Northeastern

New Northeastern Commons Coordinator to Help Develop Online Community

Meg McMahon smilingin front of some plantsEarlier this month, Northeastern University Library welcomed Meg McMahon (they/she) as the inaugural Northeastern Commons Coordinator. In this new position, Meg will work to help shape the Northeastern Commons into a vibrant online community for users across the Northeastern campuses. Northeastern Commons is still in its initial creation stage, so most of Meg’s first months will be working with campus stakeholders to create a roadmap for its creation. To give an idea of what Northeastern Commons might be, here is a small list of its possible functionalities:
  • A platform where professors will be able to create classroom groups and sites for students to collaborate on class projects.
  • A platform where all users will be able to self-create campus interest groups to collaborate on similar research interests across departments and titles, leading to great interdisciplinary research.
  • A platform with a searchable directory of research happening at Northeastern, where if a research interest is searched, a list of people, groups, and articles would be yielded.
Most importantly, Northeastern Commons will be an online hub for students, faculty, researchers, and others to collaborate across the Northeastern Global Campuses while learning together. Meg completed her MS in Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2020. There, they worked in multiple library departments, including the research and instruction department, the makerspace, and the user experience department. A unifying thread across her work was collaboration with others on creating programming or services that focused on user/student/research needs. They strongly believe that user experience, critical pedagogy, and accessibility should be a focus when creating any platform in higher education and plan to focus on all three while helping shape the Northeastern Commons. Being a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, Meg went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and graduate with a BS in Art Education and Communication Arts—Communication Science and Rhetorical Studies. When she is not working, you can find her sewing her own clothes, rating movies on Letterboxd, attempting to roller skate, and shamelessly scrolling through Tiktok.

Using the LibKey Nomad Browser Extension to Simplify Off-Campus Access

Have you ever found yourself on an academic site that you think you should be able to use but are unable to see the material? Accessing Northeastern’s licensed resources while off-campus can be complicated for students, faculty, and staff. Especially right now, when so many researchers are studying or working from home, sites that you may have had automatic access to while on campus may not be as readily available.

Using links from Scholar OneSearch or the Databases A-Z list is the best way to ensure seamless off-campus access, but sometimes you may find your way to an academic article through another avenue and may not be sure if Northeastern users have licensed access or not. The LibKey Nomad browser extension can help to bridge these gaps and either establish access to third-party platforms or provide alternate options for the content.

To use LibKey Nomad, visit thirdiron.com/downloadnomad and choose your browser. Upon installation, you’ll be prompted to choose Northeastern University from a drop-down list of organizations:

LibKey Nomad screenshot

After this one-time selection, if Nomad can establish access when browsing a site that hosts academic articles or e-books, Nomad will display a “Download PDF” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page which will link directly to a PDF of the material:

LibKey article screenshot

If Nomad can’t establish access, it will instead show an “Access Options” button which will link you to the citation in Scholar OneSearch to check for other potential modes of access or offer a link to request the item through interlibrary loan:

LibKey screenshot PDF

Please note that not all resources will work with Nomad, particularly single magazine websites such as the Economist, Foreign Policy, or the Wall Street Journal. Check the Databases A-Z list for a proxied link if you believe Northeastern has access to a resource or ask the library for assistance. LibKey Nomad is currently compatible with Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, and Vivaldi browsers.

Greenhouse Studios at UConn and NU Library receive Mellon Grant for Sourcery app work

Sourcery logo  

The Northeastern University Library is excited to be involved in a partnership with Greenhouse Studios at the University of Connecticut to create Sourcery, a mobile application for sharing scans of archival materials. Greenhouse was recently awarded a $120,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the continued development of Sourcery.

From Greenhouse Studios:

Launched in December 2019 by Greenhouse Studios, Sourcery is an open source, community-based mobile application that expands access to non-digitized archival sources. With the Sourcery app installed on a phone or laptop, a researcher seeking a document can simply type in the citation information, and the app will notify Sourcery-registered researchers currently working in and around the repository where the document sits. One of these remote researchers claims the job, calls the document from the archive, takes a picture of it from within the Sourcery application, and sends it directly to the requesting researcher. A custom, enterprise version of Sourcery, for use by archivists – especially during COVID-19-related library closures – will launch in late-summer 2020.

