Spooky Librarianship

ghost librarian
Ghostbusters, 1984

I love a good spooky story.
This hasn’t always been the case. Until my college years, I was afraid of my own shadow. However, I now indulge in creepy podcasts and horror flicks, even if it means that from time to time I avoid the stairway in my apartment at night. My former housemate Pete (another librarian) has told me before that he could tell when I’d overindulged on Spooky Content when he woke up to find the hall light still on. As a catalogue-minded person, I’ve recently become interested in looking into the way that libraries curate and manage this genre. Which shelves do books about the paranormal live on? Is there a difference between a book on Marian apparitions and one on Bigfoot sightings? Do these materials even belong in libraries? Well, yes.
“But Maggie,” you may be saying to your screen, “we can’t prove that Marian apparitions OR Bigfoot even exist!”
Well … yes. We can’t prove whether or not the paranormal is real. But that doesn’t mean the information is entirely “bad” or otherwise worthless. If nothing else, studying the paranormal and those who investigate it can provide insight into the way people interact with and process the unknown. Take, for example, the well known EVP “Did you hear that?” moment: Ghost Adventures‘ Zak Bagans lets the viewers at home know that they should have heard something in that scratchy nothingness by repeating the sound over and over again with words layered over the scene until we hear what he wants us to hear. On the surface it seems, well, silly, quite frankly. A scare tactic. However, this method is actually linked directly to the way we process information. Research has shown that along with psychological pareidolic predispositions brought on by religiosity and/or generalized Mulder-ness (Riekki et al., Nees & Phillips) and the presence of evolutionary hyper-active agency detection devices (Guthrie, Barrett, Barrett & Lanman, van Elk), this type of cognitive priming heavily influences the ways that EVPs are understood by listeners (Buckner V & Buckner) by manipulating the biological processing of sound through the verbal-transformation effect (Warren, Natsoulas, Nees & Phillips). Behind the scenes: real science.
But I digress. Libraries. There are certainly big-name libraries that can be used as models for paranormal curation. The Senate House Library houses relics of psychic and paranormal researchers, occultists, and spiritualists. Documents from the CIA’s Stargate Project can all be accessed (with redactions) online. The Library of Congress American Folklife Center online repository includes recordings in which unnamed interviewees recount their interactions with ghostly apparitions. Smaller name, specialized groups like the Scientific Anomaly Institute in Austin, Texas have their own libraries that house collections with materials covering topics like Fortean Phenomena, “human potential”, and cryptozoology. EVPs themselves are frequently archived in public internet platforms, where paranormal investigators create YouTube channels such as H.O.P.E. Paranormal White Light and personal websites such as EVP Voices to catalogue and share their own evidence in what are essentially non-traditional libraries.
This is information that, while not taken very seriously by many (particularly in fields so closely tied to academia as ours), has merits. In the study of the paranormal, we aren’t only exploring what may or may not be beyond us. We are exploring the way people in the here and now think. By curating the paranormal, perhaps we can open our doors just a bit wider.

This article was adapted by Maggie McAlister from her paper ‘Electronic Voice Phenomena, Paranormal Investigations, & Sociotechnical Approach’, submitted to Dr. Lai Ma for the module Foundations of Information Studies. Maggie is currently working on her childhood dream of being a cryptozoologist while being happily employed as a cataloging librarian. You can follow and/or contact her on Twitter @librarian_maggs.

Here are the citations for the linked articles that may be barred because of paywalls:
Barrett, J. L. (2000). Exploring the natural foundations of religion. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4(1), 29-34. doi: 10.1016/S1364-6613(99)01419-9
Barrett, J. L., & Lanman, J. A. (2008) The science of religious beliefs. Religion, 38(2), 109-124. doi: 10.1016/j.religion.2008.01.007
Buckner V., J. E., & Buckner, R. A. (2012). Talking to the dead, listening to yourself: An empirical study on the psychological aspects of interpreting electronic voice phenomena. Skeptic Magazine, 17(2), 44-49.
Guthrie, S. (1980, April). A cognitive theory of religion. Current Anthropology, 21(2), 181-203. doi: 10.1086/202429
Natsoulas, T. (1965). A study of the verbal-transformation effect. The American Journal of Psychology, 78(2), 257-263.
Nees, M. A. & Phillips, C. (2015). Auditory pareidolia: Effects of contextual priming on perceptions of purportedly paranormal and ambiguous auditory stimuli. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 29, 129-134. doi: 10.1002/acp.3086
Riekki, T., Lindeman, M., Aleneff, M. Halme, A., & Nuortimo, A. (2013). Paranormal and religious believers are more prone to illusory face perception than skeptics and non-believers. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27, 150-155. doi: 10.1002/acp.2874
van Elk, M. (2013). Paranormal believers are more prone to illusory agency detection than skeptics. Consciousness and Cognition, 22, 1041-1046. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2013.07.004
Warren, R. M. (1961). Illusory changes of distinct speech upon repetition – the verbal transformation effect. British Journal of Psychology, 52, 249-258. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1961.tb00787.x

Reading is Fundamental: Some Fan Faves for Pride Month

Dublin Pride 2018, photo by Maggie McAlister

Happy Pride y’all! In honor of our coworkers, patrons, friends, and family who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, I asked library and information professionals to write to me about their favorite Pride books. They are listed here, with clickable titles that lead their respective webpages for ease of access to you!  

Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural

Content Warnings: Mental health, anxiety

Identities: While their sexualities are never labeled, the main character and her wife are both women, and the book has been nominated for the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Mystery

Target Age Group: YA+

Alice Isn’t Dead follows Keisha Lewis as she travels searching for her “dead” wife, Alice, fighting para-military/secret government agency hate zombies, heartache and loss, and her own anxiety to get her back. A book about the paranormal that is deeply human, this one is immediately relatable for people who have their own battles with anxiety. 


Iron Council by China Miéville

Genre: Fantasy/New Weird

Identities: Gay & bisexual men

Target Age Group: Adults

Set in China Miéville’s bizarre and wonderful Bas-Lag universe, Iron Council follows three characters: Judah a railroad scout, as he helps in a socialist revolution during a war between two city-states, Cutter a friend and former lover of Jonah, who is trying to warn him of an incoming attack, and Ori, a revolutionary back in the city of New Crobuzon. Iron Council is filled with strange creatures, trains and golems made from a wide variety of materials. While it’s the third entry in the Bas-Lag series, the novel stands on its own and doesn’t require you to read the previous two novels. 


Midnighter: Out (Volume 1) by Steve Orlando

Genre: Superheroes, Action, SciFi, Graphic Novel/Comic Book

Identities: Gay men

Target Age Group: Adults

 “One of my all-time favourite comics.” Midnighter is an overly violent superhero with a supercomputer in his brain that allows him to predict how to win any fight. The book starts shortly after Midnighter has broken up with his fellow superhero, Apollo. Midnighter investigates a robbery of weapons from the God Garden as well as a file that contains information on his past. Written by bisexual author Steve Orlando and has absolutely stunning art by ACO. 


The Last-Herald Mage Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey

Genre: Fantasy

Content Warnings: Parental abuse, depression, self-harm, sexual assault survival, character death, slight bury-your-gays 

Identities: Gay cis men

Target Age Group: New Adult+

This trilogy tells the story of Vanyel, a privileged, beautiful, but perpetually disappointing son of a socially conservative and isolated noble family in a fantasy kingdom where the benevolent and moral law-keeping force are (basically) knights who ride semi-divine talking horses. The trilogy belongs to the world of Valdemar, and could act as an introduction to a rich universe with characters of myriad backgrounds and sexual identities. When we meet Vanyel, magic seems to be disappearing and outside forces are making suspicious moves, but Vanyel is about to come of age with a bang – and fall in love with his aunt’s protege. This series was written in 1989-1990 and has some of the issues you’d expect, including a predilection to whiteness, but it is still a beautifully written high fantasy story of self-discovery, first love, lost love, and doing your best even when hate everything. While ultimately a tragic hero, Vanyel is a character worth knowing who chose the hardest road and is ultimately remembered for his bravery and power. 


Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Content Warnings: Descriptions of past trauma/attempts at abuse, mental health, homophobic royals

Identities: Major characters reach across the spectrum of sexual and gender identities! So much healthy representation! 

Target Age Group: New Adult+, but appropriate for older YA readers as well

What happens when the son of the first female President of the United States and the Prince of Wales (who hate each other) fight into a wedding cake at a royal wedding? Damage control fake friendships, of course. In this enemies-to-lovers story, we get to enjoy a (mostly) happy love story in a world where the good guys win, both inside and outside of politics.


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy

Content Warnings: Homophobia, Torture

Identities: Lord Ballister Blackheart & Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin love each other. Full stop.

Target Age Group: Appropriate for YA+

Nimona the orphaned shapeshifter & Lord Ballister Blackheart the supervillian need each other. For villainous acts, yes. For revenge, absolutely. For survival, tangentially. But mostly, they need each other to prove to the world that the “good guys” aren’t really that good. 


Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fanfiction

Content Warnings: Suicidal/self harm tendencies, depression & mental health (not related to sexuality)

Identities: Baz & Simon are both LGBTQIA+, as are two minor characters, Ebb and Trixie. In fanon (and we can hope in the upcoming sequel, Wayward Son), Agatha is ace. 

