The digital humanities (DH) are attracting considerable attention and funding at the same time that this nascent field strives for an identity. Some research libraries are committing significant resources to creating DH centers. But questions about whether such an investment is warranted persist across the cultural heritage community.
In this essay, Jennifer Schaffner and Ricky Erway suggest many ways to respond to the needs of digital humanists, and creating a DH center is appropriate in relatively few circumstances. They also share examples of successful collaborations with DH, but caution that one size does not fit all.
- In most settings, it is best to observe what DH academics are already doing and then set out to address gaps. This may include:
- package existing collections and services as a "virtual DH center"
- advocate coordinated support for digital scholarship across the parent institution
- create avenues for scholarly use and enhancement of metadata
- consult scholars at the beginning of library digitization projects
- get involved in planning for sustainability and preservation of DH research results
- commit to a DH center.
- A "DH-friendly" environment may be more effective than a DH center.
- Library culture may need to evolve in order for librarians to be seen as effective DH partners.
This essay is intended to prepare research library directors and other decision-makers to respond to questions from deans or provosts who may ask what the library is doing about the digital humanities. It discusses specific concerns of digital humanists and ties these to decisions that might be made by directors, in hopes of bridging the gap between how library directors and DH researchers think about the library's role in digital humanities.