Bringing ‘Views of the Great War’ to life

I recently worked on an interactive kiosk for a new exhibit in the library — Views of the Great War: Highlights from the Duke University Libraries. Elizabeth Dunn, the exhibit curator, wanted to highlight a series of letters that shared the experiences of two individuals during the war. She was able to recruit the talents of Jaybird O’Berski and Ahnna Beruk who brought the writings of Frederick Trevenen Edwards and Ann Henshaw Gardiner to life.


letter excerpt
Excerpt from Edwards’ June 9, 1918 Letter

 

Elizabeth and I booked time for Jay and Ahhna in the Multimedia Production Studio where we recorded their performances. I then edited down multiple takes into more polished versions and created files I could use with the kiosk. I also used youtube’s transcript tool to get time captions working well and exported VTT files.

Here is an example:

 

The final interface allows users to both listen to the performances and read timed transcriptions of the letters while also being able to scroll through the original typed versions.


screenshot of interface

screenshot of interface

screenshot of interface
Screenshots of the kiosk interface

 

The exhibit is housed in the Mary Duke Biddle Room and runs through February 16. Come check it out!

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

At the beginning of the school year in elementary school, we were usually given the assignment to write about our summer. I dreaded the assignment. Summers were spent running around from dawn to dusk, maybe a road trip packed into the family car to see relatives, nothing worth writing about. I now understand that it was a great way for teachers to get to know their students; a chance to visit the world through the students’ eyes. I am on my last day of ten days at Duke Kunshan University in Kunshan, China. I was tasked with helping their library as they grow, and this is DKU through my eyes.

The Campus
Photos of Duke Kunshan University
Phase one building of Duke Kunshan University.

Duke Kunshan University is located in Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province. The Province is home to many ancient water towns with buildings lining ancient canals, sidewalks for pedestrians, and shops on the first floor of most buildings. DKU pays homage to the area’s water towns with a pond in the center of campus, small fountains and reflecting pools in front of the academic building. The conference center, the academic building and faculty residences surround the pond. The academic building is home to the canteen, the library, team rooms, and classroom auditoriums. There is a building called the Innovation Center under construction that will house faculty offices and classrooms, with two more phases of buildings and a Duke Gardens area planned. In the center of the pond is a pavilion with arches in tribute to the architecture at Duke.

 

The Library
Photo of Duke Kunshan Library
Duke Kunshan Library

The library has seven full-time staff and two interns. All staff have Master’s degrees, and the interns are studying for their Masters in Library Science. The staff are from China and Australia and need to wear multiple hats to keep the library running smoothly.

We worked on setting up loan policies and discussed their need to load patrons into our integrated library system. DKU Library is expanding they types of items they’re loaning and expanding borrowing privileges to family of DKU faculty, staff and students as well as DKU alumni and visitors. Extending privileges to DKU family is very important, as DKU as a whole wants to feel like a strong community to everyone who has a link to the University. We started work so they could use the acquisitions module to track budgets and orders, and we solved some technical issues, allowing the staff to send loan notices to patrons and to print spine labels for books.

 

The Area

It wasn’t all work and no play. I visited two local water towns, the cities of Suzhou and Shanghai, and experienced the historic culture of the Kun Opera. I toured an ancient private garden, ate delicious food, shopped in Shanghai, and rode the bullet train which traveled between Kunshan and Shanghai at a speed of 268 km/h. I was honored with a special traditional dinner with the staff that included regional specialties like hairy crab soup, tender loofah and jellyfish. The DKU staff have been welcoming, friendly, and generous. I’m sad to leave and hope I get the opportunity to return. In the meantime, we’ve forged new friendships, new working relationships, and made lasting memories. It was the best summer vacation ever!

Photo of travels in China
Water Towns, Kun Opera, Shanghai Skyline
Food Picture
Food from the trip

We are Hiring!

