A LAUC-B Conference to Remember!

LAUC-B 2021 Conference Banner

LAUC-B is the Berkeley chapter of the Librarians Association of the University of California, and it helps us librarians in so many ways.   When we come to campus to interview, we have lunch with LAUC-B representatives (and the conversation is confidential, so we can ask the REAL questions we have).  When we arrive as new librarians, LAUC-B connects us with mentors.  It provides support for our promotion and review process, and it provides a strong sense of community as we navigate this complicated campus.

One important thing LAUC-B does is offer professional development sessions, culminating in its conference every two years.  The 2021 conference (which we posted about here the other day) just concluded, and multiple attendees, from all over the country (and even internationally) said that it was the best one they’ve attended in the past year (just to pat ourselves on the back a little bit!).  So, what does a great librarian conference look like?

First of all, it takes a village; this year, for the first time, we Berkeley librarians welcomed librarians from other UC campuses to help us, and we had planning committee members from UCLA, UC Irvine, and UC San Diego.  Second, it takes communication; in the online world created by the pandemic, at the same time we both needed to get the word out widely, and we were able to, by using email lists, social media, and other channels.  This was so important, because the conference content—which was amazing—depended on us reaching a range of people and settings and locations.  Third, it takes flexibility (with a large dose of preparation)!  The planning committee was taking the conference from its historical in-person format to happening online for the first time, and that came with many challenges, even given the wonderful support from the Library Events Department—we changed conference platforms at the last minute, we became experts at Zoom bombing prevention, and learned more than we thought possible about captioning so that we could be ADA compliant.

The title of the conference is “Reimagining Libraries Through Critical Library Practices”, and our description notes that: “Library work is embedded in and inherently tied to socio-political circumstances. The programming in this conference examines librarianship through the lenses of social justice, diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racist work, Black studies, Latinx studies, Indigenous studies, cultural and critical ethnic studies, intersectional feminism, critical disability studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, and queer interventions in digital studies.”

We felt extremely fortunate that the proposals we received were so on point and so strong and deep, including: invited keynote presentations from Clara Chu and Lalitha Nataraj; 6 additional featured presentations; 5 lightning talks; and 11 posters (with which attendees had two different time slots to engage). Many of the presenters included a land acknowledgement and/or a positionality statement as they began their talks, engaging the attendees to consider their own locations and positions, and the UC Berkeley statement included this Rematriation Resource Guide from the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. Attendees also agreed to uphold the conference’s Code of Conduct Statement.

If you’d like a sense of the 2-day event, please take a look at the conference website, and also at our Twitter hashtag. Session recordings will soon be available, linked on the website and hosted on the Library’s YouTube channel. Also notable were the elegant design offerings, including the logo you see above, which were created by UC Berkeley Library staffer and graphic designer Sarah Chieko Bonnickson, as well as the atmospheric and stress-reducing playlist, which was relayed between sessions and about which people raved, by UC Berkeley librarian Kristina Bush.  If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact us at laucbconfinfo [at] lists.berkeley.edu, and please enjoy the Twitter screenshots below, while we enjoy our (distanced) celebratory beverages!

LAUCB Conference Tweet--sessions connect

LAUCB Conference Tweet- the Circle Way

LAUCB Conference Tweet- Neurodivergence

LAULAUCB Conference Tweet-Nisha Mody's presentation

LAUCB Conference Tweet- Lia UCSD

LAUCB Conference Tweet - MIchael and Christina

LAUCB Conference Tweet- Most Effective Stories

LAUCB Conference Tweet-Closing Thanks


“Big Data as a Way of Life”: How the UCB Library Can Support Big Data Research at Berkeley

This post summarizes findings and recommendations from the Library’s Ithaka S+R Local Report, “Supporting Big Data Research at the University of California, Berkeley” released on October 1, 2021.  The research was conducted and the report written by Erin D. Foster, Research Data Management Program Service Lead, Research IT & University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Library, Ann Glusker, Sociology, Demography, Public Policy, & Quantitative Research Librarian, UCB Library, and Brian Quigley, Head of the Engineering & Physical Sciences Division, UCB Library.

