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Building a Research Commons in a University Library: Connecting Scholars with Technology, Expertise and Each Other
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Building a Research Commons in a University Library: Connecting Scholars with Technology, Expertise and Each Other

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Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Library opened the Research Commons in the fall of 2011. The 5,000 square foot space is dedicated to graduate students and faculty who are engaged in collaborative scholarly …

Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Library opened the Research Commons in the fall of 2011. The 5,000 square foot space is dedicated to graduate students and faculty who are engaged in collaborative scholarly work which takes advantage of digital technology. This presentation will focus on the mission, the space, and the way the Research Commons takes advantage of its place in the library.

From its location inside the library, the Research Commons is neutral space where interdisciplinary groups of scholars can work collaboratively. Almost all of the furniture is mobile, enabling users to configure the work areas to suit their needs. This open design also allows scholars to see what others are working on and to be inspired by what they see. These unplanned and serendipitous encounters, along with more formal events, allow the Research Commons to establish and nurture an interdisciplinary community of scholars interested in digital scholarship. Housed within the Research Commons is the Mellon Funded Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC). The mission of DiSC is to work with scholars whether they require instruction on simple tools or need help planning and executing larger projects.

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  • ThanksDigital Scholarship Coordinator in the libraryGrad Student -> library job -> library school because this is where the exciting things were happeningCAVEATE: I MAY SLIP INBETWEEN DIGITAL HUMANITIES AND DIGITAL SCHOLARSHIP HERES WHY …
  • Lots of buzz;Centers, associations, conferences, columns in the Chronicle, all the projects
  • Even the most conservative academic organizations are taking this stuff seriously
  • Digital Scholarship slipped out of the academy and into the NYT in late 2010 with articles about digital maps and large data sets
  • Digital work used to be on the margins and concern remain about how this work will count for tenure and promotion.However, vague requests for “digital” are cropping up frequently in job announcements and there is a growing acceptance of digital tool. This creates a challenge for scholars
  • This is also a challenge for libraries. We have always helped scholars work on projects but those projects are very different now.
  • I was part of a team at Emory who did a study for ARL about support for Digital Humanities. What we learned was that of the few libraries that felt like there were offering support, that support was not centralized or systematic.Ad hoc was the basic characterization
  • Emory’s attempt at a solution is the Research Commons and its first tenant the Digital Scholarship Commons. I know that’s confusing but I will try to clear that up a little bit here.Start with the Historical contextMove on to the Research Commons SpaceTalk about DiSCBriefly point to some challenges that have emerged
  • The library is more than its collection. It is at the heart of the intellectual life of the university and importantly it is a place where scholarship happensIt is also a relatively neutral place on campus which makes interdisciplinary work easier to instigate
  • Beginning in the 1980s when research library users started demanding digital resources like CD-ROMs and personal computers some institutions began designing spaces they called “Information Commons.”
  • By establishing these spaces, libraries were highlighting their role as learning spaces and not just storehouses for books and periodicals; they were spaces where researchers could find and use all of the tools they needed to produce work. Following along this trajectory, Emory’s Woodruff Library opened the Learning Commons in the 1990s. This stage in the evolution of the space is defined by desktop computers with specialized software and individual study carrels but also by a cafe on the ground floor. With the learning commons, the library focused on individual scholars and their needs defined broadly.
  • With constantly expanding online resources and a growing percentage of researchers working with laptop and tablet computers, the library continues to move from a collections based mission to a mission that focuses more on user engagement. With online resources diminishing the differences between libraries (and even the differences between the library and other spaces like homes and coffee shops) the library is focusing on what it can uniquely offer users, particularly space to work and expert advice.
  • The Research Commons was conceived of and designed with these strengths in mind. The space is completely open and almost all of the furniture is mobile, enabling users to configure the work areas to suit their needs. This open design also allows scholars to see what other scholars are doing and to be inspired by what they see.  These unplanned and serendipitous encounters, along with more formal events, allow the Research Commons to establish and nurture an interdisciplinary community of scholars interested in digital scholarship.These concepts of serendipity, experimentation and evolution have been central to the design process.  For example, original plans for the space included several small office spaces forming a spine down the center of the Research Commons.
  • This idea was abandoned because we simply did not know if users would want these kinds of spaces. Instead, we left the area as open and flexible as possible and have spent the past year watching people use it.
  • When we noticed that people were using large marker boards as mobile dividers to define their space, we got more of them.
  • In addition to work spaces, we’ve also had all kinds of eventsLike a conversation with Salman Rushdie
  • … and a staff holiday party complete with the electric slide
  • Currently, the only permanent resident of the Research Commons is the Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC); a Mellon Foundation funded initiative to facilitate experimental, collaborative work that takes advantage of emerging technology.  Emory’s Library has a long history of partnering with faculty who use emerging technology in their research, but the recent increase of interest in such projects demanded proactive action to coordinate demand and capacity. From its position in the library, DiSC facilitates a direct connection between scholars and unique collections such as those held in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL). In partnership with librarians, DiSC recommends tools and processes that minimize redundancies and prepare for long-term maintenance and preservation.
  • Read Goals
  • Staff …Pay attention to Associated Library Staff
  • Transcript

