, familiarity with research methodologies, and excellent communication skills. The ability to listen, articulate problems, and find effective technology solutions across a variety of disciplines, while working with a range of clients from novice scholars to senior faculty, is essential. This position will create and maintain project documentation for a growing corpus of digital scholarly production.

This position will work extensively with a cohort of liaison librarians to identify technologies and tools appropriate for disciplinary needs. The successful candidate should be comfortable working with a variety of digital methodologies and technologies, including but not limited to: text and data mining, digital exhibit creation and curation, mapping, and network analysis. The Digital Scholarship Librarian may supervise student employees.

The successful candidate will lead all aspects of our digital scholarship instruction program, including both the development of internal staff training and external-facing sessions and curricula. This position requires a collaborative approach to teaching and learning, excellent oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills, and comfort with the breadth of digital scholarship tools and possible applications (text analysis, GIS/mapping, network analysis, digital exhibits, etc.) The ability to listen and engage with research across a variety of disciplines and a range of clients, from undergraduate and graduate students to faculty, instructors and staff, is essential. The successful candidate will be expected to identify areas of need based on assessment and data gathering and develop individual and group programming in response.

This position will work extensively with a cohort of liaison librarians to identify areas of professional development and create programming to support librarians. The Digital Scholarship Librarian may supervise student employees.

Please see the job posting for further details. We hope to hear from you!

Aerial view of sand

Celebrate GIS Day at O’Neill Library

Our GIS Day celebration this year will provide a hands-on workshop featuring mapping in the humanities for non-ArcGIS users. In this workshop, attendees will have the opportunity to explore a mapping platform that contains and compares historical maps of Boston in the past century, produce demographic maps from their own data, and learn how to perform map overlay with maps from different years and subjects. The event is open to the public; anyone with an interest in GIS is welcome to attend, and registration is required. The event will be held in the Digital Studio (O’Neill Library Room 205) on November 13, 2019 from 11 am – 1 pm. 

About GIS Day

GIS Day is a global event where users of the geographic information system (GIS) technology all over the world showcase real-world applications of this exciting technology to schools, businesses, and the general public. 

Geometric image of red neon triangles on a slate background

Fall 2019 Digital Scholarship Workshops

This year, as the campus and BC Libraries take a sharper look at social justice issues, our workshops will use race and diversity (e.g. US Census) data to explore both the affordances and constraints of tools and strategies for transforming data into narratives and images. We hope you can join us!

Curating Digital Exhibits with Omeka
September 25, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Room 307

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use to create digital exhibits. Together we will look at examples of successful digital exhibits and will demonstrate the basics of describing, organizing, and displaying your content. Bring your own image files, or use the sample images provided in the workshop.

Introduction to Data Visualization
October 28, 2019, 11–12:30 pm.
O’Neill Library, Room 307

In this workshop, participants will be introduced to the basics of data visualization techniques. We will look at and discuss different visualization types, use cases, and visualization tools. Through hands-on exercises, you will explore a data visualization project to see how it was made, practice in real time on data viusalization tools, and think about how data visualization can help with your research.

Mapping Customary Authority and State Land Titles in Zambia and Senegal
November 6, 2019, 3 pm.
O’Neill Library, Room 307

Guest speaker: Dr. Lauren Honig, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Boston College

This talk explores the methodologies of Professor Lauren Honig’s research in two African countries. Her research employs a range of methods and forms of data, combining: semi-structured interviews with customary authorities (chiefs), state bureaucrats, and local farmers; case studies of specific land deals; British and French colonial archival land records; geo-referenced historical maps; contemporary land titling databases from two countries; an original survey of smallholder farmers in Senegal; and statistical analyses of a number of geo-spatial variables. Together, these research approaches shed light on how customary institutions impact state attempts to expand control over land in Senegal and Zambia. The talk discusses these methods as well as ethical considerations of fieldwork in developing countries.

GIS Day Celebration
November 13, 2019, 11:00 am–1:00 pm.
O’Neill Library, Digital Studio, Room 205

Join us for a celebration of GIS Day! Come see demos of commonly-used GIS and geospatial tools and meet others interested in GIS at BC.

