The Strategic Digital Initiatives Working Group (SDIWG) is formally announcing the completion of the OSUL Digital Initiatives Guiding Principles.  These principles represent a fundamental shift for the OSUL Digital Initiatives Program, providing a vision for OSUL digital architecture and a framework for how to get there.  The document is made up of 11 principles, focusing on the key themes of: innovation, iteration, collaboration, and user-driven design.  This two part series of posts will provide the background behind the development of these Principles (9/3/2013) and will provide some context around how these Principles will impact the OSUL Digital Initiatives Program (9/5/2013).


One of the most challenging and interesting part of starting a new position and a new program is the opportunity to look at problems with fresh eyes, and work with new colleagues as you work to learn and understand the unique culture that makes up an organization.  In a lot of ways, that describes my first four months here at the OSUL.  While digital initiatives at OSUL isn’t necessarily a clean slate (lots of great work has already been done by a lot of people), the development of a new Digital Initiatives Program is a large-box, a box that sometimes doesn’t seem to have well defined boundaries.  And in a sense, that’s what I’d like to talk a little bit about today, the process that the Strategic Digital Initiatives Working Group[1]  (SDIWG) has been doing to help bring some shape to the program, and produce a set of guiding principles that not only help to provide a roadmap of sorts for the Digital Initiatives Program but also create a shared set of expectations for members of the OSUL as the Libraries’ undertakes a significant revision of its digital initiatives architecture.  As the Libraries looks at how we reshape our digital initiatives architecture, these Principles will be one of the foundational documents helping to guide that work.

What is the SDIWG?

The Strategic Digital Initiatives Working Group was briefly introduced on the Director’s weekly updates in April 2013 [] in a guest post by Beth Warner.  The SDIWG is a working group made up of many of the Digital Initiatives Program’s key stakeholders.  It’s a group with a wide range of experiences and expertise, and one that I’ve come to rely on as we look at the present digital initiatives architecture and try to better understand what gaps currently exist and how we can work to move forward and turn those gaps into opportunities.

The SDIWG’s charge focuses “on the broad responsibility in crafting the Libraries’ policies and infrastructure to support the Libraries’ strategic vision around digital Initiatives,”[2] and as such, the working group will be addressing a wide range of issues over the coming year.  These issues will range from policy discussions around the dark archive and preservation, to issues related to the long-term management and dissemination of OSUL’s metadata and digital collections.  Likewise, the group will be discussing and potentially leading task forces around IT architecture components, as well as endeavoring to work with the faculty and staff in the libraries to promote information sharing and education around the very broad notion of digital initiatives.  These Principles represent a first step by the SDIWG to provide a framework to help guide some of these coming decisions and discussions.

Why Create a Set of Guiding Principles?

Why create these principles?  It’s a good question and one that, as a group, the SDIWG wanted to answer for ourselves before beginning this work.  The impetus really comes out of the OSUL’s strategic plan, specifically

4.4.5: Create a robust programmatic approach to managing, delivering, and making usable digital collections held by OSUL

When I read this action item, I see a couple of things.  First, I see a recognition of the tremendous work and innovation being done at the OSUL.  A look at the Libraries’ website highlights a wide range of digital projects and collections currently being provided by OSUL.  What’s more, the Libraries’ commitment to continuing that work can be found in its commitment of resources and expertise around the Digital Reformatting Sub-Committee and Working Group and the OSUL sponsored Innovation Grants.  At the same time, there is a recognition that while the Libraries has and continues to do great work, the development of the OSUL digital initiatives has been largely very project driven.  This has led to the creation of numerous digital collections, but has also resulted in a very fragmented and unsustainable digital initiatives architecture.  And as the OSUL moves to place more emphasis on the development of digital exhibits and resources, Libraries’ faculty and staff are beginning to run into some of these limitations due to these gaps.  So why create the Guiding Principles? To provide a framework, a roadmap, and a set of best practices that can be utilized as a guidepost as the Libraries works to remake its digital initiatives architecture.

Who Created this Document?

It would be easy to say that the development of the Guiding Principles was largely the work of the SDIWG group.  But to say that would be ignoring the iterative process and the wide ranging contributions of many other individuals that went into creating these guiding principles.  When I consider the question of authorship, I have a feeling that most people want to make sure that something wasn’t just created in a vacuum, but that the authors considered not only their own expertise and biases, but also the unique history and culture found at the OSUL.  The reality is that the creation of the Guiding Principles started a long time before the formation of the SDIWG.  Over the past year, the Library Executive Committee has been discussing the need to refocus OSUL’s digital initiatives to ensure that the OSUL will continue to have the ability to innovate and expand its digital portfolio.  When the SDIWG took up the task of drafting a set of Guiding Principles, the Executive Committee was able to provide the notes from their many brainstorming sessions to the working group.  These notes gave the SDIWG a head start on the process, as well as provided some insight behind the types of issues and concerns that the Executive Committee had been considering.  Working together, the SDIWG sought feedback and considered both established and evolving best practices to develop the Guiding Principles, presented here.  The Principles represent our best thinking about the type of organization that we want to be, and provide a framework to help guide us on that path.

The SDIWG has taken a very deliberate path in releasing the Guiding Principles.  Because this document does represent a fundamental shift in how we consider digital initiatives at the OSUL, the Working Group has strived to both provide context for the development of the Guiding Principles, as well has sought feedback from increasingly larger groups, as we’ve shared the Final Principles and discussed their implications.  I hope that this first post has successfully provided the background and context around the development of the Guiding Principles.  Next week, I’ll provide a second post to unpack the Guiding Principles and illustrate how these Principles will impact the day to day life at OSUL.



[1] SDIWG Committee Page: