LES Events at ALA Annual in Washington, DC

Saturday, June 22

8:30 – 10:00 AM Executive Committee Meeting I (ACRL LES), Washington Hilton, U Street

4:00 – 5:30 PM General Membership Forum (ACRL LES), Washington Hilton, Columbia 08,11,12

6:00 PM LES Social — The Punch Garden at the Columbia Room, 124 Blagden Alley NW

Sunday, June 23

8:30 – 10:00 AM All-Committees Meeting (ACRL LES), Washington Hilton, Georgetown East

10:30 – 11:30 AM Reference Discussion Group (ACRL LES), Washington Hilton, Cardozo

1:00 – 2:00 PM Collections Discussion Group (ACRL LES), Washington Hilton, Cardozo

Monday, June 24

9:00 – 10:00 AM Difficult Discussions: Diversity in Digital Collections and Archives (ACRL DSS/ACRL LES Program), Washington Convention Center, 145A

10:30 – 11:30 AM Executive Committee Meeting II (ACRL LES), Washington Hilton, Cardozo

You can also search for the LES events via the conference scheduler: Conference Scheduler – LES
We hope to see you in Washington, Dc!

Volunteer with LES!

Calling all LES volunteers! Committee work is a great way to meet new colleagues and get more involved in ACRL, so I encourage you to fill out the volunteer form. Select ACRL_LES from the drop-down at the bottom of the page.

Current committee members whose terms conclude at the 2015 Annual Conference should submit a new volunteer form if they wish to be considered for re-appointment.

The online volunteer form must be completed by February 15, 2015, for consideration for 2015-16 appointments.  Most terms begin July 1, 2015, and are one to two years. To ensure everyone has a chance to volunteer, most section appointments will not be made until after February 15th, with two exceptions: the 2016 Nominating and 2016 Conference Program Planning committees are appointed earlier.

At the moment, I know we are especially looking for volunteers for the:

  • 2015 Conference Planning Committee
  • 2016 Nominating Committee
  • Reference Discussion Group Co-chairs (two positions)

However, that is not an exhaustive list, and we welcome volunteers for any position! If more than one committee looks interesting, you can select more than one, though likely you will only be appointed to one.

Learn more about each committee’s work here:

On a personal note, I found volunteering with LES, especially as a new literature librarian, an invaluable way to meet new colleagues and learn about the profession, so I encourage others to consider it.

Please let me know if you have any questions about or trouble with the process.

Amanda Rust / LES Vice-Chair 

Source: LES-L Discussion List

The Critical Librarian / The Scholar Librarian / Other library literary critical approaches?

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

With this post, I want to do one thing, and I want to avoid doing another thing.


–I want to ask for feedback about the scholarly practices of librarians with subject expertise in English Literature.


–I do not want to get tied up in the PhD v. MLS debate sparked by Jeff Trzeciak’s April talk on the Future of Academic Librarianship. I know there are merits to talking about the differences between these degrees, but there is plenty of discussion taking place elsewhere on the subject.


So, with that out of the way…


*It has occurred to me lately that many English Literature specialists publish scholarly articles all the time, but I’m not sure how many publish scholarly articles that pertain to (or amount to) English Literary criticism. My first question, then, would be: what amount of our scholarly output as professionals might fall in this domain? I’d love to hear from people who are doing work they consider literary critical, and I’d love to hear about people you know of who are doing this kind of work. I’d also like to hear from those who don’t do it, of course, but (as I said above) I’m not particularly interested in rehearsing a debate about educational backgrounds; there’s no reason to assume that a subject-based critical practice would be arrogated to the PhD-holders.


*My second, related, question is: are there (could there be) meaningful differences in the way librarians do literary critical work? That is to say, might librarians be bringing something unique to the table here, and if they are, how would we describe that uniqueness?


