|Volume 58 Number 1
Digital Scrapbooking at UT Libraries
University of Tennessee Libraries
Program Abstract: UT Libraries is expanding our diversity initiatives by featuring a pilot program that will involve UT student assistants sharing their study abroad experiences on the library website. By giving access to web space, we facilitate communication between students studying abroad and their UT community. The digital scrapbooking concept can be modified to any type of library environment.
The University of Tennessee has been striving to increase efforts in the areas of diversity and globalization for the past several years. The current strategic plan created by the provost and planning committee lists outreach and globalization as one of our priorities. Included in the goals to measure this priority are, “Develop system-wide priorities for globalization activities,” and, “Expand international staff/faculty/student exchange programs” (1). One of the steps taken to support these efforts has been the creation of the campus-wide Ready for the World initiative. According to the Ready for the World website, “Ready for the World is part of a long-range plan to transform the campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century” (2).
In line with and in support of these efforts, the library, too, places an emphasis on diversity. Our Library Strategic Plan for 2005-2008 includes a section on diversity and has a very active Diversity Committee in place. The mission of the Diversity Committee states, “The Committee endorses a broad definition of diversity, and seeks to provide programs and resources that enhance knowledge and encourage understanding of diversity. The Committee strives to provide leadership for the Libraries in meeting the needs of all its constituencies and special populations” (3).
The Diversity Committee has been involved in many staff initiatives such as creating the libraries’ minority resident librarian program, facilitating discussions for librarians and staff to share travel experiences, and creating a “Culture Corner” display featuring library materials centered around a culture each semester. One area that seemed to be lacking was a way for students to have a voice, and the ability to actively contribute to the library diversity initiatives.
During the summer of 2007 two student library employees working in the Media Center and Studio had been accepted in the Programs Abroad program and were planning to travel to Japan for the 2007-2008 academic year. During their planning, they were discussing methods to stay in communication with their friends and family. Discussion with them sparked the idea to consider facilitating this communication and broadening it to allow them to share their experiences with the UT community. The concept was to allow them both to create a personal website, hosted on the library server, to share their experiences.
As the concept evolved, it became clear that this would not only fit within the diversity initiatives of the library and campus but could potentially open up a new avenue not previously explored – that of allowing students to contribute personal experience to this diversity dialog. This new opportunity to engage the students was very exciting. We soon realized that the two initial students would be ideal candidates for this project for a number of reasons. First, they had both been working with the library for some time and had proven themselves to be mature and responsible individuals. Thus, we did not feel there would be an issue or need to monitor the information they posted on the library server. Secondly, both students had experience creating websites and were comfortable with the technology. Finally, both had laptops with web design software they were planning to take on their trips. Both were approached about the concept and were excited about the possibility.
With the concept in place and the students on board, it was time to make a concrete plan of action. This was a fairly simple process. We would plan for some space on the library web server, create user accounts, and provide that information to the students. Additionally, we needed to plan for a contact person for these students to be in touch with if there were any technical issues once they began posting materials while in Japan. Because the students were already familiar with web design, there was not a need for much training before their departure.
After the nuts and bolts to carry out the project were recognized, the necessary people who would be essential for its success had to be contacted. Since there was strength in numbers, partnering with an established committee was necessary. The library Diversity Committee co-chairs were contacted and, after meeting with the committee as a whole to discuss the plan for this pilot program, the committee voted to partner with the projects creator. This project was seen as fitting in well with the diversity plan for the library.Web space would be needed, and a meeting between the project’s creator and staff from the Library Technical Services department was arranged. After being presented with the project’s concept it was agreed upon to ask for permission from the library dean for web space.
The dean asked the pilot project group to contact the Center For International Education on campus and the campus Ready For the World committee for possible future partnership, and to make them aware of the current active sponsorship. That permission was given and the project could move on to the next step. Because these necessary permissions were not in place when the students departed for Japan, the students started their web pages using a free hosting service until they could transfer to the larger web space the library would ultimately provide.
With the parts of the project finally coming together, final approval and permission from the dean was necessary for the students to begin transferring their web pages to library web space. The students were anxious to begin this process, as it would allow them to expand upon the limited capabilities their existing web space offered. A meeting was arranged with the library dean and the finalized project was presented whereas the necessary approval and permissions were given for the project to move forward.
