By Vince Frieden, strategic communications coordinator
With the beginning of 2018, Elias Tzoc began a new role as head of the Miami University Libraries Create + Innovate Department.
A digital initiatives/scholarship librarian in the University Libraries’ Center for Digital Scholarship since 2007, Tzoc leads one of six newly formed, forward-looking departments that emerged from a 2017 Libraries master planning process that examined services, organization and facilities.
The Create + Innovate Department is charged with the mission of enhancing scholarly work at Miami University by anticipating the resources, technologies, spaces and expertise that drive groundbreaking research, creative forms of expression, innovative tools for teaching, and new mediums for sharing the Miami community’s scholarly achievements.
Tzoc, a native of Guatemala who earned his bachelor’s degree from Galileo University and his M.S. in library science from the University of Texas at Austin, recently answered some questions about his role and the groundbreaking department.
Q: Talk about your interest in this position.
A: After 10 successful years at Miami, I was ready for a new chapter, a new challenge. The job description excited me. The position offers unique and excellent opportunities to lead a team that will proactively explore, prototype, innovate and implement innovative services and facilities at Miami. The spirit of creativity and innovation has been part of Miami’s DNA for a long time, and it’s exciting to play a role in advancing that under our new Libraries master plan.
Q: How do you see your role in the new position?
A: My role is to help and motivate my team to explore and implement creative spaces and services that align with President Crawford’s emphasis on transdisciplinary research involving students and faculty. We must remain in a constant state of evolution, and that’s how I’ve framed it with my team. We’re going to be developing and reinventing these spaces and services for years to come.
Q: Why are creation and innovation important concepts in today’s library?
A: Academic libraries offer a variety of spaces for students, from traditional quiet spaces, high-energy collaborative spaces, to spaces for ideation, exploration and experimentation. I recently read an article that referenced Bloom’s Taxonomy – a pyramid of six levels of learning that start with remembering and understanding, advance to applying and analyzing, and lead to evaluating and creating as ideal learning states. We want to provide spaces that give our community opportunities to apply, analyze, evaluate, and, if we do this right, create new knowledge.
Q: Sum up your vision for Create + Innovate
A: It’s a working vision. I offered one as a starting point, and my team is providing feedback. It’s simple: “Become an entrepreneurial library department supporting innovative spaces and transdisciplinary research and scholarship at Miami and for the world.”
Q: Talk about your priorities in the year ahead.
A: I’ve identified a list of seven priorities:
- Information gathering and listening tours. That’s internal but also through engaging our faculty and several of the 34 centers and institutes on Miami’s campus.
- Inventory of existing projects, services and clients. That’s looking at what we’ve done.
- Assessment of resources and facilities. What we have and what we could do.
- Determine the total cost of operation for the department. We want to do new and exciting things. How do we afford them?
- Funding opportunities. Who will invest and believe in our vision?
- Fostering a culture of innovation – empowering my team with a hunger and desire to learn and try new things.
- Strengthen our network on campus. Our success depends on our networks, allies, collaborators and partners on campus. That touches students, faculty, university leaders and virtually every corner of campus.
Q: Discuss a significant issue where Create + Innovate can play a leadership role on campus.
A: With the momentum around data in higher education, I believe teams like ours can and should help advocate for more data-driven initiatives. From open access, data visualization and innovation labs, to open science. We should support the foundational Miami plan “to educate our students in transdisciplinary approaches to problem solving.” Part of our role with students will be to help/work/challenge them to think big – and to think about many entrepreneurial ideas and possibilities.