Considering the great need here to begin digital preservation and a recurring, expressed (but quickly fading when pressed by the immediate urgency) desire of management to protect our organization’s intellectual resources–without an understanding of or real, long-term resource commitment to such a project, the excerpt below of the Maverick Digital Project Manager Jobs post on the DigitalKoans blog is of great interest despite the fact that providing an “institutional repository” or beginning a digital preservation program is currently not my primary or core value to the organization.
The DigitalKoans posting refers to a self-professed “rant” by Dorothea Salo which includes the following scary though probably accurate warning:
“…This is my advice for my librarian and proto-librarian colleagues: DO NOT TAKE MAVERICK IR MANAGER POSITIONS. They are black holes. They will destroy your idealism, professional enthusiasm, and self-efficacy. You will accomplish nothing whatever of substance in the position. Your co-workers will not help you. You will be scoffed at, abandoned, or both by your library’s administration. Your career may well be damaged. Don’t do it. I am as deadly serious as I know how to be. Don’t…”
Anyway, here is the corroborative DigitalKoans excerpt:
“Recently, Dorothea Salo posted a self-proclaimed rant, “Just Say No to Maverick-Manager Jobs.”
Her topic was maverick institutional repository manager jobs, but I was struck by some similarities to what might be called for want of a better term ‘maverick digital project manager’ jobs. These jobs may be at different levels in the organization, but they may share certain characteristics:
- They may have a very broad scope of responsibility (e.g., digitization, digital preservation, digital repositories, ETDs, and scholarly communication) yet have no real authority.
- They have no direct reports, and consequently they rely on other units to provide critical support.
- They may have no direct control over key technical resources, such as servers.
- They may have no dedicated, regularly budgeted funding.
- They may report to a superior who does not have an adequate background to understand or manage a digital project operation.
- Regardless of stated qualifications, they really require not only an alphabet soup of specific technical skills, but also a broad technical background and a variety of non-technical skills, such as a significant understanding of copyright issues.
- They may represent a wish by the library to make progress in this area, not a real commitment by the library to do so…
Lack of a dedicated budget may result in digital projects being funded (or not) dependent on the ever changing fiscal circumstances of the library and the constantly shifting priorities of administrators. To some degree this is always true, but it is typically easier not to fund a non-budgeted operation than to eliminate or reduce a budgeted one. Digital projects can be seen as icing on the cake, not the cake itself…
Unless the maverick digital project manager reports to the head of the library[or senior organizational management], his or her supervisor must be an effective advocate for digital projects to his or her superiors to facilitate adequate support.
Those hiring maverick digital project managers may have a poor grasp of the necessary skills required or have a desire to hire on the cheap. Consequently, new hires may quickly find themselves in deep water. Advanced technical and other sorts of training, if available and funded, can help with some aspects of this problem, but, since maverick digital project managers are without mentors, not all of it. Realistic expectations by supervisors are critical in this case, but can’t be counted on.
Few things are as deadly to maverick digital project managers as the vague, but poorly informed, wish of some administrators to make progress (often rapid progress) in the digital area when it is motivated by a desire to get on the bandwagon, rather than by a genuine concern for development in this area that is based on a well-considered decision to make realistic resource allocation commitments and to expect sensible project timelines…”