CLIR Issues Number 86
Number 86 • March/April 2012
ISSN 1944-7639 (online version)
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As of April 30, CLIR’s address will be 1707 L St., NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036. Our phone and fax numbers will stay the same. We hope you’ll come visit us in our new space!
by Chuck Henry
Two recently published books focus on the utility of building design as a framework for innovation and discovery. Jon Gernter’s The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation describes the long corridors of the New Jersey laboratory, its shared dining areas, and other architectural features that not only encouraged but forced the engineers and scientists to see one another, bump into colleagues, and easily sit for conversations that often ranged over several disciplines and sometimes lasted for decades. George Dyson’s Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, set at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), describes the flourishing of invention that the campus provided for a brilliant, eclectic gathering of thinkers. It was at IAS that the hardware and software that would become foundational to our digital environment were conceived from the tenets and suppositions of information theory. The list of inventions and discoveries emanating from Bell Labs continues to astonish; it includes the transistor, communication satellites (Telstar), charge-coupled devices for imaging sensors, the wave nature of matter, and cosmic microwave background radiation.
These books recall How Buildings Learn, an earlier, often cited work by Stewart Brand that devotes a chapter to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s fabled Building 20. One resident of Building 20 opined that if you didn’t like an interior wall, you could thrust your elbow through it and open up the space. This vivid image epitomizes the flexibility (and shoddy construction) of interior spaces that were subject to a tremendous amount of reshuffling and repurposing over time. Built quickly with wooden beams in the 1940s to house research deemed vital to the U.S. war effort, the ”temporary” building remained in use for more than 50 years, becoming one of the most productive spaces for innovation in the world. As various disciplinary interests (engineering, linguistics, and electronics, among others) took up residence, the rambling corridors and ad hoc nature of the rooms facilitated an amazing cross-fertilization of ideas and perspectives. Interdisciplinarity and collaboration came naturally to this space. Residents had nearly complete control over the arrangement of offices (one really could knock through walls), and it was almost impossible not to see or speak with someone who was working on leading research in fields both close to and distant from one’s own.
To innovate, as the Latin root implies, is to make new: to bring different and original insights to life, to articulate new ways of perceiving. Often this entails rethinking traditional challenges and concepts in fresh ways. The increasing power and flexibility of digital technology, with its attendant resources, applications, and tools, has facilitated a florescence of innovation in higher education over the past decade. But today our creative sorcery is increasingly manifest in large, complex projects that can function effectively only at a national scale—projects that are themselves integers of an amalgam of similarly immense projects under way that, if developed as coherent parts of a broadly drawn digital ecology, can catalyze higher education into a new state.
In the shadow of our engineered sorcery we are collectively rather poor apprentices. The technical skills needed to build the HathiTrust, the Digital Preservation Network, the Digital Library of America, or Kuali; to make the transition to linked data from more traditional markup vocabularies; or to develop services and tools for Internet 2 that reside above the institutional level, rather than in it, are challenging. The skills to bring together dozens or hundreds of institutions, different professional perspectives, multiple disciplinary methods, and disparate stakeholders to achieve a cohesive ecology—in a word, leadership—are even more daunting. Without question, exceptional individuals have stepped forward and generously and tirelessly brought us to the tables of innovation and creative rethinking. But the greater challenge is to educate leaders who can sustain these efforts and help them evolve—individuals who can appropriate the complex methods of collaboration and foster the interdependency that is critical to our future.
Salient to Bell Labs, IAS, and the ramshackle if endearing Building 20, was the capacity to bring together, with unprecedented ease, experts who lived and thought in entirely different areas of research but were motivated by a common desire to take on seemingly intractable problems. The arrangement of space that fostered this mashup was complemented by a long sense of time: there was, for example, no motivation for those working in Bell Labs to make products or commodities that would enrich Bell Telephone, and no financial incentive for IAS researchers to develop patentable merchandise. In these buildings, the life of the mind flourished in a secure place that allowed its tenants to abandon complacency, break apart comfortable assumptions, and reconstitute the world collegially, rigorously, and effectively.
We do not have such spaces today. We work in fast time, iterated project by project, in isolation and competition, and more bounded by tradition and the comfort it effuses than we can admit. Interdisciplinarity—the multiple lenses of ingenuity enlisted to resolve our quandary—is much discussed but difficult to motivate, fund, and sustain. If we continue to build out our digital workplace within these segmented and blindered conditions, we will fail to achieve the transcendent state that a genuinely new, interconnected, and systemic digital ecology promises.
What needs to be done to reframe and promulgate new kinds of leadership? Future essays will address this. Initially, we can extrapolate from the built structures of the past century what the 21st may require: facilities that make possible the physical gathering of engaged thinkers in combination with opportunities for virtual meetings, both formal and casual—nested spaces for discovery. The interactions these porous and flexible “rooms” facilitate will need to be reciprocal and ascendant: purposeful motion that conceptually dissolves complacency, dogma, and habit and builds toward new solutions at scale. A multifaceted place that also imparts the skills to bring these new concepts to social life, a place you can always put your elbow through; a 21st-century Exchange.
CLIR’s Board of Directors has appointed a new six-member advisory subcommittee for the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Program.
The subcommittee will advise the DLF director on matters relating to program activities, initiatives, partnerships, and strategy. The subcommittee comprises three CLIR Board members and three members of the DLF community, each of whom will serve a two-year term.
