Numbers 75-76 • May-August (double issue) 2010
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
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by Chuck Henry
During a recent staff retreat, I had the opportunity to reflect on where CLIR is making its most significant contributions, and how they will inform our work in the next few years. What are the fundamental, singular activities that significantly broaden and deepen our collective understanding of the evolving features of higher education, libraries, and scholarly communication? I believe that four areas stand out, each bringing together perspectives of scholars, administrators, librarians, and information technology specialists.
As in nearly every facet of higher education, and particularly in the technology we use in the service of research and teaching, a local perspective becomes secondary as institutions increasingly find context for their planning and strategic development in programs that are international in nature. The steep rise in collaborative scholarship, crowdsourcing of academic content, and the urgent need for interoperable resources and applications that are agnostic to local and national borders contribute to this broadly conceived “dislocation.”
CLIR has become involved with several programs overseas. For example, the Council is represented in the planning of libraries and other academic support services at Tan Tao University, Vietnam; the United Arab Emirates University; Jacobs International University in Germany; Adamawa State University in Nigeria; and Uppsala University in Sweden. Recently, CLIR and the Digital Library Foundation (DLF) cosponsored summit meetings exploring the feasibility of research and development projects focusing on protocols and applications sufficient to construct a genuinely global digital library. The meetings were attended by representatives of national libraries in many European countries—including Britain, Germany, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands—as well as the National Library of China, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, and the National Institute for Informatics in Japan.
CLIR is also represented on a three-year scientific commission in the European Union. Open Access Publishing in the European Network (OAPEN) is a multinational committee focusing on the future of publishing in the humanities and social sciences. Representatives of about 15 leading university presses meet to identify alternate models of publication, new ways of capturing research that is often digitally based, and new representations of knowledge, with the aim of planning how their presses can best respond to these transformational methodologies.
CLIR will continue to bring together these leading institutions with the goal of building a sustainable digital library of the world’s cultural heritage.
CLIR’s research programs, and the publications that derive from our topical explorations, will continue to be a centerpiece of our work. Recent publications underscore CLIR’s commitment to rigorously questioning the challenges before us and extrapolating recommendations. No Brief Candle, published in 2008, has been widely adopted by libraries as a guide for strategic planning. The recently published Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship extends the focus and premise of No Brief Candle while drilling more deeply into the concept of collection development in an era increasingly dependent upon digital resources.
In the coming months, CLIR will publish a study on computing forensics and born-digital content in cultural heritage collections. Other meetings and discussions will include a review of a CLIR study that describes and evaluates tools in the intelligence-gathering communities that may be applicable to humanities research. CLIR has also been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to conduct a strategic planning assessment of the Digging into Data Challenge, a program that encourages collaboration of humanists across borders to build a more robust cyberinfrastructure for the humanities. Digging into Data is a joint program with NEH, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Joint Information Systems Committee in the United Kingdom, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council in Canada.
Macro solutions, defined as projects, often prototypical, that adopt a larger-scale perspective on collaboration, with national implications for a more efficient and cost-effective system of academic libraries and higher education, is one of CLIR’s newer areas of activity. Common to these efforts are regional coalitions that bring together diverse institutions; a desire to federate shared resources and interests, including collections, technology, and expertise; and a genuine, volitional dependency on other participating institutions for the provision of what once were locally owned and managed assets.
CLIR’s interest in providing leadership and mustering expertise for macro solutions is spurred in part by the acknowledgment of a powerful and potentially deleterious tension. The traditional concept of universities, colleges, and libraries has often been distinguished by exclusivity and singularity of purpose. These institutions compete with each other; they measure themselves against one another; and they hold tightly to their idiosyncrasies as defining elements of their status. There is a palpable tension between these inherited conceptual notions of separate, particular, and solitary and today’s emerging networked infrastructure of information that has no “place.” Such defining characteristics are fundamentally incompatible with broadly deployed digital tools, resources, features, and capacity. At present, neither libraries nor universities are structured, rewarded, or funded to achieve the kind of federated and collaborative enterprise that the digital environment can provide and, in a sense, insists upon. CLIR considers this one of the most complex challenges to address in the next decade. We will soon begin to articulate the problem in more concrete terms and will work with other interested parties to address it.
