Sara Leavens: Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator

This blog post is the kick-off for a series of profiles that I will be doing on Penn Libraries staff and how their work coincides with the use of social media to reach patrons both traditionally (as in, in-person) and digitally (as in, via blogs, social media, websites, etc.).

The Penn Libraries has been a personal, intellectual home for me over the last five years, and as I wrap up my time as a graduate student here, I hope to share with you some behind-the-scenes insight into the people and resources that have made it possible for someone like me–a non-traditional graduate student–to do the amazing work I’ve been able to do with social media and working directly with library patrons.

My hope is that by the end of this short series, you will come to appreciate all the Penn Libraries has to offer its patrons, and share in my wonder that we have access to these space and resources.

–Jaime Marie Estrada
Social Media Intern, Weigle Information Commons, Penn Libraries
Master of Liberal Arts Candidate, Philosophy and Communications, 2017

For the first blog post of the series “Social Media at Penn Libraries,” I’d like to introduce you to Sara Leavens, a recent addition to the Penn Libraries staff. Sara Leavens came to UPenn from the University of Kansas where she studied creative writing. Sara’s strengths lie in that she understands how to engage with students, faculty, and staff to make the resources available at the libraries more visible using social media and other forms of communications and marketing.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sara and learn how she came to Penn and what her first few months on the job were like:

Sara Leavens started at the Penn Libraries as Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator in 2015.

Since Sara comes from a creative writing background, some of her role comes naturally to her! Sara has an MFA in Creative Writing and had originally planned on being a professor. However, she didn’t want to pursue a PhD, and with a technical communications background from her undergraduate work, she realized there was a need for social media at her academic department at the University of Kansas. Sara started the department’s Twitter and FB pages at the University of Kansas. Eventually, these pages became the most visited departmental pages at UKansas from 2013-2015.

When Sara first started at the Penn Libraries as Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator in 2015, she found the libraries’ many social media accounts to be quite established. She described her first few months here as a “good will tour,” where she met with head librarians and directors of the 14 (!!!) libraries, to learn about their current social media management and future needs.

From there, Sara went about the challenging and fun work of trying to ascertain and corral all of the social media accounts that each center and library had established for itself. In some cases, it took her as long as two years to hunt down and redirect some of the accounts! Centralizing communications and social media is a common trend being undertaken by many college and university campuses as they are starting to see social media less as a grassroots initiative and as more central to the branding and marketing of higher education to its most important audience: the students.

Continue reading Sara Leavens: Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator

Hoesley and Seltzer Program Applications Due April 7

**Deadline extended to April 7!**

We are currently accepting applications for two undergraduate programs for the 2017-2018 academic year:  the Hoesley Digital Literacy Fellows and the Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards.

Seltzer-Hoesley_2017_hero

The Hoesley Program is open to current sophomores and juniors who are interested in broadening their digital literacy and technology skills and fostering career connections at Penn and beyond. This year, we are accepting a cohort of around 5-10 students. Read more about our Hoesley students in related blog posts and apply online.

The Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards provide five to six students with up to $1,000 each to purchase equipment (hardware or software) to support a new media project for one year. The equipment then gets returned to our equipment lending program for general use. Students in any year of study can apply, and special consideration is given to those in the Huntsman Program. Read more about the Seltzer Program in related blog posts and apply online.

Applications are due by Friday, March 31, so please consider applying and spread the word!

DataRescue Philly

Since its inception in 2014, the aim of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) has been to create “a more permanent place for environmental dialogue across disciplines.” Amid growing fears of federal climate change data erasure, PPEH’s manifesto has never been more relevant.

To help mediate any tampering with data repositories, PPEH hosted volunteer archivists, librarians, hackers, and concerned citizens for a DataRescue event, one in a series of creative coding workshops across the country. These workshops are a collaboration between the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative and the DataRefuge project, which itself brought together PPEH and Penn Libraries.

The event, a code-a-thon, teach-in, and discussion session about Pullquote 2.pngpreserving environmental data sets, took place in the Kislak Center on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center on Friday and Saturday, January 13th-14th. A second, shorter DataRescue Philly 2 event was held on Wednesday, January 25 to continue the work of the first – again, hosted in Van Pelt.

DataRescue Philly was not centered in the library purely for reasons of space. Librarians and archivists put data at the center of the information science field. Librarians and archivists are quite literally in the business of preserving and organizing data. The library, in its essential role as storehouse for knowledge and information, is the perfect backdrop for the work of emergency data curation.

