October 3rd is #AskAnArchivist Day!

Every wonder what archivists do? Do you have questions about rare items in our collections? Well here is your opportunity to ask all the questions! October 3th is Ask An Archivist Day. Archivists around the United States will be on Twitter to respond to all your questions.

SMU Libraries Archivists and Curators Joan Gosnell (University Archives), Christina Jenson (DeGolyer Library), Emily George Grubbs (Bywaters Special Collections), Jeremy Spracklin (Jones Film Collection), Tim Binkley (Bridwell Library), and James Williamson (Norwick Center for Digital Solutions) will be on hand to answer your questions on Twitter. Here is your chance to ask us anything. If you just want to know what archives are and the things we do in our day to day job, ask us for advice on how to preserve your important items, or learn about some of the interesting material we have worked with, all you have to do is just tag us on Twitter.

How to participate:

To participate in the national conversation, tag your question with the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. If you want your question answered by someone at SMU, just tag one of our archivist along with the hashtag.

Got questions about SMU history? Tag Joan Gosnell (@joanofgos or @SMUArchives)

Joan Gosnell

Got questions on archives and DeGolyer Library? Tag Christina Jensen (@c_jensen_)

Christina Jensen

Got questions about art and performing arts material? Tag Emily George Grubbs (@artsarchivist)

Emily George Grubbs

Got questions about film and film restoration? Tag Jeremy Spracklin (@SMUJonesFilm)


Go questions on theological archives? Tag Tim Binkley (@BridwellLibrary)


Got questions about digital material? Tag James Williamson (@metalarchivist)

James Williamson

Or tag all of them if you just have questions about archives in general.

We hope to hear from you on October 3th!

CUL Interim Dean Wins Outstanding Administrator Award

Congratulations are in order for our Interim CUL Dean Elizabeth Killingsworth, who received the Outstanding Administrator Award presented by the SMU Student Senate! This award is presented to one administrator for outstanding contributions to the SMU community and more importantly, for dedication to the SMU student body. We all know how awesome Elizabeth is but apparently even our students have noticed! We are so proud to see all of Elizabeth’s hard work recognized by the SMU community and most especially by SMU students.

Way to go, Elizabeth!!!

Interview with GIS Bootcamp guest lecturer, Stace Maples

The Initiative for Spatial Literacy is  preparing for another GIS Bootcamp taught by Stace Maples on  March 20th, 2018.  This year’s focus is on the utility of GIS to graduate student research. In advance of the GIS Bootcamp we took some time to get to know Stace. He is a graduate from SMU earning his bachelor’s degree in archaeology. This will be his second time returning to SMU to teach this series of workshops on GIS. See the schedule and register for the 2018 SMU GIS Bootcamp here. 



Since you graduated from SMU in 1997, we just have to ask – What is your favorite memory of SMU?

There are many, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be the Ft. Burgwin Archaeological Field School experience (Pot Creek Pueblo, ’96!). We had a great class of students, and Dr. Mike Adler (aka ‘Madler’), was Director of the Field School, which obviously made the experience even better. We worked harder than anyone else at Ft. Burgwin, from sunup to sundown, excavating and processing artifacts, six days a week, and played harder than anyone else, too. We won the Ft. Burgwin Volleyball Championship, that year.

What is your spirit animal and why?

Hmm. Someone has been talking to my Ft. Burgwin colleagues!? The skunk. We went on a great road trip during the Field School, visiting Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and other sites. At Mesa Verde, I woke to find a skunk taking refuge from the rain in the vestibule of my tiny solo tent, about 18 inches from my face. I lay there for about 2 hours, unable to sleep for fear of snoring or making a noise for fear of startling him, until someone else in the camp made enough noise to scare him away. There may be other, alleged, reasons that we can leave for tales around a campfire, someday.

If you could make a soundtrack of your life, what songs would you include?

That’s tough. I’m a DJ on Stanford’s radio station, KZSU, so my soundtrack is always evolving. But, in general: I’ve been in love for 23 years, so there would be a few love songs; My kids love 80’s Punk & New Wave, right now, so that’s a big chunk, too; There would be a lot of rebellious music, maybe Dead Kennedys would represent that side well, or Ween. And Willie Nelson, because Texas.

