SHARE as a Service-Learning Opportunity for Graduate Students

University of Missouri iSchool students, image © University of Missouri
University of Missouri iSchool students, image © University of Missouri

Recent reports have shown that the need for modular, hands-on, learning opportunities to support digital curation activities is growing.1 As more and more information is being produced digitally or being digitized, an expanded set of skills held by an increasingly wider variety of positions within libraries is required to ensure the ongoing discovery and use of these materials. Additionally, to make the most use of the data about research that SHARE is aggregating, community involvement and contribution to curate and enhance the metadata is essential.

To address these two needs and build data-handling capacity, the SHARE team has developed a curation service-learning program aimed at library and information science (LIS) graduate students. Service learning “is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.”2

Launched in spring 2016, the SHARE service-learning program provides LIS graduate students with student-centered, hands-on work that both benefits the SHARE data set, improves local metadata about scholarly activities, and equips individuals with transferrable skills in digital curation while building technical confidence. In addition to this service-learning program for students and the service-learning Curation Associates program for library professionals, SHARE is developing machine-learning and automation techniques to establish connections among, and enhance, the metadata records. This balance allows for the optimal use of technology and expert curators while scaling the needed metadata enhancement efforts.

SHARE’s first pilot service-learning program was conducted with the University of Missouri’s Digital Libraries course (ISLT 9409) in collaboration with assistant professor Heather Moulaison Sandy, PhD. The SHARE modules were spread out over two weeks in February and were conducted entirely in an online, yet synchronous, classroom environment. Student response to the experience has been extremely positive. In the anonymous mid-semester evaluations, one student (respondent number 6) stated, “I function well in this course because the expectations are clear.  The assignments are engaging and have thus far been skill building instead of simply busy work.”

In collaboration with Moulaison Sandy, SHARE developed two modules by drawing upon the curation expertise within the SHARE Joint Working Group and the technical knowledge of the Center for Open Science. Within these modules, students were introduced to the concept of an application programming interface (API), explored how to read the related API metadata schema, completed activities related to writing and executing an API search, were shown how to transform JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) using OpenRefine, and finally, as an assignment, enhanced metadata downloaded from SHARE that was provided by a local institutional repository.

In total, 80 distinct metadata records were enhanced by the LIS students. SHARE and Moulaison Sandy quality-checked each enhancement element and supplied feedback to the students. The enhancements will be fed back into SHARE and to the local institutional repository—thereby creating round-trip enhancements that benefit many.

SHARE will pilot additional service-learning modules during summer 2016, with the goal of releasing many of the educational modules as free, open, learning opportunities at a later date.

If you are interested in learning more about the service-learning approach or having a SHARE service-learning curation module embedded in your course, please contact SHARE at to learn more.


1. National Research Council, Preparing the Workforce for Digital Curation (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2015); Jennifer L. Adams and Kevin B. Gunn, “Keeping up with…Digital Humanities,” Association of College & Research Libraries, accessed March 21, 2016,

2. “Definition of Service Learning,” Fayetteville State University Office of Civic Engagement and Service Learning, accessed March 21, 2016,