While coders and hackers were brought in to do the essential technical work of Bagging and Tool Building, librarians were integral to making the data accessible. They served chiefly as Describers, adding metadata to the captured datasets. All participants were also able to function as Storytellers and Long Trail members or do the work of Seeding and Sorting.

As new threats to data sets emerge, more DataRescue events pop up nationwide and work
continues throughout the librarypullquote3 as well. Departments like Teaching, Research, and Learning (TRL) Services, which includes the Weigle Information Commons, are actively involved in efforts to plan and organize future events. TRL’s own Laurie Allen Assistant Director for Digital Scholarship at Penn Libraries, for example, is one of the co-organizers of Penn’s DataRescue events.

Scholarly Communications and Data Curation Librarian as well DataRefuge team member, Margaret Janz, is now working with other library staff and WIC interns to further spread awareness and involvement in data preservation efforts. Advising future librarians to be sensitive and responsive to data threats reflects the current core values of librarianship and reveals how library professionals would like to shape the field for the future. Librarians recognize that data needs to be secure and are leaders in taking active steps now to ensure it is protected indefinitely.

Social Media Outside of the Classroom

As the graduate intern for social media, I’ve been teaching social media workshops for Penn students, faculty, and staff at the Weigle Information Commons for over two years now. When I first started, it still was not clear what the purpose of social media was in the classroom or in academic life for that matter. However, more and more people are now buying into the idea of personal/professional branding and using social media platforms as learning tools.

In the last two years, we have all noted the rise of social media usage and how the lines between personal, professional, and useful are blurring. With the close of election 2016, the beginning of 2017, and the resurgence of using social media to organize in-person gatherings and protests, there is absolutely no doubt that social media will continue to rise in importance for college-age Americans and those who serve them as educators, mentors, colleagues, and support staff.

Here at the Penn Libraries, January has been an exciting time. On Saturday, the 14th, a hundred or so librarians, scientists, coders, hackers, and interested parties gathered to scrape data from NOAA.gov and other websites prior to the new administration potentially removing it from those sites. In addition, we have a series of workshops on identifying and avoiding “Fake News.” Individually, neither of these events is about “social media” in the way that my social media workshops are, but they are inherently linked to how undergraduate, graduate, and professional students use social media in their everyday lives on-and-off campus, in-and-out of the classroom.

Fake news is often perpetuated through news feeds on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. In addition, accessing real news, and learning about real “threats” such as losing valuable information about climate change or other public scientific data, also occurs on social media sites. Most of us access our news digitally and many of us access our news on social media platforms.

For many years, I’ve heard concerns from older generations that millennials and younger generations consume news and “real information” differently and perhaps less intentionally. This quote from the Media Insight Project’s study on how millennials get their news is illuminating:

The worry is that Millennials’ awareness of the world, as a result, is narrow, their discovery of events is incidental and passive, and that news is just one of many random elements in a social feed.

This has been the concern of older generations of educators since I started working professionally with social media in college in 2010 and continues through to today. From my experience, students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are very concerned that they are accessing and publishing the right information. There is a lot of social anxiety around what our brands look like online and building those brands requires a certain level of familiarity and comfort with using social media. For intellectual spaces like Penn, it also means that there is growing concern among active users of social media that their intellectual growth and learning empowers them to understand what they read and take action on it. Here are some of that 2014 study’s findings about how millennials consume news:

  • While Millennials are highly equipped, it is not true they are constantly connected. More than 90 percent of adults age 18-34 surveyed own smartphones, and half own tablets. But only half (51 percent) say they are online most or all of the day.

  • Email is the most common digital activity, but news is a significant part of the online lives of Millennials, as well. Fully 69 percent report getting news at least once a day — 40 percent several times a day.

  • Millennials acquire news for many reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74 percent), problem-solving needs (63 percent), and social factors (67 percent) such as talking about it with friends.

As we look forward into this new year, I plan to attend as many workshops and teach as many workshops as possible about how to continue to be a responsible consumer of media. Keep the Penn Weigle Information Commons and the Penn Libraries’ programming sites bookmarked as these are themes that we continue to explore as a university and a community.

If you’re interested attending our ongoing workshops relating to media consumption, digital, and social media, here are a few:

(Jan. 30) Shoddy News

(Feb. 8) Creating Meaningful Graphics

(Feb. 15) Creating Video Presentations

New Statistical Software Consultant

Patricia PoseyPatricia Posey, our new statistical software consultant, begins this coming week, offering appointments to provide assistance with statistical software, including R, Stata, and SPSS. She welcomes questions about proper commands, data visualization, and regression analysis. She cautions that her assistance is not intended to help students decide on the suitability of a given statistical method for their research, pick which datasets to use, or interpret results that should be based on the researcher’s ideas and discipline-specific expectations.

