Digital Humanities and Libraries: A Conceptual Model

A recent article in The Journal of Library Administration by Chris Alen Sula provides one of the first conceptual models expressing linking the work of academic libraries and digital humanists. From the abstract for the article, Digital Humanities and Libraries: A Conceptual Model:

Though there has been much discussion of the connection between libraries and digital humanities (on both sides), a general model of the two has not been forthcoming. Such a model would provide librarians with an overview of the diverse work of digital humanities (some of which they may already perform) and help identify pockets of activity through which each side might engage the other. This paper surveys the current locations of digital humanities work, presents a cultural informatics model of libraries and the digital humanities, and situaties digital humanities work within the user-centered paradigm of library and information science.

Chris’ article is part of a special issue in the Journal of Library Administration dedicated to DH and libraries.

The author uses the term ‘cultural informatics’ to describe the ways in which cultural heritage institutions such as libraries, museums, and archives create, manage, and organize information artifacts. These artifacts are often the sources for digital humanists work and the information librarians and other cultural institutions work with. In turn, the areas where DH and libraries overlap, complement or at times work in related areas describe the ‘conceptual model’:

Digital Humanities and Libraries: A Conceptual Model

Digital Humanities and Libraries: A Conceptual Model

One thing that struck me was that Chirs acknoledges that some of the leaders in the DH field might do more to address the roles of pedagogy. Below, Chris is referencing the National Endowment for the Humanities DH start-up grant criteria:

…explicit recognition of the role of pedagogy is absent from the criteria. Digital humanists are among the forefront of instructors using technologies to engage students in new forms of digital scholarship, communication, and dissemination of ideas.  Moreover, digital humanists are often responsible for training others in using particular tools or methods, particularly undergraduates, or for seeking instruction in those areas themselves. Most often, this has been left to extracurricular skill-shares or workshops in which digital humanists can “catch up” on the latest trends. These tasks are far beyond merely providing technological resources, a model that pervades many IT departments; they involve directed and creative uses of those resources, and the literacies required to sustain them. Libraries and librarians can fulfill a vital need here in supporting instructional technology and working with faculty to use technology more creatively in classroom settings.

Much of what Chris outlines here with respect to pedagogy was discussed at USF’s recent DH meet-up as issues that can be vexing but also ones that possibly shed some light on where we might want to go as the digital humanaties develops on our campus.

The article is available at  the Journal of Library Administration 53(1) (2013): 10–26.

2 thoughts on “Digital Humanities and Libraries: A Conceptual Model

  1. Glad to see you liked the article!

    I have to give a lot of credit to the Interactive Technology & Pedagogy program at CUNY, which I participated in–though not really as part of my PhD program. There is a journal run out of that department as well (, which has some examples you or the other meet-up participants might be interested in.

    • Hi Chris, Just took a quick tour of JiTP – excellent! I’m sure our growing DH group at USF will find it very useful, and I’ll pass along your link to our Center for Teaching Excellence folks as well (some, but not all of whom are in our DH group). Cheers!

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