FRAME II awarded $1,175,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

“Federated Repositories of Accessible Materials for Higher Education II” awarded a $1,175,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

By law, any material required for the education of a disabled student must be made accessible for them in a timely manner. In the United States, the legal obligation to provide accessible learning materials falls on individual educational institutions, and universities and colleges across the country are scrambling to meet their responsibilities to students with special information-access needs. The staff of disability services offices (DSOs) spend a great deal of time and effort remediating printed texts, transforming them into a variety of electronic formats to improve access for students with print disabilities. Because many of the same texts are commonly assigned at multiple institutions, the result is a wasteful duplication of effort as the DSO staff at each independent university must start the remediation work over again.

For the last two years, the University of Virginia Library has led a multi-institutional project to address this problem. With a two-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, University Librarian John Unsworth initiated an effort to create a web-based infrastructure allowing DSOs to share remediated texts, in order to reduce their nationwide duplication of effort, and thereby make it possible for the staff in these offices to achieve better outcomes for students in higher education.

That collective effort, known as “FRAME,” will now continue for another two years and expand to include new partners, thanks to a grant of $1,175,000 from The Mellon Foundation for a second phase dubbed “Federated Repositories of Accessible Materials for Higher Education II.” Representatives of the DSO and library staff at Ohio State University will join their counterparts from George Mason University, Northern Arizona University, Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Virginia, along with a development and project management team based at the UVA Library. Much of the group’s work will concentrate on expanding and improving EMMA (Educational Materials Made Accessible), a membership-based secure repository for remediated texts, and developing workflows wherein librarians and DSO staff will cooperate in uploading texts to the repository.

“For too long, most academic libraries have left accessibility to their colleagues in disability services, even though it is all about providing information resources for teaching and research. The FRAME project seeks to establish a partnership between libraries and disability service offices, to ensure that remediated content is preserved, organized, and made discoverable for re-use, reducing the duplication of staff effort in order to improve service to students (and faculty) with disabilities,” states Unsworth, who is continuing his role as principal investigator from the first FRAME grant.

Also continuing to support the project will be three major digital repositories: Bookshare, HathiTrust, and the Internet Archive. Through a federated search interface, these repositories provide EMMA users with texts that have already been remediated for users with print disabilities or that are machine-readable and suitable for further remediation by DSO staff — a big advantage over having to scan a printed book. Benetech, the parent company of Bookshare, supplied much of the search infrastructure for EMMA in the first phase of the FRAME project and has committed in the second phase to sharing certain cutting-edge technologies to automate parts of the labor-intensive remediation process. In the second year of FRAME II, an additional repository will join the collaboration: the Accessible Content e-Portal sponsored by the Ontario Council of University Libraries.

Another important element of the project is the cooperation of the university presses affiliated with six of the participating universities: George Mason, Illinois, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, and Wisconsin. As publishers of texts that might be used in higher education, the presses have all committed to contributing machine-readable versions of their publications to EMMA or one of its federated repositories.

John Unsworth is joined by FRAME II co-principal investigator J. Stephen Downie, Associate Dean for Research at the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences. Professor Downie will lead a new educational initiative, developing curricular materials for professional education in library schools. The materials created by Downie and a team of expert collaborators will train library and information professionals in the information needs of students, faculty, and other library users with disabilities. Professor Downie states, “It is truly inspiring to be working with all the project partners at Illinois, Virginia and beyond to realize the promise of the FRAME II vision.”

Read more about the project’s beginnings in 2019 and Mason’s involvement.

Library faculty recognized at Celebration of Teaching Excellence

Maoria Kirker and Wendy Mann were recognized at the 2021 Celebration of Teaching Excellence today, an annual event hosted by the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning at Mason.

Maoria Kirker, Lead of the Teaching & Learning Team at the Libraries and adjunct faculty with the Honors College, received the Adjunct Teacher of Distinction Award. Teacher of Distinction commendations are awarded based on an instructor’s teaching innovation and excellence, commitment to their students, and mentorship activities, among other qualities. To read more about Maoria’s accomplishments and recognition from her students and colleagues, click here for an article written by Mariam Qureshi, Honors College Writing and Reporting Intern (and one of Maoria’s students).

Wendy Mann, Director of the Digital Scholarship Center, received the Distinguished Library Faculty Award. The Distinguished Library Faculty Award is awarded to a library faculty member in recognition of their professional accomplishments, embodiment of the Libraries’ organizational values, and support of the Mason scholarly community. To read more about Wendy’s accomplishments and recognition from her peers, click here for the Libraries’ announcement.

Mann to receive 2021 Distinguished Library Faculty Award

Wendy Mann, Director of the Digital Scholarship Center, has been selected to receive the 2021 Distinguished Library Faculty Award. With this award, she is recognized for her professional accomplishments, her embodiment of the Libraries’ organizational values, and her tremendous support of the Mason scholarly community.

Mann received enthusiastic endorsements from her Digital Scholarship Center (DiSC) colleagues, library and instructional faculty colleagues, and professional colleagues from external organizations – demonstrating her remarkable career and wide impact at Mason and beyond. All agreed that she has distinguished herself through her commitment to her role and her breadth of involvement within the Mason Libraries, around the university, and throughout the region.

Wendy’s contributions in the envisioning and implementation of the DiSC program at Mason, itself a leading development among academic research libraries, is a perfect demonstration of her innovation, collaboration, and leadership. In large measure, it is to her credit that DiSC has evolved into a multidisciplinary digital research hub that has quickly become the “go-to resource” for both student and faculty data support needs.