Patricia is a 4th year doctoral candidate in Political Science, where she specializes in American Politics. Her research investigates how financial services influence the political engagement and political attitudes of racial and ethnic minorities. Her statistical experience covers analysis of a variety of social science data sets. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Political Science and Sociology with a minor in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida in 2013.

Patricia will be offering statistical software help by appointment on Monday and Tuesday afternoons at WIC in room 116, starting on January 30th. Use the online scheduler to view her availability and request an appointment.

laptop computer displaying a news website with the heading "fake news"

Information Literacy Workshops

The phenomenon of fake news has become a hot topic, ironically, of major news outlets in recent months. News stories are being presented as fact without any substantial backing in truth. There are many reasons why fake news happens and is promulgated. They vary from personal monetary gain to accidental, well-intentioned spread of misinformation.

With so many reasons tempting so many people to promulgate fake news, how do you know what sources to trust? How do you know the supposed rise of fake news isn’t merely a fake news story itself, anyway? Penn Libraries can help with that.

During the month of January, Penn Libraries will be offering a three-part Information Literacy Workshop series about evaluating news sources. Each workshop will highlight a different kind of misinformation while preparing participants to recognize and mediate false information in their own news consumption.

A workshop entitled Fake News: Pinpointing Lies, Hoaxes, and Conspiracy Theories will kick off the series and takes place on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 from 3-4:30pm in the Weigle Information Commons Seminar Room. This installation focuses on evaluating false information.

The next two workshops feature strategies for identifying Slippery News and Shoddy News – distinctions that have recently become necessary. In brief, slippery news refers to stories that aren’t meant to maliciously deceive but are hotbeds for misinformation. The shoddy news workshop, on the other hand, will link news reports of research to the research itself in an attempt to decipher which stories are sourced with verifiable research and which utilize papers with unsound methodologies.

Attending any one of these workshops can help you sift through the massive amounts of ambiguous information available on the internet everyday. Attending the workshop as a series will give you nuanced insight into the different types of unreliable information out there and provide you with tools to think critically and avoid consuming that misinformation.

Penn and the Surrounding Community

On the edges of the Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom, located just down the hall from the Weigle Information Commons,  an exhibit about the edges of Penn’s presence in West Philadelphia runs until Friday, February 24, 2017. Penn and the Surrounding Community is a collection of work by Dr. Rosemary Frasso‘s students from the SW781/PUBH604 class entitled Qualitative Research in Social Work and Public Health. This semester’s exhibit focuses on how undergraduate and graduate students here at Penn conceptualize the University’s impact on its urban setting.

Nominal Group Technique (NGT) (in which members of a group name, then rank items) was used to determine the topic of exploration for the class research study. Briefly, Dr. Frasso moderated a session where in the students suggested potential topic ideas, then ranked those ideas. The topic of Penn and the Surrounding Community was collectively chosen as the central theme for investigation.

First, the students collected free-listing data. Each of the 25 students in the class recruited 5 participants (total of 125 people) from the Penn community and asked them to share the words that come to mind when they think about Penn’s relationship with the surrounding community. These data (words generated) were then analyzed to determine the salient domains.

Then each student recruited one additional participant to take part in the Photo-elicitation arm of the study. Briefly, each participant was asked to think about Penn’s relationship with the surrounding community and using their camera or smartphone to take photos that would help them explain their impression of this relationship. The photos were then used to guide a qualitative interview. All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim and analyzed in the Collaborative Classroom.

The preliminary analysis yielded 10 thematic categories: Benefits, Safety, Permeability, Double-Edged Sword, Accessibility, Responsibility, Exclusivity, Bubble, Boundary, and Penntrification. Within these broad categorizations, representative photos and their accompanying captions were chosen for exhibition. The finished product will ultimately include an abstract for presentation as well as a manuscript for publication in addition to these preliminary findings currently on exhibit. The project can be viewed on the Scholarly Commons’ New Media Showcase.

The photos and quotes paint a complicated picture of how students perceive Penn’s relationship with the West Philadelphia community. The work highlights both the beneficial nature and drawbacks that are byproducts of Penn’s presence in West Philly, best described as a “double-edged sword.” For thought provoking insights like these, the exhibit is an enlightening and self-reflective project that is well worth the visit. Research rigor and critical social immersion blend to demonstrate the strengths of research in Public Health and Social Work.