From 11:30–1 pm, join us for a workshop on Mapping for Non-ArcGIS users. In this workshop, participants will learn to map and visualize tabular data without using geographic information system (e.g., ArcGIS). We will consider mapping examples using accessible tools such as Excel, Google MyMaps, Google Earth, and simple geocoding via Google Sheets. The workshop will focus on hands-on exercises and assumes no prior GIS background.

Crowd Cafe

We are pleased to announce that Crowd Cafe, an initiative to encourage participation in crowdsourcing projects, is restarting for the 2019–2020 academic year. Along with colleagues from Boston University, we’ll host monthly meetups to work on crowdsourcing projects together.

We meet the third Friday of the month from 1–3 pm in the Faculty Preview Room of the Digital Studio, room 205, O’Neill Library.

First Annual Boston College Libraries’ Maker Contest

Who: Boston College undergraduate or graduate students

What: This contest challenges students to “bring history to life” by using digital tools to create multi-modal content that can be accessed online and featured on the Boston College Libraries’ Digital Studio multitouch table. The table is a large interactive display that enables multiple people to explore and interact with contact. Although the contest does not require development specifically for the table, students may create projects that may use the table in unique ways. This contest encourages students to consider the ways in which we might experience history through different mediums or formats, such as games, digital exhibits, visualizations, or media. We encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration and team submissions.

Students are encouraged to create a project using any of these type of tools, methods, or applications, but are not limited to this list:

  • Physical computing (Computer-human interaction)
  • Digital exhibits
  • Gaming/VR
  • 3D images/models
  • Application development
  • Visualizations (e.g. mapping)
  • Digital art & media (music)

Proposal narrative: Submit a short abstract (max. 500 words) about your project that describes the goals and scope of the project, tools, methodology, statement of significance, project team, and any other relevant information. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis.

When: Completed projects must be submitted by May 15, 2019.

Prizes: A total of up to $500 in prizes will be awarded! Each winner will be featured on the Boston College Libraries’ website, social media, multitouch table, and digital displays. Contest winners’ work will also be archived.

Note: Submissions must be your original work (though they may include component materials by others for which you have permission or that you are excerpting under fair-use copyright terms).

Questions? Contact: Anna Kijas (anna.kijas at bc dot edu) or Sarah DeLorme (sarah.delorme at bc dot edu).

Drawing of a battlefield with a cannon in the foreground

A New Home on the Web for the Becker Collection: Drawings of the American Civil War Era

Post by Stephen Sturgeon, Senior Digital Scholarship Librarian & Bibliographer for English

In fall 2018 the Digital Scholarship Group launched The Becker Collection: Drawings of the American Civil War Era, a digital archive of nineteenth-century drawings with a substantial history of curation. We created the site in collaboration with the drawings’ owners, Sheila Gallagher and Judith Bookbinder, both of whom are faculty in Boston College’s Art, Art History, and Film department, but this was not the first time the drawings had been prepared and contextualized for public consumption, nor the first time they had been rendered digitally. In the fall of 2009, Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art exhibited them and published an accompanying catalogue, and it was alongside these events that BC’s Instructional Design and eTeaching Services department (now known as the Center for Teaching Excellence) built a website that hosted digital surrogates of the drawings, offered metadata records for each one, provided biographical entries for their artists, and used the metadata and a set of tags to enable searching. By 2017 the architecture of this website began showing security vulnerabilities, and the Libraries agreed to design and a build a new digital presence for this archive of drawings.

The collection is named after Joseph Becker, whose works figure most prominently in it. Becker, like the sixteen other men whose drawings the collection features, was an artist-reporter working for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, a weekly periodical founded in 1855 that specialized in visual depictions of contemporary news. When the Civil War began, Becker and his colleagues were dispatched to battlefields and military camps to document what they saw in drawn sketches, and the artists would then send their work to the newspaper’s offices for adaptation into print engravings. In addition to these drawings of military events the archive contains depictions of other nineteenth-century American topics that the newspaper featured, dating to the war years or in some cases to just before or just after, such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the building of the Transcontinental Railroad throughout the 1860s (major themes and topics are outlined on the site’s Browse Collections page).

Thanks to Professors Gallagher and Bookbinder, we were not tasked with creating a web resource from scratch that would do justice to this rich primary source material: the difficult conceptual labor of contextualizing items in the archive in ways that would stay true to the complexities of their genres and histories and also accommodate diverse web audiences was, essentially, already done. Professors Gallagher and Bookbinder and a team of students had years ago created the item-level metadata for the archive, written the artists’ biographical entries, and established what search functionalities would best suit the material and researchers. In 2017 the Digital Scholarship Group’s job was to decide on a platform for hosting that content, migrate it into its new framework, revise erroneous or corrupt metadata, and keep our eyes open for opportunities to make the archive more interactive.

