I am interested in discussing the notion of “re-skilling” or training librarians, most of whom have spent their careers as subject liaisons, with the specific knowledge and skills necessary to support digital scholarship. Two recent studies in particular have highlighted the gaps in librarian skills in relation to new research needs: the Research Libraries UK report “Re-Skilling for Research” and the Ithaka S+R History study (“Support Services for Scholars: History Project Interim Report”). Both studies cite the need for librarians to better understand data management and the tools and methods being used by researchers.
The turn to digital in humanities scholarship has been significant. Yet, this change in research behavior has not been accompanied by a major change in the profession of librarianship. While many reference desks are now virtual rather than physical, more research materials are purchased through automated approval plans, and the majority of materials acquired are digital, the fundamental service model of librarianship has not changed. Librarians are still being trained to assist scholars in their research process by purchasing materials, helping with discovery of those materials, and preserving the materials for future generations of scholars.
The staff of digital humanities centers or labs sited in libraries are most often comprised of humanities scholars, Web developers, and programmers. Librarians are sometimes included on staff, but more frequently they serve as consultants on specific projects rather than as full-time members of the center. I would like to explore the idea of a service model for DH with librarians at the center rather than at the margins, envisioning librarians as full collaborators in the scholarly process.