Partnering in knowledge production: Roles for librarians in the digital humanities

By Emilia Bell and Dr. Mary Anne Kennan

A recent publication by Emilia Bell and Dr. Mary Anne Kennan in the Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association reviewed literature on roles for academic librarians in the digital humanities. It drew on literature from the digital humanities, academic librarianship, and critical librarianship.  The literature revealed shared values between librarianship and the humanities which are also related to the critical and theoretical foundations of the digital humanities. Critical librarianship provides a framework for roles that can contribute to knowledge production, not just to service provision.

Much of the literature on roles for librarians in the digital humanities is positioned within a North American geographic context, where academic librarians may have faculty status. This is different to that of Australian academic librarians who are typically considered professional or “non-academic” staff.  This difference in the status of librarians in different contexts may have an impact on not only librarians’ relationship with faculty, but how they engage with researchers and the presence of a library research culture.  Academic libraries where librarians are seen as “support staff,” and which adopt a service model where librarians are seen as helpful, enabling, and supportive, may see less involvement in truly collaborative partnerships than academic libraries where staff work in more collaborative or network models. Nonetheless, we discovered increased engagement of Australian academic libraries in the digital humanities, for example: Chitty and McRostie (2016), Verhoeven & Burrows (2015, 2016), Lewis & Neish (2016), and Trainer et al. (2017).

The findings of this review indicate that there are, indeed, roles for librarians in the digital humanities that can contribute to scholarly partnerships.   Further, contributing a critical librarianship framework can also work towards increasing representation and accessibility in digital humanities scholarship.

References

Bell, E. C., & Kennan M. A. (2021). Partnering in knowledge production: Roles for librarians in the digital humanities. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 70(2), 157-176. https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2021.1907886

Chitty, T., & McRostie, D. (2016). Better together: The ESRC in the university research library of the twenty-first century. The Australian Library Journal: The Library-Archive Confluence: The eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne, 65(3), 157–166. https://doi.org/10.1080/ 00049670.2016.1208714

Lewis, A., & Neish, P. (2016). Pathways, parallels and pitfalls: The scholarly web, the ESRC and linked open data. The Australian Library Journal: The Library-Archive Confluence: The eScholarship Research Centre, University of Melbourne, 65(3), 224–231. https://doi-org/10.1080/00049670.2016.1209075

Trainer, A., Hope, C., & Green, L. (2017). What is new, here? Locating an art form within the Western Australian New Music Archive. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 66(3), 231–248. https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2017.1355422

Verhoeven, D., & Burrows, T. (2015). Aggregating cultural heritage data for research use: The humanities networked infrastructure (HuNI) [Paper presentation] Research Conference on Metadata and Semantics Research, Manchester, England. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24129-6_36

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