Thursday, October 28, 2010

Digital Humanities and Humanities Librarianship

Hitoshi Kamada has written an excellent article titled, "Digital Humanities, roles for libraries?" in the latest issue of College & Research Libraries News.  Kamada's points out that in addition to digital versions of scholarly works being created,  the "electronic environment is presenting new opportunities to analyzing information for humanities research with the help of computational media."  For example:

"Computer assisted analysis allows researchers to gather and analyze a large amount of data, which would otherwise be too time-consuming by human work, and can help find unexpected relationships among variables in this data, which might have been overlooked by manual analysis. It allows researchers to look at data in different ways. Text, which is meant to be read from beginning to end, can be sliced and diced to be examined from any angle. And, the digital application is not just about text data. Other media such as visual objects and data mapped on Geographic Information Systems can be electronically analyzed, synthesized, and presented, or combined with other types of data, for many disciplines, such as art and archeology."

Text mining is another popular software application that can be the "subject of systematic data analysis." 

The role of librarians is intrical to this process:

"These kinds of research involve not just the knowledge of relevant computer applications but also often skills and knowledge in collecting and organizing data, in which librarians have unique training and background. What is the best possible way to extract relevant text information on the Internet and organize and convert it to the format suitable for an analysis? How are elusive conversations on social networks captured? What is the best approach to digitizing this classical document for a particular kind of analysis? What would be possible metadata to effectively classify or describe art objects for this research project?"

How can librarians help researchers with their individual research projects? Kamada asks, "Can librarians provide support for collecting and organizing data in a way suited to a particular research project and perhaps even help put the collected data into digital archives in a reusable format and possibly facilitate collaboration with other researchers?"  Librarians need to play a greater role in providing access to primary sources.  The repurposing of data in a variety of formats in order to be analyzed is a challenge.

How do librarians acquire this special knowledge and training?  New librarians may have acquired this knowledge from their SLIS.  Older librarians would need to enroll in summer classes such as the courses being offered by the The Digital Humanities Summer Institute. 

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