The Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship
Established in 2005
Staff: 5 staff + 2 vacant positions, 18 student staff
Case Western Reserve University’s (CWRU) Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship began in 2005 as a partnership between the Kelvin Smith Library and the College of Arts and Sciences, and since then has expanded its mission to provide services for the entire university. Located on the first floor of the library, the Freedman Center occupies over 2,700 square feet and supports digital scholarship, multimedia, digitization, and printing activities. The center also features a Collaboration Commons, providing spaces for research teams to connect and interact. The Freedman Center deliberately adopts a barrier-free approach, minimizing restrictions of use and encouraging openness and collaboration.
The Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship is notable for its longevity. In 2005, Samuel B. and Marian K. Freedman donated over $775,000 to create the eponymous Digital Library, Language Learning and Multimedia Services Center in the Kelvin Smith Library. The center’s name reflected the focus on multimedia, scanning, and language-learning activities that were priorities at that time.
Seven years later, Marian K. Freedman and her family donated an additional $500,000 (matched by the university) to augment the Freedman Endowment fund. In October 2012, the announcement of this gift noted that the “new Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship will be rededicated with a greatly expanded scope of services and capabilities.” These expanded services and capabilities reflect the significant technological advances that have taken place between 2005 and 2012, changes that affect how digital scholarship is conducted. The Freedman Endowment Fund not only provides resources to ensure that the center is up to date with hardware and software advances, it also subsidizes the Freedman Fellows program (see Featured Project below).
The Association of Research Libraries had the good fortune to speak with the entire team at the Freedman Center: Roger Zender, associate director, Creation and Curation Services; Ann Holstein, GIS librarian and interim team leader; Jared Bendis, creative new media officer; Amanda Koziura, digital learning and scholarship librarian; and Mark Clemente, scholarly communications librarian. Recently, the team was expanded with the hire of Stacie Williams as team leader. There remain two vacant positions to be filled: an institutional repository and content manager, and a second digital learning and scholarship librarian.
In the early days, the center evolved organically in response to emerging needs. In 2013, a more structured blueprint became available with the release of a white paper entitled Envisioning Freedman Center 2.0: Campus Partnerships to Advance Faculty and Student E-Research through the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship Center at Case Western Reserve University. The paper makes a case for formalizing the pre-existing collaborative relationships amongst campus partners. Since the paper was issued, several proposed recommendations have been implemented. Creative new media officer Jared Bendis has been with the center since its inception and has witnessed its maturation over the years. He observes that the spirit of collaboration and cooperation shared by all parties has resulted in increased efficiencies. Previously duplicated services, such as similar workshops being offered by multiple units, are now streamlined and not needlessly replicated. Bendis adds that this increased awareness of each partner’s programming and the subsequent streamlining has also led to greater clarity around budget planning.
Fostering a research culture within digital scholarship is galvanized by means of the Freedman Fellows program (see Featured Project below). The fellows program is supported by the Freedman Endowment Fund as well as by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Kelvin Smith Library. These annual awards are “given to full-time CWRU faculty whose current scholarly research projects involve some corpus of data that is of scholarly or instructional interest (e.g., data sets, digital texts, digital images, databases), involve the use of digital tools and processes, and have clearly articulated project outcomes.”
Roger Zender, associate director, Creation and Curation Services, says that because the fellows program attracts some of CWRU’s best faculty who are actively engaged in various aspects of digital scholarship, it has served as an excellent means of drawing the attention of researchers across campus and raising awareness about digital scholarship services that are available to them.
Teaching and learning services offered by the Freedman Center have seen a steady expansion since the center opened. The center’s workshop program—CaseLearns—has expanded in response to the rapid growth in technologies that are becoming ever more powerful in the teaching and learning contexts. (Examples of these workshop offerings include “Introduction to Data Visualization” and “Making Your First GIS Map”). Bendis hastens to add that they are careful to avoid “scope creep”; for example, support and training for software not available within the center are left to appropriate partners, such as central IT, within whose portfolio that would naturally fall. Again, this reflects the commitment to reduce unnecessary duplication.
The Freedman Center Colloquia on Digital Scholarship intend to “continue promoting and educating researchers on campus as well as the greater scholarly community about the vitality and potential of digital tools and collaboration in taking research to the next level.” Past examples include a two-day program on pedagogy and practices, offered in collaboration with River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University in St. Louis Libraries.
Freedman Center Fridays are another staple offering available to the Case Western community, a drop-in community hour primarily geared to faculty and staff.
The Freedman Fellows program is competitive in nature, awarding funding to a few, select, full-time, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) faculty each year. The program is funded and supported by the Freedman Fellows Endowment by Samuel B. and Marian K. Freedman, the Kelvin Smith Library, and the College of Arts and Sciences. Since 2005, over 40 CWRU faculty have been supported through the program. Digital Learning & Scholarship staff members become involved as project liaisons, providing project consultation and technical support throughout the duration of the fellowship.
Cynthia Beall, Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology (2013)
Beall’s research focuses on the adaptation of indigenous highlanders (Andean, Tibetan, and East African) to the low levels of oxygen where they live at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Her project set out to design and implement a database of the biological characteristics of people living in these high altitudes. The resultant searchable, expandable, electronic database for research and scholarship replaced 13, previously maintained, independent spreadsheets that often presented problems with data integrity and consistency.
Brian Gran, Associate Professor of Sociology (2012)
Gran’s research in child trafficking involved the gathering of a plethora of data and statistics from alternative public websites, the FBI, city and suburban police departments, county departments, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), and various social service providers. This data was in turn used to develop GIS maps and calculate scientific estimates of where, how often, and what kinds of trafficking are taking place around Northeast Ohio. His research also aimed to identify key law enforcement departments and social service providers where victims can turn for refuge and support.
Gillian Weiss, Associate Professor of History (2015 & 2016)
Weiss’s research focuses on uncovering the historical role of Jewish students, faculty, and administrators in the social movements, physical infrastructure, and intellectual life of Case Western Reserve University from its founding to the present. During the course of her fellowship, Weiss used Omeka to create a website featuring archival documents, images, audio and video, and interactive finding aids with accompanying explanatory essays.
When envisioning future directions of the Freedman Center, the team recognizes the distinct advantages that are afforded by the endowment fund; resource limitations are not cause for concern when it comes to keeping up with technological advances. Significant growth in human resources will be realized once the two vacant positions are filled, bringing opportunity to expand the breadth and scope of program offerings. Strategically, Zender hopes to see continued growth in both faculty and student engagement and, along with that, increased opportunities for deeper collaborations between faculty and librarians. Because the center has been around for a decade, it has already established a level of trust as well as an identity and a culture within the CWRU community; the team looks forward to building on and expanding that culture.
Catherine Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org | May 18, 2017