Emily Vinson, audiovisual archivist and curator of the KUHT and KUHF Collections at University of Houston Libraries, is the current recipient of the Rooks Early Career Librarian Fellowship (ECLF). The ECLF endowment was established by former UH Libraries dean Dana Rooks and spouse Charles W. (Mickey) Rooks, PhD to support professional development and research opportunities for UH librarians early in their careers.
Please describe your research.
My central research question was to compare the accuracy of various transcription methods. I had been considering how to make our audiovisual (AV) archival collections more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing users through closed captions. I had imagined that online machine-generated transcripts would be the path forward for making collections accessible.
How did the fellowship facilitate the development of this work?
Without the ECLF funding, I would never have been able to test my assumptions on the accuracy of transcription methods. In the first year of the Fellowship I developed a small research study to compare four methods of transcription, including professional transcriptionist services, artificial intelligence machine-generated services, free “hacks,” and untrained study participants drawn from library student and staff employees. In order to create a study that reflected the types of materials that would be encountered in an archival AV collection, I selected video samples from our collection with a diverse range of recording issues that could affect transcription quality.
The Rooks ECLF provided me with time and space to develop and execute a research study. While this was valuable in its own right, it also had a very positive unanticipated outcome – I was able to draw on what I had learned from the study and tap into the Fellowship funding to launch a project to retain student employees in a remote work project during the COVID-19 campus closure. Along with colleagues in Metadata and Digitization Services, we were able to engage over 25 student employees from across the UH Libraries in the creation of hundreds of hours of high-quality video captions.
What takeaways did you learn from this experience? What advice do you have for other early career librarians?
If you have an idea, give it a shot! I had no experience designing or executing a research study. At UH Libraries, we are fortunate to have many colleagues with expertise to draw on, as well as the wider campus community. I received advice that was integral to creating a well-planned study.
I’ve gained such valuable experience – from navigating the institutional review board process to gaining a deeper appreciation for the vital importance of captions. This experience has also opened the doors to numerous opportunities to present on my research, and I anticipate seeking opportunities to publish on it as well.