CLIR Issues Number 56
Number 56 • March/April 2007
A CLIR Perspective on the Future by Chuck Henry
CLIR Hosts Workshop on Faculty Research Behavior by Alice Bishop
A CLIR Perspective on the Future
by Chuck Henry
AS CLIR’s NEW president, I’m delighted to have this opportunity to share my first formal correspondence with you, the readers of CLIR Issues. The Council has been a fundamental, integral provider of ideas and insights to our constituencies for half a century, and I am honored to assume the responsibility to carry on this great tradition.
In the months between being named president, in November, and joining the staff, in mid-March, I have had time to reflect on the unique opportunities and responsibilities that come with leading an organization such as CLIR. The opportunities stem from the fact that CLIR is a small, flexible, independent organization that can act quickly and be effective at the national level. The responsibilities relate to the need to ensure that CLIR continues its tradition of serving as an “honest broker” that can bring parties to the table to tackle difficult issues.
I have kept these thoughts in mind as I have considered the major issues facing our community today and how CLIR can best engage with them. The result of this deliberative process, which has also included discussions with CLIR’s Board, members of the community, and funders, is a new, three-year organizational agenda. This article presents an overview of the new agenda and describes the context within which it was developed. I invite you to read about it in detail at www.clir.org/activities/agenda.htm.
The Context: Envisioning a New Research and Information Environment
It is difficult to predict how higher education and its libraries, digital resources, scholars, and research methods will evolve over the next 10 years. One thing, however, is certain: this future will be much different from what we might have imagined a decade ago. We are in a transitional period out of which new concepts of universities, libraries, and the scholar’s working environment—e.g., resources, methodologies, and publishing models—will arise. We are seeing the launch of large-scale digitization projects, the florescence of projects that each produce terabytes of information annually, the emergence of new fields of scholarship and research, and the proliferation of interdisciplinary fields of endeavor. There is a growing recognition of the complexity of preservation and its importance to all academic interests. With a near-universal dependence on digital resources and tools comes a need to build on and effectively manage the infrastructure that will support our changing information environment: the architectures, tools, management, policies, and organization that are referred to as the cyberinfrastructure.
For many years, we have used the term digital library to describe increasingly complex repositories of one kind or another. Cyberinfrastructure (CI) now allows us to think of a more intricate and closely interworking set of systems and content that redefines the digital library as a virtual workplace characterized by an architecture that interrelates objects and tools. Such a workplace fosters discovery and a reorganization and reconstitution of the knowledge it contains. Conducting research, whether in biomedicine or sociology, can entail searching data in text, image, and numbers simultaneously. It can require the federation of once-local repositories, ontology-based database integration, the application of fundamental tools such as GIS for a variety of data sets, and fast and efficient retrieval of digital objects, which in turn requires the thoughtful use of metadata. Because the same database can be of use to scholars in different fields, search terms need to be adjustable to the semantics of each discipline. When these digital elements are effectively interworked, we have the conditions for a new virtual environment in which to carry out research.
CLIR’s Agenda: Responding to the Challenge
Although we can envision a new virtual environment for research, we do not yet have the knowledge needed to describe, analyze, build, and maintain it. Achieving that knowledge is the challenge that underlies CLIR’s agenda for the next three years. The agenda encompasses six interrelated topics:
Cyberinfrastructure defines the base technologies of computation and communication, the software programs, and the data-curation and data-preservation programs needed to manage large-scale multimedia data sets, particularly those pertaining to the digital record of our cultural heritage;
Preservation explores sustainable strategies for preserving all media in a complex technological, policy, and economic environment;
The Next Scholar explores and assesses new methodologies, fields of inquiry, strategies for data gathering and collaboration, and modes of communication that are likely to define the next generation of scholars;
The Emerging Library explores and articulates the changing concept of the library with particular focus on its core functions and the consequences for staffing, research and teaching, and economic modeling;
Leadership investigates and defines the skills and expertise needed to administer, inspire, and inform the next generation of all who work in, depend on, and assure responsibility for an increasingly digital world; and
New Models extrapolates from an array of CLIR’s findings and other related research how academic organizations, institutions, behaviors, and culture may evolve over the coming decade.
