A Brief Introduction to the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)

by H. Lewis Ulman

At any given time, less than two percent of the Smithsonian Institution’s approximately 137 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens are on display in its exhibits (“Smithsonian Collections”). Similarly, the digital exhibits in Stories That Speak to Us provide visitors with detailed analyses of a small number of narratives selected by guest curators from among the more than 3,600 narratives preserved in the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN), a publicly available online archive of personal literacy narratives in a variety of formats (text, video, audio) that recount contributors’ literacy practices and values in their own words. Stories That Speak to Us employs the motifs of exhibits and curators in part to suggest the relationship between the narratives “on display” in the project and the much larger collection of narratives in the DALN as a whole. The nature of the archive, the circumstances under which the narratives contained in it were composed and contributed to the DALN, and the ways visitors interact with the narratives all provide valuable context for making meaning of the narratives.Further, Stories That Speak to Us allows visitors to study the literacy narratives in the exhibits directly via links to the DALN, while the essays in this collection constitute something analogous to exhibit catalogs. The individual exhibits examine themes such as “betweenity,” scaffolding, digital divides, ethnolinguistic vitality, ludic literacies, black women’s literacy narratives, the convergence of local and global discourses about literacy, feminism and digital literacy, and transnational “thirdspaces” of literacy. At the end of the collection, we will suggest some ways to explore—and provide some tools for exploring—these and other topics in the entire archive. Here, we provide the DALN backstory—how the DALN came to be, how the narratives came, and continue to come, to the DALN—because the nature of the archive, the circumstances under which the narratives contained in it were composed and contributed to the DALN, and the ways visitors interact with the narratives all provide valuable contexts for making meaning of the narratives.1


Having previously conducted hundreds of oral history interviews focused on literacy practices and values, and written extensively about personal literacy narratives, Cynthia Selfe arrived at The Ohio State University in September 2005 with the idea of creating a unique archive of personal literacy narratives. Unlike previous projects that collected literacy narratives primarily to conduct and publish research on the narratives—the original records remaining in scholars’ files—the archive Professor Selfe proposed to her colleagues at several universities would be online, multi-format (e.g., text, audio, and video), preserved for the long term by an institutional host, and publicly available to multiple audiences for multiple purposes including but not limited to research. At a time when literacy practices and values are changing in response to new digital modes of composition and communication, we hoped that the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives, as the archive came to be called, would create an invaluable historical record of a period of rapid change. We also realized that the DALN would require a “big humanities” model similar to “big science” projects: it would have to attract external funding, would require wide collaboration by people with very different skill sets, and would require extensive institutional infrastructure. Here’s an excerpt from Professor Selfe’s original proposal for the project, which took the form of a personal invitation to potential collaborators:

To design and create [a] national Digital Literacy Archive—a large-scale digital corpus of literacy interviews and artifacts in multiple formats (e.g., print, video, audio) that trace the digital literacy practices and values of U.S. citizens and that [is] open to scholars from around the world. The first large-scale repository of its kind, this Archive would provide researchers from a range of disciplines a site for studying the changing nature of U.S. literacy practices in the 21st century. Scholars could use the Archive as a site for identifying and studying emerging literacy trends and tracing literacy practices and values historically. Educators could use the Archive as a site for shaping increasingly effective instruction at all levels.

The Archive could build on the interests and expertise of a broad range of literacy scholars and contribute information at many levels. At the state level, Archive scholars from OSU, Kent State, Miami of Ohio, Bowling Green, and the University of Akron, among others, would collaborate to gather information about the literacy practices and values of Ohioans. On the regional and national level the Archive will involve representative scholars from member institutions belonging to the Big Ten’s Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), and other key colleges and universities to undertake a humanities project that could not be successfully attempted by any single institution. (Selfe, “Documenting Literacy”)

