A Preview of MorphoSource 2 Beta

It’s an exciting time for the MorphoSource team, as we work to launch the MorphoSource 2 Beta application next Wednesday!

The new application improves and expands upon the original MorphoSource, a repository for 3D research data, and is being built using Hyrax, an open-source digital repository application widely implemented by libraries to manage digital repositories and collections. The team has been working on the site for the last two and a half years, and is looking forward to our efforts being made available to the MorphoSource community. At launch, users will be able to access records for over 140,000 media files, contributed by 1,500 researchers from all over the world.

MorphoSource 2 Beta Homepage
MorphoSource 2 Beta Homepage

While the current site is still available for browsing at www.morphosource.org, we are migrating the repository data over to the new site in preparation for the launch, and have paused the ingest of new data sets. When the migration is complete, users will be able to access the new application at the current url. Users with an account on the old site will be able to log in to the new site using their MorphoSource 1 credentials.

In my last post in June, I described some of the features that were in development at that time. In this post, I’ll highlight a few recent additions with screenshots from the beta site: Browse, Search, and User Dashboards.

Browse

Browse pages have been added as a quick entry point for users to discover data in several different ways. Users can use these pages to immediately access media, biological specimens, cultural heritage objects, organizations, teams, or projects.

MorphoSource Browse Categories
MorphoSource 2 Beta Browse Categories

Media Types and Modalities: Users can view all media records of a specific file type, such as image, CT image series, or mesh or point cloud. There are also links to records created by different methods, such as X-Ray, Magnetic Resource Imaging, or Photogrammetry.

Physical Object Types: Links to view either all the Biological Specimens or Cultural Heritage Objects in MorphoSource

Biological Taxonomy:  Users can find specimen records through the taxonomy browse by drilling down through the taxonomic ranks. The MorphoSource taxonomy records have been imported from the GBIF Backbone Taxonomy or have been created by MorphoSource users.

Taxonomy browse page
Taxonomy Browse Page

Projects: Projects are user-created groupings of media and specimens. From the browse page, projects can be searched by title and sorted by title, description, team, creator, or number of associated media or objects.

MorphoSource 2 Project Browse
Project Browse Page

Teams: Teams are groups of MorphoSource users that share management of media and team projects. A Team may be associated with an organization. The Team browse page lets users search and sort teams in a similar way to the Projects browse page.

Organizations: Lastly, users can view all of the organizations that have biological specimens or cultural heritage objects in MorphoSource. An organization may be an institution, department, collection, facility, lab, or other group. From the Organizations browse page, users can search by name and sort by parent institution name or institution code.

Faceted Searching

In addition to the browse pages, records for Media, Biological Specimens, Cultural Heritage Objects, Organizations, Teams, and Projects can also be found through the MorphoSource search interface. Searching has been customized for the different record types to include relevant facets. The different search categories can be chosen from the dropdown next to the search box ‘Go’ button.

MorphoSource 2 Beta Media Search Results
Media Search Results

Search results for media records can be faceted by file type, modality, object type (biological specimen or cultural heritage object), organization, tag, or membership in a team or project, while search results for objects can be limited by object type, creator, organization, taxonomy, associated media types, associated media tags, and membership of associated media in a team or project. Organization and Team/Project searches similarly have their own sets of facets.

MorphoSource 2 Object Search
Biological Specimen and Cultural Heritage Object Search Results

User Dashboards

Users who register an account on the site will have access to a dashboard that enables them to manage their data downloads. The dashboard is accessed by clicking on the profile icon at the top right of the site, and will open to the user’s media cart. The media cart contains two sections – the top holds all media items that the user currently has permission to download, while the bottom has media items with a restricted status where download has not been requested or approved:

MorphoSource 2 Beta Media Cart
Default User Dashboard

Users who have been granted contributor access to the site will have a dashboard that opens to the media and objects that they have contributed:

MorphoSource 2 Beta Contributor Dashboard
Contributor Dashboard

From the menu at the left,  all users can access their previous downloads, or projects, teams, or other repository content to which they have been granted access, and manage their user profile.  In addition, contributors can also create and manage projects and teams.

We hope that the browse, search, and dashboard enhancements, along with the other features we have been working on over the last couple of years, will enable users to easily discover and manage data sets in MorphoSource. And although we are looking forward to the launch, we are also excited to continue working on the site, and will be adding even more features in the near future.

2020 Highlights from Digital Collections

Welcome to the 2020 digital collections round up!

In spite of the dumpster fire of 2020, Duke Digital Collections had a productive and action packed year (maybe too action packed at times). 

Per usual we launched new and added content to existing digital collections (full list below). We are also wrapping up our mega-migration from our old digital collections system (Tripod2) to the Duke Digital Repository! This migration has been in process for 5 years, yes 5 years. We plan to celebrate this exciting milestone more in January so stay tuned. 

A classroom and auditorium blueprint, digitized for a patron and launched this month.

The Digital Production Center, in collaboration with the Rubenstein Library, shifted to a new folder level workflow for patron and instruction requests. This workflow was introduced just in time for the pandemic and the resulting unprecedented number of digitization requests.  As a result of the demand for digital images, all project work has been put aside and the DPC is focusing on patron and instruction requests only. Since late June, the DPC has produced over 40,000 images!  

Another digital collections highlight from 2020 is the development of new features for our preservation and access interface, the Duke Digital Repository.  We have wasted no time using these new features especially “metadata only”  and the DDR to CONTENTdm connection

Looking ahead to 2021, our priorities will be the folder level digitization workflow for researcher and instruction requests. The DPC received 200+ requests since June, and we need to get all those digitized folders moved into the repository. We are also experimenting with preserving scans created outside of the DPC. For example Rubenstein Library staff created a huge number of access copies using reading room scanners, and we would like to make them available to others.  Lastly, we have a few bigger digital collections to ingest and launch as well. 

Thanks to everyone associated with Digital Collections for their incredible work this year!!  Whew, it has been…a year. 

One of our newest digital collections features postcards from Greece: Salonica / Selanik / Thessaloniki
One of the Radio Haiti photographs launched recently.

Laundry list of 2020 Digital Collections

New Collections

Digital Collections Additions

Migrated Collections

Implementing ArcLight: A Reflection

Around this time last year, I wrote about our ambitious plans to implement ArcLight software for archival discovery and access at Duke in 2020. While this year has certainly laid waste to so many good intentions, our team persisted through the cacophony undeterred, and—I’m proud to report—still hit our mark of going live on July 1, 2020 after a six-month work cycle. The site is available at https://archives.lib.duke.edu/.

Now that we have been live for awhile, I thought it’d be worthwhile to summarize what we accomplished, and reflect a bit on how it’s going.

Working Among Peers

I had the pleasure of presenting about ArcLight at the Oct 2020 Blacklight Summit alongside Julie Hardesty (Indiana University) and Trey Pendragon (Princeton University). The three of us shared our experiences implementing ArcLight at our institutions. Though we have the same core ArcLight software underpinning our apps, we have each taken different strategies to build on top of it. Nevertheless, we’re all emerging with solutions that look polished and fill in various gaps to meet our unique local needs. It’s exciting to see how well the software holds up in different contexts, and to be able to glean inspiration from our peers’ platforms.

Title slide to ArcLight@Duke presentation at Blacklight Summit
Slides from ArcLight@Duke presentation, 10/7/2020

A lot of content in this post will reiterate what I shared in the presentation.

Custom-Built Features

Back in April, I discussed at length our custom-built features and interface revisions that we had completed by the halfway point for the project. So, now let’s look closer at everything else we added in the second half (and in the post-launch period).

Browsing Collection Contents

This is one of the hardest things to get right in a finding aids UI, so our solution has evolved through many iterations. We created a context sidebar with lightly-animated loading indicators matching the number of items currently loading. The nav sticks with you as you scroll down the page and the Request button stays visible.  We also decided to present a list of direct child components in the main page body for any parent component.

