Article Published in Faculty of Information Quarterly (F/IQ)

I originally prepared this paper for my graduate class Introduction to Digital Humanities in the spring of 2009. I underestimated the amount of work involved in re-working the paper, including the consideration and changes made based on my professor’s comments, changing the style from MLA to APA (a huge pain), writing an abstract and responding to the editors’ suggestions.

The main theme of the paper The Librarian as Digital Humanist: The Collaborative Role of the Research Library in Digital Humanities Projects grew out of class discussion on the collaborative nature of digital humanities works. The specific example involved the significant contribution of a computer programmer in the development of an online repository, and how the role of the programmer was essential to the project, rather than one of support to the scholars. IT staff are often relegated to a subservient role as technical support for academic projects; when the technical aspects of the projects are the defining features of the project as ‘new’ scholarship, this role needs to be redefined.

So I started thinking about the similar ‘support’ role of librarians and the library in general. Often the mission is to ‘support’ the research of students and faculty and not an active membership in the creation of research and ideas. So I wanted to explore why this is the case and if the role of the library can be one of active participation and initiative, rather than reactionary role to faculty requests and needs.

In my institution specifically, as a librarian I am not considered faculty. I also don’t think that having faculty-status on paper necessarily grants librarians equal status and respect as professors. However, I do think it is up to librarians and libraries to pursue partnerships in order to keep the library vibrant.

Recently, we had a professional development session on faculty learning communities, which was open to all staff. Interestingly, the strongest attendance was from the library and the educational technology department. An educational technology staff member acknowledged that they had attended because they felt strongly about their department’s role of supporting faculty teaching. I would argue that as the demand for educational technology rises, these departments play a significant role in teaching and content creation that goes beyond simply support for faculty. It is the skills that those in such departments possess that will influence the delivery of instructional content.

Of course, this means that these ancillary groups are highly interested in working with faculty. However, the lack of faculty presence at this initial meeting suggests that collaboration is not on the radar of most instructors.

The article can be found in the February/March 2010 issue of F/IQ, the Faculty of Information Quarterly, a graduate student journal at the University of Toronto.

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