Skip to main content

The Discovery Adhocracy: Special Collections, Information Resource Management, and Scholarly Communications Departments Partnership

Published onDec 15, 2023
The Discovery Adhocracy: Special Collections, Information Resource Management, and Scholarly Communications Departments Partnership
·

Abstract 

The paper will explore how the library’s Special Collections, Information Resource Management, and Scholarly Communications departments are partnering to facilitate campus community publications and digital assets, while centering student voices. We will describe the roles of each department involved in the partnership and provide two case studies of how the partnership works in application. One of the case study publications, Toyon: Seven Decades of Student Driven Publishing, gave students the opportunity to work in research and writing teams to create an open-access book. These professional, paid positions provided experience for students to connect with alumni, conduct research in the archive, author a book, and design the layout. Two of the hired students took their experience with them into publishing-related, full-time positions within the university. The other case study publication, The North Coast Otters and Public Arts Initiative, connected the library’s digital archive with the publication to provide users with multiple images for each piece of artwork. Both works demonstrate the power of using discovery principles to engage readers with both publications and the archive, and are models for future publication and digital asset projects. The collaborations among the three library departments began informally, but coalesced over time into a regularly scheduled working group to address projects involving the entire scholarship cycle from research to authoring to publication to discovery. Besides providing students with opportunities to develop their resumes, the published products capture the history of the university, build connections between the library and the campus, and promote the university and library to the broader community. 

Project Takeaways 

  • Demonstrate achievements of cross-departmental collaborations, leading to the successful implementation of a publishing adhocracy.

  • Highlight scholarly and professional opportunities for students in the publishing process through paid internships and employment.

  • Illustrate the importance and uniqueness of our library collections to the goals of student success. 

Project Background 

Located in the rugged and remote northern California coast, Cal Poly Humboldt is a part of the 23-campus California State University system, and is a newly designated polytechnic university. With this new designation, one of the university and library’s goals is to provide hands-on learning and high-impact teaching practices for Humboldt’s 5,740 students. To this end, librarians from the Information Resource Management, Scholarly Communications, and Special Collections departments have come together as a working group to create a holistic approach to digital scholarship and repositories, collectively known as “The Discovery Adhocracy”1.  

Figure 1

Organizational Chart for the Discovery Adhocracy.

The informality of an adhocracy as an organizational style affords teams the agility to innovate outside of the hierarchical framework often found in libraries. Lindquist and Buttazzoni (2021) write, “Although adhocracies must have connections to larger sponsoring organizations and their hierarchical authority structures, adhocracies themselves usually do not sport centralized power or authority relationships, instead opting for flat structures focused on tasks and projects” (p. 218). An adhocracy organizational structure allows participants to maintain their traditional roles and duties, while having the autonomy to structure their projects in a meaningful, collaborative way that utilizes the talents of the team involved. 

The Discovery Adhocracy emerged out of the need for greater collaboration in digital scholarship projects that were being facilitated at the library. Previously, these departments functioned as separate units, each potentially initiating a digital scholarship project and requesting support from the other units. We quickly learned, however, that each of these units needed to be involved at the introductory stages of the projects so as to better manage expectations, planning, communications, and remove redundancies. Instead of the person initiating the project becoming the de facto leader, now project leadership would emerge democratically and shift to the person whose functional role was necessary to the project as it developed. 

The group reflects and supports the entirety of the scholarly process, from primary source research and information creation, to access and dissemination. Whether creating original works or digitized materials, the Scholarly Communications and Special Collections Librarians had complementary expertises in creating and managing digital assets, while the Metadata Librarian had expertise in descriptions and discovery of the final product. Since 2016, this team has collectively posted tens of thousands of digital objects (mostly photographs, maps, posters, and open educational resources, but also journals, books, etc.) through the library’s institutional repositories and publishing platforms. These works have been accessed and downloaded over one million times.  

Each department of the Discovery Adhocracy supports a robust student assistant and internship program. The goal of each project is not only to efficiently publish the digital objects of the particular project, but teach the students along the way about the lifecycle of information and provide them with applicable professional experience. Each librarian also brings with them their own networks, adding collaborative opportunities to the group. By adapting our meetings with varying combinations of students and project initiators, we were better able to innovate to meet the changing needs of the variable digital scholarship projects and their unique workflows and workloads. 