Specific activities related to each of these six topics are highlighted in the following sections.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 2003 report on a CI for the sciences and engineering1 and two subsequent documents on a CI for the social sciences and the humanities2 present a shared vision of a new environment necessary for productivity and innovation in nearly all academic fields. CLIR now has an opportunity to provide the leadership and structure needed to help realize this vision, especially in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences.
In the year ahead, in partnership with relevant organizations, CLIR will:
- Cosponsor a cross-disciplinary retreat with the American Council of Learned Societies and NSF at which scientists and humanists identify shared problems and challenges and recommend responses.
- Arrange a meeting of acquisitions editors in the humanities to explore what new models of scholarly publication will require of a robust and well-maintained CI.
- Develop a message for policy makers that explains the economic benefits of an investment in CI.
CLIR will continue to be a public advocate for the preservation and stewardship of information in all formats across a broad spectrum of cultural heritage institutions and through the entire life cycle of the materials, including the period before they become part of an institution’s collections. CLIR will support projects to address key needs in preservation and will ensure that preservation issues are addressed in other areas of its agenda.
In the year ahead, CLIR will:
- Commission and publish a study of the impact of mass digitization on preservation.
- Begin work on a preservation map that identifies major areas of activity and initiatives, and highlights gaps and redundancies.
- Collaborate with other institutions to advance preservation initiatives in such areas as establishing print repositories and centers for digital conversion of magnetic media.
The Next Scholar
The Next Scholar will explore some of the transformational aspects of disciplinary methodologies, changing pedagogies, and evolving behaviors of researchers across disciplines to better understand the support services, infrastructure, programs, and expertise needed to advance scholarship and intellectual productivity in the next decade. CLIR will coordinate its efforts in this area with those of other organizations in the United States and abroad.
In the months ahead, CLIR will:
- Sponsor workshops on observing faculty and student research behaviors (see article on page 1).
- Commission one or more studies on changes in scholarly communication to help define working parameters and agendas for libraries.
- Convene meetings with scholars who represent potentially new areas of research to address questions relating to the development of these fields.
The Emerging Library
Various attempts have been made in the past decade to redefine the word library and to capture the changing concept of the library in the digital world. CLIR will delve into more-specific examinations of emerging libraries, beginning with the following:
- Publish a study on the core functions of the research library, written by consultant and former CLIR Program Director Abby Smith and University of Michigan Librarian Paul Courant.
- Point to or commission service-framework documents, such as the Digital Library Federation Services Framework and JISC frameworks.
Individuals who lead today’s libraries must have a broad vision of the information environment, work as well with faculty members as they do with library or IT staff, and view change as opportunity. CLIR will continue to offer opportunities for leaders in libraries, information technology, and academe in general through its established programs.
CLIR will also proceed with the following new activities:
- Hold national discussions on how information services should be redefined and how librarians can rethink their approaches to service delivery so that library leaders can be trained accordingly.
- Help create guides for recruiters and job seekers or invite comment on existing guides.
- Begin dialogs with campus leaders on the need to invest in, and incentives for investing in, library leaders.
In this area, the word new is used in at least three ways: (1) defining library and academic programs and projects, especially those overseas, that might not be known by our American constituencies, as well as potentially transformational technologies, applications, and tools; (2) identifying recent and projected large-scale projects meant to instigate fundamental change in areas pertinent to CLIR’s research agenda; and (3) conducting original research that articulates what the future academic environment may entail.
Among its activities in New Models, CLIR will:
- Survey new research, projects, and technologies that have significant potential to affect the concept and development of universities, libraries, and other scholarly institutions.
- Convene symposia and workshops at which participants will discuss the implications of these new projects and technologies for higher education and information management.
- Support, through contracts, research that explores new models of libraries, universities, and knowledge organization, and the relationship of these models to scholarship and teaching.
