ACRL ESS Forum at ALA Annual Conference 2019
At this year’s ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC, the ACRL European Studies Section, in collaboration with colleagues from Library of Congress and support from the Digital Scholarship Section, held a panel of digital humanities (DH) experts to discuss international trends, ongoing projects and initiatives in European Studies, as well as perspectives from researchers in the field. The goal of this program was to raise awareness and to encourage cooperation among scholars and librarians in DH and European Studies librarians.
Edward Vanhoutte (University College of London Centre for Digital Humanities), the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, presented on the topic “Of associations and journals. How OA could ruin the Digital Humanities.” In his talk, Vanhoutte emphasized the pivotal role of associations and journals in the development of the field we now know as “Digital Humanities.” While DH is often linked to figures such as Andrew Booth, Warren Weaver, Roberto Busa, and John Ellison, he starts the narrative of DH with events such as the founding of the Literary & Linguistic Computing Centre at Cambridge University in 1964; the 6 regional conferences sponsored by IBM in the US on the role of the computer in humanistic research in 1964-1965; and the 1966 ALPAK report in which the US government stated that machine learning should become computer linguistics. These early activities coalesced into professional organizations, such as the Association for Literary & Linguistic Computing (ALLC) in 1973 and the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) in 1978, which in 2006 united under a common umbrella, the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), and have since been joined by eight other organizations worldwide. These associations both produced important, long-running journals that provided a focal point for work in these areas and played a large role in shaping the field. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities (DSH), is the longest running DH journal and the official journal of ADHO. There has been a lot of pressure from authors, funding agencies, and even governmental agencies to change it to an Open Access model. However, he (and its publisher, Oxford University Press) has resisted turning DSH into an Open Access journal for many reasons, including that DSH is currently the only source of funding for important scholarly activities such as ADHO conferences and the journal itself. According to Vanhoutte, removing DSH as a major source of funding for ADHO conferences and activities would ruin DH on a global scale.
Abigail Potter (Library of Congress) is a Senior Innovation Specialist with the Library of Congress Digital Innovation Lab. In her presentation on “Digital Scholarship informing a Digital Strategy,” she spoke about the work of the Library of Congress in supporting use of their collections and in investing in events and outreach. The primary motivations at the LoC are to maximize the collection, ensure the stability of the LoC, and stay relevant and connected. There are many projects working with their Digital Innovation Lab, and scholars are creating resources on-site. However, only a small portion of the LoC’s collections can be accessed in online or in computable formats, and there are a lot of requests that cannot be satisfied at present. Her recommendations are that investing in collections is essential, with the first step to provide item-level and rights-level metadata and services that are ready to use them.
Glen Worthey is the Digital Humanities, Philosophy, and Linguistics Librarian at Stanford University, and he spoke about “International Infrastructures & Institutions: The Digital Humanities in Europe, America, & Beyond.” He also overviewed the history of DH organizations, publications, and infrastructures such as ADHO and DARIAH (the European Community-based “Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities”) around the world, emphasizing that “big tent” DH is about inclusivity and not excluding those who practice DH in its wide variety of forms. After 2012, there was a rapid increase in DH organizations around the world. One main difference in the North American and European approaches is that European DH has more protocols and bureaucracy. One new organization is the ADHO Special Interest Group GO::DH, “Global Outlook for DH,” representing those in geographic areas without formal DH organizations (and which is currently in the process of becoming a formal ADHO Constituent Organization). Unlike most of the geographically-based ADHO organizations, GO::DH is more like centerNet, an organizational home for DH centers and organizations around the world. Also, non-ADHO DH activities such as THATCamp, and organizations such as HASTAC, are proving to be effective at encouraging DH work. The European organization DARIAH, with its emphasis on infrastructure for research, recently held three workshops in the US and Australia; one main finding was that DH needs to move beyond the English language world and to be more reflective of the “Global South.”
All presenters emphasized the importance of communication and collaboration among librarians and institutions in different geographic regions and scholarly fields in serving the needs of scholars working in humanistic digital scholarship. While all speakers work at major libraries and scholarly institutions, they all touched on the need to move beyond serving only a particular subset of users and to reach beyond national borders and boundaries to support work on an international scale. While not all of the panelists specifically foregrounded non-English language resources, that is an area of immense interest to ESS members, given the strongly international character of the global DH community, its efforts in the Global South and its longstanding committee work on multilingualism and multiculturalism.
Kathleen Smith, PhD, MLS
Stanford University Libraries