Photo credit: Paul Joseph, UBC Brand and Marketing.

Community members living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) have been the focal point of countless scholarly research studies and surveys over the years. Up until recently, this research has remained largely out of reach to participants and community organizations, locked away in journals and other databases that require paid subscriptions to access. Community members have said they would benefit from access to that data for evaluating program and service effectiveness, for example, or for grant writing.

The recently launched Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal (DTES RAP), a project led by the UBC Learning Exchange in partnership with UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, is designed to change that.

The DTES RAP provides access to research and research-related materials relevant to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through an easy-to-use public interface. The portal was developed in consultation with DTES residents and community organizations through focus groups and user experience testing, and in collaboration with a number of university units.  

“I’ve noticed how people’s eyes light up when I talk about this project – it resonates with so many different people at the university and in the community,” says Angela Towle, Academic Director of the UBC Learning Exchange.

For members of the UBC community, the DTES RAP serves a variety of purposes. As an instructional tool that uses open-access resources, the DTES RAP can be used by librarians in reference work and supporting class assignments. Researchers will find the portal useful in amplifying the reach and impact of their work and, with support from the DTES RAP team, in meeting open access requirements. The portal can also help minimize demands on community time from researchers undertaking new research projects within the DTES by providing a reliable, primary information source. For students interested in learning more about the DTES community, the portal is an excellent first stop to enable proactive learning.

 

The DTES RAP website homepage.

 

The DTES RAP makes innovative use of UBC’s open access digital repository, cIRcle, in the back-end and relies on cIRcle’s infrastructure and services for content processing and reuse permissions. Currently, 50% of the total items in the DTES RAP comes from cIRcle. Through the UBC Co-op program, each term a student librarian is hired to scour cIRcle for relevant content and tag it to appear in the DTES RAP. Student librarians also contact authors who have copyright to relevant materials and offer to work with them to add those materials to cIRcle. However, the DTES RAP also curates relevant external materials and provides links to those items in their originally published locations. These records can include descriptions of items that cannot be archived in cIRcle because of copyright issues whereby full text is not available.

“We want these items to come up in our DTES RAP search results so that people know the materials exist,” explains Aleha McCauley, project lead for the DTES RAP and Community Engagement Librarian at UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. The DTES RAP describes these kinds of items as “Restricted Use” but also offers help in accessing those items via a button that appears next to inaccessible items. “We also include forms of public scholarship such as clear language summaries, in an effort to respond to community feedback that there was a need for alternate forms of research aside from the traditional article,” says McCauley.

“This project takes a nuanced approach to open access that recognizes that providing public links to academic articles is not enough,” says Towle. “We are exploring different ways to address these barriers including help materials, different genres and formats, workshops, outreach and a researcher directory.”

To support access, the Learning Exchange and UBC Library hired Nick Ubels to pilot a unique new role in the Learning Exchange. Ubels offers one-on-one support, along with workshops and demonstrations of the DTES RAP in action to bridge that gap.

“As we continue in this work, we’re constantly learning more about how best to meet community information needs,” says Ubels.

The DTES RAP was created as part of the Making Research Accessible Initiative (MRAi), a sustained collaboration that kicked off in 2015 between the UBC Learning Exchange and UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, and has been guided by a steering committee that includes the UBC Office of Community Engagement, the UBC Knowledge Exchange Unit, the UBC School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (iSchool), Simon Fraser University Library, and the Vancouver Public Library.

Visit the DTES RAP to start exploring, and subscribe to the newsletter for updates about this project and ways to participate in its development.

For more information about workshops, demonstrations or one-on-one user support for DTES RAP, contact Nick Ubels (nick.ubels@ubc.ca).

It was October 2019 and the first round of Open Educational Resources Fund grants hadn’t yet been awarded, but Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian, and her student team were ready to get started with Open Education Resource (OER) publishing.

“[That project] was a really great test case for us to figure out what kind of support a faculty member would need to go from some Word documents with content to an actual published text,” recalls Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian.

Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian at UBC Library.

Creating an open text is no simple task, but for some faculty and instructors, it’s the best solution when the resources they need for their courses don’t exist.

“We just could not find [a text] that really fit the objectives or the spirit of my course. So, rather than giving students a stack of references to sift through, I decided to develop my own textbook,” says Dr. Chelsea Himsworth, Assistant Professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health and lead author of  The Mission, the Message, and the Medium: Science and Risk Communication in a Complex World. “When I saw how much the students loved the textbook I was hooked! So I went back to the library so I could get the training and mentorship I needed to expand and improve the textbook on an ongoing basis. The library also opened my eyes to the world of OER. This led me to a successful grant application to improve my text and prep it for public offering.”

Amanda Grey, Open Education Student Librarian at UBC Library.

Fields’ student team helps faculty and instructors through the entire phased process, helping with copyright standards, Creative Commons licensing, metadata, and more using PressBooks as their online publishing platform, with access provided by BCcampus.

