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CFP: Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library | HASTAC

Call For Conference Proposals

Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library

June 20-22 2014, Charleston, SC

Guidelines for Submission
Lightning Round/Paper/Panel deadline: 01 December 2013
Workshop proposal deadline: 01 February 2014

General Information

“Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library,” sponsored by the South Carolina Digital Library, the College of Charleston and the Charleston Conference, invites submissions for its 2014 conference, on all aspects of digital humanities in the library. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Digital scholarship
  • Humanities & library collaborations on DH projects
  • GIS and/or data visualization projects
  • Text mining & data analysis
  • Digital humanities librarianship
  • Digital project management
  • Knowledge lifecycle, including production & collaboration
  • Creating or using tools & services for the production, editing and/or analysis of DH data
  • Metadata and linked data in DH

We particularly welcome collaborative panel and paper submissions from librarian and humanities scholar-based teams and/or graduate students. We strongly encourage any proposals relating to the theme of the conference.

CFP: Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library | HASTAC.


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Main Street Public Library Database – Ball State University

Main Street Public Library Database – Ball State University.

This is a database related to the  What Middletown Read digital collection.


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Unit 7 – Digital Humanities Centers and libraries as “Third Spaces.”

I found this 2008 report, A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States, on the Council of Library and Information Resources website. It is a massive document, describing the survey’s goals, methods, and findings, as well as identifying trends, issues, and placing DHCs in the broader context of other models, including the sciences. I can only pick out a few ideas to talk about here, but I recommend the report for anyone interested in the state of the digital humanities in the U.S.

The foreword to the report identifies DHCs –and libraries– as examples of

“interdisciplinary ‘third places’—a term sociologist Ray Oldenburg has used to identify a social space, distinct from home and workplace. Third places foster important ties and are critical to community life. Familiar examples are barbershops, beauty salons, and coffee shops where, in the age of wireless, we see tables of students hunched over laptops, textbooks, and notepads. The academic library plays a role similar to that of a third place, providing resources, seminar rooms, and collaborative work spaces. It probably should not surprise us that both centers and libraries are frequently cited as elements in the emerging cyberinfrastructure to support advanced research in the sciences, technology, and humanities.”

Such third spaces are an important part of the “emerging cyberinfrastructure” precisely because of the issues we have been identifying in class: the insular nature of traditional humanities research and reward structures, and institutional inertia or resistance. Thus “the centers, whether virtual or physical, effectively become safe places, hospitable to innovation and experimentation.” Such shared infrastructure “requires compromise, negotiation, and, ultimately, trust” since they are “cooperative social systems.” I think the idea of “trust” goes back to the way the humanities (and academic institutions in general) create cultural capital: and a new model is needed, one that values cooperative research, as in the sciences. The third space approach may be the beginning, as third spaces provide “safe” places outside disciplinary and institutional boundaries to forge new alliances and to foster trust, to forge new structures of cultural and academic value.

However, humanities funding and research structures/sources in the U.S. tend to work against the idea of a third space. DHCs are almost exclusively associated with universities in the U.S. The executive summary identifies the tendency for DHCs in the U.S. to be “silos” that, because they “favor individual projects that address specialized research interests,” do not “effectively leverage resources community-wide.” This silo effect is an “inefficient use of the scarce resources available to the humanities community,” and leaves these projects at risk for “being orphaned over time.” The executive summary concludes that “new models are needed for large-scale cyberinfrastructure projects” and suggests that “the sciences offer a useful framework. Large-scale collaborations in the sciences have been the subject of research that examines the organizational structures and behaviors of these entities and identifies the criteria needed to ensure their success. The humanities should look to this work in planning its own strategies for regional or national models of collaboration.”

Section 6.3 of the report suggests that regional and national centers will be a necessary future development for the digital humanities, since “the form of collaboration that takes place in today’s centers is also inadequate for future scholarship. The differences between the small-scale, narrowly focused collaborations common among DHCs, and the more coordinated, large-scale organizational collaborations characteristic of regional and national centers are more than just differences in size and degree. They involve wholly new processes of management, communication, and interaction.” Thus suggests that this  third space will become itself standardized and institutionalized (much like the internet itself as a third space) and require the development of a fourth space (as some researchers are now developing alternate internets). But I digress…..