*My third, and final, question depends on the first two. If there isn’t interest in those, then the answer to this one is obviously just, “no.” Might it make sense to start a peer-reviewed academic journal (probably open-access / online) that focuses specifically on the critical scholarship of subject specialist librarians? I’m probably imagining a “humanities” scope rather than the narrower “literature” scope, but you see where I’m going with this…

Digital Questions, pt. 1

About Aaron McCollough

English Literature Librarian, University of Michigan

Although I’m a little hesitant to post my first blog entry while a significant portion of the LES group is immersed in the ALA Midwinter Convention, I’m sure many others like me will be staying put this week and looking on virtually.


It is significant for us all, certainly, that the MLA convention is also taking place just up the road in Los Angeles, and today’s panel session there (3:30-4:45) sponsored by the new Libraries and Research in Languages and Literatures discussion group gives me an excuse to broach a subject many of us are thinking about. The panel is called “Literary Research in/and Digital Humanities” and features six presentations on the potential and problems of collaboration in digital environments between Literature Librarians and Literary Scholars. A nice group of presentation abstracts is available in a LibGuide set up by panel organizer Jim Kelly at: http://guides.library.umass.edu/MLA2011.


I wish I could make it to this panel, as I find myself thinking about digital scholarship more every day. In lieu of that though, I’d love to get comments from those who are able to attend. I’m sure other readers would be interested, as well. I’d also like to hear non-presenters (those who were or weren’t able to make it to the MLA panel) about how this panel corresponds to ongoing or anticipated activities at their home institutions.


My questions are several. But most basically I’d like to hear what kinds of digital Library/English department collaborations are happening around the country right now. The panelists at the MLA event give us a glimpse at some, and I’m aware of many others via my work with the EEBO-Text Creation Partnership. Still, it seems to me that a more categorical list of what is happening would be helpful to all English Literature Librarians as they work to develop their sense of the digital services the discipline is starting to demand.


There have been plenty of efforts to pin down a sense of what the elusive “Digital Humanities” are (or can be). As a useful first step, there seem to be many discussions floating around about what Humanists (and by inference Literary specialists) do with the objects of their study. Digital Humanists presumably do those same things but with the help of digital prosthetics. Two brief and rather elegant accounts of what Humanist do may be found, in fact, in a piece by Mary Claire Vandenburg in the most recent issue of our own BiblioNotes.


Mary cites John Unsworth’s short-list of common humanities activities: “discovering, annotating, comparing, referring, sampling, illustrating and representing” (7). She then goes on to suggest that the Humanities is really “a set of skills or ‘ways of doing’ which allows us to make sense of our world” (8). Here again, one infers that the digital addition to this set of practices would be in keeping with our increasing immersion in a world that is digitally mediated — or, that the Digital Humanities is a set of ‘ways of digital doing’ that allows us to make sense of our digital world).


Given all this, I’m very curious to hear more about what these digital “ways of doing” look like or entail in specific cases and how they make use of the skills/resources we have to offer as Literature Librarians.


My sense is that, currently, most digital literary scholarship fits roughly under the rubric of curatorial and/or editorial work. Do others share this sense? I notice, for example, that Unsworth’s list does not include words like “analyze,” “interpret,” or “explain.” Perhaps he covers this territory with his “illustrating or representing,” however.


Of the abstracts for the MLA panel, Manuel M. Martin-Rodriquez’s project strikes me as the most explicitly inquiry-driven use of digital tools insofar as it seeks to capture and manipulate literary information in a way that would be hard to accomplish without computers. It seems to have what we might call a literary research question built into it from the outset and to be using digital methods to “discover” (to use another of Unsworth’s terms) an answer or answers to the question. I don’t mean to say this is a more proper way of proceeding than the curatorial/editorial approaches. Each has its benefits and limitations. I would imagine Martin-Rodriguez’s work would be a less flexible tool for other, future scholars precisely because it is asking a question from inception. Projects like Heather Bowlby’s and Marija Dalbello’s might well have broader applicability because they have fewer built-in assumptions about the kinds of inquiry pertinent to their study.