OVERVIEW:

In 2020, the Ithaka S+R project “Supporting Big Data Research” brought together twenty-one U.S. institutions to conduct a suite of parallel studies aimed at understanding researcher practices and needs related to data science methodologies and big data research. A team from the UCB Library conducted and analyzed interviews with a group of researchers at UC Berkeley.  The timeline appears below.  The UC Berkeley team’s report outlines the findings from the interviews with UC Berkeley researchers and makes recommendations for potential campus and library opportunities to support big data research.  In addition to the UCB local report, Ithaka S+R will be releasing a capstone report later this year that will synthesize findings from all of the parallel studies to provide an overall perspective on evolving big data research practices and challenges to inform emerging services and support across the country.

Timeline of activities of Berkeley Ithaka report creation (June 2020-October 2021)

PROCESS:

After successfully completing human subjects review, and using an interview protocol and training provided by Ithaka S+R, the team members recruited and interviewed 16 researchers from across ranks and disciplines whose research involved big data, defined as data having at least two of the following: volume, variety, and velocity.

Two charts showing the distribution of researchers interviewed, by their rank and their discipline (4 categories each)

THEMES:

After transcribing the interviews and coding them using an open coding process, six themes emerged.  These themes and sub-themes are listed below and treated fully in the final report.  The report includes a number of quotes so that readers can “hear” the voices of Berkeley’s big data researchers most directly.  In addition, the report outlines the challenges reported by researchers within each theme.

List of the six themes developed from the research, and the subthemes associated with each

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The most important part of the entire research process was developing a list of recommendations for the UC Berkeley Library and its campus partners. Based on the needs and challenges expressed by researchers, and influenced by our own sense of the campus data landscape including the newly formed Library Data Services Program, these recommendations are discussed in more detail in the full report.  They reflect the two main challenges that interviewees reported Berkeley faces as big data research becomes increasingly common.  One challenge is that the range of discrete data operations happening all over campus, not always broadly promoted, means that it is easy to have duplications of services and resources — and silos. The other (related) challenge is that Berkeley has a distinctive data landscape and a long history of smaller units on campus being at the cutting edge of data activities. How can these be better integrated while maintaining their individuality and freedom of movement?  Additionally, funding is a perennial issue, given the fact that Berkeley is a public institution in an area with a high cost of living and a very competitive salary structure for tech workers who provide data supports.

Here are the report’s recommendations in brief:

  1. Create a research-welcoming “third place” to encourage and support data cultures and communities.

The creation of a “data culture” on campus, which can infuse everything from communications to curricula, can address challenges related to navigating the big data landscape at Berkeley, including collaboration/interdisciplinarity, and the gap between data science and domain knowledge. One way to operationalize this idea is to utilize the concept of the “third place,” first outlined by Ray Oldenburg.  This can happen in, but should not be limited to, the library, and it can occur in both physical and virtual spaces.  Encouraging open exploration and conversation across silos, disciplines, and hierarchies is the goal, and centering Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (JEDI) as a core principle is essential.

  • The University Library, in partnership with Research IT, conducts continuous inquiry and assessment of researchers and data professionals, to be sure our efforts address the in-the-moment needs of researchers and research teams.
  • The University Library, in line with being a “third place” for conversation and knowledge sharing, and in partnership with a range of campus entities, sponsors programs to encourage cross-disciplinary engagement.
  • Research IT and other campus units institute a process to explore resource sharing possibilities across teams of researchers in order to address duplication and improve efficiency.
  • The University Library partners with the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society (CDSS) to explore possibilities for data-dedicated physical and virtual spaces to support interdisciplinary data science collaboration and consultation.
  • A consortium of campus entities develops a data policy/mission statement, which has as its central value an explicit justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) focus/requirement.
  1. Enhance the campus computing and data storage infrastructure to support the work of big data researchers across all disciplines and funding levels.

Researchers expressed gratitude for campus computing resources but also noted challenges with bandwidth, computing power, access, and cost. Others seemed unaware of the full extent of resources that were available to them. It is important to ensure that our computing and storage options meet researcher needs and then encourage them to leverage those resources.

  • Research, Teaching & Learning and the University Library partner with Information Services & Technology (IST) to conduct further research and benchmarking in order to develop baseline levels of free data storage and computing access for all campus researchers.
  • Research IT and the University Library work with campus to develop further incentives for funded researchers to participate in the Condo Cluster Program for Savio and/or the Secure Research Data & Computing (SRDC) platform.
  • The University Library and Research IT partner to develop and promote streamlined, clear, and cost-effective workflows for storing, sharing, and moving big data.
  1. Strengthen communication of research data and computing services to the campus community.