Target Age Group: YA+

Carry On’s Simon Snow is the Chosen One, and he’s terrible at it. He’s also sure that his roommate, Tyrannus Basilton “Baz” Grimm-Pitch, is a vampire who is plotting his death. Oh, and there’s the Humdrum (who causes magic vacuums), homework (they’re students, after all), his girlfriend (who is endgame … right?), and a lot of magical class tension. The book itself is the Harry Potter-adjacent fanfiction referenced in a previous book by Rainbow Rowell that’s worth a read, Fangirl.  


Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Genre: Horror, Horror-Comedy

Content Warnings: Suicide, mental health, body horror, out-of-date terminology

Identities: Throughout the story, Alex’s gender and sexuality are both brought to discussion; however, it seems that she is perfectly happy to just be Alex. This discussion ranges in levels of respectfulness from character to character. 

Target Age Group: New Adult+

Thirteen years after solving their final case as the Blyton Hills Detective Club, the remaining members of the group return to find out what really happened that night at Deboën Mansion  on Sleepy Lake, each with their own baggage. In this blend of Scooby Doo, Cabin in the Woods, It, and Lovecraft, those meddling kids fight for the town that built them once and for all.


Geography Club by Brent Hartinger

Genre: YA

Identities: The LGB of LGBTQIA+

Target Age Group: High/Secondary schoolers

“One book I loved when I was first coming out was Geography Club.” A classic identity-exploring and coming out story about a high/secondary school-aged boy who gets involved in his school’s Geography Club, which turns out to be a Gay-Straight Alliance of sorts.


Deep End by Ger Philpot

Genre: Memoir

Content Warnings: Homophobia, hate speech, death and dying

Identities: All of them, as all were (and are) affected by the crisis

Target Age Group: New Adult+, predominantly history scholars

Philpott’s memoir describes a devastating period in which government institutions, state organisations and Irish society ignored a particular groups public health needs, as Irish queer men and women increasingly died from AIDS related illnesses throughout the 1980s. The book in particular documents Philpott’s tumultuous relationship with his lover Paul, one of the first people to die from AIDS in Ireland. Confronting an unaccepting and morally strict society with monstrous grief, Philpott chronicles the developing AIDS crisis in Ireland and the struggles to force a society mired in a culture of silence to confront the harsh realities of an epidemic. A crucial insight into a historical moment written and ignored from the annals of Irish history, indicating how the personal is always political.


This list was gathered together by our LGBTQ+ and Children & Youth Services Committee Member, Maggie! She is deeply grateful to everyone who submitted their favorites for this list, and opted to leave them anonymous for purposes of safety and potential issues with employment that could arise. She can be reached through this site, or via email at mcalistm@tcd.ie.

Digital Humanities and Library and Information Studies

Digital Humanities (DH) is a discipline that is very concerned with making things – probably too much. It is when DH intersects with Library and Information Studies (LIS) that it is more likely to reflect on its source material and develop critical scholarship.

LIS and DH are closely related, maybe more so than it seems at first. Niels Brügger, in a recent publication, clearly lays out how closely information and storage are related even in seemingly ephemeral content:

digital media duality is that of digital media being simultaneously material artefacts and digital. Although the digital writing is 0 and 1 is never experienced by humans in its pure form, as power/no power, it is there and it is indispensable. What is experienced is the artefact, the machine. (Brügger 2018, 17)

Projects that involve both LIS and DH are ideally suited to cover both aspects of this duality. One example of how this cooperation might look is the 2017 Inside Dublin Castle digital edition of some 62 letters exchanged between Anglo-Irish government officials from August through December 1808. These letters are part of a much larger collection of more than 1800 letters from the Littlehales collection held at the Russell Library in Maynooth University:

The goal of the project was to create a digital edition based on a selection of correspondence from the Littlehales archive held by Maynooth University Library. The selection mainly consists of correspondence between Edward Baker Littlehales, Charles Kendal Bushe and John Beckett written from August through December in 1808. The letters were digitised, transcribed, encoded and contextualised in order to provide a better understanding of a turbulent yet often neglected period in Irish history. (Centre for Digital Humanities Maynooth n.d.)

This project shows how cooperation between DH and LIS can cover both the material and digital artefact while delivering an accurate representation of both. It is important to understand that the website and the transcribed letters do not exist independently from the archival and preservation work of the Russel library. Rather the only reason we still have access to those letters – and a robust system to describe and organize them – is due to the work of librarians and archivists. Any interaction with those letters then means to interact with the archival practices and infrastructure that surround them.

Digitizing objects does not mean to create something entirely new and detached from the source, if done right it means adding to the practices that surround the source. This further means that to do it right, a team working with the source needs to have a thorough understanding of the already existing range of practices. To do this, a project like Inside Dublin Castle is dependent on the knowledge of librarians and archivists that currently curate the collection, as well all previous work that allowed the collection to still be available today. If a project achieves this, it does not treat the library as a mere repository to randomly draw data from. What it does is it enhances the material, makes processes visible and gives users all the information they need to take their own steps towards a digital edition.