Restrictions

At the collection level, we wanted to ensure that users didn’t miss any restrictions info, so we presented a taste of it at the top-right of the page that jumps you to the full description when clicking “More.”

Collection restrictions snippet

We changed how access and use restriction indexing so components can inherit their restrictions from any ancestor component. Then we made bright yellow banners and icons in the UI to signify that a component has restrictions.

Restrictions presented on a component

Hierarchical Record Group Browse

Using the excellent Blacklight Hierarchy plugin, we developed a way to browse University Archives collections by an existing hierarchical Record Group classification system. We encoded the group numbers, titles, nesting, and description in a YAML config file so they’re easy to change as they evolve.

Browse by Record Group

Digital Repository & Bento Search Integration

ArcLight exists among a wide constellation of other applications supporting and promoting discovery in the library, so integrating with these other pieces was an important part of our implementation. In April, I showed the interaction between ArcLight and our Requests app, as well as rendering digital object viewers/players inline via the Duke Digital Repository (DDR).

Inline digital object viewing via the DDR

Two other locations external to our application now use ArcLight’s APIs to retrieve archival information.  The first is the Duke Digital Repository (DDR). When viewing a digital collection or digital object that has a physical counterpart in the archives, we pull archival information for the item into the DDR interface from ArcLight’s JSON API.

Duke Digital Repository pulls archival info from ArcLight

The other is our “Bento” search application powering the default All search available from the library website. Now when your query finds matches in ArcLight, you’ll see component-level results under a Collection Guides bento box. Components are contextualized with a linked breadcrumb trail.

ArcLight search results presented in Bento search UI

 

Bookmarks Export CSV

COVID-19 brought about many changes to how staff at Duke Libraries retrieve materials for faculty and student research. You may have heard Duke’s Library Takeout song (819K YouTube views & counting!), and if you have, you probably can’t ever un-hear it.

But with archival materials, we’re talking about items that could never be taken out of the building. Materials may only be accessed in a controlled environment in the Rubenstein Reading Room, which remains highly restricted.  With so much Duke instruction moving online during COVID, we urgently needed to come up with a better workflow to field an explosion of requests for digitizing archival materials for use in remote instruction.

ArcLight’s Bookmarks feature (which comes via Blacklight) proved to be highly valuable here. We extended the feature to add a CSV export. The CSV is constructed in a way that makes it function as a digitization work order that our Digital Collections & Curation Services staff use to shepherd a request through digitization, metadata creation, and repository ingest. Over 26,000 images have now been digitized for patron instruction requests using this new workflow.

Bookmarks export to CSV

More Features

Here’s a list of several other custom features we completed after the April midway point.

  • Relevancy optimization
  • WCAG2.0 AA accessibility
  • ARKs & permalinks
  • Advanced search modal
  • Catalog record links
  • Dynamic sitemaps (via gem)
  • Creative Commons / RightsStatements.org integration
  • Twitter card metadata
  • Open Graph metadata
  • Google Analytics event tracking with Anonymize IP
  • Debug mode for relevancy tuning

Data Pipeline

Bringing ArcLight online required some major rearchitecting of our pipeline to preview and publish archival data. Our archivists have been using ArchivesSpace for several years to manage the source data, and exporting EAD2002 XML files when ready to be read by the public UI. Those parts remain the same for now, however, everything else is new and improved.
Data pipeline diagram for Duke finding aids

Our new process involves two GitLab repositories: one for the EAD data, and another for the ArcLight-based application. The data repo uses GitLab Webhooks to send POST requests to the app to queue up reindexing  jobs automatically whenever the data changes.  We have a test/preview branch for the data that updates our dev and test servers for the application, so archivists can easily see what any revised or new finding aids will look like before they go live in production.

We use GitLab CI/CD to easily and automatically deploy changes to the application code to the various servers. Each code change gets systematically checked for passing unit and feature tests, security, and code style before being integrated. We also aim to add automated accessibility testing to our pipeline within the next couple months.

A lot of data gets crunched while indexing EAD documents through Traject into Solr. Our app uses Resque-based background job processing to handle the transactions. With about 4,000 finding aids, this creates around 900,000 Solr documents; the index is currently a little over 1GB. Changes to data get reindexed and reflected in the UI near-instantaneously. If we ever need to reindex every finding aid, it takes only about one hour to complete.

What We Have Learned

We have been live for just over four months, and we’re really ecstatic with how everything is going.

Usability

In September 2020, our Assessment & User Experience staff conducted ten usability tests using our ArcLight UI, with five experienced archival researchers and five novice users. Kudos to Joyce Chapman, Candice Wang, and Anh Nguyen for their excellent work. Their report is available here. The tests were conducted remotely over Zoom due to COVID restrictions. This was our first foray into remote usability testing.

Remote usability testing screenshot

Novice and advanced participants alike navigated the site fairly easily and understood the contextual elements in the UI. We’re quite pleased with how well our custom features performed (especially the context sidebar, contents lists, and redesigned breadcrumb trail). The Advanced Search modal got more use than we had anticipated, and it too was effective. We were also somewhat surprised to find that users were not confused by the All Collections vs. This Collection search scope selector when searching the site.

“The interface design does a pretty good job of funneling me to what I need to see… Most of the things I was looking for were in the first place or two I’d suspect they’d be.” — Representative quote from a test participant

A few improvements were recommended as a result of the testing:

  1. make container information clearer, especially within the requesting workflow
  2. improve visibility of the online access facet
  3. make the Show More links in the sidebar context nav clearer
  4. better delineate between collections and series in the breadcrumb
  5. replace jargon with clearer labels, especially “Indexed Terms

We recently implemented changes to address 2, 3, and 5. We’re still considering options for 1 and 4.  Usability testing has been invaluable part of our development process. It’s a joy (and often a humbling experience!) to see your design work put through the paces with actual users in a usability test. It always helps us understand what we’re doing so we can make things better.

Usage

We want to learn more about how often different parts of the UI are used, so we implemented Google Analytics event tracking to anonymously log interactions. We use the Anonymize IP feature to help protect patron privacy.

Google Analytics Event Tracking
Top Google Analytics event categories & actions, Jul 1 – Nov 20, 2020.

Some observations so far:

  • The context nav sidebar is by far the most interacted-with part of the UI.
  • Browsing the Contents section of a component page (list of direct child components) is the second-most frequent interaction.
  • Subject, Collection, & Names are the most-used facets, in that order. That does not correlate with the order they appear in the sidebar.
  • Links presented in the Online Access banners were clicked 5x more often than the limiter in the Online Access facet (which matches what we found in usability testing)
  • Basic keyword searches happen 32x more frequently than advanced searches

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

We want to be sure that when people search Google for terms that appear in our finding aids, they discover our resources. So when several Blacklight community members combined forces to create a Blacklight Dynamic Sitemaps gem this past year, it caught our eye. We found it super easy to set up, and it got the vast majority of our collection records Google-indexed within a month or so. We are interested in exploring ways to get it to include the component records in the sitemap as well.

Google Search Console showing index performance

 

Launching ArcLight: Retrospective

We’re pretty proud of how this all turned out. We have accomplished a lot in a relatively short amount of time. And the core software will only improve as the community grows.

At Duke, we already use Blacklight to power a bunch of different discovery applications in our portfolio. And given that the responsibility of supporting ArcLight falls to the same staff who support all of those other apps, it has been unquestionably beneficial for us to be able to work with familiar tooling.

We did encounter a few hurdles along the way, mostly because the software is so new and not yet widely adopted. There are still some rough edges that need to be smoothed out in the core software. Documentation is pretty sparse. We found indexing errors and had to adjust some rules. Relevancy ranking needed a lot of work. Not all of the EAD elements and attributes are accounted for; some things aren’t indexed or displayed in an optimal way.