This paper will outline each team member’s role and philosophy behind their work. We will then highlight two digital scholarship projects as case studies to provide a working model for our group that might be applicable to other academic libraries focused on digital projects and publications. 

Information Resource Management: Metadata and Knowledge Organization 

As the foundation of all digital projects, metadata is the intentional center of our repositories. Feasibility, sustainability, and delivery are core technical aspects taken into consideration at the onset of any project. A needs assessment of each collection establishes what format content is in, who the audience is, and what goals we hope to achieve from its dissemination. From the needs assessment, the Adhocracy can determine which platform is the best for the project's purposes, what project metadata schema will be used, and how the workflows will be managed.  

Adherence to the FAIR data principles—Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of digital assets (GO FAIR International Support and Coordination Office)—brings larger questions to the needs assessment. We consider how descriptive metadata will be inclusive of our communities, how we address local needs for search and retrieval, and how we are scaling that to a larger online community. Li, Seneca, and Young (2022) outline the contrary perspectives held by the different library practitioners on the role of metadata: “We need not only to balance the tension between various departmental perspectives but also to meet the needs of diverse end users according to search task type, cognitive style, or user status” (p. 127). These perspectives are shared and discussed at meetings with the Discovery Adhocracy and anyone who might be involved in the end product, such as students creating descriptions, ensuring that all team members have the components and perspectives of the metadata in mind during the development of the project. 

Everyone involved in the development of these projects are partners in the creation process, regardless of the differences in our roles and expertise. The Metadata Librarian is key in developing and making decisions on the projects by stressing a consideration of the impact to our end users. Staff, faculty, and student assistants working daily with our patrons and community see and are affected by user experiences of our systems. Metadata makes it possible for us to approach projects that function in library, repository, and public systems inclusively. 

Metadata has the opportunity to build upon itself. We can see this as projects are reused, added to, and adjusted to meet our experiences and needs. Data can be added to give more detail and context, to identify who added what when, and to make changes to terms to suit individual project needs. No single individual is responsible for the descriptive metadata in our collections; rather, a collective of practitioners, volunteers, students, and professionals fill that role. Everyone involved in the process brings a unique perspective, and our goal is to help capture these descriptions from system to system for project continuity and posterity. This is done by carefully documenting our process, planning how data gets transferred, testing, then executing the process for the final product. Since we are a smaller operation, with one person for each of our subject areas, we are limited in capacity and time. That means our systems must work for us as one system failure can clog the entire project. With metadata as a user experience tool, we build projects that fit our needs but are malleable depending on our continual assessment of those needs.  

Special Collections 

Special Collections serves as a primary source laboratory, providing undergraduate students with employment and paid internships that emphasize hands-on learning while positioning students to support the research community.  The department focuses on providing open access to collections and encouraging undergraduate research. Most academic years, close to a thousand students visit Special Collections through course instruction, their class assignments, or their own curiosity. Through its emphasis on locally significant collections, Special Collections creates a sense of belonging for students in an isolated, rural, northern California college town.  

Cal Poly Humboldt students visit Special Collections for a variety of digital humanities projects related to northwestern California history. Such projects include creating digital archives, curating online exhibits, and designing interactive digital maps based on their research in the archives. The archives provide a physical place to make these connections that span the digital world while learning about the local community.  

As of Fall 2023, there are six student employees and three paid interns working in Special Collections. These positions provide meaningful, high-impact experiences that demonstrate to students that research is a conversation, not a lonely endeavor. Student assistants and interns digitize collections and promote and provide community access to the digital archive. This includes scanning and describing Special Collections material. Collections are always processed with student support. This digitization and description is fundamental for a student’s understanding of findability and digital access.  

Student employees continue the archival lifecycle by curating digital exhibits and authoring finding aids. Many students also go on to see the final stage of research by becoming published authors. Students work with the Scholarly Communications department, specifically the Press at Cal Poly Humboldt, to use material from the archive to create published books and articles. Demonstrating the entire research lifecycle of an archival document is an impactful experience as a student can see how an item becomes available online, share that item though digital exhibits, and then work with, or as, authors to include an archival object in publication. 

