Services as Infrastructure

From its beginning, the Carolina Population Center was destined to become an innovative hub for scholarly activity. The Center's first Director, Moye Freymann, recognized the need to serve faculty members involved with CPC's mission and wanted to provide resources to make CPC an efficient place of service, training, research, and education. In its early years, CPC focused primarily on its technical assistance programs, both in the United States and abroad. Freymann created an Academic Programs Office and an International Programs Office to foster the development of the Center. A USA Programs Office and Educational Materials and Publications Unit were also created. Each of these offices served as precursors to what would later become CPC's "cores."

In 1966, the Population Library was established. From the outset, Freymann knew the importance of starting a collection of population research and reference materials. Bates Buckner became the first person to run the library's operations, ordering books for a collection that would soon become one of the best of its kind. As the library grew, it became the primary component of Technical Information Services (TIS), a project awarded by USAID in 1971. TIS served many purposes and was especially integral in communicating research findings and information for technical assistance programs in developing countries. The library benefited from its ties to TIS by collecting population data and publications connected with CPC's ventures. As a relatively small, new library, CPC had the opportunity to take advantage of its position and test some of the latest technological trends.

Population was a relatively new area of study in the 1960s, thus lacking a long-standing method for organizing and describing information in the field. CPC librarians met this challenge by creating a "population thesaurus," a list of terms used to describe and classify population subject matter. In the early 1970s, the CPC library lived up to its pioneering traditions and developed the first machine-readable card catalog on the UNC campus, and the first automated population catalog.

shipman.jpgBy the 1980s, the CPC library made its resources available around the world and became a fifth contributor to POPLINE, the primary electronic database for population-related data and documents, joining the ranks of population programs at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia. In conjunction with these projects, the library staff grew to eventually include five professional librarians and a number of graduate and undergraduate student assistants, including a courier for document delivery. Though today the library's staff is smaller, with two professional librarians, a library assistant, and a courier, CPC's commitment to cutting-edge technologies has remained strong. The Center built an increasingly strong technology-oriented staff, in the library.

Following Freymann's departure from the directorship of CPC, the Center focused increasingly on research and became less involved with technical assistance programs. J. Richard Udry became CPC Director in 1977 and reorganized the Center's resources to match the newly transformed research-oriented mission.

Udry created five cores consisting of Administration, Computer Services, Population Library, Editorial Services, and Statistical Consultants, which provided support for CPC's Fellows, trainees, and projects. Although cores were later added and services reorganized, Udry's vision for the structure of the cores' functions remains virtually the same in 2006, providing a strong backbone and an innovative spirit for the research activities of the CPC. Interview clip: Udry describes the changes to the organizational structure [VIDEO].

The new cores became heavily focused on ways to support the researchers at CPC. Many longtime CPC staff and Fellows note the outstanding abilities of core staff and their "can-do" attitude. When asked about what makes the Center unique, CPC Fellow Barry Popkin remarked on the "collegiality and friendliness" of the staff and everyone's ability to really work together to serve the mission of the Center. Interview clip: Popkin talks about services provided by the Core units [AUDIO].

Computer Services began as a core in 1977, though it had its roots in the early formation of CPC. Udry and Judy Kovenock, the core's appointed director, produced a highly advanced technical support system for the Center. CPC was an early adopter of technological advancement, hiring highly qualified staff who modernized CPC. Kovenock grew Computer Services by hiring knowledgeable staff to set up computing systems and provide user support and recruiting staff who excelled in programming languages that could be applied to research at the Center.

When the Center began exploring the use of computing technology, campus mainframe computers took up the space of an entire room and required the use of punch cards for data. By 1984, CPC had the first Novell computer network on campus, bringing greater integration to CPC Fellows and staff. In 1988, CPC housed 60 microcomputers for CPC faculty, staff, trainees, and research assistants, a number of printers, a scanner, and a variety of networked software, including WordPerfect, Lotus, and SAS/PC. Computer Services had a staff of 12 working in positions of Systems and User Services, Data Support, and Research Programming.

bardsley.jpgBy the 1990s, an Internet Technologies Coordinator position was added to Computer Services. In 1995, the core began making datasets collected by CPC researchers available on the Web. From the start, Udry and Kovenock recognized the great importance of keeping pace with new technology and subsequent directors and staff have continued this emphasis. The growth and productivity of Computer Services allowed many other areas within the Center to blossom, and most importantly provided an invaluable service to CPC researchers who were applying technology to their research in innovative ways. Interview clip: Rindfuss explains benefits of having programmers on staff [VIDEO]

Administration sets the direction of the Center and manages the resources and operations of the Center. Like the other cores, Administration works toward an efficient and technologically advanced CPC, always mindful of the Center's mission. Administration has worked toward streamlining its accounting, human resources, and reporting procedures by quickly adopting electronic means to store, analyze, and report on such information.