Still, the pros outweigh the cons by far. With ArcLight, you get an extensible Blacklight-based core, only catered specifically to archival data. All the things Blacklight shines at (facets, keyword highlighting, autosuggest, bookmarks, APIs, etc.) are right at your fingertips. We have had a very good experience finding and using Blacklight plugins to add desired features.

Finally, while the ArcLight community is currently small, the larger Blacklight community is not. There is so much amazing work happening out in the Blacklight community–so much positive energy! You can bet it will eventually pay dividends toward making ArcLight an even better solution for archival discovery down the road.

Acknowledgments

Many thanks go out to our Duke staff members who contributed to getting this project completed successfully. Especially:

  • Product Owner: Noah Huffman
  • Developers/DevOps: Sean Aery, David Chandek-Stark, Michael Daul, Cory Lown (scrum master)
  • Project Sponsors: Will Sexton & Meghan Lyon
  • Redesign Team: Noah Huffman (chair), Joyce Chapman, Maggie Dickson, Val Gillispie, Brooke Guthrie, Tracy Jackson, Meghan Lyon, Sara Seten Berghausen

And thank you as well to the Stanford University Libraries staff for spearheading the ArcLight project.


This post was updated on 1/7/21, adding the embedded video recording of the Oct 2020 Blacklight Summit ArcLight presentation.

Access for One, Access for All: DPC’s Approach towards Folder Level Digitization

Earlier this year and prior to the pandemic, Digital Production Center (DPC) staff piloted an alternative approach to digitize patron requests with the Rubenstein Library’s Research Services (RLRS) team. The previous approach was focused on digitizing specific items that instruction librarians and patrons requested, and these items were delivered directly to that person. The alternative strategy, the Folder Level digitization approach, involves digitizing the contents of the entire folder that the item is contained in, ingesting these materials to the Duke Digital Repository (to enable Duke Library staff to retrieve these items), and when possible, publishing these materials so that they are available to anyone with internet access. This soft launch prepared us for what is now an all-hands-on-deck-but-in-a-socially-distant-manner digitization workflow.

Giao Luong Baker assessing folders in the DPC.

Since returning to campus for onsite digitization in late June, the DPC’s primary focus has been to perfect and ramp up this new workflow. It is important to note that the term “folder” in this case is more of a concept and that its contents and their conditions vary widely. Some folders may have 2 pages, other folders have over 300 pages. Some folders consists of pamphlets, notebooks, maps, papyri, and bound items. All this to say that a “folder” is a relatively loose term.

Like many initiatives at Duke Libraries, Folder Level Digitization is not just a DPC operation, it is a collaborative effort. This effort includes RLRS working with instructors and patrons to identify and retrieve the materials. RLRS also works with Rubenstein Library Technical Services (RLTS) to create starter digitization guides, which are the building blocks for our digitization guide. Lastly, RLRS vets the materials and determines their level of access. When necessary, Duke Library’s Conservation team steps in to prepare materials for digitization. After the materials are digitized, ingest and metadata work by the Digital Collections and Curation Services as well as the RLTS teams ensure that the materials are preserved and available in our systems.

Kristin Phelps captures a color target.

Doing this work in the midst of a pandemic requires that DPC work closely with the Rubenstein Library Access Services Reproduction Team (a section of RLRS) to track our workflow using a Google Doc. We track the point where the materials are identified by RLRS, through multiple quarantine periods, scanning, post processing, file delivery, to ingest. Also, DPC staff are digitizing in a manner that is consistent with COVID-19 guidelines. Materials are quarantined before and after they arrive at the DPC, machines and workspaces are cleaned before and after use, capture is done in separate rooms, and quality control is done off site with specialized calibrated monitors.

Since we started Folder Level digitization, the DPC has received close to 200 unique Instruction and Patron requests from RLRS. As of the publication of this post, 207 individual folders (an individual request may contain several folders) have been digitized. In total, we’ve scanned and quality controlled over 26,000 images since we returned to campus!

By digitizing entire folders, we hope this will allow for increased access to the materials without risking damage through their physical handling. So far we anticipate that 80 new digital collections will be ingested to the Duke Digital Repository. This number will only grow as we receive more requests. Folder Level Digitization is an exciting approach towards digital collection development, as it is directly responsive to instruction and researcher needs. With this approach, it is access for one, access for all!

Sunsetting Tripod2

Featured image – Wayback Machine capture of the Tripod2 beta site in February, 2011. 

We all design and create platforms that work beautifully for us, that fill us with pride as they expand and grow to meet our programmatic needs, and all the while the world changes around us, the programs scale beyond what we envisioned, and what was once perfectly adaptable becomes unsustainable, appearing to us all of the sudden as a voracious, angry beast, threatening to consume us, or else a rickety contraption, teetering on the verge of a disastrous collapse. I mean, everyone has that experience, right?

In March of 2011, a small team consisting primarily of me and fellow developer Sean Aery rolled out a new, homegrown platform, Tripod2. It became the primary point of access for Duke Digital Collections, the Rubenstein Library’s collection guides, and a handful of metadata-only datasets describing special collections materials. Within a few years, we had already begun talking about migrating all the Tripod2 stuff to new platforms. Yet nearly a decade after its rollout, we still have important content that depends on that platform for access.

Nevertheless, we have made significant progress. Sunsetting Tripod2 became a priority for one of the teams in our Digital Preservation and Publishing Program last year, and we vowed to follow through by the end of 2020. We may not make that target, but we do have firm plans for the remaining work. The migration of digital collections to the Duke Digital Repository has been steady, and nears its completion. This past summer, we rolled out a new platform for the Rubenstein collection guides, based on the ArcLight framework. And now have a plan to handle the remaining instances of metadata-only databases, a plan that itself relies on the new collection guides platform.

We built Tripod2 on the triptych of Python/Django, Solr, and a document base of METS files. There were many areas of functionality that we never completely developed, but it gave us a range of capability that was crucial in our thinking about digital collections a decade ago – the ability to customize, to support new content types, and to highlight what made each digital collection unique. In fact, the earliest public statement that I can find revealing the existence of Tripod2 is Sean’s blog post, “An increasingly diverse range of formats,” from almost exactly ten years ago. As Sean wrote then, “dealing with format complexity is one of our biggest challenges.”

As the years went by, a number of factors made it difficult to keep Tripod2 current with the scope of our programs and the changing of web technology. The single most prevalent factor was the expanding scope of the Duke Digital Collections program, which began to take on more high-volume digitization efforts. We started adding all of our new digital collections to the Duke Digital Repository (DDR) starting in 2015, and the effort to migrate from Tripod2 to the repository picked up soon thereafter. That work was subject to all sorts of comical and embarrassing misestimations by myself on the pages of this very blog over the years, but thanks to the excellent work Digital Collections and Curation Services, we are down to the final stages.

Collection and item counters from the Duke Digital Repository's homepage for Duke Digital Collections, showing the volume of digital collections roughly doubling between 2018 and 2020.
Collection and item counters from the Duke Digital Repository’s homepage for Duke Digital Collections, taken from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, approximately a year apart in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The volume of digital collections has roughly doubled in that time, due to both the addition of new collections, and the migration of collections from Tripod2.

Moving digital collections to the DDR went hand-in-hand with far less customization, and far less developer intervention to publish a new collection. Where we used to have developers dedicated to individual platforms, we now work together more broadly as a team, and promote redundancy in our development and support models as much as we can. In both our digital collections program and our approach to software development, we are more efficient and more process-driven.

Given my record of predictions about our work on this blog, I don’t want to be too forward in announcing this transition. We all know that 2020 doesn’t suffer fools gladly, or maybe it suffers some of them but not others, and maybe I shouldn’t talk about 2020 just like this, right out in the open, where 2020 can hear me. So I’ll just leave it here – in recent times, we have done a lot of work toward saying goodbye to Tripod2. Perhaps soon we shall.

