Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Digital Humanities in the Library

dhlibraryLast March, the Catholic University of America embarked on a voyage of digital humanities discovery. We had our first DH cross campus inaugural meeting, involving faculty, students, librarians, archivists, curators, and administrators. We outlined our individual and institutional challenges and focused on our needs going forward. Consequently, in the fall 2015 semester, we will begin having workshops on collaborating on our projects, exploring new software, and in general, getting to know each other. Stay tuned!

Our roles as librarians has changed rapidly over the past few years. Once just keepers of print warehouses and guides for library tours, we have now become harbingers of change agents across the entire scholarly communication paradigm. Subject (or liaison) librarians that have experience and knowledge in subject expertise, information literacy and research skills, collection management skills, and collection development, have a foundation on which to make contributions to digital humanities scholarship. The big question is, ‘Where to begin?’

Digital Humanities in the Library: Challenges and Opportunities for Subject Specialists is a long overdue addition to the burgeoning interest in digital humanities by librarians. Edited by Arianne Hartsell-Gundy, Laura Braunstein, and Liorah Golomb–all humanities librarians in their own right–the work is designed specifically for subject/liaison humanities librarians who are seeking ways to collaborate with scholars and students on a wide variety of projects, and it provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities that abound at any institution, whether at a two-year college or at a research institution. The book is divided into four parts: 1) the first part discusses why librarians should acquire DH skills, 2) ways one can get involved, 3) the issues of collaboration, spaces, and instruction, and last, 4) conceiving, implementing, and maintaining a DH project.  The fourteen chapters have been written by a variety of specialists: DH librarians, social science librarians, archivists, editors, faculty, graduate students, and others. The chapters range from practical advice (e.g. a checklist for DH scholarship), to case studies (e.g. librarians teaching DH in the classroom) to theoretical/philosophical discussions (e.g. literary critical theory as it pertains to DH).

Librarians should acquire DH skills for a number of reasons, as outlined in the opening chapter ‘Traversing the Gap: Subject Specialists connecting Humanities Researchers and Digital Scholarship Centers.’ Katie Gibson, Marcus Ladd (a CUA alumnus), and Jenny Presnell argue that there are many DH roles that a librarian can adopt depending on the type of model (i.e. service, lab or network) existing at one’s institution.  They advise being proactive in your endeavors, seeking out opportunities and collaborators rather than having scholars and students come to you. Being involved early in the project planning process, educating scholars about the services that the library can provide, adding subject expertise when necessary, and networking across campus to make resources available for scholarly support, are only a few of the roles librarians can adopt in implementing digital scholarship standards at their institutions.

The projects that stem from the mission of the university often have the greatest chance of success.  If the college or university has limited resources and is strapped for funding, the right incremental changes put in place by librarians can have significant outcomes on the creation and maintenance of DH projects. Judy Walker provides a case study of this approach at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in ‘Digital Humanities for the Rest of Us.’   The local history project, New South Voices, was a collaboration that included librarians, faculty, students from various departments as well as community organizations. In order to do this with no new money, the Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) was created by reorganizing the existing staff expertise and by having the staff match the needs of faculty and students with the liaisons and IT staff who possessed the best suited particular skills and knowledge sets.  Walker discusses the type of collaboration one can be involved in, from hosting a THATCamp to workshops on tools to creating an open access journal, Urban Education Research and Policy Annuals.  It is interesting to note that the creation of DH projects emboldened others to reach out to the librarians. For example, the aforementioned journal led to the creation of an undergraduate psychology journal and two education journals.  The DSL staff set up the publications and trained the staff. As Walker notes, ‘Librarians are great at finding and organizing information and resources. What we haven’t done in the past, though, is share our tools and expertise.’ Implementing DH projects is not without its challenges. Faculty and administration who are skeptical of the digital humanities (whatever ‘that’ is), its relevance, and in large part, the role of librarians in research endeavors, serve to undermine scholarly endeavors. Copyright, open access, scholarly publishing, working with datasets (i.e. finding, using, storing and curating datasets), are just some of the challenges facing librarians.  Working with the university IT staff on issues of security and access is another issue. In addition, librarians and library staff  are often unwilling or unable to adopt or keep up with the changing needs of their constituents. Hence, the need for this book!