Brügger, Niels. 2018. The Archived Web: Doing History in the Digital Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Centre for Digital Humanities Maynooth. n.d. ‘Inside Dublin Castle’. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://dhprojects.maynoothuniversity.ie/2017/littlehales/.

About the Authormk

Michael Kurzmeier is a PhD candidate in Digital Humanities at Maynooth University. His thesis investigates questions of preservation and presentation of digital cultural heritage. The age of digital communication as also the age of massive data collection driven by very different intentions. As those archives serve as memory agents for current and future ways to remember and portrait the past, it is necessary to understand the challenges and opportunities that an increasing digitization of memory brings. Michael received his BA European Literature from Marburg and MA American Studies from Tübingen University. He has worked for DARIAH and has a strong interest in open source hard- and software as well as previous experience as an IT Manager.

Twitter:  @MKRZMR

Website: https://www.mkrzmr.com 

Thank you UCDSU

Logo of UCD students' union

Thank you to our new sponsor, UCD Students’ Union! Both Helena and Clare are graduates of UCD and many of our speakers and attendees over the past four years have been UCD students. We are delighted to bring them on board as our sponsor this year.

Special thanks to Education Officer Stephen Crosby.

Follow UCDSU work on their website, Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you Library Association of Ireland!

library association of ireland logo. slogan reads: representing librarians and libraries in ireland

The fourth SLIP Ireland  annual student conference is just five days away and we would like to thank our silver sponsor, the Library Association of Ireland. The LAI have been so supportive of SLIP Ireland and we really appreciate all the help they have given us. Without this assistance the SLIP Ireland conference would simply not be possible.

A special thank you to Lorna Dodd and Niall O’Brien.

#SLIP2019 Conference Schedule

We are delighted to announce the schedule for the 4th annual SLIP Ireland Student Conference, which is happening next Saturday 23rd February!

Tickets are still available on Eventbrite (they’re free!)

Want to learn more about our speakers? Check out our Lightning Presenter bios here.

10:00 Registration

10:30 Welcome Remarks

10:45 Lightning Presentations

  • Lisa Gardner Reflective writing for professional practice and publication
  • Emma Doran Packing A Punch: Publishing Poster Presentations
  • Michael Kurzmeier One Team, many Authors – Types and Translations of Authorship
  • Niki Naponse Indigenous Knowledge Management

11:35 Break

11:45 Sponsor Presentation

11:50 Academic Panel Discussion

  • Claire McGuinness UCD
  • Jessica Bates Ulster University
  • Tony Murphy DBS
  • Elizabeth Mullins UCD

13:00 Lunch (provided)

14:00 Lightning Presentations

  • Pete Hicks Making Content Marketing Work for Your Library and Your Career
  • Lauren Sneyd My experience as an intern in UCD and my introduction to the library world
  • Aisling Smith & Olga O’Laoghaire Three Centuries in Patents: Books and Blogs of a Patent Librarian
  • Nuala Roche Kilkenny Digital Collection: re-framing theatre content for a general audience 

14:50 Break

15:00 Sponsor Presentation

15:05 Practitioner Panel Discussion

  • Jane Burns AIT
  • Orla Fitzpatrick Jacolette
  • Fiona Kearney IRMS
  • Niamh Ni Charra ARA Ireland

16:15 Closing Remarks

For abstracts of lightning presentations read more after the jump!

Continue reading #SLIP2019 Conference Schedule

#SLIP2019 Call for papers now open

call for papers wide (twitter post)

The Information Professional as Author

The call for papers for our 4th Annual Student Conference is now open! Our theme this year is “The Information Professional as Author” and, as always, we are open to a broad interpretation. You are free to consider any type of writing or publishing an information professional / librarian / archivist may be a part of. From an academic researcher, to a practitioner writing a project report. You could consider grant proposals or social media authorship, or authorship in different formats such as audio, video as well as the written word. Presentations can be about a project you have completed or are currently working on or can be academic in nature.

All presentations will be 10 minute lightning presentations. You are free to choose the style of your presentation, you may use Powerpoint, Keynote, PDF or Prezi.

Submissions are now open for current students and graduates of the last three years from any library qualification (UCD, DBS, Ulster University, distance learning). Submissions are also welcome from students and graduates of Archival Studies, Archives and Records Management and Digital Humanities.

Make your individual or group submission on the form here!

If you have any questions, comments or concerns about the conference just send an email to conference@slipireland.com and we’ll be happy to help you.

Good luck, we can’t wait to see what you have got for us this year!

IMPORTANT INFO Submission Deadline: 17:00 Friday 11th January Date of Conference: Saturday 23 February Location of Conference: Dublin City Library & Archive, Pearse St., Dublin 2 Cost: Free! #SLIP2019