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Stepping Stones: What’s Next?

December is the month for reflections, or it should be, before considering New Year’s resolutions in January. It seems most appropriate for us to present the results of the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives project to our most immediate community this month.

This time it’s not just the royal plural. Again, I invited all parties involved in the project to participate in our talk hosted by Rutgers University Libraries faculty Scholarly and Professional Actives Committee (SAPAC) on December 19, following up on a similar talk in 2021. Everyone was excited to join me, whether in person or by sending slides for their contribution to be properly represented. The full list is as follows, the abstract is at the end of this post.

Pre-Talk Questions 

Here are some of my own, very personal pre-presentation thoughts and questions.

  • Was the failure, i.e., the shutdown of the Alcohol Library in 2016, a major roadblock or a stepping stone (one can’t help remembering Stepping Stones in this context, of course)?
  • Can I still remain the driving force behind this project?
  • How?

It took me a while (and the slowdown of the pandemic in 2020) to eventually find some meaning in the failure of the original Digital Alcohol Studies Archives project (abandoned due to the library’s closure – for external reasons still way beyond my understanding, I must add).

Obviously, I spent months, if not years, trying to decipher (often feeling that it was all in vain) what just happened – through endless discussions with my trusted former coworkers/friends. It was comforting to continue to talk to them, in our usual (sometimes ironic and borderline sarcastic) manner. “And what we learned from this is …” was our typical attitude to failure in the Alcohol Library, followed by: “Next.” 

There’s nothing one can do about major external decisions but take a deep breath and assess the situation. That’s exactly what I did. Regrouping and trying to find how this new setup could work for the project, rather than against it, pointed me to the tasks that can still (and should) be completed and finding new allies in addition to the ones I already had. Then, along with my partners, many of us runners, I just went full NIKE, “just do it,” also aware that “there’s no finish line.”

As a result, CAS Archives content is well represented in its digital version now. I’m delighted to see that the updated CAS Library page reflects it too and our promotional video has found its permanent home on the GSAPP YouTube channel. Although this WordPress site still beats it, the Drupal homepage also shows up early enough in Google searches.

Pre-Talk Takeaway

My answer to the initial questions is that the roadblock, broken down with the help of like-minded individuals, can be turned into stepping stones, and only I could (and should) be the Jellinekian-type mastermind behind the scenes. A tall order, but challenge accepted.

Next: I can’t wait to hear what our audiences will take away from this talk, or another one planned for subject specialist librarians, or the press release and scholarly article (accepted with revisions, as of December 8).


Listed on the Rutgers University Libraries Digital Collections portal, the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives Collection is the deliverable of a one-semester sabbatical leave. Following up on their presentation on the pilot in 2021, a group of collaborators from NBL and Central units will provide insight from multiple perspectives on launching a digital project, selecting and assessing content, determining the right tools to deliver that content, developing and testing workflows, and refining processes. They will use concrete examples to demonstrate practices and solutions that can be extended, universally applied, or customized, and would be beneficial for the community of librarians, archivists, and researchers who are considering starting similar projects. Selected from the digital artifacts and remnants of the defunct Alcohol Studies Library and Archives, 1,000+ items have been added to RUcore and Omeka. They are promoted via a public-facing Drupal-based landing page on the RUL site, featuring a Digital Collections search portal. Chronicling the birth of alcohol science as it evolved at Yale and Rutgers, this digital collection of searchable full texts and images offers resources on early alcohol studies history that were amassed, preserved, and digitized over eighty years.