SPEC Kit 326: Digital Humanities  · 11
Executive Summary
The ARL escience survey in 2009 confirmed how
profoundly and quickly technology has transformed
research in the sciences. Research in the humanities
is being transformed as well. Digital humanities is
an emerging field which employs computer-based
technologies with the aim of exploring new areas of
inquiry in the humanities. Practitioners in the digital
humanities draw not only upon traditional writing
and research skills associated with the humanities,
but also upon technical skills and infrastructure. A
number of research institutions host digital scholar-
ship centers or otherwise provide services to help re-
searchers design, produce, disseminate, and maintain
digital projects. These centers are often, but not always,
located in libraries and incorporate library staff or ser-
vices into their core programming. Other institutions
provide similar services in a less centralized manner.
Some services target specific disciplines; others are
multidisciplinary. Some institutional initiatives, such
as George Mason University’s Center for History and
New Media, are well established, while others are still
in the planning phase.
This survey was specifically interested in digi-
tal scholarship centers or services that support the
humanities (e.g., history, art, music, film, literature,
philosophy, religion, etc.) The purpose of the survey
was to provide a snapshot of research library experi-
ences with these centers or services and the benefits
and challenges of hosting them. It explored the orga-
nization of these services, how they are staffed and
funded, what services they offer and to whom, what
technical infrastructure is provided, whether the li-
brary manages or archives the digital resources pro-
duced, and how services are assessed, among other
questions. The survey was conducted between April
11 and May 13, 2011. Sixty-four of the 126 ARL mem-
bers completed this survey for a response rate of 51%.
Ad Hoc Nature of Service
While a great many of the responding libraries do offer
support for digital humanities, the survey indicates
that they are still developing systematic policies and
staffing models for this type of project. In many cases,
libraries are piecing together resources from many
departments to meet demand as it arises. A number
of respondents described their digital humanities sup-
port as “a work in progress” or “in development.”
Libraries are likewise developing staffing proce-
dures to meet patrons’ needs. While some libraries
have staff dedicated to digital humanities, others call
on IT staff and librarians as needs arise. Respondents
repeatedly described librarians’ roles in digital hu-
manities projects as “ad hoc.” A number of respon-
dents indicated that their institutions were waiting
to determine the full level and complexity of demand
before fully staffing support for digital humanities.
Major Trends
While most respondents provide services supporting
digital humanities projects, only five (8%) reported
that their library hosts a center specifically dedicated
to the field. Almost half of the respondents (30 or 48%)
provide ad hoc services, and almost a quarter (15 or
24%) host a digital scholarship center that provides
services to a number of disciplines including humani-
ties. Only four (6%) reported that no digital scholarship
services are offered at their institution, although one of
these commented that service was scheduled to start
in the fall of 2011.
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