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Virtual Verse in the Library: Capturing Online-Only Poetry for Scholarship and Preservation


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Paper presentation at MLA 2015.

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Virtual Verse in the Library: Capturing Online-Only Poetry for Scholarship and Preservation

  1. 1. Virtual Verse in the Library: Capturing Online-Only Poetry for Scholarship and Preservation Rachel A. Fleming-May University of Tennessee @rachelf_m Harriett E. Green University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign @greenharr MLA 2015 “What Does It Mean to Publish? New Forms of Scholarly Communication” January 8, 2015 | #s176 #mla15
  2. 2. “As glossy magazines die by the dozen and blogs become increasingly influential, we face the reality that print venues…are rapidly ceding ground to Web-based publishing.” —Sandra Beasley, Poets & Writers (2009) @greenharr #s176 #mla15
  3. 3. Changing Landscape The Poets & Writers and Council of Literary Magazines and Presses databases of literary publishers and journals currently feature nearly 800 venues that publish online-only poetry, even if the title has a print counterpart. @greenharr #s176 #mla15
  4. 4. E-Literature and the Role of Libraries? “Though it would be impossible for even a large staff of librarians to track and document everything available electronically, some effort needs to be made. . . . The current challenge seems to be to expand the library’s responsibility beyond information of the past to include information that is being generated in the moment.” —Jake Berry, interview in The Serials Librarian @greenharr #s176 #mla15
  5. 5. While individual poems and short stories published in many print titles are indexed…
  6. 6. Very few poems that appear on the web only are indexed in standard sources… Even if they are published on the web pages of print publications.
  7. 7. The Result? Poems published in web-only publications are discoverable only by “known-item” searching: by title and/or author.
  8. 8. Existing Indexes and Archives • Electronic Literature Organization (ELO): ELO Directory, Electronic Literature Collection vols. 1-2 • ELMCIP Knowledge Base • CELL: Australian Directory of Electronic Literature and Art (ADELTA), nt2 Canada, Arquivo Digital da Literatura Experimental Portuguesa, LitNet, ELO, ELMCIP • PennSound • Univ. of Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center • UbuWeb • From the Fishouse • New Pages • Websites: Poetry Foundation, American Academy of Poets, Woodberry Poetry Room
  9. 9. Virtual Verse in the Library • Funded by 1-year Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Planning Grant • Examine issues related to creating an index of online-only poetry: • Stakeholders’ needs and uses? • What content to include? • Features and functionality? @greenharr #s176 #mla15
  10. 10. Research Design: Environmental Scan • Examine current efforts and potential models: ELO Directory, ELMCIP, etc. • Built index of over 900 publishing outlets • Sample analysis of publishing frequency and scope: • Number of issues • Poems per issue.
  11. 11. Research Design: Stakeholder Consultations • Surveys: • 960 Creative Writing Faculty, 12.5% response • 152 Humanities Librarians, 58% response • 945 Literary Editors/Publishers, 13.4% response • Interviews: 7 creative writing faculty, 7 librarians, 5 editors • Gathered from Poets & Writers magazine database, CLMP online directory, universities’ directories
  12. 12. Key Findings Scholarly Communications and research practices with online poetry • How and why they find and access online works • Functionalities and Tools - How would they use an index? - Preferred functionalities that the respondents desire in an index/archive of e-poetry • Digital Preservation Needs
  13. 13. What is Scholarly Communications? “The system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs.” Association for College and Research Libraries
  14. 14. Open Access The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Budapest Open Access Initiative
  15. 15. Open Access and the Humanities “Open-access scholarship has the potential to reach a broad spectrum of potentially interested publics. We in the humanities often resist opening our work to these publics, however, fearing the consequences of such openness…. Increasing the discoverability of scholarly work on the web, making it available to a broader readership, is a good thing, not just for the individual scholar but for the entirety of the field in which he or she works.” Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Journal of Scholarly Publishing
  16. 16. What Did They Say?
  17. 17. Scholarly Communications: Discovery of Works “Usually I search for a poem or poet, either for teaching purposes (poetry from tradition, generally), or to get a brief look at the work of a poet with whom I'm unfamiliar. Very occasionally I look at something like Poetry magazine online. Sometimes I will follow links to work that I'm notified of by e- mail.” (Faculty) “Personal website or just works published online - another bonus of online publication [is] instant gratification for a reader interested in someone's work.” (Publisher) “I tend to peruse the online version of print journals mostly. I do also use search engines. Rarely do I go directly to an author site or some other non-juried (or minimally juried) source.” (Publisher)
  18. 18. Tools for Scholarly Communication • “Some sort of 'poetry reading' situations, wherein audio is combined with the written word. A conference of sorts wherein poets could queue up and read their pieces, receive feedback, etc.” (Publisher) • Social media tools. I think that if you can convince a lot of online journals to work with you, you might be able to develop a badge/button that a reader could click to ‘Add to’ a personalized version of your online archive.” (Publisher)