In the interviews, researchers directly or indirectly expressed a lack of knowledge about campus services, particularly as they related to research data and computing. In light of that, it is important for campus service providers to continuously assess how researchers are made aware of the services available to them.

  • The University Library partners with Research IT to establish a process to reach new faculty across disciplines about campus data and compute resources.
  • The University Library partners with Research IT and CDSS (including D-Lab and BIDS) to develop a promotional campaign and outreach model to increase awareness of the campus computing infrastructure and consulting services.
  • The University Library develops a unified and targeted communication method for providing campus researchers with information about campus data resources – big data and otherwise.
  1. Coordinate and develop training programs to support researchers in “keeping up with keeping up”

One of the most-cited challenges researchers stated in terms of training is that of keeping up with the dizzying pace of advances in the field of big data, which necessitate learning new methods and tools.  Even with postdoc/grad student contributions, it can seem impossible to stay up to date with needed skills and techniques. Accordingly, the focus in this area should be to help researchers to keep up with staying current in their fields.

  • The University Library addresses librarians’/library staff needs for professional development to increase comfort with the concepts of and program implementation around the research life cycle and big data.
  • The University Library’s newly formed Library Data Services Program (LDSP) is well-positioned to offer campus-wide training sessions within the Program’s defined scope, and to serve as a hub for coordination of a holistic and scaffolded campus-wide training program
  • The University Library’s LDSP, departmental liaisons, and other campus entities offering data-related training should specifically target graduate students and postdocs for research support.
  • CDSS and other campus entities investigate the possibility of a certificate training program — targeted at faculty, postdocs, graduate students — leading to knowledge of the foundations of data science and machine learning, and competencies in working with those methodologies.

The full report concludes with a quote from one of the researchers interviewed, which we team members feel encapsulates much of the current situation relating to big data research at Berkeley, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead:

 [Physical sciences & engineering researcher] “The tsunami is coming. I sound like a crazy person heaping warning, but that’s the future. I’m sure we’ll adapt as this technology becomes more refined, cheaper… Big data is the way of the future. The question is, where in that spectrum do we as folks at Berkeley want to be? Do we want to be where the consumers are or do we want to be where the researchers should be? Which is basically several steps ahead of where what is more or less the gold standard. That’s a good question to contemplate in all of these discussions. 

Do we want to be able to meet the bare minimum complying with big data capabilities? Or do we want to make sure that big data is not an issue? Because the thing is that it’s thrown around in the context that big data is a problem, a buzzword. But how do we at Berkeley make that a non-buzzword? 

Big data should be just a way of life. How do we get to that point?


A Library Research Journey (Pandemic Edition)

Screenshot of team members
Association of College and Research Libraries conference poster–screenshot of recorded talk

Even beyond those who believe that librarians sit around and read books all day (which would be delightful but is most definitely not our reality), many are surprised to learn that librarians double as active researchers. This is especially true in settings where librarians are members of the faculty, but even where that isn’t the case, such as at Berkeley, librarians are born investigators and it carries over into wanting to find out about and add to knowledge of our settings.

What does it look like to conduct library research?  Glad you asked! In our case, it started with a conversation and an idea.  Natalia Estrada (now Berkeley’s Political Science and Public Policy Librarian, then the Social Sciences Collection and Reference Assistant and in library school) and I were talking about how much we admired the work of Kaetrena Davis Kendrick.  Kendrick wrote a foundational work in the study of librarian workplace morale, The Low Morale Experience of Academic Librarians: A Phenomenological Study, and it sparked many more studies on this topic.  But, where were the studies of library staff experiences?  We wanted to find out!

We were lucky to recruit two colleagues who added so much to the team: Bonita Dyess, Circulation/Reserves Supervisor at the Earth Sciences/Map Library, and Celia Emmelhainz, Berkeley’s Anthropology & Qualitative Research Librarian.  First we applied for (and eventually got) funding for the research from LAUC (the Librarians Association of the University of California).  This meant we could pay for transcribing our interviews, give the participants gift cards, and buy qualitative data analysis software.  Then we applied for (and got) approval from the IRB (Institutional Review Board), making sure we were complying with processes for research with human subjects.

