5 SPEC Kit 350: Supporting Digital Scholarship
professionals within libraries are a growing trend. Some respondents pointed out that IT might be better
set aside as its own category given that contributions extend far beyond network, desktop, applications,
and operating system support and should also consider the work of technologists who specialize in media
creation, a variety of visualizations, instructional design, and programming, to name just a few examples.
While the other professional category typically includes IT, HR, and financial roles, several respondents
also chose this category for scholarly communications, publishing, and other activities. While the work
of support staff echoes that of the other professional staff, it is at much lower rates. They most frequently
contribute to digitizing and imaging analog materials (87%), making digital collections (59%), and
creating metadata (57%).
At a significant number of the responding libraries graduate student assistants, interns, and
undergraduate workers contribute to DS activities, particularly efforts in digitization and imaging,
making digital collections, metadata creation, and digital exhibits. GSAs also provide GIS and digital
mapping support. Some of the libraries have postdoctoral fellows (CLIR or Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation) on their staff some have or share with academic departments faculty who support DS and
are not always listed as librarians.
The descriptions of “Other DS activity” that library staff support reveal that the work extends
throughout the research life-cycle into teaching and the dissemination of research. Multimedia, video,
and audio production are part of digitization efforts and also a modality to communicate research and
data visualizations. Staff also help build specialized tools within and for the library that are used by some
researchers and their students, while other staff contribute materially to digital pedagogy, some going far
beyond just offering workshops and seminars on specific DS tools and methods.
Number of staff
Sixty-six respondents answered the question on how many staff support each of the 19 DS activities (Q5).
At least half reported staff support in each of the categories, with a large majority for expected categories
such as digitization and digital preservation (both 97%), digital collections and metadata creation (both
94%), and GIS/data mapping (92%). The number of library staff contributing in part or whole to digital
scholarship support varies widely by activity and institution, from as few as a quarter of a person (.25
FTE) to as many as 30 contributors. At least one staff member, and up to groups of 9–12, support most
activities, with an average of two to five individuals.
Broadly stated, when higher technical expertise is required to perform a task, lower numbers of
staff are allocated: GIS/data mapping, software development, and interface and database development,
and even statistical analysis are supported by at least .25 FTE, but only an average of two to three staff.
Some activities are surprising outliers: one library reported 30 staff for visualization, another reported 30
for metadata creation, two others have 25 staff who support digitization or 3-D modeling, and yet another
has 20 people involved in making digital collections and technical upkeep.
Some tasks are provided by an entire staff category, such as library liaisons, subject librarians,
or special collections curators who are providing or being trained to provide an increasing volume of
DS support, but not as their primary specialization. Other tasks are supported by specific groups—
digitization teams, digital library teams, and dedicated digital center staff or digital project members.
Respondents’ comments explain that these staff numbers are sometimes estimates that include either
individuals (librarians, technical staff, library IT staff, or graduate students in some cases) or aggregate
the contributions of several people. In addition, some libraries are training a broad range of staff to
better support digital service requests in the future. Seven respondents reported staff who support
other DS activities, including multimedia creation, conference/event planning and management, digital
pedagogy and training, integrating archives and special collections, supporting the data life cycle, and
copyright advice.
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