DSS flyerThe DSS team recently completed our annual report for 2014-2015 and wanted to share a recap.  As a still-new department (in only our second full year) we continue to expand, explore, and test new services. We also like to respond to new opportunities. This past year provided good examples on all those fronts.

Expansion of services

Digital Scholarship Services was created in 2013 to support a wide range of activities by NYU researchers (including, but not limited to, Digital Humanities.) We are a small group: only one full-time staff member, with four others contributing part of our time, amounting to about 2 FTE. We support NYU’s institutional repository, the Faculty Digital Archive; provide guidance on digital publishing, website creation, copyright, and project management; and offer training in Digital Humanities tools and methods. A crucial element of our service model is to “connect the dots,” ensuring that our patrons find the help they need when their projects require support from other groups in the Libraries and NYU IT. Our most frequent service partners are Data Services, Digital Library Technology Services,  and the Digital Studio.

We track the number of researchers with whom we meet, the services they need, how we helped, and to whom we referred them. These statistics help us demonstrate not only what we’re doing but also what we cannot yet do–the gaps in our service portfolio. Having such data means we can demonstrate the need for new tools and (we hope) for new colleagues to help us support them.

This year we held 96 consultations–a 30% increase over the previous year. Of those,  65% were faculty and graduate students (34 and 29 consultations respectively), and the rest were library colleagues, administrators, post-docs, and undergrads. The pie chart below shows the range of these researchers’ interests (click to enlarge).

Research activities discussed.

In our first year as a team, we did a lot of “in-reach,” meeting with colleagues throughout the Libraries to ensure they understood and could refer patrons to our new services. The 30% rise in consultations suggests the previous year’s in-reach worked, so in this past year we emphasized outreach, by creating a flyer (see above), and this web site, plus doing considerable promotion for events (on which more below).

New opportunity

Early in Fall 2014 we learned that we would share with NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in a grant from the Polonsky Foundation to support graduate student internships in Digital Humanities. We were asked to organize training for the interns, and produced a series of nine workshops and four public lectures by the visiting instructors, Molly O’Hagan Hardy, Miriam Posner, Mark Algee-Hewitt, and Jennifer Guiliano. All the Polansky workshops were fully enrolled (average attendance 12) and the lectures audiences averaged 40 people. During the year we also offered eight other workshops and one public talk, equally well-received.

These events were an excellent way to provide hands-on training on a wide range of digital scholarship tools and methods, and promoting them had the extra benefit of  spreading the word about our services.

Pilot projects

Whiskey Rebellion screenshot

One of the gaps that emerged in our first year of service was the open-source content management tool Omeka, which enables the creation of web exhibits of digital objects, with associated timelines and maps. Having shown last year that a number of patrons wanted to use it, this year we ran a pilot project to test how we would support it and whether that support could scale. A related project was to investigate a web hosting service for Omeka and WordPress (for sites more complex than our university-wide service, on which this blog runs).  We concluded that rather than locally hosting such tools for the many potential NYU users, we should work with a vendor who could provide one-click access to the software on servers the vendor manages.

The year ahead

In the year just begun we’ll be piloting that service, testing whether the vendor can integrate with our campus authentication log-in service and trouble-shooting installation or other problems. Our team will continue to advise our users on managing projects, creating metadata, rights concerns, and so on.

A related need that has emerged is to provide server space that’s essentially an empty box for those who want a sandbox space to install software, test it, and learn. In the past year we documented the user needs and investigated scalable options for meeting them. In the year ahead we will define and pilot a service model that can be offered through cloud servers, with support from NYU IT.

Our other goals for the year include working more closely with Educational Technology colleagues in each of NYU’s colleges, upgrading our institutional repository software, and participating in planning NYU’s next-generation repository services. Beyond NYU, we are tracking issues such as providing access to humanities data and the emergence of standards for evaluating digital scholarship for promotion and tenure.

We have plenty to keep us busy! And we’ll continue to share news as our work evolves.