As part of the process of providing the project for students to be able to interact with their campus cohorts, word had to go out about the existence of the project. The students contacted their closest friends, co-workers and professors with the URL’s for their web pages, but others on campus needed to discover the project as well. Emails were sent to all library staff, and a statement explaining the project was placed on the library’s Share News page, a web page that allows staff and faculty within the library to share news and other information with one another.
Other opportunities were investigated to broaden knowledge of the project outside the library, and the opportunity to present the concept at the Tennessee Library Association’s annual conference as a poster session was pursued. This research has prospective toward new levels of service for faculty, students and other library users. As we, the group working on the pilot project, watched it grow, we realized that a natural next step would be to seek input and feedback from other library colleagues who perhaps were also considering creative communication and service models. Collaboration was a key goal for external sharing at the Tennessee Library Association Annual Conference. Since our project was a pilot effort still in its early stages, a poster session was the right medium for introducing the project. This was an ideal platform for us to entertain questions and justify the multiple benefits of our digital scrapbooking. Some questions from our Tennessee colleagues included:
• How did we come up with the idea?
• Why isn’t the digital scrapbooking project a blog?
• What were the students’ majors?
• How long are the students studying abroad?
• Will the project continue when the students have completed their study abroad classes?
• How were these students selected to participate in the project?
• What are our next steps with the project?
In a poster session, Sharing Culture Shock through a Collection of Experiences, by Babatunde Azeez et al., “foreign students often feel isolated, afraid, inferior and insecure.” The authors agree that digital sharing is a solution for helping international students cope and assimilate into different cultures (4). As new technologies become available it is important that our library services are examined for ways to share and learn from one another, all working together to improve the quality of life for students.
With the end of this pilot year in sight, it is time to ask some hard questions concerning the program: what has been accomplished with it, if it will be carried forward, and how? The students involved in this pilot will be in Japan until September, but the pilot will end in August as a new Diversity Committee will replace the existing one. With some guidance from this committee’s experience with the pilot program, a decision should be easy to make. There is also the possibility that the Programs Abroad office will want to adopt this project if funding is available. For now, though, during the few remaining months left for this pilot, the Diversity Committee, and the pilot’s creator will monitor the web sites of the two students to make sure all links are working correctly and to visualize the participation between the students and their cohorts left stateside. All parties currently involved in the project agree that the work of these students should not be lost after the pilot phase has ended. The Diversity Committee will archive and make these two sites available regardless of the outcome of future efforts for partnership.
Wrapping up the pilot program will include contacting the Center for International Education to seek partnership in merging our small project with their larger project. They are in the process of designing a podcast and blog as part of their communications service with UT students studying abroad. As a collaborator, the library could provide training for these students to properly equip them with the knowledge to use and create their blogs. An ideal situation would be for the Programs Abroad Office to agree to archive the participating students' websites. The service should expand beyond archiving and downloading. By expanding the features, this service could be used to further improve UT's international and intercultural commitments. For example, this service can be utilized in UT’s foreign language classes to add an interactive level to the curriculum. Students could communicate with one another within their specific language field of study. The overall goal is to finalize the plans for this new Service with the Center of International Education by the end of summer 2008.
1. A Spirit. A Vision. A Plan. Defining the strategic role and mission of the University of Tennessee system. http://scorecard.tennessee.edu/docs/UT-Strategic-Plan.pdf
2. Ready for the World: The International and Intercultural Awareness Initiative. http://www.utk.edu/readyfortheworld/
3. UT Libraries Diversity Committee. http://www.lib.utk.edu/diversity/
4. Azeez, Babatunde, Andruid Kerne, Joseph Southern, Bridgette Summerfield, Isaac Aholu, and Eshita Sharmin. (2004). Sharing Culture Shock Through a Collection of Experiences. In Proceedings of the 4th ACM/IEEE-CS International Conference on Digital libraries. Poster session conducted at the ACM/IEEE-CS International Conference on Digital Libraries, Tucson, Arizona. Retrieved from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=996350.996468, 2008 April.
Appendix: Scrapbook Examples