I’m both honored and thrilled to participate in a group blog about library-based publishing. Thanks to Melanie Schlosser for initiating this venture and to Monica McCormick for thinking of me as a potential contributor. I am in awe of the stellar company I’ll be keeping through this blog, and I anticipate learning LOADS from everyone involved.

I am Patricia Hswe (sounds like “sway”), and I work at the Pennsylvania State University Libraries as Digital Content Strategist and as Head, ScholarSphere User Services. I also co-lead a new department, Publishing and Curation Services (PCS), in the Libraries. My job title and my department are all of six months old, even though I have been at Penn State since January 2010. At that time, I was hired as Digital Collections Curator, a position not too different from what I currently do – except that the content I help oversee now goes beyond our digitized collections, largely because of our new repository service, ScholarSphere, and the growing emphasis on helping faculty and students manage research data. It’s important to add that I started at Penn State the same day as our Digital Library ArchitectMike Giarlo, who is based in Digital Library Technologies (DLT), a division of Information Technology Services (ITS). The thinking behind these positions is that they are complementary. The Curator has focused on developing a user-facing agenda for stewarding our digital scholarly content, and the Architect has focused on design and development of the technical architecture supporting the applications, systems, and services also necessary for digital content stewardship. The partnership has been productive: early on in our tenures, we carried out a platform review to investigate strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the systems delivering our digital content; worked on a curation microservices prototyping project that set the stage for our repository service; and played key roles in developing, testing, and launching ScholarSphere. But the work doesn’t stop there. Mike and I continue to collaborate on the ScholarSphere service and other content stewardship activities.

The department that I co-lead with my colleague, Linda Friend, is addressing a range of needs through services in data curation, scholarly publishing, and digital scholarship (e.g., digital humanities research methods and projects). PCS sits in the division of Research and Scholarly Communications, headed by Associate Dean, Mike Furlough, in the Libraries; the other departments in this division are Digitization and Preservation and the Special Collections Library (which includes University Archives). Also in our department are a graduate assistant, Patricia Gael, who is a doctoral student in English, and a project associate, Mark Mattson, who holds an MLS and is providing support on our publishing projects.

PCS enables Penn State’s faculty and students to publish and distribute their research and scholarship, including data sets, for worldwide discovery, dissemination, and access. By design the department works closely with liaison librarians, both to foster strong ties with faculty and students and to serve as a resource on issues related to scholarly publishing; research data curation; digitized collections organization, representation, and access; and digital project development. Other departments with which PCS collaborates include DLT; I-Tech, the Libraries’ IT unit; Cataloging and Metadata Services; and the Penn State University Press.

As our department evolves, the activities in which we’ll be engaged include the following:

  • Collaborate with Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), a division in ITS, on providing faculty and students with more centralized, uniform guidance on copyright and fair use issues.
  • Survey, and reach out to, student-run publications at Penn State to find out what they are using to publish and to see how PCS can be of help – by providing, for example, guidance on sustainable best practices, or on open-source publishing platforms.
  • Work with departments and colleges, whose students produce outstanding capstone projects, to collect and promote such student scholarship, for long-term preservation and access, as part of documenting and stewarding Penn State’s scholarly record.
  • In tandem with relevant liaison librarians, address various researcher inquiries for help in publishing scholarly bibliographies that leverage the dynamism of the Web but also draw on schemas and standards, such as for linked open data.
  • Provide a space, both virtual and physical, for experimentation, tinkering, and hacking – along the lines of an R&D unit – where learning and knowledge sharing are the primary goals, and failure is allowed, if not encouraged, so that we are free to take risks.

The above activities only skim the surface. A growing department also means a growing staff. This year Publishing and Curation Services will hire a Digital Humanities Design Consultant, with other positions to follow, including a hire to support web applications development for enhancing scholarly publishing services.

From where I stand, in the midst of a library start-up service that has no real precedent at Penn State, these are exciting times. PCS combines different yet complementary strands of scholarly production and experimentation. Its service mission cannot but challenge, and make us re-think, traditional notions of organizational structure in academic libraries. It symbolizes a new world, and I am supremely glad and grateful to be a part of it.