GLIS 650 Digital Libraries – Class 2

(Normally I would post these notes as soon after class as possible, but work and life conspired, so there you go…)

  • The topic for last Thursday’s class was “Digital libraries as organizations”. With digital libraries the focus is typically on the content, the technology, and maybe the users. Less often considered is the organizational context of digital libraries, whether the DL is embedded in a larger organization or has enough dedicated organizational trappings to be considered an organizational unit or even an organization in its own right. I felt it important to discuss this at the very beginning of the semester, since understanding the organizational context of a DL is important for its development and critical for its sustainability.
  • Throughout the course I’ll plan on biasing the topics and approach to non-technical issues such as these, primarily because this is the situation that the students in the class are most likely to find themselves in. Their project involved building a prototype in Omeka, so they will get their hands dirty and gain some practical knowledge as well. But I think that we’ll be fine skimming over the detailed and highly technical plumbing and wiring that are under the hood of digital libraries.
  • We spent a bit of time focusing on the how the organizational culture of libraries can both facilitate and impede a DL initiative. Just because the name “digital library” has the word “library” in it doesn’t mean that it is a perfect fit for a library’s organizational culture. DLs are different from traditional libraries in several significant ways, to adoption and support won’t necessarily be automatic.
  • The class ended with the students getting into their groups/teams to brainstorm and choose the digital library they are going to propose. I had a chance to move around the room and sit with each group to talk about their ideas and (hopefully) help them make a choice. I’m glad to see that the groups seem to be engaged and working well together. They all have good, interesting ideas, and I’m looking forward on seeing them develop them over the course of the semester.
  • I’m slightly concerned that I might be assigning too much reading to the course. I’m not asking them to memorize anything, but I am adding a fair number of chapters, articles, and sometimes entire books to the ‘required’ reading list. Although I make sure to provide context notes and guidance on how closely and completely they need to review the texts, I’m worried that some students may find it overwhelming. Something I need to watch.

That’s it for now. Pardon the bullet-point approach, but if I polish these notes into flowing prose it will never get done!

First class!

Last night was the first class of the course I’m teaching this semester (GLIS 650 Digital Libraries), and I have to say that I think it went rather well. It’s been about a year since I last taught at SIS, and I have to say that it felt great to be back!

  • We spent a good part of the class going over the syllabus in some details. I think it is important from day 1 to be able to visualize the entire semester and understand how everything fits together. Also, as the course doesn’t follow a simple lecture/assignment/exam, there are usually a number of questions and concerns about how things are going to work out, so I try to address those at the beginning as well to alleviate people’s concerns as much as I can.
  • We had two group discussions in the course of the evening, the first of which started at around 7:30 PM. Still, there was a good energy in the room and the conversations and ideas seems to flow well. Given that a good part of their learning and coursework will happen in this groups, that’s a positive sign!
  • I had forgotten about the extra bonus of teaching in the Bronfman building: it is one of the last/only places on campus where the classrooms still have PCs in them! (The typical classroom has a/v hookups but the instructors need to bring their own laptop.) No more need for me to lug around my Thinkpad X, which is a good thing since I tend to not go back to my office after teaching and instead walk straight home. The classroom is also on the ground floor, so no waiting for elevators or climbing stairs. A+
  • As expected, by the time class wrapped up at 8:30 PM I was exhausted. I’ll need to work on strategies to stay well-rested, well-nourished, and in shape! Making sure that I don’t talk for 3 hours straight will also be important.

That’s it for this first update. More to come!