We settled on Omeka for the archive’s new platform, using a slightly customized set of the Dublin Core extended metadata elements. The Becker Collection’s many drawings of military scenes come with consistently precise geographic and temporal information: because Becker and his colleagues made drawings for the sake of illustrating the news, the artists nearly always specified what they were depicting as well as when and where it was happening. And so we revised all items’ geographic and temporal metadata into the formats recommended by the International Organization for Standardization, in the hopes that doing so would make it more widely accessible, as well as more readily malleable and linkable in spreadsheets and website architectures. This in turn led to our creation of a new feature within the Becker Collection, a mapping tool designed in Carto that plots the locations of Civil War battles according to year.

The Boston College Libraries is very happy to give a new home to the Becker Collection’s digital presence, and the Digital Scholarship Group depended on staff in many Libraries departments to get the work done. Special thanks to Chris H-P for composing the site’s design; to Ben Florin and Jesse Martinez for customizing Omeka’s search function; and to Chris Mayo for help with metadata migration. Lastly, thanks to the staff at Boston College’s Center for Teaching Excellence, in particular Cristina Mirshekari, Tim Lindgren, and Jamie Walker,  for giving the Becker Collection its original home on the web and handing it off to the Libraries seamlessly.

Public domain book display in the O'Neill Library

Happy Public Domain Day (err…Month)!

Post by John O’Connor, Scholarly Communications Librarian

January 1, 2019 marked the first Public Domain Day celebrated in the United States in 20 years, and we at Boston College are spending the month of January celebrating this wonderful day and all the new works going into the Public Domain in 2019. So what is Public Domain Day? Well, let’s first start with what the Public Domain is.

What is the Public Domain?

The Public Domain is the idea that creative works are eventually the property of humanity as a whole, not just one person. Whenever someone creates a new work (a story, poem, sculpture, research paper, software code, etc.) they are allowed to have an absolute monopoly over the use of that work. This allows them to get a fair return on their work assuming there’s a market for it by selling bits and pieces of that monopoly. For example, when someone paints a new painting, they can sell the original painting to a collector, but they can also sell prints of that painting because they own the copyright in the image.

The ultimate goal of this is to reward authors and creators for advancing “science and the useful arts”, which is to mean any kind of art. Critical to the creation of new works and new knowledge is building upon those that have come before you.

Without being able to borrow and steal from others, we as a society cannot create new things. And we want to reward those the borrow, steal, and add their own new ideas to create something useful. But that kind of borrowing and stealing isn’t possible when someone owns (or claims to own) every other idea that came before you because they could sue you for that.

That is the beauty of the Public Domain. Eventually, the monopoly that creators have over their newly created works ends. Once that happens, the work falls into the Public Domain and anyone can take that work and use it for whatever they want without having to worry about infringing on someone else’s rights. If Copyright is the reward to individual creators, the Public Domain is the promise to the rest of society that they can eventually use the things that creators make regardless of their ability to pay for them.

The act of old works eventually becoming the property of all of humanity is a critical part of the copyright bargain. You create something new, and you get to make money off of it for a limited amount of time. After that time (which is generally long enough for it to no longer be of direct economic value), anyone is able to use your work for the good of society.

Wait, so how does the Public Domain work?

Pretty simply actually. Anything that is in the Public Domain is free for anyone in the world to take, remix, change, build upon, or re-sell directly. Most often, people take something that was old, add new elements, and re-sell that. Disney is probably best known for taking stories in the Public Domain and building upon them. Here’s a list of Disney movies and the Public Domain works they’re based on:

Disney Movie

Public Domain Work

Adventures of Huck Finn (1993)

Adventures of Huck Finn by Mark Twain (1885)

Tom and Huck (1995)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Aladdin (1992)

One Thousand and One [Arabian] Nights (1706)

Bug’s Life (1998)

Aesop’s Fables

Frozen (2013)

Ice Queen by Hans Christian Anderson (1845)

The Lion King (1994)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1603)

There are tons of other examples of public domain use by Disney: Snow White, Cinderella, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Sleeping Beauty, and Tangled all are based on works in the Public Domain.