Here’s where the “pandemic edition” part comes in. All this planning and applying, starting in November 2019, took time; so, at the point we were actually ready to recruit participants, it was April 2020. We were sheltering in place, and not sure how this all would work (although it was probably better than having to go virtual in mid-stream)! Nevertheless, we hurled out information about and invitations to be part of the study to every list-serv, association, and friendly librarian we could think of, nationwide.  We ended up doing 34 interviews with academic library staff from a range of locations and institution types (purposefully excluding the UC system), during a three-week period in May-June 2020.   Due to COVID these were all online, either by phone or Google Meet (sort of like Zoom), and we asked a structured list of questions, with room for branching into other topics, or diving deeply.  Celia trained a wonderful student to transcribe the interviews, and once we had those transcripts and stripped identifying information from them, we were off– coding away (using MAXQDA software), and drawing themes, quotes, recommendations, and other findings from the surprisingly rich information we’d collected.

Next—we had to start getting the information out into the world!  Our eventual goal is to write a paper, or several, for publication.  There are a number of library and information science journals out there that we are considering… but that takes time as well, and we wanted to start presenting our findings sooner.  So, we did an “initial findings” presentation to the UC Berkeley Library Research Working Group, and then stepped into the big time with acceptance to present a poster at the 2021 Association of College and Research Libraries online conference (our poster got almost 600 views), and with a webinar we did for the Pennsylvania Library Association (both the poster and the webinar slides are available through the UC’s eScholarship portal).  All our work to get to this point is hopefully now helping others.

Screenshot of title slide of PA Library Association webinar

And, a word about connecting with our participants.  We were bowled over by their generosity with us and by all they had to say: much that we didn’t expect, and much that they were grateful someone was even asking about.  It ended up that we had captured one of the last opportunities to get a snapshot of pre-COVID library staff life; people were still in limbo, and talked about their regular jobs before any lockdowns, for the most part. At that point most expected to be back in their libraries and all to be normal by the end of the summer 2020.  We know now that that didn’t happen, and we know that library re-openings and staff roles in them have been challenging and sometimes contentious; we wish we’d known to ask for permission to re-interview our participants—even if only to check in with them.  But how could we have known?  We wonder how they are.

So now, we have papers to write, and thinking to do about how to take our questions into new avenues of research—because it’s a never-ending, and completely exciting process, and, we suspect, will be very different (easier? or not?) in the post-COVID landscape.  Do you have ideas for us?  We’d love to hear them!  Or want to hear more about our morale study? Please get in touch with us at librarystaffmorale@berkeley.edu!


Wikipedia, Knowledge Equity, and Researching Herstories

Added portion of the Carol Blanche Cotton Wikipedia page

You may have heard that last week the Library hosted its now-annual Wikipedia edit-a-thon, a gathering of editors and fans of this amazing online resource (side note: speaking as a librarian who was taught that since Wikipedia is crowd-sourced it’s unreliable, I can say I’ve come to a much more appreciative stance after learning about its culture of fact-checking and reference, and in fact using the reference lists in articles on many occasions).  Wikipedia is central to our knowledge landscape, and the UC Berkeley Library’s edit-a-thons are held so that we can improve on this landscape in the areas of art + feminism, and race + justice.

This year, because the edit-a-thon was virtual, we organizers were able to present a fascinating two-hour keynote and workshop given by Dr. Alexandria Lockett, of Spelman College in Atlanta.  Dr. Lockett is a long-time Wikipedian (she started editing in 2003) who incorporates Wikipedia in her teaching, and works to question the politics of citation practices, representation, and knowledge equity there (check out her recent book chapter, “Why Do I Have Authority to Edit the Page? The Politics of User Agency and Participation on Wikipedia”).

Her talk, “Research for Knowledge Equity” had important content for everyone attending, whatever their Wikipedia editing level or interest.  Dr. Lockett focused on knowledge production, and how that can “marginalize Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) scholarship and media, LGBTQ persons, African scholarship and media, women scholars regardless of color, disabled scholars, etc.” (she noted that there are Wikipedia campaigns meeting this issue, particularly #CiteBlackWomen and “CiteaSista”).  She then went on to outline methods and resources for doing herstorical research, particularly on the history of Black women.  Bringing the perspectives of inclusive knowledge production and informed research strategies to our editing means that Wikipedia can start to become a force for change from within, moving towards knowledge equity. As Dr. Lockett notes, “This is intellectual labor, not just tacking on facts. It will change your perspectives on knowledge production.”  Want to know more?  Dr. Lockett has made her slides and her list of potential articles to edit available!

