ASU Library awarded $249K digital preservation grant


August 5, 2021

The Arizona State University Library and its partner organizations were selected by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as the recipient of a 2021 Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program award, totaling $249,974, with the aim of advancing digital preservation practices among under-resourced organizations.

ASU Library’s partner organizations include the Sustainable Heritage Network, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, the Association of Hawai’i Archivists, Northwest Archivists, Inc., and Amigos Library Services.  Stacey Erdman Stacey Erdman, digital preservation and curation officer and acting digital repository manager for the ASU Library, is the grant project's principal investigator. Download Full Image

Stacey Erdman, digital preservation and curation officer and acting digital repository manager for the ASU Library, will serve as the principal investigator of the three-year grant and manager of the multi-organizational project, which will deliver an innovative digital preservation training program to practicing librarians and archivists struggling to provide ongoing care for their digital collections.

Erdman, discussed the award with ASU News and said the grant project stemmed from her involvement with the Digital POWRR Project. (POWRR stands for “Preserving (digital) Objects with Restricted Resources.”)

Question: How did this grant proposal come about?

Answer: I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with the Digital POWRR Project since its inception in 2011, which has provided research, outreach and advocacy in the digital preservation field, specifically focusing on under-resourced cultural heritage institutions. POWRR’s work over the past decade has included the highly regarded POWRR Tool Grid, a white paper detailing the testing of various digital preservation tools and systems, a one-day workshop and a two-day professional institute — one of which was graciously hosted at ASU Library in summer 2018. I served as the technical coordinator on the first research grant and provided curriculum design, community coordination and instruction services for the education-focused grants. 

The professional institute grant focused on practical, hands-on technical training and cohort-based learning, and provided a gentle introduction to assessment procedures through the use of a tool we developed called the POWRR Plan. Attendee feedback demonstrated that practitioners in the field have an interest in working collaboratively with peers to assess organizational capabilities, stages of growth and maturity, and measures they can take to properly care for their unique digital collections.

During the time I served as a POWRR instructor, I also was awarded a scholarship to attend the NEDCC's Digital Preservation Assessment Training program, where I learned how to employ the framework that they had recently developed. As part of my training, I performed a digital collections assessment at Ripon College. This training really demonstrated the power of formal assessment processes to me, and made me think critically about how it could be operationalized as a supportive training program that could benefit organizations who were struggling to care for their digital collections.

Q: Did you develop this proposal with members from the partner organizations?

A: Digital POWRR has built relationships with many wonderful partner organizations around the country during the course of the past decade. Partners help us publicize events and connect us to the professionals who would benefit the most from the training. For this grant, six partner organizations will sponsor a small cohort of six individuals drawn from their membership to participate in this training program. Project staff will work with the partners to screen participant applications, and will help with the final selection of participants. By locating training within cohorts drawn from existing communities of practice, it is hoped that participants will feel a greater sense of familiarity and comfort. Additionally, partner organizations may ask their participants to later work on using their new expertise to help operationalize a peer assessment program/relationship system within their own membership.

Q: Can you share any details at this time about the grant or the training program you’ll be developing?

A: The grant is a three-year award that serves dual purposes. It is primarily a training program, but it also serves as a research project. I am serving as the principal investigator for this grant and will also be the project manager. In the process of creating the proposal, I have already assembled a small team of expert collaborators, drawn across the digital preservation landscape, who will serve as advisers or peer mentors to the cohorts that we select for the training opportunity. We will collaborate on the creation and delivery of educational resources for the participants — all through remote technologies — and will provide ongoing support to participants as they complete their three different — self and peer — assessments. I will also be responsible for overseeing the project’s final deliverables, including compiling the participant’s case studies and assessments into an ebook, and writing a white paper that summarizes mentor and participant feedback regarding the assessment process and frameworks utilized, including suggestions for ways peer assessment programs can be successfully operationalized within existing communities of practice. 

One exciting feature of the program is that participants will be compensated for their time and participation in this project with a stipend of $3,000. We will also provide their home institutions with a small “tech startup” subaward of around $900, so that they can make small technology-related purchases to jump-start their preservation initiatives.

Q: Why is this grant award significant to libraries, in general, and to the ASU Library, specifically?

