Gale Gives a Sneak Peek of Upcoming Digital Scholar Lab at ALA Midwinter Conference

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| By Marc Cormier, director, Product Management |

As a long-time steward of all things “library,” Gale has seen just about every advancement, disruption, pivot point, etc. in the evolution of library science and academic research in the last half-century. I’ve been at Gale for approximately half that amount of time and have learned through the course of my work that evolution happens both within and without, and often not at the same time. As publishers seek to redefine themselves in this digital age, it is often in response to changes that are happening on campus long before we align ourselves to the new realities and needs that emerge in the academic research world.

One of the most important shifts in research methodologies to emerge in the last 50 years is in the digital humanities. This isn’t a recent development, per se, but the movement has shifted into high gear at nearly the same pace as technology itself—the very thing that enables its unique brand of analysis on my favorite subjects, the ones that make my kids yawn, like the 18th century or the Salem Witch Trials.  I know in my heart of hearts that I would have been a better, smarter student with these impressive tools at my fingertips, but my kids aren’t buying that, either.

Like technology often does, the veneer of sleek science often masks the complexity and chaos of a work in progress. This is the case, too, for the growing cadre of digital humanities librarians that are tasked with bringing structure and discipline to a field of study that often eludes definition. It’s a hefty job description, one that requires a vision that can potentially impact the very mission statement of an institution. The question, though, is as old as the hills: “Where do I start?”

I came across a recent article by E. Leigh Bond at Ohio State that has helped paint a much clearer picture of the assessment required to understand and respond to the needs of both nascent and established DH programs.  What do you do when you’re the first of something, of anything?  In First Things First: Conducting an Environmental Scan, Bond posits a start – at the very beginning:

In August 2016, I became The Ohio State University’s first Digital Humanities Librarian. I’d already been “the first” at another institution, so I was acutely aware that distinction is both a gift and a curse: on one hand, I have the opportunity to define the role; on the other, the responsibility of defining that role. More importantly, I knew “the first” typically has the task of mapping previously uncharted (or partially charted) territory—the scope of digital humanities on campus—and exactly one week into my new position, I received that first charge: conduct an environmental scan of DH at OSU.

Read the full article from E. Leigh Bond, First Things First: Conducting an Environmental Scan here.

Gale has been thinking about this, too, as many of our customers are just starting out on this journey either with new digital humanities librarians or simply want to find out more about natural language processing but don’t really know where to start.

This week at ALA Midwinter in Denver, we’ll be talking to customers about ways that we want to help “ramp up” their efforts to support students and faculty that leverage data science in the pursuit of humanities research. Part of that conversation will focus on our Digital Scholar Lab, a new research environment that brings raw data and digital tools together to support both research and teaching. The barriers to entry into digital humanities are well known, and part of our job as a publisher of archival content is to make sure it is available in the right format for a broad variety of research needs.

Read more about previewing our upcoming, innovative Digital Scholar Lab at ALA Midwinter February 9-12 >>

About the Author

Marc Cormier has been focused on product management in literature and the humanities at Gale for a long time, but still has trouble pronouncing Ngugi Wa’Thiong’o.  He works with a growing team of dangerous DH professionals that share his desire to expand what we know by re-examining the historical record through data analysis.  He wishes he could play professional hockey like his grandfather but instead conjures up wild stories about office intrigue to make his kids think he’s cool.


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