The Responsibility of Project Leaders

One often overlooked aspect of creating a sustainable project is the selection of an appropriate leader. Generally, this responsibility is automatically relegated to those with higher authority or senior staff. It may be wiser to instead choose a leader by looking at the attributes of each individual and determining who the best fit for a particular project is. But what leadership skills do project managers need? How does one keep order in a project is disharmony occurs?

“A critical part of the evaluation process as they look for a balance between leadership, planning, and institutional investment that is important even if grantees cannot answer every question about sustainability.”1 Leadership ability is not the only area that requires knowledge in order to lead a project. The ability to conserve finances, management skills, knowledge of long-term sustainability processes, and an aptitude for planning are all important for creating a project/program that is intended to last. Should the chosen library team be lacking in these traits, or any specific aspects of the project, it is necessary that the leader has many different skills involving marketing for funds, outreach on behalf of the project, and general editorial/technology skills.1 If no single employee seems to fit the attributes that would make a suitable project leader, don’t simply put the ‘best’ person on the job and move on. It may be necessary to develop the leadership and management skills of your staff through training.

“Effective leaders are those who apply the appropriate skills at the appropriate time for the appropriate situation.”2 Because a project leader maintains good progress through the work of a team, it is necessary that the team have continually good communication, common goals, and equal shares of responsibility set forth by the team’s leader. However, breakdowns in these can easily occur if the leader is neither direct with imperatives nor strong enough to hold control over the team. My own workplace is currently besieged by argumentation and petty disputes due to weak leadership, and I know first-hand the havoc wreaked by colleagues butting heads in a work environment. The greatest causes of such breakdowns occur from the absence of trust among team members, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and the inattention to results.2 Each of these can lead easily to another, and the team’s project might be at risk from such dysfunctional relationships. “Understanding each of the team dysfunctions and exploring ways to overcome them (i.e., focusing on achieving the opposite of each dysfunction) is a great test to one’s leadership skills. An effective leader assesses the team’s weaknesses, what team dysfunctions exist within the team, the causes of the dysfunctions, and apply ways to overcome the dysfunctions to improve team performance.”2

 

Kumar, V. S. (2009). Essential leadership skills for project managers. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2009—North America, Orlando, FL. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. Retrieved at https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/essential-leadership-skills-project-managers-6699

Maron, L. Nancy and Loy, Matthew. (June 2011). Find for Sustainability: Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources. JISC. https://sr.ithaka.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Fundin

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The Costs and Benefits of Open Access

 

Open access is described as the state in which online research outputs are not hidden behind barriers of cost or other limitations that prevent access.1 Of course, open access would be universally great for libraries that wish to provide this information and users that wish to access this information, but if there were no negatives, then every research article would be available for use by now. However, this is not the case. Thus it is important to examine both the reasons for open access and the reasons against open access to reasonably determine if it should accepted universally, accepted under certain circumstances, or denied outright.

 

The main case for open access is often cited as ‘helpful to everyone.’ Users can freely read materials for interest or research, authors are cited nearly six times more often (on average) than if there is a pay barrier, and there aren’t as many (or none at all) fees associated with publishing.2  Articles hidden behind such a barrier are likely not read or cited as often due to the subscription/membership cost associated with journals and online databases. In fact, scientific progress might even find this to be a great obstruction when it comes to real-word development due to the lack of information sharing. In open-access, articles are often found through Google Scholar searches or directly in open-access journals. Despite having potentially useful information for users to read or researchers to cite, any sort of barrier can cause people to look elsewhere for sources, even if the source is not as high-quality. If the goal of an author is publicity or providing helpful information to others, open access seems to be the way to go.

 

So, why with the benefits above might an author chose NOT to participate in open access? The answer tends to come down to publishers, prestige, and profit margins. Many reputable journals charge college campuses exorbitant prices for print copy and electronic access, some going as high as $10,000.3 These publishers can put prices so high, even universities are unwilling to pay for access, effectively making these articles out of reach for users. However, many authors are willing to put research into such journals for the sake of prestige. Imagine having your work published in ‘Science,’ which is guaranteed to be read by thousands and cited by many. Such an accomplishment is the envy of many. However, why can this not be the case with open access journals? Certainly some open-access journals may be incredibly selective and prestigious without requiring fees. The problem here seems to simply be perception. These subscription journals have been around much longer and market themselves as ‘more professional,’ despite there being little real difference.

 

 

Suber, Peter. (2004, June 21). Open Access Overview. Retrieved from http://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm

Enago Academy. (2018, May 21). Who Benefits from Open Access? Retrieved from

https://www.enago.com/academy/benefits-open-access/

Suarez, Andrew V. and McGlynn Terry. (2017, November 15) The Fallacy of Open Access. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Fallacy-of-Open-Access/241786

The Ethics of Digitizing

 

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm, from Jurassic Park

Lately, there has been a great rush to digitize every possible item, often with speed as the priority, not critical examination. While the digitization of all these materials certainly makes information more freely available to people, it also can be a cause of concern when it comes to cultural items and personal information. Many times, the image painted of a culture will depend upon what items are chosen. This means that the selection process for digitization can be deeply important in such contexts, and that curators may inadvertently have taken power away from these groups by choosing to represent their cultures in a certain way. Even if a curator digitizes every available item indiscriminately, it is entirely possible to simply pass on an image not welcome by the related community. Especially in America, there is a common problem of representing foreign works with Western bias (on how to chose, arrange, and display items). This can be particularly destructive to communities for a variety of reasons, such as causing discord within the group or giving outsiders a false impression.

How, then, do we go about digitizing cultural items that aren’t very familiar?

In this scenario, accurate interpretation is the key. One way to better judge the ‘story’ of cultural items is to bring in a professional who has studied the particular community in-depth. This will allow for better perspective by putting each item into historical and culture context, and by creating a story that more accurately represents the community. However, even an professional may not fully grasp a community that he/she is not a a part of. Instead, a better way is to invite a representative of that community to support the digitization process. This allows for direct communication about the items, and can help build trust between that community and the institution that is digitizing. In fact, many groups have began to use their online collections ‘as a platform for making their voices and to regain control over their heritage.’

Another cultural concern is that some communities have objects that are supposed to be limited only to certain groups (such as age, gender, or rank) within that community. For example, a sacred text might only be reserved for certain religious leaders of a community. In this case, the digitization of such objects can be neglectful of traditions, or even inspire great disdain from the community. It is important for those digitizing to be wary of such restrictions, and not digitize without first having knowledge of cultural items. Perhaps the largest concern is that digitized materials can reinforce discrimination against a group. This is often done when in item is associated with a certain group by mistake, or when an item was created outside of the group attempting to depict that community. For example, 19th and 20th century Western art of African peoples often depicts them by negative stereotypes, and it would not be appropriate to include such material by tagging it in association with those communities.  By including falsely associated items, excluding important items, or by painting false/bias images, many groups lose control of their own image.

It’s important that the digitization process of cultural items done with caution, and that the communities involved have a say in how they are represented.

 

Sources

  1. Manzuch, Zinaida. (2017). Ethical Issues In Digitization of Cultural Heritage. Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies volume 4: 1-13. Retrieved from https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=jcas
  2. The Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute the and National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage. The NINCH Guide to Good Practice in the Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Materials. National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage. Retrieved from http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/links/pdf/chapter1/1.17.pdf
  3. Kirschenbaum, Matthew G., Ovenden, Richard, and Redwine, Gabriela. (2010). Digital Forensics and Born-Digital Content in Cultural Heritage Collections. Council on Library and Information Resources. Retrieved from https://www.clir.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/pub149.pdf