Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Semantic Web at Liberal Arts Colleges

As a NITLE online seminar, NITLE's Director of Research Bryan Alexander gave a great overview of the semantic web and potential applications in academia. It was impressive how much he fit into an hour long session. Today, I was thinking about how this would have made a cool day long workshop, but then we really would have needed to move from the theoretical to the practical.

I think that as more academic content gets marked up semantically, it should change the way we do research. Searching and organizing content as one does academic research should get more sophisticated.

We could start marking up data in our digital collections using RDF. Looks like there is a good way of doing this for creative commons data. Search engines are starting to use this information more.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Digital Initiatives at a Liberal Arts College Library

At work, I've been thinking about new digital services that the library could introduce, potentially in partnership with other units at L&C. Here is the draft of a short paper that I've put together on the topic:

Potential Future Digital Initiatives at Watzek Library

This paper is intended to stimulate thinking and discussion about potential digital initiatives involving
a variety of constituents at Lewis & Clark including faculty, the Library, IT, New Media, etc.

As the nature of research, scholarship, and learnin
g changes in an increasingly digital environment, academic libraries need to rethink the services that they are providing. This rethinking is even more crucial in a tight budget environment where we need to maximize the impact of the funds expended on library services and resources.

In the past five years, Watzek Library has developed its capacity to support digital initiatives in three main areas: enhancements to the library website and the functions it provides to support research, the Visual Resources Collection, and Special Collections and Archives. Some of the projects that we have completed include the Special Collections and Archives Digital Collection, the MDID image collection, our senior theses collection, accessCeramics, and the William Stafford Archives. Work on these projects has allowed us to develop expertise in information architecture, design, web programming, metadata management, Web 2.0 technologies, and digital scholarship.

As we look towards the future, we would like to broaden the impact of Watzek's digital initiatives and make more connections with academic endeavors across the College. These are a list of possible digital services that the library could offer in the future. In one form or another, they are being offered by colleges and universities around the United States. We are putting this list forward to gauge interest and applicability at Lewis & Clark.

Thematic Digital Collections:
Faculty may have interest in developing an online archive of primary materials, scholarship, or data associated with their scholarship and/or teaching. The Library might partner with faculty on the development of online collections of images, documents, or other media surrounding a particular topic. We could provide the expertise in digitization, software selection, database design, metadata schemas, information architecture and search engine optimization needed to develop such projects. Our collaboration might take the form of a consultation or a more extensive partnership for larger collections that would fit in with Watzek Library's long term digital collections. One example of such a project is accessCeramics, a database of contemporary ceramics images developed as a partnership between Assistant Professor of Ceramics Ted Vogel and Watzek Library. accessCeramics has paired Vogel's connections to the ceramics community and interest in curating an online collection of images with Watzek Library's expertise in digital collections. A few other examples of thematic archives arranged around faculty research interests include the Gerald Warner Taiwan image collection,
a project of Associate Professor Paul D. Barclay and Digital Inititives Librarian Eric Luhrs at Layfayette College, the Anarchy Archives, a project of Professor David Ward at Pitzer College, and the Murals of Northern Ireland collection a project of Tony Crowley, the Hartley Burr Alexander Chair in the Humanities at Scripps College and one of numerous thematic collections in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library.

Institutional Repository
: The library could support an online digital archive devoted to storing and making accessible digital objects associated with the academic life of the College. The content might include faculty and student scholarship, materials from College symposia, and other media. The library already archives student theses, as do some individual departments. For an example of an institutional repository at a liberal arts college, see Macalester's Digital Commons.

Platforms for Collaborative Student Research:
In the digital environment, there are growing opportunities for students to work together on research projects. Using social bookmarking software and wikis, students can share resources with each other. Lewis & Clark's Environmental Studies program uses to accumulate and organize research resources around particular sites. Software like the History Engine gives students a platform for the publishing of original research using primary sources. The library could serve as a consultant with faculty in the deployment and use of these resources. The library could also act as an agent to preserve the output of these collaborations over time.

Data Curation: Lewis & Clark has several active research laboratories in the sciences and social sciences. The library could serve as a consultant in the organization and long term storage and preservation of data output as a result of this research, whether in local or remote repositories. The library could recommend remote digital archives, storage technologies, metadata schemas, and information architectures that suit the needs of a particular research lab. To our knowledge, this is a relatively new area for liberal arts colleges and we do not have successful examples of this type of service.

Expanding Visual Resources:
Our Visual Resources Collection currently supports teaching with images of art and culture through a local collection of images (MDID) as well as licensed collections of images such as ARTstor. These images are used primarily by Art and Art History faculty, but are also used by faculty in other humanities disciplines as well as the social sciences. Should we expand our support for images to include scientific images and the scientific disciplines? Currently, our expertise in images is limited largely to still images and 2d images. Should we develop expertise in acquisition and delivery of moving images as well as three dimensional image technology?

Web Archiving: Content on the web represents a range of activities across Lewis & Clark, both academic and non-academic. Meeting minutes, departmental rosters, symposia programs, syllabi, campus news, etc. all live on the web. But much of this content is ephemeral: it is taken down and disappears after it no longer has currency. Should the library take responsibility for archiving all or part of Lewis & Clark's web output for the needs of future generations? Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore have a web archiving initiative underway using the Achive-It software from the Internet Archive.

Services to Support Scholarly Communication in the Digital Environment: The library could develop a menu of services to support faculty as they publish their research. These services could include: consulting/education on copyright and open access, assistance with acquiring rights for digital assets (such as images) for use in publication, advice on publishing research data, assistance with scholarly reputation management on the web. Oberlin College's Library has an initiative focused on transforming scholarly communication, which includes advising faculty on copyright and open access opportunities.

Mark Dahl
Associate Director for Digital Initiatives and Collection Management
Watzek Library
Lewis & Clark College