Do Libraries Collect Software Now?

Last week, ISIS  hosted an online seminar about bake-offs, processes through which individuals and institutions decide what new tools or technologies to purchase. Generally an activity in the purview of Information Technology departments, we had the pleasure of hearing a presentation from Sarah Oelker, a librarian from Mount Holyoke College, who talked about how a group of Mount Holyoke librarians applied bake-off principles to the process of sourcing technology solutions for the College. Here’s a look at Sarah’s awesome venn diagram:

Sarah Oelker's Bake Off Matrix

Sarah Oelker’s Bake Off Matrix

It’s a great visual to help us think about how libraries and technology departments can contexutalize making decisions about our resources, and how we should try to meet our community’s academic needs through our purchases and services. As we embrace a ‘just in time’ collecting model – one that allows us to purchase that book a faculty member needs on a moment’s notice or to have a cache of power cords for students to borrow to charge their laptops in the library – how do we think about software as not just a tool, but also as something to collect?

Which brings me to a larger question: should libraries collect software now? As digital humanities centers proliferate  and as heated debates come up about whether 3d printers should be in libraries, the nature of our collections is also shifting. How does/will/should that impact our collecting strategies? As libraries and information technology departments scale up to meet new demands for ‘digital’ scholarship, how do we balance the needs for ‘just in time’ and ‘just in case’ acquisitions with tools that have utilitarian value now and historical value later?

From where I’m sitting, the answer is that yes, we need to collect software, but the what and the how are other questions for which I don’t think profession yet has a cogent answer. For collection development librarians, the ground is shifting away from bibliography and toward patron-driven acquisitions for monographs and journals. I believe this shift provides an opportunity to work closely with our colleagues in IT to map out strategies for successful collection and stewardship of software, especially as librarians increasingly support classroom technologies. In any case, it represents another step towards utilizing the library as incubator of new ideas and practices, instead of just as a repository for the old.

CFP: Digital Humanities for Liberal Arts Colleges

Five College Committee work is one of the highlights of my job at Hampshire College. I am lucky enough to serve on a few committees and task forces including one called DEDCC (Digital Environment Development & Coordinating Committee). One of our goals this year is to raise awareness among librarians of Digital Humanities and how librarians can get involved. To that end, this committee is organizing a program in the Five Colleges later this year. Below is the call for proposals along with a link to submit proposals, as well as some context about who we are in the Five Colleges:

The Five College Consortium is exploring a June program introducing Digital Humanities to an audience of librarians and IT staff at our institutions.  The Consortium in western Massachusetts includes Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, four liberal arts colleges and one ARL.  We are interested in identifying speakers who can discuss digital humanities vision or digital humanities work in liberal arts settings targeted at undergraduate teaching and research.  We are open to a variety of interpretations on/definitions of the phrase “digital humanities”’ and its intersection with other initiatives around teaching with technology in the undergraduate curriculum.  We envision a panel followed by breakout sessions during which we will ask our panelists to participate in small group discussion.  Possible topics for discussion include:

  • What does it mean to do work in this field in liberal arts colleges?
  • How to help faculty navigate shifting technologies
  • Mapping out new collaborative relationships (inside our institutions and across the Five Colleges)
  • Where should conversation around research/teaching/technology be happening?
  • Content mashups and the development of new kinds of “collections”
  • The library’s role in a supporting digital culture
  • What professional skill sets are needed to support digital humanities work?
  • Infrastructure/services/copyright/IP

If you have interest in participating on our panel and in small group discussion, we would like to hear from you!  Please submit a brief proposal online at by March 8th, describing your interest in the areas outlined above and your interest in speaking to our audience.  We are looking towards mid-June for the program itself and will confirm dates with the identified speakers.  Please direct questions to:

Erin Stalberg,

Chair, Five Colleges Consortium, DEDCC;; 413.538.2228

For further information on the Five College Consortium., please see: