Faculty-Librarian Collaborations (& Friendship)

I met one of my most trusted professional collaborators and dear friends at an orchestra camp when I was 16 years old. I hated high school and was generally dour, a surprise to those who know me post-college. Trying to make sense of my identity in a community that was not accepting of difference didn’t give me much to smile or laugh about. Playing classical music was my outlet and I met wonderful, supportive friends through that venture. But no one made me laugh quite like Carla Martin did between rehearsals in the middle of Maine in 1998.

We lost touch when we went to college, but thanks to a Mark Zuckerberg production called Facebook, we reconnected when we were both working in Cambridge in 2008. We talked a lot about teaching and higher education since we were both in graduate school, me in library school, Carla in a ph.d program at Harvard. As our responsibilities shifted towards classroom work, we both noticed on Twitter that we were experimenting at the intersection of humanities, social science, and technology. We started talking more about what works in classrooms and what doesn’t, what types of tools are available and how to recast products in an academic context. Talking about our work in the context of the digital humanities community has only put the uniqueness of our relationship into focus.

Last week, we presented a flipped session about faculty-librarian collaboration at Digital Humanities: The Next Generation. As Lindsay Whitacre noted in her presentation on Saturday, “DH is not just a new set of tools and methods, it’s a new set of relationships.” I and many others have said before that Digital Humanities is a team sport, a collaborative venture that cannot be sustained by lone wolves or solitary geniuses. Digital Humanists must be as serious about building and sustaining relationships as they are about building tools.

Flipped Sessions are Fun.

Flipped sessions are fun.

My relationship with Carla is one of those important ones. I am a better librarian for knowing her, for listening to her talk about the logistics of scaling up digital projects to larger classes, for asking questions about how to support first generation students with skillfully crafted assignments and syllabi, and for helping me better understand how librarians can support junior faculty with their institutional knowledge. She’s forthcoming with examples of assignments that work, for thinking about new ways of marketing courses, and for hands-on activities in classes that I can talk about in my local community. We don’t work for the same institution, so our conversations are casual collaborations, but we can practice communication strategies we can bring home and use in our local contexts.

Our presentation dealt with miscommunications between librarians and faculty. It’s an elephant in the room when we talk about how to thoughtfully incorporate technology into classrooms. Some faculty may have an expectation that librarians and technologists passively will enact whatever they want. Other librarians may have a fear that faculty don’t value them professionally. Some faculty may feel like librarians can be passive aggressive with them when talking about workloads. Other faculty may feel like librarians can be dismissive of their technology skills. Bad communication patterns are also reinforced by higher education hierarchies that put faculty at the top and librarians towards the bottom. In my experience, librarians and faculty have excellent, complementary skills that when put in service of students, learning and research can be a powerful force for good. Librarians are masters of process; the research process, increasingly in many cases, how to manage technology projects or experimenting with technology in their practice. Faculty are masters of the content, experts in their field. I read a quote on the Feral Librarian’s blog this week from Deborah Jakubs:

“…librarians are learned and talented and bring skills and attitudes and services to the university that most regular faculty both admire and need. So rather than constantly trying to compare ourselves to faculty, and often coming up short, let’s celebrate the differences and complementarity.”

Why not leverage these complementary skill sets to build a relationship to enable digital humanities, whether it be in a research or classroom setting?

In addition to providing tangible benefits to our students and to our faculty, I think individual faculty and librarians themselves can benefit from working in teams and from participating in engaged professional relationships. Beyond doing my job better, my relationship with Carla and other faculty members enrich my life and work generally, especially since we still laugh as hard together as we did in 1998.