Tell us why GIS is important by using only the Ten Hundred Most Used Words as defined by the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.

Where Matters.

What has been one of the most interesting or most impactful projects where you have used GIS? 

I’ve been working with Dr. Eric Nelson, since I got to Stanford, building a platform to help health care workers respond to cholera outbreaks in under-resourced parts of the world. We’re piloting the platform in some really challenging locations, like Bangladesh and Haiti, to prove that we can use mobile technologies to improve outcomes for patients, responders and decision-makers. The Outbreak Responder is a decision-support and epidemiology platform for use during disease outbreaks which includes a rehydration calculator that automates WHO guidelines for assessing and rehydrating a patient with diarrheal disease and a series of map-based data dashboards that help administrators optimize resource allocation during rapidly evolving outbreaks. You can read about the mobile application and we just published an evaluation of our first trials.

What is the most surprising thing you have discovered using GIS?

That it can, literally, be applied to the study of anything. I see as many workshop attendees from Medicine as I do from Geology, as Environmental Sciences, as Archaeology, as School of Business, as Forestry, as History, as Political Science,… and I can do that all day. The ability to colocate data in geographic space opens up the possibility of fusing almost any datasets you can get your hands on into new types of scholarship. I think Nick Bauch’s “Enchanting the Desert,” published by The Stanford University Press, is a perfect example of this, and the type of real research that can be done, and published, through digital means, and no other. Nick leverages research methods of Geography, Environmental Science, History, Photography, Geodesy and more into an incredible examination of how technology formed our national perception of what is meant by “The Grand Canyon.” [http://www.enchantingthedesert.com/home/]

GIS is a tool that fosters numerous opportunities for more interdisciplinary inquiry which, I think, is probably the most productive approach to any question.

The title of the GIS Bootcamp workshop series is “Everything is Somewhere.” What does that mean?  

“Everything is somewhere, and that somewhere matters.” It’s my slightly cheeky paraphrase of Waldo Tobler’s First Law of Geography: “Everything is related, near things are more related.” That one sentence has such profound implications for the ways we should be examining our world and our relationship with it, and each other. Relationships of proximity, adjacency, containment, shape, central tendency, and so on, have profound influence on our lives and those relationships are accessible only through building spatial thinking skills and toolkits for using those skills. GIS and other geospatial technologies are the instruments that allow us to quantify and interrogate those relationships in more meaningful ways, and hopefully make more persuasive arguments, and more constructive decisions, about them.

As the Geospatial Manager at The Stanford Geospatial Center, Stace Maples provides support and collaboration to the Stanford research community in capturing and making sense of the “where” of their work.  His work mapping the research interests of scholars has taken him from the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard, to Kurdish Northeastern Syria, to the most remote areas of the Mongolian/Chinese border.  An archaeologist by training (SMU, ’97) and a technologist by temperament, he is interested in all aspects of mapping, from the aerial imaging of archaeological sites using kites and balloons, to the development of platforms for the gathering of volunteer geographic information. He has over 20 years of experience using Geographic Information Systems and geotechnology for research and teaching, with expertise in a broad range of geospatial and supporting software and hardware.    

Using GIS in the Classroom, Presented by Anita Palmer

About the Workshop

In this workshop, participants will explore several of the 120 pre-built activities that allow teachers to cover required content using the free interactive mapping tool ArcGIS Online. The activities are standards-based and closely follow the map concepts taught in leading U.S. textbooks Continue reading “Using GIS in the Classroom, Presented by Anita Palmer”

Categories: GIS

Information Literacy through Wikipedia? Yes!

A Wikipedia editing project conducted in a summer anthropology course at SMU recently won the $1,000 SMU Libraries Information Literacy stipend. Yes, Wikipedia! Actually, a project of this type is an excellent way to foster information literacy, critical thinking, and collaborative writing skills in your students.

First, some background

Wikipedia’s reputation in academia has been a mixed bag over the years. However, there’s no denying its popularity among student researchers. The notion of Wikipedia’s viability as an encyclopedic source began to gain momentum after a 2005 study in the journal Nature, which showed that Wikipedia had approximately the same number of errors in its content as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Twelve years later, Wikipedia continues to gain wide acceptance as additional studies have supported claims of its viability as an efficient, useful method for building background knowledge and context.