Over the past ten years, over 50 interns and 20 student assistants have worked in Special Collections, becoming “archival advocates” to their peers. This dynamic, student-centered Special Collections is changing how researchers interact with history in the archives. The historic documents they interact with are no longer static, but dynamic histories that students and researchers are actively creating, engaging, and sharing. 

Scholarly Communications/The Press at Cal Poly Humboldt 

The Press at Cal Poly Humboldt, the only university press in the CSU system, is open access, and operates under the Scholarly Communications Department to facilitate the open-access publication of high-quality scholarly, intellectual, and creative works by or in support of our campus community. The Scholarly Communications department digitally publishes roughly 600 original authored works (including open educational resources, research posters, master’s theses, and senior capstones) each year, two-thirds of which are student-authored. The Press, as a sub-entity of the department, publishes roughly 100 of those works in the form of journal articles, monographs, textbooks, fiction, and children’s books. 

The Scholarly Communications team consists of the Scholarly Communications and Digital Scholarship Librarian, the Digital Archivist and Publishing Specialist, and a team of four student assistants. The Scholarly Communications department is committed to providing students publishing experiences and authorship opportunities.  Student assistants perform the bulk of the publishing operations at the Press and gain skills in layout, design, editing, publishing, marketing, project management, author relations, team coordination, publication workflows, and scholarly communications lifecycles. The department also helps support numerous authorship opportunities across campus, including through campus journals, classroom open-pedagogy projects, research poster events, and book projects. 

Case studies have demonstrated the positive impact of student publishing on students personally, academically, and professionally (see Al-Busaidi et al., 2019 and Gresty & Edwards-Jones, 2012 as a sample). Projects with the Discovery Adhocracy involve students in operations and/or authorship at every step of the research cycle, providing real-world opportunities for students to advance their knowledge, skills, and resume.  

The Scholarly Communications Librarian contributes to the project team from the onset with an eye towards dissemination. Student authors sign a publishing agreement and are taught the structure and logic of license agreements they may experience in their careers. The Scholarly Communications Librarian introduces the students to copyright, licensed content, and public domain during the research process, and offers guidance regarding plagiarism, citation, and style guidelines over the course of the writing process. 

However, the Scholarly Communications Librarian’s primary commitment is on finalizing and publishing the content. Once a final product is completed, the team of the Scholarly Communications Librarian, the Digital Archivist and Publishing Specialist, and student assistants edit the manuscript, provide the cover and interior design, and complete the typesetting in Adobe InDesign. The Scholarly Communications team shares cover and interior mockups with the Discovery Adhocracy and the original project initiators for additional edits and refining. Design and layout take about six to eight weeks and overlap the final stages of the manuscript editorial process. 

After layout, the Scholarly Communications team conducts the final accessibility review. For book manuscripts, a digital version PDF with an integrated cover and interior is prepared for the institutional repository, while an interior file and cover spread is prepared for publication in Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) as applicable for the project. The Press is listed as the publisher but assumes no royalties or fees for any publication project. The project initiators and/or publication authors retain copyright, and depending on the project, decide what to do with any royalties that will come out of the sale of the publication. 

Occasionally the project initiators of book publications will throw a launch event after the final publication. Print versions of the book are often ordered by the project initiators and either made available for sale, or if it’s a department that cannot partake in commercial transactions, will make the book available for free beside a recommended donation cup. Attendance and donations at the event will depend on the network and appeal of the project initiators and the number of students involved, although we have seen events that exceed 100 people. All students involved in the production are celebrated at the event as well as forever immortalized in the acknowledgements and/or copyright pages of the publication. 

Digital Archivist and Publishing Specialist 

As the Discovery Adhocracy collaboration grew, it increased campus demand for more projects based on this structure. The library was able to leverage this momentum and engage their donor base in order to create a new library staff position (at a moment when the campus was experiencing a hiring freeze). The Archivist and Digital Publishing Specialist position is an unusual one, as it overlaps duties in two departments: Special Collections and Scholarly Communications. In both roles, the position manages the projects, schedules, oversight, and payroll for the nine student assistants between the two departments. Responsibilities also include marketing, the creation and design of signage or social media updates, web blogs and newsletters, news announcements, website updating, tabling and other public interactions, maintaining digital assets, and the digitization of materials for dissemination and research purposes.  