#5CDH: Walls, Shawls, iPads, Maps & DH

  1. @oleblanc follow #5cdh & @caropinto for live tweets from the “Of Roman Walls” DH Event at Amherst 3/1 ow.ly/hMUhf
  2. A panel featuring Karen Remmler (MHC), Jon Olson, (UM) & Caro Pinto (HC) kicked off the afternoon. 
  3. Olson is talking about ‘hacking the humanities.’ What are the humanities now? #5CDH
  4. The Europe in the 20th c. history site @jonberndtolsen and his students created digital.history.umass.edu/e… built with WordPress #5CDH
  5. Olson described how his humanities classes incorporated technology & the delicate balance between humanities & technology. Of course, this is not a question limited to just the humanities.
  6. Olson: How do we offer technology courses geared towards the humanities? This is an issue for science students too – multidisc problem #5CDH
  7. It is clear faculty cannot tackle content & technology on their own. What are the best practices?
  8. Olson musing on how to teach digital skills in the humanities. He suggests computer scientists embedded, I say, librarians. #5CDH
  9. Olson aslo mused about how mold our students into makers. Jeffrey Schapp from Harvard talks about cultivating a hybrid producer/consumer model called prosumers. 
  10. Olson: Our students are largely digital consumers & not necessarily digital producers. Glad I am trying to mold prosumers. #5CDH
  11. Caro Pinto talked about translating the value of successful and unsuccessful DH projects; how to build effective teams, and how to balance hierarchy and collaboration. 
  12. .@caropinto Librarians embedded in courses can really shape how to teach technology- how do we translate the value of what we’re doing #5CDH
  13. .@caropinto How do we translate the value of failure? Good question! So much value in something traditionally seen as ‘bad.’ #5CDH
  14.  Karen Remmler discussed feminism & DH. 
  15. Karen Remmler is now talking about the symposium she is putting together about feminism in the digital age. #5CDH
  16. Remmler: How do we decide what knowledge is valuable? #5CDH
  17. Remmler’s comments connect the the emergent #transformdh movement led by @adelinekoh & others.
  18. Karen Remmler brings up appropriateness of using the term DH, in LACs and generally. Reminds me of @pannapacker @adelinekoh & others #5CDH
  19. Remmler is talking about the digital divide, the knowledge divide. How those forces shape who is #dh. #transformdh #5CDH
  20. Remmler coming from a feminist perspective, emphasizes importance of theorizing DH & how we use it #HellYes #5CDH
  21. Remmler also talked about upcoming events & projects that explore these issues.
  22. Exciting media & digital-focused projects from the 5Colleges Women’s Studies Rsrch Ctr, which Remmler directs fivecolleges.edu/fcwsrc/pro… #5CDH
  23. The Q & A advanced a discussion of how to balance teaching content w/ teaching technology.
  24. .@caropinto Need to organize low-level classes to introduce students to tech, but higher-level courses have higher tech requirements. #5CDH
  25. And what types of assumptions we make about why our students reject e-books. 
  26. Q: How do we get students excited abt tech? Olson: This is not an eBook or an eArticle generation – students not digitally savvy #5CDH
  27. .@caropinto Barrier to using eBooks – not a format we librarians like to use – can’t pass on excitement if you’re not excited abt it. #5CDH
  28. We need to also think ab the materiality of the text, not just the content – hard copy may be important for some reading #5CDH
  29. What kinds of tools do we want to use? What kind of infrastructure do we want to build? 
  30. .@caropinto What kind of future do we want to build with technology? What do we want it to look like? #5CDH
  31. .@caropinto Educating students about economies behind digital technologies they use – what will happen to Twitter in 5 yrs? Copyright? #5CDH
  32. And then the group asked how do we preserve these projects? 
  33. .@caropinto – “we need to decide whether or not we’re keeping these projects” re: student digital work. A very real question #5CDH
  34. Then we broke for lunch. Attendees and panelists mingled as students gathered to talk about their work and experiences. 
  35. After a lunch break, we are back with a student panel. #5CDH
  36. The panel featured both graduate students & undergraduate students talking about their projects. 
