Tuesday, June 26, 2018

AALCI in NYC 2018

We spent a few days in New York City, June 21 - 25.

[Related: AALCI in NYC at the Schomburg]





AALCI in NYC at the Schomburg

We spent a few days in New York City, June 21 - 25. A few shots from our time at the Schomburg.







Related:
AALCI 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Poster Presentation, 2018

Images from our poster presentation.






A project at different stages of development

I got a chance to document Ashley Hamilton's poster at different stages of its development.







Related:
AALCI 2018

Preparations for poster session

Here's a look at the Fellows working on their posters leading up to their presentations.





Related:
AALCI 2018

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sketching out poster plans


We spent some time during Monday's session sketching out plans for our upcoming Poster Presentation session. The Fellows drew sketches of their posters, discussed the design and contents, and took questions.









Related:
AALCI 2018

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The case for increased attention to meetings with students

Student discusses abstract with Joycelyn Moody

The individual meetings that each of the Fellows, Joycelyn Moody, founder of AALCI, and I have are always one of the highlights of our summer program. Year after year, the Fellows present their abstracts to Moody in preparation for the closing public poster sessions. The sessions give the students an opportunity to discuss their projects (with someone other than just me) and respond to questions from a senior scholar in the fields of African American literary studies and African American Studies.

I really wish more universities took this kind of approach of a small meeting session, as opposed to the way that we typically have senior project set up. In many cases I've witnessed for an English department senior project, students will read their research papers for maybe 5 to 8 minutes each on a panel. Usually, there's time for only a few questions for the entire panel.

By contrast, in our 30-minute sessions with AALCI, Moody asks no less than 10 questions. Her questions are often about audience, content, research approaches and alternatives, and potential outcomes. She regularly asks the students why they are really undertaking the projects.

Student and Moody begin to discuss the project abstract 

Note that these questions are taking place at the beginning of the process at the moment where students can make major changes or really solidify their reason for showing interest in a topic. The tone of the meetings encourages the students to devote crucial energy and significant attention to the setup, approach, and process. That's different than when students are prompted to primarily think about the final senior presentation.

We could make a case for increased attention to meetings with students on research projects. Rather than a one-on-one meeting during office hours, how about a situation where students meet with two o more professors? Instead of considerable attention at the end or at the culminating conference, how about more attention at the outset?

Related:
AALCI 2018
Joycelyn Moody and the Coltrane Quartet
A courtside seat with Joycelyn Moody
The Interlocutor, the Ghost Hunter: Joycelyn Moody

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tablets and digital collections


This summer, we've been taking full advantage of these lil tablets to explore a number of African American digital collections. We've looked at book covers of works by Frederick Douglass and Octavia Butler. We've also looked at digital collections focusing on comic books, such as Black Panther and Marvel's Hip Hop Variants.





Related:
AALCI 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

From "the Archive" to Archival Studies with Agnes Czeblakow



During her presentation yesterday, Agnes Czeblakow, Rare Books Librarian at UTSA, was making a point and put up a slide that read "The Archive is not the archives." She then noted, almost in passing, that it's the title of an article by Michelle Caswell. The full title is: “’The Archive’ Is Not an Archives: On Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies.”

Caswell discusses the problem of humanities scholars inadequately viewing and drawing from Archival Studies as a fully-fledged field. The article is generous but necessary critique of how humanities scholars routinely overlook and erase archival labor, even as we regularly discuss and revel in "the archive." 

If I had been distracted for just a second during Czeblakow's presentation, I might have missed out on becoming aware of Caswell's important article. So glad I was paying attention.

I've been writing about a few UTSA librarians and archivists  every summer for nine years. As a testament to the fact that I'm sometimes a slow learner, I now -- finally -- realize that our program has been under-utilizing our time with Tara Schmidt and Czeblakow, and previously with Juli McLoone. Each year, they've generously responded to questions about our summer projects. Greatly appreciated.



However, we could really take advantage of the opportunities to learn more from a Schmidt and a Czeblakow, which is to say from librarians and archivists, by posing far more questions about their work and activities, which includes decision-making, problem-solving, acquisitions, budgets, interactions with large numbers of students, faculty, and staff in different fields, and keeping up with debates within their fields. After all, as Caswell notes, "behind every act of archival practice is at least a century-old theoretical conversation."

For the last few years at the end of the presentations with the Fellows, I'll ask Schmidt and Czeblakow about whether there are any hotly debated topics going on in their respective fields -- libraries and archives -- at the moment. There's never any hesitation, as they quickly begin mentioning issues that everyone's talking about. Why not start there?

