A bit of backstory: in March 2012, a conversation bubbled up on the newly-created ACRL Digital Humanities discussion group (DH DG) listserv about the need for a blog or online resource for those of us “big tent” information professionals– librarians, archivists, curators, and students–engaged with digital humanities.
But should it be a blog? A website? A magazine? What sort of content would be most helpful? And what audience should it serve? Aimed at libraries? Museums? Archives? Or casting a wider net? These discussions occupied part of an in-person meeting at the June 2012 ALA Annual conference in Anaheim (Bob Kosovsky, in attendance, has helpfully shared his notes). Not wanted to restrict these decisions to those who made it the distant conference room in the Disneyland Hotel, we circulated an informal survey on the DH DG listserv over the summer of 2012 to gauge preferences. Here are the results of that survey.
Librarians were the top respondents to the survey; of the 83 submissions, 65 identified themselves with this category. Additionally, most respondents did not have “Digital Humanities” as part of their job descriptions or titles. A slender majority of respondents hailed from institutions that either host or plan to host dedicated DH facilities; curiously, an impressive 21% noted that these facilities were “under development.” A desire for resources, then, is coming in part from those based in institutions with emergent DH initiatives, or from professionals engaged with DH outside of the bounds of dedicated centers or facilities.
In our acronym-soaked world, what does it mean to be the DH+Lib blog for the ACRL DH DG? As someone wrote in response to our “what should we name the blog” question: ‘Please don’t make it an acronym.’ What name might better reflect the particular intersection that this blog addresses? Suggestions for alternative names for the blog were… not forthcoming. dh+lib was dubbed ‘ok’ and ‘not too bad, really!’
The survey attempted to gauge whether the community had a preference for the source of content–aggregated or original– in addition to what themes and stories might be included.
The group assembled at ALA in June responded strongly to the question of source, indicating a preference for original blog posts rather than aggregated content. Additionally, we heard requests for content aimed at profiling and spotlighting the work being done in DH in collaboration with libraries. There was a particular interest in case studies around project management.
Source was not as prevalent a concern for survey respondents. While 75% of those who indicated a preference voted for original content, this number represents only 48% of survey respondents. 36% of those responding reported “No preference.”
Asked to express a preference for the topics to be covered–whether through original or aggregated content, respondents favored:
+ Case studies or write-ups of projects
+ Reviews or write-ups of tools
+ Articles on best practices around DH librarianship
+ Announcements and calendar of DH trainings, events, and conferences
+ Links to papers, presentations, and talks on DH librarianship published elsewhere
(Click on Chart to Enlarge and View Detail)
A surprising dud of the features list was “Profiles of DH librarians,” which 10% of respondents singled out as “Not helpful.”
Beyond the rankings of features we suggested in the survey, about a quarter of you responded to “What resources not listed above would you like included?’ with suggestions. The full list is as follows (in some cases, rewritten and summarized for clarity, brevity, and the purposes of consolidation):
+ Web/biblio/blogographies of DH and library-related blogs, websites, & materials
+ Instructional materials
+ Twitter feeds
+ Links to allied disciplines (archives, museums)
+ A philosophical or theoretical discussion of what DH might do and the role of librarians and archivists in DH
+ Contact list of librarians actively engaged with DH (and willing to be contacted)
+ Discussion of how DH is changing how people read and think about texts
+ Grant & funding announcements
+ Information about communities doing the hard IT
+ Pathfinder for various aspects of DH
+ Scholarly content– well-constructed, possibly peer-reviewed essays about DH and Libraries
+ Faculty focus: interviews of faculty in DH, tips for working with faculty, examples of successful partnerships, how to promote DH to faculty
+ DH in different areas of the humanities– not just literature
+ Information on DH projects
+ Ideas, help, & suggestions for new DH projects
+ Author profiles and interviews with DH luminaries
+ Connections to the ‘greater DH world’
+ Opportunities to link up isolated projects into metaprojects
+ Examples of DH-related documents created by libraries, including environmental scans, policies, workflows, etc.
+ Case studies! including spaces, services, and resources connected to DH courses
+ Information about collaborations and relationships between librarians and others in DH
+ Visualization & network analysis using a Viz tool
+ Course write-ups or syllabi
A range of interesting descriptions were provided as freeform in response to the request to “describe the blog you would most want to read, recommend to colleagues, and contribute to.” 37 responses were recorded. Some took the opportunity to emphasize a preference for original content, an aggregation of current events, a practical or theoretical focus, or a regular posting schedule. Others were thoughtful about the spread of the blog, calling for a resource offering ‘tiers of accessibility,’ with ‘appeal to the humanities librarian who has been thrown into the digital humanities cauldron and also to the librarian/IT specialist who has been given an assignment to support the digital humanities,’ expressing ‘the diversity of DH librarianship.’
One respondent requested ‘non-English-language efforts and reportage.’ We also saw some themes around a need for advocacy and commentary that went beyond standards and announcements, including:
calls for ‘critical’ content that ‘rais[ed] difficult questions with space for discussion’;
+ ‘Something with “meat”– thoughtful/analytical content’;
+ ‘thoughtful writing that consistently balances hype and hope’; and
+ ‘frank discussion of the difficulties’ around DH projects.
Several respondents emphasized the value and potential of a resource specifically focused on DH and information professionals. One wrote: ‘ideally, the blog would foster an actual community.’ Another wrote: ‘It seems obvious, but I’d like the site to make sure it fully covers the library angle.’ We saw an eagerness for content that would help librarians do DH well– and better.