What I found refreshing about this work is the honesty of the librarians discussing their trials and tribulations in bringing forth a project and candidly writing about what worked and often more importantly, what did not work. Liorah Golomb’s ‘Dipping a Toe into the DH Waters: a Librarian’s Experience,’ serves as a model for curiosity and fearlessness. Golomb writes of her experiences at the University of Oklahoma, moving from an attendee of DH conferences and workshops to actively working on text mining the dialogue from the TV series Supernatural. Preparing a feasible research question, collecting the raw data, preparing the data for analysis, and selecting the right tools throughout the process, are essential steps in the research process that can have potential pitfalls. Golomb offers some tips:  define your goals, understand how to work with your data and if you are unsure, find someone who does understand, determine how to gather your data (discover whether is exists elsewhere can be a real time saver), and last, keep in mind that failure is always an option and not necessarily something to be shunned.

I teach a course in digital humanities in the Department of Library and Information Science at Catholic University. I tell my students to try new things and to not be afraid of failing at something. To quote Jake the Dog:

Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.” — Jake the Dog

Reading Digital Humanities in the Library for practical advice and real-world examples is that first step towards ‘being sorta good at something.’

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Newly Published

DateSign_May15_June16Newly Published will periodically highlight research produced at The Catholic University of America. These entries are indexed from the Web of Science (Arts & Humanities Index; Social Science Index; and Science Citation Index.) The entries below were indexed from May 14 – June 16, 2015.

Continue reading “Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Newly Published”

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Link Rot

Libraries care about “discovery” and usage statistics to justify the high costs of scholarly resources.  Libraries also deeply care that these scholarly resources can be discovered and used for generations to come. The Internet has made the art of curation much more complex. CUA Archivists have elegantly written about their new dark arts of digital curation:

Last week the topic here was persistent identifiers and all the players in the scholarly ecosystem. This week we reiterate why this is important, as we look at scholarly products. Continue reading “Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Link Rot”

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Persistent Identifiers

Why we care and the cost of research
Water droplet with the earth in it
Image courtesy of Planeta Água

Libraries care about “discovery” and usage statistics to justify the high costs of scholarly resources. Researchers need to find sources that are available and use and attribute them ethically. Faculty researchers want to do their research, but need to get grants, publish research and be cited. In this age where “Google rules,”  student researchers want access to everything now. Government agencies and funders want to track return on investment for public funding of research. Businesses and citizens benefit from products of scholarly research. We all benefit from life saving drugs and procedures of medical research. We should all care about research. All of these entities are intertwined in our increasingly complex scholarly ecosystem.

The players

In this age of digital scholarship, the scholarly ecosystem involves players, systems and tools that need to be interoperable and machine-readable. Finding and accessing and reporting on research involves:

Understanding this ecosystem – and where researchers and librarians fit – is no easy task.

Persistent identifiers

If we think about a single scholarly article, the metadata that explains that piece of work and makes it discoverable and accessible and accountable may have identifiers that include the author(s), the format, the institution, the funder, the publisher, any restrictions to access, and the repository or web site where it resides. These pieces of metadata are all persistent identifiers of that piece of work.

This slide (provided from ORCID which is fast becoming a persistent name identifier for researchers and acts as a hub for all the other parts of the ecosystem) gives you a picture of how the interconnected players work in this ecosystem.

What is ORCID?
ORCID is an open, non-profit, community-based effort to provide a registry of unique researcher identifiers and a transparent method of linking research activities and outputs to these identifiers. ORCID is unique in its ability to reach across disciplines, research sectors, and national boundaries and its cooperation with other identifier systems.

This blog post comes to you from

More on the importance and players of the scholarly ecosystem next week.


Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Wolfram Alpha – Not Just for Math!

Word Clod of song lyrics
Wolfram Alpha generates word clouds from song lyrics!

Next time you want to check Wikipedia for basics – try Wolfram Alpha to see how much more you get! Wolfram Alpha isn’t just for math anymore, it generates word clouds of song lyrics, and is pushing the limits of computation and art and music.

Summer is a good time to up your digital game –  try new things or re-visit digital tools you haven’t used lately. Our suggestion today is Wolfram Alpha and the new cool things it can do. Wolfram Alpha is NOT a search engine. Think of it as your geekiest librarian friend.

Wolfram Alpha is an engine for computing answers and providing knowledge. [Source]

In 21 Cool Non-Math Things You Can Do With Wolfram Alpha, Evan Dashevsky explains that if you are looking for numbers, Wolfram Alpha is the place for you; but it may aid writers and social scientists, too.  Especially helpful for our summer game playing will be the ability to get scrabble scores for words; it also analyzes for anagrams and rhymes. It can determine blood alcohol levels, translate into Morse code or ancient pictographs, generate nutrition labels and Wolfram Alpha has new capability with image detection. It is experimenting with Wolfram Tones for music creation. Continue reading “Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Wolfram Alpha – Not Just for Math!”

