14 · Survey Results: Executive Summary
field of digital humanities matures. Future surveys
might explore the advantages and disadvantages of
hosting dedicated digital humanities centers with
respect to more generalized approaches or approaches
that target specific fields in the digital humanities.
Staff Contributions
It is striking that many of the technical skills required
for digital humanities projects are ones commonly
possessed by professionals working in traditional
fields of librarianship. To be specific, the survey results
indicate that metadata librarians, archivists, special
collections librarians, preservation specialists, and
subject librarians are routinely called upon to serve on
teams executing digital humanities projects. This gives
credence to the belief that libraries have more to offer
for digital humanities projects than just their collec-
tions. In fact, one is tempted to conclude that libraries
will continue to support the digital humanities not
only by acquiring staff with novel skill sets, but also
by relying upon skills that have long been required in
traditional librarianship.
Service Formalization
As mentioned above, libraries have typically provided
digital humanities services on a provisional basis. As
demand for such services has grown, however, librar-
ies have found it increasingly difficult to maintain this
service model. A number of respondents indicated
in their survey responses a desire to formalize their
service models in order to manage both growth in de-
mand and customer expectations. A number of librar-
ies have begun using Memoranda of Understanding
(MOUs) as a way of formalizing the scope of services
they provide.
Project Sustainability
As digital humanities projects have grown in size,
complexity, and number, libraries have had to devote
increasingly more attention to the sustainability of
the projects they support. A number of respondents
acknowledged the importance of sustainability, and
a few noted that their preservation workflows are “in
process” or “under discussion.” One strategy adopted
by many libraries is to sustain or preserve only some
projects, but not all. Another is to adhere to widely
accepted platforms and metadata standards when
creating a project.
Challenges and Opportunities
The survey revealed that at this stage in the evolution
of digital humanities partnerships, there are still many
challenges that need to be addressed. The general lack
of policies, protocols, and procedures has resulted in
a slow and, at times, frustrating experience for both
library staff and scholars. This points toward the need
for libraries to coordinate their efforts as demand for
such collaborative projects increases. Additionally,
support for digital humanities suffers from the peren-
nial library issues of underfunding and understaffing.
While scholars have traditionally used grant funds to
pay for hardware, software, and labor, respondents to
the survey reported that it is uncommon for scholars
to come to the library with grant funds in hand for a
digital humanities project.
It is clear that creative solutions will need to be
found as money for still-emerging initiatives remains
elusive. Libraries may find it valuable to present their
support of digital humanities projects not as a new
service, but as a way to more efficiently utilize scarce
resources in the support of faculty projects. For ex-
ample, deans and provosts are often inundated with
funding requests for projects that start from scratch.
They may be interested in a library-based initiative
that could provide a foundation for such work and ef-
ficiently coordinate resource allocation by procuring
hardware and software for the initiative as a whole
and not just for individual projects. Similarly, granting
agencies frequently receive applications for exciting
projects that will have a hard time surviving reality
if there is no dedicated technology support available
to the scholar. Furthermore, explicitly involving the
library from the beginning of a project should help
scholars create more realistic sustainability plans,
which are increasingly being required by grants.
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