As one colleague wrote, “Through her knowledge of digital scholarship, and together with the team she has cultivated, Wendy has forged new relationships for the Libraries throughout the University, solidifying the Libraries as an essential partner in research and teaching. Deservedly respected by students, departmental faculty, university administrators, and library colleagues within and beyond Mason, Wendy embodies the qualities the Distinguished Library Faculty Award celebrates.”

The award will be presented officially at Mason’s Celebration of Teaching Excellence ceremony, hosted by The Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning. The Center is working on plans for an updated recognition ceremony for all award winners, either in-person or online, for some time in April 2021. Please join us in congratulating Wendy!

New Center for Mason Legacies

Undergraduate research guided by CHSS faculty and University Libraries librarian fueled the inspiration for the Memorial to the Enslaved People of George Mason.
Image: Rendering of the new memorial courtesy of Perkins & Will.

The University Libraries and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) are pleased to announce the newly established Center for Mason Legacies (CML) at George Mason University. CML will be led by George Oberle (History Librarian and faculty member in the Department of History and Art History), along with two associate directors, Wendi Manuel-Scott (professor of history, integrative studies, women and gender studies, and African and African-American Studies) and Benedict Carton (faculty member in the Department of History and Art History), and an advisory board of CHSS faculty.

This joint initiative unifies scholarly research, public history, teaching innovation, and community outreach by engaging student researchers in studying the past and present influences of the university’s namesake. Carton underscores the value of such exploration: “We are uncovering hidden histories of George Mason IV, the legal visionary, family man, and slaveowner. His life and example inform our nation’s founding concepts of liberty, justice, and property. What can we learn about his institution-building, opportunities and limitations, social and commercial networks, and what our Patriot intentionally and unintentionally imparted to America?”

CML is building and curating a significant archive of unique records generated by and about George Mason IV, his family, and their many associates. The historical coverage of this archive will span the period of the Virginia Colony through the Early Republic and Antebellum era to Jim Crow, civil rights, and the establishment of George Mason University. The pool of materials will include archaeological reports (e.g. plotting remnants of field dwellings, burial grounds, etc.); cultural artifacts; oral interviews with possible descendants of enslaved people from Gunston Hall and surrounding plantations in Virginia and Maryland; the collected testimonies of early African-American alumni remembering their experience at Mason and the meaning of their university namesake; and other sources. Building on these historical examinations, CML will look at the present and host events to facilitate critical conversations about freedom, slavery, and race in America and how we reckon with our past.

George Oberle, CML director, is enthusiastic about the prospects of engaging more university students in archival-based research and the center’s efforts in guiding and supporting historical and cultural documentation. He observes, “I love the work the center is exploring because it shows great potential to sustain years of student-driven research. Our initial experience with the Enslaved Children of George Mason (ECGM) pilot project led by Professor Manuel-Scott shows that undergraduates are excited to uncover and present histories with immediate meaning to wider audiences on campus and in communities beyond. We have not and are not defining topics. On the contrary, students are developing their interests and, in the process, broadening critical-thinking skills, for example, by conducting fieldwork in local archives. Their initiative promises to enhance the understanding of our university’s diverse, complicated, and still-unknown story.”

Wendi Manuel-Scott, who is also affiliated with the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, is deeply committed to scholar-community partnerships. She views the new center as a means of engaging student researchers in a critical dimension of university outreach, which seeks to connect and enrich the knowledge of wider worlds. “When pursuing public history such as the Enslaved Children of George Mason research,” she reminds us, “it becomes our institutional responsibility as a public university to engage with as many people as possible on and beyond the campus. Our student-faculty-administrative research has influenced not only Mason but also those around us. That is why we are committed to making our findings accessible – both in content and format – to our university and alumni as well as to scholars everywhere such as K-12 school teachers. The center should have lasting, meaningful impact that will embrace and inspire many others.” In this vein, CML will provide opportunities for research, teaching, and engagement with Northern Virginia communities around the history of slavery and its legacies in modern society.

John Zenelis, Dean of Libraries and University Librarian, signals the vital importance of the shared goals animating the partnership of CHSS and the Libraries, “The center is a natural outcome of student success and scholarly research. I am pleased that the Libraries’ faculty and staff are both leading and supporting our university in a way that brings greater visibility to our institution’s premier academic contributions. The Libraries offer an ideal, curated repository for the center’s archive of collected materials, community records, and academic products, which will enhance administrative, faculty, and student commitments to diversifying and deepening collaborative learning at Mason.”

Ann Ardis, Dean of CHSS, notes that “this exciting new partnership between CHSS faculty and the University Libraries is bringing George Mason’s complicated legacies to digital life for a new generation of student-scholars and enabling important new dimensions of community engagement and K12 outreach. The work that Dr. Oberle, Professor Carton, and Professor Manuel-Scott and their teams of student researchers are undertaking is a great example of Mason’s trademark commitments to collaborative, project-based learning and research of consequence.”

For more about the CML’s ongoing projects and future plans, visit https://library.gmu.edu/legaciesofgeorgemason. The website showcases student analyses and projects, primary sources, and will be the home of an online academic journal promoting relevant scholarship.

Questions? Contact George Oberle, Director of the Center for Mason Legacies, at goberle@gmu.edu; or Jessica Clark, Development & Communications Officer, at jclarkw@gmu.edu.

The Libraries at Mason – Spring Issue

Our annual issue of The Libraries at Mason magazine is now available. Special features include our Oral History Program and partnership with the Mason Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; faculty research endeavours; and our inaugural Artist-in-Residence program. We hope you enjoy this issue!