#alt-LIS OR The Question of the Hybrarian OR What is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in the Library?

{Inspired by the recent JISC article “Does the Library have a role to play in the Digital Humanities?“}

librarian pin


I’m a librarian. Sort of. Well, not really. I mean, I work in a research library, I have the MLIS degree (union card) and its part of my job title. But, in the three real months that I’ve been officially employed I’ve not once assisted a patron, I am only truly familiar with the databases and research assistance at my library from my time as a student there, and I do NONE of the typical librarian day-to-day tasks – reference (virtual or face-to-face), departmental liaising, book/journal buying, vendor-negotiating, database culling, collection development, etc. Nada. And it looks like it could be that way for a while.

Which brings me around to the title of this post, which I blatantly borrowed(ripped off) from Bethany Nowviskie’s “#alt-ac,” a term many of us may be familiar with. In defining my involvement in the future of librarianship, I am constantly questioning the role of the library in the digital humanities, one I am interested in professionally, or broader on a ‘digital campus.’ We could go 100 different directions here, but I’ll recall a session I proposed at THATCamp CHNM last year – in light of McMastergate, the fact that the majority of fellowships in DH are post-docs who are placed in libraries, and that I am a hacktivist at heart: what is the role of the LIBRARIANΒ in the nitty gritty work of digital humanities, and more importantly, is the training matching the needs of the field? Further, when and how will the DH community begin to advocate for alt-LISers and offer fellowships or support to MLIS students in Scholarly Communications, Data Management, Digital Archives or other areas of import in which the community needs qualified individuals? What steps does Library Land need to take to fully join and develop these “collaborative partnerships” with the DHers? Or can it ever be, since library science education broadly trains ALL types of librarians?

To many in the history field and in libraries, it is unclear what the role of the library should be in digital humanities. This is not to imply that there is no role for libraries – only that this role has not yet been widely developed and adopted effectively. Libraries remain very much in transition when it comes to expanding models for supporting research on campus. – RSS4S History Project Interim Report

A colleague of mine often half jokes that librarianship as a whole suffers from an inferiority complex. I’m trying actively to avoid that in my work, and hope this doesn’t come off that way. I’m definitely not trying to stake out a turf war for the soul of the library. I suppose I am hoping to better define my own position as a pseudo-librarian in an evolving digital landscape of library services, and how that will fit with my interests in digital humanities. I’d also like to broach the topic for discussion, especially with our Emory DiSC Colleagues in town, as they seem to have worked out some productive ways of addressing the “Librarian in DH.”

Some readings to consult:

Ps. What work have I been doing, you ask? Open Access Public Policy advocacy, institutional repository management, Outreach and Education on open access, digital scholarship and author’s rights, and holding lots of meetings with lawyers concerning copyright, fair use and intellectual property. Nothing I was trained to do in library school. πŸ˜‰

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , |

About Micah Vandegrift

I'm the Digital Scholarship Coordinator at Florida State University. I like BBQ, movies, and hiking/camping. Mostly, I like digital scholarshipping.

2 Responses to #alt-LIS OR The Question of the Hybrarian OR What is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in the Library?

  1. Micah,

    What an excellent idea for a session. Someone asked me yesterday if I identified as a librarian, and I said that I didn’t think so. Of course, it then becomes difficult to communicate to people outside of the library community what I do.

  2. Jason says:

    Micah, I’m really interested in this discussion — looking forward to meeting you and talking about this stuff!

Comments are closed.