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Laying New Lines for Digital Humanities Scholars

The Scholars’ Lab (Digital Research & Scholarship Department), University of Virginia Library

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Founded 2006 (with precursor centers — Etext Center, GeoStat, & ITC Rescomp — established in the mid-1990s)
Bethany Nowviskie, Director of Digital Research & Scholarship

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The Scholars’ Lab is administratively part of a department of the University of Virginia Library (Digital Research & Scholarship) and was created in 2006 as a joint investment by the Library and ITC, the University’s central IT division.  This partnership was by virtue of the three longstanding centers that came together in a newly-renovated space to form the SLab: the Library’s Etext and GeoStat Centers (for electronic text production and geospatial and statistical data analysis, respectively), and a Research Computing Support Center administered by ITC.  The new, melded group is generally known by the name of its public lab space and has two major divisions: Outreach & Consulting, and Research & Development, each adminstered by a person reporting to the Director of Digital Research & Scholarship, who in turn reports to the Deputy University Librarian.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The SLab is a meant to be a place where faculty and advanced students in the humanities and social sciences can explore digital resources, find expert help, and collaborate on innovative research projects.  Our consultative and training services are informed by the work of our embedded R&D group.  We also host intellectual programming: events such as workshops, talks, and roundtables, and we sponsor a popular program for graduate student fellowships in the digital humanities, with our grad fellows taking responsibility for much of the public conversation in the SLab through the luncheon talks that result from this program.  In the past year or two, we’ve invested perhaps more heavily in grad student scholarship and methodological training, and in building a grad culture of DH at UVa, than in new collaborations with faculty — with, we think, excellent results for capturing the interest of faculty and grads alike in SLab activities.  We gravitate toward projects that can result in generalizable approaches and utilize open source software — not only out of a desire to move away from “boutique” work, but in order to allow our R&D staff to concentrate on what is truly innovative about a particular project idea.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Another generally unadvertised part of our strategy is to make “library-embeddedness” meaningful for us as a quasi-digital humanities center, and not merely an accident of our institutional history.  We therefore engage a great deal with various UVa Library departments dedicated to repository and digitization services, and access and discovery.  Several projects originating in Scholars’ Lab R&D have gone on to play a major role in our general library infrastructure. (An example of this is Blacklight, a Ruby-on-Rails interface to library catalog records and digital collections developed in the Scholars’ Lab, which went on to be adopted by a number of libraries internationally and to spark the “Hydra” project.)

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Because we value a culture of R&D, all faculty and staff in the Digital Research & Scholarship department are granted 20% of their time to pursue research and development projects of their own choosing. Employees can draw on standard, annual travel and professional development funding of $2800 per capita, plus supplemental, departmental funding from grants and discretionary budgets.  The Library also supports an internal, grant-making R&D committee (currently chaired by the Director of Digital Research & Scholarship), which accepts applications for further support.   Staffing in our department is split fairly evenly between people falling into “Library faculty” and “staff” roles.   In day-to-day practice within our department, these distinctions are fairly meaningless.  However, UVa policies state that only faculty can serve as PI on grants.  In cases where we have wanted staff to direct a grant-funded project, our practice has been to list the staff member as a second PI.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Scholars’ Lab positions:

  • 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0
  • Director, Digital Research & Scholarship (Library Faculty): Oversees digital scholarship activities related to UVA Library, with special emphasis on digital humanities, spatial methods, and social sciences. Takes a leadership role in these activities at UVa and abroad. Also serves as Associate Director of Virginia’s Mellon-funded Scholarly Communication Institute.

    10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Direct reports:

    1. 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0
    2. Administrative Assistant (Staff): Assistant to the Director, provides general administrative assistance and event planning; does general accounting for staff and students and grant management; coordinates student schedules, and executes special projects as requested.
    3. UX Architect (Library Faculty): serves as liaison between R&D and SLab consultative services, focusing on interface and design/UX issues related to internal projects and to faculty collaborations as assigned.
    4. Head of Outreach and Consultation (Library Faculty): Responsible for smooth operation of public services in the SLab; serves as liaison to Public Services units in the Library and leads outreach and communications efforts within the University. Oversees subject- and methodology-specific experts and consultative activities; oversees the Grad Fellows’ program.

      Direct reports:

      1. 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0
      2. Scholars’ Lab Coordinator (Part-time Staff): staffs the main desk and coordinates student reference workers in the Scholars’ Lab, serves as a liaison to ITC, Library IT, and Printing & Copying Services on hardware and software issues related to public computing services.

        Direct reports: Graduate Assistants (x6 or so, part-time): provide general walk-in assistance to Library patrons in GIS, stats, and text-based DH.

      3. GIS Specialists x2 (Library Faculty): teach ongoing training workshops, assist with walk-in consults, do one-off class visits to teach GIS methods and manage and build GIS collections here; oversee GIS student interns and teach grad/undergrad courses in GIS in departments like Environmental Science.

        Direct reports: GIS student assistants (1-2, part-time)

      4. Social Sciences Data Librarian (Library Faculty, w/ joint appointment as Research Associate Professor of Politics): analyzing data services, planning training and outreach and advising on the migration of legacy resources to new platforms; some grant-writing; also serves as institutional rep to ICPSR.
      5. Outreach and Training Specialist (Staff): Creates documentation both for end users and assists developers with documenting (less often at the code level than in creating docs for sysadmins); promotes SLab events, develops SLab web presence, makes promotional materials, etc.
    5. Head of Research and Development (Library Faculty): Responsible for leading a group of developers who collaborate with faculty on projects, advise our grad fellows as needed, and execute the Slab’s own independent projects (such as Neatline, Omeka plugins, or our GIS portal). Also serves as a connector to ITC, the central IT division, and to Library IT Services (LITS), who each maintain some systems; maintains some development servers and supervises student programmers.

      Direct reports:

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      2. Senior Software Developer (Staff): Works on faculty and SLab projects as assigned, creates information architecture; analyzes needs and open source options for building infrastructure
      3. Web Applications Developer (Staff): Collaborates on faculty and SLab projects as assigned.
      4. Student Assistants: (x4 or so, part-time): Collaborate on content and programming for R&D-initated and faculty projects.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/offthetracks/part-two-position-descriptions-at-established-and-emerging-digital-humanities-centers/the-scholar%E2%80%99s-lab-digital-research-scholarship-department-university-of-virginia-library/