And Disney isn’t the only one. Star Trek uses stories in the Public Domain as the basic plot for dozens of episodes. James Joyce’s Ulysses is a nearly direct re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey. The motion picture Seven is based on Dante’s Inferno.

As you can see, the existence of the Public Domain has a direct influence on our modern society.

OK, OK. I get it. But what is Public Domain Day?

Depending on when something was created and when/if it was published, the amount of time that someone has a copyright over their work varies. Generally speaking, something created today is copyright for the life of the author plus 70 years. Before 1976, published works (such as books, movies, paintings, etc.) were copyrighted for 95 years from the publication date.

The way that copyright law works is the those copyrights expire not exactly 95 years from the publication date, but January 1 of the year after they would expire. For example, if a book was published on March 1, 1923, the copyright doesn’t expire on March 1, 2018 – it actually expires on January 1, 2019. Same thing for a book published on June 1, 1924 – its copyright will expire on January 1, 2020. This makes the math and record keeping easy for publishers and courts to keep up with.

That’s why we call January 1 Public Domain Day. On that day all off the work for the year 95 years prior goes into the Public Domain. On January 1, 2019, all of the works published in 1923 went into the public domain.

Uh huh. And why hasn’t the United States had a Public Domain Day in 20 years?

Well, we have the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998—also called the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, the Sonny Bono Act, or (derisively) the Mickey Mouse Protection Act—to thank for that.

What that law did, among other things, was to extend the copyright terms for works published before 1976 by 20 years. Ostensibly, the reason for this was to more closely align US copyright law with European standards. However, some people note that the law was created under intense lobbying from Disney as the character Mickey Mouse was about to pass into the Public Domain (hence the nickname).

Since the terms for works were extended for 20 years, that effectively put a pause on the Public Domain in the United States that lifted on January 1, 2019.

Cool! So what’s passing into the Public Domain this year?

Anything published in 1923 is now in the Public Domain. Lifehacker has a wonderful list of some famous works of art that are passing into the Public Domain this year—including works from Aldous Huxley, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, and Pablo Picasso.

Boston College has created a display in the lobby of O’Neill Library that highlights more than two dozen books and films that are now in the Public Domain. Some examples include:

  • Bambi by Felix Salten (PT2637.A52 B313 1929)
  • The Ego and the Id by Sigmund Freud (BF175.5.E35 F7413 1989)
  • New Hampshire by Robert Frost (PS3511.R94 A6 1995)
  • The Prisoner by Marcel Proust (PQ2631.R63 P76 1972)

Sweet. So what about Mickey?

Well, Mickey the character and the first drawings of him from Steamboat Willie will pass into the Public Domain on January 1, 2024. But don’t get too excited. You might notice that that Mickey looks different from the modern Mickey. All of the modern versions of Mickey will still be under copyright. In addition, Disney uses Mickey as a logo and has Trademarked him. That put Mickey anyone wanting to use Mickey for their own purposes in a difficult spot since Trademark protections never expire as long as they’re used.

Mickey might never be available to the public, but we won’t know until someone tries in 2024.

That’s a bummer. Anything else I should know?

I think that’s mostly it. Get excited for 2020 when we get a whole new batch of works (published in 1924) into the Public Domain. And get out there and make use of those newly Public Domain works!

letterboard that spells out "digital scholarship @BC" with red, 3d printed ducks in the foreground

Scholarship Opportunity: Bookbuilders of Boston 2019

Bookbuilders of Boston, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1937 to promote excellence and innovation in book publishing and manufacturing, makes annual grants to Boston College and other area universities and colleges to provide student scholarships for engagement in projects that build awareness and practical knowledge of various aspects of the publishing industry.

The Boston College Libraries are seeking a BC undergraduate or graduate student interested in digital publishing tools and platforms. The student will have the opportunity to collaborate with O’Neill Library staff on several initiatives, including the development of resources that support our open access publishing efforts and taking part in a text encoding project of archival materials. Skills learned and developed will be applicable in careers in online publishing, digital marketing, editorial work, and digital scholarship.

Working with the Boston College Libraries Digital Scholarship Group, you will support digital publishing practices by creating materials to promote the Library’s open access initiatives. You will also learn best practices for encoding digital, historical content and presenting this material online.