What do you think? Did elements come to light in the panel that I could never anticipate from reading only the abstracts? And, what’s going in your departments? Are the digital scholars you work with more interested in inquiry or edition-making? If this is a false binary, then how do you see things shaping themselves? What are the objects of digital literary study and what digital tools are required to make sense of them?

LES Job Shadowing Program

Realizing the importance of recruiting future librarians, the ACRL Literatures in English section has begun a job shadowing program for those interested in becoming Humanities Librarians.  Job shadowing is a way for potential librarians to learn more about the field of librarianship and the day-to-day work of a librarian.  It will also help future librarians form mentoring relationships and begin the important work of networking.  This program is open to anyone in the United States.  We welcome undergraduate students, graduate students, and those considering switching careers.   LES will match those interested in a job shadowing opportunity with volunteers from LES.  The actual job shadowing usually takes place over the course of one day.

If you are interested in being hosted by an LES librarian, please fill out this form. We will attempt to match you with an academic librarian working at an institution in your area.

If you are an LES member who would like to volunteer to host someone, please contact Arianne Hartsell-Gundy at hartsea@muohio.edu.  If you’ve previously expressed interest in hosting someone, your name is on the list and there’s no need to let me know again.

Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested.  More information can be found here.

LES and WESS Join Forces at ALA Annual 2010

About Timothy Hackman

Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.

We hope you can join us for what promises to be an excellent program at ALA Annual. This year’s program is co-sponsored by LES and the Western European Studies Section (WESS) and is entitled Contemporary European Fiction in Translation:

Globalization and migration across linguistic borders create cross-cultural awareness and increase the need for translated fiction. Most North American readers rely on the publication of translated works for access to contemporary European and World literature, yet many publishers are hesitant, claiming that American audiences do not respond positively to literature in translation. What do librarians need to know to build collections and promote European literature in translation? Panelists will explore translation theory and cultural studies, publishing translations in North America, and translation poetics and pragmatics.

Our prestigious panel will be moderated by Richard Hacken, European Studies Bibliographer at Brigham Young University, and will include:

  • Chad Post, Director, Open Letter, Rochester University, discussing “The State of Literature in Translation Today;”
  • Alane Salierno Mason, President, Words Without Borders and Vice President and Senior Editor, W.W. Norton & Company, discussing “The Promise and Peril of Authors as Cultural Ambassadors;” and
  • Dr. Edwin Gentzler, Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of The Translation Center, University of Massachusetts (Amherst), discussing “The Cultural Turn in Translation Studies”

Hope to see you there, Saturday, June 26, 1:30-3:30pm, Renaissance Washington Hotel (999 9th St. NW), Renaissance West Room A/B.

More program information is available on the WESS Wiki: http://wess.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Upcoming_WESS_Conferences

You can also view our event flyer: Invitation.pdf

Become a LES Mentor!

About Timothy Hackman

Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.

The Membership Committee is soliciting applications for its mentoring program.  If you’re an experienced (or semi-experienced) literature librarian, please consider sharing your knowledge and experiences by becoming a LES mentor.

To join the LES mentoring program, as either a mentor or mentee, simply fill out the online form here:


Call for LES Committee Participation

About Timothy Hackman

Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.

Are you the type of person who likes to be involved in activities such as blogging, newsletter editing, recruitment, governance issues, or conference program planning? Do you enjoy working with friendly, knowledgeable people? Have you wished you could network with others in your field? Is the world of English-language literature librarianship important to you? Have you kept your LES membership current?

My friend, if you answered Yes to these questions, you ought to be serving on an ACRL-Literatures in English Section committee! There are so many to choose from! Take a look at the committee descriptions, and then complete an online Volunteer Form. Learn more about LES  at our homepage.

If you have already completed a form there’s no need to fill out another. But it would be helpful if you would contact Liorah Golomb to let her know you’re still interested in serving. I volunteered, and so have dozens of other librarians just like you. You can, too! Join us!

Teaching Literary Research, Chapter 1: Information Literacy as Situated Literacy

About Timothy Hackman

Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.