  37. Students processing archival collecting while blogging. Lots of engagement from professionals around the world. #5CDH
  38. Learning abt Early Novels Database: Part digitization, part recording info. Gain access to great collx of text syslsl01.library.upenn.edu/… #5CDH
  39. Discussing the historicdress.org/omeka/ project, powered by Omeka. Different period but thought of you @nervesandveins #5CDH
  40. Looking at the Holyoke self-tour project from the Wistariahurst Museum, can be used on smartphones wistariahurst.org/walk-holy… #5CDH
  41. Students talking about the tools they used to collect data & manage research process w/ @zotero & @evernote #5CDH
  42. Students followed up on the skill building conversation that began during the panel sharing their experiences with short term certificate courses.
  43. Photoshop, Garage Band, Final Cut Pro, DreamWeaver, all skills included in an Intro to Digital Media class. Students get certificate. #5CDH
  44. Big assumption that current generation is tech literate. Not true – some learn on their own, but not a pervasive skill #5CDH
  45. Of course, this is a brave new world for students. DH includes experimentation, it brings trial & error to the humanities. 
  46. “There isn’t a template for doing any project” – necessary learning to experiment, trial & error valuable in and of itself #5CDH
  47. As well as boredom. 
  48. “A lot of the work we did was boring.” Student reflects on some of the work she contributed a #DH project. Not all #DH is sexy. #5CDH
  49. Student admits the “boring” “drudgery” of work behind sexy DH projects – how to balance this with LAC traditions of analysis? #5CDH
  50. Also, students should not be used to just absorb drudgery in #dh. But drudgery is part of building #dh. How to balance? #5CDH
  51. Project managers & faculty need to effectively communicate expectations and DH values to new participants to contextualize their labor. 
  52. There is a lot of delayed gratification in #dh. How to balance getting stuff done & vision. How to effectively communicate impact. #5CDH
  53. Student talks ab importance of prof helping them think through theoretical, academic implications of the “drudgery” work they did #5CDH
  54. Q: How do you deal with the drudgery? A: When you’re done, realize how important & worthwhile it was. Balancing b/t drudgery&fun helps #5CDH
  55. Socializing students into the #dh community as well as skill building. Ethics & community on social media.
    #5CDH
  56. But the proof is in the pudding:
  57. Student describes first uploads to Omeka as “amazing” – like “first discovering google search” #5CDH cc @patrick_mj :)
  58. Students are gratified to see their work online. Really gratified. #5CDH
  59. Important pedagogical implications RT @caropinto Students are gratified to see their work online. Really gratified. #5CDH
  60. Eric Poehler shares Pompeii Project that featured iPads, enthusiastic students & drones. 
  61. Investigating Pompeii without excavation. Digital Magic! #5CDH.
  62. Beautiful non-intrusive, digital archaeology of Pompeii from @Pompeiana79 – including cool drone camerawork #5CDH #MakeScholarshipNotWar
  63. great to watch @Pompeiana79 explain how to use iPad for #archaeology mapping when excavation too costly, intrusive #5CDH #DH #preservation
  64. Poehler’s effectively demonstrated how the technology enabled his team to do more analysis. 
  65. New tech allows archaeologists to spend less time measuring and matching, and more time to extend the interpretation of work. #5CDH
  66. Putting interpretation in the field – real value of efficiency #5CDH
  67. .@Pompeiana79: #digital technology allows us to record data in 1/10 time–which allows us 10x as much time for interpretation. #archaeology
  68. @Pompeiana79: #archaeology #mapping techniques e.g. terrestrial laser scanning, #drones (drink!), cloud-based photogrammetry, GPR #DH
  69. With wonderful offline implications:
  70. .@pompeiana79: once you learn to see time in material, you’ll never look at things the same way again #archaeology #preservation
  71. After Poehler’s talk, we closed out the day with posters & socializing. 
  72. Finishing up the day with a ‘moveable feast’ of poster sessions from current projects in Five Colleges. #5CDH

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