How to Videos for Using Digital Collections

With so much remote instruction and research happening due to the current global pandemic, more and more folks are dependent on Duke Libraries Digital Collections.  How can all these potentially new digital researchers learn how to use our interfaces?  Thanks to my colleagues in the Rubenstein Libraries Research Services department, there are now 4 short, how-to videos available to help users understand how to navigate digital collections.

I’ve linked to the videos below.  In just 15 minutes one will hear an introduction to Duke’s Digital Collections, learn how to search within the interface, and use and cite digital items.

If you use Duke Digital Collections regularly, what other topics would you like to see covered in future videos or documentation?

Understanding the experiences and needs of Black students at Duke

How can the Duke Libraries better support the needs of Black students at Duke? A team of library staff conducted qualitative research with Black students over the past two years in order to answer this question. This research was part of a multi-year effort at the Libraries to better understand the experiences and needs of various populations at Duke, beginning with first generation college students and continuing this year with a focus on international students.

Our final report discusses the full research process and our findings in more detail than that provided below, including a full list of recommendations resulting from the study.

We began by reading existing research on university and academic libraries’ support of Black students and speaking with key stakeholders on campus, such as Chandra Guinn, the director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. We researched past studies at Duke that had information on the Black student experience, and learned about the history of faculty diversity initiatives and racist incidents that had taken place on campus. We then held two discussion groups and three PhotoVoice sessions with Black graduate and undergraduate students, in addition to analyzing thousands of responses from the Libraries’ 2020 student satisfaction survey broken out by race. Photovoice is a community-based, participatory research method that originated in global health research. Participants take photos in response to prompts and submit them along with captions. This is followed by a group discussion led by participants as they discuss each set of images and captions.

We sought to understand students’ experiences in the Libraries and on campus to improve how all students interact with library services, facilities, and materials. We did not limit our discussions to library services and spaces, as it was important to explore Black students’ experience and use of the Libraries holistically. The research team pursued eight research questions:

  1. To what extent are the Libraries viewed as an inclusive space by Black students?
  2. To what extent is the University viewed as an inclusive space by Black students?
  3. To what extent do students experience microaggressions or bias because of their race in the Libraries, on campus, in Durham, or in North Carolina?
  4. What changes can the Libraries make to ensure Black students feel supported and included? How can the Libraries improve spaces, services, and programs to ensure Black students feel supported and included?
  5. What changes can the University make to ensure Black students feel supported and included? How can the University improve spaces, services, and programs to ensure Black students feel supported and included?
  6. What campus and community services, spaces, and programs do Black students use and find helpful?
  7. What library services, spaces, instruction sessions, and programs do Black students use and find helpful?
  8. What campus and library services, spaces, and programs help Black students feel welcome or supported?

To what extent is Duke University viewed as an inclusive space?

Participants praised many services, programs, and spaces at Duke that contribute to a welcoming environment. At the same time, participants agreed that Duke provides a less inclusive space for Black students than White students. Black students contend with campus culture, curricula, and physical spaces that still largely reflect and center White experiences, history, and values. Academia is a space where Black students do not see themselves valued or accurately represented. From the arts and sciences to statistics and economics, participants reported systemic bias in instructors’ behavior and the scholarship assigned and discussed in class. They experience microaggressions in almost every area of life at Duke. These instances of bias reinforce the idea that their belonging at Duke is qualified.

We found that many Black graduate students have a level of support via their academic programs, beyond what is available to Duke undergraduate students. Participants praised many of their graduate programs for creating inclusive and supportive environments. Elements contributing to such environments include peer and faculty mentors, programs and events, policies, committees, opportunities to be part of decision-making, communication from faculty and administrators, and efforts to increase diversity. Black undergraduate students may be further removed from decision-makers than graduate students, functioning in an anonymous sea of students receiving the same general services. Thus, compared to graduate students, undergraduates may feel less self-efficacy to effect change in campus-wide inclusion efforts.

To what extent are the Libraries viewed as an inclusive space?

Black students largely view the Libraries as inclusive spaces in the sense that they meet their diverse learning needs as underrepresented students at a predominantly White institution (PWI).  When asked whether they see the Libraries as inclusive spaces and whether they feel safe, welcome, and supported at the Libraries, both undergraduate and graduate students listed numerous services and resources offered by the Libraries that they value. These include online journals, the variety of study spaces, the textbook lending program, technology support and resources, events and training opportunities, and research support. Respondents reported positive experiences with the Libraries overall.

However, students also reported some negative interactions with staff and with peers in the Libraries. They also perceive aspects of library spaces to be unwelcoming, specifically to Black students because they center White history. Responses to the 2020 student satisfaction survey showed that while around 88% of both Black and White students agreed that the Libraries are a welcoming place for them, only 60% of Black respondents and 66% of White respondents strongly agreed with the statement. Other aspects of the library experience were perceived as unwelcoming for reasons unrelated to race. Though students reported negative experiences in the Libraries, none reported experiencing bias or microaggressions because of their race in DUL.

Students reported a general feeling that both Duke and Duke Libraries, while not actively hostile or racist, are complicit in their silence. Students do not see enough visible actions and signs supporting diversity and inclusion, efforts to limit White western European cultural dominance, or attempts to educate White students about minority experiences. Participants are not convinced that Duke cares about racist incidents, and believe that Duke and Duke Libraries will not take meaningful action if they complain about or report instances of prejudice or microaggression.

What does it mean to be Black at Duke?

“It’s like I have to prove something to somebody: I’m here for the same reason that you are.”

To walk invisible, to speak for all

Students described the contradiction and contrast of seeing oneself almost universally absent – from the scholarship assigned in class and portraits on the walls, to the faces of faculty reflected from the front of class rooms – while simultaneously representing the entire race to others. This is the reality that many experience at Duke, an elite PWI.

Participants discussed being treated as invisible. One undergraduate male shared that even on campus “people usually avoid me with eye contact, crossing to the other side of the street.” It also takes a toll on Black students not to see their backgrounds and experiences represented in the Duke faculty. Currently, Duke’s faculty is significantly less diverse than the study body. Many Black students know the exact number of Black faculty and administrators in their academic programs, and the numbers matter. At the same time, Black students are often unable to fade into a crowd and are forced to be perennially conscious of their race identity in a way that White students at Duke, at PWIs, and in the United States in general, are not. White students and instructors sometimes treat Black students as monoliths, expecting their views and actions to exemplify those of all Black people. Students discussed pressure “to uphold a good image and to go the extra mile…to actively disprove stereotypes.”

One graduate student said:

I feel like I have to speak for everyone…Black people in America don’t have the privilege of individuality.

The validity of Black students’ presence at Duke is challenged both by fellow students and by Durham community members. Black students are hyper-aware that most Black people on campus are staff, not students, and some discussed unease wondering if people mistake them for staff as well. A student explains the need to prove that they belong, not just academically or intellectually, but even physically on campus:

Every time I walk around campus, I’m like, ‘I need to have my book bag on so people know I’m a student, so people don’t think I’m an employee.’… It’s a focus: I have to look like I’m a student. It’s like I have to prove something to somebody: I’m here for the same reason that you are.

A Black undergraduate recounted a story of how she and her friends were aggressively confronted by a group of White male students one night on their way to an event in a campus building who asked, “Do you even go here?” Many participants discussed how demoralizing it is when White people make the frequent assumption that they were admitted to Duke as part of an athletic program, or tell them that they were accepted to Duke as part of a racial quota instead of on the same academic merits as other students.

Graduate students discussed how Duke seems best able to accommodate two specific kinds of Black student, with room for improvement in how it accommodates others:

Duke makes it accommodating for Black students, but only a specific kind of Black student: Black athletes from America, or very rich African kids. I’m African American but not an athlete, or rich. I’m academically curious, and I just feel like I’m alone.

Participants acknowledge and appreciate the diversity of the Black student experience and wish others would do the same. Black students at Duke are rich and poor. They come from countries spanning the globe and from different religions and cultural backgrounds. While some are athletes, most are not.

