What’s in a title?

Hamlet.  The Declaration of Independence.  Gutenberg Bible.  Holy Roman Emperor.  All of these are words, but more than being words they are titles.  Titles are names we give things, things such as works of art and stations we hold.

Names are important to the extent that being able to talk about things is important.  Names identify things.  The way we indicate things when we talk about them, typically, is names or substitutes therefor, e.g., deixis.

Ergo, titles are important.  That’s been my line of thinking, at least, as I continue to struggle – here meant in a light sense, such as “I am struggling with eating this delicious cookie” – with what precisely it means to have a title with the word “architect” in it.

I say that with a twang of cognitive dissonance, for I know and understand very well what I do on a daily basis and what I will be doing in the near future.  Perhaps then titles are not very important, or I should say, more important than titles is knowing what is expected of you and exceeding those expectations.  Shape your title rather than allowing it to shape you.

Ergo, maybe titles aren’t equally important in all contexts.

Self-help tropes aside, I still wonder about what folks’ expectations of a digital library architect are.  There is a line of thinking in libraries that our problems are unique rather than of a class.  Some argue fiercely that library issues are, in fact, not special.

I’m undecided.  For instance, would a digital library architect have any concerns or areas of expertise an IT/enterprise architect would not?  Or does digital library architecture amount to little more than a re-brand reflecting the “we’re special” way of thinking?

Related, I would wager that the number of titular digital library architects is much smaller than the number of folks doing architecture work in digital libraries.  Digital repository librarians and library systems analysts, etc., I’m looking at you.

Why am I thinking about this?  In my last two jobs as a software developer in academic and research libraries I was spoiled by being in a large and vibrant community of similar folks: code4lib and also the Access folks up north.  I’m looking for the same in my current job: some forum, conference, mailing list, or what have you, where there is discussion of architectural issues in the digital libraries context.

For now, I have contented myself that a digital library architect is a technologist who thinks architecturally about digital libraries.  What does that mean?  Someone who, to mix metaphors mightily, puts his or her arms around the big picture (rather like an art thief).

What does that mean?  Someone who knows all of the systems and standards and protocols and workflows and operations and the connections between them, in an institution, in the context (typically) of serving digital content over the web (though this context is expanding into other areas such as institutional e-records management and research data curation).  Said someone will probably have been hired in fact not merely to know all of that mess but to think systematically and strategically about whether all of that mess meets needs and requirements and best practices, and not only think about that but work deliberately to make that so.

Is there a community for such folks?  There are many possible related communities (and here I’m intentionally casting a broad net by mingling conferences, lists, and professional organizations): code4lib, Access, Open Repositories, digital-curation, ITANA, EDUCAUSE, ASIS&T, DigCCurr, iPres, SPARC, CNI, DLF/CLIR, and so on.  Heck if I know.  Do you?

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