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Federal RePORTER

Federal RePORTER from NIH: Search is an initiative of STAR METRICS® to create a searchable database of scientific awards from federal agencies and make this data available to the public.

Highlighting a new tool in the Scholarly Ecosystem:

Federal RePORTER

Projects across US Federal funding agencies are now searchable for the past 10 years. This tool, begun at NIH and now expanded across other agencies searches awarded grants. The value added for Universities is that we can now see all publications (and patents and citations) associated with a grant project.

In the future, datasets associated with grants will be found here.

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Summer Reading

Summer Reading – be it virtual or digital!

Rev. Brian J. Shanley OP spoke with CUA faculty last week. During his talk about “core curriculum” he mentioned titles along the way to inspire and inform.

plato Plato at the Googleplex

by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Person reading on beach. Image courtesy of Josué Goge,
excellent-sheep-book-cover-1170x1743 Excellent sheep: the miseducation of the American elite and the way to a meaningful life

by William Deresiewicz

k9112 Not for profit : why democracy needs the humanities

by Martha C. Nussbaum

Continue reading “Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Summer Reading”

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Newly Published

DateSign_Apr17Newly Published periodically highlights research produced at The Catholic University of America. These entries are indexed from the Web of Science (Arts & Humanities Index; Social Science Index; and Science Citation Index.) The entries below were indexed from April 17 – May 13, 2015.

Continue reading “Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Newly Published”

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Humanities or Sciences?

Crossroads image between liberal arts and technology

Are we worried about too much Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) or the death of the humanities – or both? At many universities, including ours, we are having the conversations about making science more accessible to undergraduates in exploratory courses; and we are having the conversations about how science researchers can be better at communicating and creativity. We are also having a troubling conversation about how often a web site needs to be redesigned – yes, six years is way too long!

The following articles from many perspectives highlight the dichotomy between the humanities and sciences in higher education today that, hopefully, will inform higher education in the future.

Two excellent articles outline out the case for the importance of both humanities and sciences.

“A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy.”

“Turning to events internal to the intellectual world, we notice that during the last 150 years the humanities became radically eclipsed, even delegitimized, by the phenomenal success of their great intellectual rival, the hard sciences. The latter have rapidly built up an unprecedented edifice of knowledge. It is not only intellectually or theoretically superior to everything before — precise, systematic, and empirically verifiable — but also superior in its practical utility, generating unimagined new technologies for the improvement of human life. Today scientific knowledge is equated with real knowledge, all the rest seeming like folklore. All modern intellectuals suffer from physics envy. But even the extraordinary rise of modern science cannot adequately explain the current fate of the humanities. Empirical science is competent in the realm of measurable facts, but not in the realm of values. The wisdom of life and knowledge of the self that we desperately need come, not from scientific data, but from reflective accounts of the inner experience of being alive as a human being, and especially of being most fully, intensely, and authentically alive. The sciences eclipse the humanities in one way, but render them more necessary in another. By vastly expanding our power for good and ill, the rise of modern science greatly increases our need for self-­knowledge and moral clarity.” Continue reading “Digital Scholarship @ CUA: Humanities or Sciences?”

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: STM Tech Trends 2015

STM Tech Trends 2015 Infographic
STM Tech Trends 2015

In an earlier post, we noted the complex scholarly ecosystem consisting of changing platforms, new tools, and new work flows for researchers and academic libraries. This week we get another view of the future of scholarly research from the  International Association of STM Publishers (STM) as they published their 2015 Tech Trends (and infographic.)

Notable in the STM trends analysis is the emphasis on research data. They also highlight the need for reputation management, both for individual researchers and institutions as they reply to mandates from funding entities. The trend of the changing research product (or the research article +) will impact researchers, publishers and libraries.

“… the developing form of the scholarly article as published output encompasses a variety of non-textual forms of content (video, data, software methods, other media, etc.). Those elements will ultimately be packaged, presented, and preserved in a smart network of connections that more effectively meet the needs of specific communities. In such a smart network, is the traditional article still recognized as in the print environment? Not necessarily, and even the term “article” may be a misnomer of sorts. But whatever those packaged elements may be called, it is clear that STM publishers are thinking about what form the evolving scholarly record may take in science and in academia.”

Source: Emerging from the STM Meeting: 2015 Top Tech Trends by Jill O’Neill 4.27.2015

See the STM Tech Trends 2015 web site for more details.