Administration includes the Office of the Director, as well as Financial Services, General Services, and Support Services. Proposal Management, which coordinates the proposal process for research projects for the entire Center, was part of the core until 2005, when it joined Research Services. As the Center has grown in Fellows, staff, and trainees as well as an increasing number and complexity of research projects, Administration has remained at the same level of staffing to support CPC's research and training mission. CPC researchers have noted the helpfulness of the "first-rate" administrative staff in budgeting and accounting, personnel, space and equipment, and support services.

A statistical consultation service, one of the first of its kind for any population center, was added to the mix during Udry's time as Director. Headed by David Guilkey and Chirayath Suchindran, and later adding Kenneth Bollen, Statistical Services became increasingly important in making statistical methods readily available to various CPC projects. Besides providing consultation for CPC Fellows and trainees, Statistical Services answers frequent questions, solves problems, and holds occasional seminars on those topics.

The Carolina Population Center also benefited from the longtime services of the Editorial core. Beginning in 1966, CPC published books and a monographic series using its Editorial Services. As a part of Udry's reorganization, Editorial Services became much more involved in developing and producing publications for both internal and external use, including a working paper series. Increasingly, the unit became more technologically advanced and began to facilitate electronic publication. In 1993, the new Director, Ronald R. Rindfuss, combined Editorial Services with Library Services to create Information Services, putting the editorial and library staff in closer communication.

spatial_frizzelle_vogler.jpgRindfuss developed the Spatial Analysis core after learning of the potential applications of Geographical Information Systems technology and population research. Although not all CPC Fellows and staff saw the necessity, Rindfuss persevered with his plans for the service, the first of its kind at any population center. The new Spatial Analysis core, formally added in 1996, allowed researchers to combine various data with geographical information, creating a powerful resource that is an evolving tool for population researchers. CPC's spatial analysis expertise has been applied to many research projects, including those that have received funding from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which is interested in land change.

In the early 1990s, another service was introduced, providing CPC Fellows, trainees, and staff with the highest quality graphical services. When asked about the new service, Rindfuss admitted that Graphics Services was actually "born out of frustration." There was a clear need for graphical expertise and graphical software abilities. Graphics staff members work closely with CPC Fellows, trainees, and staff on their various projects, creating websites, tables, charts, questionnaires, logos, and posters, some of which have won awards at professional conferences. In 1998, Graphics was moved from Administration to Information Services.

denise.jpgThe most recent addition to the CPC cores is Biomedical Services, begun under Director Amy Tsui's leadership. The core filled a need for CPC researchers using biological specimens in their population research activities. Tsui noted the emerging field and realized that a consultative service would assist population researchers working on a wide range of projects from reproductive health to nutrition to aging. Interview clip: Tsui describes the Biomedical Core [AUDIO].

In summer of 2005, CPC underwent a reorganization, after which the training program, the Administrative units, and Research Services were under direct supervision of the Director, Barbara Entwisle. The most significant change was the creation of Research Services from previously existing core services. These services, under the direction of Nancy Dole, Deputy Director, are provided through eight units: Data Support Services, Library Services, Publications and Graphics, Reporting and Proposal Services (previously an Administrative unit), Research Programming, Spatial Analysis, Systems/User Services, and Web Services. This reorganization increases efficiencies throughout the Center by increasing synergies and cross training across service areas and streamlining service contacts for Fellows and trainees.

CPC continues to offer its research consultative services in statistical, biomedical, and spatial analysis services. 

Each of CPC's services functions to promote the Center's ability to support its researchers. Throughout its history, CPC has been on the cutting edge of new fields and new technologies. The cores' talented and dedicated staff members consistently produce impressive results and contribute to the development of population research. Interview clip: Thomas describes the importance of having professional staff to support research [VIDEO].

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