A: Providing training on assessment procedures and practices is beneficial for practitioners, their collections, their organizations and the profession overall. In the words of Susan Swartzburg, “it is the responsibility of every institution that holds unique collections, regardless of its size and resources, to properly care for its collection.” Most libraries and archives either create or acquire digital materials, and don’t always have specialized staff able to care for these materials. Organizations serving BIPOCBlack, Indigenous and people of color populations, or who are resource-constrained, often have the most unique collections that are most at risk of loss. I feel a deep sense of duty to do everything I can to help equalize the playing field in the digital preservation community, so that preservation does not become the province of the elite. Additionally, by immersing myself in the world of assessment procedures and practices, I expect my own body of knowledge and skills to grow in this area, which will undoubtedly prove to be helpful for my position here at ASU, especially as we start to think about working towards CoreTrust Seal and Trusted Digital Repository certifications down the road.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

ASU's new Center for Public Humanities names scholar Elisa New as director


August 5, 2021

This fall, the humanities division at Arizona State University will welcome scholar Elisa New as the first-ever director of the Center for Public Humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The new center will join the division's 11 existing centers, with the goal of bringing the best of humanities teaching and learning to worldwide public audiences.

New, a scholar of classic American literature and poetry, was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania from 1989 to 1999. Since 1999, she has served as the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature at Harvard University. Elisa New, a scholar of classic American literature and poetry, has been named the first-ever director of the Center for Public Humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Photo courtesy of Rose Lincoln, Harvard University. Download Full Image

In line with her personal mission to bring humanities content to broader audiences, she established a nonprofit educational media production company that produces a nationally airing PBS series called “Poetry in America,” a multiplatform educational initiative that brings poetry into classrooms and living rooms around the world. The show, now going into its third season and filming for a fourth, is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and will function as a development lab for educational content she will offer at ASU.

“We are excited to welcome Professor New into our community. The humanities we practice at ASU are inclusive and founded on a principle of access for all,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in The College. “The Center for Public Humanities will assist us greatly in realizing that mission at scale, enabling many more students and lifelong learners to join us in the study of these disciplines essential to the creation of a just future.”

The Center for Public Humanities will be headquartered in Durham Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus and will partner with all of ASU’s existing humanities schools, centers, departments and interdisciplinary humanists working across the university to create programming in the form of dual enrollment, credit, noncredit, continuing education and professional education courses.

Through a partnership with Learning Enterprise, the center will enable high school students to take ASU humanities courses for college credit. By drawing on existing partnerships with institutions around the country and world, the center will deliver content to the public through events, exhibitions, outreach and more.

As director New said it is her priority to support ASU faculty in the humanities to create engaging digital educational materials for the widest audiences possible.

“Music, dance, great works of visual art, great works of architecture, the poem that speaks right to your heart, that novel you can't put down, the Shakespeare soliloquy you memorized, the film you will never forget: few of us don't love at least one of these — and most of us, before and after as well as in college, actually look to the arts and humanities for wisdom, for comfort, for enlightenment,” New said.

“Any talented teacher can teach a wonderful course to 12 students, or even to 120 students. But what about the 12,000 students who also might have had a transformative experience by taking that course? Digital tools allow us to provide that access to many more of these students,” she added. 

“To meet the varied needs of students from differing backgrounds from across the country and around the world, you need an institution with ambition and vision — and a commitment to investing in the infrastructure necessary to achieve that vision. ASU has the blue-sky belief in access and scale, and the readiness for innovation I was looking for.”

New received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brandeis University in 1980, as well as three degrees from Columbia University including a master’s degree in English in 1982, a Master of Philosophy with an emphasis on English in 1985 and a PhD in 1988.

She has authored and published numerous articles and four books including “The Regenerate Lyric: Theology and Innovation in American Poetry,” “The Line’s Eye: Poetic Experience, American Sigh,” “Jacob’s Cane: A Jewish Family’s Journey from the Four Lands of Lithuania to the Ports of London and Baltimore: A Memoir in Five Generations” and “New England Beyond Criticism: In Defense of America’s First Literature, A Wiley Blackwell Manifesto.” Her two forthcoming books include “How to Read American Poetry” and “The Public Humanist.”

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences