Research ∕ Learning

The university's curatorial role

Lorcan 3 min read
The university's curatorial role

I made a note in these pages a couple of years ago about the University of Edinburgh’s mission statement.

The University’s mission is the creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge.

The occasion was Chris Rusbridge’s justified pleasure at seeing the mission changed to include ‘curation’. At the time, Chris was the director of The Digital Curation Centre, based at the University.
At CNI recently I was very interested to hear Maria Bonn talk about scholarly publishing strategy and infrastructure at the University of Michigan. She discussed how several areas of scholarly publishing had been consolidated into MPublishing, a division of the University Library. I thought the combination of services was fascinating. I also thought that it exemplified what Scott Walter has called the service turn in libraries, and, more particularly, that it was an example of leveraging several services to create a truly distinctive offering in the way he discusses will become more common for libraries.

MPublishing is the primary academic publishing division of the University of Michigan. It creates, promotes, distributes and preserves scholarly, educational and regional materials in digital and print formats. By bringing together the talents and resources of the University of Michigan Press, the Scholarly Publishing Office, Deep Blue (the University’s institutional repository service), the Copyright Office, and the Text Creation Partnership, MPublishing builds upon the traditional publishing strengths of the University of Michigan while creating and shaping sustainable publishing models for the future.
MPublishing is dedicated to the integrity, persistence, and durability of the scholarly record. It combines the values and experience of publishers, librarians and information technology specialists to publish and promote the best quality scholarship. By approaching the life cycle of information at every stage, from the initial spark of an idea to its delivery and long-term preservation, MPublishing takes a holistic approach to publishing that maximizes the impact of its publications both now and in the future. [MPublishing | MLibrary]

Several organizational things struck me. One was that this was not the organizational home of the Hathi Trust, although one can understand that there might be good reasons for that. The second was the mix between activities aimed at supporting effective communication and publishing of Michigan research outputs and those which involved the the university as a publisher, either through the Press or its journals. The third is more general. Myself and Brian Lavoie recently wrote about how the network is reconfiguring the organizational boundaries of the library. There is the boundary between the library and external entities; however there is also the boundary between entities within the university. I though that this was a very interesting example of how internal university activities are being reconfigured to align related activities in new ways.
One of the particular things I liked about the presentation was how Maria aligned University, Library, and MPublishing missions. The University of Michigan mission is powerfully stated:

The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future. [Mission statement]

What jumped out at me was the word ‘preserving’, which immediately reminded me of the Edinburgh statement.
This did cause me to wonder whether Michigan and Edinburgh had explicitly provided for preservation/curation of institutional assets, and to what extent the library was seen as the place to address this issue.

Coda: I have noted how the use of the word ‘curation’ has developed recently. I read ‘curation’ in the University of Edinburgh’s mission as being aligned with the second sense I discuss there. Preservation is certainly an important interest of the Digital Curation Centre.

Picture: I took the feature image in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Note: Cosmetically updated on 11 April 2021 and feature image added.

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