DLF Advisory Subcommittee members are:
Stephen Rhind-Tutt: CLIR Board member and President, Alexander Street Press
David Rumsey: CLIR Board member; Founder, David Rumsey Map Collection; and President, Cartography Associates
Sarah Shreeves: Coordinator, IDEALS; and Co-coordinator, Scholarly Commons
Tito Sierra: Associate Director for Technology, Massachusetts Institute for Technology
Winston Tabb: CLIR Board member and Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums, The Johns Hopkins University
Jennifer Vinopal, Librarian for Digital Scholarship Initiatives, New York University
David Rumsey will serve as chair of the subcommittee.
“The new DLF Advisory Committee represents an important step for CLIR and our Board,” said CLIR President Charles Henry. “It combines the organizational knowledge and procedural strength of board members with the expertise and perspective of some of the leading figures in digital library development. Because DLF is involved with some of the more salient projects in the United States and overseas, the committee will help provide direction and insight not just for DLF and CLIR, but for an emerging digital environment that is transformative for higher education, touching upon every aspect of scholarly communication in the pursuit of new knowledge and discovery.”
“I would like to thank the DLF community for its support and participation in the open nomination process to identify candidates, and to thank the 23 DLF community members on our slate of nominees,” said DLF Director Rachel Frick. “I am excited to work with the DLF Advisory Subcommittee as we chart the future of the DLF program.”
New program to train fellows to manage data in the natural and social sciences
CLIR is accepting applications for its new CLIR/DLF Data Curation Fellowship Program. The program, an expansion of CLIR’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Academic Libraries, will provide recent recipients of Ph.D. degrees with professional development, education, and training opportunities in data curation for the natural and social sciences. The fellowship program is supported by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The fellowship will encourage the development of highly skilled and knowledgeable specialists through experience gained during two-year postdoctoral fellowships. The aim is to create a cadre of scholarly practitioners who understand not only the nature and processes of their own disciplines but also how their research data are organized, transmitted, and manipulated.
For the program’s first cohort, CLIR is recruiting six data curation fellows in cooperation with its partner institutions: Indiana University; Lehigh University; McMaster University; Purdue University; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Michigan. CLIR/DLF Data Curation Fellows and their colleagues in the Postdoctoral Fellowship for Academic Libraries Program will attend a two-week immersion seminar at Bryn Mawr College in July 2012. The seminar will be followed by periodic online and in-person meetings throughout their fellowship appointments.
Information about the program and position descriptions is available at https://clir.wordpress.clir.org/fellowships/datacuration. Applicants must have received a Ph.D. in a relevant discipline after April 1, 2007. All work toward the degree, including dissertation defense and final dissertation editing, must be completed before starting the fellowship. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all positions are filled, but no later than June 30, 2012.
Seventeen graduate students have been selected to receive awards this year under the Mellon Fellowships for Dissertation Research in Original Sources, which CLIR administers.
The fellowships are intended to help graduate students in the humanities and related social science fields pursue research wherever relevant sources are available; gain skill and creativity in using primary source materials in libraries, archives, museums, and related repositories; and provide suggestions to CLIR about how such source materials can be made more accessible and useful.
The fellowships carry stipends of up to $25,000 each to support dissertation research for periods of up to 12 months.
This year’s awardees include the following individuals:
Sonic Culture and the Geographic Imagination: Italian Opera at Catherine II’s Court
Outsiders: The Limits of Urban Community in Late-Medieval France
Johns Hopkins University
Les administrateurs de l’empire: Ambition, Expansion, and Mobility in the First French Empire, 1661–1715
University of California, Berkeley
Strategies Under Construction: Collaboration and Dissent at Pan Am’s World War II Airbase Development Sites in Cuba and Brazil, 1940–1961
Friendship and Communism in Soviet Russia, 1921–1982
Jang Wook Huh
Black Radicalism in Korea: Overlapping Dispossessions in Afro-Korean Literary Networks, 1888–1959
University of California, Los Angeles
Colonial Spaces, Postcolonial Memories: Constructing Heritage in India and Ghana
The Johns Hopkins University
“And What Do You Know of the Body?”: Monitoring, Disciplining, and Caring for Sailors’ Bodies in the British Royal Navy, 1688–1783
From Possibility to Postcolony: Decolonization and Development in Uasin Gishu, Kenya (1939–1969)
Holy Monstrosity: Sacred Oil in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Timeknots: Madness, Psychiatry, and History in Belle Époque France
University of Michigan
Articulations of Kazakh Muslimness: Marriage, Family, and Russian Imperial Authority in the Bukei Khanate, 1801–1898
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Print Culture, Slavery, and the Performance of Power: Salvador da Bahia in Revolt, 1760–1840
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Performing Empire: Filipino Jazz Musicians in 1920s Manila
The Unity Between: Ways of Saying and Silence in Buddhism and Islam
University of Illinois at Chicago
State Propaganda or Sites of Resistance: Socialist Realism in Romania, 1945–1989
University of California, Riverside
Forbidden Fruit: Drug Prohibition and Agrarianism in 20th-Century America and Beyond
Molly Schwartz, a library science student at the University of Maryland in College Park, has been selected to receive this year’s Rovelstad Scholarship in International Librarianship.
Schwartz is creating her own specialization in international archives by combining courses in archives, international librarianship, and e-government. She is currently taking a seminar on international and comparative librarianship and information science at the University of Maryland.
Schwartz received a joint bachelor’s and master’s degree in history with a minor in French literature from The Johns Hopkins University. Fluent in French and Russian, she eventually hopes to facilitate the development of the library and information profession in Eastern Europe.
The Rovelstad Scholarship provides travel funds for a student of library and information science to attend the annual meeting of the World Library and Information Congress, which takes place in Helsinki, Finland, in August this year.