A Mission for the Public Good
While much of the agenda outlined here focuses on higher education, the ultimate goal of this activity is to contribute in fundamental ways to the public good. The new networks and the federated digital resources envisioned will have a democratizing effect across this nation and across the globe. With our collective cultural heritage made accessible, everyone will benefit.
In a time so desperately in need of historical context and mutual understanding, serving as an agent that promulgates the public good in a digital era is an integral and guiding element of CLIR’s mission.
1Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyberinfrastructure. Report of the National Science Foundation Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure. 2003. Available at http://www.communitytechnology.org/nsf_ci_report/.
2 F. Berman and H. Brady. 2005. Final Report: NSF SBE-CISE Workshop on Cyberinfrastructure and the Social Sciences. Available at http://vis.sdsc.edu/sbe/reports/SBE-CISE-FINAL.pdf. Also, Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Final Report of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Available at http://www.acls.org/cyberinfrastructure/acls.ci.report.pdf.
CLIR Hosts Workshop on Faculty Research Behavior
by Alice Bishop
ON FEBRUARY 4-5, CLIR held the first in a series of workshops on basic techniques for understanding how faculty members search for information. The purpose of the workshops is to help library and instructional technology staff improve library services. Six liberal arts institutions were invited to send one staff member each from their library instruction and IT units to the workshop, which was held at Wesleyan University.
Working in pairs, the 12 workshop participants began by observing people at locations across the Wesleyan campus. Using structured observation guides, the participants made notes of what people were doing, what kinds of objects they were using or trying to use, and how they were interacting with each other. They were also tasked with describing the physical setting and drawing a map of it. The purpose of this introductory exercise was to help participants hone their observational skills.
The following day, participants interviewed Wesleyan faculty members in the humanities to find out how instructors locate and organize materials to use in class or assign to students, including electronic texts as well as video, images, and materials found through databases and other such services. They also asked faculty how they assembled those materials, how long they searched, what they did if they could not locate what they wanted or if it was too difficult to access or too expensive to use, and where they sought help. During a closing session, participants shared summaries and analyses of their findings with the group and discussed what can and cannot be extrapolated from the observations.
The workshop was facilitated by Nancy Foster, lead anthropologist for the University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries and comanager of the libraries’ digital initiatives unit. Foster conducts research on faculty, staff, and students to document work habits and identify needs for Web-based products to support scholarly research and writing.
Participants found the workshop quite valuable. In one participant’s words, “It gives an opportunity to step out of the norm and learn how faculty do research. I liked the combination of IT people and librarians.”
Mellon Awards CLIR Operating Grant
CLIR HAS RECEIVED a three-year, $2.19 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support general operations. The award will allow CLIR to launch a range of new initiatives in six program areas: cyberinfrastructure, preservation, the next scholar, the emerging library, leadership, and new models (see “A CLIR Perspective on the Future,” page 1).
“The extraordinary generosity of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provides CLIR with the funding base to pursue an invigorated and exciting agenda for the next few years,” said CLIR President Chuck Henry. “The Foundation’s confidence in the projects and programs we envision is deeply gratifying,” he added. “CLIR will work tirelessly to assure that the highest quality of research, insight, and leadership is provided to its constituencies.”
“The Board is delighted with this news,” said CLIR Board Chair Paula Kaufman. “The grant ensures that CLIR’s new leadership will be able to start work immediately on a range of initiatives. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its continued support.”
DLF Aquifer Receives Mellon Grant to Make Scholarly Collections Interoperable
THE DIGITAL LIBRARY Federation (DLF) has received an $816,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a project designed to make distributed digital collections easier for scholars to use. The project, DLF Aquifer Development for Interoperability Across Scholarly Repositories: American Social History Online, will implement schemas, data models, and technologies to enable scholars to use digital collections as one in a variety of local environments.
DLF Board President Carol A. Mandel said, “This project exemplifies the goals of the Digital Library Federation to support the work of scholars through rich, federated, and enduring digital library collections and is integral to our expectations for Aquifer. We are grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for helping DLF realize its aspirations.”
