Editor’s note: I knew Micah was working on a reorganization/re-imagining of his Scholarly Communication office at FSU, so I asked him to give us an update. I liked it so much that I’m starting a new series about new library publishing programs in development and existing ones that are evolving. They will all be published under the “Program development” category. Thanks, Micah!
I’m tired of talking about “scholarly communications” and then having to define it for whatever audience I am standing in front of. Luckily, we’ve recently hired a new scholcomm librarian, Devin Soper, so I don’t have to talk about it too much anymore. That switch-over has given us the opportunity to rethink and restructure our office, and I think we’re developing something unique.
First of all, we made a conscious decision, for now at least, that we will not be launching any sort of digital publishing unit, digital scholarship center or digital humanities lab. At Florida State University Libraries we are calling ourselves the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS), with goals to be a “multidisciplinary research support unit in the libraries that will engage the campus in a new way and represent the future of an academic research library deeply integrated with the research production lifecycle at the University.” Buzz words, anyone? In true academic rigor, let me unpack that for all y’all.
DRS does not hold any official, hierarchical body on our org chart. We are a misfit gang of functional specialists, librarians and archivists with primary and/or secondary responsibilities that have a “digital” bent, and technologists with big picture ideas. Personally, I am mostly interested in “engaging the campus in a new way,” meaning working diligently to redefine the perceptions placed on us by campus admins and researchers. We’ve taken a lot of inspiration from our colleagues at the University of Central Florida, who sketched out the research lifecycle, and marked clearly the libraries role in each aspect of taking a project/paper/idea to “production.” Speaking to a group of students from our iSchool recently, I harped on the fact that how we work in DRS is as different as the kind of work we do. We are project teams and informal collaborative groups. We are #metalmonday, #tacotuesday and #meatdata experts. And, we aren’t afraid to try new things, quickly, even if they might not succeed.
Our focus is not on doing more publishing, or fighting for open access, or 100+ data management consultations per semester, or offering Omeka to every budding digital humanist that walks in the door, but on developing a group of people that work together well, enjoy trying new things, and then welcoming our campus community to join us in rethinking this whole research activity thing.
How, you ask, is that any different than what research libraries are or have been doing for years? To be honest, I have no idea, since I’ve only worked in libraries for 4 years. In my mind, what we are trying to do is get ahead of some curve that libraries seem to be just a little behind too often. In publishing, we’re starting to talk about web-ready, beyond the PDF, media rich, platform agnostic. In data, we’re using words like campus-wide census, meta-repository, collection development. In digital projects, we’re catching up with our colleagues and peers, working toward “first of a kind” ideas, integration into projects from the get-go, innovative interfaces, and thinking outside the tools. Finally, at FSU we have the opportunity to move into what I’m calling “Researcher Development,” i.e. everything a faculty development office and/or Teaching and Learning center might do, but we don’t have here.
So what does all this mean for our office formerly known as “Scholarly Communication” that did things we liked to call library publishing? We’d not yet invested a ton in establishing a journal publishing presence, but we’ll continue to do that at low levels. What I’d like to see is a holistic approach – every publishing project we take on gets the digital project treatment, meaning we think about how it plugs into to every aspect of research and scholarly productivity, for our partners and for the author/contributors. I don’t want to just spin up OJS sites for anyone and talk about modifying their publication contracts for openness, I want to substantially alter what it is that we call publishing. If the system is broke, lets not fix it, lets build a new system. We don’t need more journals, we need a revolution. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I’m trusting that Devin, our DRS colleagues and the rest of us in the LibPub sphere can break out of that mold and transgress the boundaries that bind us.
Putting all these random activities under the banner of digital research and scholarship at a R1 university library might be stretching, but right now, here, it makes a lot of sense. Our focus is not on doing more publishing, or fighting for open access, or 100+ data management consultations per semester, or offering Omeka to every digital humanist that walks in the door, but on developing a group of people that work together well, enjoy trying new things, and then welcoming our campus community to join us in rethinking this whole research activity thing. At the same time, we are of course dealing with credentialing quandaries and other political university things that cannot be ignored. Overall, we’re focused on connecting people to people, building collaborative partnerships beyond the library, and providing platforms (technical and metaphysical) for new forms of research and scholarship. At least, that’s what I’ve put in our “Elevator Pitch” Google doc, and moved the “What do we do?” Trello card to the Complete list, which sent an IFTTT post to our #GTD Slack channel.