This post is a joint contribution from myself and my colleague Kate (@katecbyrne). We are presenting a BoF (Birds of a Feather) session at the E-Research Australasia Conference at the end of October where we hope to spark debate with our topic “E-Research and Libraries: A Perfect Partnership?”. We recognise this is at times a controversial space and the background to our approach is described in full in our abstract on the conference website & partially reproduced here:
Libraries have had long histories with many of the challenges facing e-research including interoperability, metadata creation, sustainability and ensuring that systems meet the needs of client communities. By earmarking academic and research libraries as potential collaborators for e-research projects, both researchers and libraries can maximise limited budgets and draw from the complementary expertise of both sectors. This includes capitalising on existing librarianship knowledge bases such as classification, metadata schemas, ontologies, taxonomies and thesauri. Many of the demands of data management and respository services are similar to the demands of information management, the heartland of librarianship. However, potential benefits increase as other departments within an academic or research library are involved, allowing libraries to capitalise on existing relationships with researchers and exploit the library’s interdisciplinary focus and knowledge of projects, policies and networks across the university.
These partnerships are not without challenges. Libraries often have limited budgets which are allocated carefully to meet a broad range of needs across the university. They often cannot offer financial support or vast amounts of server space for data storage and as such independant project funding must often be secured. Not all libraries are comfortable in the e-research space and leaders in this field are still experimenting. There are parts of the e-research space such as respositories and bibliometrics in which libraries are more established; though fields such as research data management are undergoing rapid development.
A brief literature review reveals that for many academic or research libraries, e-research services have tended to cluster around repositories, either creating them as products or providing technical support. Several libraries also appear to be offering services exploring e-literacy for research. However, few have been identified as wholistically linking e-research services to the strategic aims of the library.
Now here’s where you come in. We recognise that there are many different arrangements in the e-research space and we would like to hear from librarians and researchers who have been working in the e-research space and are willing to share their perspective on library/e-research partnerships. We have three questions on which we are keen to crowd source opinions as conversation starters:
- What are the benefits of libraries or librarians getting involved in e-research projects?
- What are the challenges of libraries or librarians getting involved in e-research projects?
- Is the library involved in e-research initiatives at your university or research institution?
Please also let us know if you are willing to be identified with your quote. If you would prefer for yourself and/or your institution to remain anonymous please let us know if you are willing for us to describe your institution (eg. a mid-sized regional university) and how you would like us to do so. Leave your answers in the comments, or contact either one of us (@newgradlib or @katecbyrne) to get email details.
Thank you for your involvement and we hope to have you join in the conversation at our session if you are attending the conference.
Kate and Clare
In casual conversation at morning tea on the final day, Professor John Unsworth of Brandeis University in the USA (one of the keynote speakers at the conference and vice provost for Library & Technology Services at Brandeis) said he thought there was a role for libraries to be represented at a much higher level. In his opinion, the participation rate of the LIS sector at the international Digital Humanities conferences is much higher.
The conference participants list outlined delegate’s institutions, not their affiliation within that institution so it is difficult to tell what representation there was from the LIS sector. My sense is that the audience was overwhelmingly academics – stumbling upon other LIS sector representatives was luck rather than management.
I turned to twitter (as I often do) and asked
Morning tea chat with Prof JohnUnsworth Brandeis University – he says international DH conference has up to 1/3 LIS delegates?
Some GLAM representation here but overwhelmingly academic presence, lib tweeps, what barriers were there for you in coming?
I didn’t get a lot of response to this – but the responses I did get were around awareness. It’s an emerging field in librarianship, I get that. Although I had done some reading on digital humanities before heading to Canberra, it is the reading I’ve done in this area since that has crystalised some of the concepts for me.
Like any good LIS professional, I began with a google search and after reading many, many forum postings, blog posts, conference presentations and journal article abstracts I found this from the wikipedia entry:
The digital humanities is an area of research, teaching, and creation concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Developing from an earlier field called humanities computing, today digital humanities embrace a variety of topics ranging from curating online collections to data mining large cultural data sets. Digital Humanities currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from the traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics,literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining, statistics, computational analysis) and digital publishing.
Being a humanities librarian at the moment, I guess it’s natural that my specific interest is in this area, but through another project I am doing with a colleague I’m beginning to examine e-research and the role of libraries in a wider context.
I told you much of this month’s #blogjune will be about data.