What SMU is doing

Building on the growing success of Wikipedia as a trusted encyclopedic source, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education encouraged academics to contribute to Wikipedia in order to improve it even further. Many universities worldwide have since heeded the call, including here at SMU.
You can read about our Summer 2017 project and reflections/results through the report authored by Jessica Lott on the Faculty Information Literacy Stipend website. Our assignment didn’t use Wikipedia as a source, but rather as a place for students to work their creative thinking muscles as editors and creators of content.

With all that positive press, it’s easy to see how and why Wikipedia has a place in research. Want more convincing on the benefits of your students as editors?
In the spirit of David Letterman, here are the Top Ten Reasons why a Wikipedia editing project is an idea worth pursuing in your course:

Top 10!

10. Wikipedia is an excellent way to authentically incorporate the required IL tag into your course.
09. You can avoid the dreaded term paper grading pileup!
08. It encourages creativity and critical thinking in research and writing online, and requires students to write with a neutral point of view.
07. It fills gaps in Wikipedia’s content, giving more exposure to typically underrepresented groups and content areas.
06. Wikipedia gives students first-hand experience with the peer-review process– Yes! There is a peer review on Wikipedia via the “talk” pages.
05. It allows students to participate in a strong global community and practice effective public engagement.
04. Adding content to Wikipedia ensures your field is accurately represented in this go-to resource.
03. It gives students the opportunity to “give back” to a resource they’ve benefitted from
02. Wikipedia editing promotes active-learning, motivation and engagement with research and course content.

…and finally, as we mentioned
01. A Wikipedia editing project won the SMU Libraries $1,000 Information Literacy stipend award!

If you would like to discuss ways that you can incorporate a Wikipedia editing project into your curriculum or otherwise create an assignment that can win the $1,000 IL stipend prize, contact your librarian. We’re ready to talk!

Images licensed under: CC BY-SA 3.0.

New GIS Collaborative Lab Hours and Consultations

The GIS@SMU: Initiative for Spatial Literacy and the Central University Libraries are proud to announce the new GIS Collaborative Lab Hours beginning this fall. This new service was developed in response to the overwhelming demand for research and training utilizing geospatial applications. GIS, or Geospatial Information Systems, is becoming an increasing popular tool in the digital scholarship toolbox and includes analyzing maps in order to show relationships between social, political, or economic data and location. GIS can have broad applications and be used by all disciplines.

Consultation Support

The Collaborative Lab Hours is a staffed work time for the GIS@SMU community to work and share knowledge. The GIS staff and teaching assistants (TAs) are available for drop-in consultations during these hours.

Typical GIS staff and TA support includes:

  • Answering questions about ongoing GIS projects and homework
  • Locating spatial data sources
  • Following up on workshop questions

Drop-in consultations is an instructional service intended to help users learn how to work through tasks on their own; GIS staff will not undertake mapping work for projects. Users without ArcGIS experience are encouraged to register for an introductory GIS workshop before using this service. Current or experienced GIS users will be given priority during drop-in consultations.


The Collaborative Lab Hours take place Mondays through Fridays from 12:00 – 2:00pm during the fall and spring semesters. Visit the GIS@SMU website for more information about this service and others.


Contact us at gis_support@smu.edu


GIS@SMU logo

Categories: GIS

Farewell to Dean McCombs

Fondren's first Paws and Take a Break event, December 10, 2013

This week marks the final week Dean Gillian M. McCombs is at the helm of the Central University Libraries. Dean McCombs’ contributions have been far-reaching and numerous as she has tirelessly worked for the students, faculty, and staff at SMU. The Central University Libraries’ staff will deeply miss the vision and leadership which she has provided over the past 19 years. We wish her the best of luck as she begins this new chapter in her life.

Over the years, one of our favorite things to do has been to listen to the eloquent and moving speeches by Dean McCombs. Therefore, we would like to take this opportunity to close with an excerpt from the farewell address which Dean McCombs gave at her SMU Retirement Reception hosted by SMU President, R. Gerald Turner. Look for the full transcript in the 2016-17 Central University Libraries Annual Report coming this fall.

