Digital Humanities (DH) is the field of research where the humanities and computer science meet, and scholars work on research using large collections of digital/digitised content and computer programs. Academic libraries can play a vital role in DH projects as content providers, experts and networking partners, and many are already doing so.
LIBER recently launched a Digital Humanities Working Group which aims to establish what academic libraries are doing in this field, what we are learning, and how we can further develop our role related to DH. To further inform the group’s efforts we needed input, and input is exactly what we got at the Working Group’s kick-off workshop at the LIBER 2017 Annual Conference in Patras, Greece.
The workshop started off with an overview of activities from five different libraries throughout Europe, moderated by Birte Dalsgaard-Christensen from the Digital Humanities Lab of Aarhus University.
Neil Fitzgerald from the British Library, Hege Høsøien from the National Library of Norway, Adam Sofronijevic from the University Library of Belgrade, Mirjam Bluemm from the State and University Library of Göttingen and Despoina Gkogkou from the University Library of Patras each explained how their library works in DH and where they focus their efforts and where they see the challenges they face in doing so.
The Digital Humanities Working Group workshop at LIBER 2017 (image by LIBER, CC BY).
Becoming active in DH requires libraries to first answer several questions for themselves. These questions concern areas such as access to collections, training and skill-building, organisational issues, raising awareness, and cooperating with the research community. The LIBER DH Working Group will focus on these topics in the coming two years, so we wanted to know what libraries think of these issues, where they see strength, hurdles and opportunities. To kick-start the discussion, each panel member prepared a discussion on a topic and workshop participants were invited to give input. These proved to be very lively discussions and with a gorgeous backdrop of Patras, room Room II9 was not a bad place to spend your morning.
Each panel member led a group of participants through some questions and what we learned was not always surprising but nonetheless very valuable. For example, libraries see themselves as strong networkers with expertise in metadata, digital collections and links to the community but we do seem to have problems with reaching this community, to share what it is that we have to offer beside books. We do see opportunities here, such as getting involved in the curriculum of your university and reaching out to (PhD) students at an early stage. Also, it is important to get your management engaged. For this, use cases are crucial.
What will the LIBER DH Working Group be doing next? All interested librarians are now invited to indicate on which topic they would like to provide their expertise via this Google Sheet. We are also looking for team captains to join the core group of the working group. If you’d like to captain a team, check the final box of the row. With this, we will take the input we received at the workshop and set up a schedule of actions for the next six months.
We need more! We want to publish the use cases that are so vital. We want to point you to sources that you can benefit from. We want to help you grow and connect. So, please join our mailing list, sign up for a team and share your thoughts and activities.
In the meantime, thank you to all participants, panel members and the wonderful moderator for a lovely and inspiring morning. We hope to see you all again soon!