January 2023

Scholars Portal Newsletter

In This Issue:

Confused by an acronym? Check out the OCUL Acronym Glossary. If there’s something we’re missing, you can email ocul@ocul.on.ca to suggest an addition!


What’s New at Scholars Portal?

  • Join us in welcoming Julie Shi as our new Digital Preservation Librarian and Julia Gilmore as a Digital Projects Librarian who will be working on Project RAMP (see next bullet).
  • We are working to move away from Confluence, the wiki software that SpotDocs uses, because of upcoming changes to the license model. Internally this work is called Project RAMP (Records Assessment and Migration Project).
  • The ODESI team is in the midst of the Nesstar migration to migrate all files and metadata to Borealis and connect the new Borealis collection to the current ODESI search site. The migration was officially announced on October 27 and an OCUL drop-in call was held on November 11. We are the successful recipients for a Compute Ontario grant for the project “Integrating library and research data collections: breaking down data silos to create a FAIR and open data ecosystem in Canada” which will help fund the front-end work of integrating the search and national repository to bring together a single unified infrastructure for social science research data. The team is currently working on a test search site which will be ready for review and beta testing in early 2023.
  • A new subscription model that opens Permafrost to non-OCUL subscribers is now live, and several institutions across Canada have expressed serious interest. For an example of how one subscriber uses Permafrost, check out the newsletter spotlight from January 2022.
  • Around 20,000 titles from the Accessible Content ePortal (ACE) collection are being added to the database of Educational Materials Made Accessible (EMMA), a Mellon-funded project to reduce the duplication of effort across disability services offices at academic institutions. EMMA also includes accessible texts from the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and Bookshare. ACE is the first participating repository outside of the US, a collaboration enabled by the Marrakesh Treaty. ACE coordinators at our member libraries have been given accounts to access EMMA, and particularly the Bookshare content, and have already used them to download books on behalf of students with print disabilities, and to uncover technical issues that have been reported to Bookshare’s support team.
  • Ask a Librarian opened for the winter semester on Monday, January 9, with regular hours: Monday-Thursday 10-10, Friday 10-5, and weekends 12-6. The winter schedule will run until Thursday, April 6, with a closure on Monday, February 20 for Family Day.


New Content

New on Scholars Portal Books:

  • Starting in 2023, all ACUP titles will be available via De Gruyter with no single-user restrictions on any titles. Schools will still have the option to purchase MUPO/SUPO combined titles via CRKN, and both options will be available on Scholars Portal Books.
  • All 2022 Springer Books collections are now available, as are their Alma collections.
  • 29 open access Pont Casse titles now available (see Spotlight below): Thanks to a partnership with UTL, Pont Casse Press, a small publisher that specializes in publishing books about Dominica, has agreed to make the entirety of their backlist available as open ebooks. This collection is now available on the Books platform and will soon be in Alma.

New geospatial datasets in Scholars GeoPortal:

New surveys in ODESI:

  • General Social Survey – Canadians at Work and Home (GSS) 2016 (Cycle 30): Canada’s rapidly changing demographic profile, along with its accompanying social and economic issues, has led to much discussion concerning the relationship between work, lifestyle and well-being. This survey takes a comprehensive look at the way Canadians live by incorporating the realms of work, home, leisure, and overall well-being into a single unit.
  • Financial Information of Universities Survey (FINUNI) 2020-2021 Update: The Financial Information of Universities and Colleges Survey was developed to provide financial information (income and expenditures) on all universities and degree-granting colleges in Canada. This information provides for a better understanding of the financial position for that level of education.
  • Democracy Checkup 2021: An online survey of Canadians conducted by C-Dem that addresses urgent questions about political engagement, underrepresentation, levels of government, and the evolution of public opinion between and across elections.


Spotlight: Expanding Digital Access to Literature by Black Canadians with the University of Toronto and Scholars Portal Books

The spotlight is an opportunity for members of the OCUL community to share how Scholars Portal services fit into their work. This edition’s spotlight was contributed by members of the Expanding Digital Access to Literature by Black Canadians project at the University of Toronto Libraries.

In 2021, in response to Kim Gallon’s “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities,” a team from the University of Toronto Libraries received a Chief Librarian’s Innovation Grant to assess the completeness of the library’s collection of literature by Black Canadians and to purchase materials to fill gaps in those holdings. The library holds Canada’s most comprehensive research collection and this collection serves each broad discipline as either the raw material for research or the overarching structure that places its scholarly production in context.