[This is the first post in a series of chapter-by-chapter discussions of the book ‘Teaching Literary Research: Challenges in a Changing Environment,’ edited by Kathleen Johnson and Steven Harris. ACRL Publications in Librarianship #60, 2009.]

So I’ve finished about half of the book and, despite taking some Teaching Literary Researchslack for posting it in my “Currently Reading” queue on Facebook, I am enjoying it so far. I particularly appreciate the perspectives of literature and rhet/comp faculty members on reshaping the way we teach literary research for a new generation of students.

Van Hillard, the director of the College Writing Program at Davidson College, begins the first chapter by discussing the ACRL Information Literacy Standards, which he finds to be useful guidelines but also problematic in several ways. First, they are “autonomous,” i.e., they are independent of any context for their use. Instead he argues for a “situated” view of information literacy, one in which “literate practices shape and are shaped by social, cultural, political and economic forces such that literacy events–a particular search for information, a specific occasion for composing an argument, a certain classification of a tradition of inquiry, the cataloguing of a monograph, the use and definition of a key term in writing–are understood as context-specific within the universe of social activities of knowledge production and reproduction.” Another problem comes with the very term “information literacy” itself:  while it is clear that librarians think in terms of “locating information,” those who teach and practice academic writing think in terms of evidence, analysis and argument, which “are typically not understood as predominantly informational in nature.” (13)

More to the point, Hillard sees in ACRL’s standards a set of skills the student is expected to acquire for the purpose of becoming a fully independent researcher. They stress efficiency in finding information, not critical skill at evaluating or incorporating it into the body of one’s argument, thus ignoring the fact that literacy is both social and “situated” in nature. By “situated information literacy,” Hillard means literacy that is made up of “events,” specific interactions between a user and the research tools designed to answer a specific question at a specific point in time. It is not a context-free skill, but one that is very much determined by the social/political/cultural context in which the researcher’s question is asked and answered. The context determines how and what information is created, acquired, organized and accessed; it is therefore impossible to ignore and offers opportunities for inquiry. Likewise, literacy is social because of those interactions, not just between the researcher and the text, but between the researcher and his fellow researchers (past, present and future), librarians, etc. who are also a part of the process. I found his description of the library as a social sphere especially inspiring:

“One starting place for such recovery comes with thinking of the library not as some vast storehouse of data, but rather as an elaborate argument, a site where users activate and reactivate conversations and disagreements across space and time… Every time a student enters the library (physically or virtually) she, in effect, involves herself in a vast community of participants whose exchanges represent traditions of inquiry, public controversies, disciplinary disputes, and schools of thought.” (16)

It’s a beautiful depiction of humanities research, in which the researcher joins a conversation that is already in progress. (Later in the book, Kate Koppelman’s chapter on “Literary Eavesdropping and the Socially Graceful Critic” elaborates on (and points out additional difficulties with) this same idea, but I’ll wait to discuss that.) Hillard’s point is that librarians and faculty should work together to “treat research not simply as contact with information, but as participation within the professional culture we call the library” (19). He concludes by giving some general suggestions for how this can be accomplished, but admits that “This is a project that undoubtedly will require time, energy, and resources.” The questions he asks about information literacy and the research culture have no easy answers, but I’m glad that someone is asking them.

Author Conversation…Laura Taddeo

What is your most recent publication?

A chapter in the book Teaching Literary Research: Challenges in a Changing Environment, ACRL Publications in Librarianship #60.   Co-written with Austin Booth, the chapter is entitled The Changing Nature of the Book: Literary Research, Cultural Studies, and the Digital Age.

How did you decide to write it?

The editors, Kathleen Johnson and Steven Harris, put out a call to the LES List asking for proposals from librarians interested in contributing to a publication about the challenges of teaching literary research in the twenty-first century.  At the time, our University libraries were going through many administrative and staffing changes.  My supervisor, the Director of Collections (who also had been the Literature liaison prior to me) was interested in writing about the way collections and reference was evolving.  Digital resources were becoming the main focus of our bibliographic instruction. As we reflected upon past teaching experiences and collaborations with faculty, we agreed that cultural studies had a tremendous influence on the English curriculum at the University at Buffalo and heavily influenced what we incorporated into our library workshops.  We assumed other librarians and faculty might be interested in some of our practical approaches.