Duke University Libraries is recruiting a Digital Production Services Manager to direct the operations of our Digital Production Center, its staff (3 FTE plus student assistants), and associated digitization services. We are seeking someone experienced in leading digitization projects who is excited to partner with colleagues around the library to reformat and preserve unique library collections and provide access to them online. This is an excellent opportunity for someone who likes working with people, projects, and primary sources!

This newly created position combines people and project management responsibilities with hands-on digitization duties. Previous supervisory experience is not required; however, the ability to direct the work of others is essential to this position, as is a service oriented attitude. Strong organizational and project management skills are also a must. Some form of digitization experience in a library or other cultural heritage setting is required for this role as well. The successful candidate will join the highly collaborative Digital Collections and Curation Services department and work under the direct supervision of the department head.

The Digital Production Center (DPC) is a specialized unit that creates digital surrogates of primary resources from Duke University Libraries collections for the purposes of preservation and access. Learn more about the DPC on our web page, or through the Digital Strategies and Technology division’s blog, Bitstreams. To see some of the materials we have digitized, check out Duke Digital Collections online.

Duke is a diverse community committed to the principles of excellence, fairness, and respect for all people. As part of this commitment, we actively value diversity in our workplace and learning environments as we seek to take advantage of the rich backgrounds and abilities of everyone. We believe that when we understand, celebrate, and tap into our uniqueness to creatively solve problems and address shared goals, our possibilities are limitless. Duke University Libraries value diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and background and are actively committed to a culture of inclusion and respect.

Duke offers a comprehensive benefit package, which includes both traditional benefits such as health insurance, leave time and retirement, as well as wide ranging work/life and cultural benefits. Details can be found at: http://www.hr.duke.edu/benefits/index.php.

For a full job description please see https://library.duke.edu/about/jobs/dpsmanager. To apply, submit an electronic resume, cover letter, and list of 3 references: https://hr.duke.edu/careers/apply – refer to requisition #401463554. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

A collaborative approach to developing a new Duke Libraries catalog

Post contributed by: Emily Daly, Thomas Crichlow, and Cory Lown

If you’re a frequent or even casual user of the Duke Libraries catalog, you’ve probably noticed that it’s remained remarkably consistent over the last decade. Consistency can be a good thing, but there is certainly room for improvement in the Duke Libraries catalog, and staff from the libraries at Duke, UNC, and NCSU are excited to replace the current catalog’s aging infrastructure and outdated user interface with an entirely new collaboratively developed open-source discovery layer. While many things are changing, one key feature will remain the same: The catalog will continue to allow users to locate and access materials not only here at Duke but also across the other Triangle Research Libraries member libraries (NCSU, NCCU, UNC).

Users will be able to search for items in the Duke Libraries catalog and then expand to see books and items from NCSU, NCCU, and UNC if they wish.

Commitment to collaboration

In addition to an entirely new central index that supports institutional and consortial searching, the new catalog benefits from a shared, centrally developed codebase as well as locally hosted, customizable catalog interfaces. Perhaps most notably, the new catalog has been built with the needs of library and complex bibliographic data in mind. While the software used for the current library catalog has evolved and grown in complexity to support e-commerce and business needs (not higher ed or library needs), the library software development community has been hard at work building specialized discovery layers using the open-source Blacklight framework. Peer institutions including Stanford, Cornell, and Princeton are already using Blacklight for their library catalogs, and there is an active Blacklight development community that Duke is excited to be a part of. Being part of this community enables us to build on the good work already in place in other library catalogs, including more intuitive facets, adaptive linking for subjects and other fields, a more responsive user interface for access via tablets and phones, and the ability to preserve the order of MARC fields when it’s useful to researchers (MARC is an international standard for representing bibliographic and related data).

We’re upping our collaboration game locally, too: This project has given us the opportunity to develop a new model for collaborative software development. Rather than reinvent the wheel at each Triangle Research Library, we’re combining effort and expertise to develop a feature-rich yet highly customizable discovery layer that will serve the needs of researchers across the triangle. To do this, we have adopted an agile project management process with talented developers and dedicated product owners from NCSU, UNC, and Duke. The agile approach has helped us be more productive and efficient during the development phase and increased collaboration across the four Triangle Research Libraries, positioning us well for maintaining and governing the catalog after we go live.

