Challenges to DH in the Library

17 Aug 2012

Cross-posted on digitalcultureweek.

Libraries have long been central to digital humanities (DH), but providing support for DH has not been a central issue for many libraries. Of course, there are many exceptions as numerous DH centers are located within libraries (see centerNet's listing of DH centers), but on the whole, DH and libraries have had developed piecemeal and without much collaboration between library or DH organizations.

An upcoming issue of the Journal of Library Administration (due out in January) plans to address some of these challenges. Miram Posner (@miriamkp) is contributing an article and recently wrote a post to begin identifying these barriers, such as insufficient training in library schools, lack of administrative support, and difficulty in wrangling the resources (personnel, technology, etc.) required to do a DH project. Mike Furlough (@surleyF) wrote a response that sheds light on many of the realistic, day-to-day obstacles facing all academic departments, including a very intriguing question: "Is research antithetical to the University's core business?" If you have thoughts or challenges you'd like to contribute, post a comment to either one!

Coming from the library side of things, I can attest that there are many levels of barriers. Last fall, my library formed a digital humanities working group to gauge interest among faculty on campus for DH and how the library might support DH projects. Our group fizzled out after a while because there was not a strong enough need for DH support among faculty and the library realized it was not prepared to dedicate and fight for the amount of resources required to do it right. However, it's promising to note that other librarians in similar positions are congregating around the recently formed ACRL Digital Humanities Discussion Group (already 600 subscribers to the listserv). The group's first meeting at ALA in June was full of librarians interested in supporting DH although many were unsure exactly how to do so. It's reassuring to see so many librarians interested in DH collaboration because such an asset will help all of us to overcome the current challenges as we move forward.

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