In this initial articulation, we can see some of the features that continue to characterize the DALN: an open archive that is freely available worldwide via the Internet, consisting of individuals’ literacy narratives (at first described as “interviews”) and artifacts in multiple digital formats. Further, the idea of “big humanities” as articulated in this early planning document continues to inform the DALN:

In this sense, the Archives represents a unique and valuable kind of Big Humanities project—one that resembles Big Science projects like the Genome Project in its overall scope, but that also recognizes the value of individuals and their stories by focusing on the information contained within individual literacy interviews. The project will also allow scholars to focus on specialized groups of interviews for further study: disabled workers, women scientists, Native American teens, Black engineering students, computer-using seniors, first-year composition students, etc. (Selfe, “Documenting Literacy”)

In hindsight, we can see that the DALN’s similarities to “big science” projects like the Human Genome Project (HGP) would inform its development as much as its differences. The HGP also relied on individual samples, aimed to provide insights about diverse human groups, and, more importantly, had to consider many similar ethical, legal, and social issues such as privacy, psychological risks to individuals, and the relationship of its data to education and public policy (“Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues”).

Other aspects of the project would change significantly. For example, this early document focuses on researchers and educators, building on their interests and efforts to “gather information” about “U.S. Literacy practices in the 21st century.” While researchers and educators continue to play key roles in the development of the DALN and represent an important audience, various factors we discuss below shifted the focus of planning from researchers gathering information for study to individuals contributing personal literacy narratives for their own reasons. And while the DALN still aims to preserve evidence useful for “studying emerging literacy trends and tracing literacy practices and values historically,” it does not focus exclusively on the twenty-first century. Further, while the DALN benefits immensely from the efforts of colleagues at other schools, colleges, and universities, it turned out to be impractical and unnecessary to establish a formal network of DALN centers at different universities and campuses (an idea further developed in the DALN’s original application for IRB approval—see below).

That initial planning document also listed six “issue areas” that the project would need to address:

  • intellectual property and licensing of content;
  • human subjects approval;
  • information architecture and database design;
  • protocol design (e.g., core questions, alternative questions) and methodology (inclusion criteria, editorial policies);
  • ethics and privacy; and
  • assessment.

Work on these six issues turned out to influence the current structure of the DALN profoundly.

The Ethics of the Archive

Because it involves work with human subjects, the DALN required approval from Ohio State’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), a committee established at all institutions conducting federally-funded research on human subjects to review and approve such research. Ohio State’s IRB describes its charge as follows:

[In] accordance with Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, an IRB reviews research proposals to ensure risks have been minimized and the potential for benefit has been maximized before human subjects participate in the research. The authority conveyed to the IRB includes decisions to approve, disapprove, require modifications, monitor, suspend and terminate research projects involving human subjects.

The IRB also ensures, as required, that human subjects volunteer to participate in research only after providing legally effective informed consent. Investigators may not solicit subject participation or begin data collection until they have received approval from the appropriate IRB or written concurrence that the research has been determined to be exempt from IRB review (“About IRB”).

Review by the IRB took longer, raised more complex questions, and affected the goals of the project, the roles and responsibilities of participants, and the procedures by which narratives would be contributed to the DALN more profoundly than we anticipated. We first contacted the IRB on 27 October 2005; received tentative approval on 21 April 2006 pending review of our consent and release forms by the OSU Office of Legal Affairs, and received final approval on 9 May 2006—almost six and one-half months after the process began. Some of the changes the DALN underwent during those months can be inferred from the following headnote to our Application for Initial Review of Human Subjects Research:2

This is an application to establish a national Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN). The proposed DALN will help U.S. citizens record their narratives about digital and non-digital literacy practices and literacy values, and store any related literacy artifacts (documents, letters, photographs, blogs, songs, etc.). Contributions to the DALN project and all submissions to the DALN will be voluntary, and contributors will be informed that all DALN materials will be made available to the public on the Internet.
The DALN will be a public archive, beneficial to many groups in our society, including those with particular interest in literacy, communication, and education. Because the DALN would be publicly available, we anticipate a wide range of uses of the archive by such groups as educators, librarians, parents, historians, and academics. Like many oral history archives, the literacy narratives and artifacts archived in the DALN will be available for researchers to use. (Selfe, “Application for Initial Review”)