This image depicts the structure of the development team that was formed in May 2017 to collaboratively build the new library catalog.

What’s next?

The development team has already conducted multiple rounds of user testing and made changes to the user interface based on findings. We’re now ready to hear feedback from library staff. To facilitate this, we’ll be launching the Duke instance of the catalog to all library staff next Wednesday, August 1. We encourage staff to explore catalog features and records and then report feedback, providing screenshots, URLs, and other details as needed. We’ll continue user testing this fall and solicit extensive feedback from faculty, students, staff, and general researchers.

Our plan (fingers crossed!) is to officially launch the new Duke Libraries catalog to all users in early 2019, perhaps as soon as the start of the spring semester. A local implementation team is already at work to be sure we’re ready to replace Duke’s old catalog with the new and improved version early next year. Meanwhile, development and interface enhancement of the catalog will continue this fall. While we are pleased with what we’ve accomplished over the last 18 months, there is still significant work to be done before we’ll be ready to go live. Here are a few items on the lengthy TO DO list:

  • finish loading the 16 million records from all four Triangle Research libraries
  • integrate Duke’s request workflows so users can request items they discover in the new catalog
  • develop a robust Advanced Search interface in response to user demand
  • tune relevance ranking
  • ensure that non-Roman scripts are searchable and display correctly
  • map non-MARC metadata so items such as digital collections records are discoverable
Effective search and display of non-Roman scripts is just one of the many items left on our list before we launch the library catalog to the public.

There is a lot of work ahead to be sure, but what we will launch to staff next week is a functional catalog with nearly 10 million records, and that number is increasing by the day. We invite you to take the new catalog for a spin and tell us what you think so we can make improvements and be ready for all researchers in just a few short months.

DDR-RD: Previewing DUL’s new platform for research data

While we sometimes talk about “the repository” as if it were a monolith at Duke University Libraries, we have in fact developed and maintained two core platforms that function as repository applications. I’ll describe them briefly, then preview a third that is in development, as well as the rationale behind expanding in this way.

Continue reading DDR-RD: Previewing DUL’s new platform for research data

Multispectral Imaging Summer Snapshots

If you are a regular Bitstreams reader, you know we just love talking about Multispectral Imaging.  Seriously, we can go on and on about it, and we are not the only ones.   This week however we are keeping it short and sweet and sharing a couple before and after images from one of our most recent imaging sessions.

Below are two stacked images of Ashkar MS 16 (from the Rubenstein Library).  The top half of each image is the manuscript under natural light, and the bottom are the results of Multispectral imaging and processing.  We tend to post black and white MSI images most often as they are generally the most legible, however our MSI software can produce a lot of wild color variations!  The orange one below seemed the most appropriate for a hot NC July afternoon like today.  More processing details are included in the image captions below – enjoy!

The text of this manuscript above was revealed primarily with the IR narrowband light at 780 nm.
This image was created using Teem, a tool used to process and visualize scientific raster data. This specific image is the result of flatfielding each wavelength image and arranging them in wavelength order to produce a vector for each pixel. The infinity norm is computed for each vector to produce a scalar value for each pixel which is then histogram-equalized and assigned a color by a color-mapping function.

Open, Flip, Scan, Close: Observations from The Duke Chronicle Collection Project

Beginning Launch in….

Exciting news from Digital Collections! The 1990’s decade of The Duke Chronicle is being prepped for completion. It has been nine months since I started scanning The Chronicle, and I have come across some interesting stories and images. Despite the fact that I can’t digest the 1990’s being twenty years ago, flipping through the pages brought back some good memories of those days. They also brought some perspective of events I was too young, and too focused on the new trendiest toy, to recall.