There is a level of technological literacy required for the creation and maintenance of digital archives and the metadata associated with them. Proficiency with databases and a knowledge of HTML, file structure standards, digital design, Adobe Photoshop, and assorted digital equipment and programs are required in both positions. 

The close relationship of the three departments allows a few student assistants to be shared interchangeably, especially in regards to accessibility, a mutual concern between departments. Archived publications, newly added publications, and the metadata associated with these items makes student assistants with desired digital skill sets a shared asset to the three departments. Many of the student’s job related skills are interchangeable between the departments, and even more so as digital preservation becomes a larger part of the departments’ work. Students working within the Discovery Adhocracy can develop relevant proficiency in multiple job fields. 

Case Study: Toyon: Seven Decades of Student Driven Publishing 

The English Department approached Special Collections and the Press with an idea to honor their Toyon Literary Magazine by publishing an account of its storied history. This project was the first to formalize our production team and included the Special Collections Librarian, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Library Dean, and the Toyon faculty advisor. Ad hoc meetings were set to brainstorm the structure of the project, schedule out the work, and later to monitor the progress. The Metadata Librarian was included only sporadically in these meetings, but the information that she provided was crucial to the project's future accessibility through our catalog system. In fact, it was because of this work and knowledge that we realized the need for more active involvement of the Metadata Librarian in future projects. 

Figure 2

Front cover of Toyon: Seven Decades of Student Driven Publishing.

The library leveraged existing student assistants and a pre-existing paid internship program called the Library Scholar Internship Program to support three students to research, write, and typeset the publication. 

Two students were hired in stages through the Library Scholar Internship Program with the student researcher starting immediately the first semester, and the student author coming in the second semester. The student typesetter was already working at the Scholarly Communications and Special Collections departments and was assigned to finish the book project at the end of the second semester. The Special Collections Librarian provided oversight of the student researcher, and the Scholarly Communications Librarian provided oversight of the student author and typesetter. We thought that the respective librarians could adequately provide supervision and direction for the students working in their areas, but with later projects we created regularly scheduled meetings with the whole Adhocracy and involved students to better monitor progress. 

The student researcher created an outline structuring her research and findings over the course of the semester. The student author retained the structure, transcribed the notes into a cohesive narrative, and filled in the captions for the myriad of images. However, the challenges of the authorship process combined with external school/life events put the writing process increasingly behind schedule. The manuscript required extensive edits by the Press staff, which we should have predicted, but did not account for in the schedule.  

Fortunately, the student typesetter had previously been on the Toyon Literary Magazine team. Her knowledge of Toyon, Scholarly Communications, and Special Collections departments proved invaluable in finishing the project. Her schedule was adjusted and her workload shifted to compensate for the delayed production date. She was able to get started on mockups before the writing was completed, and share the mockups for approval to the team. She also saved time by being able to identify errors and add missing content for the book without having to refer back to the student author or researcher. When the completed book finally came in, she worked extra hours to finish it before the scheduled release date. As we were working towards a specific book, we had no flexibility and worked into the night to finalize the publication. 

The finished book, Toyon: Seven Decades of Student Driven Publishing, was successfully released at the event, with the attendees universally gushing over the publication. We collected the few edits that we caught, and that were brought to our attention afterwards, and re-released a corrected book a few weeks after the event. In future projects, we added extra time for book proofing into the planning discussions with project proposers. As a publication created in a learning environment, especially our first as an Adhocracy, the project was a resounding success for all involved and created the blueprint for future projects. 

Case Study: North Coast Otter Public Arts Initiative

The North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative Archive was a homegrown campus project that took place in 2021, where 3-foot tall otter sculptures were decorated by local artists and displayed at shops, galleries, schools, and other locations along the 150 miles of California’s north coast in and around Humboldt County. A public auction delivered the otter sculptures to permanent homes, with the proceeds funding future otter studies and student internships in community-based watershed projects. 

Figure 3

North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative Auction Catalog Cover.