Being Black at a predominantly White institution

PWIs such as Duke were not originally intended for Black students. Despite the time that has passed and the number of students of color who have been admitted, Duke remains a historically White space, and this history continues to permeate and shape the culture of the campus. The students in our study were fiercely aware of this history.

Undergraduates expressed concerns that many White students have little comprehension of or interest in understanding the experiences of “the Other” and are surrounded by White peers who are often ignorant of and oblivious to American racial dynamics and the realities of racism. Undergraduate participants perceive that Duke’s curriculum does not prioritize ensuring that all students will be exposed to diverse points of view and experiences through required courses or activities, and interdisciplinary courses tend to be racially segregated.

Duke Libraries and Duke as complacent and complicit

There was a general feeling that Duke Libraries and Duke, while not actively hostile or racist, are complicit in their silence. Students do not see enough explicit signals supporting diversity and inclusion, efforts to limit White western European cultural dominance, or to educate elite White students about minority experiences.

The 2020 Libraries student survey asked students whether they feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and emotional and physical harm at Duke Libraries and at Duke University. There are stark differences by race among the 2,600 students who responded. Black students do not feel as safe from discrimination, harassment, and emotional and physical harm as White students either on campus or in the Libraries.

2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at the Libraries
Figure 1. 2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at the Libraries
2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at Duke University
Figure 2. 2020 DUL student satisfaction survey: “I feel safe” at Duke University

Fewer (34%) of Black students “strongly agree” that they feel safe at Duke University, versus 71% of White students. A quarter of all Black students do not feel safe to some extent, versus only 7% of White students. More Black and White students feel safe in the Libraries than on campus in general, but fewer Black students “strongly agree” with the statement than White students 71% versus 89%.

Discussion group participants believe that if campus spaces want to make minorities feel welcome, they need more visible signs or statements about inclusion and diversity, particularly because the default in Duke spaces is overwhelming visible representations of White people and Western art and architecture. In reference to the Perkins & Bostock Libraries, one graduate student said:

I don’t see an active attempt to make it welcoming per se. Depending on…what your experience has been like as a Black student on campus, I think there would need to be a purposeful and very explicit attempt to make it welcoming. Not to say there’s a malicious attempt to make it unwelcoming.

Systemic injustice perpetuated through the curriculum

“We were absent in the scholarship. Not just black people – any people of color. And when it was there, it was highly problematized…Every time people of color are mentioned, it’s in some kind of negative context. We’re deficient in some sort of way.”

Academics at Duke are often a space where Black students do not see themselves highly represented or valued. From the arts and sciences to statistics and economics, participants report systemic bias in a variety of areas ranging from instructors’ behavior to the scholarship assigned in class. A student in a business class reported the glaring lack of a single case study involving a Black-owned business or a business run by Black people. Another graduate student in the sciences explained:

All of the people you study are dead White men. And if you never did any outside scholarship yourself, you might be convinced that those are the only people who have ever done [redacted] science in the world.

In addition to racial biases in scholarship assigned, participants discussed the behavior of faculty and instructors as it contributed to systemic injustice in the classroom:

Particularly in statistics classes, almost all data that were racialized normalized Whites and problematized Blacks and other minorities, relatively. There was one assignment where we were supposed to look at and interpret the data, and White people were clearly worse off. The professor did gymnastics to interpret it in such a way where Black people would still be worse off. Come on! They couldn’t even see a way for White people to ever be worse off. And this happens all the time. Whether it’s a guest lecture or whatever…They just focus on the disparities, they interpret it very narrowly, and then there’s no discussion of the origins of those disparities or any solutions to them.

Black students often expect to face racial bias in their daily lives outside academia or from other students on campus. But faculty are both mentors and authority figures who represent the face of Duke to their students. Their silence can speak as loudly as their words in molding students’ perceptions of the extent to which Duke, as well as academic fields more broadly, value them.

On White and Western dominance of physical spaces

Physical spaces communicate priorities, expectations, and cultural values both implicitly and explicitly. They do this via architecture, materials in the spaces such as art, signs, and decorations, and social groupings within spaces. There are parts of Duke that Black students find welcoming and inclusive, but overall, participants do not consider the physical spaces of campus to be as inclusive for Black students as they are for White students.

Students across discussion groups listed example after example of spaces at Duke – including a number of libraries – where art and architecture caused physical spaces to feel exclusionary. Duke’s campus and libraries are filled with photography, statues, and portraits depicting mostly White males. This theme was raised by both undergraduates and graduates as a way that campus spaces make Black students (and likely other groups) feel unwelcome and excluded:

In the library at the [professional] school, there’s this room…A bunch of huge paintings of old White guys…It means something, right? Because there’s no other part of that library where you’ll see a big portrait painting of someone who isn’t a White male. It’s more White supremacy in itself: the absence of other people being represented in this school says a lot. If they wanted to do something about it they could. They could put in more paintings. There have been people of color who’ve been through Duke and have gone on to do great things.

The Gothic Reading Room and portraits of white men
Photograph of the Gothic Reading Room filled with portraits of White men

A number of the discussion groups touched on a related topic, which is the lack of a library or a room within the main campus library dedicated to Black studies. Many students came from undergraduate schools that did have such spaces and were surprised to find them lacking at Duke, especially given the presence of the Nicholas Family Reading Room for International Studies (referred to by students as the “Asian reading room”), which houses reference collections for many non-English languages – though not all Asian. One of the more common recommendations across discussion groups was to create such a space within Perkins & Bostock Libraries, similar to the Nicholas Family Reading Room. Such a space would display books and journals related to Black studies or Black history and feature art, photographs, or exhibits related to Black culture or the history of Black people at Duke or in Durham.

Study spaces as social territories

Another aspect of Perkins & Bostock Libraries that feels exclusionary to participants is the territorial dominance of in different parts of the Libraries. This issue was also raised by students in numerous free-text comments of the 2020 student satisfaction survey, focused on Greek Life members laying an unofficial claim to library study spaces. Participants explained that these groups’ behavior often causes students unaffiliated with those fraternities to feel unwelcome in these public, highly-valued study spaces. Both discussion group participants and survey respondents also complained about the groups disturbing other students by not following posted noise norms for quiet study zones and even using library study rooms for fraternity business. One survey respondent said:

The library is divided (perhaps unofficially) into study areas based on Greek and SLG membership. I consider this to be a disgusting practice and it also leaves me (a graduate student) unsure where I can comfortably sit. I just wish the library was not yet another place where the caste system that is the Duke social scene gets reinforced.

Several students discussed how fraternities sometimes reserve bookable library study rooms and use these spaces for business purposes, to bestow access to social resources (in this case, access to parties) that are highly exclusive and closed to the majority of the campus, which further perpetuates exclusivity on campus. The language the students use to describe these interactions (“ostracized,” “uncomfortable,” “not welcomed”) shows the extent to which the presence of these groups in library spaces that are supposed to be inclusive actually makes students feel excluded, as if they cannot use those spaces due to their lack of membership in those groups.

Features of a space matter

The Libraries’ 2020 student survey asked whether respondents enjoy working in a campus library more than other campus spaces. A third of White students “strongly agree” with this statement, versus one-fourth of Black students. Participants in our discussion groups highlighted three features that greatly contribute to study spaces feeling welcoming and supportive, which are likely true for students from all backgrounds: natural light, green spaces and greenery, and vibrant colors.

Library staff have long been aware that students can study and de-stress better in library spaces with natural light. Increasing natural light is only possible when planning and constructing new facilities, but we can review the current spaces to ensure that all areas with natural light have seating options around them. Participants discussed how greenery, even fake plants, contribute to mental well-being and create study spaces that are less stressful. This also includes views of nature out of windows. Vibrant colors and artwork were mentioned time and again as factors that create positive energy and support well-being. Both the Link on the first floor of Bostock Library and the Bryan Center were held up as examples of well-designed spaces at Duke with brightly colored walls and furniture, or artwork.

