The New York University Division of Libraries and the Institute for the Future of the Book (IFB) have formed a partnership to build digital infrastructure for 21st century scholarly communications - the process by which scholars share and publish their research for the benefit of the academic community. IFB is a small “think-and-do tank” dedicated to shaping the future of reading, writing, and publishing in the networked age.

“We are constantly watching the unfolding digital landscape for new paths we might want to take,” said Carol A. Mandel, dean of the NYU Libraries. “IFB is a thought leader in the future of scholarly communication. We will work together to develop new software and new options that faculty can use to publish, review, share, and collaborate at NYU and in the larger academic community.”

For the past three years, IFB has been researching, prototyping, and sketching out models for how university presses could expand their publishing programs to include digital and networked formats. IFB is best known for its series of “networked book” experiments, which modify popular blogging technologies to create social book formats for the Web. Among these are: “Without Gods” by NYU’s Mitchell Stephens, “The Googlization of Everything” by Siva Vaidhyanathan, “Gamer Theory” by McKenzie Wark (the first fully networked digital monograph), and “Expressive Processing” by Noah Wardrip-Fruin, which is currently undergoing the first blog-based peer review.

Out of these projects, IFB developed CommentPress, an extension for the WordPress blog platform that enables paragraph-level commenting in the margins of a text. IFB is also at work on a powerful open source digital authoring environment called Sophie, the first version of which has just been released.

“We are thrilled to be working with NYU,” said IFB Director Bob Stein. “We now have the benefit not only of the Libraries’ first-rate technical support, but also of working with world-class faculty, many of whom are leading innovators in digital scholarly communications.”

In an auspicious start to their partnership, NYU Libraries and IFB have been awarded a start-up grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to design a set of networking tools that will serve as the membership system for MediaCommons, an all-electronic scholarly publishing network in the digital humanities that IFB has been instrumental in developing.

Under the agreement, three of IFB’s leaders will serve as visiting scholars at NYU. They are Bob Stein; Ben Vershbow, IFB editorial director; and researcher Dan Visel. They will work with NYU librarians; with the digital library team, headed by James Bullen; and with Monica McCormick, the Libraries’ program officer for digital scholarly publishing.

NYU is a leader in developing technology-supported services for the 21st century research library. It is a partner on two of the eight projects of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, administered by the Library of Congress. In a related project, NYU is developing a rationale for and strategic approach to operational library preservation services, including digitization, for moving image and audio materials.

Other NYU projects include the Afghanistan Digital Library, a program to catalog, digitize, and provide access to the published heritage of Afghanistan; the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which documents social and political performance throughout he Americas and makes it accessible on the Web; and the university-wide Faculty Digital Archive, which provides online storage and management of research, supporting documents, courseware, and other scholarly work.

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