An ideal candidate will demonstrate interest and ability in learning and applying new technologies, as well as an interest in digital humanities. No computer programming skills required, but an understanding of basic HTML and CSS, as well as popular digital publishing platforms, such as WordPress, will be helpful, but training will be provided.

The stipend for this work is $3,500 to be distributed over the course of the project, and it is expected that candidate will invest up to 200 hours of time into the project overall. The project timeframe is flexible depending on the candidate’s availability, but will need to be completed no later than January 2020.

To apply, please send a one- to two-page statement outlining your interest and relevant background, skills and learning goals by February 1, 2019, to Sarah Melton ( Please include your full name, class year, and contact information on a separate cover sheet.

The successful candidate will be invited and expected to attend a reception for all Boston-area Bookbuilders scholarship recipients in April, where s/he will be officially recognized along with the other recipients representing colleges and universities throughout Boston.

Spring 2019 Graduate Student Opportunity

Are you a Boston College graduate student with an interest in open access digital publishing? See the announcement below for a new opportunity!

The Boston College Libraries are seeking a BC graduate student interested in publishing to develop documentation and educational materials for the Libraries’ digital publishing platform. If selected for this project, you will develop technical expertise while learning about publishing practices and workflows.

You will work with the Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Group to support the migration of our digital journals to the Open Journal Systems (OJS) 3 platform. Working with the Scholarly Communication Librarian and the Digital Publishing Specialist, you will create walkthroughs, slidedecks, and other documentation for journal editors. You may also have the opportunity to create outreach materials to help promote the publishing program.

An ideal candidate will demonstrate interest and ability in learning and applying new technologies, as well as an interest in open access publishing. No computer programming skills are required, but a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS, as well as common workflows in content management systems, will be helpful, but training will be provided. The stipend for this work is $1,750, and it is expected that candidate will invest up to 100 hours of time into the project overall. The project timeframe is flexible depending on the candidate’s availability, but will need to be completed no later than May 2019.

To apply, please send a one-page statement outlining your interest and relevant background, skills and learning goals by December 21, 2018, to Sarah Melton (

Eric Fischer, See Something or Say Something: Boston. Used under a CC-BY license.

Open Access Week 2018

Happy International Open Access Week 2018! Established by SPARC and partners in the student community in 2008, International Open Access Week is an opportunity to take action in making openness the default for research—to raise the visibility of scholarship, accelerate research, and turn breakthroughs into better lives. Open Access Week 2018 runs October 22–28, 2018.

From 1–2 PM each weekday this week, Boston College Libraries will have a table in O’Neill Library with free coffee and information about Open Access and ORCID. We have created a postcard for graduate and undergraduate students that shares some of the basics about Open Access on the front and has a listing of all the BC Subject Liaison Librarians on the back. Students, faculty, and other researchers are welcome to come grab some coffee, a postcard, buttons, stickers, etc. this week in the lobby of O’Neill Library.

Beginning this week, BC Libraries are also rolling out their new policies for the BC Open Access Fund. The Libraries, in collaboration with the Provost, have established a fund to finance payment of article and monograph processing fees for Boston College authors who wish to publish in open access journals. Open access funds demonstrate an institution’s concrete support for new and innovative research publishing models. Goals of OA Fund include:

  • Support for Boston College affiliated authors who wish to publish open access
  • Support for transition to a more sustainable scholarly publishing model
  • Greater equality of access to information
  • Greater visibility and accessibility of Boston College scholarship
  • Encouragement of authors to retain rights to their work

Finally, and most importantly, a satellite event of OpenCon, the world-renowned conference dedicated to open access, open education, and open data, is happening live in Boston on November 9, 2018. Co-hosted by Boston University and Boston College Libraries, OpenCon Boston will be held at Boston University from 8:30–4:30pm. Come join us for an exciting event featuring presentations, lightning talks, and breakout sessions. Topics include recent trends in OER, making local history openly accessible, new technology to support your work in OA, strategies to help you achieve your goals, working with Wikipedia, cultural issues around open access, and more. The conference will conclude with a showing of the movie Paywall: The Business of Scholarship followed by a Q&A with director/producer Jason Schmitt. Please see the information page for more details. Registration for the full conference (including screening) is capped at 35 people, so sign up soon! Separate movie registration is open to the public.

Happy Open Access Week to all, and to all a good night!