Categorized | Q1-2014

Conference Report: USD Digital Initiatives Symposium

The University of San Diego hosted their first annual Digital Initiatives Symposium on April 9th.  Librarians from all over the country enjoyed 2 keynotes, 11 topical sessions, and a Digital Commons user group meeting.

In her opening remarks, Teresa Byrd (USD Dean of Libraries) identified three motivations for hosting this symposium. First, she believes that California librarians are highly segmented, both geographically and by type of library.  Second, she wanted to provide affordable and accessible professional development for librarians in California and neighboring states.  Lastly, she wanted to showcase emerging digital initiatives, which she sees as the future of libraries.

Throughout the day, speakers focused primarily on institutional repositories (IR) and open access (OA) publishing in academic libraries.  Several OA organizations were highlighted, including SHARE, SPARC, and COAPI.  Although OA is often thought of in terms of journal articles, presenters also discussed Open Educational Resources (OERs), which serve as free supplements or alternatives to traditional textbooks.  Major examples of OERs include Boundless Open Textbooks and MIT OpenCourseWare.

IRs and OA have converged within scholarly communication, as more and more academic libraries are offering OA publishing services through their IRs. Digital Commons, for example, enables in-house journal peer-review and publishing as well as conference organization and archiving. The Library Publishing Coalition provides resources for libraries interested in providing publishing services.

Digital CommonsSelectedWorks software was demonstrated as an easy way to highlight, preserve, and disseminate faculty research (as well as acknowledge the impact of grant funders’ support).  The software encourages professors to submit their own material, and outputs clean, user-friendly CVs for use on faculty and departmental websites.  To see these services in action, check out the implementations at GVSU and Caltech.

Speakers noted that IRs can be used for much more than archival digitization projects and electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs).  At least two presenters noted that administrators actively use their IRs to archive current university policies and related documents, giving the library high-level support for their efforts.  Panelists from the Atlanta University Center Woodruff Library discussed how many of their services are geared towards undergraduates. During accreditation examinations, they have pointed to their IR to demonstrate how their library supports faculty and graduate students. They also noted that digital initiatives are often cost-prohibitive for small institutions, but feasible through consortia; likewise, many grants require inter-institutional collaboration.

Multiple presenters noted that developing IRs in-house with open-source software (such as DSpace and Fedora) is often not feasible, due to the need for computer programmers. Cloud-based, TRAC compliant, hosted services may be expensive, but are cheaper and more reliable in the long-run.  Panelists also recommended using the standard installations of IR software; customization will be lost every time the software is upgraded, requiring a programmer to maintain the system.

CalPoly provided an overview of digital preservation requirements related to IRs.  Many libraries participate in LOCKSS networks to back up their data among multiple servers in multiple geographic locations.  LOCKSS (which stands for “Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe”) is an open source Stanford project which facilitates mutual, web-based backup of IR data by partner libraries, and is compatible with most IR software.  The Global LOCKSS Network was designed to preserve purchased e-resources, and has open membership at tiered pricing levels.  Alternatively, any institution can establish a Private LOCSKSS Network (PLN) for locally created content, and govern the consortium however it wishes.  CalPoly also reviewed the pros and cons of various preservation services, including Portico, Chronopolis, Amazon Glacier, Digital Commons PLN, Preservica, EVault, and MetaArchive (which was the solution they chose).  They analyzed these services in terms of cost (upfront and ongoing), how well-established the services were (both for sustainability and to avoid tech glitches), the use of digital curation best practices, and the ability to handle multiple kinds of content.

A common theme throughout the symposium was the need to generate faculty support for and participation in both IR and OA projects, lest we create “services with no market” (Debra Skinner, GSU).  Likewise, since IRs are very expensive and must have sustained, secured funding, librarians must continually reach out to stakeholders and demonstrate the value of IRs.  Fortunately, most IR services provide several options for tracking download statistics; Digital Commons even integrates IP address data to generate a world map of the IR’s usage, which tells a compelling story to faculty and administrators. Finally, to successfully engage in digital initiatives, librarians must be willing to continually learn new skills and learn from each other through conferences such as this one.

Despite the relevance of the program and the low registration fee ($35), there was relatively low attendance among San Diego librarians, and especially low attendance among junior librarians—those who will be implementing digital initiatives over the next 20 years.  Furthermore, no strategic librarians presented about digital initiatives in corporate libraries.  I strongly encourage my SLA San Diego colleagues to attend the symposium next year and submit session proposals about special libraries!

Note: the program and session abstracts are available here, with plans to archive session PowerPoints in USD’s IR this spring.


-Tim Gladson, SLA San Diego Communications Committee

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