Number 53 • September/October 2006
Disciplines Converge on Need for Cyberinfrastructure by Chuck Henry
Postdoctoral Program Bridges Library, Faculty by Daphnée Rentfrow
Disciplines Converge on Need for Cyberinfrastructure
by Chuck Henry
BY YEAR’S END, the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) will have issued Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the American Council of Learned Societies’ Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for Humanities and Social Sciences.1 It is the final document in a trilogy of major publications that began in 2003 with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) blue ribbon report, Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure.2 The second publication in the series was the Final Report: NSF SBE-CISE Workshop on Cyberinfrastructure and the Social Sciences,3 published in May 2005.
A Shared Vision for Intellectual Productivity
The three reports mark a rare occurrence in the history of higher education in the United States: convergence across nearly all disciplines on a single issue, cyberinfrastructure. Together, the reports present an extraordinary shared vision of a new environment needed for intellectual productivity and innovation in research and teaching. They also offer compelling testimony to the need for a robust and sustainable cyberinfrastructure if scholarship and research are to progress or, in some instances, to survive.
The 2003 NSF report defines cyberinfrastructure as “a layer of enabling hardware, algorithms, software, communications, institutions, and personnel” that lies between a layer of “base technologies” composed of the “electro-optical components of computation, storage, and communication” and a layer of software programs, data, information, and “social practices applicable to specific projects, disciplines, and communities.” That definition is consistent throughout the subsequent reports.
This definition emphasizes the power of sharing information from a variety of sources and instruments across platforms and disciplines. Cyberinfrastructure encompasses the standards and protocols requisite for such interoperability as well as the professional expertise needed to support the infrastructure. All three reports emphasize that a well-constructed, well-maintained cyberinfrastructure will transform research and teaching. Such an infrastructure will spawn new methodologies and intellectual strategies. It will bring a needed coherence to the vast array of data, research projects, and experimentation now under way across the nation and the world. It will create an environment that facilitates discovery and understanding in new ways. Together, these reports lay the basis for a national agenda and offer CLIR compelling opportunities to provide structure and leadership for the discussions that will shape that agenda.
CLIR’s Role in Advancing Cyberinfrastructure
CLIR is well positioned to focus on the humanities and social sciences in coordination with other agencies that are wrestling with the evolution of the sciences and engineering. Following on recommendations made by its Advisory Committee on Scholarly Communication last January, CLIR plans to convene groups of librarians, scholars, information technology professionals, and administrators to discuss the implications of a new cyberinfrastructure for research and teaching. CLIR’s willingness to serve as a convergence point for these communities is in itself helpful. Forming stronger partnerships with the ACLS and the Social Science Research Council and working more programmatically with the National Academies will enhance these efforts, as will creating closer ties to the American Association of Universities and reinvigorating CLIR’s role in the Scholarly Communication Institutes. While continuing to build on its historical strengths in scholarly communication and preservation, CLIR will contextualize those interests within the cyberinfrastructure environment.
Developing leadership, a salient aspect of CLIR’s work, will be critical in the emerging cyberinfrastructure. Two key CLIR programs—the Frye Institute and the Postdoctoral Program in Scholarly Information Resources in the Humanities—are perfect venues for exploring leadership qualities that will be needed to guide institutions through the transformations that the reports predict will be forthcoming in knowledge organization, research, scholarship, and librarianship.
CLIR has already made a commitment to help arrange and publish the results of symposia and other conferences that focus on specific recommendations of the ACLS report and the actions needed to implement them. Many of these recommendations—for example, developing public and institutional policies that foster openness and access, promoting cooperation between public and private sectors, and encouraging digital scholarship—will require concerted and thoughtful deliberation, followed by development of a blueprint for action. Other recommendations, such as developing and maintaining open standards and robust tools and creating extensive and reusable digital collections, can similarly be realized by meetings, funded research projects, and purposeful dialogue that includes, among others, the Association of Research Libraries, the Digital Library Federation (Aquifer can serve as a test bed for exploration), the NSF, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services. CLIR is well positioned to serve a coordinating function to maximize the efficiency of grants across many funding agencies investing in a cyberinfrastructure.
One key recommendation in the ACLS report calls for the establishment of national centers to support scholarship that contributes to and exploits cyberinfrastructure. This single recommendation, of exceptional, long-term consequence, would benefit from an array of workshops, discussions, and research to ascertain what kinds of centers would best serve a national agenda, and where they might be established.
While CLIR’s current agenda encompasses many other important issues relevant to libraries and information resources, the cyberinfrastructure reports offer a rare opportunity both to widen and to deepen CLIR’s purpose, exemplifying its vision as a vibrant and necessary organization that helps reveal, clarify, and give shape to an era of exhilarating transformation.
Major Recommendations of Our Cultural Commonwealth
Chuck Henry, vice provost and university librarian at Rice University, serves on the CLIR Board and is a trustee of the Digital Library Federation. He is a member of the ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for Humanities and Social Sciences.
1Available in draft form at http://www.acls.org/cyberinfrastructure/.
2Available at http://www.nsf.gov/od/oci/reports/toc.jsp.