In part because of the institutional scope of IRB authority, this articulation of the DALN focused on the relationship between OSU directors of the project and contributors to the archive. Where our initial description focused on scholars gathering information, and on researchers and educators studying that information, this description envisions citizens recording literacy narratives and a “wide range of uses” benefitting various groups in various ways. Research still has a place at the table, but it no longer sits at the head.

What is research? Many of these changes arose from our ongoing attempt to understand and accommodate the IRB’s definition of “research,” which is informed by (and in the case of federally funded research, governed by) the Code of Federal Regulations, “Basic Health and Human Services Policy for Protection of Human Subjects” (45 CFR 46, Subpart A), often referred to as the "Common Rule" because it has been adopted by the sixteen federal agencies that conduct, support, or otherwise regulate human subjects research. The Common Rule defines research as “a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. Activities which meet this definition constitute research for purposes of this policy, whether or not they are conducted or supported under a program which is considered research for other purposes” (45 CFR 46.102(d)). The Common Rule defines human subject as “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains (1) Data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or (2) Identifiable private information” (45 CFR 46.102(f)).

As our work during this period focused increasingly on archival issues—where the DALN would be “housed,” how narratives would be submitted, and how individual narratives would be described—the core concerns of the project seemed distant from the definition of research in the Common Rule, notwithstanding the likelihood that researchers, including members of the DALN team, might eventually study the narratives collected in the DALN. As a result, we found ourselves routinely writing against the grain of several prompts on the IRB application. For instance, in response to Item 15, “Research Objectives,” which asks applicants to “List the specific scientific or scholarly aims of the research study,” we wrote,

This application does not describe a systematic research study or the objectives of such a study. Rather, it proposes an archival project which will help people record narratives (video, audio, alphabetic) about their literacy practices and values, and to save these narratives (along with related literacy artifacts) in a place available to the public. The purpose of this project is to establish the first large scale, publicly-available archive in the United States that traces both digital and non-digital literacy practices over time. Such an archive has great value for the public as a historical, cultural, and educational resource, and the goal of this project is to provide that resource while making sure that potential contributors have a clear understanding of the project, their relationship to it, and their rights. (Selfe, “Application for Initial Review”)

Privacy. The IRB application also assumes that participants in research studies will desire that their personal information remains private, an assumption that does not necessarily apply to contributors to oral history projects, many of whom will want their names associated with their stories. Here too, we found ourselves answering against the grain. Asked to explain “how you will protect the confidentiality of identifiable data, including where data will be stored, what security measures will be applied, and who will have access to the data,” we replied,

The proposed DALN will not protect the confidentiality of subjects, all of whom voluntarily submit their literacy narratives and artifacts. Contributors will be cautioned to provide only information that would be appropriate to a publicly-available archive. (Selfe, “Application for Initial Review”)

As things turned out, the DALN currently does provide an option for anonymous submissions, but it does not protect confidentiality across the board or by default.

DALN Submission Protocols. IRBs also review several type of forms required or typically associated with research projects, including informed consent forms, release of information forms, recruitment materials, and research protocols and “instruments” for collecting and analyzing data. The DALN’s recruitment materials include a sample list of prompts for literacy narratives that individuals can use to compose their narratives, but unlike traditional research protocols, the list cannot be binding on narrators or anyone helping them to record their narratives because representatives of the DALN will typically not be present at the time of recording. Rather, the sample questions serve to help narrators understand what sorts of narratives will be appropriate for the DALN and will be accepted when the co-directors review narratives submitted to the DALN.

