New Directions for Digital Collections at Academic Libraries

by Mark Dahl

Originally published 23 September 2013

Digital collections at academic libraries have come of age. College and university libraries have invested in digital collections since the early 2000s, and they are now an established function of the library organization. At U.S. liberal arts colleges, it’s almost a given that the library hosts unique digital collections and has some kind of formal program supporting them. As I will argue, however, it is time for academic libraries to seize new opportunities around digital collections that add value to the process of learning and scholarship.

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The ERIAL Project: Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries

by Andrew Asher, Lynda Duke and David Green (Originally Posted May 17th, 2010) 

About the Authors

  • Andrew Asher is the Lead Research Anthropologist for the ERIAL project. Asher holds a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Illinois and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Poland, Germany, and the United States.
  • Lynda Duke is Associate Professor, Academic Outreach Librarian in The Ames Library, Illinois Wesleyan University. Duke is the Lead Research Librarian for the ERIAL Project IWU Team.
  • Dave Green is Associate University Librarian for Collections and Information Services in the Ronald Williams Library at Northeastern Illinois University. Green is the Project Manager for the ERIAL Project.  

Introduction Librarians and teaching faculty often think they know how students conduct their research and many have specific ideas on how students ought to conduct their research. However, with the increased ability to access information online and the corresponding changes in libraries, the question of what actually happens between the time a student receives a class assignment and when he or she turns in the final product to a professor is especially compelling, and one that is not as straightforward as it first appears.

Two years ago, five Illinois institutions (Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), DePaul University, Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS)), began working together to investigate this issue. The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project was organized around the following research question:

What do students actually do when they are assigned a research project for a class assignment and what are the expectations of students, faculty and librarians of each other with regard to these assignments?

The primary goal of this study is to trigger reforms in library services to better meet students’ needs. Traditionally, academic libraries have designed library services and facilities based on information gleaned from user surveys, usage data, focus groups, and librarians’ informal observations. While such tools are valuable, this project employed more user-centered methods to form holistic portraits of student behavior and needs, directly resulting in changes to library services and resources. Continue reading

Launching the Digital Humanities Movement at Washington and Lee University: A Case Study

Barry, Knudson, Youngman, SprenkleBy Jeff Barry, Associate Professor and Associate University Librarian, Julie Knudson, Director of Academic Technologies, Sara Sprenkle, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Paul Youngman, Associate Professor of German

 

 

Abstract: This paper offers a case history of the development of digital humanities (DH) at Washington and Lee University. We will focus on how we informally and then formally implemented DH, especially the meshing of the various partner constituencies, the design of our program as it has evolved over time, and the technological environment within which we are supporting DH. We will conclude with an analysis and evaluation of our work in progress and detail our short term and long term future.

Keywords: digital humanities, collaboration, information technologies, library

Introduction

We faced a challenge at Washington and Lee University (W&L) in the summer of 2012: how does one start a movement – in this case, amovement in the digital humanities (DH). The state of DH on campus at that time is best expressed by Suzanne Keen (then interim dean of the college, now dean):

Everybody was working independently, and didn’t really even know about one another’s projects. I felt that if you said “Digital Humanities,” that relatively few W&L faculty would have any idea what that even meant (Suzanne Keen, e-mail message to author, March 11, 2014).

Her vision for the end state of a DH program on campus is compelling. She foresees DH permeating the curriculum widely and gaining broad acceptance among faculty, staff, and students. Moreover, she foresees liberal arts graduates who are information fluent, able to work with digital artifacts, and for whom working with large data sets is a matter of course. The difficulty we face is building a bridge from the current state of DH as Dean Keen describes it to her exciting vision.

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