It all falls down

As I’m sure some of you remember, in the 1990’s, the world saw the slow destruction of the massive empire that was the Soviet Union. I was much too young to remember the monumental days of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the gradual independence of the Eastern European nations, but the students at Duke were old enough to witness and digest it. Apparently, there was such an interest in the topic that course enrollments skyrocketed in some areas. Since the situation was so new at the time, professors did not have any readings to assign, and previous course materials were made obsolete! I could see myself being one of the many students signing up for these courses.

     

Barbecue or peace of mind

Another random yet interesting article I found involved hog farms in North Carolina. Allegedly, the smell was so bad and spread so wide that neighbors were experiencing mood changes. A medical psychology professor completed an odor study, and found people were more depressed, angry and tired compared to people who didn’t live near hog farms. It became enough of an issue for local residents to file a lawsuit against the nearby hog farms. Although I have never lived near a hog farm, if I had to smell feces, urine and hog feed every time I came home, I don’t think I would be a happy camper either.

    

We have come so far

This particular article hit close to home. The University Archives were worried about navigating the preservation of important emails and other electronic documents. They discussed printing emails back in 1999, but we have now moved on to preserving electronic records in their original form. There are even courses dedicated to the subject in the archival field. It’s funny reading this article after scanning it for the very same purpose. Preservation.

    

Back in the day

Some more goodies I noticed while scanning this project.

Did anyone have any of these state of the art electronics?

Ohh, so this is how you found out what classes were available.

In the meantime 

I know the students, faculty and staff of the ’90s will probably get a kick out of viewing these old newspaper issues, but I’m sure everyone else will enjoy reading through The Chronicle too. While you wait for the 1990’s to be made available publicly, take a look  at the current digitized Chronicle collection.

 

 

 

Textbooks and Bean Bags: The 2018 Student Library Satisfaction Survey

This spring, Duke University Libraries conducted the 2018 biennial user satisfaction survey, a large survey of students and faculty at Duke. The goal of the survey is to gauge overall user satisfaction and to gather specific ideas for improvements to DUL materials, services, and spaces. In this post, we’ll share some of the trends within the student responses.

Survey methodology

Since 2013, DUL has created custom surveys rather than use generic survey products, allowing us to customize questions to different patron groups and even different parts of the campus libraries system. Developing and analyzing the results of a customized survey, however, is no small feat! The survey is run every two years, in part because the full cycle of survey development, dissemination, analysis, and follow-up takes the entire two years.

The 2018 survey was deployed in January 2018. A sample of students and faculty received personal invitations over email, but the survey was also advertised on the DUL website and open to anyone. We received responses from 2,610 students. We don’t have full demographic information for everyone, but approximately 54% of the students for whom we have demographics were undergraduates. The survey took approximately five to seven minutes to complete.

Two pie charts. One pie chart shows the distribution of the total 2,610 student participants (48% undergraduate, 41% graduate, 12% unknown). The second pie chart shows the distribution of the 2,307 participants that don't include unknown (54% undergraduate, 46% graduate).
After the survey closed, a group of seven staff at DUL divided up approximately 3,600 free-text responses and manually coded them for topic and, where appropriate, whether they were a request for a new service or change in existing policy or a compliment. The survey data have been visualized in a series of public dashboards. To gather additional information about some of the results, the Assessment & User Experience department also hosted several follow-up focus groups with both students and faculty. The focus group results, while not incorporated into the survey dashboards, have been incorporated into summary reports and recommendations.

The good

“I think the library is one of the places of greatest mutual respect on campus. There is less social stratification and freer flow of interaction. I enjoy my time in the library quite a lot.”

The survey included questions that everyone answered and questions that were specific to different libraries. All survey participants identified which library they visited most frequently. For students, 77% selected Perkins & Bostock as their primary libraries. Only 3% (76 students) reported that they don’t physically visit a library.

A bubble chart showing the libraries visited most frequently by students. Perkins & Bostock Libraries are highest with 77%, followed by Lilly Library with 11% and Divinity Library with 6%.