The Digital Library Federation
In 2009, the DLF was reintegrated into CLIR. As a program, DLF is committed to collective development of the digital library context—of the professional community, of content, and of infrastructure. DLF has made notable accomplishments in the standards arena and has fostered a new community of professionals. Networking of talent has, from the start, been a key asset. DLF, consonant with CLIR’s mission, has also sustained an ambitious and international agenda, and will continue to draw from and engage DLF sponsors, building upon their history of advocacy for collaboration, deep pool of talent, and proven innovation.
These strengths will be fundamental to the success of the merger with CLIR. As Rachel Frick, the DLF’s newly appointed senior program officer, assumes the responsibilities of her post, the areas of focus are already apparent. Data curation is a topic of nearly universal interest. DLF will develop means to communicate best practices for, and extensible approaches to, data curation; connect like-minded practitioners to further assess and monitor activity; and report routinely on aspects of this rich landscape. The DLF Forum will continue, with future events more topically organized and aimed at tactical collaboration.
In each of these activities, many perspectives are brought to bear; no single profession or voice can adequately address our current challenges. The conversations these activities entail, and an intellectual production that moves from large-scale explorations to more-detailed analyses, will continue to drive these efforts.
Mark your calendar for the CLIR Sponsors’ Symposium, Wednesday April 6, in Washington, D.C. It will be held just before the NITLE Summit April 7-8, also in Washington.
In planning our 2011 symposium, we want to hear from our sponsors. What topics would you most like to see covered? Who would you most like to hear speak? We encourage your ideas—just click here.
Seven individuals have been awarded Postdoctoral Fellowships in Academic Libraries for 2010-11. The fellows, each of whom recently received a Ph.D. degree in the humanities or social sciences, will spend next year at an academic research library, where they will develop meaningful linkages between disciplinary scholarship, libraries, archives, and evolving digital tools. All six fellows from the previous cohort will spend a second year in their academic libraries.
The fellows begin their program with a two-week seminar in July at Bryn Mawr College, where they discuss cutting-edge issues and challenges affecting academic librarianship through discussions, meetings with guest speakers, and readings about current issues in librarianship and the academy.
CLIR administers the program in collaboration with academic institutions as a means of recruiting talent into the library profession. Information on the fellowships is available at https://www.clir.org/fellowships/postdoc/.
Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Host: Bucknell University
Ph.D. Comparative Literature, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Ph.D. English, Clemson University
Host: Emory University
Ph.D. Geography and Geology, McMaster University
Host: McMaster University
Ph.D. French History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Host: Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
Ph.D. Library and Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Host: Johns Hopkins University
Ph.D. Classics, McMaster University
Host: McMaster University
Ph.D. English, University of North Carolina
Host: Bryn Mawr College
Ph.D. Critical Studies, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
Host: Occidental College
Ph.D. History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University
Host: Lehigh University
Timothy F. Jackson
Ph.D. Editorial Studies, Boston University
Host: University of Nebraska
Ph.D. Biological Anthropology, Skeletal Biology, Tulane University
Host: The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Ph.D. Critical Studies, School of Cinema-Television/Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
Host: McMaster University
Lynn Yarmey, a master’s student in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been selected to receive the A. R. Zipf Fellowship in Information Management for 2010. She holds a bachelor’s degree in geophysics from Boston College and has experience as a programmer and information manager.
Yarmey is cochair of the Long-Term Ecological Research Information Management Unit Working Group at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, where she leads a team of information managers in designing and developing a “living” dictionary for ecological units as well as a Web-based registry for dictionary storage, management, and retrieval. Her own research focuses on controlled vocabularies as a practical mechanism to, “bridge the gap in communication that I see between technologists and environmental scientists as evidenced by the disconnect in the terminology of large-scale standards and the language used in local science.”