Since then, the library has created a catalogue of open texts from UBC, ranging in subject matter from chemistry to French language studies. Working alongside Fields, Open Education Student Librarian Amanda Grey has played a large role in the success of the open textbook initiative and handles much of the daily support for the library’s PressBooks projects.

“Erin and Amanda are amazing professionals. They were always accessible via Zoom and email,” says Dr. Somayeh Kamranian, Sessional Instructor in the UBC Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies and lead author of Let’s Read French Books. “They were present, in all the aspects of creation of this textbook.”

With most UBC classes now online, the demand for Open Educational Resources has only increased, along with an appetite for collaborative projects. Laboratory Manual for Introduction to Physical, First British Columbia Edition involved faculty and subject matter experts from UBC Vancouver, UBC Okanagan, Simon Fraser University, Capilano University, for use in first year physical geography courses.

“It was a fantastic example of what you can do across institutions when you work together,” says Fields, adding that it also illustrated how open education can support instructors engaged in remote learning.

For those considering the plunge into Open Education Resource (OER) publishing, UBC Library has plenty of resources available including The Open Textbook Publishing Guide, as well as two upcoming webinars that introduce participants to the open text publishing process. Faculty and instructors interested in booking a consultation can contact Erin Fields (erin.fields@ubc.ca) for more information.

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Digital Scholarship at UBC has been undergoing a renaissance, and this change has been a highly collaborative effort involving many different groups on both campuses. The UBC Library Research Commons at Koerner Library is at the forefront, with Digital Scholarship Librarian Eka Grguric contributing to a slew of new workshops and initiatives. Previously the User Experience and Digital Technologies Librarian at McGill University Library, a NC State University (NCSU) Libraries fellow, and a UBC iSchool alumna, Eka has set a rapid pace to collaborate with established campus partners and build out the digital scholarship programming since joining the Research Commons team in 2019.

“My goal is to empower people. I did a listening tour to get a sense of what was out there,” says Eka, recounting her early days in the role, when she set out to define digital scholarship in a local context at UBC. One of the first gaps she addressed was the inconsistent access to support for students and faculty in some disciplines who wanted to upskill—develop a foundational skill set—using digital scholarship methods and tools.

With the explosive growth of digital scholarship tools, it has become easier in many ways for researchers to introduce digital tools into traditional workflows, but there are many who don’t know where to start. In response, the Research Commons now offers a robust set of workshops that focus on Core Skills like web scraping, creating a Git repository, or using APIs. Over the summer, the Research Commons also launched a six-part GIScience series, funded as a small Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) Innovation Project. The workshops, which booked up quickly, introduced participants to technologies relevant to geographic information systems, a skill set that has become increasingly popular among UBC students in many different disciplines.

Eka Grguric, Digital Scholarship Librarian at the UBC Library Research Commons.

“We have a workshop template that deviates from the standard. All our workshops are available on GitHub, and built simply so that anyone can download and remix them. We are working on making sure all our workshop content has open copyright licenses to enable greater reuse,“ says Eka, noting that the workflow developed first for the Core Skills series and then the GIScience series has been a valuable model going forward and a way to provide much needed Open Educational Resources (OERs), particularly in light of the current need for remote learning materials. “The biggest impact of these OERs is that they’re computationally reproducible and easy to open on many different systems. We impose no barriers on the students who want to work with them. We’ve also successfully leveraged the GitHub infrastructure to do meaningful review of content and are developing best practices around this. The pivot to online instruction was all that much easier because we had this in play.”

In September, the Research Commons debuted two new workshop series in collaboration with UBC Okanagan Library and other partners: the Digital Toolkit series and the Research Data Management series. Other notable projects include the recent reinvigoration of Pixellating, a monthly Digital Humanities mixer, which is next set to meet online on Wednesday, October 21 (11am-1pm) with a showcase that will discuss the British Columbia and Canada through Arriving Eyes project. Working with UBC IT, the Research Commons also recently launched remote access to seventeen computers in the Digital Scholarship Lab, which has been closed to the public since March 2020.

With all these projects, the partnerships the Research Commons has developed—and continues to strengthen—with groups like the Public Humanities Hub, UBC Advanced Research Computing (ARC) and others are key to the future of Digital Scholarship at UBC.

Check out all upcoming events and workshops from the Research Commons on the Library calendar or by signing up for their newsletter.

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The UBC Library Research Commons is a multidisciplinary hub that supports research endeavours and provides training in research-enabling skills. We embrace both new and traditional exploratory scholarship and provide services, software, and expertise. Our services include expertise in digital scholarship, including geospatial and data services; welcoming space for projects and presentations; digital Scholarship Lab with powerful computers, for research, experimentation, collaboration, and work with big data; and consultations and workshops for UBC researchers.

This project is part of UBC Library’s strategic direction to advance research, learning and scholarship.

Learn more about our Strategic Framework.

