On building community

Almost a year ago, we hosted Undue Diligence and released the “Well-intentioned practice for putting digitized collections of unpublished materials online” document (we just call it WIP). The point behind the event and the document (and all of the preparation that went into both!) was to contribute to the professional, community of practice that is emerging in archives and special collections around digitization of unpublished materials. In short, there is risk in digitizing materials that may be in copyright, but that risk should be balanced with the harm to scholarship and society inherent in not making collections fully accessible: act accordingly. Since being published, the WIP has been endorsed by professional organizations, academic and research library professionals, and scholarly communications officers. (You, too, may want to join esteemed company and endorse the WIP, and we welcome that!)

This week I found out that the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) (which includes Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) has released an Intellectual Property Rights Strategy for Digitization of Modern Manuscript Collections and Archival Record Groups, which draws significantly on the WIP.

I believe the TRLN rights strategy document is a step forward from the WIP because it is a strategic statement of intention with institutions, collections, and intelligent library and archives professionals behind it. We’ve been looking to foster a community of practice, and with TRLN and other institutions formalizing their approaches, we are beginning to have just that.

Special thanks to Laura Clark Brown and company at UNC’s Wilson Library for all the work they’ve done to push forward in the real world, and to my up-for-anything partner in crime on all things special and digital, Ricky Erway. There are some times when I feel like the work we do makes a difference and this is one of those times!