DH librarianship in the spotlight

Last week I presented at two major conferences (or “major” for me, at least): The 2012 DLF Forum in Denver and the TEI Annual Conference and Members’ Meeting at Texas A&M University. The conferences both focused on digital scholarship, albeit from two different angles and to two different constituencies. As such, my presentations provided a highly instructive experience on the diverse perspectives I must navigate when working with digital scholarship research and services.

The DLF Forum has traditionally been attended by library IT staff, technical services librarians, and coordinators of digital library services, but in recent years, its attendance demographics have broadened to include subject specialists, reference librarians and even teaching faculty. This year in particular saw an emphasis on digital humanities and e-science: we held a THATCamp Digital Humanities and Libraries and I was part of a 5-person panel titled “The Landscape of Digital Humanities Librarianship.” For our panel, each of us talked about what we did as “digital humanities librarians”:

For me, it was a little disorienting to try summarizing what I’ve done for the past three years and then extrapolating lessons out of it: To be honest, I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants at least 75 percent of the time! I mainly cobble together  the skills and concepts I learned in library school and on my GAships, things I do for the traditional subject specialist part of my job that translate across the board, and strategies I pick up from colleagues/articles/blogs/whatever information I can grab.  And three years down the road, I’ve begun to develop something vaguely resembling digital humanities services in the library. But as my fellow panelists  from Stanford, Indiana, Brown, and Maryland described their (far more advanced) experiences and services in digital humanities librarianship, it quickly became evident that there isn’t one way to do DH librarianship–it can and should take many different forms depending on the resources and research interests of your campus. Ultimately I gained a immense amount of interesting insights at our panel and other presentations at the conference that I hope to start incorporating here.

Then two days after DLF, I flew down to College Station, Texas for the 2012 TEI Annual Members’ Meeting and Conference, where I presented a paper titled “Libraries and the TEI: Tools, Teaching, and Tutorials”:

For a paper that was admittedly not as polished as it should have been, I still received some insightful and thoughtful feedback from a decidedly different audience than DLF: The TEI crowd was much more heavily weighted toward research faculty and literary scholars who employ the TEI for intensely scholarly analysis. There certainly was a representation of librarians–libraries were among the pioneering participants in TEI–but a prominent theme of the meeting was how to make TEI an even more viable tool for scholarly discourse and analysis. I think my paper, which argued that libraries should expand their involvement in the TEI beyond applying it in their digitized collections and be involved in the teaching of TEI as a method of promoting digital literacy, addressed the concerns that cropped up in the meeting.  In fact, this issue of libraries and teaching DH tools for digital literacy is something that has unexpectedly emerged in my work lately and I’ll be talking more about that in a later post.  But in short, I see libraries do have a role in helping educate users in the digital tools used for DH research, and ultimately, I believe we can help more and more scholars revise their research methodologies to adapt to digital scholarship.

In any case, I survived that mini-marathon of conferencing and travel, and for the first time this semester, I don’t have a rapidly approaching presentation deadline looming over me! During this relative break, I’ll be working on getting an article out the door by the end of the semester and expanding my TEI paper for submission to the Journal of the TEI. The tenure clock seems to be ticking faster and faster every day, and hopefully all of this work will ultimately be fruitful toward that goal.  . . .

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