Note: As the dh+lib Review editors work behind the scenes this summer, we have invited a few members of our community to step in as guest editors and share with us what they are reading and why the dh+lib audience might want to read it too. We close out the series with a post from Rebecca Dowson, Digital Scholarship Librarian at Simon Fraser University Library.
My current reading list revolves around questions of sustainability and capacity for digital scholarship. A major focus of my work in the past year has been coalescing existing and emerging services, expertise, and institutional structures via our newly established research incubator, the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab. This summer I am taking a step back to reflect on the areas of strength for the lab and challenges to address in the coming year. The readings below have informed my thinking on several key elements of a robust digital scholarship program, including: institutional support, professional development, pedagogical practice, and organizational structures.
Building Capacity for Digital Humanities
Anne, Kirk M., et al. Building Capacity for Digital Humanities: A Framework for Institutional Planning. ECAR working group paper. Louisville, CO: ECAR, May 31, 2017.
This joint paper from the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) “outlines a practical framework for capacity building to develop institutional digital humanities support.” The framework articulates benchmarks for early, established, and high-capacity stages of DH/DS support using the following measures: funding, governance, infrastructure (human, technical, physical), roles, communication, and engagement. In addition to the discussion of each measure and associated benchmarks, the authors provide many illustrative examples from institutions engaged in DS research support and actionable suggestions to move forward in building capacity locally.
I found the benchmarks very useful in considering my institution’s current strengths in support for DS, as well as areas that require sustained attention in the coming year. I also appreciate the care the authors took to write for a broad audience with varying experiences with DS. Growing institutional capacity for DS requires support at all levels of administration and across units that may not have previously collaborated. This paper serves as an accessible starting point to engage campus stakeholders and provides a solid foundation on which to build a strategic approach to supporting sustainable and robust digital scholarship.
Re-skilling for the Digital Humanities
Bakkalbasi N., Jaggars, D., & Rockenbach, B. (2015). Re-skilling for the digital humanities: measuring skills, engagement, and learning. Library Management, 36(3). DOI:10.1108/LM-09-2014-0109
Developing an approach to building capacity for digital scholarship often includes formal and informal training opportunities. In considering training models to support the DS aligned professional development goals of my colleagues, I find myself returning to the Developing Librarian project at Columbia University Libraries. This project, detailed here and previously in a dh+lib post, is a collaborative and project-based training program that provides librarians the opportunity to develop a digital humanities research project as a team and to “learn about new tools in a sustained manner that parallels the way other humanities researchers are likely to use them.” In this article, the authors provide an overview of the project objectives and design, as well as a discussion on assessment. The findings demonstrate that ongoing assessment captured incremental learning and shaped future stages of the project. Additionally the results played a significant role in “identifying and implementing appropriate training opportunities for librarians supporting emergent research activities and for understanding what skills and professional preparation are needed for new staff recruited into the organization.” The Developing Librarian project offers a model for sustained engagement of a community of practice interested in emergent DS research practices and tools. I particularly appreciate the project’s focus on learning in context, centering the role of librarian as researcher, and privileging the process as ongoing and generative.
Challenges of Collaborative Digital Humanities Pedagogy
Giannetti, F. (2017). Against the grain: Reading for the challenges of collaborative digital humanities pedagogy. College & Undergraduate Libraries. DOI:10.1080/10691316.2017.1340217
In this article, Giannetti reflects on her own practice and reviews recent literature in digital humanities pedagogy and faculty-librarian collaboration to identify challenges in developing a collaborative approach to digital pedagogy. Giannetti addresses issues of navigating disciplinary barriers and organizational power dynamics, making visible the underlying labor involved in DH work, managing complexity, and balancing technical choices and theoretical understandings.
My professional practice has benefited immensely from colleagues sharing their pedagogical approaches to digital scholarship and collaborative teaching. However, as Giannetti points out, critical reflections on the challenges of this work have not yet been a focus of scholarship. This gap in the literature is a shame as I often learn the most from experiences that presented unexpected difficulties or where things didn’t necessarily go as planned. I hope others will take up Giannetti’s call to share our failures with each other “to advance pedagogical praxis by building a foundation of shared knowledge upon which others can build.” One real-time mechanism to continue the discussion could be via the DLF Digital Library Pedagogy Group’s regular Twitter chats, using the hashtag #DLFteach.
Montoya, R. D. (2017). Boundary Objects/Boundary Staff: Supporting Digital Scholarship in Academic Libraries. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 43(3), 216-23. DOI:10.1016/j.acalib.2017.03.001