In comparison, the Perkins & Bostock Libraries were seen as having much room to improve, with the exception of the following spaces: the Link, The Edge, the large reading rooms, light-filled breezeways, and the newly renovated Rubenstein Library. Participants requested that the Perkins & Bostock Libraries modernize its decor and add vibrant colors via paint, carpets, furniture and art. The students feel that the drab colors in study rooms and general open study areas exacerbate the sense of stress that already pervades the library. Students had unapologetically negative views of the atmosphere produced by color and decor choices:

I think Perkins is so uninviting…At a basic level, it’s just not a comfortable, inviting space to me. I hate the lighting. Part of it is that there is very little natural light throughout the library but then I just don’t like the colors that are chosen… It’s depressing. It just seems very outdated.

Campus and library wayfinding came up in multiple discussion groups as an area that needs improvement and contributes to students feeling unwelcome and stressed. Duke’s policy to not have visible external building signage and to use the same architecture for most buildings on West Campus leads newcomers to feel excluded and lost. Participants were critical of the fact that the main campus library has no identifying external feature or sign. Participants also discussed the need for better internal directional and informational signage within the Libraries. Improved signage is necessary both to assist with finding materials, and for guidance on use of study rooms and computer look-up stations. Students like the noise norms and zones designated by signage within the Libraries and want this signage to be larger and more prominent.

Affinity spaces are critical and signal what Duke values

Spaces noted by participants as welcoming and supportive included the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the Wellness Center, the West Campus Oasis, the Duke Chapel, the Women’s Center, the Bryan Center, gardens and green spaces, and the Center for Multicultural Affairs. Students also spoke enthusiastically about a number of campus services, including the on-campus dentist; Wellness Center activities like a weekly group therapy session for Black women and free physical assessments; movie nights at the Bryan Center; campus buses; the entrepreneurship program; CAPS; the Writing Studio; and state-of-the-art gym facilities.

Many Photovoice participants submitted photographs and captions about the Mary Lou Williams Center, its programming, and its staff. For participants, the fact that Duke University funds and supports programming for such a large, beautiful space highlights Duke’s commitment to Black students and Black culture. However, not everyone feels welcome on the campus as a whole. One student said they go to the Mary Lou to “escape the white gaze” of the broader campus. These spaces should not be seen as spaces one has to go to escape the general campus experience, but rather as spaces that contribute to their campus experience.

Graduate students talked about the robust support networks in their academic programs. Students reported feeling supported in many ways, from professors who learn students’ names and Deans attending welcome lunches with new students, to orientation activities, peer and professor mentor programs, support for healthy work-life balances, and committees on diversity and inclusion.

Participants felt welcomed by events hosted solely for Black students, such as Black Convocation and parties held by Black Greek organizations, as well as outreach from the Mary Lou Williams Center to all incoming Black students.

Program for Duke's Black Convocation 2019
Photovoice image submission of the program for Black Convocation

Library services support students

Library services that were praised included library materials and online resources; the library website; textbook lending; device lending; technology such as scanners, 3D printers, and DVD players in Lilly; events such as snacks and coffee in the library and Puppies in Perkins during finals week; orientation sessions; reservable study rooms; designated noise norms and zones; ePrint; personal assistance from librarians; and Oasis Perkins.[1] Students are surprised by how many services the Libraries offer and want more marketing and information about these services. Library staff should continue to develop outreach strategies for marketing services to students at various points in their programs and majors, both online and within library spaces.

The Libraries textbook lending program came up in every undergraduate discussion group. Students were enthusiastic about the program and the financial burden that it alleviates.

I think [library] rental textbooks are really nice…Knowing that if I change a class I don’t need to buy this book the first week and resell it for only 30%. If you’re paying for your own books, that’s not feasible. It’s…another stress coming into your freshman year of college. Thinking, ‘oh no I have to buy this $200 math book online – no, you can rent it from the library until you know whether you’re even supposed to be in that math class.’ Knowing that I can get through the first part of the semester without having to worry about textbooks is big.

According to results from the Libraries’ 2020 student survey, about one-fourth of all undergraduate students (regardless of race) said that textbook lending is important to them. At the same time, only 48.5% of both Black and White students said that the current program completely meets their needs, and 8% of those who said textbook lending is important to them reported being unaware of the Libraries textbook lending program. The survey also provided the following open-ended prompt to students: “In a perfect world, with unlimited time and resources, the Libraries would…” Eight percent of responses (127 out of 1,535) included a request for the Libraries to provide free textbooks.

Person-to-person interactions make a difference

Interactions with other people can be critical contributors to whether students at Duke feel welcome and supported. Participants discussed many positive interactions on campus and in the Libraries, with library service desk staff, librarians assisting with research, friendly security guards, housekeeping staff, academic program office staff, Mary Lou Williams Center staff, and financial aid officers. Black staff at Duke also provide important social support for students, whether assigned as mentors or simply lending a sympathetic ear. One student immediately thought of a staff member when asked about the most helpful programs and services on campus:

It’s not a program, it’s [an office administrator]. Since she’s a sister, we can just talk about anything. She looks out for me in a way that I know only a Black person would look out.

Library security guards stand out as a group that can help students feel safe and supported with just a friendly word or wave (though as previously noted, security guards can also easily make Black students feel unwelcome):

First semester sophomore year when I was [at the library] really late, there was this one security guard who I saw just going around and around, and each time he would wave. Then I was studying there just two nights ago, I just saw him again and he waved, and it just felt really good.

Affinity groups are important to all students, and especially important to minorities at PWIs. Students mentioned feeling welcomed by the existence of campus student groups such as the Black Student Alliance and Black Graduate & Professional Student Association, Black Greek Life, and spaces for affinity groups to gather (such as the Mary Lou and Black Student Alliance office).

Participants discussed many positive interactions with library staff. Participants value friendliness and good customer service, as well as subject expertise. However, discussions highlighted the fact that initial impressions and experiences are critical, and if students’ initial interaction is negative, they are likely not to come back. In particular, library staff must be mindful of the delicate balance between their roles as teachers and as service providers. While many library staff are trained to teach research skills, students often approach the service desk expecting staff to help them complete their task as quickly and efficiently as possible. Efforts to teach them how to complete the action by themselves instead of just assisting them can be interpreted as patronizing, a rebuke for having “bothered” staff, or poor customer service.

Overall, participants have a positive view of the Libraries. They recommended improvements, especially for physical spaces, and underscored the importance of marketing services such as textbook lending and relaxation events. Participants shared valuable insights that can help library staff understand what it means to be Black at Duke and in Durham, and ways that library staff can make spaces more welcoming and help ease the burden that Black students feel on a daily basis.

What’s next?

These findings became the basis of 34 recommendations outlined in the research team’s full report. One of the top recommendations from participants is that the Libraries dedicate a study space to Black scholarship. Such a space was envisioned to include art, photographs, or exhibits related to Black culture and history and highlight library resources from Black scholars.

The research team has presented and discussed this study at all staff meetings at the Libraries, as well as  to various groups and units on Duke’s campus over the summer of 2020. The report was shared widely within the library community to encourage other libraries to consider these questions and undertake similar work.

In August 2020, the Libraries formed a Black Student Study Next Steps Coordinating Team charged with prioritizing and coordinating the implementation of recommendations from the study, as well as additional recommendations that came out of a staff workshop delving into the Libraries’ 2020 student satisfaction survey. For more information on this study or the Coordinating Team, contact Joyce Chapman joyce.chapman@duke.edu.

