Teaching for Now and Planning for Later: Balancing a User-Friendly Web and Sustainability Practices as Digital Scholarship Librarians




Binghamton University’s community of digital scholars continues to grow and evolve. Across disciplines and schools, instructors are utilizing digital platforms and multi-modal projects in new and revised courses, and researchers are creating open-access materials and a wide variety of digital research projects. As digital scholarship librarians, we are constantly finding the balance between teaching platforms that our community finds user-friendly for new learners while also teaching sustainable web practices that frequently require more technical knowledge than scholars are ready to learn.

While content management systems like WordPress, Omeka, and Google Sites are integral to our toolbox of available publishing options for digital projects, and have relatively easy user interfaces, they pose problems for sustainability. For example, constant updates break plug-ins, corporate whims affect the accessibility of platforms, and new technologies change the expectations of how websites should look and ‘feel’.

However, exploring new and emerging technologies and taking advantage of their ability to make the work of our faculty and students more widely available on the web is also an essential part of our mission. We are repeatedly touting the benefits of creating digital projects while also cautioning researchers and instructors about the limits of those projects. Balancing that with an eye towards the future and ensuring that content that users and creators expect to still be available poses challenges. That is especially true when first introducing digital tools. For example, when creating a WordPress page tests the limits of a new user’s technological confidence, trying to work in conversations about migration and archiving is immediately overwhelming. Given how often this occurs across faculty and students, we have developed our own evolving best practices and resources to help ease the challenges for our digital scholarship community.

In this presentation, we will talk about our experience teaching digital project management principles, the best web design practices for building accessible and sustainable projects, and digital project self-awareness.

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