The executive summary does not address where the funding for such regional and national models is to come from. In section 4.5.2 of the report, centers could often not account for all of their funding sources, which were a hodgepodge of grants, funding lines, and other sources. “It is, however, certain that universities, followed by grants and foundations, are the most frequently cited funding sources for centers.” So long as funding comes from such heterogeneous sources, and especially from universities whose narrow interests will dictate which projects get funded, it seems that a larger model will not be feasible. But getting funding on the state or national level will be difficult, given the current financial/fiscal crisis in this country. It seems that the European Union is ahead of the U.S. with their Europeana initiative (which is an immensely-scaled cyberinfrastructure project funded by the EU). Of course, if the EU goes broke bailing out its weaker members, perhaps all bets are off. But I think even the effort will have been worthwhile because of the way it has intensified the development of protocols and standards, and raised international awareness.

The report addresses the issue of motivation: many DHCs did not see the need for large-scale collaboration or regional/national centers. Section 6.4 asks, “As digital humanities computing becomes an integrative, multi-team endeavor, the motivations, support structures, and reward systems that make for successful collaboration become critically important. What aspects of collaboration may be critical to the success of regional or national centers?” (emphasis mine). The report suggests several aspects:

  • Compelling, Community-Wide Research Needs – examples such as digital preservation issues, developing repositories for digital collections, and the creation of large datasets
  • No Center Left Behind – clarification of the role of individual DHCs in the context of regional and national centers, so that current investment is not lost.
  • Trust as the Tie that Binds –  The ability to trust the level of prestige/cultutal capital associated with a center: Academic tenure-and-review committees have long been accused of failing to give credence to digital scholarship. Michael Shanks, codirector of the Stanford Humanities Lab, believes the reason for their hesitation is rooted in trust. These committees want to know if an individual on a team has done the work, or if he or she is simply riding on someone else’s coattails.The report suggests regional and national centers will confer more prestige and thus, more trust.
  • Individual Motivations – suggests that web 2.0 technologies to give feedback and confer prestige to contributors will help, since “reward systems that enhance the personal reputation of contributors are important.The report also suggests that structural motivations/requirements such as exist in the sciences will help (i.e., requiring the sharing of deposits of data in repositories as a prerequisite for publication and/or funding).
  • The Nature of the Work – “successful large-scale collaborations occur most frequently when the work is easily divided into components.”

So the report assesses where we currently are and suggests a needed direction; but it doesn’t really have much in the way of concrete suggestions except to look to the sciences for institutional and structural models. This is probably because it appears that the digital humanities are still building consensus that such regional and national centers are needed, and that such institutional and disciplinary changes are requisite.

Where does the library fit in?  The report refers to libraries as other examples of such “third spaces,” and  it seems that libraries as a whole are much more aware of and committed to developing such regional and national structures/centers. It seems that libraries can thus take the lead in developing such centers; which would put them squarely in the center of the developing cyberinfrastructure in the U.S. But the study’s author is not a librarian per se, but a museum specialist; according to the website, the report’s author, Diane M. Zorich, “is a cultural heritage consultant specializing in planning and managing the delivery of cultural information. Her clients include the J. Paul Getty Trust, the American Association of Museums, the Smithsonian Institution, RLG Programs/OCLC, and many other cultural organizations and institutions . . . . [She] has graduate degrees in anthropology and museum studies.”  So libraries need to really work on developing such resources and connections with cultural organizations in order to make this work.

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IRLS 765 Unit 2 – reviewing content management solutions

We were asked to skim a special issue of Library Hi Tech on content management systems (Vol. 24, issue 1, 2006), pick an article, summarize it, and discuss it.

