A growing field, digital scholarship encompasses both traditional methods of research and new technologies (such as GIS data, visualization and big data) to advance research and educational processes. At KSL, the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship has been identifying technologies and services that enable scholars to integrate these tools into their research processes as seamlessly as possible.
In April 2013, KSL issued a white paper that outlined initial plans to advance faculty and student digital scholarship. KSL used that paper as a framework to spur discussions with groups across campus to ascertain how best to move the ideas into action. These discussions resulted in the creation of a follow-up document, “A Call for Participation and Action,” that details the library’s strategy to encourage conversations among both faculty and students, and among digital scholarship service providers, to work in collaboration to advance digital scholarship programming and services.
“We’re looking for ways to be effective with our time and resources and to provide researchers with the best possible services,” said Roger Zender, Team Leader for Digital Learning & Scholarship at KSL. “To do this, we want to facilitate conversations amongst researchers to provide a forum for them to articulate their needs and make their own connections.”
To accomplish this, the new document outlines a process to foster a series of parallel collaborative and community-building conversations. Separate but related discussions are being held first among the researcher community and second among the digital service provider community. Rather than set out a process that would be too ambitious or insufficiently inclusive, the “Call for Participation and Action” describes this dual-track process of conversations within and across the two communities as a means to develop specific actions that will enable a new alliance of willing partners.
The document is an early response to Think Beyond the Possible: 2013-2018, the university’s new strategic plan, which calls for expanded support for digital scholarship and articulates the importance of advancing learning and research through bold new interdisciplinary collaborations and the innovative application of tech-nology. In particular, the plan states that the university will encourage entrepreneurial thinking across campus, such as by “completing the redesign of the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship as an incubation space for creative and collaborative endeavors available to faculty and students who wish to engage in advanced research employing digital scholarship methods and technology.”
As a working document, the “Call for Participation” will continue to be modified as conversations move from cooperation to collaboration, and eventually into shared services in support of digital scholarship programs across campus. Currently, KSL is encouraging feedback on the document. A kickoff meeting was held to gather interested participants from around the university to discuss digital scholarship support and ways to better facilitate communication on campus. At the meeting,
as participants summarized their roles and experiences, several initial common themes became apparent:
"The library has a tradition of connecting users with resources,” said Zender. “While the processes, tools and outcomes may be different, and in many ways more complex, the library still plays a central role in making these connections and supporting researchers on campus.”
Several next steps include targeted surveying of student researchers, creating an inventory of existing services at the university, and organizing “mini-tours” of other facilities around campus. KSL will also host another digital scholarship colloquium this fall to provide a platform to discuss best-practices and to fertilize collaborative, cross-domain connections.
To bring new perspectives to projects and advance the goals of the Freedman Center overall, KSL has added staff who can bring new types and levels of expertise.
“This library is incredibly progressive in terms of the digital services it provides,” said Leigh Bonds, recently hired as Digital Research Services Librarian for the Humanities. “KSL is positioned to support any type of project that comes our way. The Freedman Center is truly advantageous to the research of students and faculty at CWRU.”
Bonds said she was drawn to the position at KSL because of her belief that the library is a hub for idea generation and sharing, consultation and collaboration. Her new role combines both digital scholarship services and traditional research services responsibilities so she can make robust connections with scholars and encourage support on campus for the value of digital humanities.
Amanda Koziura, KSL’s new Digital Learning & Scholarship Librarian, will manage the day-to-day functions of the Freedman Center and guide researchers to connect with available resources.
“A common situation we see is that people have great ideas for projects but no place to store large amounts of data,” said Koziura. “The library can not only help with managing large data sets, but also with visualizing them in new and different ways.”
In addition to these roles, a Digital Research Services Librarian for the Sciences will soon be hired, as well as a new Digital Projects Manager. Having a well-rounded Freedman Center staff will increase the library’s in-house ability to push projects of all disciplines to the next level.