What's in a title?

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Hamlet.  The Declaration of Independence.  Gutenberg Bible.  Holy Roman Emperor.  All of these are words, but more than being words they are titles.  Titles are names we give things, things such as works of art and stations we hold. 

Names are important to the extent that being able to talk about things is important.  Names identify things.  The way we indicate things when we talk about them, typically, is names or substitutes therefor, e.g., deixis

Ergo, titles are important.  That's been my line of thinking, at least, as I continue to struggle -- here meant in a light sense, such as "I am struggling with eating this delicious cookie" -- with what precisely it means to have a title with the word "architect" in it. 

I say that with a twang of cognitive dissonance, for I know and understand very well what I do on a daily basis and what I will be doing in the near future.  Perhaps then titles are not very important, or I should say, more important than titles is knowing what is expected of you and exceeding those expectations.  Shape your title rather than allowing it to shape you.

Ergo, maybe titles aren't equally important in all contexts.

Self-help tropes aside, I still wonder about what folks' expectations of a digital library architect are.  There is a line of thinking in libraries that our problems are unique rather than of a class.  Some argue fiercely that library issues are, in fact, not special

I'm undecided.  For instance, would a digital library architect have any concerns or areas of expertise an IT/enterprise architect would not?  Or does digital library architecture amount to little more than a re-brand reflecting the "we're special" way of thinking?

Related, I would wager that the number of titular digital library architects is much smaller than the number of folks doing architecture work in digital libraries.  Digital repository librarians and library systems analysts, etc., I'm looking at you.

Why am I thinking about this?  In my last two jobs as a software developer in academic and research libraries I was spoiled by being in a large and vibrant community of similar folks: code4lib and also the Access folks up north.  I'm looking for the same in my current job: some forum, conference, mailing list, or what have you, where there is discussion of architectural issues in the digital libraries context.

For now, I have contented myself that a digital library architect is a technologist who thinks architecturally about digital libraries.  What does that mean?  Someone who, to mix metaphors mightily, puts his or her arms around the big picture (rather like an art thief). 

What does that mean?  Someone who knows all of the systems and standards and protocols and workflows and operations and the connections between them, in an institution, in the context (typically) of serving digital content over the web (though this context is expanding into other areas such as institutional e-records management and research data curation).  Said someone will probably have been hired in fact not merely to know all of that mess but to think systematically and strategically about whether all of that mess meets needs and requirements and best practices, and not only think about that but work deliberately to make that so.

Is there a community for such folks?  There are many possible related communities (and here I'm intentionally casting a broad net by mingling conferences, lists, and professional organizations): code4lib, Access, Open Repositories, digital-curation, ITANA, EDUCAUSE, ASIS&T, DigCCurr, iPres, SPARC, CNI, DLF/CLIR, and so on.  Heck if I know.  Do you?

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TrackBack URL: https://blogs.psu.edu/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/118950

It's blogadelic: "What's in a title?", wherein I write many words about what a digital library architect is and does: http://bit.ly/8FziYL Read More

Braindump for Q2 2010 from What is Digital Library Architecture? on April 6, 2010 3:46 PM

My my, has it really been three months since I wrote up my agenda? I've been busy chipping away at the agenda so I thought I'd document my progress now that Q2 is underway.Reviewing digital library platforms for the e-Content Stewardship Council The pl... Read More

Braindump for Q2 2010 from What is Digital Library Architecture? on April 7, 2010 8:17 AM

My my, has it really been three months since I wrote up my agenda? I've been busy chipping away at the agenda so I thought I'd document my progress now that Q2 is underway.Reviewing digital library platforms for the e-Content Stewardship Council The pl... Read More

2 Comments

I never been to one of their meetings, but you should probably add the IA Summit to you alphabet soup of places to look.

Every domain is unique. I suppose Digital Library Architects understand the traditional requirements of library systems and how they can be improved to better serve the mission of libraries going forward. However, the problems digital librarians have to solve are faced by lots of other domains. Information preservation and access is not unique to libraries, though librarians may think more deeply about them than most other fields.

Unfortunately, I believe that the term "architect" in the IT world has been corrupted and has connotations of a tempermental theorist with very little technical chops who sits in an ivory tower barking orders to a team of code monkeys. I think that an "architect" is the wrong metaphor to embrace for the most productive practices in software development. Building software is not like constructing a building, though if one sticks with that metaphor, it does become like constructing a building, and accumulates much of the unnecessary baggage that inhibit optimal evolution of a system.

Software development can and should be a more organic, ground-up process where infrastructure can be changed as development proceeds. A team of developers/engineers can gradually build a model of the domain/system collaboratively as they go along and learn more about users and their needs.

Digital Library "Gardener" may be a better term :-P.

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