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Get to know a Digital Publishing Librarian: Chris Diaz

The Northwestern Libraries employ over 70 librarians who specialize in areas such as rare books, area studies, digital scholarship, and archives. In this series, we sit down with librarians to understand what exactly they do, and how you might take advantage of their expertise.

This time we’re sitting down with Digital Publishing Librarian, Chris Diaz, to talk about the launch of the institutional repository and the libraries’ important role in preserving scholarly output.

Chris Diaz portraitGive us a little bit of background information. How did you get into libraries?

I started working in libraries as an undergraduate student at DePaul University. I was drawn to the library after working as a research assistant for an English professor. When that ended, I got a job at the reference desk and it was awesome. I loved talking to people about their research projects and sharing what I knew about finding the best stuff using the library’s catalog and databases.

I considered careers in law, communications, and theatre, but libraries seemed like the most fun and interesting. I had a great supervisor and she encouraged me to apply to graduate school during my senior year. I got accepted in the M.S. in Library and Information Science program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was offered an assistantship in their Undergraduate Library. I have been working in academic libraries ever since.

The Digital Publishing Librarian position is new for Northwestern Libraries. Can you talk about the need for a position like this?

Academic libraries are expanding their services to support the sharing, publishing, and preservation of digital scholarship created on campus. Northwestern students, faculty, and staff produce a lot of original research and data, so my job is to provide options to share that work through open access platforms and ensure that it’s preserved for future generations of scholars. These options include an institutional repository for research papers, grey literature, dissertations, presentations, and data and a publishing system for scholarly journals and conference proceedings.

You can find more information about these services on our digital publishing guide.

Tell us a little bit more about Arch, Northwestern’s institutional repository – what services are available and who can take advantage of them?

Arch is Northwestern University’s institutional repository. Any Northwestern researcher may visit the site and deposit their work for preservation and online access. For example, a research funding agency or journal publication might require a scientist to make the data that underlies their research conclusions freely available online. Another example might be a historian who wants to guarantee the long-term preservation of their scholarly e-book. Arch is set up to accept deposits for all kinds of digital research materials.

Behind the scenes, we are working to help optimize the metadata to connect the research materials to readers through search engines, affix Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to provide persistent online linking to the content, and send backup copies to onsite and offsite servers. This is a new and locally developed service, so user feedback is critical to its growth.

What are some hot topics in digital publishing right now?

I am interested in the idea of diversifying the scholarly record. There is a lot of research out there that doesn’t get formally published in a book or a journal. Because publishing is an expensive enterprise, it has been difficult for scholars to find a permanent home for things like white papers, conference presentations, research posters, bibliographies, lab reports, technical documentation, visualizations, code, research data, instructional texts, video, audio, and other scholarly or educational content.

Some of these materials get shared on blogs, institutional websites, or through commercial products (like ResearchGate,, or Figshare), which might be great for the moment but they all present risks for long-term preservation. This is why libraries are providing repository and publishing services. Preservation and access are core to our mission.

What was the last podcast you binged on?

The Best Show. It’s weekly, recorded live, broadcasts on the internet, and is distributed as a podcast. It used to be a radio show on WFMU in New Jersey for about 13 years, but broke off into its own thing a few years ago.

The full three-hour program features music, calls from listeners to talk about pop culture or the topic of the night, scripted comedy, sound collages, and interviews with comedians, musicians, and actors. I recommend starting with the episodes called “Best Show Bests”, which are snippets of the full program. It’s a lot of fun.