JISC/CNI Conference "Transforming the User Experience" (Part 1 of 3)

July 30, 2008

Post 1 of 3:  Collections

On July 10 and 11, I attended the 7th JISC/CNI conference, "Transforming the User Experience," held in Belfast, UK.  The meeting brought together over 130 delegates from over 40 universities in the United States, Europe, and the United Kingdom to explore major developments on the use of information technology in teaching, learning and research on both sides of the Atlantic.  The conference focused on new modes of learning and teaching with digital resources with two sets of parallel sessions: 1) teaching and learning issues and 2) development of resources for research and teaching with international collaboration.

Alastair Dunning (of JISC) and I made a presentation about the JISC/NEH Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grants.  During the question and answer period, we had a lively discussion about the benefit of digitizing bibliographic resources and finding aids to provide basic access to dispersed collections with no intellectual control.   Don Waters (Mellon Foundation) stressed the importance of digitizing finding aids to provide basic access to hidden collections.  Michael Buckland (NEH/IMLS Advancing Knowledge grant project director) added that reference materials have been largely ignored in the digital libraries, yet they can be auxiliary resources for exploring context in digital collections.   

The session that followed was entitled "Directions and New Collections."  Kevin Guthrie (president of Ithaka and author of "Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources") went over many of the points covered in the Ithaka report.  He noted that grants should be capital investment at the beginning of a project, not a plan for sustainability.  He also mentioned that recovering costs is not an appropriate sustainability goal.  When projects are successful, they need substantial financial resources to implement new approaches; therefore, costs do not decline.   Guthrie also pointed out that subscription-based resources provide developers with feedback on the value of their product.  He argued in favor of marrying a project's scholarly value with entrepreneurial values necessary for the project's survival in a competitive networked economy.

Ian Rowland (Director of Research at the Centre for Publishing, University College London) discussed the results of a study that involved interviews with academics and other creative leaders on how they manage their personal digital collections.  Will future historians find the same depth of information about the creative process that is now possible to find in paper-based collections?  Rowland noted the importance of understanding the creators' behaviors (how they manage or portray their image or personas) to know how to archive these personal collections. 

Stay tuned for the next post, part 2 of 3, on “Strategic Content.”