We’re All in This Together: Open Source, Relationships, and Community
Community, connection, kindness, empathy, and listening are words that we hear a lot these days. These concepts came up throughout my chat with Jessica Zairo, director of library sales and outreach for ByWater Solutions.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROJECTS YOU ARE FOCUSING ON?
My primary goals are to build relationships that help grow our business with new and existing partners, provide leadership for our sales team, encourage open source community involvement, perform outreach with partners, and provide stellar customer services (this one’s my favorite). I also spend time managing pipeline and sales activity for our team, responding to RFPs, and promoting the services of ByWater Solutions. As for big projects, we are expanding the presence of Libki—a time management open source software—as well as continuing our rollout of the industry-changing Aspen Discovery system.
HOW DOES COMMUNITY PLAY A PART IN THE OPEN SOURCE WORLD?
Community is everything. Think about the feeling you get when you’re answering a patron’s question that you searched high and low for, and they are as happy as can be. That’s an open source community every day. You work with passionate people who truly care about advancing the software. Librarian-driven development is crucial for the growth of the software, so we empower our partners to be a part of the vibrant communities surrounding the products we support. Not only does it give a sense of ownership of technology to the libraries, but it is also socially equitable, in that it is librarians helping other librarians reach a common goal.
YOUR ROLE IS CENTERED ON EDUCATION—ABOUT OPEN SOURCE, ABOUT TECHNOLOGY, ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES. WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH TO EDUCATING LIBRARIANS?
When you are switching software, no matter what it is, it’s a big change. First, I listen. I spent over a decade working in public and special libraries. Customizing training for each library is so important. You want to know what’s important to them so you can really drive home the key components that set them up for success.
I utilize change management skills to encourage trainees to explore and fall in love with new technology and embrace the change. By showing them the flexibility of the product and using improvisational tactics to keep the groups engaged and on task, I help them decipher workflow issues, troubleshoot possible solutions, and identify opportunities to maximize efficiencies. Education has always been a big part of my library career, and developing a comprehensive training plan for new open source software users is super important to me to make sure everyone feels comfortable, regardless of their learning style, along the way. I teach with passion and hope that my infectious enthusiasm brings out the best in each trainee.
Being a ‘Databrarian’
For this column, I chat with Jonathan Bohan, data archive specialist and assistant data custodian for the Cornell Center for Social Sciences, part of Cornell University. It was amazing to hear about the kinds of data that Jonathan works with and how he is helping make older data accessible in modern formats.
WHAT DO YOU DO AS THE DATA ARCHIVE SPECIALIST?
It varies from day to day. Sometimes, I update existing metadata; other times, I create entirely new catalog records with DDI (digital documentation initiative)-compliant metadata and assign DOIs to new studies. I am now in the middle of converting older ASCII data files to CSV, so they are more readily accessible for our researchers. The goal is to bring the data in our archive in line with FAIR principles (i.e., findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable). I serve as Cornell University’s designated representative to DataCite, the leading global provider of DOIs for research data. In addition, I can assist the senior data librarian with researcher inquiries and occasionally work on chat references for the library. Also, I am co-chairperson of the Membership Committee of RDAP (the Research Data Access and Preservation Association), and I regularly attend meetings for that organization and respond to member emails.
WHAT DO YOU DO AS THE ASSISTANT DATA CUSTODIAN?
The Cornell Center for Social Sciences’ Cornell Restricted Access Data Center (CRADC) provides customized, secure computing environments for working with restricted research data, meeting the individual requirements of each data provider. In many cases, this data includes personal identifiers or belongs to corporate providers for whom they are a trade secret. Registered users log in to a CRADC server, which is completely behind a firewall with its own separate domain; there is no internet access, and all utilities such as copy-and-paste are shut off. We also have an on-site, standalone computer with the same restrictions for data providers who require one. All file transfers are reviewed by me or the senior data custodian. We also document all materials from the data provider and file transfer requests from the researchers.
WHAT ARE SOME PROFESSIONAL ISSUES THAT YOU ARE MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT?
Making older data accessible in modern formats! There are many files out there in formats like EBCDIC or even in print form that would be useful to researchers today. Even data from the ’90s on CD-ROMs can be pretty well inaccessible even when the CDs work. Tools exist for some of these but are difficult to use, and the money isn’t there to spend the time to bring them into modern formats except in some very specialized instances. Projects like Freedom on the Move at Cornell—using crowdsourcing to transcribe slaver’s ads looking to catch self-liberating enslaved people—are one solution, but there are thousands of datasets out there waiting for a patron. For data reproduction and the archiving of it, code needs to be treated differently from standard datasets but is often kind of wedged into existing repositories. Our Results Reproduction (R-squared) service can be a model for others. Our consultants review the data and code and make sure the results match the researcher’s publication, and we archive it in a ZIP package with instructions on how to run the reproduction.