The libraries are considered an important part of the Duke experience by over 80% of participants. Focusing on the students who picked Perkins & Bostock as their primary libraries, we can look at usage of and satisfaction with the library. Of the 1,978 students who responded, over 80% visit Perkins & Bostock at least once a week. And by and large, students are quite satisfied with Perkins & Bostock. Less than 1% of responses fall in the “not satisfied at all” or “not very satisfied” categories, and the vast majority are very satisfied.

Three related bar charts. The first bar chart shows responses to a question asking students to agree that the library is an important part of their experience. 30% of students selected "somewhat agree," and 51% selected "strongly agree." A second chart shows that, for the Perkins & Bostock Libraries, 18% of students visit once a week, 38% visit more than once a week, and 25% visit daily. The third chart shows that for overall satisfaction with Perkins & Bostock, 14% are somewhat satisfied, 65% are very satisfied, and 21% are extremely satisfied.

The Duke University Libraries value diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and background and are actively committed to a culture of inclusion and respect. Beyond gauging user satisfaction, this year we also asked students about their impressions of Duke and DUL as safe spaces. (In the survey, “safe space” was defined as “a place in which people can feel safe from discrimination, harassment, and any other emotional or physical harm.”) We were excited to find that overall students agree that DUL is a safe space (92% respond with “agree” or “strongly agree”), even more than they agree that Duke University as a whole is a safe space (78% response with “agree” or “strongly agree”). Similarly, when asked if the library is a welcoming place, almost 90% agreed. Despite these encouraging numbers, we are committed to continuing to improve in this area wherever we can.

Three related bar charts. The first chart shows that when asked if Duke University is a safe space, 44% somewhat agree and 34% strongly agree. The second chart shows that when asked if the Duke Libraries are a safe space, 32% somewhat agree and 60% strongly agree. The third chart shows that when asked if the library is a welcoming place, 35% somewhat agree and 53% strongly agree.

The So-So

“I use the libraries a lot to study (esp Bostock) with friends, which is both helpful for me academically and comforting for me socially. The libraries fills up pretty often during busy times, so I wonder if more chairs would help accommodate more students (not even more tables, just more seating). Thanks!”

Even though by-and-large students are satisfied with the libraries, they were not afraid to let us know what areas could be improved! They gave us their constructive criticism in a few ways. First, we asked students to offer their opinions on the possibility of expanding different types of library services. Next, we asked how important specific services, materials, and spaces were, as well as how they were meeting the students’ needs. Finally, we gave them the opportunity to offer additional comments about DUL and suggestions on how to make DUL more of a safe space.

When we asked students what services should be expanded, students were most likely to vote for more spaces for individual study, more spaces for collaborative study, and more textbooks to check out. A second tier of requests include better signage, delivery of items between campuses, lockers, and help with digital scholarship.

A stacked bar chart showing the results to a question about the desirability of various specific services. The most desirable service is "more spaces for quiet or individual study," which 88% of responding students said would improve their experience either a little or a lot. Second is "more spaces for collaborative study" with 80% of responding students. Third is "more textbooks to check out for my classes" with 71% of responding students.

Looking at library-specific responses, we can find a bit more detail about these requests. When looking for services that are both important and not meeting students’ needs, we can see that reservable project/study rooms, a variety of seating options,  adequate quiet study space, and textbooks on reserve all appear in the high quadrant for both importance and not meeting students’ needs.

A scatterplot showing that four services are high on importance and on the percentage of students whose needs are not met: adequate quiet study space; variety of seating options; reservable study/project rooms; and print book, textbooks and articles on reserve for classes.

While not every student followed up on these questions with free-text explanations, the analysis of the free-text comments are consistent with these results. Of the 769 student comments that included requests for new services or a change in policy (rather than compliments), the top code was study/research space, which accounts for approximately 12% of the total requests. The second most frequent code was noise (about 9.5% of the requests), clarifying some of the complaints about “adequate quiet study space.” Requests often include a desire for the Libraries’ quiet space policies to be better enforced. The third most frequent code was atmosphere/sense of welcome – e.g., how inviting the library feels, feelings of “stress in the air.” This code was applied to just over 8% of the requests.