At the time we wrote the initial application for IRB review, we were also still working through the staffing of the project and the likely means by which narratives would be submitted to the DALN. In one summary on the application form, we wrote,

Although individuals could, potentially, submit materials to the DALN from computers at home, from computers at school, or from any other publicly-available computer with Internet access, the proposed project also seeks to establish a series of DALN Centers (DALNCs) at three OSU campuses (Columbus, Marion, Mansfield) to provide individuals access to digital recording equipment (video cameras, digital audio recorders, scanners); help in video taping, audio recording, or writing their narratives; and assistance in scanning literacy artifacts. (Selfe, “Application for Initial Review”)

This model of DALN Centers led us to list the directors of those Centers as co-investigators, a designation that would require each of them to complete (and renew at regular intervals) online training courses focused on compliance with the human subjects research guidelines outlined in the Common Rule.3 This approach not only created some (as it turned out) unnecessary overhead for the project but also, and more significantly, raised the question of what formal relationship anyone other than authors of narratives has to the process of contributing narratives to the DALN.

Currently, individuals can and do record and submit their literacy narratives to the DALN entirely on their own, but teachers, friends, and colleagues of contributors, as well as colleagues of the DALN co-directors, often help individuals record and contribute narratives to the DALN, organizing theme-based recording events, providing access to recording equipment and Internet connections, and serving as face-to-face audiences for the narratives, often prompting narrators with questions from the DALN protocol and interjecting unscripted questions in response to narratives. But interviewers have no formal relationship to the DALN; narratives are considered the sole property of the narrators, who on their own initiative gift or license their narratives to the DALN.

In short, the process of working through IRB approval and renewal has helped the project directors refine the definition and goals of the DALN, which, at its core, is a self-archiving repository of personal literacy narratives, not a research project. Individual contributions to the archive are submitted almost exclusively through the DALN online portal (they can also be submitted by mail). Contributors typically complete consent, release, license, and information forms online as well, though others may help contributors fill out the forms on paper, submit the narratives online for the contributors, and forward contributors’ paperwork to the directors. When narratives arrive in the DALN submission queue, one of the co-directors accepts or rejects the narratives based on three criteria: narratives must be based on personal experience; must focus on literacy, broadly conceived to include any mode of human composition and communication of meaning; and must be narrative in form (e.g., they must recount personal experience rather than offer abstract arguments about literacy). If the narrative has been submitted via the online portal by someone other than the narrator, we must also have in hand paperwork signed by the narrator, and the information recorded in the online system must agree with the information on the forms.

Infrastructure For An Open Archive

As the priorities of the DALN coalesced around the goal of establishing a self-archiving repository of literacy narratives, the need for an institutional host with expertise in, and a commitment to, preserving and providing access to cultural archives over the long term took on paramount importance. In additional, the DALN required an interface that posed as low a threshold to participation as possible.

In almost any educational or civic context, preservation is the domain of libraries and museums, so we turned first to The Ohio State University Libraries, which had recently developed the Knowledge Bank, an institutional repository for digital collections built on DSpace—open-source, customizable repository software used widely by research libraries. As is the case with other trusted repositories, the Knowledge Bank employs widely accepted standards for data security and data description, and is committed to data migration in the event that the data formats of its holdings become obsolete. And not incidentally, building the DALN in the Knowledge Bank would not involve any direct costs to the project because of the DALN’s association with Ohio State. However, the Knowledge Bank’s process for creating accounts was closely tied to Ohio State’s Internet user account system, and the process for creating outside accounts presented, in our judgment, too high a barrier to members of the public who wished to contribute to the DALN, not to mention more burdensome administrative responsibilities for managing users’ accounts. The system would not scale to thousands of public user accounts. Additionally, the DALN would constitute one collection among many in the Knowledge Bank, resulting in relatively limited opportunities for the DALN’s directors to customize the interface or system.