Within the humanities, the raw materials of research that are available to scholars are often limited to the traditional Western literary canon. This creates a tension for scholars when their research interests fall outside that traditional canonical scope.

In particular, the project team sought to acquire titles in digital formats so the materials were readily available for teaching but more importantly, so this literature could be used by scholars in the digital humanities.

While new methods have emerged in recent years, the traditional method of assessing the diversity of a collection is to compare that collection with a standard bibliography. The project team used the work of a renowned scholar in the area of Black Canadian literature, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature (itself hosted on Scholars Portal) by George Elliott Clarke, as the basis for assessing the library collection. The bibliography in this seminal text was OCR’d and ingested into Zotero and then project teams compared the bibliography with the library’s holdings, applying tags depending on whether the work was available in print, electronically, or not at all.

The conversion of the bibliographical information into tabular format, and the application of the tags, allowed the project team to “find the gaps” – that is, to identify the authors, publishers, or even geographical areas where the library’s holdings were weak and to set priorities for acquisitions.

Considering the diversity of a library collection must be done in partnership with the library’s users, but at the same time, diversity work should not put additional labor on members of our library user community. Relying on the scholarship created by our faculty allows these scholars to point to the voices that are missing from the library collection and the use of more modern tools and approaches ensures that the gaps, once identified, are filled.

Where available, ebooks were purchased via traditional, commercial avenues but hundreds of the titles were acquired through less traditional means that were only possible because of a partnership with Scholars Portal. The project team drafted a lightweight license that allowed a small press to sell the library their materials without having to enlist legal counsel for license review. If publishers had PDFs available, the project team created metadata and cleaned up the files for accessibility. Where no PDFs were available, publishers shipped print copies which were digitized on site.

The newly available ebooks were all loaded to Scholars Portal. In each case the project team encouraged the publisher to decide how open or closed to make their collections. Because Scholars Portal is able to support different levels of DRM, publishers could opt for anything from single user titles to Open Access.

To date, approximately 250 of these titles have been loaded to Scholars Portal, from Pont Casse Press and from Éditions du CIDIHCA.

The project team was drawn from across the University of Toronto and included Nelly Cancilla, Chad Crichton, Eva Jurczyk, Jeff Newman, and Benjamin Walsh, with support from student assistants Khaleel Grant and Lo Humeniuk.


The Nitty-Gritty

New and improved features:

    • The OLRC Team continues to set up dev clusters for improved testing and deployment of future upgrades. Network refactoring and enhancements are ongoing and reporting scripts for orphaned segments have been completed. Version 0.1.6 of the OLRC user interface was deployed to Horizon in production.
    • The Systems Team completed a major back-end upgrade to the OUR (OCUL Usage Rights) service, which will make the server easier to manage going forward. There are no changes to the front-end web view.
    • All OJS instances have been upgraded to version of the software. The initial test upgrade caused a number of technical glitches that were successfully resolved by the Web Services Team before it was deployed to the live version.
    • As some libraries move to handle all patron-facing resource sharing interactions in Alma, the RACER team has made updates to the login page to prevent patrons from those libraries from submitting requests directly to RACER. Patrons can still use the Guest Access feature to search RACER if they wish.

Bug fixes:

  • On November 30, scholarsportal.info, ocul.on.ca, odesi.ca, borealisdata.ca, and related domains experienced severe but intermittent technical issues. Thanks to the hard work of the Scholars Portal Systems Team and the UTL ITS team, who worked on this problem for most of the day and into the night, full access was restored by late evening of November 30.
  • A technical issue causing some hybrid journals from De Gruyter to be flagged as fully Open Access has been resolved. These titles have been removed from the Scholars Portal Journals: Open Access collection in the Alma Community Zone, so users will not be directed to Scholars Portal for content they can’t access.
  • A bug in the OLRC user interface affecting projects with thousands of containers had prevented the final container from displaying in Horizon. A fix is now implemented so that all containers are now visible through the interface and a progress bar appears while the list is being generated.

Many thanks to all those who reported bugs to us or assisted in testing! If you spot any problems, please report them via our built-in feedback forms or to help@scholarsportal.info.


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Scholars Portal is committed to providing all users with equitable access to our consortial services and resources. To provide feedback on the accessibility of this newsletter or to request an alternative format, please contact help@scholarsportal.info.

Next edition: May 2023

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