Funding from The Mellon Foundation will allow the Sourcery team to expand the geographical reach of the app, improve its user interface, and work with partners in libraries and archives to support the development of the enterprise version of the software. As a part of this effort, Northeastern University Library will host a virtual workshop series for institutional stakeholders in the fall of 2020, during which the team will solicit feedback and advice from stakeholders in the library and archives community.

Learn more about Sourcery and the grant here.

Affordable course materials: reducing costs and promoting student success

We all remember textbooks. Memories of those big chunky books organized into chapters and sections, with tons of figures and charts explaining everything there is to know about a discipline. We stayed glued to them throughout each semester for the assigned activities and exercises they included. We studied them front-to-back for midterms and final exams.

From Anthropology to Zoology, textbooks are still used heavily. They are written by experts, reviewed by experts, and published by reputable academic publishers and other media companies—they are reliable. The problem is that prices have risen sharply, students in turn are paying more and must often turn to alternatives or choose different paths in the curriculum if none can be found.

Multiple studies have broken down the rise in the price of textbooks. A study concluded early in the last decade showed that between 2002 and 2012 the price of textbooks increased 82%. Another looked at 2006-2016 and found an 88% increase. More studies are underway. As the price of textbooks rises students are spending more; in the 2018-2019 academic year, students spent over $1200 a year on average on course materials, mostly textbooks.

When students can’t afford new textbooks, they have no alternatives but to pool funds to share books, rent, or purchase used copies, or use a copy on reserve at the library. Sometimes the only option is to purchase a new copy of a required textbook when the book includes accompanying online content in the form of activities, quizzes, or other coursework—a used or shared copy is of no use. Given these factors, in various surveys students have reported making decisions on which courses to enroll in based on what the required textbook(s) will cost.

It is no wonder there is a growing movement to utilize free/open educational content, and Northeastern University Library is on the front lines. Working with faculty and partners across the institution, librarians are helping faculty discover, evaluate, and integrate freely available textbooks and other Open Educational Resources (OERs), many of which are authored and reviewed by experts. In the case of Biology, multiple faculty members discontinued use of costly textbooks in favor of freely accessible, open texts: students enrolled in various Biology courses have saved over 100K since the summer of 2018. In related work, librarians are working to ensure faculty know how to maximize use of library-subscribed content such as online journal articles and e-books through dynamic reading-list creation tools and other services.

The library is actively presenting, creating partnerships, and raising awareness about the issues students face, and the options faculty have for finding and integrating alternatives and utilizing existing library content. Savings will continue to grow as the library works with more departments. The library is proud to be a part of this important movement.

For more information, visit the Affordable Course Materials guide.

Beyond the Reading Room: Access the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Online

It’s easy to think of an archives as being bound to one space: a reading room. However the organizational, descriptive, and educational work of the archivists at the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections goes well beyond the reading room. There are many resources available so that your archival goals can be met no matter where you are.

Even though we cannot take you through a physical tour of the Archives, we have a series of webinars that introduce you to the Archives and how to work with us, highlight our Asian American and African American digital collections, and teach you how to navigate a finding aid. Find our recorded webinars here and watch the library calendar for more webinars coming this summer!

Experiential learning with the Archives and Special Collections doesn’t stop when you can’t visit the reading room. Instead it shifts to engaged digital pedagogy with our over 64,000 digitized archival records. We are able to hold remote class sessions introducing you to Latinx history in Boston, using archival visual resources, telling stories informed by archival material, and more. Learn how to schedule a class session or workshop and view some of our class examples on our newly published Teaching with Archives Program page.

Want to learn more about our variety of digitized collections? Visit some of our CERES exhibit portals where you can view online exhibits and browse collections’ records in context. Find our collection sites with exhibits and contextual resources below: 

Have a question about Boston history or using Archives? Our reference services are still open and available by contacting archives@northeastern.edu or filling out this form to contact us here.

We look forward to working with you beyond the reading room to continue activating the history of Greater Boston and Northeastern through the use of our records.