Tag Archives: libraries

Bursary helps winner gain Erasmus funding and secure a new role

Sarah Ames
Library Learning Services Support Officer
University of Edinburgh

Digital Humanities Congress 2018 – UCISA report

I was fortunate to be funded by UCISA to attend DHC2018 in Sheffield this year – the UK’s biennial digital humanities conference, which draws together a range of researchers, cultural heritage professionals and IT support workers.

Why DHC2018?

With the increasing use of computational methods in academic studies, research and teaching requires new modes of IT and library support, as well as new approaches to dealing with data: traditional divisions between technical services and libraries are conflated, leading to new ways of working and new areas to support.
I wanted to attend this conference to find out more about digital humanities research currently underway, and to learn about the new technologies, methods and approaches that characterise the field. The event provided an opportunity to hear from researchers and students working in this field to learn about their needs, as well as the chance to learn from other IT and library professionals, to share ideas, solutions and current best practice. Furthermore, I wanted to further understand the collaborative nature of digital humanities work, and how it could provide opportunities for Edinburgh’s converged library and IT services (‘Information Services Group’).

Professional development

The huge range of papers presented at the conference – from vast, collaborative research projects, to smaller individual studies – and the range of methods and technologies used by researchers, reiterated the many challenges and opportunities of this area for libraries and IT support.
The conference has inspired me to learn more about many of the tools and technologies being used, and to consider uses for these within the library, and as such has been a brilliant CPD opportunity – as it has helped me to identify even more CPD opportunities! Talking to people at DHC2018 highlighted other conferences in this area that I’d like to attend, and papers using programming languages such as Python and discussing issues cleaning large datasets have encouraged me to revisit and further my understanding of these topics. Furthermore, the event enabled me to meet other library and information professionals, including from Oxford and the British Library, and to discuss the similar challenges we all face, as well as to gain a greater understanding of researchers’ needs when accessing and using library and IT resources.

Sharing the experience

As well as testing my succinctness with tweeting from the event, UCISA encouraged me to blog about the event, which proved to be a really useful experience as this provided a useful opportunity to reflect on the main topics of the conference and sort through the wide range of topics presented.
Despite the variety of studies, a number of key themes emerged within the papers presented and discussions afterwards, enabling me to apply the topics at the conference directly back to work and discussions currently underway in the Library at Edinburgh University about how digital scholarship should be supported and considering potential uses of our new Digital Scholarship Centre.
Furthermore, the event has inspired a group of us from Edinburgh University to apply for and secure Erasmus funding to visit library ‘labs’ setups in the Netherlands (library labs are spaces – physical or digital, or both – which encourage and support the innovative use of library digital collections), to learn even more about how we can support the types of digital humanities research presented at DHC2018. And, as of 2019, I’ll be starting a new job working in digital scholarship and libraries: this has been a brilliant opportunity to learn more about the field and its challenges.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of an international view of humanities digital content

Sarah Ames
Library Learning Services Support Officer
University of Edinburgh

DHC2018 part 1: some key themes

I was fortunate to receive bursary funding this year from UCISA to attend DHC2018 (Digital Humanities Congress – not to be mistaken with the 16th International Symposium on District Heating and Cooling, which tops the Google results). DHC is a biennial conference organised by The Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield, exploring digital humanities research, as well as its implications for the cultural heritage sector and IT support services.
In this first blog post, I’m going to list the key themes raised at the conference and in my next post, I’ll summarise some of the papers that I found particularly interesting.

Digitisation

This one isn’t new: without digitised content (and digitised content at scale), libraries’ DH offerings begin to fall short. While, in some academic libraries, DH tools and skills will become a key focus, ultimately, without making available collections, content, or data to interest researchers, partnerships with digital projects becomes problematic.

Data

One paper (Bob Shoemaker’s ‘Lessons from the Digital Panopticon’) discussed a project bringing together 50 datasets to trace the lives of individuals convicted at the Old Bailey; another drew together 4 different library datasets, to investigate the provenance of manuscripts; many others reflected on similar experiences. As libraries look to release collections as data, considering the most appropriate and accessible formats for these will be important. The need to bring together a mix of data types, formats and models, and often ‘bespoke’ formats, complying with no particular standard, is a barrier to research, requiring technical skills that most don’t have.

Global DH

A number of papers raised the issue of the ease of slipping into a Western-focused digital humanities, to the detriment of the field itself. With web and programming languages written largely in English, the focus of research, and particularly of text analysis, has been predominantly English-language. With papers focusing on Asia and Australasia, the global view of DH produces plenty to learn from – with much for libraries to consider, particularly in the relationship between libraries and DH in other cultures and countries.

Sustainability

A repeated issue raised in talks was the sustainability of DH projects going forwards – particularly in relation to web platforms. How are these projects to be maintained post-project completion, and who is responsible for this? What kind of documentation, languages and platforms can be used to assist with, and standardise, this? Is a website an output or a transient resource? How can library and IT services support this?

Funding

Of course, a major part of sustainability is funding: funding models need to meet the cost of web resources over time; not maintain their current short-term focus. The possibilities of crowdfunding to enable ongoing access to tools were raised, but ultimately this remains too fragile a source to rely on.

Digital preservation

With these exciting new platforms and tools becoming part of research outputs, the challenge of how to preserve them becomes ever more pertinent. Unusual data formats; new, innovative research using AR; and the function, importance and relevance of the front end of a website, in comparison to the data it surfaces, are all issues and challenges that need to be considered by libraries.

Publishers

Gale launched their new DH tool, sitting on top of their platforms, enabling researchers to analyse their content at scale without the use or in-depth knowledge of manual computational methods. Although raising issues of ease of use – while this is important to increase accessibility, an understanding of what the tools are doing under the surface remains important, particularly in relation to built-in biases – the platform looked good, and is currently in its early stages. However, this emphasises just how much work libraries have on their hands. With both the content and the tools increasingly in the domain of publishers, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
This blog first appeared in the University of Edinburgh’s Library & University Collections blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.