“As you can imagine, deciding to retire was a momentous decision for me, and not made lightly. Richard and I had bought our house in Taos in 2007, so we were ready when the time came, although not soon enough for him to enjoy, sadly. I feel that the majority of projects I have been stewarding the last few years have come to completion. There is new leadership on campus with Provost Currall and two decanal searches concluded. The University completed the centennial campaign to great fanfare and the Fondren renovation was finished off in September last fall, therefore making this a good time to hang up my library shingle! What do librarians do when they retire? They go to the stacks of course!

Seriously, my years at SMU have been wonderfully exciting. I never could have imagined all that we would accomplish when I first set foot in Fondren Library. I now leave with the aroma of coffee in the air from the new Starbucks Café, nestled in the Collaborative Commons and adjacent to our high-tech Prothro Learning Commons. We will have moved all our online catalogs and electronic resources to the cloud; our reading room has been restored to its former glory seating over 100 students.

Fondren Library Renovation Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, April 15, 2016It is a very different world for libraries today and I am proud to have led CUL’s digital transformation in this, the knowledge economy. But the book has not been neglected. It is worth remembering in this, the age of tweets, that you can’t write if you don’t read. We will never lose that thrill of having a new book to read – on one’s e-reader or in print! And although I am fond of saying it is not your grandmother’s library any more, I am hopeful that our grandmothers – yours and mine – would still find a place that they could enjoy and feel comfortable in, although mine would have to have a good cup of tea on hand, with teapot, no teabag!

Central University Libraries completed its first strategic plan in 2000. It was entitled For Future Reference and I would like to leave you with the closing passage from that document – it is Merlyn speaking to the young King Arthur, in The Once and Future King, by T. H. White.

“the best thing for being sad … is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags for it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”

That is what we are about, here at SMU, and I am honored to have been here for 19 years and to have had some small part to play in this particular and beloved landscape of learning. From the heart Thank you!”


Farewell, Dean McCombs! We will miss you! Central University Libraries Staff at the conclusion of Dean McCombs' Retirement Party, May 2017

New Library System Has Arrived

Less Searching More Finding image

All SMU libraries have implemented a new search system. The new system, Ex Libris’ Alma and Primo, replaces the 18-year old Voyager library system and the Discover SMU Libraries search. The new library search provides an enhanced user experience while providing one simple search of all of the SMU Libraries’ collections.

What this means for you:

  • The new system is up as of June 15th.
  • All library holdings, including all course reserves, are searched in one system.
  • Individual databases are all available and can be searched individually.
  • Links to library materials in Canvas courses may need to be updated. Contact your library for assistance.

As with any major system migration, there may be a few unanticipated issues which arise, so we ask for your patience. We will communicate any updates on the Central University Libraries News website.

To learn more about the new library search, contact your subject librarian to schedule an individual appointment or library instruction session, or contact the research help or circulation desks at any of the SMU Libraries.

New Features!

  • Quickly generate citations for articles, books, and more.
  • Easily export those citations into your preferred citation management tool such as RefWorks or EndNote.
  • Create an eShelf of your favorite items and organize using labels.
  • Discover more by virtually browsing our shelves by call number, title, or subject without ever having to leave your home.
  • Use your SMU ID and password to renew books, view search history and favorites, place holds and requests, and more.


New and Improved Access to Your Library Account

With the new library system migration on June 15th, library accounts have been simplified into one easy-to-use interface. The new library account system allows you to view check outs and holds, renew your materials, view fines and fees, and update your personal information.  In addition, you can use the same account to save and organize your favorite items and searches in the library search. Try it out now by logging in with your SMU ID and password.

Note: Any users who are not current faculty, students, or staff will be able to log in using their Facebook account. Emails with access to the new login will be going out soon. Please check with your library if you need any assistance.

eJournal List Migration in Progress

Here is what you need to know:

  • You can still access the full list of databases
  • We are working on migrating the list of eJournals into the new system. For now, keep visiting the former eJournal title list.
  • While a majority of links to databases in the “View It” section of the new library search work, a few have not been fully updated yet. Talk to the librarians for help locating full-text to these or simply Request Scan inside the page for our Document Delivery service.