Responses to our dh+lib survey: digest version

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. When the group assembled at the June 2012 ALA Annual conference in Anaheim (Bob Kosovsky, in attendance, has helpfully shared his notes), the conversation around how this resource might take shape deepened. Not wanting to restrict these decisions to those in attendance at ALA, we circulated a link to an informal survey on the DH DG listserv over the summer of 2012 to gauge preferences. A more thorough account of those results can be found here; what follows is a digest.

Who responded?

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.

Source preferences

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.”

Content preferences

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

More than 80% of respondents indicated that these features would be “very important” or “important” to their work. Lagging slightly behind these leaders, “Recommendations and guidelines on project management” garnered a 71% positive response.

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 thoughtful suggestions (the full range of which can be found here).

What kind of blog are you?

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.

For those who requested more specific content, we will be soliciting along those lines, in an attempt to meet your demand. If you are interested in suggesting a topic or post, whether you want to write it yourself or toss it to another author, please use our contributors form or contact us directly.

-Sarah Potvin and Roxanne Shirazi