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David Schuster is the new director of Library Technology and Special Collections at the Libraries.
Photo by Leah Reigle
Q&A with David Schuster
January 31, 2017Tweet
Question: Your dual role is a new one for Binghamton University and a unique combination of disciplines. Can you explain the strategy behind it?
Answer: Although it may sound unusual, Dean of Libraries Curtis Kendrick recognized that technology and Special Collections complement one another and that combining the two creates value in a number of ways, including asset promotion and protection.
I already knew technology, but I knew very little about Special Collections when I came to campus. However, I quickly realized that we have amazing things here and that, although as librarians we want everything to be out there for our public, it’s also important that we protect the intellectual property and the prestige our Special Collections items bring to the University.
One such protection is exploring methods of exposing our resources without giving everything away. An example might be that we digitize only portions of collections to whet a researcher’s appetite, enticing them to contact us for access to a collection in its entirety.
This approach also helps us better manage the incredible scope; we have so many items that it would be difficult to impossible to digitize everything.
We also want to ensure the University’s ownership is attributed when library resources are shared.
Those are just some examples of why blending technology and Special Collection is a great fit.
Q: What is your educational and professional background and how did it lead you here?
A: I have a bachelor of science in business management with an emphasis in computer science from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. That was before an information science degree was available. I actually had to get permission from the provost to cross university departments!
My master’s is in library and informational science, with the emphasis on technical services, from the University of Missouri, Columbia. I always said if I know how the data got in or was designed, I can get it out!
After graduating from the University of Missouri, I provided support for a library software company in Utah. During my last nine months with the company, I traveled to 29 states providing software training.
Responding to philosophical questions about libraries and process led me to the realization that I needed to get back into a library setting, so I took a job in Richardson, Texas, managing the software I had been supporting for three years. Following that, I served 17 years as coordinator of library technology in the Plano (Texas) Independent School District.
In search of my next challenge, I interviewed for a position with Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas. Having no academic experience, I knew it would be a stretch, but in the end I was offered the position of director of library technology. I enjoyed it for four years, recognizing it wasn’t a growth opportunity.
In my new role at Binghamton, in the SUNY system, I can contribute while challenging myself professionally as a librarian, working in a collaborative environment, with library systems. I am also jointly building a library system for SUNY.
Q: Would you elaborate on the collaboration to build a library system for SUNY?
A: Sure. I’m currently serving on the selection committee looking to replace the existing library catalog being used by all SUNY libraries. This group will be evaluating the latest in library systems that meet the needs of a digital age.
A group of 10 or so library and systems people will evaluate the Request for Proposal (RFP) responses. We’ll also visit with vendors to select the new system. The migration will be a multi-year process in itself, with SUNY being one of the largest University consortia in the country.
Q: What was it about Binghamton University that drew you in?
A: The opportunity to integrate technology with Special Collections. As I mentioned already, there are great treasures in Special Collections and finding ways for people to discover them and explore what we have is very intriguing.
I’m also interested in supporting the move from back-office technology solutions toward teaching and learning with technology, partnering with Information Technology Services (ITS) to provide a full suite of support for projects.
Q: What steps have you taken so far?
A: The first steps for me have been learning about what we have! What’s on the shelves, what’s in the 100,000 manuscripts that range from 1,500 to modern day! What’s in the Conole collection, Link collection, Reinhardt collection, Civil War collection, Kurdish collection and the 100-plus other collections that we manage and preserve.
Also, figuring out what the technology infrastructure is and the best way to sustain it going forward. There was a room of servers, and working with ITS we’re getting out of the hardware business and into the service mindset – how we can help students and faculty do cool projects, yet not stretch ourselves too far.
Q: What should we look for going forward?
A: We’re hiring people with new skill sets in the Libraries, a strategy intended to help us make discovering items in Special Collections easier.
Planning for updates to the website and other technology infrastructure is also in process. We’re using a library system that’s functional, but designed to manage physical items, not electronic ones like e-books and journals.
SUNY Libraries, which we are part of, will be purchasing a new system that should help us transform our back-office work, making access to information easier and less cumbersome for staff and the populations we serve.
The student population continues to grow but library spaces and staff have not kept up. With our dean, Curtis Kendrick, we’re making strides in collaboration with departments, staff and faculty outside of the library to position us as a world-class library to go along with the University.
David Schuster can be found at LS-2507A, on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-777-4866.