    • 1. Stewart VarnerDigital Scholarship CoordinatorEmory UniversityBuilding a Research Commons in aUniversity Library:Connecting Scholars with Technology, Expertise and Each Other
    • 2. The Rise of Digital Scholarship
    • 3. The Rise of Digital Scholarship 42 panels devoted to digital projects at this year’s meeting of the American Historical Association. There were 24 last year (which seemed huge at the time).This year’s meeting ofthe Modern LanguageAssociation hosted 55sessions with digital inthe title.
    • 4. The Rise of Digital Scholarship
    • 5. The Challenge for Scholars Who can help? Where can I work? Is anybody else doing this?
    • 6. The Challenge for Libraries• How can we engage scholars and anticipate their needs before they know them?• How do we support digital scholarship in a sustainable way?
    • 7. The Challenge for Libraries
    • 8. The Solution
    • 9. Historical Context
    • 10. The Information Commons
    • 11. The Learning Commons
    • 12. The Research Commons
    • 13. The Research Commons
    • 14. The Research Commons
    • 15. The Research Commons
    • 16. Event Space
    • 17. Event Space
    • 18. The Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC)
    • 19. The Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) Goals: • Start a Digital Scholarship Center at Emory which: • Encourage collaborative work/Creates a community • Involves librarians in new and meaningful ways • Produces 4 projects per year • Exposes library collections • Create a model for other institutions to follow
    • 20. DiSC: People Digital DiSC Digital Scholarship Scholarship Coordinator Solutions Analyst DigitalHumanities Graduate Strategist Fellows Undergrad Faculty Associated Staff Partners Library Staff
    • 21. DiSC: Events • Workshops • DiSCussions • Speakers • Advisory Board Meeting • Conferences and Symposia
    • 22. DiSC Projects: Two Tier System Tier 1: simple projects, consultation • At the Tier 1 level, we aim to empower scholars to do the work themselves. • Some home-grown projects. Example: disc.library.emory.edu/ows
    • 23. DiSC Projects: Two Tier System Tier 2: complex projects, receive support • Four Tier 2 projects/year • Developer Time • A small amount of money which can be used for travel, student work, translation services, web development …
    • 24. Challenges• Funding
    • 25. Challenges• Funding• Preservation
    • 26. Challenges• Funding• Preservation• Attracting and Retaining Talent
    • 27. Challenges• Funding• Preservation• Attracting and Retaining Talent• Becoming Truly Interdisciplinary
    • 28. Challenges• Funding• Preservation• Attracting and Retaining Talent• Becoming Truly Interdisciplinary• Establishing True Partnerships
    • 29. Questions?