After the workshop, the edit-a-thon continued in its classic format, superimposed onto Zoom.  We had an editing instruction session, a breakout room for one-on-one help, and one for open editing for those who wanted a collegial space in which to work.  I, for one, felt fired up by what I’d heard from Dr. Lockett, and decided to see if I could improve an article on Carol Blanche Cotton (Bowie), a Black psychologist whose dissertation focused on cognitive testing of children with disabilities, and whose name was on a list of articles needing edits.  Using my librarian super searching skills (AKA Google Scholar in this case), I found an online reference to her great grandmother, Rebecca Harris, in a 1983 article titled “The Antebellum ‘Talented Thousandth’: Black College Students at Oberlin Before the Civil War”.  Once I did that, I was able to add the section circled in the image above to Dr. Cotton’s Wikipedia page.  It felt so rewarding to connect Dr. Cotton to her ancestor, who believed so strongly in education that she moved her entire family to Oberlin, and along the way I learned more about two women—Dr. Cotton and Rebecca Harris—who I will never forget.  I hope you, reader, will have the chance to get just as excited about learning and editing, in one of the many online editathons happening now, and also at our 2022 edit-a-thon—watch this space!


Library’s Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon: Coming Soon (3/10) to a Screen Near You!

Edit-a-thon logo and date-time

For many of us in the library, last year’s Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on March 4 was the final program we held in person before the pandemic lockdowns (we actually wondered at the time whether attendance would be down due to the spread of the virus, but we had a great crowd).

Happily for us, the edit-a-thon, which is an event that gathers people together to expand and improve on the amazing information resource Wikipedia, can easily transition to an online format!  The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has been holding national online edit-a-thons for years, and there are many other wonderful offerings, themed and general, to take advantage of online (check out this set of events “Honoring Indigenous Writers” from the University of British Columbia).

So, this year, our edit-a-thon will be virtual.  Please come edit with us on Wednesday, March 10, from 1:00-5:00 PM! (or any portion of that time that works for you) We’ll use Zoom as a way to hold our guest speaker session and workshops on how to edit, and we will even have breakout rooms for the various editing preferences and needs of attendees.  More information and the schedule can be found here; the only thing you need to do is register using this form (in order to get the Zoom link), and show up online on the day!  (It would also be great, if you want to actually edit, to set up your Wikipedia account in advance)

And, about the guest speaker aspect of the event—this year, we are thrilled to offer a two-hour Wikipedia workshop (from 1:00-3:00 PM) created and led by Dr. Alexandria Lockett, from Spelman University in Atlanta, GA.  Dr. Lockett will discuss how both new and experienced editors can meaningfully contribute to underrepresented knowledge of Wikipedia through alternative research practices.

Questions?  Feel free to email us at editathon@lists.berkeley.edu, and we hope to “see” you on March 10!


Love Data? Join Us During Love Data Week 2021, Feb 8-12!

Love Data Week 2021

Since our Love Data Week invitation post last year, the COVID pandemic has created a new world— and amazing new opportunities and challenges related to data.  Just a peek at data.berkeley.edu (the portal for Berkeley’s Computing, Data Science, and Society Division) shows that data-related research during this past pandemic year, even with its intense and difficult challenges, has revealed new insights.  Check out “Pandemic provides real-time experiment for diagnosing, treating misinformation, disinformation”.*  

So, it’s fitting that Love Data Week 2021 at Berkeley, hosted by the UC Berkeley Library in partnership with Berkeley’s Research IT department, is focused on the kinds of issues we are confronted with in a wholly-online research environment.  Join us on Tuesday for a session on ethical considerations in data, most definitely a concern with many of Berkeley’s researchers looking at issues related to COVID; on Wednesday for a talk on cybersecurity (aimed at graduate researchers but all are welcome); on Thursday for another security-related workshop, “Getting Started with LastPass & Veracrypt”; and on Friday for an introduction to Savio, Berkeley’s high performance computing cluster.  Please click on this link for information on these, and registration links!

Questions?  E-mail LDW 2021 at researchdata@berkeley.edu .  And, if we’ve whetted your appetite for data and more data, take a look at the University of California-wide Love Data Week offerings.  If you’ve ever wondered what an API is, or want a quick intro to SQL, or even just want to know what the acronyms stand for, there are these sessions and more!

