Excited about using new technologies and motivated by a desire to connect people with information, Aaron Collie specialized in data curation when he earned his master's at the iSchool. He now gets to do both of these things and more as a digital curation librarian at Michigan State University. Collie will talk more about his experiences as a student and professional during the Data Curation Alumni Panel event on April 22.
Where do you work and what is your role?
I am the head of digital curation at Michigan State University Libraries where I take point on our digital curation programs including digital repository development, A/V media preservation, and our Research Data Management Guidance initiative. I am also a co-coordinator of our recently formed Digital Scholarship Collaborative which combines new service areas in research data curation and digital humanities.
What do you like best about your job?
Digital curation is nothing new; libraries have been doing digital since we put our online catalogs up. The curation part is nothing new, either—just a borrowed word for library operations that add value to our collections and services. Together the words simply mean doing library stuff in a digital world. I like that—it's why librarianship was attractive to me in the first place. When I learned that there was a frontier for our profession's tradition of excellence (everybody likes the library!) for our digital patrons, I found a perfect meld of being able to play around with exciting technology like Python, Solr, Drupal, and Git with doing all the things that attracted me to the profession: getting the best information into users’ hands, saving people time, advancing university research, providing a satisfying library experience, and so on.
How did GSLIS, and specifically the Specialization in Data Curation, help you get to where you are today?
Librarians know that GSLIS produces innovators, but what really stands out about folks from GSLIS are the little things that you do in Champaign-Urbana that add up on your CV. You make connections, you get involved with projects, your classes produce meaningful outcomes and skills—not every school is like that. The Specialization in Data Curation is a nice badge that shows you've worked with and learned from some of the best librarians and professors in the field of data curation. The curriculum is broad enough that you're really allowed to find where your skills and interests overlap, but guided enough that you leave with a core perspective and experience with a handful of tools and software that are used in the profession.
What advice would you like to share with GSLIS students?
Stop, right now, doing things you think are important for success, and start, right now, doing things that motivate and interest you. I can't underscore enough the importance of letting your personal interests drive your career. Libraries create positions like "digital curation librarian" or "metadata librarian" and they expect people to be able to perform in those capacities, but when we hire someone we get way more that just the barebones laid out in the job ad. We get people with interesting personalities and unique skills and the library grows with that person and their projects. It is really important to carry passion and energy into your work because somewhere down the line after grad school your "day job" turns into a career that your life is built around.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like playing video games, biking around town, and taking day trips to the beach or a park.
What’s next for you?
I've found my niche in the world of repository development. I enjoy playing with technology and building digital collections. Libraries need leaders, especially technology leaders, more than we need managers, so I would like to explore how technology can change traditional library structure and operations. I'm interested in research administration and a more embedded role for libraries in the research lifecycle.