A bar chart showing the top 10 topical tags for requests, including study/research space (about 12%), noise (about 9.5%), and atmosphere/sense of welcome (just over 8%)

Security, furniture, advertising, and signage also ranked highly among requests. Students seem especially desirous of “comfortable” seating; write-in comments mention several types of comfortable seating by name, including couches and bean bags.

The Unknown

“Having taken this survey, I have realized that there are many things which the Duke University Libraries offer which I am not currently taking advantage of…”

While student needs and reactions change over time, one thing remains the same: they unknowingly request services we already offer. Sometimes the survey itself alerts students to particular services.

When we ask students how certain services are meeting their needs or which services should be expanded, we offer a choice labelled “I didn’t know the the library provided this.” Here are some of our most pressing “marketing opportunities,” according to the number of people who were unaware of the service.

A dumbbell plot showing the percentage of students who didn't know about a service, split into those who did find the service important to their research, coursework or teaching and those who did not. Regardless of importance, the service with the highest percentage of students who did not know about it was "support for using, analyzing, and visualizing data." Second highest was "self-checkout stations," followed by "scheduled assistance from library staff."

For each service, there are two values – one for the students who marked the service as important and another for those who didn’t. As might be expected, awareness is always lower among students who don’t find the service important, but there are also services that have lower awareness overall. Services like support analyzing data, self-checkout stations, meetings with library staff, and reservable interview rooms may be good candidates for increased marketing. (If you look at the previous scatterplot, you’ll see that reservable interview rooms also had a high value for students whose needs weren’t being met, even though it’s not rated very highly on importance.)

Another good indicator of marketing opportunities is our analysis of the students’ free-text comments. Some of the major requests from students actually match up well with some of our existing but possibly under-advertised services.

We already know that students are always on the lookout for quiet study spaces. This need is especially pronounced for graduate students, who seem to feel outnumbered by undergraduates, who need quiet space for long periods to work on independent research projects, and who don’t always have private office space elsewhere on campus. When we asked students about services they would like us to expand, we offered them the opportunity to comment on “Additional specialized spaces for honors researchers, graduate students, or other student populations.” Out of 281 total comments on additional specialized spaces, 142 (or almost 51%) mentioned graduate students. In analyzing the comments and in follow-up focus groups with graduate students, however, it appears that many are not aware of either one or both of the dedicated graduate student spaces in Perkins Library.

Riess Graduate Student Reading Room

a photo from outside a room, showing 2 large tables with 8 chairs each and outlets along the top. The room has windows along the back wall and a keypad on the door.

The graduate reading room is a shared reading space for graduate students on the 2nd floor of Perkins. It has a key pad entry code that can be obtained from the Library Service Desk. The room is has good natural lighting and is an “absolutely quiet” zone. Some of the requests indicate that students would like more individual desks, however, so some students may be unsatisfied with this as the only dedicated space open to all graduate students.

Graduate Research Commons

a photo of a room with many cubicles and lockers and a few windows in the back

In the spring of 2016, a large room on the second floor of Perkins was converted into the Graduate Research Commons. The space has 27 individual cubicles of two different heights, adjustable sit-stand desks, and dedicated lockers for all users. The room also includes a technology center with an e-Print terminal, a scanner, and a desktop computer with the Adobe software suite.

Unlike the Graduate Reading Room, however, students must apply for access to the Graduate Research Commons. Despite its many features, the space has been underutilized, and it appears that many students are not familiar with it and have never tried to apply for access. A review of this space could reveal ways to market and set policies for the space.

Next Steps

To determine the most needed and feasible improvements for follow-up, the Assessment & User Experience department will host a DUL-wide staff workshop in July to review the results and make specific recommendations to improve the experience of all of our users. Contact us if you would like information more about this workshop.

We look forward to sharing more of our progress on this and other assessment projects for DUL in the future!

New and Migrated Digital Collections Round up

We are halfway through 2018, and so it seems like a fitting time to share new and newly migrated digital collections.  

