The Directions in Digital Scholarships Initiative

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The CNI Interviews Podcast | Season 2, Episode 2

Joan Lippincott is Associate Executive Director Emerita at the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI). In this interview, she discusses the Directions in Digital Scholarships initiative, which explores the current and future state of digital scholarship, data-intensive research, and computational research.

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Gerry Bayne: This is Gerry Bayne at the Coalition for Networked Information Spring 2023 Meeting. And I'm here with Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director of CNI Emerita. It's so good to see you, Joan. How are you?

Joan Lippincott: It's great to see you, Gerry. And thanks for inviting me to do this podcast. It's been a while, and I'm glad to be back doing this with you. Thank you.

Gerry Bayne: Wonderful. Got some questions to ask for you. Let's start off with this: What is the digital scholarship initiative you've been working on? And why?

Joan Lippincott: Well, I've been working on digital scholarship for CNI for at least ten years, if not more if you count the years that we work just on digital humanities. And last year, Cliff came up to me and said, "I think we need some next steps." And we started discussing where to go. And we came up with an initiative that would look at where digital scholarship has been, where it is currently as we emerge from the pandemic, and where people think that it's going. And as I shaped this, I told Cliff that I was interested in expanding it and calling it Directions in Digital Scholarships: Support for Digital Data Intensive and Computational Research because I think there are increasing synergies among those types of approaches to research, and I wanted to explore whether that was the case and how that was developing.

Gerry Bayne: What have you heard from program participants?

Joan Lippincott: Well, most of them have services in different units. By and large, digital scholarship and computational research, for example, are not in the same unit. And in fact, computational research may be more based in research computing or in central IT or a college IT group. But in some libraries, they are developing programs that have this overarching group of initiatives in digital scholarship, data intensive and computational research.

I also see much more involvement in partnerships with the Research Office. And often, it's a three-way partnership between the library, the Research Office and IT. And we've seen that over the past few years in CNI in general in all kinds of ways, and it's true of this area of digital scholarship as well. However, the people involved tell me that when really large-scale data projects are involved, usually in the sciences, that's much more on the research computing side, and the library tends not to be as involved except in initial consultations. And they play a strong role there in talking through the programs and who can do what for the researcher and his or her group.

The other thing that I'd say is that these partnerships, I think, will continue to develop among the groups. And providing a cohesive program to campus is really important. And actually, Quinn Dombrowski and I co-chaired a group for EDUCAUSE on looking at supporting digital humanities a number of years ago. And it was one of the conclusions that we came to in that project that we need to better communicate to our faculty and others in the university who's doing what? Where can they come for assistance or partnerships or collaborations? And that's still the case.

And finally, I'd say we found that there weren't so many changes as we emerged from the pandemic. There are definitely more programs online, especially in the instructional arena, workshops online, but still a lot of in-person events and still a lot of in-person consultations as well as online consultations. But it has not totally shifted.

Gerry Bayne: That makes sense. It's still limited online in a way, right?

Joan Lippincott: Yes.

Gerry Bayne: This might be a little redundant because you just talked about changes. Has your view of digital scholarship and libraries changed since you started the project?

Joan Lippincott: My opinion is that this is a really high priority for libraries of all types in the academic environment. But since I've been involved for some years, I am surprised at how slowly some libraries are taking up these changes. And there's an ongoing conversation about what they should be doing, how they should be doing it, what should be included. And I think that changing staff expertise and developing staff expertise is a very big issue and an important issue. And getting the resources that say this is a central part of what the library does, not something that's peripheral is really important and continues to be my view, but I would like to see it accelerated.

Gerry Bayne: Absolutely. I just interviewed some folks that run libraries, and they feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of changes, not just what you're talking about, but DEI initiatives, changes in the way they can scan content, what content they own, what content they don't own. And I get the sense that a lot of people are very overwhelmed right now. Do you get that sense at all?

Joan Lippincott: Yes, I definitely get that sense, but I think that's true throughout academia. We had a few institutions, although not all. Others said, "No, that's not the case," that said their faculty have dropped the digital projects they had students do in their courses because that meant more work on the faculty's part for grading and for involvement because they were burned out after the... or coming out of the pandemic. I don't like to say after because I'm not totally convinced that we're totally through the pandemic.

I agree, but you mentioned the DEI initiatives, and I think that part of the way we can approach some of these things is through where do they fit? Some digital scholarship initiatives are making a specific effort to seek projects that enhance minority resources, both working with collections they already have and digitizing those and doing exhibits and working with classes, doing outreach to campus student groups who are involved in DEI initiatives. There was almost universally the institutions that took part in the forums that we held for this project were involved in some way in making DEI a part of their digital scholarship program.

Gerry Bayne: Oh, that's great. What's next for the project for you?

Joan Lippincott: Well, for the project, the next step will be a report that will come out this spring, and that will cover things that I gleaned from twelve interviews of leaders in libraries and digital scholarship from two online forums of twenty-four programs and profiles that we collected from forty-seven institutions. That report will come out this spring. It'll be freely available on CNI's website. We also collected the profiles of these twenty-four institutions that participated in the forums, and they are already up on the website. Also, we'll have a webinar, a follow on webinar on April 20th. It will be advertised soon. And of course, I'm doing a session at this CNI meeting.

Gerry Bayne: You have a book, Designing Libraries for the 21st Century. How's the reception been? And can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Joan Lippincott: Well, I'm very proud of that book, which came out in 2022 and that I co-edited with Tom Hickerson and Leonora Krema. It's based on presentations given at the nine Designing Libraries conferences. There are twenty-eight chapters covering a really wide array of topics.

And the hardcover version, published through the Association of College and Research Libraries, ACRL, sold out very quickly, within a few months. They put out a paperback version, which is almost sold out, and we did a webinar series recently based on a book, a three-webinar series that had the highest registration that ACRL has ever had for one of their webinars.

Gerry Bayne: Wow, that's great.

Joan Lippincott: We are really, really delighted with the publication of the book. One thing I want to make sure that your listeners know is that we did have a stipulation with our publisher, ACRL, that we have an open-access edition available, so anyone can have access to that freely available online version.

Gerry Bayne: Do you plan any more events around the book? More webinars, possibly?

Joan Lippincott: Possibly more webinars. Nothing in the works at the moment.

Gerry Bayne: Okay, great. Thank you. And last question, what's happening with the Designing Libraries conference?

Joan Lippincott: Well, the conference is definitely going on. And we've already started the program planning for it. We've had several meetings to plan the Designing Libraries 10. It will take place in fall of 2023. The exact date I expect will be announced in the next couple of weeks. It will take place at the University of Arizona and will highlight their student success district buildings. The library is part of that student success district. It will have a little bit of a different flavor and something that will appeal very broadly to many constituencies. And we hope all of you will come.

Gerry Bayne: Now, Joan, you're supposed to relax. You're so busy. When do you find time to relax? And is there anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't touched on?

Joan Lippincott: I am retired, and I'm doing these projects as things come up that really interest me and that I really have my heart in. I do spend time with my family, and I'm really, really enjoying retirement and having a schedule that's mine to design.

Gerry Bayne: That's great. Thank you so much for your time, Joan. It's good to see you.

Joan Lippincott: Great to see you. Thank you, Gerry.

Gerry Bayne: Great.

This episode features:

Joan Lippincott
Associate Executive Director, Emerita