*  The same page makes it clear that data is for everyone; check out “I Am a Data Scientist”, about a student who came to Berkeley as an English major and discovered how data can “shed light on larger-scale questions”, and “Translating Numbers Into Words: The Art of Writing About Data Science”, featuring three Berkeleyites who are getting the word out about data.

 


Pandemic Pivot: Data Engagement — from Berkeley, not Gothenburg

So many of us have a dream that didn’t take place this year.  Mine was to go to the Volvo Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden.  I’m a big Volvo fan: here’s my 1992 wagon, who the mechanic said wouldn’t make it from Seattle to Berkeley when I moved here.  He was wrong, she flew into Berkeley in style.  She’s a champ.

Red Volvo wagon
My Volvo, Chili, made it to Berkeley

But, I digress! The reason I was due to be in Gothenburg at all was to give a talk at the 2020 IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information Service and Technology) conference there in May, but of course like so much else the conference was canceled.  I was pretty disappointed, especially since this was my chance to take a presentation I’d given for public librarians in 2017 and re-envision and reinvigorate it for academic librarians in 2020.

I got very lucky though…in mid-March, just as conference cancellation news came through, and the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place was declared, a colleague encouraged me to submit something for consideration to the ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research) Data Fair, already slated to be held online in the fall.

Reader, I pivoted!  I was able to take the proposal for the Gothenburg lightning talk (about 7 minutes), and expand it into a proposal for an hour-long webinar, online from Berkeley.  It was accepted!  As I started to work on it, I discovered I had perhaps promised I’d talk about approximately three hours’ worth of material, so condensing it was a challenge—perhaps because it is on a subject I feel passionately about—“Data Engagement for the Data-Hesitant Librarian”.  My strong belief is that many of us, and I tend to think especially about librarians, are led to believe that data is some big, mysterious, and daunting mountain we don’t want to climb, when actually we already have much more skill, comfort, and experience working with it than we think.

So, I tried to create a talk that had some fun in it, and some data-related resources that are practically begging to be explored.  Interested in how we can combat misinformation?  Check out callingbull.org, by the authors of the new book Calling Bull: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World.  What about critical data literacy and data justice?  Take a look at this guidebook from the Data Justice Lab, complete with interactive learning tools.  Perhaps a recipe from The Library Assessment Cookbook appeals?  Or maybe you just want to learn more about the Burning Man event, from the Burning Man Census data they collect each year.

Whatever your interest, geek out proudly! You can find the talk here (Is.gd/DataEngage_Talk —check out the other ICPSR Data Fair talks while you’re there) and the slides here (Is.gd/DataEngage_Slides).  I hope you find something to interest and engage you, and I’d love to hear what you think—feel free to drop me a line at glusker@berkeley.edu!

Screenshot of Data Talk YouTube page


An Iconic Gift

This post is by Environmental Design Library librarian David Eifler; if you haven’t seen him, or his wonderful library (one of more than 25 on campus), you can check them out by joining him on this Virtual Tour.

**

While I was in high school, my small businessman dad came home one evening with a book. Although he had a natural curiosity and often read the encyclopedia for pleasure, I’d never seen him as excited about the written word as when he brought home The Last Whole Earth Catalog: Access to Tools – the one with the shadowed view of the “blue marble” on the cover.  Now considered by many a precursor to the World Wide Web, it was a compendium of tools and books to improve the planet.  Decades later, when I arrived to the Environmental Design Library (ENVI), I was pleased to find it and other editions in our collection.  Librarian Elizabeth Byrne proudly told me that its author, Stewart Brand, had written a classic, How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built, while doing the research in our library.

Cover of The Last Whole Earth Catalog book Cover of How Buildings Learn book

So, I was thrilled when Brand contacted me in late November and asked if ENVI would accept approximately 200 books used to write How Buildings Learn.  He’s working on a new book and needed to purge his library of volumes from past projects.  The founder of the WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) with Dr. Larry Brilliant (now a CNN COVID-19 expert) and CoEvolution Quarterly met me at his Sausalito office on a sunny December morning and gave me 11 boxes of architectural books.  The Library got the books, and I had the great pleasure of meeting a national icon.

Piles of books donated by Steward Brand


“Checking the Boxes” – A panel on race, ethnicity, and the Census

Although we don’t always think of it that way, one federal government program that affects each of us in the United State is the decennial census.  And among the challenges of many kinds that a pandemic has brought us, its effects on gathering good quality census data is high on the list.