The project lead from the Arts Initiative approached the Scholarly Communications Librarian to republish the auction catalog. The idea was then brought to the Discovery Adhocracy where the idea for an additional online photo archive developed. 

The digital archive included multiple digital images of each otter sculpture, over 108 pieces in total. The project began with a metadata needs assessment that considered the goals we had for the collection and what the most important descriptive elements would be. Using that context and applying the lessons learned from the authors’ first case study, we were able to develop our workflow for the digital archive. Basic questions form the shape of every project, including:  

  • How to name and describe the collection? What is the collection about? What are the goals of creating this collection? What is the scope of the collection?  

  • What kind of content (format) is included (videos, documents, images, etc.)?  

  • Who is the audience of the collection? 

  • What information (besides Title, Author, and Date) must be included to best serve those who created the content and the patrons who will access it?

From there, we assessed and mapped metadata fields in our collections and planned the important work of describing, bulk-loading, and displaying the images. (See Appendix: Metadata Fields for North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative.) 

Even after the needs assessment, as we worked through the project, we realized we still had unanswered questions. Questions such as to the original catalog publisher and the provenance of the contents became debates about ownership and custodial history. The Scholarly Communications Librarian worked directly with the Arts Initiative project partners to define answers to these questions.  

For the digital archive, we chose to display each otter in a picture cube format, which would allow the viewer to see all sides of the object. From there, the infrastructure for an archival version of the auction catalog was developed, to be published simultaneously with the online image collection. Unable to successfully modify the original catalog file, the Digital Archivist and Publishing Specialist had to adapt the PDF into Adobe InDesign and reconstruct the look of the cover and interior to match the original. In consultation with the Scholarly Communications Librarian, the Digital Archivist and Publishing Specialist changed the language in the auction catalog from an active present tense publication, into an accessible archival documentation of the event and project. She made the image-rich catalog accessible and published it as a sustainable digital object. 

The Special Collections Librarian contributed to both the scholarly communications and metadata needs of the project by not only preserving the original print catalog documents and other files associated with the public event, but also by providing the infrastructure to support the online archive. The Special Collections Librarian will continue to provide online and physical access to researchers through online repository support as well as physical reference services in the Special Collections space within the library. 

Conclusion 

This Discovery Adhocracy group and resulting projects formed through an organic need for communication and planning about our work. Over time, weekly meetings became essential to share our progress and learn from each other’s expertise. We realized the importance of the Discovery Adhocracy to become more efficient in working through digital projects and innovating within the context of our positions, but without the stifling nature of a bureaucratic hierarchy. The results were streamlined publishing projects, unique professional experiences for our students, a quicker and more efficient turnaround resulting in greater access to the projects, and increased demand for this service on campus. 

The two case studies showcase how the Discovery Adhocracy adapted to meet the needs of campus stakeholders and honor the work of our students, faculty, campus, and community. With the Toyon project, over the course of a calendar year, we worked with a team of students to create a publication from scratch and celebrate the seven decade history of a cherished campus institution. With the North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative, on short notice and in the span of a few weeks, the members of the Adhocracy successfully created a dynamic digital archival collection and publication celebrating an important moment in our campus and community history. 

The workflows, time frames, and management for these projects can be adapted based on the personnel, workloads, and skills at hand. Find people you like working with and create an enjoyable environment to work together. Add students to the mix and it is amazing what you can accomplish for your community, and what fun you can have doing it. 

Acknowledgments 

The Discovery Adhocracy would like to acknowledge the work of our student assistants in helping to create and disseminate Cal Poly Humboldt Library’s unique digital collections. We would also be remiss if we forgot to acknowledge our Dean, Cyril Oberlander, for his enthusiasm about the importance of sharing our collections with the world, and having the foresight to locate our offices in proximity to each other.