Named in honor of A. R. Zipf, a pioneer in information management systems, the $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to a student who is enrolled in graduate school in the early stages of study and shows exceptional promise for leadership and technical achievement in information management. For more information and a list of previous fellowship recipients, visit https://www.clir.org/fellowships/zipf/zipf.html.
CLIR has appointed the following members to the Digital Library Federation (DLF) advisory committee. Committee members will work with DLF Senior Program Officer Rachel Frick to guide DLF’s strategic course and to help promote DLF’s mission and programs.
Associate Dean for Library Digital Programs and
Hodson Director of the Digital Research and Curation Center
Johns Hopkins University
Center for Digital Scholarship
Executive Director, NITLE and
CLIR Board of Directors
Manager of Strategic Digital Projects and Organizational Development
Coalition for Networked Information
Vice President for Information Services and
President and CEO
CIO and College Librarian and
Professor of History
Bryn Mawr College
Associate University Librarian and
Executive Director, HathiTrust
A new volume from CLIR examines challenges associated with the transition of research collections from an analog to a digital environment for knowledge access, preservation, and reconstitution.
The volume, The Idea of Order: Transforming Research Collections for 21st Century Scholarship, comprises three reports offering perspectives on this transition from librarians, an economist, and scholarly users.
CLIR President Charles Henry introduces the volume by suggesting that the digital environment may be fundamentally changing how the human mind acquires and retains knowledge. The speed, scale, and complexity of digital information and tools are eclipsing the “order” of the analog world and transforming the idea of a library and the nature of research.
If one were to design a research library for this new environment, what would it look like? Lisa Spiro and Geneva Henry of Rice University focus on this question in the first report, “Can a New Research Library Be All-Digital?” Most established research libraries would face serious challenges in moving toward largely digital collections—one major concern is how to manage, or provide alternatives to, the print legacy that has long been a key metric of a library’s value to scholars. The authors consider this and other obstacles to realizing a virtual library, then profile seven recently established academic libraries. On the basis of their findings, they offer recommendations for startup libraries as well as suggestions for additional research.
As service demands increase and budgets shrink, libraries must fully understand the costs of making collections accessible, whether in analog or digital form. The volume’s second report, “On the Cost of Keeping a Book,” examines the economics of storing and providing access to print volumes and provides a preliminary comparison with the cost of keeping e-books. Economist and University of Michigan Library Director Paul Courant and coauthor Matthew “Buzzy” Nielsen, assistant director of the North Bend Public Library in Oregon, conclude that from the perspective of long-term storage, digital surrogates offer a considerable cost savings over print-based libraries.
The proportion of digital information used and created on campus continues to grow, and is indeed changing how scholars in many disciplines do their work. Large-scale text databases being created by Google Books and other mass-digitization efforts offer great potential for supporting new forms of scholarship, but how well are these text corpora meeting scholarly needs? What are the implications of these projects for teaching, research, and publishing? These questions are addressed in the volume’s final report, “Ghostlier Demarcations,” based on commissioned research and subsequent discussions involving scholars in the humanities. A Web-based adjunct to the report provides detailed findings of investigations conducted against large-scale digital text data sets by scholars in four disciplines.
In a concluding chapter, Roger Schonfeld of ITHAKA S&R observes the tension that research libraries face between fulfilling their time-honored role as custodians of scholarship and enabling a digital environment for scholars. He notes the growing potential for systemwide responses to mitigate this tension. Charles Henry echoes this idea in an epilogue that summarizes the results of a recent study on the feasibility of a cloud library and its recommendations for large-scale, coordinated solutions to print and digital storage.
The Idea of Order is available electronically at https://www.clir.org/pubs/abstract/pub147abst.html. Print copies are available for ordering through CLIR’s Web site, for $25 per copy plus shipping and handling.