  19. 19. Tools for Scholarly Communication “This would be harder to do, but I'd like a curated list of which on-line only journals are most respected. For example, which online journals have been awarded Pushcart Prizes; which online journals have been acknowledged in Best American Poetry series. This kind of selected info would make it far more enjoyable and practical to access poetry on the Web.” (Faculty) “A place for reviews and evaluations of these sources. A way to maybe preserve some of these publications when they go under. I know I have provided links to e-zines only to find out that they closed up shop and there's no access to what was there before.” (Librarian)
  20. 20. Publishing Practices: Online v. Print “I want my name to be online and searchable. Most print journals release 500 or fewer issues. That’s ‘most’ of them. I am aware of the bigger journals that release thousands as well. Still, print is not archivable. If my work is online, it stays there until the journals website possible goes under.” (Publisher/poet) “I prefer print publications, but with the current massive presence of poetry online, one wants to have a few available there for people who search for my name specifically.” (Faculty) “I submit to both. I think online publication helps a poet gain visibility better than print publication, but that fact doesn't factor into my decision whether to submit or not... I just submit to the magazines that publish poems I like, whether they're print or online.” (Faculty)
  21. 21. Scholarly Communications: Exposure of Their Work “It seemed more important for some of my poems to be available online, for anyone to read, forever, easy to find through googling, easy to link to on my own website, etc. I do appreciate when a print publication also publishes online on a different schedule, like Boston Review.” (Publisher/Poet) “Online poems reach more readers. It’s that simple. I also think they can go virual in useful ways.” (Faculty) “More and more, if a poem is not online it does not exist.” (Faculty)
  22. 22. Copyright and Intellectual Integrity • “I think one of the obstacles for poets, who can be nervous about on-line publication, is their perception that they can easily lose ‘control’ of the poem—that others can not only easily distribute, but also easily change, manipulate, or remix the poem.” (Faculty) • “[Online publishing] leads to plagiarism. People have taken my poetry and reproduced it incorrectly, destroying line breaks etc. Pieces of my poems have been taken and used for all sorts of nonsense like advertisements.” (Faculty)
  23. 23. Other Challenges “As an assistant professor, it was made clear to me that on-line publications would not rate in tenure deliberations.” (Faculty) “E-Journals are ephemeral and often disappear quickly. I've never had it happen to me, but I know that sometimes, one can publish in an online journal and that online journal will suddenly disappear. Another challenge: among the more powerful literati, there's still a strong prejudice against publishing online.” (Publisher) “Reliable websites. Nothing else, as reputable roadmap is still in print not web - web is even at best (as archive) secondary/parasitic on publications in the real world, with real editors and publishers. The web, like the real world, is crammed with wannabe rubbish.” (Faculty) “There is also a loss of tactile sensation from book to screen that is changing what well designed typography means.” (Publisher)
  24. 24. Digital Literature and Scholarly Practice “For me it is about an expanded set of artistic tools, presences, venues: diversity and range. It is not about *reducing* the range of these experiences to a digital experience.” (Faculty/Poet) “In general, I value the egalitarian, open quality of the internet. Everyone can get involved in the conversation, and, if the conversation is therefore sometimes unhelpfully chaotic, that's a small price to pay.” (Faculty)
  25. 25. Scholarly Communication Lifecycle FACULTY/WRITERS: • Discover and connect with other writers and works • Promotion & tenure: how to find, access, and evaluate the quality of online-only magazines? PUBLISHERS: • How to effectively publish and sustain online-only work? LIBRARIANS: • How to provide access and preservation of online work ALL: Need tools to discover, access, and interact with online literature
  26. 26. Looking Ahead
  27. 27. What’s Next? • Forthcoming JASIST article with in-depth analyses of findings • How do we build an index of digital literature that integrates into the practices of of creative writing faculty, literary publishers, and information professionals today? “Recognition that the future is now, and it is online - whether to be browsed, downloaded, or archived.”— Faculty Respondent
  28. 28. References Beasley, Sandra. “From Page to Pixels: The Evolution of Online Journals.” Poets & Writers 37, no 3 (2009). May, Alan. “Interview with Jake Berry, Editor of Outré, Artifact Collective Texts, Anomaly, The Experioddicist, and Currently 9th St. Laboratories.” Serials Librarian 55, no. 1/2 (2008): 296- 303. Paling, Stephen and Michael Nilan. “Technology, Genres, and Value Change: The Case of Little Magazines.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57, no. 7 (2006): 862-872. Stevens, Jen. “Long-Term Literary E-Zine Stability: Issues and Access in Libraries.” Technical Services Quarterly 22, no.1 (2004): 21–32. DOI: 10.1300/J124v22n01_03 Stevens, Jen and McCord, Sarah K. "Long-Term Literary E-Zine Stability: A Predictive Model.” Technical Services Quarterly 22, no. 3 (2005): 29-45. DOI: 10.1300/J124v22n03_03 Sukovic, Suzana. “Convergent Flows: Humanities Scholars and Their Interactions with Electronic Texts.” Library Quarterly 78, no. 3 (2008): 263-284.
  29. 29. Picture Credits • "the written word,” by palo, on Flickr, 1 • "Magnifying Glass,” by Auntie P, on Flickr, • "Paris: telescope on Eiffel Tower // Teleskop auf dem Eiffelturm” by brongaeh, on Flickr, 456
  30. 30. THANK YOU! Harriett Green English and Digital Humanities Librarian University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign @greenharr DOWNLOAD SLIDES AT: