VOLUME 16 NUMBER 3
FALL 2015

Please welcome Kimberly Kowal, Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Services, to the BC community; she joins the Libraries from the British Library in London, where she led UK national geospatial collecting for over eleven years. Her research interests have related to the application of technologies to increase access to and understanding of historical content, in particular historic and medieval mapping.

A Word from the New Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Services

In common with other new faculty, staff and students at BC, I am caught up in the atmosphere here now of curiosity, opportunity and motivation, with a hunch that great things are to come this academic year. 

The strategic direction of the Libraries reflects a marked emphasis in digital research development, a course set for several years but fully committed to with the creation of this new post in which I started earlier this summer. Activities in the Digital Initiatives and Services area consist of the established function of collecting and curating digital content via a robust Digital Library Program, along with the relatively new area of Digital Scholarship, which is exploring partnerships to support creative applications of digital tools for BC faculty and student research.

The Digital Scholarship Program will focus on developing digital content and technologies to engage users in new ways and answer research enquiries not otherwise possible. BC has a culture ripe for this type of investigation, possessing rich historical print collections for digitization, a solid Jesuit tradition of learning that encourages the intellectual integration also lauded by digital humanists, and a technically-savvy student population. The Libraries' new Digital Scholarship Team is committed to support and promote digital scholarship in collaboration with campus partners, faculty and students, and the Digital Studio in O'Neill offers a contact point to this group in addition to the specialty software and equipment there for multimedia projects, data analyses, and data visualization.

Initial projects in this area have focused on the humanities disciplines. The recently-released La Farge website publishes an illustrated catalog with chronological and geographical visualizations using open source tools. In progress is a unique application of music encoding (MEI) to a scanned 14th century liturgical manuscript – the Franciscan antiphoner (sanctorale), from the Burns Library; this will allow engagement with the precious volume but, more important to musicologists, searching of the 846 melodic incipits.  Other projects underway similarly apply technology to answer research needs, making the output widely available for reuse.

The BC Digital Library Program is solidly founded in experience of over 40 projects, undertaken in just the past five years, and includes content capture, metadata manipulation, access and preservation. Materials selected for digitization draw on areas distinctive to BC and that contribute to the broader research landscape, such as Jesuitica, Irish Studies, archival and published material that documents the history of the University and Catholicism in Boston; and library special collections. The digitization strategy is currently being revisited and reformulated to further widen access to collections, and digital lab equipment, systems, and staff structures are being reexamined to increase output.

While digitization is seen as primarily for online discovery and access, preservation of data and application of standards and systems to ensure longevity is no less vital.  Among the latest digital infrastructure initiatives is the identification of the next institutional repository for complex objects. Evaluation of repository architecture, research into technologies for discovery interfaces and viewing, and adaptation of open source, best practice-oriented standards and systems is a growing area of expertise in the Digital Library Program.  The two new hires we anticipate this autumn will specialize in life-cycle approaches to digital collection management and future digital library building.

I am pleased and proud to be leading these dynamic areas to enable and promote BC's digital collections and explore the possibilities offered by digital scholarship, and look forward to meeting and working with BC colleagues over this autumn semester and beyond.

Kimberly Kowal
Associate University Librarian
for Digital Initiatives and Services