Here’s What Happened Next: The Duke Digital Production Center in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic

On March 20, 2020, the Duke University Libraries were closed related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Surrounded by a great deal of uncertainty as to when the Libraries would reopen, most library staff were sent home to work for the next months from home.  During this time, the Digital Production Center’s employees followed suit and, as part of that time away from the DPC, completed post-processing of images, image quality control, participated in project planning and wrote blogs on the closing of the Libraries, labor in the time of the coronavirus, and the history of videotelephony.  Following the end of the North Carolina Stay-at-Home order on April 29, discussions began in earnest about what the new reality would be for the Libraries.  It was determined that the DPC’s unique skill set was needed on site sooner rather than later, and so on June 26, we returned to Duke’s campus as “essential workers.”

Upon our return, we needed to make sure that our equipment was sanitized and in good working order.  Along with testing our scanner and cameras, we also recalibrated our monitors to ensure color accuracy and established our new workflow. 

It was determined that our efforts were most needed to prepare for Duke’s fall instruction materials.  With the uncertainty as to whether or not classes would be held in person or virtually, preparing digital materials to work with was prioritized.  So, we shifted from our normal project work to focus solely on digitization of these materials.  Each digitization specialist was asked to be onsite for 3 days a week to maximize use of our capture equipment.  The remaining two days of the week would be spent working from home to do quality control work on the images as well as various administrative tasks.  We had a plan; our remit was clear and we were working towards a goal.

On August 17, classes began for Duke University and our images began being used as part of instruction materials.  Duke University Library’s digitized images helped bridge the gap between the currently inaccessible library collections that Duke faculty and students normally rely on for coursework and the Fall 2020 students.

Thinking about the change in use and accessibility for collection materials leads to an interesting question:  With the lockdown which happened for most of the US, did digital collections receive more visits as people were restricted from leaving home and libraries were closed?  A quick glance at the Google Analytics for the Duke Digital Collections shows a 34% increase of unique page views from April 1-June 30 of this year as compared to the same time period in 2019.  While it is impossible to state definitively why the increase occurred, the pandemic is very likely a contributing factor.  Digital collections are arguably valuable assets for any institution which supports them.  They provide easy access to rarely seen or inaccessible materials and they have the potential to incite curiosity in the larger institutional holdings.  It is indeed interesting to consider what types of innovative scholarship and creative use of digital content may result from the pandemic’s “forced” use of digital collections over the next twelve months.

Of course, the rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the need for alternative ways of operating.  At least temporarily, it has changed the way in which the Duke University Libraries are conducting business as usual these days.  And, in July of this year, Research Libraries UK published a document entitled “COVID19 and the Digital Shift in Action.”  This document reports on the effect of the pandemic on UK research libraries and suggests strategies for emphasis and support of the digital aspects of libraries as well as the need for change and flexibility within library collections.  Digital collections, e-books, e-textbooks, and digital content had their moment to shine during the pandemic and they have proven their value and importance.

And with the potential increased reliance on digitized material, many cultural heritage digitization specialists are now back on site in libraries, museums and archives, working to provide their expertise to add to existing digital collections.  Naturally, at the Duke Digital Production Center, we have been asked a number of times since our return if we are nervous about being back in our studio space.  Of course, we are, but we also recognize how our skills and contributions continue to create value for Duke University and Duke University Libraries.

Further reading:

Biswas, P., & Marchesoni, J. “Analyzing Digital Collections Entrances: What Gets Used and Why It Matters.” Information Technology and Libraries, v. 35, n. 4, p. 19-34, 30 December 2016.

Greenhall, M. “Covid-19 and the digital shift in action,” RLUK Report. 2020.  Can be accessed at:  https://www.rluk.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Covid19-and-the-digital-shift-in-action-report-FINAL.pdf

Markin, Pablo.  “Pandemic Restrictions on Library Borrowing Showcase the Importance of Digital Collections and the Advantages of Open Access.” Open Research Community.  11 August 2020.  https://openresearch.community/posts/pandemic-restrictions-on-library-borrowing-showcase-the-importance-of-digital-collections-and-the-advantages-of-open-access

 

 

 

 

Sharing data and research in a time of global pandemic, Part 2

[Header image from Fischer, E., Fischer, M., Grass, D., Henrion, I., Warren, W., Westman, E. (2020, August 07). Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech. Science Advances. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/08/07/sciadv.abd3083]

Back in March, just as things were rapidly shutting down across the United States, I wrote a post reflecting on how integral the practice of sharing and preserving research data would be to any solution to the crisis posed by COVID-19. While some of the language in that post seems a bit naive in retrospect (particularly the bit about RDAP’s annual meeting being one of the last in-person conferences of just the spring, as opposed to the entire calendar year!), the emphasis on the importance of rapid and robust data sharing has stood the test of time. In late June, the Research Data Alliance released a set of recommendations and guidelines for sharing research data under circumstances shaped by COVID-19, and a number of organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, have established portals for finding data related to the disease. Access to data has been forefront in the minds of many researchers.

Perhaps in response to this general sentiment (or maybe because folks haven’t been able to access their labs?!), we in the Libraries have seen a notable increase in the number of submissions to our Research Data Repository for data publication. These datasets have derived from a broad range of disciplines, spanning Environmental Sciences to Dermatology. I wanted to use this blog post as an opportunity to highlight a few of our accessions from the last several months.

One of our most prolific sources of data deposits has historically been the lab of Dr. Patrick Charbonneau, associate professor of Chemistry and Physics. Dr. Charbonneau’s lab investigates glass and its physical properties and contributes to a project known as The Simons Collaboration on Cracking the Glass Problem, which addresses issues like disorder, nonlinear response and far-from-equilibrium dynamics. The most recent contribution from Dr. Charbonneau’s research group, published just last week, is fairly characteristic of the materials we receive from Dr. Charbonneau’s group. It contains the raw binary observational data and scripts that were used to create the figures which appear in the researcher’s article. Making these research products available helps other scholars to repeat or reproduce (and thereby strengthen) the findings elucidated in an associated research publication.

Fig01 / Fig02b, Data from: Finite-dimensional vestige of spinodal criticality above the dynamical glass transition

 

Another recent data deposit—a first of its kind for the RDR—is a Q-sort concourse for the Human Dimensions of Large Marine Protected Areas project, which investigates the formulation of large marine protected areas (defined by the project as “any ocean area larger than 100,000 km² that has been designated for the purpose of conservation”) as a global movement. Q-methodology is a psychology and social sciences research method used to study viewpoints. In this study, 40 interviewees were asked to evaluate statements related to large-scale marine protected areas. Q-sorts can be particularly helpful when researchers wish to describe subjective viewpoints related to an issue.

Q sort record sheet from: Q-Sort Concourse and Data for the Human Dimensions of Large MPAs project

Finally, perhaps our most timely deposit has come from a group investigating an alternate method to evaluate the efficacy of masks to reduce the transmission of respiratory droplets during regular speech. “Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech,” published last week in Science Advances, is a proof-of-concept study that proposes an optical measurement technique that the group asserts is both inexpensive and easy to use. Because the topic of measuring mask efficiency is still both complex and unsettled, the group hopes this work will help improve evaluation in order to guide mask selection and policy decisions.

Screenshot of Speaker1_None_05.mp4, Video data from: Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech

The dataset consists of a series of movie recordings, that capture an operator wearing a face mask and speaking in the direction of an expanded laser beam inside a dark enclosure. Droplets that propagate through the laser beam scatter light, which is then recorded with a cell phone camera. The group tested 12 kinds of masks (see below), and recorded 2 sets of controls with no masks. 

Figure 2 from Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech

We hope to keep up the momentum our data management, curation, and publication program has gained over the last few months, but we need your help! For more information on using the Duke Research Data Repository to share and preserve your data, please visit our website, or drop up a line at datamangement@duke.edu. A full list of the datasets we’ve published since moving to fully remote operations in March is available below.