3Available at http://vis.sdsc.edu/sbe/reports/SBE-CISE-FINAL.pdf.
Postdoctoral Program Bridges Library, Faculty
by Daphnée Rentfrow
JULY 23 SAW the arrival of the newest cohort of CLIR Postdoctoral Fellows in Scholarly Information Resources at what has become known as “library boot camp.” Held at Bryn Mawr College under the leadership of its library director and chief information officer, Elliott Shore, boot camp is an intensive introduction to modern librarianship with a special emphasis on the challenges facing academic libraries in the digital age. This year’s group of eight fellows was joined by returning fellows and guests, including Don Waters and Mary Patterson McPherson of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and, by phone, John Unsworth of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). As in previous years, fellows enjoyed the hospitality of Deanna Marcum during a visit to the Library of Congress (LC). Along with CLIR Board Chairman Charles Phelps, Marcum, who is associate librarian for library services at LC, was responsible for creating the postdoctoral fellowship. Both have been strong supporters of its growth.
Launched in 2004, the fellowship program offers a one or two-year on-site learning opportunity to recent Ph.D.s who see the potential for developing meaningful linkages between disciplinary scholarship, libraries, archives, and evolving digital tools. Based at one of several participating academic institutions, 15 fellows have either completed or are in their second year of the program, which brings scholars with teaching experience into the academic library to serve as bridges between librarians and faculty members. Because of their training and experiences as scholars, teachers, and users and producers of digital collections, the fellows are in a unique position to bring together these two groups to discuss how they can collaborate to benefit undergraduates as well as humanities scholars. The sidebar lists examples of fellows’ accomplishments.
Recent interviews with former fellows and participating library directors reveal that the program is meeting the needs of both libraries and universities. Bancroft Library Director Charles Faulhaber explains that as libraries think about how to digitize collections, they are collaborating with professors, teachers, and other academics to see how such collections can be used for classroom instruction. “This is a new area for libraries,” he notes. “Postdoctoral fellows, many who have taught, contribute very solid ideas. [Our CLIR fellow] Michelle Morton provided interesting input from her perspective as a teacher, as well as an active user, of a special collection.”
Morton is equally enthusiastic about the fellowship experience: “I feel like I’ve found my niche in the academic world and am really enjoying my work. . . . I believe the whole mission of the program makes a lot of sense and will be very rich and productive for both worlds.”
Karin Trainer, university librarian at Princeton University and one of the program’s first sponsors, notes that she was “very interested in the program for twin reasons: awareness of employment problems for Ph.D.s and . . . [of the] difficulty in recruiting people to jobs in academic research libraries.” She believes that the most important role for librarians in the future will be in the classroom, and that recruiting young scholars with teaching backgrounds to the profession is essential.
Library School Attracts Some Fellows
Paula Kaufman, former university librarian and now interim chief information officer of UIUC, supports the fellowship because she believes it is one way of meeting an imminent, serious shortage in the library workforce.
“We need to think creatively about how to encourage people who wouldn’t have thought about academic librarianship as a career to do so,” Kaufman says. “For most of those folks, the traditional master’s degree program will be the right path. But there is a group of highly educated and motivated people who want and need the opportunity to explore academic librarianship through hands-on experience under the watchful eyes of experienced librarians.”
The library profession “should be open to looking beyond credentialed degrees to other sets of skills and experiences for the people who will make our libraries work well in the coming decades,” Kaufman notes. She reports that the UIUC fellows have “done really useful work and have made significant contributions to the Library.” One of those fellows began the fellowship with an MLIS in hand, and another is now enrolled in the MLIS program at UIUC.
All told, five fellows are currently enrolled in libary school and one is seriously considering that path.
Faculty Teaching Retains Appeal
Several other fellows have opted to return to the faculty tenure-track teaching path. They have done so with a new awareness of the possibilities for collaborating with libraries in teaching and research and with a new understanding of the challenges facing academic libraries.
For example, Meg Norcia, who spent her fellowship at Lehigh University, is now assistant professor of children’s and young adult literatures at SUNY Brockport. There she is building alliances with library and technology services for a project on the use of archival children’s picture books. “The fellowship exceeded all my expectations,” she says. “[Fellows] learned about the concerns of traditional librarianship as well as the trends in library architecture and the management of digital collections. ”
Norcia notes that the fellowships “respond to the growing concerns among librarians about the ways in which digital collections and techno-pedagogy will continue to revolutionize the academy. By considering the best way to manage fluid information access, retrieval, and preservation, librarians are helping to shape the changing academic landscape.” The CLIR fellows, Norcia adds, “can approach the concerns and challenges of both traditional and digital librarianship from the perspective of teachers and scholars, asking how new tools can be used in the classroom and even modeling that use at their institutions. In this way, they help to foster the forging of exciting connections which produce new ideas and applications.”
The program, which was originally met with skepticism by some members of the profession, is already proving its value. Each year, more universities join as sponsoring institutions and more fellows decide to pursue librarianship as a career. Other fellows are pursuing careers in special libraries and special collections without an MLIS degree. Those fellows who have returned to the teaching track report greater awareness of and support for librarians and the possibilities they offer for collaboration in teaching and research, especially in digital projects.