Why not begin, sometimes at least, not with the topics that students and humanities faculty are researching? Instead, why not begin with what librarians and archivists are dealing with at the moment? Why not ask them about what they see as major shifts taking place at their institutions and in their fields? We could move from the archive to archival studies.

Related: 
AALCI 2018
Visiting the John Peace Library

Tara Schmidt -- the human search engine

"It's like they say, 'librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find,'" said Tara Schmidt.

Every now and then Google, JSTOR, ProQuest, and other portals work wonders. You pose a question, raise a query, and they provide really useful responses? "What's the...," and they finish your question. "Where's the...," and shortly thereafter they tell you. "How many...?" 7, 52, 365 (or, 365.25 or 365.242). They get you the answer, or some thereabouts.

Just so we're clear though: When JSTOR and ProQuest are at their best, they're emulating librarians. When Google is really on its game, it's pretending to be Tara Schmidt, Coordinator of Information Literacy & Assessment, at John Peace Library. In other words, she's a human search engine. And hey, that gets the order wrong: those search engines are in fact mechanical and digital librarians.



Yesterday when Schmidt was talking about the 680 databases owned by John Peace, I also thought about our database connectors. We have these people out in the world who link us and facilitate our access to multiple online databases. They have some sense of how to match us with the the realms of information we seek.

Schmidt, ever the navigator, has been one of our most valued searcher-connectors. I've commented on her status as one of the great connectors before, noting how enthusiastic she is about putting us in touch with the bodies of knowledge out there.

And here's the thing. Our Fellows have been meeting with her for 9 years now, and we never ask enough questions. We settle by asking about our own, ultimately limited projects, for any given summer. Yet, what about the cumulative queries that Schmidt has responded to over the years? What are the most common questions she receives from faculty, and what have been the toughest search challenges she faced? What knowledge does one acquire and hone in the process of addressing so many different researchers?

"It's like they say," Schmidt offered at one point, quoting proverbial wisdom from her field while laughing at herself, "'librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find.'" And then, "But I really do like to search," she said.

Related:
AALCI 2018
Visiting the John Peace Library

Monday, June 4, 2018

Joycelyn Moody and the 2018 AALCI Fellows


On June 3, we welcomed the 2017 cohort of AALCI Fellows.
• Gaige Davila (University of Texas at San Antonio)
• Kynedi Price (University of Texas at San Antonio)
• Raegan Johnson (Tougaloo College)
• Isaac Ray (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)
• Ashley Hamilton (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)
Related:
AALCI 2018

AALCI cohorts, 2010 - 2018

Here's a look at the 9 cohorts

2010
2011

2012


2013


2014

2015

2016

2017


2018
Related:
AALCI 2018

AALCI 2018



Our activities for the 9th cohort of the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute began on Sunday, June 3, with our opening reception. The following entries chart our progress, activities, and thinking.

AALCI in NYC 2018
AALCI in NYC at the Schomburg
Poster Presentation, 2018
Preparations for poster session
A project at different stages of development
Sketching out poster plans
The case for increased attention to meetings with students
Tablets and digital collections
From "the Archive" to Archival Studies with Agnes Czeblakow
Tara Schmidt -- the human search engine
Joycelyn Moody and the 2018 AALCI Fellows
AALCI cohorts, 2010 - 2018

Related:
A Notebook on AALCI, 2010-2018

A Notebook on AALCI, 2010-2018

AALCI 2010
AALCI 2011
AALCI 2012
AALCI 2013
AALCI 2014
AALCI 2015
AALCI 2016
AALCI 2017
AALCI 2018

• A full list of the entries

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Glance at the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute

Every June since 2010, we've coordinated the African American Literatures and Cultures Institute (AALCI) at the University of Texas at San Antonio. The program was created by Joycelyn Moody -- who's something like the John Coltrane Quartet. I cover the curriculum.

During the summer, we discuss a variety of black studies readings, and we close with a research and cultural trip to New York City. Students receive a small stipend, and abundant intellectual nourishment. AALCI also provides students with GRE instruction and assistance with graduate application materials.

Here's a glance at some of our activities with the past 8 cohorts of AALCI Fellows.

Fellows preparing for poster session, 2017

Poster presentation 2017

Visiting the African Burial Ground, 2016

Institute fellow at the Strand Bookstore in NYC, 2015


Institute course packet 2014