Getting Things Done: Administrative Tips, Tricks, Helps, And Hindrances In Digital Scholarship

workshop / tutorial
  1. 1. Tom Keegan

    Libraries - University of Iowa

  2. 2. Leah Gehlsen Morlan

    Libraries - University of Iowa

  3. 3. Peter Leonard

    Sterling Memorial Library - Yale University

  4. 4. Catherine DeRose

    Sterling Memorial Library - Yale University

Work text
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Occasionally acknowledged and rarely discussed in conference settings, the administrative structures underlying digital humanities work remain an area of discovery for many faculty, staff, and students. While these structures and their attendant physical spaces, staffing, and workflows undoubtedly vary from one institution to the next, there remains considerable overlap between schools in terms of day-to-day challenges and long-term planning and strategy. These shared challenges have traditionally been regarded as something to simply handle in an
ad hoc or institutionally idiosyncratic way. For far too long, they have been eschewed as something beyond the pale of scholarly endeavor when, in fact, they are crucial to the development, implementation, and preservation of digital humanities projects. From grant writing to project management to departmental politics, the administrative side of DH work remains shrouded in considerable mystery. Too often questions that begin with “How do you deal with…” or “What do you do when…” are relegated to conversations at the hotel bar.

In an effort to bring those questions and their various answers into broader conversation and to demystify the work of DH administration, Yale University Library’s
Digital Humanities Lab and the University of Iowa Libraries’
Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio lead a
half-day workshop addressing the day-to-day and infrastructural challenges and opportunities within the administration of digital scholarship centers, units, and initiatives.

Designed for staff-side administrators—whether they be a singular Digital Humanities Librarian charged with serving an entire campus or a collection of people working within a clearly defined center—and welcoming of interested faculty and graduate students, the workshop will engage participants in a frank, pragmatic set of discussions and exercises. Topics addressed will include: org charts (real and desired); working across units and institutions; the administrative politics of turfiness; GLAM collaborations; public engagement workflows; staff agency; and advocacy of others in service to getting things done.
Regarding the workshop’s suitability for faculty and graduate students, we highlight a stark reality in higher education. While graduate students are pursuing a growing number of administrative positions within the digital humanities landscape, instruction in the area of administration is rarely found in graduate humanities curricula. Likewise, on many campuses the work of administration is split between academic and managerial workflows involving both faculty and staff administrators. Elsewhere, faculty may find themselves newly arrived on a campus that provides a degree of administrative support that differs from their previous institution. In each case, understanding the variety of administrative structures and the staff-side considerations underlying them, serves to better prepare all parties for fruitful digital humanities collaboration.
In service to these would-be and current administrators, this half-day workshop addresses five main areas of administrative infrastructure and project management, providing attendees the opportunity to share and explore administrative models, project workflows, and institutional networks.

Space / Equipment / Architecture / Facilities

Workshop leaders will allow time for participants to assess their own space and equipment needs based on their specific organizational missions and campus needs. We will address inherent challenges in the acquisition and development of physical space on campus and explore creative problem-solving processes to address those challenges. Because the workshop is intended for centers of all sizes, we aim to discuss space, both physical and abstract, methods for identifying and obtaining equipment, and how smart use of facilities, staff, and collaborations may allow for solutions to unresolved issues.  

Organization (within your org) / Adjacencies (to other campus orgs)

Staff and institutional size will determine much of the session on internal organization and external opportunities for digital scholarship centers. Because attendee experiences and institutional structures will likely vary greatly, we will lead an informal conversation detailing our own experiences, and then allow for an exploratory brainstorming discussion with participants. Strategies for establishing connections within and across departments, particularly regarding shared services and resource awareness, will be emphasized.

Accountability / Client Management / Expectations

Once established, digital scholarship centers are typically committed to project development of some kind, including but not limited to application development and pedagogical support and tools. This work is generally collaborative and interdisciplinary, which may lend itself to goal and expectation discrepancies. Development of management processes and distinct infrastructure devoted to this consistent and iterative project work proves efficient and effective. To that end, participants will consider their project needs and priorities, and workshop leaders will discuss various ways to manage and document project timelines, objectives, and client expectations.  

Lifecycle / Archiving / Preservation / Long-Term Support

Determining a completion point for existing projects can be a challenging endeavor, due mainly to the ever-evolving nature of humanities research. Once an end-point has been determined, it is equally challenging to determine a project’s lifespan and subsequent appropriate archival treatment. During this section, participants will be asked to discuss plans, preferences, and resources for archiving digital humanities projects. Considerations of institutional capacity, as well as scholarly ownership and how projects follow their PIs will be addressed.

Promotion / Marketing / Awareness / Outreach / Engagement

Creating campus awareness of digital humanities projects and tools allows for attention to resources developed as a result of digital scholarship, as well as resources available to those who wish to further explore digital scholarship. Dedicated staff and resources aren’t always available for promotion, particularly in higher education, making it hard to elevate it to a prioritized level.  With the assistance of workshop leaders, participants will explore models for promotion of and engagement with digital humanities projects. We will discuss possibilities at all promotional levels, from small- to large-scale.

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