We turned next to OhioLINK, a consortium of 88 Ohio college and university libraries that, along with the State Library of Ohio, provides online access to shared catalogs and digital materials. OhioLINK was at the time developing the Digital Resource Commons (DRC), “a robust, statewide platform for saving, discovering and sharing—free of charge—the instructional, research, historic and creative materials produced by the University System of Ohio and Ohio's private colleges” (OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons). Currently, the DRC model provides individual DSpace “instances” for each member site, allowing project liaisons a greater degree of freedom than the Knowledge Bank to customize the DSpace interface. Further, the DRC would allow anyone worldwide to create an account in a single step using only an email address, with no intervention from the DALN co-directors, providing the low threshold for contribution and maintenance on which the project depended. Again not incidentally, the DALN’s affiliation with Ohio State meant that we would require no additional funding for the basic repository infrastructure. The DALN had found a home.

Although the DRC offered the best available infrastructure for the DALN, it nevertheless presented challenges that affected contributors’ and visitors’ experiences. The rhetoric of the “out of the box” submission system addresses a small audience of trained contributors—typically librarians—whereas the DALN must address the needs of a large number of untrained contributors. For instance, where DSpace provides “hints” for data entry, the DALN requires much more detailed instructions that often needed to be presented differently on the page in order to orient users to the sequence of task they need to perform. And while DSpace provides some customization through a Web interface and easily modified configuration files, more extensive customization of the interface is not trivial, involving changes to a labyrinth of configuration files and procedural code in specialized languages such as Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) and Java. Fortunately, one member of the DALN team has experience with XSL, but the underlying programming lies beyond the expertise and administrative access of DALN staff. Furthermore, the DRC and DSpace change on their own schedules that meet the needs of the entire DRC and DSpace user communities (the DALN is one of 23 current DRC instances, and over 1,000 organizations use DSpace). The DALN must adapt to those changes.

The DALN maintains a long wish list of features, including the ability for users to tag narratives with their own descriptive terms and to build personal collections of “favorites” within the DALN. Other members of the DRC have been interested in such features, but implementation depends on a DRC-wide development roadmap, and as of February 2013, it appears that the DRC will be dismantled by the end of the year in favor of repositories run by individual institutions, so the DALN will soon need to find a new home.

Metadata: Mapping the Content of the DALN

The DALN differs most profoundly from other DRC sites, all of which are associated with libraries, in its approach to metadata—the information about each item recorded in the system. Ideally, metadata will be consistent and designed to support the purposes of an archive—i.e., each item in a collection will have similar relevant information, and identical information will be entered in the same manner for each item (e.g., a proper name will be spelled identically in each record in which it appears, and controlled vocabularies will limit the values that appear in some fields). Moreover, if metadata follows widely adopted standards, collections can be coordinated—or interoperate—in various ways, including federated searches across collections.

However, developing robust, standardized metadata application profiles, or MAPs, requires skilled metadata specialists, and entering such metadata requires trained data entry staff. Given the priority the DALN places on presenting a low threshold to potential contributors in order to encourage wide participation in the project, and the fact that we had to develop our own MAP for the DALN, we have adopted a radically different approach to metadata. While our submission forms request a good deal of information about each literacy narrative contributed to the archive, all of the fields save one are optional, and we employ no controlled vocabularies, allowing contributors to provide information in their own language. We do so even for fields such as gender, race, and socioeconomic status, fields often associated with artificial categories in other forms such as the U.S. Census. In effect, our approach treats information supplied by contributors as data requiring interpretation in its own right, rather than as information that can be understood as straightforward descriptions of contributors and their narratives.

Obviously, the DALN’s approach to metadata makes life easier for contributors but more challenging for visitors to the site. On the one hand, when searching for narratives, one can never be sure that a search term will return all relevant narratives because of variations in data entry by contributors (e.g., relevant metadata may be missing or misspelled). On the other hand, the low threshold to participation has attracted a large number of narratives to explore, and the metadata associated with those narratives tells its own story about contributors’ understanding of their literacy practices and values. Accordingly, elsewhere in this collection we offer some suggestions for working creatively with the metadata associated with narratives in the DALN.

