what i do as digital curation coordinator


“Hi, I’m Brianna and I’m the Digital Curation Coordinator.”

My job title is such that there’s no way I can get away without a little explanation.¬† So today I thought I’d write about what my new job entails exactly. What does it mean to be a Digital Curation Coordinator? Am I a librarian? What do I do with my time?

(If you work in the digital scholarship realm, you already know the answer is messy.)

Technically, the classification for my job is that I am IT staff for the UW-Madison General Library System. According to my title, I’m not a librarian… but I am pretty much a librarian in practice: I work in a library, so funding and support for my initiatives comes from the library and I tap into my LIS background daily. Depending on the group I’m talking to, sometimes I’ll refer to myself as a data management librarian. It’s just easier.

The bulk of my position description falls under two categories: managing the institutional repository (25%) and building data management and curation services (70%) with an extra 5% thrown in for professional involvement.

Hats I’m wearing at this particular time include…

sociologist & therapist

I am a sociologist. I decipher relationships, incentives, and organizational dynamics here at UW. When I think back on my English degree, the most important thing I took away was in terms of understanding audience and relating to other human beings. How does x character feel? What is the context? What is the action/reaction? This is really interesting to me. Learning how to work effectively with so many different people is hands down my favorite part of my job.

I am a therapist. The faculty, staff, and colleagues I talk to feel nervous about their digital stuff. They have so many other things to do, but they know their stuff is sitting there, vulnerable. They feel guilty that they aren’t sure what to do, especially since they’ve heard these scary terms “bit rot” and “media obsolescence” being thrown around. I come in and I listen. I think they can tell that I understand and agree: DIGITAL STUFF IS OVERWHELMING. We’re generating it so fast! It holds the same value but is so much less comfortable than the stacks of paper in the filing cabinet were. And we are all so busy already.

I can provide guidance but not much in the way of concrete, library-backed services – yet. But I’m gathering information. I’m taking the temperature. I’m gauging reactions. I’m learning about my community.

explorer & strategist

I explore options. I am encouraged to think creatively and to think BIG, then to bring that back to the reality of my university. The world of managing digital stuff is broad, shifting, and encompasses so many different needs and viewpoints. There’s nothing easy about it. I look at what my colleagues are doing or have done. I look at what UW’s peer institutions are doing or have done. I consider the particular setup of my institution and try to figure out how to make things happen here.

As a library student, I thought, “Well, just do it. Just do this cool thing that has already been figured out.” But now I get that every cool thing that is done was likely a battle, convincing and reshuffling and learning on everyone’s part. That’s the nature of getting work done in an institutional setting. It’s not inherently negative. It just is. There are people and parts to be corralled. Now it’s me trying to figure out what I can do to ease the process along. And honestly, I love it.


I’m managing the upgrade of our repository to DSpace 4.0 in the near future. Most of the technical know-how I’ve had to cultivate includes understanding the infrastructure: how servers are set up and how content is distributed among them. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about storage options and about DPN. But coding or tinkering? Nothing yet, not since graduating. This has probably been the most surprising thing: I thought I was taking on a techier role.

how all this translates to my day-to-day work

In no particular order, some things I’ve done these past few months:

  • Became a member, then co-chair, of Research Data Services (RDS), including inheriting a library student doing his practicum with RDS (who I now supervise – whoa!). A lot of my time has been spent on the ins and outs of this group: meetings, projects, relationships, changes. I’ve given two talks just in these past few weeks, one to a group of PIs and research admins about the Dept. of Energy public data access requirement and another to liaison librarians here at UW.¬† These past few months have been quite RDS-centric.
  • Talked about the repository at length: people’s thoughts and frustrations (librarians and researchers), how to move forward (library digital collections, library admin). Hence the forthcoming upgrade!
  • Reached out to colleagues in similar roles around the midwest… skyping, emailing, all that jazz. They have been a BIG help to me as I get acclimated.
  • Officially joined the RDAP 2015 planning committee.
  • Said goodbye to Hack Library School and hello to the LITA blog, where I’m now editor. Lots of wrangling and planning is still underway, but now there’s a whole team of awesome writers on board. My first post on listing your tech skills on resumes/CVs just went up last week.
  • I have been applying for things as they come up on the good ol listservs. I mentioned earlier this summer that I am headed to the DLF Forum in October, but now I’m also headed to OpenCon in November. (Atlanta, then Nashville, then Washington DC, then home for Thanksgiving: it will be a whirlwind few weeks)

And that’s about it. I’m learning things every day. It’s an exciting time!