Shaping the Roles of Academic Librarians to Meet Emerging Demands of DH Scholarship

Shaping the Roles of Academic Librarians to Meet Emerging Demands of DH Scholarship

Nancy Aarsvold (St. Olaf College, USA), Kasia Gonnerman (St. Olaf College, USA) and Jason N. Paul (St. Olaf College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8444-7.ch003
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Abstract

As digital technologies permeate research, teaching, and learning on academic campuses, librarians are increasingly expected to be conversant in the tools and resources used in digital humanities (DH) scholarship. They are also expected to play a role in managing DH projects and promoting them to their campus communities and beyond. This growing niche of support calls not only for expanding librarians' DH toolkits and knowledge, but also for novel and energetic collaborations with other college staff, particularly information technologists. This chapter considers ways to create and sustain partnerships between faculty, instructional technologists, and librarians in support of DH activities at a liberal arts college. By focusing on collaborative approaches to DH training, events, and project planning and management, the chapter provides a blueprint for creating a DH Team that capitalizes on the existing skills of librarians and instructional technologists and for fostering a culture in which librarians can acquire new skills to support DH scholarship.
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Literature Review

A survey of current library literature indicates that the majority of relevant texts focus on library-DH relationships occurring at large academic or research institutions (Gustafson-Sundell, 2013; Vinopal, and McCormick 2013). In “On Remembering There Are Librarians in the Library,” Gustafson-Sundell (2013) made a valuable observation that the majority of literature dedicated to DH and libraries – including the special issue of Journal of Library Administration, “DH in Libraries,” which was meant to “put libraries and librarians in the center of the discussion of the DH” (Rockenbach, 2013, p. 1) – focuses on what Gustafson-Sundell aptly calls “Big DH,” that is, large-scale DH projects typically supported by designated DH centers at large institutions. Such focus on “Big DH” may evoke a misleading impression that DH is mostly suitable for large academic institutions or research universities and is less likely to thrive at smaller academic institutions, such as undergraduate colleges. The “Big DH” approach in the pertinent literature may also inadvertently discourage librarians at smaller institutions from pursuing DH, since “some librarians, unfamiliar at all with DH, might get the impression that DH is too large or too complicated to be addressed without significant investment” (Gustafson-Sundell, 2013, p. 24). This chapter, clearly anchored in the context of a small liberal arts college, intends to dispel the potential misconception that thriving DH activities are only possible at large academic or research institutions or need a separate, administratively created unit in order to succeed.

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