Special Projects

Visitors to the DALN will also notice a great deal of variety across the narratives in the collection. Formats vary, including text, audio, and video. Some narratives are anonymous, others identify the narrator. Some were recorded in studios with professional lighting, recording equipment, and backdrops. Others were recorded in homes or dorm rooms using cell phones or inexpensive video cameras or digital audio recorders. Some narratives are two minutes long, others an hour and a half. In some, only the narrators speak. In others, an interviewer or facilitator plays a role, large or small, in shaping the narrative. We believe that these variations in format, medium, and length constitute strengths of the DALN, for differences in mediation by themselves convey meaningful information about literacy practices and values in the early years of the twenty-first century.

Some of the variations in the format of narratives reveal stages in the development of the DALN. For example, if users browse the DALN by collection, they will encounter a list of a dozen named collections such as the “Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Contributors” collection. That collection, our first, consists of relatively long, formal interviews conducted in a recording studio. The narratives illustrate the affordances of video for recording oral history in American Sign Language. Other topically focused collections such as the “African-American Women University Professors” collection are intended to illustrate the potential value of the DALN for documenting and preserving records of the literacy practices and values of unique groups.

The DALN contains many more collections of narratives associated with particular groups and institutions, but the mechanism for identifying narratives associated with particular groups changed once it became apparent that the process of creating and maintaining formal sub-collections posed an administrative load that we could not sustain. Instead, we invite facilitators of recording events or sustained community projects to ask individual contributors to identify their narratives with unique search strings entered as subject terms during the submission process. When a user searches on those terms, the system returns a list of all narratives whose metadata contains the unique identifier. For example, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has held two successive annual “Everybody Has a Literacy Story” events at which students, faculty, and staff at the University have contributed 161 narratives, each associated with the unique search string “ualr.” Similarly, over the past three years, the DALN has collaborated with Ohio State’s African American and African Studies Department’s Community Extension Center to offer regular university classes in which students have helped African American citizens of Columbus record 139 narratives to date for a Literacy Narratives of Black Columbus collection. A list of all such projects of which we are aware can be viewed on the DALN Contributing Partners page.


We need to mention here one more source of variation in the DALN narratives. The majority of narratives appear in only a single format: text, audio, or video, as submitted by contributors. We view that situation as a problem, for from the beginning of the DALN we recognized that all media are normative, designed for and requiring specific types and ranges of sensory acuity: text requires the ability to see print of a certain size and color; American Sign Language requires the ability to discriminate gestures and expressions at a range of distances; audio requires that we hear sound at specific ranges of amplitude and frequency; and video requires a complex range of auditory and visual perception. To provide the most inclusive interface possible, the DALN needs to provide narratives in alternative formats, but transcribing and captioning are labor intensive, skilled processes that we cannot practically require of contributors, nor does the DALN have the resources necessary to create alternative formats in house for all narratives. Also, posting transcribed versions of contributors’ narratives to the DALN requires that the terms of the contribution allow the DALN and others to create derivative works.

Fortunately, nearly all narratives contributed to the DALN allow derivative works, and thanks to the collaborative efforts of the DALN and Transcribe Ohio, a grant-funded service coordinated through Ohio State’s Office of Disability Services, a growing number of audio and video narratives are accompanied by text transcripts and/or captioned versions. Transcribe Ohio has provided text transcriptions of 425 audio and video narratives, and DALN staff and students in oral history classes taught by DALN directors have transcribed and/or captioned over 100 more audio and video narratives to date. In addition, all of the narratives mentioned in Stories That Speak to Us have been transcribed or captioned. We continue to follow services and technologies that may eventually allow us to provide alternative formats for all of the narratives in the DALN, not only because doing so would increase the accessibility of the archive to visitors with hearing and vision impairments but also because searchable transcripts increase the discoverability of narratives for everyone.

