What is MLA Core ?
The landing page for MLA Core gives this description: CORE is a full-text, interdisciplinary, non-profit social repository designed to increase the impact of work in the Humanities.
So what does that mean?
Core stands for Common Open Repository Exchange. Funded by the National Endowment for Humanities, MLA Core is a collaboration between the Modern Language Association and Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia University. Core, which is currently a beta release, is basically a repository of open source scholarship housed by the MLA Commons, or the scholarly network for MLA members.
Through this initiative members have access to:
- Upload a variety of objects and formats
- Insert metadata for objects
- Add additional authors
- Assert CC copyright
- Get a DOI or insert publisher’s DOI if published
- Associate object with MLA Group
- Comment on and discuss others’ uploads
Visitors to the site (aka people who aren’t a member of MLA Commons) have access to:
- Browse deposited material
- Perform full search & faceted browse of deposits
- View author’s Commons profile
- Download deposited material
What is special about Core?
Here’s what they have to say:
Not just articles and monographs: Core includes course materials, white papers, conference papers, code, and digital projects
Community notifications: Send instant notifications about the work you’ve shared to members of your Humanities Commons groups.
Citation and attribution: All items uploaded to CORE get a DOI, or digital object identifier, that serves as a permalink, citation source, and assertion of authorship all in one.
Licensing: Select the Creative Commons license that best meets your needs.
Archiving for the future: Files deposited in CORE are stored in the Columbia University Libraries long-term digital preservation storage system.
Open-access, open-source, open to all: Anyone can read and download your work for free (no registration required)
The great thing about the concept of CORE is that you can also use it to upload peer-reviewed journal articles, dissertations and theses; works in progress; conference papers; syllabi; abstracts; data sets; presentations; translations; book reviews; maps; charts; etc.; and you remain the owner of any work deposited here. This allows for a database of diverse scholarship, which is all open source. Also the collaborative aspect, which allows users to comment on, upload, and give input also helps to bridge the gaps in scholarly communication.
So how does it work in practice?
I decided to give the database a try. To upload scholarship, you must become a member of MLA Commons, either by being an MLA member, or joining the open humanities commons network. Membership to the MLA costs money based on your salary (anywhere from $26-$359), or if your a graduate student ($26). If you create a free account through the humanities commons, you have access to CORE, but not as much as full MLA members. I created an account through the open network:
At first glance, the form to upload things seems pretty simple!
I decided to try and upload my research paper from my Civil War and Reconstruction class.
Now that I’ve uploaded my paper, I can find it in my deposits:
Overall, the the process of uploading scholarship seems super easy. I wonder how visible this will be to other people? A database is only as good as its search function, so I am going to test that out next.
Searching for scholarship on MLA Core
When you click on “find open access materials” you are brought to this page:
It automatically sorts deposits starting the the newest ones at the top. As you can see, the top three most recent are already fairly different topic wise, which is a testament to all the different academic fields that are using the Core.
Keeping with the theme, I typed in “civil war” to the search bar. It came up with 459 results, all of which (besides mine) seemed only tangentially related to civil wars.
I couldn’t seems to find an option to do an advanced search, other than the side bar which allows to narrow results by date, item type, or subject. There was also no option to sort the results by most relevant, only by most recent and alphabetically. I tried to search again using boolean phrases, hoping to narrow my results. I typed in “civil war” AND “united states” into the search bar. It turned back no results, suggesting it may not have the capability to process boolean phrases (or no one else has uploaded papers about the American civil war, which I doubt).
So, it seems as though the search function for Core is a little lack luster. Nonetheless, there are some other cool features. You can join different groups based on your areas of interest.
Whenever you upload something to Core, groups you are a member of will get notified by getting an email (which is a setting you can turn off), and by appearing in the activity feed of the group. I joined the Digital Humanists group:
You can also search for Core member’s personal websites, as well as create your own, using wordpress:
Overall, MLA/Humanities Core works as sort of a social network for scholars of really any discipline. It offers an easy way to communicate with people in your field as well as people who aren’t–working to open the lines of scholarly communication. While it the Core depository’s search function doesn’t seem great, the platform is still in Beta form. The website even offers a roadmap of whats to come. So, despite this minor flaw, this type of transparency combined with the overall concept of an academic social network results in what could become a highly effective platform for scholarly communication.