“DLF is delighted to obtain the support of the Mellon Foundation to pursue the development of applications that help people knit together the information and content they seek for their scholarship and learning,” said DLF Executive Director Peter Brantley. “The Aquifer project will deliver the collaborative experience that libraries need as we start to realize new ways of providing services to our communities,” he added.
“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s support for Aquifer is gratifying,” said DLF Aquifer Director Katherine Kott. “Aquifer participant libraries are building systems that will enable libraries to deliver important resources to scholars where they do their work.”
The project will address the difficulty that humanities and social science scholars face in finding and using digital materials located in a variety of environments with a bewildering array of interfaces, access protocols, and usage requirements. DLF Aquifer seeks to provide scholars with consistent access to digital library collections pertaining to nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. social history across institutional boundaries. The collections are in a variety of formats and include maps and photographs from the Library of Congress historical collections; sheet music from the Sam DeVincent Collection of American Sheet Music at Indiana University; and an array of regional collections, such as Michigan County Histories from the University of Michigan and Tennessee Documentary History from the University of Tennessee, that will facilitate cross-regional studies when combined.
By integrating American Social History Online into a variety of local environments, the project will bring the library to the scholar and make distributed collections available through locally supported tools. The project will be developed and implemented between April 2007 and March 2009.
Peter Brantley Takes Helm of DLF
ON FEBRUARY 5, Peter Brantley became executive director of The Digital Library Federation (DLF). Formerly the director of strategic technology for academic information systems in the University of California’s Office of the President, Mr. Brantley has 20 years’ experience in systems development and management.
He has been active in DLF for many years, participating in the organization’s Services Framework initiative and comanaging the Developers’ Forum. A leader in innovation, he was most recently recognized for conceiving and organizing the Reading 2.0 Conference, held in March 2006. The conference focused on how to encourage the creation of standards and protocols to support the development of new products and services for using massive collections of digitized texts.
Mr. Brantley succeeds David Seaman, who left DLF in December 2006 to become associate librarian for information management at Dartmouth College Library, and Katherine Kott, DLF Aquifer director, who served as interim executive director.
Frye Institute Participants Named
The following individuals have been selected for participation in the 2007 Frye Leadership Institute. The Institute will be held June 3–14 at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Debra Allison, Miami University
James Beattie, University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
Tracy Chapman, Creighton University
Sarah Cheverton, James Madison University
Richard Darga, Chicago State University
Alison Davis-Tariq, Norfolk State University
Kathy Fernandes, California State University, Chico
Megan Fitch, Kenyon College
Alan Foley, University of Wisconsin
Patterson Graham, University of Georgia
Norma Grijalva, New Mexico State University
Roberta Gwilt, Syracuse University Library
Cendrella Habre, Lebanese American University
Scott Hamlin, Wheaton College
Susan Hamson, Columbia University
Eric Hinsdale, Carleton College
Edward Kelty, Rio Salado College
Ann Kovalchick, Tulane University
Deborah Lee, Mississippi State University
Tony Lovgren, Idaho State University
Greg Marrow, North Carolina Central University
Elizabeth McClenney, Atlanta University Center
Kitty McNeill, Emory University
Daniel Noonan, The Ohio State University
Elizabeth O’Reilly, University of Sydney
Hae Okimoto, University of Hawaii
Jeff Overholzer, Washington and Lee University
Karrie Peterson, Tufts University
Barbara Pittman, Mercyhurst College
Ira Revels, Cornell University
Mary-Jo Romaniuk, University of Alberta
Doug Ruschman, Xavier University
Greg Sennema, Wilfrid Laurier University
Michael Spalti, Willamette University
Thomas Steffes, Earlham College
Lisa Trubitt, University at Albany–State University of New York
Deon van der Merwe, University of South Africa
Brenda van Gelder, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Xuemao Wang, Johns Hopkins University
Dave Wedaman, Brandeis University
Eric Williams-Bergen, St. Lawrence University
Michael Winkler, University of Pennsylvania
Melissa Woo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sherri Yerk-Zwickl, Lehigh University
James Young, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
Lily Zhang, Randolph-Macon College