Back in early 2011, I gave an overview of the library as a disruptive publishing platform. Three years is a long time in “disruptive agent” years. So where do we stand today?
First of all, the publishing industry has not fallen yet…but the great disruption goes on.
A friend of mine was recently describing his rodent control neighbor, a charmingly opaque Eastern European gentleman whose central point about controlling rats can be summed up in a single pronouncement: “Fighting rats is F@#%ing 24×7 War!”
I’m seeing value in this statement for the effort to liberate information. As I’m learning in my contact with faculty and other librarians, the rat warrens run deep into our institutions. So invasive are their labyrinths that they threaten the very financial underpinnings of our information services.
Luckily, we are not passive observers in this state of affairs. We are active participants in creating something new. We have tools at our disposal to fill in the rat holes with a digital foundation that will ensure a long, fruitful future of open access publishing that will empower our users in ways traditional publishing could never do.
I’m seeing a number of openings libraries are beginning to exploit that build on the “library as publishing platform” model I wrote about earlier. Namely, librarians are often becoming central hubs for a variety of digital services that include:
- digital humanities and academic computing support
- digital project consultant services for everything from how to migrate online content to advice on metadata to search engine optimization (SEO) and usability
- helping faculty navigate scholarly communications issues from copyright to developing readership and recognition
- and, of course, providing the place on campus for online publishing
Taken together, all of these emerging services suggest a fairly promising future for librarians interested in transforming the profession into something more in line with current and future trajectories for information.
Ready to enlist as a disruptive agent yet?
Over the next few posts, I’ll explore each of the above and how my library is building new services or augmenting older services to meet these emerging digital publishing needs.
First up, that thing that goes by the very vague and unhelpful term of digital humanities…
Ground Zero for Digital Humanities
At my Library, we have not rolled out a formal digital humanities support program…yet.
Nonetheless, we receive regular, unsolicited inquiries about platforms like Omeka and Digital Commons from faculty interested in creating exhibits and online course projects. To meet the demand so far, we’ve rolled out Omeka.net services, but what people really want is full-blown Omeka with plugins like Neatline and others the hosted version does not support.
Clearly, this organic demand suggests a far more robust DH service is required. As I write, we’ve deployed a faculty survey based loosely on one created by Rose Fortier’s work at Marquette University. With this, we hope to not only build awareness of our digital collections and services (spoiler: early results have 60% of faculty being unaware of our institutional repository, for example…24×7 war indeed!), but also we want to learn what services, like digital humanities support, would interest faculty.
Based on our Omeka.net experience, my guess is that digital humanities support services will generate healthy interest. If this is the case, then we will probably role out self-hosted Omeka plus Neatline and GeoServer, along with trainings and baseline technical support, sometime in 2015. The one hitch that will need to be overcome, will be multi-site capability, which will enable us to install Omeka once and then launch as many separate sites as are required with a single click of a button. That particular feature does not exist yet outside Omeka.net, but according to Omeka.org, the forthcoming Omeka 3/Omeka-S will provide this, greatly enhancing the practicality of launching an Omeka service for any library.
Meanwhile, as I recently presented at the 2014 Digital Commons Great Lakes User Group, we are also continuing to provide a measure of digital humanities support on our Digital Commons institutional repository. While not as sexy as Neatline, we are posting student-generated Map of the Month from the Geography Department, for example, in PDF format.
The recent enhanced, zoomable image viewer available in Digital Commons may also help in this regard.
We’ve also seen a few faculty interested in using Digital Commons for student projects, particularly around courses focused on digital publishing issues.
But, of course, as non-librarian content creators enter the collection-building business, they come ill-prepared for overcoming the kinds of problems library professionals excel at solving. And so, this is where I’d like to turn to next: the library as a digital project consultant service.