And now for something else completely positive.
I got to know many nice and wonderful people during the time that I was on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma. One of them is Dr. Laura Gibbs. Laura is a classicist and a folklorist with an interest in new approaches to both university-level teaching and scholarly communications. Among the many things that illustrate how cool she is, I would point out that she is the most passionate language teacher I have ever seen. And the language that she is passionate about teaching is Latin. How cool is that? She goes all out for her students (and everyone is a potential student) whether or not those students happen to be enrolled in one of her classes. When we were both actually on the OU campus, I would usually see her doing language tutorials with students in a campus coffee shop or someplace similar. (I am not at OU anymore and she mainly teaches online now.)
She is probably most famous for her new translation of Aesop’s Fables published by Oxford University Press, but I want to point to one of her newer book projects, a cool DIY OA book worth checking out even if (like me) you know nothing about Latin.
In a best of times, worst of times (for scholarly publishing) email discussion, she mentioned this project, telling me:
This summer I experimented with self-publishing a book at Lulu.com AND giving it away in PDF format. It’s the most fun I have ever had doing a book: Mille Fabulae et Una: 1001 Aesop’s Fables in Latin. The book is intended for Latin students and teachers; it’s a Latin language manual rather than a scholarly study, but it is based on a really serious survey of the whole scholarly and literary Latin Aesopic tradition, from ancient Rome up through the 19th century (including LOTS of Renaissance fables otherwise unavailable in any modern edition). It has worked out wonderfully, just as I had hoped. Some teachers have bought printed copies for themselves, but the main thing is this: thanks to teachers recommending the book as a free download for their students, there have been over 1600 downloads in just a few weeks. In the weird little world of post-classical Latin, that is a seriously large number. I am really happy! Plus, the fables look GREAT on handheld screens, so offering it as a PDF with the expectation that people might read the book on their iPhone or Android is something new and exciting for me.
The book itself is a celebration of public domain materials–basically me harvesting from GoogleBooks and other digital libraries–and now I am using my blog to link up the Latin texts to the hundreds of public domain images I have found at Internet Archive where the scans are good enough to justify reproducing the images for their own sake.
You can learn more about this project and see and get the book itself on her project website at http://millefabulae.blogspot.com/
When I asked Laura if I could share the story of her project, she replied enthusiastically and commented:
I love telling people about what I am doing because this is a time when people who love stories and music and art can learn and connect and share in ways that just were not easy to do even a few years ago. Now if somebody has a project they want to pursue, all they need is time and enthusiasm – that to me is why open access is important as a principle; if we can remove the access barriers, real education will take place, at last.
What more needs to be said?
In addition to the cool book and website, Laura has leveraged everyday blog features and other software to allow people to do such things as put a Latin fable of the day on their own blogs. There is no end to what she has already created and tried to share with you (or at least with the vast world of budding classicists). Check out not only the 1001 Aesop’s Fable in Latin site, but also her main site where there are piles of stuff made just for you (and everybody else).
My elementary-age daughter and I have been systematically reading all of Andrew Lang’s so-called colored fairy books, thus I have to point to one more of Laura’s projects. She has created a one-stop shop where you can go and not only get basic information on this series, but download (free) copies of all of the books in a very easy way. Check that out at: http://www.mythfolklore.net/andrewlang/
Thank you Laura for teaching in more ways than one! And thanks also to the folks at the University of Oklahoma who have supported Laura’s unusual and productive work as a teacher, technologist, and scholar.