First a few notes about the special issue: almost all the articles contained case studies of libraries and their processes in selecting a CMS system (either open-source, proprietary, or developed in-house), and then implementing that system. I was rather dismayed to find that most of the libraries large and small ended up developing a CMS in-house, because other systems were either too expensive, not flexible enough, or would require the library to jettison too many established workflows and/or already-built in software. The reason this dismays me is that designing and installing a custom CMS in almost every case took extensive programming knowledge and resources outside of the library staff. That tells me that although librarians are increasingly expected to be involved in designing and selecting CMS for their libraries, and although there are many CMS packages out there, implementing a workable CMS without significant outside help is still far beyond the capabilities/resources of most library staff.

For example, Matt Benzing’s article “Luwak: a content management solution” documents how the Rensselaer Research Libraries in Troy, New York, were able to adapt and extend a piece of software that had already been developed at its associated institution, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Prior to adapting that software, the libraries had been using DreamWeaver to develop its web pages, which provided some “design consistency” but did not provide enough flexibility in content management nor enough access control to avoid the occasional “misstep by a librarian new to HTML” resulting in the accidental erasure or overwriting of web pages (9). The software that they adapted, an “XML-based application” named Luwak, had already been developed elsewhere at the institution “as a solution to the problem of how to adapt web pages for users of PDAs and other handheld devices without having to maintain multiple copies of the same information.”  This software already contained the types of functionality the library staff were looking for, but just needed to be extended to the particular uses of the library.

Luwak was implemented using open-source software, written in Java and utilizing a MySQL database. It had already been deployed to manage the campus newsletters and a campus-wide information system. Its ability to control content creation and site maintenance through user roles, to separate content from format and reformat content on the fly, to validate content before posting to the site, and to allow timed updates made it useful for the library as well. The developers were not the librarians, but the technical staff at the Institute; the IT librarian developed the style sheets for the site.  Since the new system resided on a separate server, they were able to develop the new library site in Luwak without disturbing the old site. The other librarians were quickly on board with the switch, as most of them just wanted to generate content and did not want to be involved with the formatting or site design. The implementation and switch over went smoothly. The article concludes that “Further work needs to be done on providing a useful on the fly stylesheet for handheld devices, and in exploiting some of the design and functionality capabilities of the system, such as providing collapsible hierarchies of links, multiple page skins, and the importation of library news bulletins into an RSS feed. The website as it now stands is more flexible, efficient, and consistent than it has ever been” (13).

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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, Library science, SIRLS 675

Unit 12: Project Management

I knew very little about the burgeoning theory and practice of project management until this week’s readings. I learned about “project management body of knowledge” (PMBOK) containing policies and best practices, and the most common project management models. The readings I found most useful were:

  • Cervone’s Project Risk Management” – for its clear description of various categories of risk and how to assess and manage it. I found the risk matrix a very useful idea.
  • Cervone’s “Making Decisions: Methods for Digital Library Project Teams” – for its analysis of what inhibits teams from making decisions and how to overcome that reluctance.
  • Keil’s “Pulling the Plug: Software Project Management and the Problem of Project Escalation” – for its cringe-inducing portrait of a project development trainwreck, along with an analysis of what went wrong and why the project was continued long after it was obvious that it was not going to be successful. Talk about a cautionary tale!
  •  McDonough’s “Cross-Functional Teams” – for its interesting and useful literature review about what makes cross-functional teams successful (and the converse).



1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Third Edition.

2.  Cervone,  H.F.   “Making  Decisions:  Methods  for  Digital  Library  Project  Teams.” International Digital  Library Perspectives, v21n1 (2006):  pp.  30-­‐35.

3.  Cervone,  H.  F.  “Project risk management.”  OCLC  Systems  &  Services,  22  (4),  256-­‐262.

4.  Keil,  Mark  (1995). “Pulling  the  Plug: Software  Project  Management and the Problem of Project Escalation.”  MIS Quarterly, v19n4, pp  421-­‐447.

5. McDonough  III,  Edward  (2000). Investigation of Factors Contributing to the Success of Cross-Functional Teams.  J  Prod Innov Manag (2000): 17:221-235.

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Filed under Project Management, SIRLS 672