Digital Exhibits and Stories That Speak to Us

In addition to accessibility, comprehensibility poses an ongoing challenge to the DALN. Collection and preservation of cultural materials are meaningful activities only insofar as people are able to interpret and understand those materials. In mid-November 2009, approximately 18 months after it “went public” (i.e., opened its Web site to public contributions of narratives) the DALN contained over 800 literacy narratives, already more than any one person would be likely to read, listen to, or view. The archive was growing apace, and we needed to help visitors engage with and interpret its contents.

Preparing to teach a course on oral history and literacy narratives, one of the co-directors suggested that we invite students and guest curators to create “digital exhibits” featuring materials in the DALN. As noted above, we envisioned that the motif of exhibits would highlight the fact that the DALN contains much more material than is “on display” in any given exhibit or scholarly article. We would encourage high standards of analysis and presentation but would not exclude independent scholars, historians, journalists, students, or community members from creating exhibits with various focuses (e.g., common themes, narratives by members of a specific group, sub-genre of literacy narratives, and so on) as well as various target audiences (e.g., local neighborhoods or communities, students, teachers, member of extended families, policy makers, or scholars). Exhibits might take various forms, but they would all lead readers back to the original narratives contributed to the DALN and to other narratives that share characteristics of the narratives “on display” in the exhibits. Finally, we envisioned presenting selected exhibits on the DALN Web site.

To date, students in three undergraduate classes have prepared digital exhibits of narratives in the DALN, but we have not yet incorporated those exhibits into the DALN Web site. In late March 2010, we invited graduate students and scholars in composition and literacy studies to contribute digital exhibits for the present volume, Stories That Speak to Us, which we imagined as an online project with the “specific gravity” of a book but in which “readers” became “visitors” and chapters became scholarly “exhibits” offering analyses of narratives in the DALN. The call for proposals stated in part:

The collection is meant to explore the value of literacy narratives and to articulate why and how we consider them useful in studying literacy, how they carry important information about reading and composing that is valuable, not only for scholars and teachers, but for librarians, community literacy workers, individual citizens and groups of people. Such narratives, we maintain, are powerfully rhetorical linguistic accounts through which people fashion their lives, make sense of their worlds, and construct the realities in which they live. These narratives are sometimes laden so richly with information that our conventional academic tools/genres/ways of discussing their power to shape identities; to persuade, and reveal, and discover, to create meaning and affiliations at home, in schools, communities, and workplaces, are inadequate to the task. This edited collection seeks to push the boundaries of this task in new ways and within multimodal environments. (Ulman, DeWitt, and Selfe)

We hope that the exhibits in Stories That Speak to Us provide visitors—literacy researchers and students; public officials; and members of the general public—with rich insights into literacy and lead them to explore those insights further in the thousands of personal literacy narratives contained in the DALN but not discussed in this collection. We also hope that the exhibits will inspire other to create similar exhibits, collections, and scholarly works that share insights about literacy gained through examination of the personal literacy narratives contained in the DALN.

Works Cited

“About IRB.” Office of Responsible Research Practices. Columbus, OH: Office of Research, 5 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2011.

“Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues.” Human Genome Project Information. N.p.: U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs, 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Nov. 2011. <http://genomics.energy.gov>.

OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. OhioLINK, 2011. Web. 6 Jan. 2012.

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Documenting Literacy in An Electronic Age: The Digital Literacy Archive.” 18 Sep. 2005. Microsoft Word file.

Selfe, Cynthia L. “Application for Initial Review of Human Subjects Research.” 13 Apr. 2006. Microsoft Word file.

“Smithsonian Collections.” Newsdesk: Newsroom of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution: 1 May 2010. Web. 26 November 2011.

Ulman, H. Lewis, Scott Lloyd Dewitt, and Cynthia L. Selfe. “Literacy Narratives that Speak to Us: Curated Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives.” 15 March 2010. Microsoft Word file.