Exploring Slave Narratives with ICPSR #AdoptaDataset

Adopt.pngThe team at ICPSR is doing some clever promotions of data for Love Data Week, including Adopt a Dataset! I adopted the Quantitative Data Coded from the Federal Writers’ Project Slave Narratives, United States, 1936-1938.  I’ve read so much about this project and it seemed appropriate for February and Black History Month. You can read the actual interview transcripts on the Library of Congress website: Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1938. In the late 1970s, Paul Escott read and coded 2,358 of the slave narratives to create this dataset.

The narratives provide insight both into the process of the interview as well as the experiences of the formerly enslaved people. One of the most controversial questions was about attitudes toward the master, with some writers pointing to “favorable” attitudes toward masters as an indicator of slavery being a “less harsh” institution. But that ignores the fact that there were 771 who did not answer the question (or gave no indication of an answer in the narrative). In addition, around 1200 of the interviewers were white as opposed 400 who were black. In the 1930s American South, it would have been difficult for a person of color to speak ill of a white person in front of another white person. In addition, the coder’s interpretation of favorability needs to be taken into account.


ICPSR has made the dataset easy to use in R. The only trick is that the variables are mostly factors that need to be converted to numeric. ICPSR helpfully provides the R library and functions that can help with the conversion. Just remember to read the documentation closely before jumping in! Below are some my explorations including creating a subset of NC and another of NC women.


You should adopt a dataset and explore some data! You don’t need to know statistical software because the codebooks can provide some basic overviews of the dataset. In addition, many of their datasets have online analyses available.

Tomorrow you can join their tweetchat starting at 12:30 pm. Go and give some love to your data!

Never a dull moment: ALA Council 2018

Well, never is a strong world … Just kidding.

I finished my first year as the NC Chapter Councilor and I have the duty and privilege to report on the activities of Council at conference. In the interest of making this more accessible, I’ve uploaded it to Google Drive and you are free to read and even comment (keep it nice, or not). I’m happy to take feedback or hear your concerns. Just email or comment.

The biggest issue coming out of annual was the controversy over the use of the term “hate group” in the Library Bill of Rights Meeting Rooms interpretation. You can read more about this in the the google doc if you missed the debate. The Office of Intellectual Freedom has issued a statement providing some context. Yes, as NC Councilor I voted for the interpretation. And yes, I read the interpretation before I voted on it. My opinion is available on Twitter if you are interested.

As a result of the debate, the Intellectual Freedom Committee is revisiting the document. They have formed a working group as of Saturday, July 14 and will develop a timeline and plan of action. There is also a movement to rescind or amend the interpretation virtually but that has hit a parliamentary procedural roadblock (RONR is pesky beast). More to come this week we are told. I’ll post updates under this link: https://lyndamkreads.wordpress.com/tag/meeting-rooms/

I’m just happy people are reading ALA documents and engaging with the organization to be honest. (P.S. This is me being light-hearted to some extent. But seriously, considering our voter turnout, I am happy to see people engaging with the big ALA even if it is to criticize. Just wish more would vote. If you don’t like things, come fix them.)

Several other things came out of Council’s meeting including a good discussion of ALA’s future and the creation of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table. We also passed four resolutions that might be of interest. The summary and the full-text link of these is in the google doc.

  • A Resolution Recognizing the 25th Anniversary of the GPO Access Act and Calling for the Enactment of the FDLP Modernization Act
  • A Resolution to Reunite Detained Migrant Children with their Parents
  • A Resolution to Honor African Americans Who Fought Library Segregation
  • A Resolution on Gender Inclusive Bathrooms at ALA Conferences and Meetings

And finally we celebrated Lois Ann Gregory-Wood who retired as the ALA Secretariat after almost 30 years of work. We will certainly miss her!

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We heart Lois!

Valentine to @ICPSR #lovedata18 #ldw18

In honor of Love Data Week, here’s a shout out to one of my favorite data archives/resources.

Many social scientists are familiar with ICPSR, the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, but faculty may not always keep up with the new goodies at the archive. Since I became a data librarian in 2007, ICPSR has expanded its resources widely to include a wealth of training materials. Along with its Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research, ICPSR also has a variety of modules for teaching and learning about data, data concepts, social science concepts, and more. My favorite tool is the Social Science Variables Database that allows users to search for variables in the major data studies, about 76% of ICPSR’s holdings. In addition to isolating data studies with specific, required variables, the tool allows users to examine the questions being asked across data studies. ICPSR has much more in its expansive offerings, especially for members of its consortium. Definitely worth a look and some love!

