THATCamp 2009 — A Proposal

For those of you that don’t know, THATCamp is an unconference on The Humanities And Technology.

This is what I posted to the THATCamp 2009 site as my proposal for a session. Join in the discussion before and after the conference!

How to get money, money, money for wild and crazy times!!

Okay, not really. But I do think this topic is particularly important right now.

This was my original proposal:

I’d like to talk about the role of faculty, IT, and administrators in collaborating to shape institutional strategic plans and planning in general for academic computing and the digital humanities. I’ve spent nearly 18 months now involved in various strategic and practical planning committees at UMW regarding digital resources and goals for the humanities and social sciences. Making sure that resources are allocated to the digital humanities requires broad commitments within administrative and strategic planning. [Not as sexy or fun as WPMU or Omeka plug-ins, but sadly, just as important….] I’d like to share my own experiences in the area and hear from others about theirs.

And today I would simply add that as UMW is closing in on a first draft of its strategic plan, I’m even more convinced that the college/university-wide planning process is something with which digital humanists need to be engaged. In this time of dwindling economic resources, however, we also need to be, pardon the pun, strategic about it. I think we need to figure out when we need to explain concepts, tools, the very notion of what digital humanities is and its place in the curriculum (something even THATCampers seem to be debating), when we need to do full-on DH evangelizing, and when we need to back off from our evangelizing in order to ease fears and/or recognize budgetary realities. In any case, who else has had to make the case for Digital Humanities or academic technology as part of these processes?

UPDATE: Of course, let’s also include planning for libraries, archives, and museums in this discussion as well. (Thanks for the reminder epistemographer)

Strategic Planning for Academic Technologies and Libraries

So I posted almost two months ago about the strategic planning process going on at my institution and the subcommittee (now called a “discussion group”) I was working with on Academic Technologies and Libraries. I wanted to post a link to what we came up with to recommend to the larger Strategic Planning Steering Committee. I’d appreciate any feedback that people had on what we came up with, especially since I’m on the Steering Committee and we’ll be taking this report (and 14 others) into account as we write the school’s strategic plan to present to our Board of Visitors in July.

Here’s the report, in MS Word form.

Writing a Strategic Plan for Academic Technologies & Libraries

Our institution is going through a major process of strategic planning, and one on a fairly accelerated timetable. We need to have a complete draft by May and after feedback from the Board and the rest of the academic community, have a plan in place by November. I’m a member of the strategic planning steering committee, the group responsible for directing the process and for writing the final report, as well as being part of some of the discussions of the pieces of the report.

Now, strategic plans are funny things. Done right, they can set aspirational and practical goals for an institution that can drive fund-raising, shape organizational decisions, and determine the investment of key resources. Done wrong, they can create needless animosity, fear, confusion, and leave an institution in worse shape than before the process. But even when done well, the best strategic plan is useless unless the administration and the academic community as a whole relies on it, turns to it, uses it. So, the first question might be, why bother? Why invest time in an enterprise that has such a potential for failure? The answer is that I believe that this effort is a real opportunity for change, a true chance to articulate a vision for the direction of this institution, a remarkable moment in the life of the institution. I, and many of my colleagues, choose to see this as a time to think boldly about the future of the liberal arts university we care so much about.

One area in which I believe bold, visionary thought is both required and possible is in the area of academic technologies and libraries. I see the three key reasons why this area of discussion is particularly important for Mary Washington right now.

  1. Virtually everyone who talks about the future of institutions of higher education sees academic technologies and libraries as critical vehicles (paths, jump-starters, incubators, facilitators — choose your metaphor as you wish) for the growth of colleges and universities.
  2. Academic technologies offer a chance for smaller institutions to compete with much larger schools with much more sizable resource budgets. Also, assuming a basic computing infrastructure is in place, digital tools and technologies also allow for a quick ramp-up time for projects, easier piloting of new ideas, access to significantly larger (and better organized) library and archival collections, and widespread changes to existing systems or practices.
  3. Finally, UMW already has a number of critical resources in place with which we can build, create, and innovate boldly. [UMWblogs is perhaps the best known digital tool, and Faculty Academy may be the best-known event; but by “resources” I really mean a dedicated group of librarians, instructional technology artists, staff, and faculty. It is these genuinely creative, caring, thoughtful, reflective, and revolutionary people who must lead and effect the bold changes for which I’m hoping.]

In the next month, the strategic planning discussion group on Academic Technologies and Libraries needs to come up with 2-3 big goals in this area for the institution with several smaller objectives and a number of specific measurable benchmarks that would reflect progress toward those goals and objectives.

So, help me and UMW to think boldly about these critical components of a successful institution. What would be on your top list of goals for a small (~4,000 undergraduates, ~1,000 graduate and professional students) institution of higher learning? What are the necessary digital and/or library components of an liberal arts university of the 21st century? What could we do to be a leader among our peers in the fields of academic technology, library services and information resources?