“The fellows are helping libraries integrate themselves back into the center of the campus mission of teaching and learning, an integration we in the profession have long desired,” says Elliott Shore.
CLIR welcomes expressions of interest from institutions that wish to consider hosting a fellow in 2007–2008. For more information about past fellows and their current activities, go to https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/recipients/. For more information about the fellowship program, see http://localhost:8888/wordpress/fellowships/postdoc/detail.
Examples of Work Undertaken by Postdoctoral Fellows
Daphnée Rentfrow is a former postdoctoral fellow in scholarly information resources. She is currently pursuing her MLIS through the LEEP Program at UIUC.
CLIR is Now Accepting Applications for . . .
Frye Leadership Institute
The Frye Institute will be held June 3–14, 2007, at Emory University. The Institute is an intensive, two-week residential program in which participants study and analyze the leadership challenges stemming from the changing context of higher education. Participants will be selected competitively from among nominees and applicants who have a commitment to, and talent for, leadership within higher education.
To apply for the Institute, an individual must first be nominated by a senior institutional officer. Nominations must be submitted by November 1, 2006, using a nomination form available at www.fryeinstitute.org. CLIR will notify the nominees and encourage them to apply. Applications must be postmarked by December 1.
The Institute is supported by a grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and is sponsored by CLIR, EDUCAUSE, and Emory University. The Institute can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship
CLIR awards one Rovelstad Scholarship each year to a student of library and information science to attend the World Library and Information Congress of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA). The scholarship enables students who have an interest in international library work to participate in IFLA early in their careers. The 2007 IFLA annual meeting will take place in Durban, South Africa, in August.
Applicants must be enrolled in an accredited school of library and information sciences. They must be citizens or permanent residents of the United States. The application deadline is January 19, 2007. Information and application forms are available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/rovelstad/rovelstad, or may be requested from CLIR by mail.
Mellon Fellowship Program for Dissertation Research in the Humanities in Original Sources
CLIR will award about 10 fellowships to support dissertation research in original source material for periods of 9 to 12 months. Each fellowship will carry a stipend of up to $20,000. Applicants must be enrolled in a doctoral program in a graduate school in the United States. They must have completed all doctoral requirements except their dissertation research and be ready to start that research between June 1 and September 1, 2007. Their dissertation proposals must have been accepted at least six months before the starting date of the fellowship.
More information on eligibility and application forms are available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/mellon/mellon.html. Information may also be requested from CLIR by phone at (202)939-4750, or by mail at CLIR.
Applications must be postmarked by November 15, 2006. Fellowship recipients’ names will be announced by April 2, 2007.
A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management
The A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management is awarded to a student who is enrolled in graduate school, is in the early stages of study, and shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management.
The 2007 award will be $10,000. Information and application forms are available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/zipf/zipf.html. Completed applications must be mailed to CLIR and be postmarked no later than April 6, 2007. The winner will be notified by May 31, 2007.
- CLIR welcomes Brill Academic Publishers and the University of New Mexico as new sponsors for 2006–2007.
- Forthcoming in Print: E-Journal Archiving Metes and Bounds: A Survey of the Landscape, by Anne R. Kenney, Richard Entlich, Peter B. Hirtle, Nancy Y. McGovern, and Ellie L. Buckley. The report reviews 12 e-journal archiving programs from the perspective of concerns expressed by directors of academic libraries in North America. The report is available at https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub138/.
- CLIR will release its 2005–2006 annual report in mid-October. It will be available at https://www.clir.org/pubs/annual/annual.html.
Nepal’s READ Receives Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award
NEPAL’S RURAL EDUCATION and Development (READ), a nongovernmental organization in Kathmandu, has been named the 2006 recipient of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award. The foundation recognized READ for its rural network of self-supporting libraries that provide no-cost access to information technology and promote information and literacy among the people of Nepal.
In mountainous, landlocked Nepal, one-third of the people live below the poverty line, and only half the population is literate. Since 1991, READ has established 39 self-supporting community libraries throughout the country. Villagers approach READ with their proposals and together they work on building, financing, and managing a new library. The communities provide land and at least 20 percent of the start-up costs and then run income-generating projects, such as a printing press or a telephone-rental service, to support library operations.
The libraries offer books, periodicals, computers, and Internet access as well as classes on such topics as literacy, computers, health, agricultural development, women’s rights, and children’s issues. Materials and classes are targeted to villagers of all ages, from children to senior citizens. Villagers who cannot read can watch videos or listen to audiotapes. Many libraries offer meeting spaces where villagers congregate to discuss community issues.
READ will use the US $1 million award to purchase more computers, support the development of a community Internet network that will reach remote areas not yet served by the existing network, and bring new interactive educational and medical resources to the libraries. The award, which CLIR administered, was announced at the annual International Federation of Libraries and Institutions’ World Library and Information Congress in Seoul in August.
Photos by Prashant Panjiar, courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, copyright 2006.