In a new blog series created by Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), archivists, librarians and library staff share items from their personal collections of documents, books and ephemera. Show and Tell: Selections from our Personal Archives and Libraries is a journey through heirloom recipe books, salvaged wallpaper, childhood sketches, World War II diaries, and many more items of deeply personal significance. The stories are by turns entertaining, compelling and nostalgic in a way that makes you want to settle in with a mug of tea to hear more.

The series takes its inspiration from “Museum of Me: Stories From Our Homes,” an initiative created by the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) in June 2020, in which MOA staff took snapshots of objects, photos and artworks from around their own homes to pair with thoughtful captions describing the item’s personal significance.

UBC Library Archivist Krisztina Laszlo thought MOA’s concept, which she described as “brilliant,” would translate well to a personal library and archival setting. “In the early months of the pandemic and with the uncertainly surrounding what was happening, I felt it was a good way for those who wanted to participate to reflect on what was meaningful and significant to them at a time when we felt adrift. It was a way to ground us and remind us of what was truly important.”

With seven instalments and counting, the Show and Tell series is an ongoing project, with contributions from Jacky LaiChelsea ShriverHiller GoodspeedClaire WilliamsBarbara TowellKrisztina LaszloStephanie Plumb, Weiyan Yan, Natalie Trapuzzano, Eleanore Wellwood, and Dr. Susan E. Parker. The first few instalments, published in June, capture stories from the RBSC team, but expanded over the summer to include voices from other Library teams.

Those interested in contributing their own entries can contact Krisztina Laszlo (krisztina.laszlo@ubc.ca) as the series aims to expand further. “We’ll keep adding instalments as long as we keep getting submissions.”

Read the full series on the RBSC website.

 

UBC students, faculty and staff now have remote access to more than 80 UBC Library computer workstations for academic instructional use. Users can connect, using CWL and password to desktop computers in four UBC Library labs.

Access to these workstations, which include PCs and Macs, is especially critical to those who require specialized software and high-performing machines to pursue their research.

“It is hugely impactful for students to be able to access high power machines that they likely wouldn’t be able to access or afford otherwise — especially at this time,” says Eka Grguric, Digital Scholarship Librarian, “Access to the right tools at the right time is critical to student success.” 

Among the computers available are the seventeen powerful machines located in the Digital Scholarship Lab in the UBC Library Research Commons which boast a comprehensive list of specialty software. “Even providing access to something like Oxygen XML editor is a show of support to under-resourced projects on campus that are used to provisioning their own tools,” she adds.

Evan Thornberry, Map and GIS Librarian is pleased that students now have access to the six computers located in the GIS Lab in the Research Commons. “Many of the software available on these computers cannot be easily provisioned on personal computers. With the virtual machines, we are able to provide access to specialized proprietary software like Esri’s ArcGIS 24 hours a day.”

Users can also gain access to more than 40 Mac public computer workstations and nearly 200 PC public computer workstations across several library branches.

“Being a student is difficult enough with the challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak has introduced to the new academic year.  Providing remote access to library computer labs allows us to honour the library’s strategic direction to provide technology-rich spaces that enable experimentation and encourage creative approaches for our faculty and students,” says Allan Bell, Associate University Librarian, Digital Programs and Services.

Access remote computers at UBC Library.

Learn more about the software available in the UBC Library Research Commons’ Data/GIS Lab.

Learn more about the software available in the UBC Library Research Commons’ Digital Scholarship Lab*

Learn more about the software available in the Woodward Library lab.

*Due to licensing restrictions, Adobe Creative Cloud software is not available remotely.

As of September 15, 2020, UBC Library is eliminating daily overdue fines on books, journals and audio-visual (AV) materials for all library users. This policy shift will help users make the most of the library’s extensive physical collections without the added worry of incurring fees on items that aren’t in immediate demand.

Due to COVID-19, it is currently not possible to borrow Course Reserve loans, Interlibrary loans, and electronics such as laptops and other equipment from the library; however, when loans for these high-demand items resume, overdue fees will continue to apply.

Fines for materials that are overdue and have a recall placed on them will remain. Fines on recalled items start the day the item is overdue, not the day the recall was placed. Fines for materials deemed lost will also remain in effect.

For books, journals and AV materials that are not listed as Course Reserves, library users will receive an email reminder three days prior to the item’s due date. An overdue notice will be sent by email after one day and again at 7 days overdue. No fees will accumulate during this time. Once an item is 28 days overdue, it will be deemed lost and a lost charge notice will be sent. If the item is returned, the lost charge will be dropped.

For more details on the new fee structure, please visit the library’s Loan Policies and Fines webpage.

Need help with library resources? Don’t know where to start with your paper or thesis? Chat online with a librarian and ask for help on any topic using the Library’s AskAway chat service.
The UBC Open Access Fund for Humanities and Social Sciences Research assists UBC faculty members who wish to publish in Open Access books and journals and who are required to pay associated fees, sometimes known as article processing charges (APCs).
The space will be available Monday-Saturday, include access to desktop computers, printing and scanning and be organized to ensure safe physical distancing at all times.

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