Guest Lecture: Opening Up Your Syllabus and Shadow Libraries

On April 2 at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room in Rubenstein Library, Joe Karaganis will give lectures on the Open Syllabus Project and “shadow libraries.”

The Open Syllabus Project is an effort to map and analyze university curricula by datamining very large numbers of syllabi (currently around four million of them).  Analyzing syllabi in such numbers has a wide range of applications around the university, from support for course building, to research on the evolution of fields, to the emergence of new publication metrics based on the frequency with which work is taught. The project has also provided a prompt for universities, libraries, and faculty to think about the norms and institutional practices that shape the post-classroom life of these documents. The Open Syllabus Explorer 2.0 will launch in May. In the meantime, come hear Joe, director of the OSP, talk about the project and what you can and can’t do with a few million syllabi.

Shadow Libraries (MIT Press, 2018) explores how university students get the materials they need for their educations at universities around the world.  At one level, the answer is simple: they buy, borrow, download, photocopy above all else, and—in many cases—simply do without.  Depending on the context, they share with each other, get materials from faculty, rely on networks of copyshops, and pool materials into informal libraries, which, in a few cases, have become large enough to threaten the publishing ecosystem. These are the shadow libraries of our title. Such bottom-up copying, distribution, and librarianship have transformed access to knowledge in global higher education in the past twenty years.

Shadow Libraries explores these practices and the wider contexts in which they emerged, from booming student populations in middle and low-income countries, to the retreat of the state from higher education mandates, to the efforts of educators, librarians, and publishers to navigate the transition from paper to digital media. Shadow Libraries is the result of a four-year collaboration involving twenty researchers in eight countries. It includes deep dives into developments in Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa, and Poland. Joe, director of the study, will share some of its major findings.

To learn more about the Open Syllabus Project or “shadow libraries,”  please join us today for these lectures.