Digital Humanities is a team sport. As libraries/information technology units develop programs and initiatives to promote and partner with faculty in digital humanities, it’s clear that our community hungers for best practices and inspiration to create and sustain a community of practice. What’s a group of librarians, technologists, and digital humanists to do?
In the Five Colleges, we will explore these issues in a day long event that will include a moderated panel and facilitated discussion that will will help our consortium build and sustain a community of practice around digital humanities. To that end, tomorrow we will welcome speakers from Colgate University, Haverford College, and Washington and Lee University to talk about their work in digital humanities in a moderated panel. During the afternoon, we will work small breakout groups to address the central question – what does it take to become an effective digital humanities community of practice?
The Five College Libraries Committee DEDCC (Digital Environment Development & Coordinating Committee) encourages participants to chronicle on social media using the hashtag: #5CDH13.
See you all tomorrow!
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?
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 http://bit.ly/dhproposals 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:
Chair, Five Colleges Consortium, DEDCC; firstname.lastname@example.org; 413.538.2228
For further information on the Five College Consortium., please see: https://www.fivecolleges.edu/
Tomorrow is the first EVER Five College Libraries All-Staff Event hosted by the Five College Digital Environment and Coordinating Committee (on which I represent Hampshire) and sponsored by the Five College Librarians’ Council. It will be an eventful half day with coffee, updates, a keynote from Yale University Librarian Susan Gibbons, Lightning Round talks by librarians about cool stuff they are doing, and breakout discussions around themes and topics like E-Books and Student Supervision. I am facilitating a discussion called “Library as Concept, Library as Container.” I threw it out there as a topic because I was inspired by a talk Char Booth gave during the fall called ”Library as Indicator Species: Evolution, or Extinction?” It dovetailed nicely with conversations I had at Yale before heading out the door about library futures, and whether or not this new generation of librarians would be tasked with ‘shutting off the light’ and ‘closing the doors.’
With all the discussions out there about library futures and libraries in crisis, it’s easy to jump on the Armageddon bandwagon and picture libraries where the reference desks are buried in tumbleweeds and books don’t circulate because everything is readily and freely available in digital form. If you buy into the idea of the library as a book warehouse, of the library as container of THINGS, then this nightmare scenario just might become reality. And maybe that’s a good idea for some, for whom libraries work best when one can get what he or she needs and get out with a little human interaction as possible.
Personally, I believe that the library is a concept, an important partnership with academic programs built upon a service orientation to support the development of critical thinking skills, digital fluency, and research education in our students. I believe that we are a neutral place for faculty and students to hash out ideas for projects and vent frustrations when work isn’t going well. We broker relationships between people to accomplish exciting work in the digital humanities. We are not a giant book warehouse, but a buzzing community where we curate collections to meet the demands of our communities with tools like book scanners, software, and troubleshooting know-how to empower our students to do new and exciting work.
Yesterday, a neat hashtag meme both amused and horrified me: #librariandrinkinggame. Some of the tweets really get at why I think we need to move past associating libraries with stuff and start thinking about them in terms of service. Like @LibSkrat’s “Empty the bottle when somebody says, ‘you need a master’s degree to shelve books?” or “Drink every time you hear someone say that they could get hired at a library because they like to read.” Concepts are flexible, wide-open – experimental. Containers – well, they just contain. They have boundaries. For the academic library of yore where access to print materials was essential, this was a good thing. But our patrons can access ‘stuff’ from the internet often without dealing with a human at all. A shushing librarian does not stand between them and the book or journal or long playing record. But the human interaction is essential now. We are Sherpas of data, guides to evaluating the wealth of materials available to our students and faculty that they have not even thought of until talking with one of us.
To me, libraries and librarians are concepts facilitating and mediating the container that is scholarship, data, and information, not shushing gatekeepers.
Last fall, there was a RFP for librarians, technologists, and faculty to create learning communities centered around the digital humanities. My team at Hampshire jumped on this immediately and began tracking down like-minded faculty who might be interested in joining our proposal. We had a number of meetings to develop themes, talk about methods, the future, collaboration within campuses and across the Pioneer Valley. They were fun meetings and we emerged with a successful proposal, entitled ‘Reading, Writing, Looking: New Ways of Knowing in the Digital Humanities.’
We received word that Five Colleges accepted our proposal in January. Our program is in three parts-Reading, Writing, Looking-and we developed programming around each of themes to support our Five College learning community in the digital humanities. Earlier this month, Hampshire College hosted the first event around Reading over lunch.
We were lucky enough to bring Barbara Rockenbach, director of the History and Humanities Library at Columbia University to talk about reading habits of users which she did brilliantly around a talk called ‘Users Unbound: Reading, Libraries, and the Digital Humanities.’
These days, it’s hard to read the Chronicle of Higher Education or The New York Times without finding an article about distracted reading or students with limited attention spans or commentary about the good old days before technology destroyed continuous reading (and civilization as we know it!). For me, and many others, the trope is tired and not a complete picture of what’s happening with our students or scholars for that matter. As Barbara demonstrated in her talk, new technologies and old scholarly traditions can combine to create innovative new models for scholarship and new models for service for libraries. The takeaways:
Digital reading is just another phase in the long dure of reading and book technology. The same crisis of reading happened when civilization moved from manuscript to codex.
Print isn’t dead. According to a user survey in the humanities division at Columbia, students don’t consider ebooks a replacement for print, but rather as a means to facilitate distant/discontinuous reading/ topic modeling to ask new questions in the aggregate. To wit, students want both print AND electronic resources to do humanities work.
Digital Humanities is a new service model for libraries, a great opportunity to facilitate digital scholarship by providing the resources (print & electronic content, special collections) and tools (scanners, software, screens, new types of instruction, and project management support) for our users to participate in digital scholarship.
Copyright fear shouldn’t stand in the way of empowering users to consume content in new ways. No need to be conservative about how much of a book we allow users to scan. The consensus among academic librarians is that nonconsumptive use is fair use. If you haven’t already, check out the librarians’ code immediately. To push further, Rockenbach calls on us to negotiate with vendors and publishers to create a more favorable climate for book scanning and digitization. Finally, she advocates movinge past the age of the monograph into a new age of scholarly communication through open access and institutional repositories: Library as Press & Publisher.
Bring undergraduates into the digital humanities fold through pedagogy. Faculty can engage students through new types of projects, online exhibits, text mining projects, and blogging. Librarians can move past mere information literacy instruction and into teaching with objects and sources to sustain the critical thinking skills necessary to participate in the digital humanities. Collectively, we can build new models for student work that transcend the traditional 10- page research paper to prepare undergraduates to fully participate in the information economy.
It was an energizing event and I for one am excited to get to work on crafting new ways of knowing in the digital humanities in the Five Colleges and beyond. Stay tuned.
“The Good Old Days” revived at Bill’s Gay Nineties-ad from ca. 1940 via the Menden Collection, the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.
The title of this post brazenly repurposed from Smith College’s Archives Concentration’s program flyers seen around their fine campus.