My favorite data organization @iassistdata #lovedata18 #alamw18

In honor of Love Data Week I am going to do a series of posts on my favorite data resources/tools. I am a data connector, meaning my primary job is to connect people with the data they need. Because of the proliferation of tools and resources, it can be difficult to choose and find great sources. I also often work with newer data users, so I have to figure out ways to lower barriers to using data of all kinds. I can’t do it alone so I rely on a network of professionals to help me learn about new tools and think up lesson plans.

Many professional organizations out there support data librarians and other data professionals. I wish I could be involved with all of them, but only so much time in the day and bucks in my bank account. My favorite data organization is undoubtedly IASSIST, one of the first international data organizations. This group has been around since the 1970s and brings together data professionals of all types, from metadata specialists to programmers to librarians. Although its traditional focus is social sciences, IASSIST has branched out lately and its annual conference includes sessions on GIS, qualitative data, and much more. The conference this year is in Montreal, and we are joining forces with the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives. Conference registration will open up soon, so I encourage you to consider attending if you love data!

In telling our data stories (one of the themes of #lovedata18), I always remember that I am not navigating my data work alone and that I can draw upon the knowledge of my colleagues. IASSIST provides a forum for immediate assistance through its listserv and a long term network that connects me with colleagues from Australia to Nigeria, from the Federal Reserve banks to tiny colleges in the frozen Midwest. It is definitely a data resource worth considering!

Help! Webinar: Government in the Sunshine State

Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian presents … Government in the Sunshine State: Where and How to Dig for State Information in Florida

The Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association welcomes you to a series of webinars designed to help us increase our familiarity with government information. All are welcome because government information wants to be free.

This session will cover some of the key dates that impact access to Florida government information (e.g., statehood in 1845, codification of Florida Statutes in 1941, state depository program in 1967, privatization of Dept of Commerce activities in 1996), bibliographies and finding tools, scattered locations of digitized collections, and a few highlights of unique and interesting content.

Rich Gause is the Government Information Librarian for the University Libraries and has coordinated establishing Centers of Excellence at UCF for information from the U.S. Department of Energy, Atomic Energy Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and National Aeronautics & Space Administration.

We will meet together on Wednesday, November 29 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Eastern). Please RSVP for the session using this link: https://tinyurl.com/GRS-session75

We will use WebEx for the live session. Information on testing and accessing the session will be made available when you register.

The session will be recorded and available after the live session, linked from the NCLA GRS web page (http://www.nclaonline.org/government-resources).

IFLA, Wrocław, and #WLIC2017

I’m having a great conference at IFLA. I’ve met people from all over the world, including Croatia, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa, Nigeria, Germany, Norway, the UK, as well as our large US contingent. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the variety of projects people are working on from library support for refugees to reading habits of Iranian students to a new VR initiative at the Bergen public library. You can see the variety of topics from a selection of posters.

Today I had my first meeting with the Standing Committee for the Social Science Libraries section. The structure of IFLA is a bit convoluted, but I am slowly learning. Basically, my Standing Committee does great projects like tomorrow’s workshop on using ethnography in the library and more. Looking forward to sharing their work when I am officially a member of the committee after this conference.

Spencer Acadia and I also represented IASSIST at our poster session. We were able to talk to a few people and our poster will stay up all through the conference. We are still looking to build up our membership in South America and Africa!

Finally, I’ve been trying to get to know Wrocław again. The city has changed quite a bit and is much more vibrant now. It has developed a student-oriented character that wasn’t quite here in 1995.

Several times in my walks around town a place suddenly seemed familiar and I could see it again through my memories. The picture below is of a lovely square and roundabout called Plac Kościuszki near my hotel and the train station. I walked by it a few times before I remembered this evening that it was the place I used to go for coffee almost once a week. I think a post office was also on the corner. But it seems to be gone now.

Tonight I was also able to do a food tour of the city. When I was here last, I was a student and I couldn’t afford to eat out much. We cooked a lot of pierogi that semester. On the tour, one of the restaurants had a room decorated like a Polish living room during the Communist period. In one corner was a shrine to Solidarność, the trade union and opposition group, and its members from Wrocław.

So, just a few of the things going on. Tomorrow I have an all day workshop and will post notes as possible. It has been a blast sharing and learning with everyone at IFLA. Although I am new to the organization and only know a few people, everybody has been friendly and welcoming.

And I will close out with a picture of the translation booth and the IFLA President on the stage. I’ve never seen a translation booth in action, so quite a fun moment for me!