Earlier this year, the Library hosted a well-attended (physical) exhibit related to the census, Power and the People: The US Census and Who Counts (which can still be experienced online).  Related to the exhibit, we were on board with our plan to host a panel of campus experts on the contested race and ethnicity questions in the census, and how they’ve shifted over time…. Until March 17, when the Bay Area went into a shelter-in-place order and the program had to be postponed.  But last month, thanks to a persistent team, generous panelists, and the wonders of Zoom, we were thrilled to able to present the panel at last, online!

The program, titled Checking the Boxes: Race(ism), Latinx and the Census, featured three UC Berkeley experts on racial and ethnic categorizations in the census.  Cristina Mora (Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicano/Latino studies), Tina Sacks (Assistant Professor, School of Social Welfare), and Victoria Robinson (Lecturer and American Cultures Program Director, Department of Ethnic Studies) were joined by our moderator, librarian Jesse Silva, for presentations and a lively Q&A.

Professor Mora started the program off with the information that “ethnic and race categories are political constructs… They are not set-in-stone scientific markers of identity or genetic composition.” She noted that since the census counts are directly related to funding, communities have a vested interest in getting accurate and complete counts, but this can be very difficult for groups and areas that are designated Hard to Count. Professor Sacks continued by emphasizing the ways in which census-driven funding allocations can affect people in poverty and those in social safety net programs.  She also noted the intersections shown by census data between race and place, such as areas with a substantial number of incarcerated people. Finally Professor Robinson added background and context by discussing the site racebox.org, which shows the history of the race questions on the census from 1790 onwards, and which illuminates the changes in the cultural and social conceptions of what race is and how it can be measured.

The program concluded with an animated question and answer period, which included Professor Mora’s elaborating on the differences between racial and ethnic categories, Professor Sacks (who has actually been a census enumerator) discussing the challenges of counting the homeless population, and Professor Robinson revisiting the question of incarceration and the Attica problem: “[Incarcerated people’s] residence is considered to be a prison. That’s not their home, and the relationship then to the power…in the communities that they [aren’t from], that’s the Attica problem.”

Of course, this summary doesn’t do justice to the range and depth of the issues discussed.  If you missed this program, or would like to see it again, check it out on the UC Berkeley Library’s YouTube channel!

Census panel speaker photos
(Clockwise from top left) Jesse Silva, Cristina Mora, Victoria Robinson, Tina Sacks

Come Edit with Us! (at the Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon, 3/4/20)

Graphics for event

Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose, said, “The cultivated person’s first duty is to be always prepared to rewrite the encyclopedia.” But, in the case of Wikipedia, we actually get to write the encyclopedia!  If you are interested in Wikipedia as a phenomenon and what happens behind the scenes, in learning to edit, and/or in improving the quality and diversity of content in this important resource, join us at the upcoming Art + Feminism + Race + Justice Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon.

Why is this so important, anyway?  It’s because Wikimedia’s race and gender trouble is well-documented. While the reasons for the gap are up for debate, the practical effect of this disparity is not: content is skewed by the lack of participation by women and underrepresented groups. This adds up to an alarming absence in an important repository of shared knowledge, which many groups are starting to address.

Art+Feminism is a national campaign improving coverage of cis and transgender women, non-binary folks, feminism and the arts on Wikipedia, and at UC Berkeley we have teamed up with the American Cultures program’s Race+Justice edit-a-thon. Edit-a-thons are a powerful way to address Wikipedia’s gaps in content.  The Library is also joined in sponsorship of the event by 150 Years of Women at Berkeley, and suggested editing needs will include topics related to Berkeley alumnae of note.

So, join us in 405 Moffitt Library on Wednesday, March 4 between 11:00am and 5:00pm for an all-day communal updating of Wikipedia entries. Drop in any time! We will provide tutorials for the beginner Wikipedian, reference materials, and refreshments. Check out the schedule at bit.ly/wiki-berkeley for timing of informative talks, instruction sessions, and more.  Set up your Wikipedia editing account in advance, or we can help you on the day. Bring your laptop, power cord and ideas for entries that need updating or creation! For the editing-averse, we urge you to stop by to show your support. People of all races and gender identities are invited to participate.

See you there!

NOTE: A Cal ID card is required to enter Moffitt, so those without a Cal ID card need to RSVP to attend the event by March 3.

The Library attempts to offer programs in accessible, barrier-free settings. If you think you may require disability-related accommodations, please contact us.