Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS)
Established in 2013
Staff: 5 FTE staff, 8 FTE librarians + 1 postdoctoral fellow
The University of Notre Dame Hesburgh Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) was constructed in the summer of 2013 with its formal launch occurring November 1, 2013. Initial support for the center was provided by the President’s Circle, an annual funding initiative directed by university president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, in support of key initiatives and ongoing University of Notre Dame priorities. The intent was to meet the immediate and rapidly growing campus need for advanced research expertise and digital library services.
From the beginning, the CDS was envisioned as a space that would house and support state-of-the art technologies, enabling students and faculty to explore new methodologies, analyze complex data, share research results, and work with collaborative multidisciplinary teams. Ultimately, this new initiative has served as the spark for transformational change in redefining library services and spaces for the 21st century. ARL spoke with Tracy Bergstrom, co-director, Digital Library Initiatives and Scholarship Program within the Hesburgh Libraries, who elaborated further at the center’s opening: “The integrated expertise in the center offers the support needed for the full life cycle of research as we know it in the digital age. The libraries envision the Center for Digital Scholarship as the place where technology will transform the pursuit of knowledge.”
Although the Center for Digital Scholarship is just over three years old, it is already slated for expansion, thanks to a landmark $10 million endowment from the Navari Foundation. The future Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship will open in summer of 2018 and will be the home of a new Digital Research Lab. At the same time, a new Digital Production Facility will be situated within the Rare Books and Special Collections department, to allow for ease of working with materials to be digitized.
At the present time, the Center for Digital Scholarship draws upon a wealth of staff and librarian expertise. The five FTE staff complement includes a CDS assistant director, a digital projects specialist, a visual resources curator, and two media digitization specialists. The center is headed up by Bergstrom who is joined by seven librarians: a digital initiatives librarian, a GIS librarian, an e-research librarian, the English and digital humanities librarian, the economics and social science data librarian, a metadata and digital projects librarian, and a digital collections librarian. For the past three years, the team has been rounded out with at least one Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) postdoctoral fellow at a time. While most team members are located in the main library and only some are actually situated in the CDS, it is anticipated that the future Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship, with its larger footprint, will allow for some reimagining of the current configuration.
The scope and breadth of expertise resident in the team allows the CDS to provide support in a similarly broad spectrum of areas: GIS, digital humanities, data analysis, text mining, digitization, metadata services, and data management consulting. In addition, the CDS has established relationships with other complementary campus service providers, such as the Center for Research Computing and Notre Dame Research, to ensure that researchers are effectively referred to appropriate supports, as determined by the nature of their inquiry and need.
Notre Dame researchers benefit from a number of supports provided directly by the center. Faculty and graduate students can avail themselves of individual project consultations as well as an array of workshop offerings that range from one-hour introductory sessions on focused topics, such as text mining or the basics of digital scholarly editing, to more advanced multi-day “boot camps.” Customized workshops are regularly requested but currently these requests tend to originate with repeat departments, primarily those from the College of Arts and Letters (e.g., political science, history, English, anthropology). In response to this trend, the center is adopting a more proactive outreach approach to engage with previously untapped members of the community. Particular inroads have been made with the STEM disciplines by virtue of the data management consulting services that CDS staff offer. Finally, the CDS regularly collaborates with academic departments across campus to host talks and other events that focus on emergent themes in digital scholarship.
Project consultations tend to be measured in terms of either requiring five hours or less of staff time or requiring more in-depth attention. Bergstrom observes that the in-depth consultations “involve scholars with promising ideas who need guidance on how to approach their research questions and strategies for how to organize and execute digital project work. These projects offer opportunities for librarians and professional library staff to consult and collaborate on innovative research or projects seeking high-profile grant funding, and we actively pursue them when possible.”
As collaborations with faculty become more frequent and sometimes larger in scope, it has become increasingly apparent that some means of formally delineating the nature of the collaboration will be necessary in future. To this end, Bergstrom expects that the CDS will begin implementing memoranda of understanding to help ensure clarity around project depth and breadth.
While faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral students comprise the center’s primary clientele, the CDS serves undergraduate students as well. General library instruction sessions may include discussion on low-barrier digital scholarship tools, such as SketchUp or Voyant. Bergstrom described a recent example in which Notre Dame’s digital humanities librarian, visual resources curator, and CDS assistant director teamed up to present digital resources to a university writing seminar focused on manifestos. Students were introduced to Voyant, Artstor, and other tools as a means of exploring manifesto creation and analysis, and these resources were subsequently included in the course’s LibGuide. The one-hour introductory workshops described above are also accessible to undergraduate students.
Though the Hesburgh Libraries have been blessed with significant funding support that paved the way for the creation of the original CDS and will allow for future expansion of facilities, some challenges are to be expected. Investments have been made in the purchase of specific hardware and licensing of software, along with the ensuing training requirements that those entail. Bergstrom says, “Requests for new areas of support are brought to the center frequently, and our ability to be responsive is dependent on available funding and personnel.” The provision of adequate physical space for collaborative work will pose an ongoing challenge, despite the future expansion.
When Hesburgh Libraries received funding from President Jenkins, an environmental scan was conducted to identify gaps that the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) could address by providing broad support that had heretofore not been in place. GIS proved to be an area for which there was demand and interest in acquiring relevant skills, but no single department was responsible for that programming. Bergstrom notes, “The online modules created at Notre Dame are designed to help students acquire these [skills] even if their schedules are too restricted to take a formal class and to enhance GIS teaching done through the CDS.” Click here to access the GIS online learning modules.
An effective way of training students and community members in GIS is giving them the ability to contribute directly to research. One example of this has been a series of projects using GIS technology to collect data on neighborhood conditions in several neighborhoods of South Bend, Indiana, the city in which the university is located. Notre Dame students and faculty as well as invested members of the broader community have participated in collecting information about neighborhood conditions that can help inform policy decisions.
The University of Notre Dame Center for Civil and Human Rights, in partnership with the Center for Digital Scholarship, is creating an online research tool that will allow the simultaneous searching of Catholic social teaching documents and instruments of international human rights law. The project aims to bring Catholic Church teaching into conversation with international law, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue on human dignity and facilitating research on the Catholic Church’s understanding of human rights.
When contemplating the immediate future, the Hesburgh Libraries look forward with eager anticipation to the launch of the expanded Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship slated for early 2018. Considering longer-term aspirations, Bergstrom describes them in this way: “[The center] brings new areas of support to a university community, but also repositions librarians into scholars’ research cycles in innovative and opportune ways. To this end, in the past 18 months or so we’ve begun to position ourselves more strongly in ‘central services,’ such as data management planning, which have the potential to see broad usage from around campus.” In tandem with the increased centrality of the library’s role within the research life cycle, Bergstrom imagines a future in which digital scholarship services are no longer perceived as niche but rather seen as an integral and critical part of the academy.
Note: ARL extends sincere thanks and appreciation to Tracy Bergstrom for her time and effort in providing detailed supplemental notes on the Hesburgh Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship at the University of Notre Dame.
Catherine Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org | February 24, 2017