Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Digital Initiatives, Scalability and Sustainability

As part of my work as a NITLE fellow, I'm considering the role of digital collections programs at liberal arts college libraries.  A little over two years ago, I posted about our digital initiatives program at Lewis & Clark, reflecting on its approach to projects and services.

One of my contentions in that post was that the project-based approach to supporting digital collections was particularly compelling as it tapped into passion for a particular topic.  Indeed, looking at the work of the Five Colleges of Ohio stemming from their  Next Generation Library: Integrating Digital Collections into the Liberal Arts Curriculum grant project, it appears that approach is alive and well at liberal arts college libraries.  Their focus has been mini-grants to support the development of digital collections with direct potential for integration in the curriculum.  From the history of fashion, to interviews with farmers, to visualizing proteins in plants, this impressive set of collections all reflect active teaching, research or creative activities at the Five Colleges.

Over the last two years, Watzek Digital Initatives has maintained the project-based approach, a recent example of which is L. Stanley Glarum Collection.  But we have also began to support more programmatic endeavors, one example of which is our Lewis & Clark Around the World platform, which supports documentation of overseas study.   Each semester two or more overseas programs employ the platform to engage in learning activities on their programs.  The Digital Field Scholarship sandbox project, conducted this academic year involved support and configuration of the WordPress platform for a number of field based projects at Lewis & Clark and our NITLE partners.  Creating platforms and programs that can serve multiple classes and projects is a way to gain some efficiency and scale in a small digital initiatives program.

I noticed that the Journal of Library Administration's most recent issue focuses on support for digital scholarship in libraries, research libraries in particular.  I found the Vinopal/McCormick piece on scalability and sustainability particularly interesting, especially their pyramid of digital scholarship services.  

The goal is to move successful practices down the pyramid, to make them "scaleable and repeatable," a reference I borrow from Lorcan Dempsey's latest blog post.  

Customizing Omeka it for a particular collection, such as the Glarum archive mentioned above, is becoming one of our standardized services.