Friday, September 6, 2013

OSU Digital Initiatives Program Guiding Principles and You


This is the second part of a two post set commenting on the OSUL's new Digital Initiatives Program Guiding Principles. In the first post ( I discussed some of the background and reasoning behind the development of the Guiding Principles. Today's post provides the principles and tries to briefly unpack how these Principles will impact the decisions being made around digital initiatives at OSUL.


Earlier this week, I provided some information around the process that the SDIWG ( and the OSUL had taken around the development of a set of Guiding Principles for the Digital Initiatives Program. The goal in developing the Principles is to provide a framework for evaluating how the OSUL expands and develops its digital initiatives program and infrastructure. As noted previously, the OSUL has undertaken a number of digital initiatives projects throughout the years. These projects have led to the digitization of countless digital objects, partnerships with faculty, and exceptional digital resources that are being used every day to support the teaching and research mission of the university. At the same time, these projects were just that - project based. By and large, the OSUL's digital initiatives infrastructure is made up of a conglomeration of siloed solutions that meet the needs of very specific projects, but offer the library minimal opportunity to look more holistically at our collections. In my presentation to AdminPlus[ 1], I included the following slide:

This slide represents a small, incomplete list of the applications being utilized to host digital library collections/services and represents current individual silos of information within our infrastructure. These silos complicate a number of critical processes, including the ability to simplify discovery of local collections, the creation of sustainable digital exhibits, flexibility in our reformatting efforts, and long-term preservation that goes beyond simple byte-level validation. As the library looks to expand both the creation and reach of our digital assets, taking a closer look at how we can make some deliberate choices around our larger digital initiatives architecture should provide benefits throughout the OSUL.

The Principles

The document has been broken down into the following 11 Guiding Principles[ 2].

  • All things evolve - Regardless of the format, the system, or the people managing and developing a system, things will always be in a state of flux. We acknowledge that and accept it as a part of the architectural design.

  • Plan for continuous improvements - The Libraries will use an agile approach to systems development, adopting a philosophy of iterative development: release soon and release often, allowing the Libraries to move quickly and anticipate new needs and services.

  • It's OK to fail - In systems development, a certain amount of risk exists. It's easy to react to trends, but difficult to anticipate future needs without experimentation. Failure in this context is acceptable and periodically expected, so long as the Libraries is able to learn through the process, fail fast, and fail forward, and not lose managed content.

  • Anticipating End-Of-Life - Whether it is a data format, a tool, a system component, services, or a best practice - anticipating the migration of data, systems, and workflows is a universal constant when working within a digital environment. The Libraries will minimize the impact of these disruptions by proactively planning and preparing for these inevitable technology shifts.

    We work with partners A digital initiatives program is a very complex undertaking, and its success will depend upon leveraging partnerships within the Libraries, across the University, and with stakeholders external to OSU.
    • Partners, not customers: One of the benefits of adopting an agile development environment is the necessity for close partnerships between IT departments (Digital Initiatives, Applications Development & Support, and Infrastructure Support) and the Libraries as a whole. Going forward, the expectation is that librarians and IT will work collaboratively throughout the life-cycle of a project.

    • Excellence to Eminence: As the University and the OSUL strive to embrace the move from excellence to eminence, one aspect of that transformation is the participation in large, national and international collaborations. Nationally and internationally, issues related to digital initiatives, preservation, semantic data, repositories, etc. are being actively researched. OSUL must strive to find a place at that table, and look for strategic opportunities to build new and exciting partnerships outside the University, and with the larger library community.

We embrace research as a core, fundamental value
One of the fundamental purposes of a university is to cultivate research at all levels, including systems development. This goes beyond the development of new services to considering the fundamental shifts occurring in libraries and positioning the OSUL to be a significant contributor and valued partner as the library community wrestles with these issues. The need to research, experiment, and push boundaries must be a core part of the program.

How Do these Principles Impact Me?

One of the tricky things about documents like this is that it may not always be clear how they may impact the work that you do at OSUL. It's a fair question, the notion of digital initiatives can be quite nebulous encompassing a wide range of activities. If these are the OSUL's principles around its Digital Initiatives Program, how might one expect these principles to impact their work? To answer that question, I'd like to go back to the goal of why we created the Principles...essentially, to allow the OSUL to transition towards a more deliberate digital initiative architecture that would enable the Libraries to expand its digital assets and extend the reach and impact of those materials. In order to do that, the OSUL is undergoing an evaluation of all the components that make up its current digital architecture and applying these principles to those resources to see if they will enable the Libraries to support this vision. This means taking a hard look at how the Libraries creates exhibits, supports digital collection curators, provides access to audio and video content, as well as examining historically internal processes like archival collection and item accessing. Likewise, it includes looking at the ways in which the Libraries has traditionally stored and managed its metadata, as well as the mechanisms that we may or may not have in place to share and reuse the data both within the library and interested partners. It's also about anticipating what comes next, as we look at the current trends around interdisciplinary research in the sciences and the humanities. The Libraries digital assets represent a wealth of information that can be mixed, mined, and visualized to produce new and exciting research - but only if Libraries' can expose this data to researchers in a way that they can query and use. Currently, the Library utilizes a myriad of tools, often siloed by project, to support our digital infrastructure. As the Libraries works to move toward a less siloed and more modular environment, these siloed tools will give way to tools or services that afford the Libraries more opportunities to integrate collections, simplify long-term preservation and curation tasks, support digitization and reformatting efforts, and simplify the discovery experience around our locally created collections.

In preparing to discuss the Principles with AdminPlus, the SDIWG created a sample use case to demonstrate the types of questions that these Principles would generate, and how they would help guide the discussion around the investigation of a new repository component. For individuals interested in getting a better understanding of how these Principles will help impact the decisions around OSUL's Digital Initiatives Program, you can find this Use Case[ 3].

Finally, I realize that there will be questions....I hope that there are questions as folks look to engage with the Principles and the goals that I have set out over these two posts. In subsequent weeks and months, the SDIWG group will continue to take to this blog to continue to discuss topics related to digital initiatives and the ongoing work at OSUL to reshape our process around these projects. Likewise, we will be looking to directly engage with faculty and are currently identifying smaller groups and forums within the library to have what I hope will be lively and targeted discussions. This is the first step of what I hope will be a longer, sustained conversation here at OSUL.



[1] Guiding Principles Presentation made to AdminPlus:

[2] OSU Digital Initiatives Program Guiding Principles:

[3] Applying the OSU Digital Initiatives Program Guiding Principles Use Case:

[4] SDIWG Committee Page:

[5] SDIWG Public Wiki Page:

Source: Osu