Digital Humanities and/in/with the Digital Library Federation

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This guest post is provided by the co-conveners of the “Libraries and Digital Humanities” Special Interest Group of the international Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (see full list below).

Connect with the ADHO LIB&DH SIG at the DLF Forum! Find them on Monday at “Beyond ‘One Org to Rule Them All’: Organizing Digital Humanities & Library Communities” and the Poster Session and Lightning Round, and on Tuesday at the Digital Humanities and Libraries Meetup.

To begin at (or near) the beginning: libraries have, for many decades now, offered a welcoming home to digital humanities practice and practitioners, and DH has likewise long loved its libraries.  

But where should the library / DH collaboration reside organizationally? What is the nature of the professional ties that bind us together? How can we best organize ourselves and our libraries to help DH thrive in them? These are big and important questions, probably without right or wrong answers; yet we want to act thoughtfully and intentionally as we address them.[pullquote1 align=”right”]What is the nature of the professional ties that bind us together? How can we best organize ourselves and our libraries to help DH thrive in them? [/pullquote1]

Many in the DLF community, including especially our current director Bethany Nowviskie (and, to be clear, many of her predecessors as well), have been deeply engaged “dual citizens” in both the DH and the digital library worlds for decades, though without explicit organizational links between the two worlds. We believe that our communities are now readier than ever to embrace this dual citizenship in more dedicated, practical, and fruitful ways.

But let’s step outside the DLF for a few paragraphs. This past summer of 2015, the international Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO) established the “Libraries and Digital Humanities” Special Interest Group (Lib&DH SIG), with conveners from five different countries.

Among this new SIG’s goals are to offer advice and support to librarians engaged in digital humanities pursuits; to advocate for initiatives of interest and benefit to both libraries and digital humanities; to document how librarians and library-based units meet the many challenges, and take advantage of the many opportunities, of DH librarianship; to provide information about available resources and opportunities (e.g., training, funding) that encourage collaboration between DH scholars in a variety of roles, especially in libraries; to showcase the work of librarians engaged in the digital humanities; and to promote librarians’ perspectives and skills in the greater DH community worldwide.

DH is much older than most people imagine, and ADHO itself is an alliance of the oldest and most prominent international DH professional societies on the globe. It was created by joint agreement of a European organization founded in 1973, and a North American one founded 1978, which have been meeting jointly in annual conferences since 1990.

At present, ADHO includes six constituent organizations headquartered not only in Europe and the U.S., but also Canada, Japan, and Australia, the membership of which lives and works in scores of countries around the globe.

This is what ADHO brings to the table where libraries and DH meet: in addition to the shared library and DH values that define us explicitly, we also seek to uphold a long set of DH traditions and a deeply international ethos.

But we all realize that our ADHO Lib&DH Special Interest Group is not the only game in town. Far from it.

Those of us sitting at the DH and library table have a stunning array of established organizations to graze among: not only are there alliances of organizations (like ADHO), and federations of associations (like IFLA); but also associations and federations of individuals (like ALA) and of libraries (like ACRL) or libraries and other GLAM institutions (like DLF). To add some delicious complexity and subtlety, this organizational alphabet soup is infused with many different DH-focused special interest groups and communication venues.

What are the best sorts of relationships we in these sister organizations should foster? When we consider all of our various strengths and resources, our diverse challenges and tasks, our distinct institutional and organizational and national cultures, is the common ground we share, that “DH in libraries, and libraries in DH” essence, enough to unite us effectively? These, too, are big questions without obvious answers.

[pullquote1]We do know one thing for certain: to take our alphabet soup motif just one step further, DLF & the ADHO Lib&DH SIG are destined to be BFFs![/pullquote1] But we do know one thing for certain: to take our alphabet soup motif just one step further, DLF & the ADHO Lib&DH SIG are destined to be BFFs! We in the ADHO SIG have long dreamt of a special, and an especially strong, relationship with DLF, and are immensely gratified that this desire has been mutual: it seems only natural.

And we want the relationship to be more substantive and active than mere mutual admiration, and more intentional than a simple overlapping membership (which we already have in spades).  No, this relationship needs to be strengthened with appropriate and effective organizational structures, lean and robust governance models, and inspired working metaphors for our shared digital library and DH efforts.

At this year’s DLF Forum we’ll certainly bask in the collegial DH and library fellowship we’ve felt for years in this community. But we’ll also begin talking (and working) through some of the knottier questions.

We’re very glad to be here, and hope you’ll all join in the conversations.

The conveners of the ADHO Lib&DH Special Interest Group

Zoe Borovsky, UCLA (USA)
Angela Courtney, Indiana University, Bloomington (USA)
Isabel Galina Russell, UNAM (Mexico)
Stefanie Gehrke, Biblissima, Campus Condorcet (France)
Hege Stensrud Høsøien, Norwegian National Library (Norway)
Sarah Potvin, Texas A&M University (USA)
Thomas Stäcker, Herzog August Library (Germany)
Glen Worthey, Stanford University (USA)