What was the process that you went through?

We first had to write a proposal for a chapter.  Once we found out the chapter idea was accepted, the editors sent us guidelines to follow, including deadlines, format, style manuals, content/length, copyright permissions. We were instructed to model the chapter on the previous book sponsored by LES, Literature in English: A Guide for Librarians in the Digital Age (ACRL Publications in Librarianship #54). The book’s audience is meant for both academic librarians and English (or Modern Languages) Department faculty members.  Authors were instructed to explain any discipline-specific terminology in order to make their meaning clear to non-specialist readers and to avoid library jargon.

While Austin and I did some research to form the proposal, a lot more research and outlines followed before we came up with our first draft.  We had taught many literature-based information literacy classes and wanted to put together practical tips for literature librarians, while also providing some sort “conversation” about the changing nature of the book, and the influence of cultural studies on the English curriculum.  The chapter went through several editing stages before it actually was ready for publication. The first round of changes was the most difficult because we were told to shorten some sections, expand others, or provide more unique teaching examples.

Talk a bit about the publication.

The emergence of cultural studies as a theoretical framework for literary studies and the wealth of digital technologies available to humanities scholars has certainly changed how students and faculty teach and do research.  Alternative research methods include examining the production, distribution and consumption of literary texts in their sociohistorical contexts; studying canon formation and genre definition; and examining a wider array of material, including popular texts and non-written material such as film and hypertext productions. Our  chapter describes approaches to teaching literary research that explore the significance of cultural studies as well as the relationships among cultural studies, digital texts and information literacy standards.  We provide descriptions of classes and assignments that we used for English undergraduate and graduate students at UB.

What did you like most about the process/project?

The best part was that we were forced to re-evaluate some of our past teaching practices.  While most of our classes tend to benefit both the students and faculty, there is always room for improvement. Writing about class assignments or collaborations among faculty gave us more ideas for future projects. We also identified new ways librarians can incorporate the basic philosophy of the ACRL’s “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” into the English curriculum.

What did you like least?

Editing my own work was very difficult.  The editors made some very good comments about certain things that needed to be changed or revised.  Even constructive criticism is hard to acknowledge at first.  I thought it would be difficult co-writing a chapter, but it was actually a valuable experience.  I learned a lot from my writing partner, who had more experience working with our English faculty and also more knowledge about the history of cultural studies.  It also made the editing process less painful because we had one another to bounce ideas off of and we could proof each other’s work. Waiting for the final product to finally come out was a little frustrating because it took a few years for the actual book to be published.  However, most academic publications tend to go through a long publication process.

What suggestions would you have for LES members who would like to become involved in research and publication?

Most of my publications have come from calls for papers distributed through listservs.  Staying abreast of what topics are “hot” is very important.  Also, write about something you like to do-it makes the writing so much easier.  And if you have a co-author, make sure you know the author’s writing style and work ethic. You don’t want to have to do drastic editing to make the paper read smoothly. And you also do not want to carry all the weight.  Each writer should have an equal amount of work to contribute to the piece. I began writing book reviews for a journal that one of my colleagues edited.  That’s a good way to get into the writing mode and start to understand the publication process. You should look at a publication’s turn-around time if submitting to a scholarly journal.  Most people writing are on a tenure-track and need to publish to receive a promotion, so timing is important. And always understand the copyright provisions.  Authors should consider alternatives to the traditional modes of scholarly publication such as open-access journals.

Why is something like this important to you?

I always liked research and writing and being around books, so becoming a librarian seemed a natural fit.  Having an academic position is demanding in the sense that I am expected to teach, publish, do reference and collection development work as well join numerous university committees.   Finding time to write has become a top priority for me. Just knowing that the final product will be a contribution to the scholarship of the library field is both professionally and personally rewarding.

Laura Taddeo, Humanities Librarian, University at Buffalo