Digital Collections Launched or Migrated since January 1 2018:
These collections should be publicly accessible in late June or early July:

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we will have more Radio Haiti recordings, 1990s issues of the Duke Chronicle, the Josephine Leary papers, more of your favorite legacy digital collections moving over to the digital repository and so much more! Stay tuned!

Sustaining Open

On learning that this year’s conference on Open Repositories would be held in Bozeman, Montana, I was initially perplexed. What an odd, out-of-the-way corner of the world in which to hold an international conference on the work of institutional digital repositories. After touching down in Montana, however, it quickly became apparent how appropriate the setting would be to this year’s conference—a geographic metaphor for the conference theme of openness and sustainability. I grew up out west, but coastal California has nothing on the incomprehensibly vast and panoramic expanse of western Montana. I was fortunate enough to pass a few days driving around the state before the conference began, culminating in a long afternoon spent at Yellowstone National Park. As we wrapped up our hike that afternoon by navigating the crowds and the boardwalks hovering over the terraces of the Mammoth Hot Springs, I wondered about the toll our presence took on the park, what responsible consumption of the landscape looks like, and how we might best preserve the park’s beauty for the future.

Beaver Pond Loop Trail, Yellowstone National Park

Tuesday’s opening remarks from Kenning Arlitsch, conference host Montana State University’s Dean of Libraries, reflected these concerns, pivoting from a few words on what “open” means for library and information professionals to a lengthier consideration of the impact of “openness” on the uniqueness and precarity of the greater Yellowstone eco-system. Dr. Arlitsch noted that “[w]e can always create more digital space, but we cannot create more of these wild spaces.” While I agree unreservedly with the latter part of his statement, as the conference progressed, I found myself re-evaluating the whole of that assertion. Although it’s true that we may be able to create more digital space with some ease (particularly as the strict monetary cost of digital storage becomes more manageable), it’s what we do with this space that is meaningful for the future. One of my chief takeaways from my time in Montana was that responsibly stewarding our digital commons and sustaining open knowledge for the long term is hard, complicated work. As the volume of ever more complex digital assets accelerates, finding ways responsibly ensure access now and for the future is increasingly difficult.


“Research and Cultural Heritage communities have embraced the idea of Open; open communities, open source software, open data, scholarly communications, and open access publications and collections. These projects and communities require different modes of thinking and resourcing than purchasing vended products. While open may be the way forward, mitigating fatigue, finding sustainable funding, and building flexible digital repository platforms is something most of us are striving for.”


Many of the sessions I attended took the curation of research data in institutional repositories as their focus; in particular, a Monday workshop on “Engaging Liaison Librarians in the Data Deposit Workflow: Starting the Conversation” highlighted that research data curation is taking place through a wide array of variously resourced and staffed workflows across institutions. A good number of institutions do not have their own local repository for data, and even those larger organizations with broad data curation expertise and robust curatorial workflows (like Carnegie Mellon University, representatives from which led the workshop) may outsource their data publishing infrastructure to applications like Figshare, rather than build a local solution. Curatorial tasks tended to mean different things in different organizational contexts, and workflows varied according to staffing capacity. Our workshop breakout group spent some time debating the question of whether institutional repositories should even be in the business of research data curation, given the demanding nature of the work and the disparity in available resources among research organizations. It’s a tough question without any easy answers; while there are some good reasons for institutions to engage in this kind of work where they are able (maintaining local ownership of open data, institutional branding for researchers), it’s hard to escape the conclusion that many IRs are under-equipped from the standpoint of staff or infrastructure to sustainably process the on-coming wave of large-scale research data.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park

Elsewhere, from a technical perspective, presentations chiefly seemed to emphasize modularity, microservices, and avoiding reinventing the wheel. Going forward, it seems as though community development and shared solutions to problems held in common will be integral strategies to sustainably preserving our institutional research output and digital cultural heritage. The challenge resides in equitably distributing this work and in providing appropriate infrastructure to support maintenance and governance of the systems preserving and providing access to our data.

Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team