Staff Snapshot: Barbara DeFelice, MALS ’99


This month marked the launch of Dartmouth’s first-ever DartmouthX massive open online course, or MOOC, “Introduction to Environmental Studies” with Andrew Friedland, the Richard and Jane Pearl Professor in Environmental Studies. Making it happen required a team of videographers, instructional designers, undergraduate and graduate students, and one librarian—Barbara DeFelice, MALS ’99, the director of Digital Resources and Scholarly Communication Programs at the Dartmouth College Library, and the Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program library liaison. 

(Photos by Eli Burakian ’00 )


How do you describe your job? I’m interested in the potential of networked digital information to provide broader access to the results of scholarship. I consult when faculty have questions about copyright or the reuse of content in their publishing, support some of the journals published here at Dartmouth, and work with publishers on agreements to allow scholars in the humanities to do data mining of our rich digital collections. It’s a dynamic educational environment—the kinds of research ideas people have today weren’t possible when I started.

Why did you come to Dartmouth? I’ve worked here since 1986, in a variety of positions. I was a reference and teaching librarian at Montana State University, but I wanted to focus on earth sciences librarianship, and Dartmouth had an opening. I saw Dartmouth as very forward-looking in terms of information technology—it was one of the first academic libraries to have an online catalog, and at the time they had a networked Macintosh for every student. When I started work at Dartmouth, I met Donella Meadows, coauthor of Limits to Growth, which was so influential in the sustainability movement. One project I worked on in the past couple of years was digitizing an open access version of the first 1972 edition of Limits to Growth—that was very satisfying. 

How did you get involved with DartmouthX? I am the library liaison to the Environmental Studies Program, so when Andy’s class was chosen to be one of the first DartmouthX classes, I was asked to join the team. It was a wonderful coincidence that I was interested in copyrights and permissions, because one of the first things to do was find out if we could use Andy’s highly successful textbook content in a totally open course. We couldn’t get the needed permissions from the publisher, so we worked with the project team, which includes students, on creating new content and finding Creative Commons–licensed materials and open educational resources. I’m really happy about the outcome. We’ve learned the importance of exploring—early and often—options like Creative Commons [a nonprofit that provides free, flexible legal tools for authors to share their work with the public], copyright, and permissions in order to provide content in the DartmouthX context.

How is the course going? I’m taking the course now, and it’s great. There’s lots of discussion in the forums, so it has a lively feel. People are engaged. And I love how the different pieces of the course work together—openly available readings, videos, assessments, and so on. I’m finding it a very fun learning experience.

What lessons do you think DartmouthX is bringing back to campus? I see this as an opportunity to think about Dartmouth’s role in creating open educational resources—a launching point for conversations about our commitment to contribute in the global educational realm. I hope it’s something we can build on.

What do you do outside of work? My husband [Thayer School of Engineering Professor Chris Levey] and son and I cross-country ski, hike, kayak, and we’re involved with music and dance as well. Some of my interests outside of Dartmouth actually relate to my interests here—I completed the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program and did a project on the history of geology in the Arctic. And we just installed a solar tracker in front of our barn. As somebody who was an environmental activist in the ’70s, it’s delightful to see that practical, technological solutions are now readily available.

You keep an interesting collection of rocks in your office. They’re mainly here because people say I have too many rocks in my house! I’m not an active geology hobbyist, but I like having rocks around. They remind me of wonderful trips and of the diversity of the natural world.  

Hannah Silverstein, MALS '09