  • Zhang, Y. (2020). Data from: Contributions of World Regions to the Global Tropospheric Ozone Burden Change from 1980 to 2010. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r40p13p11
  • Campbell, L. M., Gray, N., & Gruby, R. (2020). Data from: Q-Sort Concourse and Data for the Human Dimensions of Large MPAs project. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4j38sg3b
  • Berthier, L., Charbonneau, P., & Kundu, J. (2020). Data from: Finite-dimensional vestige of spinodal criticality above the dynamical glass transition. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4jh3m094
  • Fischer, E., Fischer, M., Grass, D., Henrion, I., Warren, W., Westman, E. (2020). Video data files from: Low-cost measurement of facemask efficacy for filtering expelled droplets during speech. Duke Research Data Repository. V2 https://doi.org/10.7924/r4ww7dx6q
  • Lin, Y., Kouznetsova, T., Chang, C., Craig, S. (2020). Data from: Enhanced polymer mechanical degradation through mechanochemically unveiled lactonization. Duke Research Data Repository. V2 https://doi.org/10.7924/r4fq9x365
  • Chavez, S. P., Silva, Y., & Barros, A. P. (2020). Data from: High-elevation monsoon precipitation processes in the Central Andes of Peru. Duke Research Data Repository. V2 https://doi.org/10.7924/r41n84j94
  • Jeuland, M., Ohlendorf, N., Saparapa, R., & Steckel, J. (2020). Data from: Climate implications of electrification projects in the developing world: a systematic review. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r42n55g1z
  • Cardones, A. R., Hall, III, R. P., Sullivan, K., Hooten, J., Lee, S. Y., Liu, B. L., Green, C., Chao, N., Rowe Nichols, K., Bañez, L., Shah, A., Leung, N., & Palmeri, M. L. (2020). Data from: Quantifying skin stiffness in graft-versus-host disease, morphea and systemic sclerosis using acoustic radiation force impulse imaging and shear wave elastography. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4h995b4q
  • Caves, E., Schweikert, L. E., Green, P. A., Zipple, M. N., Taboada, C., Peters, S., Nowicki, S., & Johnsen, S. (2020). Data and scripts from: Variation in carotenoid-containing retinal oil droplets correlates with variation in perception of carotenoid coloration. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4jw8dj9h
  • DiGiacomo, A. E., Bird, C. N., Pan, V. G., Dobroski, K., Atkins-Davis, C., Johnston, D. W., Ridge, J. T. (2020). Data from: Modeling salt marsh vegetation height using Unoccupied Aircraft Systems and Structure from Motion. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4w956k1q
  • Hall, III, R. P., Bhatia, S. M., Streilein, R. D. (2020). Data from: Correlation of IgG autoantibodies against acetylcholine receptors and desmogleins in patients with pemphigus treated with steroid sparing agents or rituximab. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4rf5r157
  • Jin, Y., Ru, X., Su, N., Beratan, D., Zhang, P., & Yang, W. (2020). Data from: Revisiting the Hole Size in Double Helical DNA with Localized Orbital Scaling Corrections. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4k072k9s
  • Kaleem, S. & Swisher, C. B. (2020). Data from: Electrographic Seizure Detection by Neuro ICU Nurses via Bedside Real-Time Quantitative EEG. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4mp51700
  • Yi, G. & Grill, W. M. (2020). Data and code from: Waveforms optimized to produce closed-state Na+ inactivation eliminate onset response in nerve conduction block. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4z31t79k
  • Flanagan, N., Wang, H., Winton, S., Richardson, C. (2020). Data from: Low-severity fire as a mechanism of organic matter protection in global peatlands: thermal alteration slows decomposition. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4s46nm6p
  • Gunsch, C. (2020). Data from: Evaluation of the mycobiome of ballast water and implications for fungal pathogen distribution. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4t72cv5v
  • Warnell, K., & Olander, L. (2020). Data from: Opportunity assessment for carbon and resilience benefits on natural and working lands in North. Carolina. Duke Research Data Repository. https://doi.org/10.7924/r4ww7cd91

EDTF-Humanize 2.0 with Improved Internationalization Support

About four years ago we released a small Ruby gem (EDTF-Humanize) to generate human readable dates out of Extended Date Time Format dates. For some background on our use of the EDTF standard, please see our previous blog posts on the topic: EDTF-Humanize, Enjoy your Metadata: Fun with Date Encoding, and It’s Date Night Here at Digital Projects and Production Services.

Some recent community contributions to the gem as well as some extra time as we transition from one work cycle to another provided an opportunity for maintenance and refinement of EDTF-Humanize. The primary improvement is better support for languages other than English via Ruby I18n locale configuration files and a language specific module override pattern. Support for French is now included and support for other languages may be added following the same approach as French.

The primary means of adding additional languages to EDTF-Humanize is to add a translation file to config/locals/. This is the translation file included to support French:

fr:
  date:
    day_names: [Dimanche, Lundi, Mardi, Mercredi, Jeudi, Vendredi, Samedi]
    abbr_day_names: [Dim, Lun, Mar, Mer, Jeu, Ven, Sam]
    # Don't forget the nil at the beginning; there's no such thing as a 0th month
    month_names: [~, Janvier, Février, Mars, Avril, Mai, Juin, Juillet, Août, Septembre, Octobre, Novembre, Decembre]
    abbr_month_names: [~, Jan, Fev, Mar, Avr, Mai, Jun, Jul, Aou, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec]
    seasons:
      spring: "printemps"
      summer: "été"
      autumn: "automne"
      winter: "hiver"
  edtf:
    terms:
      approximate_date_prefix_day: ""
      approximate_date_prefix_month: ""
      approximate_date_prefix_year: ""
      approximate_date_suffix_day: " environ"
      approximate_date_suffix_month: " environ"
      approximate_date_suffix_year: " environ"
      decade_prefix: "Les années "
      decade_suffix: ""
      century_suffix: ""
      interval_prefix_day: "Du "
      interval_prefix_month: "De "
      interval_prefix_year: "De "
      interval_connector_approximate: " à "
      interval_connector_open: " à "
      interval_connector_day: " au "
      interval_connector_month: " à "
      interval_connector_year: " à "
      interval_unspecified_suffix: "s"
      open_start_interval_with_day: "Jusqu'au %{date}"
      open_start_interval_with_month: "Jusqu'en %{date}"
      open_start_interval_with_year: "Jusqu'en %{date}"
      open_end_interval_with_day: "Depuis le %{date}"
      open_end_interval_with_month: "Depuis %{date}"
      open_end_interval_with_year: "Depuis %{date}"
      set_dates_connector_exclusive: ", "
      set_dates_connector_inclusive: ", "
      set_earlier_prefix_exclusive: 'Le ou avant '
      set_earlier_prefix_inclusive: 'Le et avant '
      set_last_date_connector_exclusive: " ou "
      set_last_date_connector_inclusive: " et "
      set_later_prefix_exclusive: 'Le ou après '
      set_later_prefix_inclusive: 'Le et après '
      set_two_dates_connector_exclusive: " ou "
      set_two_dates_connector_inclusive: " et "
      uncertain_date_suffix: "?"
      unknown: 'Inconnue'
      unspecified_digit_substitute: "x"
    formats:
      day_precision_strftime_format: "%-d %B %Y"
      month_precision_strftime_format: "%B %Y"
      year_precision_strftime_format: "%Y"

In addition to the translation file, the methods used to construct the human readable string for each EDTF date object type may be completely overridden for a language if needed. For instance, when the date object is an instance of EDTF::Century the French language uses a different method from the default to construct the humanized form. This override is accomplished by adding a language module for the French language that includes the Default module and also includes a Century module that overrides the default behavior. The override is here (minus the internals of the humanizer method) as an example:

# lib/edtf/humanize/language/french.rb
module Edtf
  module Humanize
    module Language
      module French
        include Default
        module Century
          extend self

          def humanizer(date)
            # Special French handling for EDTF::Century
          end
        end
      end
    end
  end
end

EDTF-Humanize version 2.0.0 is available on rubygems.org and on GitHub. Documentation is available on GitHub. Pull requests are welcome; I’m especially interested in contributions to add support for languages in addition to English and French.

Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team