References 

Al-Busaidi, I. S., Wells, C. I., & Wilkinson, T. J. (2019). Publication in a medical student journal predicts short- and long-term academic success: A matched-cohort study. BMC Medical Education, 19(1), 271. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-019-1704-x 

GO FAIR International Support and Coordination Office. (n.d.) Fair Principles.  Retrieved September 12, 2023, from https://www.go-fair.org/fair-principles/ 

Gresty, K. A., & Edwards-Jones, A. (2012). Experiencing research-informed teaching from the student perspective: Insights from developing an undergraduate e-journal. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), 153–162. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01156.x 

Li, M., Seneca, T., & Young, M. K. (2022). Content and context: A case study of metadata collaboration. International Journal of Librarianship, 7(1), 127-148. https://doi.org/10.23974/ijol.2022.vol7.1.234 

Lindquist, Evert A., & Buttazzoni, Michael (2021). The Ecology of Open Innovation Units: Adhocracy and Competing Values in Public Service Systems. Policy Design and Practice, 4(2), 212–227. https://doi.org/10.1080/25741292.2021.1941569 

Oxford University Press. (n.d.). Adhocracy. In Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved May 30, 2023, from www.oed.com/view/Entry/247827 

Appendix: Metadata Fields for North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative

Display Label

Dublin Core field name

Input Type

Instructions for Input

Required

Publicly Displays?

Controlled Vocab

Notes

Example

Title

dc.title

Text

Transcribe title of photo as it appears on piece or as supplied by author. Use Capital Case. 

Y

Y

N

Use brackets if cataloger supplies title. Example of an untitled piece where cataloger supplies a descriptive title: [Grove of Redwood Trees]

This is an Example Title

Artist(s)

dc.creator

Text

Enter available data in the following order: Preferred First Name (if applicable) Preferred Last Name (if applicable)

N

Y

Y

Separate multiple creator names with a semicolon

Jane Smith

Photographer(s)

dc.contributors

Text

Enter available data in the following order: Preferred First Name (if applicable) Preferred Last Name (if applicable)

N

Y

Y

Separate multiple creator names with a semicolon

Joan Smith

Collection

dc.relation.isPartof

Text

Enter the name of the collection

N

Y

Y

Should be standardized.

North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative

Format

dc.type

Text

Use standardized DCMI Type terms.

N

N

Y

For photographs, use Still Image

Still Image

Exhibition Dates

dc.coverage.temporal

Text

Enter exhibition date range as statement

N

Y

N

 

June-September 2021

Subjects

dc.subject

Authorized Local Subject List or LCSH

Use standardized LCSH subject headings          

N

Y

Y

Separate headings with semicolon

Sculpture;

Public sculpture;

Wood sculpture--Exhibitions;

Wood carvings;

Public art--Exhibitions;

Art;

Exhibitions;

Humboldt County (Calif.)--Public art;

Otters

Comments

dc.description

Text

Enter author comments, if any

N

Y

N

 

 

Artist's Statement

dc.description

Text

Enter artist statement as written in published catalog

N

Y

N

 

 

Artist Tribal Affiliation

dc.description

Text

Enter artist tribal affiliation as written in published catalog

N

Y

N

 

 

Artist Links

None

Text

Enter artist website links as written in published catalog

N

Y

N

 

 

Sponsor(s)

dc.contributors

Text

Enter available data in the following order: Preferred First Name (if applicable) Preferred Last Name (if applicable)  or Corporate Name in Direct Order (if applicable)

N

Y

Y

 

Jane Smith;

Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce

Host(s)

dc.contributors

Text

Enter available data in the following order: Preferred First Name (if applicable) Preferred Last Name (if applicable) or Corporate Name in Direct Order (if applicable)

N

Y

Y

 

 

Jane Smith;

Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce

Rights

dc.rights

Text

Information about rights held in and over the resource. Use rightsstatements.org

Y

Y

N

Typically, rights information includes a statement about various property rights associated with the resource, including intellectual property rights. Recommended practice is to refer to a rights statement with a URI. If this is not possible or feasible, a literal value (name, label, or short text) may be provided. For more information about rights, see the library's metadata guidelines.

URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/CNE/1.0/

Link to Related Resources

dc.relation

Text

Enter URL of related website

N

Y

N

 

https://otterart.humboldt.edu/

Photo ID

dc.identifier

Text

Internal identifier for administrative use

N

Y

N

 

Addams_0002

Source

dc.source

Text

A related resource from which the described resource is derived.

N

Y

N

 

North Coast Otters -- a collaboration with North Coast Open Studios, a DreamMaker project of the Ink People Center for the Arts

Comments
0
comment
No comments here
Why not start the discussion?