Welcome to the Content Stewardship Blog!

Welcome to the blog for the University Libraries and ITS’ joint Content Stewardship program.

In April 2009, I blogged about this program on the DLT blog — eContent Stewardship Program: Part 1 Setting the Scene (note to self, don’t say Part 1 if it’s not followed by Part II, III, etc.). I never did get back to that story and my excuse is a good one: we’ve been extraordinarily busy with the groundwork it’s taken to get the program going. However, all that work is paying dividends now and here’s the update.

A bit of background first: In our current strategic plans, ITS and the University Libraries (UL) have committed to joint development of an institutional Content Stewardship program. (Originally titled “Cyberinfrastructure, e-Content and Data Stewardship Program,” the program name is now abbreviated to “Content Stewardship.”) The goals of the program are to provide “a cohesive suite of access, security, discovery, preservation, curation, repository, archival, and storage services for born digital data” to meet existing and emerging needs in research, scholarly communications, archives, and digital library collections. There were several reasons for our wanting to take a programmatic and comprehensive approach:


  • The first of these was the state of our existing digital library ecosystem: a series of stovepipe applications, each dedicated to unique needs – an application for ETDs, another for scholarly publication, another for digitized newspapers, for example – making them difficult to search across and resource-intensive to develop and maintain. These applications typically had gone through a lot of customization, adding to the support burden, and their capacity to meet new requirements is limited.

  • To a large degree, our existing applications support discovery and access but do not address digital preservation needs – the management of the digital object over time. The storage model for our digital library collections has also not included digital preservation requirements, such as support for mitigation of format obsolescence, replication, and tiered storage strategies. Managing digital assets across their entire life span is thus a key goal of our program.

  • The University Libraries had chosen not to implement an institutional repository because of the failure of the “build it and they will come” model at many institutions. The downside to the lack of repository infrastructure, however, means a limited capacity to flexibly manage new content that falls outside the boundaries of the currently deployed digital library applications.

  • Penn State has no existing services to formally manage or curate research data.

Getting from where we were to where we need to be has taken a very considerable amount of groundwork. From the outset we knew we needed an overall technical architecture and roadmap, and we did not have that expertise in-house. We therefore set out to hire a Digital Library Architect, and Mike Giarlo joined us at the beginning of 2010. The UL made a complementary hire on the user and content side, their first Digital Collections Curator, Patricia Hswe, and she also started in January. 

Apart from these strategic hires, on the DLT side we reorganized, retooled existing staff, and made new hires, particularly in system administration, storage, and development. Meanwhile we pushed out service management to improve our operations and worked on service consolidation at the same time, pushing away services such as email, calendar, desktop imaging, and printing. We also performed a major overhaul of our infrastructure, and greatly expanded our DR and Business Continuity capabilities.

And in our next installment I’ll update you on what we’ve been up to in the last year. Yes, back to installments but only because I want to save you from a really long post.